Bible Prophecy in Chronology series (post #20)
Revelation chapter 19 begins with the words: “After these things…” This places the events of the chapter not long after the destruction of the city of “Mystery Babylon” (Rome, see post #18 and post #19). In the opening ten verses of the chapter, we learn that heaven is beyond excited concerning what is about to happen. A lot of praising and worshiping is going on (Revelation 19:1-6) and there is a great expectancy. So, what is about to happen? Two things. First, after an entire human history’s worth of waiting, Jesus is about to begin His thousand-year reign upon the earth (Revelation 19:6). Second, the marriage supper of the Lamb is about to take place (Revelation 19:9).
In a later post, I’ll talk about Jesus reigning upon the earth. Trust me, that’s a subject that most Christians haven’t adequately studied, which is a real shame because it’s such a blessed subject for them. For this post, though, I want to explain the marriage supper of the Lamb. To do this, I need to walk us through the five stages of the classic Jewish wedding/marriage from the time of Christ. As we are going to learn, anytime such a wedding/marriage took place it was nothing less than an allegorical picture of prophetic events.
Stage 1: The betrothal
The betrothal was a legally binding agreement that established a marriage covenant. It was much more serious than our modern day engagements. A betrothal was so official that it took a divorce to get an individual out of one (Matthew 1:18-19).
To initiate the betrothal, the prospective groom traveled from his home (typically his father’s house) to the home of the prospective bride. There, he paid the price required by the bride’s father. Once this price was paid, the marriage covenant was established and the couple were regarded as husband and wife. From that moment on, the bride was set apart (sanctified) for her bridegroom. As a symbol of the new covenant that had been established, the groom and the bride drank from a cup of wine as a betrothal benediction was pronounced.
In terms of Jesus and His bride (Christians from the church age), Jesus left His Father’s house (heaven) and traveled to His prospective bride’s home (earth). There, He paid the price (the shedding of His blood in dying on the cross) to purchase her (1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Peter 1:18-19). In the life of the individual Christian, the Christian enters into the betrothal period and the marriage covenant at the moment of salvation. From that moment on, he or she is set apart (sanctified) for Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11, Ephesians 5:25-27, Hebrews 10:10, 13:12). As for the cup of wine to celebrate the new covenant, Jesus had that in mind at His last supper when He passed the communion cup to the apostles and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25-26).
Stage 2: The groom preparing a place for the couple to live as husband and wife
Once the betrothal was complete and the couple had entered into the marriage covenant, the groom left his bride at her house and returned to his father’s house for an unspecified period of time. This period of time typically lasted for approximately twelve months. During these months, the groom prepared the accommodations in which he and his bride would live in his father’s house. The bride would spend the months preparing herself for not only her wedding but also her life as a wife.
In terms of Jesus and the church, this second stage is the stage He had in mind when He said to His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2, N.I.V.). This second stage is the one in which Christians have been living for some 2,000 years since the resurrection and ascension of Christ. We are currently separated from our groom, and we are to spend the time preparing ourselves to spend eternity with him.
Stage 3: The groom returning to fetch his bride
It was the groom’s father who determined the timing of the fetching. Once the father deemed the unspecified amount of time completed, the groom, along with the male members of his wedding entourage, met at night and conducted a torch-light procession through the village, town, or city to the home of the bride. During the unspecified time the groom was away from the bride, she was to spend her days and nights in constant expectancy of this wedding procession showing up to fetch her at any moment. Not only were she and the female members of her wedding entourage expected to keep oil in their lamps, they were to keep extra oil in separate vessels to eliminate any possibility of the lamps extinguishing. But the bride and her entourage had no way of knowing the exact night or hour when the groom and his entourage would arrive. If it was late at night, they would even be asleep. Because of this, the groom’s arrival was preceded with the shout, “Behold, the bridegroom is coming: go out to meet him!”
Once the bride and her entourage were assembled with the groom and his entourage, the whole procession made its way back through the village, town, or city to the home of the groom and the dwelling place he had prepared in his father’s house. When they arrived at the home the wedding guests would already be there. Everyone would then go inside, the door would be shut, and the wedding would officially take place. In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus uses this third stage of the wedding/marriage process as an illustration of how the Jews who will not believe in Him as Savior during the tribulation period will not be allowed to enter into His kingdom on earth and therein attend the marriage supper of the Lamb.
