by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
I. Various biblical symbols represent the Church. Among them is the Church's calling as the holy, radiant, spotless bride of Christ.
A. In the Bible, God has likened the church to many things— among them a body, a flock, a family, an army, a building and a planting.
B. Another magnificent light in which the Bible portrays the church is as the bride of Christ:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Rev. 19:7)
II. Is there a bride of Christ?
A. The very thought of marriage between God and his people is not a uniquely New Testament idea. It also occurs in the Old Testament.
B. Jesus speaks of himself as the bridegroom.
C. John the Baptist spoke of Jesus as the bridegroom.
D. The church is betrothed, espoused and promised as the intended bride of her husband, Jesus Christ. The marriage is not consummated. That is yet to come.
E. At the end, we see the bride married to Jesus.
F. The thought of both men and women as a bride need not puzzle you. For although God made us male and female (Gen. 1:27), that distinction is relevant only in our earthly perspective. As far as our relationship to Christ, and our position of being in Christ, there is no relevance of gender to him.
Note: In Verse 26, both men and women are called 'sons' of God. In our relationship to God, gender distinctions are not significant.
G. There will be a bride, who will be presented perfect to Jesus Christ.
H. The bride-church — a holy church, a blameless and radiant church — is called to measure up to the stature of Jesus Christ!
I. In Eden God created a bride for Adam, a help meet for him (Gen. 2:18 KJV). The bride was meet for him— that is, suitable, fitting, adapted to and completing him; as Lamsa's translation says, "a helper who is like him."
III. Who is the bride of Jesus Christ?
A. The church in its entirety is espoused to Christ. But not all will make it to the altar!
Please Note: I am not saying that they won't stay saved. When talking of the church as the bride of Christ, we are talking of a relationship with Jesus while we are still here on earth — a relationship that is so close and spiritually intimate that the best imagery to capture and portray it is that of a bride and groom. And not all of the espoused will press in to that kind of wonderful intimacy and closeness to the heavenly bridegroom.
B. The bride of Christ will be a perfect bride, with no spot or blemish.
C. In the last days a measuring rod will be applied to the church. The standard of measurement, of evaluation, will be "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13 KJV).
D. The Apostle Paul, who spoke of the church as Christ's intended bride, also in the same epistle pointed that church-bride toward the standard of perfection.
E. The parable of the ten virgins is an important key to understanding the bride of Christ. It is quoted in its entirety below. It is critically important to notice that this speaks of a distinguishing, even a separation, among the Lord's people.
The kingdom of heaven is likened to ten virgins, not five. All ten are within the kingdom. This is not, as some have taught, a teaching about a saved group and a lost group.
There were 10 virgins. "I promised you... as a pure virgin to him [Christ]" (2 Cor. 11:2).
They all had lamps. They all had the word of God. "Your word is a lamp to my feet" (Ps. 119:105).
They "went out to meet the bridegroom." All of them were looking forward to the coming of the bridegroom. This is certainly not true of the unsaved!
The bridegroom, of course, from our earlier study (Mark 2:18-20; John 3:28-30; Rev. 19:7) is the Lord Jesus Christ.
All Christians have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. And Spirit-filled Christians have additionally partaken of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, with power (Acts 1:8). But the only 'wise' Christians, in this context, are those who possess an abundant measure of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by their having their lamps burning brightly at the time of the bridegroom's arrival.
F. Follow a little further the comparison of Adam and Jesus as, respectively, the first man Adam and the last Adam (I Cor. 15:45-47, quoted above). A portion of the first Adam's body — a rib — was fashioned by God and presented as a bride to Adam. I believe that, in the same fashion, a portion of the body of Christ, which is the church, will be presented by God as a bride to his Son.
G. Here is a summary of some characteristics of Christ's bride that we have studied:
With the help and grace of the Lord, all these are attainable. But not all Christians will cooperate with the Lord's grace and expend the effort to measure up in these and any other needful areas. Remember: Jesus is seeking a perfect bride, a "help meet" for Him!
IV. Some typological insights into the bride of Christ are found in Genesis 24.
The reader is encouraged at this point to read the entire 24th chapter of Genesis. There we read the beautiful story of the patriarch Abraham sending his trusted servant back to Abraham's ancestral homeland to secure a wife from among his kindred for his son Isaac. A beautiful picture emerges as we regard Abraham, typologically, as depicting God the Father, Isaac representing Jesus the Son, and the trusted servant typifying the Holy Spirit. Rebekah then comes into focus as the bride of Christ.
A. Abraham is a type of God the Father (vs. 1-4).
Father (vs. 1-4).
B. Isaac, Abraham's son, as a type of Jesus, the Son of God.
C. The Holy Spirit is typified by the trusted servant who was "in charge of all that [Abraham] had" (vs. 2).
D. The Holy spirit is seeking a bride for Jesus Christ from among God's kindred, from among God's people.
E. During this time of seeking the bride for Christ, He is to remain in heaven with the Father. The Holy Spirit represents the Father and Son on earth during this time (vs. 5-6).
F. The Holy Spirit has all the Father's resources at his disposal.
G. This seeking of a bride is at the end of the church age.
H. The intended bride was working and serving (vs. 15-20).
I. She was "very beautiful, a virgin" (vs. 16).
J. The bride of Christ will be quick to respond to the Holy Spirit's voice.
K. The bride of Christ will go beyond the basic requirements of service (vs. 19).
L. The bride of Christ will be abundantly gifted by the Holy Spirit.
M. There will be proper recognition of the lordship of Jesus Christ.
N. The bride of Christ will evidence a willingness, a desire, to join her espoused husband, Jesus Christ.
O. Bride and groom will meet at the end of the age.
P. The eventual result: the consummation of the marriage!
V. Revelation 12 teaches important truths about the bride of Christ.
A. The book of the Revelation is, from the biblical author's perspective, prophecy, not history. Written late in the first century A.D., its focus was future, not past. Interpretations with a historical focus have brought much confusion to the study of this book. Read it as prophecy, and much that may have seemed confusing begins to make sense.
