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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
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“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.”
We have been parked on Ephesians 5:22-33 for two weeks attempting to glean as much knowledge as humanly possible from this scripture passage, and yet we’re still here, why? Many Christian churches believe and teach God’s one Church is “The Bride of Christ.” I know. I’ve was there when this belief was taught to the congregations. They use Ephesians 5:25-27 and 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 to support this teaching. But here’s the thing, the phrase “The Bride of Christ” is not found anywhere in the Bible. That being understood, are these church’s teaching biblical truth, or not? We’re back here again this week to answer that question and we’ll do that by flipping some Bible pages in order to see what this book does say about “the Lambs wife, the bride of Christ” (Revelation 19:7-8, 21:9-10).
The Bride in the Old Testament
The Israelites became the nation of Israel when they were called out of slavery in Egypt. Although Israel was “married” to the LORD God, she proved to be an unfaithful spouse because of “adultery.” This is how Israel’s unfaithfulness to the LORD was expressed in the O.T. How did Israel cheat on the LORD God? The Israelites “left” the LORD and His Word for false gods such as: Asherah, Baal, Dagon, Molech, etc. However, despite their repeated mistakes, the LORD declared the nation of Israel would return to Him, they would become exactly what He purposed for them, and He would fulfill His covenant promises to them, one of these being Israel would become a nation of priests (a go-between), a holy nation, and a faithful wife (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6, 66:21; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10).
With this info in mind, let’s all turn to the book of Isaiah at chapter 54:4-8:
“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. “For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. “For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. “In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.”
While we’re in Isaiah, let’s all turn to chapter 62:1-5:
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will designate. You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. It will no longer be said to you, Forsaken, nor to your land will it any longer be said, Desolate; but you will be called, My delight is in her, and your land, Married; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; and the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.”
Now, if you would, please follow me to the book Jeremiah at 3:14:
“Return, faithless people, declares the LORD, for I am your (what) husband. I will choose you – one from a town and two from a clan – and bring you to Zion.”
And Jeremiah 31:33:
“Behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD, I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
For those who are not familiar with the minor prophet Hosea’s work in the O.T. the LORD God used his personal life as an object lesson to instruct the nation of Israel to repent of their idolatrous behavior. To present His case, the LORD God told Hosea to marry a prostitute and have children:
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits fragrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD…” (1:2-4).
Hosea obeyed the LORD by marrying Gomer and they had three children. The number three, as well as the names of these children is significant. The number 3 is found throughout this book. It’s the number of the God-head, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Jesus was 30 years old when He began His ministry to Israel, Jesus was 33 years old when He died on the cross, Jesus was tempted 3 times in the wilderness by Satan, Peter, James, and John were the 3 disciples in His inner circle and they were with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciple failed to stay awake 3 times in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter denied Jesus 3 times, as Jesus said he would, In John 21 we find Peter telling the Lord he loved him 3 times in succession, according to Mark 15:25 it was the 3rd hour of the day when Jesus was crucified, Jesus rose from the dead on the 3rd day, etc. The significance of the number 3 here and elsewhere in scripture reveal God is Sovereign over sin.
The LORD chose specific names for Hosea’s children to teach Israel an object lesson. The first child, a son, was named Jezreel which means “God scatters.” God judged (scattered) the northern kingdom with the Assyrian invasion around 722 BC. Their second child, a daughter, named Lo-ruhama (not pitied), and the third child, a son, was named Lo-ammi (not my people).
The LORD’s disfavor with His chosen people would be temporary. We learned this from the prophet Isaiah’s writings. The LORD God had promised the nation of Israel would repent (means: change one’s mind) of its unfaithfulness and return to Him.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up (was redeemed) from the land of Egypt. It will come about in that day, declares the LORD, That you will call Me Ishi and will no longer call Me Baali. For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, so that they will be mentioned by their names no more. In that day I will also make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the sky and the creeping thing of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land, and will make them lie down in safety. I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD (Hosea 2:14-20).
