The title chosen for this article is significant.  The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Bridegroom, is now making ready a Bride to be received of Him when He comes (see Matt. 25:10, Rev. 19:7, Acts 15:14). But HOW is He making ready this Bride? To say that He is doing so by His Word and Spirit does not fully answer the question. Behold the pattern! Jesus came in the flesh some 1900 years ago, and at that time was to be presented to fleshly Israel as the Bridegroom. Israel was the Bride who was to be made ready for her Husband, Jehovah God. The "marriage covenant" had come into being many years previous at Mt. Sinai; but since God was Spirit and not flesh, it was impossible for Him to factually dwell with Israel in person, fully consummating the "marriage" relationship. For this purpose the invisible God had to incarnate Himself in a "garment" of flesh, so that He could be joined to a people of flesh.


We see this prophetically declared in Isa. 61:10, where the promised Messiah declares: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the GARMENTS of salvation (His physical body which would be given for our salvation), he has covered me with the ROBE of righteousness (the sinless righteousness of His inner or soul garment), AS A BRIDEGROOM decks himself with ornaments" (the literal Hebrew says "decks as a priest," for He was clothed with human flesh to fulfill the ministry of the High Priest). That the Bride was also to be made ready at that time is indicated by the concluding words of verse 10: "and as a BRIDE adorns herself with her JEWELS" (noble character traits acceptable to her Bridegroom).


Natural Israel, however, was not willing to be made rea­dy at the time of the Lord's coming in human flesh. She re­fused to receive her Bridegroom, choosing rather to continue her illicit affair with Rome, who was living with her at that time. Jesus symbolically alluded to this fact in His discussion with the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well (John 4:16-18). The woman represented God's covenant people at that time, Jacob-Israel. "Jesus said to her, go, call your husband, and come here. The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Je­sus said to her, you have well said, I have no husband: for you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband." In the Greek language the word for husband and man is the same. Only the context can determine which word­ing should be used. Jesus was not saying she had been mar­ried to five different husbands, but rather that she had lived with five different men, and the man now living with her was not her man (husband). God had repeatedly accused Israel of being unfaithful to Him and having "affairs" with other nations and their idol-gods, and such involvement resulted in her cap­tivity to those nations, with whom she had to live (see Ezek. 16:26, 28, 32; 23:5, 9, 14-17, 22-23, 30). Thus the five "men" which Jesus accused Israel of "having" were Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, and "the man" who was living with her at the time of Jesus' ministry was Rome.


Israel's determination to "have" Rome, instead of her true Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, was expressed by the words of the chief priests before Pilate: 'We have no king but Caesar." Of Jesus they said, "We will not have this man to reign over us." (see John 19:15, Luke 19:14}. Therefore was Jesus crucified. God's purpose, however, cannot be thwarted. The occasion of the death of the rejected Bridegroom was used to redeem all of sinful humanity, and to put into force a NEW marriage cov­enant (eliminating the one made at Sinai), and this with a NEW SPIRITUAL ISRAEL. Since the earthly Israel Bride was not rea­dy to receive her Bridegroom, the marriage could not be consum­mated at Jesus' first coming; therefore AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME was made necessary, that from the new spiritual Israel of the Gentiles, the Glorified Christ might "take out of them a people for His name" (Acts 15:14). And as a Bride takes her husband's name, so will a "new Israel Bride" out of the "children of promise" (Rom. 4:13-16, 9:6-8, Gal. 3:16-22,29, 4:22-31) be made ready to receive the Lord Jesus at His coming AGAIN.


The consummation of the marriage will be made possible, not by the Bridegroom "lowering" Himself to the plane of human flesh through incarnation as He did previously, but by the pro­cess of "raising" the physical bodies of the Bride company to the plane of GLORIFIED LIFE, that the Bride might DWELL with her Husband in bodies like to His own glorious body (see Phil. 3:20-21). Jesus referred to this "raising up" (through transla­tion and glorification) in John 6:39-40, 44; but His words can ALSO apply to the LATER "raising up" through resurrection of the dead bodies of the saints. (NOTE: since we are dealing only with that select group which will make up the Bride in this article, we will not go into the details of the resurrection of the "dead in Christ" and the translation of the living saints who will be "CALLED" to the marriage supper at the close of the tribulation (Rev. 19:9). They will also be "raised up" to the plane of glorified life as a part of the "Bridal retinue", both as "maidens in waiting" to the Bride, and as a part of the "government" of the Great King.)



[John the Baptist: The Role of the Friend of the Bridegroom]


With the foregoing factors in mind, let us now get to the key point of the pattern as it was portrayed in the life of John the Baptist. John was a special ministry raised up by God with a special message to fulfill the role of the "friend of the Bride­groom." In Bible times, when a man desired the hand of a cer­tain maiden in marriage, he selected a close and trusted friend as a "go-between." When consent was secured from the maiden and her parents, this friend continued to act on the behalf of the Bridegroom throughout the period of formal arrangements, the vows of espousal and the marriage. When finally the Bride­groom had "taken" His Bride and escorted her to his home (or the home of his father) for the marriage festival and the marri­age consummation, then was the joy of the friend of the Bride­groom fulfilled (John 3:29).


