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It explains the cause of the difficulties of those who seek to derive from the Acts of the Apostles a system of "Church Government,” while that book records the history of the transitional period between the rejection of Christ by Israel, the rejection of Israel by God, and closes with the solemn recital of Isa. 6:9, as to Israel’s judicial blindness, and the great declaration, "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
It seems impossible for us to fix the date of the revelation of the Mystery to Paul, or to say in what part of the Acts it should be placed. From 2 Cor. 12:1-7 it would appear that "the abundance of the revelations” was given "fourteen years before.” This was written about A.D. 60, and fourteen years before would bring it to A.D. 46, which would synchronize with the important dispensational chapter, Acts 13, where we have the solemn epoch-marking words pronounced to the Jews, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (verse 46). The Gentiles, as such, had been brought in and blessed long before this. But now, a special work connected with the Mystery was about to be commenced, as is clear from verse 1, where "Barnabas and Saul” had been separated by the Holy Spirit Himself (it is God Himself), for the work "whereunto (He says) I have called them” (verse 2).
There can be no doubt that the Acts of the Apostles (as man calls the book) records the transitional history between the rejection of the Kingdom, and the setting up of the Church.
(3) THE TRUE PLACE OF PENTECOST.
[We depart from E. W. Bullinger and of course, of C. W. Welch views, presenting the building up of Biblical evidence, as Bullinger declared: "unless it can be proved to be so from the Word of God”]
We perceive that the Church of the Body of Christ started at Pentecost, as it was the first time in which unconditionally human beings received the gift of holy spirit and evidenced it by speaking in tongues. Since that time different administrations were running in parallel, as Peter and the rest of the Apostles were leaders in the Early Christian Church (being mentioned as the more notable among them, Jacob (James in English, or Santiago (for Saint Jacob) in Spanish), Peter and John), and the book of Revelation, that deals mainly with the happenings of the Jews in future times, says in Rev 21:14: "And the wall of the city had twelve foundations (the invisible parts of the city, see below), and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Also, for the Jewish people is written in Romans: "Rom 11:5: Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Those Jewish "remnant” is being totally faithful to the part of the Bible that they accept now (the Old Testament only, as when amongst the Samaritans some were faithful only to the five first books of the Old Testament), and also only by God’s grace is that they are preserved as the real Jewish "root” (not the Khazar ones inhabiting now "Israel” by the "will of men”) which will emerge again in the times written in the Book of Revelation (but by the "will of God”), until then this "Remnant” will fully accept all that is written in the New Testament, specially the parts written "to them” there, as their own "letters”.
Paul and the revelation that he received about the Mystery enlightens even more what had been already received in Pentecost, as we read in Ephesians: "Eph 6:18: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” being that "praying in the spirit” the speaking in tongues that originally was received at Pentecost (as 1 Cor. 14:14-15 clearly explains, and of whom a similar expression is found in Jude 20).
Peter quotes and Old Testament prophet (Joel) in the first Sermon to the Church of the Body of Christ, which started only with about 3,000 Jewish. "Acts 2:17a: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”. The promise of the pouring of holy spirit was plainly known since the Old Testament and was clearly emphasized by Jesus Christ before his Ascension unto Heaven. That the Gentiles will be specially blessed was also well known in the Old Testament prophecies, and even the Speaking in Tongues was known as an evidence of holy spirit within the born again believers, being this last an expression well known by Jesus as we see in his teachings to Nicodemus. Regarding the speaking in tongues Paul wrote "1Cor 14:21: In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord” And Jesus Christ boldly expressed it "Mk 16:17: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues” So the nine manifestations of holy spirit, from which seven were well known and in use since the beginning for the human beings (as the Old Testament and Jesus Christ show to us), and we can see that were known since the prophets the two new ones that were added starting in the day of Pentecost (Speaking in Tongues and its interpretation). All of this manifestations will be available until the very end, "Rom 11:29: For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”
We conclude that the full availability of the nine manifestations of holy spirit for every born again believer was not a part of the Mystery, and that born again believers will re-emerge at the times of Revelation, as Joel prophesied. But since the Jewish Nation rejected to believe after Pentecost, and because of God always giving them an opportunity, the Mystery was fully revealed to Paul, and it is that the Church of the Body of Christ should be integrated by born again Jews and Gentiles equally, until its full completion, being the Head (it is "the brain”) Christ, who knows for sure who are and who are not the genuine members of His Body, and who is in real charge (no matter what the human leadership may say) and who keeps in touch with each one of them for His wise purposes, this was not even known for the angels of God, and now even they are learning of it from us, their masters, as they are at our service.
