See also: Keys to the Song of Solomon, by Lambert Dolphin.
It is a small poetic book of only one hundred seventeen verses tucked away in the Old Testament between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah--easily passed by and overlooked. Those who delve into this love story often find--at every reading--subjectively fresh and meaningful insights into love, into relationships, into the Lord--and above all into his or her own person. An astonishing variety of interpretations is to be found among the published commentaries. However, the Song of Solomon does not defy rational exegetical analysis, as we shall see.
The first verse identifies Solomon as the author. Solomon was the son of David by his wife Bathsheba, not the first born son of David, but chosen to be David's successor because of the special love the king had for Bathsheba.
The name Solomon is related to the Hebrew "shalom" meaning peace. Shalom means the kind of peace that comes from being in harmony with God and with one's fellow man, that is, Shalom implies wholeness. According to Second Samuel, Solomon's other name was Jedidiah, meaning "Beloved of Yahweh." (2 Sam. 12:24, 25).
Solomon's accession to the throne, his prayer to God for wisdom, his great wealth, his building of the temple, his prayer of dedication of the temple, and God's response, his renown, as well as his later falling away--are recorded starting in 1 Kings 1-11 and 2 Chronicles 1-9. Especially remarkable is Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple, and the Lord's response.
"O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people whom thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people?"
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days" (I Kings 3:5-15)
...And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men and his fame was in all the nations round about. He also uttered three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall; he spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. And men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom." (1 Kings 4:29-34)
Most commentators consider the Song of Solomon (also known as Canticles) to have been written early in his life. Solomon's early godly years were followed by a severe spiritual decline.
"Now King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, 'You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods'; Solomon clung to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father." (1 Kings 11:1-4)
Towards the end of his life, Solomon apparently returned to close fellowship with God. Thus the book of Ecclesiastes seems to have been written to record the Solomon's conclusion that all aspects of life make sense only when God is at the center of all we undertake. (The Things that Don't Work: Ecclesiastes, by Ray C. Stedman, http://raystedman.org/eccles/)
The Book of Kings says that Solomon wrote 1005 songs. Only this one survives. Of the 3000 proverbs attributed to him, we know of only a few dozen at most.
The Song of Solomon is the love story of a man and a woman. The courtship and wedding, are, however oriental in style and somewhat foreign to our Western customs. One's first approach to the Song should be to read it through identifying who is speaking: the man, the maiden, or "the daughters of Jerusalem." There are many illusions to unfamiliar places and to the flora and fauna of Israel. A commentary by Prof. Yehuda Feliks [Song of Songs: Nature Epic and Allegory, The Israel Society for Biblical Research, Jerusalem 1983] is very helpful in understanding the original language and the natural setting of the Song in the land of Israel. Feliks is a Botany teacher at Bar Ilan University in Israel as well as a Biblical and Talmudic scholar.
Some men and women reading through the Song of Solomon find it erotic and sensually stimulating. It seems to me this is because of the projection of our own hearts onto the text. As we grow pure in heart in our relationship with the Lord Jesus we have less to project onto the book from our own unconscious unresolved issues. Some Jewish rabbis down through the ages have recommended that the book not be read by anyone under thirty years of age. The Song does produce highly subjective reactions in most readers. These reactions usually change over time indicating that the Song is a fully inspired part of God's Word. Like the rest of the Bible Canticles has life-transforming, redemptive power behind it. The Song mirrors back to the reader his or her own spiritual and emotional level of growth and maturity at all stages of life. No reputable scholar considers Song of Solomon to be erotic literature. It is a love story and there is a clear progression both of self-understanding of the lovers, and in their relationship as the story unfolds.
In the traditional rabbinical view the Song depicts God's love for Israel his wife. God's courtship of Israel from the time she left Egypt is a theme running through the Bible. In this view, Deuteronomy can be considered the wedding contract or ketubah between Yahweh and Israel. (See Bill Risk's The Ultimate Wedding, http://ldolphin.org/risk/ult.shtml) In contrast to the purity, joy and vitality of the early love of Solomon and Shulamite, the book of Hosea gives us the striking contrast of latter-day Israel as the unfaithful and adulterous wife of Yahweh. The message of hope in Hosea is that the nation of Israel (totally apart from the promises God made to the church) will once again be restored in her own land as the wife of Yahweh.
