By Pastor Al Hughes
When tradition says one thing and the Bible says something
different, we must side with the Bible. This article will challenge
what has traditionally been called "the Bride of Christ."
Secondly, Revelation 19:7 says, "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife HATH MADE HERSELF READY." If the local church is the bride, how does it make itself ready? (More about this later).
Finally, the Apostle Paul never used such language as, "the marriage supper of the lamb," "the Lamb's wife," etc. Since Paul is the apostle of the Gentiles and was given the revelation of the mystery of the church (Eph. 3), we had better pay attention to this fact (cf. 2 Tim. 2:7). Why didn't Paul ever refer to the church as Christ's bride? Why didn't Paul ever call Jesus a lamb? Where does it say Christ is the husband of the church? The church is always referred to as being masculine (Eph. 2:15). (Forget quoting 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5. The terminology is not there. I'll deal with those passages later.)
Suffice it to say here, the church is NOT "the bride, the Lamb's wife." I know many of my independent Baptist friends will take issue with this. That's OK. The great thing about being an independent Baptist is I don't have to answer to the brethren and they don't have to answer to me! We answer to no one but God!
So, if the church is not "the bride," who is? Let's set the traditions of men aside and compare Scripture with Scripture instead of commentaries with commentaries.
THE BRIDE IS A CITY
The angel says, "I will SHEW THEE the bride, the Lamb's
wife." Then what does the angel show John? He shows him
"that GREAT CITY, THE HOLY JERUSALEM."
The city is called "the holy Jerusalem" (Rev. 21:10). In Revelation 21:2 we read, "And I John saw THE HOLY CITY, NEW JERUSALEM, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a BRIDE adorned for her husband." Notice this city is JEWISH in nature. It has twelve gates and twelve foundations. The number twelve is always associated with Israel in Scripture. It's gates bear "the names of the TWELVE tribes of the children of ISRAEL" (Rev. 21:12). It's foundations have "the names of the TWELVE apostles of the Lamb" (Rev. 21:14). Again, the terminology "the Lamb" is definitely related to Israel, and foreign to Paul's writings. The twelve apostles were sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt. 10:5-6). Their primary ministry was to the Jews. It was Paul who was sent to the Gentiles. This "holy city" cannot be the church since the "new Jerusalem" is entirely JEWISH.
In Revelation 12:1, Israel is pictured as "a WOMAN clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." This woman is clearly identified as Israel in Genesis 37:9-10. Nowhere is the church called "a woman," therefore cannot be a bride. (Don't worry! I'll get to 2 Corinthians 11:2 in a little while. Be patient.)
THE BRIDE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
What do we learn from this passage? First, the husband is the "Maker..the LORD of hosts the Holy One of Israel." Second, He marries Israel "a woman forsaken and a wife of youth." Third, there will be "a small moment" in which God will forsake her and hide His face from her. Fourth, after this "small moment" He will gather her again in kindness and mercy.
Get the picture: God marries Israel in the Old Testament. However, she plays the harlot and God forsakes her. Later, He gathers her to Himself again. Between the time He forsakes her and regathers her is a "small moment." This interval of a "small moment" is the church age followed by the tribulation period. For the last 1950+ years God has set Israel aside (Acts 13:46; 18:6; Rom. 11). However, there is coming a day when Israel will make herself ready as a bride, and be gathered again to her first husband.
THE BRIDE DIVORCED
THE BRIDE IS FORGIVEN
This is what Isaiah referred to when he prophesied, "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteh in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee" (Isaiah 62:4-5).
THE BRIDE MAKES HERSELF READY
When Christ returns at the close of the tribulation period, Israel will come to her senses and be READY to return to her first husband. Then the marriage supper of the lamb will take place.
First, Ephesians 5:22-23. Nowhere is the church called a
bride or a wife in this passage.
What about 2 Corinthians 11:2? "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Paul is using a figure of speech called a simile. A simile is the comparision of two things that are similar, but NOT THE SAME. Similes always employ the terms "as" or "like". Paul uses the simile of "AS a chaste virgin" to motivate the Corinthians to live pure lives. Paul is not likening the church to a woman since the word "virgin" can be applied to both women (Isa. 7:14) and men (cf. Rev. 14:4).
Notice this verse does NOT say, "I have married you to your husband, that I may present you a chaste bride to Christ." The word "espoused" has several meanings. It could mean "married," "promised," "committed," "given," "united," "to give loyalty to" etc. The truth is, Paul "committed" the Corinthians to "one husband." Christ is called "one husband," since He is Israel's Husband. Christ is NOT the church's husband!
If you insist "espoused" means "married" in 2 Corinthians 11:2, I do not have a problem with that. A person can be "married" to someone but NOT necessarily be their husband or wife. "Married" simply means "fleshing joining flesh" (1 Cor. 6:15-18). In that sense, we are "married" to Christ since we are flesh of His flesh (Eph. 5:30). But we are not His bride or His wife. We are simply united to Him as part of His body. Don't read something into the verse that is not there!
Finally, read John 3:28-30 (Go ahead, READ IT! I'm not going to do all the work for you!) In this passage, (1) Jesus is the bridegroom; (2) John the Baptist is the friend of the bridegroom; and (3) the bride is Israel, not the church. John could not have been referring to the church, since John had no knowledge of the church! The New Testament Church did not exist when John said this. John the Baptist came to manifest Christ to Israel, not the church (John 1:31).
We are commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:32, "Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God." Things different are not the same.
One Baptist Brider wrote me after this article appeared in our church publication "Sound Words." He asked me, "Where did you get that stuff???" Well, I got it from obeying 2 Timothy 2:15 and Acts 17:11.
I realize some of the good brethren can not handle such "strong meat" as the Scriptures presented in this article. They are either blinded by their own tradition and pride or they are too spiritually immature to grasp it. Jesus told His disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but YE CANNOT BEAR THEM NOW" (John 16:12). Why couldn't the disciples handle it? Paul had the same problem in what he could say to the babes of Corinth. "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto YE WERE NOT ABLE TO BEAR IT " (1 Cor. 3:2). They were not mature enough to handle the "strong meat" of God's Word. "Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age" (cf. Heb. 5:12-14).
You say, "Hughes, I don't agree with you."
Suit yourself. Have a nice day!