Search for the Bride
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Manner of the Search
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, "Please, put your hand under my thigh,
and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell;
but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac." (Genesis 24:1-4).
Genesis chapter twenty-four has to do with events during a completely separate and distinct dispensation within Godís dealings with man. Events foreshadowed by this chapter occur between two points in time, as set forth in the overall type (Genesis 21-25). They occur between the time God terminated His dealings with Israel (shown through Sarahís death in chapter 23) and the time when God will resume His dealings with Israel (shown through Abrahamís remarriage in chapter 25).
Between the time Sarah died and the time Abraham remarried, Abraham sent his eldest servant into Mesopotamia to procure a bride for his son, Isaac (chapter 24). And this, in the antitype, has to do with events occurring during the present dispensation. Between the time God set Israel aside and the time when He will restore Israel, He has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to procure a bride for His Son, Jesus.
In the type, Abraham sent his eldest servant, whom he had placed in charge of all his possessions, on a journey; and, prior to the servantís departure, Abraham instructed him concerning the nature of the journey. The servant had one mission and one mission alone ó to go into Mesopotamia and procure a bride for Abrahamís son.
And the servant had been instructed that the bride must come from Abrahamís own people. Prior to the servantís departure, Abraham made the servant place his hand under his (Abrahamís) thigh and swear ďby the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earthĒ concerning the place from whence the bride would be procured, i.e., from the family of Abraham. The bride was to come from the family alone, not from those outside the family (vv. 1-10a).
The chapter then details the servantís journey to Mesopotamia, his search for and procurement of the bride, and his departure from Mesopotamia with the bride. And the chapter ends with events beyond the departure, concluding with the one whom the servant had procured in Mesopotamia (Rebekah) becoming Isaacís wife (vv. 10b-67).
All the things seen in the historical account, forming the type in Genesis chapter twenty-four, have to do with things occurring solely during and immediately following the present dispensation. Israel has been set aside (seen through Sarahís death in chapter 23). God, for a time, has discontinued His dealings with Israel. This was done because of Israelís continued disobedience over centuries of time, climaxed by the nationís rejection of the proffered kingdom and the crucifixion of the King Himself at Christís first coming. And Godís discontinuance of His dealings with Israel at this time has allowed Him to bring to pass the things foreshadowed by the events seen in Genesis chapter twenty-four (occurring in the type following Sarahís death and in the antitype following Israel being set aside).
Following Israel being set aside, in exact accord with the type, God could only have placed the Spirit in charge of all His possessions prior to sending Him to the earth. And again, in exact accord with the type, the Spirit could only have been sent with a singular purpose in view ó that of procuring a bride for Godís Son, Jesus. And once again, in exact accord with the type, the Spirit could only have been sent with the specific instructions to search for and procure the bride from among those within the family of God. All of these different things form major issues in the type, and they must be seen exactly the same way in the antitype.
The Spirit of God ó placed in charge of all that belongs to the Father, which the Father has given to His Son (cf. Genesis 24:36; John 16:15) ó has been sent into the world to perform a work among a people separate from Israel, during a dispensation completely separate from Godís dispensational dealings with Israel. And He is to do this work after the manner seen in the Old Testament type, which is after the manner seen in John 16 in the New Testament:
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)
The preceding verses clearly reveal the nature of the work of the Spirit during the present dispensation, perfectly in line with that seen in the type. The means that the Spirit uses in procuring a bride for Godís Son is taking the things in His possession ó the things that the Father has given to His Son, revealed in the Word of God ó and showing these things to the prospective bride.
And this ministry of the Spirit surrounds a work that can be carried out only among the saved. Only saved individuals are in a position to be led into all truth in the manner seen in these verses. Only saved individuals are in a position to be shown ďthings to comeĒ through the Spirit taking the Word of God, opening this Word to an individualís understanding, and through this means showing that individual the things belonging to the Son (1 Corinthians 2:14).
God sending the Holy Spirit into the world on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. had nothing to do with the unsaved or with salvation by grace. Rather, according to the type, this event had to do solely with a search for and procurement of a bride for Godís Son. Salvation by grace didnít enter into the matter then, and it has not entered into the matter at any time during the course of the dispensation. Salvation by grace is an entirely separate work of the Spirit, which had/has nothing to do with the Spirit being sent on the day of Pentecost in the antitype of that seen in Genesis chapter twenty-four.
