MBS015 THE WIFE OF JEHOVAH AND THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum
For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ.2 Corinthians 1:2
Many years ago, Dr. C.I. Scofield wrote a little booklet titled, “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.” In this booklet, he showed how any clear understanding of Scripture requires that proper distinctions be maintained. In fact, the mark of a Dispensationalist or a non-Dispensationalist often revolves around the understanding of key biblical distinctions. If we do not understand that there are certain distinctions in the Scriptures, then the Scriptures become contradictory.
For example, between Adam and Noah, man was to be purely vegetarian. Between Noah and Moses, God told humanity they could eat anything they desired without limitations. From Moses to Yeshua (Jesus), there were only specific types of meat permitted and other types forbidden. The eating of beef was permitted, but shrimp and ham were forbidden. Since Yeshua, however, all meats have been again pronounced “clean” and we are free to partake of anything we desire as long as we do it with thanksgiving.
Unless we understand these distinctive time-elements of Scripture and that God has dealt in different ways at different times, then it indeed appears that God is contradicting Himself; because one part of the Bible says, “you may” and another says, “you may not” concerning the very same subject.
One of these key biblical distinctions is the one between Israel and the Church. A failure to maintain that distinction will only result in a misinterpretation of what the Scriptures teach. The Scriptures maintain the distinction between Israel and the Church in a number of different ways, one of which is the distinction between “the Wife” and “the Bride.” In the Bible, Israel is represented as the “Wife of Jehovah,” whereas the Church is represented as the “Bride of the Christ (Messiah).” We will look at what the Scriptures have to say about both of these relationships and see how these distinctions are maintained.
I. ISRAEL: THE WIFE OF JEHOVAH
The relationship of Israel as the Wife of Jehovah is viewed throughout the Scriptures in various ways and facets. This relationship can be broken down into six distinct stages through which the relationship develops. Four of these stages are history. We are now living in the fifth stage of the relationship between Israel and the Church. The sixth stage is future.
A. Stage One: The Marriage Contract
To a casual and superficial reader, the Book of Deuteronomy seems to be merely a repetition of what Moses had written earlier in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. In fact, the very title Deuteronomy means “a second time” or “a repetition of the Law.” Indeed, almost everything we find in the Book of Deuteronomy can be found in the three preceding books of the Law of Moses.
However, the Book of Deuteronomy is not merely a book of repetitions; the entire format is that of both an ancient treaty and an ancient marriage contract. In other words, what Moses does in Deuteronomy is to take all the various facets of the three earlier books and present them in the form of an ancient marriage contract. For in this book we find the marriage contract signed between Israel and God whereby Israel becomes the Wife of Jehovah.
Due to its length, we are unable to deal with the Book of Deuteronomy in its entirety and demonstrate how it fits into the scheme of a marriage contract. However, we are able to concentrate on certain key passages.
The first passage is found in Deuteronomy 5:1–3: And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them. Jehovah our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Jehovah made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.
This passage declares that God entered into a covenant with His people Israel at Mount Sinai. We shall see later that the Jewish prophets always viewed this covenant-relationship as a marriage contract.
Later, in Deuteronomy 6:10–15, God announces His jealousy over His Wife, Israel: And it shall be, when Jehovah your God shall bring you into the land which he swore unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you, great and goodly cities, which you builded not, and houses full of all good things, which you filled not, and cisterns hewn out, which you hewed not, vineyards and olive-trees, which you planted not, and you shall eat and be full; then beware lest you forget Jehovah, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall fear Jehovah your God; and him shall you serve, and shall swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples that are round about you; for Jehovah your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; lest the anger of Jehovah your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.
In this passage, Israel is warned against adultery. Since Jehovah is Israel’s husband, the means by which Israel can be guilty of adultery is by the worship of other gods. God warned Israel not to become an adulterous wife by playing around with other gods. The reason given is God’s burning jealousy that will be kindled against her and will eventually cause her expulsion out of the Land, which God has given her.
