Throughout the Bible, we Christians are called collectively by a variety of collective nouns (emphasis added):
“And you are the body of Christ” (First Corinthians 12:27).
“Feed the flock of God among you” (First Peter 5:2).
“That judging will begin with God’s family” (First Peter 4:17).
“Therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (Second Timothy 2:3)
“and you are a building of God” (First Corinthians 3:9).
“so that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah (Isaiah 61:3).
However the one description which encompasses both the Old and New Testament is the picture of God’s people as His Bride, in the Old Testament, and The Bride of Christ in the New.
“Let us be glad and rejoice and we will give glory to Him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself” (Revelation 19:7).
“For your Maker is your husband; Jehovah of Hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall He be called” (Isaiah 54:5)
” You also will be a crown of glory in the hand of Jehovah, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You will no more be called Forsaken; nor will your land any more be called Desolate; but you will be called My Delight is in her, and your land, Married; for Jehovah delights in you, and your land is married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so will your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:3-5)
” And I will betroth you to Me forever. Yea, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness, and in judgement, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know Jehovah” (Hosea 2:19-20).
In fact, in Mark 2:18-20 we actually find Jesus speaking of himself as the bridegroom:
“The disciples of John and those of the Pharisees were fasting. And they came and said to Him, Why do John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?
And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the sons of the bride-chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast in those days.”‘
And even John the Baptist spoke of Jesus as bridegroom in John 3:28-30 saying:
“You yourselves bear witness to me that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Then my joy is fulfilled.
He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The seriousness which God gives to this relationship, however, cannot and should not be underestimated. A salutary and no-nonsense lesson from God is found in Hosea where the Prophet Hosea was chosen by God to act out publically and in real life, God’s message to his people by marrying a prostitute, a woman who would be unfaithful to Him. Here is Hosea 1:1-9 from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” Version of the Bible:
“This is God’s Message to Hosea son of Beeri. It came to him during the royal reigns of Judah’s kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This was also the time that Jeroboam son of Joash was king over Israel. This Whole Country Has Become a Whorehouse.
The first time God spoke to Hosea he said:
“Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: This whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”
Hosea did it. He picked Gomer daughter of Diblaim. She got pregnant and gave him a son.
Then God told him:
“Name him Jezreel. It won’t be long now before I’ll make the people of Israel pay for the massacre at Jezreel.
I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel. Payday is coming! I’m going to chop Israel’s bows and arrows into kindling in the valley of Jezreel.”
Gomer got pregnant again. This time she had a daughter. God told Hosea:
“Name this one No-Mercy. I’m fed up with Israel. I’ve run out of mercy. There’s no more forgiveness. Judah’s another story. I’ll continue having mercy on them. I’ll save them. It will be their God who saves them, Not their armaments and armies, not their horsepower and manpower.”
After Gomer had weaned No-Mercy, she got pregnant yet again and had a son. God said: “Name him Nobody. You’ve become nobodies to me, and I, God, am a nobody to you.”
Thus the future for Hosea is set in a divinely ordered marriage unlike any other. Hosea is to marry Gomer and through her, live out God’s prophecy of the peoples of Israel and Judah. God then sets out in great detail how it will be for his people saying in Hosea 2:1-23 again from “The Message” Version of the Bible:
“Rename your brothers ‘God’s Somebody.’
Rename your sisters ‘All Mercy.’ Wild Weekends and Unholy Holidays
Haul your mother into court. Accuse her!
She’s no longer my wife.
I’m no longer her husband. Tell her to quit dressing like a whore, displaying her breasts for sale. If she refuses, I’ll rip off her clothes and expose her, naked as a newborn. I’ll turn her skin into dried-out leather, her body into a badlands landscape, a rack of bones in the desert. I’ll have nothing to do with her children, born one and all in a whorehouse. Face it: Your mother’s been a whore, bringing bastard children into the world. She said, ‘I’m off to see my lovers! They’ll wine and dine me, Dress and caress me, perfume and adorn me!’ But I’ll fix her: I’ll dump her in a field of thistles, then lose her in a dead-end alley. She’ll go on the hunt for her lovers but not bring down a single one. She’ll look high and low but won’t find a one.
Then she’ll say, ‘I’m going back to my husband, the one I started out with. That was a better life by far than this one.’ She didn’t know that it was I all along who wined and dined and adorned her, That I was the one who dressed her up in the big-city fashions and jewellery that she wasted on wild Baal-orgies. I’m about to bring her up short: No more wining and dining!
