“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’”Revelation 21:9
In this scripture, the church is referred to as the bride of Christ but also as His wife. “Come, I will show you” is a necessity. This is because from a human perspective, it is impossible to see the church and grasp its beauty using only our natural abilities. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). However, the wonderful mystery of the church is revealed to us when the Holy Spirit enlightens us (John 16:13-14). If we are children of God and the Spirit of God lets us see the church, then we will not see ourselves as outsiders but as part of this divine creation (2 Peter 1:16; Ephesians 2:19).
The two expressions, bride and wife, symbolize the church and show the relationship between Christ and the church. This holds throughout our time period, from the resurrection of Jesus until His second coming. “Wife” also refers to the future union with Christ when we will be with Him eternally. The Bible speaks of a future wedding of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7), and today’s church is shown as the bride.
The church in the present time
After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist, He called Jesus “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). John also referred to Him as the bridegroom when He said: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29). These words were spoken before Jesus gave His life and shed His blood for His church (Acts 20:28).
Christ left the splendor of heaven in order to redeem us. His bride, the people who wish to serve Him, must also leave former things (Ephesians 5:30-32). Their love to Christ is greater than their love to the world. The love for Christ is even greater than the love for friends, relatives, parents, and children. When the disciples took this step, Jesus gave them a great promise (Mark 10:28-30). When the bride goes to the altar to be married, she is making a tremendously significant decision. She is making a decision for her bridegroom and future husband in favor of all other possibilities. She decides that she will love her husband more than all other people in the world. This is the decision that Christ expects of His followers (Matthew 10:37-38). The redeemed are people called out of sin and the world to follow the Lamb. That is why the church is also called “assembly” or “ekklesia” in Greek.
The church appears in a magnificently spectacular light, “having the glory of God” (Revelation 21:11). Christ has cleansed her (Ephesians 5:26-27) and sanctified Himself for her (John 17:19). The heavenly Bridegroom has also given her a magnificent robe and provided her with precious jewels. “He has clothed [her] with the garments of salvation, He has covered [her] with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). The quality of her dress and appearance matches His (Isaiah 59:17). The bride of Christ, the church, is also described as the body of Christ. She stands in purity and holiness which comes from God (1 Peter 1:15-16). Her adornment does not consist of the cheap makeup of modern Christianity but rather is comprised of precious ornaments. God adorns the individual congregations of His church with the redeemed who are saved by His grace (Isaiah 49:18). Their spiritual adornment is internal. Therefore, the adornment is not to be “outward . . . but the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4). It consists of holiness and righteousness.
In John 17, Jesus prays for the church that she be in the world but not of the world. He is the Head of the church. He cares for her and protects her (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:29). He supplies all her needs “according to His riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19). He takes care of every member of His body (Matthew 6:25-34), every child of God. He provides spiritual nourishment, gives wisdom and guidance in decisions, He develops each member and gives sufficient grace daily (2 Corinthians 9:8). Even if we may have heavy burdens to bear, God helps us carry them (Psalm 55:22; Isaiah 41:10). As Christ’s spouse, the church as a whole, as well as each individual member, is wrapped in His grace and His love.
The Bible describes the very special status that Christ has reserved for the church. He is the center and source of the relationship. To Him be all the glory (Romans 11:36). He has provided all the prerequisites for salvation, and He draws us to Himself and leads His bride to glory. He, as the Head, loves the church with abundant love.
The church in the future
The words “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9) can be appropriately applied to the church. By establishing the church, God has made known His manifold wisdom to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:8-10). How can the human intellect fully grasp the unsearchable riches of Christ and describe them with mere human words?
Using a metaphor, the mystery of the church is symbolized as a relationship of bride and bridegroom. The church, Christ’s bride, prepares herself here on earth for the next great phase in that relationship. The period of engagement is a weak comparison indeed. Even this period in the bride’s life is wonderful and full of divine blessing and godly revelation. The Apostle was very concerned to make sure the church is presented to the bridegroom as “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
When the time is fulfilled, Christ the bridegroom will come to take His bride home (Matthew 25:1-13). The church will experience an unbelievably wonderful marriage feast (Revelation 19:9) and will be united with Him in glory forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The joy and bliss will not end. There will be no more parting, no more tears, pain, or sorrow. Such will all belong to the past.
But let me ask you a personal question: Are you a member of this glorious church? Have you been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, and has your name been written in the book of life? Only those who belong to the redeemed and have become part of Christ’s bride, His church, in this time of grace will enter into the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:21-23) and thus be with the Lord forever.
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