It’s wonderful to contemplate the fact that the whole history of the world is concerned, not with this nation or that ruler, or this war or that political solution, but with the gathering together of the Bride of Christ. It was always in the hear of the Father to have a bride for his son. Charles Alexander speaks wonderfully of this in his book “Revelation spiritually understood.” Here’s an excerpt:
CHRIST’S BRIDAL DAY
The Bible closes as it begins – with a marriage scene. The Edenic marriage of the first Man and Woman (so soon to end in suffering and shame and loss) leads inevitably to that new and eternal marriage of God and Man, of Christ and the Church, which was the goal towards which the Creator was striving from the very beginning. “Come” says the angel to the Seer, “Come hither, and I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9).
John is caught up in the Spirit and sees the Bride in the form of a great city, the new Jerusalem …. having the glory of God, her light being like to a most precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal…. (Rev. 21:9-11). The City is the City of God, about which Augustine had so much to say when he traced the course of this wonderful city from the beginning of history to the end. The bride is one yet many. She is the whole company of the redeemed of all ages. She is the fulfillment of the object of all creation and she is in fact the wonder of all creation. A city is a dwelling place, and this is what God sought from the beginning. “The tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell among them, and they shall be his people and he will be their God….and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain because the former things are passed away and all things are made new”. (Verses 4-5
THE MARVEL OF WOMAN
The greatest marvel of the original creation was not the splendour of the angelic world, nor yet the creation of that First Man in whom was wrapped up the divine purpose. The greatest marvel was the creation of WOMAN. In her was vested the future of the race; she was to be the symbol of the ultimate purpose of God, a BRIDE FOR THE KING’S SON. There are no female angels. Angels are the royal splendours which surround the eternal throne, the ministers of the divine power in the vastness of creation and in the events of history. But though greater in power and glory than man, they nevertheless hold their being only in subordination to the higher purpose of God in Man. “Verily he took not on him the nature of angels but he took on him the seed of Abraham that in all things he might be made like unto his brethren”. (Hebrews 2:14-17)
Angels were created for man and not man for the angels. Woman is unique in creation. The equal of man in intellect (though not in bodily strength and vigour) she is superior in natural grace and beauty. Her yielding love is the strongest chain which binds man to her. She is the nursemaid of the human race in the mystery of birth and in her tender committal and loving patience in the nurture of her children.
Nothing like this wonder is found among the angels. We think of their solemn dedication to the affairs of the human race, and of the holy amazement which enthralled all the invisibility of heaven as the entire company of heaven gathered around the stable of Bethlehem on that awesome night when a Virgin mother brought forth the incarnate God, nestling in her bosom the very redemption of the world; holding in her tender arms the key to all mysteries.
If this is not true, then there is no truth, no heaven, no God, no meaning, no hope. Let the earth vanish and all creation disappear, and with it all the hopeless misery of existence.
But creation is a reality. It makes visible the consummate wisdom of the Creator, and it enshrines a wondrous purpose (now surely nearing completion) which will be made plain when the Bride will stand beside her Beloved before the marriage altar of heaven, and all things will become new.
THE SLEEP OF DEATH AND THE FIRST BRIDE
Every step of creation is to be considered and wondered at, in the ever unfolding drama of the life of God. The creation of man was not without a very clear and mystic foreshadowing of that spiritual drama. The manner of the creation of the first Bride has wondrous significance in the prophetic foreshadowing of the spiritual marriage of Christ and the Church. The first man, Adam, sank into a deep and deathlike sleep. The Hebrew word is unique and has no equivalent in our diffuse modern language. Adam’s sleep was no ordinary slumber. It is described in the Hebrew tongue as TARDEMAH (transliterated). It is a sleep akin to death. All physical powers are arrested as in death. The shadows of coming great events take form, as in the later case of Abraham when the like TARDEMAH and the horror of great darkness lay upon him. His soul passed through all the terrors of that long history which lay ahead, a history whose crowning point would be the coming of the promised Seed to suffer and to die upon the Cross.
That same horror of great darkness through which Abraham passed was surely a foreshadowing of that “sleeping for sorrow” which fell upon the three apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane while their Lord and their God passed through the agony of prayer which preceded the crucifixion. The three hours of darkness and of silence during the crucifixion just as surely indicated the mystery of that terrible event when God suffered for Man on the accursed tree.
