The Marks Of The Bridehood Saints

 

At the time when all the heavenly multitude shall shout like the voice of many waters because the marriage of the Lamb is come, it is said that, "His wife has made herself ready." This truth regarding the Bride saints, that they are to make themselves ready, must be carried out in this present life, although it may be there will be something for the saints to do after this present life in the way of adjusting themselves to each other and to all their environments in the heavenly state, just before the divine ceremony of the marriage of the Lamb.

 

There are certain marks that are mentioned in various places in Scripture as especially belonging to that elect company that is spoken of as the Bride of the Lamb. Let us pick out these various marks and put them together, and they will help us to understand the various operations of the Holy Spirit and also the different forms of saintly character, and also who are to compose that select company.

 

The Church Of The Firstborn

 

This is one of the names given to the Bride-hood saints. But who are the Church of the Firstborn according to the exact word in Scripture? There is a certain denomination that harps a good deal on the phrase, Church of the Firstborn, but in the main they deny the personality and actual experience of the Holy Spirit, and show in many ways that very few of them know the first thing of the Bible term, Church of the Firstborn. Many think it means all who are saved, but let us look at what the Bible says. The term in the New Testament must be understood by the words in the Old Testament, when the doctrine of the Firstborn is taught.

 

The origin of this truth was when God destroyed the firstborn of the Egyptians. He told Moses that for that reason all the firstborn of the Hebrews should be entirely consecrated to God in a special way, to be His ministers and prophets and to be holy. Now mark you, all the children belong to God, for He says, All souls are Mine, but the firstborn were to be His in a special way and for special purposes, over and above that of all the other children. That is the key thought of the Firstborn Church through all the centuries, and through all Scripture. Later on when the Hebrews were in the wilderness, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying. "Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn, and the Levites shall be Mine, for all the firstborn are Mine" (Numbers 3:11-13).

 

Then, later on, we are told that the Levites were to be in a special way the holy ones among the twelve tribes, and to attend to all the things of the sanctuary - to have the Urim and Thummim, and to teach the law, and burn incense, and offer sacrifices (Deuteronomy 33:8- 11). For this cause, the tribe of Levi were to have no lot of land given them, but live on the tenth that was given by the other twelve tribes, as they were separated from money-making pursuits to be especially for the ministry to the Lord. Thus we see that all the twelve tribes were the Lord's people, separated from the nations, but the tribe of Levi was to be His firstborn and separated from the other tribes for a higher and more spiritual service. Here you see there was a selection from a selection, and this is exactly what the Lord himself called the company of the firstborn.

 

In the light of this truth read, the words of St. Paul in Hebrews 12:18-24, in which he tells us that when believers receive the Holy Spirit, they are come to the Church of the Firstborn who are registered in Heaven. He most certainly uses the phrase, Church of the Firstborn, in the same sense that the Holy Spirit used that word in the writings of Moses, for God's thoughts never change. Then again he refers to another company of saved ones from the earth, much larger in multitude than the Church of the Firstborn, which "the general assembly," but more literally it is the "universal church, or universal gathering," so that there is, according to the Scripture, a universal Church, "a general assembly," which embraces the saved of all the generations, but out of this universal assembly there is a special tribe like the Levites from the twelve tribes, called the Church of the Firstborn, and it is this firstborn company that makes up the Bride of Christ.

 

Again, remember that this heavenly Firstborn is not those who are firstborn in time, but those who are firstborn in rank, because you know that Levi was the third son of Jacob, Reuben and Simeon being older than Levi, and yet in rank, with reference to holiness and sacred things, Levi was selected for God's firstborn. This same is true of all the saints in all ages, for the Firstborn Church does not apply to those who were first saved in the order of time, but to those who take the first rank in the order of spiritual life, regardless of the time they lived in the history of the world. Hence one of the names of the Bride saints is that of the Church of the Firstborn. James refers to the same truth when he speaks to those who were to let patience have its perfect work, that such were to be a kind, or rather species, of firstfruits of God's creatures (James 1:2,18).

