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Body of Christ vs. Bride of Christ

Discussion in 'Eschatology & Prophecy Forum' started by Trekson, Aug 13, 2012.

  1. Trekson

    Trekson New Member

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    Hi all, Without getting over excited, I'm just offering this as an alternative theory. I am in no way saying, "thus saith the Lord."

    Perhaps, because I'm a male of the species, I've always been uncomfortable with the description of the church as the Bride of Christ. As I've listened to various pre-trib preachers use the constant references of us as the bride of Christ, the discomfort has increased as I've sensed that this isn't just a "guy thing", I believe it is a misunderstanding derived from erroneous biblical interpretations. Some of the arguments they give for keeping the church out of the 70th week contrary to what the bible teaches is that "no bridegroom would make his bride suffer that way", or "we need to be in heaven for the marriage banquet during the seven years of Daniel's 70th week". They've even "made up" and embellished Jewish wedding customs that have no historical validity, to support what they teach. For example, there is no support for the bridegroom "kidnapping" his bride a week before the wedding. A term Zola Levitt has used to equate that with the rapture. Another pre-trib believer, Greg Killan, has written that John 14:2-3 was spoken to the bride by the groom as he left to prepare for the wedding. Again, there is no written historical documentation to support this. I've also heard it taught that Israel is the bride of Father God and the church is the bride of His Son, Jesus. The former has some scriptural support but the latter is not clearly stated in the bible. I believe that if the church was to be his bride then He would have clearly stated that fact somewhere in His teachings. I think it's important that it isn't there.

    Dispensationalism is a doctrine of separation and God through Jesus is the author of unity. I consider myself sort of a quasi-dispensationa list. By that I mean, I recognize that Israel has a few future physical promises yet to come that will find their fulfillment in the millennium but all spiritual promises have found their completion and fulfillment through the church, which as you know, was basically just Jewish in origin for the first several years before Paul started preaching to the gentiles. Any doctrine that eternally separates the church from Israel should be considered false and subject to intense scrutiny.
    Before we get into the NT teachings let's take a quick review of what the OT has to say on this subject. Jer. 3:14 - "Return, faithless people," declares the Lord, "for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. I believe this prophecy, which is the Lord speaking to the Jews is fulfilled in Rev. 14:1 - Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. Is.62 is speaking about the new name of Zion. Vs. 5 states - As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. The virgin sons of Israel will marry Zion and/or the King of Zion who is Jesus Christ! (Rev.14:4). Jer. 14:18 tells us that Judah will unite (marry?) Israel. Jesus is also called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

    This may surprise some of you but nowhere in the bible is the term, "the bride of Christ" used, however, the "body of Christ" referring to the church is used twice by Paul, once in 1 Cor. 12:27 and again in Eph. 4:12 and inferred in a few more places. Well then, where did this idea come from? Some have used the parable of the ten virgins as support but this really isn't logical once you dissect the passage.
    Matt. 25: 1-13 - "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' 7"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 9" 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' 10"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' 12"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' 13"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

    I can't argue the fact that Christ is sometimes pictured as a bridegroom but that doesn't automatically translate into the church being the bride. In this parable, believers or the church would equate to the ten virgins, a bride isn't mentioned at all although it could be implied that the ten virgins were keeping her company. This parable doesn't support the theory of imminence, but it does warn of preparation, readiness and what might happen to those who fail to watch. A couple of other things can be assumed by this passage, one is that they knew what exact day the wedding would be. They were at their posts, but the bridegroom was delayed. There is historical documentation that typically the bridegroom would arrive at 11:30 pm to pick up his bride and guests then they would proceed to the bridegroom's father's house for the midnight ceremony. Here, the bridegroom was delayed and the announcement didn't come until midnight. That is why the virgins fell asleep. They didn't know how long the delay would be. I think this fits a pre-wrath scenario quite nicely.

    Another passage used is found in three of the gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke, they are all the same. Matt. 9:15 - And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, 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. Christ is referring to himself as a bridegroom, but the disciples are called children of the bride chamber, the NIV words them as friends of the bridegroom. These were typically close friends of the groom who made sure all the preparations were made in their version of the "honeymoon suite" and where the actual ceremony would take place. If the disciples here are representative of the church, again they are not called the bride.

    A third reference can be found in John 3:29 - 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. Here, John, a servant and follower of Christ and God, refers to himself and which could include the rest of us as friends of the bridegroom, not the bride. A follow up to this verse is John 10:16 - And other sheep I have (gentiles), which are not of this fold (jews): them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (emphasis and conclusions mine) In John 9:15, the disciples are called guests of the bridegroom.

