According to the custom, a Hebrew father almost always chose the woman to be betrothed to his son. Only rarely did the parents allow their children to make their own choices.
After all the betrothal steps had been completed, the Law legally bound the man and woman together and regarded them as husband and wife, as one entity. Though considered married, the covenant forbade them to live together physically.
Most betrothal periods lasted about one year, as the bridegroom would leave to build a home for his bride. Before he departed to begin his project, the bridegroom made a statement to his bride: “I go to prepare a place for you; if I go, I will return again unto you.”
Throughout their relationship, they were entirely devoted to one another, even though distance separated them. Their commitment to each other was based on covenant and was not to be broken.
When the bridegroom was finished building the home, he still could not leave to snatch away his bride. He never knew the day or hour for he had to wait until his father gave his approval and said it was time to go. Then, the bridegroom would gather his friends and go get his bride, arriving around midnight, unannounced. The bride never knew the day nor the hour of his arrival and had to be ready at all times.
Throughout the Bible, God relates to His people in a closeness of companionship so intimate that He compares it to a marriage relationship. In the book of Isaiah, He said, “For your Maker is your Husband.” (Is. 54:5 NKJV)
As the father, in the tradition, arranged the marriage for his son, God the Father arranged the marriage between His Son and the church as the Bride.
Just as the Hebrew couple was considered as one unit, the same truth exists when believers accept Christ’s proposal, receiving Him as their Savior, for they become a part “of His body, of His flesh and of His bones,” (Eph. 5:30b NKJV) as a divine oneness.
As Paul said, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:32 NKJV) The mystery, the secret? “For this is the secret: Christ lives in you.” (Col. 1:27b NLT)
Even though the Father has chosen her, the Bride comes of her own free will, accepting the Bridegroom’s proposal and choosing to be betrothed to Christ – or not. If she accepts and says, “I do,” she is, as Paul said, “‘married,’ so to speak, to the One Who rose from the dead.” (Rom. 7:4b TLB)
When Christ died, He departed as the heavenly Bridegroom to prepare a dwelling place for His precious Bride. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus essentially spoke the bridegroom’s statement to the disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2b-3 NKJV)
The Son knows not the day nor the hour of His return, as only the Father knows the time for the Son’s return for His precious Bride. As Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” (Matt. 24:36 NKJV)
Neither does the Church Bride know the day nor the hour of her Beloved Bridegroom’s return for her, so she must be prepared at all times.
If Jesus died that His Bride might be without spot or wrinkle or any other defect, then, as part of the Bride, how will you be dressed when the heavenly Bridegroom arrives? Will you have a mopey face, hair covered in the ashes of doubt and worry, breath smelling of negative words, and wear a ratty old wedding gown of self-pity, ripped and stained, full of the filth of the world?
Or will you be “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev. 21:2b NIV) adorned with a smile on your face, joy in your heart, songs of worship and praise on your lips, dressed in a pure, white garment of salvation and righteousness, and crowned with the gift of the Bridegroom?
The Bridegroom is coming soon for His Bride. Have you made sure that you are in a holy covenant of betrothal with Him? While He’s away, are you totally devoted to Him? If you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth, would it affect your behavior today?
Are you ready for His return? Are you, as they say, good to go?