When dealing with the Father’s and Christ’s relationship with His Church, we find that the Bible pictures the same through several analogies. One of these analogies is the concept of a marriage agreement—we read that both in the Old and in the New Testament, the “congregation in the wilderness”—Old Testament Israel—and the Body of Christ—New Testament Israel or the Church of God—are pictured as entering a marriage agreement with the LORD or YHWH, who was none other than Jesus Christ. In other words, the old covenant and the new covenant are compared with marriage agreements. We read that Christ—the bridegroom—will marry His Church—the bride.
At the same time, we read that we are Christ’s brothers and sisters, and that God is our Father—as He is also the Father of Jesus Christ. When we receive God’s Holy Spirit, we are called begotten children of God, and we will become born-again children at the time of our change to immortal spirit beings in God’s Family. The new covenant also includes for us a promise of inheritance. We are called co-heirs with Christ. All these meaningful analogies contain very important spiritual principles and teachings for us.
In our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound,” we identify both the old and the new covenant as marriage agreements, while explaining the difference between betrothal and marriage:
“Let’s read… Hosea 2:16, 18–20… ‘And it shall be, in that day, Says the LORD, That you will call Me My Husband…In that day I will make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, With the birds of the air, And with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, To make them lie down safely. I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD.’
“We are introduced here to the concept that this New Covenant, which includes physical blessings of peace and prosperity, is compared with betrothal and marriage… betrothal… can roughly be compared with a binding agreement of engagement that can only be annulled through a divorce. God compared His covenant with ancient Israel at Mount Sinai with a marriage agreement (compare Ezekiel 16:8; Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 31:32)—but this marriage ended in divorce, as Israel broke the agreement and sinned against God (Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8)…
“The New Covenant is a marriage agreement. The consummation of our marriage with Jesus Christ—the bridegroom and the Lamb—is still in the future. This is where the biblical concept of betrothal becomes important. In biblical times, the parties went through a period of ‘betrothal’ before they actually consummated the marriage. Mary was already betrothed to Joseph when she was found to be with child (Matthew 1:18). Since they had not consummated the marriage, Joseph thought that Mary was guilty of fornication. But Mary and Joseph were already called, at the time of their betrothal, husband and wife (Matthew 1:19–20, 24; compare also Deuteronomy 28:30). Betrothal was a binding agreement or contract of marriage, and it could only be severed through a divorce. With this contract, the husband had promised his wife to consummate the marriage with her, after a certain period of time.
“In the same way, we, when we became baptized, entered into a covenant with God, and into a contract of betrothal with Jesus Christ. The consummation of our marriage will occur, once Jesus Christ returns to establish His Kingdom. At that time, we will be immortal Spirit beings—born-again members of the God Family.”
In our booklet, “Is That in the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation,” we state the following about the bridegroom—Jesus Christ—and His bride—the Church of God, which is and will be composed of all past, present and future Christians:
“Jesus Christ is the bridegroom who will marry the bride upon His return… Jesus spoke of Himself as the ‘bridegroom’ (Luke 5:34–35). When Jesus was on this earth, He taught that He would be taken away and that no ‘marriage’ would be consummated at that time. Note, as well, that Jesus gave a parable indicating that He, as the bridegroom, would return (compare Matthew 25:1–13). In this story, Jesus began His teaching with these very important words: ‘The kingdom of heaven shall be LIKENED to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom’ (Matthew 25:1).
“Jesus presented this example of bridegroom and virgins (that is, the bride) as a means of instructing His Church to be ready for His return. Most importantly, the Church was to remain vigilant and not let God’s Holy Spirit (the ‘oil’ for their lamps) fade out of their lives! He would only marry those who were ready. John the Baptist also referred to Jesus as the bridegroom (compare John 3:29)…
“The fact remains that Jesus Christ will marry His Church! We find this specifically promised in Revelation 19. Verse 7 states: ‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ Understand that the wife spoken of here is comprised of ALL of the saints—ALL of those counted WORTHY for the first resurrection. Christians who live just before Christ’s return, also must be prepared—just as the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 so clearly teaches.
