[Sonship or Brideship?]


I recently read an article which said, "'SONSHIP' not 'brideship' is the issue of the hour." It is just such misleading HALF-truths that cause confusion. The truth is, it is not a question of "sonship" OR "brideship," but of BOTH. Manifest sonship is the GOAL (in due time) that God has for ALL His growing sons and daughters now on the earth, whether they are chosen to fulfill the "role" of the Bride in the coming Kingdom or some OTHER role. It is true that there will be manifested sons who are NOT in the Bride company, but ALL in the Bride company WILL BE MANIFESTED SONS (and daughters). This MUST be, unless we believe that the most exalted position in the coming Kingdom, that of the Lord's own heavenly Bride, is to be made up of a bunch of immature children. The most important person in the life of a great King is his bride or wife, but in order to rule a vast kingdom, he must have MANY to SERVE Him (and His Bride) in various capacities, as well as to fill many "posts" in His government. Even so there will be a VAST HOST (Rev. 7:9-17) of sons who will be ready to be man­ifested (revealed) by being translated and glorified at the close of the tribulation in order that they may "rule and reign" with Christ, but not functioning as a part of the Bride. (NOTE: it is not my purpose in this article to deal with the purpose and des­tiny which God has for those who enter manifest sonship in flesh and blood physical bodies on the earth plane. This is an en­tirely different subject, and has primarily to do with the mil­lennial age coming; so is not of major concern to us. However, before the final curtain falls on this age, it seems certain that a "firstfruits" will manifest such physical immortality as a wit­ness to the truth of the "finished work" of Jesus Christ, and as a beginning of the restoration of the "Edenic paradise" on earth as was experienced by Adam and Eve in the beginning.)



[Present Age Engagement vs. Coming Marriage]


We now need to take a closer look at the difference be­tween the church as it has functioned on earth in a marriage covenant husband and wife relationship during THIS dispensation, and the coming HEAVENLY Bride of Christ for the NEW dispensation now AT HAND. In II Cor. 11:2-3, we see where all born-again, Spirit-sanctified, Christians are ENGAGED to Christ, but they must MAINTAIN their "virgin" estate; refusing "concourse" with the world and its defilements, remain­ing true (and faithful) to Christ alone, in order to be FACTUALLY PRESENTED to Christ (the Bridegroom) as His HEAVENLY Bride. In Bible days an espousal was virtually the same as our marriage today, with the exception that the Bridegroom usually did not "take" His Bride to live with him and consummate the marriage immediately. There was usually a period of time intervening. At the time of the espousal, the vows were ex­changed, dowry and gifts given, and LEGALLY the couple were husband and wife. That an engaged couple were considered as husband and wife is seen in Deut. 22:23-24. It is also seen in the case of Joseph and Mary. Read Matt. 1:18-20, where Mary is said to be engaged to Joseph. Yet when Joseph dis­covered that Mary was "with child," as her HUSBAND he de­cided to "put her away" or DIVORCE her privately, not want­ing to make a public example of her. Also the angel of the Lord said to Joseph, "fear not to TAKE to you Mary, your WIFE."


Now, we have been engaged or joined in covenant rela­tionship to Christ, and spiritually we are "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Ephes. 5:30). As in the origi­nal Bible type, Eve was formed from a cell or seed taken from the body of Adam, so has the church come into being through being "born" of the incorruptible seed of Christ (1 Pet. 1:23); and as Eve was constituted the very flesh or "body" of Adam, so is the true spiritual church the "body" of Christ today. But Eve was joined to Adam as his wife, and thus the two become ONE; she being BOTH his body and his bride. Even so is the church NOW SPIRITUALLY joined to Christ in a husband and wife COVENANT relationship, for "he that is joined to the Lord is ONE SPIRIT" (I Cor. 6:17). Paul, speaking of the join­ing together of man and woman in the marriage relationship says, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ephes. 5:32).


However, we must distinguish between the church function­ing today in a SPIRITUAL (BY the Holy Spirit) marriage covenant relationship to Christ, and the COMING FACTUAL and LITERAL joining together of Christ (the Bridegroom) and His HEAVENLY Bride: those who are a specially prepared and sel­ect group OUT of the present church organism functioning on earth, who are "virgins" indeed (both "wise" as in Matt. 25:4 and "undefiled" as in Rev. 14:4). The difference is simply a matter of DISPENSATIONAL truth. When Jesus died on the cross, the NEW marriage covenant relationship with spiritual Israel (the church) came into being. But the very act which sealed the covenant resulted in the Bridegroom being TAKEN from the church. When He was resurrected from the dead, His physical body was "raised "to the plane of glorified life, and it became impossible for the church during this dispensation to FACTUALLY DWELL with Him on that plane. Jesus foresaw this and spoke of it in these words: "Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is WITH them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be TAKEN from them, and then shall they fast." (Matt. 9:15). Robbed of His personal and immediate presence, the church has received His SPIRITUAL presence through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18). And this spiritual marriage relationship has continued through the present dispensation.


