” I have betrothed you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid, just as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).
Biblical marriage always involves two steps; a betrothal and then, following a betrothal period, a marriage celebration. In Deuteronomy Chapter 22, we find evidence that betrothal is more than a cultural practice; beginning at verse 22, God specifies the penalties for immorality. If a married woman is immoral, she and the man are to be executed for the sin of adultery, which is a violation of the marriage covenant. However, if a single woman, not betrothed, is immoral, she and the man are required to marry, although the father of the woman may refuse the man and the man will still have to pay the bride price, whether or not he gets the bride. The difference here is that, in the latter case the two are guilty of the sin of fornication, not adultery; it is the same physical act, but adultery involves the violation of the marriage covenant.
The third relationship referred to in this passage of scripture on the moral law is betrothal; a betrothed woman who lies with another man is guilty of adultery and both are to be stoned to death under the Law, since God regards the marriage covenant as beginning with betrothal.
The picture drawn throughout scripture of the relationship between Jehovah and Israel is that of husband and wife and the marriage contract is set out in the book of Deuteronomy. Israel was chosen by God “to be a people for His own possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6) and He warned them not to turn “follow other gods, any of the gods of the people who surround you; for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 6:14-15).
This marriage relationship was always understood by the prophets of Israel and the Law of the Covenant was always seen to be the marriage contract. Thus, Ezekiel would write:
“Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord Jehovah, and thou becamest mine” Ezekiel 16:8).
In the portrayal of the covenant relationship here, the prophet uses the language of the wedding night.
Thus, in scripture, Israel is portrayed as the wife of Jehovah and, in like manner, the New Testament describes His people as the Bride of Christ. God’s relationship with the Jews began when Abraham believed God and, believing Him, obeyed. God thereupon made a covenant with Abraham but it was not until 430 years later that the Law was given in which the fulfillment of the promise was realised. This is a midrashic picture of what later became the Law relating to betrothal and marriage that became part of the Jewish culture and tradition. First the betrothal, then a period of growing together, then the physical union.
In the Jewish culture, the father chose a bride for his son and negotiated a bride price with the intended bride’s parents; this we see in the story of Isaac and Rebecca in which Abraham sent his servant back to the people from whence he had come to choose a bride for his son Isaac. The servant vowed to do as Abraham wished but he was told that if the chosen woman did not want to come he was freed from his vow. In midrashic typology, Abraham is a type of the Father, Isaac a type of Jesus and Rebecca a type of the people called by God. She did not have to come unless she chose to respond to Abraham’s invitation.
This is the pattern that was reflected in the Jewish tradition; the father selected a bride and paid the bride price, the bride agreed and the betrothal covenant was entered into; they became of one mind. The son went away to prepare a place for the bride and the bride was free to give her heart to the groom; emotional union rather than physical union was permitted during this betrothal period; they became of one heart.
When the groom had finished preparing a place for the bride he came to collect her and the marriage supper took place. After this, physical union was completed; they became one flesh. That is the divine order; one mind, one heart and one flesh.
This is the relationship that God desired with Israel; He chose them to be His bride and they were betrothed to Him, but their spiritual adultery led to them falling away into apostasy and breaking the covenant, finally being carried off into captivity and slavery by Assyria. Judah too, ignored the warnings of God and did not draw the right conclusions from the captivity of Israel and eventually they, too, fell into apostasy and were carried off into captivity to Babylon. So this was the pattern set by the Jews; chosen by God and betrothed to Him in covenant, thence adultery and apostasy, followed by separation and death.
However, God did not leave them without hope, pointing to a new covenant that He would make with the houses of Judah and Israel:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:31-32).
The new covenant was not to be like the one that Jehovah made with the Jews, which they broke “although He was a husband to them”.
Those prophesied days of the new covenant have come, of course, and Jesus Christ appointed as the mediator of that new covenant (Hebrews 9:15). The Jews, as a nation however, have rejected that covenant and chosen to remain in a covenant that scripture describes as obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).
All of this speaks prophetically to the relationship of a believer to the Lord Jesus Christ. Firstly, we are chosen by the Father: “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). The bride price has been paid, the blood of the Lamb of God; but having been called, we are free to refuse the call, however; if we accept, then we can be said to be of one mind with Him at this point. The covenant has been entered into and we are betrothed to Christ.
