There are four main groups of scripture that dispensationalists cite to support their theory that the Christian Church is the Bride of the Lamb spoken of in the book of Revelation, Chapter 21:2, 9. They are Matthew 22:1-14, Matthew 25:1-13, 2 Corinthians 11: 2, 3 and Ephesians 5:22-23. Let’s look at the first of these four passages:
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 ‘the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those whom had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘the wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.’ 9 go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But then the king came in to see who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 ‘Friend,’ he said, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen, (Matthew 22:1-14, NIV).”
Many theorists, especially modern-day evangelists and preachers, often use these verses in their sermons as scriptural proof that the Christian Church should be viewed as the soon-to-be-wedded bride spoken of in Revelations 19:7-14; 21:2, 9. However, if we examine carefully the main emphasis in this great parable of the wedding banquet, the message in this group of scripture hits home in verse 12 where the king poses the proverbial question: “Friend,” he asked, “how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” The man was speechless and the king proceeded to order the attendants to tie him hand and foot and throw the garmentless one outside, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth! For many are invited, but few are chosen (vs. 13).”
This group of scripture clearly tells us (in parable form) how a person qualifies to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and it plainly states that no one comes into it unless they are wearing the proper wedding attire. All Bible scholars agree that the wedding garments represent the heavenly robes that the called out ones washed in the blood of the sacrificed Lamb of God, which they inherit once they believe in Him who shed His blood for the atonement of their sins. The passages clearly convey a picture (accepted and interpreted by most Bible scholars) of the overall gospel message, which tells us that a calling was made (first to national Israel), but the invitees went to take care of their businesses instead, while some remained to persecute the king’s servants (the prophets and the apostles) unto death. Then we see where the king (Almighty God) became enraged by their response and consequently sent His armies (angels) to destroy these murderers, and eventually burned their city. The king then instructs the servants (His prophets and apostles) to go out and gather (through the preaching of the God’s word) all the people they can find both good and bad, and then the wedding hall will be filled with guests.
It is interesting to note that there is no mention of the betrothal to the Lamb in this group of scripture nor is there any implication here that anyone will become married to anyone, for that matter. Rather, the main emphasis in this parable (in a wedding metaphor) is that only the ones who will be allowed to attend the banquet need be those who are wearing the garments. Obviously, the garments allude to those robes that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb! But yet, theorists continually use this parable in vain as biblical proof that the Christian Church should be viewed as the Bride, soon to be wedded to Christ, and up in heaven, no less.
But, if theorists view the Christian Church as the Bride that is to be wedded to the Lamb of God, then pray tell, who are these invited guests in attendance at this great wedding banquet? Let’s see if we can determine who these ‘guests’ may be that have been allowed entrance to this glorious wedding banquet.
In Matthew 9:15, we see Jesus responding to John’s disciples, who asked Him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered: How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, then they will fast, (Matthew 9:15, NIV)
This account is reported also in Mark 2:19 and Luke 5:34. These verses are extremely important to this chapter, in that they picture Jesus referring to himself as the bridegroom; but more importantly, they specifically identify the faithful believers (Greek: ecclessia=called out ones) as His guests! The KJV specifically uses the word (or phrase) children of the bridechamber; the Amplified uses wedding guests; the RV also uses wedding guests; the NAS uses attendants; the Living New Testament uses the Bridegroom’s friends; and the NIV uses guests. When we carefully examine both the Strong’s and NASB Concordance, we find that the word guests used in the original manuscript is the Greek word huios, which means sons or children. There can be no mistake then that the wedding guests, attendants, children of the bridechamber or the bridegroom’s friends are any other than the disciples mentioned in the preceding verse (14), which are the sons (huios) of God. These verses clearly identify the role that Christians will play at the wedding banquet. We (the ecclesia, God’s called out ones) will be the guests (Greek huios=sons of God) at the wedding banquet, but in no way can we be viewed as participating in the wedding banquet as The Bride of the Lamb!
In these three groups of scripture (Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19 and Luke 5:34), we see where Christ (the Bridegroom) did not require His attendants (huios=sons), to participate in any other fasting ritual besides the required fast on the Day of Atonement. Jesus told his inquirers (John’s disciples and the Pharisees) that while He (the messianic bridegroom) was with His guests, there was no reason to mourn. They (His disciples) were with their Savior. But soon, He would be taken from them (through crucifixion, resurrection and ascension), and then there would be reason to fast. We recognize that fasting for the Christian (now that Jesus is at the right hand of God) is one of the ways that we draw in a closer relationship to God through the power of the Holy Spirit. However, when Christ returns, we (called out ones) will never again have reason to mourn because we will be in His presence, not to be wedded to Him, but rather, to attend and serve the King of kings and Lord of lords during His eternal earthly reign.
