Saturday, June 28, 2014
The New Testament church is compared to Israel in the wilderness. Part 9
The bride of Christ.
After God delivered Israel from the captivity of Egypt he immediately entered into a marriage covenant with Israel. The “marriage” took place at Mount Sinai when God and Israel entered into a binding commitment to each other through the Mosaic Covenant. Moses performed the “wedding” ceremony by functioning as the intermediary between God and Israel (Exodus 19:1-20:17; Deuteronomy 5:2-5).
God will not grant this relationship to any other woman. He declared, “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Later Moses told the people of Israel, “You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord you God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6 NKJV).
The root of the word translated “holy” means “to divide.” Thus to be holy is to be divided from other persons and things in the sense of being different, distinct, even unique. God divided Israel from all other nations with the intent that it be different, distinct, and unique in contrast with all other nations.
In this marriage covenant, Israel, the wife, had agreed to submit to God her husband and obey His laws. Exodus 19:7-8 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.
However, just as a wife violates her marriage covenant by giving herself to another man – thereby committing adultery and robbing her husband of his property – so, too, the people of Israel violated their binding commitment to God. The prophet Ezekiel describes in detail the history of God’s people turning away from Him to “play the harlot” with other gods.
Ezekiel 16:31-34 “You erected your shrine at the head of every road, and built your high place in every street. Yet you were not like a harlot, because you scorned payment. 32 You are an adulterous wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband. 33 Men make payment to all harlots, but you made your payments to all your lovers, and hired them to come to you from all around for your harlotry. 34 You are the opposite of other women in your harlotry, because no one solicited you to be a harlot. In that you gave payment but no payment was given you, therefore you are the opposite.”
The Old Testament often referred to Israel’s idolatry as a woman who is “whoring after” other gods (Exodus 34:15-16; Leviticus 17:7; Ezekiel 6:9 KJV). In 2 Chronicles 21:10-14, God struck Jehoram with plagues and diseases because he led the people into idolatry. He “caused the people of Jerusalem to commit fornication” (v. 11, KJV) and “to go lusting like the fornications of the house of Ahab” (v. 13 NKJV).
The Hebrew word translated “adultery” means literally “breaking wedlock. The Jewish people were regarded as the spouse of Jehovah, so when they turned to the gods of other nations, they were compared to as a wife dealing treacherously with the Lord."
So we have learned the Old Covenant was essentially a marriage covenant—by which God "was a husband" to Israel. And we learned from scripture that people play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners and abandoned God and broke his covenant which he had made with them. (Deuteronomy 31:16) Not all the members of Israel committed fornication and played the harlot with other gods. There was a remnant of Israel who remained faithful to Him. For the entire story, read all of (1 Kings 18 and 19). Paul also quotes Isaiah’s cries in Romans 9:27-28 27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. 28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
During his ministry Paul explains how God can lawfully put away this unfaithful wife in Romans 7 so He could lawfully marry another. Paul makes an appeal to “those who know the law (Jews).” Romans 7:1 NKJV Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? (emphasis added). Lest read on. 2-4 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
The context here demands that we define (her husband) here as God/Jesus! Likewise, the woman here is the Old Covenant people of Israel who came under a marriage contract at Sinai! Paul plainly states the fact that the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from that covenant and is free to marry another! (vs.2)
The death of Jesus on the cross breaks forever that marriage contract, so that they could be married to the risen Christ! (vs.4) God who had put Israel away promised to redeem her, but by Law He cannot take her back without being an adulterer Himself! What can solve this dilemma? There was only one fix for that! God would Himself have to die in order to free both parties! Then that first marriage covenant would be dissolved and the second covenant could then be a new and fresh lawful marriage.
Paul’s intention in Romans 7 was to show the Hebrews how they could come out from under the Old Covenant marriage contract that was made at Sinai And marry another Christ or come under the law of Christ without being guilty of adultery! In Romans 7:4 Paul states you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might (belong to another), to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (emphasis added). The fact that the Jews who were coming to faith in Jesus and their concern pertaining to being faithful in their relationship with God is understandable. Let’s face it, the Jews who rejected Christ who would meet their demise at the Parousia still thought that they were married to God! They refused to believe that they were widowed as a nation in the sight of God! Why widowed and not put away in divorce? Because as the apostle Paul stated, “… but if her husband dies, she is free from that law…” (Rom.7:3) God in the tabernacle / body of Jesus died to that relationship and left Israel widowed! The fact that apostate Israel was in fact a widow is borne out in the book of Revelation.
Rev. 18:7-8 (NKJV) 7 “In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ 8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.”
