NOTE: By request, I am re-running this 3-part series originally printed nearly 2 1/2 years ago…
The identity of the Bride of Christ has been the subject of much debate. My purpose in this article is to bring up some Scriptures and leave it to you to come to your own conclusions. I believe the answer is not as difficult as many make it, but then you, the reader, may find some of the thoughts I have to share a bit out of your comfort zone. That is okay. Check the Scriptures and see how the Holy Spirit guides you in your own personal understanding. The Bible teaches us that we should study the Scriptures diligently. God’s Word also promises that the Spirit of God will respond to those who ask for His assistance in the task of understanding His Word as we should. It is His promise!
In my studies and research I was amused to find that some of my favorite theologians’ writings seem to be on opposite sides of this issue. That of course always intrigues me and so I decided to go after it for myself and below is what I discovered.
So…who is the Bride of Christ? Some say it has to be Israel. Others say it can only be “The Holy City, The New Jerusalem.” Still others say it is the entire Body of the righteous, all the way from righteous Abel to the very last of the righteous at the end of the millennium. There are a few, however, who believe the “Bride of Christ” consists of a relatively small segment of the Body of Christ; a remnant. This is my understanding and here are my reasons, and more importantly, the Scriptural backing.
A good understanding of the whole subject of the “Marriage of the Lamb of God” requires at least some understanding of the traditional Jewish wedding. It is also important to have an accurate understanding of where the Jewish nation stands with God and how He sees His people and His sovereignly determined future for them.
There is an unholy teaching that has found prominence in many churches today–in fact, in many denominational organizations and their Bible colleges and seminaries. In short, this doctrine states that all of the promises and covenants God made with Israel in the Old Testament have now been transferred to the Gentile church. This teaching insists that the Jewish nation has been discarded by God and there is no coming back!
The latest statistics I was able to locate show that well over 50% of the Christian population of the U.S. believes this! That percentage is considerably higher yet in Europe. This might explain why so many Christian organizations from the Western world are biased against Israel alongside the many United Nations organizations and world governments that find unending reasons to condemn the Jewish nation. Why would Christ-followers align themselves with this?
This is especially disturbing in light of Scriptures which state God’s eternal promise to Israel. Let me share Romans 11:1-6 as one example:
“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah–how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me! And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”
In continuing to read through the eleventh chapter of Romans, specifically verses 11-24:
“I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.
“For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
“Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (NKJV)
This whole subject is obviously complicated and is a multi-part study of its own. I will leave it alone for now except to remind us of the promise God gave Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish nation. God said in Genesis 12:2-3:
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
God never rescinded this covenant He made with Abraham and his descendants. There is also not a shred of scriptural evidence to say that Abraham’s descendants are now the Church instead of the Jews! The Church was just given the privilege of joining the Jewish people in the blessings God has made available.
Some of the basic details of the Jewish wedding, in a very abbreviated form, are these: In step one, the Betrothal or Covenant, the groom went directly to the father of the bride, at his house, to work out all the details, including the “purchase price.” It was handled like a business contract. In our modern day, some may be wondering why details like these are important to us. Our “purchase” was also handled very much like a binding contract. The fallen Lucifer knew that he had legitimately been handed the “keys” to this planet. Adam and Eve had these keys in their control, having been given the control of not only the Garden of Eden, but the farthest reaches of the planet itself. In Genesis 1:28, God said:
“Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (KJV)
Lucifer also knew quite well that he now had his grip on the human race due to the disobedience in the garden. Adam’s race would not, nor could it be redeemed without a spiritually “legal” transaction, a price that would border on bankrupting heaven itself because no greater price could be paid beyond the death of the Son of God. This is why these details have such significance for us.
After this contract was agreed upon and the price had been paid, the bridegroom and bride were betrothed. In Jewish culture the betrothal was seen as being married with the exception that the couple had not consummated their marriage, nor had the bride been removed from her own dwelling to the one the groom had prepared for her. Generally, the betrothed Jewish girl waited for her groom for about a year.
So, in step two, the prospective groom left to prepare a place for his bride. It was quite common to add a room or suite onto the father’s house. Sometimes it was a separate building on the father’s property. It is an amazing thing to compare what Jesus said in John 14:1-3 with the traditions of step 2. Jesus said this:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
When it was time for the third step, the prospective groom would leave his father’s house and go unannounced to snatch his bride–usually at night. It is important to recognize the fact that in Jewish culture, it was the father of the groom who decided the exact time he would release his son to go fetch his bride. It was traditional for the groom and those with him to announce their arrival with a great shout as soon as they were within earshot. Another fact that I find exciting is that it was quite common for the bridegroom to show up a bit early! All Jewish brides were said to be “stolen, caught up, and snatched up by surprise!”