(The Spirit has always been in the world relative to the salvation of the lost. See the subsequent section in this chapter, ďSalvation by Grace.Ē)
And this should tell a person something about the book of Acts and the twenty-one New Testament epistles, which form the commentary material for Genesis chapter twenty-four. This section of Scripture occupies a place in the New Testament in complete keeping with the place that Genesis chapter twenty-four occupies in the Old Testament in relation to chapters twenty-one through twenty-five. Both sections of Scripture parallel one another and have to do with Godís dealings with man during that time when Israel is set aside. Both have to do with a dispensation separate from Godís dealings with Israel, and both have to do with that time when God takes out of the Gentiles ďa people for his nameĒ (Acts 15:14).
In this respect, the book of Acts and the epistles that follow ó beginning with God sending the Holy Spirit into the world to perform a work with an entity separate from Israel, during a time when Israel is set aside ó must deal with the same thing seen in Genesis chapter twenty-four. This entire section in the New Testament can only center around and deal with all the various things surrounding God sending the Holy Spirit into the world to procure a bride for His Son, as outlined in the Old Testament type.
Thus, the reason why God sent His Spirit into the world on the day of Pentecost is clearly revealed in the foundational material in Genesis. Revelation seen in the book of Acts and the epistles, beginning with God sending His Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff) and continuing into the epistles, has been given in a manner that assumes that the reader possesses a knowledge of the foundational material.
The latter revelation is built upon the former. The manner in which the latter revelation has been given assumes that the reader has some knowledge of the former. And if the former is not understood (in this case, the foundational material in Genesis 24), that can only negatively reflect on one coming into a proper understanding of the latter (in this case, the book of Acts and the epistles).
Both sections of Scripture (Genesis 24 on the one hand, and the book of Acts and the epistles on the other) deal with exactly the same thing. One (Genesis 24) forms the foundation, the skeletal framework; and the other (the book of Acts and the epistles) forms the building blocks that rest upon the foundation. This New Testament section forms the commentary for the foundational revelation, the sinews and flesh that cover the skeletal framework (ref. chapter one of this book).
And all of this carries over into the book of Revelation as well. The first four chapters of the book of Revelation have to do solely with Christians. These chapters have to do with the removal of Christians from the earth at the end of the present dispensation, the judgment seat that follows, and events that immediately follow those surrounding the decisions and determinations emanating from the judgment seat. These are events previously set forth in the epistles but dealt with at length in these four chapters of the book of Revelation (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 15:51-58; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:9).
Then, going beyond chapter four in the book of Revelation, the entirety of that seen through the first nineteen chapters of this book would have to fit within the framework of that seen at the very end of Genesis chapter twenty-four. Though chapters five through eighteen of the book of Revelation have to do with God completing his dealings with Israel prior to the nation being restored (seen in Genesis 25), the matter of the redemption of the forfeited possession (the earth ó the domain over which the King with His consort queen will rule) must occur prior to the procured bride becoming the Lambís wife (Revelation 19:7-9). And this is the central issue dealt with throughout these chapters, while God completes His dealings with Israel (in accord with that seen in both the books of Ruth and Daniel [Ruth 4:1ff; Daniel 9:24-27]).
(For a detailed discussion of the first nineteen chapters of the book of Revelation in the preceding respect, refer to the authorís book, MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM, Chapters 10, 11.)
Salvation by Grace
As previously stated, God sending the Holy Spirit into the world on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. had nothing to do with salvation by grace through faith. Manís salvation, man passing from death unto life, is one of the great constants of Scripture. Godís provision of salvation for fallen man, set forth at the very beginning of Scripture, remains unchanged 6,000 years later; and it will remain unchanged throughout all future time.
Godís work with man, from a dispensational aspect, changes in accordance with the different dispensations. And the Spiritís work with man, from a dispensational aspect, also changes in accordance with the different dispensations as well (e.g., the Spiritís work in connection with His search for a bride for Godís Son during the present dispensation is a work peculiar to this dispensation alone). But salvation by grace is not a dispensational matter. Salvation by grace remains completely unaffected by Godís various works with man throughout the different dispensations. Salvation by grace remains unchanged, regardless of Godís actions within any dispensation.
In order to begin with salvation by grace and the place that the Spirit of God occupies in manís salvation, one must begin where God began. He must begin where God, in His Word, laid the foundation concerning the revealed work of the Spirit in this respect. And God began laying this foundation in Genesis:
In the beginning God created the heaven [Ďheavensí] and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
Following the creation of the heavens and the earth, God placed Satan (in his unfallen state) over the earth, one of the numerous provinces in His kingdom (provinces in the universe). But because of Satan acting outside of and contrary to the laws established by God, under which he governed the earth (Satan seeking to exalt his throne and be ďlike the most HighĒ), the domain over which he ruled was reduced to a ruin, with darkness covering his kingdom (Genesis 1:2a; cf. Isaiah 14:12-17; 45:7; Ezekiel 28:14-19):
And the earth was [ĎBut the earth becameí] without form, and void; and darkness was [Ďand darkness becameí (Ďbecameí here is not in the Hebrew text, though implied)] upon the face of the deep. (Genesis 1:2a)
Exactly how long the ruined domain lay in this condition is unknown, for Scripture is silent on the matter. But throughout this period of darkness and ruin Satan continued to hold the scepter, though he could only have ruled over a ruined domain.