In the case of Adam, the Tardemah brought forth the bride, Eve; so the sufferings of Christ brought forth the redemption of the heavenly bride. The rich yet awful dowry of our salvation, was His own lifeblood.
The story of Creation and its inner mystery of the coming forth of the Bride for the Son, lifts the purpose of Creation into regions transcendental, far beyond human science which is limited to measurement and the conflict of natural forces. The object of creation was divine. It was the means by which the Eternal God must reveal and prove Himself, and bind creation to Himself in a wonder of LOVE fittingly presented to us as an eternal marriage state.
The last two chapters of the Bible make this clear and plain. The Creator cannot fail in His task, for “Love never faileth” (1 Cor. 13:8), and He is love. Whatever mystery there may be remaining, will be dissolved in that day when the marriage is complete.
Adam’s exclamation “THIS is now BONE of my BONE and FLESH of my FLESH” when he awakened from that deep sleep and found beside him the lovely creature who came from his own wounded side, is likewise expressed (as was his prophetic sleep) by a unique Hebrew word – PA`AM, translated in our common version by the word “NOW”. It means that, but far more than that. It expresses surprise and delight as though Adam had said, “This time” an expression of discovery: “At last. This is what I was seeking. Here is something like unto myself – bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.”
Calvin comes nearer to the mark than most, when he says, “In using the expression PA`AM, Adam indicates that something had been wanting to him; as if he had said, Now at length I have obtained a suitable companion, who is part of the substance of my flesh, and in whom I behold as it were another self. And he gives to his wife a generic name (Ishah) taken from (Ish), that by this testimony he might transmit a perpetual memorial of the wisdom of God.”
This is woman, the eloquent type of the Church, the Bride of Christ, the weaker vessel who comes up from the wilderness of this world ‘leaning upon her Beloved’ (Song of Solomon 8:5). Later she received from ADAM her personal name, EVE, derived from the Hebrew for “Life” or “Living” (Genesis 3:20).
But from how much sin and darkness, shame and defilement, must Christ deliver His Bride ere He can present her at the last before the Father’s throne, without spot or blemish? There is no more terrible sight on earth than that of a woman who has betrayed her own virtue and sold herself for sin. The Bible is full of her type, yet it is from the depths of human sin and degradation that Christ must win His bride.
The Samaritan woman of John 4 may be considered as a type of us all, who (in so many instances) have unexpectedly encountered the Bridegroom and found glorious deliverance. “Meeting strangely at some sudden goal,” the soul finds itself in the presence of the King, then
Life’s long night is ended, and the way
Lies open, onward, to eternal day.
So it was with that poor Samaritan, in the mystery of the divine compassion, which found her who had been divinely loved and wrought for since the foundation of the world. The calling of the soul to Christ is the call of love, and the response of love is consecration — consecration to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Part of the wonder of conversion is that yielding of the soul to the Beloved, under the profound conviction that henceforth we are ‘not our own, but bought with a price.’ No conversion is true unless it has in it the element of that yielding and self-surrender to Christ, so magnificently expressed by Paul to the gentile Galatians.
“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
For there is no true conversion without love, and no true marriage without that yielding of one to the other, which makes both one. Perhaps this element in conversion is little heard of these days when a formal theology without the Spirit is turning the fruitful ground into barrenness. “The Redeemer’s tears wept over lost souls” is an aspect of the gospel which many find hardly consistent with their “scheme”
“THE BRIDEGROOM COMETH”
Nigh on two thousand years have passed since the resurrection and ascension of Christ. When will that cry be heard, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him?” Who can tell? Perhaps when these lines are being written – or read. Perhaps not yet in our own generation. But it is worthy of note that history divides itself fairly evenly into significant periods of time.
From Adam to the call of Abraham was a remarkable approximation of 2,000 years. Likewise from the Call of Abraham to Christ was approximately 2,000 years. Now from Christ to our own day is nearing 2,000 years. There may not be any special significance in this, and we must not build upon it for we are not given to know the day or hour of His return. Nevertheless 6,000 years as the duration of man’s probation was long ago looked upon as indicated by the six days of creation – then God rested from His work. It is certain that the 6,000 years of man have wellnigh run their course – and a great apostasy is upon us. “When the Son of Man cometh, will He find faith in the earth?’ (Luke 18:8). “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). At least, we are not excused from that warning, “Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh” (Matt. 24:44).
