The Analogy of the Bride
THE BRIDE IS COMING
Scriptures uses various analogies to depict different aspects of the relationship between God and the believer. Some of the most familiar ones are,
Son – Father
Servant – Master
Soldier – Captain (of hosts)
Sheep – Shepherd
Living stones – Corner stone
Vineyard – Farmer
Body - Head
Wife – Husband
Bride – Bridegroom, etc.
In the Bible, we note how there will be a transition from one analogy to another depending on the need to illustrate and emphasize a certain aspect of the Divine – believer relationship.
For example, the son – father analogy is used whenever the speaker intends to show the unmerited privileges coming to a one-time sinner. It is used to emphasize inclusion, permanent location, ready access to God, and unique spiritual and material bounties flowing to the believer upon the decision to follow Jesus (John 1: 11-12; Rom 8: 14-16; Gal 4: 1-7). On the responsibility side, it is used to under score what God expects in the believer, like filial-like obedience, dependence and trust, and an upright life style worthy of the child of God (Matt 5:16, 48; Heb 12 5- 11, 1 Pet 1: 13 –17; 1 John 3:1, 9-10).
But when the Scriptural focus is the issue of battling temptation, pre-empting the devil’s plans, or destroying demonic strongholds, Bible writers opt for another analogy. This time they use an analogy derived from the army and warfare. In such instances, the church is presented as a spiritual army of God, and each believer is then called a soldier. The body of believers is then taught about the nature and rules of engagement in the spiritual conflict between Good and Evil, i.e., the Kingdom of God and that of Satan. The nature of the enemy, the issue of spiritual discipline and required militancy, the armory of God, and the war strategy, all these and more are covered under this analogy (Matt 10: 34-39; Luke 11: 21-23, 13:24, 14: 31-33; Rom 13: 12-14; 2 Cor 3- 10; Eph 6: 10 - 18; 1 Tim 1: 18, 2 Tim 2:4; 6: 12; 1 Pet 8-9; Rev 12, 19: 11- 16).
The Analogy of Marriage
In the multi-faceted relationship that is between God and the believer(s), Bible authors also use two related analogies derived from the martial life area. One of these analogies is that of the marriage analogy, and the second one is the wedding ceremony analogy. The first analogy is used when the intention is to emphasize covenant-based relationship between God and the body of believers. This analogy is selected in its power to demonstrate the need on the Divine side for a permanent, stable and ongoing relationship with the elect community. The married life analogy is chosen to underline pure love, fidelity and obedience. It also carries the idea of unity of purpose with God, and the promise of abundant spiritual fruit (Ps 45; Rom 7: 1-6; 1 Cor 6: 12-18; 2 Cor 2-3; Eph 5: 21-33)
The second analogy, that of a wedding ceremony, is about a bride-bridegroom type of relationship between God and the church. If the wife-husband analogy is about constancy and permanence in an on-going relationship, on the other hand the bride–bridegroom analogy is to symbolize a joyous brief moment in the relationship. It is chosen depict how the relationship will build up into a climax, be consummated with joy , and be followed a rapturous honeymoon period.
In the annals of Scriptures, it is the Song of Solomon, more than any other book in the Bible, which has a very rich and beautiful poetic description of a bride- bridegroom type of love story. Though the book narrates the lovely romantic relationship between King Solomon and a shepherd girl, it is now widely taken as spiritual love story between God and Israel first, and then the church.
In the New Testament usage of the bride-bridegroom analogy, there is a very surprising twist to the way the event is presented. We notice an apparent reversal of events in the logical order the two analogies, ie. the married life and the wedding ceremony analogies are presented. The Bible first informs us the church to be in a wife-husband type of relationship with God, then after a spate of a long period of time, by a sudden turn around of events, we read how the church is preparing herself for its wedding. In order to clarify this paradox we need to recognize the following facts first.
·Firstly, we have to understand that we are dealing with an analogy, which is a figure of speech, a communication technique, and not the reality itself. Biblical analogies cannot be taken too literally; otherwise confusion will result rather than clarity. If otherwise, how can we read in one page the believer to be a child of God, and then in the next page that the same person as the bride of God? Therefore, we need to exercise care in understanding and interpreting Biblical analogies. ·Secondly, bride-bridegroom analogy is employed for an event to take place only in the future - the End-Time period. From this we can conclude that the church is destined to enter into a new phase in its relationship with the Lord only at some future fixed time in its history.
Then what will be this new type of relationship between God and church to be manifested in the end of time? Why did God select the analogy of a wedding, bride and bridegroom story to represent this new form of relationship? The answer to these two questions lies through discovering the salient elements and features of a typical traditional wedding ceremony. Identification of such major features of a wedding ceremony, we help us to draw a parallel from it to the new phase in the Divine-church relationship to be in the last days.
