TWO APPEARANCES OF THE BRIDE
TWO APPEARANCES OF THE BRIDE Copyright (c) 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There are two appearances of the Bride of the Lamb. This fact has great significance, practical consequences that all Christians should consider. It is our firm conviction that not all believers will be raised from the dead and appear with Jesus Christ at His return from Heaven.
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TWO APPEARANCES OF THE BRIDE
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7—NIV)
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:2—NIV)
"His bride has made herself ready."
"Prepared as a bride."
Here are two appearances of the Bride. In the first the bride has made herself ready. In the second the bride is beautifully dressed. That she has dressed herself is not emphasized so we think she may have been dressed by others, as often is the case in royal weddings.
The two appearances are separated by the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
If we are correct, the fact that in the first appearance of the Bride she makes herself ready, and in the second appearance she has been beautifully dressed with the help of others is of great significance and practical importance to believers.
We notice also in the first appearance, the one that will take place when the Lord returns from Heaven, that after she is dressed in fine linen the Bride is seen on the white horses of war riding behind Him whose name is Faithful and True.
In the second appearance, the one occurring after the final resurrection from the dead and the judgment of the world, the Bride has become the new Jerusalem, the eternal Tabernacle of God that will descend through the new sky and come to rest on a high mountain of the new earth. Her role then will not be to wage war but to wipe away the tears of saved mankind, the inhabitants of the new earth.
We would suggest that those who appear with the Lord at the beginning of the Kingdom Age, that is, those who have participated in the first resurrection, are a firstfruits of the Bride, a Gideon's army especially trained in warfare. They are as David's mighty men who will return from the wilderness with the Lord Jesus and govern a portion of Israel, just as David governed Judah for several years before he was made king over all Israel.
The new Jerusalem that descends through the new sky after the Kingdom Age has been concluded composes the entire Church, the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ—all of God's elect from every covenant, every period of history.
We would suggest further that one of the main purposes, if not the main purpose of the thousand years, is to perfect the balance of the Church that had not been ready to be married to Jesus at the time of His initial return from Heaven.
Those who appear at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age have dressed themselves, they have prepared themselves for marriage to the Lord. They have dressed themselves in their own righteous conduct, a righteous conduct proceeding from the forming of Christ in them, not from the efforts of their fallen nature.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:8—NIV)
The conduct of the majority of God's people through the ages has not been righteous. They have been forgiven through the blood but their robes are not suitable for marriage to the Lamb. Therefore they must be ministered to by the Lord's firstborn, His firstfruits, until they are ready to be revealed to the world as the new Jerusalem. This is the way we see it.
It is of note that when the whole glorified Church appears it is termed "Jerusalem." This is because God deals only with Israel. For a Gentile to enter the family of God's elect he or she must become "Israel" through marriage to the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is only one Olive Tree, only one Seed of Abraham, and that is Christ and all who are part of Christ.
Now, where does it say in the Bible that there is a part of the Church that is not ready for marriage but will be assisted by others.
We have a young sister, and her breasts are not yet grown. What shall we do for our sister for the day she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her. If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar. I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment. (Song of Solomon 8:8-10—NIV)
The problem with the "young sister" is she is not able to nourish children. Therefore there is a concern when she is spoken for in marriage.
There is a concern regarding the majority of God's people today. They are not mature enough to nourish spiritual children, to reproduce the image of Christ in other people. Therefore they are not prepared for marriage to the Lord.
But there are a few who are making themselves ready for marriage to Jesus, a warlike remnant of saints in whom Christ is being formed, believers who will be robed in the radiantly white linen of their righteous acts.
We recently read a letter from David, an inmate in a California state prison. David had another prisoner write the letter because David is blind from being beaten by the police.
David is a Jewish Christian, wanting to enroll in Larry's correspondence course, stating that other prisoners will read the text to him.
David tells us that his blindness is his own fault because he abused the officers verbally. He is blaming no one except himself for his blindness.
How many believers do you know who would be free from bitterness, recognizing that his own actions had caused the pain he is experiencing.
Without addressing the justice or injustice of the situation, let us say that when the Lord returns, David's attitude of forgiveness toward those who caused him to lose his sight will be a brilliant radiance shining from the robe with which he is dressed.
If the majority of the Christian in America were to be robed in their own behavior we would see a parade of gossip, slander, covetousness, idolatry, love of pleasure, dishonesty, lying, immorality, violence, suspicion, pride, haughtiness, bitterness, unforgiveness, and sometimes drunkenness, drug addiction, addiction to pornography, and a willingness to molest children.
