Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Summarizing the "Bridegroom" theme in the Bible

John 3:27-29 "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full."

John 2:1-11 and John 3:22-36 represent bookends that expose readers to the theme of Jesus Christ as the Heavenly Bridegroom that came to redeem His bride. The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes this point about Jesus and the "bridegroom" theme:

"In Jesus’ growing influence, John found his own joy fulfilled. He illustrated this for his disciples by referring to a custom at Near Eastern weddings. The friend of the bridegroom was only an assistant, not the main participant in the marriage. The assistant acted on behalf of the bridegroom and made the preliminary arrangements for the ceremony. His joy came when he heard the bridegroom coming for his bride. John the Baptist’s work was to prepare for the arrival of Christ, the “Groom.” John baptized only with water, not with the Spirit. Therefore Jesus must become greater and John must become less. This was not merely advisable or fortuitous; it was the divine order. John willingly and with joy accepted Jesus’ growing popularity as God’s plan."

The Biblical theme of the Divine Wedding as used by God to portray His redemptive purposes in the Bible will be the focus of today's post. In a more specific way, we want to see how this overall theme applies specifically to understanding the identity of Jesus Christ in John 3:22-36.   

1. The Old Testament's use of the "bridegroom theme"
It is no accident that the most famous passage on salvation in the Bible - John 3:16, occurs in the same chapter with John the Baptist's declaration of Jesus as the Bridegroom for the people. In the Old Testament, God planned to marry Israel as His wife, as portrayed in His promises to the patriarchs, His covenant with them on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20) and His repeated appeals for them to be faithful as a spouse to her husband (see  Hosea 2:20-23). 

Books of the Old Testament like the Book of Ruth tie in the marital language of the Old Testament with the concept of a "Kinsman Redeemer" who takes on a bride that has no way of redeeming herself. As the Old Testament unfolds this "marital" language describing God and His people (see Psalm 45 and Song of Solomon); the reader is faced with the abrupt theme of divorce representing the breach of covenant by the people to God (see Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8; Hosea 2:2). The sad treachery of Israel is thankfully not the final word. Glimpses of promises of restoration sit on the horizons of the prophets. Through prophetic predictions of a new Covenant and coming Messiah (Ezekiel 36:25-26; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Joel 2:28-31), Yahweh revealed His plan to restore unto Himself His people (see again Hosea 2:20-23). What all this means is that God's Sovereign purposes to restore His people was not going to fail. The Old Testament tells us what Yahweh intended to do, and yet it does not reveal how.  
2. The appearance of the Heavenly Divine Bridegroom to achieve salvation for His people
John the Baptist's remarks about Jesus being the "bridegroom" begins to unfold how it is God is going to restore unto Himself a people.  With a surprising twist - that God Himself in the Person of the Son was going to be incarnated as the Groom who would offer Himself to Israel as her Messiah. Redemption is pictured among other things in the New Testament as God's desire to restore broken fellowship with a people who rejected Him! 

3. The Tragedy and Triumph of the Bridegroom in redeeming His people
As the reader journeys throughout the Gospels, we see the following thoughts developed regarding the presentation of the Son as the Groom for His people:

1. The Divine Groom rejoices in coming for His people. Matthew 9:15; John 2:1-12

2. The Divine Groom rejected by His people. Matthew 22:1-5

3. The Divine Groom renders His life on behalf of His people. Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-27

4. The surprising climax of the Bridegroom redeeming His people
The New Testament's unfolding of this amazing theme centers almost exclusively on the Groom - The Son.  However there is another twist, a surprise unforeseen by the Old Testament and faintly unfolded in the Gospels - the mystery of the church.  The Son who rejoiced, was rejected, rendered His life and who will return, is now looking forward to coming to receive the bride that is being called forth, one choice person at a time, by the Holy Spirit, resulting in freely made decisions that say: "I do" to Jesus Christ. When we put together all that we have considered up to this point, and then consider how the remainder of the New Testament explains this theme, we discover the following:  

a. The bride is being prepared for her groom, (with Israel being set aside at this present time). Romans 11

b. The Bride will be presented to the Son as His bride in heaven the rapture. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:6-7

c. The Bride will be presented here on earth at His second coming (at which point He will restore Israel). Matt 25:1-13; Rom 11:25-26; 1 Thess 4:13-16

d. The Groom will reign on earth with His Bride the church, along with Israel who will be folded into His bride to be at the end of His reign on earth. (Revelation 20)

e. The Groom and Bride will be married for all eternity, thus completing God's purposes in presenting a bride, composed of all of those whom He chose, called and were converted by faith to His Son. 

Closing thoughts
So when we consider all of the above observations with what John says in the opening text of John 3:27-29, we can see why he was so excited. Truly the promises of redemption and restoration were decisively revealed in the life of the incarnation of the Son in Jesus. In the next post, we will feature a brief outline of John 3:22-36 that incorporates what we learned in today's post.