Who’s the Bride?

 

I’ve made a lot of assumptions when reading the Bible over the years.  One of them was assuming we, the Church, are the Bride of Christ.  

So now I go to look it up, and it’s not there!  No phrase ‘Bride of Christ’ in the Bible.  I do realize, though, that just because a specific term isn’t found in the Bible (I’m thinking of Trinity and Rapture) doesn’t mean it’s not a reality.  So let’s do some research into the bride, and see what we find.

^^^^^^

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 

Revelation 21:9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

Now, before we get started, a key point to remember in researching words or phrases in the Bible is that they can have different meanings in different places.  And, folks, that’s not twisting of Scripture; it’s a fact of language.

  • Book a flight.  Read a book.
  • Hold fast.  Run fast.  Fast for a day.
  • Trip on the toy.  Trip to Hawaii.
  • Ink pen.  Pen a note.
You get the idea.

So some Biblical examples of that are ‘church’ and ‘saints’ and ‘Day of the Lord/in that day.’

For example, church in Acts 14:23 is a local body of believers versus church all over Ephesians and Colossians as ‘the Church.’ 

Saints (holy ones) in the OT were faithful Jewish believers.  In Paul’s epistles, they’re us.  Hebrews through Revelation, back to the faithful Jewish believers.  The distinction being if the Church is on earth, then it’s us.  Otherwise the Jews are God’s special people at the forefront of His plan in that time period.

Day of the Lord is still somewhat of a mystery to me.  It’s typically mentioned in the OT as ‘in that day’ and yet sometimes ‘in that day’ simply means a then-current event like Leviticus 7:35 and Numbers 32:10.  The vast majority of the time, though, it’s that dreaded future period of great darkness that the Jews were told must occur before their Kingdom can begin.

Even then, it seems to me that it’s two things.  It’s, I believe, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, which is the second half of the seven-year Tribulation.  (Many believe ‘the Day of the Lord’ is the entire Tribulation.)  And the second future thing it is is a specific day within that ‘day,’ meaning, the actual date of the Lord’s physical return.  Some examples for that could be Joel 2:31; Zephaniah 1:14; Acts 2:20; 1 Thess. 5:2. 

This is a perfect reason why we must be careful and not be too dogmatic when trying to understand these terms. 

So, back to bride.  

I typically use the NASB so that’s where we’ll go for this.  I found ‘bride’ 21 times in that version.  Of those 21 times, I think all of them except a few in Revelation mean just that, a bride. 

Revelation 18:23 mentions ‘voice of the (bridegroom and) bride.’  This was also a term found in a number of the OT bride references meaning gladness and rejoicing were occurring.  ‘No’ voice, therefore, meaning no gladness nor rejoicing found.

That leaves four bride references in Revelation.  Skipping over 19:7 for a minute, we see 21:2 and 21:9, both referring to the New Jerusalem, which makes one think the bride is that city coming down from heaven.  (And FYI, the New Jerusalem comes down during the Millennium, not in eternity.) 

Here’s my concern with that:  How does the Lamb marry a city? 

Maybe the answer is this. 

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

AS a bride.  It’s a simile.   

According to Literarydevices.net, ‘a simile draws resemblance with the help of the words “like” or “as”.’

John is comparing this city to a bride.  How so?  Because of its adornment and beauty (Isaiah 49:18; 61:10).  Read the description of the city in Revelation 21:11-21.

Now let’s go back to the bride reference in Revelation 19:7 that we skipped over.  To keep it in context, we’ll add verses 8 and 9. 

Revelation 19:7-9Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.”

Notice the bride is clothed in fine linen.  And what’s that fine linen? 

The righteous acts of the saints.

Bingo.  The key to the mystery. 

The righteous acts of the saints.

First of all, this tells me who the bride is NOT.

She’s NOT a city if she’s clothed in the righteous acts of the saints.  She’s NOT a city if there’s a marriage supper/ceremony celebrating the marriage.

And more importantly, the second thing she’s NOT is the CHURCH!!

