WHY IT IS ESSENTIAL TO STUDY THE
HEBRAIC ROOTS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
REDISCOVERING THE HEBRAIC ROOTS OF THE EARLY
CHRISTIAN CHURCH, CIRCA A.D. 60
THE ANCIENT JEWISH WEDDING
* THE WHITE ROBES *
Note: the following article is a transcription of one of our radio programs from the series on the Ancient Jewish Wedding which Messiah, Jesus, uses as a blueprint for many of his teachings to His disciples. Since this program provided such important insights to the Lord’s plan for the end of this present Age, we wanted to provide it also in written form so that it would be easier to study for those Bible students who are especially interested in this topic. The two participants in the radio program are Neale Johnson, the host, and Carmen Rachael, the prophesy commentator. This transcription has been edited somewhat from the original program to enhance the clarity of the subject.
Neale: Good morning and “Shalom Mishpocha.” Mishpocha is a Hebrew word that means “family,” and it’s one that we really enjoy at the Fellowship because it seems to bespeak so much of the family of God and coming together as a spiritual family that is united in Messiah. That is the message that God wants us so much to understand, and one that He wants us so much to live out in our lives.
We stress that because within Christendom today there are many divisions - rather than unity - and we think that this is not pleasing to the heart of God. But rather that it is His desire that we should be united: be of one mind, one body, one spirit just as the Scriptures say. So that’s our encouragement to all who are listening - - to focus on the Word of the Lord. And if we do that - if we just do that one thing - we will be united as one body with one mind and one spirit.
That is God’s way. And that’s what we seek to do is follow His ways in our lives and in our ministry and in this time we spend with you here on Shalom. So we are going to continue in doing exactly that as we continue our study, and that is a study we are doing on the idea of the ancient Jewish wedding and how it pulls so much of prophetic Scripture together in this age.
Now as we continue in our study about the Jewish wedding, the reason I emphasize the Jewish wedding is because this is the pattern that Jesus was using in many of the things to which He makes reference in His comments to His disciples. And without the knowledge of that structure, or that background, which was common knowledge at that time, we can be very lost. We may not realize this condition because we don’t have the essential underpinnings to hook all of these comments together. But once you see the pattern, it becomes this beautiful design of God. And it becomes a tremendous revelation because we realize that, not only is the Lord using the pattern as a model for His purposes, but the pattern has a larger importance because it represents how He relates to us as His people in such a merciful way: that He relates to us as a “husband” and to ourselves as “His wife.” Or in the case of Jesus within the Renewed Covenant [our preferred term for the “New Testament”), that He refers to Himself as “Bridegroom” and ourselves as “His bride.”
So these images, these themes, these patterns, that God uses are extremely important. And that’s why we spend so much time on it. Now we’ve been talking in the last few weeks about that Jewish wedding ceremony, and exactly how it was carried out at that time. And what Carmen and I are doing now is going through each phase of it, each aspect of it, in greater depth. As we do so, we start to really see how these statements of Jesus tie together - not only to that pattern, but all through Scripture; you see all of Scripture pulled together through this process.
We have illustrated earlier that the Jewish wedding is broken into two phases. The first phase is the “betrothal” phase and we’ve previously talked about that. But now we are going to be focusing on the second phase which is the phase that has to do with the “consummation” of the marriage covenant.
Carmen: I think, Neale, that it is really surprising, probably to a lot of people, just how much there is in the Bible about marriage and weddings.
Neale: Unquestionably. I know that at the Fellowship, when we are studying these scriptures, people are constantly almost astonished - when they see this pattern emerge - of how clear it is and how important it is to the understanding of the things that Jesus says.
Carmen: As we’ve been going through this study, we can see how the context of the ancient Jewish wedding forms a symbolic structure that actually helps us to understand many of the more difficult passages in the Bible - those of the New Testament in particular.
But up to now we’ve been looking at the first stage of the ancient Jewish wedding and this stage is called “the betrothal” which comes from a Hebrew word which means “to bind together.”
But today, I want to move on and look at the second stage of the process which is the “consummation of the marriage.” And this stage has particular importance for us today. We are actually living during the time suggested by the Jewish wedding parable of Matthew 25:1-12: we are the bride waiting for the return of the Bridegroom. That is why this becomes so meaningful for us. And this morning we will find that, as we go through this, many issues of eschatology are addressed in this context.
Eschatology is the study of end things or end times, and I know this can be controversial, but our intent is to not let it become controversial. As we have seen over the past five weeks of previous Shalom programs, the return of the bridegroom is connected to many prophesied events that mark the end of the Age, so we have to touch on these - - not to be controversial, but to present God’s precept of the return of the Bridegroom in its fullness. Remember how we saw that - after the first phase of the betrothal covenant - the bridegroom left for a very long period of time. From that time on, the return of the bridegroom dominated the lives of every bride of that day because marriage was seen as actual “redemption” for the bride.
