Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, September 18, 2022
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,
Why Is a Believer Called the “Bride of Messiah?” (Part 2 of 2)
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: I continue to discuss why Believers are called “the bride of Yeshua” by exploring the first-century Jewish wedding ceremony. The first six steps in this fourteen-step ceremony were discussed in last Sunday’s RR.
Step 7. THE BRIDE’S CEREMONIAL BATHING IN THE MIKVAH:
● First century: The Jewish bride was expected to remain free of spot (undefiled by adultery), to be holy (inwardly pure), and to have no blemish (outwardly pure) during her betrothal. To reinforce these expectations, the newly betrothed woman ceremonially bathed in a mikvah. The mikvah was a pool of fresh water contained in a stone chamber (something like a deep bathtub carved into stone and fed by spring water). The mikvah provided physical cleansing, of course, but, more importantly, it provided spiritual renewal.
● Now: Ancient Jewish ceremonial bathing in the mikvah foretold the importance of water baptism. The Bible discusses baptism by water or by fire (Matthew 3:11): [John the Baptizer said] “As for me, I immerse you in water for repentance. But the One coming after me [referring to Yeshua] is mightier than I am; I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will immerse you in the Ruach ha-Kodesh and fire.” Consider the following now:
♦ John the Baptizer, who came to prepare the way for Yeshua, baptized Believers in water (read Matthew 3:11, just quoted). Yeshua allowed John to baptize Him (read Luke, chapter 3), because He wanted to fulfill the legal requirements of the office of a Jewish priest. (Requirements to become a priest required Yeshua to be at least thirty years of age, to have authority passed from His Father [here, Father God] to the Son, and to undergo ceremonial cleansing by water immersion.) Water baptism symbolizes the death and burial of the old, sinful person and the resurrection of a new, sin-forgiven, eternal person (read Romans 6:3-11). Yeshua will demand a virginal bride at His wedding (read Ephesians 5:27, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 2 Peter 3:14, and Revelation 19:7-8). Each redeemed follower of Messiah will wear fine, clean, white linen, as befitting the wedding garment of a virgin bride. How do we become “holy and free of spot, wrinkle, and blemish?” Such purification appears to be a three-stage process:
(Stage 1). The linen bridal garment of Yeshua’s virgin bride will be made by a Believer’s righteous acts while on Earth (read Revelation 19:8).
(Stage 2). A bride’s sins are washed (that is, a bride’s sin-stained clothes are washed) free of sin’s stain by the blood of Yeshua (read Revelation 1:5b). Through water baptism, a Believer ceremonially washes away his/ her sins in the baptismal water. At Communion, through the drinking of the fruit of the vine (wine), we accept Yeshua’s blood sacrifice and allow His blood to cover our sins. Paul explained that a Believer’s sins are nailed to Yeshua’s cross (Colossians 2:13-14). As Yeshua died in that horrific death, His blood flowed down the cross and covered the sins nailed there. If Father God wanted to see these sins (He will not), they are covered out of sight by Yeshua’s blood.
(Stage 3). Understand that sins are only partially cleansed through water baptism and observance of Communion to this extent: we still sin. Have you sinned since the last Communion you observed at Shomair Yisrael? Few people (no one?) will be wearing unwrinkled, spotless bridal garments at the time of the Rapture or at the time of their deaths. The final cleansing will probably occur at the Bema Judgment (read 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Life’s works will always be tainted (pride, improper motives, etc.), but the impurities will likely be purified or burnt up by Yeshua’s “eyes like a flame of fire” (read Revelation 19:12). We now use heat (fire) to remove impurities (dross) from precious metals. After his/ her appearance at the Bema Judgment (which occurs in the first half of Paradise), each person– each bride– will become the spotless, unwrinkled, unblemished person arrayed in fine, white, clean linen required by the Bridegroom Yeshua, as he/ she awaits the next event in eternal history– the Marriage of the Lamb (which occurs in the second half of Paradise). In summary (as I interpret Scriptures), final events in a Believer’s journey will occur in this order: rapture/ resurrection ⇒ the Bema Judgment ⇒ the Marriage of the Lamb ⇒ the Marriage Supper of the Lamb ⇒ appearance in the Lord’s army at Armageddon ⇒ Millennial Kingdom on Earth ⇒ entry into New Jerusalem (Heaven). When all of the heavenly host (angels) and the saints descend upon Armageddon with Yeshua, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Unholy Trinity and their armies will be defeated and Yeshua’s thousand-year reign on Earth will begin.
