Father, we are thankful for this morning; thankful for some cool weather, and we’re particularly thankful this time of the year, Father, as we get ready this coming up week to celebrate Thanksgiving and just by virtue of where we live Father we are maxed out in terms of blessings in comparison to the rest of the world and in our sinfulness we forget that, we just focus on little crises and problems that we have, but if we were to take stalk of the big picture we our hearts would have an attitude of gratitude. So I just pray, Father, that this week You’ll help us to take stock of the big picture. Help us to count our spiritual blessings which are… there’s no further blessing to receive from you according to Ephesians 1:3, we’ve been blessed “with every spiritual blessing,” and beyond that we’re living in the freest, most prosperous country in the world and so we may not have as much money as we think we should have or what the neighbors have but when we look at the world’s standard we are just maxed out. So help us to keep those things in mind as we acknowledge You this week as the source of our many blessings. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen!
Let’s go to 2 Corinthians 11 and verse 3. We are continuing on in our Sunday School series; we’re on Lesson 4 on Ecclesiology, which is the doctrine of the church. Ecclesiology is one of those branches of systematic theology which tries to focus on what does the Bible say specifically about the church. And so here’s the outline that we’re following; we’ve already defined the church. The church, ekklesia, literally means called out ones… the “called out ones,” ekklesia.
And when the Lord created the church, as we have studied, He added to humanity a third existing people group. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:32, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks” those are the first two people groups, “Greeks” would be a synonym for Gentiles, “or to” here comes people group number three, “the church of God.”
So the church, as we’ve studied, consists of all people who have trusted in the Messiah for personal salvation, the very Messiah that was rejected by the leadership of the nation of Israel in the first century. God used the rejection of the leadership of Christ in the first century to orchestrate one of the greatest, if not THE greatest thing He’s ever done, which is the death of His Son to pay the penalty for all of our sins. So as I like to say God took lemons and turned them into lemonade. So through that transaction the sin debt of the world has been paid for and everyone subsequent to that time that has trusted in this Messiah personally, for personal salvation, is part of this new man called the church of Jesus Christ, the called out ones.
And then we moved from there to the differences between the universal church and the local church. Do you recall that? We tried to flush those out. And from there we started studying this last week, we moved to what are called the seven word pictures for the church. A picture paints what? A thousand words! So out Bible, which is hard enough to understand as it is, (amen), sixty-six books, could have been like the U.S. Tax Code if the Lord had included every… verbally said everything He wanted to say about the church. He didn’t do that; instead He gave us seven word pictures, because a picture is worth, probably an entire volume of words.
So when you study these seven word pictures of the church you start to see what the church is. The first two and half of verse 3 I think we’ve already covered; the shepherd/sheep metaphor is used to describe the church consistently in the New Testament and we tried to flush that out. The second word picture that’s used is the head/body word picture or metaphor and we tried to flush that out. And then the third one is the bride/groom imagery, we are the bride, He is the groom. And probably the key passage that reveals this is Ephesians 5:22-33 where Paul analogizes the Christian marriage to the relationship that God has with His church.
And so you see this imagery used many, many times in the Bible’ the most prominent place it’s used is in Ephesians 5, but that’s why I had you open up to 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 where Paul says, “For I am jealous for you” speaking to the Corinthians, “with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband,” so Paul says I was sort of like a best man, I introduced you, Christ’s bride, to your groom who you are now betrothed to, engaged to. And Paul, of course, did that through personal evangelism and then through that personal evangelism in Corinth the Corinthians church started.
So he says, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” And we tried to kind of explain that passage a little bit last time but there you see the overriding point of it is the Christian marriage is analogized to the church’s engagement to Jesus Christ.
One of the things that’s really important to understand, and I think this will take us to page number 6, one of the things that’s really important to understand to get a handle on who we are in Christ and also our future is to understand the ten points of the Jewish marriage. If you can understand, if we can understand the ten stages of the Hebrew wedding you’ll have a perfect picture of who the church is and the providence of God, and you’ll have a perfect picture of your future as a member of Christ’s church and what the future has.
