Bride of Christ

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An 1880 Baxter process illustration of Revelation 22:17 by Joseph Martin Kronheim.

The Bride of Christ or bride, the Lamb's wife is a term used in reference to a group of related verses in the Bible—in the Gospels, Revelation, the Epistles and related verses in the Old Testament. Sometimes the Bride is implied through calling Jesus a Bridegroom. For over fifteen hundred years the Church was identified as the bride betrothed to Christ. However, there are instances where the interpretation of the usage of bride varies from Church to Church. The majority believe it always refers to the Church.

Christ is a bridegroom[edit]

In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist speaks of Jesus Christ as the bridegroom and mentions the bride.

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. [John 3:29]

This is the only place in the Gospels where the bride is mentioned, but because a bridegroom must have a bride all other mentions of the bridegroom imply the bride.

In the three Synoptic Gospels, when Jesus is asked why his disciples do not fast while the followers of John and the Pharisees do, Jesus answers:

And Jesus said unto them, Can the friends of the bridegroom fast, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.[Mark 2:19]

In Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19 and Luke 5:34, the Apostles are referred to as the friends, guests, or children depending on the translation, of the Bridegroom commonly accepted to be Jesus Christ.

The Bridegroom is also mentioned in the Parable of the Ten Virgins.[Mt 25:1-13]

"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom."

Mentions of the bride[edit]

The bride's appearance[edit]

The Book of Revelation in multiple instances shows the appearance of the Bride.

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. [Revelation 19:7]

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, [Revelation 21:2,9-10]

In the above quotes, John, the author of the Book of Revelation, speaks of seeing the bride revealed and refers to her as the New Jerusalem, first mentioned in Revelation 3:12.

The bride giving water of life[edit]

Towards the end of the Book of Revelation John describes the spirit and the bride giving access to the water of life

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. [Revelation 22:17]

Comparing the church to a bride[edit]

Ephesians 5:22-33 compares the union of husband and wife to that of Christ and the church.[1] The central theme of the whole Ephesians letter is reconciliation of the alienated within the unity of the church.[1] Ephesians 5 begins by calling on Christians to imitate God and Christ, who gave himself up for them with love.[5:2] Ephesians 5:1-21 contains a rather strong warning against foolishness and letting down one's guard against evil. Rather, the author encourages the readers to constantly give thanks with song in their hearts because of what God has done for all in Christ. That prelude to the subject's text takes up again the theme of loving submission that began with the example of Christ in 5:2 where all are called upon to "Be submissive to one another out of reverence for Christ."5:21 It implies, but is not specific, that the "Bride" is the body of believers that comprise the universal Christian Ekklēsia (Church) (lit. "called-out ones").

The ekklēsia is never explicitly called "the bride of Christ" in the New Testament. That is approached in Ephesians 5:22-33. A major analogy is that of the body. Just as husband and wife are to be "one flesh,"[Eph. 5:31] this analogy for the writer describes the relationship of Christ and ekklēsia.[Eph. 5:32] Husbands were exhorted to love their wives "just as Christ loved the ekklēsia and gave himself for it.[Eph. 5:25] When Christ nourishes and cherishes the ekklēsia, he nourishes and cherishes his own flesh. Just as the husband, when he loves his wife is loving his own flesh.[Eph. 5:28] Members of the ekklēsia are "members of his own body" because it is written in Genesis 2:4 "and the two shall become one flesh". In [Eph. 5:29-30] Jesus quotes the Genesis passage as what has been called a "divine postscript".[2]

In writing to the Church of Corinth in 2 Corinthians 11 Paul writes to the Corinthians warning them of false teachers who would teach of another Christ and confessing his worry that they will believe someone who teaches a false christ; other than Christ Jesus of Nazareth whom they preached; and referred to the Church in Corinth as being espoused to Christ. "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 subtlety, 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".[2 Cor. 11:2-4]

In the writing to the Church in Rome,Paul writes, "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" (emphasis added).[Romans 7] Here, Paul seems to suggest that the Church is to be married to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was raised from the dead.

Other Interpretations of the bride[edit]

While the most commonly accepted interpretation of the bride of Christ is the Church, other interpretations exist uncommonly. The World Mission Society Church of God believes the bride to be God the Mother. Also, the Jehovah's Witnesses, along with other ministries such as the Shepherd's Chapel, preach the Bride to be the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7 and 14.

The wedding of the lamb[edit]

The World Mission Society Church of God believes that the Bride of Christ has another meaning hidden in the parables of Jesus Christ, not to be revealed until the last day.[3] They point to the fact the Bride gives the water of life in Revelation 22:17 and that because John 4:10-14 explains that water of life is eternal life, only God can give eternal life. Also, in Jeremiah 2:13 and Revelation 21:6, it is written that God said that he is the source of living water.

They believe that Jesus is the father of all, so his wife must be the mother of all. They further believe that the Bride is the New Jerusalem, and point out that the apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, stated that Jerusalem was their mother.

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.[Galatians 4:24-26]

144,000 anointed[edit]

The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the 144,000 are the only ones who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven and as such believe the Bride is another term among many to refer to the 144,000 who will be allowed to enter.[4]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Osiek, Carolyn. "The Bride of Christ: a problematic wedding - Ephesians 5:22-33." Biblical Theology Bulletin, Spring, 2002. Web: 20 Oct 2010. [1]{dead-link}
  2. ^ Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology. Broadman, 1962. ISBN 0-8054-1613-7
  3. ^ World Mission Society Church of God: Heavenly Mother
  4. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses and salvation#The .27anointed.27