It was also during the 40 year wilderness journey in the first century that Paul was preparing the church to be a faithful wife. The Apostle Paul wrote that it was his goal to present the bride as a pure virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2 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. Jesus places himself in the role of bridegroom and his disciples are the friends of the bridegroom.”
The loyal friends of the bridegroom was trained and prepared the bride to take on the role of a fitting wife for her mate. The word “espoused “means betrothed or engaged, and Paul clarifies his statement by saying that he desires to present them as a chaste (i.e., pure) virgin, to Christ. In Mark 2:18-22 (Luke 5:34 / Matt 9:14-15) Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom and his own ministry as a wedding banquet. It is rather hard to miss, that Paul and John refer specifically to the "Bride of Christ.” There are so many prophetic verses in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments which speak of the coming wedding of the lamb (Jesus) and His bride (the church).
The 40 year wilderness journey of the first century can be looked at in terms of a betrothal period. Israel was sent out into the wilderness and was married to God literally 3 months later Ex.19:1. They literally broke the first commandment and was guilty of adultery days later! Likewise, the church of the first century was led into a wilderness journey to also be married to God! Hosea points this out approximately 800 years earlier.
Hosea 2:14-15 (NKJV) 14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, And speak comfort to her.15 I will give her vineyards from there, And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, As in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.”
There are so many types and antitypes we could go look at concerning the marriage of God to Israel and the “Israel of God” (Gal.6:16) in the first century that would take too much time and space. Yet we will take the time to just mention a few here to make some spiritual connections and correlations. Interestingly enough, God had to prepare her (The church) during that first century to be married and then enter the true spiritual promised land. Physical Israel was first married to God then later entered into the physical promised land. Just as Israel was borne on eagles wings coming out of Egypt. (Ex.19:4) The church was given two wings of an eagle to fly into the wilderness. (Rev.12:14) If you will, a fact that you should have noticed from our past studies is that where as the wilderness journey for the people of Moses turned out as an exercise in stumbling, the wilderness journey for the church was an exercise in victory!
They were to be a kingdom of priests (Ex.19:6) but failed. On the other hand, the church is a holy priesthood; also called a royal priesthood at that! (2 Peter 2:5 & 9)
The apostle Paul was training and preparing the church during the betrothal period to Christ from A.D. 31 till the Parousia in A.D. 70 to be chaste and pure for her wedding day! (He himself did not actually come into the picture till about 35-36 A.D.) The church was to be found in a state of purity and sanctification, by the blood of Christ, waiting for the consummation of the marriage. This is where as you hopefully can now see, that the Body of Christ would become the fullness of Christ’s own resurrection! How? Because the two become one in that marriage that equates to the resurrection!
Eph. 5:25-31 (NKJV) 25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Why does Paul in the next verse call this “a great mystery” in stating the fact that this is pertaining to the union of the church and Christ? It’s simple actually, it’s because the church was to be risen like Jesus was almost a generation earlier! This joins them in matrimony. This is where the apostle Peter states an amazing truth:
2 Peter 1:4 (NKJV) ”By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
How would the church be partakers of the divine nature? The phrase “partakers of the divine nature’ is really rendered in the Greek as “divine partakers nature” (θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως.) It of course is though the union with Jesus! This as the apostle John said would happen at the Parousia, “… but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him …” (1 Jn.3:2) The church united with Christ would ultimately be one with Him and share in His divine nature of resurrected life! It’s certainly not what some cults teach that we become god’s, but rather we are the divine representative of Christ as His corporate body on earth. Paul spoke of this many times in terms of a “perfect man”(Eph.4:13; Col.1:28; Matt.5:38) or the “new man” (Eph.2:15; 4:25; Col.3:10)
Ephesians 4:13 (NKJV) “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Again, what is this fullness of Christ? Is it not resurrection in union with Him? The church was to be faithful in their wilderness journey. They were to be chaste virgins.(2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 14:4) They were to present themselves as a living sacrifice perfectly pleasing to God. (Rom.12:1-2) to preserve themselves unlike the first Israel wilderness journey from idols! (1 Jn.5:21) Lastly, they were to be bride to come out of the wilderness journey victorious and not be a failure of unbelief and idolatry like those of the first journey. They would then be united in marriage and share in the fullness of Christ’s resurrection! They united with him would rule (the actual Greek is ‘feed” or “rule” Gr. ποιμανεῖ) the nations a quote used in reference of the Messiah in the old testament in Ps.2:8-9 is now given as a promise to the church. (Rev.2:26-27 & Rev. 19:15)
Rev. 2:26-27 (NKJV) 26 “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father.”
Rev. 19:15 (NKJV) “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”