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Monday, April 25, 2016

The Bride and the Bridegroom -- John 3:29

    “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”

            John the Baptist represented the Law and the Prophets that bring us to Christ. John was the last Older Testament prophet in scriptures. John used Older Testament events like the serpent on a pole and the bride, bridegroom and the friend of the bridegroom to illustrate spiritual truths in Christ just like the Older Testament scriptures do.

            To fully understand this portion of scripture, we must look at a biblical Jewish wedding during the time of John the Baptist and Jesus. There were basically three parts to an ancient Jewish wedding:
              Contract The father of the groom would choose the bride and pay the dowry price for the bride. They would sign a marriage contract (ketubah in Hebrew).  The bride must consent to the marriage also. The ketubah has the conditions and provisions of the proposed marriage. In Genesis 24:1-4 father Abraham did this when he sent his faithful servant to seek a bride for his son Isaac. This, of course, is what our Heavenly Father did in choosing a Bride for His Son. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit represented by the faithful servant in Genesis to gather and prepare a bride for His Son Jesus. The conditions and the provisions of our wedding contract with God and Jesus are in the Word of God sealed by Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit.  

                   Mohar:  The father of the Jewish bride would pay a bridal price known as mohar in Hebrew. This bridal price would reflect the value of the bride. Our Heavenly Father paid the price of the Bride of Christ by the shed blood of Jesus. Jesus gave His all for His Bride even dying a horrifying death on the cross. His bridal price was His shed blood and all that belonged to Him – His Word, His Holy Spirit, His love, His freedom, His authority, His miraculous resurrection power, His joy and His peace. Jesus gave His all. As our earthly mother suffered in labor to give us physical birth, Jesus labored on the cross of suffering for our spiritual birth. New life would come after death!  Birth into God’s spiritual kingdom is a spiritual one – born anew with the indwelling Holy Spirit of God and Truth. Jesus had to die in order for us to have this new, spiritual life. He wants us to die to our flesh (fleshly nature) so we can put on His glorious spiritual nature and life.
                     Mattan:  In the ancient Jewish wedding, the groom would give his bride-to-be love gifts which were given out of his love – not demanded. These gifts showed his bride her value in his eyes. The bride-to-be would be reminded of her bridegroom’s love for her with these gifts also. Jesus too gives His Bride-to-be spiritual gifts to teach, train and equip her and others through her for their wedding and eternal life with her Eternal Husband Jesus. Jesus will develop His Body into a pearl of great value as He glorifies her through the renewing of her mind and heart.
                   Betrothal ceremony: The bride and the bridegroom would publicly announce their intention of becoming betrothed. They would share a cup of wine to seal their betrothal. At the final meal Jesus shared with His twelve disciples, He shared a cup of wine with them saying, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:25-29 This is the Bridegroom Jesus sharing the betrothal cup of wine with His disciples. When Jesus’ twelve disciples drank from His cup, they were accepting the betrothal to Jesus and His wedding contract – the New Covenant. We to this in the communion meal. We are betrothed to Jesus awaiting the day of our wedding where we will share the wedding cup of wine with Him in His Father’s kingdom.
                  Mikveh: The bride would be immersed in water for cleansing, just as Christ’s bride must be baptized and then sanctified by the washing of the water of the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit in preparation for her wedding to her Bridegroom.
                 Preparing a place for the Bride: After the betrothal ceremony, the bridegroom of old returns to his father’s house to prepare a place for his bride-to-be during their physical separation. Jesus also goes ahead of us to the Heavenly City of Jerusalem to prepare a place for His Bride. (see John 14:2-3) “In My Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus will crown His Holy Bride as His Queen who will rule and reign with Him for all eternity. The time of the separation of the bride and bridegroom is called kiddushum in Hebrew which means “sanctification” or “set apart.” Christ’s Bride is also being sanctified in preparation for uniting with her Bridegroom when He comes.
                  During this time of separation, the bride is preparing her wedding garments. The Bible says Revelation 19:7-8, “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear.” Christ’s Bride must also be prepared for her wedding. At God’s appointed time, the wedding will take place and the Bride of Christ must be ready and prepared. She must wear the clothes of righteousness through her sanctification. Since the day of the coming of the bridegroom was not known except by the father of the groom, the bride must be prepared and ready at all times for his coming. This is also true of Christ’s Bride. Jesus showed us that we must be ready for His coming in the parable of the ten virgins – five were prepared and five were not.
                  Jesus came to earth to redeem mankind and gather a Bride for Himself. The marriage contract is the New Covenant. (see Hebrews 8:7-13) The Mosaic Covenant had conditions attached to it. “If you obey Me fully and keep My Covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” Exodus 19:5  The Israelites did not and could not obey God fully and keep His Covenant because of the weakness of sinful flesh, so God sent Jesus with a New Covenant in which it was solely God’s duty to obey it fully and completely. This is the big difference between the Law and Grace. The Law has conditions of man attached to it, but grace is the work of God alone.
                  Father of the Bridegroom decides the day and the hour of the wedding: The bride and the groom are promised to each other and must remain faithful and pure even though they are apart from one another. At the time appointed for the wedding by the father of the groom, the friend of the bridegroom leads a procession to go to gather the bride. It is a joyous occasion.
                 Once again, God used the “natural” to paint a “supernatural” picture. An ancient Jewish wedding is a picture of our marriage contract with Jesus (New Covenant) until the day and hour the Father decides the actual wedding is to take place. We are set apart for Jesus. Jesus the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will prepare us and make us ready for our wedding to our Bridegroom Jesus. In the meantime, we are promised to Jesus as His Bride and no one knows the day or the hour of the wedding except our Heavenly Father. This ancient wedding was not just between two individuals; it was between two families. This too is a picture of Father God and His two families – Jews and Gentiles – who are to come together as one and will be one Bride of Christ in the end.
             Friend of the Bridegroom -- The friend of the bridegroom (best man in today’s world) is the liaison between the bride and the bridegroom. He is the mediator between the two families. Jesus and the Holy Spirit fulfill these roles in today’s world.
          John the Baptist tells his disciples that he is the “friend of the bridegroom” and Jesus is the Bridegroom. Only when the friend of the bridegroom heard the voice of the Bridegroom would he speak or act. The friend of the bridegroom:
                                        1.      Sent out the invitations
                                        2.      Arranged the wedding
                                        3.      Went to gather the bride for the wedding
                                        4.      Presented the bride and presided over the wedding feast
                               5.     Guarded the bridal chamber of the bride so no false lover could defile her

