The church, which Christ announced He would build, is pictured in many ways in the New Testament. This article covers the aspect of “the Bride”. To form part of this “Bride”, an individual must have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.
The wonderful truth of Christ’s relationship to His church was not made known in Old Testament times; it is a subject revealed by the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul, Eph. 3. 1-11. With the advantage of New Testament revelation and the aid of the Holy Spirit, however, the Bible student may see many types of Christ and His Bride in the Old Testament. Examples are Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebecca, Joseph and Asenath, Boaz and Ruth.
From this passage of scripture we learn that: (i) John the Baptist identified Jesus as the bridegroom; (ii) he described those who were becoming disciples of the Lord as “the bride”; and (iii) he did not include himself as part of the Bride. He called himself “the friend of the bridegroom” and claimed that his special mission was to point people to the Bridegroom. John was representative of the righteous men and women of Old Testament times, who did not form part of the New Testament church.
We have seen that John pointed out Jesus as the Bridegroom; now we find that Jesus applied the title to Himself. This time, however, His followers are described as “sons of the bridechamber” (i.e., intimate friends of the groom). The same men were indeed destined for the much closer relationship of forming part of the Bride. Yet at the time when Jesus was speaking, Pentecost was still future, and He could not therefore refer to His disciples in that way.
In this passage the church is not explicitly called the Bride, but it is by implication. The bridal aspect of the church is readily understood from the context. This has to do with the relationship of husbands and wives within the earthly institution of marriage. Furthermore, Paul states clearly that the God-ordained institution of marriage was designed to be a figure of the higher and spiritual union that exists between the Lord and his church, vv. 31, 32.
Christ’s love for the church is a special love, v. 25. It is not quite the same as God’s love in John 3. 16. In John 3 it is God’s sovereign love for a world of sinners; in Ephesians 5 it is Christ’s love of relationship for His people. Christ sought a Bride who would be eternally united to Himself and, in order to achieve this, He gave himself in Self-sacrifice on the cross at Calvary.
Having purchased His Bride with His blood, Christ is not satisfied with her in her present state. He is therefore now engaged in preparing her for His presence through the cleansing and sanctifying influence of the Word of God. He will ultimately present His church as His Bride, spotless, perfect and glorious, suited in every way to His own glorious Person.
Note the title “the Lamb” by which the Bridegroom is known. Just as John the Baptist was the first to speak of Jesus as the Bridegroom, so also he was the first to point Him out as the Lamb of God, John 1. 29, 36. This title suggests His atoning work on the cross, and is a further reminder of the sacrificial love by which He won His Bride. Throughout eternity the Bride will never forget His lamb-like character.
The Bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
She will not gaze at glory,
But on her King of grace,
Not at the crown he giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.
The Bride’s wedding attire is said to consist of fine linen, clean (pure) and white (bright), Rev. 19. 8. This is “the righteousness of saints”. How important it is for us to be clothed with “the righteousness of God which is by faith”, Rom. 3. 22. Faith in the great act of righteousness which Christ performed on the cross can alone fit a person for heaven. Man’s own works of righteousness are futile; they are “as filthy rags”, Isa. 64. 6.
In another sense, the Bride prepares her own attire by acts of righteousness done while on earth; “the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints”, Rev. 19. 8 R.V. These acts are not to be confused with the works of self-righteousness which cannot save. They are, rather, those Christ-like deeds which comprise the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The wedding guests are also referred to: “blessed are they which are called (invited)”, v. 9. Such words cannot apply to the bride, for a bride is not invited to her own wedding! Nor yet do they apply to angels, since angels are normally spoken of as “sent” and not “called” to a particular thing. Doubtless, the friends of the Bridegroom will be the guests, namely John the Baptist and those other Old Testament worthies of which John was the last representative. That others will also be included is suggested by the reference to the wise virgins in the parable of Matthew 25. 1-10.
That the eternal state is in view in this passage is indicated by the reference to a new heaven and a new earth without any sea, together with the cessation of all tears, death, sorrow and pain.
As a bride, the prominent aspect is that of relationship; as a city, that of government. In addition to her being associated with Christ as His Bride, the church will also be associated with Him in the administration of the new order of things in the eternal state. It is to be noted that, although one thousand years will have passed since the marriage mentioned in Revelation 19, the church still appears “as a bride” adorned for her husband, 21. 2. Her beauty has not faded, nor will it ever. She will never cease to be all attractive to Him to whom she is for ever wedded.
This passage is retrospective and takes us back in time. John sees the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, “having the glory of God”, 21. 11. This recalls the prayer of the Lord Jesus, “the glory which thou gavest me I have given them”, John 17. 22. “We shall be like him”, 1 John 3. 2 (cf. Rom. 8. 29; Phil. 3. 21; 2 Thess. 1. 10). The reference to a “city”, Rev. 21. 10, signifies that the administration of affairs during the reign of Christ will be undertaken by the heavenly saints; cf. 1 Cor. 6. 2, 3.
This chapter records the three-fold affirmation of the Lord Jesus, “I come quickly”. The Bride’s response is “Come”, expressed in association with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, sent to remain with and indwell the disciples during the Lord’s absence, produces within the Bride the longing to see her heavenly Bridegroom face to face.
He and I in that bright glory,
One deep joy shall share;
Mine, to be for ever with Him,
His, that I am there.
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