That will be a great day of gladness for the inhabitants of heaven and for those who have been redeemed from the earth. David the King saw that day from far, and wrote of it in that most exquisite of psalms, the 45th. There he drew, in inspired words, the picture he saw of the King, the bridegroom, and at His right hand –“the Queen, in gold of Ophir”. She is brought unto the King in “raiment of needlework” – a sign of her virginity; she is reserved for Him and for Him alone to whom she has come from the ends of the earth. Gold of Ophir is from the Indies; she comes to her wedding bearing with her the true riches of creation. All that was ever worth while on earth goes into her wedding array. The sighs and the tears of believers are preserved and will be as jewels which shine for ever in the mansions of heaven. With what infinite patience and devotion have those robes of exquisite needlework been woven on the loom of a yielded life on earth? It will all be to the glory of the Redeemer who will be acclaimed as worthy of it all. In sorrow and pain some of the finest tapestries have been wrought and the Palace of the King will be adorned with these precious tokens of love and devotion to Him whose love has won for Him a Bride and whose sacrifice for her has been complete. “He loved me and gave Himself for me” will be her constant theme.
Devotion to Christ, love for Him, is of the very element of heaven and in the Song of Solomon (largely written on the basis of the 45th Psalm) there is a remarkable verse which has an unmistakable reference to that supreme devotion of Mary at Bethany when she poured out her spikenard upon her Lord. In the Song, chapter 1 and verse 12 we read, “While the King sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof”. Mary anointed the Saviour on the first day of the crucifixion week, “and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment”. The connection with the Song of Solomon is beyond dispute. Mary acted for the Church – without knowing it! The perfume of her great act fills another house greater by far than the dwelling at Bethany.
Heaven is filled with the praise of the Lamb that was slain. God will have no glory which He does not earn, and no worship which He has not proved Himself worthy to receive. Heaven will be one long and endless discovery of the perfection of His love, and as the earthly bride never tires of resting in the love of her beloved, so in heaven, the theme of the love of God in Christ for the Church will never weary. To love and to be loved is the highest of all destinies and we shall rest evermore in the fulness of that love which is divine and which begets love in those who yield themselves to it. Our unworthiness to be loved only adds to the wonder of the sacrificial love of our glorious King.
THE GREATNESS OF EVE
The vision of the Church as the Bride of Christ pervades the whole of Scripture, from Eden onward, with ever increasing clearness. Eve, the mother of the human race, is the first type of this great mystery. Let us not underestimate this remarkable woman from whom the whole human race has sprung. With nothing but her instinct to guide her, she brought forth the first child. No woman was there to assist her, no physician to give her the benefit of his skill and experience. In sorrow she brought forth her children, and under divine inspiration named them prophetically. Cain was “Acquired’ from the Lord but proved a source of copious tears. Abel she named as ‘Vanity’ for she had by this time understood that all is vanity and vexation of spirit in a fallen world. The murder of Abel by Cain made her the mother of the first martyr – for Abel was the first High Priest of the human race, the leader of the Church’s worship, and by this the jealousy of the elder brother was aroused. After the murder another son was born, to whom Eve gave the name of Seth (Appointed). Behold her faith as well as her anguish. She saw in Seth the progenitor of the promised Messiah who would fulfill the dearest expectation of her heart. We must never write Eve small. She was one of the great women of all time.
Sarah, wife of Abraham, 2,000 years later was the mother of a new generation through whom the worship of God would be raised to the highest level since Eden. Abraham’s descendants became the children of the Promise – the promise made to the human race from the beginning. Now the Church grew mightily and was rich in prophetic men and godly women. From Abraham onward, no generation was without a prophet until Malachi (who was really Ezra, Malachi being only a title, meaning “My Messenger”). Ezra wrote the closing book of the Old Testament with its promise that the next significant event would be John the Baptist, under the figure of Elijah the prophet- “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5).
