The Bride of the LambA survey of various insights and teachings
For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of
has come. And his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to
clothed with white linen, bright and pure” - for the fine linen is the
righteous deeds of the saints.
1. IntroductionThe doctrine of the church as the Bride of Christ is for some a popular subject in preaching and teaching. It is of great importance that we base our teachings on this subject only on the Bible. Our ideas and visions on it may only play a very submissive influence. The teaching on this subject should begin with the Old Testament.
prophets saw the people of Israel as the bride
and wife of Jahweh, the LORD God, (e.g. Isaiah 54:6 and Hosea 2;18,19).
prophets saw Israel as married to Jahweh in her youth. This vision on
dated back to the calling of Abraham and the other patriarchs. God
unique covenant and relationship with him and his descendants. However,
became unfaithful and departed from the man of her youth. But the LORD
His best to win her back to Him, so prophesied some prophets, and, some
the future, she will come back, (Hosea 2).
2. The Bride of Jahweh in the Old Testament
3. The Bride in the New Testament
John the Baptist was the first person to preach that the Messiah would have a people that He
wanted to become His bride, (John 3:29). Jesus referred indirectly to Himself in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins as a bridegroom, (Matthew 25). Jesus referred in more sayings and parables to Himself as a bridegroom, (e.g. Luke 5:35). Please notice that these sayings have no doctrinal value, they served as comparisons or illustrations. The apostles took the picture of God in the Old Testament as the man of His people Israel and applied it to the relations of Christ with the Church. Paul used this picture in some of his epistles to express the intimate and unique relationship of Christ with His church, (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25, 26).
We need to be very careful with the exegeses of the passages in the book Revelation where is referred to the church as the bride of the Lamb, for it is apocalyptic literature with much figurative and symbolic language, (e.g. Revelation 19:6, 7).
In the New Testament are also other pictures used to express and illustrate the relation of Christ with His church. The church is a building or a temple of living stones or a body in which God wants to dwell with His Spirit and Christ is the head. As the head of His body He is giving life and directing His Church.
The story of Isaac en Rebecca in Genesis 24 is a beautiful typological picture of Christ and His church. The typological details can be worked out in details. Abraham is God is the God the Father, the Holy Spirit is the servant hat is going to look for a bride for the son, Christ, in a far country. The bride joins the servant to be married to the son. The son loves His bride immediately. It is very surprising that no writer in the New Testament used this story as a typological example as such.
The story of Joseph and his Egyptian wife can also receive an typological meaning, Genesis 40, 41). After rejection and unjust suffering Joseph becomes a governor and receives – still being rejected by his own brothers – a heathen wife. This woman is typologically the church. Later on his brothers begin to believe in him after he revealed his true identity. This story has also not been used in the New Testament as a typological teaching about Christ and His church.We can say having viewed the whole New Testament that the picture of bride and bridegroom did not fulfil an important function in the teaching of the apostles. The book Revelation used in its richness of symbols this picture several times to point to the pure and intimate relationship between Christ, the Lamb, and His church.
5. Preaching about the bridal church in revival movements
Much revival preaching emphasizes with great enthusiasm the repentance of sin and dedication to Christ with renewed faith and intensive personal power. The new convert knows that Christ loves him and he loves Christ. The renewed and new believers experience and feel an intimate relationship with Christ. In this enthusiastic phase of their faith they are often deeply moved through the picture of Christ, the bridegroom, with them as the bride in certain texts of the New Testament. The fire of the new love for Christ is burning in the heart and this can often be the cause of fanatic ideas. It is not easy to keep in this period of renewed faith everything in the right balance. The powerful and emotional faith of the first love can easily lead to conflicts with other believers who are ot so enthusiastic and cause conflicts about issues of morals and spiritual insights. The new converts do not feel welcome and understood in the fellowship of their church and this may result in the formation of new groups and even a new church fellowship, which could lead to separation. The new movement or church may then be regarded by them as the true bride of Christ. In this new fellowship the new and renewed believers can without any hindrance experience their love for Christ as their Bridegroom. The renewed believers will wait for the return of Christ. This subject is often preached about in much revival preaching and teaching. The call is often heard: "Be ready for the soon return of Christ, the Bridegroom, so that you will not be left behind in this evil world and the lukewarm church."
The subject of the return of the Lord and the meeting with Him in the air was part of the teaching of the apostle Paul. He taught this subject in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11. The return of the Lord gives a beautiful hope and comfort to the believers. Looking forward to meet the loved ones who have died and to be together forever with the Lord is also a comforting expectation. However Paul warned also that this expectation should not develop in confusion and unwise fanaticism, (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3; 3:11-12).
6. Scriptures that
throw light on the subject of the Bride
b. Do only those who are revived belong to the bride as is preached by some preachers? Look at Revelation 2:5-8.Below you find a few helpful texts.
