In ancient Israel, when it was time for a man and woman to marry, both fathers would negotiate the bride price to compensate the bride-to-be’s family. After exchanging a glass of wine to conceal the agreement, the couple was formally engaged.
The young man then told his fiance, in effect, “I’m going home to my father’s house to prepare a place for you. When I’m finished, I’ll return and take you to be my wife.”The son (typically in his mid-twenties) would then build a new house on to his father’s existing one. As generations married and built their houses onto the original one, they created a housing complex called an insula. Here, family members ate, worked, and lived together. Everyone benefited as family members shared their lives and values.As the son worked on his new home, he eagerly awaited his father’s final approval. Only the father could decide when the building was finally complete.
As her fiance prepared a new home, the bride-to-be (typically fourteen years old) would remain at her parents’ home, preparing wedding clothes and learning homemaking skills. During this time, she was known in the community as “one who had been bought with a price.” She might wait six months, nine months, or even longer for her fiance to return; no one knew the exact time when he would come for her.Eventually, she would hear the sound of the shofar as her bridegroom entered her village and announced that their wedding day had arrived. The wise bride was well-prepared for her groom’s arrival.
These insights help us to understand how wonderful heaven and our eternal relationship with God will be. When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven, he compared himself to a bridegroom who was engaged to be married.
“I love you as my bride,” he said, in effect, “so I’ll pay the bride price. I’ll give up my life for you. I’ll go to my father’s house where there are many rooms to prepare a place for you. One day I’ll return and take you to be with me forever in heaven.”
Jesus’ second coming will be like the long-awaited arrival of a bridegroom, returning for his beloved brides. And heaven will be like a joyous wedding reception, celebrating the love between a bride and groom.
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