Who Is The Bride of Christ?
By William Handschumacher
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
Most students of the Bible understand the rapture to be a future event where Christ returns and calls His bride away from the earth. There are four major references in the New Testament concerning Christ's Bride. One well-known reference is found in the book of Revelation. Yet, Paul mentions “the Bride” three times in Romans 7:4, 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:28-32. There are more indirect references when you include the parables Jesus taught about the wedding feast.
Speaking to all believers in Christ
at Rome, Paul made the following
"Therefore, my brethren, you also
have become dead to the law through
the body of Christ, that you might
be married to another - to Him who
was raised from the dead, that we
should bear fruit to God.
Once again, in his epistle to all
believers at Corinth, Paul writes;
"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."
(2 Cor 11:2)
Why do we draw attention to the
fact that Paul is making these
comments about the “Bride of
Christ” to all believers?
A growing number of end-time prophecy teachers are attempting to redefine "The Bride of Christ" as an elite group of Christians, who possess a high level of devotion to the Lord. They claim that this special "high performance" group does not include all true believers. These Bible teachers (and their followers) insist that "the Bride" represents only the most faithful and devoted members of the Church. They claim that this special group of “overcomers” (some preachers call them “the overcoming remnant church”) will be the only ones God chooses to participate in the rapture. It also means that all other authentic Christian believers, who failed to “overcome” will be left behind for additional purification during the tribulation. As previously stated in other commentaries, this is another variation of what is often called, "the partial-rapture error" found in many Bible prophecy circles. It represents a continuing effort by legalists (or those that preach a "different gospel", which was condemned by Saint Paul) to divide Christ's body. The popular, yet misleading theology of legalism (and its countless variants) began in the first century. In his epistles to the Church, Saint Paul attempts to expose and condemn this dangerous false teaching.
There are two terms that describe all true believers in Christ. The first is "The Body of Christ" - and the second is "The Church". Scripture teaches that both terms describe the same group of people, which is all those in every place, who have trusted Christ as their Savior and Redeemer. Concerning this group, Saint Paul gives some important insight :
"And He (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18)
"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph 1:22-23)
Paul announces to the entire Corinthinan congregation...
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (1 Cor 12:27)
Notice that Paul is declaring all believers in Christ at Corinth to be members of the Body of Christ. He did not say that Christ's body was a special group of only the most devoted and faithful. Understanding this all inclusive term is important because Paul rebuked the Corinthian believers as being some of the most "carnal" under his care. Yet, these "carnal Christians" are also part of the body of Christ, despite their deficiencies and behavior. In his epistles to both the Colossians and the Ephesians (Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 1:22-23 quoted above), Paul reveals an important fact; that "the body" (or the Body of Christ) of which Christ is the head - is also known as the Church. This means all believers who make up 'the body' is the same 'all' who is Christ's Church.
Paul brings these facts together in an important truth, when teaching about the relationship between a husband and his wife.
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
Pay particular attention to the next statement.
"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: But I speak concerning Christ and the Church." (Ephesians 5:28-32)
When teaching about the relationship between a husband and a wife, Paul reveals "a mystery" about Christ and His Church. Here's another way of saying the same thing: "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and His bride (and future wife), the Church". At a marriage ceremony, a bride becomes a wife.
The "Bride of Christ" is not a special group (or sub-set) of devoted high-performance Christians, who are rewarded for their works and performance with the rapture ... while other under-performing (or carnal) Christians are left behind to endure additional purification and punishment for their failures. Jesus condemns this popular religious belief that divides His body into different classes based on their performance and behavior. Jesus Christ has "one undivided body" - not a collection of dismembered body parts, where some leave at the rapture - and others are rejected and left behind. If you've obeyed the simple conditions of the Gospel found in Romans 10:8-13 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 - then you've successfully received God's gift of eternal life and are now "freely justified" by His Grace through a faith without works (Romans 3:24-26 and Romans 4:4-8). We should remember that "being justified" (the Bible calls it "justification by faith") means that God now considers (or reckons) you to be perfectly sinless. This sinless state is "imputed" and overrides your current sinful and imperfect spiritual condition. It covers all of the believer's sin; past, present and future. The simple act of believing on Jesus Christ as your savior makes you a member of the Body of Christ, which also makes you a member of Christ's Church and the future 'Bride of Christ'.
The Church (or body of Christ) consists of all true believers on earth. However, when the Church moves to heaven at the rapture, they become Christ's Bride (and His future wife after the marriage). Those who attempt to ensnare you by claiming that "The Bride of Christ" is a special group of "elite believers", selected by God to be in the rapture because of their exceptional level of faithfulness and religious performance ... are not giving you the truth. It may sound reasonable to a religiously minded person, but the Bible calls it; "the way that seems right, but ends in death" (Proverbs 14:12).
Additional information is available
at the following links:
Imputation: The New Covenant Method God Uses
To Transfer His Spiritual Benefits To Us
The New Testament Believer's Position
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