So those ten steps, and I think I gave those briefly last time; let me see if I can give those briefly to you one more time and then I’ll come back and make the analogy. Here’s how the Hebrew wedding works. Stage number 1, the groom initiated, entered into a covenant established upon payment for the bride. He typically did that with the bride’s father-in-law, and to commemorate this arrangement, this payment where the groom is basically entering into a contract to marry his bride with the father-in-law, perspective father-in-law, upcoming father-in-law, the bride’s father, soon to be father-in-law. He entered into a covenant with this guy, soon to be his father-in-law, and to celebrate this covenant the two of them drank from the same cup. So automatically when I say that you’re thinking of something, right? That would be what? Communion, more on that in a second.
Step number two, the bride is set apart exclusively for the groom, so at that point, once this covenant is entered into, the bride is a woman spoken for. And then you move to step three where the groom separates from the bride and returns to the father’s house to prepare the bridal chamber. So that’s step three. Step four of the entire process is there is at that point what’s called the betrothal period where the bride and the groom, prior to their marriage, are in a state of separation. And of course the expectation amongst both is that both bride and groom would keep themselves pure for that future wedding. So that’s step number four, it’s called the betrothal period. It was typically looked at as a loyalty test because if there was a failure morally at this point then basically what happened is it terminated the contract that was entered into in step number 1.
And I think I mentioned last time that this is why Joseph is so upset over Mary’s pregnancy, with the virgin birth, virgin conception of Jesus Christ. I think it’s in early Matthew it talks about how Joseph was going to put her away. [Matthew 1:19, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.”] Now why would he do that? Because in his mind she was pregnant because she failed the loyalty test here in step number 4. So that’s why Gabriel has to be dispatched from heaven to explain… see how prominent Gabriel is? Gabriel is the angel that reveals new truth or insights. We’re certainly learning about that a lot in the Book of Daniel.
So Gabriel has to be dispatched from heaven to assure Joseph that everything is okay; she hasn’t failed any moral test; the marriage is still on and the reality of the situation is what has begun in her womb is the work of the Holy Spirit. Now what if Mary had tried to explain that to Joseph? Would he have bought it? Probably not, so an angel has to step into the act to get the job done here in terms of explanation and that’s Gabriel’s specialty, explanations, new insights, new truths and so forth.
That takes us into step number five where the groom returns at an unknown time preceded by a shout (what does this sound like), with escorts to retrieve the bride. So he’s been away for a while, the bridal chamber has been prepared and then he comes at an unknown time to retrieve his bride who he already paid for in step one.
And that was number five, that takes us to number six, the bride and the groom are hidden in the father’s house for seven days where three events are going to transpire. And those three events are step seven, eight and nine. In step number seven the bride undergoes a ritual cleansing prior to the marriage ceremony. In step number eight there’s a meeting with the father’s assembled guests, the father’s assembled wedding guests and a private wedding ceremony transpires. And then step number nine is the consummation of the marriage. And then step number ten is a marriage feast, a public presentation where the bride, who has been veiled at that point is now unveiled. And then once they come out of the father’s house there is a public feast, marriage feast telling the whole world that these two have gone through these steps and are now formally Mr. and Mrs. So and So.
So typically that’s how it worked; I’m getting this from a book called Maranatha: Our Lord, Come!
by Renald Showers, a very good Bible scholar, if I’m understanding it right a Hebrew Christian himself who would understand basic Judaism and how these weddings took place.
Now having said all that if you can understand those ten steps you can understand who you are, you can understand what you’re supposed to be doing in the present and you can also understand very clearly what the future has for the church because the Lord has His bride, I believe on these same ten steps. So having explained the steps let’s go back and make the analogy; shall we?
So let’s go back to step one, step number one is the marriage covenant the groom initiated. Now what would that speak of? That would speak of the fact that we have been elected and chosen in God the Father from when? From the foundations of the earth. Now this gets into the whole debate do we choose God or does God choose us and my answer to that is yes, just like a marriage I chose my wife and fortunately she chose me. So God chose me before the foundations of the earth and so He lays out before us the gospel and we respond to it by way of faith, just like a marriage is two parties choosing each other.
There’s just a lot of people out there that want to believe man has no free will in this at all and that’s the movement of aggressive five point Calvinism where you’re irresistibly drawn to God whether you want to be drawn to God or not, and you’re given the gift of faith. And frankly, I don’t think that kind of teaching is accurate because in a normal wedding, which all of this is analogized to, there’s a choice. Of course God chooses us but at the same time we are placed under conviction by the Holy Spirit where we make a choice for God.
