Truth or Tradition
As Christians, we say that we believe the Bible to be the inspired, inherent and infallible Word of God.
Yet a lot of our beliefs are not necessarily based on scripture. Some of our beliefs are sometimes based on traditions handed down through the church or on what other people write about scripture.
We profess “Sola Scriptura” (only the Scriptures) and so the Bible is the final authority.
Over the last few weeks of study, I have come across at least three traditional beliefs that, cause me to question what I have always been taught.
I am not confident at this time to make bold statements but I am trying to be like the Berean believers.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
The three topics that raise questions for me are:
1. The teaching that the bride of Christ is the church.
2. The five wise virgins represent the bride of Christ.
3. The 24 Elders of Revelation are the church in Heaven.
For 1500 years, the majority of the church believed that the church is the bride of Christ. However there are other views.
The traditional view of these three subjects, is that all these three represent the believing church and therefore they must be the bride of Christ.
However, is this what scripture teaches?
1. The church is the Bride of Christ.
Searching through scripture, I find that the term “bride of Christ” is nowhere to be found and also the Apostle Paul nowhere in his epistles does he use the word “bride” when referring to the church. However he emphasises the church as “the body of Christ”.
In the Old Testament we read of Israel being called the wife of God or that God is the husband of Israel.
Referring to Israel.
Jeremiah 3:14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion.
Jeremiah 3:8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.
Jeremiah 31: 31 – 33 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
The main scripture used by those who believe that the church is the bride of Christ is:
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
However, if we examine this text, we see that it does not mention the word “bride”. It does, however, suggest that the church is like a wife, which is a simile or metaphor but it does not actually say that the church is the bride of Christ.
These pictures are found throughout the Old and New Testaments. The different types of pictures are: types; shadows; parables; similes; metaphors and allegories. Most of them are meant to stand on theirs own and some are to be connected to, or combined with others.
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus used a metaphor when He told the disciples to be, “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Of course the disciple are not literally serpents or doves but they are to be like them.
Matthew 5:13–16 – Jesus uses two metaphors to refer to the believers as salt and light. The same applies here, (like salt and light).
There is also the imagery of labourer’s working in a field, others referring to the church as “Crops”, Wheat”“Vines” and “Sheep”.
Galatians 1:24–26 and 4:1–7 refers to “Sonship” a child.
Numerous other phrases are used of believers, such as, “children of God”, “Sons of God”, Children of the Light, “Followers of the Way” etc.
There are a number of passages that use the metaphor, “body of Christ”. This is how the Apostle Paul spoke of the believers in:
Rom 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
Rom 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
and 1Co 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
So, whilst the Apostle Paul does not mention the church as the bride of Christ, he does mention the church as the body of Christ
There is, however, a verse in Revelation that reveals who the Bride actually is:
Rev 21:9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
In this text we see what the scripture actually says about the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
Rev 21:10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
We know from comparing scripture with scripture that the Lamb refers to Christ.
John the Baptist declared, John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
So in the Revelation text we see that it does not say that the church is the bride of Christ but that the bride, the wife of the Lamb is the New Jerusalem.
Now if a good case can be presented for the church being “The New Jerusalem” then it could be said that the church is the Bride, the Lambs wife.
However, we are told in scripture that we, the church are in Christ and Christ in us. We are complete in Him. We are already one with Christ.
We are one flesh: Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Mark 10:8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
So, the question arises. Is the church the bride or is the church one with the groom?
The second teaching:
2. The Five Wise Virgins are the Bride of Christ.
Most Christians believe that at least, the five wise virgins represent the church but the question is, are the five wise virgins the Bride of Christ?
The five wise virgins were waiting for the bridegroom, they were dressed for the occasion, they had lamps and they had oil.
The church is waiting for the bridegroom, the church are dressed in the correct garments, (clothed in the righteousness of Christ), the church has a lamp, the church is in the light or has the light, (Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path) and the church has oil in their lamp, which typifies the Holy Spirit.
So we can conclude that the five virgins do represent the believing church.
The five foolish virgins, although they were waiting for the bridegroom and had lamps and were dressed like the others, however they had no oil.
These five foolish virgins represent the professing church but their lamps are of darkness, their dress looks like the correct attire but is of self righteousness and more importantly, they had no oil, the Holy Spirit is not in them.
Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
They are professors and not possessors. They profess the faith but they are not of the faith. These professors enjoy the benefits of the Christian community without being born again. This is signified by the fact that they tried to get oil from the wise virgins.
Matt 25:8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
However, we know that it is personal salvation that is important and one cannot be saved on the faith of others.
However, although we can see the parallel to the five wise virgins and the church, does it actually say that they were the bride?
Matt 25:10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
They were ready and they went in with Him.
They went into the wedding but it does not say that they are the bride.
Could it be that they are wedding guests?
There is an interesting point about Matthew’s Gospel.