Step 8. THE BRIDEGROOM’S DEPARTURE TO HIS FATHER’S HOUSE:
● First century: At this point, the man and woman were betrothed. By being betrothed, they were considered legally married, although the marriage had not been consummated (no sexual intercourse had occurred). The length of betrothal varied, but typically was approximately one year. The man went back to his village– the village of his father’s home– to prepare a home for his wife and himself. The man may well have told the woman, “I go to prepare a place for you” (which is what Yeshua told His disciples).
● Now: Before Yeshua ascended to Heaven, He told His disciples (and us) that He was going to His Father’s house (Heaven) to prepare a place for us, His bride (read John 14:2-4). Incidentally, Yeshua used the Greek μοναὶ (monē || pronounced mon-AY) for His building project. This word translates simply as “dwelling places” (properly translated in the Tree of Life Version). Some Bible translators (for example, King James Version) may embellish this word as “mansions.” I suspect accommodations in Heaven will exceed our fondest expectations, whether we call them “dwelling places” or “mansions.”
Step 9. CONSECRATION OF THE BRIDE:
● First century: The bridegroom entered into a contract with a virginal woman, and he expected her to remain faithful (to remain a virgin) while he was legally married to (betrothed to) her and while he was away at his father’s village. Immediately upon betrothal, the young woman placed a veil across her face and wore this veil during her entire betrothal. Only during betrothal– and at no other time in her life– did a Jewish woman wear a veil. Neither unbetrothed maidens nor married women wore veils. The veil signaled to all potential suitors (other young men searching for a wife in the village’s marketplace): “I am promised to another. I will not think about marrying you.” The “veil” for Believers includes being wooed by another suitor– Satan. The betrothed woman, a virgin and typically a very young teenager, kept company with other virgins (both betrothed and unbetrothed maidens). This party of virgins kept each virgin from morally straying and provided for her company and encouragement, while her bridegroom was away. The betrothed woman took this time to learn from her mother various cooking and household skills she would soon need. She sewed and decorated her wedding garment. She learned how to be a wife and mother, sew clothing, cook; and prepare for marriage and child-rearing.
● Now: Believers are expected to worship together in congregations (communities of Believers, such as Shomair Yisrael Synagogue). Such groups should be consecrated, betrothed “virgins,” awaiting the return of their Bridegroom. (The English word “church” translates the Greek word ekklesia; pronounced: ek-klay-SEE-ah, which literally means “the called out [ones].”) Although this Greek word is commonly translated “church,” I like the rendering in the Tree of Life Version (TLV). The TLV translates this word “community,” which avoids confusion with a specific organization (Roman Catholic Church) and emphasizes the joining together of Believers of different backgrounds into a common body. Communion, the symbolic remembrance of Yeshua’s death, is better thought of as a community of “virgins” awaiting the return of their Bridegroom. We “called out ones” are to be in this world, but our real home is Heaven. We should gather together to keep ourselves pure from worldly corruption (read Romans 12:2 and Hebrews 10:24-25). During the present time as Yeshua’s return is awaited, Believers need to do more than simply meet with other “virgins.” According to the Hebrews 10 citation (above), Believers should “stir up one another for love and good deeds and to encourage one another.” These congregations (communities of Believers) represent lampstands to spread the Gospel of Yeshua HaMashiach (read Revelation 1:20). You, Yeshua’s betrothed virgin, are expected to spread the Gospel. And you, Yeshua’s betrothed virgin, are expected to keep yourself in a state of preparedness, awaiting your Bridegroom’s return. Read the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), which is a portrayal of betrothed virgins awaiting the Bridegroom’s return. Wise virgins, who kept their lamps filled with oil (oil is a symbol of the Ruach ha-Kodesh) went with the Bridegroom to the feast (Rapture?); foolish virgins, who let their lamps grow empty (no oil), were told by the Bridegroom, “I tell you, I do not know you.” If the Rapture occurs and you wish to go with Yeshua, you certainly do not want to hear Him say, “I do not know you.” Yeshua’s