#9 – The Genesis of Life [Rev19:1-10]: The Bride – a mystery…

“Let us rejoice and exult and give glory, for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come, and the Bride has made herself ready;” Rev 19:7 ESV

So Who is she? Who is this Bride that has made herself ready? Who is this woman that when all is said and done, is united in marriage forever with the righteous Lamb of God?

She is a mystery!

Yes, there are scriptures in the bible that refer to her, like when John the Baptist says in John 3:29 that, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. “ and in Revelation 21:2 when John the Apostle says: “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Even in the Old Testament God refers to Israel as His bride, like in Jeremiah 2:2 when He tells him to, ‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.’ The prophet Hosea is even asked to marry a prostitute as a prophetic sign that God’s bride, Israel, was prostituting herself by forsaking the Lord. There are seemingly many scriptural references to the bride, and how God relates to His people as a bridegroom does to a bride; but is that it? Is that all we are supposed to gather about the bride? That it is a metaphor for the way we relate to God? Or is there more? Is there a deeper story running through the pages of scripture, that at first glance cannot be seen? Is there maybe more to her than meets the eye? Lets look a little deeper….

I love the way Paul talks in Ephesians. He uses the word mystery 6 times. He is trying to convey something spectacular to the Ephesian assembly, yet he can’t seem to express it in words. So he uses the word mystery, defined as ‘a truth that is incomprehensible to reason and knowable only through divine revelation,’ to try and help them understand.

I don’t know if any of you have experienced this before, but sometimes when I can feel something brewing inside me that I can’t seem to describe, I find that sitting down and writing helps me process my thoughts. Eventually what happens is I figure it out. Yeah, by running through all the concepts and placing them down, the mystery within me eventually reveals itself. Or maybe you think verbally and so speaking to someone helps you process everything and then eventually without them even saying anything, you kinda just figure it out. Well, whichever works best for you, I believe Paul was doing just that in his letter to the Ephesian saints. He was trying to express a revelation the Lord had given him, and as he wrote (and spoke) to them, the picture became clearer.

I will not be making a theological or exhaustive interpretation of Ephesians, but for the sake of this study, will just be commenting on the mystery thread that seems to run through its pages.

In chapter 1, Paul already makes mention to this aspect of mystery. He basically interprets the times and helps the saints understand that what is happening with the church (in terms of people getting saved, the gifts of the Spirit, and so on) is actually what God had predestined all along. He then continues to expound that this is a reality that is in Christ and explains what it means in its practical outworking. In chapter 3 he says that the mystery that was given to him by revelation of Christ was hidden in God from the beginning of time; and then, just a little later he actually says out-rightly that the mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

After this, in chapter 4 he introduces a breathtaking new concept, the [body of Christ], and how everyone is a member of that body, like limbs and organs are a part of a human body. He is clearly developing a concept and leading up to something and in chapter 5, to further reveal this mystery Paul decides to personify the church as the bride of Christ and in verses 25-27 he says that “Christ loved the church (his bride), and gave himself up for her, that he may sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so he might present the church (his bride) to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, or without blemish.”

And then, to end off his attempt to try and reveal the depth of the revelation that God gave him concerning Christ and the church, he likens them to a divine and eternal mystery that God established in the garden of Eden, way before the fall in Genesis 2:24 when He said that, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” He explains that this same mysterious power that joins a man to his wife and makes them one flesh (body), is what joins Christ to the church and makes them one body (flesh). What a mystery!

And so, if all I have done is completely confuse you… good! For that is what a good mystery should do. Thus far, in all generations, this enigma of the Bride of Christ and the ambiguity of how she is one with Him has confused, confounded, and mystified… And for good reason. God has kept this amazing secret hidden to the eyes of the proud. For it is His greatest delight, His eternal enjoyment, His most passionate purpose. Hence, you will not find scripture that out-rightly explains who the Bride is. For God has hidden her. In parables, riddles, and stories. To ensure that only those willing to seek will find. Those willing to look past the words and choose to see and appreciate His heart will discover. Those, who delight in knowing God as friend. With them he says He will share all His business. (John 15). All His inner workings, plans, and desires He will reveal to those He calls Friend.

And His Bride, this [pearl of great price] that He searched for, eventually found, and sold everything He had for, (including his very own son), He will never throw before swine to be trampled upon. She is too precious to Him.