As we have read before, according to Bullinger’s research, that the Mystery will end with the taking up of the members of the Body of Christ before the beginning of the awful day of the Lord, as the next scriptures clearly declare it: "1Thes 1:10: And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come,” "2Thes 2:1: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,” "1Thes 4:16: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 1Thes 4:17: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1Thes 4:18: Wherefore comfort one another with these words,” "1Cor 15:53: For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Pentecost thus is shown to have been started a new administration of the Grace of God, the Church of the Body of Christ and at the same time to have started the times of the end for the Nation of Israel, which rejected again the offer.
[Now we proceed with some of the things that E. W. Bullinger wrote here]
Had Israel repented in response to the call in Acts 3:18, 19, then, What about Pentecost? What would it have been then? Had Christ come in His glory in "the Day of the Lord,” then, What about Pentecost and the Church? The fact is that then Joel 2 would have been (completely) fulfilled, for there Pentecost is distinctly declared to be the ushering in of the day of the Lord.
In Acts 2 (the first part of) Joel was therefore fulfilled. The preliminary events before the Day of the Lord then took place. Everything was in readiness, and hence in Acts 3, as in Matt. 3 the call went forth, Israel "Repent.” When the King had come it was "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” But they refused to repent, and rejected the Kingdom. Now, once again, on the (new) ground of (the) Atonement (already) made, the call goes forth in Acts 3, and it is the same as before – "Repent” – that the King may be sent (back to you, oh rejecters of him!) Again they refuse to repent, and reject the King. Thus the Acts of the Apostles, is (for the Jewish Nation) like the Gospels, a historical record of the rejection of the King and the Kingdom by Israel, and this explains how it was that God rejected Israel for a season, while He revealed and made known His secret purpose concerning the Church.
Don’t neglect or reject the teaching of the holy spirit given in the Pauline Epistles, which are expressly given for the guidance, teaching, blessing, and building up of the Church. All that Christians need of teaching concerning the work and power of the holy spirit is fully contained and revealed in the Epistles, which are written for that purpose.
1) THE SECRET OF THE ECCLESIA.
Before we consider the great secret of the Church, which is the Body of Christ [sometimes E. W. Bullinger calls it "The Christ Mystical”, but this term is not Biblical and the religions had used it to obscure the truth, so we will not use it], let us consider the usage of the word Ecclesia (also transliterated Ekklesia).
Even as our English word "Church” is used in various senses, so also is the word Ecclesia in the Word of God.
We speak of a particular Church (as the Church of Rome or England, Jerusalem or Antioch); we speak of a building as a Church; we use the word of the whole body of professing Christians, and also of the select portion of true believers amongst them.
So, in the Scriptures, the word Church (Ecclesia) is used, not indeed in the same senses of the previous paragraph, but in several different ways.
The Greek word Ecclesia occurs seventy-five times in the Septuagint Translation of the Old Testament, and is used as the rendering of five different Hebrew words. As it is used to represent one of these, seventy times, we need not concern ourselves with the other four words.
This Hebrew word is Cahal, from which we have our English word call. It means to call together, to assemble, or gather together, and is used of any assembly gathered together for any purpose. This Hebrew word Cahal occurs 123 times, and is rendered: "congregation,” 86 times; "assembly,” 17; "company,” 17; and "multitude,” 3 times. Its first occurrence is in Gen. 28:3 – "that thou mayest be a multitude (margin, assembly) of people,” i.e., a called-out people. This is what Israel was, a people called out and assembled from all other peoples.
