In order to understand the words and analogies of Jesus, we must first understand the culture He was in. All of the disciples of Jesus were from Galilee. When it came to weddings, the Galileans had a bit of a different tradition than the rest of Israel. Once all of the details are factored in, Bible prophecy regarding the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, will make perfect sense.
To begin, let’s look at how a marriage covenant was obtained. In Galilee, the Marriages were always pre-arranged. Today, there are many in Israel that still practice this custom. The Father of the groom would normally select the future Bride (kallah in Hebrew) for his son. The price of the Bride would be discussed by both the Father of the future Bride and the Father of the Groom. It was not buying a Bride, like a slave, but was more of a dowry where she would be taken care of financially, should the couple divorce or the Bride become a widow.
Next, in order to set the new covenant into place, there had to be a couple of things that occurred. First, the Bride to be also had to be a consenting Bride. Just as Jesus does not force anyone to accept Him as Lord and Savior, so the Bride also, is not forced to marry her future Groom, unless she consents. Second, the future Bride and Groom had to go through a spiritual cleansing called the mikvah. This was usually a stone pool that collected rain water because rain water was considered “pure.” There were seven steps going down into it. Seven represents the days it took for the heavens and the Earth to be created and is also the number of completion with God. There would be a covering to go around the pool because each individual would have to be naked, this way they had privacy. The idea was that humanity had a sinful nature at conception, but during the time in a Mother’s womb, babies cannot sin yet, they are at the early stages of “innocence” before birth. Again, the same mentality comes during this ritual. A future Bride and Groom go in naked, as they came at birth, cleansing themselves spiritually by announcing that they want God to view them as He did while they were still in their Mother’s womb, still having that sinful nature, but not having committed their first sin yet. This was a sacred ceremony that would insure they were ceremonial clean, before entering a spiritual covenant. The moment they stepped out, they would call themselves, born again. The same term Christians use after they accept Jesus and are baptized, which is also a spiritual ceremonial expression of receiving the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note in Mark 16:16, it reads, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.“ Take note that the thief on the cross accepted Jesus, but was dying on a cross and couldn’t be baptized. This verse clearly discusses that baptism is a spiritual moment, but the main act is to focus on the belief. As the Bride to be, we are also asked to be baptized after we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Jesus was already baptized in Matthew 3:13-17,
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
The betrothal was a legally binding covenant contract that showed the couple was officially married, but they were not allowed to share the physical benefits of marriage (sexual consumation) until the marriage ceremony, which would come a year later. In ancient times, the couple became married (during the betrothal) under a huppah. In present times, the huppah is used at the wedding celebration, but during the time of Jesus, the betrothal was the marriage contract and the huppah was used then because it was a covering over the two that were coming into a marriage contract. The huppahs are a spiritual representation of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus in the Jordan River after His baptism, so the Holy Spirit comes into us after baptism. The top of the huppah also represented the glory of God coming down on the covenant. We also see this when Moses received the Ten Commandments. God asks the children of Israel to go cleanse themselves in water three days before, then Moses goes up and he receives the Covenant from God and God Himself descends and Moses is glowing from the shakinah glory of God.
Next, the Bride Groom would offer the Bride a ring and a gift and would also drink from a cup of wine, offering her, marriage. She too would drink from the same cup. Once she was finished, the covenant would be sealed and they would be considered a legally married couple, although they would be called “betrothed.” At this time, the Bride Groom would tell the Bride, “I shall not drink from the fruit of the vine, until I drink it with you, in my Father’s house.” This betrothal, would be a spiritual binding between the two and after a year, the physical consummation would occur. There would be a waiting period of one year to ensure the Bride was a virgin and that she was not pregnant, but pure.
At this time, the Bride Groom would return to His Father’s house during that year, which is called the erusin period, in order to add a room that would be their new dwelling place, at His Father’s house. The Bride would be busy with her Bridesmaids purchasing items to make her wedding dress, as well as the Bridesmaid’s dresses. Once the year was approaching, the Bride and her Bridesmaids had to be dressed and ready for the Bride Groom’s arrival, that would be imminent.