“Carefully consider what is stated in Revelation 19:8: ‘And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is THE RIGHTEOUS ACTS of the saints.’ The focus for who will be in this wedding ceremony centers on those who are righteous—that is, those who obey God! Here we gain insight to the fact that Christ will marry those who live righteous lives—something only possible through having the help of God’s Holy Spirit!…
“In the Old Testament, God says that He is the Husband of Israel: ‘For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth’ (Isaiah 54:5). Even as Israel rejected God, He reminded them of Who He was: “Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am married to you…”’ (Jeremiah 3:14)…
“Speaking to Israel of a future time—a time when God will establish His Kingdom on the earth: ‘“And it shall be, IN THAT DAY,” Says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband…’”’ (Hosea 2:16). Then, in verses 19–20, we find that God promises to join Israel to Himself in an unending marriage: ‘“I WILL BETROTH YOU TO ME FOREVER; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD.”’ It is important to realize that God will ‘betroth’ Israel in the future—AFTER Christ’s return and the FIRST resurrection. This shows that the ‘bride’ cannot only include those in the first resurrection.
“The qualities the bride brings to this marriage are: righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, mercy and faithfulness. These are fruits of God’s Holy Spirit, fruits that Christians—the saints, the bride of Christ—are to possess (compare Galatians 5:22–23).
“…the Bible also speaks of a ‘bride’ in an even greater context… ‘Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God’ (Revelation 21:9–10). Earlier, in Revelation 21, verse 2, we find this overview: ‘Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’
“Please note that the holy city, spoken of as the ‘bride,’ will descend to this earth after the first resurrection, the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. At that time, the heavenly Jerusalem, placed on earth, is compared with the bride; that is, it will be comprised of ALL of God’s saints. Most commentaries understand this analogy. For example, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say that the bride in Revelation 21:2 is ‘made up of the blessed citizens of the “holy city,”’ and the Ryrie Study Bible states that ‘the heavenly city [when here on earth] will be the abode of all the saints, the bride of Christ…’ Again, we see that the ‘bride’ includes more than just the saints of the first resurrection.
“The spiritual consummation of the marriage between Christ and His Church, as well as the spiritual ‘marriage supper’ celebration [compare Revelation 19:9], will be ongoing—as physical marriage supper celebrations in biblical times lasted for several days (compare Rienecker, Lexikon zur Bibel, under ‘Marriage’)…”
It is important to realize, in this context, that these are spiritual analogies. There will of course not be any physical consummation of the marriage agreement when Christ returns to marry His bride. Even though the Bible states that the spiritual “supper” celebration and the wedding feast will take place at the time of Christ’s return, indicating that its physical manifestation can be “observed” by physical people (compare our booklets, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?” and “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God,” as well as our Q&A on the marriage supper), the main emphasis is on the spiritual “consummation”—an analogy drawn from the physical marriage concept.
We need to understand that there is nothing stated in Scripture that another physical manifestation of a marriage supper will take place at the end of the Millennium or at the end of the Great White Throne Judgment period. This would not be necessary, anyhow, if the primary purpose of the physical manifestation of the marriage supper and the wedding feast at the time of Christ’s return was to witness to and be observed by physical people who will not be in the Kingdom at the time of Christ’s Second Coming (cp. Matthew 22:11; Matthew 25:10-11; Luke 13:28-29), as there will be no more physical people alive at the end of the Millennium, and, following that, at the end of the Great White Throne Judgment. Those who did not qualify by that time will have died, to be resurrected and burned up in the third resurrection.
On the other hand, the spiritual consummation of the marriage will endure forever, and it will include all those who will later become part of the immortal bride. As the physical and spiritual betrothal period is not limited to one particular event, but it describes a process requiring some time, so the spiritual consummation of the marriage is by no means limited to the day of Christ’s return, but the “spiritual” marriage union between Christ and the bride will continue for all eternity.