And in Deuteronomy 7:6–11, Israel is again described as the one chosen by God: For you are a holy people unto Jehovah your God: Jehovah your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth. Jehovah did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all peoples: but because Jehovah loves you, and because he would keep the oath which he swore unto your fathers, has Jehovah brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that Jehovah your God, he is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenants and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations, and repays them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hates him, he will repay him to his face. You shall therefore keep the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command you this day, to do them.
In verse 6, God describes the choosing of Israel and in verses 7–8, He gives us the reason: God did not choose her as His Wife due to her size, because she was small. He had only one basic reason and that was His love for her and, because of His love for Israel, He entered into a covenant-relationship with her by means of the marriage contract of Deuteronomy. Now Israel has an obligation, for in verses 9–11, God implored Israel to faithfulness, to be a faithful wife to Jehovah by being obedient and subject to Him.
As was stated earlier, the prophets always looked at this covenant-relationship as a marriage contract.
One example is found in Ezekiel 16:8: Now when I passed by you, and looked upon you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over you, and covered your nakedness: yea, I swore unto you, and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord Jehovah, and you became mine.
The words used by Ezekiel are the words of the wedding night; the covenant at Sinai and the relationship between Israel and Jehovah are described by the prophet in the terms of the wedding night.
Thus, in the first stage of her relationship as the Wife of Jehovah, Israel entered into a marriage contract; essentially the entire Book of Deuteronomy.
B. Stage Two: The Great Adultery
Although Israel was sternly admonished to remain faithful to her husband, rather than being faithful, she was guilty of a great adultery, described by several Old Testament prophets.
In Jeremiah 3:1–5 we read: They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, will he return unto her again? will not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, said Jehovah. Lift up your eyes unto the bare heights, and see; where have you not been lain with? By the ways have you sat for them, as an Arabian in the wilderness; and you have polluted the land with your whoredoms and with your wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there has been no latter rain; yet you have a harlot’s forehead, you refused to be ashamed. Will you not from this time cry unto me, My Father, you are the guide of my youth? Will he retain his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, you have spoken and have done evil things, and have had your way.
Israel was not merely guilty of a one-time adultery, but she was guilty of playing the harlot with many lovers.
Later, in verse 20, Jeremiah writes: Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, said Jehovah.
In this passage Jeremiah shows that Israel is indeed like a wife who has turned away from her husband; she was a wife guilty of adultery.
Because of this adultery, the original marriage contract was broken, according to Jeremiah 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 broke, although I was a husband unto them, said Jehovah.
Adultery meant that the marriage contract was null and void. Jeremiah shows that the problem was not with the husband, for God was a good husband. Rather, the problem was with the Wife who insisted on going after other gods and thus became guilty of the great adultery.
Another prophet, Ezekiel, describes this great adultery in an extensive passage found in chapter 16:15–34: But you did trust in your beauty, and played the harlot because of your renown, and poured out your whoredoms on every one that passed by; his it was. And you did take of your garments, and made for you high places decked with divers colors, and played the harlot upon them: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so. You did also take your fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for you images of men, and did play the harlot with them; and you took your broidered garments, and covered them, and did set mine oil and mine incense before them. My bread also which I gave you, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed you, you did even set it before them for a sweet savor; and thus it was, said the Lord Jehovah. Moreover you have taken your sons and your daughters, whom you have borne unto me, and these have you sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Were your whoredoms a small matter, that you have slain my children, and delivered them up, in causing them to pass through the fire unto them? And in all your abominations and your whoredoms you have not remembered the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, and was weltering in your blood. And it is come to pass after all your wickedness, (woe, woe unto you! said the Lord Jehovah,) that you have built unto you a vaulted place, and have made you a lofty place in every street. You have built your lofty place at the head of every way, and have made your beauty an abomination, and have opened your feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied your whoredom. You have also committed fornication with the Egyptians, your neighbors, great of flesh; and have multiplied your whoredom, to provoke me to anger. Behold therefore, I have stretched out my hand over you, and have diminished your ordinary food, and delivered you unto the will of them that hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, that are ashamed of your lewd way. You have played the harlot also with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; yea, you have played the harlot with them, and yet you were not satisfied. You have moreover multiplied your whoredom unto the land of traffic, unto Chaldea; and yet you were not satisfied herewith. How weak is your heart, says the Lord Jehovah, seeing you do all these things, the work of an impudent harlot; in that you builded your vaulted place at the head of every way, and make your lofty place in every street, and have not been as a harlot, in that you scorn hire. A wife that commits adultery! that takes strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all harlots; but you give your gifts to all your lovers, and bribe them, that they may come unto you on every side for your whoredoms. And you are different from other women in your whoredoms, in that none follows you to play the harlot; and whereas you give hire, and no hire is given unto you, therefore you are different.
