Because the truth of this doctrine is especially important to understand, I did not write this article (or any of my articles) on a whim. My first draft was read and challenged which I am grateful for because I delved even deeper to make sure I was not privately interpreting scripture, and in the process, I discovered a few more pearls I missed. Know that I have prayed and taken a lot of time reading scripture and other sources supplied to me, but the context in which it is purported to be seen by the majority continues to be weighed and found wanting. I believe I would be remiss if I examined the truth and failed to report the truth of my findings even if it goes against the majority. I do not claim to have all the answers, but the truth does not fear examination and God’s word in its proper context is where the truth can be found.
For years I have been taught to believe the church is the bride of Christ. While I was studying on a different subject, I came across a verse that I have read in the past many times but because of the teaching I have received through my Christian life I read it with a presuppositional perception rather than the actual meaning. Since I have set my mind to take time to read scripture more closely, I have discovered several things previously taught that are not scripturally accurate. Included among the clergyman whom I greatly respect is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. After reading his two sermons on this subject I have to say this is one of the rare times I disagree with his preaching. Referencing some of the same verses I lay out in this article and following the popular accepted line of thought while, like most, making no mention of Rev. 21:9, 10 and related verses disheartened me. That said, I do not believe that he was intentionally misleading, rather he also was misled and accepted a logical sounding yet erroneous doctrine.
There is strong indication that the perception of “the church as the Bride of Christ” came to be originally from the Roman Catholic Church and their practices. Regardless of when and how it came about, a large part of the doctrinal error being perpetuated in America is due to the heavy reliance on Scofield’s Study Bible by many pastors and other teachers. Scofield, I believe, was influenced by others outside of the true Christian faith. The notes contained within his study Bible, regardless of whether your current pastor, or anyone in the position of teaching actually owns a Scofield Bible, are continually taught as scripturally correct or equal to scripture. The fact is twenty-seven times Scofield either says outright or uses a “type” to indoctrinate the reader to believe the church is the bride. Unless you own a modern translation that has inserted the words “the church as the Bride of Christ” or insinuates that concept through commentary notes, you can rest assured that all the verses speaking about the bride and bridegroom are for illustrative/figurative purposes only and is completely separate from the church. The verses in the book of Revelation are what caught my attention thus the reason for this article.
The first reference Scofield uses on this topic is in Gen. 2:23. Eve being taken out of his rib, Adam says “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:”. Scofield’s interpretation: “Eve, type of the Church as bride of Christ,” and lists several verses to support his interpretation, examined below. To be utterly clear; nowhere in the Bible will you find the church as the bride of Christ in the same passage let alone the same context.
Another presuppositional seed planted within Scofield’s notes appears in his Exodus 2:2 note. In a numbered sequence to Moses being a type of Christ he says, “(3) During his rejection he gains a Gentile bride (Ex. 2:16-21; Mt. 12:14-21; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:30-32).” The scripture references he provides neither state nor imply that the church is the bride of Christ. Yet his inference leads the reader to believe that because the “type” of Moses being the husband of a Gentile is a literal picture of Jesus and his bride, the church. As I stated earlier, Scofield does this twenty-seven times throughout God’s word.
John 3:28, 29 “Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 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.”
John the Baptist was settling a question between some of his disciples and the Jews about purification according to verse 25. He says, “I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.” Verse 29 is an example as to where he stands with Christ—the friend of the bridegroom. There is nothing in these verses intimating the church as the bride. I encourage you to read the whole chapter for a more complete picture.
Take notice of words like “as,” “like unto,” “even as,” when two subjects are in play, so to speak, i.e. the husband loving his wife even as Christ loved his church. Several examples of what the kingdom of heaven is like unto (an expression of comparison) include: a grain of mustard seed; leaven; treasure hid in the field; a merchant man seeking goodly pearls; a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard; and a certain king, which made a marriage for his son. Why is it that all of these but the last are immediately recognized and accepted as the figurative examples they portray? Because “bride,” “bridegroom,” “church,” and “Christ” somehow at some point in the verses in which they appear got taken out of context and grouped together to form a doctrine that is not in scripture.
2 Cor. 11:2, 3 “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused [joined] you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
I included verse three. Paul is speaking to his brethren and again this is figurative speech in that he has prepared them in the teachings of Christ to join them to him as part of the body of Christ. Like a wife is espoused (joined) to one husband, listening only to him so as not to be corrupted by listening to others, she would remain pure—unlike Eve who listened to and was beguiled (corrupted) by the serpent.