(A principle of biblical government necessitates that an incumbent ruler continue to hold the scepter until the one who is to succeed him is not only present but is also ready to take the scepter and ascend the throne. This can be seen in the account of Adam and his encounter with Satan, David and his encounter with Saul, or Christ and His encounter with Satan at His first coming [the antitype of the previous two types].)
But the day came when God set about to restore the ruined domain, followed by the creation of man to replace the fallen provincial ruler. And the manner that God used to restore the ruined domain (ruined creation) establishes a pattern concerning how He would restore any subsequent ruined creation. Once God establishes a pattern, sets a type, etc., no change can ever occur, for God sets things perfect at the outset.
The beginning of how God works in this restorative pattern is given in Genesis, where the work of the Spirit is introduced in Scripture:
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, ďLet there be light: and there was light [or, ĎLet light be: and light becameí].Ē
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darknes. (Genesis 1:2b-4)
Thus, God began a restorative work through one revealed means: the Spirit moving, followed by God Himself speaking. And this was followed by light coming into existence where only darkness had previously prevailed, with God declaring the light to be good and then making a division between the light and the darkness.
Following five subsequent days of restorative work (vv. 6-25), God created man to replace the rebellious and fallen provincial ruler; and man, an individual created in Godís image, after Godís likeness, was to hold the scepter and rule over the restored domain in the stead of Satan (vv. 26-28).
However, Satan succeeded in bringing about manís fall, not only resulting in manís ruin and disqualification to take the scepter but also allowing the scepter to remain in his (Satanís) hand. Thus, Satan continued to reign, with man no longer being in a position to replace him.
At this point in time, God once again had a ruined creation to deal with (man, as He had previously found Himself having to deal with Satan under similar circumstances). Then, because of manís fall, God once again brought the material creation into a ruined state (as He had previously done at the time of Satanís fall).
Following Godís actions both times (following His actions surrounding Satanís fall, and following His actions surrounding manís fall), He was left with ruined creations. In the first of these two times, the ruin had to do with the incumbent ruler and his angels, along with the material creation; and in the second of these two times, the ruin had to do with the one created to replace the incumbent ruler, along with the material creation again.
When Satan fell, along with one-third of the angels ruling with him, which he led astray, there was no restoration provided for Satan or for his angels. However, when man fell, forming a subsequent ruined creation, matters were markedly different. God immediately provided a means of restoration for His fallen creature, and the means that God used to restore fallen man (a ruined creation) had previously been set through Godís actions when He restored the ruined material creation immediately prior to manís creation.
The first act in Godís restoration of the material creation had to do with the Spirit of God moving upon the ruined creation. And this must, as well, be the first act within the restoration of man, a subsequent ruined creation. The Spirit of God must move upon ruined man, as He had previously moved upon the ruined material creation.
But, relative to man, a creation quite different than the material creation, exactly how was this to be accomplished? That is, how was the Spirit to move upon man? The answer can be seen and understood through the only means that anything can be seen and understood in Scripture ó through comparing Scripture with Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
Another beginning point necessary to understand the Spiritís work in manís restoration is seen in Genesis 2:7, where God created man and then imparted life to the one whom He had created. When God formed Adam from ďthe dust of the ground,Ē Adam was created lifeless. Adam was created an inanimate entity, and life was imparted to him through one revealed means: God ďbreathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man [Hebrew Adam, meaning Ďman,í or ĎAdamí] became a living soul.Ē
Godís action in Genesis 2:7 establishes another unchangeable principle in Scripture (another First-Mention Principle). How does God impart life to lifeless man? The answer, seen in this verse, is by means of His breath. ďLife,Ē in Scripture, is inseparably connected with Godís breath. God imparts life through breathing into man; and this means of imparting life, never changes throughout Scripture. Any time life is imparted to man beyond Genesis 2:7, it can only be through one means alone. It can only be through the breath of God.
Unsaved man today is ďdead in trespasses and sins.Ē How is God going to impart life to unsaved man where no life presently exists? There is only one biblical answer to the question, and that answer is found in Genesis 2:7. God is going to impart life through breathing into the one having no life.
