Here Comes the Bride!

We’ve made it through four of seven feasts or festivals ordained by God. Well done! Let’s pause before going to the final three feasts in the fall. Why? Because Jesus’ consummation of the springtime feasts and His departure and impending return fulfill something else: the Jewish wedding process, beginning with betrothal. In other words, He and we are fulfilling a dress rehearsal for our relationship with Him and entrance into the age to come. Please allow me to share this unfolding love story with you.

God called Israel His ‘bride.’ We are Christ’s bride because He and we have fulfilled the marriage covenant since Jesus’ time on earth. No other relationship between humans should be as close as husband and wife, so it makes sense. Here are but a few parts of the ancient ceremony that have, and will be, completed:

  • The father of a potential groom would search for a wife for his son. When a suitable bride had been found, the two families would meet to discuss the possible union. If the young man and woman agreed, they would essentially say, “I will be yours if you will be mine!” This is akin to what God said to His bride, Israel. Our selection for the groom can be seen in 2Corinthians 11:2.
  • To cement the deal, the couple would drink from a cup of wine called the “cup of the covenant” (Matthew 26:27-28). This was the Cup of Redemption, the third of four cups of the Passover Jesus took with His disciples, and it is the foundation of today’s Communion cup. What about the fourth cup? We’ll enjoy that at the marriage ceremony at the transition of the ages (Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:6-9).
  • After vows, gifts, and ceremonial bathing (like baptism), the couple separated. The boy and his father would build a home for the couple (John 14:2-3 for fulfillment). This separation would typically last a year; however, we continue to wait. Why? Because God’s timing is His timing, He’ll delay until those who’ll accept His mercy have had the opportunity (2Peter 3:7-9).
  • Then, at a time known only to him, the groom’s father summoned the groomsmen to announce the wedding ceremony with shouts and trumpets. We see this in the future in Matthew 24:31. The father started the process; he’ll finish it when he’s ready. So, Jesus’ comment, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13:32) made sense to the disciples.

I realize that some people use Jesus’ statement to support an anytime, imminent return and judgment. However, there will be a sequence and signs, as we’ll see in the fall feast articles. Next week, we’ll move to the fall feasts, likely related to Christ’s eventual return and the transition of the ages, including the marriage feast I mentioned above.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Jesus in the Pentecost

Last week, we learned that First Fruits celebrates what God has provided (Leviticus 23:9-14). It represents resurrection like Passover represents redemption, and Unleavened Bread speaks of being set apart for God. The final spring festival, and the second of three that required visiting the Temple in Jerusalem, is Pentecost, meaning ‘fiftieth.’ The Hebrew name is Shavuot. It is also called the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15), and it occurs fifty days after the Saturday before the First Fruits gathering. Like First Fruits, priests wave the first of the new crop (wheat this time) to thank God for the harvest. It is about much more than thanksgiving, though—it’s about the power and authority of God passed, and passes, to His own.

The first Pentecost brought God’s power through His instructions via the Law. By the way: the original language presents the ‘Law’ as an ‘instruction,’ not debilitating rules and regulations! Anyway, the post-resurrection Pentecost brought God’s power not only through the Law (still valid for civility and morality) but by His Spirit, who began to dwell within anyone who belongs to Him through Jesus. The Spirit enables right living and God’s power and authority. I’ll give you a cool Pentecost tidbit since I’ve still got some room in this week’s article.

After rescuing the Israelites from Egypt, God gave the people ten basic commandments in stone and by proxy through Moses at the first Pentecost. Following them would help keep God’s people from falling prey to the rebellious ways of the non-God-fearing residents of the land that would eventually be theirs. At that Pentecost in about 1445 BCE, 3,000 people lost their lives because they disobeyed God’s standard (Exodus 32:26-28). However, 3,000 people gained their lives by embracing the instructions ‘written on their hearts’ by the Spirit during the post-resurrection Pentecost celebration (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Acts 2:36-41). God always puts things right—even after 1,500 years!

How did Jesus fulfill the feast? By giving us the power of God through Spirit and instruction (e.g., Acts 1:4-8), which had become His right to do so after His sacrifice and resurrection. Jesus’ gift at the post-resurrection Pentecost also put right the deficit of 3,000 souls suffered at the first Pentecost.

What about us? Choose to devote yourself to God through Jesus, receive His Spirit with all guidance and power He brings, and stay there!

Next week? Before we move to the fall feasts, likely related to Christ’s eventual return and the transition of the ages, I’ll share a love story and take the mystery out of some end-times stuff in Here Comes the Bride!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Jesus in the Feast of First Fruits

Welcome to week three of learning about the feasts and festivals ordained by God! Last week, we moved from Passover to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which Passover initiates. Unleavened Bread is all about removing leaven—yeast—sin from our lives. Jesus came 2,000 years ago to fulfill the feast and make possible a way for us to be free and rejoin the Creator. I’ll introduce the third event (First Fruits) and connect it to the first two feasts and Jesus’ fulfillment.

Passover occurs at twilight (about 6:00 PM) on Nisan 14 of the Jewish calendar. At dusk, the date becomes 15 Nisan. The seven-day feast of Unleavened Bread is part of Passover and begins at that time. First Fruits happens the day after the Jewish Sabbath following Unleavened Bread. Sabbath runs from twilight on Friday to the same time Saturday evening. So, First Fruits occurs on Sunday, the day Jesus was raised from the dead. Considering this and what I wrote last week, here’s a snapshot of the week from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem until First Fruits:

  • Sunday: enter Jerusalem
  • Monday through Thursday: four days of inspection by religious leaders (to fulfill foreshadowing).
  • Thursday day (14 Nisan): Day of Preparation. Crucified when the Passover lambs were slaughtered. In this, Jesus became our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).
  • Thursday night (15 Nisan): Passover; the Feast of Unleavened Bread starts.
  • Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights: three nights in the grave.
  • Friday, Saturday, and Sunday days: three days in the grave; raised on the third (Matthew 28:1-6).
  • Sunday Day (17 Nisan): First Fruits.

First Fruits celebrates what God has provided (Leviticus 23:9-14) and represents resurrection like Passover represents redemption, and Unleavened Bread speaks of being set apart for God. Sheaves of barley are cut just before sunset late Saturday afternoon and ceremoniously waved before God on the first day of the new week (Sunday). Just as the priests presented the first of the barley harvest to God that day, Jesus presented Himself to the Father as the first of those who would also die and be raised to new life (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). The fulfillment heralded a new era of being set apart for purity and good works in Christ Jesus (e.g., Ephesians 2:10).

How can we apply the concept of new life in Jesus as ‘first fruits?’ First, recognize that we have been ‘crucified’ with Christ when we devote ourselves to God through Him (Galatians 2:20). We become a “new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and put on the new self with its likeness to God (Ephesians 4:24). In other words, we can become ‘first fruits’ to God when we devote, stay, and change.

Next week? Let’s continue our journey with Jesus in the Pentecost.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley