If you’re like me, when you first heard the term “bride of Christ” it sounded a little suspicious. We can envision Jesus as a Master, Savior, Friend, or even a Father-figure, but a Bridegroom? Really? However, diving into God’s Word reveals that He has much to say about this bride/bridegroom word picture…
In the Old Testament, God’s covenant with Israel is commonly pictured as a marriage pledge, with Israel as God’s bride.
- Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said to Israel, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (Jeremiah 2:2, rsv). He went on to lament the fact that Israel had been faithless; by going after other gods, she had actually prostituted herself and become an adulteress (Jeremiah 3:6-9, 20).
- The theme of Israel’s desertion of her lover (God) was explicitly treated in Ezekiel 16 and in Hosea. The terms harlotry and whoredom were used to connote disloyalty to Yahweh and allegiance to other gods.
- Through his own struggles with a faithless wife, the prophet Hosea experienced God’s agony over His bride, Israel, and His longing for her to return to Him. Hosea was given a vision of a future day in which God would betroth His people to Him forever in steadfast love and faithfulness (Hosea 2:19-20).
In the New Testament, the bride of Christ is often a metaphor for the church, with Christ pictured as a husband, and the church as His bride.
- John the Baptist saw himself as “the Bridegroom’s friend” (John 3:29) who, according to Jewish custom, takes care of the wedding arrangements.
- Paul refers to himself as the one who gave the church to Christ, presenting her as a pure bride to her one husband (2 Corinthians 11:2-3). He saw himself as the church’s spiritual father (1 Corinthians 4:15), and was worried that the young bride (the church) might commit adultery by her willingness to accept “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” or a “different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4).
- In Ephesians 5:22-23, the relationship between Christ and His church is compared to the relationship between a husband and wife. The church’s submission to Christ is compared with the wife’s submission to the husband, but the stress of the passage is on the role of the husband: he is to love her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. As the man’s love for his wife intends her wholeness, so Christ’s love of the church intends her completeness.
- The vision in Revelation 19:7-8 announces the marriage of the Lamb (Christ) to the bride (the church). In Revelation 21 the vision depicts the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (verse 2). Then the seer is invited to behold “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (verse 9) and to see the Holy City “coming down out of heaven from God” (verse 10). The new Jerusalem is identified as the people of God, the bride of Christ, among whom and with whom God will be present forever.
Excerpted from Completely His: Loving Jesus Without Limits by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved. Published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.