One of the New Testament metaphors for the Church. In it HaMashiach is pictured as a Husband and the Church as His bride. Addressing the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul referred to himself as the one who gave the church to HaMashiach, presenting her as a pure bride to her one husband (2 Corinthians 11:2-3). In ancient Near Eastern culture the father gave his daughter in marriage to the bridegroom, assuring him of her purity. To Paul, understanding himself as the church’s spiritual father (1 Corinthians 4:15), the thought of the church as his daughter sprang readily to mind. To be HaMashiach’s pure bride requires the church to have pure and simple devotion. Like a concerned father, Paul was worried that the young bride (the church) might commit adultery by her willingness to accept “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” or “a different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

As between marriage partners, the relation between the Church and HaMashiach is governed by a covenant of mutual faithfulness. Disloyalty shatters the Covenant. The Old Testament furnished Paul a rich background for that image of the Church. YHVH’s Covenant with Israel was commonly pictured as a marriage pledge, with Israel as YHVH’s bride. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said to Israel: “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (Jeremiah 2:2, RSV). He went on to lament the fact that Israel had been faithless; by going after other gods, she had actually prostituted herself and become an adulterous (Jeremiah 3:6-9, 20). The theme of Israel’s desertion of her lover (YHVH) was explicitly treated in Ezekiel 16 and in Hosea. The terms “harlotry” and “whoredom” were used to connote disloyalty to YHVH and allegiance to other gods.

Thus, adultery and idolatry became synonymous. Through his own struggles with a faithless wife, the prophet Hosea experienced YHVH’s agony over His bride Israel and His longing for her to return. Hosea was given a vision of a future day in which YHVH would betroth His people to Him forever in steadfast love and faithfulness (Hosea 2:19-20). That vision may have enabled Paul to transfer the image of Israel as YHVH’s bride to the Church as the bride of HaMashiach. In Ephesians 5:22-33, the relationship between HaMashiach and His Church is compared to the relationship between a husband and wife. The image is taken from the common understanding of the husband-wife relationship in that part of the world. The Church’s submission to HaMashiach is compared with the wife’s submission to the husband, but the stress of the passage is on the role of the husband: he is to love her as HaMashiach loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

HaMashiach relates to the whole Church on the basis of self-sacrificial love. Just as a husband is joined to his wife, with a mutual interdependence so intimate that they become one, so HaMashiach and His Church become one Body. As the man’s love for his wife intends her wholeness, so HaMashiach’s love of the Church intends her completeness. A variation on the theme is found in John the Baptist’s testimony to Yeshua (John 3:29). John saw himself as “the Bridegroom’s friend” who, according to Jewish custom, takes care of the wedding arrangements. The Mashiach is identified with the bridegroom to whom the bride (His Messianic Community) belongs and who comes to claim that bride.

In Revelation 19 and 21 the metaphor of the Church as the Mashiach’s bride is further developed. The vision in Revelation 19:7-8 announces the marriage of the Lamb (HaMashiach) to the bride (Church). In Revelation 21 the vision depicts the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (verse 2). Then the seer is invited to behold “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (verse 9) and to see the Holy City “coming down out of heaven from YHVH” (verse 10). The New Jerusalem is identified as the people of YHVH, the bride of HaMashiach, among whom and with whom YHVH will be present forever.

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