God On The Net
This page is based on tele-evangelist Zola Levitt's description of Jewish marriage customs in first-century Jerusalem. The text is an adaptation of a presentation he used to make during tours to the Holy City as shown on his television program.
Some Christian theologians do not believe in the Rapture, claiming the text is being misunderstood. However, the parallels between first-century Jewish marriage customs in Jerusalem and verses regarding the Rapture and the Second Coming are too extensive to be a coincidence or misinterpretation.
Matthew 22:30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
The reason people in heaven will neither marry nor be given in marriage is that the elect will be the bride of Christ.
Revelation 19:7, 9  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride [the elect] has made herself ready.  Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."
The first-century marriage contract and the "bride price."
When a Jewish boy decided he wanted to get married he would go over to the girl's house with a contract of marriage and the "bride price." That would be the first "date".
Jesus followed the tradition. He came from His Father's house to where we live, the earth. He brought a contract, or covenant: the New Covenant, i.e., the New Testament. (Contrary to common belief, the word "testament" has nothing to do with "testimony." In King James' time the word "testament" was a synonym for "covenant" or "contract.")
Jesus paid a dear price for his bride: the life of an innocent man on the Cross.
In the course of the evening the suitor would pour her a cup of wine; that was the act of proposal. She would accept the proposal by picking up the cup and drinking it, or she could push the wine away and thus reject the proposal.
1 Corinthians 11:25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
If she picked up the cup and drank it, the new fiance would respond "I go to prepare a place for you." The man would return to his father's home and begin building a wedding chamber for himself and his bride-to-be.
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 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.
Now that the woman was betrothed, she was different. She was called consecrated, set apart, bought with a price; she was no longer her own. If she went out during the day, she would wear a veil, to indicate that she was "taken".
1 Corinthians 6:19-20  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Under the contract, the fiance could come back and claim his bride anytime, without notice. (Note – I have seen similar presententations, e.g., by John Hagee and Perry Stone, where they indicate that the engagement period was roughly one year. However, there still was no set wedding date.)
Matthew 24:37, 39, 42, 44  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
When the bridal chamber was finished, the young man would go to pick up his bride and they would have the wedding night and begin their new life together.
John 14:3 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.
Obviously, if it were up to the young man, he would put something together as fast as possible, to get to the wedding night. Therefore, someone else would decide when the wedding chamber was ready – the bridegroom's father. Because a new daughter would be joining the family, the father would want to make sure that she had a decent place to live. Hence, only the father would know the time when his son would return for his bride. In many instances, this could be months.
Obviously, from time to time the young man's friends would come around and ask "So, when is the big day?" His reply would be "Only my father knows."
Matthew 24:36 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Typically, the bridegroom would come to pick up his new bride at night, usually around midnight. Because no one knew what date this would be, the prospective bride would sit in joyful anticipation by her window night after night, perhaps for months. In many cases she would not see her betrothed at any time between the proposal and the marriage night.
Israel has some very rough terrain, and many areas got very dark and had no paved roads. It became a tradition for the prospective bride to keep a lamp filled with oil by her bedside, to avoid injury when her new husband showed up, "kidnapped" her and took her to their new home. The fact that she had the lamp ready showed she was waiting as she had promised to do when she accepted the proposal.
Finally, the groom's father would announce that the marriage chamber was ready, and he would tell him "Go and get your brothers and your groomsmen and go and get your bride."
That night, the groom and his friends would sneak over to the bride's house around midnight to surprise her. This is documented in the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, (called the Ten Virgins in many translations.)
Matthew 25:6 At midnight the cry rang out: "Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!"
The custom was that, when the group got relatively close to her house, the groom's friends would give out a shout, to make sure she would be ready.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (KJV)  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Matthew 24:31 And he [the Son of Man] will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
At this point, the bride-to-be would have a few minutes to get her veil on (she was not married yet) and light her lamp.
Matthew 24:33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.
When the groom's party arrived they would rush in; they could also take any girls with lamps, e.g., her sisters, her bridesmaids, etc., making sure, of course, to get the one with the veil. The bride would then be spirited off with her new husband for the wedding night. This is described in the following:
Matthew 25:1, 5-7, [New English Bible]  ... There were ten girls, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  As the bridegroom was late in coming they all dozed off to sleep.  But at midnight a cry was heard: "Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!"  With that the girls all got up and trimmed their lamps.
The neighbors would see a group of people and they would know a wedding was taking place, but they wouldn't know who was getting married. If they waited seven days until the honeymoon was over they would see the bridesmaids, etc., returning and they could find out who got married.
The analogy is that unbelievers see Christians and do not understand why we behave the way we do. When we return with the King in the second stage of Christ's Second Coming it will become clear.
On the wedding night the "best man" would wait outside the wedding chamber for a signal from the groom. When the groom told him the marriage had been consumated, the "friend of the bridegroom" would announce the marriage to the guests.
John 3:29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
Asked if he was the Messiah, John the Baptist identified Him and announced His wedding:
John 3:28-29  You yourselves can testify that I said, `I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.'  The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bride- groom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
In the case of the Messiah, the bridal chamber is the judgment seat of Christ; in the bridal chamber, the groom removes the bride's veil and sees her as she truly is, without cover or pretense. We may make pretenses to the outside world, but the Lord knows us as we truly are.
Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride [the Elect] has made herself ready.
In the custom, after the marriage was consumated the husband would come out with his new bride and the wedding reception, called the "wedding supper" or the "wedding banquet" in the Bible, would begin. Levitt's presentation is unclear about the time interval preceding the banquet.
It is clear that the Second Coming will occur in stages, but the Bible is unclear about the time interval. The Rapture is the first stage, when the Elect will be taken from the earth. The second stage will occur when the King returns with His saints.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
By itself, this verse is somewhat vague and ambiguous. However, considered in the light of the marriage customs, it seems much more clear that Christ will present His bride for the wedding supper.
Revelation 19:9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."
In the tradition, the groom's father was the only one who knew the time of the marriage, so he was the one who chose the guests.
In the tradition, there would be a week-long celebration by friends and family of the bride and groom. The wedding at Cana in John's gospel was one such celebration.
Obviously, it would be a sad day for a bride-to-be who was not ready when her intended husband came calling.
Matthew 25:1-12, [New English Bible]  When that day comes, the kingdom of Heaven will be like this. There were ten girls, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five prudent [wise];  when the foolish ones took their lamps, they took no oil with them,  but the others took flasks of oil with their lamps.  As the bridegroom was late in coming they all dozed off to sleep.  But at midnight a cry was heard: "Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!"  With that the girls all got up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish said to the prudent, "Our lamps are going out; give us some of your oil."  "No," they said; "there will never be enough for all of us. You had better go to the shop and buy some for yourselves."  While they were away the bridegroom arrived; those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.  And then the other five came back. "Sir, sir," they cried, "open the door for us."  But he answered, "I declare, I do not know you."
(c) 1998 by Rick Reinckens