For brides who were waiting, the return of the bridegroom was seen as their redemption from a certain life of unfulfillment and shame. Remember that women in that day had no rights and no protection except within marriage. And also, the return the bridegroom would begin the second phase of the wedding process which was the “consummation.” The waiting bride had only one obligation, just as we who wait for our spiritual bridegroom today have the same obligation: to remain pure and faithful, and to be prepared and ready for His impending return.
As we have seen, the return of the bridegroom had an element of of surprise and suddenness because he would arrive one night after a very long period of time. His appearance would come without warning, and - in this traditional way - he would steal his bride away in secret. That is why the coming of the bridegroom was affectionately compared to the coming of a “thief in the night.” This was actually a term of endearment for the one who would suddenly come and steal away his bride. Calling him “a thief in the night,” in this context of affection really reflects that culture. In that traditional marriage application, as the “beloved thief,” he was really only a thief to those who were not expecting him. Everyone in the wedding party knew he was coming and were required to be “prepared.” That is what the parable of the Ten Virgins emphasized as a spiritual guide for the bride as she waited.
With this in mind, I want to turn now to Revelation 3:3, where we find Jesus speaking to us as the ones waiting for our “beloved thief.” Revelation 3:1 is a letter to the Church at Sardis which is largely recognized as representing the Age of the Reformation. Many commentators believe that in this scripture Christ is stating that the Reformation itself was incomplete in returning to the Apostolic model of the early church; that areas of doctrine that were previously distorted by Rome in the 4th century continued to be left incomplete and inaccurate.
This observation is historically accurate because many of the Hebraic roots of our faith that had been recognized by the Apostolic Church were not emphasized or restored to Biblical intent by the reformers. Jesus declares in Revelation 3:1, “I know your works; that you have a name that you are alive, but you are DEAD. Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember, therefore, how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore, if you will NOT WATCH I WILL come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.”
In verse one, when Jesus states the church is “dead,” He means that the church is spiritually asleep. But the scripture implies a choice and a consequence. The return of the bridegroom always had an element of surprise and suddenness (we have stated that many times), but the bride was expected to be ready when he did return to “steal her” away. So Christ warns us in verse three that we are to “repent and be watchful,” or He WILL come as a thief. The consequence of not watching is spelled out in the parable of the Ten Virgins awaiting the return of the bridegroom in Matthew 25. The consequence can be that we will be shut out from the marriage altogether. So I think we need to read Matthew 25 with that understanding.
But for us who are prepared and watchful, He does not come to us as a thief because we are expecting Him. For the faithful remnant who have maintained their spiritual purity, Christ speaks in a manner that invokes the vision of a “bride dressed in white.” Going on in Revelation 3, He says, “those who have not defiled their garments shall WALK WITH ME IN WHITE for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Neale: I’d like to pick up on that phrase about being “clothed in white garments” because that’s such an important illustration that God uses of the way He will cloth us, and that this is something that HE DOES. And it’s actually quite a big subject. We could go into many aspects of it because we see from the very beginning of the Bible how God is clothing His people; that He is the one that provides covering that they need to provide them a protection against unrighteousness.
But we tend to think - in our present day culture - of clothing as something that has a specific function. But in Hebrew thought the word “clothing” was often a euphemism for the principal characteristic of one’s life. In the Scriptures men are often pictured as “clothed” in shame, or guilt, or desolation, or humility, mercy, honor, salvation, or righteousness.
And this is the thing that we want to look at now: how God will cloth His people: those who turn to him with yielded hearts and righteousness. And this is the picture we see in Scripture. To do this, let’s move forward a little bit to Revelation chapter 7 verses 9 and 10, where John pictures this scene, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, people, and tongues standing before the Throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God Who sits on the Throne and to the Lamb!’”
And then the key verse that really pulls this together with what we’ve been talking about is seen in Revelation chapter 19, because this is the picture of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. And let me begin at verse six of chapter 19, “Hallelujah for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, ‘Write, blessed are those who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’”
This is one of those very clear scriptures where we see how important it is to understand the concept of marriage as God uses it because it is so important to Him. It is not just a simple illustration - - it is fundamental to the relationship that God holds out for us. And we see this as the fulfillment of prophecy that goes back to Isaiah 61. We’ll see how that picture of the Marriage Supper of the lamb is fulfilled as Isaiah writes in verses 10 and 11, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as the bridegroom decks himself with ornaments and as a bride adorns herself with jewels, for as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”
There are so many ways we see all of these concepts tie together in the basic theme of the Jewish wedding. And that’s why we stress that it’s so essential for us to have a clear picture of that process in our minds. If we’re truly to understand - especially the New Testament - then we have to be able to “see” this picture of the prophetic “marriage” fulfillment.