Sarah reappears in the parable of “the leaven in the meal”: (Matthew 13:33) “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened”. That Christ was referring to Genesis 18:6, there can be no manner of doubt. Himself in Person had already appeared with those other two at Abraham’s tent and presided over that prelude to the parable – a Parable which gives a special eminence to the wife of Abraham, and foretells the spread of the Gospel to earth’s utmost bounds.
David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, sang of the heavenly Bridegroom and His beauteous gentile bride and wrote under inspiration that great Psalm 45, which lay at the base of the Song of Songs which David’s royal son Solomon was to write under a supreme impulse of the Spirit of God. In it Solomon described the trials and the beauty of the Bride, and the wonder of her Kingly Lover and so prepared the way for the mystic marriage of Christ and His Church – that marriage which was the great end of all Creation and the fulfillment of the life of God.
SONG OF SOLOMON
This all-important Song of Solomon consists of two divisions, equally dividing eight poetic stanzas (which appear as the eight chapters of the Song). The first four stanzas portray the Church in her Old Testament state. The last four present her in her New Testament condition when the identity of the heavenly Lover is fully developed, and her own perfected love chimes with His.
“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” she sings, and He, the glorious Prince of Heaven responds, “Thou art beautiful, my love, as Tirzah. Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome Me.”
True love never reaches its goal save by the road of travail and tears, of suffering and patient waiting. He, the heavenly Lover pays her dowry in the drops of His own blood. She after the long night of waiting (symbolising the Old Testament condition of the Church) endures the cruel blows of the false watchmen of Israel in the darkened streets of the city which had no room for Him (see chapter five). That dark night of cruelty and shame proved the reality of her love for Him. Still she yearns and awaits the great moment of love’s realisation. She has waited long. So has He. Time is now running out. How long – how soon – will it be till that glorious dawn when the Twain will be finally united in the completeness of that mystic marriage state – never to part again? In the meantime she cries, long and loud, “Make haste, my Beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountain of spices” – Song 8:14.*
Salvation is more than the forgiveness of sin. It is that, but more than that. Salvation is only complete in the final union in marriage of Christ and His bride, when she, the completed Church, is conducted by angelic courtiers through the Palace of the King to where He waits at the altar of heaven. This was always the object of creation – an object which could be realised in no other way but by tears and blood, suffering and patient endurance. This is the great secret of the life of God. He would not reign alone. Eternal Love (which He is) must reach out to widen the area of blessedness to the utmost limit. God will have no final realisation of the meaning and purpose of His own great life, for which He does not pay the supreme price. This is the wonder of all Creation. God will not be satisfied with a mere legal reckoning with a revolted creation. He Himself must pay the price of love to the utmost limit, by descending to a condition in which He becomes the outcast of His own world. Only by this awful descent can it be known what divine love is. The Cross is the token of that giving of Himself in complete surrender to all that evil can do, hiding not His face from shame and spitting – the sin offering for His own creation.
By this means the Lord solves the problem of creation. To create a world that could not fall, He must needs create Himself (which is an absurdity). What He could do was to enter into that fallen creation and raise it from its ruin by bearing its woe, its burden and its shame, so that by death He might destroy death, and by weakness confound the mighty. Thus He raises fallen creation to the point where God and Man become one. “This is He who came by water and by blood; not by water only, but by water and blood….” (1 John 5:6). The Spirit of God is the water; the blood is the atonement. Both flow from the wounds of Christ. By death comes life. He who believes in Christ and comes to Him and drinks; He who believes in Christ, as the Scripture hath said, out of him flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-39). New life flows from Christ. God and Man are reunited in Him. Here is a new creation which cannot fail or fall.
This new creation is the paradise of God where God and Man become one again. Creation becomes a song of victory and joy, another Eden, a garden of delight, a paradise of eternal love where the river of Life flows down and the celestial fruits of the Tree of Life are free for all.
Here is the heavenly marriage. Here is the Bridegroom and the Bride. Here is our peace, our beauty, our home, our other self, our sweetness, our love. Here is the Bride coming up from the wilderness leaning on her Beloved – He to her and she to Him in a oneness of love, a joy, a rest, a peace, which can know no ending.
Make haste, my Beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.
(Song of Solomon 8:14)