In the Marriage of the Lamb you may be thinking particularly of the consummation of the marriage between Christ (the Lamb) and the church, which takes place in heaven after the bema seat of Christ. However, a larger view of the marriage begins at Christ’s first coming and ends at the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth. This is the view we will present here, which, as we will see, is patterned after a typical Jewish wedding. We will present it in seven parts; first describing to you the Jewish practice, followed by how the churches marriage with Christ corresponds to that practice. The wedding begins with the betrothal.
The Betrothal Period
The betrothal period for a Jewish marriage is the period between the time of the arrangement of the marriage and the actual marriage ceremony and consummation. That betrothal period in ancient days was sometimes quite long, especially if arrangement were made while both parties were small children. In other cases, the period was short, like only a year.
The betrothal begins upon the decision of the groom’s father to make the arrangements and pay the price to the bride’s family for the bride. Sometimes the groom and the groom’s father will travel together to visit the bride and her family. Other times only the groom’s father will go. Nevertheless, both the arrangements are made and the price for the bride is always paid by the father of the groom. And when those things are completed, this establishes the marriage covenant and the betrothal is binding. In many respects they are married.
Now the corresponding experience of the believer’s marriage to Christ is that God the Father from the beginning of time has loved us; and He offers his Son to us (Jn. 3:16). His Son, Jesus Christ, is both the payment price for us and is our eternal groom. If we accept the Father’s offer of His Son by believing in Him, then His blood saves us from sin, we enter into an eternal marriage covenant with Him, and that covenant means that we are betrothed to Him until He comes and takes us to Himself with the Father in eternal wedding bliss. If you are a believer right now, know that you are presently living in the betrothal period. We are now waiting for Him to return to us.
The Groom Returns to The Father
In early Jewish tradition, after the marriage covenant is made, the groom returns to his father’s house and remains there separated from the bride for twelve months. During this time the bride prepares herself for the upcoming wedding, and the groom is also busy preparing a place for the bride; yes, she will live with the groom’s parents in the groom’s father’s house.
In terms of the groom’s marriage to the Church, the period we are now in is that period where we are physically separated from Him. After He died on the cross, paying the price for our sins, which was the purchase price for our marriage to Him (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pt. 1:18; 2 pt. 2:1; Rev. 5:9), He left this earth and ascended through the clouds into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). He is now with His father preparing a place for us (Jn. 14:2-3). We, His betrothed should also to be preparing ourselves for him. We are not to be troubled, but to believe in God (Jn. 14:1), and in every way to make ourselves ready for him (Rev. 19:7).
The Groom Comes to Get the Bride
In the typical ancient Jewish wedding, after roughly 12 months of preparation, the bridegroom would come unexpected to the bride’s house to get the bride. But his coming would be preceded by a shout, something like, “Behold the bridegroom comes!” We don’t know how long of a time span there was between the warning shout and his coming, but I suppose all brides hope there would be enough time to get herself ready for him.
At any rate, with her mother’s help, she would adorn herself with fine clothing and perfume and with a crown on her head (Gen. 24:22; Ezek. 16:11, 12). And then, when she went off with the bridegroom, a grand procession of relatives and friends would follow them all the way to the bridegroom’s father’s house. Usually, her face would be veiled and there would also be dancing and singing along the way.1
Now, though some would disagree, it is easy to see that the Jewish pattern here points to the Rapture of the church. Just as the groom comes unexpectantly to get the bride in the Jewish wedding; so, in the believer’s marriage to Christ, Jesus will come from heaven unexpectantly to receive us and to bring us to His Father’s house. John 14:2-3 explains it plainly:
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
There are two other well known Scripture passages that explain His coming for His bride in more detail: 1 Corinthians 15:52-55 (which describes mainly our transformation), and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 (which describes mainly how He takes us).
First of all, as is the case of the Jewish wedding, before he takes us, He will be announced both by a shout and by a trumpet blast. Next, all believers in Christ who are dead will be resurrected, given new immortal bodies, and will be snatched up to heaven to meet Jesus. Then thirdly, just after the dead are raised, those who are alive will instantly be changed, that is, they will also be given new immortal bodies, and they too will be taken up to meet the waiting groom.