Silk lingerie and gowns are a thing of the past. I’ll expose her genitals to the public. All her fly-by-night lovers will be helpless to help her. Party time is over. I’m calling a halt to the whole business, her wild weekends and unholy holidays. I’ll wreck her sumptuous gardens and ornamental fountains, of which she bragged, ‘Whoring paid for all this!’ They will soon be dumping grounds for garbage, feeding grounds for stray dogs and cats. I’ll make her pay for her indulgence in promiscuous religion – all that sensuous Baal worship And all the promiscuous sex that went with it, stalking her lovers, dressed to kill, And not a thought for me.”God’s Message!
To Start All Over Again
“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
I’m going to start all over again. I’m taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. I’ll give her bouquets of roses. I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.
At that time” — this is God’s Message still — “you’ll address me, ‘Dear husband!’ Never again will you address me, ‘My slave-master!’ I’ll wash your mouth out with soap, get rid of all the dirty false-god names, not so much as a whisper of those names again. At the same time I’ll make a peace treaty between you and wild animals and birds and reptiles, And get rid of all weapons of war.
Think of it! Safe from beasts and bullies! And then I’ll marry you for good—forever! I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness. Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go. You’ll know me, God, for who I really am.
“On the very same day, I’ll answer” — this is God’s Message — “I’ll answer the sky, sky will answer earth, Earth will answer grain and wine and olive oil, and they’ll all answer Jezreel. I’ll plant her in the good earth. I’ll have mercy on No-Mercy. I’ll say to Nobody, ‘You’re my dear Somebody,’ and he’ll say ‘You’re my God!'”
As we read this prophetic message from the Lord and understand the marriage of Hosea and Gomer, we can see that it came indeed to fruition, just as He spoke.
As we now look forward to the New Testament, let us look at Ephesians 5:25-27 where we receive the word of God as how a husband ought to behave towards his wife saying:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
No matter whether we are male or female, adult or child, if we are Christian, we are all members of the Church of Christ and as such we are collectively The Bride of Christ, a bride whom Jesus passionately loves. So passionately, in fact, that He was willing to give his life for us. As Philippians 2:8 says of Jesus, He so loved us that came and was “found in fashion as a man, [and] He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” for as John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus expressed that love for us on the Cross of Calvary; let us now understand just what that means for the Bride. Jesus explains this to some degree in Matthew 25:1-13
“Then shall the kingdom of Heaven be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
The foolish ones took their lamps, but 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 comes! Go out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, No, lest there be not enough for us and you. But rather go to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came. And they who were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.
Afterwards the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Truly I say to you, I do not know you.Therefore watch, for you do not know either the day or the hour in which the Son of Man comes.”
Jesus is talking here about part of our preparation for His return; the time when we wait for the Bridegroom coming to collect His Bride. What we see from the words of Jesus is that half (50%) of the Brides were unprepared for the coming of their Groom and had no oil for their lamps, but also, that all (100%) of the Brides were asleep when the Groom arrived!. Being asleep, even if prepared, does not show either enthusiasm or respect.
While no single teaching in the Bible tells Christians all the preparations they need to make for the return of Jesus, each parable does point to the whole. To achieve understanding and preparedness, we therefore need to be readers and understands of the Bible on a regular daily basis. The reference to the lamp oil, is often seen as referring to the absence of the Holy Spirit in the Brides. They were once full of the holy spirit and have now lost it, or used it up and they are now living in lack, rather than in plenty. However, Matthew 25:1-13 also related back to the words of Jeremiah 31:29-30 which says that under the New Covenant, we will all be responsible for our own sins and our own spirituality. We cannot, like those under the Old Testament blame others under Numbers 14:18 or our forefathers sins for our own shortcomings. Therefore, if we are asleep, when the bride comes, that is our own fault; if we run out of oil, that is our own fault. Instead, during this time of waiting we must desire strength from God’s hand which may serve us as a torch while we walk through this darkness, to bring us to our desired end: otherwise, if we become lazy and negligent because we are tired of our earthly pains and troubles, we shall be kept from entering the doors of eternity, with the Groom.
Looking back to Ephesians 5:25-27 we see both how we are to act, and how we are to present ourselves: “without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” But this is not just individually as Christians, but as the whole body of Christ in totality! This is how the universal Church and the local Churches are to represent themselves. This is how to are to be seen and viewed, not only but our Groom, but by unbelievers and the secular world as we wait for His return. James 2:26 makes this clear for us as he looks at the Body of Christ saying: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Regrettably, the Church both universal and local, seem a long way from the Ephesians 5:25-27 requirement. Nevertheless, this is who we are in community and this is what we are called to be.
The last description of the Bride in the Bible comes from Paul as he describes the Bride in Revelation 22:17 saying:
” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”
This description also defines what it means to be a Christian, a member of the Body of Christ as we reach out unceasingly to the rest of mankind in love and truth to bring them all to drink the waters of life which are freely given to all who but just ask. It does not matter our race or social position, our bank balance or our past history; all that matters is that we seek the freely given water or life from Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom.
Amen and Amen and Amen.