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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Jewish Wedding (Rapture Part III)

The customs surrounding the ancient Jewish wedding are frequently used by those who teach the pre-tribulation rapture view point as support for their position. Therefore we will examine them here and see how things really stack up.

First, it is very appropriate to compare the Jewish wedding to Jesus' relationship with the church and with prophetic events surrounding the return of Christ because this comparison is used frequently by Jesus and his apostles in scripture as an allegory and parable for his relationship with the church. The church is of course referred to as the bride of Christ. In the gospels on several occasions Jesus uses parables based on the Jewish wedding to refer to his return for the church.

In the pre-tribulation view point it is stated that the ancient Jewish wedding was preceeded by a betrothal during which time the groom would prepare the bridal chamber (huppah/chuppah in hebrew) in his Father's house. Then, once the bridal chamber was finished, the groom would come with his groom's men and attempt to take the bride by surprise. The groom would come at odd hours and the only warning given would be a shout by one of the groom's procession moments before the groom arrived. The groom would then sweep in and stage a mock kidnapping of the bride taking her away to the bridal chamber where they would have the wedding feast in secclusion. The wedding feasting would last for seven days.

This is all very lovely, and obviously fits well with the pre-trib view point. The problem is that it fits so well because it has been tailored to fit. Wether knowingly or simply because of over-zealousness to prove their point, pre-trib teachers have conveniently trimmed away inconvenient facts that don't fit well, and apparently made up some as well.

The first point to make is that our historical knowledge about ancient Jewish wedding customs is not very good. There is virtually no surviving historical sources from the time of Christ which describe wedding customs. The only descriptions of such customs that do exist are scattered allusions from rabbinical commentaries. Further, what we do learn from these commentaries gives the appearence that wedding customs varried considerably from region to region.

So, what do we know? Well the first point is that the betrothal period was not an indeterminate time during which the groom could show up at any time. Jewish law actually specified specific time period limits which a wedding contract could be made for. The usual contract period was twelve months. The groom could not come for his bride before the twelve months was up, and if he were to delay too long after, it would be considered a breach of the marriage contract. In some communities the actual day of the wedding was specified in the marriage contract a full year before the wedding. In other's only the month of the wedding was specified.

Secondly, it was customary in many Jewish communities for maidens to be married on wednesday. This was done for three reasons. First was to allow the bride time to prepare for the first three days of the week, and second was that if the groom found his bride was not a virgin on the wedding night (which was a legal breach of contract) he could then take his complaint immediately before the local sanhedrin which met on thursdays. The third reason was also practical, in that it allowed everyone a day to rest (on thursday) from the wedding perperations before preparing for the weekly sabbath. It can be seen here clearly that is was customary for the bride to know on what day the groom would come.

Thirdly, on the day that the groom was supposed to come for the bride, the bride, her bridesmaids, family, and friends would celebrate at the bride's house while waiting for the arrival of the groom. The groom's procession would send ahead young men to announce that the groom was on his way. According to custom he was supposed to arrive one half hour before midnight. This was because it was customary for wedding ceremonies to be performed at midnight at the groom's father's house. Thus picking up the bride at a half hour before midnight allowed enough time for the procession to return to the groom's father's house for the traditional midnight ceremony. (this point will be important later on)

Fourth, the period of seclusion in the ancient Jewish wedding lasted only a few minutes immediately after the ceremony, not seven days as is intimated by the pre-trib teachers. When the bridal party arrived at the groom's father's house they would have the ceremony (which was attended by all friends and family who would have joined in the procession). Immediately after the ceremony the bride and groom would go into the bridal chamber(chuppah) for a few minutes of seclusion. In Jewish culture it was forbidden for unmarried men and women to be alone in a room together. Thus the short period of seclusion symbolized their new status as husband and wife. After the few minutes of seclusion the bride and groom emerged from the chuppah and joined with their guests in seven days of feasting.

The entire idea of the groom trying to surprise the bride with a sudden and unexpected arrival, as well as the idea of the seven day seclusion after the wedding are not found in any historical source and appear to have been invented within the last few decades.

So how does all this really mesh with what the bible says??

First, lets look at the parable of the ten virgins.

Matt 25
25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps [1] and went to meet the bridegroom. [2] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose 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, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The very first sentence of this parable should clue us in to problems with the pre-trib view. The ten virgins took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Meet him where? The went to the bride's house to meet him. This fits perfectly with what we know about the Jewish customs, which is that the bride and her bridegrooms knew when to expect the bridegroom. They went to the bride's house because the knew that the groom was coming that night.