There was great importance put on the bride keeping her candle or lamp lit in her window. During the waiting time while the bridegroom was away preparing her a place to live with him, the bride was also expected to spend the time preparing herself for the upcoming wedding and for her bridegroom, including crafting her own wedding gown. It was the thing that was the #1 priority in her life and consumed most of her time. I can’t help but wonder if we understand the significance of this for us and how important it really is?
Yeshua (Jesus) told His disciples–that He did not know the day or hour of His return as we find in Matthew 24:32-36–this is not so much to say He does not have all knowledge–but as with any Jewish bridegroom–He must wait for His Father to give the word that the set time has come. Matthew:32-36 reads like this:
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
As already mentioned above, there was a great shout when the bridegroom was coming around the corner. Actually by tradition, one of the groom’s men would go before the arrival of the groom and shout: “Behold, the groom comes!!” Should we really expect anything else from our Heavenly Bridegroom?? We do see this described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18:
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
Indeed, there will be a great shout from one of the ruling angels as well as the thundering sound of the Trump of God. For those who are waiting for this wonderful event, it can’t possibly be missed. Unfortunately for those who are living a life of “religion” only, this won’t be the case. They will likely miss it!
Since the time of the signing of the betrothal, the bride had some idea of when her groom would come, but not exactly, so she kept a close watch. So must we be on watch, especially because we now know the time is upon us.
At the sound of the best man’s shout, the shofar would be blown. At the sound of the shofar the entire wedding party would go through the streets of the bride’s city. The bride would quite often be picked up bodily by the wedding party and carried back to wherever the father’s house was, which is step four, and everything it is inclusive of.
Once the bride was at the father’s house, the groomsmen set up the “hupa”, which was a temporary tent-like cover that the couple stood under as a blessing was said over the cup of wine that was presented to them. The ceremony itself finalized the promises and vows.
The highest point of the whole celebration was the marriage supper. This event was much more than just a sit-down dinner for all the guests. It included seven full days of food, music, dance and celebration.
After the festivities the husband was free to bring his bride to their new home to live together as husband and wife in the full covenant of marriage.
Today, as I write this article, we are very near step three. Step one happened near 2,000 years ago. The set price to purchase the “bride” was no less than the death of the only Son of God. The price was agreed upon, the document signed in blood, and then paid in full. It tells us in the book of 1 Corinthians that if the devil had really understood the full ramifications of what he had signed onto, he never would have agreed to the deal. He had it figured that his iron grip on the earth and the human race could not be broken. I Corinthians 2:8-9 says:
“…we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”
The Bridegroom has been at His Father’s house preparing our eternal home for the last 2,000 years as we just read above in John 14:1-3.
I am aware of the controversy concerning the “Rapture”, and particularly its timing. There are many folks who do not believe in a “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture. I spend little time debating the issue and have good friends that have varying beliefs on the subject, but that does not indicate that I do not have an opinion of my own. In fact, from my own studies over the last several decades, I have been led to an overwhelming belief in the “true” followers of Jesus Christ being “snatched” off of the face of the earth before the Great Tribulation is unleashed. This is exactly how the word “Rapture”, or “harpazo” in the original Greek, is defined.
The length of this present study does not allow for me to provide all the arguments proving why I take the position that I do. I will however revisit the subject once again very soon. I would however like to leave something for the thinking person to contemplate. The passage in John 14:1-3, printed out above, describes a heavenly destiny for the remnant that are His true followers. It also leaves the reader with a strong emphasis on intimacy from Jesus the Bridegroom.
Jesus made it clear that He wants us with Him, and He has been in the process of building our dwelling place to accommodate just that. It is very difficult to rationalize the contrast between the deep passionate love expressed, as the Bridegroom coming to take His bride to her new home at His Father’s place, and the scenario we see unfolding at the return of Jesus in Revelation 19. The Bible tells us that the “Bride” is going to meet the “Bridegroom” in the air. If there is no removal of the Bride before the Great Tribulation begins and we are joined with the Bridegroom at the end of the Tribulation, then we must go up into the air and make a real quick U-turn so we can fit the description of heaven’s armies coming down out of heaven, which according to verse 11 are in position with the Bridegroom on His White Horse, getting ready to come down and unleash His fury on the Dragon, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the multiplied millions who are gathered–not only to attempt once again to completely obliterate Israel, but now to fight with Almighty God Himself! The scene described in chapter 19:11 to the end of the chapter, is one of the most brutal and violent, bloody battles imaginable. The blood, gore, and bodies is foretold to be as deep as a horse’s bridle for the length and breadth of the valley. This is what the Bride has prepared herself for when the shout from the Bridegroom comes? Hmmm.! Not likely!! The differences in the descriptions between these two “coming passages” are too far apart to be reconcilable. Scriptures are more definitive than this; but for now, let’s leave it right there…
To Be Continued in PART 2