In present day Christian circles much confusion exists as to who or what constitutes the Bride. A year or so ago the writer heard a fundamental believer boast that he would give a thousand dollars to the person proving from Scripture that the church is ever identified as the Bride of Christ. This friend claimed that Israel was the Bride. The church, he argued, could not be the Body and the Bride at the same time.
There are still others, orthodox Christians, who believe that only those in their denomination are the Bride, and that all believers not in their close communion are simply friends of the Bridegroom. Evidently theirs is a spiritual aristocracy none can share unless they are prepared to enter their exclusive entrance into the privileged intimacy such as exists between a bride and her groom.
Israel was certainly espoused to God (note, God) and became His wife. Because of her rejection of His Word and will, Israel was abandoned as an adulterous wife. Later on she will become Jehovah’s restored wife (Isaiah 54:6, 7; 62:4, 5). Those who advocate that Israel is the Bride erroneously teach that “wife” is her earthly title and “bride” her heavenly designation. But a study of the following Scriptures proves that God cast Israel off as a wife, and that it is impossible for Him to marry her as a “virgin” (Jeremiah 3:1-18; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2; 3:1-5). Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, in their renowned commentary, remark, “On the emblem of the heavenly Bridegroom and Bride cf. Matthew 22:2; 25:6, 10; 2 Corinthians 11:2. Perfect union with Him personally and participation in His holiness, joy, glory and kingdom are included in this symbol of ‘marriage’; cf. Song of Solomon everywhere. Besides the heavenly Bride, the transfigured, translated, and risen Church, reigning over the earth with Christ, there is also the earthly bride, Israel, in the flesh, never yet divorced, though for a time separated, from her divine husband, who shall then be reunited to the Lord and be mother Church of the millennial earth, Christianized through her. Note, we ought, as Scripture does, restrict the language drawn from marriage—love to the Bride, the Church as a whole; not use it as individuals in our relation to Christ, as Rome does in the case of her nuns.”
The portion in Revelation 19:7-10 describing the marriage scene in which the Bridegroom makes His Bride His wife, is worthy of full consideration. A woman, of course, only becomes a wife on the completion of her marriage to the man to whom she has been engaged or espoused. In this age of Grace, the church is the affianced Bride of Christ. At the marriage of the Lamb, she becomes His wedded wife (Ephesians 5:22, 23; 2 Corinthians 11:2).
The joy over such a blessed union will be mutual. It will be Christ’s highest occasion of joy when His redeemed church, complete, is by His side forever. Then the completion of this union will also be the source of rejoicing and unending joy.
Evidently the church has to be made ready for this occasion. Now the earthly part of her is not ready. The militant church on earth is not without spot or blemish. But the Judgment Seat of Christ will bring about all necessary readiness, for there all adjustments and rectifications will be executed. Then she can don her beautiful wedding garments, described by John in no uncertain terms—fine linen, bright and pure.
This adornment is described as “being given unto her” (Revelation 19:8). All we have comes from God (see 13:5). But the arraying is a double process. God donates the garments and the Bride must wear them. Fine linen implies that there is no mixture of human merit. The bridal array is white, emblematic of holiness. It is pure, that is, free from all earthly impurity. This adornment is also referred to as “the righteousness of the saints,” or, as the RV expresses it, the “righteous acts of the saints.” Thus it is clear that we have here, not Christ’s imputed and imparted righteousness, which must be ours if we are to be included in the Bride, but the righteous acts, or works, of the saints themselves (Zechariah 3:4; Luke 15:22). Each saint must have righteousness, not merely be justified, as if he belonged to the Church in the aggregate. The saints together have righteousness. Christ is accounted “The Lord our Righteousness” to each believing one, the robe being made white in the blood of the Lamb. The righteousness of the saint is not inherent but “imputed.”
Among the many marvelous scenes John witnessed was that of “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). In verse 9 this glorious city is identified as the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. The glorified church, then, is both a city and a bride. She is “the city of God” in that she represents the sum of perfected individuals. In her love and unity she is the “Bride.”
The Bride and the city are identical, thus the New Jerusalem is to be the home and residence of the Bride. She is to be the prominent center of the city and saved nations are to partake of her blessedness (verse 24). Her brightness is to supply the light they will walk in. Indwelt by her Lord, she will be the medium of blessings to the new earth (see Luke 19:17, 19). The church is to stand out as the most magnificent of all created works.
In the description John gives us of perfect unity, the church’s governmental relationship to the Lamb is noted. God’s eternal home is to be in the capital city of the new creation. Here is the center of divine presence and the government of all in the universe of God and the Lamb. With each view of the city the Lamb is named and the sevenfold reference (Revelation 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27; 22:1-3) indicates that although Christ delivers up the kingdom of God, He yet shares it with the redeemed.
A brief word is all that is necessary on this last glimpse of the church in Holy Writ. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come” or “Come Thou” (Revelation 22:17). The combined call is addressed to Christ to come for His church, not for Israel, although she also will participate in the blessings of His return.
After granting John a panorama of coming events, Christ returns to His church with a final exhortation. “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches” (22:16). But in how many churches is the Book of Revelation testified to? Generally speaking, they are guilty of sinful silence when it comes to this closing book of the Bible.
The church collectively is before us in the “Bride.” Then the individual’s yearning for Christ’s appearing is expressed in the second “Come.” “Let him that heareth say, Come.” The appeal for the sinner to partake of the water of life is based upon the return of Christ (22:17). Three times over in the chapter we have the promise of Christ to come again, and so the Holy Spirit and all true believers in the church call upon the Lord to fulfill His promise to return. John’s reply to Christ expresses the desire of the Bride all down the ages, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
Among the similes used of the church we have these three—The Bride, in which there is the thought of loving union; The Body (Ephesians 1:23; 4:4, 12, 16) implying the idea of a living organism; The Building (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21, 22) or City (Revelation 21:2; Philippians 3:20, rv) conveying the truth of an ordered unity.
Long ago John Milton, the blind poet, wrote, “Come forth out of Thy royal chamber, O Prince of all the kings of the earth, put on the visible robes of Thy imperial majesty; take up that unlimited sceptre which Thy Almighty Father hath bequeathed Thee. For now the voice of Thy bride calls Thee, and all creation’s sight be renewed.” It is to be hoped that this meditation has intensified your longing to see the blessed face of the Bridegroom, who, at His coming, will transform all His own into His likeness.
The Bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of Grace:
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His piercèd hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.