Ezekiel declares Israel’s guilt in verse 15 by showing her that she had indeed played the part of a prostitute. Although prostitutes generally receive money for their services, Israel was somewhat different because she paid her lovers (vv. 16–19), and she paid them with the very things that her true husband, God, had given to her as His Wife. Furthermore, Israel’s very own children were sacrificed to these lovers, the pagan gods (vv. 20–21). Israel indeed forgot the love of her youth when God first entered into the covenant-relationship with her (v. 22).
In verses 23–29, Ezekiel portrays the lovers that Israel went after. These lovers were the gods of the Egyptians, the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The absurdity of Israel’s adultery is clearly spelled out here. The very nations, which these foreign gods represented, did the most to hurt her. She suffered terribly at the hands of the Egyptians, Assyrians and the Babylonians. Yet rather than turning to her own husband, Jehovah, Israel went after the gods of these nations and committed adultery with those that hurt her most.
Another prophet also describes this adultery. This description is found in the prophecy of Hosea 2:2–5: Contend with your mother, contend; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband; and let her put away her whoredoms from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. Yea, upon her children will I have no mercy; for they are children of whoredom; for their mother has played the harlot; she that conceived them has done shamefully; for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.
Hosea declared the charge God had against Israel: she was guilty of harlotry. She committed adultery (vv. 2–3); she produced children of adultery, hence they were illegitimate (v. 4); she played the part of a prostitute (v. 5).
So in spite of God’s manifold blessings to Israel, in spite of the great redemption that God brought to Israel, nevertheless, she turned away from God in order to play the part of a prostitute and was guilty of great adultery.
C. Stage Three: The Separation
Because of this adultery, a separation took place between God and Israel in the days of Isaiah.
This separation is described in Isaiah 50:1: Thus says Jehovah, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, wherewith I have put her away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities were ye sold, and for your transgressions was your mother put away.
According to Deuteronomy 24:1, if a husband wished to divorce his wife, he had to write out a decree, or what is better known as a bill of divorcement. After having written it out in longhand, he would give it to his wife, and thus the divorce was final.
By the time Isaiah became a prophet, Israel’s adultery was so great that it was necessary for God to withhold His many blessings from her. These blessings, described in the Book of Deuteronomy, were to be received if Israel remained faithful. This removal of the blessings caused many in Israel to say that God had divorced His Wife.
Therefore, God spoke to Isaiah the Prophet stating that God had not yet divorced His Wife. If God had divorced her, He would have given her a bill of divorcement; and since no such bill of divorcement was in hand, it meant that a divorce had not taken place.
Rather than a divorce, a separation, which lasted approximately one hundred years, had taken place. But this separation was caused by their own sins. The sin of Israel in committing adultery created the need for the separation. Consequently, in the days of Isaiah, God and Israel were not divorced, but they were separated.