Secondly it is important to note that the groom in this parable is delayed. How would the bridesmaids know that he was delayed if they didn't know when he was coming? They all fell asleep while waiting for him because he was supposed to come at a set time but was late. We know from our previous conversation that he was supposed to arrive at the bride's house at 11:30 PM. The parable here tells us that the groom came at midnight instead. He was a half hour late.
If you will notice, it is not that the foolish virgins ran out of oil because they were waiting so long (as is commonly assumed). Rather the took no oil with them. They knew they were going to the bride's house but took no oil. What is the importance of the lamps and the oil? The bridal happenned just before midnight, so it was dark. The procession was halmarked by the friends of the bride and groom forming a huge parade of lights and celebration. The lamps were to light the procession.
The foolish virgins took no oil with them, and the took no effort in the time they were waiting to prepare. Then when the procession began they wanted others to give them oil, but were told "go get your own".
The reason the wise virgins refuse to give any of their oil away is that they are assuming that there will be a half hour long procession back to the groom's father's house. Thus they think they have barely enough to keep their own lamps lit for the full half hour. They thus tell the foolish virgins to run and buy oil for themselves. The assumption again is that there will be a half hour long procession which would allow the foolish bridesmaids time to catch up.
Here we come to the only big surprises of this parable. The procession goes out to meet the groom, and instead of taking the half hour trip back to his father's house, the go immediately into the bride's house and the marraige takes place in the bride's house. Then when the foolish bridesmaids return, they are not allowed entrance.

There are three things about this parable which stand out as odd. #1 the groom was a half hour late. #2 the wedding feast appears to happen at the bride's house rather than at the groom's father's house #3 the 5 foolish bridesmaids are not allowed to enter the feast.

The reason for the wedding being held at the bride's house is because the wedding had to take place at midnight. Because the groom was delayed there was no time to return to the groom's house, he brought the wedding and the feast with him to the bride's house instead.

The notable things about the foolish virgins are, #1 they expect other people to prepare for them and do their work for them #2 they are more focused on their own role in the procession of carrying the lamps, than they are on being there for the bride and groom, either when they first meet, or at the midnight wedding.

Then lets look at Rev. 19 and the famous wedding feast of the lamb.
Revelation 19
19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
“Hallelujah!Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,2 for his judgments are true and just;for he has judged the great prostitutewho corrupted the earth with her immorality,and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

3 Once more they cried out,
“Hallelujah!The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,all you his servants,you who fear him,small and great.”
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!For the Lord our Godthe Almighty reigns.7 Let us rejoice and exultand give him the glory,for the marriage of the Lamb has come,and his Bride has made herself ready;8 it was granted her to clothe herselfwith fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said
to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
The Rider on a White Horse
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in
blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave,
both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

The first point that should be noted is that this entire passage takes place AFTER the judgement and destruction of Babylon the Great whore. This necessarily means that it takes place after the beast ('anti-christ') has been revealed and active on earth.

Then we see that the marriage supper is announced. The bride has made herself ready (again indicating that she was given the forwarning and time of preperation which was traditional).

Immediately upon it being stated that the bride has made herself ready and the marriage supper is immanent, we see the heavens are opened and Jesus Christ comes riding on a white horse. What does he do?
He wages war upon the beast and judges the wicked. He comes down and slaughters the armies arrayed against him by the beast pouring out the wrath of God upon the earth. An angel standing in the sun cries out to summon the carrion eating animals to the "great supper of God" and Jesus slays all the armies arrayed against him.

Now if you remember in my last post we looked at a verse in which Jesus made a strange statement "where the corpse is there will the vultures gather" and I said to remember it.. this is where it comes into play. The disciples asked Jesus where his return and the judgement of the wicked would occur and Jesus said "where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather". That is echoed here when the birds of the air are called by the angel to gather over the place where Jesus destroys the armies of the beast and gluts the vultures on their flesh.

Thus, we see that the marriage supper of the lamb does not occur at the beginning of the tribulation, or during the seven years of the tribulation. It is not announced until the very end and does not occur until Jesus completely wipes out the armies of the beast.

The final issue we must address is that of where the bridal chamber is and where the feast takes place. The pre-trib view holds that the feast must take place in heaven because of the refrences to "my father's house", and the tradition that the marriage takes place in the father's house. However, biblically "my father's house" never refers to heaven. It always refers to the temple or the tabernacle. Further, the parable of the ten virgins seems to also imply that the marriage feast takes place at the bride's house (because the groom was delayed). Also the hebrew word "chuppah" (which is the bridal chamber) is used only once in scripture, in Isaiah chapter 4 and it is used to refer to God gathering his people to mount zion apparently during the millenial kingdom.
Finally Isaiah chapters 24 and 25 which prophecy events of the day of the Lord, contain refrences to the feast and the unveiling of God's people both of which are wedding refrences. This prophecy clearly places the feast at Mt. Zion. (notably the prophecy also contains refrences to the darkening of the sun and moon just as Jesus did in the olivet discourse, and specificly placed them at the end of the tribulation).

In conclusion, the allegorical nature of the wedding feast is obvious, and important to prophecy. However, pre-trib teachers have significantly twisted the story to make it fit their view. They have either removed important details, an in a couple of cases completely manufactured details in order to make their view fit. I'm not alledging dishonesty here, but simply the very common pit-fall that once you have decided what you believe, there is a great tendancy to make the evidence fit your theory, rather than the other way around.
The customs surrounding the Jewish feast (from what we know, which is fairly sketchy) clearly do support the post-trib view point that the church will be for-warned of the Lord's comming and that coming will occur at the end of the tribulation which will then be followed by the marriage celebration in the millenial kingdom.