More importantly, nowhere in these scriptural references are we to draw any inference of the disciples (who are referred to as guests) as being a collective bride. No connection is made that a betrothal situation with them will occur; but, a definite identification is made as to who the bridegroom represents, and a definite identification is made as to who the disciples are. They are the wedding banquet guests (Gr. huios=sons of God), not the bride!
Let’s look at the second group of scripture theorists use in an attempt to prove that the Christian Church is the Bride of the Lamb, those found of scripture in Matthew 25:1-13:
At that time the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 At midnight the cry rang out: ‘here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him! 7 then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both of you and us. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12 But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.” 13 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour, (Matthew 25:1-13, NIV).
Here we find the famed parable of the ten virgins, of whom five were not prepared to greet the bridegroom because they didn’t have any oil for their lamps. Here, theorists use these verses as picturing the Christian Church (aka, virgins) as being caught up to heaven with Christ. The one verse, however, that provides the main emphasis for this group of scripture is verse 10, where it states, “The virgins who were ready went in with Him to the wedding banquet.”
The first group of scripture (Matthew 22:1-14) the author cited above plainly states that no one can enter the Kingdom of heaven unless they have the wedding garments, washed in His blood, which cannot be obtained unless they have believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His cleansing blood for their sins. This second group of scripture (Matthew 25:1-13) plainly states that no one can attend the Father’s wedding banquet unless they have the Holy Spirit. It is important to understand that this parable of the ten virgins is not talking about the Christian Church being caught up to heaven; but rather, the example is symbolic and clearly points out that some people will be allowed to enter the banquet and some will not. The prerequisite for attending the wedding banquet is the possession of the new nature that has been given to each called out one as a gift from the Holy Spirit (the oil, if you will), and only those who abide in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit will be able to enter.
Also, there is no mention in these verses that the five faithful virgins are the objects of marriage. If this were the case, the appropriate wording for this parable would have used two virgins in the parable, one faithful and ready and the other faithless and unprepared. The faithful one would thereby serve as an example of a virgin being prepared for the nuptial experience. But that isn’t the case. The parable clearly demonstrates that individual believers (the invited guests) have to possess the new nature bestowed by the power of Holy Spirit to enter the wedding banquet, which is held several days before the actual wedding. Once again, the virgins here represent those people who are invited and are prepared with the oil (the Holy Spirit), as was the case with those people who were prepared with their wedding garments, washed in the blood of the Lamb. These two prerequisites are essential to enter the Kingdom of God. Another small point to be made is that it really stretches the imagination (and scripture patterns) to believe that the bridegroom is hereby preparing to marry five individual virgins. If they are the only ones that represent the Christian Church, then very few people will occupy the Kingdom of God, which will not be the case. But an even more convincing argument that this parable does not refer to or picture the Christian Church as being the Bride of the Lamb is another section of scripture that harmoniously blends with this one. These following verses in Luke 12:35-38 graphically describe the need to be prepared for the wedding banquet by having oil (the new nature given to believers by the Holy Spirit) in their lamps.
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for Him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth; he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night, (Luke 12:35-38, NIV). [Underline and Bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]
Although a reference is made here to “men,” it is also made to “servants,” which includes both men and women believers. However, the more important message emphasized here is one of being prepared and not quenching the gifts of power given by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the Lord returns, we will be found in a faithful labor and commitment to our respective ministries.
Isn’t interesting also that in the above mentioned verses (35 and 36) of this parable it states, “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for Him?” If this is talking about the Christian Church being caught up to attend a wedding banquet in heaven, isn’t it interesting that it states they are waiting for their master who is returning from a wedding banquet, rather then going to one? What happened? The author thought (according to theorists’ claims) that the faithful servants were supposed to be getting married to the bridegroom and celebrating with Him at the wedding banquet, supposedly being conducted in heaven. According to these verses, the men (supposedly the Christian Church) are now waiting for Him to return after the big wedding celebration!
