The Bride Of Christ
Wherever in the world they happen, weddings take preparation. Even the simplest ceremony requires some coordination of flowers, music, and so on. As well, there are customs to consider.
Here in the States, the centerpiece of a traditional wedding is the bride. If you’ve been to such a ceremony, and most of us have, then you know what I’m talking about. As a guest, you watch members of the wedding party glide by in pairs and take their places at the front of the church, where the groom stands waiting. Then there’s a dramatic pause before the first notes of the bridal march ring out—and here comes the bride. There’s a shuffle of shoes as everyone stands to show her honor. The father of the bride beams as he walks his daughter down the aisle, but all eyes are on her.
Yet if we go back to Bible times, we find a far different set of traditions that made up a Jewish wedding. And at the center of each one was not the bride, but the bridegroom. Since the Scriptures liken the Lord Jesus Christ to a bridegroom and the church to His bride, it would serve us well, as believers, to understand these ancient customs.
In Old Testament times, marriages were arranged, which is why we find Abraham sending Eliezer to take a wife for Isaac from the Patriarch’s own country and kindred. Isaac was nearing 40 years old, and it’s interesting to note that most men at that time married at a much younger age. But Abraham waited before sending for Isaac’s bride.
So Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, who serves in this passage from Genesis as a type of the Holy Spirit. Eliezer is led directly to Rebekah, who gives him not only the water he asked for, but then proceeds to haul from the well enough water for all of his camels to drink. Now folks, this was a lot of work. I’m told that the average camel can drink about 30 gallons in one go, so Rebekah may have drawn some 300 gallons from that well—one pitcher at a time.
As she performs this daunting task, the Bible says that Eliezer was found “wondering at her” to see if the Lord’s approval would follow. When she finished, he presented her with a golden earring and bracelets of gold—symbols of holiness and righteousness—the first of many gifts to come.
Eliezer asked the girl, “Whose daughter are you?” A question, my husband points out, that the Holy Spirit asks of every believing sinner.
As Rebekah and her family receive Eliezer into their home, he explains to them why he is there and his mission:
“And my master made me swear, saying, You shall not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell: But you shall go unto my father’s house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son.” (Gen. 24:37-38).
Let me pause here for a moment and address a question that we get asked a lot, and that is, Who is the bride of Christ? A lot of people assume this reference applies only to Israel, but as my husband notes on this verse in The Expositor’s Study Bible, “Israel was to be that wife, but having forfeited the position, the church now takes Israel’s place, at least during the dispensation of grace.” I hope that helps you some.
But back to Rebekah. By now, her family realizes that the Lord is the one arranging this marriage between her and Isaac, which is why they tell Abraham’s servant, “Behold, Rebekah is before you, take her, and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the LORD has spoken” (Gen. 24: 51).
When Eliezer hears this, he worships the Lord, and presents Rebekah with jewels of gold, jewels of silver, and beautiful raiment. He also gave her family precious things. We can liken these to the spiritual gifts given by the Lord to adorn the church. The word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues—these gifts are priceless to the bride of Christ, as well as precious. And if we listen carefully to the Holy Spirit, we hear that worship comes first, then the gifts.
As in any betrothal, the promise of a new life with someone who has chosen you is exhilarating. There is celebration, of course. But at a given point of time, there is also separation.
Rebekah was asked by her family, “Will you go with this man?” Surely the young girl’s mind raced with all kinds of questions, doubts, and perhaps even fear. But thank God, she made the decision with her whole heart—another example for us to follow.
My husband says of this verse, “She was leaving her family, most likely never to see them again. When we come to Christ, we also must give up our families, our friends, and everything, for that matter. Our answer must be as quick as Rebekah’s: I will go.”
Once the arrangement was made, the Jewish betrothal moved forward with the bridegroom negotiating a formal—and legal—agreement with the father of the bride that outlined his obligations to her, one of which was payment.
