Have you ever wondered why Christ is called the Bridegroom, and the Church is called the Bride? (As shown in this study, the word “Church” does not mean a building, an organization or a denomination. In the New Testament and in the Old, it specifically refers to the Assembly, the believers and God’s chosen people). Is this relationship between Christ and His people, a New Testament idea? Or has God referred to His people in the same manner in the Old Testament? Today we will delve into this subject which, the Apostle Paul called “A Great Mystery” in Eph 5:22-32.
Most of the Christians today, (not because of themselves, but because of the lack of teaching) have no idea of what took place in the Old Testament, leading upto Messiah. We have been taught that the “Church” is the new Bride, and that “Israel” who were called God’s People forever (2Sam 7:24, 1Chr 17:22, 2Chr 20:7, Psa 125:2), have now been replaced by the Christians. The misunderstanding is in that, we are taught the “Church” replaced “Israel”, while very few understand who “Israel” is, and who “Church” is. Apostle Paul understood this well, when He called “Israel” an Olive tree that ALL believers are grafted into (Rom 11:16-26) and that ALL who believe in God and His Salvation, become part of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12).
Getting back to the study at hand, what did Paul mean when he said “A Great Mystery” concerning “Christ” and the “Church”(Believers)? Let us first take a look at the Old Testament and how God Almighty came into this relationship with His people as Bridegroom & Bride. And then we will travel through the Old Testament studying what became of this relationship, upto the New Testament and how Christ refreshed this relationship in Himself.
God Almighty & His People – Bridegroom & Bride
1. It is evident that God stepped into a relationship where He considered Himself “Engaged” or “Betrothed” to Israel.
Jer 2:2 Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.
2. This “Betrothal” happened at Sinai, when He made an Eternal Covenant with the people “Israel”.
Jer 31:32 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, saith the LORD:
3. From this point onwards, God considered Himself like a Husband unto Israel
Isa 54:5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
————– brief summary of the Division of the kingdom of Israel upto their exile ————–
It is important to know what expired in the Old Testament, at this point. If you do not know about the 2 Houses of Israel (also known as the Divided Kingdom of Israel, please read this study) I will attempt to give a very short summary for your convenience:- After Moses and Joshua led the people into the promised land, the people were under judges until the time Saul was anointed King of Israel. After Saul, David came to the throne and Solomon after that. When Solomon was in his old age, he was seduced by his many wives to disobey God’s Commandments (1Kin 11:4-13). As punishment, God divided the Kingdom of Israel into 2 parts (1Kin 11:30). Ten tribes were handed onto Jeroboam – the servant of Solomon (1Kin 11:31). Solomon’s son, Rehoboam ruled over the other two tribes which were Judah & Benjamin (1Kin 12:17,23). From this point onwards, Israel became divided into 2 parts/kingdoms known as “The House of Israel” & “The House of Judah” (Jer 3:18) both were led astray by most of their rulers. This continued until finally according to all the prophets “The House of Israel” was taken into captivity in Assyria (2Kin 17:6,18,23), and scattered among the nations(Hos 8:8, Jer 31:10). Approximately 150 years afterwards “The House of Judah” was taken into Babylonian captivity (Dan 1:1,2), but was let back into the land by God after a 70 year exile period (Jer 29:10, Ezr 2:1, Neh 7:6).
————– brief summary of the Division of the kingdom of Israel upto their exile ————–
4. Even though God regarded Himself in a “Marriage covenant” relationship, His people disobeyed Him, even to the extent of going after foreign deities.
Eze 16:32 But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!
Jer 3:20 Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.
Jer 2:32 Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
Hos 3:1 Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.
5. God spoke through the prophets asking this adulterous wife to return back to Him
Joe 1:8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.
Jer 3:1b but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.
Jer 3:14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
6. Finally, the House of Israel is “put away”/”divorced” while the House of Judah is exiled for 70years in Babylon for her indiscretions
Jer 3:8 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.
Isa 50:1 Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.
Hos 2:2 Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts;
7. God knew that the “Divorced” (Broken Covenant) House of Israel had fewer people than the “Married” (in Covenant) House of Judah
Isa 54:1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.
(Please read Ezekiel Chapter 23 as well, to understand the disobedience of the 2 Houses and the punishment which was ordered)
8. But God had a plan of Re-Betrothal towards the House of Israel. He knew that “She” will return back to Him
Hos 2:7 And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. (Look at the similarity of this proclamation and the parable of the prodigal son)
Hos 2:19,20 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.
Isa 62:5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
9. According to God’s own Word/Law, a woman who is divorced by her husband cannot be married back. She is under this Law till the death of her 1st Husband.
Deu 24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
Jer 3:1a 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? shall not that land be greatly polluted?
10. So how can God go against His own Word and take this wife (The House of Israel), again in marriage, who He put away because of adultery?
THE SHORT ANSWER IS MESSIAH!!!
11. Christ is referred to as the Bridegroom/Husband in the New Testament
Joh 3:29,30 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.
Luk 5:34,35 And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
2Co 11:2 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.
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Rev 19:7 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.
12. It is important to note that He specifically said that He was sent only for the House of Israel. The House of Israel was the one who was “put away” by God (Jer 3:8)
Mat 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
13. While Christ died for the Sin of all who believe in Him, He also died so that He could reconcile the “wife who was put away” – the ones scattered amongst the nations after the Assyrian exile.
Joh 11:52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
14. The “House of Israel” was called the “Dispersed” or “Scattered”
Joh 7:35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?
Also read Eze 12:15, 36:19, Isa 11:12, 27:12,13, Zep 3:10, Jam 1:1, 1Pet 1:1
15. The House of Israel is amongst the Gentiles
Hos 8:8 Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.
Also read Deut 4:27,28, 28:64, Jer 50:17, Isa 61:9, Jer 16:13-15, Eze 11:16
16. God has promised to bring back the scattered and rebuild His people
Read Deut 30:1-5, Isaiah 11:10-13, 27:12, 43:5-7, Jer 3:12-15, Amos 9:9, Ezek 11:17, Ezek 37
SO WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN
After the division of the Kingdom, part of Israel, known as “The House of Israel” was put away by God for breaking His covenant. They were taken to Assyria as slaves and scattered amongst the nations. But God had promised that he will take her back (Hos 2:7,19,20, Isa 62:5). But He could not go back on His word “of marrying her who was put away”. For this, Messiah Yeshua stepped forward. When He (The Husband) died, “The House of Israel” was let loose from the Law of Husband and Wife. Then Messiah rose again from the dead, so that He could be Re-Betrothed to “The House of Israel”. This is what Apostle Paul explained in Rom 7:1-4 given below
Apostle Paul, who knew the dilemma of God and His Betrothed, and that the wife who was divorced could not be remarried till the Husband died, explained it in this way.
Rom 7:1-4 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law(the Law of Husband & Wife that Paul mentions above) by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
This was the “Great Mystery” that Apostle Paul spoke about in Eph 5:32 and again in Eph 3:4-6, how the Gentiles are “fellowheirs” and of the “same body” through Christ.
Plain conversation or Prophetic Shadow
Almost all Christians are familiar with the event where Yeshua talked with the Samaritan Woman. Few understand the prophetic significance in this event, and the true meaning of Yeshua’s Words. Let us examine His Words
Joh 4:16-18 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
Samaritan’s were not originally from “the House of Israel” or from “the House of Judah”(2Kin 17:25-41). They were a people engaged in mixed worship, and they inhabited Samaria which was the Capital of “the House of Israel” after the Assyrian Exile.
Look at Yeshua’s words again, in the context of Him being the Bridegroom and Samaria being the woman. While Yeshua surely is talking about this single individuals life, there is a “shadow” underneath, in which the “Bridegroom” of the woman is telling her how she has had many husbands (Samaria has worshiped many gods), and that the husband she is with (the god they are worshiping currently) is not the actual Husband (Yehovah should be their Husband). Plain conversation or Prophetic Shadow? You be the judge.
Christ and His people being called the Bridegroom and Bride, is not a new Idea, but an idea which is rooted deeply in the Old Testament Scriptures. Yeshua’s Death and Resurrection fulfilled multiple prophecies. He acted as a “Passover Sacrifice”(The Blood of the Lamb which redeems the people from slavery to sin), a “Firstfruits Offering”(The first of the harvest of people to rise from the dead) and an “Atonement Sacrifice”(Blood which is pure, that is offered as atonement for all our sin), while also becoming the “Husband” who died and rose again to free His Adulterous/Divorced Bride from the Law which made it impossible for her to become Betrothed back to God once again. In His Resurrection, we are once again Betrothed back to Him, becoming part of His people, “Israel”.