The person of Jesus of Nazareth is the subject of endless fascination even 2,000 years after his life on earth. People want to know what he said, did, believed, and more. His family is also of particular interest, like his parents, Mary and Joseph, and his half-brothers. People also hear the term “bride of Christ” and wonder if Jesus was married.
The phrase “the Bride of Christ” is a metaphorical way of describing Jesus’ relationship with the Church. The phrase doesn’t refer to a literal woman. The figure of speech reflects the covenant Jesus’ made with his people, which is like the promise that a husband and wife make to each other.
What does the Old Testament say about God’s people being a bride? What does the New Testament say about the Bride of Christ? Does Jesus ever call himself a bridegroom? What do Ephesians and Revelation say about the Bride of Christ? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also see How Did Jesus Love the Church? to learn more.
What does the Old Testament say about God’s people being a bride?
The imagery of a bride and bridegroom, used as a figure of speech, is rooted in the Old Testament. Paul and John use this imagery in the New Testament and apply it to Jesus’ relationship to the Church.
The metaphor is a perfect description of Jesus’ commitment to the Church because God intends that marriage be a permanent relationship based on a shared covenant.
The Church, defined as the people who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus, didn’t exist in the Old Testament. Jesus’ established it during his ministry, and it took form after his ascension and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as recorded in the Book of Acts.
Even though the Church didn’t exist yet, God still had a special relationship with his people. The three verses below are examples of three prophets who use the metaphor to describe God’s commitment to Israel.
- Isaiah 62:5, “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (ESV)
- Jeremiah 7:34, “And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste.” (ESV)
- Hosea 2:16, “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me my master.'” (NIV)
Not only does the metaphor of God’s people as a bride describe his relationship with them, but it also serves as a model for marriage. Like God as a bridegroom is committed to his people as a bride, so husbands and wives must be committed to each other. The Apostle Paul elaborates on this application in the Book of Ephesians (more below).
Also see Did Jesus Claim To Be God? to learn more.
What does the New Testament say about the Bride of Christ?
Jesus refers to himself as a bridegroom in the Gospels, but doesn’t elaborate on the imagery like Paul does in his letters or John does in the Book of Revelation. In response to a question about why his disciples didn’t fast, Jesus said:
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” (Mark 2:19-20; cf. Matt. 9:15; Luke 5:34-35).
The Church as the Bride of Christ in 2 Corinthians
In 2 Corinthians 11:1-15, Paul writes about protecting the Christians at Corinth from the teaching of false apostles. Paul feels protective of the church and wants to safeguard them from theological error and sin.
Paul desires to present the church as a pure bride to Christ. He has a strong conviction to give them away to Christ in a holy manner, as a father gives away his daughter to her husband on their wedding day.
Paul writes, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). The church as a “virgin” refers to theological purity.
The Church as the Bride of Christ in Ephesians
In Ephesians 5, Paul discusses husbands and wives in relation to Jesus and the Church. Jesus’ love for the Church is a model for how husbands are to love their wives. When husbands love their wives according to Jesus’ example, marriages reflect the love that Christ has for the Church.
Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Husbands are to be sacrificial spouses because Jesus gave up his life for the Church. They are also to value their wives’ spiritual growth and maturity just as Christ values the spiritual and theological purity of the Church.
John Piper writes, “We learn from Paul in Ephesians 5:31-32 that, from the beginning, manhood and womanhood existed to represent or dramatize God’s relation to His people and then Christ’s relation to His bride, the church. In this drama, the man represents God or Christ and is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. The woman represents God’s people or the church.”
Also see What Did Jesus Christ Look Like? to learn more.
The Church as the Bride of Christ in Revelation
At the end of time, all those who belong to Christ will be with him forever. In Revelation, John describes their relationship as a marriage because it’s based on a covenant.
Revelation 19:7 reads, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.”
Jesus, “the Lamb,” is “marrying” his people; meaning, his covenant with them is now fully realized as those who are saved will live with him forever.
In his description of the New Heavens and New Earth, John again refers to Christians as a bride and Jesus as their husband. He writes, “I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).
In the last passage of the Bible, the Holy Spirit refers to God’s people as the Bride of Christ. Revelation 22:17 reads, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.'”
“In the cross of Christ, the bride of Christ has been made acceptable to God, and such acceptance is the foundation of our assurance.” – Buck Parsons
Also see Who Wiped Jesus Face? to learn more.
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