FREE EBook – THE FIRST AND THE LAST by Ira Surface 1921
Republished by TheBibleGuy Thomas Spencer 2014
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
Much has been said about the Bride of Christ. It is evident that she exists somewhere, and is acting in some capacity. The place nearest to the Bridegroom is the place which is held by the Bride. The Bride is composed of the full overcomers, who are very close in their fellowship with Christ and with each other. They are also in very near relationship to the Holy Ghost, who transmits to them the precious things of the Bridegroom.
The world has always listened to the message of love; but to the Bride of Christ that message is peculiarly sweet and precious. Christ, the Bridegroom, speaks to no other as He speaks to His beloved bride. His yearning is beautifully expressed in the Songs of Solomon 5:2, “I sleep, but My heart waketh; it is the voice of My beloved that knocketh, saying, Open unto me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefileds: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.”
I. THE BRIDE CHOSEN BEFORE ISRAEL WILL BE RECALLED
To the careful student it is plain that the Bride of Christ is not composed of Old Testament saints. In Matt. 11:11, it is recorded that Jesus said, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” Yet we find John saying (John 3:29, 30), “He that hath the Bride is the Bridegroom: but the friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” The Bride of Christ, therefore, was not among the great men of Israel, among whom John was the greatest.
“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
First: God is taking a people “for His name.” What is the meaning of taking a people for His name? It means that people will be the bride of Jesus, who is the Bridegroom.
Second: That Bride, or people who take the name of Jesus, will be taken from among the Gentiles, not from among the Israelites, whom he represented, were friends of the Bridegroom; agrees with this. A friend is not the Bride, but may be very closely associated with both the Bride and the Bridegroom.
Third: This taking out of the Bride of Christ will be accomplished between the time of John’s statement and the rebuilding of the tabernacle, or the regathering of the Israelites. Since the gathering of the Gentiles, from whom the Bride of Christ is to come, is not the same as the regathering of Israel, it follows that the Bride of Christ, therefore, can not be of Israel.
Again, Israel is already married, is a wife and not a bride, as is shown by Jer. 3:14, 20: “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, said the Lord.” Israel has been unfaithful, but she will surely be restored to her Husband, God the Father. Note Isa. 54:5-7:
“For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is His name; and they Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called.
“For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
“For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.”
- BRIDE OF CHRIST FROM GENTILES
The above references are conclusive proof that Jesus is calling His Bride from among the Gentiles, not Israel. No reasoning that will mix those who are the Bride of Christ with Israel, who is already the Wife of the Father, can be scriptural. John the Baptist represented the prophets, and was the greatest of them all, but he was only the friend of the Bridegroom. Those who are overcomers among the Gentiles will be made one with our wonderful Christ, and be with Him as the heavenly Bride.
It is very precious to know that in that great gathering of the heavenly marriage company there will be such friends as Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, and all those mighty men, who stood so true to God the Father. It is wonderful to know that the Father has sent the Holy Ghost to bear the words of love from the Son to us, who are Gentiles and so weak and poor in ourselves. He tells us that the Son loves us in a peculiar sense.
The Son gave Himself for the church, and from it He will choose His Bride. Eph. 5:25-27 says:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;
“That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.
“That He might present it unto Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
1. The Marks of the Bride
The Bride is a called-out body, from a called-out body. Jesus said, “Many be called, but few chosen.” That is, many will be in the church, called out of the world; but a few, taken out of the church in a special manner, are the chosen ones. This chosen company will be composed of those who are prepared for the rapture. The Bride will be among those who go up in the rapture. It is not reasonable to say that all who are converted will be classed in the same rank. It is clearly set forth that the Bride will be chosen by virtue of the cleanness and sanctity of her whole life and being.
There are three kinds of fullness. We see the thirty fold, the sixtyfold, and the hundredfold believers. These three ranks of fullness all grew on the same good ground. That which fell on other ground did not mature, and brought forth nothing.
2. The Bride Has Marks of Fullness
The difference in the fullness must have been caused by the amount of labor bestowed upon the growing crop. The three kinds of fullness speak of three degrees of merit. This is conclusive evidence that there are three different orders, or ranks, in the church. You will find this is given on the chart, which shows three orders: the Bride, the Overcomers who are not the Bride, and the Tribulation Saints. So we have a people who are called out of the world, who constitute the believing church; a body called out from the church, who form the raptured body of overcomers; then we still have a chosen body called from among the overcomers. These will be the Bride of Christ.
3. The Bride the Few Chosen
This viewing of the Bride of Christ as a called-out body is in perfect harmony with God’s way and method of doing things. He never calls out the large body. His method has always been to choose a few from the many called.
He called Abraham out because he possessed the necessary element of faith, and He made him a great nation.