D. Stage Four: The Divorce
Even after one hundred years of separation, during which time the blessings of Deuteronomy continued to be withheld, Israel still failed to return to God, her husband. Thus, God was finally forced to issue the bill of divorcement and to divorce His Wife, Israel.
This bill of divorcement is contained in Jeremiah 3:6–10: Moreover Jehovah said unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Have you seen that which backsliding Israel has done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there has played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, She will return unto me; but she returned not: and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when, for this very cause that backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorcement, yet treacherous Judah her sister feared not; but she also went and played the harlot. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that the land was polluted, and she committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not returned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, says Jehovah.
After once again declaring Israel guilty of adultery (vv. 6–8), God finally issues His bill of divorcement. To a great extent, almost all of Jeremiah can be declared to be God’s bill of divorcement of Israel, but especially the passage now under consideration. The reason this was necessary was due to the adulterous pollution of the Land that God had given to Israel (vv. 9–10).
Thus, in the days of Jeremiah the Prophet, Israel was divorced. The one hundred years of separation failed to produce repentance in Israel and finally God had no other choice but to issue the bill of divorcement on the grounds of adultery.
E. Stage Five: The Punishment
The Book of Deuteronomy, the original marriage contract, clearly declared that if Israel proved unfaithful as Jehovah’s Wife it would become necessary for God to punish her for her unfaithfulness. So, following the issuing of the bill of divorcement comes a long period of punishment of Israel for her sins.
Several Old Testament prophecies speak of the punishment of Israel for her unfaithfulness.
Ezekiel 16:35–43 states: Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of Jehovah: Thus says the Lord Jehovah, Because your filthiness was poured out, and your nakedness uncovered through your whoredoms with your lovers; and because of all the idols of your abominations, and for the blood of your children, that you did give unto them; therefore behold, I will gather all your lovers, with whom you have taken pleasure, and all them that you have loved, with all them that you have hated; I will even gather them against you on every side, and will uncover your nakedness unto them, that they may see all your nakedness. And I will judge you, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your vaulted place, and break down your lofty places; and they shall strip you of your clothes, and take your fair jewels; and they shall leave you naked and bare. They shall also bring up a company against you, and they shall stone you with stones, and thrust you through with their swords. And they shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women; and I will cause you to cease from playing the harlot, and you shall also give no hire any more. So will I cause my wrath toward you to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from you, and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry. Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have raged against me in all these things; therefore, behold, I also will bring your way upon your head, said the Lord Jehovah: and you shall not commit this lewdness with all your abominations.
After stating the cause of the need for punishment: adultery (vv. 35–36), Ezekiel begins to describe the punishment itself. Israel will be destroyed by her very own lovers (vv. 37–41). Because she worshipped the gods of the Egyptians, the Egyptians would destroy her. Because she worshipped the deities of Assyria, the Assyrians would devastate her. Because she worshipped the idols of Babylon, the Babylonians would make her desolate. The nations who worshipped the very gods with which Israel had committed adultery would be the ones to invade and destroy the nation of Israel. Then the jealousy of God will finally be spent (v. 42) for the Book of Deuteronomy clearly declared that the punishment of Israel would be a result of God’s jealousy for His wife. All this punishment, however, had a specific aim. The aim of this punishment is not simply so that God could be vengeful toward Israel, but rather to cause her to stop sinning and to stop her adulteries (v. 43).
Later in this chapter, in verses 58–59, Ezekiel shows that this punishment was necessary because Israel broke the marriage contract: You have borne your lewdness and your abominations, says Jehovah. For thus said the Lord Jehovah: I will also deal with you as you have done, who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant.
The program of punishment is further described in Hosea 2:6–13: Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, that she shall not find her paths. 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. For she did not know that I gave her the grain, and the new wine, and the oil, and multiplied unto her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore will I take back my grain in the time thereof, and my new wine in the season thereof, and will pluck away my wool and my flax which should have covered her nakedness. And now will I uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of my hand. I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn assemblies. And I will lay waste her vines and her fig-trees, whereof she has said, These are my hire that my lovers have given me; and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. And I will visit upon her the days of the Baalim, unto which she burned incense, when she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and went after her lovers, and forgat me, said Jehovah.