And the LORD said to me [Hosea], "Go again, love a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress; even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins." So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, "You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you." For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3)
Christian commentators have long interpreted the Song of Songs as a picture of the Church as the Bride of Christ. God loves His only Son and by the Holy Spirit He has called out and prepared for Jesus a beautiful, virgin bride. In type this is illustrated in Genesis 24. Abraham's servant (type of the Holy Spirit) was sent by Abraham (type of the Father), into the far country to secure Rebekah as wife for his beloved Son, Isaac, (type of Christ). While Jewish symbolism sees Israel as the wife of God, the church is composed of Jews and Gentiles. In the present age of history the church is the special group of believers who are being called out to become the virgin Bride of Christ. This picture comes up several times in the Book of the Revelation. Similarly, the Apostle Paul writes,
"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband." (2 Cor. 11:2)
"Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." (Ephesians 5:21-33)
For Christians therefore, Canticles is a helpful guide to courtship and marriage (see Song of Solomon: Love, Sex, and Marriage Seminars, by Pastor Tommy Nelson, Denton Bible Church, Denton, Texas; http://www.thesongofsolomon.com/). An even newer book is Craig Glickman's Solomon's Song of Love.
In the classical style the following commentaries are very good: J. Vernon McGee, Song of Solomon, (Thos. Nelson 1991), Hudson Taylor, Intimacy with Jesus, (OMF Ltd, 2000), Roger Ellsworth, He is Altogether Lovely: Discovering Christ in the Song of Solomon, (Evangelical Press, UK 1998), Brian Simmons, Song of Songs: The Inspired allegory of Divine romance between Christ and His Bride, the Church, (Insight Publ. 2002), and Elizabeth Mulloy, Divine Love Song: Discover God's Passion for You in the Song of Solomon, (Chosen Books, 2003).
The Song also reminds the corporate Christian community that we to live separated lives in this present world, citizens of heaven, called to live holy lives in purity and obedience to our Bridegroom. Ephesians 5 describes the true church as the spotless, virgin bride of the Lord, the Father's love gift to His Son. "...Submit to one another in the fear of God. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." It is the magnificent "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" which awaits all true Christians at the end of this age.
Then I [John] heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure"-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are true words of God." (Revelation 19:6-9)
When speaking of the church let us remember that the New Testament uses both masculine and feminine symbols for the true church. The church is the Bride (feminine obviously), but the church also called the Body of Christ--a masculine image. In her inward relationship to her Lord the church is feminine, but outwardly in relationship to the world the church is masculine. In fact all of life has masculine and feminine (yin/yang) aspects. (This approach is discussed further inYin, Yang, the Tao and Wholeness, http://ldolphin.org/YinYang.shtml). A favorite verse of mine describing the Shulamite maiden, also descriptive of the church "militant and triumphant," is found in Song of Solomon 6:10.
"Who is this who looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?"
There is yet another important point to keep in mind when reading the Song. In addition to being a beautiful love story of courtship, engagement, marriage and lasting maturity, the Song of Solomon is full of archetypal symbolism. When words have symbolic as well as literal meaning in the Bible, the symbolic meaning of a word is always the same all the way from Genesis through Revelation. Because they forget this key point of Biblical interpretation, I find many commentaries on the Song of Solomon tell us more about the author's psyche than about either the Song, or the Lord. Modern commentaries on the Song usually despiritualize the story so that it is all about the author's own perceptions of marital love in the context of the culture he happens to be living in. This narrows the range of interest of the Song by excluding younger unmarried people, those with an average or mediocre marriage, and older people such as widows and widowers. The newer "despiritualized" commentaries on the Song concern me. The Song is not a Christian Kamasutra. When taken only as a manual for a better marriage what drops out is the holy wonder, reverence and awe of knowing God. Sexuality in marriage should be part of that worship, not an end in itself. The fact that the relationship between Christ and His church, and between man and wife in marriage is "a great mystery" means that we ought not to reduce the Song of Solomon to a marriage manual.
To me, the Song of Solomon should first be read from as a spiritual journey out from and away from the mundane and banal models of romantic love which is all the world knows of love. This means paying attention to the symbols in Scripture. These do not vary from Genesis through Revelation. In the longer commentary on the Song of Solomon on my web site I have attempted to guide the reader in a consistent application of symbols to the text. See http://ldolphin.org/ssong.shtml.
Watchman Nee's Song of Songs, (Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, PA 19034, 1965) is my favorite study of Canticles. It is an excellent devotional commentary emphasizing the individual believer's personal intimate relation with the Lord Jesus Christ. In this approach to the Song, one begins by assuming that the reader is the Shulamite maiden being courted by Jesus. But soon the reader (whether male or female) will see that he or she can also identify with Solomon as well! Nee's Song of Songs is available online.