In Gen. 49:6 we read –
"O my soul, come not thou into their secret (Council or Senate);
Unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united.”
Here the word Cahal is used not of all Israel as called out from the nations, but of the assembly of those called out to form the Tribal Council of Simeon and Levi.
Then, it is used of the worshippers or those called out from Israel, and assembled before the Tabernacle and Temple, and in this sense is usually rendered "congregation.’ This is the meaning of the word in Ps. 22:22; "in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee”; and verse 25: "My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation”
This is the usage of the word in the Gospels, and even in the Acts of the Apostles before the new use, which the holy spirit was going to make of the Word, was revealed.
When Christ said, "Upon this rock I will build my Ecclesia,” He did not use the word in the exclusive sense in which it was afterwards to be used, but in the older and larger use of the word, which would embrace the whole assembly of His people, while not excluding the future application and restriction of the word to the Body of Christ when that secret should have been in due season revealed.
When the spirit by Stephen speaks of the Ecclesia in the wilderness (Acts 7:38), he means the congregation of Israel.
When the Lord added to the Ecclesia daily (Acts 2:47), He added to the number of those who assembled themselves together for His worship.
When Saul "persecuted the Ecclesia of God,” he persecuted the assembly of those who feared God, just as Jezebel and others persecuted them in times past.
So when, in 1 Cor. 15:9, the Apostle says that he "persecuted the Church of God,” the word Ecclesia is not used in the sense which it subsequently acquired, after he had received the special revelation concerning it: but in the sense in which it had been used up to that time. It means merely that he persecuted the people of God – the congregation of God. He is speaking of a past act in his life which took place before the revelation of the secret, and his words must be interpreted accordingly. We must not read into any of these passages that which was the subject of a subsequent revelation! And therefore the word Ecclesia in the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the Acts must be taken in the sense of its earlier usage as meaning simply the congregation or assembly of the Lord’s people, and not in the sense which it acquired, after the later and special signification had been given to it by the holy spirit.
This brings us to consider:
(3) RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF GOD.
We thus have a fourfold Key for the interpretation of the Old Testament, the Four Gospels, the Acts, and the Apocalypse. We are not (when interpreting Scripture) to read into it that which was the subject of subsequent revelation! This principle cannot be over-estimated in its power to clear our understanding of the Word of God. Why is there so much confusion in reading the Word? Why are there so many conflicting opinions? Why so many "schools of thought,” and divergent "views?”
It is because we do not "rightly divide” the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15). That Word is, "the Word of Truth,” and this is why we are bidden to "rightly divide” it. If therefore we fail thus to divide it, it is impossible for us to have "truth”; and we cannot fail to have error.
We must "rightly divide” off the Old Testament, Gospels, (some parts within) Acts, and the Apocalypse from the teaching concerning the Church of God. We must not read Church-truth into the Old Testament. We must not read teaching concerning the "Mystery” into the Gospels and Acts.
If teachers had always thus divided the Word, we should never have confused Israel with the Church, or the Kingdom with the Church.
We should never have put the "extension of Christ’s Kingdom (to Israel)” for the spread of the Gospel (by the Church).
We should never have taken "the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven” as being synonymous with "the Gospel of the Grace of God;” or have supposed that the former is being, or could be, preached now, thus perverting Matt. 24:14.
We should never have taken Matt. 24 as referring to the Church of God; or have supposed that the Church would be on the earth during the great Tribulation therein described.
We should not have based our Missionary effort on Ps. 2:8 or Matt. 28:19, 20, for we should have seen that "the great Commission,” as it has been called, was obeyed by those to whom it was first given (see Col. 1:6, 23; Rom. 10:18; Titus 22:11), and will be completely fulfilled in the time of Matt. 24:14. The commission for the Church’s Missionary effort must be drawn from the Epistles which are specially written for the Church’s guidance and instruction, and not from the Gospels or any Scripture prior, at least, to Acts 3.