And then what happens is the covenant is established upon payment of the price for the bride. Now the payment of the price would be the sacrificial death of who? Jesus Christ. That’s where the price was paid to procure our salvation and if you take a look, for example, at 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 it develops this and it says: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and that,” look at this, “you are not your own?” Why is that? Verse 20, last verse in the chapter, “For you have been” what? “bought with a” what? “price: therefore glorify God in your body.” So obviously this contract that’s entered into between the groom and the future father-in-law is exemplified, if you will, through the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And you’ll notice that in this part of the arrangement the two parties drank from the same cup. Now what does that speak of? It speaks of communion and that’s why Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:25 says, “In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’” See, we practice communion here on a monthly basis and there’s a reason we’re practicing it; we’re remembering the initial contract or covenant that was entered into to procure our salvation.
So that takes care of step number one. Step number two in these ten parts is the bride is set apart exclusively for the groom. And that is a wonderful picture of who the church is; we have been the called out ones, we have been set aside specifically for Jesus Christ. That’s why we are called in the devil’s world strangers and aliens. If you look at 1 Corinthians 1:2 it says, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:”
So it’s a positional truth that we, as members of Christ’s church, have been set apart for Him. And that’s why Paul is so upset with the Corinthians when they begin to act carnally and immorally, you’re acting like a woman who is engaged who is still on all the dating websites and trolling for the right man when the fact is you already are engaged. See that? That’s the picture that we get in the Bible when the church starts to act in a carnal or immoral manner.
So because we are set apart at this stage two in the Hebrew wedding cycle we are to act differently from the world. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous” now this is very important, there’s a lot of confusion by this word “unrighteous,” who are the “unrighteous” in 1 Corinthians 6? If you go back to 1 Corinthians 6:1 it defines who the unrighteous are. “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the” who? “unrighteous and not before the saints?” And if you drop down to verse 6 it says, “Brother goes to law with brother and that before” what? “unbelievers.” Paul is upset with the Corinthians because they were suing each other before unbelievers, pagan courts, Gentile courts, unbelieving courts, and destroying the witness of the church. So that in context is who the unbelievers are.
Now having said that, if you go back to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 it says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous” who are the unrighteous? Unbelievers. “… will not inherit the kingdom of God?” And he goes on and he describes these unbelievers. “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,  nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Inheriting the kingdom of God is entering the kingdom of God. You say well how do you know that? I know that because Paul, in the same book, 1 Corinthians 15:50 when he’s describing the rapture, verse 51 actually, he says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” And then he goes on and he talks about mortality will be changed unto mortality, perishable will be changed into the imperishable and as this happens we will inherit these things.
[1 Corinthians 15:52, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”  But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.”]
So inherit is this idea, and this is what he means when he says “flesh and blood will not” what? “inherit the kingdom.” So inheriting the kingdom is entering the kingdom. And if you compare that and go back to 1 Corinthians 6 Paul’s simple point is unbelievers are not going into the kingdom; they’re not going to inherit it.
He goes on and he says in verse 11, I’m back in 1 Corinthians 6, “Such as some of you were” see that,” they’ve been changed, the folks he’s talking to, “but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” What is Paul’s point here? Why in the world are you imitating unbelievers in your lifestyle? They’re on a totally different track than you’re on. They’re not going to heaven, you are, so why would you as a Christian go back and imitate them? And this is all an outworking of this very important step or stage in the Hebrew wedding where the bride (that would be us) has been set apart exclusively for the groom and since we have been set apart exclusively for the groom Paul says we ought to act that way. Let your practice catch up with your position. See that? So that’s step two.
Step three is the groom separates from the bride and returns to his father’s house to prepare the bridal chamber. What is this speaking of? This is speaking of Christ’s… this is step three I believe, 2,000 year separation from the church. His separation from the church occurred with which event? The ascension. Where is the ascension recorded in the Bible? Acts 1:9-11. Take a look just for a second at Acts 1:9-11, this is when Jesus left physically, just as the groom left the bride to prepare the bridal chamber.
Notice Acts 1:9-11, it says, “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.  They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”’
So the period of separation, analogized to us, is post ascension. So Jesus said in the Upper Room I’m going to leave and while I am gone I am going to be preparing the what? The Father’s house. So in the same way in the Hebrew wedding the groom separates from the bride, goes back to the father’s house, prepares the bridal chamber and you see a dead ringer here for that in John 14:2 as Jesus is describing His relationship with His church. He says, “John 14:2, “In My Father’s house are many” what? “dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”
So that’s exactly where we are in this whole thing; we’re in step three, we have been physically separated from the groom, although He lives in us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and He’s been gone for 2,000 years, since Acts chapter 1, and what is He doing? He’s not sitting up in heaven just kind of goofing off and playing video games; He’s preparing the Father’s house, which in this case would be the bridal chamber.
