Sunday, January 29, 2023

Why I Believe In A Pre-Tribulation Rapture - Part 6: The Bridegroom

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."
(Rev. 19:7-9)

Jesus calls Himself a "bridegroom" and born again believers His "bride." (Mark 2:18-19) These terms are used more than once in the New Testament, and if there's one thing that we know about God, there's always a deeper meaning to words like these, so let's look at the traditions of a traditional Jewish wedding at the time, and consider whether that has any relevance to the Rapture, when many, like myself, believe that Jesus will come for His bride.

Choosing a bride...
In ancient Jewish tradition, either the father would choose the son's bride. Paul states, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will," (Eph. 1:3-5)

Oftentimes, the bride had not seen or met her future husband, but had found out about him through the bridegroom's servant. This reflects our engagement with Jesus. We have not seen Him, but God’s servant, the Holy Spirit, has revealed Him to us. "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1Peter 1:8) When He returns to retrieve His bride, we'll see Him face to face! Paul writes to the church body, "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2Cor 11:2) The word "espoused" actually means "engaged." So we, as born again believers, are presently engaged to Jesus.

Every bride came with a price...
Brides in early biblical times were purchased through way of the bridal price, or "mohar." The word for wife, be’ulah, means the “owned one.” Husband, or ba’al, means “owner” or “master." Once a couple entered into covenant at betrothal, they were legally married in all aspects except for the physical consummation of the marriage.

Jesus paid our "mohar" through His blood...
  • "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:" (1Pet. 1:18-19)
  • "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1Cor. 6:19-20)
  • “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28).
The marriage contract...
At the betrothal ceremony, a marriage contract, or ketubah, was presented to the father of the bride. Although a bride was selected for a bridegroom, the young woman did have some say in responding to a proposed marriage contract. The same occurs in our spiritual betrothal to Jesus because we also have a say in whether or not we'll accept the marriage contract. Paul writes, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom. 10:9-10) When we believe and make this confession of faith, we're agreeing to this wedding contract, and as such, we become part of the bride of Christ. 

The bridegroom comes bearing gifts...
Betrothal also included the giving of gifts by the bridegroom to his bride. This gift was to remind the bride of what was to come. What is our Bridegroom's gift to us? God's Holy Spirit and all the gifts that come through Him. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (John 16:7) And again, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." (John 16:13-15)

Through the Holy Spirit, we receive additional gifts; "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (1Cor. 12:8-11)

Water immersion...
Brides purified themselves in a mikvah (pool of living water) prior to their wedding. It represented a separation from an old life to a new life – from life as a single woman to life as a married woman and from being under the authority of her father to being under the authority of her husband. Water immersion is the New Testament equivalent of the mikvah. The Bible says "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;" (Mark 16:16a). When we're baptized in water, we're symbolizing our death and resurrection with Christ, going from our old life to a new life, coming out from under the authority of our old father, Satan (sin), and coming under the righteous authority of our Bridegroom, Jesus.

The bridegroom must go to his father's house...
Once the marriage covenant was sealed, the bridegroom left his beloved to go to his father’s house to prepare a wedding chamber for her. During this time, his wife-to-be would prepare herself to leave her parents’ home to live with her husband’s family and become part of their household. When a marriage contract is agreed upon, the engagement begins and the groom goes to his father's house to prepare the marriage chamber. When I think of this, it reminds me of the scripture, "In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14: 2-3) The Jewish bride was set apart, consecrated, separated unto her bridegroom while he was away preparing their wedding chamber. 

No one knows the day or hour...
The groom could be gone up to twelve months! Because of this, the bride had no idea what day or hour her bridegroom would return to take her to the wedding chamber. It was the bridegroom's father who inspected the bridal chamber to be sure it was completed and ready for the wedding. Only when it's been completed to the father's satisfaction does the father give his son permission to retrieve his bride. So, neither the bridegroom nor the bride had any idea when the bridegroom would be sent. As it says in scripture, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matt. 24:36)
When the bridal chamber is ready and the groom is sent to retrieve his bride, he gathers his friends and they set off together. Now, during this entire time, the bride's responsibility is to remain vigilant and be ready, because the bridegroom could arrive at any time. "Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not." (Luke 39:40) In fact, bridegrooms usually came for their brides late at night, near the midnight hour. It reminds me of the  parable of the ten virgins, "And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." (Matt. 25:6) 

