For many years it has been commonly taught that the “Bride of Christ” is synonymous with the “Body of Christ,” which is the church (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12), and therefore the two references refer to the same thing.
We should remember Christ’s Words:
“You make void the word of God by your traditions which you create“ ( Literal Greek Text ~ Mark 7:13)
However, upon further investigation concerning exactly what God’s Word states on the issue indicates that this assumption is not true.
While the church is one part of the Bride of Christ, it is not the only group within this term; and therefore the two expressions (“the Body of Christ” and “The Bride of Christ”) are not interchangeable terms.
One Passage in New Testament Prior to Revelation
For one thing, we only see the term “bride” utilized once in the New Testament prior to Revelation 18:23, in John 3:27-30.
The term “bridegroom” is utilized there, as well as concerning the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and concerning Jesus eating with the publicans (Mark 2:19-22, Luke 5:34-35, Matthew 9:15).
The word “marriage” is found in Matthew 22:1-14 concerning the king that through a marriage for his son, and certain guest did not have on the marriage attire clothing (though the term is used concerning illustrations and marriages that Jesus attended, none of these are related to the concept of the bride of Christ), there are no other New Testament passages prior to Revelation 18:23 which can specifically be stated that reference a bride of Christ, at least concerning the identity of who the bride is. The passage in John 3:27-30 states:
“John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: thus my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Some have said that this passage which refers to John the Baptist where he utilizes the concept of the bride and the bridegroom is set forth in what appears to be an analogy.
An analogy is a rhetorical tool which lays down an easier to understand example of something more complicated in order to bring clarity.
This is not to say that there is not a literal aspect to his comment.
I take this passage to literally be addressing the Bride of Christ.
However, again this does not tell us who the “bride of Christ” is.
What we should consider is why this reference concerning why this passage, or any other passage in the New Testament prior to Revelation 18 does not specifically and directly address the bride of Christ.
We can learn a lot from what the Bible does not say as much as what it does say.
Where are the Scriptures?
If the “Bride of Christ” is a synonym for the church, where are all of the passages, or better stated, where are any of the passages that are specific that the church alone is the “Bride of Christ?”
There are none.
Again, I’m not saying that the church is not part of the bride of Christ, I believe it is.
But to state that the Body of Christ consists only of the church is not found in Scripture.
And if this were the case, where are the Scriptures to promote this concept? Would the Holy Spirit not specifically tell us so?
The 10 Virgins
There are passages that seem to allude to the fact that the church is within the bride, which are found in the analogy concerning the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-12).
However, it is NOT actually dealing with the church, but instead with the “Kingdom of Heaven.”
Assuming that the kingdom of heaven is synonymous with the church wherein the 10 virgins are taught, does not uphold that the parable concerns the church, which is why there are so many attempts to interpret it, with none making total since.
Kingdom of Heaven
The “Kingdom of Heaven” is not synonymous with the church.
Throughout the New Testament, the term “the Kingdom of Heaven” is only used in the book of Matthew, and appears there 33 times.
This is a complicated subject, but to assume that the “Kingdom of Heaven,” which is only used in Matthew, is synonymous with the kingdom of God, which is the term used through the rest of the New Testament; and that both refer to the church is unbiblical.
The Wedding Feast & Husbands and Wives
Other scriptures about brides and grooms include the wedding feast where the guests did not have proper wedding attire (Matthew 22:1-14), which again is not about the church, but the “Kingdom of Heaven.”
And Paul’s teaching concerning the roles of husband and wife where he points to the fact that a marriage relationship is analogous to the role of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-32). Yet none of these New Testament teachings present that the church solely makes up the Bride of Christ.
The most complete text which deals with the Bride of Christ is found in the book of Revelation, where it speaks directly of the bride, and of Christ as the bridegroom.
The Body or the Bride: Which Is It?
Have you ever considered how puzzling it is, especially concerning the gifts that God has presented within the church (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4), that the church is repeatedly referred to as the “Body of Christ” (I Corinthians 12:27; II Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 2:11-16; Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 4:4; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:30; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:19; Colossians 3:15; Hebrews 13:3); and yet at the same time the church could be the “Bride of Christ?”
To assume that the church, which is repeatedly referred to as the “Body of Christ” is synonymous with the “Bride of Christ” is a contradiction in typology and a contradiction in symbols, which never takes place in any other passage in the Bible.
In fact, the term the “Bride of Christ” is never found in the Bible.