And so, only with those who truly desire to know Him and value His heart will He share this revelation. It is His greatest secret. The most precious thing He owns. That which He gave everything He had for.

And so, my question to you today is: “Do you really love the Lord and His heart’s desires? Do you really appreciate Him for Who He Is? Can He share His most precious pearl with you? Can He trust you?  Will you make space for His heart? Can He feel safe with you? Can He really call you Friend?

Lord, my prayer today is for us all. I pray that you will show each of us the pride and selfishness in our hearts that keep us from loving you unconditionally. That which keeps you from feeling safe with us. That which keeps us from being able to receive and cherish the truth in your heart. That which keeps the bride veiled from us. We want to be your Friend. We want to know you. We want to be stripped from everything that would keep us from loving you. Please God, change us. Do a deep work in us. Prepare our hearts to house your pearls. Prepare us to be safe loving vessels of your deepest desires. Make us real Friends.

#7 – The Genesis of Life [Rev19:1-10]: The Great Pursuit 3

This is the 3rd part of a 3-part-piece covering The Great Pursuit. Please check out the other two here:

The Great Pursuit 1

The Great Pursuit 2

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“Let us rejoice and exult and give glory, for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come, and the Bride has made herself ready;” Revelation 19:7 (ESV)

So, what are the responsibilities of the Bridegroom during the Betrothal?

This is the third edition of posts looking at Jewish wedding customs and how they relate to Jesus Christ and His betrothal to us, His Bride. (Adapted from Jewish Wedding Customs and the Bride of Messiah, available at http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wedding.html)

Responsibilities of the Bridegroom

During betrothal the groom’s responsibility is to focus on preparing a new dwelling place for his bride and family:

  • In Biblical times this was most often done not by building a new home – but by simply adding additional rooms to the family’s existing home.
  • The Rabbi’s determined that the place to which the bride was to be taken must be better than the place she had lived before.
  • It was not the groom’s duty to determine when the place he was preparing for the bride was ready – his father would make that determination and give the go ahead to receive his bride.

The bridegroom leaves and begins to prepare a bridal chamber for his new bride in his Father’s house. The bridal chamber is where the bride and the bridegroom will consummate their marriage. It must be very beautiful, and it has to meet the specifications of the bridegroom’s father.Lets  look at John 14:2-3:

“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. And if I go 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.”

So Jesus has already told us what He is doing. He is fully embracing His betrothal to us. He has gone to prepare a place, and we have not seen Him for the past 2000 years. Why? Well, clearly the bridal chamber is not yet ready. It is probably why He said in Matthew 24:36:

“But concerning the day and the hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

It’s not because Jesus doesn’t know all things and is not all-powerful. No, it’s because He has embraced the wedding game (process), and therefore He knows that only once the Father is happy with the bridal chamber that He is preparing, will His Father give Him the go-ahead to come and fetch us, His Bride. He is fully submitted to His Father in this, as a good son would be. He knows that His Father knows best when it comes to these things.

The Grooms family hard at work

Lets look at it this way; lets look into Heaven for a moment and imagine a potential dialogue between Jesus and His Dad as they are fully active in preparing the Bridal chamber.

Just imagine Jesus preparing away, and every week or so coming to His Father and saying, “Dad, come look! Come see if it’s ready.”

And His Dad, getting off the throne for a moment, goes to inspect the bridal chamber. After walking around it and inspecting every draping, every emerald, jewel, and golden embroidery, every flower, every decoration, and every colour, He says, while pointing around the room, “Son, have you thought of this, and what about that…”

Jeus looks at His dad, and then looks at the chamber, and then back at His Dad replying,  “Oh yes… You’re right. I didn’t think of that. Ok, give me a week. I’m sure I saw some of that in the Royal store-house. Thanks Dad.”

And His Dad, while looking down towards the Earth replies, “Good my son, you take whatever you need from the store-house. And get some of those bridal angels to help you. That’s what they’re there for. It has to be perfect for her. Look at her, she is the most beautiful girl in the universe. We can’t leave anything out.”

And Jesus, while peering down at His Bride, says noddingly, “Yes Dad, I know. It’s why I went down to pay the price for her remember…”

Dad replies “Yeah yeah, I know Son, I’m just reminding you. You know how forgetful you can be when you start staring at her. She not only takes your breath away, she completely dumbfounds you. You completely forget about the bridal chamber. No-wonder its taken you over 2000 years to get it ready… [Chuckling] You can’t get your eyes off of her.”

