Wife of Jehovah; Bride of Christ
Study Guide February 12, 2017
Pastor Clay Olsen
When it comes to marriage there are lots of helps and a lot of advice. Like this one that says, “The most important four words for a successful marriage: ‘I’ll do the dishes.’” My Dad told my Mother when they got married that if she would cook and bake whatever recipes and whatever meal ideas that she would like to try he would do the dishes. They both saw it as a ‘win-win’ situation. She could experiment without having to clean it up all of the time, and Dad could get lots of pies and cakes and other goodies and such. Of course Dad was planning to pass that assignment onto us kids as soon as possible, and he did. My brother and I were on ‘dish duty’ all the time. We thought it was like a Biblical thing, as 2 Kings 21:13 says, “…and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.” KJV I don’t think that’s the primary interpretation of that verse though.
But even marriage vows have gotten a bit strange now with: “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now update your Facebook status.” But here’s some good advice: “I promise not to keep score, even if I am totally winning.” And then this one: “The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.” You can’t go wrong there!
But the marriage relationship has always had a bit of the element of ‘mystery’ to it. And we mean ‘mystery’ not in terms of strange or unknowable, but more in terms of ever discovering more and more of the deep meaning and implications of it. And that description of ‘mystery’ is seen right away in how God spoke of even His relationship with Israel in terms of Israel being a ‘wife’, like the ‘wife of Jehovah’, and then of course the church is referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’. And the Apostle Paul even went on to magnify this mystery in referring back to Genesis 2:24 with words from the first human groom, Adam, to his wife, Eve: Eph 5:31-32- “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” NASU And part of the mystery he is speaking about here is the mystery of ‘union’, of how both the covenant of marriage itself represents a union of a man and a woman and the covenant of salvation represents the union of Christ and the Church.
And speaking of ‘mystery’, remember Adam added something else to the mystery of it all in that he first said: “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’” Gen 2:23 NASU This, too, is part of the ‘mystery of marriage’, particularly here of the union between Christ and the church. How so? Because it contained an important symbolic meaning concerning the regeneration of believers and their union with Christ. Think about it: Like Adam said of Eve, ‘This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,’ the apostle essentially says of the church: ‘We are bone of His bones, and flesh of His flesh:’ that is, we are parts of Christ’s body, the church.
How remarkable is this application of Adam’s words concerning Eve to Christ and to His church. This formation of Eve from the side of Adam’s body was a figure of the regeneration of believers by the breaking of Christ’s body. When Paul gave the Corinthian believers the account of the Lord’s Supper he included these words in particular: 1 Cor 11:23-24- “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” NKJV Like Adam’s body was broken in order to give new life to Eve, Christ’s body was broken in order to give new life to us; new life to our spirit.
In his same letter to the Corinthians Paul went on to explain this further, even referring to Jesus Christ as the second Adam: 1 Cor 15:45-53- “The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person. But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.” NLT
The union within marriage of a man and a woman and then the union within salvation of Christ and the church are some of the greatest mysteries in the world. But again, not mysterious like being strange, but mysterious like being wonderful; full of wonder and adventure and meaning, that all reaches higher and higher the further you explore it. Even our union with Christ spiritually takes on another dimension as Paul reveals that we should also be looking forward to our new immortal physical bodies, physical bodies that are like Jesus Christ’s own immortal physical body.
Again, one of the greatest revelations about our salvation is this mystery of ‘union’. And so one of the greatest necessities in our salvation relationship is therefore to learn more and more how to think and act and serve within the reality of our union with Christ. And in saying that, you know what’s coming next… So also then one of the greatest revelations about marriage is this mystery of ‘union’. And in having said that, then, yes, one of the greatest necessities in our marriage relationship is therefore to learn more and more how to think and act and serve in within the reality of our union with our married wife or husband.
We tell couples in premarital counseling that they haven’t lost their minds in getting married, but they have divided them, as in, ‘from now on you will be sharing a brain’. Half your brain is now located in your wife’s head, or in your husband’s head. So you need to get used to that. Be patient, it takes awhile. That’s why in marriage, independent decision making, independent planning, or independent anything amounts to only a half decided decision or only a half planned plan or only a half thought out anything; because ever since you ‘two became one’ your spouse now has the other half of the whole picture that you need in order to make whatever decision or plan or action ahead of you. Again, two people – one brain. So it really is one of the great mysteries of both marriage and salvation; you have to learn to think in union, as well as live out you life from the perspective of your ‘union’.
But how amazing that God used this marriage union to help us better understand the height and depth and breadth and length of the dimensions of His relationship with His people. In fact, even when Jesus told His disciples about His plan for their future they no doubt realized that it sounded just like Jewish wedding plans. Remember that? John 14:2-3- “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” NASU
I can imagine them looking around at each other, like; “This sounds familiar.” And it was, because it was just like the steps in a Jewish marriage. In a Jewish marriage first was the betrothal (which involved the groom’s traveling from his father’s house to the home of the prospective bride, paying the purchase price, and thus establishing the marriage covenant. Second, the groom would return to his father’s house (which meant remaining separate from his bride for certain time period, during which time he prepared the living accommodations for his wife in his father’s house). And then third, the groom would then come back for his bride at a time chosen by the father. And then fourth, he would then return with the bride to to the groom’s father’s house. And there would also be a celebration of the wedding feast.
Fantastic symbolism! Jesus left His Father’s house to come to our home of Earth. And then He paid the purchased price; He purchased our salvation with His own sinless blood. And then Jesus ascended back to the Father’s house to prepare a place for us. And when the Father determines the time, (which Jesus told the disciples in Mark 13:32- “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” NASU), then the bridegroom will return for the bride and take His bride, His church, to the Father’s house. And even this coming of the bridegroom was often accompanied by a great announcement. And does that sound familiar? 1 Thess 4:16-18- “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” NASU
But God wasn’t done using the marriage analogy to teach us about our union with Christ because here is what we find God calling our great gathering in Heaven. Rev 19:5-9- “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.'” NASU (And in the Marriage of the Lamb all of these steps of the Jewish wedding ceremony are included.)
One thing that’s also very important to point out to us, as the members of Christ’s church, the bride of Christ, is in connection with what we earlier spoke about, which was this: The great necessity in our salvation relationship now is to learn more and more how to think and act and serve within the reality of our union with Christ. For you will notice that the Apostle John specifically points this out. How so? Well, You see, not only are we clothed in the righteous robe of Christ which depicts Christ gift of salvation to us, but John points out that we are also wearing fine linen, which depicts our gifts of righteous acts of worship and service for Christ. The idea is kind of like this ‘tallit gadol’ or ‘prayer shawl’ that I brought back from Israel. There is the garment itself, but then it also has these tassels or ‘zitzit’, as they are called, attached to it. We could think of these tassels as our works of worship and service that we have done for the Lord. What we will want to wear to the marriage supper of the Lamb is both His righteous garment of salvation for us and our tassels or our thank offerings of our works of service for our Savior. These works are really our demonstrations of love for our Lord, who left his Father’s house to come for us, and to purchase our salvation, and then return to prepare a place for us, and is coming back to take us home for the celebration, the eternal celebration really, of being united to our Creator and Redeemer; a union that is like a Bridegroom and the Bride.
Sure, it’s a great mystery, our union with our Lord and Savior, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer to us all the time. Plus, it’s the foundation for our motivation to discover more and more about the union of marriage itself, and if married, to then live out the wonder of this union that God chose to symbolize His relationship with His people. And the key to it is our memory verse: 1 Cor 13:13- “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” NASU Practice this ‘greatest part’ of loving like Christ loves us, and the ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ parts will fall into place.
(Resources: Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.; The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)