The program itself is described in verses 6–7. Israel’s searching ways will be blocked by various thorns and a wall which speak of God’s providential dealings with her (v. 6), until the search for her old lovers proves fruitless (v. 7a). The purpose of this program is to show Israel her need for her true husband and not for her false lovers (v. 7b).
Then in verses 8–13, Hosea depicted the punishment itself. It has been shown earlier in this study that the very things that God gave to Israel, she used in order to pay her lovers. Now these very things will be taken away, for they belong to her husband (vv. 8–9). Only then will she will finally realize her shame when she sees herself truly spiritually naked, her joy removed and her material blessings gone, all because of the worship of the Canaanite god, Baal (vv. 10–13).
Although God has a long program of punishment for Israel’s sins, throughout the period of punishment there is a continual call to repentance.
This call is presented in Jeremiah 3:11–18: And Jehovah said unto me, Backsliding Israel has showed herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, you backsliding Israel, said Jehovah; I will not look in anger upon you; for I am merciful, says Jehovah, I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against Jehovah your God, and have scattered your ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, said Jehovah. Return, O backsliding children, said Jehovah; for I am a husband unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: and I will give you shepherds according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. And it shall come to pass, when ye are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says Jehovah, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of Jehovah; neither shall it come to mind; neither shall they remember it; neither shall they miss it; neither shall it be made any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of Jehovah, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I gave for an inheritance unto your fathers.
Jeremiah described God’s continual call for Israel to repent and come back to Him (vv. 11–13). This call is followed by a description of the blessings God has in store for Israel once she does indeed return to Him (vv. 14–18). After declaring that Jehovah will again be a husband to her (v. 14), He also promises to restore and to provide for Israel like a husband should (vv. 15–18). All these beautiful, material blessings are promised to Israel and are awaiting her return to her husband.
To this day, Israel is still in the fifth stage of Israel’s historical and prophetic relationship with Jehovah, her God: the period of punishment. This is evidenced by persecutions of the Jews around the world and by the present worldwide Dispersion.
However, there is one stage yet to come.
F. Stage Six: The Remarriage with Restored Blessings
The Jewish prophets did not leave things hopeless. They spoke of a coming day when Israel will again become the restored Wife of Jehovah. Of course, this will require a brand-new marriage contract.
This marriage contract is found in Jeremiah 31:31–34: Behold, the days come, says Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 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 broke, although I was a husband unto them, said Jehovah. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.
What is often known as the new covenant is in many respects a new marriage contract that God will make with both the houses of Israel and Judah. This new covenant of marriage (v. 31) will be necessary because the old marriage covenant was broken (v. 32). Although God was a good husband, Israel strayed away and by means of adultery caused the original marriage contract to be broken. But now, with this new marriage contract, Israel will again be restored to the place of blessing (vv. 33–34).
This remarriage, on the basis of a new marriage, contract is also described in Ezekiel 16:60–63: Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish unto you an everlasting covenant. Then shall you remember your ways, and be ashamed, when you shall receive your sisters, your elder sisters and your younger; and I will give them unto you for daughters, but not by your covenant. And I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall know that I am Jehovah; that you may remember, and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more, because of your shame, when I have forgiven you all that you have done, says the Lord Jehovah.
According to Ezekiel, God will enter into an everlasting covenant with Israel in the future. This everlasting covenant is the same as the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31–34. This new and everlasting covenant is also a new marriage contract upon which the remarriage will be based.