John the Baptist appeared on the scene shortly before Jesus began His ministry. John's ministry was to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; TO MAKE READY A PEOPLE PREPARED FOR THE LORD." (Luke 1:17). He was to "prepare the way" (Matt. 3:3) for the Lord to be fully united in marriage to His select Bride. Since natural Israel rejected her Bridegroom, the TRANSFER­ENCE took place as previously explained, and a new covenant was instituted (Matt. 21:43, 26:28). Now the close of another era is near, and before long the Bridegroom will come again to claim His spiritual Bride; this time to be received by her with joy. Should we not then see the pattern fulfilled in our day that special ministries with a special message be raised up by God to fulfill the role of the "friend of the Bridegroom?" John the Baptist was not of the ordinary priesthood of his day. Even so has the Lord raised up special messengers in our day who are not of the ordinary "priesthood" of the organized church world. They have been prepared, as was John, in a special "wilder­ness "of testing and proving. And they have a special commis­sion to be as the "friend of the Bridegroom, which stands and HEARS him; rejoicing greatly because of the Bridegroom's VOICE." (John 3:29).


We read that "the WORD OF GOD came to John the son of Zacharias in the WILDERNESS." (Luke 3:2). He was "set apart" from traditional religion, so that he might receive a fresh revelation of the Lord's purpose. Even so in our day, it is taking a special ministry and message to prepare the Bride, for the Bride will be received of the Lord FIRST, when He comes at the midnight hour (Matt. 25:6, 10). The Bride is not the whole church, but a SELECT GROUP out of the church, pictured by the "manchild" (indicating SPIRIT preparedness) of Rev. 12:5, and the 144,000 firstfruits (the FIRST (unveiled to be ready) of Rev. 14:1. The Bride company will be THE FIRST OF THE SONS OF GOD TO BE TRANSLATED INTO GLORIFIED LIFE without the experience of death. Shortly after they receive their glorified bodies, they will be MANIFESTED or revealed, see Rom. 8:19) by APPEARING (as Jesus did after He was glorified—see Luke 24:13-43) to multiplied thousands of Christians on the earth.



[Martha & Mary: The Bride and Those Who Remain]


The truth of the above is beautifully portrayed in symbolic drama in the 11th chapter of John. Martha (who typifies the BRIDE of Christ) "as soon as she heard that Jesus was COMING, WENT and MET him" (John 11:20), while Mary REMAINED where she was. Mary represents the Christians who will be left behind when the Bride is taken. But notice the words in John 11:28. After Martha had met the Lord outside the city (symbolic of meeting the Lord "in the air"), she RETURNED, "and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, "The Master is come, and calls for you." Such will be the "messenger ser­vice" of the glorified sons of the Bride company to the church that remains on earth during the tribulation period. They will thus "feed the church in the wilderness" (Rev. 12:6). Since Martha went back and spoke to Mary SECRETLY, it shows that the ministry of the Bride company will be to Christians only—and not to the people of the world. However, because of their "manifestation," by which they shall nourish, uphold, protect and guide the remaining church in its ministry to the world, these glorified sons will certainly be the means by which mul­titudes shall be "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." (Rom. 8:21).


In light of the symbolism of Martha and Mary in John chap­ter 11, I would like to make a few remarks on Luke 10:38-42. We have always been told that this passage shows that Mary was the spiritual one and Martha was not. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was Martha who received Jesus (and His disciples) into HER HOUSE (Luke 10:38), symbolic of the church, which is the household of God (Ephes. 2:19). Martha was evidently the older of the two and head of the house, thus being SYMBOLIC of those Christians who are more MATURE in the faith. The name "Martha" means SOBRIETY (that of a deep and serious nature). It is sometimes translated as "lady." The way that Martha addressed Jesus in Luke 10:40, shows that she KNEW Him well and evidently had been His follower for some time. Her implicit faith is seen in John 11:27.


When Jesus and His hungry disciples were received into Martha's house, it was her responsibility to prepare for their needs and to "serve" them. She would have been grossly neg­ligent if she had done otherwise. She was doing what she was supposed to, in order to fulfill the symbolism of those who are mature enough in their Christian faith and experience to be "up serving" the Master. Martha was rebuked by Jesus, not because of her "serving," but because she was fretful about her need of help and because she was critical of Mary. Jesus made it clear that Mary had a need, and had chosen that which would not be taken from her (Luke 10:42). The name "Mary" means BITTERNESS or SORROW, and in the symbolic picture she rep­resents the repentant soul whose need of salvation has led her (or him) to the "feet of Jesus" to receive that which will "not be taken away." This can only be a reference to the "born again" experience and the GIFT of eternal life (Rom. 6:23) which is not to be repented of (Rom. 11:29), or taken back by God. Thus the symbolic picture here fits that which is por­trayed in John 11, showing Martha as the "elect lady."


The "bitterness" or "sorrow" of the name MARY also indi­cates that disappointment or grief of being left behind (as the "foolish virgins" of Matt. 25:8-12) when Martha, symbolic of the "wise virgins" or Bride is received of the Lord at the mid­night hour (Matt. 25:6, 10). Mary represents "born again" Christians who have received the gift of eternal life, but who will be lacking in "oil" (the Holy Spirit) and not sufficiently prepared or proven to be in the Martha or Bride group. The Bride, being the first to be translated, MUST "make herself ready" AHEAD of time, before the "hour of trial" (the tribula­tion period) comes "on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth" (Rev. 3:10). Therefore is a "John the Baptist" preparation ministry so essential at this time.