The “Bride of Christ” Is Not the Church

The “Bride of Christ” Is Not the Church

Updated on January 29, 2015

 

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The Bride Of Christ

Who is this "Bride of Christ"?

Who is this “Bride of Christ”? | Source

Do you still believe women should not be pastors or leaders in the church? Do you still believe healing was for the early church? Do you still believe the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was for the early church and not for the body of Christ today also?

Many of the church’s views on these doctrinal pillars have been revised in recent years. With a spirit of honest examination, the church has realized that they were not quite right. With that said, I believe its time to take a closer look at the “Bride of Christ” doctrine as well.

Here are the reasons why:

Revelation 21:9-10

9. 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.” 10. And 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.

1. While there is a “lamb’s wife, the bride of Christ”, it is not the church—Revelation 21:9-10 clearly states that the “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” is the Holy Jerusalem.

Revelation 19:7

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

2. Revelation 19:7 says, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” Again, this lamb’s wife, the bride of Christ cannot be referring to the church! If the church is “the bride of Christ,” then the Christian has to do something to get “herself ready.” This requires “works” to be done by the Christian to get ready. The Word says that we are already made righteous and are already sanctified. So then, the church, in God’s eyes, is already ready. The bride of Christ has to be something else!

3. If the Church were “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” then the angel in Revelation 21:9-10 would have shown “the Church,” not the Holy Jerusalem.

4. Jesus did not teach that his body is also his bride. Paul didn’t teach it either.

5. Christians are repeatedly called “sons of God,” “the body of Christ,” and “the church” throughout the New Testament but are never called “the bride of Christ.”

Currently, the main teaching regarding the “Bride of Christ” is that she is the church and must make herself ready. This teaching is inconsistent with the entire Pauline Revelation of the Gospel of Grace.

Because of the free gift of grace, we are already righteous and without spot nor blemish in the Lord’s sight. We are already ready! Therefore, it stands to reason that the church can’t be the one “getting herself ready.” The “Bride of Christ” then must refer to something or someone else! The “bride” must refer, not to the church, but to the Holy Jerusalem, just as the Word of God says in Revelations 21:9-12.

The Unfortunate “Bride of Christ” Doctrine: Readying Ourselves Lies in God’s Hands

The “Bride of Christ” teaching says the church has to do something to make “herself ready,” to be perfect. If this is true, then there is absolutely no way Jesus will ever return and get us. We can’t get “ready” ourselves or achieve perfection by our own doing. It’ll never happen. We are not perfect, and we can never be perfect outside of his gift of righteousness. It is just not possible. It will never be possible!

Can’t Ignore the Comparison of Worship and Marriage

Though I do not believe that the “Bride of Christ” refers to the church, I do think that the comparison of our relationship to God with the covenants, promises, or vows made in marriage is helpful. The Word does make those comparisons. I don’t refute that. God has made a lot of promises to us similar to those we make to each other when we get married.

But as far as my personal relationship with God? I am a friend of God. He is my Dad, and I am His son, too. In the Scripture, it reads “…whereby we cry Abba (literally: “daddy”), Father.” The closeness and intimate nature of our relationship with Him have the quality of the relationship between a father and a son, not a relationship between spouses. He is a Dad who has promised me an inheritance and the ability to come boldly to His throne of grace.

Neither Jesus Nor Paul Ever Preached That the Body of Christ is a Bride

They did not tell us the body of Christ is a bride of any kind. Perhaps Israel is the bride, but the body of Christ certainly isn’t.

Jesus never told His disciples He would someday be their bride. Paul didn’t say we are the bride. In fact, nowhere in scriptures does it ever say Christians are the bride of Christ. Not only that, it just seems strange.

The Term “Bride of Christ” Never Appears in the Bible

While a “Lambs’ Wife” is mentioned in Revelations, the term “Bride of Christ” is never used in the Bible. I searched the Bible for the term “Bride of Christ”. I couldn’t find it. It surprised me when I did that search and came up with no results! And to think, after all these years of hearing how we are the bride of Christ and He will come to get us once we have made ourselves ready.

