WHO IS “THE BRIDE OF CHRIST?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Is the Church the Body of Christ “the Bride of Christ?” Many denominationalists, and even some professing “Pauline dispensationalists,” answer that question in the affirmative. Beloved, let us search the Scriptures. We should not repeat what we have heard in church all of our lives, without first consulting the living and written Word of God. It is shocking to learn that the Bible usually does not say what people often presume it says.
Never once in the King James Bible do we find the term, “the Bride of Christ.” That is a religious term, and frankly, it is a core doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Furthermore, never once does the Bible refer to the Church the Body of Christ as “the Bride of Christ.” This should indicate to us that it is nothing more than a man-made concept, a tradition of men, aimed at deceiving and robbing us of the clarity of God’s Word, and furthering a man-made theological system. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
We do find in our King James Bible the following phrases and terms: “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7,9), “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2), and “the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9). A marriage is certainly occurring in the closing chapters of the book of the Revelation, but who is marrying whom? We should not rip these verses out of their contexts and fabricate the identity of the bride and the groom (unless, of course, we seek to advance a denominational system rather than the simple teachings of Scripture!).
In the following Old Testament prophets, JEHOVAH God clearly referred to the nation Israel as His wife, and He her Husband:
- Jeremiah 2:32: “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people [Israel] have forgotten me days without number.”
- Jeremiah 3:14,20: “ Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:  Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.”
- Isaiah 54:5-6: “ For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.  For 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.”
The book of Hosea recalls how JEHOVAH married the nation Israel when He brought her out of Egyptian slavery (and made the Old Covenant, Law, with them, in Exodus chapter 24). Hosea also recounts how Israel became unfaithful to Him as a wife would cheat on her husband. Israel polluted herself with the idols of her pagan neighbors; she willfully went after other gods. Eventually, God had to divorce Israel; essentially, He sent her into Gentile captivity, exemplified most fully in the book of Lamentations, when Jerusalem was destroyed 586 B.C.
Hosea 2:15-23 summarizes how JEHOVAH will forgive Israel of her sins, restore her, remarry her, bring her back into her homeland (the Promised Land), where she will be His earthly people forever: “ And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.  And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi [“my husband”]; and shalt call me no more Baali.  For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.  And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely.  And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; 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.  And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth;  And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel.  And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.”
Jeremiah chapter 31 explains how God will forgive Israel of her sins: “ Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD.” Again, JEHOVAH says that He was Israel’s husband.
God wanted the nation Israel to be His nation in the earth (see Exodus 19:5-6; Psalm 37:11; Isaiah 2:1-4; Matthew 5:5; Revelation 5:10; et al.). Israel is His earthly nation, and the way God will rule over the earth is through redeemed Israel. The planet Earth that Satan has polluted will one day be redeemed. God will save the nation Israel and marry her to the land, the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, thus marrying Himself to that land as well.
Isaiah 62:1-5 proceeds to explain: “ For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.  And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.  Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.  Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah [“my delight is in her”], and thy land Beulah [“married”]: for the LORD delighteth 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.”
So, to summarize the above Old Testament passages, Jesus Christ will return to Earth one day, to restore the nation Israel, to redeem her and make her His earthly people (the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34, Romans 11:26-29, Hebrews 8:8-13, and Hebrews 10:15-17). At that time, JEHOVAH God will fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) to evangelize Gentiles through Israel, the Palestinian Covenant (Genesis 15:18-21) to give Israel her land, and the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16) to give Israel her literal, physical, visible kingdom after David’s royal bloodline. The way Jesus Christ will restore Earth unto Himself is by using the nation Israel in her kingdom (called the “1000-year reign,” “Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ,” “kingdom of heaven,” to name a few titles). These passages interpret the marriage situation in the book of the Revelation (the verses we mentioned at the beginning of this study). Let us return to these verses in Revelation and comment on them in light of what we read from the Old Testament prophets. Notice how that, rather than fabricating something to explain Revelation’s “marriage” passages, we have consulted what God wrote centuries prior, so we are on solid footing when we explain John’s words in Revelation!
Please read Revelation 19:7-9: “ Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour 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.  And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”
Considering the Old Testament prophets’ words about Israel waiting for JEHOVAH to remarry her, who would most likely be the “wife” of the Lamb here in Revelation? All we have to do is remember what God’s Word said in other books, and the answer becomes clear. The next several verses discuss Jesus Christ returning to planet Earth, fighting Israel’s enemies; the following chapters elaborate on Jesus Christ reigning on the Earth with the nation Israel. The “saints” of Revelation 19:8 would be those believing Jews that survived the seven-year Tribulation period; they will form redeemed Israel, the Jews who will inherit the covenants and promises made to Israel’s patriarchs through the Old Testament. Friends, the book of the Revelation has nothing to do with us. It was written by John, an apostle of Israel (Revelation 1:1; cf. Galatians 2:9), and the book of the Revelation is to and about Israel: it does not concern us.
In Revelation 21:1-4,9-10 we read: “ And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.  And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,…”
If the Bible says, “I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” and the next vision is that of “that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,” what would be the “Lamb’s wife” here? It would the New Jerusalem, the Holy Jerusalem, the Jerusalem currently in heaven (Hebrews 12:18-24) that will come down to Earth; it was this heavenly Jerusalem that Abraham and the other Old Testament saints anticipated (Hebrews 11:10,16,39,40). Overall, the idea of the marriage between JEHOVAH and Israel is actually Him marrying Israel to the land and thus marrying Himself to her land. It is not difficult to understand if we are open to God’s Word correcting our distorted views courtesy of religious tradition.