Traditionally, the Bride Groom would not know what day or hour the wedding would occur, neither would the Bride. It was a day and time that only the Father of the Bridegroom knew, so the Bridegroom too, would have to wait, greatly anticipating his special day. Once the Father decided the wedding chamber was complete and ready, he would signal to his son that it was time to go get his Bride. This happened in the middle of the night. The Bridegroom would have a shofar that he would blow, like a trumpet and this would wake up the town’s people. They would have to also be anticipating his arrival and meet him outside, in order to be in the wedding procession. Once the Bridesmaids heard the shofar, they would have to make sure they had enough oil in their lamps to not only get the Bride up quickly, but to last as they walked back to the Bride Groom’s Father’s house, in the dark, to help light the way.
Once their eyes would meet, the Father would show the covenant contact was in his hands. The Bridegroom would walk his Bride over to a type of chair and allow her to sit. She would be lifted up and carried the rest of the way to the wedding chamber. Once they arrived, they would walk into their wedding bed chamber and be given their privacy to consummate their marriage, physically. The door to the wedding would be shut and any late comers, would literally be shut out from the wedding. The guests would meet and greet and once the consummation was complete, the Bridegroom would bring out their bed sheets. If there was blood, it was a time for the guests to rejoice because the Bride had kept herself a virgin and her hymen was indeed broken. The shedding of this blood, sealed their physical covenant. If there was no blood, there was no wedding. It was considered a permanent, eternal seal between then. So after it was confirmed she had waited for her Groom, the wedding celebration would continue for seven days! With Christians, we too have to be cleansed by the blood of the lamb as we enter our betrothal period with Jesus. It is His blood that cleanses us from our sin and places a white wedding garment, representing His cleansing of sin, both physically and spiritually before the wedding celebration occurs.
Now this brings me to the explanation of the rapture of the church, of Christ. Because all the disciples were Galileans, they all had attended many weddings and understood the phrases Jesus was telling them. At the last supper, Jesus would reveal to them that He was indeed the Passover lamb. God’s lamb that would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. In Matthew 26:29 Jesus told His disciples, “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.”They understood this phase from a traditional wedding because it signified a common union between two parties, which is where we get the term, “communion.” Likewise, they were also beginning to understand that Jesus was telling them He was the Groom that would be leaving, but they would be reunited in the future (just like a Bride and Groom are reunited to actualize their marriage covenant. Jesus also instructed them to remember His sacrifice that He was about to make and to remember the new covenant that would be sealed with His own blood. In Luke 22:19-20 it reads, “And he took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
In Matthew 24:36, the disciples had previously asked Jesus how the end of the age would come and what would the signs be. Here, He tells them, 36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” They also understood this phrase from a wedding ceremony because only the Father would determine the timing of a wedding and likewise, Jesus was saying that only the Father would know the day and hour of the end of the age too. In Matthew 24:43-44 Jesus says, 43 “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” They understood that they too, were to always be ready, just as a Bride has to be ready, this was insinuating to them that He was the Groom and they were the Bride.
The parable of the ten virgins is one that the disciples could relate to because they were so familiar with their own cultural weddings:
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins
This parable also speaks of a Galilean wedding.
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
In the last verse of this parable, Jesus was connecting the dots with the parable, letting the disciples know that like in a Galilean wedding, they too had to be ready for when He would return for them, to take them to Heaven where He would be preparing a dwelling place for them.
13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
The confusion and controversy comes with Jewish tradition and New Testament scriptures. In the Old Testament, Israel is always referred to as God’s wife, but because Israel kept following after other gods, she was called an unfaithful wife. The story of Hosea, in the Old Testament, is the story of Israel being unfaithful to God. God disciplined Israel many times for “cheating” on Him and following after other gods, which was idolatry. But He always forgave Israel because He had made an eternal covenant with Israel, through Abraham. When Jesus came, He was rejected by Israel as the Messiah and at that point, He made a new covenant that would bring God a willing Bride. This is the church, all believers in Jesus, beginning with the 12 disciples and it started on the day of Pentecost. It will continue until the rapture of the church, which is when Jesus will come for His willing Bride (all followers of Jesus). It was not replacing Israel, but adding Gentiles into the covenant, that was previously only meant for Israel.
