Having denied the existence of gender in heaven, some scholars of theology have taken this absence to the extreme of insisting that Jesus will wed a building, beautiful as it might be. Individuals of this persuasion have pointed to Revelation 21:1-3 in support of that notion, interpreting it to align with their particular vision of God:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea. And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of Go is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
But if that is the case, one might ask such an individual, what about the Church? Indeed, in John 3:29, where Jesus refers to Himself as the bridegroom of the bride, the object of His affection is usually interpreted as the Church.
But no, he who pictures the bride as a building would respond. The Church is the body of Christ, he would assert, pointing to 1 Corinthians 12:27;
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
But Paul, in Ephesians 5:28, made a more possessive association of the Church with the body of Christ than one in which the Church actually takes over Christ’s body. In developing in more detail the interpretation of the Church as being “the Body of Christ”, Paul commented there that “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.” In that phrase Paul emphasizes the image in which the wife is considered to belong to the man’s body. The inclusion in marriage of the notion of ownership was developed at the very beginning of the Bible in the restatement of Adam’s commentary regarding Eve of two becoming one flesh such that in the marital union the wife is considered to belong to the man’s body.
In short, the Body of Christ represented by the Church is a possessive extension of Christ’s own body, the Man and wife being considered as one flesh.
Scripture itself asserts that Jesus will marry a living entity rather than an inanimate object. In Matthew 22:31 and 32, Jesus declares that He is the God of the living:
“But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
My own interpretation of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 20 is that this holy city is the mansion that Jesus spoke of in John 14:1-3:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
But if the New Jerusalem is itself Jesus’ bride, it is a living building. There is some allusion to that in Scripture. In His message to the Church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:12, Jesus graphically describes a member of the Church as a component of a building:
“Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God; and I will write upon him My new name.”
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:9, 10 and 16, describes the members of the Church as living temples:
“For we are laborers together with God; you are God’s cultivated field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let every man take heed how he builds upon it. . . Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
Paul makes this same association of Christians to living temples in Ephesians 2:19-22:
“Now, therefore you are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.”
Note from these examples that while the imagery is one of a building or components thereof, the components themselves are living human souls, all redeemed by Jesus Christ and therefore identical to the components of the Church. Given that identity, the imagery in Revelation 21 of the New Jerusalem is not mutually exclusive with the imagery of the Church. Indeed, if one considers the mansion of John 14 to be supplied by God and the Church its living furnishings, the two images are entirely compatible with each other and mutually supportive, each adding color to the understanding of the Church as the spiritual Bride of Christ. This understanding brings this commentary full circle through Revelation 19: 7-9 back to the character of the Church as not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing:
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he said to me, Write, Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God.”
Not only is Jesus’ bride alive, but His relationship with her will be romantic. If that was not the case, Jesus would not have joyfully worked His first miracle at Cana as recorded in John 2, nor would the Song of Solomon or the book of Ruth, both commonly recognized as prophetic of Jesus’ marriage to His Church, have belonged in the Bible.
Published by Art Perkins