Pastor Sadler, a moderate ulterdispensationalist according to Charles Ryrie1, makes a curious statement in an article from The Berean Searchlight2 as follows: "Personally, I do not believe that the Body of Christ is the Bride of Christ, which explains why we (the Church, the Body of Christ) are never referred to in the feminine gender."
Let us examine this unconventional idea of this distinction between the Bride and the Body to see if we can find a substantial basis for this thinking.
First, the term Church is generically used both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament as an assembly or congregation (Gk. ekkiesia #1577; H. qahal or kahal #6951).3 The Church of the O. T. is Israel as a great assembly (e.g. Deut, 9:10, 10:4, 18:15-16; cf. Acts 7:37-38) and the Church of the N. T. Pauline epistles is the Body of Christ. I believe most dispensationalists would agree with this general distinction. But, is the Body as the Church used in the O. T.? Nowhere is this expression found in the O. T. because the Body is a new creation in the N. T. which is part of the hidden "mystery", Gods new economy of grace, revealed only in the Pauline epistles (eg. Rom. 12:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-28; Col. 1:18, 24-27; Eph. 1:7-23; 3:2-10; etc.).
The Bride, on the other hand originates as a O. T. concept as the Church-Israel , but is conspicuously missing from the Pauline epistles (eg. Is. 62:1-5; Joel 2:16; Ez. 16:8, 32; Hosea 2:2, 16; etc.).
Further, in the Gospels, Jesus is clearly identified as the Bridegroom come for the repentance of national Israel, and then the gathering of His Bride-Israel (Matt. 9:15; John 3:29). Yet, Israel repented not so the Kingdom Dispensation is postponed (Matt. 23:37- 39). Nevertheless, in the last days Israel as the Bride shall repent and recognize the returning Bridegroom as her Messiah (Zech. 12:10, 11; Matt. 25:1-13).
Some, therefore, may contend that the meaning of the city of God come down to earth, after the millennial kingdom (Rev, 20:7; Matt. 6:10), as the Bride/Wife of Christ (the Bridegroom/Husband) is in reference to the Church as the Body of Christ (Rev. 19:7-10; 21:2; 21:9-22:17). However, upon a closer examination we note this city is called the "new Jerusalem" (Rev. 21:2), the same name of Israel's O. T. capitol and center of religious activity. Furthermore, the twelve gates of this new city are named after the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev. 21:12). Also, the twelve foundation stones of this new city are named after the twelve apostles of the Church-Israel (Rev. 21:14; Acts 2:14).This new Jerusalem is inundated with the O. T. symbolism of a redeemed Israel!
But, where in heaven is the Church, the Body of Christ? According to Marvin Rosenthal4, this Church is gathered on the Day of the Lord (Matt. 24:29-31) and raptured (1 Thess. 4:17; 2 Thess. 2:1) from His wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 6:16, 17). Thus, we find the Body of Christ in heaven as the "great multitude, which no one could count" (Rev. 7:9-17).
This "great multitude, which no one could count" is further distinguished from redeemed Israel, because they are from "every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues" (Rev. 7:9). Israel, however, is a nation and twelve tribes (Rev. 7:4-8) and one people (Jews) and one tongue (Hebrew).
Further, the Body of Christ raptured out from the great tribulation (Matt. 24:21, 22; Rev. 7:14) "serve Him day and night in His temple" in heaven (Rev. 7:15). The new Jerusalem (the Bride/Wife), Israel, come down to earth, has "no temple in it" (Rev. 21:22).
Indeed, does our own Christ Jesus, Israel's true Messiah, who is omnipotent (Col. 1:13-23) rule in heaven and on earth? Being also omnipresent as Jehovah God, He indeed does (John 3:12, 13; note: marginal reference: add: "who is in heaven"; John 8:59)!5
Now a Biblically literate person may question Paul's meaning in chapter five, verses 22-33 of the epistle to the Ephesians. This seemingly ambiguity can best be made clear by quoting E. W. Bullinger: "Men and their wives being 'one flesh', a man ought to love his wife, inasmuch as she is himself, as Christ loves His own body, the church. The apostle does not once hint that Christ is the husband, or that the church is the wife, but uses the 'great mystery' of v. 32 in regard to the reciprocal obligations of husband and wife."6
Finally, as to the relevance of understanding God's separate programs for the Church-Israel and the Church-Body, we have only to observe Christians in the Church today, especially the reconstructionists (a modern expression of Covenant/Displacement Theology), to see priorities earthly bound. Contrary to traditional beliefs, the Church is not millennially bound and thereby earthly, rather our realm is soon to be the heavenlies (Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). We are hereby challenged to rightly divide and trust God's own true word or to give in to man's tradition. "Tradition is like the tether which prevents an animal from getting a blade of grass beyond the length of that tether"- E. W. Bullinger.7
1. Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965) p. 195.
2. Paul M. Sadler, "The Pretribulational Rapture of the Church," The Berean Searchlight, Jan. 1994: p. 299, Vol. LIV, No. 10.
3. Spiros Zodhiates, "Lexical Aids to the N. T." The Hebrew/Greek Key Study Bible, AMG Pub., 1990c. ed.: p. 1796.
4. Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1990c.), pp. 181-185.
5. Foundation Press Pub., "All scripture references are from the NASB," The New American Standard Bible, Ref. Ed. 1973c. ed.: p. 143 N. T.
6. E. W. Bullinger, "The Authorized Version of 1611 with Notes," The Companion Bible, Kregel Pub., 1990c. ed.: p. 1769.
7. E. W. Bullinger, "quote from Preface," Commentary on Revelation, Kregel Pub., 1984c. ed.: p. xvi.