However, the parable of the talents does show that there will be a heavenly hierarchy based on how well we served and obeyed Him. The wedding parable of Matt. 22 implies that the gentile church are guests to the wedding but we must make sure we have the proper wedding garment. What are the proper wedding garments? Simply put we are to be clothed with humility having our robes washed white by the blood of the Lamb (Rev.7:9). The church here is clothed differently from the bride of Rev. 19 whose white linen garments stand for "the righteous acts of the saints". We as believers in Christ don't have to earn our way to heaven it is a free gift but the future bride of Christ must purify herself by their deeds.
There are a few more scriptures, all in Revelation, that may shed some light on this subject. Rev. 21:2 - I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
Rev. 21:9-10 - One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
The two questions we must ask ourselves are: if the church is not the bride then who is? and what exactly is the best description for the church?
In the first two, the bride is the New Jerusalem where all of us Christian and Jew will eternally reside together as one big, happy family. Rev. 19:7, emphasizes that wedding has come, utilizing the same future, present tense as is used to describe that the wrath of the Lamb is about to come in Rev. 6:17. Both clarify the fact that the event being spoken of has not yet occurred but is about to. This scripture is speaking of a time after the seven vials of wrath have been poured out; so from this verse alone the picture of the church as the pre-tribulational bride and our wedding being in heaven for the previous seven years has absolutely no foundation. From this passage we know that the wedding supper will take place after the 70th week is completed and the prophetic Feast of Tabernacles can equate to that wedding supper and that it will occur here on earth.
In the case of the prophetic wedding scenario, I suggest that it will be played out as follows.
We know that the wedding supper takes place here on earth after the 70th week. We know that Christ is depicted as the bridegroom. Everything else is subjective and I don't declare the following as doctrine, just a different way of looking at things. The rest of the wedding party consists of: the bride, her virgin attendants, friends of the bridegroom and finally, the guests. I believe the New Jerusalem will come to earth after the millennium and won't be fully complete as one under God until the millennium is over and it is within the description of the New Jerusalem that we find the identity and place for all those who will abide with Him eternally.
It is only because of Israel and God's design through that nation that we are able to enter into the city. There are twelve gates and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on those gates. In Rev. 7, God sets aside 12,000 from each tribe totaling 144,000. Guarding those gates are twelve angels. There are 12 foundations and on those are the names of the twelve apostles. The city is built upon Jesus Christ and His gospel which was the message entrusted to the apostles to bring to the world. He is the chief cornerstone and Jesus told Peter that upon him ("this rock") He would build His church or (ek kaleo) "called out ones".
As God the Father and God the Son are one I believe that, spiritually, they will have the same bride which based upon the city and OT teachings I believe is primarily Jewish. So here is how I see it all playing out: The friends of the bridegroom are the 12 apostles and the OT prophets and those Christians whose faithful service and obedience elevates them to that stature. Martyrdom may also play a role here. John the Baptist identified himself as a friend of the bridegroom and I believe he was representative of all the prophets that had come before. The guests are those gentile and jewish representatives of humanity that are allowed to enter the millennium after the sheep and goat judgment, to repopulate the earth. ( Matt. 22:2-14 and Matt. 25:31-46, Rev. 19:17 ).
If you multiply the length of the city of New Jerusalem by the height (12,000 furlongs) you get 144,000. If you multiply the breadth by either the length or the height to acquire the general mathematical area you get 144,000. The beginning of Rev. 14 tells us that the 144,000 are with Christ wherever he goes, like a bride would be, and they sing a new song that only they can know; perhaps a love song similar to the Song of Solomon. Jesus tells us that there is no marriage in heaven so I conclude that his bride must be an earthly one. The fact that they are either physical or spiritual virgins only emphasizes to me their purity as a bride. In Rev. 7:9 they are sealed and protected, as a bride would be, so I conclude the 144,000 are His bride. The virgin attendants would be the 12 angels that are guarding the gates of the city. They ensure that all who enter are pure and have not entered in by mistake.
As the Body of Christ and as we grow and mature in Him we seem to acquire a deep, spiritual concern for the welfare of Israel. We want our nation to continue to protect her and we care about her spiritual condition as a groom would for his bride. We pray for her and dread the judgments that God will bring upon her but we also understand that this is necessary for her refinement through fire as we, His body, will also be refined through fire. We share the same concerns as our Best Friend and as the physical manifestation of the Groom's presence on Earth we must do all we can to ensure the safety, purity and well-being of His bride. Therefore I conclude that we the church as the Body of Christ are not the bride but are united with Christ as the bridegroom.
There are so many different levels to eternity that we certainly can not know or understand them all, but Daniel tells us that in the end times; knowledge will increase and I believe this includes general human knowledge as well as a new and greater understanding of spiritual truths. Perhaps this one of them and God is calling us to a greater level of concern for Israel as befitting a groom towards a bride. Perhaps this will prepare us for the next level of spiritual warfare, especially when we see another man, the antichrist, try and woo her away from us. I think we will react with a spiritual jealousy and a greater determination to fight the good fight to protect as much of Israel as we can. We surely won't allow the gates of hell to prevail against us and though the scriptures tell us that many of us will be killed, we know that we will still be part of His armies that come to vanquish satan once and for all, until that time he is let loose for a season at the end of the millennium.
I'm sure many of you will disagree with my assessment but I ask that you pray about it and keep an open mind. I'm sure some of you may feel that I'm robbing you of a special blessing by not being the bride but I think it greater to be part of the groom as members of Christ's body and I can see how this radical viewpoint could unite us Christians under the banner of love for Israel, as that will eventually become a greater concern for us and cause us to not be annoyed by the little things that divide us as a church but instead will unite us as an army who will never give up, who will not allow the god of this world to rest in peace. An army who will take that old song, Onward, Christian Soldiers as a battle cry for this world, who will put on the armor of God so that when that evil day comes, "you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." ( Eph. 6:13-18 )
Rev. 22:17 - The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. This verse sums it all up for me. In vs. 16 Christ states that this message is for the church. The groom and the bride are complete. When the spirit and the bride say come, they are extending a wedding invitation to the world where; upon acceptance they become part of His Body. We are to partake of the wedding between the Groom and the 144,000, the combined righteous remnant of the tribes of Judah and the tribes of Israel as foretold by prophecy.
Read Part One