Christ - The Bridegroom

The Church as the Body of Christ speaks, then, as we have seen,
of service in subjection and fellowship with the Head. In the Bride we
find it in a new aspect, in which, while association with Christ is
just as prominent, there is rather the thought of rest than of
activity; or it is the heart that is awake and in activity, Christ is
seen as the Beloved of the heart, and in known and enjoyed
relationship, its entire satisfaction and delight.

“Body” is not the equivalent of the “Bride,” and we miss much if we
accept the one as substitute for the other. The incompatibility of the
Church filling both these places has been, however, lately pressed, and
that the members of Christ’s Body are not the Bride, but part of the
Bridegroom Himself. But surely, if these are both figures, there is no
incompatibility here, and it is only by joining different aspects of
truth in an incongruous manner—“part of the Bridegroom”—that
they are made to appear so. Scripture does not so connect them, and to
put things in this way is only an unconscious self-entanglement of

It has been also represented that the Church was a
“mystery hid in God” during Old Testament times, and that this is
inconsistent with there being any types of it in the Old Testament,
such as Rebekah, for instance, has been taken to be: for types teach,
and were meant to teach doctrines, and the mystery is not said to be
hidden in Scripture, but in God. But this is to overlook the plain
statement of the apostle, where after a direct quotation of Gen. 2:24,
(“the two shall be one flesh”) following an application of the
preceding history of Adam and his wife, he says: “This is a great
mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32). Now here the mystery of the Church as the Bride of Christ is found at the very beginning of the Old Testament.

by themselves teach nothing: they need the removing of the veil that is
over them before they can be anything more than just history,
ordinance, or what is upon the face of them. If Scripture were full of
them, they would still be hid in God until it pleased Him to give the
key to unlock their meaning. The distinction sought to be made is
therefore quite unfounded.

It is true, that, as to the Body
of Christ, the Old Testament, as far as we are aware, has no hint of
it; while with regard to the Bride there are types from the very
beginning. But not only so, the figure of marriage is used again and
again with reference to the relation between Jehovah and Israel, as a
people brought into intimate and unique attachment to Himself; and this
both in the history of the past, and in the prophecy of the future.
This was, therefore, no mystery hid in God,—no secret to be brought out
at an after time,—and cannot refer to the Church which is Christ’s
Body. Thus in Jeremiah (31:31–34) God speaks of the covenant made with
their fathers, when He took them by the hand to bring them out of the
land of Egypt, as of a marriage contract: “which my covenant they
brake, although I was a husband to them, saith the Lord.” And in Hosea
(chap. 2) God judges them for their wanderings from Him as adultery,
while He prophesies the return of the nation to her “first husband” as
the result of His dealings with her in the time to come: “I will visit
upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and
decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and went after her
lovers, and forgat Me, saith the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will allure
her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.
And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor as a
door of hope; and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, and
as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.”

comes the renewal, but in a more intimate way, of the old relationship.
“And it shall be at that day that thou shalt call Me Ishi, and shalt no
more call Baali: for I will take away the names of Baalim out of her
mouth, and they shall be no more remembered by their name.”

change of title here is significant. “Ishi” and “Baali” both are used
for “husband”; but the latter is strictly “lord, master,” and implies
simply the wife’s subjection; whereas “Ishi,” “my man,” as with similar
words in other languages, goes back to creation and the fundamental
fitting of man and woman to each other, so that there should be real
fellowship or kinship in the relation. The connection with the
substitution of the one title for the other as to the true God and the
dropping of the very names of the “Baals,” the false gods, out of
Israel’s mouth, is therefore easy to be understood. They had only known
God hitherto in the far off place of “master,” not in the reality of
His glorious nature, not in the affectionate intimacy which He sought.
Thus there Was nothing to hinder their being drawn away to “other
lords” which had usurped His place. But now, in the future which He
here contemplates, all would be changed, so as to make stable the
relationship: “And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will
betroth thee unto Me in righteousness and in judgment, and in loving
kindness and in mercies; I will even betroth thee unto Me in
faithfulness”—or “steadfastness”—“and thou shalt know the Lord.”

then, is the end of all wanderings: and now “Thou shalt no more be
termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land be termed Desolate; but thou
shalt be called Hephzibah,”—“My delight is in her,”—“and thy land
Beulah” (married): “for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall
be married” (Isa. 62:4).