Apparently, there is evidence to believe that originally, Matthews Gospel was written first in Hebrew (Aramaic) and then later written in Greek.
The idea that some or all of the gospels were originally written in a language other than Greek begins with Papias of Hierapolis, c. 125–150 CE. By "Hebrew" Papias would have meant Aramaic, the common language of the Middle East beside Koine Greek.
Copies of the gospel of Matthew do exist in both Greek and Aramaic. Since it is well-known that Greek copies of Matthew exist, it is important to know that there is at least one Syriac Aramaic manuscript in the British Library dating from the 5th Century AD. One can objectively state that this Syriac Aramaic manuscript is most-likely a copy of a previous version.
This Aramaic manuscript of Matthew illustrates a statement that was made by the early church father Papias of Hierapolis (A.D. 125–150) that Matthew had collected the oracles or sayings of Christ in Hebrew (Aramaic),
Papias wrote: . . . So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.”
Jerome. (Extract from Lives of Illustrious Men. 393 C.E]
'Matthew also issued a written Good News among the Hebrews in their own dialect'
[Irenaeus c. 244 .C.E.]
“Matthew compiled the writings in the Hebrew language, and everyone translated them as we”.
As a result of Papias statement and subsequent comments made by other early church fathers, some biblical experts claim that the autograph, the original version of Matthew, was written in Semitic Hebrew or Aramaic and not in Greek.
Apparently, in this Aramaic Gospel the first verse of chapter 25 says “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.
Matthew 25:1 (Aramaic Translation into English)
1."Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be compared to ten virgins; the same took their lamps and went to meet the groom and the bride.
Now if this is correct, this would prove that the five wise virgins could not be the bride.
However, even if there is doubt about the once existence of an Aramaic version of Matthews Gospel, it is quite clear that V10 refers to the five wise virgins as “those who were ready went in with him to the wedding”.
The five virgins were wedding guests.
Then there are the scriptures:
Matthew 9:14-15 "Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
15 And Jesus said unto them, 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."
Jesus here does not refer to the disciples as the bride but “children of the bride chamber”.
So, the question arises. Are the five virgins the bride or are they bridesmaids, or are they guests?
The third teaching:
The Twenty Four Elders are the church in Heaven.
Rev 4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.
We see here that the number is 24, they are clothed in white and wear crowns.
Clothed in white signifies robes of righteousness and the crowns signify the victor’s crown, worn by those who have successfully completed the race and won the victory, as Christ promised.(Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12).
These are 24 men (Elders). They are not angels or Cherubim or Seraphim. who do not grow old.
These 24 elders whilst part of the redeemed, are different from the multitude that John sees in Rev 7: 9,10.
Notice that these twenty four elders are in Heaven in Rev Ch 4.
The multitude is seen in Heaven in Ch 7.
The Rapture of the church occurs in between Rev Ch 6 and Ch8. (A pre wrath, intra seal rapture)
Towards the end of the Great Tribulation of Rev 6, the church is removed prior to the wrath of God being poured out on the world.
Rev 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
1 Thess 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Rev 7 There is silence in Heaven, and then the wrath of God is poured out in Rev Ch8
Rev 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
Rev 7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
This is the raptured multitude of all the believers that were ever saved. The dead in Christ and those who are alive at His coming. Caught up at the rapture. 1Thess 4.
We know that the mass of raptured believers are different from the 24 elders by the two verses:
Rev 7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
Rev 7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
So if the 24 elders are not the greater body of believers, who are they?
Well, Twenty four gives a clue.
Twelve names of Israel on the gates of the New Jerusalem.
Rev 21: 12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
The names of the twelve Patriarchs.
Rev 21:13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
This is the pattern of the camp of the children of Israel when in the wilderness.
The tabernacle of meeting was in the centre.
The camp of Judah, consisting of the tribes of Judah (74,800), Issacha(84,400), and Zebulun (57,400), a total of 186,400 men, camped to the east (Num. 2:3-7).
The camp of Reuben, consisting of the tribes of Reuben (46,500), Simeon (59,300), and Gad (45,650), a total of 151,450 men, camped to the south (Num. 2:10-16).
The camp of Ephraim, consisting of the tribes of Ephraim (40,500), Manasseh (32,200), and Benjamin (35,400), a total of 108,100 men, camped to the west (Num. 2:18-24).
The camp of Dan, consisting of the tribes of Dan (62,700), Asher (41,500), and Naphtali (53,400), a total of 157,600 men, camped to the north (Num. 2:25-31).
Each group was to “camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house” [emphasis added](Num. 2:2).
Rev 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The names of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb.
The pillars of the church.
So, whilst the twenty four elders are part of the whole, they are only representative of the whole.
The foundations of the remnant of Israel, and the foundation of the remnant church.
They are part of the believing church.
The question is: are these three beliefs based on truth of scripture or are they based on the traditions of the church?
2 Thess 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.