The restoration of Israel as Jehovah’s Wife is also described in Isaiah 54:1–8: Sing, O barren, you that did not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you that did not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, says Jehovah. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of your habitations; spare not: lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall spread abroad on the right hand and on the left; and your seed shall possess the nations, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. Fear not; for you shall not be ashamed: neither be you confounded; for you shall not be put to shame: for you shall forget the shame of your youth; and the reproach of your widowhood shall you remember no more. For your Maker is your husband; Jehovah of hosts is his name: and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. For Jehovah has called you as a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even a wife of youth, when she is cast off, said your God. For a small moment have I forsaken you; but with great mercies will I gather you. In overflowing wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting lovingkindness will I have mercy on you, says Jehovah your Redeemer.
Isaiah began by declaring that the restored Wife will now begin to bear legitimate children (vv. 1–3). Israel had produced a lot more children in desolation than she had produced when she was previously married to Jehovah (v. 1). In fact, Israel produced many illegitimate children and very few legitimate ones. She often sacrificed her legitimate children to the foreign gods. But now all this is to change. Isaiah tells Israel to enlarge her house (vv. 2–3) in order to accommodate the many legitimate children about to come.
The reason for this new activity and the coming legitimate children is because of the reunion of the marriage (vv. 4–8). Israel’s former adulteries will all be forgotten (v. 4), and Jehovah will once again be her husband (v. 5). God will again court His Wife as He courted her when she was a youth (v. 6), and all past forsaking will now be substituted by renewed blessings (vv. 7–8).
This remarriage is further described in Isaiah 62:4–5: You shall no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall your land any more be termed Desolate: but you shall be called Hephzi-bah, and your land Beulah; for Jehovah delighteth in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
Israel’s Land that she lost because of her adultery is to be totally restored. As a new husband rejoices over his virgin bride, in this same way God will rejoice over His restored Wife.
Hosea, who had much to say about the adulteries of Israel, also spoke of Israel’s reunion with her husband.
He wrote in Hosea 2:14–23: Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall make answer there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be at that day, says Jehovah, that you shall call me Ishi, and shall call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of the Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be mentioned by their name. And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the birds of the heavens, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the land, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth you unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth you unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth you unto me in faithfulness; and you shall know Jehovah. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will answer, says Jehovah, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, and the new wine, and the oil; and they shall answer Jezreel. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them that were not my people, You are my people; and they shall say, You are my God.
Hosea began by describing the courtship and the wooing in the wilderness (vv. 14–15). Israel will again be allured in the wilderness, the land of Edom and the city of Bozrah, where God will speak to her heart in courtship, and when she responds all her vineyards will be restored.
The results of this restoration are described next (vv. 16–23). There will be four results of this reunion. The first result (vv. 16–17) is that Israel will no longer address God as Baali but as Ishi. There is a very interesting play upon words here in the Hebrew text by the usage of these two Hebrew words. Both words, Baali and Ishi, are good Hebrew words meaning “my husband.” While they both mean “my husband,” there is a slight difference of emphasis in meaning. Ishi means “my husband” in the sense of “my man.” Baali means “my husband” in the sense of “my master.” Both words are perfectly good Hebrew words for “my husband” and are used interchangeably throughout the Scriptures.
Nevertheless, God says that the title Baali will no longer be used, but only Ishi. The reason for this is the fact that the word Baali sounds very much like one of the gods with whom Israel committed adultery: the god Baal. If Israel were to continue to call God Baali in the future, she might begin to remember her former lover. So in order to avoid even the hint of remembrance of the other lover, Israel will no longer address God as Baali, only as Ishi.
The second result (v. 18) is peace and safety. Israel will never again be invaded by the nations whose gods she once worshipped.
The third result (vv. 19–20) is the betrothal. The word betroth is used three different times here and these three usages describe the three elements of this new betrothal. First, as to time, it will be for ever. Secondly, as to content, it will be in righteousness, justice, lovingkindness and in mercies. Thirdly, as to quality, it will be in faithfulness.