It is therefore important that we do not carry the analogies too far. For instance, even though we might reflect on the fact that husbands and wives are to become “one,” thereby gaining further understanding of Christ’s statements that ALL of His disciples—His bride–are to become “one,” other analogies are likewise of equal importance and must be viewed as complementary principles. For instance, spiritual brothers and sisters of Christ must have, of course, the same unity as is depicted through the analogy of Christ—the Bridegroom—marrying His bride, and as is expressed by Christ when He prayed to the Father that the disciples are to become “one” as God and Christ are “one.”
In addition to some of the principles, explained above, showing WHY the Bible uses the analogy of a marriage between Christ and the Church, we state further principles insofar in our free booklet, “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families.” Discussing the role of the wife in a marriage, but applying it here to the role of the Church towards Jesus, we state:
“Notice 1 Corinthians 11:3, ‘But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.’ … As God the Father is the head of Christ, so the man or husband is the head of the woman or wife. God the Father and Jesus Christ are totally one—totally united in mindset, in goal, in purpose. And they love each other perfectly. God the Father said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (cp. Matthew 3:17). God LOVED the Son (John 3:35). And Christ LOVED the Father (John 14:31). He submitted to the Father, even to the point of death, knowing that His Father loved Him deeply, and that He would never ask Him to do anything that would be bad for Him. If a man wants to be the head of his wife and family, as he should be, he needs to act as God the Father acted toward Christ, and, in turn, his wife is to act toward her husband as Christ acted toward the Father…
“This willingness to share creates mutual trust… Christ LOVED the Father, and the Father LOVED the Son. Still, Christ knew that the Father was His Head, and He honored Him. He respected Him. He did what was pleasing to Him… Christ accepted the Father as His Head because He knew Him. He knew that His Father would never abuse His authority over Him…”
The marriage analogy expresses the thought that we must be OBEDIENT to our Husband—Jesus Christ. So we see that the marriage analogy complements the analogy of God being our Father and we being His children. God is not our physical Father, and we are not His physical children, but He is our spiritual Father, and we are His spiritual children. And as the spiritual bride or wife is to be subject to Christ in everything, so we, as spiritual children of God, are to be subject to the Father in everything. And as Christ loves His bride, so the Father loves His children. In fact, we read that the Father loves us with the same love with which He loves Christ, and that Christ loves His bride with the same love with which the Father loves Him (John 17:23; 15:9).
The marriage analogy is complemented with the analogy of inheritance.
In our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound,” we state the following in this regard:
“In addition, this marriage contract with Christ is also an agreement to inherit what had been promised, through covenants, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to their descendants. It is not only a will, or a testament that can be changed by the testator at any time before his death, but it is a legally binding, enforceable agreement. In any event, the testator, Jesus Christ, who inherited the promises from Abraham and his offspring, did already die, so His will, as promised to us by a contract, cannot be changed anymore. A will or a testament, in biblical times, was more like a mutual contract of inheritance. In fact, the Greek word for ‘covenant’ and for ‘testament’ is exactly the same, i.e., ‘diatheke.’ Both parties had to agree to the terms of the covenant of inheritance. This contract could be based on certain conditions, and the agreement could only be carried out, and the inheritance obtained, if both parties fulfilled the conditions…
“We, as spiritual Israelites, must be married in order to obtain the inheritance. The New Covenant tells us to whom we have to be married—Jesus Christ. But a marriage can only occur and last if both parties are willing to marry each other, and to remain faithful to each other. Christ has already made a marriage agreement with us—a betrothal—and He will spiritually consummate His marriage with us at His return, if we remain faithful (Revelation 19:7–9; Matthew 22:2; 25:1)… if we become disobedient and rebellious and begin again to practice the wrong way of life, Christ has the right to divorce us…
“We can understand, then, what the New Covenant means for us today. It is a contract, which is based on God’s law. God called and chose us to become a party to His contract. By our obedience to God’s laws, we show Him that we want to become parties to His covenant (Acts 5:32). When we are baptized, we enter into a covenant relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ. This agreement contains conditions that we must fulfill. It promises us a certain inheritance in the future, including sonship in God’s Family, kingship over this earth and the universe, and priestly functions. This future inheritance is being preserved for us right now in heaven.
