There are a number of misconstrued Biblical concepts circulated that play a part in Christendom's inability to understand marriage, fornication, and it's implications to the body of Christ, as well as to the individual's body. By giving credence to these incorrect concepts, men and women will unknowingly continue to sin against God and their own bodies. Until these inaccuracies, mostly traditional, disseminated and accepted by Christians of all positions, which have their negative effect upon the Biblical depiction of marriage are corrected, Biblical marriage will continue to be plundered and violated, while fornication inextricably proceeds.
Believing that the church is the "bride of Christ" and the interpretation as to what that means is one of those concepts that brings contradiction in Scripture and detrimental consequences to individuals regarding Biblical marriage. When believers accept a wrong interpretation of Scripture and apply it to an aspect of life, fashioning their decisions and actions upon it, those decisions and actions can and do propagate sin within Christendom. The traditional assumption of the church being the bride of Christ is one of those situations.
If you will, please bear with me and I will do my best, through Scripture, to defend what I mean. It is necessary in part 1 to explain the reasons for my position on the bride of Christ and then in part 2 describe how I believe the traditional interpretation accentuates fornication.
The church of God is not the bride of Christ, but rather, new Jerusalem is. Let's begin with what is stated in Revelation 21:2,9&10, "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem...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" (KJV).
Also, Rev. 19:7-9, "...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. And he said unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb..."
Okay, when one reads this Scripture, I'm assuming everyone will flat out agree that it appears as if the new city "Jerusalem" (notice how I described it, not the city "New Jerusalem") is the bride of the Lamb (Christ). Well, it's because it is. It is distinct from and is not the sons of God ("the saints").
The verse above says that the "righteousness of saints" is her "fine linen clean and white," whereby she is clothed. For some reason, some believe this "fine linen" indicates that the church is she. I don't know how they arrive at this, for this reason. Clothing is never the person. Your attire indicates a lot about you, but is never you. When people refer to you, they will never point to your attire. If that were the case, whenever your clothes would be in a pile on the floor, then, that would be you lying there. You would not be you when you are unclothed.
The new Jerusalem is the "holy city" of God even now without her clean and white attire. Just as a woman bride is not who she is because she wears a white wedding gown. It used to be in our traditional marriages, the white gown represented a chaste virgin. Well, that is what the "fine linen" (righteousness) represents upon the new Jerusalem. She is pure and chaste, because her person has not been defiled in any way. This is what makes her holy and worthy to wear such non-defiled "fine linen." God will not allow her to be tainted by any unholy or polluted garment, which will be the true church.
Some say, "a city can't 'make herself ready', but the church can." I would not be so presumptuous as to depict the city of new Jerusalem the same as the city Jerusalem on earth. This new Jerusalem is "A city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). It will not be the same as a city built by men. Therefore, once all is completed, she will make herself ready with that that her covenanted husband purchased for her – righteousness.
The church, which will only consist of those who the Lord imputes righteousness, does nothing to make itself ready. The church is the church. You can't be a member of the church if you are unrighteous. It's either imputed or its not and that is based upon our faith toward Him and the living of His Word, which "...the Lord knoweth them that are his. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2Tim. 2:19). The church can't make itself ready by being righteous. For one thing, many members are already dead to this life and are beyond any chance of preparation now. The church will be the final church (the garment) when the book is opened and the names are read.
Another point is the city does not come from God until the old heaven and earth are removed and everything is done away with, except for one thing. There is one thing that is carried over from the old into the "new heaven and the new earth," – it is "the righteousness of saints" who lived in the old. The righteousness of Christ imputed upon those who by faith believed in and obeyed Him will pass on, enduring the test of time. It shall not diminish. Praise be to God!
Here are some other Scripture and arguments used to defend the church as the bride:
1) Eph. 5:27, "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Most say this is the church bride under the covenant who will keep herself pure until her groom comes to get her. It is the kind of bride He demands and will not accept anything less. He wants a spotless bride.
Well the spotlessness is true, however the covenanted bride part is assumed to be to the church and is wrong. These attributes of purity in v. 27 are not attributed to the bride herself, but, again, to the garment she will be wearing. The new Jerusalem is pure. She is made by God and "comes down from God out of heaven," long after Christ has come for His church.
I heard a preacher expound on this verse stating that the excessive sin in the church is making "her" into a "spotted harlot." When I heard this, I had to chuckle and declare, "is there any such thing as a spotted harlot?" Isn't a harlot a harlot? I also asked, "why didn't he call the church a 'wrinkled' harlot or a harlot with a 'blemish'?" Is anyone catching my point?