So that takes us to number 4 which is the betrothal period where there’s a loyalty test. Now a failure of the loyalty test at this stage cancelled the contract which was entered into in step one. And here is the point of the analogy that I don’t want to push too far because some people will push this to teach the doctrine of insecurity. We teach here the doctrine of security; a lot of people are out there teaching the doctrine of insecurity where you can have your salvation and lose it. And we don’t believe that that’s a teaching that is reflected correctly in Scripture. We’ve done many, many lessons on that.
The only point I want to make here with step number four is we are to be behaving as a woman spoken for. We are to behave as those whose practice in daily life is catching up with their position. And if we are not behaving that way the Bible very clearly calls us what? It starts with an “a,” adulterers. And this is what James is talking about. Remember James is writing to a Jewish Christian audience who understands these twelve steps very clearly. He’s writing to the twelve tribes scattered; they’re called brethren all the way through the book.
And in James chapter 4:4 talks about falling in love with the world, and he says in James 4:4, “You adulteresses,” I mean why would he call us adulteresses? Because we are not behaving like a woman spoken for; that’s how we’re supposed to be behaving in this loyalty test and in this betrothal period. “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” So he’s dealing with people that are saved but have fallen in love with the world and basically what he’s saying is you’re not doing well until you guys repent and start to change your behavior; let your behavior catch up with your practice and basically you’re acting like someone that’s engaged to somebody but really isn’t acting in daily life like they’re engaged to somebody.
So that takes us through, I believe, step four which is the betrothal period. And one of these days the betrothal period is going to end because we move to step five where the groom will return at an unknown time, preceded by a shout, with escorts, to retrieve the bride. Now what do you think this event this is talking about? The rapture. And this is a dead ringer, I believe, we looked at John 14:2 a second ago, but this is a dead ringer, I believe, to what Jesus said in John 14:3. See this? “If I go and prepare a place for you,” but that time of preparation is not forever, because what does He say here, “I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
I believe that this is the first reference to the rapture of the church revealed in the Scripture, revealed here by Jesus Christ for the very first time in the Upper Room. And you’ll also notice that He’s coming back with a shout. What happened there in step number 5, the groom returns at an unknown time preceded by a shout with escorts to retrieve the bride. Now look at how Paul describes the rapture.
Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Do you guys know how to navigate your way through the New Testament? Just remember the Gospels are first in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Then you’ve got Acts of course; then you’ve got Paul’s big books. What are those? Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians. And then just remember the pneumonic device, Go Eat Pop-Corn, which stands for Galatians, Ephesians Philippians, Colossians and if you don’t like popcorn memorize the pneumonic device God’s Electric Power Company. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, then after you have that down then just think of the T’s, all the T’s are towards the end of the Pauline books. You’ll have the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, I don’t know if that helps you because sometimes it’s hard to… the pastor says turn here, turn there, it’s just an easy way to flip quickly in your Bible. Anyway, that wasn’t a point I was trying to make.
The point I was trying to make is at the point of the rapture what does it say? “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,” boy, that’s a parallel with the Hebrew wedding cycle, isn’t it. He “will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God,” now it’s interesting that in step five of this wedding, one of the steps, step number five, when the bride is retrieved the groom returns at an unknown time preceded by a shout with escorts to retrieve the bride. When the rapture happens who rises first? The “dead in Christ.” You say well that sounds like the church I just left, “the dead in Christ.” No, the “dead in Christ” are all of the Christians that died before the rapture. So they’re in heaven waiting for the rapture; they’re looking forward to it as much as we are. And I really hope this happens in our lifetime because… I can’t promise that but if it does we’ll be the generation that cheats death, that escapes the natural process of death that has plagued the human race ever since the fall in Eden.
So those folks with Christ are coming down, the dead in Christ rise first (in resurrected bodies, and they’re descending) and then we are “caught up” and changed and we all see each other in the sky. And all of your deceased loved ones, I just had a friend in the Dallas area that was very instrumental in my life, I found out he passed away at the age of 80 yesterday. I did his wife’s funeral so I’m flying back on Tuesday (and I’m also coming back on Tuesday) to speak at his memorial service. I’m not sure if it’s a memorial service or funeral but we’ll figure it out. So you can pray for me. But it’s always painful to see a loved one in Christ die, a friend, a family member, and death is not an easy process to endure and so if the rapture happens in this lifetime we won’t have to die, we’ll be caught up and changed. And those that are “dead in Christ” we will see again at the point of the rapture. And so Paul says “comfort one another with these words.”