Look again at vs.7-8. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

  • This bride has made herself ready. 
  • This bride was given fine linen to clothe herself.
  • This bride’s clothes are her righteous acts.
You want to know the Church’s standing before God? 

Read Romans through Philemon where Paul explains every facet of  Church doctrine. 

We are the BODY of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:16; 3:6; 5:30; Romans 7:4; 12:5;  1 Corinth 10:16; 12:13; Colossians 1, etc.)  reconciled/made perfect at the cross (Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1; 2; Colossians 1:22, etc.).  Our clothes are Jesus’ righteousness/perfection given to us at the moment of salvation, not our acts!!  We were already rewarded for our acts/works at the Bema Seat before this time in Revelation 19. 

We, the Body of Christ, are not the bride of the Lamb.

So where do people get that idea?

Apparently, it’s 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesian 5:22-33.

So take a minute to read these passages for yourself.  Paul is wanting the Church, the Body of Christ, to be pure in actions in submission to Christ our Head and Savior who gave Himself up for us, like a bride or a wife would/should be.

Again, I don’t believe those simple comparisons hold more weight than the above evidence showing why she cannot be us.

Then, who is the Lamb’s bride of Revelation 19:7?

Well, according to 19:8 it looks to me like she’s Tribulation saints.  

And before we go deeper into that, remember I mentioned earlier that saints in the Tribulation aren’t us.  We were raptured prior to the Tribulation.  Tribulation saints are the faithful Jewish believers of that time period.

Now, if you think about it, Tribulation saints can be divided into two groups.  There are (1) the faithful Jewish believers that live through the Tribulation and there are (2) the faithful Jewish believers that died as martyrs during the Tribulation.  Two separate groups, I believe possibly with separate futures.

The group (1) that lives through it are the ones that must qualify per the parables of Matthew 25 (see Kingdom of God ) in order to enter the Kingdom.  Are they the bride? 

Next group (2) is the martyrs.  Are they the bride?  Seems like this is the more likely option.

Let’s dig down.

In order to go deeper into this subject, we’ll first need to clarify whether passages like the parables in Matthew 22:4 (‘Behold, I have prepared my dinner’), 25:10 (wedding feast in NASB and marriage in KJV), Luke 12:36 (wedding feast in NASB and wedding in KJV) are talking about the marriage ceremony itself or if they talking of the wedding feast that follows. 

We know the timing of these relate to Revelation 19:9, which says the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Per the concordance, it’s the meal.  So it’s the wedding feast, not the wedding itself they’re talking about which means the marriage must have happened in heaven before the Second Coming.  (If you think about it, that would exclude the possibility that the living Jews are the bride!) What’s the exact timing of the marriage ceremony in heaven?  I don’t know, but it would have to be after the last Jewish martyr had died and yet prior to the Second Coming.

Who’s the Bride?

So with that clarified, let’s now go back to determining who’s the bride.   And remember we’re limiting it to Jews because Revelation 19:8 calls them saints.  So first, we’re going to take the two groups from above, which are Group 1, faithful Jewish believers that live through the Tribulation, and Group 2, faithful Jewish believers that were martyred within the Tribulation, and add to them a third group.  Group 3 is the currently-in-heaven Jewish Old Testament saints.

Could all three groups be combined in the end and share the same destiny?  

I don’t think so because Groups 2 & 3 have already been accepted into heaven and have been given white robes.  Like we said earlier, Group 1 has to go through the Second Coming judgment (Matthew 25) to see if they will be allowed into the earthly kingdom.  Another way to look at it is per Matthew 25:10 the Jewish Tribulation survivors are trying to get into the wedding feast when Jesus returns to earth.  A bride doesn’t have to be concerned with that.  She’s the bride!  She’s already there!

So the bride cannot be the living Jews entering the kingdom in mortal bodies which leaves the bride to be either Group 2, Group 3, or a combination of 2 & 3.    

I think she’s both 2 & 3.