 

The Elect

 

Another name or mark belonging to the Bride saints is that of the Elect. It is a great pity that the word elect as used in the Bible has been confounded as about the same with the word salvation. The word "elect" does not signify to be saved, but refers to a rank, or a dignity, or an office to be filled after we are saved, and especially does the term "elect" refer to a rank of holiness. Hence Peter says, "We are elect through sanctification." And Paul says, "God has chosen us (the same word as elect) unto holiness." Jesus says the elect are those who pray to God day and night. In the passage, "Many are called and few are chosen," many are the clekoi and few are the eklekoti, which really means many are converted, but few get into the Bridehood.

 

The Bride idea of the elect is always that of a selection from a selection, as for instance - God selected the twelve tribes of Jacob, and from them He again selected the tribe of Levi, which Scripture calls the elect tribe. And again, Gideon selected ten thousand soldiers from his army, and from these another selection of three hundred, who were the elect, and typify the Bridebood saints. Again, Jesus selected twelve Apostles, but from these He made another selection of Peter, James, and John to witness His transfiguration, and they were types of the Bridehood company.

 

Now this is the very idea applied to the Bride saints in Scripture. In Psalm 45, David speaks of the Queen sitting by the King's side, dressed in the gold of Ophir, but beside her there were other companies of saved ones, some of them spoken of as king's daughters, and others as honourable women, and others as virgins, the companions of the Queen, that followed her, proving positively that the Queen was the elect one of all the various companies of the redeemed. Again, in the Song of Solomon, the various companies of saved souls are without number, but above all these there is another company spoken of as the dove, the undefiled, the choice one, that is the elect one. Here the word "elect" always refers to a degree in holiness, or to some special service for God, or to some special intimacy and fellowship with Christ, as occurred three times with Peter, James, and John, when they only were admitted to the raising of the dead maid, to the Mount of Transfiguration, and the Garden of Gethsemane.

 

In Proverbs it is said, "Many daughters have done well, you excel them all," that is, many companies of saved souls in all the dispensations have done well, but the Bride company, the truly elect souls, have excelled them all.

 

Overcomers

 

Another term applied to the Bride saints is that of Overcomers. Of course, all who are saved are overcomers in the sense that it is by faith the world is overcome. But there are many degrees of spiritual conflict, and the Bride saints axe characterised as being warriors, fighting great battles, clad in the whole armour of God, enduring great hardness in moral conflict, and in a special way standing in the gap against fearful odds, and sharing the Gethsemane conflicts with the Lord Jesus. This is the very significance of taking His elect three, Peter, James, and John, into the Garden of Gethsemane, into closer fellowship with His sufferings than the rest of His disciples. And in this respect they are types of the Bride saints.

 

In the second and third chapters of Revelation there are seven great promises made to the overcomers in the seven churches. It is evident that those seven churches represent the various stages of the Christian Church from the days of the Apostles down to the second coming of Christ. In all those churches there were some that Christ speaks of as overcomers, and to such there are great promises. If we glance over those seven promises, we find that each promise is on an ascending scale, from the gift of life in the first promise, to the being caught up and sitting with Christ in His millennial throne in the coming age. And then if we read the characteristics of those seven churches, we see the difficulties that the true saints had to surmount.

 

There is a special company referred to in Revelation 12, called the man child, more literally the male son, to signify their great heroism, and this man child was a company distinct from the universal company which is spoken of as the mother, the sun-clad woman. Now this woman represents the universal Church of God, for the devil hated her. But this man child was a smaller company of heroes who were accused by Satan day and night, and they overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, and by being willing to give their lives up for the Lord Jesus.

 

And then it is said this man child is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, proving that as they had shared with Christ in His great conflicts, and had overcome Satan and all other enemies, they were to share the throne of Christ in ruling the nations. Those who live closest to God always have conflicts with Satan and evil spirits in a degree far more severe than those who live at a greater distance from Christ. There are just as many degrees in overcoming as there are degrees in grace, and the Bride saints must expect to be in the front of the battle, and to share with Christ the most ferocious onslaughts of the enemy.

 

Now, strange to say, in exact agreement with this truth, when Israel went out to battle, the Levites, the Firstborn Church, were to go in front blowing the trumpets, and shouting on the battle, and praising the beauty of holiness (2 Chronicles 20:19-22). Spiritual conflicts are far different from those of earthly armies; they are battles fought in the mind, in the desires, in the will, in the hid-away places of life, in the quiet home, unknown by the world, and unreported in the newspapers. They are fought out in prayer, in longsuffering, in fastings, in watchings, in times and places least suspected by the world, but witnessed by the Lord and His holy angels. There is a company that from generation to generation is always in the forefront of spiritual warfare. These are the overcomers.

