Christ’s Love for His Bride
There is something here on The Friends of Israel Today radio program that we strive for: to explain the Scriptures in their original context. What does that mean exactly? Well, we want to take each listener back to when the Bible was written and explain the customs and cultures. That is why today we’re going to look at Jewish marriage traditions in the times of the Bible. The Bible uses the picture of marriage all throughout Scripture. And Jesus gets very specific when He talks about His bride, the church.
Chris takes us through the process of a man and a woman becoming husband and wife in the times of Jesus. It was not quick, it was not easy, and it was not cheap. The parallels of Jesus and His love for us as believers will leave you in awe of God’s details and excited for our Savior’s return.
If we simply try to understand Jesus’ words to us through our Western world lens, we will miss so many details. We hope you are encouraged this week.
Chris Katulka: Jesus is saying, "I am coming back again." Just as a groom would go and prepare a place at his father's house for his new bride, He would always come back for His bride. Jesus is saying, Even though I am departing, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also."
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover and with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. One of the ways God displays His love toward us is through the biblical imagery of marriage. For instance, in the Old Testament, God calls Himself a husband to Israel. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul considers the church the bride of Christ. The union between a man and a woman displays the deep and intimate love God has for each of us more than any other relationship.
Chris Katulka: And Steve, that's why today on the program, we're going to be looking at how Jesus used these Jewish marriage traditions from His day to encourage us that He loves us and that He's coming back for us, His bride, the church.
Steve Conover: We look forward to that and in the news, the Israeli parliament recently passed a bill that's called the Jewish Nation State Law, which enshrines Israel as a Jewish state. A majority of Israeli Jewish citizens agree with the contents of the law; however, many countries consider it controversial and even racist.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, I was thinking about this as I was reading these articles about the new Jewish Nation State Law and I noticed every single one starts with the word, "controversial." I think many politicians and journalists are really making a mountain out of a molehill. First, Israel has always been a Jewish state. So, there's nothing new there. Second, Israel has always treated its citizens equally, whether they're Jewish or not, because that's what Israel's founders envisioned for their Jewish state. So, Israel being a Jewish state has never made it racist; instead, it has made it the most open democracy in the Middle East.
In the Bible, God never comes across as distant or disconnected or even disinterested. He's never seen in the Scriptures as a passive God who creates the heavens and the earth and then steps aside to watch His creation figure life out by itself. Instead, the Bible reveals God as being present in every aspect of His creation from managing and maintaining the complexity of the universe to speaking right into whatever problems you're dealing with in your life. I'm reminded of Psalm 46, verse one, which says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." So, even the psalmist understands that God is the Creator of all things, and yet at the same time, He is very present and active in our daily lives.
See, the Bible portrays God as a Creator who is intimately pursuing His creation. The relationship between God and His people is so intimate, it's often seen as a marriage relationship. In Jeremiah, the prophet receives a vision of a new covenant that God will make with His people, a covenant that doesn't reside on tablets, it's not written on tablets like the old covenant. Instead, a new covenant, a covenant that's written on the heart, and as God is building His case for a new covenant in Jeremiah, He says that a new covenant is needed because the people of Israel have broken the intimate marriage relationship that God and Israel have with one another. Listen to what Jeremiah 31, verses 31 through 33 says. Listen to this:
"'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke though I was their husband,' declares the Lord. 'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my Law within them and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.'"
Did you hear what God said about His relationship with Israel? He says, "Though I was their husband." God wants to mend the broken relationship He had with Israel. That's God's mercy and grace shining through in the Old Testament as He shows this imagery of a marital relationship between Himself and his people. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul in Ephesians, chapter 5, he takes the opportunity to show what a godly marriage looks like, when a wife willingly is submitting to her husband because of the godly love her husband has for her. Paul turns around and says, "The love that a husband should shower on his wife is the same love Christ has for the church." Paul is painting, once again, the picture of a marital relationship, a marriage between Christ and His church, the bride.