Nor is the term the “bride of Jesus.”
The word “bride” is only connected to the term the “bridegroom,” which is never referred to directly as the person of Jesus Christ, though the context makes it clear that in some passages it is speaking about; especially in the book of Revelation.
Figures of Speech
The use of the Titles, terms and expressions, such as: the “Body of Christ,” the “Bride of Christ,” as well as many others, are a form of “Figures of Speech” (See below Endnote #3 – “Other Figures of Speech – Titles, Terms & Expressions” – Also please see our article on: “Figures of Speech – Part 1 – A Brief Introduction” LINK and “Figures of Speech ~ Part 2” LINK).
The use of these types of Figures of Speech; titles, terms or expressions, which are simply symbols meant to add clarity, those that are most notable are referred to as typology, in which God’s Word displays such a rich tapestry of typology and shadows (Heb. 8:4-5), that this subject cannot be denied (Col. 2:16-17).
These are where God refers to a substance, material or entity in the natural world that could be easily understood and serve as a transform or model (an example or symbol) of that which is a spiritual entity or substance (Heb. 10:1).
This gives clarity by comparing the characteristics of something difficult to understand with that of a commonly understood entity or thing.
They are never meant to change the meaning, or imply that something is not what it is; such as “Figurative Analogy.”
Figurative Analogies were first utilized by the Church father Origin, Augustine, Constantine and many others to state that prophecies were not to be taken literal, as well as doctrines they disagreed with.
Figurative Analogies are the foundation of the Catholic Church which these individuals help create.
Also, many in the Orthodox Church use Figurative Analogy to indicate that Bible prophecies were only figurative.
They discount the prophecies of Daniel, as well as major and minor prophets concerning the second coming, and in particular the tribulation and the millennial reign of Christ on earth to fulfill His calling as the Messiah of Israel, who reigns on the literal throne of David.
This form of interpretation implies that God and those things which we refer to as His prophecies are not to be taken literal, only figurative.
This explains the impotence of these denominations wherein their congregations have grown smaller and smaller due to their denial of the truth of the Bible – many simply become moral agents, not preachers of the Gospel.
Figures of speech have nothing to do with this heretical practice.
Allegories, which is one of the forms of the 217 different types of figures of speech is not the same as figurative analogies by way of interpretation.
Yet, when dealing with any type of figures of speech, for instance analogies, they always break down, because if something was completely the same as something else, it wouldn’t be analogy, it would be a description of only one thing.
Analogies, metaphors, similes, and the other types of figures of speech are always used to bring clarity using the tools of rhetoric (“the art of speaking or writing effectively”) in displaying similarities that are more easily understood as symbols of something else.
Many Types, Only One Meaning
God often uses more than one physical thing as a symbol (Figure of Speech) of something spiritual, but He never uses the same thing for something else.
Once God has chosen to use one symbol for something spiritual, he never uses it for anything else.
Though many times is related to something else that is connected, but never taking its place wholly.
An example is the presentation of the “Holy Spirit” within the typology concerning Israel crossing the desert presents the Holy Spirit as a literal “fire” to provide protection at night, and a literal “cloud” to present comfort during the hot day (Exodus 13:21-22).
The Holy Spirit is also portrayed typologically as “living water” (John 7:37-39); as a “dove” when Christ was baptized (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:1; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), and “cloven tongues of fire” on the day of Pentecost when the church was birthed (Acts 2:3-4).
Other typological subjects used to refer the Holy Spirit are: “anointing oil” (Exodus 29:7,21;30:30-31), the “wind” (John 3:8; 2 Peter 1:21); “clothing” (Luke 24:29); a “down payment” (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14); a “seal” (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30); and water as in the “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:8); just to mention a few.
And to repeat, while in most cases there can be many types (symbols) concerning a single subject matter, the types (symbols) are never used for any other substance. There is never any contradiction concerning their meaning, and they never lead to confusion, they seem to uphold each other.
And as stated above, once God has chosen to use one symbol for something spiritual, he never uses it for anything else.
Though many times is related to something else that is connected, but never taking its place wholly.
For example, the reference to “water” as an analogy in the washing of the regeneration which the Holy Spirit, where God uses His’ Word; is also used in a similar yet different sense when referring to God’s Word which was communicated by the Holy Spirit.
You cannot separate the Holy Spirit from the Word of God, because it was the Holy Spirit that presented the Word of God and is a reflection of who He is, as well as the rest of the Trinity.