         Celebration – At the time of the wedding, the trumpet (shofar) would sound and a great procession would be gathered and go through the streets of the city rejoicing. This was an earthly wedding. When Jesus comes to gather His Bride to take us to His spiritual, eternal wedding, there will also be a great wedding procession and the sound of the trumpet. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, 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.” These will be visibly united with Christ and taken to His Father’s house in heaven. The Eternal Bride will be brought to her Eternal Bridegroom for the wedding.
         Consummation -- When the friend of the bridegroom hears the voice of the Bridegroom outside the bridal chamber he was guarding, he would open the door and let the Bridegroom into the bridal chamber. The couple would stay in the chamber for 7 days, the number of completion and perfection. The marriage would be consummated. The two would become one. The friend of the bridegroom’s task would be completed. He is full of joy.
         The bride and the bridegroom would go to their “new” home, just as Christ’s Bride will go to her new home – the new heaven and the new earth – that is pure and perfect. Righteousness will dwell in holy perfection. The earthly Jerusalem was the place where God revealed His Word and ruled over His people. God’s shekinah glory (presence) was in the temple in Jerusalem. When the Israelites were in Jerusalem, they were to remember God’s holiness, faithfulness and ruling power. Jerusalem was also the birthplace of Christianity. From Jerusalem, Christianity spread throughout the earth. However, Hebrews 22:22 says that believers in Christ “have come not to an earthly mountain, but to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the Living God.” Earthly Jerusalem was a foreshadowing of the “new” Heavenly Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem will come “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 21:2 The heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem will become one.  All of God’s covenant promises will be fulfilled. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3  God and the Lamb will reign forever and ever on their throne in this holy city. (see Revelation 22:3)
     John the Baptist did his job. He brought the Bride to the Bridegroom Jesus. He prepared people through confession, repentance and water cleansing to be ready for Christ. The Body of Christ is to also take her proper place and be the forerunner of Jesus’ Second Coming. The bride is not to exalt herself,--the Church -- or Israel. The highest place and the One worthy of all glory, honor and praise is Jesus Christ. John the Baptist understood this. His disciples didn’t. John said to his disciples, “He must increase; I must decrease.” All believers must understand this also. We are all sinners saved by grace through the love of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We are chosen only by God’s grace and love alone just as Abram and the Israelites were chosen solely by God’s grace.
    “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” John 3:36 The choice is ours and ours alone! God gave the gift of His Son out of His love for all of humanity. A gift is not a gift until it is received and opened.


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