 

Spiritual Agents

 

Another mark of the Bride saints is that They Are Specifically the Spiritual Agents in the Conversion and Sanctification of Souls, and in this respect are referred to as a mother in Israel. Paul wrote to one of his churches that while they had many instructors they had only one spiritual father and that he, by the Holy Ghost, had begotten them in the Gospel. There are often compound metaphors in the Bible, and while the Bride, when spoken of as daughter, is called the elect one of them all, yet in other Scriptures she is spoken of in the capacity of a mother, and compared to Sarah, who is a type of the New Jerusalem which is the mother of true saints and then the New Jerusalem is called the Lamb's Wife.

 

In every true church on earth there are always a few souls who are more spiritual than the rest, who take the lead in times of revival and in prayer-meetings, in visiting the sick, in praying for souls, in leading penitents to Christ, and who are the most interested in the spiritual welfare of the Church and in the perfection of the saints. They are a small minority, and are frequently poor in earthly things, and without social prestige, and are seldom highly educated. But they are God's nobility in heart and life and testimony, and are recognised by all who know them as the most fruitful in the Christian life. They can be most relied upon when the interests of eternity are at stake, and these are the fathers and mothers to seeking souls. They are the seniors in grace, though not always the seniors in years. They are in the true sense the "elders in the church of God," made elders by the anointing of the Holy Ghost more than by the laying on of men's hands or the weight of years. They are represented by those elders that John saw in and around the throne, with golden crowns, taking active part in the administration of judgment and the ongoing of the heavenly economy. These are the parental saints who have burdens in prayer for others, and who weep over souls and over the backslidings of the Church, a rare gift of grace which is very scarce in many portions of the Zion of God.

 

When we read of the twenty-four elders in the Book of Revelation, we must remember the word does not refer to age or length of life, but is the same word that is translated "elder" in the various Epistles, as where it says, "Let the sick call for the elders, and let them anoint them and pray over them." Thus the word elder does not mean old age, but refers to a spiritual calling and rank in the Church of God, and to those who are the Lord's agents in bringing souls to Christ, and then building them up in the most holy faith. The term includes both men and women, the Greek word presbuteros meaning a male elder, and the word Presbyterian meaning a female elder. In that passage where Paul says, "Rebuke not an elder, but exhort him as a father," and in the next verse "entreat the elder women," it should be "entreat the female elders," for it is the same word in the feminine gender, most positively proving that they had female elders just the same as male elders (1 Timothy 5:1-2). And also you notice these elders, which are the same creatures referred to as elders in Revelation, are spoken of as fathers and mothers in the spiritual life, and in their ministry for other souls.

 

I said once to a good Presbyterian minister, "Your denomination opposes women preachers, and yet your very name Presbyterian is the Creek word for female elders." And with a Greek Testament in his hand, he smiled and said it was true. Hence the Bride of Christ takes in that company that John saw about the throne, called the twenty-four elders, twenty-four being a typical number; that is, they were among the spiritual fathers and mothers, who had, through prayer and in the Holy Spirit, increased the number of the saved ones.

 

The Martyr Spirit

 

The Martyr Spirit is another mark of the Bridehood saints. Wherever this elect company is referred to, there is frequent mention of the three steps in spiritual life which they have passed through, of being converted, and then sanctified, and then put through the severe testing of their faith. Daniel speaks of them as being purified, that is, their sins washed away; and then made white, that is, fully sanctified; and then tried, that is, put in the furnace and tested as to their quality, as the three Hebrews were in the fiery furnace. Paul speaks of the true saints, in the fifth of Romans, as being justified by faith, having access into the standing grace, and then glorying in tribulation, corresponding with the three terms used by Daniel.

 

Again in Revelation, John speaks of the elect company that fought with the Lamb and says they were called, and chosen, and faithful. The word "called" implies conversion, and the word "chosen" is the same as elect, and the word "faithful" implies long endurance, and many testings and sore trials, by which they were annealed in the furnace heat to the divine temper.

