A BRIDE DRESSED IN WHITE
Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
The relationship between a holy God and ‘a holy people set apart for His own possession’ (Deut 7:6-8), is portrayed throughout Scripture as a covenant relation, best understood in the light of a marriage covenant, (Eph 5:22-33). Israel, the covenant nation, to whom God entrusted the blueprint of His Kingdom (Rom 9:3-5), is portrayed as a woman and a Bride betrothed to God throughout the Hebrew prophets, (Ezek 16:1-14; Hos 2; Jer 3:1-9). The picture of the woman and Bride remained in tact when Israel’s First Covenant was realized in Messiah, resulting in a New Covenant with Israel foreshadowed by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:27-37; Heb 8:6-13). The teachings on the Kingdom, explained to Israel in the parables of Messiah, portrayed a Bride preparing herself for her future Husband and King, (Mat 22:1-14; Mat 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-36). Many refer to ‘the predominantly Gentile Church’ as the exclusive Bride of Messiah, yet it is essential to maintain that there is only ONE BRIDE, thus one nation, purified and cleansed as a people set apart for God’s glory to inherit an eternal Kingdom. Without doubt, the apostle Paul does teach that the relationship between a man and his wife can be likened to the relationship between Messiah and His body, the Church, which remains a mystery (Eph 5:22-33), but to assume that this body, or Church, will be a separate Bride and Kingdom cannot be substantiated by Scripture.
Messiah clearly indicated that He is the Shepherd of His flock, Israel (the woman), as prophetically pictured in Ezekiel 34. YET, He was going to gather ‘other sheep’ (Gentile Believers), who are not of Israel’s fold, into her commonwealth, but there would be One Shepherd and One flock, (John 10:1-16). The same principle was explained by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2, indicating that the dividing wall of the Law was removed in Messiah, and that the Jew and the Gentile are ‘one body to God through the cross,’ thus one new man. In Romans 11, the Kingdom of God is pictured as a native Olive Tree – Israel being the natural branches of the Olive Tree, and the Gentile Believers the wild olive branches grafted into the tree, yet they are all sustained by the same root (foundational source of life), namely Messiah. The grafting in of the wild olive branches (Gentile Believers) would mainly take place during the time of Israel’s dispersion (the Diaspora), also referred to as the Church Age. Yet, national Israel’s calling was not dissolved or replaced by another ‘set of people’ as many assume to be ‘the Gentile Church’ – Israel’s national calling remains irrevocable, (Rom 11:25-29).
Israel has thus always maintained her position as ‘the woman.’ The picture of the woman representing the Kingdom of God is best understood if we carefully study Revelation 12. This key chapter in the vision of the apostle John explains the enmity between Satan’s kingdom and the Kingdom of God. Two signs appear in heaven, the one of a woman and the other of a dragon – the dragon pursuing to annihilate the woman. The woman is clothed with the sun, the moon is under her feet, and she has a crown of twelve stars. She is with child and gives birth to a male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, and her child is caught up to God and His throne. This is an unmistakable picture of Israel – the woman of the First Covenant Hebrew prophets. She is clothed with the sun, ‘a garment of salvation’ and ‘wrapped by a robe of righteousness as a bride adorns herself with jewels’, (Is 61:10). The crown of twelve stars represent the 12 Tribes of Israel and the 12 Jewish Apostles as foundational leadership positions in the Kingdom of God, (Mat 19:27-28; Rev 4:4; Rev 21:12-14). ‘The woman with child,’ clearly indicate the birth of the Jewish Messiah who is now caught up to heaven, sitting at the right hand of the Father, until the time will arrive for Him to subdue all nations and to rule them with a rod of iron, (Is 7:14; Is 9:6-7; Ps 110; Heb 10:12-13).