There is no such thing in a marriage where the bride is considered spotted, wrinkled, or blemished. However, her attire can be defined as being tainted by these descriptions.
Seeing it in this light causes the interpretation to be far more sensible and in line with other Scripture depicting the church as new Jerusalem's "fine linen, white, and clean" – the righteousness of Christ imputed to the church, perfect in every aspect indicative of what a chaste virgin bride would be clothed with, yet not the bride.
2) Now, let's look at the pronouns "she" or "her" that many use to reference the church. This is understandable for those who view it as the bride. However, this is wrong when we know that the church is not the bride, but rather the garment. Howbeit, clothing is never referred to with a gender pronoun depiction. The word "it" would be the pronoun used instead. The same would be the case when referring to its (the church's) righteousness, which is what makes it (the church) suitable to be worn by the heavenly Jerusalem.
So, when Christ comes for the true church to be used as the raiment of the bride (Jerusalem), it will only consist of those members who are washed, clean, "unspotted from the world," and undefiled by any fornication that will blemish, spot, or cause a wrinkle in that white garment that she will wear at her wedding with her covenanted husband (Christ). So, Jesus is coming for the garment. Will he find it (not her) unspotted, unwrinkled, and without blemish?
3) Another way to realize that I am correct in my prognostication is, by the fact that we are the body of Christ. I think every Christian agrees to this fact. Knowing this, then, His body could never be referred to as a pronoun "she" or "her," because Christ is a "he". Even when the body of Christ is referred to, it is never (at least, should never be) referred to in the pronoun form as "he" or "him." These pronouns would apply to His whole person. His body (the church) would be referred to as "it."
The same goes with you, whatever gender you are who is reading this. Have you ever called your body by a like gender pronoun? If you have or do, you are strange indeed. Try it and see what I mean. So, why call the body of Christ a "her" or "she?" If Christ's body is a "her/she," then, He is no longer a he, or He is a she too. What a mess.
If you'll notice, many of the revised versions as opposed to the KJV do this. Why? Only because the so-called scholars who write them are so sure in themselves that they are correct about the church being the bride, they take it upon themselves to change the word from "it" to a feminine pronoun. This is dangerous, because, as it does, this one small supposedly insignificant pronoun changes the whole perception of interpretation regarding the subject at hand - very dangerous indeed. We must be careful.
The church is "the body of Christ." This is the most fundamental application of our Christianity. We, true born again believers, are already married to Christ, howbeit, not as husband and wife, but merely through the connection of the oneness of His Spirit and the purchase and sanctification of our body when born again. The church is adopted, grafted in. Our body is Christ's body now and as members of that body, we are to keep it holy and undefiled.
Many use Ephesians 5 as a defensive Scripture to support the bride of Christ being the church. However, the husband/wife marriage and the conduct for each spouse articulated by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5 illustrates more accurately the mystery of the connection we have with Christ as His body.
Instead of using the physical head being connected (married) to the physical body as an illustration, Paul uses a Biblical marriage of two joined by God as one flesh. This is because there are two entities involved that are brought together to make one whole entity in each case – Christ and the church and husband and the wife. One must focus on the sanctity of the oneness between the husband and wife as the premise and not the fact that they are husband and wife. If the reference just pertained to they being a husband and wife as the focal point and not the oneness they generate through their consummation, why incorporate a married couple and their obligations to each other to describe a groom (Christ) and bride (church) who are not married? They don't correlate.
The man and woman consummate their joining through sexual intimacy, whereas, the church is consummated to Christ by His Spirit.
Because these entities are already joined, each entity has certain responsibilities and obligations to fulfill in order to make that union a perfect and holy one. One obligation is to not defile your body through fornication, which is both a physical violation to your spouse's oneness with you and the body of Christ - a violation of idolatry to your oneness with Christ. As Paul declared, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church." "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Ephesians 2:22; 5:30). "...shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them members of a harlot" (1Corinthians 6:15)? The church is already married (attached) to Christ as His body and we can defile it.
With this in mind, Paul said, we "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," because He is alive as our High Priest in heaven at the "right hand of God." Therefore, where He is, we are joined with Him because of our attachment and oneness (marriage) to Him. Also, because we the church are one with Christ as His body, it will be as if we are marrying the new Jerusalem (our mother) as well, "For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee..." (Isaiah 62:5).