We are not speaking of Missionary labour in itself, but only as to the Scriptural ground on which it should, or should not be based.
The closing verses of Mark would never have been mutilated by all its various readings (see R.V.) had they not been wrongly taken for Church-teaching (only). It was, we believe, the difficulties created by thus interpreting the verses, that led to the rejection of the passage rather than to the rejection of the false principle of interpretation. The fact being that the Commission in verse 18 was obeyed by those to whom it was given, and the signs predicted did (indeed) follow in those who believed. The Church afterwards took this Commission as specially given to itself to carry out, and not seeing those specific signs following, questioned the genuineness of the Scripture, which predicted them, rather than its own wisdom in thus misapplying it.
Kingdom-Truth in the Sermon on the Mount would never have been taken as Church-teaching, and thus Infidels and the world would have been deprived of one their readiest weapons against the Bible.
The Church would never have been put into the Judgment of Matt. 25, which concerns only Gentile nations; and says nothing at all about resurrection. For even Infidels can plainly see (as the majority of (the blinded-by-religions) Christians cannot) that a judgment based on works can have no connection with a Church whose standing is in grace. The truth, instead of being "rightly divided” dispensationally, is thus made to become a source of error; and things, which differ and are each true in their proper place, are robbed of all their meaning by being confounded together.
We should have had clearer views of the Apocalypse, and have seen that it referred to the setting up of the rejected Kingdom with power and in judgment after the Church shall have been removed; and that the end of the Church being revealed in 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess.4, it could have no part or place on the earth during the events which take place in "the day of the Lord.”
We should not go to the Gospels or Acts for passages concerning the coming of Christ, as "the hope of the Church,” while in the Epistles alone is that coming set forth as the Church’s hope.
We should never have substituted "a happy death” for "that blessed hope.”
We should never have made the death of man our goal, instead of the appearing of "Christ, our Life” (Col. 3).
We should never have taken dissolution (in death) instead of Ascension as our hope (1 Thess. 4), and then we should never have been driven to use Hymn-Books as the source of Christian Epitaphs, instead of the Pauline Epistles.
We should not have confounded the special Revelation of that resurrection which is connected with the Mystery in 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15, with what is known as "the First Resurrection.” The first Resurrection was, as we have shown, no secret. The Old Testament clearly reveals it, and it would have taken place just the same (as it will yet take place), had Israel accepted the offer in Acts 3:18, 19, and had there been no Church at all. The one is quite independent of the other, and they would never have been confounded, had the truth of the "Mystery” been discerned.
We should not have taken the "breaking of bread” in the Acts of the Apostles, and exalted into the place of the Lord’s Supper, had we seen that it has nothing to do with a Church ordinance; or had we known that it was and remains till to-day, the common and universal Hebrew idiom for partaking of an ordinary meal together.
We should never have taken John 6, as containing teaching as to the Lord’s Supper, which had not then been instituted, but, seeing that such an interpretation of the Gospels is incompatible with the doctrine of the Mystery, we should have studied that Scripture afresh, and scientifically in the light of figurative language, and have seen that the figures of Metonymy and Enallagé, and their Hebrew idiom as to eating and drinking, clearly explain it as referring to that spiritual receiving, partaking of, and "inwardly digesting” of Christ and His words as the bread or support of spiritual life.
And, as to the Lord’s Supper itself, have we not fallen into many errors, "not discerning the Lord’s Body (i.e., the Church of which Christ is its Head)?.” See 1 Cor. 11:29. For "the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the Body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16.) This must refer to the Church "Body of Christ”, as the next verse goes on to explain – "For we being many are one bread (R.V. margin loaf) and one body: for we are all partakers of that one brad (R.V. margin loaf).” That is to say the bread or loaf which we break sets forth our communion not with Christ personal (which is the source of all the errors connected with the Lord’s Supper), but the communion and fellowship of all the members of Christ’s Body.
The one loaf setting forth the fellow-partnership of all the members with one another and with Christ the Head of the Body in glory, with whom we hope shortly to be, and hence "as oft as we break that brad, we "show forth the Lord’s death till He Come.”