    A fourth reference sometimes used to describe the church as the bride is adapting the verse that compares Jesus, the head of the church to the husband as the head of the wife Eph. 5:23-25. Those that use this as support are, in my opinion, stretching scripture to coincide with their beliefs rather than taking it at face value and seeing it simply as a comparison. In this passage Paul uses marriage as an example of headship, submission and the importance of purifying our bodies or His body as the two, the head and the body will become one flesh. This would be the perfect place for the scriptures to state that the church is the bride of Christ, but it doesn't. In fact, Paul goes out of his way to re-emphasize we are His body at least three times and infers it a couple of more times.

    Another verse commonly used to assert our “brideship” is 2 Cor. 11:2 - 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. In this verse, Paul is the one doing the betrothing, not God or Christ. Here is a short version of the story behind this chapter. The Corinthians were being swayed by false teachers and listening to some of them deriding Paul and his ministry and authority. In this chapter he is defending his apostleship and explaining to them that they should remain pure of heart and not to be easily persuaded to abandon their relationship with God. Corinth was a very paganistic place with several different idols being worshipped at the time around the city. People worshipped several gods at once to "cover their bases" in case one or more of them wasn't real. Paul is using the espousalship as an example of steadfastness and purity of worship to God alone.

    During the engagement period, a person, usually a friend of the bridegroom watched over the bride-to-be to ensure her purity and faithfulness prior to the wedding. If one was to have relations with another person during their engagement period, in those days, they would have been guilty of adultery and faced stoning or worse, as punishment. In this case, Paul is comparing his concern for their spiritual well-being with the friend of the bridegroom that ensures the purity of the virgin bride. When studying the bible it is just as important to understand what is not being said as well as what was said. There are at least two other places in scripture where Christ could have simply identified the church as his bride, but He did not. Matt. 12:50 - For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." And in Matt. 22:30 - At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. In the first one He could have added wife and in the second one He could have added, for example, except for my marriage to all those that believe in me. The truth of unity is summed up by Christ in this one verse. John 10:30 - I and the Father are one" and the ultimate goal is the one stated above where Christ said that eventually there will be "one fold and one shepherd". This verse in no way alludes to there being a father's bride and a son's bride or Israel being God's and the church being Christ's, WE ARE ALL ONE IN HIM!!

    However, the parable of the talents does show that there will be a heavenly hierarchy based on how well we served and obeyed Him. The wedding parable of Matt. 22 implies that the gentile church are guests to the wedding but we must make sure we have the proper wedding garment. What are the proper wedding garments? Simply put we are to be clothed with humility having our robes washed white by the blood of the Lamb (Rev.7:9). The church here is clothed differently from the bride of Rev. 19 whose white linen garments stand for "the righteous acts of the saints". We as believers in Christ don't have to earn our way to heaven, it is a free gift but the future bride of Christ must purify herself by their deeds.

    There are a few more scriptures, all in Revelation, that may shed some light on this subject. Rev. 21:2 - I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
    Rev. 21:9-10 - One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

    The two questions we must ask ourselves are: if the church is not the bride then who is? and what exactly is the best description for the church?

    In the first two, the bride is the New Jerusalem where all of us Christian and Jew will eternally reside together as one big, happy family. Rev. 19:7, emphasizes that wedding has come, utilizing the same future, present tense as is used to describe that the wrath of the Lamb is about to come in Rev. 6:17. Both clarify the fact that the event being spoken of has not yet occurred but is about to. This scripture is speaking of a time after the seven vials of wrath have been poured out; so from this verse alone the picture of the church as the pre-tribulational bride and our wedding being in heaven for the previous seven years has absolutely no foundation. From this passage we know that the wedding supper will take place after the 70th week is completed and the prophetic Feast of Tabernacles can equate to that wedding supper and that it will occur here on earth.

    In the case of the prophetic wedding scenario, I suggest that it will be played out as follows.
    We know that the wedding supper takes place here on earth after the 70th week. We know that Christ is depicted as the bridegroom. Everything else is subjective and I don't declare the following as doctrine, just a different way of looking at things. The rest of the wedding party consists of: the bride, her virgin attendants, friends of the bridegroom and finally, the guests. I believe the New Jerusalem will come to earth after the millennium and won't be fully complete as one under God until the millennium is over and it is within the description of the New Jerusalem that we find the identity and place for all those who will abide with Him eternally.

    It is only because of Israel and God's design through that nation that we are able to enter into the city. There are twelve gates and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on those gates. In Rev. 7, God sets aside 12,000 from each tribe totaling 144,000. Guarding those gates are twelve angels. There are 12 foundations and on those are the names of the twelve apostles. The city is built upon Jesus Christ and His gospel which was the message entrusted to the apostles to bring to the world. He is the chief cornerstone and Jesus told Peter that upon him ("this rock") He would build His church or (ek kaleo) "called out ones".

