Who is the bride of Christ? Some believe the entire Christian congregation is Jesus’ bride. Others say the bride is only a small select group of Christians. Since we are referring to the bride of Christ, why not ask the bridegroom. What did Jesus say? Notice his words:
“Then John’s disciples came to him and asked: “Why do we and the Pharisees practice fasting but your disciples do not fast?” At this Jesus said to them: “The friends of the bridegroom have no reason to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, do they? But days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
– Matthew 9:14-15
Jesus does not refer to his followers as his bride. In fact, he NEVER did. In the parallel accounts at Mark 2:18-20 and Luke 5:33-35, Jesus clearly identifies his followers as friends of the bridegroom, not the bride.
We can look at Jesus’ parables as well. In the parable of the king who hosted a marriage feast for his son, the king sent his servants out to invite guests. The guests represent those who would hear the call to follow Jesus. And it ends with the familiar phrase “For there are many called, but few chosen.” Those called ones are called to beguests at the wedding, not to be the bride. (Matthew 22:1-14)
The parable of 10 virgins is about the followers of Jesus and illustrates the need for his followers to stay awake. Again, the virgins are guests, not the bride. (Matthew 25:1-13) In Luke’s parallel account, he refers to Jesus’ followers as ‘men waiting for the bridegroom to return from the wedding.’ They were not at the wedding as a bride would be. (Luke 12:35-36) But what about Paul’s words:
“For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ. But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.”
– 2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Surely Paul is not contradicting Jesus or saying that he is the one who arranged for the marriage. He is merely using a metaphor to explain his obligation to build a congregation that was as chaste “as a” virgin would be. The same can be said for his words to the congregation in Ephesus:
“Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ. Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife just as the Christ is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, wives should also be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and gave himself up for it, in order that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, so that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, without a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but holy and without blemish."
– Ephesians 5:21-27
Here also, Paul is using the husband and wife relationship as a metaphor to show the loyalty, fidelity and chastity that the congregation should have toward Jesus. He is not saying that the congregation would actually marry Jesus. Such a thing would be out of step with Paul’s view of sexual morality.
Jesus’ actual bride is mentioned in the symbolic book of Revelation. A few things are revealed about her, but her true identity is not revealed. Notice what John wrote:
“Let us rejoice and be overjoyed and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has arrived and his wife has prepared herself. Yes, it has been granted to her to be clothed with bright, clean, fine linen—for the fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the holy ones.”
– Revelation 19:7-9
Here, the fine linen ‘stands for’ or symbolizes the acts of the holy ones. The linen appears to be some sort of memorial or tribute to the holy ones, but it does not indicate that the holy ones are a composite bride.
Some believe the bride is the holy city New Jerusalem. But if you read the scripture closely, it seems more like John is describing the beauty of the holy city saying she – the city – was beautifully adorned as a bride would be when she prepares herself for her husband:
“I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
– Revelation 21:2
Notice that the bride in chapter 19 has on fine linen as a bride would wear, but New Jerusalem is adorned with walls, gates and foundation stones, as a city would be. (Revelation 21:9-14) So it does not look like John is saying Jesus is marrying a city either.
And though John is taken to see the bride, he never describes her. He only writes what the bride says:
“And the spirit and the bride keep on saying, “Come!” and let anyone hearing say, “Come!” and let anyone thirsting come; let anyone who wishes take life’s water free.”
– Revelation 22:17
The invitation to take life’s waters free is an invitation to the guest who would be invited to the wedding, namely the friends of the bridegroom, the followers of Jesus. The bride does not invite herself to her own wedding.
The Bible does not reveal too many things about the heavens, nor does it identify the Lamb’s wife. But from what is provided, we know she is beautiful, chaste and in perfect harmony with her bridegroom.
What a relief to know that Jesus’ brothers are not also his bride! What man marries his brothers? And what man marries a city? And what son marries his father’s children? We should expect much more from a divine being.
No, the followers of Jesus are not going to marry him, neither on this side nor in the heavenly kingdom. There is another as yet unrevealed personality who will have that honor. So let the sons clothe themselves as guests of the bridegroom in respect for and in honor of the true bride of Christ.
Related Questions and Response
05/12/15a - Visitor disagrees with our view of the Bride of Christ.
05/12/15b - Visitor complains that we are trying to invent a new religion.