This is what is meant by "discerning the Lord’s Body.” Indeed, the words "the Lord’s” ought not to be in the text at all, and are rightly omitted in the R.V. with all the Ancient MSS and Critical Greek Texts (it is so, "discerning the Body”). Moreover, the R.V. margin has discriminating, as the "Greek” for "discerning.” So that this verse does not refer to the body of Christ Personal at all, but simply to the Church of "the Body,” which the members of the Body are to discriminate when they eat of that bread and drink of that cup.
These and many other mistakes would never have been made – had the true doctrine of the Mystery been preserved and held by the Church of God; and had "the Word of the Truth” been consequently rightly divided.
(Seventh Paper (Concluding Chapter), Things to Come, March 1896, 2(9):154-156)
VII. THE BODY AND THE BRIDE.
There is another error which the doctrine of the Mystery corrects, though there is certainly some little excuse for its having been so generally entertained, and that is, the identification of "the Body” with "the Bride.” We have already seen that had Israel repented and turned to the Lord (Acts 3:18, 19), there is not an Old Testament prophecy which would not have been fulfilled (at that time). But the "Bride” is the subject of Old Testament prophecy. Therefore, had Israel repented, and there had been no Church of God, there would still have been the Bride according to the prophetic word. Many are the prophecies of the Bride in the Old Testament, and hence some who cannot ignore this fact and yet cling to the modern idea of the Body being the Bride, believe they are, or will be, Two Brides: the Bride of Jehovah and the Bride of the Lamb… The Bride in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea, is Israel, or at any rate the elect of Israel; those who were "partakers of the heavenly calling” in Israel. We read in –
Isaiah 54:5, 6
"For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.”
See also verses 7, 8.
Isaiah 62:4, 5
"Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah (i.e., My delight is in her), and thy land Beulah (i.e., married): for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.”
"Shall thy sons marry thee”. A slight change in the vowel points, gives the reading thy great or royal Restorer or Builder (by the figure of Enallage, plural for singular) instead of "thy sons.” Sons, moreover, were the builders of families (Gen. 16:2; 30:3; Deut. 25:9; Ruth 4:11, etc.)
"Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.”
Hosea 2:16, 19-20
"And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi (i.e., my husband); and shalt call me no more Baali (i.e, my lord)… And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.”
These and other passages clearly prophesy that an election of Israel shall be the Bride. Had, then, the call in Acts 3:18, 19 been obeyed, these prophecies must have had their fulfillment, quite irrespective of any Church.
Here again we come upon the solution of another great difficulty:
THE OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS
They are a great burden to Expositors of New Testament Truth. And what to do with them is one of the commonest questions and difficulties which arises in the mind of the Bible-student.
That there has been an elect body all through the Old Testament history we have abundant evidence.
While all the promises to Israel as a nation, were earthly, there were always those who lived "by believing (he wrote "faith”)” and "died in believing (he wrote "faith”),” and were "partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 6:1). These looked for no earthly portion, but they looked forward with a heavenly hope to a heavenly blessing. "These all died in believing (he wrote "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… 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.” (Heb. 11:13-16) – And of Abraham it is said "he looked for a CITY, which hath FOUNDATIONS, whose builder and maker is God.” (v. 10).
Now when we turn to Rev. 21:9, we read that one of the seven angels said to John: "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,” etc. (Rev. 21:9-27).
What are we to understand but that this "CITY,” – which is declared to be the "BRIDE, the Lamb’s wife,” is the city for which all those who were partakers of the Heavenly Calling looked; and that these elect saints of the Old Testament will form the BRIDE.
This "Holy Jerusalem” may contain the Church or Body of Christ, as well as the Bride, inasmuch as "the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are the Temple of it” (Rev. 21:22), and "the Lamb is the light thereof.” But it is not necessary on this account that we should identify them.
The "Lamb” is the special title of the Lord Jesus in relation to Israel, and the elect of Israel, and especially to the Bride (see Rev. 19:7-9 and the Parables of Marriage, and the Marriage-Supper in the Gospels).
