Is the Church the Bride of Christ?

By Sir Robert Anderson

“Is the Church the Bride of Christ?” Let us begin by correcting our terminology. In the Patmos visions
we read of “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife”; but “the Bride of Christ” is unknown to Scripture. The first
mention of the Bride is in John 3:29. In a Jewish marriage the “friend of the bridegroom “answered to our
“groomsman.” His most important duty was to present the bride to the bridegroom. And this was the
place which the Baptist claimed. His mission was to prepare Israel to meet the Messiah, “to make ready a
people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).

With the close of the Baptist’s ministry, both the Bride and the Lamb disappear from the New Testament
until we reach the Patmos visions. In Revelation 21 the Angel summons the Seer to behold “the Bride,
the Lamb’s wife”; and he showed him “the Holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God.” The
twelve gates of the city bear the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, and in its twelve
foundations are “the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” And the foundations are “garnished
with all manner of precious stones. For “it is the city that hath the foundations, whose builder and maker
is God,” (Hebrews 11:10) the city for which Abraham looked, when he turned his back upon the then
metropolis of the world.

These Apostles of the Bride are not the Apostles who were given after the Ascension for the building up
of the Body of Christ — the Apostles of this Christian dispensation, chief among whom was Paul. They
are the twelve Apostles of the Lord’s earthly ministry to Israel, who shall sit on twelve thrones, judging
the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). They are the Apostles of the Lamb. And “the Lord God
Almighty and the Lamb” are the temple of this city; and the Lamb is the light thereof. Every part of the
description and of the symbolism tends to make it clear that this city represents a relationship and a glory
pertaining to the people of the covenant.

And now we can understand why it is that it is called the Bride of the Lamb, and never the Bride of Christ.

For, the mystery of the Body having now been revealed,
Christ is identified with the Church which is His Body, whereas His relation to Israel is entirely personal.
What relation, then, does “Jerusalem which is above” bear to us? No need here for guessing, and no room
for controversy, for on this point Scripture is explicit; “the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our
Mother” (Galatians 4:26, R.V.). We know that most of the Fathers were obsessed by the false belief that
the Jew had been cast away for ever; but even this seems inadequate to account for their claiming the
bridal relationship and glory for the Church of this dispensation.

There are two reasons for refusing to believe that the Church is the Bride. First, because Scripture
nowhere states that it is the Bride, and secondly, because Scripture implicitly teaches that it is not the
Bride. The question, Is A the wife of B? may be answered in the negative, either by pointing to C as his
wife, or by indicating a relationship between A and B which is incompatible with that of marriage. And
in both these ways Scripture vetoes the Church-Bride theory. For it teaches that the Bride is “our
Mother,” and that the Church is the Body of Christ.

The 5th chapter of Ephesians, moreover, ought to be accepted as making an end of controversy on this
subject. The marriage relationship is there readjusted by a heavenly standard. If, therefore, the Church
were the Bride, we should find it asserted here with emphatic prominence. But it is the Body relationship
that is emphasized. Christ loved the Church, and the Church is His Body; therefore a Christian is to love
his wife as his own body. In the 81st verse the ordinance of Genesis 2:24 is re-enacted for the Christian
with a new sanction and a new meaning.1 The “great mystery” of verse 32 is not that a man and his wife
are one body, for such a use of the word “mystery” is foreign to Scripture. And moreover, the Apostle
says expressly, “I am speaking about Christ and the Church.” And the last verse of the chapter disposes
of the whole question’ “Nevertheless, though man and wife are not one body, yet because Christ and the
Church are one body) let every one of you love his wife even as himself.”

By a strange vagary of exegesis the Apostle’s words in 2 Corinthians 11:2 are sometimes appealed to in
support of the Church-Bride theory. Dr. Edersheim cites this passage to illustrate the position of
groomsmen (or “friends of the bridegroom”) at a Jewish marriage. Besides their other functions, they
were, he says, “the guarantors of the bride’s virgin chastity.”2 And the Apostle uses this figure to express
his “jealousy” — his solicitude, for the Corinthian Christians.

“The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation xix. 7).
I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife … and He showed me that great city the holy Jerusalem,
descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation xxi. 9, io).