The fourth result (vv. 21–23) is the new meaning to Jezreel. This term can mean two things: “God scatters” and “God sows.” During the period of punishment, Israel experienced the first meaning: “God scatters.” Now Israel will experience the second meaning: “God sows.” The Valley of Jezreel, Israel’s largest and the most productive valley, had often failed to produce because God removed His blessings. But now with the remarriage having taken place, all of God’s blessings will be restored in the Valley of Jezreel, and it will produce almost as soon as the field is sown.
These, then, are the six stages of Israel’s relationship as the Wife of Jehovah, a wife whom God married but who committed adultery. Eventually, a separation took place followed by a divorce, and today Israel is in her period of punishment. However, there will yet come the time, at her national regeneration, when Israel will be remarried and be reunited with her God with all of her blessings restored.
II. THE CHURCH: THE BRIDE OF THE MESSIAH
There is a totally different picture in the Scriptures regarding the Church. What God has to say about the Church and her relationship as the Bride of the Messiah is radically different from what has been said regarding Israel as the Wife of Jehovah. Again, this shows the necessity of maintaining these distinctions.
It might be good at this time to define exactly what we mean by the word “church” when we say the Church is the Bride of the Messiah. The “universal church” is composed of all true believers everywhere, and this universal body of believers is the Bride of the Messiah. By “local church,” we mean that portion of the universal Church living in a specific geographical area. But the Bride of the Messiah is not limited to some local church somewhere nor is it limited to any specific denomination. It is composed of all believers regardless of their geographical location and denominational affiliation.
The thrust of all the New Testament passages regarding this relationship of the Church as the Bride of the Messiah is that the Church is a betrothed Bride who is not yet joined to her husband.
There are four key passages of the New Testament that speak concerning this relationship of the Church as the Bride of the Messiah. But again, it must always be kept in mind that the Church is pictured today as an engaged Bride who is not yet joined by marriage to her husband.
A. The Espousal—2 Corinthians 11:2
For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
Speaking to a part of the Church, the local church found in the city of Corinth, Paul declares that by means of evangelism, they were espoused … to one husband for the purpose of eventually being presented as a pure virgin to Christ. The means by which this will be accomplished is, of course, by the process of sanctification.
Unlike Israel, who was guilty of adultery, when the union comes between the Messiah and the Church, the Church will be presented as a pure virgin.
B. The Process of Sanctification or Maturing of the Bride—
Ephesians 5:25–27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
The Messiah loved the Church and proved His love by dying for her. The purpose of the death of the Messiah in His relationship with the Church is that He might sanctify her. This is necessary in order for the Church to be presented as a pure virgin as pictured in 1 Corinthians 11:2.
This sanctification takes place by a continual washing in the water of the Word. The Church is being sanctified by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is working in the Church so that the true Church is slowly being conformed to the Word of God by which it will also be cleansed. The water in this passage is not water baptism but a description of the Word of God in its cleansing ministry.
The aim of this process of sanctification and cleansing of the Church is that the Church might be presented a glorious virgin to the Messiah. When the process is finally complete, the Church will be presented without spot no visible defilement, without wrinkle no evidence of age or corruption, holy and without blemish, no evidence of sin.
C. The Marriage—Revelation 19:6–9
In order to fully comprehend what is happening in Revelation 19:6–9, it is first necessary to understand the Jewish wedding system, which was common in Yeshua’s day and was still used among Jews until the present century. The Jewish marriage system had four distinct stages, all of which are to be found in the relationship of the Church as the Bride of the Messiah.
In the first stage, the father of the groom makes the arrangement for the bride and pays the bride price. This first stage might happen before the children are born, when they are very young or perhaps even a few short weeks prior to the marriage. But a long period of time could transpire between the first and second stages. Often the bride and groom did not see each other until their wedding day. This was true in the case of this author’s great-grandparents, who first met each other on their wedding day.
Eventually came the second stage known as the fetching of the bride. In this second stage, the groom would come to the home of the bride in order to fetch her and bring her to his home. This was often done in accompaniment with a wedding procession.
Next came the third stage, which was the marriage ceremony to which only a few would be invited.