During the betrothal period, we grow in love for our Bridegroom, becoming one heart with Him, while He goes to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house:
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; ……………….. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2).
This is an important time of preparation for the believer as we learn more about the Bridegroom and His Father and are made suitable to take our place in the house of the Bridegroom’s Father.
The Bridegroom will return to take us to be with Him at the prophetic time set by His Father: 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” (John 14:3).
When that happens, we can be said to be one flesh with Him and the marriage supper will be celebrated:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride is herself made ready.” (Revelation 19:7).
If we are to take part in that marriage supper we must avoid the spiritual adultery that the Jews fell into. Spiritual adultery is fornication with other spirits, that is, engaging with idolatrous and deceitful spirits. Just as the Father has the Son and the Holy Spirit, scripture reveals that Satan also has his counterfeit kingdom in which he is the counterfeit father, “the spirit of anti-Christ” (1 John 4:3) the counterfeit son and “the spirit of the world” (1 Corinthians 2:12) the counterfeit Holy Spirit.
The task of the spirit of anti-Christ is to deceive God’s people and turn them from truth to error or, as Paul put it, from the true gospel to a “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6); this is one that is brought by a “different spirit” (2 Corinthians 11:4), which is the spirit of anti-Christ, where anti means “instead of” as well as “opposed to”. As Christ was the living truth, the spirit of anti-Christ is the lie and therefore his father, Satan, the “liar and the father of it (the lie)” (John 8:44).
The task of the spirit of the world is to turn God’s people away from holiness and purity of heart into “ungodliness and worldliness” (Titus 2:12); leading believers into lives that are filled with “the desire for other things, the deceitfulness of riches, the cares of this world and the pleasures of this life” (see the parable of the sower).
To help the spirit of anti-Christ and the spirit of the world in their task of robbing Christians of true faith and grace, there are legions of demons whose task it is to turn God’s people away from Him and to give themselves over to other spirits; Christianity is full of these religious spirits; “seducing spirits bringing doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1; “spirit of false prophecy” (1 John 4:1); “foul spirits“ (Revelation 18:2); “the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6); “spirit of cowardice” (2 Timothy 1:7); “the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2); “the spirit of divination” (Acts 16:16); “the spirit of bondage” (Romans 8:15) and a vast army of demons whose role it is to seduce Christians from truth to error and from holiness to worldliness. These are “unclean spirits that come out from the anti-Christ and the spirit of the world and perform signs” (Revelation 16:13-14).
When we enter into the new covenant, we are betrothed to Christ, but the entire world of darkness is devoted to undermining that relationship and deceiving us into spiritual adultery and, consequently, the designated punishment of death – eternal death. When the Bridegroom comes, what will He find? He even prophesied rhetorically of Himself; ”When the Son of man comes, will He find the faith upon the earth?” (Luke 18:8). (The definite article is in the Greek text).
The time to prepare for the coming of the Bridegroom is now! Jesus prophesied in Matthew 25 of the foolish virgins and the wise virgins, both waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom. Those who were wise carried not only their lamps, which speaks of faith, but also carried containers for the oil to fuel the lamps; the oil speaking of the Holy Spirit, the One who, alone, is the bringer of light and revelation and truth. The foolish virgins, on the other hand, carried no container in which the precious oil could be carried, relying instead upon others to supply the oil when required. However, when the bridegroom arrived at midnight, the wise virgins were prepared and went out with their lamps filled with oil to meet him and thereupon went into the marriage feast. The foolish virgins who had relied upon others to supply the oil for their lamps were locked out.
This parable speaks to us today to say that you cannot rely upon others to do the hard yards of Bible study, memorization and prayer; these are the sacrifices of righteousness that each one called must make for himself, for there can be only one mediator between God and man; the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
Love is the sovereign preference of one person for another and Jesus demands that, in matters spiritual, and that means in all matters concerning our life in this world, that preference be for Himself. Our God is a jealous God and at the outset of defining His expectations of His people in the ten commandments, He declared that we are to have no strange gods before Him. The only voice we should be listening to is the voice of Christ Jesus who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, speaks to those who seek His voice and are able to hear. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 4:9). The verb “let him hear” is in the imperative.