Carmen: Now with that understanding, let’s go back to where we started; where we were looking at the consummation of the marriage. When the bridegroom did return, his return would trigger the second phase of the betrothal process. In tradition, this is called the “nuptials” which comes from the Hebrew word “nissuin” which literally means “to be lifted, or to be elevated, or carried.” In a Jewish wedding, even today, at this stage the bride and bridegroom are seen as being elevated into the very presence of God.
In the ancient model, this is where the final vows were exchanged before the bride and bridegroom were shut into the bridal chamber to fulfill the “wedding week.” It was a covenant requirement of every bridegroom to complete the wedding week which meant he must spend seven days of seclusion with his bride to consummate the marriage. In fact the betrothal covenant was not considered complete unless the bridegroom fulfilled this requirement.
We can find a very ancient example of this betrothal requirement in Genesis 29:15-30 in the story of Laban and Jacob. Jacob’s desire was to marry Laban’s daughter Rachel. But Laban had two daughters, and he deceived Jacob into marrying the older daughter, Leah, before being allowed to marry the younger daughter, Rachel. Even though Laban had deceived Jacob into marrying Leah, he asked Jacob to fulfill Leah’s “wedding week.” Only then would he give Rachel to him. And I’m going to read this, Laban is speaking to Jacob and he states, “Fulfill her week and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years. Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her [Leah’s] week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also.” And there is another example of this in Judges 14 where Samson is shown to fulfill his “wedding week” as a bridegroom.
What all this foreshadows and implies for us is that Jesus - as our bridegroom - will also fulfill the “wedding week” with us in Heaven after He returns to steal us away. We know that He has prepared our “bridal chamber” in Heaven, and that being “lifted and carried” into the bridal chamber was one of the consummating acts of the bridegroom. This part of the wedding is called the “Nuptials.” As I said earlier, this means “to be lifted or to be elevated to God.” I’m going to read a beautiful prophetic passage in the Hebrew scriptures (or what we call the “Old Testament” today). This scripture directly relates to us in the context of the bride being invited by her bridegroom to enter the bridal chamber to fulfill the wedding week. This is Isaiah 26:20 where God says, “Come My people, enter your bridal chambers, and shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself as it were for a little moment until the indignation is past. For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.”
What we can see in this scripture is that the invitation to “enter the bridal chamber” is connected to “the Indignation” which was another Hebraic name for the Great Tribulation at the end of the Age. We take this scripture at its face value - that God intends to hide His people and take them out at the Time of Tribulation. And that is why we believe that the “wedding week” that we spend secluded with our bridegroom “in Heaven” is one and same as the “final week of years” described in Daniel when final Judgement is occurring on the earth during the seven years of Tribulation. Being invited to hide in our “bridal chamber” is a powerful image that God removes His bride before executing final judgement on the earth prior to bringing in the Kingdom Age.
Neale: I can’t possibly underscore enough how important that idea is because it takes so many concepts of God and summarizes them all in that one idea of being “lifted up and caught up” to this place that our Lord is preparing for us. Because this event is what we - in our current age - will refer to as “the Rapture.” But it also has indications of the Feast of First Fruits that we’ve discussed in other programs. Specifically it ties into the Fall Festival seasons and, in particular, at the time of Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. In fulfillment in this Age, the final Feast of Trumpets is called “The Last Trump” by Paul. It is in this context that all of these themes come together in this one aspect that is so powerfully illustrated in the wedding ceremony and that of being “lifted up” to Heaven by our Bridegroom.
But it’s also very important to realize that we are lifted up before the “wrath of God.” Because in that scripture from Isaiah that you just read, it clearly states that the bride is “hidden a little while until the Indignation is passed.” And this event (the lifting up) precedes the “Indignation of God,” that is the Wrath of God, when judging the present world order.
We also see that same protection in a couple of other scriptures concerning the judging of the present world order. And just to be very clear, I want to point this out so that those people who are truly in Christ, who have really yielded themselves to God, who are part of the Body of Christ, would take comfort in this. In 1st Thessalonians 1, verses 9 and 10, Paul says, “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven,” (this is what the bride does,) “whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the Wrath to come.”
So, clearly, Paul says - specifically - that Jesus delivers us from “the Wrath to come.” And let’s make no mistake about this, in Paul’s day that reference to “wrath” was another name for the “Tribulation,” and was a reference specifically to the Tribulation of the final days. And then we see this again in 1st Thessalonians 5:8-11, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to Wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we would live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another just as you are also doing.”
This is what Paul intends us to understand: that those who are the bride, those who are truly committed and waiting and prepared and ready for Christ when He returns “as a thief;” that those who are of His true remnant are going to be caught away before the Indignation; before the Tribulation of God comes upon “those who dwell upon the earth.”
Carmen: And I want to conclude now by looking at another beautiful and revealing aspect of the ancient wedding tradition. When the “wedding week” was completed, the bride and bridegroom would dress up again in their bridal attire before leaving the bridal chamber to attend “the Marriage Supper.” When they were wearing these bridal garments, they were seen as a king and queen who would actually reign over the Marriage Supper. They were given crowns to wear, and this is still done to this day. All bridegrooms were given a crown of myrtle which symbolized victory and life after death. The tradition was that after the wedding week was fulfilled, the bride and bridegroom would leave the bridal-chamber at the father’s house, and they would return in great splendor to the bride’s family home where the marriage supper was prepared for them. There they were placed on thrones, and were seen as reigning as king and queen over the banquet. I think that there is no doubt that we can see how all this tradition gives us insight about the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” spoken about in Revelation.
When we come back at the end of the age with our Bridegroom, we too will be returning to the bride’s family home. Our family home is the earth. There we will preside over the “Marriage Supper” with Christ. Certainly the ancient tradition of the bridegroom and bride presiding as king and queen over the Marriage Supper is a prophetic picture of our own Marriage Supper with our Bridegroom in the Kingdom Age. The spiritual significance is that this is when we will enter the full marriage representing the consummation of God’s will from Genesis to Revelation. We will physically dwell with Christ on the earth during the Kingdom Age. (See Daniel 7:27 where he describes the coming kingdom as an earthly kingdom “under the whole heaven.”)
Neale: You can certainly see from this, as we’ve gone through just this one aspect of the wedding, how essential it is to have this contextual understanding. And that’s why we spend so much time and focus so heavily on this Hebraic viewpoint. This is why this is the objective of Shalom to make this kind of revelation and prophetic connection. As you listen to this, you will realize that you cannot possibly, fully understand the New Testament without this kind of historical comprehension of Jewish culture and tradition of that time. As we say so often, it was presumed common knowledge when these books were written: both the Hebrew Scriptures and that collection of writings that we now call the New Testament. Because we have never experienced that culture we, generally, have no idea what life for the people of the Bible was like in that time.
And so it is essential for us - if we truly want to understand the Word of God - to go back in time historically, and to get a very, very strong grasp of that culture as if we had lived at that time. Because that’s the way we will fully understand the Word of God. And this is the command that God reveals to us: that we are to “meditate on His Word day and night.” We are to know it. It’s supposed to be within us at all times and “in our mouth.” And if we are going to honor God and commit our lives to His purposes, then this is the kind of approach that we have to take.
It certainly is not a hardship; it is a tremendous blessing to do this. Prophesy has an exciting and “living” aspect that greatly glorifies God. As we see more and more of the revelation of this Wedding picture, it emerges as this grand salvation picture of God. All of the themes of the Bible weave together through it and come to conclusion in this consummation aspect of the wedding. This applies especially to the original covenant, the initial covenant with God and Abraham, as He restates it to His bride. All of these things are essential to our understanding, and cannot possibly be grasped in any other way.
Carmen: And we have found as we look at this through this Hebraic context, that there is no conflict and there is no doctrinal disunity because all of the Bible fits and flows together perfectly in this way.
Neale: That is the confirmation. That is, for anybody who listens to this program and will take it into their own mind, that is the confirmation because you’ll see how logically and how perfectly it all fits together. And that’s the way it should be: God is perfect; His plan of redemption in Christ is perfect. There should be no conflict, there should be no discord, no disharmony; it should all flow together. And that is the reproof evidence you see when you study it in this way. You see the evidence of the perfection of God’s plan. That is the evidence to each and every person who listens. That this is God’s plan - not ours - it is truly God’s. And all we do is study the Word and reveal it through guidance of the Holy Spirit. This Hebraic viewpoint affords us Paul’s definition of God’s truth which must include the “whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27). Which is to say: ALL Scripture - the Old Testament and the New Testament - together provide a consistent and powerful plan of redemption through the work and ministry of Messiah.
But now we have to run and we will be with you again soon. But before we do leave we always want to extend a heartfelt thanks to you as our listeners who support Shalom allowing us to be here with you, and we look forward to being with you yet another time on the next Sabbath as we bring you "Shalom."
copyright Ariel Ministries 2006
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