Jesus, blushingly, just stairs at his toes with a kinda naughty, in-love look on his face. “What do you expect me to do Dad? She is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t contain myself. I just want to look at her. All the time. ”

His Dad, lovingly puts His hand on His Son’s shoulder and says,” I know my son. She’s beautiful. That’s why I chose her for you. I knew you’d love her. I knew you’d appreciate her. And that’s exactly why we need to get this bridal chamber ready. She deserves only the best!”

Jesus looks up at His old man with a look of determination on His face and says, “You’re right Dad. It must be perfect. Thanks for being so supportive in this. You really are the best Dad in the whole world!”

So as you can see, we clearly have nothing to worry about. These two are hard at work preparing everything for us. Why? Well, because we are the most beautiful bride in all the world. And next, before we look at what our responsibilities are as a bride, we will take a closer look at who we really are in His eyes. Who is this girl that the Father has chosen for His Son? Who is this girl that has stolen the heart of God? Who is she…

Father, open our eyes so that we may look into Heaven and see. Show us what you are doing and what you are saying. Just like Jesus did only what He saw you doing, so also, reveal to us what you are doing in this hour. We want to know. We want to see. We are curious. Inquisitive. Show us Lord. We want to know you…

#6 – The Genesis of Life [Rev19:1-10]: The Great Pursuit 2

This is the 2nd part of a 3-part-piece covering The Great Pursuit. Please check out the other two here:

The Great Pursuit 1

The Great Pursuit 3

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“Let us rejoice and exult and give glory, for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come, and the Bride has made herself ready ;” Revelation 19:7 (ESV)

So, we are in the waiting game. The Father has selected us by the Spirit to be Christ’s Bride, He has set out the New Covenant as a contract between us as a couple, He has paid the bride price with the life of his own son, and he has made provision for our spiritual cleansing by the baptism of water and the Holy Spirit. We are fully betrothed to Christ Jesus. He has gone to prepare a place for us, His Bride, and we are preparing for Him to come and fetch us. (Picture Him picking us up in His arms, and carrying us to our new house. Then, kicking the door open, He takes us in to be with Him forever.) This is what we are waiting for. The consummation of the marriage…

Remember that we are looking at Jewish wedding customs and how they relate to Jesus Christ and His betrothal to us, His Bride. (Adapted from Jewish Wedding Customs and the Bride of Messiah, available at http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wedding.html)

Eyrusin: The word eyrusin means – Betrothal. The period is also called – kiddushim – meaning “sanctification” or “set apart.” This word really defines the purpose of the betrothal period – it is a time in which the couple are to set aside to prepare themselves to enter into the covenant of marriage.

So, after the Father has selected a bride, the bride price has been paid, the gifts have been given, the marriage contract has been accepted, and the ritual washing has occurred, the betrothal begins. In this period the groom goes to prepare a place and the bride prepares herself. In Jewish tradition this takes between one and two years. And in this time, the bride and the bridegroom will not see each other at all. The bride will wear a veil over her face in public to signify that she is taken; she has been “set apart” or “sanctified” for her future husband.

It is very important that this time is not neglected. It prepares both the bride and the bridegroom individually so that when they come together, they are ready. It must be embraced fully by both of them. It is designed to lay a solid foundation for the marriage. This time helps both the bride and the bridegroom to deal with the things that would keep them from loving each other perfectly. It is a time in which they can both process their lives and let go of the past. It is a crucial transition from the old life to the new. Without it, the marriage would really suffer. *It’s like cleaning your shoes and having a rest before you run a marathon again. You can’t just go straight into a new marathon after just having completed one. You will be tired, injured, and in desperate need of rest and recuperation to prepare for the next one. So also with marriage. Married life, though terribly exciting, is very different from normal life. It is a different type of marathon. One which requires different muscles, and a much larger capacity for endurance. It is a race on a whole other level. And without the correct training, one is sure to drop out before even reaching the end.

Hence, both the bride and the bridegroom must embrace the training time that God has designed into the marriage game. Both teams train separately before the big game. They do not train together, because then they will learn each other’s strategies before the game even begins. That’s pointless and not much fun. The game must bring unexpected twists and turns. That’s when the quality of the preparation really comes to the for. If a team is properly prepared, they will be able to adapt to the other teams tactics. It is the beauty of the game. It’s what makes it worth playing and watching. It’s what makes it fun.