"Yes," we respond, "but we are covered with the blood."
It is true that we are covered with the blood of God's Lamb provided we are walking in the Spirit of God and not in the flesh.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4—NIV)
"Who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." Our justification depends on our living in the Spirit. It is not enough to merely make a profession of belief.
We have been given the righteousness of Him who kept the Law of Moses perfectly, but only on the condition we are living in the Spirit of God.
This means most believers in the United States actually are under condemnation because they are not living in the Spirit but in the flesh, as is evident from their behavior.
I realize Paul goes on to say that if Christ is in us we are controlled by the Spirit, as though this is true automatically when we take "the four steps of salvation."
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9—NIV)
But in another instance Paul says if we Christian do not judge ourselves concerning our conduct God will judge and chasten us, causing many to be weak and sick and some to die. Such believers, acting in the fleshly nature, bring Divine judgment on themselves.
That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. (I Corinthians 11:30,31—NIV)
We will not be covered with the righteousness of the blood of Christ when He appears but with our own behavior. It is being taught that the righteousness of the Kingdom of God is all imputed—ascribed to us because of our faith in Christ. This is not true.
The righteousness of the Kingdom of God is an actual doing of God's will in the earth as it is in Heaven. The purpose of imputed righteousness is to give us a start on the road to righteousness and eternal life. To not understand this is to not understand the Gospel of Christ, to make Jesus Christ the minister of sin, to turn the grace of God into immorality as is being done today.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4—NIV)
The majority of believers in Sardis had soiled their clothes with the filthiness of the flesh and spirit. A few, a remnant, were keeping their robes clean by confessing their sins and turning away from them, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The rest of the Christians in Sardis were walking in the flesh, just as is true of the majority of Christians in the United States in our day. They are the product of the false teaching of Dispensationalism and other heresies.
Back to the little sister. She is a member of the family of God but she is so immature as to be unfit for marriage to Jesus when He appears.
There are two questions here: what is to be done with our immature sister; and who is it that will help her get ready for marriage to the Lamb.
"If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her." We see this as meaning that during the thousand-year Kingdom Age those members of God's elect who are not mature enough to reproduce Christ in other people, but yet have found the strength in the Holy Spirit to be a wall against sin, not yielding to temptation, will have built on them a mighty defense against sin—towers of silver.
Some may wonder what good would such a defense be in the ages to come? Their wonderment comes from the teaching that after we die, and certainly after the new earth has been created, there can be no more sin. This is an error. Sin began in a cherub who was covering God's throne with his wings. There could be no holier place that this. Yet Satan, a covering cherub, decided to set his will again the will of God—right in the Holy of Holies in Heaven!
So the idea that death will free us from the temptation to sin, or that a million years from now it will be impossible for people or angels, or any of the other creatures of God to break God's laws or to rebel against His will, is not based on Kingdom reality.
Sin will always be a possibility as long as angels and people have wills. The reason for the six thousand years of earth's history has been to teach angels and people the folly of sin, and also to form saints who are so filled with Christ they will not sin themselves, and will have the ability to govern the creation so sin is not permitted to arise. Such conquering saints are symbolized by the wall surrounding the holy city.
Therefore building towers of silver on the immature member of the Bride of the Lamb is very much in order.
Now we come to the least mature of the elect. She is a door. She has never gained the strength to stand against severe temptation. What will be done for her? She will be enclosed with panels of cedar.
The interior of Solomon's Temple was paneled with cedar.
The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen. (I Kings 6:18—NIV)
This sister will never ride in Joel's army. But God loves her and places her in a holy part of His eternal dwelling place. To Him she is beautiful.
There are many things in the universe that are not utilitarian. They are just beautiful. Flowers are an example. You can't eat them or shelter yourself with them. You just enjoy their beauty.
So it is with God's elect. Some of them cannot fulfill the many roles and tasks of the Kingdom. They are just there for beauty.
It is not unusual for conquering saints to despise the weak. When parents have a child that is handicapped in some manner, and several normal, healthy children, guess which child gets the most love, the most attention?
There are saints who are great mountains of fire, stars who will shine forever, ages without end. God loves them. He also loves His handicapped children just as much and devotes a great deal of attention to them.
Perhaps there may be those who will use the above paragraphs as an excuse for their sin and spiritual neglect and laziness, supposing God loves them in their sin. Such will not escape the anger of Christ.
