Today I am pleased to post a guest post by a fellow watch-woman, Kate Engel. Kate has very keen discernment and is gifted in research and writing. I encourage you to consider her research on the Bride of Christ! I find it compelling given the entire book of Hosea and the theme of marriage and divorce throughout books of the prophets. Before you get your knickers in a knot about the identity of the bride, note that this doesn’t affect rapture or tribulation beliefs or timing 😉
Who is the Bride of Christ? (Hint: it’s not the Church!)
by Kate Engel
To truly understand why the Bride of Christ is not the Church, we must revert back to the very first Shavuot on Mount Sinai, when God made His covenant with the Israelites. The Old Covenant was truly much more than just Yahweh’s divine giving of the Law, as most of us understand it today. It was a marriage covenant in which Yahweh faithfully pledged Himself to, at that point in time, a unified nation of Israel. [For the purpose of this study, we will refer to unified Israel as “Greater Israel.”] How do we know that the Old Covenant was a marriage covenant? We know because of their subsequent divorce where Yahweh stated that Northern Israel “is not My wife, nor am I her Husband!” (Hosea 2:2). In Jeremiah 3:8, Yahweh specifically stated that He gave the Northern Kingdom of Israel a certificate of divorce and put her away:
“And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.”
In order for a divorce to occur, there must first be a marriage. Yahweh could only divorce Israel if He had once been wed to her. When did this marriage take place? It occurred on Mt. Sinai, when the 12 tribes agreed to Yahweh’s terms, thereby entering into a marriage covenant. It was a contract, complete with prenuptial agreements – that is, terms and conditions of what was expected, and what would happen in case of infidelity. The terms and conditions were Yahweh’s ten commandments, and He gave them for her good:
““And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)
Greater Israel graciously accepted and agreed to these terms, which was to devote themselves wholly to Yahweh forever, vowing “All that YAHWEH has said we will do, and be obedient.” (Exodus 24:7) All Israel had to do was love her Husband by remaining faithful to Him, to the covenant that was made. Later in the book of Jeremiah, Yahweh stated that the covenant He made with Greater Israel was one where He became her Husband:
“… not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:32)
The accord was struck and the vows were ratified with blood-“And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Unfortunately, Israel was unfaithful to her husband from the very beginning (the golden cafe fiasco). After some time, Greater Israel was divided into two kingdoms: the Southern Kingdom-called “Judah”-consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Northern Kingdom-called “Israel”-was inhabited by the other 10 tribes. I cannot stress enough how crucial this is to understand: After Greater Israel’s division, “Israel” refers only to the inhabitants of Northern Kingdom; “Judah” refers to the inhabitants of the Southern Kingdom (this comes into play later in this study).
Yahweh, in His patient love and sovereignty, waited while Israel (the northern kingdom) committed her adulteries time and again. Yahweh explained this in the book of Ezekiel, speaking of the two daughters of one mother who both practiced harlotry and defiled themselves:
“Son of man, there were two women, The daughters of one mother. They committed harlotry in Egypt, They committed harlotry in their youth…Their names: Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister; They were Mine, And they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem is Oholibah. Oholah played the harlot even though she was Mine; And she lusted for her lovers, the neighboring Assyrians…Thus she committed her harlotry with them, All of them choice men of Assyria; And with all for whom she lusted, With all their idols, she defiled herself.” (Ezek 23:2- 4, 7, 9)
Ultimately, after 700 years of Northern Israel’s backsliding and adultery, Yahweh divorced her:
“And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.” (Jer 3:8)
This truth is also stated in 2 Kings:
“Therefore YAHWEH was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. (2Kings 17:18)
As you can see, Yahweh only divorced Northern Israel (who we call the ten “lost” tribes). Why, though? Why did he not write Judah, who was a harlot also, a certificate of divorce? It’s because Yahweh’s unconditional promise to King David, who belonged to the tribe of Judah:
” Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.” (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
Prior to the Kingdom being divided, Yahweh choose David’s bloodline to bring forth the Messiah, the Son Of God. Would God bring forth His son as an illegitimate child born out of wedlock? I think not. Yahweh remained contractually wed to the tribe of Judah for the sole purpose of bringing forth the Messiah at the appointed time. Some people like to say that God can do anything, but that isn’t technically true. God cannot lie. God cannot sin. God cannot be unfaithful to His promises. These things are not within His character.