He chose out of the first-born of Israel, saying, “They shall be Mine.” Then He chose the tribe of Levi from among the twelve tribes of Israel, and said that they should be for an offering unto the Lord. This act of God is peculiarly significant, as is seen in Num. 8:13-16. This shows how God chose a tribe from among the tribes, a special choice from a choice.
He called Israel out from all the nations of the earth, because they, as a nation, represented those who believed in the true God.
He called out Noah and his family into the ark, because He had found Noah righteous; it was merit that gave Noah his place in the ark.
III THE BRIDE A PECULIAR BODY FOR A PECULIAR PURPOSE
In Eph. 5:25-27, we read, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Chris also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” We see here two attitudes of the believer.
First, his standing is perfect in Christ Jesus, since the sacrifice was made for every believer, for the whole church. Christ’s purpose was also that all should be holy without spot of wrinkle.
Second, his state is the degree of perfection at which he arrives as he follows on after the Lord. All will not submit to the process of perfecting. All will not deny themselves, and submit wholly to the Lord; be crucified unto the world, and have the world crucified unto them. Their state will be the ground of the judgment of the believer. “Many are called, but few chosen,” Matt. 20:16. Therefore, the Bride will be the few who are chosen out of the church.
IV. THE BRIDE PECULIARLY SEPARATED
Let us notice further. Gen. 2:23 says, “And Adam said, this is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” There is a deep significance in that type of Eve, as seen in this scripture. Notice that she was taken from the body of the firt Adam, who said, “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” Eve was not the body of Adam. She was of his bone and of his flesh, but she had a distinct individuality. She became, distinctly, a separate body. She was made peculiarly separate, that she might be the bride of Adam. His body could not be his bride.
Paul speaks of this, in Eph. 5:32, as a great mystery, and says it is the church. The truth is, there is an earthly body of Christ. Paul said, “Now are ye the body of Christ.” This is the church militant. As out of Adam’s side came his bride, so out of the militant church will be taken the Bride of Christ. This is another unanswerable proof that the Bride will not be the whole body of Christ, but will be separated from that great body of believers, which we call the church.
Notice again: The separation of Adam’s bride took place while he was in a deep sleep; and so it will be when the Bride of Christ is taken out of the body, at the rapture. At that time, the church will be in the midst of sensual counter attractions which will blind her eyes, stop her ears, and make her insensible to the separation of the Spirit-filled body, the Bride, who will be secretly stolen away by her Lover-Christ. But when she opens her eyes she will be conscious of the fact that those who were her strength and power are gone. If you will read the last message, given to the Laodicean church, you will see these very conditions portrayed. Rev. 3:5-18:
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor not: I would that thou wert cold or hot.
“So, then because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth.
“Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor and blind, and naked:
“I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”
V. THE BRIDE IN THE SHEAF OF FIRST FRUITS
There are some who maintain that there will be no rank, or order, as reward of merit, when we have come to our fullness as a church. But types and prophecy teach us differently. Notice how the sheaf of the first fruits was gathered. The master of the field took his sickle and searched the whole field. He gathered one head here and another there, taking only the early ripened, well filled, perfect heads. When he had gathered this sheaf he took it to the priest, who offered it as the sheaf of the first fruits, which was a promise of the full harvest to follow. This master of the field is a type of Christ, who will come as a thief, to take only the most precious ones out of the church. The sheaf of first fruits is a type of those who will be taken out of the Gentile church at the time of the rapture. They will be selected, caught up, and offered as a promise of the great harvest to follow, which will be the fullness of the Gentiles.
Can the fact that the raptured ones will be a choice out of a choice be more clearly set forth? They are separated as the choicest, early ripe heads, and caught up in advance of the great harvest from the same field. This is a wonderful type, and proves again the doctrine of the rapture. There can be no questioning of the fact that the first fruits of the Gentile church will be caught out, by Him who is Master of the field, before the great harvest is gathered.
VI. THE BRIDE SEPARATED AND CLEANSED
Could you place with that company we call the Bride the man who, though born again, has never separated himself from the world by special service? He is still loving the theatres, the cards, and the dance, and does not expect or want the Bridegroom to come. We have many believers of that type, whose habits class them with the smoking, chewing, drinking crowd. The very thought of placing them with the overcomers is distasteful to anyone. It is not possible that they could share equally with those who have separated themselves by self-denial and cross-bearing, and have chosen, for Christ’s sake, to suffer reproach outside the camp. The Bride of Christ is a chosen, early ripe, well filled body and, like the sheaf of first fruits, she will be taken out before the sickle gathers the great harvest, thus escaping the tribulation. Luke 21:26 says, “Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Paul’s prophetic view saw this separated sheaf of first fruits of the early harvest when he gave us the following in I Thess. 4:16, 17:
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
He left us His benediction of comfort in the eighteenth verse: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
VII. RQUISITES OF THE BRIDE
Sanctification is one of the requisites of the Bride of Christ. Paul says concerning the Bride, “Christ gave Himself for her that He might sanctify her.” Sanctification here means the same as it means elsewhere, separation unto a holy purpose. The purpose of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was that we might be thus separated, and it is the privilege of every one who is called. But we know that all who are called are not thus separated; consequently, they are not chosen. So, while Christ’s purpose ws to provide a means by which He might present to Himself a Bride separated from the world, there will be but few who will be willing to deny themselves.