Here it is plain that to Israel,
God’s earthly people, it is that these promises belong. It should be as
plain, surely, that the “Bride of the Lamb,” united to Him in heaven
before He comes forth to the judgment of the earth (Rev. 19), is not
Israel, and that the “new,” the “heavenly Jerusalem,” “Jerusalem which
is above,” (Rev. 21; Gal. 4:26) cannot be the Old Testament city, even
in the fullest glory of her glorious time to come. Thus there are
certainly two “Brides” contemplated in Scripture, a heavenly and an
earthly one; and the objections made against this are really of no
force whatever. For instance, where it is said: “The Bride in Isaiah,
Jeremiah, and Hosea is Israel, or at any rate the elect of Israel;
those who were partakers of the heavenly calling in Israel.”
Surely nothing could well be more contrary to Scripture than this. Was
it with partakers of the heavenly calling that God made a covenant when
He took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt? Was it
the elect in Israel who broke that covenant, though Jehovah was a
husband to them? Was it these to whom He gave a writing of divorcement,
and put them away? Is it a heavenly land, that is no more to
be called Desolate, but Beulah (married)? Is it to an elect heavenly
people that it is said, “Turn, O backsliding children: for I am married
unto you; and I will take you, one of a city, and two of a family, and
will bring you to Zion”? If these questions cannot be answered in the
affirmative, then assuredly, whatever the New Testament Bride may be,
the Old Testament one is not the same.

The writer allows
even that “all the promises to Israel as a nation were earthly,” and
such are the promises here: they are national; although it is true that
only those can enjoy them who undergo that spiritual change which our
Lord emphasizes as needed by any who enter the Kingdom of God. As
Isaiah says (4:3, 4): “And it shall come to pass that he that is left
in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even
every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem; when the Lord
shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall
have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the
spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.”

In the
forty-fifth psalm the divine-human King, Messiah, is seen as the
Bridegroom of Israel, and as to its being an earthly scene that is set
before us in it there can be surely no question made. It was to such a
Bridegroom that the Baptist testified (John 3:29); and the parable of
the virgins doubtless speaks of the same. In the whole prophecy (Matt.
24, 25) Israel is prominent, the Church coming in only in that part of
it which assumes that parabolic form in which the “mysteries of the
Kingdom,” “things kept secret from the foundation of the world,” had
been before declared. And the virgins going forth to meet the
Bridegroom, have been inconsistently taken by many to be the same as
the Bride. To set this right in no wise affects the doctrine, if it
does not rather make it clearer. At least the conformity with the Old
Testament is plain, and with the position that Matthew holds as the
connecting link between the Old Testament and the New.

the passage in Ephesians before referred to there is much more than an
illustrated appeal to wives and husbands in view of Christ’s
relationship to the Church. That relationship is stated in a very
definite way in antitypical parallelism to that of the first Adam and
the woman divinely given to him. Adam, we are distinctly told in Romans
(chap. 5:14) “is the figure of Him that was to come.” Christ is called
in Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:45) “the last Adam.” But notice the contrast
also, which here as always, in one way or other, obtains between type
and antitype: “the first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was
made a quickening Spirit.” The same parallel, yet contrast, is seen in
this passage in Ephesians: “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself
for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water
by the Word, 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.” It was God who presented Eve to Adam: it is
Christ who as the fruit of His own self-sacrifice presents the Church
to Himself.

It is certain that here Christ is looked at as
in a higher,—and so in some sense a contrasted—way, repeating the story
of the second of Genesis. But that is not all: the apostle goes on to
say: “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies: he that
loveth his wife loveth himself; for no man ever yet hated his own
flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church.
For we are members of His body; [we are] 18 of
His flesh and of His bones.” Here two things are brought together
which, in different ways show the ground of the Lord’s care. We are
members of His body: nearer to Him than that can nothing be. But this
is by the baptism of the Spirit, and implies a prior, anticipative,
originative work that shall prepare for it. The baptism of the Spirit
effects union; but with whom then can He unite Himself? Now comes the answer: “we are of His flesh and of His bones.”

this carries us back at once to the Old Testament type again, and we
hear Adam, after the whole of nature besides has failed to furnish a
helpmeet for him, and when God to provide one has brought forth the
woman out of his side,—we hear Adam saying, “This is now bone of my
bone, and flesh of my flesh.” Her origin is from him, though not in the
way of nature, but of divine power. And now again has been produced by
a mightier act of divine power, a people who have received their
spiritual origin from the last Adam, out of His death-sleep, who is not
only a living Spirit, but a “Spirit giving life.” The earthly history
has found its complete fulness of meaning.

And thereupon
follows the saying, whether it was Adam’s or not, which the apostle
quotes and applies in the end of his exhortation: “for this cause shall
a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:
and they shall be one flesh.” The argument and justification for those
apparently foreign unions, is founded upon that original fitting of the
woman to the man which was made by God Himself the basis of origin of
the whole family relationship. Thus it retains its place as prior to
and beyond all other.

But the apostle’s application is that
with which we have here to do. He says of it: “This is a great mystery;
but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”

The mystery
here then is spiritual, while God has manifested His interest in it by
writing it out in natural hieroglyphics, impossible to be interpreted
until He be pleased to give the key. “All these things happened unto
them for types, and are written for our instruction, upon whom the ends
of the ages are come.”