Yahweh’s divorcement of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) created a seemingly unsolvable dilemma. How could Yahweh fulfill His unconditional promise to Abraham if 10 tribes were now cast out and cut off from the House Of Israel and the promises therein? According to Yahweh’s own laws, a man can divorce an unfaithful wife, but he cannot remarry her or else he commits adultery:
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.” (Deut 24:1-4)
“If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly defiled? You have played the whore with many lovers; and would you return to me? declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 3:1)
Yahweh also decrees that anyone who marries a divorced woman period commits adultery:
“he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18b)
As you can see, Yahweh Himself can never marry Northern Israel again. It is an abomination to take back a wife who has been cast out for adultery. Doing so would defile the land. Consequently, there was no conceivable hope for Northern Israel to return to a marriage covenant with Yahweh, or for Judah and Israel to ever reunite. Nevertheless, Yahweh passionately calls His wayward wife to return (repent) to him and presumably, He would have to find a way to work things out. He tells us in Ezekiel that He will do just exactly that; the two kingdoms will be united again one day into covenantal standing:
“The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand.” (Ezekiel 37:15-19)
So how could Israel be brought back into a marriage covenant without Yahweh violating His own law? God’s solution to this divine dilemma was Yeshua! Yeshua Himself said, “I am not sent but only unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” God is not the author of confusion. These words were spoken because, at that time in Yahweh’s prophetic program, Yeshua was sent to accomplish a very important task. Northern Israel, being divorced from Yahweh due to adultery, can only marry another man if her former husband (who divorced her) dies. Yahweh sent Himself to earth as Yeshua (the Word Of God in the flesh) to die, thereby releasing Northern Israel from her fate as a divorced woman. She would be free to marry another, who is none other than the RISEN Yeshua, the NEW MAN! But what about Judah? Was Judah still married to Yahweh? No! Yahweh’s death (as Yeshua) dissolved Judah’s marriage contract as well!
“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39)
Yeshua died to dissolve both Judah’s marriage contract with Yahweh, and Israel’s boundaries placed on her from divorce. Yeshua died on the cross as Yahweh in the flesh, and was risen as a new man: Israel’s bridegroom! Yeshua’s blood not only atoned for their wickedness, but it also broke down the confines of marriage for Judah and the divorce for Israel. The two kingdoms were no longer separated by their marital status (and lack thereof) to Yahweh. Both parties were free to marry another (specifically, God) through their newly betrothed bridegroom: The Risen Yeshua! Who, I reiterate, is God! The two houses (sticks) were now spiritually united as one. One bride for one bridegroom: Israel to Yeshua. With the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua, the proverbial plate was completely wiped clean; their unfaithfulness was atoned for, and both houses (Israel and Judah) were now united as one woman. *with this being said, the two leavened loaves of Shavuot (Pentecost) do NOT represent Jews and Gentiles. But that’s a whole different study*
Unfortunately (again), Israel rejected God’s new marriage proposal, this new covenant (a marriage covenant with Yeshua.) They rejected their groom. Only through their marriage to the Lamb can they be united to God once more. No one gets to Yahweh except through Yeshua alone! Upon Israel’s rejection of this new covenant marriage proposal, God’s ultimate plan, which was a mystery until its revelation to Paul, was set into motion: all nations (peoples) could gain entry into this New Covenant by simply having faith in what Yeshua accomplished! With Israel’s rejection, Yahweh put His prophetic program for Israel on hold; The Bridegroom can’t marry an unwilling Bride! In doing so, a new program was ushered in: faith in Yeshua alone would graft all into the New Covenant promise that was meant only for Israel: everlasting life through eternal union (marriage) to God. All those who believe in Yeshua today are instantly cleansed (baptized) by the Holy Spirit the moment they come into faith. By this cleansing, all are wed to God through what Yeshua did. These “believers” are what Paul calls “the Body Of Christ.” You see, those who are part of the body (Christ’s BODY) are ALREADY married to God because we are married (one with) Christ! We are in complete covenant standing through our union with Yeshua! Paul understood this in Ephesians:
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”
Paul declares Christ’s relationship with His Church as that of a husband and wife (not that of a bride and bridegroom). Brides and bridegrooms are promised to marry, but not yet wed. Nothing more is needed to be done by the Body Of Christ to be one with Christ. In fact, we are called Christ’s Body because we are part of Him. How can the Bride be part of the Groomsman? It can’t! Yeshua is already married to the corporate Body Of Christ; The Body has just been growing in number (enlarging) ever since the Holy Spirit took on the role of baptism. The Body will continue to grow until the rapture. How can God marry someone He’s already married to in Christ? Again, He can’t. There is no need. Yeshua is one with the Father, and He with Yeshua. The Body is part of Christ. The Church, therefore, is not who is awaiting spiritual union (redemption) with Christ. Paul states that the Church is already redeemed! This obviously is spiritual redemption. Our souls receive the seal of everlasting life, but our physical bodies still continue to age and die. The Body Of Christ only waits for physical redemption. This physical redemption, our bodily resurrection, is not marriage. We are sealed for physical redemption by the Holy Spirit as a RESULT of our union with God. This is the blessed hope; that we, through our union with Christ, are not appointed to Yahweh’s wrath on those who reject Yeshua!