In fact, the whole picture of Christ's first coming, His death, His resurrection, His ascension and second coming, are all built on the foundation of a first century Jewish engagement and wedding, all of what that looked like during the days of Jesus. The intimate relationship Christ has with the church is constructed around Jewish marriage traditions from the first century. In our modern culture, we have a period of time where a guy and a girl will get to know one another and commit to each other, which then leads the guy to eventually propose and ask the woman to be his bride. After a few months, or even a few years, of engagement, the couple will enter a covenant with one another before God and witnesses, and then they celebrate with a big party, a big reception, and then the honeymoon.
Well, 2,000 years ago during the days of Jesus, the way couples got married was a bit different. Actually, let me take that back. It was really different. Marriages in the world of Jesus could be arranged by the parents when they were kids, when they were really young, from an early age, or they could be more spontaneous when a man was interested in a woman and he wanted to marry her. People didn't date back then. They didn't go out to the local Turkish coffee shop on a Friday night so they could get to know one another better. When a man met a woman he wanted to marry, engagement followed pretty quickly. This is when the guy would get to work. The young man would travel, during the days of Jesus, from his father's house to his prospective bride's house where he would negotiate with her father something called a "mohar." This was kind of like a dowry. It was the amount of money he would pay her father to purchase her. As soon as that price was set, the marriage was solidified. The mohar, that money that was spent to buy the bride, signified that this couple were essentially married, they were an item, they were considered husband and wife.
Let me take you back now to the beginning of the book of Matthew. Remember, when Mary found out she was pregnant with Jesus, this was the state of marriage she was in with Joseph. The mohar, that payment, it was already made. They were practically considered married and Mary, all of a sudden, winds up pregnant and Joseph wasn't the father. Now, by law, Mary deserved to be stoned to death for adultery. But if you remember, Joseph says to Mary that he would divorce her privately so essentially, she wouldn't face punishment.
The bride in this moment, in this time period, was set apart for her husband, even though they wouldn't be living with one another for up to a year, 12 months. During that year, the bride would begin to prepare for her marital life apart from her parents. For the groom, he would go back to his father's house and begin to prepare a place where he and his bride would live. After the 12 months of waiting, the groom would come without warning, even though the bride knew he was coming, she didn't know the exact timing. The groom would usually come at night to get his bride. He would gather his best man and his other friends and light a torch and walk from his father's house all the way to the bride's house. The groom's arrival was announced with a shout, which gave the bride time to get ready.
Once the groom took his bride, the bride's party and her family followed the couple back to the groom's father's house where the real party was waiting to happen. Family and friends and loved ones were all waiting at the father of the groom's house, and as soon as the couple arrived, they were brought under the chuppah, which during the days of Jesus was more like a tent. The bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face. It was in the chuppah that the bride and groom completed their marriage a year after they made their marriage covenant. After their union, the couple remained in the chuppah, think about this, for seven days. While the guests celebrated for seven days, they remained in the chuppah. But after those seven days, the bride and groom would emerge and this is the time when everybody would see the bride's face. She was unveiled so that everybody knew who she was.
I told you that a marriage from the days of Jesus is a lot different than the average ceremonies today. A lot has even changed in Jewish marriages from the days of Jesus, like the chuppah, today a chuppah is just a really ornate canopy that Jewish couples stand under to recite vows to one another. It's much different than in the past. Now listen, when we return, I want to show you how Jesus used the wedding customs of His day to unveil His plan to His disciples and followers who were really curious about Jesus's messianic reign. Jesus will use the most intimate analogy of marriage to show how much He loves the church. So, stick around.
Steve Conover: Sometimes as Christians, we forget that Jesus was Jewish. We forget that He went to a synagogue. We forget that He honored Passover and Yom Kippur, not Christmas and Easter. Learning Jewish culture and customs helps us make sense of God's word and in the book, "Maranatha - Our Lord, Come!" Dr. Renald Showers gives insights into culture and customs of Jesus' day to show the validity of the pre-tribulational Rapture.