It is not of the Bride that we are
now desiring to speak, but of the Bridegroom; but the one so implies
the other that we are compelled to the course we have been pursuing.
The recurrence of the type so frequently in the Old Testament, even
from the beginning of the history, is full proof of how dear to Him is
the thought of the relationship. Assuredly we shall not give these up
from any preconceived idea that they ought not to be there. They are there, and speak so plainly for themselves, pictures though they may be only, that no unprejudiced mind can avoid seeing them.

Rebekah: and if Isaac be a type of Christ, and, in the twenty-second of
Genesis, received back “in figure” from the dead (Heb. 11:19), how is
it that we find next Sarah, the mother (Rom. 9:5) passes away, and then
Rebekah takes her place in Sarah’s tent as bride of the risen heir. Of
the kindred already, she is called by a special messenger (as the
Church by the Holy Spirit) to cross the desert in his company to meet
her yet unseen Lord.

Take Asenath; and Joseph too is
betrayed by his brethren, brought down to the prison house and brought
up out of it to be the Saviour of Egypt (the world); and then he must have a Gentile bride, while his brethren are strangers to him.

Zipporah (the “bird”—the heavenly bride); and again Moses is away from
and rejected by his brethren when he finds her by the well—a Gentile
too—and marries her.

Are such things, so fit in themselves,
so fitting to their place in the history, mere casual happenings, which
we may use, if we will, for illustration, but must not seriously press
as having any design from God? Surely if design may be recognized
anywhere without a label, we may recognize it here.

Now it
is not contradictory to all this, and cannot be, to find that Old
Testament saints looked for a city which has foundations; or even to
believe, as I have long done, that this city and the New Jerusalem, the
Bride of the Lamb in Revelation, are the same thing. Once let us
realize that the “city,” however identified in some sense with its
inhabitants, is yet in fact the habitation and not the inhabitants, and
the difficulty begins to clear. The Bride City may contain more than
the Bride, as even the writer whose views I am referring to allows. The
throne of God and of the Lamb are in it; and the twelfth of Hebrews
distinctly shows us “the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem,” apart from both “the church of the First-born ones,” and “the spirits of just men made perfect.”19

has prepared for them a city” does not in this case imply necessarily
what it is quoted for; and we may adapt the writer’s own words
otherwise than he would allow. “This holy Jerusalem may contain”—the
saints of the Old Testament; “but it is not necessary on this account
that we should identify them.”

Turning from all
this now, how blessed to think of this Bridegroom character of the Lord
Jesus! It should be plain that it expresses His personal joy of love,
in a way that the “Head of the Body” cannot, because it expresses a
very different thing. A whole book of the Old Testament has been given
to the expression of this relation of the Lord Jesus,—no doubt, in the
first place to Israel; but capable of application all through to the
higher and heavenly. Perhaps we have not a New Testament book
of this character, for the same reason that we have not a New Testament
psalm book. It would rather belittle than truly represent it; if it
were not, at least, to be a book too large for human handling.
Christian psalmody finds in all else that has been written its material
of praise. Its “song of songs” must also transcend utterance. And
perhaps must be learned otherwise than any book of this kind could
avail for.

Thus it is, after all, that one can say so little
of what the Lord’s Bridegroom character means. We see that all the
nearest, sweetest human relationships are taken up to image forth these
more wondrous spiritual ones. And Bridegroom and Bride, always
remaining in the first freshness of the sabbatic morning of their
beginning, speak of a mutual abiding for one another, which is the
revelation of a sufficing love, such as we are surely learning by the
way as we go to meet Him, but which in the first moment of His presence
will manifest itself as it had not been before.

In the
moment of her presentation to Isaac, Rebekah took a veil and covered
herself. We can but do so in the anticipation of that time.

18 The
repetition of the “we are,” or some equivalent of it, is necessitated
by the insertion here of the preposition ?κ (“ουτ οφ”) ωηιχη σεπαρατες
τηε φιρστ στατεμεντ φρομ τηε λαττερ ονε.

19 In
the tract to which I have been referring the names of the twelve tribes
on the gates of the city and those of the twelve apostles on the
foundations are taken alike to show the Israelitish character of the
city itself, and the “portion” of the twelve as judging the twelve
tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28) shows these to be “separated off from
the Church,” the body of Christ. He even declares that “the Lamb is the
special title of the Lord Jesus in relation to Israel, and the elect of Israel”

No wonder that it should be also discovered that “the Gospels are the conclusion of the Old Testament history, and not the commencement
of Church teaching; except, of course,”—and how important the
exception!—“so far as Christ crucified is the foundation of all blessing.”