In the Bible, as said earlier, any analogy acquires its usefulness from its power in illustrating and emphasizing a given aspect of a spiritual reality. Secondly, a particular analogy is chosen over another because of its aptness in depicting reality more than any other figure of speech could do. Therefore, we base the power and aptness of the wedding analogy on the following aspects,
·Joy: The culmination (climax) of the relationship will be marked by singing, joy and adoration. ·Adornment: Both bridegroom and bride dressed in ornate dress. Lavish outpouring of gifts from the bridegroom to the bride. ·Banquet: A sumptuous feast (table) laid out for invited guests to enjoy. ·Intimacy: Time for the two to enter into unprecedented deep fellowship. Secrets are revealed. ·Identity: The bride takes the identity of the groom, and becomes one with him. She gets the legal authority to rule over his property.
In the last days, therefore, we have to expect the manifestation of the spiritual counterparts of the above-mentioned wedding markers. Their presence will be a sign that the Divine – church relationship has entered a new and elevated phase. Therefore, the spiritual counterparts of these wedding ceremony features need manifest first before we say: "Lo and behold the Bridegroom is coming!" and before we trim our lamps and enter with the groom into the banquet.
The Signs of the Times
In our generation, as many agree, many of the signs given by Jesus and the prophets indicative of the coming Kingdom of God are being fulfilled. More than we think, the night is far spent, and the promised day is upon us. As a pall of darkness covers the world, and distress and chaos grip the nations, the church, on the other hand, is experiencing the glory of God in a new way. There is a new sound coming out of many churches, a sound that is unheard of in previous generations. This is a new sound, in its depth, variety and outreach. Undeniably, for any careful person watching the church landscape, this new sound cannot be missed. The voices and signs are indicative of the above-mentioned markers of a wedding ceremony. Can it be said, then by reviewing the following words that God is opening up a new phase in His relationship with His church?
Joy: In many churches today there is now a sound of worship unparalleled. The church worldwide is experiencing a new release of the spirit of praise and worship. Adoration of Jesus is being accompanied by joy unspeakable. Believers in many places are experiencing a spontaneous spirit-led ecstatic worship. The spirit of sorrow and sadness is being broken from the people of God in many congregations. The air is imbued with joy and expectancy. Not only the people are dancing before God, but also in a sense the Lord Himself is also breaking in joy and singing over His church (Zeph. 3:14-20; Is 62:1-5; Hosea 2:16-22).
Adornment: Today we note that the Holy Spirit is emphasizing holiness among the church. There is a purging and purification process going on in the body of Christ. Sometimes this is done by fire and sometimes by water. The church is being prepared as a bride for her wedding. To make her spotless and without wrinkle, she is being washed with water, and anointed with myrrh and spices. Moreover, the church is putting aside the old, and it is rising from the dust. God has been putting on the church a glorious garment of salvation, and her neck is being adorned with the necklaces of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In recent years, we are seeing the unprecedented restoration of many of the gifts of the Spirit to the church. As a bride becomes more beautiful from every additional touch of preparation, so is the church. It is being changed from glory to glory, it is becoming as ‘radiant as the sun, and as beautiful as the moon," and "terrific in majesty as an army with banners" (Esther 2: 12-18; Ps 45: 9; Songs 2: 6, 4: 1-7; 6: 4-10; Is 52: 1-2, 61: 10; Ezek 15: 6-14; Matt 22: 11-13; Eph 5: 26-27; Rev 19: 7-8, 21: 9-12)
Banquet: According to Scripture, there shall be a spiritual banquet prepared by God for His people in the last days. God in that day, will throw a big party of rich food and old wine, where those with hunger will satisfy their souls with spiritual dainties and get drunk with the wine of the Holy spirit. God in that day will open up the treasures of His spiritual storehouse, and feed His people from the richness of His word. Revelation will be given from the word of God to answer the question of life’s perplexing problems. Since every area of life will be dealt with using the word of God, and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be in an unparalleled manner, then no longer going to church will be that dry ritual experience as it is now for many, but a necessity to satisfy ones hungry soul with the word of God, and indulging oneself in the joy and liberty of the Holy Spirit (Prov 9: 1-6; Is 25: 6-8; 55: 1-3; Jerm 31: 10-14; Matt 22: 1-10; Rom 14: 16; Rev 19: 9).
Intimacy: A new level of intimacy will emerge between God and His people in the last days. That time will be marked by an outburst of love by God. His love will make Him to rend the veil, take us to the innermost chamber, and allow us to behold His glory. We shall have communion with Him in the most intimate way, where He will reveal to us what has been deep in His heart, and that which He has never disclosed to a previous generation.
But the question is: Is there any sign that we are seeing such intimacy emerging between God and man? Is there any indication that God is rending the veil and He showing Kingdom treasures to His people?
We notice in our days: A spirit of teaching and prophetic proclamation being outpoured lavishly to enable many to declare the deep secrets of God. God is anointing many with prophetic insight that they teaching and revealing the wisdom and knowledge of God, which has been kept secret from the wise of this world, that which has been hid for our glory from the beginning of the ages. That which has not been known even to previous generation of Christians, is now being revealed to His prophets and apostles. Many are coming forth declaring hid mysteries of the Kingdom of God, as the Holy Spirit is opening that which has been sealed until the last days for our glory (Prov 25:2; Songs 1: 2-4; Is 43: 18, 48: 4-8; Dan 12: 8-10; Matt 13: 44; 1 Cor 2: 13; Eph 1: 15-19; 3: 8-12; Col 1: 26-27; 2: 2-4; 1 Pet 10-12; Heb 11: 39-40).
Identity: The grand and lasting effect of the wedding ceremony is that the bride and groom will become one (unity) in covenant of marriage. This oneness will be legally recognized, and as of that hour the two will be regarded as one before the community and the law for many purposes and intents. Following the wedding ceremony, the bride will take the name of the groom as her own, and she will enter into the possession and administration of the husband’s property.
When we apply the above aspect to spiritual reality, then we have to expect in the last days (as Scripture teaches), the church to enter into an identity relationship with Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom. This will involve, among many things, sharing His name, partaking of His nature (holiness, majesty), and reflecting His power and glory in such unprecedented degree that to see the church will be seeing Jesus, God.
However, before the church is transformed into a queen with Divinity in her, before it attains to the unity (oneness) with the Lord, first God has to do a miraculous transfusion of His nature into her. The issue of attaining God-like identity will prove to be as much as a process as it is also a suddenly. It will involve a peaceful progression as well as an upheaval. St. Paul, at one point, described this as a maturing process, writing, "growing into the full measure of Christ," as something to be expected. In other parts the apostles, including St. Paul and St. John sees the bride as the overcomer of a great tribulation, and finally found worthy to be rewarded with a new name, the name of God, and rulership with Him.
This transformation (transfiguring) for the church into the identity of Christ, will involve both a nurturing process, as well as a disruptive tribulation period. God will use both methods in order to uproot the old nature and implant the new. It is as much as that we die to the world and self so that He who in us as the hope of glory will emerge as our new identity. Or that we fight our way into the fullness of the Kingdom of God, battling strongholds and principalities all the way until we conquer the heights of Zion (Is 62:1-5; Dan 7: 13-14, 26-27; Zach 6: 12- 15; 12: 8; Rom 8: 18-23; 1 Cor 3: 22-23; Heb 12: 28; Rev 2: 17, 26-28, 3: 11-12, 21-22).
The issue of identity will emerge as the most debated and controversial aspect of church life in the coming days. But if we have to remain faithful to the wedding analogy scripture employs to describe the end-time glory of the church, we cannot escape its inevitable conclusion when it comes to identity sharing.
Getting Two Witnesses
The book of Esther contains some rich imagery with deep implication for the end-time wedding analogy. If the book is interpreted prophetically, it can show us some important points about the destiny of the church in the last days. By what we read in the book of Esther, the interplay of the various scenes and the nature and roles of the characters, we can discern the outlines of the spiritual destiny of the church.
For example, Esther (with Mordecai), can symbolize the church for the following reasons.
·Humble beginnings, ·Replacing a former arrogant queen. ·Living in the palace as a bride of the King, ·But vexed by an evil viceroy who is the virtual ruler of the empire, who tries to wipe out her tribe. ·The power of intercession, and the sudden turning of the tables against the evil ruler. ·Esther and Mordecai finally becoming the effective ruler of the worldwide Persian Empire.
It is crucial for our prophetic interpretation of the book that we do not see Esther, though a queen for some time, entering into the fullness of her power and authority until the end of the chapter. Similarly, the church, though seated with Christ on a throne in the heavenly places, we do not see her exercising full power in the earth today. However, as full governmental authority came to the Jews later, it shall be so with the church. However, as the Jews first has to endure the wrath of an evil viceroy, so must the church by overcoming the end-time wrath of Satan. Finally, what we read about Mordecai in the following quote will give us a good picture of the glorified the church as it enters effective rulership by attaining the identity of the King of the Universe, Jesus.
1.On that day the king Ahasuerus gave the house of Haman, the Jews’ enemy to Esther, the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told him what he was to her. And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman…Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple. The city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor…Many of the people of the land became Jews that day; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them ( Esther 8: 1-2, 15-17).
We also read in the Song of Solomon how a wedding ceremony is connected with the crowning ceremony. The prophetic implication of the following quote, with the rest of the book, is crucial for what we said in the preceding sections.
2. Go out, O ye daughter of Zion, and behold king Solomon! with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him, in the day of his wedding, and in the day of the joy of his heart. Songs 3: 11
NB. One important fact we need to recognize in the wedding analogy, as with the other analogies as well, is that there will always be gradients of intimacy and blessing among churches and among individuals. Definitely we will be seeing innermost and outermost type and levels of experiences. There are multiple scriptural and historical based reasons to such differences.