The trumpet is blown...
When the bridegroom approached from afar off, shofars would be blown and the shouting and merriment of those with him could be heard, which could be heard afar through the silence of the night. This reminds me of another portion of scripture, “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: 17Then 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.” (1Thes. 4:16-17) Note: It's specifically stated that it will be the "trump of God," so this excludes the last trumpet blown during the seven trumpet judgments, since these will be regular judgment trumpets and not THE trump of God, which seems pretty specific. If you're interested in my reasoning behind this, check out my article, "What If The Trump Isn't What We Think It Is" You can also check out my YouTube video HERE.

The Rapture...
The bridegroom always arrived at the huppah before his bride to welcome her to the place he had prepared for her, where, from that day forward, they would be together. This is where the bride and bridegroom would stand side by side, formalizing their union. Our Bridegroom will meet us at our huppah in the sky, on that day that glorious day when He welcomes us to His Father's house: "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord i the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1Thess. 4:17) 

Alone together for seven days...
The Bride and bridegroom would greet the guests gathered at his father’s house and then be escorted to the bridal chamber where they would be alone for seven days, the marriage would be consummated, and the second part of the marriage ceremony would be complete. The best man or “friend of the bridegroom” waited outside the wedding chamber to hear the voice of the bridegroom tell him that the marriage was consummated. Then all the guests began a week long celebration. Jesus said, “He that has the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29). The seven day period was also called the “week of the bride.”

The marriage feast...
Following the seven days in the bridal chamber, the bride and bridegroom joined their guests for a joyous marriage feast. The first meal that the bride and bridegroom shared with their guests was called a seudat mitzvah, a festive meal, and had religious significance. The purpose of the meal was to instill joy in the hearts of the bride and bridegroom. Again, scripture shows us that this part of the marriage will play out in heaven, "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 7Let us be glad and rejoice and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." (Rev. 19:6-9)

Jesus fulfills the wedding feast responsibilities of a bridegroom...
  • Jesus has chosen us as His bride.
  • Jesus paid our bridal price with His blood.
  • Jesus has made a bridal contract through His covenant with those who repent and believe.
  • Jesus has given us a bridal gift by sending the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus has set up water baptism as our outward expression of our covenant with Him.
  • Jesus has gone to the Father's house to prepare a place for us as we wait for His return.
  • Jesus will return at a day and hour of our Father's choosing, so neither He nor we know when that day will be.
  • Jesus will return at the sound of the trumpet of God and with a shout!
  • Jesus will bring us up to meet Him in the clouds and take us to His Father's house.
  • Jesus will sequester us in the bridal chamber for a week (seven years) during which we will participate in the wedding feast.
Final thoughts...
This entire article has brought us to this point, and the reason why I took the time to write this. Jesus plans on fulfilling His responsibilities as our Bridegroom, and that means taking us to the bridal chamber for one week (seven years) while the rest of the world is experiencing the Tribulation/Great Tribulation. Some will say, "He didn't take Noah or Lot out of this world." True, He didn't, but that's because it wasn't necessary to do so. He sequestered Noah and his family safely inside of an ark and He safely led Lot and his family away from the pending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Rapture is different. There is going to be a worldwide judgment of God which will bring about the end of the world system as we know it and usher in His millennial reign. There'll be no flood to float on in this case. It'll be a world on fire! There will be nowhere on earth to find safety, so the Lord needs to take us home before the Tribulation begins. 
What bridegroom says, "I love you, but to show your love for me, you must suffer through the worst judgments God has ever brought upon mankind." No, a true bridegroom would rescue his bride before she is exposed to that type of danger. 

To those who say we need to suffer through the Tribulation so that we can somehow become more worthy to enter Heaven, I'd have to say that our salvation is not based on works, and we can't make ourselves more "worthy" by suffering through the Tribulation. You're using man's limited intellect and it just doesn't jibe with scripture. Our seven days in the bridal chamber with Jesus will be our seven years with Him in Heaven, participating in the Bema seat judgment and participating in the wedding feast He has prepared for us. 

I hope that those who do not believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture will consider what I have to say in this series of articles.  I hope we can interact in the comment section below. God bless!!!

