Sunday, October 30, 2005

Current reality

In this final article in the series on the Bridal Paradigm, I'm going to transition from Old Testament foreshadowings to New Testament realities.

In Jewish custom there were several stages leading up to a marriage.

The first was the betrothal. This was where a young man and his father prepared a covenant and presented it to the intended girl and her family. Involved in this was the payment of a bride price where the young man paid the family for the cost of raising a daughter. It also indicated the importance she held to him and his commitment to her. In addition to the bride price, which went to the family, the young man brought gifts for his intended.

The betrothal was formalized by the Banquet of Wine. As discussed in a previous article, this is a celebration of the coming marriage where the groom-to-be pours out a glass of wine for his intended. This symbolizes the terms of the covenant wherein he commits himself and all he has to her. She then drinks this, symbolizing her acceptance of his provision on her behalf.

At the end of the betrothal ceremony, the young man announces that he's going to prepare their wedding chamber but as soon as it's prepared, he'll return to get her. They will not see each other again until he finishes this work. It might take a year or more to complete this bridal chamber, and since the young man's in a hurry, he might be tempted to cut corners. Hence, his father has the responsibility to decide when it's ready, not the young man.

While the young man is preparing the wedding chamber, the bride-to-be prepares herself. This involves a ceremonial cleansing. She prepares herself physically and emotionally to leave her father's house and join her betrothed in his. She uses the gifts he's given her to make herself ready. She's not sure when he will return, it could be at any time of the day or night; she just needs to be ready. It was customary for the bride to keep an oil lamp beside her bed, along with her veil and other belongings.

On one of the father's inspections of the bridal chamber, he announces to his son that it's finished and he may fetch his bride. The son gathers his close friends and sets out for her house. When the wedding party gets close, they give a shout and blow the shofar to let the bride know her groom is on his way. He comes in and carries her away to the wedding chamber where they celebrate for seven days.

Each of these stages can be seen in the New Testament.

Matthew writes, starting in chapter 26, verse 26: 'While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.' This is the bride price he was willing to pay: his own blood. Peter says in chapter 1, verses 18 and 19: 'knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold ... but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.'

In addition, he gave gifts. First while he was here in the form of healing, wine, food and teaching. And second, after he left, he gave the gift of the Holy Spirit and His empowerment.

When we partake of the Lord's Supper, we are accepting his offer of marriage. We are drinking the cup of wine from the betrothal feast.

After the Lord's Supper, Jesus proclaimed in John 14:3: '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.' He's announcing his intent to build a wedding chamber and he's promising to return for us. When asked when he'd be returning, he replied that 'of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.' (Matthew 24:36)

In this time of separation, we are to prepare ourselves. Just as the bride partook in a ceremonial washing, we partake in baptism. We use the gifts he's given us to His glory and preparation of the bride. John writes 'His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in ... the righteous acts of the saints.' (Revelation 19:7) We are not to love the world or the things in the world. (1 John 2:15) We are to be holy as He is holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16) We are to keep ourselves for Him for He is jealous over us. (James 4:5) Having been washed with the water of the word, we are to be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:27)

And finally, there will be a day when the wedding chamber will be finished, the Father will say it's time and 'the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.' (1 Thessalonians 4:16) 'Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. ... Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' (Revelation 19:7-9)