What Does the Bible Say About the “Bride of Christ”?

What does the word say about the “Bride of Christ”? Nothing really. The term “Bride of Christ” is nowhere in the Bible. Aside from being first coined by the Roman Catholic Church, this term has been invented out of perceived inferences of certain passages that say God’s relationship to us is “as a bride”. These passages are all parables or similes. They are simply making a comparison of our relationship to Him. He loves us and has made covenant promises to us, similar to how a husband loves and upholds promises to his wife.

Again, the passage that comes closest to mentioning a bride from Revelation:

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 showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates, twelve angels and names are written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel…

Revelation 21:9-12

This passage does not say the body of Christ is the Lamb’s wife. It does not say Israel is the Lamb’s wife. It clearly states however that “that great city, the Holy Jerusalem” is the Lamb’s wife. In verse 10, it also says that John the Revelator saw that great city descending down from heaven adorned as a bride. He doesn’t even refer to it as the bride but that it is adorned as a bride.

Read This Parable from Matthew Again

Matthew 22:1-14 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.

The bride is not the subject of this story—the guests are. The commonly accepted interpretation of this parable is that the guests represent the church—how can the guests be considered the bride?

Taking the leap from the guests representing “the bride of Christ” can’t be done, but the proponents of the “bride of Christ” concept do it with this passage all of the time!

Read This Parable from Matthew Again, Too

Matt 25:1-13 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

It goes without saying that the ten virgins are not this groom’s wife. They are only guests trying to get into the wedding.

Once again, taking the leap from the ten virgins being guests to them being the bride and representing “the Bride of Christ” can’t be done. This story is about being ready to be accepted into the kingdom of heaven. How is that done? By accepting Jesus as our Lord.

That story is as simple as that!

Another Argument Lies in Isaiah 62
Isaiah 62:4

Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

Some have said the Lord would not marry a city, but here the Lord is married to the land. It is not a stretch that He could be married to a city if He wants, as has been indicated in Revelation 21:9-10. God can do what He wants, whether we understand it or not. After all, when did God ever do anything that really made sense to us?

In Jeremiah, God Is Already Married to Israel
Jeremiah 3:14

Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

In the Old Testament, the church of Christ had not yet been established. Therefore, there was no church yet; furthermore, the prophet says God is already married to Israel! There is never any mention of a wedding for Jesus, simply one to the lamb’s wife.

Why Do We Always Read Things into the Word?

So, how did some miss that passage and turn the church or even Israel into the “bride of Christ”? Israel makes more sense, but still, I’m not sure why people draw conclusions like these without clear evidence. The very human desire to understand everything has led to people reading into things that aren’t really there in order to make some sort of sense out of it.

Preachers Aren’t Always Right

Just because it was said by somebody in the pulpit doesn’t make it true. The only thing you know must be true is the Word of God. So instead of putting unwavering faith in preachers, examine stories that seem clear to you.

Why the “Bride of Christ” Doctrine Is Important: Christianity Becomes Like All the Other Religions of the World

I used to think the “Bride of Christ” doctrine was an issue of secondary importance. However, with further consideration, I have concluded it is a fundamental concern. What the doctrine teaches causes to do works to become “without spot or wrinkle.” Christianity becomes just like all the rest of the religions of the world. It becomes a religion of works and not one founded in God’s grace. The “Bride of Christ” teaching takes away from us God’s grace and the gift of righteousness. We then become all about works. The Galatians were all about works. What did Paul call those Galatians? He called them fools.

Other Problems with the “Bride of Church” Doctrine

In addition to devaluing His gift of righteousness, the “Bride of Christ” doctrine also devalues our authority and position in Christ. Being in his body is much more powerful than simply being his bride.

For example, when it comes right down to it, my wife is limited in her authority over me because she is a separate person. It’s not that way with the body of Christ. He gave us all of His authority as kings and priests in the earth. We are his body. We have His authority in the earth. That authority is the Word of God He gave us to hear, believe, speak, and live by.