So the interpretation of Revelation's 12th chapter must also be understood in a context yet future from the book's writing.
B. A summary of the 12th chapter of the Revelation is as follows: We see the church, at least the qualifying portion of the church, as the bride of Christ. She will be a company of perfected believers, producing godly spiritual fruit on the earth. Then Satan and his forces, who are to the present time still capable of operating in the heavenlies, will be cast down to the earth after a great war in heaven. Satan will initiate extensive persecution against the bridal church. But God will miraculously deliver the bridal company of believers to a place of preservation that God will have prepared for them. The bride will be provided for and taken care of in that place prepared by God during the last 3-1/2 years prior to Christ's second coming. During this final 3-1/2 years, the antichrist will live out his reign of terror on earth and bring great persecution and martyrdom to those remaining Christians who do not qualify as the bride of Christ, but who will continue to hold fast to their Christian testimony.
Here we see:
This is the glorious, last-days, holy and radiant church, the bride of Christ. She is clothed with God's fullness. She is founded upon the Lord Jesus Christ. She is filled with the Holy Spirit. And she is properly structured and under God's ordained government. This is not:
Notice that she "appeared in heaven." Although her geographical place was still on earth (vs. 6,13-16), her spiritual place was "seated... with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).
Note: The bride is still on earth; the heavenly bridegroom is still literally in heaven until his second coming recorded in Revelation 19. There is a parallel of sorts in Mary's conception of Jesus by the power of God (Luke 1:30-35). She was on earth, God was in heaven, yet by the power of God Mary became pregnant.
The perfected, bridal church will bear a fast and massive harvest of souls brought into the kingdom of God. This "son, a male child," is generally understood to be a company of people — perhaps related to the overcomers of Rev. 2:26-27.
Referring to the miraculous deliverance of Israel out from Egypt to meet with God at Mount Sinai, God said, "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself" ( Exod. 19:4).
A portion of the entire church — that is, the bride — will be taken on "the two wings of a great eagle... to the place prepared for her" (Rev. 12:14).
These last 3-1/2 years, in which the bride of Christ will be delivered safely to and taken care of in "the wilderness" (vs. 6,14 KJV), are the same 3-1/2 years in which the antichrist will rule on the earth.
God does divide, even among his people!
C. During the 3-1/2 years of the preservation of the bride of Christ in the wilderness place prepared for her by God, the remaining Christians who hold to their testimony will begin to lose their lives under the persecution of the antichrist.
VI. What is the order of events pertaining to the bride of Christ?
A. The church is already promised (2 Cor. 11:2) for eventual presentation to Christ as a radiant, blameless bride (Eph. 5:27).
B. The church must live and serve now in such a way as to be ready for presentation to the heavenly bridegroom (Matt. 25:10; Rev. 19:7).
C. Before the second coming of Christ, there shall be a spiritual consummation of the relationship between the bride and Christ (Rev. 12:1-2), whereby the bride bears a son, a man child (Rev. 12:2,5; Isa. 66:8).
Note: There is a direct link here with the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament 'feasts of Israel.' The New Testament church has received "Christ [her] Passover" (1 Cor. 5:7). And many within the church have experienced the New Testament Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5,8; 2:1-4). So also shall the bridal church, those who have received a full measure of the Passover and Pentecostal blessings, likewise partake of the feast of tabernacles, and specifically the blessed day of atonement that leads to the ultimate fulfillment of the feast of tabernacles. Of that day of atonement the Bible says uniquely, in a manner not attributed to Passover or Pentecost:
There is yet ahead for the church a New Testament day of atonement. It shall be the day when the bride of Christ shall find herself indeed a radiant, holy, cleansed, blameless church (Eph. 5:27)— a church "clean from all its sins" (Lev. 16:30).
D. At God's appointed time, he will miraculously deliver the bride of Christ to that wilderness place He has prepared for her (Rev. 12:6,14). There she will be safely cared for during the final 3-1/2 years in which the antichrist will rule on earth and will martyr the Christians who do not qualify as the bride of Christ and therefore will not be taken out to the wilderness with her (Rev. 12:17; 13:1-7,15).
E. At the end of the 3-1/2 years will be the second coming of Jesus. He will conquer the antichrist and false prophet (Rev. 19:20). The dead saints of all ages will be resurrected. At the same time, the bride of Christ still living in the place prepared for her by God will be transformed into incorruptible bodies and will be caught up with the resurrected saints to meet the Lord as he comes in the air.
VII. What can we do to press towards this bride-perfection?
A. "You must be born again" (John 3:7).
B. We need a proper water baptism. "Buried with him [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may life a new life" (Rom. 6:3-6).
C. We need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
D. We need to pursue a holy, godly, Spirit-filled and Spirit-led walk.
E. "Be not conformed to this world" (Rom. 12:2 KJV).
F. We must handle properly the trials and testings of our faith, which will cause us to become "mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).
G. We need to be solidly grounded in the scriptures, the word of God, "that the man of God may be perfect" (2 Tim. 3:16-17 KJV).
H. Of all the Christian virtues, we must especially "put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Col. 3:14).
I. We must properly relate to and receive from the fivefold ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. These ministries are given by the Lord "for the perfecting of the saints ... till we all come ... unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13, KJV).
J. "Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal" (2 Cor. 13:11).
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©2004, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.