In the next post I will address the question of "no man knows the day or the hour"

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your understanding of these events except for one item. how do you understand that the wedding takes place at the brides house.The parable does'nt seem to lead me to that conclusion.
I personally have felt that the holy scriptures was silent on the pre-trib view although there are many well thought of church leaders with this view.
I am open to having my mind changed if anyone out there has bible verses they would share that will back up there pre-trib view.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Simon Templar said...

Thanks for the comment :)

I originally saw that point made by a messianic Jewish website that was addressing the issue of the wedding imagery in relation to the rapture.

The argument is based on comparing what the parable says, to what would be expected as the usual case.

In the usual case, the wedding procession would go back to the grooms house in a parade, lasting about a half hour, give or take.

The parable, however, points out that the groom was later than expected (by about a half hour) and it says that when the groom arrived, all who were ready went in with him, and the wedding took place immediately, presumably because things were already 'running late'.

This pretty clearly indicates that there was no procession back to the grooms house. The parable says that when the groom arrived, they went into the house. Since the groom is arriving at the bride's house, it implies that they are going into the bride's house.

This is also likely why the 5 foolish virgins expected to still make it in time. They expected to have a half hour procession, so they would have had plenty of time to catch up etc. However, the wedding party went in immediately and shut the door, thus they missed out.

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you please state your sources where you found information that contradicts what Pre-Trib proponents say concerning the Jewish Wedding Customs? You seem to have found some historical sources and information that when I have spent long hours researching on the internet, have not found. I have visited hundreds of sites, mostly Jewish/Hebrew sites that do not give the same point of view as yours on the customs of a Jewish wedding. They in fact back up the Pre-Trib view. Unfortunately, neither side seems to list their documented sources. I am asking the others with the opposite viewpoint to do so as well. Thank you so much ahead of time for we all on the path of seeking out the truth.

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simon, One of the strongest verses that refute a pre-trib and supports a post-trib rapture at the 2nd Coming has to be Rev 20:4-6

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a[a] thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Note how the souls martyred for their witness of Jesus, had NEITHER worshiped the beast or image, nor received the mark of the beast (all which had to of happened during the Great Tribulation period (final 3 1/2 years)). So these saints died during the tribulation period. It goes on to say these same saints lived again to reign with Christ during the millennium. All non-saints did not live again until after the millennial reign was completed, when they will be judged. So, the writer then states (referring back to the resurrection of the saints), that this was the First resurrection. So, if this was the first resurrection, then it had to happen to these dead saints that lived and died during the tribulation period, at the end of the tribulation. Not the mid-point or beginning of the 7 year period.
What I can see now is that some pre-tribbers will be saying there must have been a "zeroeth" (UHH???) resurrection to allow for the so called pre-trib rapture, and the saints we are seeing come out of the tribulation were so called tribulation saints.
Val

7:47 PM  
Blogger Simon Templar said...

Val,

Thats a very good point. Honestly, I never noticed that before! Thats one of the things I love about scripture, there is so much there in the details that there is always something more to discover.

ST

10:47 PM  
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8:26 AM  
Anonymous JEE said...

Anonymous,
Rev. 20:5 is the first resurrection of the dead.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Simon,Val, this account of the resurrection of the saints that die during the tribulation does not interfere with the Pre-trib rapture theory at all.
I think that pre-tribbers are not the only ones trimming vague facts to suit their theories. Also, even your description of the wedding procession fits a pre-trib rapture as well as pot-trib which has more problems that pre-trib.
John gives significant meaning to the term "first resurrection" ("first" in Greek also allows for the meaning foremost - not just first in time) when he says, "Blessed and holy is he...Over such the second death has no power, ..."
The firs resurrection is phased - starting with the "first fruits" of the resurrection it is all one harvest.
However, if this resurrection is for all the dead saints, and those alive were "raptured" just prior to Jesus' return, then you have a problem populating the Millennium with believers. I cannot dogmatically say that "post-tribers" are wrong they just have more problems to solve than pre-tribbers.
On top of all that I see the tribulation period as a second chance for those who are lukewarm or those who fell asleep spiritually. The pre-trib rapture serves as a warning to them.
Rich

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am inclined to agree with the interpretation of the Simon Templar based on "common sense" sake and not so much on precise analytical resource material. Jesus spoke parable that could be understood through the Spirit with "common sense" as oppose to a collegiate degree. Simon has unveiled the truth of the point of teh five wise and the five foolish as being foolish becasue of a wrong preception which although they were already ready, presupposed that they weren't. This let me to understand, that if you know that you are ready, don't alow anyone to persuade you that you are not, unless of course you aren't. The only way you can know is by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit. As far as pre-trib and post-trib, it is all meaningless when it comes to knowing the truth, but also remember, not just "one" has it all, but God. we at our best can only "know in part" until that which is "perfect" is come.

5:15 PM  

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