Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Lamb’s Wife, Part 1 by Andy Young

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 25, 2017

andy-profile-1Originally published November 17, 2014

A few weeks ago my family sat down together and watched Fiddler on the Roof.  It is a rather long movie for young children to sit through (there were several “potty breaks”), but the little ones enjoyed the songs, and the older ones gained an appreciation for the historical context.  One scene in particular depicts a traditional Jewish wedding.  Please take a moment and watch the brief clip below:

Traditionally, Jewish weddings were arranged between the fathers of the proposed couple.  Keep in mind, there are many details here that I am leaving out because I am trying to be brief.  After the parents have come to an agreement to the marriage, the couple is considered “espoused”.  This is a formal legal contract into which the couple has entered, and for all intents and purposes, the couple is considered “married” even though the marriage has not yet been consummated.  This espousal period can last for up to a year.  During this time, the man returns home to make preparations for his bride, and the bride-to-be prepares herself for becoming a wife.  Her fidelity to her bridegroom is on display during this period as well.

On the actual wedding day, the bridegroom leads a procession of his friends through the streets of the village to go and meet the bride. This usually occurs between sunset and midnight. There is much pomp and celebration that occurs along the way, and as the procession continues, people exit their homes, bringing a torch or lamp along with them to help light the way, and so the “wedding party” grows larger and larger as more and more “guests” join in celebration with the bridegroom. The bridegroom then receives his bride, and the two, along with the entire party of friends and guests return to the bridegroom’s house where the wedding ceremony occurs with a grand feast and celebration following.

One of the major tenets of Protestant/Reformed/Catholic orthodoxy is that the “church” is the “bride of Christ”.  This doctrine can be traced as far back as Augustine.  But while originally a Catholic doctrine, evangelicals and fundamentalists still cling to this teaching to this day.  You cannot go into any institutional church of any denomination where you won’t hear this taught or not find it in its “statement of faith”.  However, what they fail to conveniently mention is that the phrase “bride of Christ” is found nowhere in the Bible.  Let me repeat that – the phrase “bride of Christ” is found NOWHERE in the Bible!

This brings me to the point of this article: the doctrine of the “church” being the “bride of Christ” is a FALSE doctrine.  Why is that?  Because the Bible tells us who the Bride is specifically, and it is not the church!  A plain grammatical interpretation of Revelation 21 reveals exactly who the Bride is.

Revelation 21:2, 9-10

“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 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…”

Here in plain terms, the Bride is clearly and explicitly shown to be the New Jerusalem.   The angel says, “I will show you the Bride”, and he shows John, not a body of people, but the New Jerusalem.  The remaining verses of chapter 21 go on to give in great detail a description of what this city looks like.  Notice that nothing is said about the inhabitants of the city.  The focus of the chapter is the actual city itself.  Not only does the angel tell John that this city is the Bride, but in case there was any doubt, he reinforces that fact by stating plainly that this city is the “Lamb’s wife”.   So while the Bible never uses the expression, “bride of Christ”, it does use the terms “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife”.  But that title is clearly given to the New Jerusalem and not the “church”.

Moreover, even the nation of Israel is not referred to as the “bride”.  So if the “church” is not the “bride”, and Israel is not the “bride”, there where exactly does the church and Israel fit in to all of this?  Again, scripture tells us plainly.  Elements of the Jewish wedding tradition are clearly visualized when Jesus described the “Kingdom of Heaven” in the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22), and the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25).  Let’s begin with the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22.

Matthew 22:1-10

“And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.’ ”

It should be fairly obvious that, as Jesus points out right at the beginning, this parable is used to describe a particular aspect of the Kingdom.  In this parable, He is using the metaphor of the traditional Jewish wedding, with the wedding feast being the focus.  Of course, this would have been a familiar metaphor to His audience since they were all Jews.

The theme of this parable revolves around two particular groups of people.  The first group is made of those who already had invitations to participate in the wedding feast.  These were the King’s special invited guests.  They received their invitations first.  One would think that since these people have been given such a special invitation from the King that they would not hesitate to respond.  But notice what happens.  On the day of the feast, none of them show up.  They reject the gracious invitation.  They view it with an attitude of indifference and make all kinds of excuses why they cannot attend.  Some even killed the servants who were sent to them to tell them that everything was ready for them to attend the feast.

