The Hebrew marriage first started with the Ketubah, the betrothal, which was generally initiated by the bridegroom. He’s the one who established the marriage covenant. The mohar was his negotiating price, the payment he had to make to purchase his bride. Once the mohar was negotiated, the bride was set apart, sanctified (so to speak) for her bridegroom.
At that point in the traditional ancient Jewish wedding ceremony, the bridegroom would depart to his father’s house where he would prepare a room for her. Sometimes it took quite a while to construct and prepare this room, during which time he would, by the nature of his commitment, remain separated or apart from her.
As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride drank from a cup of wine over which the betrothal had been pronounced Then, while the groom was away, the bride would prepare herself for his return.
It’s an interesting concept referred to throughout Scripture; the bride and bridegroom are not yet married, but they are committed by a covenant. The bridegroom is away and the length of his absence is deliberately indefinite. The bride does not know when he will return, but she believes and keeps herself prepared.
His return is imminent; there are no preconditions to his arrival except his having finished the work of preparing their new home. His return will be a surprise, possibly in the evening while everybody is gathered, or even at midnight. At the end of his separation, he will leave to retrieve his bride, accompanied by the best man and other male attendants. He will leave his father’s house and conduct the torchlight procession to the bride. She is to be prepared and ready to go with him, even though she doesn’t know the exact time of his coming.
It’s important to understand that this is the context of Jesus’ famous parable about the 10 virgins in Matthew 25. They were waiting for the surprise of the bridegroom’s coming. Through this type, we see that the return of the bridegroom is preceded by a shout, the announcement of his surprise arrival. He’s coming! Are you ready?
The Wedding Day
This leads to the Wedding Day itself, which in Hebrew is called the huppah. The huppah refers to the canopy that covers the bridal chamber, and beneath this covering the bride and the bridegroom are reunited.
Prior to entering the chamber, the bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face. While the groomsmen and bridesmaids waited outside, the bride and groom entered the bridal chamber alone. There, in the privacy of that place, they entered into physical union for the first time, thereby consummating the marriage that had been covenanted earlier.
After the marriage was consummated, the groom came out of the bridal chamber and announced the consummation of the marriage to the members of the wedding party waiting outside. Then, as the groom went back to his bride in the chamber, the members of the wedding party returned to the wedding guests and announced the consummation of the marriage. Upon receiving the good news, the wedding guests remained in the groom’s father’s house for the next seven days, celebrating with a great wedding feast.
During the seven days of the wedding feast, the bride and groom remained hidden in the bridal chamber for the seven days of the huppah. Afterwards, the groom came out of hiding, bringing his bride with him, but with her veil removed, so that everyone could see her.
The Jewish Wedding as a Type
That’s the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony referred to in the context of Matthew 25, and the idioms in it represent a type, or pattern. That is the way Jewish prophecy works. It’s a pattern that uses symbolism to explain God’s plan in advance.
In this case, the Jewish wedding feast gives the conditions under which the Messiah, the Ultimate Bridegroom, will return for His Bride. There will be a shout, a warning – you’d better be prepared – and suddenly He will return.
The Bride would be taken into the wedding chamber beneath a covering, the huppah, where the covenant of promises would be fulfilled. The Bridegroom would reunite with his chosen Bride, who is veiled. Her veil would be removed during His consummation with her under the huppah canopy in the bridal chamber. Then she, His bride, would be presented to the wedding party.
There are many details that can be explored to gain a better picture of the Rapture and what it might mean. I encourage you to always dig deep into Scripture, whether in group studies or on your own. This is the function and purpose of our Koinonia Institute (www.koinoniainstitute.org/).
As we dig further into this matter, we find an incredible depth of intricacy and consistency that no human could conjure or plot, because the details lead straight to both the First and Second Comings of Jesus Christ.
The First Coming – the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself – took place exactly on time as predicted by Isaiah and Daniel centuries before these things took place. We all wait eagerly for His return, for the time in history when He will arrive to claim His people and take them home.
His people are those who believe in Him, who prefer Him over any god of this world, over all temptations, who bear up in suffering, who prepare themselves internally, veiled as a bride is veiled. Her face is hidden until, with a shout, the Bridegroom returns to consummate the eternal covenant He made and present His bride, pure and holy, to God the Father.
The Marriage Supper
This consummation leads, of course, to the marriage supper, which lasts seven days in Jewish tradition. You’ll find pieces of the wedding feast in Judges 14, Matthew 9, and Matthew 22 and a variety of other places in the Bible. Remember, the bride in Jewish tradition was purchased with a price. The purchase price paid by Jesus for His Bride was nothing other than the blood of Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This marriage model is fulfilled in the idiom of the Church as the Bride of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds us of the Last Supper. Jesus took the cup after supper, and He said: “This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.” 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 That’s a remarkable phrase: “till He comes.”
Paul cautions us not to do this in a trite and unworthy manner, because partaking of this cup and eating this bread in any manner unworthy of its Holy meaning causes the participant to take on the guilt of the body and blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:27). Not a desirable thing to do.
This is not a drunken party; it’s the real thing. In the ceremony, we are partaking of the New Covenant of His promise to return and claim His Bride, His People, His Church. That’s the reason we take communion. It is to commemorate the New Covenant and to proclaim His sacrifice that purchased us with a price until He comes back.
In Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians we see additional marriage concepts. Read carefully what is being taught here: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27
In this chapter, Paul gives instructions to both sides of the marriage union; wives be submissive, and husbands love your wives. Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 four verses later: For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Ephesians 5:31
Just about the time we think Paul is just instructing us on how to live as a married couple, he throws us a curve ball. He says in Ephesians 5:32, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”
While he is talking about marriage, he describes Christ’s passion for the Church and how we as the Bride should respond to His divine Love through submission! We’re now reminded of other aspects of this model of Christ and His Bride. He was betrothed to Her in the New Covenant in 1 Corinthians 11:25, and we see in John 14:2 that the Bridegroom has left for the Father’s house to prepare a place for us.
He’s been gone for an interval of time, some 2000 years, but there will be an escort to accompany Him upon His return (Matthew 25: 31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Jude 1:14). He is the Lord of Hosts, after all. Here is the key passage: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18
That’s the Rapture statement. Again, the Greek word for “rapture” is harpazo, which means “caught up.”
Quite often, references to this passage end with verse 17, but I think verse 18, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words,” is very much a part of the Rapture declaration. It’s important to understand that when Paul addressed this church, he found they were upset because some of their friends or relatives had died, and they were worried that those who had died would not see the return of Christ. Paul had to address their misperception.
When he spoke of those “which sleep in Jesus” he referred to dead believers, and he said that just as we believe He died and rose again, we believe He will resurrect those beloved friends and family when He comes! That’s quite a statement, especially in those days when understanding was in its infancy.
We understand that He’s going to come with a shout to gather His Bride. But how will He do that? In verse 17, Paul describes how those of us who are alive will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air.
Even without the Scripture to verify it, we should know the Rapture has to take place, because there’s a point in history yet to come when all believers will receive resurrected bodies and be with the Lord in Glory.
We know also that whenever that happens, there will be living believers who have not died, who will be caught up. That’s the Rapture, the harpazo: those who have not died but are still living will be caught up, transposed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52).
There are many people who believe the Rapture will occur after the Great Tribulation, but that belief puts the Bridegroom in a scenario something like this: “I’ve made a covenant with you and we’re going to get married. But before we do, I’m going to put you through horrible trials and tribulation. Then we’ll have supper and celebrate.”
The point is, Paul said, “Comfort one another with these words.”
Some argue against the Rapture by saying the word doesn’t even appear in the Bible, but it does. As I’ve said, we have to read it in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible. There the Greek word harpazo is translated rapiemur, the proper tense of rapio, the root of our English words “rapt” and “rapture.” Deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (Latin Vulgate)
“Rapture” comes from the past participle of the verb rapia. One cannot deny that the word appears in the appropriate tense as literally “rapture” in the Latin Vulgate. Those who say it’s not in the Bible have not done their homework.
Our Resurrected Body
The idea of a resurrected body isn’t just a New Testament concept – it’s all through the Bible. In fact, Job brings it up in the oldest written book of the Bible. For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. Job 19:25-27
That is fascinating. Job himself, from the days of Abraham, declared that he’d one day have a resurrected body.
References to the Rapture in the Bible
There are seven references to Rapture in the Bible. Don’t forget the Old Testament is full of types, which foretell events in the New Testament and what will occur yet in the future. 1) Enoch was raptured according to Genesis 5:24, and confirmed by Hebrews 11:5. 2) Elijah was taken up in 2 Kings 2:11. 3) Jesus Himself, after He was physically resurrected, after He was seen alive, walking, talking and eating, being touched and handled, He was taken up in a moment of glory (Acts 1: 9-10). 4) Phillip was carried away in Acts 8:39. 5) Paul was taken up to the Third Heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2. 6) John was caught up to Heaven in Revelation 4:1.
The Woman of Revelation 12
These six are all familiar references to readers of the Bible. Four of these references use the Greek word harpazo.
The seventh and most provocative use of harpazo is in Revelation 12, where we see Israel portrayed as a woman who gives birth to the man-child, the Messiah (Revelation 12:5). Some people interpret the Woman as the Church, but that doesn’t work because the Church is a virgin, and this woman is giving birth.
The picture of the man-child is derived from idioms drawn from Genesis. In Genesis, God created Eve, the woman, out of one of Adam’s ribs. The woman in Revelation 12 is clearly not the bride or wife, but the Mother who brings forth the man-child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. Psalm 2:9 and Revelation 19:15 identify this man-child as the Messiah, as Jesus Christ.
The woman’s child is “caught up” to God unto His Throne, and so Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father, who is in fact the Right Hand of the Triune God. From Genesis to Revelation we learn about this man-child, the child who is the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:8,11).
Whenever I read Revelation 12:5 as a kid, I presumed that the harpazo of the man-child referred to the Ascension, and that may be. English theologian G.H. Pember, however, suggested the possibility that this verse in fact portrays the catching up of the Body of Christ, of the Church itself!
It’s certainly interesting that the word used in this reference is harpazo, the same word we see in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.
Missler, Dr Chuck. The Rapture: Christianity’s Most Preposterous Belief (p. 11). Koinonia House. Kindle Edition.