It will also be noted that the names "ON the GATES of the city (i.e., the visible parts of the city)”, are "the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.” (Rev. 21:12), while the names "IN the FOUNDATONS (the invisible parts of the city) are the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (ver. 14).” This again carries us back to the Gospels (Matt. 19:28), to the solemn words of the Lord Jesus in answer to a specific enquiry as to the portion of the Twelve Apostles: "Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Here in Rev. 21 we have the Regeneration (the new heaven and the new earth), we have the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb. We ask, what has this to do with the Church – the Body of Christ? And has it not to do only and solely with the Holy City and with the BRIDE of the Lamb? The promise of Christ to the Twelve Apostles has never been abrogated; and, we ask, what are we to do with it, if the Apostles form part of the Body of Christ? The Church is part of Christ, the Bridegroom; but the Apostles, by a comparison of Matt. 19:28, with Rev. 21:14, form part of the BRIDE.
This effectually disposes of the figment of "Apostolic Succession,” which would never have been seriously entertained had not the truth connected with the Mystery been lost. And we ought to note that while the Twelve Apostles are thus separated off from the Church, the Apostle Paul was specially raised up to a special and different position altogether, and is identified with the Mystery.
In harmony also with this is the teaching of
Christians in their selfishness, attempt to rob others of their place as the Bride, and thus lose their own still "better” place as part of the Bridegroom. "Verily they have their reward”!
The Bride and the Bridegroom, though in a sense one, are yet surely distinct. Ant it is clear from all the scriptures relating to the Mystery, that the members of Christ’s Body are not the Bride, but part of the Bridegroom Himself. Whereas the elect Old Testament saints will form the Bride. See Isaiah 12:6 "Cry out and shout, thow Inhabitress (marg.) of Zion: For great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” In Rev. 22:3, we read "The Throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it.” Of the glory of this Holy City other scriptures speak. See Is. 60:3, 14, 19, 20; Rev. 21:23, 24, 27; Is. 54:11-12.
This is referred to again in Is. 4:5, when Jehovah shall have purged away the filth of the daughters of Zion, it is added "beyond all this glory there shall be the Chuppah, or the marriage canopy,” mentioned elsewhere only in Ps. 19:5 and Joel 2:16; and referring to Isa. 62. The Chuppah is the bridal canopy beneath which the nuptial ceremonies are performed to this day.
True, the Apostle might address the saints concerning his desire to present them "As a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). But this no more declares that the Church is the Bride of Christ than that the Apostle himself was their father (1 Cor. 4:15); or that he was their mother (Gal. 4:19). In one case he spoke of the painful anxiety of a mother; in another of the loving care of a father; while, in 2 Cor. 11:2, he spoke of the jealousy of the friend of a bridegroom. The "Mystery” was a totally different thing.
So, in Eph. 5:28, 29, the argument is that husbands "ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself, for no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church, for we are members of His Body,” i.e., AS Christ loves His own Body, the Church; so ought husbands to love their own selves, because they and their wives are "one flesh.” Thus "the great secret” is employed as an argument as to the reciprocal duties of husbands and wives. In neither case is it said that the Church IS the wife, or that Christ IS the husband. But that AS Christ loves His Body (the Church), SO husbands ought to love their bodies (their wives).
What is clear and certain is that the Church is the Body of Christ Himself, and that the members of that Body being "in Christ” (as members of His Body), are PART OF THE BRIDEGROOM, and cannot possibly, therefore, be the Bride herself.
It is a remarkable example of the perversity of Expositors, who while they hold that the Bride is the Church, persist in interpreting the parable of the ten virgins, as though the Bride’s attendant "Virgins” are also the Church. Though who ever heard of an Eastern Bride going out "to meet” the Bridegroom! The Virgins, "her companions,” went, but not the Bride. So our (wrong) expositors can hold whichever of these two positions they please, but, clearly, they are not entitled to hold them both. The "Bride” must be distinct from "the virgins her companions that follow her.” If we rightly divide the Word of Truth we see that the Church is neither the one nor the other, and that the subsequent revelation of the "Mystery” cannot be read into either Psalm 45 or Matt. 25, which are perfectly clear as they stand, and must have been capable of a plain interpretation to the first hearers or readers of those words, quite apart from the truth subsequently revealed.