Paul describes his personal role in leading the church of Corinth in union to Yeshua:
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)
Paul likens their acceptance of the Gospel to him officiating their wedding! The original Greek word used here for espoused is harmózō. It means “to join, to fit together, to join oneself i.e. to marry” (Strong’s G718). Paul explains in the verses following the reason why he is jealous:
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”(2 Cor 11:3-4)
False teachers were infiltrating the ranks in Corinth, and Paul was afraid that, in their immaturity and weakness (like Eve), their marriage bed would be defiled by their turning to a false Gospel. Paul presented them as a pure virgin to Christ when they were wed, and Paul wanted to make sure they would remain spiritually pure throughout their marriage.
In Luke, there is an interesting parable:
“And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.” (Luke 12:36)
Without careful scrutiny, Yeshua seems to be telling Israel that they’re not the Bride. How can they be the Bride if He’s returning from the wedding at the 2nd coming? We must look at the original language to understand what is truly being said. The Greek word used for “return” is analýō, which means “ to unloose, undo again, to depart, break up, to depart from life, to return.” analýō is actually used only ONE other time in the Bible. It was used by Paul to describe how he desires to “depart” (to die) to be in the physical presence of Yeshua.
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23)
The original Greek word for “wedding” in this Luke 12 passage is gámos. It means “a wedding festival, or marriage, matrimony.” It’s translated as “marriage” 9 times in scripture, and as “wedding festival” 7 times in scripture. Strong’s says gámos is of uncertain affinity grammatically speaking, and can mean either a wedding or marriage in general. We see exactly this issue in scripture where gámos is used to describe the institution of marriage rather than a wedding ceremony:
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)
So how should Luke 12 actually be read, given this context? I will use brackets to insert the meaning:
“And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will [unloose, undo, die] from the [marriage]…”
Yeshua was telling Israel to “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning” so that they will be ready to wed after He dissolves their previous dysfunctional marriage with to Yahweh! This same message is given in the Parable Of The 10 virgins. The wise virgins are believing (faithful) Israel, the foolish virgins are unbelieving (lacking in faith) Israel. The wise virgins are who enter the kingdom with the BRIDEGROOM.
In Revelation after mystery Babylon is destroyed, there is rejoicing at the throne of God, saying “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” (Rev 19:7) The bride is then given at this time fine linen and white garments, symbolizing being made clean and “right” in God’s sight for the wedding: “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
In Rev 21, the Bride is now the “wife” of the lamb. This means the marriage has already taken place. This is further supported by what the angel is describing-the angel calls New Jerusalem the wife, and on the city is inscribed none other than the names 12 Tribes Of Israel. The Wife is identified as the 12 tribes! The 12 tribes are the direct bloodline descendants of Abraham, otherwise known as Israel-
“Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed”
Israel has always been the Wife/Bride. She was married to God in the OT, and will be married to God once more at the appointed time. Nowhere in scripture does God replace His chosen people with the Church. Rather, the Church is grafted in to the covenant promise of eternal life given to Israel. Yahweh will once again turn his full focus to Israel, when He unilaterally initiates the rite of purification for the Bride. This is the whole purpose of the tribulation. Why does He do this? God said so it is written:
“Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not contend with man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” (Genesis 6:3)
Yahweh has appointed 120 years for man to exist on earth in separation from Himself. What did Yahweh mean by 120 years? They are jubilee years. Meaning, 120 jubilee years will pass until the kingdom of heaven is on earth. A jubilee year occurs every 50th year. Therefore mankind is appointed 6000 years before Yeshua returns to marry His bride and set up His kingdom, fulfilling the promise Yahweh made to Abraham and David.
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!