The Word of God is representative of God, and cannot be broken (“…, and the scripture cannot be broken;” ~ John 10:35).
The Word “Bride” Found in the Bible
The word “bride” is only found 5 times in the New Testament.
The first time in John 3:29 where John the Baptist is referring to himself as a servant to the Lord, and not the Lord himself by using the analogy of referring to himself as a friend of the bridegroom.
And yes, I do believe this is a reference to the “bride of Christ” (a term we have made up, yet is a legitimate term).
The last 4 references are found in the book of Revelation, and are references to the “bride of Christ.”
The Revelation Passages
In considering who the Bride of Christ is let us examine the 4 Revelation passages connect Christ with his bride and wife.
Revelation 18:23, which states:
“And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.”
Revelation 19:7-8, which states:
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
Revelation 21:2, which states:
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Revelation 21:9-10, (Please read the rest of the chapter) which states:
“And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. I And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God”
This is the only passage in the Bible who tells us who the bride is – it is the New Jerusalem
But Who are the Persons that Make up the New Jerusalem?
We must first remember that there are three groups of saved individuals.
1) Before the birth of Christ individuals are saved only by exercising faith in God (called the Old Testament saints), and
2) After Christ’s death and resurrection those that placed their faith in Christ atoning work at the cross (called Christians, the Church, and the Body of Christ), and
3) The Tribulation saints (those mostly Jews, but also gentiles that are saved during the Great Tribulation)
(See below Endnote #1 – “Three Groups of People That Are Saved – That Are Saints”)
The Old Testament Saints
First off, there are some in the church that proclaim a heresy that the Old Testament Saints were saved based upon their works, or the keeping of the sacrificial system or some other means.
We understand from the Scripture, that salvation is by faith alone (Rom. 3:28).
Yet we understand from Hebrews 10:1-6 that:
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.”
Therefore we understand that those Saints of the Old Testament were saved as all others are by faith alone. Yet due to the limitation of not having had the Messiah presented to them their trust and faith was in God and the means that God would use to save them – which would be the Messiah. There was always an understanding that works never saved a person. In fact to gain clarity we should examine what the New Testament states concerning those that are saved based upon faith as addressed in Hebrews 11:1-40, which states:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” – (This passage is not italicized in order to make it easier to read)
Within the ranks of those that trusted in God for their salvation during the time prior to Jesus Christ, we understand that it was not only the Jews, but also those that out of their free will became what we refer to as proselytes or converts, referred to in the Scripture as: “strangers,” being Gentiles by birth, yet given the opportunity to join God’s people in living in faith, they as well were counted within those that were numbered as God’s people (Exo. 12:48-49).
The church has a very special role in the millennial kingdom of ruling and reigning with Christ (there are three examples of those that are referred to as kings and priests, as the two roles were never to be utilized by the same person. See the curse of Saul concerning this. The 3 groups or persons which fulfill the role of Priest and King is: Melchizedek [as a typology of Christ], Jesus Christ, and the church [as His Body]).
The Old Testament saints are not assured of this, nor are the saints from the tribulation (thou the ones martyred for Him and the Word do reign with Him), only the church is referred to as those that will be priest and king.
Many ask why the church? Perhaps it is because of the difficulty in exercising faith during the time of the church.
How hard is it to exercise faith during the time of the tribulation when all the miracles and miraculous events happen, and you can see God’s Word unfolding in present time?
Or how hard is it to trust God if you see miracles during the time of the Exodus, or you grandfather saw them, or you were raised in the culture of the 12 tribes, with the feasts, being taught starting at age 5, having the Law of God, and all the other insights and teaching an Israelite would have been brought up in?
Yet, we know that the difference between the Old Testament saints and the New Testament saints is that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer of the New Testament – which makes up the church – and did not do so during the Old Testament.
This is why during the time of Christ as he walked on the earth, before the church began with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), the Holy Spirit dwelt “with” the believer. Yet not “in”-side them, as Jesus spoke about in John 14:16, which states:
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you [present tense], and shall be in you [future tense].”
The Tribulation Saints, are not only the 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes; but they are those that they preach to that are converted which are beyond number.
These are those that don’t enjoy the blessing of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but do enjoy the blessing of having the spirit “with” them, wherein miraculous things occur. Yet they too are saved based upon their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Revelation 14:1-6, which states:
“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people”
The Bride of Christ – The New Jerusalem – But Who Dwells There?
