Focus on Jesus Series
John 14 and Ancient Wedding Customs
by Ed Vasicek
In John 14, Jesus talks about going away to prepare a place for believers. He then says that He will come back and receive us to Himself. This terminology clearly refers to the Jewish wedding customs of His day.
In first century, marriages were arranged between parents—but with the permission of the perspective bride. If a marriage was arranged and the couple was officially betrothed (engaged), the man would soon leave for his father’s house. Over the next year, he would build an annex (attached to the father's house) for he and his bride.
The bride and her attendants (the virgins of the “10 Virgins” parable, for example) never knew exactly when the groom would arrive to sweep up his bride and take her to the wedding feast (which would be held at his father’s house, perhaps even in a different town). Since they did not know “the day nor the hour,” they had to be ready! The groomsmen would precede the groom and make the announcement to the bride and her bridal party, “Behold, the groom is coming!” They would hurriedly pack and prepare themselves.
Soon the groom would arrive and whisk his bride away to the wedding feast. During the feast, the marriage would be consummated in the annex room, which the groom had built.
You can see how this imagery is used in John 14. Jesus is the groom; the church is His bride. He leaves for an indefinite period of time, coming to surprise His bride one day, so she had better be ready. He is busy at work right now “preparing a place for us” (a place, not a mansion; accurate translations have ruined many a song!—sorry). This place is an annex added to “His father’s home.” By the way, if you have your heart set on a “mansion” in glory, remember that we are talking figures of speech here. If you look at the description of heaven in Revelation 22, it makes a mansion look like kid’s stuff. Take it from me: you won’t be let down!
The return of which Jesus speaks is what we call the “Rapture,” an event yet future when the “dead in Christ” will rise, and living believers will be “caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air” (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff and 1 Corinthians 15:51ff for more details). We will then participate in "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb," (the figurative "consummation" period) after which we will return with Christ to help Him rule during the Millennium. Although our souls do meet Him at death (2 Corinthians 5), the “consummation of the wedding” ("Marriage Supper") will take place when the entire Body of Christ is present in heaven.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA