FINDING THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
The Old Testament is described by Paul as full of ‘types and shadows’ of New Testament realities; and it seems hardly probable that the Holy Spirit would occupy a lengthy chapter of Genesis with elaborate details of a family marriage, if it were not a lovely symbol - as it is - of the great Marriage of Eternity expressed for ever in the words,- “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king that made a marriage for his son” (Matt. 22: 2). So we find it set in the suited background. Genesis 22 is Isaac, the son of Abraham, offered up as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah, and - the Holy Spirit says in Hebrews (11: 19) - received back in resurrection: so now, after Calvary, the risen Son is to have a Bride; and chapter 24. is not only a wonderful revelation of divine guidance, but an extraordinarily exact photograph of that seeking and finding of Christ’s Bride which has been going on for two thousand years.*
[* NOTE. In Gen. 24, the bride for Isaac is selected from amongst family members. “You will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites … but will go to my country and MY OWN RELATIVES to get a wife for my son Isaac,” (veres 4); “the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my father’s relatives” (verse 27); “go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son,” (verse38); “theLord … will send his angel with you … so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family” (verse 40). Therefore the Bride who will rule with Christ during the Kingdom Age, cannot include all the regenerate, but a selection only – “those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age” (Luke 20: 35).]
Far away from Abraham. and Isaac - the Father and the Son - is the distant Bride. The Mystical Christ is hidden among all nations, and veiled - like Eastern women - amongst all classes and ages; and the Servant who is sent out to seek her has to have the assurance of supernatural guidance, as he travels out into unknown lands. “And Abraham said unto him, He shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence” (Gen. 24: 7). Long before the discovery and call of Rebekah, Abraham administers an oath that a bride shall be chosen and brought to his son: even so, God has chosen us “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1: 4); and John the Baptist,* seeing Christ, instantly identifies Isaac – “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3: 29).
[* NOTE. A willingness on the part of regenerate believers to obey the Christian rite of baptism - which was the first command by John the baptiser, the Lord Himself, and His apostles after him - now appears to be a pre-requisite to those who will be judged “accounted worthy” to reign with Him during the Kingdom Age and “taking part in the resurrection [out] from the dead” (Luke 20: 35). Cf. Phil. 3: 11; Rev. 20: 4). ]
Now we get a typical photograph of the soul-winner. The entrusted embassy is given to a nameless servant; throughout the whole chapter he is never once named: a nameless servant because it can be any servant, and therefore it can be every servant.* “I have found,” says the Bishop of Dornokal, “that the simple witness of an untrained and unpaid lay person carries far more conviction to a heathen than the sermon of a Bishop.” Yet when we learn the name (Gen. 15: 2) it is equally suggestive:- Eliezer, ‘one whom God helps’. Throughout the whole winning of the Bride, while he is never named, invariably throughout he is helped. Being drawn in a carriage up a hill towards home, Mr. Spurgeon noticed a man lighting the lamps. One by one the lights were kindled, until the man reached the summit and disappeared. “Thus,” said Mr. Spurgeon, “would I have my life to be; lighting lamps up the hill of life; that when presently I disappear into the eternity beyond, I may leave others to be lights in this poor dark world, and to shine for God.” Nevertheless, the name Eliezer has blazed for three thousand years: so “they that turn many to righteousness”** shall shine “as the stars for ever and ever”. How blessed that every one of us can be Eliezer! A rescued Indian girl once said:- “Last night I thought I was going to heaven, and I was so glad to go. But I was suddenly sorry. I thought all the angels would look at me, and there would be tears in their eyes, because I had loved our Lord Jesus so long, and I had not brought one to Him.” So long then meant a year and nine months, and she had, though she did not know it, brought at least one to Him.
But Eliezer is now troubled by the thought - as we all are - what if we fail to win the Bride, what if our wedding invitation meets with no response? Very beautifully Abraham replies:- “If the woman be not willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath.” Do your part, and God will do His; you cannot convert, all you can do is to carry the message; and if you have done all that is possible to you, no blame attaches for an undiscovered Bride. So Eliezer asks for explicit guidance in the identification of the Bride. He says:- “0 Lord, send me, I pray thee, good speed this day.” Then he suggests an identification proof. “Let it come to pass that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink, and she shall say, Drink: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac.” Let me know her by her instant response. “It has been my privilege,” says Hudson Taylor, “to know many Christians - I am speaking within bounds when I say a hundred - who have accepted Jesus Christ the first time they ever heard of Him.”*** “And it came to pass, before he had done speaking” - before he had finished his prayer – “that, behold, Rebeckah came out.” Her delightful hospitality at once makes Eliezer certain that he has found the Bride. “And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the Lord, and said, The Lord hath led me in the way.”
