Who is the Bride of Christ? Some say she is Israel, others the Church, while others teach that she is all believers throughout history. For myself, I had always leaned toward the latter view, before God revealed to me what I am about to show you. The key passages we will be examining are Psalm 45, the Song of Solomon, and Revelation 19 and 21. Also significant for understanding this are 2Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:31-32.
We will begin by looking at Psalm 45, which is prophetically about Jesus, our God and King, as is confirmed in Hebrews.
45:6, 7 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God has annointed you with the oil of gladness more than Your companions…
In Hebrews 1:8, we are told the Father speaks to His Son, Jesus, in Psalm 45. The portion which concerns the Bride begins in verse 10. The Father is still speaking, but turns His attention to His daughter, to tell her how to win the King’s heart.
Ps 45:10, 11 Listen, O daughter, Consider and incline your ear; Forget your own people also, and your father’s house; So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord, worship Him.
Firstly, who is this daughter to whom the Father is speaking? Some claim that she is Israel; But Israel, while called the daughter of Zion or Jerusalem, the daughter of the land that God had given them, is not called God’s daughter in any Scripture. Instead, Israel is referred to as God the Father’s wife or bride. The New Testament describes the entitiy of the church as espoused to Christ, as to one husband (which we will examine later), and we have already determined that Psalm 45 concerns Jesus. Furthermore, the people of the Church are referred to as children of God the Father through the new birth when we are saved, and also as spiritual offspring of Israel (Rev. 12:17). Therefore, we can see that the Church is the daughter in Psalm 45:10, 11.
So the Father tells His daughter how to win the heart of the King, telling her to listen closely to His advice and think carefully upon it. He explains she needs to forget about her own people, even her own family, and choose to be with the King; then the King will greatly desire her beauty. The next step is to worship Him in spirit and truth, to simply glory in Him and in His presence because He is her Lord. When we move to Song of Solomon, we will see how this works in greater detail.
Ps 45:13-15 The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace. Her clothing is woven with gold. She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors; The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You. With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought; The shall enter the King’s palace.
The bride is presented to the King for the marriage ceremony. The royal daughter is dressed in her glorious bridal outfit. Her clothing is woven with real gold thread, like the streets of gold in the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ (Revelation 21:21), with robes of many colors indicating the special favor of God, like the many colors of jewels which adorn the foundations of the New Jerusalem (21:18-20). When she is brought before the King, the virgins, the companions who follow her, are also brought. Keep these things in mind as we turn our attention to the Song of Solomon, aka the Song of Songs.
This great epic poem tells how a household virgin, a Shulamite shepherdess, won the love of King Solomon in a prophetic picture of Christ the King and the church. Before God showed me how to understand this book, it made little sense to me. While I knew it was a story of Jesus’s love for His church, the “daughters of Jerusalem,” called virgins (Song 1:3), who kept popping in with seemingly inane and unrelated comments made the story confusing. Once I understood that the virgins represent the body of the church, and the Shulamite is a portion of that body of virgins who gains a deeper relationship with the Lord, it began to make more sense. Other passages of Scripture also came to greater life.
The Shulamite comes from the midst of the household virgins. She seeks to win the heart of the King and become His bride. She desires a greater relationship than just as an espoused virgin. Now the King flirts with all of the virgins, and they run after Him and remember His love more than wine (v.4). Rightly do they love Him. It is morally and legally acceptable for Him to flirt with the virgins because they have been espoused, or promised in marriage, to Him. Similar to engagement today, it is stronger, though still short of complete marriage; They were considered espoused as husband and wife, though they had not fully entered into marriage. It was acceptable in that time to have more than one wife, and we read of David and Solomon that they had hundreds of wives and “concubines.” These were frequently espoused in political marriages, but often remained as household virgins.
But this was not enough for the Shulamite. She wanted more, so says to Him, “Draw me away.” (v.4) They go apart, into a deeper spiritual place, to talk. She confesses: “They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.” In other words, she had been so involved in serving others that she had not entered into intimacy, had not taken care of her own vineyard. Much of the church is like this. They go to services and flirt a bit (praise service) with the Lord, and even actively serve in the church, but they never or rarely enter into true worship. She feels her lack, and turns to the King, asking Him where she can meet with Him and unveil herself.
In Hebrew culture of the time, as in many Middle Eastern cultures, women were to keep themselves veiled in public, and could only take it off when with their husband and family. She wants to be with Him unveiled, completely free and open.
As the Shulamite enters into a deeper realm of worship, drawn into His chambers (v.4), the virgins will sometimes also enter into praise and worship ( “run after you (the Shulamite)”), though it is a different level. Yet they rejoice for the Shulamite who has entered into the chamber. It is always wonderful to see someone really touching the heart of God, and being touched by Him. In Revelation 22:17, the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” and drink the living waters. Many times, those who have the heart of the bride will draw others into worship.
In reply to her question where to meet with Him, He replies, if she does not know how, begin by entering into the corporate worship with the flocks in church, and feed her little goats. Often, believers begin entering this realm of relationship with Christ in the midst of church praise and worship time. But rather than just singing praises songs, they enter into a deeper level of worship, separating themselves from the rest as the Shulamite has separated herself from the virgins. Just as she was drawn into the private chamber from the midst of the virgins, so is the one who seeks to win the King’s heart (Psalm 45).
