DISPENSATIONAL TRUTH

The Bride and The Body (!)


By Charles H. Welch

Dr. R. A. Hadden wrote:

ĎIt is assumed almost universally that the Church of the present dispensation is at once the "Body of Christ" and "the Bride" ... Traditional theology, unscriptural hymnology, amazing disregard for correct interpretation, intolerant zeal for dogmatic human opinions together with careless defective instruction, have united for generations in perpetuating a phase of teaching possessing no foundation in or authority from Holy Scripture and perpetrating a system that plunges multitudes of believers in dire confusion concerning the plan, purpose and programme of God for "the Church which is His Body" as distinct from the Divine purpose concerning another outcalling known as "the Bride, the Lambís wife"Ď.

Sir Robert Anderson wrote:

ĎIs the Church the Bride of Christ? Let us begin by correcting our terminology. In the Patmos visions we read of "The Bride, the Lambís wife", but "the Bride of Christ" is unknown to Scripture ... With the close of the Baptistís ministry, both the Bride and the Lamb disappear from the New Testament until we reach the Patmos visions. In Revelation 21, the angel summoning the Seer to behold "the Bride" the Lambís wife, and he showed him "the Holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God". The twelve gates of the city bear the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, and on the twelve foundations are "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" ... it is the city for which Abraham looked ... These apostles of the Bride are not the apostles who were given after the Ascension for the building up of the Body of Christ - the apostles of this Christian dispensation, chief among whom was Paul. They are the twelve apostles of the Lordís earthly ministry to Israel, who shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israelí (Matt. 19:28).

These two quotations contain enough to make the present investigation both serious and imperative. We have already seen, in the article entitled BODY, sufficient evidence for believing that the Church thus denominated in Ephesians 1:22,23, is unique, is entirely disassociated from the hope and calling of Israel, and was indeed hidden in the mind of God, unrevealed even in His Word, until the present dispensation of the Mystery followed the dismissal of Israel in Acts 28.

If we call upon the O.T. to bear a witness to the Church which is His Body, the answer is silence. Such a company and such a relationship is unknown. If, however, we call upon the O.T. to bear a witness to a company of redeemed, that are likened to either wife or bride, the answer is affirmative and very full. When Jeremiah prophesied of the institution of the New Covenant, he said, "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt: which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them". This supposes that under the terms of the old covenant, Israel were related to the Lord as a wife to an husband. This is recognized by Ezekiel, who wrote, namely in Ezekiel 16:7-14. The figure employed, "I spread my skirt over thee" when compared with Ruth 3:9 reveals the marriage relationship, which is explained by Ezekiel as entering into a "covenant" and "prospering as a kingdom".

The charge laid against Israel, however, is that they proved unfaithful to their marriage vow, Ezekiel likened them to "a wife that committeth adultery" (Ezek. 16:32) and says that Israel will be judged "as a woman that breaketh wedlock" (Ezek. 16:38). The phrase, which has become common in modern matrimonial lawsuits, "breach of promise", is used by God of Israel in Numbers 14:34; and divorcement is employed by Jeremiah to set forth this people's unhappy position.

"They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? .

Turn O backsliding children saith the Lord: for I am married unto you" (Jer. 3:1,14).

Isaiah speaks of divorcement saying:

"Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away?" (Isa. 50:1).

The same Isaiah has some glowing words to say regarding the ultimate restoration of this wayward people:

"Thou shaft no more be termed Forsaken: neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shaft be called Hephzibah and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married" (Isa. 62:4).

The prophet Hosea, is the prophet of the interval between the setting aside of Israel and of their restoration. In Chapter one, he has three children bearing prophetic names:

Jezreel.             "Scattering" and also "Sowing".
Lo-ruhamah.    "Not having obtained mercy."
Lo-ammi.          "Not My people."

In Chapter two the prophet continues, "she is not My wife, neither am I her husband" but at the close, all is reversed, all is restored:

"I will betroth thee unto Me for ever".

"I will sow (Jezreel) her unto Me in the earth, and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy: and I will say unto them which were not My people, Thou art My people: and they shall say, Thou art my God" (2:23).


Chapter three speaks of the long waiting period of Israel's divorcement: "Thou shalt abide for Me many days...for the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a Prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, an without an ephod, and without teraphim."

We have already considered the dispensational boundary of Acts twenty-eight where Israel's hope is suspended, Israel's long period of blindness and wandering commenced, and where Israel entered into her long period of divorcement. This later thought is implicit in the word translated "departed" in verse 25 which should be rendered "dismissed" for the word is passive. This word apoluo had a distinct meaning, and one that bears closely upon the divorcement of Israel in Acts twenty-eight. Here are the first occurrences of this Greek word in the N.T.

"He was minded to put her away privily".
"Whosoever shall put away his wife".
"Shall marry her that is divorced" (Matt. 1:19, 5:31,32).