Don’t Believe Anything You Hear (Including What I Write) Unless It Can Be Clearly Backed up by the Word

I can clearly backup, with scripture, the fact that the Lamb’s wife is the holy city of Jerusalem. But the ones who believe the church is the bride of Christ cannot back it up with obvious scripture.

Reconsidering Doctrine
Luke 20:35

But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage.

It’s good to question everything we are being taught. I have always been puzzled by the “Bride of Christ” doctrine. After all, the Word says that we don’t marry in heaven in Luke 20:35. I originally didn’t think this verse had much to do with the “Bride of Christ” doctrine, yet, on second thought, maybe it does. There is no limiting language in this scripture—if we won’t be given in marriage in heaven, then can it even be possible to be married to Jesus, or anyone else for that matter, in the hereafter? My questioning began with the Scripture.

Origins of the “Bride of Christ” Doctrine

The term “Bride of Christ” has its roots in the Roman Catholic Church. You probably know the clergy or priests of the Roman Catholic Church “marries” their church, taking an oath to celibacy. As a result, the term “Bride of Christ” was eventually coined in relation to this practice. Today, this concept and terminology have spilled over into our own fundamental Christian doctrines.

The Play “The Bride”

Several years ago (the early ’90s), there was a play called The Bride. This play told a story of how the church is the “Bride of Christ.” This play was performed in many cities in the US. It was a nice little drama, but it is unscriptural. However, the play helped engrain the “Bride of Christ” doctrine in the public consciousness.

It just sounds nice. But just because the doctrine sounds good doesn’t mean its God. Don’t believe a thing just because it makes sense at first glance. If it’s not clear in the Word, it is not so.

Inferences Don’t Establish Truth

As we have established, the notion that we are the “Bride of Christ” is an inference. Building doctrines on inferences will mess us up and get us off the truth. This is the reason the Jones followers got off and drank the kool-aid. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going with any doctrine that is inferred.

For example, it can be inferred that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was for the early church only and that God doesn’t operate that way today. For centuries the church, by and large, had been robbed of the comfort, revelation, ability, and power found in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I’m glad we don’t believe that’s true anymore.

Also, consider that “the church” once believed women shouldn’t be in ministry or pastoring or in any leadership positions. That misconception came from inferences as well.

I take the Word literally for what it says unless it specifically says otherwise. For instance, Jesus told many stories that had meanings and were similes. Before He told His stories, He always led the listeners to know He was about to tell a parable.

We don’t accept those inferences about baptism or women in the ministry as truth anymore, and we shouldn’t. Neither should we accept inferences in regards to the “Bride of Christ” teaching.

https://owlcation.com/humanities/Who-Is-The-Bride-of-Christ

8 Comments »

  1. Have you been to the Throne of Grace and asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom and an understanding on your belief on the subject of “The Bride of Christ? I don’t remember reading in this blog any references to divine interventions. I’m just sayin’…bloggers also have an obligation to their readers just as preachers/leaders of the church if it is their intent to inform the masses. We, too, will be held accountable on That Great Day. Be sure to ask for His favor and to cover yourself with God’s anointing. Be blessed, my brother.

    • There will always be disagreement in the body of Christ, no matter what.

      The Bride in Revelation

      Since the book is primarily about Israel and reads like the Old Testament, one conclusion remains: that is what it is. The bride of Revelation 19 is Israel, not the Church, the body of Christ since the Church is nowhere in the book. John wrote:

      7 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.” 8 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. 9 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 that the bride has made herself ready. Does this sound like the Church, the body of Christ? Paul declared members of the body of Christ have been made complete in Christ (ἐστὲ ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι, Colossians 2.10). The Church needs no “preparation.” We are complete in Him! No, the bride here is Israel and the “marriage of the Lamb” is the reconciliation of Israel with God which the prophets foretold.