If you wish to read the other parts of this series, please click on a link below:



Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Why I Went Back To Church: Starting From Scratch

I'm not perfect...
I know that born again believers like to put their best foot forward and make it seem that they have everything under control, but that's not always the case. Our online presence depends on the reader's/viewer's perception of our own life, so it needs to be perfect. Look at all the influencers on the various apps out there... YouTube, TicTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat, etc... They stress over projecting a positive and perfect persona. Some born again believers will show up at church and pretend everything is fine, even when their personal life is in turmoil. Well, I'm here to say that born again believers fail, and I'm no exception. This article will show how imperfect I am, and I'm not ashamed to share that with you and set the example of a born again believer who admits he's not perfect and sometimes falls. 

The walls go up...
In my life, I've endured decades of negative and hurtful experiences both in the church body and in my personal life. Because of that, I've developed major trust issues. I couldn't trust my mom, dad, or siblings (whose main concern was looking out for themselves); I couldn't trust my wife (who left me 7 times in our relationship) or her family; I couldn't trust my employers or co-workers (most of whom found no issue with stealing, lying, etc...); and I couldn't trust the people I was supposed to be able to trust... my brothers and sisters in the Lord, including church leadership (but that's another story). Church was supposed to be my sanctuary from the world, but I found the world alive and well within the walls of the church. Eventually, I became worn down enough to where I couldn't trust or depend on anyone. When it all got to be too much, I decided to protect myself from any further pain, so I erected an emotional wall to keep everyone at an arm's length. I left the church and I cut ties with my so-called friends. Still, to this day, I have no friends in the true sense of the word, and if a "friendly acquaintance," which I like to call them, causes me emotional pain, I remove them from my life. 
  • You lie to me or steal from me? Gone! 
  • You stab me in the back? Gone! 
  • You break promises? Gone!
This is one reason why I consider people I know to be just "friendly acquaintances," because I've refused to make the emotional investment in a friendship only to end up hurt and betrayed, which is what usually happens whenever I allow myself to get close to anyone. Although I don't consider people "friends," I can make them feel comfortable around me by smiling and laughing and cracking jokes. It's easy for me to project the personality of a "nice guy," because I'm actually a nice guy. When interacting with these friendly acquaintances, I'll show interest in their personal life and even share some of my personal life (only the parts of my life they won't be able to use against me as a weapon). Heck, I can even pray for them, but since I'm in constant defensive mode, they'll hit a wall if they try to form a closer friendship. 

The slow fade...
Since leaving the church, I've been what you might call a "Lone Wolf Christian." I had chosen to leave the church rather than continue dealing with the many negative issues that occurred within the church. I left in my futile attempt to go it alone, just me and God, and although I succeeded for a while, eventually my relationship with Him began to suffer. There are born again believers who have left the corporate church and flourished, but that was because they had other born again believers in their personal life with which to fellowship. I was void of face to face fellowship, and so I experienced a "Slow Fade," as the Casting Crowns song says. After a while, I didn't read as much and I didn't pray as much. I began filling my life with other things and, eventually, the enemy became a bigger influence in my life than expected, as I wandered further and further from the Lord. It seemed like the only scripture I was reading was through social media... short quotes, spiritual memes, and comments by other people. My prayers were confined to my meals, special requests, and the occasional prayer of appreciation for God's provision in my life. Sin crept in, but I had enough God-given wisdom to maintain my connection with the Lord. I continued watching Christian movies and continued praising and worshiping the Lord as I listened to my Christian music lists on my phone and YouTube. I lived my life aware of what my spiritual condition was and what it was doing to my relationship with God, but I still strived to do my best to remain faithful and obedient to Him in other areas of my life. I remember sitting down to read some of my previous blogs and to watch some of my previous YouTube videos, and thinking to myself, "Where is that guy? Where's that joy-filled and passionate guy sharing knowledge and speaking words of wisdom?" 

Needless to say, with everything I was experiencing, I still wasn't motivated to get involved with a church. Although my trust issues kept me away from church, unbeknownst to me, God had other plans. 

God spoke, and I wasn't happy.
A couple of months ago, God impressed upon me the need to go back to church. I wasn't too happy about that, and God knew it. I didn't feel guilty about admitting that to God, because He knows my heart and my past hurt that I was still nursing, and He already knew I'd be resistant to that idea from the get-go, but after thinking about it for a bit, I had to admit that I needed to make a sincere decision to lay down my own will and submit to His. I asked myself, "How can I remain isolated and still expect to grow? How can I have a relationship with Him or say I love Him if I don't love His body of believers? We're all living pillars in His Temple, so how can I exclude myself from interacting with them? By rejecting them, I'm rejecting God."