So, if we’ve had 2000 years of preparation so far, can you just imagine how fun the marriage is eventually going to be?The best game ever played! And played for all eternity. Bring it on!

Huppah: After the couple have undergone – Mikveh (immersion, or in our case, baptism), each separately, they appear together under the Huppah – or canopy – and in public they express their intention of becoming betrothed or engaged. From ancient times – the wedding canopy has been a symbol of a new household being planned – (Ps. 19:5; Joel 2:16). While under the Huppah the couple participate in a ceremony in which some items of value are exchanged – such as rings, and a cup of wine is shared to seal the betrothal vows. After the ceremony – the couple is considered to have entered into the betrothal agreement. This period is to last for one year. During this time the couple is considered married – yet do not have sexual relations yet – and continue to live separately until the end of the betrothal.

So when did this occur between Jesus and us? Lets look at Matthew 26 at the institution of the Lords supper, from verse 26:

“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”

A cup of wine was shared to seal the betrothal covenant. And it is exactly why we are encouraged by the Lord to do so often. We do it in remembrance of the covenant that we have made. We remember that He has gone up to prepare a place for us and that we are waiting to be married to Him. We, with Jesus, as a couple, have officially entered into the betrothal agreement, and we are already considered married. We are now only waiting for the consummation of the marriage.

The Matan – or Bridal Gift: Following this betrothal ceremony the groom returns to his home to fulfill his obligations during the betrothal. But just prior to leaving he gives his wife to be a Matan ntm – or bridal gift, a pledge of his love for her. It’s purpose is to be a reminder to his bride during their days of separation of his love for her, that he is thinking of her – and that he will return to receive her as his wife. So what gift did Jesus leave with us before he went away? Lets look at John 14 from verse 16 and 25:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

So Jesus doesn’t just leave a simple gift, but a person. He leaves the Holy Spirit as a living letter to remind us about Him and everything He has said. The Holy Spirit is our Bridal Gift. And not only Him, but also the supernatural Peace of Christ that comes by the Holy Spirit. Wow! What an amazing Bridal Gift. And we see that Jesus fulfills His promise in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, when the believers are filled with the Holy Spirit.

And still today, as we receive Christ as our Bridegroom and are baptized in water, we can receive the Holy Spirit as a bridal gift just like the first disciples did. We can receive Him joyfully and so embrace our betrothal to Christ Jesus. For the Spirit is our love letter that reminds us of our lover everyday. He reminds us of the beauty of our Lord, and of the riches of His father. He reminds us of His honour and His stature. He reminds us of His wealth and His glory. He reminds us of His love and affection for us. Of the price He paid to purchase us. Of the eternal passion He has to make us His Bride. He reminds us to prepare ourselves for our wedding day. To make ourself ready for the consummation of the marriage.

Next we will look at what Christ’s responsibilities are as the Bridegroom and how exactly He is preparing for that great wedding day.

Father, thank you that you chose us to be a bride for your Son. Thank you that you did everything that was necessary to make sure that we can be married to Him. All we have to do is say “Yes!” Father, help us to accept what you have done for us. Help us embrace our betrothal to Jesus Christ. Help us receive the Holy Spirit as our love letter and remember everyday the beauty of our passionate lover, Jesus Christ.

#5 – The Genesis of Life [Rev19:1-10]: The Great Pursuit

This is the 1st part of a 3-part-piece covering The Great Pursuit. Please check out the other two here:

The Great Pursuit 2

The Great Pursuit 3

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“Let us rejoice and exult and give glory, for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come, and the Bride has made herself ready;” Revelation 19:7 (ESV)

Jesus Christ is waiting for His bride to be prepared for him at this very moment. That means  that we are in the time of the great engagement. The Church is betrothed to Christ. And Jesus Christ is in Heaven preparing a place for her. (John 14:3)

I would like to call this The Great Pursuit. And think of it as a “game” played between the Fathers, the Bridegroom, the Bride, and the Father’s household.  (I will be focusing on this for the next while, as I feel is it vitally important for us to understand.)

