by George Gunn
– Q: One question posed by opponents of Dispensationalism is the question of two brides. “If the church is the bride, how does Israel relate as it is different and separate.” How does that NOT make two brides?
A: OK, Good question. Yes, a similar metaphor is used for both Israel and the Church. The OT refers several times to Israel as Yahweh’s “wife,” thus the relationship between Yahweh and Israel is a close, loving relationship well pictured under the metaphor of marriage. Also, Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh amounts to a despicable sin, tantamount to harlotry and adultery. But remember, these are metaphors. In the NT, the Church is described as the “bride” of Christ. Again, an apt metaphor for the close, loving relationship between Christ and the Church. But the focus of the metaphor seems to be a bit different than the one involving Israel as Yahweh’s wife. The Church as the bride is being prepared for a wedding feast in which she will eventually be presented faultless to her Bride Groom. I don’t think that the similar (though with some significant differences) metaphors require our seeing both Israel and the Church as the same body. I have seen some non-dispensationalists accuse Dispensationalism of making God a bigamist! I think this fails to appreciate the language as being metaphorical. God can have close, loving relationships with both Israel and the Church without their being the same body. God’s purposes for Israel are somewhat different than those for the Church. No one has ever been a member of the church without also being saved. OTOH, there have been many people who were members of Israel who were not saved, and it was often these very unsaved members of Israel that caused the nation to commit “spiritual adultery.” Eventually, when Israel comes into the New Covenant, the nation will also consist entirely of saved Jews, but even then, Israel will be distinct from the church. Note, for example, Zech. 8:23, “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'” It seems clear from this verse that in the Millennium, there will be a distinction between Israel and the Gentiles, even among saved individuals. This could not be the case if Israel and the Church were somehow merged into one body, since in the Church there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile.