The Bride of Christ
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 2 Corinthians 11:2 (NIV)
It is not an accident that God made us male and female.
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male
and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
God could have made us any old way. Biologically it is not at all necessary to have male and female. Only the female is necessary. God could have made the animals sexless and procreation accomplished through the maturation of a genetically complete egg. Procreation by cloning as it were. God could have made the world that way, but he didn't.
It is extremely valuable to understand that the world is exactly what God planned for--exactly. Nothing is left to chance. God is not operating in a Damage Control Mode.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according
to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with
the purpose of his will,Ephesians 1:11 (NIV).
This scripture does not say, as some suppose, that your individual destiny
is predetermined, no, it is the plan that is predetermined.
God made us male and female, so that we could understand, through experience, the intimate pleasures of a personal relationship. Virtually every difference of our bodies from the other primates was brought about for this end. But it is the spiritual relationship that God is most concerned with. The intimate marital relationship between husband and wife is 'right,' because it conforms to the spiritual relationship of Christ, our Husband, and us, his bride.
Marriage-Symbolic of Our Union with God
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh . Genesis 2:24 (NIV).
This passage from Genesis describes the marriage union of a man and his
wife. Now I have also said that this marriage describes our union with
God. Did I make this up, or do the scriptures concur?
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery -- but I am talking about Christ and the church. (NIV)
It is this 'profound mystery' that I am writing about today. Let us explore for a moment the nature of a biblical marriage. A daughter would live in her fathers house until she got married. If she never married she never left. If her father died she would live with her brother or uncle. A woman did not live alone. The only way for her to leave was through marriage.
The Price of Marriage
Now if a man wanted to marry her he had to ask her father. If the father was agreeable he would set the bride price. This bride price was whatever the father set and had to be paid by the prospective husband before the marriage would take place.
The father had complete authority in this matter. He could either give his daughter's hand in marriage or not.
Now if the father accepted the bride price from the prospective husband and chose to give his daughter in marriage, the couple, after a formal ceremony, entered into a state of marriage called a betrothal. After the betrothal ceremony, with a heavy heart the bride would watch her husband leave her to remain in her father's house as he returned to his home to prepare a place for her. Her sadness of heart was mixed with joyful expectation, for she had received from her husband a pledge; promising that he would come back to get her, and bring her to her new home. Matthew 9:15.
After the time of separation had run its course the bride would make herself ready for her husband by donning her wedding gown and her finest jewelry. Her husband, accompanied by his friends, would make a joyful procession from his house to hers as he came to get his bride. He would gather his beautiful virgin bride and take her back to his house where they would consummate the marriage.
It is important to note that during the one year betrothal period they were legally married, but had no sexual contact.
God put it into the hearts of the Israeli people to establish these customs, in this exact way, because it perfectly points to our union with God through our 'husband' Jesus Christ.
Let us examine the scriptures and see how this is true. We can think of the Israeli marriage custom as a parable. Let us identify all of the players and places.
First we see that the unmarried daughter is mankind, and the prospective husband is Jesus Christ. The opening scripture, 2 Corinthians 11:2, is all the authority we need to establish this for now.
The unmarried daughter's father is Satan, and his house is the Earth. To establish this look at Luke 4:5-6. The earth belonged to him and he had authority over all who lived in it. See also 2 Corinthians 4:4, and John 8:41-44.
The prospective husband, Jesus Christ, came from his Father's house, Heaven, to Earth to get his bride. See John 3:13, John 16:28, and John 17:8.
Now the unmarried daughter's father is not at all kind. The price set for his daughter is death. When God originally made the first man and woman they were alive, spiritually as well as physically. See Genesis 2:7, (living being.) To paraphrase the fall of man, we can say that God said: "I have made you living beings, but in the day that you rebel against me, my justice will force my Spirit out of you and you will be dead spiritually." Satan, the devil, who's name literally means, 'the Accuser,' always points out your guilt to God and points out the fact that since you are guilty God can't have you and still be just.
So we see the daughter is spiritually dead, or cutoff from God, that is, life. The only way to unite with her is to give up your spiritual life.
The "Catch 22"
Satan probably thought that this was a pretty funny joke. If God wanted his beloved back he would have to die, and Satan had the power over death. See Hebrews 2:14-15. A 'catch 22,' Jesus could have the bride, if he paid the bride price, but then he would be dead and thus under Satan's power.
The Secret Plan
Let me explain this another way. This is a matter of divine proportions--divine justice. Satan is forever standing before God pointing out the fact that mankind is guilty of sin, and therefore, because God is just, that God can't have them. In this Satan is right. God can't overlook our guilt and still be just, at least as things stood then. If God wanted mankind back he would have to devise a plan.
This scripture describes the situation perfectly.
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must
die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that
a banished person may not remain estranged from him.2 Samuel
God did devise a plan, a secret plan. A plan so wonderful and incredible
that Satan wouldn't see it coming.
No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and
that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of
this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the
Lord of glory.1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NIV)
So we see the prospective husband came down from heaven and paid the bride price, by offering his life to God on the cross.
Jesus' Demonstration of His Love
What we see is Jesus demonstrating his love for God through his complete submission and obedience. Obedience to the point of suffering is something that Satan would never understand. Jesus allowed God to orchestrate events that bought him before the ruling bodies and saw him condemned to death by crucifixion. See Isaiah 53:7.
While Jesus was on the cross God covered him with our sin. Jesus became
sin. Jesus died spiritually on the cross and cried out:
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Matthew 27:46 (NIV).
Just like with mankind, God was forced to turn his face from him. Jesus
was God's bait and Satan swallowed him up in death.
And then the Just Judge asked Satan: "Why did you cover my servant in death? You who point your finger at me and accuse my beloved mankind. You now tell me, what sin Jesus has committed!"
Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren, was speechless. He never saw it coming.
The Successful Outcome
As the scriptures say:
Consequently, just as the result
of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one
act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For
just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners,
so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be
made righteous. Romans 5:18-19 (NIV)
God stripped Satan of the keys to death and gave them to Jesus. See Revelation 1:18.
So we see in all this, Jesus paying the bride price of death, with the unexpected resurrection from the dead, unexpected by Satan that is.
Again this is a matter of divine proportions--divine justice. God demonstrated through all this, to the powers and principalities in the heavenly realms, his awesome wisdom. See Ephesians 3:10-11.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
What this is saying is that so long as our freedom from death was dependent upon our perfection we were condemned. But thank God Jesus defeated death and provided a path to life through a union with him, who was resurrected from death.
The Faithful Marriage
A marriage is based on faith. A man and a woman have faith in one another and make a verbal profession of that faith before God and man. This union results in the creation of a new being, the husband/wife, and lasts until death separates them.
Our union with Jesus Christ is exactly the same. We come to know him, we believe his proposal and we make a verbal profession of our faith before God and man. We enter into a new creation that lasts forever, because death will never separate us because he who has entered into life is free from death. See John 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:17.
A Relationship of Faith
A relationship with God is based on faith. This is true now and has always
been true. See Hebrews
13:8. The first man and the first woman had a faith of innocence. Through
rebellion they gained the knowledge of their own evil desires, and contrasted
with their knowledge of God's just requirements, faith was broken. They
became separated, spiritually dead. And as the scripture above said:
water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.2
Samuel 14:14 (NIV) The
man and the woman couldn't fix the fact that they rebelled. But God, through
Jesus Christ, paid the price of rebellion, and provided a way that through
faith in what Jesus did, and faith in his promised union with us, we can
once again stand before God in holiness and righteousness. See Luke
Our Husband's House
Looking back to the description of the biblical marriage we can see that Jesus paid the bride price and he has gone back to his Father's house to prepare a place for us.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (NIV)
The Church is Betrothed to God
It is not coincidental that it was during the betrothal phase of their marriage that the Holy Spirit conceived in Mary the Holy Child. It is during the present age, the betrothal age, the Church age, that the Holy Spirit enters into the heart of the believers marking them as the Lord's betrothed. The Holy Spirit is a pledge sent from God promising and guaranteeing that he will return for us and receive us as his own. See Ephesians 1:13-14, and 2 Corinthians 1:22.
In Matthew 25:1-12 we are described as wise virgins having oil in our lamps, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit, waiting for the Bridegroom to return.
The Lord will soon come for us and so we will be with the Lord forever.
The Big Picture
I have heard it said that the Church is the bride of Christ and while this is true, it is not completely accurate. The Church is not the exclusive bride of Christ. If this were true then those who lived before, and those who will live after, will not be united to God in Christ.
New Jerusalem, as recorded in the twenty first chapter of Revelation,
is a symbolic picture of the complete bride of Christ.
saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared
as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Revelation 21:2 (NIV) And:
will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried
me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy
City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. Revelation
21:9-10 (NIV) The
gates to the city are named for the twelve tribes of Israel and the foundations
are named for the twelve apostles of the Church. The city symbolizes the
place in which God and all believers live together in peace and
Jesus is Wooing Us Now
At this time, Jesus, with open arms, is reaching out to any that will
accept his proposal of 'marriage.' He has paid the bride price. He had redeemed
us from the power of Satan. He cries out to us:
me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my
yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and
you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is
light Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
So we see the God of all beauty reaching out to us. Proposing a union with us. Think about this. Who could grasp the fullness of this? This proposed relationship between God and man is incredible. Utterly incredible.
God is Asking You to Marry Him
God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth is offering himself to you. His desire is to receive you as one who is one with him. But understand this, his bride must be holy and pure. I am not saying we have to be good enough to be accepted by God, no, Jesus washes us and makes us pure, then we must live thereafter as pure virgin before him.
We must not be unfaithful to him and seek after other providers and protectors, and so be guilty of adultery. We must not be enamored by wealth which would make us guilty of prostitution. We must allow our 'Husband' to be head over us, and always follow his lead.
God's word is the water that we must bathe in daily. We wash away everything that does not conform to the image of Christ.
As God's 'wife' it is my earnest desire for him to see me as beautiful and pleasing. O that I could be his delight.
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready." (NIV)