Who is the bride of Christ? Some believe the entire Christian congregation is Jesus’ bride. Others say the bride is only a small select group of Christians. Since we are referring to the bride of Christ, why not ask the bridegroom. What did Jesus say? Notice his words:
“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
– Matthew 9:14-15
Jesus does not refer to his followers as his bride. In fact, he NEVER did. In the parallel accounts at Mark 2:18-20 and Luke 5:33-35, Jesus clearly identifies his followers as friends of the bridegroom, not the bride.
We can look at Jesus’ parables as well. In the parable of the king who hosted a marriage feast for his son, the king sent his servants out to invite guests. The guests represent those who would hear the call to follow Jesus. And it ends with the familiar phrase “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Those called ones are called to be guests at the wedding, not to be the bride. (Matthew 22:1-14)
The parable of 10 virgins is about the followers of Jesus and illustrates the need for his followers to stay awake. Again, the virgins are guests, not the bride. (Matthew 25:1-13) In Luke’s parallel account, he refers to Jesus’ followers as ‘men waiting for the bridegroom to return from the wedding.’ They were not at the wedding as a bride would be. (Luke 12:35-36)
But what about Paul’s words:
“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
– 2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Surely Paul is not contradicting Jesus or saying that he is the one who arranged for the marriage. He is merely using a metaphor to explain his obligation to build a congregation that was as chaste “as a” virgin would be. The same can be said for his words to the congregation in Ephesus:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
– Ephesians 5:21-27
Here also, Paul is using the husband and wife relationship as a metaphor to show the loyalty, fidelity and chastity that the congregation should have toward Jesus. He is not saying that the congregation would actually marry Jesus. Such a thing would be out of step with Paul’s view of sexual morality.
Jesus’ actual bride is mentioned in the symbolic book of Revelation. A few things are revealed about her, but her true identity is not revealed. Notice what John wrote:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
– Revelation 19:7-9
Here, the fine linen ‘stands for’ or symbolizes the acts of the holy ones. The linen appears to be some sort of memorial or tribute to the holy ones, but it does not indicate that the holy ones are a composite bride.
Some believe the bride is the holy city New Jerusalem. But if you read the scripture closely, it seems more like John is describing the beauty of the holy city saying she – the city – was beautifully adorned as a bride would be when she prepares herself for her husband:
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”
– Revelation 21:2
Notice that the bride in chapter 19 has on fine linen as a bride would wear, but New Jerusalem is adorned with walls, gates and foundation stones, as a city would be. (Revelation 21:9-14) So it does not look like John is saying Jesus is marrying a city either.
And though John is taken to see the bride, he never describes her. He only writes what the bride says:
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
- Revelation 22:17
The invitation to take life’s waters free is an invitation to the guest who would be invited to the wedding, namely the friends of the bridegroom, the followers of Jesus. The bride does not invite herself to her own wedding.
The Bible does not reveal too many things about the heavens, nor does it identify the Lamb’s wife. But from what is provided, we know she is beautiful, chaste and in perfect harmony with her bridegroom.
What a relief to know that Jesus’ brothers are not also his bride! What man marries his brothers? And what man marries a city? And what son marries his father’s children? We should expect much more from a divine being.
No, the followers of Jesus are not going to marry him, neither on this side nor in the heavenly kingdom. There is another as yet unrevealed personality who will have that honor. So let the sons clothe themselves as guests of the bridegroom in respect for and in honor of the true bride of Christ.