Here we get a glimpse of the LORD God’s devotion and tenderness towards His people, the Jews. Hosea depicts Him as a courting lover. He allures the object of His love and speaks kindly to her. This passage speaks of a refreshed relationship in which His wife (the nation of Israel) will call Him “My husband,” “My man” (Ishi) instead of “My Lord.” Baal was one of the false gods Israel discovered by fraternizing with the pagan gentiles in the land of Canaan (Numbers 22:41; Judges 2:13).
There is also prophecy in this passage and this should not be overlooked. All prophecy, past, present, and future in the Bible is directed to the nation of Israel and not God’s one Church. The Church was a mystery (a secret) kept hidden in the mind of God since before the foundation of the earth – remember?
Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, (Colossians 1:25-26).
In the prophecy of this restored relationship, in which God will put His Spirit into the nation (Jeremiah 31:31-40), the animal kingdom will also be at peace (Isaiah 11:6-10), and war will be no more (Isaiah 2:1-4). This renewed betrothal will be eternal and Israel will know the Lord– the One True God.
So, when will this planet know true peace among the animals and the people, and when will the nation of Israel know the One True God of Israel? The Millennium, Jesus Christ’s 1,000 year reign here on earth, right! When will the King and His kingdom arrive on earth? After the “great tribulation,” the final 3.5 years of man’s history on earth. A time of great death and destruction before the coming of the Lord (His second advent) as revealed by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27).
The Bride in the Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation reads like an Old Testament book because the Apostle John writes to the nation of Israel re: events that will occur in the tribulation. Most of its symbols and imagery are found in the prophets. To a discerning reader, it should be clear that Jesus’ messages to the churches (Ekklesia) in Revelation 2-3 were not directed to Christian churches, i.e. N.T. Pauline churches. The language the Lord used towards them has no correspondence to the language or the concepts Paul had received by revelation and communicated to the churches he planted. John wrote to these seven Jewish assemblies to encourage them in the tribulation they were experiencing (Revelation 1:9). Of the seven cities Jesus mentioned, only three are found elsewhere in the Bible: Ephesus (Acts 18:19, Acts 18:19, 21, 24, 19:1, 17, 26, 35, 20:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:32, 16:8, Ephesians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:18, 4:12), Thyatira (Acts 16:14), and Laodicea (Colossians 2:1, 4:13, 15-16; 1 Timothy 6:21). We have no information about Smyrna, Pergamon, Sardis, or Philadelphia. The events of Revelation remain future. Those who have attempted to make church history correspond with the messages to these churches (historicists) or worse, have tried to fit the events into a pre-70 A.D. timeframe (preterists), have replaced sound analysis of the Bible text with sheer fantasy.The character of these assemblies is Jewish. No Church, i.e., the Body of Christ, doctrine is found in them. The Lord’s message to them is wholly different from the language He gave to Paul for the Body of Christ. You won’t find a hint of Paul’s gospel or the doctrines of grace in Jesus’ words to these assemblies. Jesus’ exhortation is “he who has an ear, let him hear” and His command is to persevere and endure to the end. To what end; the end of the great tribulation.
So, you see, none of this is Pauline. The warnings Jesus gave the assemblies echo His warnings to the Twelve on the Mount of Olives. In the Olivet Discourse Jesus Christ warned them not to be deceived and to endure to the end (Matthew 24:4, 11, 24, 13). The great temptation that will confront Israel, as well as the entire world during the period of time foretold by Revelation will be to accept the counterfeit christ as their Messiah. This will involve the worship of Satan, the beast (the Antichrist), the Antichrist’s image, and the taking of his mark (Revelation 13:4, 8, 15, 16-17).
Since Revelation is primarily about Israel and reads like the Old Testament, one conclusion remains: it is what it is. Therefore the bride of Revelation 19 is Israel. God’s one Church, the Body of Christ was raptured prior to (not during and not after) the start of the tribulation, remember? (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb’” (Revelation 19:7-9).