In the Gospels discipleship is pictured as a kind of training program by which the followers of Jesus learn from their Master---who is their teacher, leader mentor, example, and guide. We might describe the New Testament as giving us thorough (logos-style) instruction in the "externals" of discipleship. How do we walk with God? How do we re-orient our behavior, our lifestyles and our thinking so as to line up with God's plans for the coming kingdom? Discipleship in the New Testament is usually thought of as "discipline"---we learn to obey and are trained by those more experienced and more mature than we are, we sharpen one another ("as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another"), and we hold one another accountable. There is less emphasis on motives and emotions than on behavior in the usual discipleship class or in a military boot camp for that matter. The Discipler is after outward conformity to a set of standards and guidelines.
In contrast, we can think of the Song of Solomon as giving us an "interior," experiential, view of discipleship. Here we have the story of an intimate relationship between two lovers. Love is all important of course (1 Corinthians 13)--dead orthodoxy is common everywhere in our day. Outward religious conformity, but inner hypocrisy, was Israel's problem of old, and it is also probably the main problem in the church today. The Church at Ephesus was warned by the Lord to return to her first love. (Rev. 2:1-7) The church of Laodicea made the Lord nauseous because of being lukewarm. (Rev. 3:14-22). In the Song, emotions are very important, motives are of prime concern. Absence of guile, and purity of heart mean everything. There is also a progression in Canticles as the story moves forward. At every step in the narrative our "sanctified imagination" allows us to bring to mind various scriptures that reflect the growth of the relationship between a believer and the Lord.
A couple of years ago my weekly men's group, The Wednesday Brothers of Thunder, bravely decided to tackle the Song. Right away on the first evening we all disagreed. However we decided to postpone opinions and the airing of our many differences until we had finished the book. At the end of the book each man would summarize his insights and tell the group what he had learned. Eight weeks later we found that there was actually a remarkable consensus among us about this love story. It also became clear that the book had been mirroring back to each one of us individually. We were gaining a subjective, personal reflection about ourselves one week at a time. If truth is like a multi-faceted diamond, then we each were looking at a different facet of the one diamond. In life we Christians all personally know the same Lord Jesus Christ, but we each also receive a unique personal revelation from Him which we can share with others in the family.
Since our men's study together I have often wondered how an all-women's group would see the Song of Solomon. Men and women were created alike in spirit, but we are different in soul and of course also in body. Women are far more emotionally deep than men, more wholistic in their thinking, and more relationship oriented.
In the third book of his science fiction trilogy, That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis has the Director telling Jane,
"The male you could have escaped, for it exists only on the biological level. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relationship to it. You had better agree with your adversary quickly." "You mean I shall have to become a Christian," said Jane. "It looks like it," said the Director.
That is, men and women are alike in spirit and feminine in our receptivity and responsiveness to our Lord. Also, whether one is male or female our completeness and wholeness is "in Christ" not in our spouse. (Colossians 2:9-10)
In order to have real love one must have at least two persons present and participating. (I am ruling out narcissism and self-love as false forms of love. Self-acceptance I see as something passive, not active). Love involves initiating and responding. Of course both sexes have both roles to play in a variety of ways. At the archetypal level we think of masculinity as leading or initiating, and femininity as supporting or following. All men and all women have both "masculine" and "feminine" attributes in their inner makeup. In my view of the creation of man as described in Genesis One and Two, I believe God made man and woman complementary partners--not opposites. Thus, it takes both man and woman to reflect the image of God in us. Some years ago I attempted to put some of the first insights I had into the Song of Solomon into an article on this subject, Made in the Image of God, http://ldolphin.org/Image.html.
The maiden's name, Shulamite is, in Hebrew, the feminine noun for Solomon. Wholeness in Christ is a result of knowing masculine and feminine aspects of creation, personhood, and God. Whether we are a man or a woman we can all identify with the Shulamite in her responsiveness to the lordship of the king, and we can identify with Solomon in his outgoing vitality. Men and women differ physically and emotionally, but not in spirit. Therefore there is a sense in which Solomon and Shulamite can be thought of as two aspects of the same person. The First and Great commandment is also found in my favorite verse in the Song Shulamite says to Solomon,
"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned." (Song 8:6,7)
Question from a group of University students in Australia: We are wondering what this book says about women, on a literary level. We'd like to know from a women's point of view therefore when the women is speaking in the book, what is her vision of man. What is the vision of the women which is found in Song of Songs has of men? This is what we are asking. I hope that you understand me.