“This contract is also a marriage agreement. We are already betrothed to Jesus Christ and we are to consummate the marriage with Him, when He returns to establish His Kingdom. In addition, this contract includes a will or a testament from the testator, Jesus Christ, to share with us the promises that He inherited as the Seed of Abraham. Christ’s will shows us how we must live worthy of Him, and it requires of us to do so, so that He will consummate His marriage with us, and so that we can take possession of our promised inheritance….”
Christ will consummate the marriage with us and share His inheritance with us, if we stay faithful. Another analogy describes vividly what will happen to us if we don’t remain faithful. It is the analogy of us being children of God—begotten children at the time of the receipt of the Holy Spirit—and born again children at the time of our change to spirit beings. But if we—as begotten children—become unfaithful, the analogy of physical abortion pictures our ultimate spiritual fate, preventing us from ever being born into God’s Family.
In our booklet, “Are You Already Born Again?,” we state the following:
“In this physical life, one is not born immediately at the time of conception. There is a time interval between conception and birth. A human baby must be conceived. A human baby must grow in the womb (the period of gestation). A human baby gains life of its own through birth.
“The same principles apply to our spiritual birth. Although we will be born again at the time of our resurrection or our change to immortality, something else must happen first so that we CAN become born again. The Bible describes this prior event as spiritual conception or ‘begettal.’ Simply put, before we can be born again, we must be begotten again—a spiritual begettal. This spiritual begettal takes place at the time of our baptism, after repentance, and after coming to an understanding of, and belief in, Christ’s sacrifice and the gospel of the Kingdom of God. At the time of baptism we then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands, as a down payment—a guarantee—(Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:5) of our ultimate new birth at our resurrection to spirit.
“In applying the analogy of human birth to spiritual birth, the receipt of God’s Spirit at conversion is a type of spiritual begettal. With the receipt of God’s Spirit, we acquire God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), but there is still another step in the process. Just as an embryo must grow and develop, we must also grow spiritually and develop the fruit of the Spirit—the actual character of God. God considers those who have received His Spirit as being His children (2 Corinthians 6:17–18). Finally, Spirit-begotten children become SEPARATE SPIRIT BEINGS upon being born again—at their resurrection and change to immortality…
“After we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and have begun our journey to our final birth into the Kingdom of God, we can still become spiritually ‘aborted,’ so to speak… As there is the possibility of a physical miscarriage or abortion, so there is the possibility of a spiritual miscarriage or abortion… God, our Father, will never abort us, unless we force Him to do so, by refusing to grow and to obey Him… In applying human abortion to the spiritual realm, however, spiritual abortion, unlike human abortion, is self-inflicted. When God aborts a spiritual child, it is because His child has rejected Him. It is the child who commits spiritual suicide… Those who want to commit spiritual suicide are free to do so (Matthew 22:13; 24:51; 25:30, 41, 46).”
Of course, there are further analogies in the Bible, especially referring to those who are being called to salvation in this day and age. The Bible calls them firstfruits—Jesus Christ being the first of the firstfruits—indicating that the rest of mankind will be called in the future, after the return of Jesus Christ, during the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. Another analogy compares the body and the bride of Christ with a temple—a holy building in the Lord—being built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ being the chief cornerstone of the foundation of that temple.
Considering all of the above-described analogies, we should take great comfort, but also great care that we, as Christ’s bride and His brothers and sisters, as well as God the Father’s children, concentrate on becoming worthy to stand before the Son of Man at His return, to be born into the Kingdom and Family of God, “consummating” our marriage with Christ, and inheriting the promises.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link