Jesus Did Not Say That He Didn’t Know When He Was Returning


Now don’t get me wrong. I didn’t say that Jesus didn’t say it, full stop. I said that He didn’t say it in the sense that we understand it. Again we must look at the context to understand His meaning.

One of the images God used to symbolise His relationship with His people was a marriage. The Bible is full of wedding talk, Hebrew style. Hebrew courtship between a man and woman was conducted in five stages, and specific Hebrew words or expressions were used which the prospective bride would understand and with which the prospective bridegroom would communicate His intentions.

The first step was called lachah – which meant “I want to make you mine.” The young man, after getting to know the girl, would let her know that he was serious about his intention with her. God signalled His intention with Israel, using the very word in Ex. 6:7:

I will take (lachah) you as my own people, and I will be your God.

The second step was segulah – “I want to make you my treasured possession”. Listen to God’s words before He made His formal proposal to Israel:

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations, you will be my treasured possession (segulah).

The thirst step was a preparation for the proposal and took place three days before the formal proposal. It was called mikvah – “Go and wash.” It was more than just cleaning up. It was a ritual bath that signified leaving the old life behind and stepping into a new one.

And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.’ (Ex. 19: 10-11)

The fourth step was the drawing up of the ketubah – the prenuptial marriage contract, witnessed by the fathers, and the formal proposal. In the presence of their fathers, the young man would propose marriage to the young woman. Included in the proposal was the promise, “I am going to prepare a place for you and I will come again to receive you to myself that where I am you may be also.” Does this sound familiar?

Her response would be, “When will you come to receive me?” and he would reply, “I do not know the day or the hour, but when my father is satisfied with the bridal chamber, I will return for you.”

The final step was the wedding ceremony. When the father was satisfied with his preparation, the bridegroom would return without warning. It was the bride’s responsibility to be ready for his return. She had two duties to perform while he was away preparing the bridal chamber at his father’s house. She had to separate herself from all other men, and she had to prepare her bridal gown.

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

‘Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns. 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. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints). (Rev. 19: 6-8)

The wedding ceremony was conducted under the chuppa – the canopy usually constructed by suspending a talith – a prayer shawl – on four posts. God came down on Mount Sinai under a canopy – chuppa – of smoke and gave His people His ketubah – the “Ten Words” which was the declaration of how they were to live in fellowship with Him in a marriage relationship.

After the wedding ceremony, the bridegroom, accompanied by the wedding party, would lead his bride to the bridal chamber, pick her up and carry her (rapture her!) over the threshold where they would consummate their marriage. After that would come the wedding feast.

God’s people proved their unfaithfulness to their betrothal to Him by going after other gods and by their disobedience to His covenant. Jesus renewed His proposal to His people and, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to indwell them forever, the church was born which is the bride of Christ.

Now can you fit Jesus’ words into the whole courtship and marriage symbolism? He was not telling them that He was not God or that He was not omniscient in His divine nature. As a man, He deliberately set aside His rights as God in order to be a perfect Son under the power of the Holy Spirit. He was under the authority of His Father and, as a Son, He would return for His bride, the church at the Father’s instruction.  

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Luella Campbell

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