The Mystery was "hid in God.” It does not say it was hidden in the Scriptures, but "hid in God” Himself. There can be therefore no types of it in the Old Testament, inasmuch as types teach, and were meant to teach doctrines. But if truths and doctrines, which are elsewhere clearly revealed in the New Testament, can be illustrated from the Old Testament, that is quite another matter. The illustration and application of Old Testament Scripture to the Church is quite lawful and profitable, so long as it is kept distinct from interpretation. It is one thing to see an illustration of the Church in the Old Testament; but it is quite another thing to say that that is there revealed, which God distinctly declares was not revealed!
Has been, for example, widely taken as typical of the Christ and the Church. Isaac is taken as the bridegroom, and Rebekah as the Church or the bride. True, the chapter is illustrative, but not of the Church. The bridegroom and the bride were both "ready” before either was called to the marriage. The bride was found in the house of Abraham’s brother. Very special injunctions were given that she was not to be of "the Canaanites.” "But,” said Abraham to Eliezer, "thou shalt go unto my country and to my kindred and take a wife unto my son Isaac… thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence.” Great emphasis is placed on this important conditions in verses 3, 4, 7, 37, 38. Abraham and Nahor were brothers, and by Isaac’s marriage with Rebekah, and Jacob’s marriage with her brother Laban’s daughters, Leah and Rachel, the whole house of Nahor was absorbed into the family of Abraham! Gentiles were expressly shut out when this typical wife was chosen, and Isaac on receiving his bride took her at once "into his mother Sarah’s tent,” thus forming the ground of the type as expounded in Gal. 4:21-31.
Rebekah therefore represents, not the Church or Body of Christ, but that great cloud of witnesses (the Old Testament saints), who in the old dispensation sacrificed, as she did, all worldly advantages for the Lord’s sake. It is for these He is preparing that "city which hath foundations,” and of which He Himself is the divine architect. And truly, it is said of these, "if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out (as Rebekah came) 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” (Heb. 11:15, 16).
"These all having obtained a good report through faith (believing), received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (verses 39, 40).
Now, we maintain, that this "better thing” cannot be the same as the good thing. The comparative term distinguishes between two things, and necessitates the existence of two. The one, as the Bride, will have a good place, a grand place, a place of honour and glory as the Lamb’s wife in the holy Jerusalem, but the Church, the Body of Christ, will have "some better thing,” a position of greater glory and honour, as part of the Bridegroom Himself.
It is for this consummation that the members of His Body now wait. We are, by the wondrous position which grace has given us, necessarily cut off from all "bodies” which are of human origination, and from all Ecclesiastical organizations. We do not seek to restore corporate testimony, for no such restoration of what man had ruined, was ever promised. The corporate failure is complete. There is no authority in the Word for re-establishing it, and all attempts to do so have ended in disaster, and in a widening of the breach between brethren. The "unity of the spirit” is now only subjective. There is no such thing as an objective unity of the spirit which we can "join.” The real truth of the "Mystery” received into the heart raises the members of the Body far above all human plans and hopes of union or Re-union. It takes us up at once into the heavenlies, seats us there with Christ, so that like Him we are "henceforth expecting.”
Hence, we are not concerned with prophecy as such, as a mere subject of study. To look for Christ’s appearing is the very essence of our Christian standing. It is the very breath of the Christian’s life. We "wait for God’s Son from heaven,” and long for Him to appear so that we may be
"RECEIVED UP IN GLORY.”
May we now conclude in the words of an ancient prayer, and say and confess that:
"We are very members incorporate in the Mystical Body of Thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people, and are also heirs together through hope of Thy everlasting Kingdom by the merits of the most precious death and passion of Thy dear Son, Amen.”