A Modern Woman's Perspective Of The Kingdom of God on Earth


December 3, 2018

Understanding The Wife of God and The Bride of Christ (Part 2)

     In the previous post, I have presented Biblical evidence that God considered Himself betrothed and wed to the nation of Israel -- that is, until they continued in their idolatrous adultery by pursuing other gods. Then He, being a Holy God, served Israel a bill of divorce until some future date when they will be redeemed and once again become His wife. The book of Hosea gives us a good picture of marriage as a metaphor of the covenant between God and Israel. Gomer, the wife of the prophet Hosea, is a picture of Israel as the "promiscuous woman and harlot" who abandons her marriage covenant and "goes whoring". As it is a comparison to God's relationship with Israel, the Book of Hosea is a story of promise and restoration unto the Lord.
     I hope I made it clear in Part 1 that when referring to God's wife, the Bible is always talking about the nation Israel, and "wife" does not apply to us. When it comes to identifying who "the Bride of Christ" is, we must dig a little deeper because the Bible applies this term across a spectrum of people. And I will be honest in telling you that my search for understanding on this topic has led to as many questions as it has answers. I will also tell you that, using Scripture as my source, I have received answers that, at times, seem in conflict with each other. So, I will present the matter as I have seen it in the Bible, and encourage you to do your own study and develop your own theology. What I present here today is simply my journey as it stands today. And I am trusting God to reveal more as I continue seeking Him.
     The first thing that struck me as I began to research the Bible about who to identify as the "Bride of Christ" is that the very term does not exist in the Bible! How can that be? It is readily understood by most of Western Christians that the Church is the Body of Christ. Yet, nowhere does the Bible make that claim clear. So, what does the Word make clear concerning the Bride?  To be honest, not much. What did become evident is that there are lots of what are called "figures of speech" applied in the Bible to God's relationship with people. And they tend to confuse, rather than make clear, the answer to the question Who is the Bride?

