The Bride of Christ

One inspirational passage of scripture describes the communion between the Savior and his saints. That union is illustrated by the most sublime human relationship - marriage. The Bible says, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev 19:7-8).

How exquisite is the bride who, with the light of her groom resident in her eyes, willingly submits to him in marriage. She radiates compliance. It adorns her person. It magnifies her beauty. It is her glory. When Jesus returns, his espoused will gladly submit to him. Her compliance will match his majesty. The light of his coming will be in her eyes. She will reflect his splendor, his righteousness, and his love.

Some believe that the bride of Christ is the church. Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor 11:2). The relationship between converts and Christ is the same as the relation between a bride and a groom before their marriage. They are espoused to each other. Converts have pledged their submission to Jesus and he, in turn, has promised his love to his saints.

Elsewhere, Paul teaches that marriage illustrates the relationship between the Savior and his church. He wrote, "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Eph 5:23-24). To clarify his purpose in making this comparison, he added, "This is a great mystery: but I speak of Christ and the church" (Eph 5:32). Paul was not saying that the relationship between Jesus and his disciples is a good illustration of marriage, but that marriage is the best example of the relationship between Christ and his church. This means that the bride of Christ best describes the church.

Paul continues this illustration when he says, "Ye are the body of Christ" (I Cor 12:27). In the same epistle, he had already said, "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband" (I Cor 7:4). As the saints are required to use their personal bodies to do the will of Christ, even so the wife is to give her body to fulfill the will of her husband. In exchange for this devotion, the husband is to give himself to the wife. Paul continued, "Likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife" (I Cor 7:4). The husband ought to lay down his body to protect and provide for his wife. The best example of this love is Jesus, who gave his life for the church. He died so that through his struggle on the cross his saints can be saved from death and destruction. Paul taught that the blood of the Savior, which he shed from his pierced side when he was crucified, purchased the church (Acts 20:28).

The emergence of the church from the Savior's side at his death was foreshadowed in Adam. He slept while God drew his wife, Eve, from his side. Although Eve was espoused to her husband, she was deceived by the words of the serpent. Her subsequent sin severed her relationship with Adam, requiring him, if he wanted to remain with her, to follow her into mortality. Jesus followed the church redeemed from his side into mortality and saved his saints. Paul warmed members of the church about devilish deceptions and encouraged them to conform to the will of their Master, the bridegroom of their body, so that his pleasure, no matter how simple, would remain their sole joy and satisfaction. He said, "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor 11: 3).

While the New Testament implies that the bride of Christ is the church, the Old Testament says that she is Israel. Isaiah told the Hebrews, "Thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel" (Is 54:5). Ezekiel was more descriptive. Referring to the time they first entered Canaan, he wrote, "When I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine" (Ez 16:8). Jeremiah said that when God led Israel out of Egypt, He was "an husband unto them" (Jer 31:32). Isaiah repeated, "As the bride groom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee" (Is 62:5).

Israel was unfaithful. Not only did she refuse to submit to the will of her groom but she fled his presence. She was seduced by the devil and, like Eve, considered other gods. Instead of worshiping the God of heaven, the Hebrews bowed to Baal. Through Ezekiel, God complained that Israel was "as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband" (Ez 16:32). Jeremiah said, "Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, 0 house of Israel" (Jer 3:20). Ezekiel added, 'Thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playest the harlot' (Ez 16:15). The prophet Hosea typified God's relationship with Israel when by commandment he took "a wife of whoredoms" (Hos 1:2). Israel's unfaithfulness interfered with her relationship with God. He could no longer consider her His wife. He said, "She is not my wife, neither am I her husband" (Hos 2:2).

Just as Eve's transgression left Adam without an immortal companion the Hebrews spiritual adultery left God without a bride. Unfit, Israel was banished from God's presence and another people, the Gentiles, courted as a replacement. They were more like the original Hebrews. Paul said, "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Rom 9:6), True descendants of Abraham are people like Abraham - people of faith. Because the Hebrews did not trust and obey their Maker, they were replaced with people who did Paul added, "They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham" (Gal 3:7). Believing Gentiles received the promises first given Israel. They proved more obedient and fruitful, fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy, which said, "More are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife" (Is 54: 1).

Despite Israel's unfaithfulness, God promised to make her His wife in the last days. The blood that purchased the church will also redeem Israel. After pledging to take the names of false Gods from among her and to make a covenant with her again, God said, "I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord" (Hos 2:19-20). Although Israel had defiled herself so that she was unsuited to be the bride of Christ, God
had not divorced her. He had followed her into death. Through Isaiah he asked, "Where is the bill of thy mother's divorcement, whom I have put away?" (Is 5 1: 1). His betrothal remained in force. He promised to buy her back, saying, "Ye have sold yourself for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money" (Is 52:3). God will forget his anger and purchase the wife Fie chose first, not with money, but with his blood. He said, "The Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken dice; but with great mercies will I gather thee" (Is 54:6-7). Israel will yet be the bride of Christ.

The scriptures teach that the bride of Christ is both the church and the Hebrews. Anciently, God called Israel His church. While the word church does not appear in the Old Testament, it being a Greek word, the word congregation, which God often used to refer to the Hebrews, was interpreted by early Christians as church. The epistle to the Hebrews quotes a verse from the Psalms. It translates congregation as church so that the text reads, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church" (Heb 2:12), instead of "in the midst of the congregation" (Ps 22:22). God's name, which is Jesus Christ, has already been declared in the church among the congregation of Israel. In this context, Israel is not the mideastern nation to which the Jews are currently gathering, but has descended from the northern nation exiled by Assyria. Its people migrated through tune to Northwestern Europe, where they learned the gospel of Jesus and forgot their pagan gods. Since then, some have come to America where Christianity is observed without undue influence from the state. Here, in the New World, descendants of Israel are washed in the blood of the Redeemer and confess Jesus Christ as both their Savior and Lord. They are subsequently arrayed in righteousness. As the gospel is preached throughout the world, other descendants of Israel will embrace and declare the name of God Their faith will make them righteous. When all Israel is gathered into the church, the entire body will be prepared as a bride adorned for her husband and made ready for the constant companionship of and communion with her Lord and husband, Jesus Christ.