Doctrines or dogmas help us to understand things that we cannot find so clearly in the Bible. People, that in general are well prepared, have thought about several subjects that have to do with our faith. Synods have been conducted, during which, after long discussions particular insights as 'the right one' were defined. A lot of those doctrines have helped a lot of people to understand more of the Bible. Not everyone is keen on studying. Not everyone has enough knowledge of the Bible to investigate everything by him or herself.
However, there is something remarkable with that Bible. One thinks to see this in it, and someone else has another vision on that. Great Reformers like Luther and Calvin destroyed statements that lasted for ages. Millions have realized that what they said was more in line with what the Bible says, than what the Catholic church taught them. How did they come to these insights? They read their Bible and wondered why in the (catholic) church other things were taught than what they read. They had the courage to write down what they discovered. They opened the eyes of many people for the truth in the Bible.
Throughout centuries it has been that one understood what God meant and another did not. Was the reason the intellect of those persons? Or was the reason that God did not deemed the time right to reveal certain truths? The Jews still don't see, except some exceptions, Jesus is the Messiah. The Bible says there is a veil upon their heart. That veil will be taken away when the fullness of the gentiles will enter the Kingdom of God. Only then they will see it. God is telling Daniel that the knowledge will increase at the end of times. Sometimes God keeps things undiscovered for a long time. It is a gift of God, that during the year 1900, the knowledge about the working of the Spirit increased . Even in that time there were people that saw that Israel would become a nation again. That has to do with the insights God gives. Not everything is fixed according to what always has been thought and taught and therefore it is good from time to time to reinvestigate all dogmas and doctrines. Maybe the Lord deems that it is time to shine a new light over a particular aspect of His plan with this world and its people.
Based in this consideration it would be good to investigate if it is true that, as it is generally assumed, the church is the Bride of Christ.
If it is true that the Church is the Bride, then we should know where the verses are that proof this. If it is not true, then we should investigate who is the Bride. Besides, it would be good to investigate on what base the idea, that apparently is being followed world wide, has been formed. We will try to find an answer to the question:
The word 'Bride' only appears 5 times in the New Testament.
In only one verse it is explained who is the bride: The New Jerusalem. That's why it is good also to include the verses that talk about The New Jerusalem. While it concerns only a few verses, we will mention them all and see if we can learn anything more about the 'Bride of Christ'.
"The bride belongs to the bridegroom."
John the Baptist is speaking here about Jesus as the Bridegroom. He calls himself the friend of the Bridegroom. "The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete."
About Babylon: "The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again."
This verse does not give information about the bride of Jesus.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."
Here it is said that 'a new Jerusalem' will come down from heaven, is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This will take place after the first heaven and the first earth have passed. That is, when the heaven and the earth as we know them will not exist anymore. A new heaven and a new earth will come and on the new earth will come down a New Jerusalem from heaven. This heavenly city is adorned like a bride. From the following verses it even appears that the New Jerusalem is the Bride.
An angel speaks to John:
"Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God."
Here it is clearly said who is the Bride, the Lamb's wife: "The holy Jerusalem" coming down out of heaven from God.
And the last verse where the bride is mentioned:
"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"
This verse gives no direct information about the Bride.
Beside verses about the bride, we can also find verses in the NT that speak indirectly about the bride. If the new Jerusalem is called 'the bride' in Revelations, then other verses, that speak about the new or heavenly Jerusalem, talk indirectly also about the bride.
We will read those verses.
"Abraham had two sons, one by a bondmaid, and one by a freewoman. Hagar, the bondmaid is being compared to the mount Sinai, which genders slaves, slaves of the law. Hager is in line with the present Jerusalem, because that is with its children in slavery. But Sara, who by faith received the promise, her son was promised to her and she believed God, is in line with "... the Jerusalem that is above and is free, she is our mother."
This concerns two testaments. One is the testament of the law (works), made on the mount Sinai. The other one is the testament of faith, by the Spirit.
The testament of the law produces slaves and is in line with Jerusalem on earth.