So now we have the crucial test. The Servant reveals the Father and the Son, in the first speech recorded in the Bible; and lo, the soul that responds is the Bride. She reveals herself. No conceivable test could be better. Eliezer does not ask for some magical sign, such as her stumbling as she approaches him, or the alighting of a bird on the shoulder of the selected maid: he asks, as a sign, a responding heart, that will thus reveal God as the Worker already there. And the immediate response proves him correct. After he has explained the whole matter to Laban - the wealthy Father, the sole Son and heir, the wanted Bride – Rebekah’s family, having heard all, ask her:- “Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.” The Bride consists of all who respond to the call. The testimony of the Servant has so sunk into her heart that she is willing to leave all and join Isaac for ever.* “As many as were ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE believed” (Acts 13: 48). There are some wonderful Eliezers in the world. An aged Christian now alive in the United States, 79 years old, in the last 60 years has handed from door to door 500,000 Gospel tracts, in 42 States of the Union, and hopes to finish the last 6 States before he dies.
Eliezer now brings forth a ring of gold, and bracelets of gold; and he clasps them on her hands as the betrothed of Isaac: so immediately, in the Upper Room, the moment the Bride had appeared, the disciples were “enriched with all utterance”, with the jewels of miracle and inspiration placed on the neck of the Bride. Jesus never sought his Bride for the portion she could bring Him - so far as we know. Rebekah left her home penniless: nay, Christ’s Bride owed ten thousand talents, and her Lord had first to pay her debt: He sought her because He loved her; and He endows her with all His goods – “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
All this time Rebekah has accepted a Bridegroom whom she has never seen; but she had believed the report, and what she heard of Him was enough for her heart – “whom, not having seen, ye love” (1 Pet. 1: 8); and ten days intervene before she starts to meet him. Ten is always the number of responsibility: ten commandments to be obeyed; ten talents to be used; ten virgins commanded to watch; ten lepers responsible to confess. So now the whole epoch intervenes of Christian responsibility, during which, by a thousand methods, that is being prepared which must come at long last – “a glorious church [i.e an ‘out-calling’], not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Eph. 5: 27). *
* The Bride, in her Millennial
aspect, provides her own trousseau – “for
the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19: 8); but in her Eternal aspect she is all the saved, in this dispensation- “they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life”
(Rev. 21: 27); and in either case suffering
- voluntary or else penal - fits the Bride for the Bridegroom. In the words of Mrs. Sarah F. Moore:- “John, the seer of
So at last the wedding takes place. As the evening shadows
fall - as the sun of our dispensation is sinking - Isaac comes forth into the
field – “the field is the world”, and the pavilion of cloud where
Christ and the Church meet is part of this earth; and he takes her into his
mother’s tent - the
How unutterably solemn this makes our hearing of the Gospel! God’s servant - it matters not who he is, he is nameless - presses, as a God-entrusted suitor, for instant decision. He who takes the Bridegroom’s name - and becomes a ‘Christian’ by that fact - proclaims the wedlock: he disengages himself from all rival suitors - the world, the flesh, the devil - and engages himself to Christ for time and eternity. On the other hand, absence of response is fatal: a soul not the Bride could have the greatest evangelist plead with him or her for a thousand years, with no result: that soul is not the Bride.
Tersteegen voices the heart of the Bride:-
There made ready are the mansions Glorious, bright, and fair;
But the Bride, the Father gave Him, Still is wanting there.
Who is this that comes to meet me On the desert way,
As the Morning Star foretelling God's unclouded day?
He it is who came to win me On a cross of shame,
In His glory I shall know Him Evermore the same.
He who in His hour of sorrow Bore the cross alone;
I, who through the lonely desert Trod where He had gone:-
He and I in that bright glory One great joy shall share-
Mine, to be for ever with Him, His, that I am there.