Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Waiting for the Church's Bridegroom - Jesus

Waiting for the Church’s Bridegroom

 

June is traditionally associated with weddings. So I can’t allow the month to pass without congratulating you on your engagement and coming wedding. What? You say you’re not engaged? Oh, but you are!

The Bible contains repeated wedding and marriage references to describe the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the bridegroom, and himself as the friend of the bridegroom (John 3:29). In Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul speaks of marriage between a man and woman, and then notes he’s really speaking of the mystery of Christ and the Church.

Not convinced? Then let’s examine the traditional Jewish wedding practices of Jesus’s time for parallels to our own relationship with the Lord. The symbolism is unmistakable.

 

Selection

In biblical times, the first step in marriage was taken by the man or his family in choosing a bride.

Philippians 2:6-7 describes what Jesus left when He traveled from His Father’s house to select His bride: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The same concept of seeking is found throughout Jesus’s teachings—repeated pictures of leaving, seeking, and finding.

 

The Bride Price

The groom or his family paid the bride’s father a “bride price” to seal the marriage agreement. Sometimes the groom or his family also gave gifts to the bride.

First Corinthians 6:20 states “you were bought at a price” and 1 Peter 1:19 explains the price is “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Paid in full. Salvation is free, but it cost God His only Son—and He did it because He loves you that much.

 

Separated for Marriage

During the time of Christ, betrothal was a serious commitment. It included all the marital requirements of faithfulness. Unfaithfulness during the betrothal was considered adultery, even though it occurred before the wedding.

Remember Mary and Joseph? “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:18-19).

 

The Feast

The betrothal was celebrated by the families of the betrothed couple with a feast.

Each time we share in the Lord’s Supper, we’re reminded of our relationship with Christ. We do this in remembrance of our betrothal. And Jesus said He would not drink again from the fruit of the vine until He drinks it with us (Matthew 26:29) at our Marriage Supper. The Lord’s Supper reminds us who we are pledged to.

 

Separation and Preparation

Once they finalized and celebrated the betrothal, the bridegroom went back to his father’s house for approximately one year. During the time of separation, the bridegroom prepared a place in his father’s house for his bride, while the bride prepared herself for married life.

Jesus returned to His Father, but He sent the Holy Spirit to be our Helper and Comforter—until His return. He said He was going to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house (John 14:2-3). But, as Revelation 19:7 reminds us, we are also to be preparing ourselves during this time of waiting.

Today, an incredible amount of time, money, and effort can be spent planning a wedding, while neglecting to prepare for the marriage. Is the Church guilty of doing the same thing? Do we, as Christians, focus more on the event of Christ’s return than on preparing ourselves to live in a way to be ready as we wait?

 

The Coming of the Bridegroom

In ancient Israel, the bridegroom returned to the bride’s home on the wedding day, accompanied by his friends.

Two thousand years later it may feel as though Jesus will never return. Peter noted “In the last days scoffers will come . . . They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Still, Peter concluded in verses 8-9: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Jesus came the first time in fulfillment of the Scriptures and He promised to come again (John 14:3). Because of who He is we can trust Him to keep His word.

 

Preceded by a Shout

The bride and her family waited about a year for the shout signaling the bridegroom’s return.

As we see in one of Jesus’s parables, a midnight shout alerted sleeping virgins to meet their bridegroom. In the same way, we are to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42). And 1 Thessalonians 4:16 tells us “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout.” Listen for the shout!

 

Together at Last

The bridegroom finally brought his bride back to his house, her new home. The bride had prepared herself and her bridegroom had come.

It will happen to the Church in an instant. “Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:41). Paul wrote “…we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

 

The wait will end. We have been dressed in our wedding clothes: “garments of salvation” and a “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Our bridegroom will come for His bride to take us to His glorious home. A place where God, Himself, will dwell among His people. He will wipe away every tear, and there shall no longer be any death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:1, 3-4).

Congratulations on your engagement. See you at the wedding feast!

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