Part Four: The Bride, The Lamb’s Wife, Faithful
Part Four of Four
Part two of this series focused on the first stage of the Bride’s Betrothal. We saw that in traditional Jewish culture, after the betrothal ceremony, the bridegroom and bride were from then on considered legally married. The bridegroom would return to his father’s house to prepare a bridal chamber and the bride would begin to prepare herself for the second stage of the betrothal. During this period the bride was set apart, consecrated to the bridegroom, awaiting his return.
Betrothal, Stage Two
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)
The second stage of betrothal would commence at a time chosen by the bridegroom’s father. As soon as the bridegroom had the go ahead he would gather one or two of his closest friends and together they would journey to the bride’s home. A wealthy bridegroom would be wearing a crown on his head. The two friends served as the two witnesses required under the Law (Deu. 19:15). As they drew close, one of the ‘friends of the bridegroom’ would blow a shofar (trumpet) and call with a loud voice: “Behold, the bridegroom comes!”.
The bride somehow sensed when her bridegroom’s return was imminent, and though she didn’t know the day or hour, would be expecting his arrival. She would gather other young unmarried women who would assist her to prepare, and they would often have lamps filled with oil in readiness for the journey ahead (Matthew 25:1-12). The bridegroom would arrive to ‘snatch away’ his bride and a grand procession, which included the bride’s family, the virgins, and the friends of the bridegroom, would begin to make their way back to the bridegroom’s home.
Somewhere along this journey, however, the bridegroom and the bride would depart from the wedding party and enter the bridal chamber which the bridegroom had prepared. Here the bridegroom would give gifts to his bride and the marriage would be consummated. One of the friends of the bridegroom would stand outside the door of the chamber awaiting the bridegroom’s shout of joy, confirming the bride had remained faithful to him during their time apart. This was alluded to by John the Baptist when he said:
He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. John 3:29
For seven days the bridal couple would remain secluded within the bridal chamber while the others of the bridal party celebrated. After seven days they would emerge to join the rest of the wedding party and there would be a great wedding feast.
One of the great problems we have in our western-based church culture has been to project our own wedding traditions into how we interpret events concerning Christ and His Bride. In Jewish tradition, (and remember Jesus lived and taught within that context), a marriage was consummated prior to the wedding feast, not afterwards. If a groom found that his bride had been unfaithful to their covenant, he had the right to ‘put her away’ or divorce her (see Matthew 1:18-20). Under the Law, a woman who had been unfaithful faced likely death by stoning.
We learn from this prophetic picture that the bride’s faithfulness to the groom is therefore pivotal to the entire marriage. The Bride of Christ comprises those who give the Bridegroom absolute pre-eminence in all aspects of their lives (Col. 1:18).
The Bride becomes the Wife
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (Rev. 21:9)
In the book of Revelation the apostle John was invited to glimpse the Bride in the fullness of her glory. She is referred to as both ‘bride’ (Greek ‘nymphe’) and ‘wife’ (Greek ‘gyne’). In the original Greek, these are two different words with slightly different meanings. “Nymphe” refers to a young, betrothed, or newly married woman. “Gyne” refers to a fully mature woman of any age. The difference is one of maturity and reminds us again that there is a spiritual journey to be taken from ‘bride’ to ‘wife’.
John was granted a vision of this fully matured Bride/Wife of the Lamb in the form of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2). The Bride is not literally a city, she is a corporate company of saints, but is represented here symbolically in the manner of a great city, like none that has ever been seen.
In Revelation 21:15-23 the messenger first discloses the measurements of the city, twelve thousand furlongs, then the height of its walls, one hundred and forty four cubits (twelve times twelve). The number twelve in scripture symbolises divine government and apostolic fullness. The Lamb’s Wife carries the fullness of the stature of Christ (Eph. 4:13).
The city has walls made of jasper, or clear crystal, and is built from gold so pure it is as transparent as glass. The jasper symbolises priesthood while the gold symbolises glory and dominion, but gold so refined is also costly (Rev. 3:18).
The foundations are revealed next, adorned with twelve precious stones. Christ Himself is the Bride’s foundation, (1 Cor. 3:11) while the stones represent the Bride’s royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). There are twelve gates each made from a single pearl. Pearls in scripture represent suffering (Philippians 3:10).
The most radiant aspect of this city, however, is its light which emanates directly from the Lamb. This wife of the Lamb is so totally reflective of her Bridegroom that she has become completely transparent, without blemish or spot, radiating only His righteousness and His character.
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (Rev. 21:22)
There is no temple in this city, meaning there is no place set aside for God. This is because to see the Bride is to see the Bridegroom, so perfect is their oneness (John 17:21-23). The Bride herself has become the dwelling place of God (Rev. 21:3).
Note that this beautiful Bride-Wife is called the “Wife of the Lamb”, reflecting all facets of the Lamb’s own nature. So who is the Lamb? We have only known one side of the Lamb: the meek, sacrificial, redemptive Lamb laying down His life for our redemption (Is. 53:7; John 1:29; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19). However, the risen, majestic, Lamb John saw is another face of the Lamb we are yet to behold. This is the Lamb who has received “power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). This is the Lamb who will terrify the kings of the earth (Rev. 6:15); this is the Lamb John said was ‘like the Son of Man’ and whom he hardly recognised (Rev. 1:12-17); this is the Lamb who shall go to war with the beast and his army and overcome them (Rev. 17:14); this is the Lamb who judges and makes war striking nations with the Sword of His mouth (Rev. 19:11-16). The Wife of the Lamb who has known Him in the fellowship of His sufferings will also know Him in this majesty, glory and authority.
This is the Lamb who even now is preparing to receive to Himself an unblemished Bride. The Spirit of God broods over her, conforming her to the image of Christ. At the hour of the Father’s choosing the Bridegroom will come for her. May we be found faithful.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.