The predicted "Lo Ammi condition of Hosea one commences here, the long night of Israel's exile begins here, and the new Dispensation of the grace of God to the Gentiles begins here. The Bride of the Lamb must be distinguished from the national restoration of Israel, set forth in the symbol of a wife divorced, then taken back forgiven and blessed. The Revelation is particularly concerned with a believing, overcoming remnant, and it is this overcoming remnant out of Israel that is depicted under the figure of a Bride. While this distinction must be observed, some expositors have attempted to make a distinction between "wife" of Revelation nineteen and the "bride" of Revelation twenty-one and twenty-two. Restored Israel, as the wife once divorced and at last taken back again is not the subject of the book of the Revelation. Restored Israel as such, has no place in the heavenly city, that is reserved for the heavenly calling of the kingdom. Abraham had the land as an assured inheritance but as an overcomer, he looked higher, and waited for the heavenly city. In both Revelation nineteen and twenty one it is the "Lamb" who is the Bridegroom.

It is assumed, that because Revelation 21:1 opens with a vision of the new heavens and new earth, all that follows belongs also to that great day, but this cannot be, for it is still possible to be excluded as verses 8 and 27 show. It is a characteristic of these visions of the Apocalypse to lead up to a climax, as in Revelation 6:14-17, and then to go back in time and approach the same climax by another avenue. The same principle that would make the wife of Revelation nineteen distinct from the bride of Revelation twenty-one, sees two separate creations and two Adams, in the dual records of Genesis one and two, whereas it is obvious that in the second account fuller details are given. The word "wife" is not exclusive to the record of Revelation nineteen, for in 21:9 we re "as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels" (Isa. 61:10).

In Revelation nineteen the marriage supper of the Lamb is inaugurated. A specific period of time was observed for this ceremony, referred to in Genesis' 29:27 as "her week", and it appears from the Revelation that this week" lasts throughout the millennium, after which the holy city is seen descending from heaven and the "tabernacle of God" will be with men. The language of Revelation 21:10 when compared with Revelation 17:1 places these two women, these two cities, these two systems in direct opposition, a third woman, city or system would be an intruder here.

Before concluding, we must consider the teaching that affirms that the Church of the Mystery, "The Body" must be at the same time "The Bride" by reason of what is taught in Ephesians five. First, it is a matter of demonstrable truth that the Church of the Mystery is called "The Body" of which Christ is the Head. Secondly, the statement made by Paul as to the exclusive character of this high calling, would not only be nullified; but would prove to be unwarrantable exaggerations, if after all that is written in Ephesians one to three, this Church should turn out to be a part of the hope of Israel or the promise made to Abraham. Thirdly, the Apostle (to say nothing of the deeper thought of inspiration) could be accused of badly mixing his metaphors.

We remember once meeting an enthusiast for "The Bride" who contended that the Man child of Revelation twelve must be the Bride! but this is no more extravagant than maintaining that a company destined to be "the perfect Man" is nevertheless "The Bride". It may be objected that the word "man" includes both sexes, but this is not so. Anthropos yes, but Path does not use the word anthropos in Ephesians 4:13 but aner, a word actually translated in Ephesians five by the English word "husband", so that they who insist that the Church of Ephesians five is the bride, must insist that Paul taught that the bride will be the perfect husband-which is absurd.

Ephesians five and six belong, to the practical portion of the epistle (see the structure of the epistle in the article EPHESIANS and in these chapters human society is divided up into three groups: (1) Wives, Husbands. (2) Children, Parents. (3) Servants, Masters. Quite irrespective of the dispensation of grace these three divisions of society would need to be recognized, and wives and husbands are just as surely advised on their relation to the calling that Peter administered as wives and husbands were advised as to their relation to the calling administered by Paul.

Again, some have pointed out that the Church is feminine, and that the pronouns in Ephesians 5:25, 27 should be translated "her" and "she" instead of "it" thereby making it clear that the Church is "the bride". This, however, is just sheer ignorance, or trading upon ignorance. Gender in grammar is not the same as sex. Does anyone imagine that because la table in French is "feminine" it has the remotest allusion to sex? We need not, however, go outside the Greek of Ephesians five itself to demonstrate how utterly false the argument is that would speak of the Church as "she". Kephale "Head" is feminine. Is Christ, the Bridegroom, therefore a female? Akatharsia "uncleanness" is feminine. Do we therefore teach that this is impossible for a man to exhibit or fall into? Basileia "kingdom" is feminine, rutis "wrinkle" is feminine, sarx "flesh" is feminine, and so on. Nothing concerning the calling of the Church can be made out of the fact that the word ekklesia is in the feminine gender. Does Ephesians five say that the Church is the bride, therefore wives should act in accordance with the fact? The answer is No, it draws its power of appeal, from the fact that these "wives" were by grace members of the Body."

"He is the Saviour of the Body" (Eph. 5:23).
"We are members of His Body" (Eph. 5:30).
"No man hateth his own flesh" (Eph. 5:29).

In the new creation, when all the redeemed of all ages are raised, the Church which is the perfect Man, or husband, and the Church which is the BRIDE may re-enact in its full spiritual sense, the union of the first man and woman (Gen. 2:21-24), but that lies beyond the present limits of the ages and dispensations. The Church which is His Body is one company, with a calling that is unique and distinct. The Church of the Bride is another company with a calling unique and distinct, and until God joins these two together let no man attempt to do so.



An Alphabetical Analysis



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