Marriage can often be thought of as a dry and weary process whereby a man finds a woman to marry. Especially if one looks at Jewish tradition and thinks only along the lines of all the formalities that need to happen. I do not think that is what God intended it to be. In fact, I think He wants it to be the exact opposite. It should be FUN. Yes. Exciting, exhilarating, enjoyable. Like a game played between two teams. A game where there are no losers, only two winners.

The object of the game is not just to win, but to enjoy the process of winning. It’s what makes winning worth while. It creates expectation, it involves all our senses, feelings, time, effort, resources, and relationships. When we put our life into something we appreciate it. And that is why the marriage game is so important. It is what prepares both the bride and the bridegroom to appreciate each other within marriage.

Lets see how Jesus enters into the Great Pursuit, as related to Jewish marriage custom. (Adapted from Jewish Wedding Customs and the Bride of Messiah, available at http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wedding.html)

1)      Shiddukhin: The Father selects a Bride for His son. This can be seen in Genesis 24 where Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. God has already done this for His son Jesus Christ. He has sent His servant/helper (the Holy Spirit) and selected her from the human race.

2)      Ketubah: The ketubah was and still is today the – “marriage contract.” The ketubah includes the provisions and conditions of the proposed marriage. This has also already been written. Within the Old Testament there are many places that essentially spell out how the Lord (groom) promises to support His church (wife) to be. (Jer 31:31-40 is an example). It is the New Covenant! From the brides side she promises to pay her dowry – her financial status. It is that of her yielded life and to keep and prepare herself for Him (I Cor. 6:20).

3)      Mohar: The Bridal Payment. This is sometimes called – the Bride price. It is a gift paid by the groom to the bride’s family – but ultimately belongs to the bride. It changes her status and sets her free from her parent’s household. In the case of Christ, the Father so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son… The Father gave his son’s life as a payment for the bride. It is what has set us free from the bondage of our previous Father’s house. (the Father of lies)

4)      Mikveh: To prepare for betrothal it is common for the bride and groom to separately take a ritual immersion. The ritual is prior to actually entering into the formal betrothal period, and is symbolic of spiritual cleansing. We see that Jesus Christ is immersed in the river Jordan when John the Baptist performs his duty as the friend of the Bridegroom. And this is why, Jesus asks that every believer is baptized. It is the Brides immersion and cleansing for betrothal and represents that she is washed and sanctified by the Spirit of God.

5)      The Testimony of the Servant: I’d like to add an element to this story for which I have not found a Jewish word. It can be seen in Genesis 24 where Rebekah decides to leave her Father’s house to marry a man that she has never met, in a foreign country she has never been. Why? Because of the testimony of the servant. He told her everything about Abraham, his riches, his land, his wealth. He told her about Isaac, his character, his honour, his stature. The servants testimony was so profoundly convincing that Rebekah began to fall in love with Isaac before she ever laid eyes on him. (Viola, 2009). By the Spirit, Jesus Christ came and told and showed the bride everything about His Father’s house. Every miracle, every parable, every story, every action, was meant to reveal the beauty and majesty of His Father’s house and wealth. A house that he would one day inherit. Everything He did, was to entice and excite this human woman to leave her Father’s house (the kingdom of darkness) to be with Him in His Father’s house (the kingdom of light).

(This piece is adapted from From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola. Available at http://www.frometernitytohere.org/ It is a powerful exposition of God’s eternal love story. The chapter in the book from which I got this piece is called The preparation of the Bride. You can read it at Google Books here:

http://books.google.co.za/books?id=HIdEFUwDOUoC&lpg=PP1&ots=WnhBDw3NXc&dq=frank%20viola%20from%20eternity%20to%20here&pg=PA91#v=onepage&q&f=false)

All five of these stages must all take place before a Bride can be Betrothed to her Bridegroom. In the case of Christ, all of this has already taken place. We are currently betrothed to be with Him forever. We have already entered into the “marriage game.” And isn’t it wonderful! Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. We are set to be married and nothing can annul the contract. But we will go into this in more detail in the next post. We will consider what it really means to be betrothed to Jesus Christ…

Father, give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ Jesus and the reality of our betrothal to Him. Open the eyes of our understanding so that we can truly see the mysteries that are in Christ Jesus. May we begin to perceive in our spirits the nature of who we truly are. Help us embrace our Bridal reality, so that we can begin to live in a way that prepares for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Amen