THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST: AN INOUIRY
is submitted that the
1. It is never so designated.
2. While more than a dozen Scriptures speak of the Church as the Body of Christ, not one says it is His Bride.
3. Perhaps the most glorious scene in the whole Bible is that in which the Holy Spirit describes the marriage of the Lamb, whose bride is the heavenly City; i.e., those saints, as inhabitants thereof, whose white apparel will represent their "righteous acts."
But amongst these will be Abel, Enoch, etc., who are outside the Church.
4. But if the "Marriage of the Lamb" be so wonderful and august an event, and the "Bride of the Lamb" so glorious, how can it be otherwise than an assumption to think that the Church is Christ's bride, when the Christ - as Christ - is associated with no such glorious event, neither is a bride assigned Him in the whole of the New Testament?
5. The Bride of the Lamb reigns with her Bridegroom, and seen, after the marriage in Rev. 19., as the armies of heaven clothed in white linen descending with their Leader and King on the white horse to take the Kingdom by force. But as many thousands of the Church will be disqualified from reigning with Christ, then the Church as an entity can be neither the "Bride of the Lamb." nor a bride of Christ.
6. It seems that the "wife of the Lamb" is composed of the Martyrs, Prophets, and Overcomers, of all the Dispensations, and so of course would include those of the Church, but those only.
7. If the Church were the bride of Christ, then, if Christ be going to marry it (or her) pre-millennially, whatever were the spiritual condition of any member at death - short of excommunication sins - would be immaterial to their enjoying, in the resurrection, the heavenly felicities and raptures of such an occasion!
I append some notes.
The parables of the Marriage Feast, Wedding Garment, and Ten Virgins have each their teaching, but do not throw light on the point discussed, I think.
The great passage Eph. 5: 22-33, to me, shows the great love, and mysterious union, existing between Christ and His Body, and also what is required by Him to exist between husband and wife; but where it nowhere declares that the Church is His bride ; it savs it is his "Body."
2 Cor. 11: 2, "for I espoused you, etc."
is a personal travail of Paul's in prayer and wrestling of spirit on behalf of
the Corinthians, even as he did for the Colossians and those of
2 Cor. 11: 1. It was manifestly impossible for Paul or any man to present any Christian or any Church "a pure virgin to Christ." The Holy Spirit in recording this wonderful love of Paul's does not say nor teach, that the Church of God itself is "espoused" to Christ, nor married to Him. It is the record by the Holy Ghost of a wonderful, personal, private, and local intercession and travail; it was mighty and glorious, on the part of a lonely warrior, a giant of faith.
It seems that the only heavenly bride which the Son of God will have will be "the Bride of the Lamb." "The Spirit and the Bride say, come." The bride here I think stands for the "watchful" in the Church, who long for His coming, and as such will "qualify " and be of course in the company forming the "Bride of the Lamb." As this bride of Rev. 22: 17 cannot be the completed company, but only that portion of it in existence at the time, so, coming immediately after the definition of the Bride of the Lamb, and description of her as well, the only conclusion possible is that this is the Bride referred to; and we are confined to applying the term here occurring to those who witness, proclaim, work for, and obey, Christ, as they wait and watch for the 'coming' of verse 20.
I was greatly surprised and pleased to come across a footnote in "The Coming Prince," P.200. Sir Robert Anderson says:- "In Scripture the Church of this Dispensation is symbolized as the Body of Christ, never as the Bride. From the close of John Baptist's ministry the Bride is never mentioned until she appears in the Apocalypse (John 3: 29; Rev. 21: 2-9). The force of the 'nevertheless' in Eph. 5: 33, depends on the fact that the Church is the Body, not the Bride. The earthly relationship is re-adjusted by a heavenly standard. Man and wife are not one body, but Christ and His Church are one body, therefore a man is to love his wife, 'even as himself.’"
I submit there is only one heavenly Bride, and that "The Bride of the Lamb"; also that the idea the Church is the bride of Christ is an assumption and a fallacy.
I am, etc.,
Chas. S. Utting.
A Reply to C. S. Utting’s Letter
I have read with interest your correspondent Mr. Utting's letter on the Bride of Christ, appearing in the October DAWN, and should like a little space in your magazine by way of reply.
I say at the outset that what I believe underlies Mr. Utting's
denial that the
This is most apparent in his extraordinary statement that it is impossible for Paul to present any Christian or Church "a pure virgin to Christ," which is exactly what the apostle says he desired to do in 2 Cor. 2: 2 (misquoted as 2: 1). The apostle distinctly states, writing with divine authority, "I espoused you (the Corinthian assembly) to one Husband," which I think proves to any mind subject to the authority of Scripture that certain believers at Corinth (who will certainly not be among those alive when our Lord comes) had been through the apostle's ministry put into a relationship with Christ which the Spirit of God taught him to describe as "espousal to one Husband." No one could suggest that this gave the Corinthians of that day any privilege that is not common to the people of God of the present dispensation.