In the marriage of the Lamb, we read the bride has made herself ready. Please direct me to the Bible verse where Paul declares the Church must make herself ready! I’ll assist you with this by saying our Apostle Paul never instructs Believers “to make themselves ready.” Paul declared members of the Body of Christ have been made complete in Christ and this is past tense not future tense (Colossians 2:10). The Church needs no “preparation.” We are complete in Him! So, the bride here is Israel and the “marriage of the Lamb” is the reconciliation of Israel with their God which the prophets foretold.
But there’s more, in Revelation 21, John described a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1) to replace the old heaven and earth which had departed. Along with the new heaven and earth is the new Jerusalem. It comes down from heaven onto the new earth in Revelation 21:2. John described the city as a bride adorned for her husband.
In Revelation 21:9, one of the seven angels of the seven bowls showed John the bride, called the wife of the Lamb. This was the new Jerusalem. Again, everything we’ve looked at is Jewish in nature. The city has twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on them (Revelation 21:12). The twelve foundation stones have the names of the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:14; Matthew 19:28). God’s one Church is not mentioned here, folks.
Paul and the Bride of Christ?
Paul taught the Church is the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, 24) and that Believers become members of His body through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (no water necessary; 1 Corinthians 12:13). This revelation was one of the “mysteries” (secrets) the glorified, risen Lord revealed to Paul. He was the only writer of Scripture who taught the churches “We are all members of Christ’s body.” Before Paul this truth was not known (Ephesians 3:3-7).
We have established this book teaches the Church is the Body of Christ. So, how is it most of Christendom borrows two specific passages from the Bible to teach the Church is the bride of Christ? We’ll examine this question by reviewing the two passages of scripture they use to make their case:
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin (2 Corinthians 11:2).
When proof-texted, this passage may appear to support the idea the Church is the bride of Christ. However, when you include these verses that follow this teaching falls apart.
Paul continued: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things” (2 Corinthians 11:3-6).
Paul’s point was to encourage the Corinthians to remain faithful (devoted) to Christ and His gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul constantly had to defend his ministry–from both unbelievers and Believers. Some of us are still defending his apostleship and his writings today. From his words in this passage, he recognized he was not the most polished speaker. But in terms of knowledge, he was out in front of the pack; he was God’s apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). The risen Lord had commissioned him and revealed to him secrets no one else knew. Paul’s choice of words to the Corinthians, “present you as a pure virgin” was to illustrate his desire for holy living (their worthy walk) for these believers, not to teach the Church is the Bride of Christ any more than Paul taught that he was their mother (Galatians 4:19) or their father (1 Corinthians 4:15).
Here’s the other passage they proof-text:
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-33).
In the passage above, Paul argued that as a husband is the head of a wife, Christ is the head of the Church. This fits with Paul’s teaching the Church is the Body of Christ with Christ Himself as the Head (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18). Paul noted that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies (5:28) because no one ever hated his own flesh (5:29). One nourishes his body and cherishes it (5:29). It is this nourishing and care of a husband for his own body that Paul used to make the analogy regarding Christ’s care for His Church, i.e., His one body (1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:4; 5:29-30). Paul quoted Genesis 2:24, not to make a point about the husband/wife relationship or that the Church is the bride of Christ but to emphasize the unity and care for the body. Paul declared this was a “great mystery” but he spoke with reference to Christ and His Church (5:32). Since the Church is the Body of Christ it means if Christ is the bridegroom we are part of His groomsmanship. Thus, we are of the bridegroom, and not the bride!
Summing up, wife and bride are titles that belong to Israel, not God’s one Church. Our title is “the Body of Christ.” As the body, we are of the bridegroom, not the bride. If you cannot tell the bridegroom from the bride at a marriage it is going to be a confusing wedding. But God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He wishes Believers to understand who they are, where they fit in His plan, and what promises belong to them. When we choose to obey God’s command to study His Word, and rightly divide it, we can rejoice in the grace God has given to each of us and serve and honor Him effectively (Ephesians 4:11-13). To God be the glory!
(To be continued)
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