Let’s look at another verse theorists use to pad their Christian Church is the Bride of The Lamb theory, which is found in 2 Corinthians 11:2, where the apostle Paul is addressing the called out ones at Corinth:
It is understandable how theorists could extrapolate this one verse and try to use it as a building block to prove their point, an obvious reference being made to the fact that the word “husband” is used. The author points out that the word husband in this verse is the Greek word aner, which is used for both husband and man. However, the main emphasis is not that Paul is presenting the Christian Church to a husband as a parent betroths or presents a virgin daughter to the intended groom (as if Paul had any power or authority to even accomplish such a task); but, rather, the essence of Paul’s message was a fear he had that the Corinthians he helped convert to the faith would be weakened by false prophets and thereby be swayed by another gospel. He confirms this was the intent of his previous remarks by the following verse, where he stated, But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpents cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ, (2 Corinthians 11:3, NIV). Matthew Henry, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians, Chapter 2, brings this point home very profoundly:
"We have the reasons for what the apostle did. (1.) To preserve the Corinthians from being corrupted by the insinuations of the false apostles, v. 2, 3. He tells them he was jealous over them with godly jealousy; he was afraid lest their faith should be weakened by hearkening to such suggestions as tended to lessen their regard to his ministry, by which they were brought to the Christian faith. He had espoused them to one husband, that is, converted them to Christianity (and the conversion of a soul is its marriage to the Lord Jesus); and he was desirous to present them as a chaste virgin—pure, and spotless, and faithful, not having their minds corrupted with false doctrines by false teachers, as Eve was beguiled by the subtlety of the serpent. This godly jealousy in the apostle was a mixture of love and fear; and faithful ministers cannot but be afraid and concerned for their people, lest they should lose that which they have received, and turn from what they have embraced, especially when deceivers have gone abroad, or have crept in among them. (2.) To vindicate himself against the false apostles, forasmuch as they could not pretend they had another Jesus, or another Spirit, or another gospel, to preach to them, v. 4. If this had been the case, there would have been some colour of reason to bear with them, or to hearken to them. But seeing there is but one Jesus, one Spirit, and one gospel, that is, or at least that ought to be, preached to them and received by them, what reason could there be why the Corinthians should be prejudiced against him, who first converted them to the faith, by the artifices of any adversary? It was a just occasion of jealousy that such persons designed to preach another Jesus, another Spirit, and another gospel.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians, Chapter 2)
The author admires Paul’s zeal and desire to fulfill that promise to the Lord (present the church as a pure virgin); but Paul was also aware of the reality that preaching the gospel alone could not accomplish that task. There had to be a commitment and response on the church’s behalf by abiding in Christ with all its heart and all its might, and not be dissuaded by another gospel.
Nevertheless, Paul’s statement here does not state that the Christian Church is going to be a bride to Christ, but rather, that he desires that he might help to present the church as pure as a virgin; a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and blameless! Nowhere in this passage are we to infer that Paul is telling us that the Christian Church is the Bride of the Lamb!
Another group of scripture that harmoniously blends and confirms that the past scriptural references cannot (and should not) be used to imply that the Christian Church is the Bride of the Lamb is found in Ephesians 5:22-33. It is this portion of scripture that is most often referred to by theorists and dispensationalists in their attempts to prove that the Christian Church needs to be seen as the Bride of the Lamb. Let’s examine this group:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 after all, no one ever hated his on body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church – 30 for we are members of his body. 3l For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband, (Ephesians 5:22-33, NIV).” [Underline and Bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]
Once again, one of the verses that provide us with the main emphasis to be received is verse 27. The message plainly states, throughout all of these passages, that the attitude that the ecclesia (the Body of Christ, His called out ones) should have towards Christ is one of total submission, with unconditional love and respect. In doing so, Christian husbands and wives will clearly understand what this great mystery is, which is that Christ loved us so much He was willing to die for the church so that it would now be blameless. And now Holy, and through the washing with water through the word, He can now present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless, (vs. 27). [Underline and Bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]
Paul didn’t say that Christ paid the price for sin to present her to himself as a “bride,” but as a radiant church! The analogy used here, which to unbelievers (and theorists) is a mystery (and to some believers too, unfortunately), is that husbands should not only have such tremendous and unconditional love for theirs wives, this love should be so strong and unselfish that husbands should do all to prove that love, even if it means dying for their wives, just as Christ loved the church so much He gave up His life for her. Throughout the New Testament, we see mention of the “mystery” (which is not the church) of God, and its main emphasis is on the grace, change and miraculous power of uniting the Gentiles and faithful Israel as joint heirs, through the power of the gospel. (See Ephesians 3:6, Galatians 3:8)
The mystery spoken of in this group of scripture is not that the Christian Church is going to be presented to Christ as the Bride of the Lamb, but rather, that through Christ’s death and resurrection, God was able to become one with His creation, as man and woman do so when they marry. The main message being conveyed in these passages is the great love God has for His creation, not a soon-to-come wedding. It’s that same type of love that He requires from husbands: sacrificial love! And from the wives, He expects them to respect their husbands. In Ephesians 5:22-33, what we truly see is a picture of oneness established in marriage between husband and wife, the same oneness that needs to exist with the ecclesia and Christ.. That’s the true mystery!
As the author stated earlier, this mystery is not understood by unbelievers, but even sadder, many called out ones are missing out on a myriad of God’s blessings because they don’t adopt this love toward their spouses like they should. Until they do, it will become even more difficult in perilous times to respond to the works that lay ahead for the “one body” (man and wife), which is perfectly conveyed by Paul’s analogy of Christ and His children of promise, the called out ones.
Is the Christian Church the Bride of the Lamb? New Jerusalem, The Holy City of God? If so, then who are those whose names are written in the
Lamb's Book of Life who are the only ones allowed entry into this city spoken of in Revelation 22:14-15? Theorists use the aforementioned four groups of scriptures to make such a claim. However, if these four groups of scripture we carefully examined are hereby being used to portray this picture, then we must ask the Holy Spirit to make His message much clearer than the way theorists infer.