To suggest, as Mr. Utting does, that the bride, who in concert with the Spirit cries "Come" in response to Him Who reveals Himself as the "Root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star" (Rev. 22: 16, 17), is confined to that portion of the Church which is (as Mr. Utting says) "in existence at the time of our Lord's coming," is to take away the whole value of our Lord's last message from all the saints throughout the ages who by reason of death will not be on earth when He comes.
I do not see how it can be disputed that the writer of the Apocalypse himself formed part of the bride saying "Come," for indeed it is proved by the response of verse 20, which was surely the writer's own.
These two passages, the application of which to the Church can hardly be disputed, make void Sir Robert Anderson's statement quoted by Mr. Utting that the Church of this dispensation is never symbolized as the bride. Sir Robert's dragging in the symbol of 'the body’ into Ephesians (5: 33) shows that he likewise does not distinguish between the reality and the symbol. He might just as well say that the Church in Ephesians cannot "grow into a holy temple of the Lord" (2: 21) because it is the body of Christ. If we press the figure in this way we might say that Christ cannot present us to Himself as a glorious church (verse 27) because we are members of His body (verse 30).
I am surprised to see that Sir Robert Anderson states that man and wife are not one body, when Scripture says the two shall become one flesh (verse 31. See 1 Cor. 6: 16).
A reference to the context of John 3: 29 will show that the figure of the bride is used there to justify John's disciples leaving him for Christ by enforcing the claims of the Bridegroorn - "He that hath the bride is the Bridegroorn." Those who thus attached themselves to Christ became the nucleus of the Christian church into which the Gentile Corinthians were afterwards admitted.
As regards Romans 7: 1-6, Mr. Utting overlooks the fact that the word "joined" is no more found in the passage than "married," the Greek verb which is thus translated hardly carries this meaning, and the verb would be better translated as "be - or become " to another man."
I quite agree that the saints of the old dispensation will be among those described as the bride at the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 7), for through death they have become heavenly saints, but fail to see why their presence should exclude us who are equally heavenly saints. On the contrary, I read that "without us they not made perfect" (Heb. 2: 40). It seems to me presumptuous anyone to define exactly of whom "the wife of the Lamb" composed, as Mr. Utting does, limiting it to certain people whom describes as – “martyrs, prophets, and overcomers." All I would dare to say is that if a man is not an overcomer, he has no right to expect to sit down with "the faithful and true Witness” in His throne (Rev. 3: 14, 21), which is I suppose one of the privileges of the Lamb's wife.
The importance which I attach to the subject is that I dread weakening in the souls of believers of those ties of affection for Christ which are, I believe, intended to be strengthened by the use of the symbol of the bride.
I am, etc.,
Mr. Utting’s Reply to Mr. Robert’s Letter
Seven reasons and five scriptures were given as the ground for rejecting the theory that the Church is a Bride of Christ. The "reply" does not dispose of these reasons and challenges only three of my readings of Scripture. In dealing with 2 Cor. 11: 2, Mr. Roberts is of course quite logical; but we do not start quite alike. The meaning of the remark that neither Paul nor anyone could betroth any person to Christ was, I thought, obvious, viz: that such an operation is the sovereign act of God the Holy Ghost. Still, there are the words "betrothed," "husband," and "Christ," so that at first sight, and reading superficially, some support appears to be offered for the theory. However this gives the opportunity to observe that the betrothal looks on to the nuptials, but by no means guarantees them to the individual! Hence the apostle's anxiety for the Corinthians, his travail for the Galatians, and agony for the Laodiceans. At their conversion all believers are betrothed to Christ; the marriage is still future. The husband's title in the, context is Christ: true; and as Christ is head of the Church this was consistent in a letter to the early Church; but in the future dispensation when the glorious nuptials occur it is the marriage of The Lamb, not of The Christ.
Roberts supplying "become," as more
correct than "joined" in
The remarks of Sir R. Anderson to my mind appear unanswerable. Mr. Robert's suggestion that because the Scripture states husband and wife become one flesh, therefore they are one body I do not understand. Husband and wife surely are two bodies, and when they die will require two coffins.
In dealing with Rev. 22: 16, 17, Mr. Roberts places in inverted commas, as quoting myself, words not mine as so placed; thus simply demolishing something which was not erected. I must leave this however for sake of space, but crave your permission to say that:-
These facts are patent: (1) the formula "The Bride of Christ" is quite outside the New Testament; Roman and Anglo-catholics appropriate it as their own. (2).The only recorded marriage of Our Lord is that of Rev. 19. and it is in his capacity as "The Lamb,” not as "The Christ." (3). The wife of the Lamb includes Old Testament heroes; therefore the Church as such and as an entity is precluded, although members thereof who qualify as per Heb.11., and fulfil the conditions of 2 Tim. 2: 12, etc., will be in the glorious company of the former. (4).Neither record nor description of any wife or marriage of Christ - as Christ - is given us. (5) The glorious destiny of the wife of the Lamb impels the conviction that, were there so brilliant a company as a bride of Christ, her destiny would also be shown us and would appear an equally if not more glorious one than the former.
I am, etc.,