In the same vision, the Dragon (Satan), set up his own kingdom on earth represented by seven heads (7 world empires) and ten horns (ten kings). These kingdoms receive all their authority and power from Satan, (Dan 2:36-43; Dan 7:19-27). A final fourth beast kingdom, which will include ten kings and a little horn (Rev 13:1-8; Rev 17:8-14), will first pursue to annihilate the woman (Israel) during God’s latter-day restoration of Israel, as prophetically foretold by the prophet Daniel, (Dan 12:1; 12:4-9). The Archangel Michael, who watches over Israel, will lead a heavenly army to wage war in heaven, fighting over the existence of Israel on earth, (Rev 12:7-9). This heavenly battle will precede an earthly time of distress for the Covenant Nation of God, the woman, Israel, as witnessed in a vision by the prophet Daniel, “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book,” (Dan 12:1). (See also Jeremiah 30.) Even though a flood of water (destructive persecution) will come against the woman, Israel, she will not be annihilated, for she will receive two wings from a great eagle to fly into the wilderness, where she will be nourished and protected from the presence of the Dragon during the last three-and-a-half years of God’s wrath, (Rev 12:12-16).
This passage is clear, when the Dragon, Satan, sees that he cannot annihilate the woman, Israel, he will pursue to make war on ‘the rest of her offspring,’ the Gentile Believers from the nations (the wild olive branches), who believe in Messiah and obey the commandments of God, (Rev 12:17). A distinct time of persecution will also occur to test the quality of every Gentile Believer in Messiah during the last week of the prophet Daniel. Daniel foresaw that the Antichrist will ‘wage war on the saints and overpower them,’ (Dan 7:21-22; Rev 13:5-7). A seal of Martyrdom will be broken during a time of great tribulation (Rev 6:9-11), and a courageous ‘great multitude, which no one can count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues’ will stand firm in their faith, sealed with the name of the Father and the Son on their foreheads, and they will not be willing to worship the Beast or take his mark, (Rev 7:9-17; Rev 14:1-5; 14:9-16). These will overcome the persecution of Satan ‘because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they will not love their life even to death,’ (Rev 12:11). This persecution concurs with Messiah’s predictions on the latter days, (Mat 24:9-14). These martyrs, who will die for their faith in Messiah, will be before the throne of God in heaven for the duration of God’s wrath – the last three-and-a-half years prior to the Second Appearance of Messiah, (Rev 7:9-17; Rev 14:1-5; Rev 15:1-4).
Even though the persecution of the woman, Israel, and her offspring might look like a defeat to the world, it is NOW that ‘the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come,’ (Rev 12:10). There is no indication in this passage of two kingdoms, or two brides, or two sets of people – there is ONE WOMAN (Israel, the natural branches of the Olive Tree) who has offspring (wild olive branches grafted-in), and thus ONE KINGDOM (Olive Tree), over whom Messiah (the foundation or root of the Olive Tree) will take authority to rule. The Bride appearing in Revelation 19 will thus comprise of every righteous saint saved by the atoning blood of Messiah (over all millennia), the Jew first and also the Gentile. YET, the Millennial Kingdom will be established in the 12 designated tribal areas of Israel, and Messiah will rule the earth from Jerusalem.
The prophet Ezekiel foresaw the Millennial Temple with water flowing to the desert area or the Aravah (Ezek 47:1-12), and the boundaries of each tribe divided as inheritance to each tribe during this time of world rulership (Ezek 47:13-14). The prophet Ezekiel also foresaw that the Gentile Believers will co-inherit with Israel, ‘You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whichever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord GOD,’ (Ezek 47:22-23). (Please also read Zechariah 14 and Zechariah 2 as a prophetic confirmation of the complete Millennial Kingdom, indicating that Messiah will bring ‘the holy ones with Him,’ and that the nations will be joined to Israel when Messiah returns to dwell in Zion.)
Revelation 19 is a beautiful picture of a wedding feast. Finally, at the end of the age, the Bridegroom, Messiah, will be united with His beautiful Bride, ‘a people for God’s own possession,’ for whom He has set apart an eternal Kingdom, never to be separated from her for eternity. She is without spot or wrinkle and glorified with an eternal imperishable body, ready to partake of the wedding feast.
This climactic wedding feast was foreseen by the prophet Isaiah:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”