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The Revelation - Book 7

A study of Revelation 17-19. This is book 7 of an 8 part book series.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 16

The Bride is ready

The voice from the throne continues in Revelation 19:7, saying,

7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.

The bride emerges after the fall of the counterfeit bride, that is, the great harlot of Babylon. For this reason, the emergence of the true bride is timed after the counterfeit bride (the harlot) is exposed, judged, and cast down. We know that Babylon was given dominion over the nations for seven times as a judgment upon Israel and Judah. Hence, it is clear that the exposure and fall of the great harlot is the time when true Israel is recognized once again as the bride.

But much has changed since Israel and Judah were in their old land. When Israel is resurrected from the valley of dry bones, she comes forth no longer fleshly, but as a new creation.

Recall that Israel and Judah were cast out of the land for continuously violating the (old) covenant. That covenant was rendered null and void on account of their refusal and inability to fulfill their vow. For that reason, Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant and the reason why this was necessary. Jer. 31:31, 32 says,

31 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

It is clear from this that the prophet understood that the old covenant was a marriage covenant, which they had broken. The vows taken at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:6-8 were marriage vows, and Moses was the minister performing that marriage. Moses brought the marriage proposal to Israel, and she agreed to those conditions. The people then prepared themselves for three days, and God then became Israel’s husband. Exodus 19:10, 11 says,

10 The Lord also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; 11 and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

The marriage was to be consummated when the Husband came to claim His bride. This was the day that would later be known as Pentecost, the day God spoke the Ten Commandments. He came with the appearance of fire, in order to impregnate them with the seed of the word that would beget Christ in them.

Of course, the problem was that Israel was too fearful to hear the word, and they told Moses to go up the mount and relay to them the words of God (Exodus 20:18-21). Eventually, their fear put distance between them, and this marriage covenant eventually was dissolved. God divorced Israel for adultery with other gods (Jer. 3:8).

The Remnant of Grace

The Old Covenant marriage failed to produce the sons of God, because the nation as a whole was too afraid of their Husband to get close to Him and to bear His children. So only on an individual level did any of them actually consummate the marriage in order to bring forth the sons of God. These few individuals came to be known as the remnant of grace. They numbered 7,000 in Elijah’s time, and Paul commented on them in Rom. 11:4-7. Paul shows the distinction between the nation and the remnant of grace in verses 5-7, saying,

5 In the same way then, there has come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. 7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened.

Under the Old Covenant, the nation was required to fulfill its vow, but Israel as a whole was unable to do so. Nonetheless, because God had already made a New Covenant vow to make them His people by the council of His own will, He preserved a remnant of grace in each generation—those who would overcome their fear of a direct relationship with God and embrace Him by faith. These formed only a tiny minority of the nation itself. “The rest were hardened,” Paul says.

When Jesus came as the Mediator of the New Covenant, it was expected that all who followed Him would be part of the remnant of grace. However, the church largely followed the pattern of Israel under Moses, and so the remnant of grace remained a minority throughout the Pentecostal Age. By definition, the church had faith in Jesus Christ, and so Christ was begotten in them; however, their problem came during pregnancy, for the Christ in them was often malnourished by the famine of hearing the word. Many even rejected the law.

For this reason, Christians have often miscarried and some have deliberately aborted the Christ that was in them. I wrote about this in my booklet, The Prophetic Roots of Modern Abortion.

The bottom line is that the church as a whole failed as much as Israel of old before them. Yet in each generation God preserved a remnant of grace throughout the years, so that at the end of the age there would be a sufficient number to form a prophetic “baby” (son) that can be born into the world. These are the manifested sons of God who are born to the bride that emerges in Rev. 19:7.

The bride is the “nation” who brings forth the fruit of the Kingdom. This nation is the one Jesus prophesied about in Matt. 21:43,

43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.

This was a direct reference to the remnant of grace that has taken thousands of years to be fully formed. This nation is a New Covenant bride, chosen by grace, truly God’s Chosen People. It is comprised not only of genealogical descendants of Abraham, but also of all who are begotten by the Spirit of God through the New Covenant.

Israel, the Bride

There is a classic dispute over the identity of the bride. Some say it is Israel; others say it is the church. Both are right, but those who take one position or the other are not seeing the complete picture. Israel is called “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38 KJV). The whole nation was called out of Egypt in order to become the church. The same is true with the New Covenant church that was called out of Judaism. Judea and Jerusalem was their “Egypt,” the house of bondage, whose leaders, like Pharaoh, persecuted and enslaved the people. Paul calls Jerusalem “Hagar” in Gal. 4:25, because Hagar was an Egyptian.

Scripture shows us that there are actually two brides, each corresponding to a different covenant. Israel under Moses was the Old Covenant bride; the church under Jesus Christ is the New Covenant bride. In Galatians 4, Paul shows that Abraham had two wives that allegorically portrayed these two covenants: Hagar and Sarah. Both were married to Abraham, but only one could bring forth the chosen seed. The bondwoman could bring forth only children of the flesh.