Speaking of OT saints: 

Hebrews 11:39-40 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

Speaking of Jewish Tribulation martyrs:

Revelation 6:9-11 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

^^^^^

Do you see how the groups in both above passages have to wait for others?  This is why I believe both Jewish OT believers and Jewish Tribulation martyrs together are the bride.   So if the marriage is in heaven, and the bride is these two groups, then the complete bride/wife comes down at Second Coming, ready for the marriage supper. 

Another interesting point is in Matthew 26:27-29. 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Many people today think the Church Age is the kingdom, or mystery kingdom, and that the New Covenant Jesus is speaking of is between Him and the Church.  Wrong on both.  Is Jesus here drinking with us today?  No.  It’s all in a Jewish context.  The bride is Jewish, the Kingdom is Jewish, and the New Covenant is Jewish.  Jesus is inaugurating the Jewish New Covenant as the opening ceremony of the Jewish Kingdom with His Jewish bride. 

But let’s look back into the OT to see if there’s any evidence there for this belief.

OT bride references:

Isaiah 49:14-21 seems to liken Zion to a bride; not forgotten by God.  ‘Others will gather to you.’  ‘You shall put them on as a bride.’

Isaiah 61:10 seems to say the Lord will adorn those in Zion with salvation as a bride adorns herself with jewels.

Isaiah 62:4-5 It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,”
Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”;
But you will be called, “My delight is in her,”
And your land, “Married”;
For the Lord delights in you,
And to Him your land will be married.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
So your sons will marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So your God will rejoice over you.

Isaiah 54:4-8 “Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

5-8

“For your husband is your Maker,
Whose name is the Lord of hosts;
And your
 Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the
 God of all the earth.

For the Lord has called you,
Like a wife
 forsaken and grieved in spirit,
Even like a wife of
 one’s youth when she is rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I forsook you,
But with great compassion I will
 gather you.
“In an outburst of anger
I hid My face from you for a moment,
But with everlasting
 lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

Read all of Jeremiah 3.  Faithless harlot Israel/Judah.  Not sure on final ending status here.

Also read Ezekiel 16.  God made a covenant with Jerusalem.  She played harlot.  V.32 ‘you adulterous wife.’  Judgment will come then God will relent; angry no more.  ‘Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you.’

Hosea is pretty clear too.

Hosea 2:18-20 18 “In that day I will also make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
The birds of the sky
And the creeping things of the ground.
And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land, and will make them lie down in safety.
19 “I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in
 righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion,
20 And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will
 know the Lord.

The bride is Jewish. 

 

So now let’s look at some other passages in Revelation that talk about martyrs and see if they support this understanding as well.  I’m going to bold what I think is relevant and make a note or two if necessary. 

Revelation 6:9-11 (as quoted above) When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

(Given white robes, need to wait for their brethren to complete their number that we saw earlier.  Bride?  No nationality given but we see the phrase ‘their fellow servants and their brethren.’)

Revelation 7:9-17  9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11….. 

13-14 are key

13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15-17

15 For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

(We see that v.9 says from every nation and tribe and people and tongue.  This group appears to be both Gentile and Jewish.  These folks have washed their robes vs. given white robes.  Are these even martyrs?  We’ll look at that in a minute.

Revelation 19:1-10 After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.” 3….. And a voice came from the throne, saying,

“Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying,

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God….” 

(Two groups in verse 5, the bond-servants and you who fear Him.  No saints? Maybe because the saints are the bride, v. 8? We’ll look more into these groups in the upcoming Revelation 11 passage.)

The bride’s given fine linens.  Maybe the marriage is at this time? 

[An interesting side note.  Look at Revelation 17:14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”  Who are these with Jesus?  Us?  Tribulation martyrs?  Not angels; though the armies of heaven referenced elsewhere are probably the angels. One group?  Multiple groups: the called, the chosen and the faithful?  All the dead in heaven prior to that moment?  Lots of thoughts.]

Another passage that might tie in with these is Revelation 11:18.  We’ll look at 16-18.