In terms of Jesus and the church, we should think of this third stage as being the Rapture. That is the moment when Jesus will return to fetch His bride and take her to her prepared place in His father’s house (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55). Since 1 Thessalonians 4:16 tells us “the voice of an archangel” will somehow be a part of the Rapture, perhaps other angels will be involved as well and these angels will serve as Christ’s wedding entourage. The Rapture will feature some type of shout too (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and this shout – whatever it will be precisely – will serve the purpose of the Jewish cry, “Behold, the bridegroom is coming: go out to meet Him.”
Furthermore, when we Christians arrive at the father’s house (heaven), we’ll find that the wedding guests are already there. These will be the souls of all the believers who died before the church age began. John the Baptist, who called himself “the friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29), will be one of these guests. Right now, we Christians know that Jesus has paid the purchase price for us, know that we are betrothed to Him, know that He has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us, and know that He could return for us at any time. What we don’t know is the exact moment of the Rapture. This is why we must always be ready to “go out to meet Him.”
Stage 4: The consummation of the marriage
Shortly after their arrival at the father’s house, the bride and groom were escorted by the members of their wedding parties to the bridal chamber. This was the room in which the couple entered into physical union for the first time and thereby consummated the marriage. Prior to entering this room, the bride wore a veil to keep her face covered. Once the couple was inside the room they remained there “hidden” for seven days while everyone outside enjoyed a week-long feast. When the seven days were ended, the bride and groom emerged from their “hiding,” with the bride’s veil now removed so that everyone could see her face.
In terms of Jesus and the church, what we might think of as the consummation of our marriage to Him will take place in heaven following the Rapture. Just as the Jewish groom and bride remained hidden from others for seven days following their marriage, Jesus and His bride will remain hidden in heaven for the seven years of the tribulation period. These seven years will be a special time of intimacy between Jesus and the church. There’s no need to get weird and think that this intimacy will somehow be sexual. Intimacy at its purest and deepest level isn’t sexual.
Stage 5: The groom and the bride joining their guests at the feast
When the groom and the bride came out of their week-long “hiding,” they joined their guests at the feast (“marriage supper”). At this point, the bride’s face was no longer veiled and everyone could see exactly who she was. The feast would then go on for an extended time as the groom and bride enjoyed the celebration feast of their marriage.
In terms of Jesus and the church, once the seven years of the tribulation have reached their conclusion, He and His bride will come out of their “hiding” in the bridal chamber of heaven by returning to the earth. The “wedding guests” (the saved souls from the era before the church age) will be a part of this return as well, and each of these souls will be reunited with the body it inhabited in life. That body will be resurrected and glorified as a part of Christ’s Second Coming (Job 19:25-27, Daniel 12:1-3). Also, whereas Christians sometimes go unrecognized in life, at Christ’s Second Coming everyone will be able to see exactly who each member of the bride of Christ is.
Following Christ’s quick establishing of His thousand-year kingdom upon the earth, He and His bride will enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb in the kingdom age. This explains why The Revelation doesn’t mention “the marriage supper of the Lamb” until just prior to Christ’s Second Coming (Revelation 19:9). There’s no need to mention it until Christ and His bride are ready to come out of their “hiding.” Many commentators believe that the marriage supper of the Lamb will, in some form or another, last for the entirety of Christ’s thousand-year reign upon the earth.
Now, in closing, let me answer a question that arises from this highly detailed analogy of prophecy. That question is: “Does the fact that, typically, the Jewish bridegroom came to get his bride at night mean that the Rapture will take place at night?” The answer is, no. The Bible uses the concept of darkness to typify sin, evil, and wickedness, and any situation that isn’t of God is understood to be void of His illuminating light. Therefore, we are perfectly right to say that our world today is in many ways always in darkness, regardless of whether or not it is daytime or nighttime. Besides, the relationship that our planet has with the sun ensures that there is never a time when it is daylight or nighttime simultaneously around the world.