In my post, The Church Is Not a Parenthesis In God’s Redemptive Plan, I challenged the idea that God has a different redemptive plan for Israel and the Christian Church and posed this question – If Israel and the Church are so distinct, why are they often described the same way in the Bible, or called by the same name?
Israel Is Called God’s Bride
The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea describe Israel as a bride whose husband is God. In the book of Jeremiah, God remembers with fondness Israel’s “honeymoon” period of faithfulness:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown.” Jeremiah 2:1,2
But Israel was often unfaithful and eventually would incur judgment. However, she has a future because God is a faithful husband. In Isaiah 54, a disobedient, idolatrous Israel, though facing judgment and estrangement, is comforted by the fact that her husband, the Holy One of Israel, the Lord Almighty, will eventually call her back from exile into relationship:
For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name –
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. Isaiah 54:5-7
An Eternal Love
Hosea warns Israel employing the language that might be used by a husband to divorce his wife in ancient Israel in Hosea 2:2 – “she is not my wife and I am not her husband.” But God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and Isaiah assures us that it was not a divorce (Isaiah 50:1) But neither are they idle words. God will hem them in so they cannot pursue their adulterous relationship with other gods and they will realize they were better off with their husband (Hosea 2:6-7). God will restore Israel and betroth her to himself forever:
I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. Hosea 2:19-20
There is an eternal, covenant love depicted here, at least from God’s perspective. Israel undeniably has a future as God’s bride. But are they a distinct people separate from believers of the present age? Is the entire nation of Israel included or just a remnant? Being a part of Israel by physical birth but without faith in the Messiah (Romans 9:6) gives one no more claim to spend eternity with him than a churchgoer today who has not been born again (Matthew 7:21). God’s saving purpose in history is not thwarted because some don’t believe!
The Church Is Called the Bride of Christ
Jesus Is the Bridegroom
The Old Testament writers use imagery depicting God as the husband of Israel to help us understand the intimacy of the relationship between God and Israel. John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the bridegroom thereby declaring him to be God (John 3:29-30).
Jesus claims he is the bridegroom:
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. Matthew 9:15
The Savior Is Described As the Husband of Those He Saves Irrespective of the Time In Which They Live
We know from Isaiah 54:51 and Isaiah 43:3 that the Holy One of Israel is her Maker, Redeemer, Savior and Husband.
Paul tells us that Christ Jesus is our savior and redeemer through whom we receive the promise and blessing given to Abraham (Romans 10:9-10; Galatians 3:13-14). Paul describes the relationship of the Church to Christ in intimate terms similar to marriage (Ephesians 5:26-32). He also describes the church as a bride whose husband is Christ:
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 2 Corinthians 11:2
The Lamb of God Cleanses the Saved from Their Sin, Prepares Them for Eternal Fellowship and Celebrates with a Feast
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and who redeems the Church with his precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19).
1 John 1:7 says the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. In Revelation 7:9,14, a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language stand before the throne in front of the Lamb, a group who shout praises that salvation is from God and the Lamb (v 10), a group who has been washed white in the blood of the Lamb. All of God’s people (Isaiah 25:6-8), including Gentiles from every nation, tribe, people and language – all who have been redeemed and made clean from sin – will attend the wedding (Revelation 19:7-8).2
Same Savior, Same Husband, Different People of God?
The OT states that God is Israel’s savior, redeemer and husband. The NT reveals that Jesus is God and is savior, redeemer and husband of the Church. Have we a different Savior? Of course not! “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Have we a different Husband? No! Isn’t the proper conclusion then that both Israel and the Church are wed to the same saving, redeeming husband – Jesus. This language, this metaphor of the marriage of the bride and husband, suggests a continuity and oneness between Israel and the Church far more than it suggests two distinct groups of people.
- See also Isaiah 41:14;43:14;47:4;48:17;49:7
- This picture of God’s people attending a wedding feast with their savior when the Kingdom is fully realized can be found in other biblical references (Matthew 8:11; 22:2; Luke 13:28-29; Revelation 19:9). As God’s children saved by the blood of the Lamb, the Church surely must attend the feast.