In Revelation 4, John is catapulted into the future and his vision begins with what I believe to be symbolic of the Rapture of believers. It reads in Revelation 4:1 “After this I looked and saw a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had previously heard speak to me like a trumpet was saying, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after these things.” In this verse, John hears a voice (like a trumpet) command him to be caught up into Heaven. In 1 Corinthians 15:52 we read, “52in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” This verse coincides with what John was experiencing and what the followers of Jesus will experience in the Rapture. After chapter 4, the followers of Jesus (I am speaking of the church before the Tribulation begins) are not mentioned again. The turmoil is spoken about and the ones that become Christians during the Tribulation are named, Martyrs or Tribulation saints in the book of Revelation. These, are not the Bride of Christ (church).
This same future event is mentioned again by Paul, the Apostle in I Thessalonians 4:16-18, it reads, “16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. 17After that, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words.…”. If the church (followers of Jesus) were meant to go through the Tribulation, why would Paul tell the believers of Thessalonica to “encourage one another?” It would not be very encouraging to know that we would be forced into judgement along with the worldly and ungodly that rejected the Messiah, the Groom. Paul was saying this because it had become an issue in that region and many had forgotten exactly what Paul had told them, so this is why he had to write this epistle to them. It was to remind them, that as believers, they would not have to worry because they were as a Galilean Bride that would be meeting her Groom before the 7 day wedding celebration could begin.
Just like in a Galilean wedding, the Bride is caught up to meet her Groom, the church too will be caught up to meet the Groom ( Jesus). Just like the Bride had to be ready and watching for her Groom, Christians are watching and waiting for Jesus to come to take us ( the Bride) to the marriage super of the lamb. The seven days of celebrating for a traditional Galilean wedding is symbolic of the 7 years that the Tribulation will last, but will be the Marriage super of the Lamb, in Heaven.
Just as God took Elijah and Enoch (a type of foreshadow and rapture), He will also take the church believers before the wrath of God comes, during the Tribulation. Just as God saved Noah and his family before the flood God also took Lot out of Sodom and Gomorrah before God’s judgement came, He will in like manner, take out His church. The scriptures tells us that “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” I Thessalonians 5:9. God’s wrath will be on the non-believers that refused to believe His Word, not on His followers. In scripture, there has always been a pattern of rescue for the ones that follow His ways. You will not find an incidence where God abandons His people and includes them in judgement. Rest assured, God is merciful, but this age of grace will come to an end and just like the door of Noah’s ark and the Galilean wedding door were shut, so will the door of Heaven be shut after receiving the Bride of Christ. Make sure you are ready, waiting and watching for His soon return, for it is very soon!
In the book of Revelation, we read, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” Revelation 3:10. Here, God is speaking to the church, His followers and believers in Christ. There are two major reasons for the Tribulation period. One is to judge non-believers for rejecting Jesus and the second reason is to purify Israel, to make her a worthy Bride for God. God had chosen Israel and made a Holy covenant with that nation, an eternal covenant that cannot be broken by man, nor God Himself. Although, Israel chose to “cheat” on God many times and God considered divorcing Israel, He chose to forgive Israel. Unfortunately, Israel will have to endure a serious purification (spiritual cleansing) during the Tribulation period, it is a time period known as the 70th week of Daniel and Jacob’s Trouble. Jeremiah 3:1-25 speaks about this situation, a must read!
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)
Believe, for He’s coming soon!
Sources: The Best Day of Forever: Jesus, a Galilean Wedding and the End of the World by Jay McCarl.
I also researched ancient Jewish weddings for the content of this post.
There is a movie called Before the Wrath by Brent Miller Jr. that puts this custom into a visual movie, which I plan to watch and has great reviews.
Thank you to Jay McCarl for all his intense research efforts and sharing this book with believers everywhere!