    As God the Father and God the Son are one I believe that, spiritually, they will have the same bride which based upon the city and OT teachings I believe is primarily Jewish. So here is how I see it all playing out: The friends of the bridegroom are the 12 apostles and the OT prophets and those Christians whose faithful service and obedience elevates them to that stature. Martyrdom may also play a role here. John the Baptist identified himself as a friend of the bridegroom and I believe he was representative of all the prophets that had come before. The guests are those gentile and jewish representatives of humanity that are allowed to enter the millennium after the sheep and goat judgment, to repopulate the earth. ( Matt. 22:2-14 and Matt. 25:31-46, Rev. 19:17 ).

    If you multiply the length of the city of New Jerusalem by the height (12,000 furlongs) you get 144,000. If you multiply the breadth by either the length or the height to acquire the general mathematical area you get 144,000. The beginning of Rev. 14 tells us that the 144,000 are with Christ wherever he goes, like a bride would be, and they sing a new song that only they can know; perhaps a love song similar to the Song of Solomon. Jesus tells us that there is no marriage in heaven so I conclude that his bride must be an earthly one. The fact that they are either physical or spiritual virgins only emphasizes to me their purity as a bride. In Rev. 7:9 they are sealed and protected, as a bride would be, so I conclude the 144,000 are His bride. The virgin attendants would be the 12 angels that are guarding the gates of the city. They ensure that all who enter are pure and have not entered in by mistake.

    As the Body of Christ and as we grow and mature in Him we seem to acquire a deep, spiritual concern for the welfare of Israel. We want our nation to continue to protect her and we care about her spiritual condition as a groom would for his bride. We pray for her and dread the judgments that God will bring upon her but we also understand that this is necessary for her refinement through fire as we, His body, will also be refined through fire. We share the same concerns as our Best Friend and as the physical manifestation of the Groom's presence on Earth we must do all we can to ensure the safety, purity and well-being of His bride. Therefore I conclude that we the church as the Body of Christ are not the bride but are united with Christ as the bridegroom.

    There are so many different levels to eternity that we certainly can not know or understand them all, but Daniel tells us that in the end times; knowledge will increase and I believe this includes general human knowledge as well as a new and greater understanding of spiritual truths. Perhaps this one of them and God is calling us to a greater level of concern for Israel as befitting a groom towards a bride. Perhaps this will prepare us for the next level of spiritual warfare, especially when we see another man, the antichrist, try and woo her away from us. I think we will react with a spiritual jealousy and a greater determination to fight the good fight to protect as much of Israel as we can. We surely won't allow the gates of hell to prevail against us and though the scriptures tell us that many of us will be killed, we know that we will still be part of His armies that come to vanquish satan once and for all, until that time he is let loose for a season at the end of the millennium.

    I'm sure many of you will disagree with my assessment but I ask that you pray about it and keep an open mind. I'm sure some of you may feel that I'm robbing you of a special blessing by not being the bride but I think it greater to be part of the groom as members of Christ's body and I can see how this radical viewpoint could unite us Christians under the banner of love for Israel, as that will eventually become a greater concern for us and cause us to not be annoyed by the little things that divide us as a church but instead will unite us as an army who will never give up, who will not allow the god of this world to rest in peace. An army who will take that old song, Onward, Christian Soldiers as a battle cry for this world, who will put on the armor of God so that when that evil day comes, "you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." ( Eph. 6:13-18 )

    Rev. 22:17 - The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. This verse sums it all up for me. In vs. 16 Christ states that this message is for the church. The groom and the bride are (prophetically) complete. When the spirit and the bride say come, they are extending a wedding invitation to the world where; upon acceptance they become part of His Body. We are to partake of the wedding between the Groom and the 144,000, the combined righteous remnant of the tribes of Judah and the tribes of Israel as foretold by prophecy.
  2. whitestone

    whitestone New Member

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    From the time that YHVH Married His Wife Israel at Sinai, the entire Bible message is about the Husband's Love for His Wife, and how He gave Himself for Her. We see the entire prophecy fulfilled in the N.T. This is how God loves us and brings the Son of God forth from within us. By sowing us with His incorruptible seed, by which we produce the 'man-child' Christ in us. It is the New Covenant fulfilled.
    You can't separate the Bridegroom from the Bride, otherwise, there would be no Gospel. It is what makes it so awesome :)

  3. Saint

    Saint New Member

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    The only group of people that Yahweh talks about marring in the scripture is the Lost House of Israel when He brings them back into a covenant relationship in the finial days!