Response: Thank you for writing back. Yes, I do think I understand you, though I don't think these questions CAN be answered from the Song of Solomon.
The Song is a love story about one particular man and one particular woman. It is about their relationship. The scope is limited, the language is poetic. I don't think one can generalize from this love story about what women are like in general or what men are like either. Canticles does tell us something about good relationships, and indirectly about a man or woman and his or her relationship with the Lord.
Each of us is unique--and we are each different from every other person who has ever lived. In my opinion it is not a good idea to try to stereotype men and women from this love story--or any other love story.
When two people love each other they admire qualities in the other party. They see one another's faults and short comings. They may grow close---in marriage two people become one flesh.
Two good friends (like David and Jonathan) can become "one-souled."
("When he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul;" "Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul." "And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul." "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.")
Finally, an individual and God become "one spirit."
("He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit together with Him.")
Men and women do relate differently and have different priorities in life. Men and women are identical in their spirits, and different in soul and in body. Women are more wholistic in their thinking, more relationship oriented, more intuitive, and much deeper emotionally. Men tend to find their value in the world--through hunting, ranging, working, relating in the world of ideas and performance. Women are more home oriented: nurturing, nesting, healing, integrating.
Ray Stedman has some fine messages on the differences between men and women on his web site: See: http://raystedman.org/moralcon/.
Notes on the Song of Solomon by a Hebrew
scholar: :A King Takes His Chosen Bride Home To The Wedding
Banquet With His People, by Dr.
Bernard E. Northrup, Th.D.
The End of Courtship by Leon Kass is an excellent article on the current status of love and marriage in our culture and is highly recommended.
Outstanding New Book: Song of a Loving Heart, by David Roper, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, 2005.
A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love.
My heart is overflowing with
a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
2 You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
3 Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One,
With Your glory and Your majesty.
4 And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness;
And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.
5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies;
The peoples fall under You.
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
8 All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,
Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.
9 Kings' daughters are among Your honorable women;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.
10 Listen, O daughter, Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father's house;
11 So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.
12 And the daughter of Tyre will come with a gift;
The rich among the people will seek your favor.
13 The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace;
Her clothing is woven with gold.
14 She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors;
The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.
15 With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought;
They shall enter the King's palace.
16 Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons,
Whom You shall make princes in all the earth.
17 I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations;
Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.
by Dr. John Ankerberg with Dr. Randall Price, Dr. Zola Levitt and Dr. Renald Showers
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7)
Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome! Welcome. We're here in warm and wonderful Dallas, Texas with a wonderful audience today and we're glad that you've joined us today. We're going to start with a topic that is dear to the heart of all Christians across the country, and that is the doctrine of the Rapture. Very few non-Christians know that Jesus Christ said that He was coming back when He was here the first time. They know about the fact that He was born in Bethlehem and the Christmas story, but they have very little recollection about the fact that Jesus said He would come again. So it's brand new stuff.
Now, concerning those that believe in a sense that at the time Christ comes to establish His Millennial Kingdom and rescue Israel and establish His righteousness on earth, if that were true, and we were to meet Christ in the air, make a "U" turn and come down, why is it that at that point John 14:1,2 enters into our discussion?
Dr. Randall Price: Because in John 14:1,2, Jesus is giving a word of assurance to His disciples. He's saying, "I'm not going to leave you alone as orphans in this world. If I go, I go to prepare a place for you and I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also." And so there is a place prepared to which believers on this earth, the church, the Body of Christ, must be taken. He will come and take them to that place. There's no sense in which they will meet Him and then come to the earth first and then go to that place. The next promise that He has made for His church is that He will take them personally Himself to that place of promise.
Ankerberg: Zola, we're so glad that you're here. I mean, we talk about these things that are really Jewish in nature and Jesus was talking to other Jews and especially that one about John 14:1,2, "I'm going to prepare a place for you; I'm going to come again and receive you unto myself." He's got other things that talk in terms of a Jewish wedding. Would you fill us in and tell us why you believe it applies to the Rapture.
Dr. Zola Levitt: Yes. It's a very romantic statement. Every culture had its own custom of matrimony, and in Israel in Jesus' time, a wedding was a two-part thing. There was a going away. First, the bridegroom came to the bride and he brought a contract of marriage. That was the first date, the proposal. There was no dating under Jewish law. Oh, they thought nothing of marrying strangers. In "Fiddler on the Roof" in one of the songs it says, "The first time I saw you was on our wedding day." Rebecca married a stranger.