Finally came the fourth stage, the marriage supper or feast, which would last for as long as seven days.
All four stages of the Jewish wedding system are to be found in the relationship of the Church and the Messiah. First, the father of the groom made the arrangement for the Bride and paid the bride price. In this case, the bride price was the blood of the Messiah. This was described earlier in Ephesians 5:25–27. While the first stage has already been completed, the other three stages are still future.
The second stage was the fetching of the Bride. Just as a long period of time could transpire between the first and second stages in the Jewish system, so it has been with the Church. Almost two thousand years have passed since the first stage was accomplished. However, someday the second stage will take place when the Messiah will come in order to fetch the Bride to His home.
This fetching of the Bride is referred to today as the Rapture of the Church, and is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18: But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Thus, with the Rapture of the Church coming some time before the beginning of the Tribulation, the second stage will be completed.
The third stage, the marriage ceremony, will take place in Heaven just prior to the Second Coming of the Messiah at the end of the Tribulation. The ones present at the marriage ceremony are the “few,” that is, only those in Heaven at that time.
This is described in Revelation 19:6–8: And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
The wedding announcement will be made (v. 6), and the Bride will finally be made ready (v. 7). The reason the Bride will now be fully ready for the marriage ceremony is because she will have on her entire bridal gown (v. 8). This bridal gown is said to be the righteous acts of the saints. This teaches us two things. First, it shows that the process of sanctification will indeed be completed, for all that will be showing on the Bride will be her righteous acts. Secondly, this also shows that the marriage ceremony takes place after the Judgement Seat of the Messiah when the saints are rewarded for their deeds on earth (1 Cor. 3:10–15). All the wood, hay, and stubble will have been burned away and all the gold, silver, and precious stones will have been purified.
After the marriage ceremony, will come the fourth stage, the marriage feast, described in Revelation 19:9: And he said unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said unto me, These are true words of God.
Since many are bidden or invited to come to the marriage feast, this passage indicates that the marriage supper or feast will be at a different place than the marriage ceremony. We know from the Word of God that the Old Testament saints are not resurrected with the Church before the Tribulation, but at the end of the Tribulation (Dan. 12:2). John the Baptist, who was the last of the Old Testament prophets, called himself a friend of the bridegroom and did not consider himself to be a member of the Bride of the Messiah, the Church (Jn. 3:27–30). Hence, the “many” who are bidden [to attend] the marriage supper on earth are all the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation saints resurrected after the Second Coming of Jesus the Messiah.
While the marriage ceremony will take place in Heaven just before the Second Coming of the Messiah, the marriage feast will take place on earth after the Second Coming of the Messiah. In fact, it would seem that the marriage feast is what begins the Millennium or Messianic Age; the Church’s co-reigning with the Messiah will start with a tremendous marriage feast!
With the marriage feast, all four stages of the Jewish wedding system will be completed.
D. The Eternal Abode of the Bride—Revelation 21:9–22:5
The final picture that the Scriptures give of the Bride of the Messiah is contained in the closing chapters of the Bible itself.
In Revelation 21:9, John states: And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spoke with me, saying, Come hither, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
In this passage, as a result of the four earlier stages, the bride is now the married wife. Then in the following verses (Rev. 21:10–22:5), there is a graphic description of the glorious, eternal wife of the Lamb in her eternal abode.
This concludes our study of what the Bible has to say about the Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of the Messiah. While the distinction between Israel and the Church is maintained in various ways, this is one of the more picturesque. However, this is one area of study that would be impossible to understand without knowing that such a distinction indeed exists. If one makes the Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of the Messiah one and the same thing, he is faced with numerous contradictions because of the different descriptions given. Only when one sees two separate entities: Israel as the Wife of Jehovah; and the Church as the Bride of the Messiah, do all such contradictions vanish.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BIBLE STUDY, DR. FRUCHTENBAUM RECOMMENDS: