Teddy L. Desta
The Analogy of the Bride
The Scripture uses various analogies to depict various aspects of the relationship between God and the believer. Some of the most familiar ones are:
Son – Father
Servant – Master
Soldier – Captain of the army of God
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 underscore 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, preempting 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 analogy of the army is used to teach about the nature and rules of engagement in the spiritual conflict which exists 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 Devine 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 is that of a wedding ceremony. It represents a bride-bridegroom type of relationship between God and the church. The wife-husband analogy is about fidelity and permanence in an on-going relationship. On the other hand, the bride–bridegroom analogy represents courtship and romance evolving into a joyous moment ate the end in the form of a wedding ceremony. This analogy is selected and used in the Bible to depict faithful waiting and a relationship that promises to end in a climax. The bride-bride groom analogy focuses on the consummation joy of intimacy where the two beings become mystically one. The act of consummation is soon followed by a rapturous honeymoon period. In short, in this analogy the focus is on joy.
In the 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 the bride- bridegroom analogy represented. Though the book at the literal level, 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 there is a very surprising twist in the way the romantic relationship between God and His people is presented. We notice an apparent reversal of events in the logical order how the two analogies, namely the wife-husband and bride-bridegroom analogies are presented. The New Testament first presents the church as to be in a mystical marriage relationship with the Lord. But in what appears to be a reversal of natural order, after a long waiting period, the church is announced to have made herself ready for her wedding. In order to clarify this reversal of natural order of events, we need to first clarify a few things about the use of analogies in the Bible.
First, an analogy is a figure of speech, a communication technique and not the reality itself. Thus, Biblical analogies cannot be taken too literally; otherwise confusion will result of meaning will result. For example, how can the Bible allow in one page to say the Christian believer is a child of God, and then in the next page that it declares the believer to be the bride of Christ? Such paradoxes remind us to exercise carefulness in understanding and interpreting Biblical analogies by not becoming too literal and fastidious in our interpretation of biblical analogies.
Second, the wife-husband and bride-bridegroom analogies are unique as they are specifically time bound. The bride-bridegroom analogy is employed to describe a church blessing to manifest in the distant future, namely in the last days. From this viewpoint, we conclude that the church is destined to enter a new stage in its relationship with the Lord at some future fixed time. What is true and what will be true later in the future they have qualitative difference demanding use of different analogies.
Then the question becomes, why did God select the wedding ceremony, the bride-bridegroom analogy to represent this new form of relationship? What are the salient features of the wedding ceremony to make it an apt metaphor to represent the qualitatively new type of relationship that will be realized between God and His church in the last days? The answer to these important questions lies in the salient features of a typical traditional wedding ceremony, for example, that of the Middle East. In the Bible, as said earlier, any analogy acquires its usefulness from its power in illustrating a given spiritual reality more than any other metaphor. The following main elements of a traditional wedding ceremony will illustrate the mind of God when He selects and uses the bride-bridegroom metaphor to express the spiritual reality that will infill His Church in the last days. The following features, I believe, are the main characteristics of the wedding ceremony which is at the heart of the bride-bridegroom analogy.
- Joy: The culmination of the relationship between God and man, marked by a climax of rapturous joy and adoration of the King.
- Adornment: The bride will be clad in ornate dress. There will be lavish outpouring of gifts from the bridegroom to the bride. The outpouring of the gifts will be proportionate to the royal bounty of the Lord God.
- Banquet: A sumptuous feast (table) laid out for invited guests to enjoy.
- Intimacy: Time for the bride and bridegroom to enter union. Secrets revealed.
- Identity: The bride takes the identity of the groom. Her last name changes. She gets the legal authority to rule over her husband’s property.
In the last days, we must 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 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; Isa. 62:1-5; Hos. 2:16-22).
In traditional societies, singing and other festivities herald a coming wedding. For example, in my culture which is Semitic to a great extent, weeks before the actual wedding date, friends of the bride gather at the bride's house every evening to sing and dance. Every evening, their singing pierces the quiet night, their joyous sound travelling wide and far. Every one who hears the singing understands that soon a wedding is coming to that household or village.
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 clothes, and it is rising from the dust putting on new clothing. 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” (Esth. 2: 12-18; Psa. 45: 9; Song. 2: 6, 4: 1-7; 6: 4-10; Isa. 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 will open 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 questions 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; Jer. 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: That which has not been known even to previous generation of Christians, is now being revealed to His prophets and apostles. A spirit of teaching and prophetic proclamation has been given lavishly to enable many to declare the deep secretes of God. God is anointing many with prophetic insight that they are now teaching and revealing the wisdom and knowledge of God, which has been kept secret from the wise of this world, but that which has been hid for our glory from the beginning of the ages. 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; Song. 1: 2-4; Isa. 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 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 the possession and administration of the husband’s property.
When we apply the above aspect to spiritual reality, then we must 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 must 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”. In other parts, the apostles, including St. Paul and St. John, see the bride as the overcomer of a great tribulation, to be finally declared worthy to be rewarded with a new name, the name of God, and rulership with Him.
This transformation (transfiguring) for the church till gets the identity of Christ, will involve both a nurturing process, as well as a disruptive tribulation period. God will use both methods 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, it is also 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; Zech. 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 the above kind of conclusion regarding our identity.
Calling 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 an extensive empire.
It is crucial for our prophetic interpretation of the book that we do not see Esther, though a queen for some time, entering 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 must 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 church as it enters effective rulership by attaining the identity of the King of the Universe, Jesus.
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 ( Est. 8: 1-2, 15-17).
We also read in the Song of Solomon how a wedding ceremony relates to 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.
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)
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