God knows those who truly are bruised reeds and smoldering wicks, and then those who are arrogant, spiritually lazy, filled with their own ways, giving place to their lusts and self-will. The bruised reeds and smoldering wicks will be nurtured with the utmost love. But those who have been called to the Throne and then have wasted their time in the world, trading their inheritance for lentil stew so to speak, may lose their inheritance and never find a place of repentance.
Do not be misled! God is far, far stricter than one would suppose from contemporary preaching.
Who is it who will build towers of silver on those who are "walls," and enclose the "doors" with panels of cedar?
The one who herself is a "wall" and whose breasts are towers of strength and fruitfulness. She brings contentment to the Lamb and will be used by Him to "dress" His Bride.
What we are saying is that the Lord's firstfruits, His conquerors, His mighty men, will work during the thousand-year Kingdom Age to perfect the less mature of the elect. This model of the strong helping the weaker is found in the Jewish family, in which the firstborn son receives a double portion of the inheritance so he may assist the remainder of the family.
Notice the following two verses. My readers will remember these from former books and booklets because I often refer to them.
After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. (Hosea 6:2—NIV)
He replied, "Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ (Luke 13:32—NIV)
No doubt the preceding passage can be interpreted to mean only that the Lord Jesus is going to cast out devils and heal the sick for two days and then be on His way to Jerusalem, passing out of Herod's jurisdiction.
But because of Hosea 6:2 (above) we tend to believe the Lord had a deeper meaning here. Perhaps He was referring to the two thousand years of the Church Age, and then the completing of His Body on the third day.
Otherwise, what is Hosea talking about?
It is interesting that the volume of the Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Congregation was two thousand cubic cubits whereas the volume of the Holy of Holies was one thousand cubits. This is a strong type, suggesting that the Church Age will be approximately two thousand years in length to be followed by the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
What is the purpose of the thousand-year Kingdom Age if it is not to bring the "little sisters" to maturity? Why wait, after the Lord returns, for a thousand years to transpire before bringing into view the new heaven and earth? Why would God permit another long period of time to go by on the present earth knowing the rulership of the saints over the nations will be followed by another rebellion against God?
Perhaps the purpose of the Kingdom Age is to bring those saints who do appear with Him closer to Him that they may learn from Him about rulership, about how to govern and bless people as the royal priests of God. Perhaps especially to help the majority of the Church grow to maturity.
As we look about us we see that most Christian people are not prepared to rule with Christ or to help others come to maturity. They have been deceived by the false philosophy of Dispensationalism into believing God has received them by a magical grace that operates independently of their character transformation. They are suited only to sit in their mansion and look at their back yard full of diamonds. By no means are they prepared to appear with Christ and govern nations, or to come down through the sky and be established on a high mountain of the new earth to serve as the government of the redeemed world.
Some of today's believers are facing outer darkness because they have buried their talents.
Others will receive lashes because they have not obeyed God.
Then there may be those believers who stand in clear danger of being cast into the Lake of Fire.
And yet the pastors and teachers keep telling these that their salvation is assured and they will be rewarded lavishly at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
What a mess we are in!
The part of the Bride that will return with Christ and establish the Kingdom of God on the earth will be robed in their righteous acts. They have prepared themselves for the wedding. They will be raised from the dead when He appears, caught up to meet Him in the air, be assigned their place in the Lord's army, and then will descend with Him to destroy the wicked from the earth.
On such the second death has no authority because through Christ they have driven the worldliness, lust, and self-will from their personality.
The part of the Bride that will descend through the new sky have been dressed by others. Now Israel is complete. God's elect have been perfected and are able to appear on the earth as the holy city, the new Jerusalem.
I must issue a disclaimer at this point. The fact that the major part of the Church will be perfected during the thousand-year Kingdom Age does not mean believers can live in the flesh today and then be made ready during the next age.
Each of us has a mark set before him or her. It may be to sit at the right hand of Christ in His Kingdom. It may be to perform menial tasks in the Kingdom (never menial in God's sight because He is not impressed with how great we think we are in the Kingdom, nor does He love us the more because we are so "important"!)
We will be judged according to our diligence in attaining to our own mark, not the mark of another. If we are careless, not pressing forward in Jesus, wasting our time in the present world, then we will be judged as a disobedient, lazy slave. Our portion will be outer darkness. This is what the Lord warned us about in the Gospels.
If we are utterly faithful with what we have been given, but have not had opportunity to gain maturity in the present world (perhaps, as sometimes happens, we live only a short time after we come to the Lord), then we are regarded as a faithful servant and will be given a chance to grow spiritually in the next age. To those who have been faithful in the least will more be entrusted.