It would be foolish to insist that only one of Abraham’s wives was married to him. We must recognize the validity of both marriages. Yet we must recognize that one marriage produced children of the flesh, while the other produced the sons of God, or spiritual children. The Old Covenant (Hagar) could not produce spiritual children, because this covenant was based upon the will of man, or man’s vow (Exodus 19:8). Only the New Covenant (Sarah) can bring forth the sons of God, because it is based on the promise (or vow) of God Himself and is therefore based upon grace, which is by His will alone. So Paul says in Gal. 4:28, 29,

28 And you, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh [i.e., Ishmael] persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.

The children of Hagar-Jerusalem persecuted the children of Sarah (New Jerusalem), driving them out of Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 8:1). The Old Covenant city, being the first-born, believed that it was the “mother” of the chosen people. They did not like it when another son was born through a different mother and by a different covenant. They knew—with good reason—that this spiritual son of the New Covenant was their competitor for the inheritance.

Who is Israel?

Scripture always calls Israel a “nation,” never a race. In fact, the nation of Israel, though led by twelve tribes who were direct descendants of the sons of Jacob, also included many from other nations. There were thousands in Abraham’s camp even before he had a single son, when he sent 318 men “born in his house” (Gen. 14:14) to defeat the kings of Shinar. These were “the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), because they were spiritual “children” of Abraham (Gal. 3:7, 9, 29). Over the centuries, those families who were not literally of Abraham’s seed, actually formed the bulk of the nation of Israel.

About 400 years later, when the nation left Egypt with a population of about six million, those of Abraham’s household were fully integrated into the tribes of Israel, even if they were not of his direct bloodline. Furthermore, many Egyptians joined them, for they joined with Israel (Exodus 12:38). Since there was no land set aside for a tribe of Egyptians in the land of Canaan, it is evident that these Egyptians became members of the tribe of their choice.

The law never excluded people of other nations, but rather encouraged Israel to be a light to the nations and to be a blessing to all other nations. Eventually, of course, the nation of Israel was divorced and sent out of God’s house into the land of Assyria. But when God promised to regather them, He said through the prophet in Isaiah 56:8,

8 The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”

In the end, Israel under the Old Covenant failed not only to follow God for themselves, but also failed to dispense the blessings of God to all nations. Under the New Covenant, Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19, 20), which was essentially to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant, which the children of the flesh had refused to fulfill.

People have tried to distinguish between Israel and the church because they think that Israel was limited to a particular genealogy, not realizing that most Israelites were not even physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. They were a nation, not a single genealogy.  In fact, the goal was for all men to become children of Abraham by faith, regardless of genealogy. The divine plan is not complete until all of humanity become Israelite citizens.

In Jesus’ day, the church was begun mostly by people from Judea and Galilee and a few Greeks. Because of the great rebellion of Judah against its rightful King, the bulk of that nation was “cut off” as the law commanded (Lev. 17:4). Those who supported Jesus as the Heir became the remnant of Judah (as recognized by God), and hence, what men now call “the church” was actually the tribe or nation of Judah. To these were added many from other nations as they came to believe in Jesus Christ and to support His claim to the throne of Judah and of the world.

Unfortunately, the church itself degenerated over time, and so there came to be a distinction between the church as a whole and the remnant of grace within it. Like Ishmael and the Jews, the church has persecuted the remnant of grace. The Inquisitions prove that the church in Rome was another fleshly religion manifesting the spirit of Hagar and Ishmael, rather than that of Sarah and Isaac.

In the end of the age, then, the true bride that emerges in Rev. 19:7 is not the entire church, but is the remnant of grace that has emerged from its time of persecution at the hands of the children of the flesh. This “Sarah” bride is the New Covenant and the New Jerusalem (Gal. 4:24, 25), whose “children” are those begotten by the Spirit. The bride is certainly “Israel,” but we cannot limit this term to those who are Israelites by fleshly birth.

For this reason, as we have already seen, the overcomers (i.e., the remnant of grace) are described in Rev. 5:9, 10 as people “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” They are all Israelites who have followed the footsteps of Jacob in his quest to become an Israelite. Like Jacob, they have walked by faith and have finally wrestled with God. They have come face to face with a new revelation of the sovereignty of God. They bear the testimony of Israel, “God rules.”

Lesser and Better Promises

If we look for a precedent from the Old Covenant, where God married Israel at Sinai, we see that the first betrothal actually took place 430 years earlier when God gave the promise to Abraham. While this promise could also include the time going back to Adam, it is better to think of the promise to Abraham as the true betrothal of the nation that was yet to come of him.

Gen. 12:1-3 says that Abraham was to leave his father’s house, which was normal in a marriage. God was to bless His wife, honor her by making her name great and by giving her children. He was also to cause her to be a blessing to others. Likewise, He was to protect her from the curses of others, saying, “the one who curses you I will curse.”

