By Garreth L. Clair
In this ninth lesson in this series we want to continue the study of terms used to define certain characteristics of the New Testament church. In discussing the two characteristics of this article, “a bride” and “a family,” we suggest that you first reread article number 8 (the last article in this series). As you will observe, the two characteristics in this study are important to a proper knowledge of the function of the ekklesia of God.
The Bride Characteristic
From the readings in Revelation 19:7 and John 3:29 it is apparent that the bride/groom concept is to be understood as similar to the relationship that Christ sustains to his church (i.e. his Bride). That the church is his bride is clearly seen when one compares the readings of Revelation 19:7 and that in 21:9-27. This concept is well described by John T. Hines in his commentary on the Revelation (pp. 266, 267).
“The reason given here for rejoicing is that the ‘marriage’ of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” The meaning is that the coming of the Lord to receive the prepared church is similar to a bridegroom coming for his bride. Marriage, as a symbol or illustration, is used four times in the New Testament, but each time to teach a different lesson – that is, some phase of marriage is used to illustrate a special feature of the relationship of saved people to Christ.
1. Romans 7:4 and Ephesians 5:22,23 show that the relationship of individuals, and the church as a whole, to Christ now is comparable to the natural relationship of marriage; therefore the saved are correctly represented as being spiritually married to Christ.
2. In Matthew 22:1-14 the idea of a marriage feast is presented, and saved people are represented as guests. Nothing in the parable represents the wife, for the reason that the parable is constructed to teach the necessity of proper character. This is better done by the idea of guests suitably dressed.
3. In Matthew 25:1-13 the lesson is sufficient preparation for the Lord’s coming in order to be ready. This is best presented by representing the saved as wise and foolish virgins. But in the parable these virgins are not the bride; in the application they represent the two elements of the church. Again, the bride is left out of the parable, yet the church is the bride or wife.
In our text the lesson is the joy of being prepared for that eternal home Jesus has prepared for his own. This is like the joy of a bride going to the home prepared for her. These are the lessons based upon marriage as a symbol, and must not be confused, for all of them are true.
From a number of passages of Scripture we are made aware of the family feature of the church, another characteristic of man’s relationship to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit within the church of Christ. From those passages found in Ephesians 3:15; 1 Timothy 3:15; Acts 16:31; 10:2; Romans 8:7; etc. it is clear that the family feature is another way God shows his relationship to the saved. Please observe the following ideas contained in the concept (perhaps others may also be found in the figure).
Since God looks upon his people as a family, we therefore possess certain characteristics (i.e., family traits):
1. In the first place the family is a very old family as is evident that it had its origin nearly 2,000 years ago in the city of Jerusalem according to Acts 2.
2. Secondly, the family of which all Christians are a part is to be a unified family in everything:
A. Ephesians 3:9: “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (in fellowship).
B. Ephesians 4:4: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” (in worship of the only true God).
C. Ephesians 4:3: “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (in spirit).
3. In the third place the family is a very large family according to Revelation 7:9. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”
4. In the fourth place the family of God is a family of great dignity as attested to by Paul in Romans 8:17: “And if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”
5. In the fifth place the family of God has a future home of extreme beauty and grandeur:
A. John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
B. Read also Revelation 21:9-27 (a description of that marvelous city of the children in God’s family).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 12, p. 358
June 16, 1988