So we cannot put off to another time doing what God has commanded us as an individual. The penalties for not responding to God's call are severe! terrifying! God gave us Calvary and is in no mood to trifle with lazy, disobedient children.
Now here is what probably is the point of this essay. It has to do with the resurrection at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, and the resurrection at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, the time of the judgment of mankind.
The difference between the two resurrections is this: the first resurrection must be attained. The second resurrection, the one at the end of the Kingdom Age, will call forth the body of every individual who was not raised in the first resurrection. There is no attaining to the second resurrection, it will happen to us whether we like it or not.
You may wonder where I get the term "first resurrection." Even though you have been serving the Lord for thirty years you may never have heard of the first resurrection.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6—NIV)
If you read the above passage carefully you may get the sense that those who are raised in the first resurrection are an elite group. Notice also that this is not a resurrection to salvation but to rulership; also that, in contrast to the resurrection at the end of the thousand years, no books of judgment are opened.
These people have been judged prior to the appearing of the Lord. They have confessed their sins and turned away from them. They have made themselves ready for the marriage, therefore the second death has no authority over them. This appears to be true for only a small minority of all who claim to believe in Jesus Christ.
Do you see now where we get the term "first resurrection"? Does it sound like anything you are interested in? Well, it must be attained!
Now we will look at the writing of a man whose main goal in life was attaining to the resurrection from the dead. From his attitude and teaching we can see the importance and desirability of attaining to the resurrection from the dead, and also how one goes about attaining to this resurrection, the one that will occur when the Lord returns.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11—NIV)
If there is another passage in the Bible as incomprehensible, as astonishing, as neglected as the above, I would like to hear of it.
How is it possible that the aged Paul, now in prison in Rome, could be trying to "gain Christ?" Paul's efforts at this point in his life make our "four steps of salvation" appear as the threadbare formula it actually is. Unless the Apostle Paul was some kind of exception, which I doubt seriously, it requires a lifetime of seeking Christ if we are to gain Christ. It takes a lifetime of seeking Christ if we hope to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Since the people who are raised in the second resurrection have no vote in the matter, they are raised whether or not they wish to be, Paul must be referring here to the first resurrection because it is the only resurrection that must be attained!
It is worthy of note that the term translated resurrection in "attain to the resurrection from the dead" is unique in the Greek New Testament in that it has the preposition "out from" prefixed to it. Paul is not speaking of the resurrection of the dead but the resurrection out from the dead.
That Paul was laying down everything of fleshly significance in his life in order to gain Christ, and this toward the end of his ministry, the argument that we already have attained to the first resurrection by "identification with Christ," or some other silly reasoning so common in our ear-tickled generation of American Christians, is immediately dismissed as irrelevant.
The bottom line is, if you or I wish to attain to the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood, we must gain Christ. We gain Christ only by the most sincere, consistent, diligent pursuit of Christ throughout our discipleship.
You can take it for granted that you will be raised in the second resurrection. You cannot take it for granted that you will be raised in the first resurrection when the Lord Jesus appears and raises the "dead in Christ."
If the Apostle Paul toward the end of his life was striving with all his might to attain to the resurrection from the dead, to know Christ, to know the power of Christ's resurrection, to share in Christ's sufferings, then we fragile American "babies" need to call on the Lord to help us in our smugness and ignorance of Kingdom realities.
We see, then, that the Lord Jesus will raise His saints and place them on the thrones of glory in the air. Then He and they will descend and He will be crowned King of kings on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There is no power in the heavens, on the earth, or in the dark regions under the surface of the earth, that in any manner can prevent Jesus from coming and receiving the inheritance promised Him by His Father.
In like manner (are you listening to me?) there is no power or authority in the heavens, on the earth, or in the dark regions under the surface of the earth, that in any manner can prevent you from attaining to the first resurrection from the dead. If there is no robe of righteous acts to clothe you in the Day of Christ it is entirely your own doing. The Lord Jesus has made every provision necessary for your complete victory, for your attainment to the first resurrection.
Why don't you rise up in faith right now? Lay hold on that which God has promised you. The inheritance of total victory shall go to whoever will believe God and care enough to press forward to the mark set before him or her as an individual.
The facts and dynamics I have written in this essay are scriptural. Reread the New Testament and decide for yourself if I have cut a straight course in the Word of truth.
If I have, then do not be slow to call on the Lord. He assuredly will hear you. He always is looking for mighty men for His army.