Eph. 5:25-32 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
This is an illustration, intertwined with a real-life example for the husbands to know how to love their wives even as Christ loved his church—sanctifying and cleansing so that he may present the members of his body (the church) without spot or wrinkle that it should be holy and without blemish. A spiritual example of becoming a member of the body is found in Rom. 8:14-17. We are spiritually grafted into the vine (Jesus) because of salvation making us children of God and joint heirs (brothers and sisters) with Christ. If the church is of the body of Christ and he is the head, how can the church also be the bride? Christ cannot marry himself. He is coming back for his church, just not as the bride. Jesus is God’s Son and as Matt. 13:38 says, the good seed (saints) are the children of the kingdom. For clarification sake, “saints” in my articles will always be synonymous with believers in Jesus Christ and his gospel—death, burial, and resurrection. John 1:12; Rom. 8:15-19, 23; Gal. 3:26; 4:5-7; Titus 3:7
Isaiah 62:1-5 fits nicely as another image in agreement with the verses in Revelation—verse four in particular,
“Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou [Zion] shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.”
Hephzibah is translated “My delight is in her.” A symbolical name of Zion, as representing the Lord’s favour toward her. Beulah is translated “Married.” used metaphorically as the name of Judea: “Thy land shall be married,” i.e., favoured and blessed of the Lord. (Easton)
Jeremiah 3:14 says, “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:”
The organized, or institution of the church did not exist in the old testament and this is not a prophecy for our future.
We also know that Jerusalem (the people within) is directly named as the whore, the Great Babylon because the people, though they at one time committed themselves to God, followed the heathen ways and worshipped heathen gods. They adulterated themselves (among other atrocities) more than once hence the destruction brought upon them in A.D. 70. Ezek. 6:9; ch. 16; Hosea 4:12: Rev. 17:1, 15, 16; 19:2.
To touch quickly on Rev. 19:1-8, I would like to point out that most of the focus is usually on verses 7 and 8 (below) but 1-6 are just as important for they show the old whoring Jerusalem being righteously judged for her abominations and the multitude along with the twenty-four elders singing praises to that end which was long in coming. Now, the bride, the new Jerusalem, is made ready where once she was filled with a rebellious and stiffnecked people is granted the arrayment of the righteousness of the saints—Jew and Gentile alike.
Rev. 19:7, 8. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
Given the fact a particular seed from Scofield has been planted into your thought process by being told Eve is a type of the church as bride of Christ, would you see these verses as meaning the church is the bride of Christ? If so, let us reread and put into the proper context the meaning of these two verses. The latter part of verse seven and the first part of verse eight tells us the wife had made herself ready and to her has been granted the arrayment of fine linen. We are told specifically that the righteousness of the saints is the fine linen, but we are not told specifically who the wife, or bride, is; yet. If it were not for the verses I will be showing you shortly, this could be conceivably confusing. Scofield has appointed the saints (who make up the church) as the bride therefore, it looks as if they are the bride adorned by their linen which was made clean and white with righteousness. If this is true then who are they (plural, verse nine) who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb? The saints cannot be the bride and guests called to attend the marriage supper.
Using the structure laid out since marriage became an institution between one man and one woman, first there is the pastor or priest, the bride and groom, and the guests a.k.a. witnesses to the union. The heavenly ceremony consists of Father God, Jesus and his bride, and the saints as the witnesses. Keep in mind, the union of the bride and the Lamb (Jesus) is symbolic. Just as a long-lasting relationship may experience separation for a time and then most joyfully reunited, Jesus’s relationship with the bride is in the separation period and will hopefully be reunited soon. Now to show you beyond a shadow of a doubt who the bride is.
Rev. 21:2 “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Rev. 21:9, 10 “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. 10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,”
Have you noticed the picture illustrated in these verses are of the bride descending rather than being caught up? The bride is never caught up! The church being caught up is only ever in reference to Jesus’s second coming to retrieve the saints as his body.
The old Jerusalem (the whore) has been judged—the new Jerusalem is holy and arrayed in the fine linen of righteousness of the saints. Everything is made new—heavens, earth, and the bride a.k.a. the Lamb’s wife.
Interestingly, because all the references to “bride” being the church are connected to his interpretation of eschatology, Scofield makes no mention of these verses nor does he offer commentary for them and I believe you can guess why—the clear answer is given but that does not conform to his interpretation.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
May we all strive to rightly divide the word of truth!