Revelation 19:6-10. Our special attention is drawn to verse 7 and 8. The bride has made herself ready for the wedding with the Lord. Please notice of what is written here, ‘made herself ready.’ And a little further, ‘for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.‘ We could conclude that those who belong to the bride were active in their sanctification, trying to be as Christ as much as possible in their daily living, living a truly Christ like, righteous life.Revelation 21:1-14 . Here is de bride of the Lamb, identified clearly verse 9, pictured as a city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven. God is spirit and He lives on earth in His spirit in the new, beautiful city, the New Jerusalem. His Church. The city has the foundation and the dimensions of Israel and will be the centre of humanity. From here all divine blessings flow into the world.
2:28,29. Here advised the apostle the believers
abide in him, so that they would have confidence to stand feely before
when He comes. ‘He is righteous and everyone
who does right is born of
2 Timothy 2:19. The apostle Paul teaches here that ’everyone who names the name of the Lord (believes in Him), depart from iniquity.’ His teaching here and in other epistles is in harmony with the teachings of the apostle John.We could conclude on the Holy Scriptures that every believer can by his holy, righteous living be a serious candidate to become a member of the bride of Christ. Speaking in tongues is nowhere mention as a condition for belonging to the bride. If we shall be excluded to become a member of the bride of Christ it will be because of our own failure to make ourselves ready by dedicated, holy living for this great honour and joy.
I also conclude that no preacher, teacher of leader of a movement, could decide on the basis of human observance and judgement who will belong the bride of not. Only the Lord knows the heart of each human being and therefore also of those that are His, (please read 2 Timothy 2:19).
There are those that teach that God has two brides. In historical order: Jahweh has as His bride the people of Israel and Christ has as His bride the Church. This teaching presents a difficulty for how can the Trinity have two brides, for it is one? The answer is that there could be an earthly and an heavenly bride. Israel was and remains Gods earthly people, the nation He has loved chosen to bless all people; Genesis 12:1-3. The Church will be an heavenly people, chosen out off all nations, all those that love the Lord Jesus. They will be living for ever with Him in glorified bodies; (Philippians 3:20,21).
realize not sufficiently that the Lord often expresses His spiritual
images and with pictures that can be easily understood by us. Therefore
expresses His love for and relationship with His people with such a
intimate picture as that of the bridegroom with his bride. When we
use of symbols and images we know that there are always parts in it
obvious realistic application and there are other parts that have no
application, but are simply necessary to complete the earthly image. It
therefore not wise to look for spiritual applications in all details,
smallest, of the earthly story or picture.
God is the Eternal One and His love continues on from age to age and from his covenant people of Israel to all that believe in His Son and love Him./In the next section we will see how the picture of bride and bridegroom can sometimes in a person lead to a wrong, dangerous, personal application.
8. “I am the bride of Jesus.”
There have been Christian women that regarded themselves as the bride, the wife, of Jesus. In visions and ecstatic experiences they claimed to have had an intimate relationship with Jesus. Some claim that they even experienced a kind of sexual intimacy with him.
We reject, of course, such claims and are sure that their origin cannot be the Holy Spirit. Even in these days there are women, usually unmarried, who have such mystical experiences. According to modern medical insight should some women with such experiences suffer from mental disorders.
We know that even healthy, dedicated believers could develop unacceptable ideas about their relationship with Jesus. We can, of course, have only great respect for all those women who serve the Lord with great dedication in many practical ministries in hospitals, amongst the poor and on the mission fields.
If we have in pastoral work to deal with women that have ideas of a too personal, intimate relationship with Jesus we have to use much wisdom, patience and perseverance and will always be alert, because the source of such mystic fantasies could be an evil, unclean spirit, that took possession of these persons.
We could conclude that dedication and sincerity do not always protect us from the possibility to develop abnormal believes, ideas or doctrines. As I said earlier, the beautiful and intimate picture of the bridegroom with his bride must not be understood or interpreted in a sensual, personal way in the relationship with Jesus.
It is beyond all doubt that a sound, intelligent and balanced understanding of the Bible remains necessary, even more when religious enthusiasm as in revival meetings and movements reaches a high intensity, (2 Thessalonians 2:1,2 and 3:5-12). But, having said this, I want to emphasize too that there should always be room for spiritual intimate, elevated, ecstatic experiences with Jesus.
The picture of the Church as the bride of Christ is a beautiful image, full of deep and intimate meanings. More than likely is this the cause of its vulnerability for all kinds of misinterpretations and wrong applications. It is to be regretted that all things that are beautiful, delicate and intimate are so vulnerable and can easily be damaged, undeliberately and even deliberately.
The question who of the believers do or do not belong to the bride of Christ needs to be studied with wisdom and cautiousness. All extreme and unbiblical teachings need to be challenged with sound, biblical teaching.We may rejoice in the fact that we still live in the time that the invitation to become a member of the bride is still active for the time of grace is not yet closed. The invitations to be united to Jesus are still in great numbers being posted by the heavenly mailservice.
29 April 2013, T. J. de Ruiter, Dutch emeritus pastor and Bible TeacherThe scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version