The following passage tells us who the bride of Christ is – the New Jerusalem, and it tells us who may enter the new Jerusalem (though we are not told who lives there, though some have assumed that those it enter are also those that live there – but we must handle the subject literally as it is stated in God’s word, which only states who may enter the new Jerusalem. The grammar does not imply that they lived there or take possession, but only enter). Revelation 21:1-27 states:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (This passage is not italicized in order to make it easier to read)
What is interesting is that the makeup of the New Jerusalem concerning its construction God memorialized the 12 tribes of Israel, which would indicate the Old Testament saints, and also the 12 apostles, which would indicate the New Testament church.
Yet to also include those tribulation Saints is the last verse, “they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
So the bride of Christ is not the church singularly, but is the New Jerusalem wherein all believers may enter, those which are written in the Lamb’s book of life – not just the church.
What is interesting about the above passage (Revelation 21:1-27), is it does not state that those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life would live in the New Jerusalem, but that they may “enter.”
This indicates three possibilities:
1) That any and all believers whose name is written in the Lamb’s book of life could live there, or
2) That believers may only visit, or
3) That while believers may only visit, certain individuals might live there as a reward for those that merit it (See: 1 Cor. 3:9-15 ~ “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide [Rewards – See “Crowns” Endnote # 2] which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”).
The reason I lay out these three possibilities is that Jesus stated before His crucifixion that the believer, at least in the form of the saints which make up church, would go to live in His Father’s house, indicating Heaven would be our home (“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” ~ John 14:2-3).
And we know that during the millennial reign of Christ, Jesus will reign from the Temple in Jerusalem (not the new Jerusalem, but prior to that), and that those saints beheaded for Christ and the Word of God during the tribulation will rule with Jesus at that time (“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,” ~ Rev. 20:1-7).
Therefore, as the church is also said to rule and reign with Christ, as seen in the place of the 24 elders of Revelation 5 which states:
“And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders [“elders” Greek: presbuteros, this word was used in the Old Testament concerning wise men regarding their age and knowledge, and roles as spiritual leaders. In the New Testament, while the Gospels refer back to this Old Testament position, the prevalence of its present tense is used concerning leaders of the church who would function as pastors, overseers and rulers ~ Acts 14:23; 20:17; 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5 . Paul referred to himself by a form of this term is found in Ephesians 6:20. We get our English word “presbyter” from this Greek word. Also see Rev. 3:21] and fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” ~ (Rev. 5:8-11)
To repeat the Bride of Christ is the New Jerusalem, in which will “enter” Saints from every age; with the sole qualification of having their names written in the Lamb’s book of life, anything beyond this concerning who may live there, or even what the function of the New Jerusalem is, beyond a place of judgment and rule wherein the Lamb of God will rule the New Heaven and New Earth, is mere conjecture.
But what must be understood is that the “Bride of Christ,” is the New Jerusalem which is created after the tribulation, and also after the thousand years reign of Christ and His saints on the earth, called the millennium. It will be at the end of time, after all those that have believed in Christ and God in faith are saved, whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, this is when we see the “Bride of Christ” appear – at the end of life as we know it, where there is no more sin, all is redeemed from the curse, and all is made righteous again.
1. Three Groups of People That Are Saved – That Are Saints
When addressing the subject of biblical salvation, that is salvation that is based solely on what God’s Word says, we must understand that there are 3 groups which make up those that are saved.
1) There are the Old Testament Saints (Hebrew: kaw-doshe; Greek: hagios; both meaning: sacred, separated, consecrated, holy, Saint – is used to refer to the saved person) that were saved because of their faith in God as He would provide the redemption necessary for them to be made right with Him. Because Christ had not yet come to open the way to heaven for those that were saved (He was that redemption – the means of salvation to those in the Old Testament), when they died, they were held in a temporary paradise (Hebrew: Goebel) referred to as Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22-23), and when Christ died He emptied out this temporary place, and took those Old Testament saints with Him to heaven (“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” ~ Ephesians 4:8; which is a quotation of Psalms 68:18). While most of these individuals are Israelites, there are many Gentiles (Greek: ethnos; means: specifically a foreign [non-Jewish] person, Gentile, he then, nation, or people), who were saved (Isaiah 56:6-7) such as: Enoch, Rahab, Ruth, Nebuchadnezzar, and Naaman.