These Scriptures are misread when they are taken as referring to the same epoch. For between the
fulfilment of the nineteenth chapter and of the twenty-first there lies the entire era of the future
“kingdom” dispensation. And if we are to study the Book of Revelation intelligently, these dispensational
distinctions must be kept in view. As explained in preceding notes, this present age will end with that
Coming of Christ which is revealed in the Epistles.And not until after that great crisis will the
Apocalyptic visions receive their fulfilment. The Abrahamic race will then have been restored to their
normal position as the Covenant people of God; albeit, as foretold by the Lord Himself in Matthew xxiv.,
they will still have to endure the terrible ordeal of “the great tribulation” of Old Testament prophecy.

But a special recompense for their sufferings is assured to them. For just as the members of the Church of this
dispensation – not “the professing Church,” which is drifting to its doom, but the true Church which the
Lord is building – are elected to heavenly glory as the Body of Christ,” so also the faithful martyrs of that
awful persecution are to have a distinctive reward by election to heavenly glory as “the Bride, the
Lamb’s wife.” And they will attain that blessedness before the beginning of the “kingdom” age. But
though the nineteenth chapter records “the marriage of the Lamb,” it is not till we come  to the twenty first chapter that we read of the manifestation of the Bride.

The earth was cleansed with water before its re-furnishing as a home for man. But before it can be united
to heaven, and made meet for the display of the heavenly glory of the Bride, it must needs be purifiedby
fire. And so it is not until the vision of the new heaven and the new earth that the Seer is summoned to
behold the Bride. And what he sees is “the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God.”
One of the earliest pages of the Bible records how Abraham relinquished his princely life in the city
which in that age claimed to be the metropolis of the world. Another Scripture of long ages afterwards
tells us that it was his faith-vision of a God-built city that led him to make that great surrender, and to
choose the pilgrim path. But it is not until we come to the very last page of the very last book of the
Sacred Canon – the “stock-taking” book of all the Bible – that we find the realisation of his promise and
his hope. What proof is here of the “hidden harmony,” the absolute unity, of Holy Scripture And what a
testimony this unity and harmony afford to its Divine authorship (Genesis xii. 1 – 4 ; Hebrews xi. 8 – 10
Revelation xxi. 10 – 27).

For this is Abraham’s City, the vision of which changed the whole current of his life. Upon its twelve
gates are written the names of his natural descendants – “the names of the twelve tribes of the children of
Israel.” It is “the City which hath the foundations” (Hebrews xi. 10, R.V.) ; “twelve foundations, and in
them the names of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” We shall not find here the names of the great
Apostle of the Gentiles and his companion apostles, who were God-given ” for the building up of the
Body of Christ ” (Ephesians iv. 11, 12) ; but only of the Twelve who are “to sit upon twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew xix. 28), the Apostles who were called to share that ministry
of which the Lord declared, ” I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew xv.
24; ef. Luke xxii. 28 – 30).

But, it will be asked, “Is not the Church the Bride of Christ?” That traditional belief is a legacy from an
ignorant age which assumed that God had “cast away His people whom He foreknew.” It has no warrant
in Scripture. The very phrase, “Bride of Christ,” is unscriptural. The holy Jerusalem is the “Bride, the
Lamb’s wife.” But is not the Lamb merely another name for Christ ? After the King’s last visit to his
Duchy, he intimated that his title of Duke of Lancaster was to be used in his future visits.But if a Cabinet
Minister presented himself at the Palace for an audience with “the Duke of Lancaster,” it would be
suspected that nerve-strain had affected his brain! In the human sphere, distinctions of this kind are
understood and scrupulously observed; but our use of the names and titles of the Lord of Glory is
charaeterised by utter indifference and ignorance. The King’s Lancaster title may be used only in
connection with his Duchy. And the fact that the Lord assumes His title of the Lamb in relation to His
Bride, the heavenly city, is no warrant for using it in relation to” the Church which is His body.”
Scripture never uses it in that connection. And the Epistles of the New Testament, which reveal the
“mystery ” truths of this Christian dispensation, will be searched in vain for a single mention of it.

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