Although the term “bride of Christ” is not in the Bible, Christ is called a bridegroom (Jn. 3:29) and the scripture does refer to His bride and wife. While most professing Christians are in agreement that the church is the bride (because they think the whole Bible is about them), there is disagreement concerning who it includes. Many believe that the bride of Christ includes all believers since the cross or the Day of Pentecost. Others believe it includes all believers since Adam. Then there are those who believe it only includes believers who have been water baptized by a particular mode into a particular church.
The church that God is building in this present age is likened to a bride and wife by way of illustration, but it is a great blunder to jump to the conclusion that we are the bride spoken of in prophecy. To believe the church in this present age is the bride of prophecy is a form of Replacement Theology and has serious doctrinal and practical ramifications. Yet, mainline dispensationalists would accuse me of being a hyperdispensationalist for teaching that the bride of prophecy concerns Israel and not the Body of Christ. I have not gone beyond (hyper) the word of God, but I have gone beyond their tradition. Not everyone who claims to be a dispensationalist is CONSISTENT in rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). The Bride of Christ issue is a good test to see if you are willing to follow the right division of the word of God all the way through.
7 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.
8 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.
9 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.
The correct answers to the following three questions concerning this passage proves that the bride of prophecy is not the Body of Christ.
Is this passage the subject of the mystery or prophecy?
The main division in the word of God is between prophecy concerning Israel (Acts 3:19-21) and the mystery of the Body of Christ (Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 3:9). The book of Revelation is called a “PROPHECY” five times. It is the culmination of the prophetic kingdom program of Israel. Everything in it is based on what was spoken by the prophets since the world began, but the Body of Christ is a great mystery that was hid in God and kept secret since the world began until it was revealed to the apostle Paul.
Israel is spoken of many times as being a woman, but the Body of Christ is one new MAN (Eph. 2:15). In the King James Bible the apostle Paul never referred to the church as being a woman. The corrupt modern versions of the Bible call the church “her” in Ephesians 5:25. Changing words in the Bible corrupts doctrine.
What about Romans 7:1-4? Paul used marriage as an illustration to teach us how believers are dead to the flesh and spiritually joined to Christ. The illustration is not about a bride waiting to be married.
What about 2 Corinthians 11:1-2? Once again, Paul used marriage as an illustration. He said that the church is to be “AS a chaste virgin,” not that we ARE the bride. If Paul’s point in this passage was to teach that the church is the bride of Christ, it would mean that Paul himself is not in the bride since he is the one who presents the bride!
What about Ephesians 5:22-33? In the doctrinal section of Ephesians (chapters 1-3), Paul emphasized that the church is the BODY of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23, 2:1-16, 3:6; 4:4). This passage is in the practical section of the epistle (chapters 4-6). Paul used the relationship between Christ and His church (one body) to teach about the marriage relationship. It is important to note the little but very important word, “AS.” Nowhere in the passage does he say that the church IS the Bride of Christ.
The application is simple:
Christ and His church are one Body (1 Cor. 12:12-13)
- Christ is the head of this union
- The church is to submit to its Head
- Christ loves the church as His own body; we are part of Him
Husband and wife are one flesh
- The husband is the head of this union
- The wife should submit to her husband as she does to Christ
- The husband should love his wife as his own body; she is part of him
The mystery of the church (Eph. 5:32) is not that it is the Bride of Christ (the “bride” is not mystery for it is in prophecy), but that it is the Body of Christ (Eph. 3:3-6).
Basic outline of the prophetic doctrine concerning the Bride:
- Israel became the wife of God under the old covenant (Jer. 2:1-2).
- Israel constantly committed spiritual adultery against Him with her idolatry (e.g., Jer. 3; Ezek. 16).
- After much longsuffering, God gave her a bill of divorcement (Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8).
- God promised to betroth her again as a virgin bride (Isa. 54:6-8; 62:1-5; Hos. 2:14-23). The forsaken wife will become a virgin bride by the blood of the new covenant (Jer. 31:1-4, 31-34).
- In His earthly ministry, Christ was presented to Israel as a Bridegroom but He was rejected by her (Jn. 1:31; 3:29).
- When Christ comes again to the earth, the believing remnant of Israel who received Him will be His bride and wife (Rev. 19:7-11).
- This relationship will remain in the eternal state (Rev. 21:9-12). She is still called a bride because the millennial reign was the marriage supper.
How will the wife make herself ready?
The bride is called a wife before the marriage because betrothal in Israel was so binding that a bride could be also called a wife before the consummation of the marriage (e.g., Matt. 1:18-20). She is ready for the marriage because she is clothed in clean and white linen. How did she get that garment? The godly remnant in Israel will prove their faith by their works in that they overcome the beast and stay true to Christ (Rev. 3:1-6; 6:9-11). The white garment represents the “righteousness of saints.” This could not possibly be about the Body of Christ! We will be caught up to heaven before the 70th week of Daniel. The prophecy of the 70th week cannot be fulfilled until this parenthetical mystery age closes with the mystery of our rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-52). We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ upon salvation, and we are complete in Him (Phil. 3:9; Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10).
When and where will this marriage take place?
Tradition says that it will take place in heaven upon the rapture, but there is not a verse of scripture that supports that view. It is clear in the context of Revelation 19 that the marriage will take place on earth upon the second coming of Christ (Rev. 19:11-16). The marriage is associated with the LAND (Isa. 62:1-5). The context contrasts the whore (Babylon) with the pure wife (New Jerusalem). The reason that God uses the figure of marriage regarding His relationship with His people is that marriage is a union. Upon the second coming of Christ, the believing remnant of Israel (those who faithfully endure to the end, Matt. 24:13) will be regathered and joined to their land, and they will be joined to their Messiah and King (Heb. 3:6, 14). If we are the bride in this passage that would mean that we are going through the tribulation period and that we are not joined to Christ until the second coming. The apostle Paul taught that we are permanently joined to the Lord the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13; Rom. 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 11:1-3).
If you rightly divide the word of truth, you will understand that the Body of Christ is NOT the Bride of Christ. We lose nothing by understanding this truth because being in the Body of Christ is certainly not inferior to being in His Bride.