Because of our connection to Jerusalem as her children, the covenant given to us of grace, mercy, salvation, and righteousness includes her. We will all be one: Father, Christ, the church, and Jerusalem, once we are brought forth through the consummation of the heavenly marriage of Christ to Jerusalem. This is why Jesus referred to the disciples (regarding all true believers) as "children of the bride-chamber" saying, "...Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them" (Matthew 9:15)?
If I am making myself understood in all that I am presenting, you should be getting a glimpse of Scriptural revelation to a mystery. It is the mystery of that oneness where if it involves one, it involves all. Thus, the awesome position that we as mere men will possess in the kingdom of God - "What is man, that thou art mindful of him" (Hebrews 2:6)?
"Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21: 9,10). We inherit God's Kingdom as "sons," not as a bride or wife.
4. We are the children of Jerusalem who is the wife of Christ (God). The Apostle Paul expounds vividly our connection to the new Jerusalem in Galatians 4:22-31. It is here where he reveals the relevance of certain O.T. Scripture and its revelation of the finale of God's plan. In it Paul explains how there are two Jerusalem's. The first is the Jerusalem on the earth, a city made by men, which is represented by Hagar the bondwoman-wife of Abraham; the other, Jerusalem in heaven, a city made by God, which is represented by Sarah the freewoman-wife of Abraham.
Earthly Jerusalem is the city of God – the wife of God through the covenant of the law. She is the mother of those Israelites who attempt to secure righteousness by their own works, whereas, the heavenly Jerusalem, which "comes down from God" is the future city of God – the future wife of God through the covenant of faith in Christ.
As Sarah was the mother of Isaac in the flesh, the new Jerusalem is the mother of Isaac and all like him who believe the testimony of God and adhere to the covenant of promise of grace through faith in Christ - the ascription for their righteousness. It is the city Abraham looked for, not with Hagar, but with Sarah.
The Jerusalem that is above is still barren with no children, as Sarah was for a time. In this Scripture text, verse 27 says, "For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath a husband." So, who was that husband that Paul referred to in this verse, quoted from Isaiah 54:1? It is, of course, Christ (God) of the O.T. He was the husband of Jerusalem (Hagar) on earth under the covenant of the law, which is to be done away with. Once eliminated, Christ will be the husband of the new Jerusalem (Sarah) under the covenant of faith, grace, and mercy. All fullness from the beginning of creation dwells in Jesus Christ.
The new Jerusalem will have more children, because she will be mother to not just the Jew alone, but to the Jew and Gentile who believe in Christ by faith. Once this marriage is consummated, all true believers in Christ will realize their position as children of this marriage – "children of the bride-chamber."
At this time, everything is still of promise and will be finalized when Christ has subdued all things and, in fullness, delivers all things up to the Father. We are the future "children" because of our active faith like Abraham, believing in God and Jesus (His Word). This is why John the Baptist said, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegrooms voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled" (John 3:29). Until we are brought forth from the marriage as children, we are friends of the bridegroom and not the bride. We are bidden (called) to the marriage as guests, while we live in hope through the obedience of faith. One day, faith will cease and, then, the fruit of that faith through the covenant of promise will birth a child(ren).
We won't know the bride, or rather the wife of Christ, until Christ and she are joined. She is in Christ's possession under the covenant, being prepared for that day. "In my Father's house [new city Jerusalem] 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).
From what can be gathered in the book of Revelation, the Apostle John indicates the approximate time when that marriage and consummation occurs. It is not until a new heaven and a new earth are created where that "holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;" "...for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
There will be no more man made Jerusalem. "For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; he is called the God of the whole earth" (Isaiah 54:5).
There is more Scripture to reference, however, I want to finish with something that took place not too long ago, which is further evidence that the theory of the church being the bride of Christ is misplaced:
There was a certain woman figure in Christendom who had held an event for woman exclusively. The theme of the event was for them to dress up in a wedding gown in celebratory anticipation of their future marriage to Christ, their ultimate perfect husband.
Now, someone tell me what is wrong with this? Where do men come into play in this theme? Do we men dress ourselves up in wedding gowns too? Or are men excluded from the future event? This is indicative of Christian's who do not have knowledge of who we are in Christ now and in the future. This event was extremely foolish and unbiblical, because they hold to a misperceived notion. They couldn't discern how unorthodox the whole event was.
The church is in error to view itself as the bride of Christ. This error in understanding is carried over to committing acts of fornication in dealing with the consequences of it when committed outside of or within a Biblical marriage of a husband and wife.