This first group is a description of national Israel.  This is the very nation whose God was Jehovah, but who rejected every prophet that God sent unto them to bring them unto Himself.  Stephen accused them in Acts 7:52 when he said, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers?” accusing them of killing Jesus, their Messiah.  And for this God judged them with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  And in His wrath, God will pour out His judgment upon national Israel during the period of the Great Tribulation.

But there is a second group mentioned in this parable.  Since the King made all these preparations, it was his desire to have the feast furnished with guests.  So he instructed his servants to go out and issue an invitation to anyone, as many as they could find.  This second group represents the nations of the world, or the Gentiles, those whom God would redeem by the blood of the Lamb out of “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Revelation 5:9, 14:6)  I think it is important to note that this second group would also include repentant individuals from the first group, or converted Jews.

Nevertheless, the point to take from all of this is that neither of the two groups in this parable are the bride.  They are guests, and this is important.  What we have is a body of individuals that make up the “church”, or using the correct Biblical term, the εκκλησια (“ekklaysia”), the “called out” (invited) assembly that makes up the Body of Christ.  In this parable they are not the bride, but they are clearly the guests at the wedding.

Take a look at the second parable in Matthew 25.

Matthew 25:1-13

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”

Now the point to make here with this parable is not to determine who the foolish virgins represent and who the wise virgins represent.  The point is to show that all of these “virgins” represent those who would go out to join the procession of the wedding party as the bridegroom goes to meet his bride and return with her to his father’s house for the wedding feast.  Refer to the video clip at the beginning of this article and you will notice all of the people who accompany the groom on his way to pick up his bride.  As the procession goes through the streets of the village, more and more people come out of their houses carrying a candle or “lamp” and join the procession.  Notice that this happens at “midnight” or more literally, sunset, as portrayed in the video clip.  The young girls in the parable are not going to the wedding to marry the bridegroom.  The bridegroom already has a bride.  The young girls are simply guests at the wedding.

This is not the first instance that scripture posits this notion of wedding guests.  Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19, and Luke 5:34 use the term “children of the bridechamber”, referring to Jesus’ disciples – those who were called by Christ to follow Him.  That would include not only the twelve, but all those who would be saved by faith in Christ, the “ekklaysia”.  In John 3:29, John the Baptist referred to himself and any others “which standeth and heareth Him as a “friend of the bridegroom”.

So in terms of the picture of a traditional Jewish wedding, all believers, members of the Body of Christ, are referred to as “guests” and “friends of the bridegroom”, but they are NOT the bride.  They go out joyfully with the Bridegroom as He goes to receive His Bride.  But clearly from a scriptural standpoint, the wedding guests cannot be the Bride.

Now there are questions that remain.  For example, how can Christ “marry” a city?  And if the “church” is not the Bride, then what about all those New Testament passages that seem to refer to the “church” in “spousal” terms?  These are all valid questions, and I will seek to address them in part 2.

Andy

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4 Responses

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  1. John said, on May 25, 2017 at 1:01 PM

    Interesting; I’m waiting for part three.The church is the body of Christ and not His bride or some other perverted sexual conclusion. Christ can’t marry His own body; that would be cuckoo. I smell Roman Catholicism or Reformed nonsense in the notion that the Church is the bride of Christ.

    Like

    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on May 25, 2017 at 1:42 PM

      You know, I do need to finish part three of this series. When I had originally finished part 2 I got distracted with something else and never got around to writing part 3, and then over time it simply got overlooked. An unfortunate oversight on my part. That is something I will have to address right away! Thank you for reminding me of it, John.

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      • John said, on May 25, 2017 at 3:03 PM

        Ha, yes. what’s a narrative without the denouement?

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      • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on May 25, 2017 at 3:22 PM

        ok, that’s a word I’ve never heard before. I had to look that one up. LOL!
        Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

        Like


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