      In Revelation 21, John described a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21.1) to replace the old heaven and earth which had departed (ἀπέρχομαι). Along with the new heaven and earth is the new Jerusalem. It comes down from heaven onto the new earth (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 is Jewish. 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; cf. Matthew 19.28). Nothing of the Church is here.

      Israel had both an earthly and a heavenly calling. They were called out from among the nations of the earth and given earthly promises, e.g., a kingdom and preeminence among the nations (Deuteronomy 28.1, 13). But they had a heavenly calling also, described in Hebrews 3.1 that began with Abraham, cf. Hebrews 11.8-10. Abraham anticipated (ἐκδέχομαι) a heavenly city. How much he knew of it is unknown. But he looked for a heavenly city. The new Jerusalem of Revelation 21 was that city.

      The first two callings pertain to Israel. The third calling is for the Church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 1.18; 2 Timothy 1.9). God’s promises to the Church are wholly heavenly, not earthly (Ephesians 1.3, 2.6; Philippians 3.20).

      Paul and the Bride of Christ?

      Paul taught that the Church was 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 (1 Corinthians 12.13). This revelation was one of the “secrets” (μυστήριον) the glorified Lord revealed to Paul alone. Paul was the only writer of Scripture who taught that the Church was the body of Christ. He declared that before him this truth was not known (Ephesians 3.3-7).

      We have established that the Scriptures teach that the Church is the body of Christ. How is it most of Christendom teaches the Church is the bride of Christ? Two passages have been used to make this argument. They are the following:

      2 Corinthians 11.2

      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.

      Read out of context, this passage may appear to support the idea that the Church is the bride of Christ. But the verses that follow correct such wandering. Paul continued,

      3 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. 4 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. 5 For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. 6 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 to Christ and his gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Paul constantly had to defend his ministry–from both unbelievers and believers. From his words in this passage, he recognized he was not the most polished speaker. But in terms of knowledge, he was far ahead of anyone else: 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.3 Paul’s choice of words to the Corinthians, “present you as a pure virgin” was to illustrate his desire for holy living for these believers, not to teach that 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).

      Ephesians 5.22-33

      22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31, 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. 32 This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 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.

      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 that 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 (v. 28) because no one ever hated his own flesh (v.29). One nourishes his body and cherishes it (v.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 body (v. 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 “secret” (μυστήριον) but that he spoke with reference to Christ and His Church (v. 32).

      Since the Church is the body of Christ it means that if Christ is the bridegroom we are part of His groomsmanship. Thus, we are of the bridegroom, not the bride!

      Wife and bride are titles that belong to Israel, not the 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 do, we can rejoice in the grace God has given to us and serve and honor Him effectively.

  2. Interesting food for thought.
    I always saw the Ephesians 5 passage as comparing us to the Bride, but then when I read the parables I see my relationship with Him as having many facets. He is my Creator, my Shepherd, my Counselor, my Friend, my Father, my King, my Master – He is my life!

  3. Thank you, Brother Jerome for your exhaustive response. I read every word. Don’t forget, “New Jerusalem” is another Name for God’s bride. And also the title “Bride” covers both male and female. When it comes to high and lofty biblical discussions, I retreat to one of Timothy’s characteristics: (In the subject that you chose to write about, you are more learned than I.) Nevertheless, in the Household of faith there are no big I’s and little you’s. Paul counseled Timothy (and me) with these words in 2nd Timothy vs. 20, 21…

    “In a large house (let’s say the Church) there are articles not only of gold and silver (let’s say Preachers and teachers), but also of wood and clay (let’s say janitors and laypersons); some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble (common duties). If a man (or woman), cleanses himself/herself from the latter, he/she will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

    {A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A ROSE…LIKEWISE, A BRIDE BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A BRIDE when defined by ‘All those who are of the Household of Faith and believe that Christ Jesus (their Redeemer) is the Son of God are candidates to become the BRIDE OF CHRIST’.

    Thank you for exploring my humble blogs on Conversations With God Using Scripture. I remain your sister in Christ.

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