The testament of faith by the Spirit brings forth sons, who will inherit. This testament is in line with the heavenly Jerusalem. They who believe in Jesus are children of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Just by logical reasoning, one would say that you cannot be at the same time child of the mother AND the mother. But here we are talking about spiritual things and also figurative sayings. We hope to gain more insight in this Matthew r in the remaining of this bible study.
In a comparison between Israel that not dared to listen to God at the mount Sinai and the believers in Christ, says the author of the letter to the Hebrews:
"But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God."
If the church would be the bride, this would be a strange verse, because it does not say: you are the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, but it says that we have come to the city that is called the heavenly Jerusalem.
These are all verses that directly or indirectly (by speaking about the new or heavenly Jerusalem) say something about a bride. We were able to determine that there are in fact only two verses that can tell us more about who is the bride. The only direct verse tells us that the bride is the heavenly Jerusalem. The second verse is a indirect reference to the identity of the bride en tells us that she is our mother. So, it's not too much, but maybe we come further if we take other key words and study the verses where these words appear. Words that have to do with the subject for example: bridegroom, wedding, wedding garment. We will now read and study those verses that talk about those key words.
In the title of this bible study it is already stated that the Bridegroom is Christ. But that is also a point that first should be determined by using the bible.
That the bride is the heavenly Jerusalem, knows almost everybody, but the point is that it is not clear how we have to see the heavenly Jerusalem. If we should see it spiritually, how can we determine what is its spiritual meaning? In determining who is the Bridegroom, that problem does not arise. It is relatively easy to determine that the Bridegroom is the Lamb and that the Lamb is Jesus. Beside that it appears from the answer that Jesus gives to the disciples of John the Baptist, that Jesus is the Bridegroom.
For completeness we will mention all verses that could teach us something about the Bridegroom.
"Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast."
The parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. This parable does not teach us anything special about who is the bridegroom or who is the bride.
This is a parallel portion of Matthew 9:15.
Also here again a parallel portion of Matthew 9:15.
We saw this verse already.
Here is mentioned the marriage of the Lamb. In fact there is not any verse that says directly that Jesus is the bridegroom, but indirectly it becomes clear that He is.
Above mentioned verses also speak about wedding guests. The disciples are called that way. They appear to be invited for the wedding and therefore we can not consider them equal to the bride. But are they only called wedding guests before Jesus died, or also after? Then it gets even more complex. We hope to solve this also.
Revelations 19 mentioned the invited for the marriage also.
"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 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. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God." At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow-servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
The marriage of the Lamb has come. When that will be is not completely clear from this portion. It will be when, or after the Lord, our God, the Almighty, accepted the royal scepter and begun to reign.
In Corinthians 15:24 it is made clear to us that Jesus, at the end of His duty, when He will have dethroned all might and power the royal scepter transfers to God the Father. This will be at the end of the millennium or in other words, at the beginning of the eternity with the new heaven and the new earth.
The bride is the New Jerusalem, which will come down on the new earth. So it is reasonable to think that the marriage will be only celebrated when the last 1000 year of this planet will have past.
Verse 9 of Revelations 19 does not make it simpler:
'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'
Consider that the church is the bride, like many think. Who then, are the invited to the marriage supper?
Maybe we can get to know something more by studying the parable of the royal wedding banquet. Some people think that parables cannot be compared with other bible parts, but I believe that God gave us his Word as one holistic entity. If a parable has a mayor similarity with another part in the bible, then this is not just coincidence. And especially with this parable the similarity with the royal marriage supper for the marriage of the Lamb with His bride is very big.
2. "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son."
John the Baptist testifies of Jesus: "Look the Lamb of God". ( John 1:29). From Revelation 5 it appears too that the Lamb is Jesus. When then in Revelation 19 is spoken about the marriage of the Lamb, it's clear that it means the marriage of Jesus, Jesus the Son of God.
Jesus talks in the parable of Matthew 22 about a king, who is the father of the bridegroom. I think nobody sees a problem in thinking in this context of God the Father who prepared a marriage for his Son Jesus.
"The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
3. "He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come."
God then sends again slaves, but nobody listens to them. It even gets that far that ... 6 "The rest seized his servants, ill-treated them and killed them."
God sent again and again His servants to the people, especially to the Israelites, but they beat them up and killed them.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
God, the King, then gets angry and sends his slaves now to the cross points of the roads and tells them: "invite to the banquet anyone you find."
