The two metaphors used of the church which were considered in earlier papers, namely, a building and a body, are peculiarly the subject of New Testament revelation. That of the church as a bride has its origins in the Old Testament, in the relationship between God and Israel. When Israel came out of Egypt, God entered into a lovecovenant with them, “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wen test after me in the wilderness”, Jer. 2. 2. God “drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love”, Hos. 11. 1, 4. Although the love of their espousals became tarnished, God nonetheless affirmed “I am married unto you”, Jer. 3. 14. But they broke the love-covenant that God had made with them by their unfaithfulness to it, as God later complained through Jeremiah, “my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them”, 31. 32; cf. Isa. 54. 5. Ezekiel tells the same sad story of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God’s love-covenant with them, “I passed by thee, and … thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and … entered into a covenant with thee … and thou becamest mine”, Ezek. 16. 8; cf. Ruth 3. 5. Ezekiel 16 laments at length over Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant. They were “as a wife that committeth adultery”, v. 32, and “as women that break wedlock”, v. 38. Because “as a wife treacherously de-parteth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord”, Jer. 3. 20, God “put her away, and (gave) her a bill of divorce”, v. 8; cf. Isa. 50. 1. Judah was no better, Jer. 3. 10, 11. Doubtless God’s action refers to the Assyrian and Babylonian deportations respectively.
What God did not achieve in Israel, He has secured in the Church, which is viewed in the New Testament as Christ’s affianced bride. In Ephesians 5 Paul likened the human marriage relationship to that which obtains between Christ and the church. Adam spoke of Eve as “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”, for which cause “shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”, Gen. 2. 23, 24. Paul related this to Christ and the Church, “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church”, Eph. 5. 30-32. In this loverelationship, v. 25, the church “is subject unto Christ”, as “head”, vv. 23, 24. As yet, the church is espoused to Christ, but this is in prospect of the time when He shall “present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”, v. 27. As Eve was Adam’s complement at every level of his being, “an help meet for (i.e., answering to) him”, Gen. 2. 18, so will the church be Christ’s complement “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but … holy and without blemish”.
Meet companion then for Jesus
From Him, for Him made;
Glory of God’s grace for ever,
There in me displayed!
At the local level, Paul applied the same metaphor to the church at Corinth, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ”, 2 Cor. 11. 2. Paul feared that what took place in Eden, when the serpent deceived Eve, might be repeated in the spiritual experience of the Corinthians, “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ’, v. 3. He saw in the activities of certain false teachers who preached “another Jesus … another spirit… another gospel”, v. 4, a real possibility of this happening at Corinth, resulting in the loss of their spiritual chastity, and their alienation from Christ, by the blandishments of “another Jesus”, a rival for their affections. Because of this, Paul was “jealous over (them) with godly jealousy”.
In the Book of the Revelation, after the judgment of “the great whore”, “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots”, Rev. 17. 5; 19. 2, Satan’s counterfeit “bride”, the voice of a great multitude is heard saying, “Let us be glad and rejoice … for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready”, v. 7. She is seen to be suitably attired “in fine linen, clean and white … the righteousness of saints”, v. 8. “The marriage supper of the Lamb”, v. 9, is announced, but not described. It is the Lamb’s supper, in which the bride joins Him as His wife. She has prepared herself—“made herself ready” —for this great occasion; the “fine linen” in which she is clothed is “the righteousness (R.V. “righteous acts”) of saints. The “fine linen, bright and pure” (R.V.) which is given unto her is in marked contrast to the gaudy and meretricious attire of “the mother of harlots”, Satan’s counterfeit bride, who is “arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls”, 17. 4. The whore is destined for judgment at the hands of the Lamb; the Lamb’s wife for marriage to Him.
Chapter 21 witnesses the coming of “a new heaven and a new earth”, v. 1, whereupon John “saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared (made ready, R.V.) as a bride adorned for her husband,” v. 2. John is invited by an angel, “Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife”, v. 9. Once again, she is viewed as “a city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God”, v. 10. The bride’s adornment may suggest something other than the “fine linen, bright and pure” of chapter 19. 8 R.V. The word “adorned”, Greek kosmed, means to polish, adorn. Peter used the same word in 1 Peter 3. 5 of “the holy women … who … adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”. Such is an inner adornment, “the hidden man of the heart … the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price”, v. 4; see also 1 Timothy 2. 9 where Paul used the same word. The adornment of “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” may, therefore, well be that of a loving subjection to Christ, see Eph. 5. 24, rather than “as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels”, Isa. 61. 10.
The marriage supper of the Lamb is in sharp antithesis to “the supper of the great God”, Rev. 19. 17, when the armies of the kings of the earth, v. 19, will be the prey of “all the fowls” of heaven, v. 21; cf. Matt. 24. 28. This is a crisis in God’s judgment on the earth; but the marriage supper of the Lamb will be the consummation of God’s grace in heaven.
Although “the marriage supper” is not described, there will be guests present to share in it, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper”. Doubtless John Baptist, “the friend of the bridegroom”, John 3. 29, will be there, and also many others; cf. Matt. 8. 11; Luke 14. 15. Like Him, these will find it an occasion of great rejoicing. These are not “the Lamb’s wife”, but wedding guests.
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