Soon a definite change is to take place. And for the new dispensation, a new arrangement begins. The word "church" comes from the Greek ekklesia, which means "those who are called out." The true church has been "called out'' of this world (and its evil) and separated to Christ. They are in the world but not of it (John l7:l6). At present this is a spiritual separation. The word "sanctify" in the Greek means "to sep­arate," and the true church has been sanctified or separated from the world to Christ by the blood (Heb. 13:12), by the Word (John 17:17; Ephes. 5:26), and by the Spirit (Rom. 15:16). These are "the three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water (the Word), and the blood" (I John 5:8). But when Christ returns, that portion of the true church which is ready is to be factually and literally "called out" of this world, to become the "heavenly Bride" of Christ. The remaining church on earth will continue to function by the spiritual ministry of the Holy Spirit throughout the tribulation period, and those who are then truly sanctified (separated) to the Lord, making their "calling and election sure" (II Pet. 1:10), will also be lit­erally "called out" of the world at the close of the tribulation, and along with the "dead in Christ" who will be raised at that time (I Thess. 4:16-17), will join the Lord and His Bride to function as His Household and Government in the new dispensation.



[The “Widowed” Church]


Because the Bridegroom was taken away, the church is sym­bolically portrayed in the scriptures as a "widow" during this dispensation. Jesus alluded to this when He said: "But I tell you a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias (Elijah), when the heaven was shut up three years and six mon­ths, when great famine was throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elias sent, save to Sarepta, the city of Sidon, to a woman that was a widow." (Luke 4:25-26). Eli­jah ministering to this gentile widow is a type of the Spirit of Christ ministering to the largely gentile church of this age. In the story (see I Kings 17:9-16) we also see a picture of the true church ministering to Christ (in the Spirit) as the widow sus­tained Elijah and put him first (17:9,13), and as a result her barrel of meal (the living Word of God) and the cruse of oil (the Holy Spirit presence) never failed (17:14). The three and one half years without rain (Lk. 4:25, James 5:17, I Kings 17:1, 18:1), equates to 1260 days, and when translated into prophetic time of a day for a year (Ezek. 4:6), it portrays the 1260 years from the time of the "rupture" of the church into east and west which took place over a number of years beginning in 692 A. D. "UNTIL the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth"—I Kings 17:14 (symbolizing the SECOND PENTECOST or "latter rain" which is coming).


In the New Testament, the same 1260 days are mentioned in Rev. 11:3, and from the long range historical perspective they portray the 1260 years that the "two witnesses" (elect remnant, down through this church age following the east-west division ) have continued to "prophesy," "clothed in sackcloth," (grief and mourning during times of apostasy and persecution). We are now at the end of this historical time period, and because of the nearness to the "latter rain" outpouring, we are hearing "a sound of abundance of rain" (I Kings 18:41) during the present preparatory move of the Spirit. We are also in the time when Elijah (the Spirit of Christ in His people) is praying for the promised outpouring (I Kings 18:42-46, James5:18; Zech. 10:1), and faith is arising as we see a "small cloud " of "elect witness­es" (Heb. 12:1) arising out of the sea (peoples) and yielding themselves to the purpose of God in this hour (I Kings 18:44), so we know that "a great rain" is near at hand (18:45).


In the meantime, the church, as a "widow," is willing to bear her "reproach" (Isa. 54:4), remaining faithful to her Hus­band, being sustained by His grace (I Kings 17:14), and waiting for Him to come and take her to dwell with Him. Like the wid­ow of Luke 21:1-4, she gives to her Lord all that she has (and is) and like the widow of Luke 18:1-8, she continues steadfast in prayer and seeking of her Lord, knowing that He will "avenge" her completely of her adversary (the devil) when He comes for His elect. In contrast, we see the false church in Revelation, chapters 17 & 18. She has not remained faithful, but has com­mitted fornication with the "kings of the earth" (leaning on the "arm of flesh"—Jer. 17:5). She has glorified herself, for she says in her heart, "I sit a queen, and am no widow" (Rev. 18:7). She may be a "queen" now, decking herself ostentatiously, (Rev. 17:4) in order to appeal to "the flesh," but she will not be the Lord's "queen" when He comes to take those who are the "called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14).