THREE COMMON OBJECTIONS ANSWERED
At this point, three common objections are raised. The first is, “Did not Paul liken our relationship to Jesus Christ as a wife married to her husband, in Ephesians chapter 5?” The second, “Did not Paul say that we were married to Jesus Christ in Romans chapter 7?” The third, “Did not Paul say that we need to be a pure virgin for Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians chapter 11?” We believe the Bible has answers to these questions, and we would be more than eager to share those verses. However, we must be mindful not to read something into the Bible text (which is what denominationalists are trained to do).
Ephesians 5:25-33 says: “ Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
Indeed, the Bible does teach that the marriage relationship between the husband and his wife should reflect and resemble, the loving, tender, selfless union between the Lord Jesus Christ (our Head; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:19) and us (His Body; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13,27; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:24). However, we never read in the above passage that we are Jesus Christ’s “wife” or His “bride.” We have already seen the Scriptures’ testimony that Israel is the wife of JEHOVAH (the Lord Jesus Christ)—does JEHOVAH have two wives or does He have one? The Bible calls Israel JEHOVAH’S “wife,” but it never calls us His wife; if words mean anything (and we have no denominational agenda to promote), we conclude that we are not JEHOVAH’S wife but rather that Israel is His wife. Ephesians chapter 5 is describing how marriage is designed to function, and the way to understand the marriage relationship is to see how Jesus Christ and His Body (us) interact with each other—the respective roles, the attitudes of each toward one another, et cetera.
Romans 7:1-4 says: “ Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?  For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.  So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.  Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
Certainly, Romans 7:4 says that we are “married” (present tense) to Jesus Christ. In that case, Revelation would certainly not apply to us; Revelation describes a future marriage! The Church the Body of Christ is certainly joined (“married”) to Jesus Christ—otherwise, the members of the Body would not be saved unto eternal life! All Romans chapter 7 is discussing is how we are free from the Law, dead to the law of sin and dead works, not bound to live the Christian life in our flesh and energy. We are joined to Jesus Christ, and it is His life, not our life, His performance, not our performance (further discussed in chapter 8). To use this passage to teach that we are the “Bride of Christ” is to read something into the text. Romans chapter 7 is not designed to teach marriage in the Dispensation of Grace—that would be 1 Corinthians chapter 7.
In 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, we read: “ Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.  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.  But 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.  For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
Dear friends, here again, we read no terminology about us being the “Bride of Christ.” What Paul is doing in verse 2 is using a simile, likening us to being spiritually (doctrinally) pure as a chaste virgin would be sexually pure. False teachers had crept into Corinth, and throughout this chapter (11), we read about how the Corinthians enjoyed being misled. Paul warned them that he was jealous over them with a godly jealousy—he did not want some false religious system to corrupt them. He wanted them to abandon and avoid false religion (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). In the above verses, we read how Satan would use the same tactics he used to mislead Eve, to mislead us. Satan would quote Bible, but misquote it, ignoring the dispensational layout (see Psalm 91:11-12; Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10-11). The Devil would cause us to follow “another Jesus” (as in His earthly ministry; 2 Corinthians 5:16) instead of following the Jesus Christ whom Paul preached (His heavenly ministry, “Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery;” Romans 16:25). Satan would cause us to follow “another spirit” (as in the “spirit of bondage,” law; Romans 8:15; Galatians 5:1-5) and ignore the spirit that Paul preached (grace; Romans 6:14-15). The Devil would cause us to follow “another gospel” (as in the Gospel of the Kingdom; Matthew 9:35; cf. Matthew 4:17; Matthew 10:5-7) but to ignore the Gospel of Grace that Paul preached (Acts 20:24; Romans 2:16; Galatians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The Church the Body of Christ is in such shambles doctrinally today, in such confusion, because it has allowed Satan and his policy of evil (religious tradition) to corrupt them. Most Christians today are not “rightly dividing the word of truth” as 2 Timothy 2:15 says; they are mixing the dispensations in God’s Word and making Bible study burdensome. I know; I used to be a part of that system myself!
The Bible never calls the Body of Christ “the Bride of Christ” (that is religious tradition, and, beloved, it will profit us nothing in eternity). To use a concept that relates exclusively to Israel and use it to apply to us, is to place ourselves on a slippery slope of confusing ourselves with Israel, and we run the risk of falling into the trap of the damnable doctrine of “Replacement Theology!” (See our related study at the end of this article.)
However, the Bible does say that Jesus Christ will marry someone. This is what we want to focus on; we ignore the religious tradition. Believing Jews who will survive the seven-year Tribulation, Daniel’s 70th week, will stand on Earth and see Jesus Christ return at His Second Coming (see Zechariah 12:10 and Zechariah 13:8-9). These believing Jews will be married to Jesus Christ (JEHOVAH God the Son in the flesh) at His Second Coming—Revelation 19:7 says, “the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” (We deal with the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” in another study; see the link at the end of this article.)
According to Revelation 21:9-10, the “Lamb’s wife” is the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly Jerusalem—Israel’s redeemed capital city, and her Promised Land—which will come down from heaven and land on Earth. By marrying the nation Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ (the JEHOVAH of the Old Testament) will marry Himself to her land, the Promised Land. These are the concepts being advanced regarding the marriage of Revelation chapters 19 and 21. We can either believe the testimony of the Scriptures, or we can continue with our church tradition. I prefer to believe God, and let His critics be the liars (Romans 3:4). You?