Perhaps you have seen those who have the heart of a bride. They sometimes worship with tears streaming down their face, almost oblivious to what is going on around them. These will also be soon be drawn into such worship in private, even sometimes awakening in the night drawn to spend time with her Beloved. (Song 2:10; 3:1)
Further, she asks where the Beloved feeds His flocks. She is told to feed her little goats by the shepherds tents. She should find a place where God’s Word is preached. Worship is more than just entering into praise, but also involves keeping His word. Jesus said if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. So if she is not in a congregation which upholds His Word, where the leadership shepherds the flock, leads them in the way of righteousness, then she should seek somewhere that the seed of God’s word is available. Obedience to the Lord will increase ability to have fellowship with Him.
Her desire to be with Him inspires the King to compare her beauty to that of a fine horse, commenting on her loveliness. Psalm 45:11 says the bride seeks to be with the Lord where ever He is, thus the king greatly desires her beauty. “Because He is your Lord, worship Him.”
So the Shulamite compares the King to fragrant spices and perfumes, worshipping Him, telling Him how sweet and wonderful He is. This is not mere lip service of praise songs, but comes straight from the heart. The Beloved responds back as they commune with each other, worship and returned love, until Song 2:3.
The rest of Song 2 and 3 bring us to the wedding (3:11), describing the growing relationship between the Beloved and the Shulamite, and some pitfalls overcome and avoided. At the wedding, the Beloved waxes eloquent, for the bride has ravished His heart (4:9). Notice He calls her sister and wife. We are children of God by the spiritual birth, as Jesus is the Son of God. In a very real spiritual sense we are Christ’s siblings. From another angle, then, those who gain this kind of relationship with Him described in the Song of Solomon, as instructed in Psalm 45, are both sister (sibling) and spouse. The rest of Songs relates to other aspects of the relationship.
Thus we find a compelling relationship between Psalm 45 and the Song of Solomon.
But we must consider what the New Testament has to add to the topic to ensure this is correct. Two passages in particular discuss this relationship to Christ, 2Cor 2:11 and Eph 5:31-32.
In 2Corinthians Paul says he “espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” The Greek word here translated espoused, means to be joined. We have been joined with one another into the household of faith and joined to Christ as chaste virgins. Thus we see the tie to the virgins in the above Old Testament passages. Remember, the Shulamite, the Bride of Christ, comes from the midst of the virgins, was one of their number. All have a level of relationship with Christ, but to the Bride the only thing that matters is the Beloved.
The terms bride and bridegroom, in the Greek, include the root term nymph, thus having a sexual connotation. This natural act joins husband and wife together both naturally and spiritually as one flesh (Gen 2:24). Similarly, the Bride and Bridegroom are so joined together in their love for one another that they are in unity. God uses the natural to illustrate spiritual truth.
Ephesians 5:31, 32 relates the way a husband and wife should love each other to the way Christ loves the church. We are members of His one body, of his flesh and bones, much as a couple are joined together when they are married. Paul said this comparison is a mystery. A biblical mystery is truth revealed which we can accept as fact, though it cannot be fully understood or explained in natural terms because it is a deep or significant spiritual truth. There are several mysteries revealed in the NT. The hardening and ultimate restoration of Israel is one (Romans 11). Another is how God could become man, and how this allows God to impute godliness to man (1Tim 3:16). The rapture/resurrection of the saints is a third (1Cor 15:52).
Likewise the relationship of Christ to the church is a mystery. Those who put their faith in Christ are betrothed, or engaged, to Christ. They have entered His household as chaste virgins. But only those who develop a Song of Solomon kind of desire for Christ (spiritually, not erotically) will ravish His heart and become His bride.
A couple other passages have greater meaning in the light of this. In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus tells a parable of the wedding supper in which the saved are described as guests who attended. How could the church, if the whole is the bride, be simultaneously guests at the supper and the bride? But according to Psalm 45 the virgins attend the wedding with the bride. Also, in Matthew 25 we read of ten virgins who await the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and left behind, and were not allowed entry into the wedding feast. It just does not make sense that part of the bride of Christ, who ravished His heart, would ultimately not be saved, so the virgins cannot directly be the bride. Certainly the bride is among the five wise virgins, but again, virgins accompany the bride to the wedding supper, a clear distinction. Also, it was traditional in those days for the bride to be accompanied by her virgin friends to the wedding supper. A similar idea has carried over to Christian weddings, as bridesmaids are traditionally supposed to be maidens, virgins.
The heart of the bride is to always be near her Beloved (Song of Solomon), and hates to be separated from Him. If she stumbles or gets sidetracked for a moment, as soon as she realizes it she will diligently seek Him and cling to Him. In Revelation 21, the bride of the Lamb, His wife, is described as the New Jerusalem, which earlier I compared to the dress worn by the bride in Psalm 45. She does not go in and out of the city, but resides there. New Jerusalem is His wife and bride.
Rev. 21:24-27, though, describes the saved as walking in the light of the city, but coming and going. They are nations and kings of the earth who bring their glory and honor to the city. Psalm 45 similarly ends: (45:16, 17) Instead of your fathers shall be your sons, whom you shall make princes in all the earth. I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.
Matthew 13 tells a parable of fruitfulness, in which some bear thirtyfold fruit, some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold. Scripture speaks of various rewards based on our fruitfulness as believers. The early church held that these also ultimately relate to various levels of habitation for believers in eternity in the new heavens and earth. In Revelation 21 we see the bride, the kings of the earth, and the nations, all of whom are saved.