2) The second group of saints are the church, (1 Corinthians 12:27), also referred to as the “Body of Christ” (“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” ~ Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
3) The third group of saints are those saved during the Great tribulation composed of Jews as well as Gentiles (Revelation 14:1-13), not gifted the same as the church concerning the indwelling of the Holy Spirit specifically to each believer, yet displaying the Holy Spirit in the same as seen in the Old Testament where miracles and signs were displayed (such as the two witnesses – Revelation 11:3).
2. Rewards to Believers – 5 Categories – 5 Crowns
Born-again Christian believers are blessed in many ways. Not counting the earthly benefits we receive, the pleasure of spending eternity with God, of awaiting Jesus’ return for His own, the “blessed hope,”1 and all the unbelievable treasures we shall enjoy forever in God’s presence.2
Beyond all this, believers can achieve the following crowns3 spoken about in God’s Word, they are God’s righteous recognition for the commitment, sacrifice, suffering, and faithfulness we display in producing fruit for the kingdom of God:
Crown of Life: For Suffering for Christ. (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10)
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
Crown of Righteousness: For the Love of His Appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)
“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16)
Crown of Glory: For Feeding His Sheep. (I Peter 5: 2-4)
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [agapao = “highest regard”] thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [phileo = “affection”] thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [agapao = “highest regard”] thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [phileo = “affection”] thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [phileis/phileo = “affection”] thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest [phileo = “affection”] thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love [phileo = “affection”] thee.
Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17) Feeding sheep refers to leading & teaching disciples / the local church, even if the pastor is lacking.
Crown Incorruptible: For Those That Press On Steadfastly. (I Corinthians 9: 24-25)
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” (2 Timothy 2:3-5)
Crown of Rejoicing: For Winning Souls. (I Thessalonians 2:19)
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15)
1. Titus 2:13; Romans 8:20, 24-25, 15:4.
2. Matthew 6:20, 19:21; Luke 12:33, 18:22.
3. Revelation 3:11
3. Other Figures of Speech – Titles, Terms & Expressions
Other example of Figures of Speech which God using names and titles to identify and describe the Messiah, such as: The Seed of the woman,7 Shiloh,8 The Stone of Israel,9 The Peace Offering,10 The Captain of the host of the Lord,11 The Rock of my salvation,12 The Light of Men,13 My Shield,14 My Glory,15 The Lifter Up of mine head,16 My Fortress,17 My Shepard,18 A Stranger and an alien,19 God’s Firstborn,20 The Branch of the Lord,21 The Child,22 A Sanctuary,23 Wonderful,24 Counsellor,25 The Mighty God,26 The Prince of Peace,27 A Rod of the steam of Jesse,28 Shadow from the Heart,29 The Lamb of God,30 The Messiah,31 Savior,32 Bread of life,33 The Foundation,34 The Word of life,35 The Resurrection,36 The Holy One,37 The Alpha and Omega,38 The Way, The Truth and The Life.39 This is only 3340 of the [over?] 333 known allusions to Jesus Christ: His Person, His pre-existence, His Human Birth, His Life, His Teaching, His Mission, His Death, His Resurrection, His Return, His Rule on earth and in heaven, His Glory, His Preeminence, and His Deity. (An excellent resource concerning figures of speech can be found in the work of E. W. Bollinger – see #41)
7. Gen. 3:15.
8. Gen. 49:10.
9. Gen. 49:27.
10. Lev. 3:1.
11. Josh. 5:14.
12. II Sam. 22:47.
13. John 1:4.
14. Psa. 3:3.
15. Psa. 3:3.
16. Psa. 3:3.
17. Psa. 18:2.
18. Psa. 23:1.
19. Psa. 69:8.
20. Psa. 89:27.
21. Isa. 4:2.
22. Isa. 7:16.
23. Isa. 8:14.
24. Isa. 9:6.
25. Isa. 9:6.
26. Isa. 9:6.
27. Isa. 9:6.
28. Isa. 11:1.
29. Isa. 25:4.
30. John 1:29.
31. John 4:25.
32. I John 4:14.
33. John 6:35.
34. I Cor. 3:11.
35. I John 1:1.
36. I John 11:25.
37. Mark 1:24.
38. Rev. 1:8.
39. John 14:6.
40. T. C. Horton & Charles E. Hurlburt, Names Of Christ, Moody Press, Chicago, 1994.
41. E.W. Bullinger, D. D., FIGURES Of SPEECH USED IN THE BIBLE, Baker Book House, First printed in 1899, Twenty-second printing 1999.