Parable of the Minas was autobiographical. In this parable, the nobleman was Yeshua, preparing to take a journey to a faraway land to receive a kingdom (Heaven), and we Believers are portrayed as slaves. The nobleman (Yeshua) told us Believers (Luke 19:13b): “… ‘Do business until I come back.’” Yeshua’s “business” is spelled out in the Holy Bible. There are other Bible verses to cause any Believer to ask him-/ her-self, “Am I ready to meet Yeshua? Will He affirm that He knows me?” In 1995, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins wrote a novel, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days. “Left behind” is a thought that should frighten any Believer. I keep promising to write a few words in a RR on the Doctrine of Eternal Security for the Believer. We all really need to think about this doctrine, which is sacred for some Believers (Southern Baptists, for example). Several Bible passages warn that many people believe they are going to Heaven, but will be denied entrance (including Matthew 7:22-23): [Yeshua said] “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’”
Step 10. RETURN OF THE BRIDEGROOM TO HIS BRIDE:
● First century: When the bridegroom finished building the home and all of its furnishings in his father’s village, which usually took approximately one year, it was time for him to return to the bride’s village for his bride. The wedding was ready to take place. Consider:
♦ Point A: Jews realized that young men would be eager for marriage and might try to marry before they were ready. Therefore, the bridegroom’s father was responsible for approving his son’s work to be certain that the house was worthy and that all furnishings were in place. When the father approved, he would tell his son that it was time to go for his bride.
♦ Point B: When the father gave permission, the son went for his bride. He formed a party of his friends to travel between his village and her village. The bridegroom’s party almost always arrived in the bride’s village late at night or early in the morning, when the villagers were asleep. Because the bridegroom had been gone approximately one year, the bride did not know when to expect his return.
♦ Point C: The bridegroom’s party made a loud noise and the bridegroom shouted the bride’s name, commanding her to come out of her house to meet him. The clamor would awaken the village. The bride would joyously rush out to meet her bridegroom. Her long-awaited wedding was at hand! Joyous relatives and friends (other virgins) rushed to be by her side.
♦ Point D: The bridal party walked to the village of the man’s father. Because the journey began that night, lamps were needed to light the path. Beginning ca 1400 BC, it was customary to carry ten olive oil lamps mounted on staves (poles). Relatives and friends of the bride needed to always be ready for the surprise return of the bridegroom. Recall the oil-filled lamps in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Those with oil-filled lamps went to the wedding (they could see the way). Those with oil-empty lamps stayed home (they could not see the way).
● Now: Before Yeshua ascended to Heaven, He told His disciples (and us) that He was going to His Father’s house (Heaven) to prepare a place for us, His bride (read John 14:2-4). Compare points of the ancient Jewish wedding and points of your future wedding:
♦ Point A: Yeshua said that only His Father knew when it would be time for Him to return for the Community of Believers (read Matthew 24:36).
♦ Point B: Yeshua (the Bridegroom) will return to Earth (His bride’s “village”) in the same manner as He left (read Acts 1:9-11).
♦ Point C: At the Resurrection/Rapture, Yeshua will appear in the clouds with His “friends” (angels), and there will be great clamor– blasts of God’s trumpet and the shouted command, “Come up here!” (read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
♦ Point D: Yeshua told His followers to always be ready. I have previously mentioned the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (read Matthew 25:1-13). The virgins with readied lamps were able to go to the wedding, but the foolish virgins with empty lamps (no oil) were unable to go. Yeshua ended this parable with a stern warning for all of us (read Matthew 25:13; also read Matthew 24:42, Mark 13:33-36, and Luke 12:36-40). We are expected to do the Father’s work until Yeshua’s return (read Luke 19:13b). Interestingly, it was oil that determined whether the virgins were or were not ready to go to the wedding. Oil is the symbol of the Ruach ha-Kodesh. Does this imply that Believers must remain filled with the Ruach?