These are the main elements in a betrothal. The actual marriage in the days of Moses fulfilled those promises in fleshly ways, but not in the way that God really had in mind. Israel did increase in numbers, but her children were fleshly, not spiritual. The real promise was to bring forth the sons of God, but the Old Covenant brought forth only fleshly children.

Their “house” was Canaan, an earthly land inheritance. This was different from the country and city that Abraham actually sought (Heb. 11:16), while “he lived as an alien in the land of promise as in a foreign land” (Heb. 11:9). Though Abraham lived in Canaan, he “died in faith without receiving the promises” (Heb. 11:13). The book of Hebrews makes it clear that his failure to receive the promise was not on account of his lack of land ownership in Canaan, but rather that he sought “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). In other words, the true inheritance was better than Canaan.

Hence, the Old Covenant was about fleshly promises and fulfillments that were designed to fail on account of their fleshly nature. By contrast, the New Covenant was about better promises and better things. Speaking of Christ in contrast to Moses, Heb. 8:6 says,

6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.

Zionists, by definition, seek the lesser promises given by the Old Covenant, for they either reject the New Covenant or do not understand the difference between them. They cite the promise to Abraham, who was led to the land of Canaan, without realizing that God often speaks covertly in earthly terms while having something heavenly in mind. The writer of Hebrews understood this. In the end, because there were to be two covenants, the promises were fulfilled in two ways and at different times.

Donkeys and Sheep

When we study the heart condition of Israel during the time of Moses, it is clear that they were not yet ready to receive the better promises that God had in store for them. Their spiritual mother, after all, was Egypt, for Hosea 11:1 says, “out of Egypt I called My son.” God was the Father in this case, while Egypt (Hagar) was their mother. This made fleshly Israel a type of spiritual Ishmael, a condition in which it was not possible to receive the promise. The angel had prophesied to Hagar herself in Gen. 16:12 that her child would be a wild-donkey-man (pereh awdawm). By contrast, Israel was to be a sheep, that is, a clean animal.

After centuries of disobedience and rebellion, the prophet asks, “Is Israel a slave?” (Jer. 2:14). The implication is that Israel had a slave mentality, which is characteristic of Hagar and Ishmael (Gal. 4:25). Later, in Jer. 2:24, the prophet calls Israel “a wild donkey,”

24 A wild donkey [pereh] accustomed to the wilderness, that sniffs the wind in her passion. In the time of her heat who can turn her away? All who seek her will not become weary; in her month they will find her.

In other words, Israel was a wild donkey, or spiritual Ishmael, birthed out of Egypt. Israel’s Father was not the problem. The problem was Israel’s mother.

For this reason, Israel had to be redeemed by the Passover lamb in order to change from a donkey to a sheep, spiritually speaking. They did this by keeping Passover. One of the first laws given after they left Egypt—even before they were given the Ten Commandments—is found in Exodus 13:11-13,

11 Now it shall come about when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, 12 that you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord. 13 But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every first-born of man among your sons you shall redeem.

All the first-born of clean animals needed no redemption. The reason the Israelites had to redeem their first-born sons with a lamb was because they were unclean donkeys, spiritually speaking. Only by redemption could these physical descendants of Abraham become the sheep of His pasture. This tells us that the physical seed of Abraham is no more than a spiritual Ishmaelite apart from being redeemed by the true Lamb of God.

In later years, they went through the ritual of redeeming their first-born sons with animals, but this did not change their hearts. Most of them remained spiritual donkeys. Even as the blood of bulls and goats could never remove sin, so also redemption rituals with lambs could not turn them into the sheep of His pasture.

Lawful Preparations

The Old Covenant, with its temporary laws of sacrifice and ritual, was not evil, but inadequate and temporary. It was made void by their disobedience (Heb. 8:9) and obsolete by the better covenant that Christ brought with Him (Heb. 8:13). The time of the Old Covenant was designed to discipline God’s people and to bring them to maturity (Gal. 4:1-5).

Discipline seems evil (to the child), but it is actually good. Nonetheless, discipline ought not to last forever, nor, as adults, ought we to revert back to our stubborn days as children in need of further Old Covenant discipline. Those who cannot immigrate from the Old to the New Covenant remain as spiritual Ishmaelites that are yet in need of a lamb to redeem them.

So Rev. 19:7 tells us that at the end of the age, “His bride has made herself ready.” A big part of her readiness is that she lives by the New Covenant, rather than the Old. She no longer identifies with Hagar, the slave-bride, but with Sarah, the free woman (Gal. 4:26). Christ’s first marriage was to Israel, the slave-bride; but that marriage ended in divorce. He will not marry another Hagar. For this reason, when we speak of Israel being the bride, it is apparent that we do not mean fleshly Israel, for that would be a reinstatement of the old bride. Such a marriage could only end in divorce once again.

This second marriage will be to a Sarah bride, and she represents the New Covenant. Those who are part of this company are the overcomers—those who have truly been redeemed by the Lamb in their hearts by an inward work of the Holy Spirit, rather than by external rituals of cleansing or external changes of behavior.