Chris Katulka: Steve, I want you to hear what one of the readers of Dr. Showers' book said in a Amazon review. Listen to this: "Dr. Showers goes into great detail to explain the relationships between the ancient Jewish marriage customs," like what we've been talking about on the show so far, "and the mysteries concerning the Rapture of the church. Dr. Showers solves the puzzle one piece at a time until you end up with a complete picture that leaves no room for doubt. This is an excellent book presenting an inspired view of the Rapture of the church. Look up. Our Lord is coming soon."
Steve Conover: To order your copy of, "Maranatha - Our Lord, Come!" visit FOIradio.org or call our listener line at 888-343-6940.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back, everyone. We've been talking about the imagery of marriage in the Bible and how God uses this intimate institution to show His deep love for Israel and His deep love for the church. In the Old Testament, God told Israel He is a husband to her, that He is in a committed relationship with Israel, and that He would remain faithful to Israel, even though Israel has remained unfaithful to Him. Again, in the New Testament, we see how New Testament writers like Paul and John would also use the imagery of marriage between Christ and the church to show the intimate relationship God has with us.
Now, in John, chapter 14, the disciples are discouraged because Jesus said He would be going away, and Jesus says to them in their distress in John 14, He says this: "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms, and if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And 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. And you know the way to where I am going."
Now, in the last segment, I was just telling you about the Jewish marriage process during the days of Jesus and here in John, chapter 14, Jesus uses the marriage imagery of His day to calm the hearts of His disciples. Jesus is painting Himself as the groom in this Jewish marriage and He's saying, "Don't worry about my departure, because I'm going to prepare a place for you in my Father's house." Just like that Jewish wedding process in biblical times, the groom ... Remember, we were talking about this earlier ... the groom would leave his bride and go to his father's house to add rooms so that himself and his new bride would have a place to live. He would leave her. The imagery of the groom leaving is Jesus saying, "I'm going back to my Father," just as He did in Acts, chapter one, when Jesus ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God, leaving the disciples and the church behind.
But that doesn't mean Christ has forgotten the church. This is where Christ wants to encourage and to build up the disciples. Christ isn't leaving them for good. Look what He says in John, chapter 14, verse three. "And 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." Jesus is saying, "I am coming back again." Just as a groom would go and prepare a place at his father's house for his new bride, He would always come back for His bride. Jesus is saying, "Even though I am leaving you, disciples, even though I'm leaving the church, even though I am departing, even though I am leaving you, Chris, even though I am leaving you ... Put your name in there. I'm coming back for you. I will never leave you or forsake you. I love you. I care about you like a young groom cares about his new bride."
What an intimate image of Christ's love for the church. Listen, when Paul says in Ephesians, chapter five, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her," Paul is really setting the bar high for how husbands should love their wives. People often get caught up on how wives should be submitting to their husbands, but you know, Paul connects the love a husband should have for their wives to how Christ loved the church. Christ's deep love for the church is seen in Philippians 2:5-9, that Jesus, who loved us so much, left the glories of sitting side by side with the Father in Heaven in order to take on the form of a servant. Leaving behind the riches of Heaven to become a man, to take on human flesh. Humbling Himself so much that not only did He empty Himself to become a servant, He bore the cross even unto death. Why? Because He loves us.
Friends, God didn't create us to only think about Him on Christmas, on Easter, or only on Sundays when we go to church. God created us to have an intimate relationship with Him, and I want to challenge you. Some time this week, stop and say to God, "I love you." Thank Him for all of His goodness. Praise Him for His love and His kindness towards you. Because God loves you with an unbreakable and faithful love.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know, his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, "Israel My Glory." While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collective writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: After living in Israel for 36 years, many know me. Some greet me with, "Shalom." Others say something like, "Are you still alive? People like you should be dead." When I received one such greeting recently, I replied, "No, my dear. That is not so. It is written, 'I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord.' Psalm 118:17."
