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Forgotten Truths Appendix 2: Is the Church the Bride of Christ?

By Robert Anderson


      "Is the Church the Bride of Christ?" Let us begin by correcting our terminology. In the Patmos visions we read of "the Bride, the Lamb's wife"; but "the Bride of Christ" is unknown to Scripture. The first mention of the Bride is in John 3:29. In a Jewish marriage the "friend of the bridegroom "answered to our "groomsman." His most important duty was to present the bride to the bridegroom. And this was the place which the Baptist claimed. His mission was to prepare Israel to meet the Messiah, "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).

      With the close of the Baptist's ministry, both the Bride and the Lamb disappear from the New Testament until we reach the Patmos visions. In Revelation 21 the Angel summons the Seer to behold "the Bride, the Lamb's wife"; and he showed him "the Holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God." The twelve gates of the city bear the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, and in its twelve foundations are "the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb." And the foundations are "garnished with all manner of precious stones. For "it is the city that hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God," (Hebrews 11:10) the city for which Abraham looked, when he turned his back upon the then metropolis of the world.

      These Apostles of the Bride are not the Apostles who were given after the Ascension for the building up of the Body of Christ -- the Apostles of this Christian dispensation, chief among whom was Paul. They are the twelve Apostles of the Lord's earthly ministry to Israel, who shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). They are the Apostles of the Lamb. And "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb" are the temple of this city; and the Lamb is the light thereof. Every part of the description and of the symbolism tends to make it clear that this city represents a relationship and a glory pertaining to the people of the covenant. And now we can understand why it is that it is called the Bride of the Lamb, and never the Bride of Christ. For, the mystery of the Body having now been revealed, Christ is identified with the Church which is His Body, whereas His relation to Israel is entirely personal. What relation, then, does "Jerusalem which is above" bear to us? No need here for guessing, and no room for controversy, for on this point Scripture is explicit; "the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our Mother" (Galatians 4:26, R.V.). We know that most of the Fathers were obsessed by the false belief that the Jew had been cast away for ever; but even this seems inadequate to account for their claiming the bridal relationship and glory for the Church of this dispensation.

      There are two reasons for refusing to believe that the Church is the Bride. First, because Scripture nowhere states that it is the Bride, and secondly, because Scripture implicitly teaches that it is not the Bride. The question, Is A the wife of B? may be answered in the negative, either by pointing to C as his wife, or by indicating a relationship between A and B which is incompatible with that of marriage. And in both these ways Scripture vetoes the Church-Bride theory. For it teaches that the Bride is "our Mother," and that the Church is the Body of Christ.

      The 5th chapter of Ephesians, moreover, ought to be accepted as making an end of controversy on this subject. The marriage relationship is there readjusted by a heavenly standard. If, therefore, the Church were the Bride, we should find it asserted here with emphatic prominence. But it is the Body relationship that is emphasized. Christ loved the Church, and the Church is His Body; therefore a Christian is to love his wife as his own body. In the 81st verse the ordinance of Genesis 2:24 is re-enacted for the Christian with a new sanction and a new meaning.1 The "great mystery" of verse 32 is not that a man and his wife are one body, for such a use of the word "mystery" is foreign to Scripture. And moreover, the Apostle says expressly, "I am speaking about Christ and the Church." And the last verse of the chapter disposes of the whole question' "Nevertheless, though man and wife are not one body, yet because Christ and the Church are one body) let every one of you love his wife even as himself."

      By a strange vagary of exegesis the Apostle's words in 2 Corinthians 11:2 are sometimes appealed to in support of the Church-Bride theory. Dr. Edersheim cites this passage to illustrate the position of groomsmen (or "friends of the bridegroom") at a Jewish marriage. Besides their other functions, they were, he says, "the guarantors of the bride's virgin chastity."2 And the Apostle uses this figure to express his "jealousy" -- his solicitude, for the Corinthian Christians.

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