Step 11. PROCESSION TO THE BRIDEGROOM’S HOUSE:
● First century: The bride and bridegroom must be joined together for the wedding, of course. The wedding party walked to the bridegroom’s village. The veiled bride (remember, the veil indicated she was still a virgin) was carried in honor on a chair-like device, an aperion, carried on two staves by four men.
● Now: The first-century trip must have been arduous for all involved (carrying and being carried on an unstable aperion over rough roads). Believers’ future trip will be much easier. All saints– both resurrected and translated (raptured) Believers– will be taken to Paradise in the twinkling of an eye (read 1 Corinthians 15:51b-52 and 1 Thessalonians 14:17).
Step 12. CONSUMMATION OF THE MARRIAGE, WHILE PROTECTED IN THE CHUPAH:
● First century: Under Jewish Talmudic law, a marriage was not legally established until it was consummated. Consummation occurred in the protection of a chupah. (Chupah is pronounced approximately HOO-pah.) A chupah, still used in modern Jewish weddings, is a canopy-like covering. In Yeshua’s time, the chupah was a special chamber built onto the house of the bridegroom’s father. The bridegroom and bride entered the chupah, where they stayed seven days. During this time, sexual intercourse was expected to occur, thus terminating the period of betrothal and legally binding the man and woman together as husband and wife. For these seven days, the couple was sheltered from the outside world. Loving relatives and friends brought them food and water and saw to their every need. This time was meant for the bride and bridegroom to get to know each other. Two witnesses were required at a Jewish wedding– one for the bride and one for the groom– both then and now.
● Now: In modern Jewish weddings, five people gather under the chupah– the bridegroom, the bride, a religious official (rabbi, cantor), and two witnesses (one selected by the bridegroom and one selected by the bride). In the future, after the Resurrection/ Rapture, a seven year period– the Tribulation– will follow. (This is the pre-Tribulation theory. If you believe other theories, fill in the times. I cannot make other theories fit the Scriptures.) The Tribulation will be the worst of all times for the unbelievers who remain on Earth. But for resurrected and raptured Believers (followers of Yeshua), it will be indescribably wonderful. We, as members of the Messiah’s Body (Yeshua’s bride), will be with our Bridegroom, Yeshua. We will be loved and pampered. There will be no want or sorrow. We will be living in the “chupah” of Paradise– the bridal chamber in our Father’s house! As the community of relatives and friends protected and sustained the bridal couple for the seven days in the chupah (what we today might call a “honeymoon”), so we will be protected in Paradise’s “chupah” during the Tribulation. Interestingly, “two witnesses” are mentioned in Revelation, chapter 11. These two men may seem superfluous to the Book of Revelation, unless the first-century wedding is understood. Two witnesses were required at every Jewish wedding. Some speculate that Elijah is one witness and possibly Enoch or someone else is the other witness. These men are assassinated by the Antichrist, lie in disrespect on a Jerusalem street while the world watches and revels (satellite television?), are resurrected, and ascend upwardly as the world watches in disbelief and horror. Are these two witnesses the two witnesses required at our marriage to the Lamb? Their mid-Tribulation resurrection is precisely on time to attend/ witness our marriage. The more one studies details of the Bible, the more God’s Word makes sense. Different parts of the Bible, written by multiple authors over a span of many centuries, blend together to make a continuous, self-explaining narrative with no contradictions.
Step 13. BLESSINGS FOR THE COUPLE:
● First century: In the ancient Jewish wedding, seven blessings were spoken over the couple by the rabbi or cantor. [“Seven blessings” = Hebrew sheva brakhos.] The seven blessings (prayers) in the first century were addressed to Adonai (summarized): (1) who created everything for His glory; (2) who created humankind (physical being); (3) who fashioned humans in His image (spiritual being); (4) who gladdens Zion through her children; (5) who gladdens the bridegroom and bride; (6) who created joy and gladness; and (7) the standard prayer over the wine. The couple drank from the same cup of wine, symbolizing their sharing of whatever Adonai provided for them and wishing their marriage to be filled with joy. In modern weddings, the bridegroom smashes the wine glass with his right foot, said to symbolize the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70. Smashing a glass to remember the destroyed Temple seems to me to be a non sequitur. I may have read a faulty explanation of this custom. I think a better symbolization of smashing the glass after the couple drinks wine from it would be an expression of and pledge for hope for a faithful marriage (no one but this couple would ever experience the joy of each other in their marriage).