Really, the bridegroom comes and brings a contract-money, a price for the bride; that was the custom-and he pours a cup for her. If she'll pick up that cup and drink it, as they did at the Passover table that night of John 14, then it's "Yes." But he doesn't say, "Then come with me" and they go to the rabbi and get married. He says, "I go to prepare a place for you."
He leaves; he goes back to his father's house and he builds her a little mansion, a bridal chamber, for their honeymoon. His father is the judge on when this is done. So if you asked the young man, "When is the big day?" he would say, "I don't know; only my father knows."
There are many clues in Scripture that the Lord did all these things and on purpose. We're in the "going away." He's building this mansion in Heaven-you characterized it perfectly. It's a honeymoon chamber. It's a bridal chamber. And when His Father says the time is right, then He will come and, as you said, "like a thief." It is sudden but it is not unexpected. The bride is engaged. She's been going around getting her trousseau.
Dr. Renald Showers: Jesus, the night before He went to the cross, gathered with His apostles in the upper room. At the end of chapter 13 of the gospel of John where we have the record of this gathering, Jesus forewarned His disciples that He would leave them soon. That really caused them to be disturbed. In order to calm their fears He made a great promise to them in John chapter 14:1-3. This is what He said: "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you. 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 unto Myself so that where I am there you may be also."
Now Jesus was referring here to a future coming of His and we are convinced that He is talking here about His coming to rapture the church from the earth. How do we know that He is referring here to His coming to rapture the church instead of His Second Coming after the end of the great tribulation? Well, for one thing He indicates here that when He comes, He will receive the believers unto Himself. Notice in this coming He's not coming to come down to where they are and live where they are. In other words, He's not the only one that's going to be moving here. He's going to be removing them from where they are to be where He is. And so He says here, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself."
And then notice the purpose of this coming, it's a purpose clause-that where I am there you may be also. He's saying here the whole purpose of My coming in this particular coming I'm referring to is so that you can be where I am not so that I can be where you are. So He's not saying in this coming "come so I can live where you are on the face of the earth," but "I'm going to come in this coming so that you can be where I am," namely in the Father's house. And the very fact that He ties this promise in with the concept that He's going to be preparing dwelling places for them in the Father's house in Heaven strongly infers that when He receives them to Himself He's going to take them back to live with Him in those dwelling places in the Father's house in Heaven. This is definitely a Rapture passage.
Now, you and I who live in this twentieth century world do not catch the full impact of the promise that Jesus made here and the reason we do not is because in delivering this promise Jesus inferred in analogy with the way which Jewish people conducted their weddings in Bible times. The first major step in a Jewish wedding between a young man and young woman in Bible times was the establishment of the marriage covenant. The Jews called the establishment of such a covenant betrothal or espousal.
Usually the way that covenant would be established was as follows: the groom would leave his father's house and travel to the home of his prospective bride. By analogy Jesus over 1900 years ago left His Father's house in Heaven and traveled to the home of His prospective bride, the church, here on planet earth.
When the Jewish bridegroom would arrive at the bride's home, he would come for the purpose of establishing a marriage covenant and in order to establish that covenant he had to pay a purchase price. Jewish young men had to buy their wives in Bible times. By analogy when Jesus came in His first coming to the earth He also came for the purpose of establishing a covenant, a covenant through which He would obtain His bride, the church. And the covenant He came to establish is the one that the Bible calls the New Covenant. And He did that when He died on the cross and He too had to pay a purchase price in order to establish that covenant and through that purchase price to obtain His bride, the church.
The purchase price that Jesus had to pay was the shedding of His own life blood. That's why Paul at the end of 1 Corinthians 6 says, "What, know ye not you're not your own; you've been bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and spirit."
After the Jewish bridegroom had established the marriage covenant at the bride's home and thereby had obtained his bride to be his wife, he would leave her at her home and would return to his father's house and they would remain separated for a period of time-normally for approximately one year. And during that year of separation the Jewish bridegroom would be busily engaged in his father's house preparing living accommodations to which he could bring his bride later on. By analogy Jesus, less than two months after He established the new covenant through the shedding of His blood on the cross of Calvary, left the home of His prospective bride, the church, here on planet earth, and on the day of His ascension He returned to His Father's house in Heaven. And He's been away ever since
And you and I right now are living in the period of separation between the time of His departure and the time of His return. And as He promises here in John 14, while He is away from us in the Father's house in Heaven right now, He's busily engaged preparing living accommodations or mansions to which He can bring His bride, the church, later on.