The whole doctrine of the rapture is not designed to terrorize the Christian. It’s designed to comfort the Christian. And that’s an important point to make because a lot of people are telling us we’re not going to be raptured until the seven year tribulation period is over. So here is basically what they’re saying: you’re going to go into the tribulation period, the wrath of God is going to be poured out on you, you’re going to eyeball it with the antichrist; he’s probably going to cut your head off but don’t worry, you’re going to be raptured, “comfort one another with these words.” It just doesn’t fit, does it?
So we believe that the rapture will precede the seven year tribulation period or else the promise of going into the wrath of God is not a comfort. But the ultimate comfort is seeing these deceased loved ones in Christ; again, the rapture is not just a resurrection, it’s also a reunion. And this, I think, is the significance in step five where the groom returns at an unknown time preceded by a shout with escorts. Who would those be? The “dead in Christ,” to retrieve the bride.
So this takes us to step number six, where the bride and the groom are hidden in the Father’s house for how many days? Not six days, not eight days, but seven days where three events will transpire. So how does this parallel with us? The church will be raptured and hidden from the world during Daniel’s seventieth week, which interestingly lasts how many years? Seven years! So you have seven days with a Hebrew wedding; seven years with the church. Now if you have been tracking along with us in the Book of Daniel hopefully what you’re starting to see is that makes a lot of sense because the 490 year cycle, called the seventy sevens, was originally given to who?
Remember our ten facts? What was fact number 1? It was given to Daniel’s people in Daniel’s city which would be the Jewish people in the city of Jerusalem. It was never given to the church, the seventy sevens. The church didn’t even exist yet when the prophecy of the seventy sevens was articulated. So it completely stands to reason that the church cannot and will not be here for that time period. That’s why we are… the church during the seven year tribulation period is basically going to be hidden from the world; not hidden from God but hidden from the world because we, as the church, have no place in a prophecy that God gave to the nation of Israel. And that is why when you go through the Book of Revelation you don’t find any references to the church on the earth during that time period.
There are many, many references to the church, about 19 to be exact, before this time period starts. That’s Revelation 1-3, but then you get beyond that section into the futuristic section of the book and the word “church” doesn’t even show up. The word “church” doesn’t even show up in the whole book until the very end when Jesus tells John at the end to preach these things in the churches because this is Israel’s time of tribulation as was articulated by the prophet Daniel, seventy sevens have been given to your people and your city, and Daniel is not the only prophet that talks about it. Jeremiah talked about it to, “a time of trouble for” who? “for Jacob.” It doesn’t say a time of trouble for Sugar Land Bible Church. It says “a time of trouble for Jacob but he” that is Jacob, Jacob is a synonym for who? Israel, Jacob will be saved out of it.
So God is dealing once again with the nation of Israel. That’s why the church, during this time period, is hidden to the world. We are in the Father’s house, now God is continuing on, if you will, with His program for the church, in heaven during this seven years but it has nothing to do with experiencing the wrath of God on the earth during the tribulation period. We are hidden from the world at this time.
So those three events in the Father’s house are now described in step seven, step eight and step nine. And this takes us to step number 7 where the bride undergoes a ritual cleansing prior to the wedding. Now how would that parallel with us? That is speaking of the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ that the church will experience in heaven where the church will not be judged. Why won’t we be judged for our sins? Because that issue has been taken care of it, hasn’t it? When was that taken care of? Step one, the contract has been paid, the price has been paid, we’ve trusted in what Jesus has done for us so we are not appearing in heaven where God has decided well this person should be here, this person shouldn’t be here. That issue has been taken care of; we are raptured to heaven rather to be evaluated and it’s not even us evaluated, it’s our works.
Our works are evaluated. Our works… now what works? Works we do post-salvation. Those are put through a fire to test their quality; those things that we did through human power with selfish motivation, which is what the Corinthians were doing, that’s why Paul is addressing this subject to them, are put through the fire and they will be shown to be wood, hay and stubble. What do wood, hay and stubble all have in common? They’re all combustible. So they will go through the fire, these works, and be consumed in the fire.