     What I discovered is that God uses a lot of different terminology, or figures of speech, to tell us how He feels about the people with whom He is in relationship. We certainly see that in His references to Israel as "wife". We also see God referring to various people or groups as "daughter", "virgin daughter", "virgin", "sister", "espoused" or "bride", "wife", or "mother". But He also calls people "sons", "a vine", "a wild donkey", "sheep", "goats", "a camel". It should be becoming clear that these terms refer to ways God sees people, and may not mean a literal interpretation. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is there a group of people who are specifically and clearly identified as the "literal" Bride. 
     So how did modern Christianity get the idea that the Church is the Bride? What I discovered was a very important quote from Biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger, who wrote in 1899, “Commentators and interpreters, from inattention to the figures of speech, have been led astray from the real meaning of many important passages of God’s Word; while ignorance of them has been the fruitful parent of error and false doctrine” (p. xvi). When realizing that the Bible employs such figures of speech as similes (a comparison by resemblance); metaphors (a comparison by representation); hypocatastasis (a comparison by implication); and personification (things represented as people).
     We can see the difference in the first three figures of speech by considering the statements, "You act like a beast" (simile); "You are a beast" (metaphor); and "Beast!" (hypocatastasis). Personification is portrayed when Wisdom is seen as a woman crying out for people to listen to her; or the blood of Abel is seen as a person crying out from the ground [after he is killed by Cain]. You can also see how an error in recognizing the differences can result in different understandings and doctrines about the statement that Jesus made at the Passover Meal when He held up the bread and said, "This is my body". Some statements are not meant to be taken literal, yet the Church has established doctrine on these kinds of misunderstandings.
     What is becoming clearer to me is that we must take each instance of an identifying figure of speech and determine what God is trying to express about how He feels about people in that particular passage. In other words, each reference to a people -- whether it be Israel, the Church, a nation, or any other group -- is a figure of speech and we need to figure out whether God is making the comparison based on if that group resembles, represents, or is implied to be that term whatever it may be (wife, bride, vine, lion, etc). I think it's wrong to try to build a timeline or doctrine that says God is building a case to give people a specific identity. Instead, I'm not too sure that we aren't supposed to look at each verse and try to determine what the context of that term is in that text alone.
     So, have we made the mistake of trying to make "the Bride of Christ" the Church based on stringing a group of verses together into a doctrine, rather than looking at what God was trying to say in that passage alone? I believe that there are two primary passages that Christians use to back up their theology that the Church is the Bride. The first is 2 Corinthians 11:2, You need to know that God’s passion is burning inside me for you, because, like a loving father, I have pledged your hand in marriage to Christ, your true bridegroom. I’ve also promised that I would present his fiancĂ©e to him as a pure virgin bride (The Passion Translation)The second is Ephesians 5:25-27, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In each of these passages, Scripture is personifying the Church as a Bride as a way to help us understand how Jesus feels about us, and how we are to feel about Him -- offering love and fidelity as a wife or bride would to her husband. This personification of the Church as a Bride is an effective means of communicating what Jesus has done for us; what He expects in return; and does it with a "word picture" we can understand and which has significant impact.
     But again, it is representing the Church "as" or "like" a Bride. It does not definitively identify the Church OR Israel as the Bride. You see, the only passage that can claim that it defines the Bride is Revelation 21:9-11, Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven final plagues (afflictions, calamities) came and spoke to me. He said, Come with me! I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. Then in the Spirit He conveyed me away to a vast and lofty mountain and exhibited to me the holy (hallowed, consecrated) city of Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, clothed in God’s glory [in all its splendor and radiance]. The luster of it resembled a rare and most precious jewel, like jasper, shining clear as crystal.
     Here is the only text that says who the Bride is ... the Holy city of Jerusalem, God's dwelling place. The context of Revelation 21 is the revealing of the New Heaven and New Earth, when God will dwell among people who have accepted Him as their God. All others [revealed as cowards; unbelieving and faithless; depraved and defiled with abominations; murderers; adulterers; practicers of magic arts; and all liars] will find their place in the lake of fire and sulphur. To me, the Word is saying that the city of Jerusalem will be filled with every saved person at the end of this Age. So, instead of trying to determine if the Bride is Israel, or the Church, or some specific group within the Body of Christ, perhaps we need to study this passage in Revelation to see how God wraps up His various references to "the Bride". After giving us comparisons from the Old Testament right through to the last book of the Bible, it seems to me that [in Revelation 21:11] He finally gives us His hope for what a people wholly devoted and in love with Him looks like... Clothed in God’s glory [in all its splendor and radiance].... Just like a beautiful Bride!
     In conclusion, you must each do your own research. Read the Bible and look up all the references to "Bride" in the Bible, and see what they say in context. Then read commentaries and the opinions of Biblical scholars and go back to the Bible and read them again ... in context. Then make up your mind. But I guess I want all this to come back to my original comment on the previous post ... I believe it is premature to say that Jesus [or the Father] is our Husband. It is not until Revelation 19 that the Bible reveals Let us rejoice and shout for joy [exulting and triumphant]! Let us celebrate and ascribe to Him glory and honor, for the marriage of the Lamb [at last] has come, and His bride has prepared herself.  She has been permitted to dress in fine (radiant) linen, dazzling and white—for the fine linen is (signifies, represents) the righteousness (the upright, just, and godly living, deeds, and conduct, and right standing with God) of the saints (God’s holy people). This is a picture of a FUTURE event. Note that Scripture says the Bride has prepared herself. I believe we are still in that process of preparation.
     Yes, we are seen as holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. That is a picture of us at our moment of salvation, and how Jesus, as the Head of the Church, sees us. But Revelation 19 is different. It is a picture of the consummation of our journey with Christ. As of yet, we are still on that road toward purity and chasteness. Speaking for myself, I cannot say that I live a pure, sinless life; it is why I continue to confess, repent and ask for forgiveness. And I certainly do not see the Church fitting that definition. I think we need to understand that Jesus is looking for ALL those who have come to salvation to be chaste and pure and clothed in white at the culmination of His Father's plan for the redemption of mankind. That will include Christians, restored and saved Israel, and a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. And we will all be residing in the New Jerusalem with our Bridegroom and Husband! What a beautiful day that will be!

Thanks to the website, Truth Or Tradition? (Helping You To Understand The Word of God, Free From the Traditions of Men) for helping me to understand how figures of speech contribute to our understanding of the Word.

John 14:3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.

 
   


     

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