Who is the first group of invited, they that did not want to come? Is that Israel? And if yes, who are then the invited of the second group? In general it is assumed, that the second group of invited stands for the believers in Christ. But it is also assumed that the same group of believers is the Bride. So, are the believers the Bride, or the invited to the banquet, or is there another option?
Perhaps it has been noticed that I skipped a verse. In practice it is always done like that. A lot of bible parts we read like that. Our thinking is often focused on ourselves:
...we want to find out who are meant with the groups invited. If we are not the first group, then we are the second group, those are the ones that listen to the Lord, and eventually everything is about the church, isn't it?
Is it really true, that everything always is applicable to the church? I think that we forget that God plans are bigger and that He does not only look at the church. But let's return to the verse that was skipped.
"The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city."
This verse comes before the invitation to the second group. I mean, there only is an invitation for a second group after the king got angry and sent his armies to put their city on fire. Has this happened already? Has the king been angry yet? Did the day of the wrath come already? Without making an extended bible study of that, I want to mention a few verses that say something about this subject.
"Since we have now been justified by His (Jesus') blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!"
While we are justified by the blood of Jesus, we will not come in the wrath of God. The wrath of God still has to come. The wrath of God will only come near the second coming of Jesus on earth. If this wrath of God is only coming when Jesus returns and we then being united with Him, then we can never be the second group of invited, because they are only being invited after the coming of the wrath of God.
12 "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. ...,.. 15. Then the kings of the earth....
16. called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
A portion from the bible that is very directly connected to Matthew 22:7 is:
"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."
This is what is being told in Matthew 22:7. This is seen from Gods viewpoint. But this all shows that it still has to happen. And it will happen when Jesus returns to earth. Only then there will be called a second group of invited. And that won't be the church, because the church than already is son of God in a changed body.
In the portion of Revelations 19 about the bride, we find a few particularities. De wife of the Lamb prepared herself.
"Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"
This is not about the clothes that are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb (comp. Revelations 7:14), but about clean and fine linen of which it is said that it is so clean and white because it is the righteousness of the saints. So the linen is white because the acts of the saints were righteous. Not because the linen has been washed in the blood of the Lamb. The church of Jesus is not justified by their acts, but by the blood of the Lamb ( Romans 5:94). And still the bride dresses herself with fine clean linen, that is so white, because of the righteous acts of the saints. Is this about the church?
And if not, who then are the saints that did righteousness? At this moment we cannot answer that yet.
"Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!"
"I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
It is clear that the bride is the New Jerusalem. We could not determine if the church is the bride.
Paul explains in Galatians 4 that this heavenly Jerusalem is our mother. But if we have to take this literally is still the question. From the context we can see that it is about symbolic values. Hagar-Sinai-present Jerusalem, Sara-promise-heavenly Jerusalem.
On the other hand we saw that as believers we neared the mount Sion, till the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. It is not said that we are that city.
Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. He is the Bridegroom.
The wedding guests
The disciples are called that way, but it is the question if they are still that after the pouring out of the Spirit. They belong to the first group of invited in the parable of the Wedding banquet. But from this parable it appears that there is a second group of invited, who will only be called after God poured out His wrath and Jesus returned. Are this the Israelites that all will come to Israel and will be all filled with the Spirit? (See the study: Gods kingdom and the study: The final things)
Or are these the nations, that by the preaching in the millennium become followers of Jesus.
The clothes of the bride
Those are clean and white. This is the result of the righteousness of the saints. Is this righteousness of the "Christian" saints? Or are there other saints?
All together we have more questions than when we begun. That is because God wrote the bible in such a way that you have to keep searching for answers. They are in the bible, but it is not always easy to find them. Also this subject, of the bride, is connected to the Kingdom of God. And Jesus told us that we have to keep searching for that. It satisfies us to occupy us with His things. Besides, God the Father will bless us with everything we need. That is His promise.
We now know that the second group of invited are not the believers from the ascension till the return of Jesus, but that it will be people that live in the period of the millennium.
But we still don't know who is the bride. We continue in the bible study about the Bride of Christ in part 2.