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To Love and to Cherish
In Defense of the Faith
Thursday, November 01, 2012
Wendy Wippel

As a student of prophecy, it seems what everybody wants to argue about is (arguably) a question of little eternal significance: namely, when, exactly, is the rapture?  The more I try to explain the scriptural proof of its imminence, however, the more I think it really just boils down to understanding the Last Supper.

Described in the 13th and 14th chapters of John, this farewell message from Jesus to His disciples is a poignant and intimate moment between Jesus and His disciples.

They are all in the upper room for the Passover feast.  His last Passover, in fact (as events would shortly prove) with these, His closest human companions: 

"Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." (John 13:1 NKJV)

Jesus washes their feet.  Only after that does He dismiss Judas, and only then does He continue:

“Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer…Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” (John 13:33-36)

The disciples, particularly Peter, react with dismay.  They have been told that their Rabbi’s death is imminent before, but it still takes them by surprise.  And at this moment, Jesus issues one last promise to His beloved band of followers:

"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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

Those familiar words, however, were not just the promise of a rabbi to his disciples.

Even one that knew keeping that promise, involving both His own death and resurrection, would require supernatural intervention.

Those words, "I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am", were part of the the Jewish ceremony of betrothal, Ketubah, the groom and his Father entered into a covenant with the bride.  As part of that legally binding covenant, the groom paid the bride price and agreed to certain conditions that had to be met for the bride’s father to surrender the bride at some future point in time.

One being to provide for the bride by preparing a place for the couple to live.

Another being a promise to eventually return, retrieve the bride and take her to her new home, and become man and wife, a ceremony followed by the “bridal week” that Laban refers to for Leah--- a time, akin to our honeymoon and lasting for seven days, in which the groom and bride were sequestered in their bridal chambers and…

The groom scourged her.  Chastised her.  Punished her for every last one of her shortcomings.

Uh, no.

What kind of marriage, even the worst human marriage is, by design, about wrath?

Paul described what our human marriages should look like:

"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.”. (Ephesians 5:25-32)

The groom takes the bride to love and cherish, just as he loves his own flesh.  But did  you catch that last statement?

"This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:32)

Our marriages, though through a cloud darkly, picture the marriage of Christ and His bride, the church.

What bride--ever-- is purposed for wrath?  And God specifically promises the church that they will escape wrath.

We are told to wait for His Son from heaven who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

We are told that God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but instead to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

We are told that since we have been justified by Jesus’ blood, how much more shall we be saved by Jesus from God’s wrath. (Romans 5:9)

The church in Philadelphia is  told  specifically that that would be kept from the hour of trial that is to come upon the whole world. (Revelation 3:10)

The promise Jesus gives His disciples were marriage vows, and when He comes to claim His bride it is the long-awaited reunion promised, and their time, secreted in the bridal chambers of heaven, will be the final consummation of the mystical union promised.

And I wish I could imagine just an inkling of what that will mean.

I do know, as the bride of Christ that it will not be about wrath.  God would be disobeying His own commands if He punished the church.

He Himself has already cleansed her and sanctified her (Ephesians 5) and is otherwise commanded to love and cherish her.

That’s why the reunion of the Church with the Lord is ALWAYS described as a reason for hope and a future joy.  It represents the long-awaited end of the couple's separation and their ability to come together like man and wife.  Therefore, in contrast to the tribulation, which is always painted in very graphic terms of gloom, doom, misery, suffering and death, the rapture is always portrayed as something to be eagerly awaited, even longed for. 

Which, when you understand that, makes a few Old Testament passages just a little more interesting.

"Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers. [Friends ] We rejoice and delight in you ; we will praise your love more than wine. [Beloved ] How right they are to adore you!" (Song of Solomon 1:4)

"Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past." (Isaiah 26:20)

"The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord... All glorious is the princess within her chamber;  her gown is interwoven with gold. In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her and are brought to you. They are led in with joy and gladness; they enter the palace of the king." (Psalm 45:11-15)

I’d have to say that my fully natural honeymoon was probably the best week of my life, my husband and I with a covenant promise in place and  united, finally, in heart, soul, mind and strength.  Totally focused on each other and reveling in the blessings finally ours.

But I think the next one is going to be even better.

So….  from now on this is my go-to argument for a pre-trib rapture.

(Theirs always seem to focus on the fact that the church won’t be ready for tribulation if we teach pre-trib).

I just like to base my arguments on what scripture actually says.  I’m funny like that.

And again, it’s really sort of a trivial question.  No doubt even the most confident post-tribbers will figure out on their way up.

About Wendy Wippel

Last article: Dance Like David Danced

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