The Jewish bridegroom at the end of the year of separation would come on an unannounced night to take his bride to be with him. The bride never knew exactly what night he would come. She knew it would be some night near the end of the year of separation but she never knew exactly when. And so on that unannounced night the Jewish bridegroom would call to himself at his father's house his best-man and other male escorts and together those young men would begin a torchlight procession through the streets of the city from the groom's father's house over to the home of the bride.
Here was the bridegroom coming to take his bride to be with him. As those young men would be weaving their way through the streets of the city, bystanders recognizing what was happening, would pick up a shout, "Behold the bridegroom comes." That shout would be carried from block to block to block until finally it would arrive at the bride's home. The major purpose of that shout was to forewarn the bride to the effect that she'd better get ready in a hurry because tonight was the night and her groom was already on his way to take her to be with him.
As soon as she would hear that shout, she sent out word to her bridesmaids to come to her home, get her dressed in her bridal garment and all prepared because this was the night. Now by analogy the Bible teaches that at the end of the present period of separation from Christ in which we are now living, Jesus, too, will come from the Father's house in Heaven toward the earth, toward the home of His bride here on the earth, at an unannounced time. The Bible makes it clear that nobody living on planet earth knows exactly when the Lord Jesus will come for His bride, the church. It's an imminent event. It could happen at any moment. In fact, it could even happen today.
And the Scriptures also teach by analogy that when Jesus will come, at that unannounced time for His bride, He, too, will come with an escort. Paul, in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 refers to one great archangel who apparently will be the escort for the Lord Jesus from the Father's house in Heaven. And Paul also indicates in 1 Thessalonians 4 that just as the Jewish bridegroom's coming was accompanied by a loud shout so Jesus' coming will be accompanied by a loud shout.
And I surmise that the content of that shout will be the same, "Behold, the bridegroom comes." Now interestingly, when the Jewish bridegroom came on that unannounced night, he and his male escorts would wait outside the bride's home until she was ready, and then she and her bridesmaids would come out of her home and meet her groom and his male escorts in the streets of the city. By analogy Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4 when Jesus comes for His bride, the church, He will not come the whole way down to planet earth where His bride is living. He will stop outside the earth in the air and wait there, and then His bride, the church, will come out and meet Him in the streets of the city.
After the Jewish bride would come out of her home with her bridesmaids and meet her bridegroom and his male escorts, now the enlarged wedding party would have a return torchlight procession back to the groom's father's house. By analogy, after Jesus has caught up His bride, the church, from the earth to meet Him in the air, we are convinced in light of this passage in John 14 that He will return with His bride from the air above the earth back to His Father's house in Heaven to begin living in the living accommodations He's prepared there.
After the Jewish bride and groom arrived at the groom's father's house, they went into hiding privately into a room that the Jewish people called the huppah, in English that means the bridal chamber and there in the privacy of that room, they would enter into physical union with each other for the first time and thereby consummate their marriage.
Now intriguingly they would stay hidden in that bridal chamber for seven days. This is known therefore in the Jewish encyclopedia as the seven days of the bridal chamber. And then at the end of the seventh day, the groom would come out of hiding from the bridal chamber and he would bring his bride out of hiding with him out in the open with her veil removed so that everyone could see who his bride truly was.
Now by analogy with this aspect of the Jewish marriage customs, after Jesus and His bride, the church, will arrive by Rapture at His Father's house in Heaven, He and His bride will also go into hiding for a period of seven, but in this instance for seven years. For while the seven year tribulation period will be transpiring down here on planet earth, Jesus and His bride, the church, will be hidden away from the view of everyone who is still living down here; they will be hidden away in the Father's house in Heaven.
But finally at the end of the seventh year of the tribulation period, Christ will come out of hiding from the Father's house in Heaven in His glorious Second Coming, this time the whole way down to planet earth to take over the rule of the earth on behalf of God. And when He will come out of hiding at that time, He will bring His bride out of hiding with Him from the Father's house in Heaven, now out in the open on full public display so that everyone who's still living here on planet earth can see who His bride, the church, truly is. (http://www.johnankerberg.org)
December 20, 2002. January 26, 2003. November 24, 2003. February 23, 2004. April 5, 2004. June 17, 2004. November 12, 2004. March 12, 2005. August 12, 2005.
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