 

Again, John speaks of the Bride making herself ready, and says she was clothed in fine linen, clean and white. The words "fine linen" refer to justification, for it says the fine linen was the righteousness of saints. Then the word "clean" implies sanctification, the cleansing from all inward sin; and the word "white" should be "dazzling," or "radiant," and refers to the glittering polish that is put on brass or silver.

 

Again, Paul speaks of Christ loving the Church, that is, converted souls, and then sanctifying them, and then ironing out the wrinkles, without spot or wrinkle, as by the pressure of a hot iron.

 

Thus, in so many places, we find these three marks of justification, sanctification, and the suffering of tribulation - the having of the martyr spirit as the trinity of marks put on the Bridehood saints. The word martyr means a witness and implies that we would die sooner than give up our testimony. Hence the Bridehood saints are all martyrs in spirit, though they are not all actually slain, but they would be if occasion required it. Now it is the spirit of martyrdom, of suffering for Christ, and with Christ, that makes the soul very beautiful to God. And this is a peculiar mark on those who make up the Lamb's Wife. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.

 

Those Numbered And Registered

 

Another Scripture mark of the Bride saints is that they are all Numbered and Registered, whereas the saved ones who are not in the Bridehood are spoken of as unnumbered. Now, of course, God knows the number of all His creatures, and of the grains of sand on the seashore, and calls all the stars by their name, but I am simply going by the Bible. The Word of God is my only guide, and in that I read of certain saved ones who are registered and classified by typical numbers, and I read of other saved ones who are not numbered.

 

In Revelation seven we read of 144,000 that were scaled, and beside them a company no man could number, and this unnumbered throng had no crowns on, but stood before the throne. Then we read of the four living creatures who were in the throne, and then the twenty-four elders who had gold crowns, being in and around the throne. Here are three companies that are numbered - the four, and the twenty-four, and the 144,000 - and then a company that was not numbered.

 

Later on we read of the nations of those who were saved, but no number is given. Then in the Song of Solomon we read of threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and the one elect of all, and beside these numbered companies we read of "virgins without number." We must go by the Bible, and all our reason is foolishness against the infallible Word of God.

 

Another fact in this connection - throughout all the Old Testament, dates and numbers and times and seasons are spoken of in connection with Israel, but never in connection with the Gentiles. In the New Testament, the Bride of Christ is the heavenly elect and is indicated by numbers and measurements, and outside of that company is a countless throng that is not numbered. For instance, Paul speaks of the general assembly, or countless throng, and then speaks of the Church of the Firstborn, who are registered in Heaven, giving the exact thought that the Bridehood company are numbered, but the other saved ones are not numbered, by which we understand their number is not published though they are numbered or counted in the mind of God with infinite accuracy.

 

The New Jerusalem

 

The Bride saints have given to them one more name, and that is the City of the New Jerusalem. "One of the seven angels said to me, Come and I will show you the Bride, the Lamb's Wife, and he showed me the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God (Revelation 21:9-11). Some have wondered how a city could be the Wife of the Lamb. Well, just look at it. Any number of houses without inhabitants would not be a city, and on the other hand millions of people turned loose on the prairie would not be city, for don't you see that a city is a compound structure of houses filled with people and of streets? The houses form the material framework and the people form the living soul, like the soul in the body. Hence the New Jerusalem is what it is by virtue of the redeemed souls that are in it.

 

There seems another difficulty about the city being the Bride, because not only the Bridehood saints live in it, but all the redeemed of all the ages are to live in it. Very true, but all the other redeemed ones are spoken of as her companions, but the Bride is the owner of the palace, though it is filled with vast throngs of her attendants and companions. Queen Victoria lived in Windsor Castle, but it is a vast series of palaces, and there were hundreds of her servants and attendants and relatives and guests living in the same royal castle. The Bride saints are to be the officers in the coming kingdom of Heaven, and hence with that company will be associated all the redeemed, and they are to have the city of pure gold for their royal residence, although their ministry and heavenly authority will extend over all the earth and to other worlds.

 

These are the names and marks by which is distinguished that blessed company of believers who are indeed crucified with Christ, and baptised into His Spirit, and conformed to His image, and who are to share with Him those glories which the Father has bestowed on the Son, which are to be manifested in the age to come.

 

G.D. Watson. (1845-1923)

 

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