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Purifying the Bride of Christ

By PPL Board President Rev. John S. Sheldon


 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared

as a bride adorned for her husband. ... And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"

Revelation 21:1-2, 5a


One of the Bible’s most familiar and beloved metaphors for the Church is the Bride of Christ. Old Testament prophets Hosea, Isaiah, Ezekiel are among those who use this picture for God’s redeemed people, as do the New Testament apostles Paul and John.  God created and instituted the marriage relationship between one man and one woman  to reveal Jesus Christ’s relationship with his Bride, the Church. As Christ loves his Church, so also a husband is to love his wife.  As the Church honors Christ, so also a wife is to respect her husband.  Christians who love Jesus will love his Church. Jesus promises to build his Church.  The gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Building, protecting and purifying Christ’s bride is the point of the apostle Paul’s inspired and authoritative teaching in Ephesians 5:1-33.

 

The 6th century BC Hebrew prophet and priest Ezekiel employed the longest allegory of the entire Bible to describe God’s relationship with his redeemed people. In Ezekiel 16, the prophet portrays God initiating his relationship by taking freshly born but unwanted female infant who had been thrown into a dumpster as it were—naked, bloody, with its umbilical still attached. God takes this infant, giving it life and nurture. The baby flourishes under God’s love and grows into a beautiful young woman. As Ezekiel develops his allegory the Lord God takes this young woman as his bride, adorning her with the tokens of his love.

 

Sadly, the  Lord’s beloved wife is tempted by the world’s allures. Full of herself and proud of her beauty she leaves her husband and becomes a wantonly adulterous wife. (Read Hosea’s similar prophecy.) Ezekiel’s allegorical bride (Israel/Judah/Jerusalem) eventually suffers the sad consequences of her sin against the Lord. She is used and abandoned by her callous lovers (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon). God allows his bride finally to be cast back into the dumpster from which she was once saved. “Uncover your nakedness” is Ezekiel’s phrase (16:35-37) to describe Judah’s Babylonian Exile. (The Hebrew word for “naked” is the same for “exile.”)

 

 Repentance in the Church precedes revival in the wider world; and the refusal of the Church to repent brings not only the Lord’s judgement on his Bride but disaster to the world into which God has sent her as light and salt.

 

Given God’s character, it is not surprising yet still amazing that Ezekiel’s lengthy allegory concludes with the Lord’s redeeming grace. The Lord promises to remember his inviolable covenant vows. A remnant will be saved. He will restore his Bride to himself, “when I atone for you for all that you have done” (Ezekiel 16:63). Not only will he atone and restore his Bride but will reclaim and restore her sisters (Samaria and Sodom) (Eze. 16:53), foreshadowing the coming inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s redeeming covenant of grace.

 

Ezekiel’s prophecy points forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus and his atonement for his Church—his remnant Bride. Jesus knows the many sins and adulteries his Church has, does, and will  commit. But patiently and steadily he “builds his Church.” Through the work of the Holy Spirit applying the preached Word of faithful pastors the Bride is purified.

 

Like a window lit farmhouse in a dark and moonless field, the repentant Church shines out the welcoming light of Christ to passersby traveling through this dark world.

 

But the Bride of Christ must confess and receive the Lord’s forgiveness for her idolatries, disordered desires, and fears that have led to her active and passive acquiescence to the atrocities of abortion, infanticide, and complete neglect of God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. Our blessed hope is in that coming Day of the Lord when the Bride of Christ will be presented to the Bridegroom in a magnificent Garden wedding held on the grounds of a new earth. She then will become the great wife of the Lamb whose beauty will only increase as she ages! (Revelation 21:1-11). 


Presbyterians Protecting Life (PPL) seeks to love Christ and honor his Bride by calling the churches to which we belong to repent from passivity and silence in the midst of destructive forces seeking to harm the Church. We live in an abortion-promoting, marriage-weakening, and child-devaluing culture all of which are antithetical to God’s purposes in giving his good gift of life, marriage, and fruitful churches. Presbyterians Protecting Life supports local churches in Christ’s ongoing purification of his Bride particularly as we think about human sexuality, abortion, adoption, special needs, reproductive technologies, end-of-life issues and how to be a self-consciously life-affirming church. PPL provides resources to encourage pastors, elders, and local churches to preach and teach about the sin of abortion, lovingly but steadfastly.  We offer a wealth of resources to help churches apply God’s forgiveness and restoration to those men and women graciously led to repentance and a knowledge of the truth about human life.  We offer resources to comfort and heal those wounded by the loss of loved ones. The Church and every local church where the true word of God is taught and obeyed is the hope of this fallen world. Invest in your church and let PPL help you to champion human life at every stage for glory of the returning Bridegroom.

 

 

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