The Bride, The Lamb’s Wife
Edward Robinson, Exmouth
The two titles by which the church is designated in the Book of Revelation, the Bride and the Lamb's Wife, are brought together in 21. 9, and are suggestive of two aspects of the Church differing somewhat in character.
The Lamb's Wife would relate to her pathway here in responsibility, answering to the "virtuous woman" (woman of worth) of Proverbs 31. 10. Women in Scripture generally set forth the subjective side of the truth, involving inward feelings and affection. The first great and outstanding type is Eve, figurative of the Church even before the introduction of sin, showing that this concept involved not so much the ways of God but divine purpose and counsel before time was. Another remarkable figure is Abigail, 1 Sam. 25. 36-42, who also epitomizes the truth of Romans 7. 2-4; freed by the death of her husband Nabal, she becomes the wife of David.
There is a tendency in the minds of many Christians to have far too abstract a conception of the Church, possibly due to the development in the course of time of the number of denominations. Rather we should view it as that to which we individually belong and have part, God's great masterpiece (although worked out practically, of course, in its local character). This title the Lamb's Wife brings to mind one who is capable of entering feelingly into the sufferings of Christ as God's Lamb; this would find expression and give depth and character to worship on the occasion of the celebration of the Lord's Supper. It involves further, in her pathway and testimony here, that the Church is prepared for the suffering which is inevitable in the scene in which Christ is still rejected. She is identified with the Man of Sorrows: no doubt in many lands some Christians know more of this, although it may yet be in the ways of God that others may also have to experience more of this feature of the testimony.
The aspect of the Bride, however, is very attractive, suggesting the perennial youth and beauty for the heart of Christ, the Bridegroom. Having "made herself ready", Rev. 19. 7, 8, she is arrayed in fine linen which is the righteousness of the saints (literally the righteous acts of the saints which weave a garment of great beauty for the day of display). She is preparing now in view of this consummation, and in this the operations of the Holy Spirit are paramount. The Old Testament furnishes much interesting and instructive detail of these operations in type and figure. In Esther 2.12-17, the women to be presented to the king require twelve months of intensive preparation. By contrast, when the turn of Esther comes for presentation, at a most critical time for the Jews, "she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain (doubtless figurative of the Holy Spirit) . . . appointed". She obtains favour of the king and of all who saw her, and we may learn the lesson from this interesting record that the world, with all its science and learning, can contribute nothing to God's people; only in yielding ourselves fully to the operations of the Spirit of God are features entirely according to Himself formed. May we thus be encouraged to place ourselves unreservedly in the hands of the Spirit.
Earlier in the divine record we have another most instructive typical account of the work of the Holy Spirit in seeking out and adorning a bride for the true Isaac, Gen. 24. The characters in the chapter are most striking; on the one hand, Abraham, Isaac his son and the servant under whose hand was all the treasure of his master, vv. 2, 10, a figure of the Trinity; on the other hand, the bride, Rebekah, of the household of Abraham's brethren as he had enjoined upon the servant. This reminds us again of the earlier type, Eve, said to be (in regard to Adam) "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh". The Church, thus typified as the bride of Christ, is seen to be of His own order, the subject of divine choice and purpose. This important truth is again stressed in Hebrews 2. 11, "both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren". The service of the Holy Spirit in all this work of preparation is further beautifully seen in the adornment of Rebekah by the servant, who "brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah", Gen. 24. 53. Note the order: silver (speaking of the work of redemption, the first mentioned), then the gold (divine righteousness) and outwardly, the beauteous dress, the raiment for covering. Earlier, at their first meeting, he had provided golden earrings and bracelets, tokens indeed of the wealth of "his master". Rebekah is then called and the question put, "Wilt thou go with this man?"; "I will go" is the immediate response, v. 58, and they arise and follow the man. He leads across the trackless desert, providing in the camels the carrying power, and we read "the servant took Rebekah"- even as we shall unerringly be brought to our heavenly Isaac. The narrative continues with a view of Isaac meditating at eventide, and looking up he sees the camels coming. She also sees Isaac, and springs from the camel with the energy which had marked her from her first meeting with the servant. In our pre-occupation with weakness and failure on earth, it is good to see the divine outlook, and to have our thoughts diverted to view the purposes of God in securing for Christ a companion suited to Him eternally, led through all the vicissitudes of the journey through this scene by another divine Person ("another Comforter"). What holy conversation would take place throughout that desert journey,, doubtless Isaac being the centre of all their communications. So there is open to us the fellowship, or communion, of the Holy Spirit in all our wilderness journey, and what disclosures concerning the One whom we hasten to meet would He make to us. Here is an incentive to us to give greater place to that same Spirit who has such an intimate knowledge of that One Man, to whom we have been espoused as a chaste virgin. He is prepared to share with us the most precious thoughts of Christ until, His mission completed like the servant who had said "It is my master", He transfers us to the One whose side we are nevermore to leave. At the conclusion of this chapter we read that Isaac "took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her", v. 67. A verse by G. A. Lucas reads:
We wait the consummation
Of Love's own work divine
And now in adoration,
We joy that we are Thine.