● Now: We will surely be blessed by being in Paradise in the protection of our Heavenly Father’s chupah and in fellowship with our Bridegroom Yeshua. The Book of Revelation records seven distinct blessings we will enjoy in Heaven, and these may be our seven wedding blessings (read Revelation 2:7b, 2:11b, 2:17b, 2:28b, 3:5, 3:12, and 3:21). Heaven will be an eternal and perfect blessing for saved overcomers. The culmination of our marriage to Yeshua will be an eternal life of joy and happiness.
Step 14. THE MARRIAGE SUPPER (FEAST):
● First century: After seven days in the chupah, the wedded couple left the chupah to greet the bridal party– their friends and relatives– for a marriage supper. The guests were referred to as “the children of the bride chamber.” For several days at the time of the marriage, the married man and woman were considered to be a “king and queen,” and they did not appear in public without an escort of people who loved them. Appreciate how important the Jews considered marriage and the beginning of a new family. Marriage and family were much more highly regarded then, than now. The bridegroom and bride sipped wine together to show that being “one flesh,” instead of two, they shared all life had to offer, whether good or bad (read Genesis 2:24). Modern wedding vows may commonly contain language similar to this thought: “I, ***, take you ***, to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”
● Now: Most weddings today have a party, dinner, celebration, or reception of some sort. While we are in Yeshua’s protection in Paradise during the Tribulation, we will enjoy the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (read Revelation 19:6-9). At that supper, we undoubtedly will drink wine with our Bridegroom. The Jews regarded wine as the symbol of joy. Can we experience more joy than eternal life in Heaven? Look back to “the Last Supper” (Yeshua’s Seder celebrated with His disciples just hours before His crucifixion). It was customary to drink four cups of wine at a Passover Seder. At Yeshua’s last Seder with His disciples (read Matthew 26:17-30), He declined to drink from the fourth cup, the Cup of Praise or Restoration, until He could drink it with His followers in His Father’s kingdom (read Matthew 26:29). Yeshua will surely drink from that fourth cup and we will drink from our cups, accompanied by our relatives and friends. I suspect we will each have a silver chalice for our wine. Why? Silver is the Biblical metal for redemption and only those redeemed by the Lord will be at the Marriage Supper (multiple Scriptures). After this toast, we will forever be spiritually wed to Yeshua! Mazel tov! We are on our way to enter New Jerusalem some day! Incidentally, mazel tov! is commonly used in joyous occasions, such as, weddings and bar/ bat mitzvahs. Mazel tov! is used to recognize that something good has happened to someone. The most common translation is: “Good luck has happened to you!” This translation is really not appropriate in the sense I just used it. “Luck” has nothing to do with entry into Heaven. No overcomer is admitted to Heaven because he/she has won some celestial lottery. A better translation of mazel tov! is: “Good fortune has occurred to you.” Adonai has a long-standing plan for anyone to enter Heaven. Yeshua gave His life for this plan. The overcomer must accept the Ruach ha-Kodesh’s invitation. The Believer must lead a sin-forgiven life. No, “luck” has nothing to do with entrance into Heaven, but the overcomer who enters Heaven is most fortunate. Mazel tov!
Acknowledgment: Several authors have written about the ancient Jewish wedding and Yeshua’s earthly ministry. To read their views, use a search engine. I first learned about the significance of this ceremony at a Perry Stone (Voice of Evangelism) conference I attended many years ago. I have written part of this RR series from notes and memory taken from Perry’s conference. I believe Perry produced a dramatic audiovisual (DVD) reenactment of this wedding. Perry’s emphasis was that the ceremony prophesied the pre-Tribulation resurrection/ rapture of Believers, and may have a slightly different slant than I have presented in this RR series. You may check the Voice of Evangelism Website store, if interested in this DVD and if it is still available. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 18-Sep-2022 22nd of Elul, 5782
De 29:9-11 Na 1-2 2 Ch 16 (Ac 10) Rev 3