Revelation 11:16-18 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.18 And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

Maybe verse 18 broken down would look like either of the following:

And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward

  • Your bond-servants the prophets         *prophets?
  • and the saints                                        *bride?
  • and those who fear Your name,the small and the great…                                                               *Gentile believers?  

or

  • Your bond-servants
  • the prophets
  • and the saints
  • and those who fear Your name, the small and the great…

I don’t know.  Rev. 10:7 makes it seem like the first way is right.  Plus in Rev. 15:3 Moses is called a bond-servant.  So three different groups mentioned here?

All that to say, I don’t see us being the bride.  I’m not sure what our role will be in the Millennium, but we will be in our glorified bodies with some form of authority and the New Jerusalem will be our home.  Maybe Paul talks about it and I just missed it.

 

Given white robes vs. wash their robes…

GIVEN robes in Rev. 6:11, 19:8.

Revelation 6:9-11   (The fifth seal martyrs referenced earlier. ) When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

(I don’t believe these martyrs are in glorified bodies yet because I can’t see them asking for vengeance if they were glorified.  Given robe but must rest longer until the rest die.  Again, maybe the bride?  Covering only?  Kind of like covering for CA dead prior to Rapture?)

Rev. 19:7-8  Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

(Bride given fine linen.)

 WASHED robes in Rev. 7:14, 22:14

Revelation 7:9-17 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” … 13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?

14-17

14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15 For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

(We see in v. 14 that they came out of the great tribulation, but not how they came out, alive or martyred.  Remember even though this is in chapter 7, it’s one of those ‘after these things’ passages. Time frames are sketchy on those.  Maybe this timeframe is after the Matthew 25 judgments.)

More on washed…

Washed seems to me to be something the person’s done while living.  Their acts are what gave them the ability to wash their robes.  These are before the throne and serve God night and day.  Also, no more hunger, thirst, sun burn, etc.  Those in glorified bodies are not concerned with such things any longer, so these who washed their robes probably lived through the Tribulation.

Revelation 22  Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nationsThere will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 

5, 14

And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever….….14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.

 (Those who wash their robes will be living on earth in Jerusalem, availing themselves of the tree of life.  Again, a reward for those in mortal bodies because the tree of life won’t be necessary for glorified beings.)

 Also supporting the idea that living Jews will not be the bride are these two passages:

Hebrews 12:4-11 tells us God will deal with the living Jews as sons, disciplining them.

Revelation 21:7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

 So I believe those given robes are martyrs that are given them in heaven and those who wash their robes are living at the end of the Tribulation.

  • Isaiah 25:8, Revelation 7:9-17; 21:4 all tell us that all living survivors, both Jew and Gentile, will have their tears wiped away.
  • Isaiah 49:10-13 talks about no hunger or thirst.

 So Jewish OT saints wait in heaven until all their brethren, the Jewish Tribulation martyrs, die.   Somewhere between there and the Second Coming, the marriage takes place between them and Jesus/God (OT references mainly God, but called the bride/wife of the Lamb in Revelation).   So who’s in heaven just prior to Second Coming?  The Father, the Son, the Church, the Bride, angels, those at the throne?

Check out this passage in Hebrews.

Hebrews 12:22-24  22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,

 and to myriads of angels,

 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,  (those at the throne and us?)

 and to God, the Judge of all,

 and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,   (bride?)

 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. 

….maybe??

 

Now here’s some questions that I’m still asking:
  • At some point do martyrs stop dying before the battle of Armageddon, thus allowing time for the heavenly marriage? 
  • What role do all these groups play in the Millennium?
  • Do some who washed their robes stay in Jerusalem and serve in the temple and some go and repopulate the nations?
  • Who are the guests to the wedding itself?  Dead Gentile believers of the Tribulation?  See Matthew 25.
  • Also, who’s the invited guests of the marriage supper?  I believe they are living, but Gentiles only?
  • When the New Jerusalem comes down after the Second Coming, does it come down with the Church in it?  With the bride in it? 
  • Finally, what’s the timing on all the ‘after these things’ sections in Revelation?

 

And, by the way, the last mention of bride…

Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

…I just don’t know. 

 

If you prefer videos, see VIDEO:  Who’s the Bride?