As much as I didn't initially want to submit to His leading, I allowed myself to recall past experiences of being broken before Him. It's not an enjoyable experience when the Potter breaks you in order to form you into a better vessel through which He can work. Although those experiences were brutal, reaching down to the core of my being, I must confess that those experiences of complete brokenness resulted in immense spiritual growth and resulted in a more intimate relationship with Him. What He was asking of me now (going back to church) was emotionally difficult, but how could I deny Him, not only because He's God, but because I knew He had my best interests in mind? He loves me so much that He stepped in and convinced me that my isolation from the body wasn't healthy. By submitting to God, I was trusting Him (the only One I truly trust) to begin healing a part of my life that was holding me back from His plans for me.

Finding a church...
I started making a mental list of the churches I thought I'd visit. I immediately decided that the church I was attending when I made that decision to leave the church in the first place would be excluded from my short list. I opted to attend a church I had been involved with many years ago. It wasn't too far from home, and they had a new pastor. I procrastinated for a while, but then pulled myself up by my boot straps and headed out to a Wednesday night service. It took a lot for me to just leave the house, let alone get out of my car and enter the building. I mean, with my trust issues, I didn't want to associate with anyone in that building. Wouldn't you know... I had an issue in this church from the get-go. I no sooner sat down when they were announcing their Trunk or Treat event. I remember thinking that this was exactly the type of experience over which I left the church. I actually had to force myself to sit in my seat for the entire service. Why? Because God was leading me back to church, so I wasn't about to run out on Him. As difficult as it was, I attended that church two more times before I decided that this wasn't a church in which I wanted to invest my time and effort, so I stopped going and continued my search for a new church.

A hospital visit changes everything...
During this time, my adult daughter was hospitalized for several days. Although her diagnosis could be life altering, that experience resulted in a huge blessing because she rededicated her life to the Lord (Praise God!), which encouraged me to stop dragging my feet in looking for a new church. A couple of weeks later, my daughter and I pulled into the parking lot of a new church and headed to the front door. That first visit was a positive experience, for the most part (I don't want to nit-pick), which encouraged me to give it another try. As of this date and time, we've visited the church twice (the past two Sundays), and we plan to return next Sunday.

I still have things to work on...
I don't want to give you the false impression that my trust issues have been resolved, because that's not the case. My trust issues still remain. In fact, during the service, I emotionally pulled away from everything for about 10 minutes and became an "observer." I looked around the sanctuary to see how it was set up, I observed how the congregation worshiped and how they behaved during the sermon. You can tell a lot about a church just by taking the time to observe the congregation and the church "staff." Also, during those times when the pastor or worship leader instructed us to look at our neighbor and repeat something, I rebelled and refused to do so. That comes from my issue with blindly following instructions from authority figures. If I'm going to follow the verbal instructions of someone in authority in the church, it's because there's value in it, not because someone in authority tells me to do it. That comes from my need to make sure that I don't put people in authority on a pedestal, which some in the church are prone to do. "Stand up, sit down, repeat these words, turn to your neighbor and say this, that, and the other thing, etc..." I'm likely to resist those instructions, but I don't expect anyone, or encourage anyone, to do the same. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have a aversion to blindly following someone, whether it's someone in the world or someone in the church. It's a skill that's come in handy more times than I can remember.

So that's where things stand right now. I'm able to get my foot in the door, I'm able to open myself up to the worship service instead of worshiping alone at home, and I'm open to biblical teaching from the pulpit. A couple of months ago, if you knew me, you wouldn't have believed it was possible, but here I am. 

You may have the impression that I'm looking for a "perfect church, but my desire is to fellowship with a body of born again believers who strive to seek a closer relationship with God and don't take their salvation for granted. I can deal with a church filled with imperfect people, but not one filled with hypocritical people. There's a difference. 

As the months pass by, I'll try to make it a point of either updating this article, or writing a companion article to share my progress in this area of my life (if you're interested). Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and for interacting with me in the comment section if you choose to do so. God Bless!!!