“Sanctified, and cleansed by the word” means that as the word of God operates on us, it reveals our state. Thus, sanctification and cleansing are a progressive process. As the word of God is made known to us, it makes new claims for chastity and holiness. As its depths are unfathomable, its claims are not fully known, and we are always in the progressive stage of sanctification. So the Bride of Christ is making herself ready. She is now the pearl of great price, before He hs polished her and made her all glorious, “that He might present to Himself a church without spot or wrinkle.” She will be perfected at the resurrection. He will catch her up to Himself, and she shall see Him as He is. Then she shall be like Him.
- Much Prayer
The much prayer is another requisite which the Bride much possess. When Christ gave the exhortation to pray always, He did it because there is no other way of becoming ready for the rapture. Nothing will take the place of prayer. Faith will not, of itself, make us broken in spirit. Neither will faith, alone keep us yielded to God. But prayer changes things. It changes us from formal to contrite suppliants. It changes a hard, unfeeling heart to one of brokenness and meekness. No one can make any advancement in the spiritual life, unless he has the prayer life. Prayer illuminates the avenues of our hearts, so we can understand God’s word. Much prayer will characterize the life of the Bride, and help to qualify her for God’s very best.
- Patience or Endurance
Endurance is one of the requisites John speaks of in Rev. 3:10. “Because thou didst keep My word of endurance, I will also keep thee out of the hour of trial which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” – Rotherham. This is very plain. We need no lexicographer to help us understand that. If we measure up to the sanctity and holiness of the bride we shall be kept out of the tribulation by being transported to the skies before it breaks out.
- Peculiar Belief
Now Jesus tells us that a peculiar believe in Him is necessary. In John 11:25, 26, He says, “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he life: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” We can readily see that it is the resurrection power in our bodies that is meat here. That is the power which will raise the dead bodies at the rapture, and at the same moment catch up the ready ones who will be living at that time. And together they will meet Jesus in the air.
- A Great Love
It is but natural to think that those who will be the Bride of Christ must have a great love for Him-their Bridegroom. This brings us face to face with a practical fact. There will be many, at the time of the rapture, who are not loving Christ supremely, who nevertheless must be called believers, and members of His church But we know Jesus expects an unwavering love. If we really love Him we will be ardently looking for Him. A bride who mixes up with other affections ad is unfaithful to her lover, will not be worthy of him. If she loves him she longingly looks for his coming. She keeps herself ready to receive him, and to be received by him. So it is with the Bride of Christ. She will keep herself ready for His appearing at any moment.
The she must be expectant. We are told that “unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time.” This expectancy of Christ’s appearing begets readiness. Jesus said that one is a faithful and wise servant who does not say in his heart, “My Lord delayeth His coming.” We confidently believe that if we are ready to be caught up as the Bride of Christ, we will be ready for anything He has for us.
An expectant faith is the only faith that amounts to anything. “He that would come unto Christ must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
- Soul Winner
Surely the Bride of Christ must be an efficient soul winner. She must have that element in her which will bring forth spiritual children. It is inconceivable that the one who is barren and unfruitful in spirituality can ever be the Bride of Christ. Jesus has provided the means by which we may all become proficient workers for the salvation of souls, and He surely expects His bride to be thus equipped. There are believers in Jesus who have never made an effort to win souls for Him; and for this very reason they are barren, and can not be in the rapture.
- The Holy Spirit
There is still another requisite which I will mention, and that is a spirit of hunger and earnest searching for God’s choicest and best gift. The absence of this hunger will tend toward barrenness and emptiness; but, “He that hungereth and thirsteth . . . . shall be filled.” In these days no one can expect to be in the rapture who will not heed the Holy Spirit’s entreaty to come into a life of fullness, by tarrying for the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has provided for this efficiency. We remember that He said, in the fourteenth chapter of John, “Greater works than these shall he do; because I got unto My Father . . .. I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.” Notice the marvelous works of the apostles; thousands of souls were saved in a single day, which was great work. Jesus labored three years and one hundred twenty souls were the product of His labors; but when this equipment of the Holy Ghost came, the church grew marvelously.
It seems to those who are deeply concerned, that we all need to get back to first principles. Those who aspire to be members of the Bride, will not dare to resist the Holy Spirit. All should be conscious of the need of much prayer and endurance, lest they come short of God’s best, and find themselves without the essential requisites which will enable them to be in that raptured company.