Some say the money was to help the bride’s family since they were losing a “working” member of the household. Others say the money was a type of financial security for the wife should there be a divorce, or if the husband died. Nevertheless, once the groom paid the agreed upon price, the marriage contract was binding, and from that point on, the bride belonged to the groom.
The Bible says, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,” and yet the payment required to make this invitation available to all generations was immeasurable. No amount of gold, no amount of silver, no amount of land, livestock, or jewels was even close enough to pay for the bride of Christ. For the redemption of sinners, the Father demanded that the life of His only begotten and beloved Son be poured out on their behalf. It was a price higher than we will ever comprehend, but the blood of Christ was the only payment that God would accept.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter said, “Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18-19).
As my husband has said so many times, “Jesus Christ is the new covenant,” and with the shedding of His own blood, He not only paid the price for us—His bride—but through His death on Calvary’s cross, He also made provision for us in every area of our lives including joy, peace, and rest.
Once the price was paid and the marriage covenant established, a Jewish groom would leave and return to his father’s house. Most men in those days could not afford property of their own, so they built onto the existing family home. Since the formal ceremony of betrothal took place about a year before the actual marriage, the groom used this time to renovate, rebuild, or construct living quarters for his future bride.
After His resurrection, Jesus also returned to His Father’s house. In John 14, the Lord said, “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.”
By the way, this is the first mention of the rapture of the church. Jesus is coming again, praise God! I realize that few churches anymore actually preach on the rapture, but the Word of God says in I Thessalonians 4 that it will in fact happen:
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Again, in ancient Jewish wedding tradition, the bride was unaware of when the groom would return for her and therefore spent her time preparing for his arrival. In Matthew 25, the Lord gives us a parable on such preparation:
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten (the number 10 in the Bible speaks of perfection) virgins (represents those who belong to the Lord), which took their lamps (represents the light of Christ in all believers), and went forth to meet the bridegroom (Christ). And five of them were wise, and five were foolish (indicative of modern Christianity). They who were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them (began to live outside the domain of the Holy Spirit): But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps (a constant flow of the Spirit within their hearts and lives, which can only come about and be maintained, by one’s faith in Christ and the Cross [Rom. 8:1-2, 11]). While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept (does not imply by this that they were doing something wrong). And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him (the rapture of the church). Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps (but without the oil, the trimming was useless; it is religious activity without the Holy Spirit). And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out (it’s too late now!). But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them who sell, and buy for yourselves (proclaims the truth that spiritual energy cannot be derived from others). And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they who were ready went in with Him to the marriage: and the door was shut (there will come a time, when it’s too late; today is the day … [Heb. 3:15]). Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us (because they were religious, they thought they were saved). But He answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not (millions presently are in the church, but not in Christ). Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh (our lives are to be lived as if Jesus would come today) (Mat. 25:1-13, The Expositor’s Study Bible).
Part of this waiting and watching also includes working. Remember Rebekah—she worked hard drawing from the well that day, and Eliezer watched carefully as she drew pitcher after pitcher to witness whether or not the Lord had made his journey prosperous.
Likewise, I believe the Holy Spirit is watching us carefully to see whether or not we are drawing from the well to give the water of life to a lost and dying world. Are we letting the Holy Spirit lead us and allowing His gifts to work properly in our lives so that others will profit? Are we wearing the bracelets and the earring that He first gave to us—His righteousness and His holiness?
Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”
People want to know what else, prophetically, must happen before the rapture takes place, and the answer is, nothing. The Lord could return at any time. Are you prepared to meet the Lord in the air?
Remember how Abraham delayed in sending for Isaac’s bride. Even so, God the Father—in His tremendous grace and mercy has delayed in sending Jesus to catch His bride away. But in the Father’s perfect timing, Jesus will come. Soon and very soon, there will be a shout, and the trump will sound. Although the Bible doesn’t say, some believe that shout will be, “Behold the bridegroom cometh!”
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.