    Hos 2:16-20 ESV "And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me 'My Husband,' and no longer will you call me 'My Baal.' (17) For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. (18) And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. (19) And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. (20) I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

    In Yeshua Messiah,

  4. veteran

    veteran New Member

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    Good post Trek. Nowhere in God's Word are we specifically called the Bride of Christ, for that title is reserved for the New Jerusalem per Rev.21 like you showed.

    Early on in Bible history God uses the idea of marriage in the spiritual sense while also showing the opposite using spiritual harlotry. That applied to His Church is in the spiritual condition sense about either staying in Him or falling away to worship something or someone else in His place (like Ezek.23; Hosea; 2 Thess.2). They most often leave that other part out of their one-liner slogan fest, i.e., God's warnings about playing the spiritual harlot.

    Their coining additional ideas and slogan one-liners to add to God's Word is because of how easy the deceived fall into the trap of catch phrases and mottos instead of actually going into God's Word for theirselves to find out what is written.
  5. Trekson

    Trekson New Member

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    Thanks, Vet
  6. michaelvpardo

    michaelvpardo Well-Known Member

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    United States
    Greetings and grace to you Trekson,
    I enjoyed your argument and found myself agreeing with it. I think that much of the accepted and traditional doctrine being taught now is simplistic, making its appeal to our fleshly nature rather than to the spiritual. Back when I taught the occasional Sunday school class, a friend, one of the church elders pulled me aside and advised me to dumb down the lessons for roughly a third grade mentality. This brother wasn't trying to be insulting to the congregation, but was being realistic to the extent that much of the congregation were little more than babes in Christ, and some certainly remained unregenerate as well. I've always thought it better to give too much than too little. People can only receive what they're capable of receiving, but they can't receive something that isn't presented to them at all. In the physical sense, young children are the most capable of learning new and complex ideas. As we get older we have a somewhat diminished capacity for learning, and more significantly a solidified world view that prevents us from receiving those things which threaten it. I believe that the same is true for spiritual life, which is also one of the reasons that new believers tend to be succeptible to cults with strange doctrines that are distortions of the truth. Pastors and elders have a responsibility to guard the flock from those wolves that would lead them astray, but they also have a responsibility to hear prophecy and test the spirits to see if they are from God. I think that the latter responsibility may sometimes be an area of failure. Leaders don't always like their authority to be questioned, especially leaders of a carnal nature themselves, and who among us has escaped the nature of the flesh? Sometimes its hard for one to distinguish between zeal for God, and zeal for self (pride). For the church to function as a body there must be a determined will for mutual submission, not to the suppression of the truth, but for the growth and edification of the body. Too many "church" organizations trace their doctrine back to an authoritarian "elder" whose grasp of doctrine qualified them to lead. There is an inherent danger in all such organizations, since Christ alone is head of the Church, His Spirit the true teacher of the church. A plurality of spiritual elders, submitting to each other, and all unto Christ, is the biblical teaching, and prevents a man from taking to himself what is Christ's alone.
    Thank you for taking the time to share those things which you find plainly stated and represented in scripture and in the light of your understanding. I hope and pray that you are strengthened in faith and in all wisdom to the purposes of edifying the church and glorifying our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
  7. Trekson

    Trekson New Member

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    Hi Michael, Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. You made my day! :rolleyes:
  8. mark s

    mark s New Member

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    HI Trekson,

    I've reached the same conclusions myself, that Israel is the bride, the church is body of Christ, and in the end, we are unified.

    Though I would say that the guests of the wedding aren't clothed in humility so much as being clothed in righteousness. And there are some implication to that I imagine you'll see if you consider it.

    I would also remind that Zechariah speaks of 1/3 being refined by the fire. I'm thinking there may be more than the 144,000, however, you've brought some good points about that. It doesn't really convince me quite yet, but its something I'm considering.

    But I think people have gotten pretty messed up in Biblical interpretation by trying way to hard to "prove" their pet doctrines, and by failing to recognize figures of speech. It occurred to me a couple of years ago the logical tangle you get into if the body of Christ is His bride. Obviously we're seeing some metaphor here.

    Love in Christ,
  9. aspen

    aspen “"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few

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    United States
    How about the idea that 'Bride of Christ' is a good way of describing God's relationship with redeemed humanity AND 'Body of Christ' is also a good way of describing the relationship of God with redeemed humanity? After all, a bride and groom become one body. Both phrases are really saying the same thing - God is as close to redeemed humanity as His own body.

    Some of the exegesis on this thread is as complex as a Shakespearian play - 'the Bride of Christ will be played by the Nation of Israel..............'

    Not sure why people claim that the Bible is easy to understand and then make it so ridiculously complex.