And a lot of people will sit there in heaven and they’ll smell the smoke on their garments because they’re saved by God’s grace but they’re watching their whole life in Christ (which they wasted) being consumed by this fire. And they will, 1 Corinthians 3:15 specifically says, “suffer loss.” I don’t know how sever the loss will be but to me it’s got to be frustrating to watch your life consumed, all the things you were doing wasted. And this is why 1 John 2:28 says we ought to live a life in such a way that when He comes we shouldn’t shrink back in embarrassment. [1 John 2:28, “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”]
A lot of Christians will get to heaven and they’ll sort of be embarrassed. Now there’s a moment of shame, there’s a moment of loss, I don’t know how long that lasts, I don’t know how severe it is, but those two biblical texts, 1 Corinthians 3:15 and 1 John 2:28 both clearly talk about Christian suffering loss at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. And if I were some kind of rabid five-point Calvinist, which I’m not, if I was some kind of rabid teacher of the doctrine of Lordship Salvation, you would never hear me even talk about this. Why is that? Because under the doctrine of what I would call hyper-Calvinism, they believe in what is called the perseverance of the saints where if you’ve really received the gift of faith then you automatically are an overcoming Christian. In other words, you can’t have much sin in your life, you can sin periodically but not regularly. Everything you do is done through pure motives because that is the sign of being one of the elect.
And beloved, to be completely honest with you, I don’t even see this teaching in the Bible. What I see is were saved but we have the opportunity, always, to go back to the old nature, which is still there until glorification. As long as I’m in this body I have an opportunity every day of my life to go back to the old nature. God has given me provisions by which I can overcome the old nature but that doesn’t nullify the reality that the old nature is always there to go back to. Now God keeps a record of that. When we go back to the old nature what’s it going to be at the Bema Seat? Wood, hay and stubble—consumed! We suffer embarrassment and suffer loss but we are still saved as though escaping the fire.
Now Paul is very clear that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can start living for Christ right now, not through human power but through His power, and that, through the Spirit’s power, that’s correct and as your works appear before the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ they’re not wood, hay and stubble but they’re gold, silver and costly stones. You say where is the pastor getting all of this from? It’s right there in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; I’m not making anything up. You can read it for yourself and see it very clearly.
[1 Corinthians 3:10-15, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,  each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”]
What do gold, silver and costly stones have in common? They’re non-combustible. The only thing the fire or the refiner’s fire can do is purify them; it can’t destroy them. Wood, hay and stubble, that’s completely different. Those are all combustible. So whatever is left after this fire has done its work, testing our works, will be part of rewards that we will receive from the Lord above and beyond salvation. Some Christians will be fully rewarded; others will be half rewarded, others will be three-quarters rewarded, others will be two-thirds rewarded, others won’t be rewarded at all. And this is Paul’s whole point of exhortation to the Corinthians that you can change now as a Christian and start living for correct things and be fully rewarded. But anyway, that would parallel step seven which is the bride undergoing a ritual cleansing prior to the wedding ceremony.
That takes us to step eight where there is a meeting with the Father’s assembled wedding guests and a private wedding ceremony takes place. Now who are these assembled guests that we meet? We don’t know exactly, but there’s some speculation that maybe at this point we’re meeting the Old Testament saints. The Old Testament saints are not necessarily part of this program; they’re taken to a place called paradise. Remember what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10? I was caught up to the third heaven and I was caught up to… what does it say there? Paradise.
[2 Corinthians 12:1-10, “Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.  And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.  On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.  For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.  Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”]
You see this whole thing described. So maybe, it’s not something I’m dogmatic on, but maybe those in Paradise we have during the Father’s house, this seven year period, a chance to meet, interact with, so that may be the parallel with the Old Testament saints. But once again we don’t know that for sure.
Then that takes us to step number nine, after the private wedding ceremony has transpired the bride and the groom consummate the marriage. This doesn’t need a lot of explanation does it? I hope not! Ephesians 5:27, therefore would be the parallel for us. Ephesians 5:27, in that great chapter where Paul unleashes this metaphor, perhaps for the first time. Ephesians 5:27 says, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be” homely… I’m sorry, “holy” not homely. Words mean things don’t they. Isn’t it amazing how you can change a few letters and it changes the whole meaning of a word. I had a student when I was teaching at the Bible College, she put on her Facebook page, “Dr. Andy Woods is the beast.” [Laughter] And I saw her in class and she said did you see my post. And I said yeah, I saw your post, you called me the beast. She says, oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to call you the beast, I must have fat figured it and typed in an extra a, I meant to say you’re the best. Well that changes things. I went from a beast to the best. So holy, homely, you know…
But anyway, “that He might present to Himself the church” see that is the consummation of the marriage; we are presented to Him and it’s analogized to the consummation of the marriage between bride and groom who now are husband and wife.