"What can you, a Christian, possibly tell me about the Lord," he asked.
I said, "The Lord has given me salvation, love, and peace in my heart through the Holy Spirit. That is why the Lord has kept me alive through the Holocaust and four wars here in Israel, so that I can tell others of His mighty deeds."
He then said, "You want me to accept this new faith that you believe in? Your Jesus?"
I responded, "The Lord Jesus did not come to make a new faith, He came to give us everlasting life through His suffering."
"I know all about suffering," he said sarcastically.
I then asked, "Would you like me to read about His suffering?"
He agreed, so I read Isaiah 53, the forbidden chapter for Jewish people. Suddenly this man who was so sure of himself was now interested in hearing about the Lord. Such people have spent their entire lives listening only to the revered rabbis and reading many books of tradition. So, when I present facts from the Bible, they become curious and want to hear more. It is important to articulate that Christians do not believe in a new faith, but in the one true God.
People walked by as we conversed and one man said, "Israel is not the right place for a Christian. If you want to speak about Jesus, go somewhere else, but do not do it here." I had never met people with such deep hatred for those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus. They kept repeating, "Jesus came to make a new faith and because you believe in Him, you have left the faith of your fathers."
I told them, "If you would read the Bible instead of your books of tradition, you would see this is untrue."
One said, "You are talking about the New Testament, but that does not belong to our Holy Bible."
I told him, "Jeremiah 31:31 says, 'Behold the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.' The term New Testament is actually the Hebrew phrase "B'rit Chadasha.' Jesus said, 'Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but fulfill. 'Til Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law, 'til all is fulfilled.'"
Surprisingly, all were listening closely, so I asked, "Do you still think Jesus came to make a new faith, or do you realize that he came to fulfill the Hebrew Scriptures? We must have faith in Him, or we will be lost forever."
One replied reluctantly, "We must admit you are right."
I told them, "Now, through the love of the Lord, we can speak together as friends. Strive to learn more about the Lord and His great love for all people, and you will be able to stand against the false teachers who abound in our midst."
They all responded, "Amen."
Steve Conover: As we close today, I want to remind you to purchase your copy of, "Maranatha - Our Lord, Come!" Go to FOIradio.org or call our listener line at 888-343-6940. Chris, any closing thoughts before we leave?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, I just want to remind our listeners of the intimate relationship God wants to have with us. He doesn't want us to just think about Him on Easter and Christmas, He doesn't just want us to think about Him on Sunday. God wants a relationship where we're always in connection with him, and you know what? That's an amazing God to serve.
Steve Conover: Thank you, Chris. The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry has been sharing the love of the Messiah and supporting Israel and the Jewish people since 1938. If you feel led to support our work or you simply want to reach out to us, visit FOIradio.org. That's FOIradio.org. You can call our listener line at 888-343-6940. Again, that's 888-343-6940, or you can write to us at FOI Radio, P.O. Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Quickly again, that's FOI Radio, P.O. Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Let us know where you're listening when you call or write.
Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry communicating Biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
Maranatha, Our Lord, Come!
by Dr. Renald Showers
Sometimes as Christians we forget that Jesus was Jewish and that He went to synagogue, as well as honored Passover, and Yom Kippur. Learning Jewish culture and customs helps us make sense of God’s Word.
In the book, Maranatha, Our Lord, Come!, Dr. Renald Showers gives insights into the culture and customs of Jesus’ day to show the validity of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture.
Apples of Gold
Many people were surprised that after so many years and so many wars, Zvi was still alive and striving in Israel. One day he was stopped by someone who knew he was a believer in Jesus. They asked him how he could believe a “new belief” (meaning believing in Jesus). Zvi was able to explain how his belief wasn’t new but a fulfillment of a plan put in place before the foundation of time!
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.