Now 1 Thessalonians 4:17 tells us that we all will meet the Lord in the air. I’m not sure what this means, but I think it means that He will come to us from heaven, stop somewhere above the clouds, and then He will call us, or zap us up to Him. Then, from that place in the air, we will all zoom up to heaven where we will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).
The Cleansing of the Bride
The Jewish bride, and sometimes the groom, will historically participate in a ritual bath called the mikuah within four days of the wedding. The bath is not only for outer cleansing, but is an act of introspection and reflection before taking the big step of marriage.2
In our marriage to Christ the cleansing is not by water but by the fire of God’s judgment and by His penetrating light. This is the bema judgment, where all our hidden motives will be revealed under His light (1 Cor. 4:4-5) and where the quality of our works will be tested by fire to see if they are good or bad (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
The Wedding Ceremony
Each Jewish wedding ceremony may be different, ranging from very basic to very elaborate. The most basic will probably include the following three elements.
The canopy. The couple will first go under a canopy, symbolizing a new home being built by the couple.
The exchange of rings. This symbolizes purity and honesty in the relationship.
The breaking of a glass. The new groom will forcefully step on a glass and break it. This symbolizes joy being tempered. They are to have joy with each other, but not too much, since they are to remain in morning because of the destruction of the temple in 70 A. D.3
Unlike the public Jewish wedding ceremony, the ceremony between Christ and the church will probably be private. Hence, we don’t know what will be said; it remains a mystery.
The Consummation of The Marriage
In the Jewish wedding, there is usually a big celebration of the couple’s first union, and there may also be a lot of joking about it. In other practices they will make a big deal about highly decorating the bridal chamber and many will be involved in the practice.
The consummation between Christ and the church will no doubt be celebratory and glorious, but also very private and sacred. We don’t know any more than that. It is a great mystery to us.
The Marriage Feast
In Old Testament days Jewish weddings were a big deal. They were well organized and all who were invited must wear special wedding garments (Matt. 22:12). During the entire feast, which lasted for an entire week (Judg. 14:17), there was always plenty to eat and drink (Jn. 2:8-9), and a joyous celebration was continual.
Now I’m not sure if there is anything symbolic about the week-long wedding feast, that is, what it tells us about the length of the wedding feast of the Lamb and the church; but we are quite certain that it will last for a thousand years—all during the Millennial Kingdom. And certainly, it will be a time of great celebration and of great plenty on the earth; where not only the bride (the church) is loved, but where all His believers are welcomed and rejoiced over.
And that brings us to the question of who will be the bride in the Millennial Kingdom, and what shall we call all the other believers. It is my belief that the bride will be only the Raptured one’s—the church. All other believers, which will consist of the resurrected Old Testament saints, the martyred and resurrected Tribulation saints, and also the living mortal believers (Jews and Gentiles) who came alive out of the Tribulation. These all will be the wedding guests and friends of the bride and groom (corresponding to Matthew 22:11-12).
Now it may seem unfair that only the Raptured church will be chosen as His bride and not the others. However, we must not question God’s sovereign choices. Despite that, we know that Israel will later appear with the church in the New Jerusalem; for the city’s mention of twelve pillars (with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, Rev. 21:12) and also twelve foundations (with the names of the twelve apostles, Rev. 21:14) proves it. As one author has written,
After the Millennial Kingdom has come to a close and a new heavens and new earth are created, the holy city, the New Jerusalem, is prepared by Jehovah as a bride adorned for her husband—the Lamb (Rev. 21:2-27). The long-unfulfilled promises of the restoration of Jerusalem, which found their initial fulfillment in the Millennial Kingdom (Isa. 62:1), will come to final fruition in the New Jerusalem where all the redeemed of all ages are in union with God and the Lamb Who are its temple (Rev. 21:22). This is the ultimate consummation of all the redeemed.4
1 Fred H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1953), pp. 131-133.
2 Jessy Judaica, “The Wedding Mikvah Tradition,” at http://www.jessyjudaica.com/blog/2015/03/09/the-pre-wedding-mikvah-tradition/.
4 The Marriage of the Lamb, “Israel, the Church, the New Jerusalem,” at https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/israel-the-church-the-new-jerusalem.html#4.10.6