And then this takes us to number ten where there is a public presentation; the bride is unveiled so we could publicly see who she is. The bride is unveiled, she is no longer hidden to the world and what follows is a marriage feast. And I believe this is talking about what happens following the seven year tribulation period because we’re caught up in the rapture but we’re coming back with the Lord to rule and reign in what is called the Second Advent. You say well aren’t the rapture and the Second Advent the same? No, they’re not; they’re two different events. One is a rescue operation for the church before the tribulation starts; the other, that we participate in, is a rescue operation for the nation of Israel to rule and reign in millennial fashion and alongside Christ under His delegated authority, not at the beginning of the tribulation or before the tribulation starts but at the end of the tribulation period.
So it is at this point that we… remember now, we have been hidden to the world for seven days or in the analogy seven years. But at this point there’s no more hiding the church; she is publicly presented, no longer as the bride of Christ but the wife of the Lamb. For example, notice Colossians 3, Go Eat Popcorn, Colossians 3:3-4, it says in Colossians 3:3, “For you have died and your life is” what? “hidden with Christ in God.” Hidden, that’s what the church is. And specifically for those seven years hidden to the world. But then verse 4 says, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be” what? “revealed with Him in glory.” So what has been hidden is now unveiled to the world—this is my wife and she is going to exercise delegated authority under My authority in the Millennial kingdom.
And this is all flushed out in the public presentation at the end of the tribulation period in the Second Advent, the unveiling of the bride. And then what typically followed at this stage of the Hebrew wedding cycle was a marriage feast. I believe that that feast is described in Revelation 19:9. [Revelation 19:9, “Then he said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.”’] Some of my teachers told me that that feast was something that took place in heaven but I noticed that as they got older they started to change their views on it. John Walvoord changed his view on it although his earlier view is reflected in some of his books. He said that the marriage feast was in heaven but he switched his view later on in his life where the marriage feast is on the earth after the public unveiling of the bride. I think Walvoord’s latter view is correct and I think you see a reference to it in Revelation 19:9, “Then he said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, ‘“These are true words of God.’”
So the Bible could have just gone on and on explaining all of these details as I’ve tried to do. But it doesn’t do that; it just gives us a picture and if you understand the picture you can understand the sequence and how the whole thing fits together.
So number 1, the marriage covenant is signified by our choosing in God and the fact that the payment has been paid through Christ’s death to make us His bride. Number 2, then the bride is set apart; that’s speaking of our positional reality that we’re now in, where a woman is spoken for.
Number 3, the bridal chamber is prepared; that’s speaking of the ascension of Christ in John 14:2 where He is preparing a dwelling for us in the Father’s house.
And then that takes us to step four which is the betrothal period which is the way we’re supposed to be acting today, since we’re a woman spoken for. Then the bride is retrieved; that’s speaking of the rapture of the church. And then number six, the bride and the Groom are hidden in the Father’s house for seven days and that’s speaking of our program with God in heaven, hidden from the world, while the seven year tribulation period is taking place on the earth below.
Then number seven, the bride is cleansed and that’s speaking of the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ, which is not a judgment to determine heaven or hell, it’s a judgment to determine reward. And then number eight, you have the wedding ceremony, so this probably is speaking of meeting with Old Testament saints, not to be dogmatic on that but it’s an interesting possibility, and a private wedding ceremony. Then you have number nine, the consummation of the marriage, which is Ephesians 5:27, the public presentation of the church to Jesus Christ.
And then you have number 10 is the marriage feast where you have the public presentation at the Second Advent of Christ and the unveiling of the bride, and a feast taking place on the earth. And I think Jesus, in the Gospels talks many times about this feast that was coming. He talked about how people will come from everywhere and dine with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We just didn’t know how the church is connected to it until we put all the pieces together. Anyway, hopefully that picture helps you because it sort of shows you who we are; what we’re supposed to be doing in the present; what has happened in the past, and what the future holds.