And here is where the work of the Spirit comes into view, which takes one back to Genesis 1:2b-5. The word for ďSpiritĒ and the word for ďbreathĒ are the same in both the Hebrew text (Ruach) and the Greek text (Pneuma). For example, the word for ďSpiritĒ in Genesis 1:2b and the word for ďbreathĒ in Ezekiel 37:8-10 (where Godís breath produces life) are the same in the Hebrew text (Ruach) as well as the Greek text, the Septuagint (Pneuma).
Pneuma is used sparingly for ďbreathĒ in the Greek text of the New Testament. But when pneuma is used in this manner in the New Testament, the word is usually not understood by the reader as ďbreath,Ē for the translators have invariably mistranslated the word as ďspiritĒ (e.g., Luke 8:55; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; James 2:26).
God breathes life into unsaved man by means of His Spirit, Who, in this respect, is the Breath of God. As previously seen, according to Genesis 1:2b the Spirit has to act first in the restoration of a ruined creation. The Spiritís actions relative to the restoration of the material creation are seen in Genesis 1:2b, though very little information is given in the text concerning the exact nature of His work in this respect.
But when it comes to an individual created in Godís image, after His likeness, a wealth of information concerning the work of the Spirit is provided. And the beginning of this wealth of information is seen in Genesis 2:7. God breathes life into the one having no life, and He does this by means of His Spirit, Who is the Breath of God. The Spirit moves upon the ruined creation, breathing life into that ruined creation.
Then, according to the type in the opening verses of Genesis, God speaks, light comes into existence, God declares the light to be good, and God divides between the light and the darkness.
Synonymous with the Spirit breathing life into the one previously having no life, on the basis of that which God has stated in His Word, light comes into existence. Man is made alive spiritually. Man passes ďfrom death unto life,Ē but his soul, associated with the natural man (the man of flesh), remains unchanged. God declares that which has been made alive spiritually, ďgoodĒ; and God then divides between the spirit and the soul, between that having to do with light and that having to do with darkness (cf. John 3:6; Hebrews 4:12).
Thus, at any point in manís history, where his eternal salvation is concerned, the Spirit has to be present to move upon the ruined creation, to breathe life into man. And this continuing presence of and work of the Spirit never changes at any time during Manís Day, which stretches through three 2,000-year dispensations.
And the Spirit performs this work on the basis of two things also set forth very early in Scripture, which never change as well ó death and shed blood.
Death and shed blood are first seen in Genesis chapter three, immediately following Adamís sin. And they are seen again in Genesis chapter four ó Cain slaying Abel ó providing further light on the subject. Then the entire matter, based on previous revelation, is put together in Genesis chapter twenty-two ó the offering of Isaac.
The means which God uses to effect life where no life exists is breath. God, by means of His Spirit, breathes life into man. And He does this on the basis of death and shed blood. All of this is set forth in the opening three chapters of Genesis, with subsequent chapters providing additional information on the subject.
Thus, the work of the Spirit relative to salvation, the new birth, man passing ďfrom death unto life,Ē was set at the very beginning of Godís revelation to man, before and at the time of manís creation (Genesis 1, 2). Then, the basis upon which the Spirit performed this work was set immediately following manís fall (Genesis 3).
All of this remains unchanged throughout Manís Day, and God sending His Spirit on the day of Pentecost had nothing whatsoever to do with the entire matter. God sending His Spirit on this day was for purposes completely separate from that which had already been an unchanging work of the Spirit for four millennia.
The Spirit was already here when the same Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. If not, salvation for fallen man could not have existed prior to Pentecost. The Spirit must be present to breathe life into the one having no life. This was true prior to Pentecost, and it remains true following Pentecost.
The Spirit being sent on the day of Pentecost had to do with the Spirit taking up an entirely separate work from His continuing work of salvation by grace. This work has both a beginning point and an ending point, as does the Spiritís work surrounding manís eternal salvation.
The Spiritís work of procuring a bride for Godís Son will last for one dispensation. It will last for 2,000 years ó from Pentecost until that day when the bride has been procured, followed by the brideís removal.
And the Spiritís work of salvation for man, ďdead in trespasses and sins,Ē will last even beyond Manís Day, into the Lordís Day. It will last for 7,000 years, as long as sin and death remain. It will last from Adamís fall until the end of the Messianic Kingdom ó from the time sin and death were brought into existence through manís fall until sin and death have ďpassed awayĒ (Genesis 3:6, 7; Revelation 21:4, 5).
Acts and the Epistles
Though the Spirit was sent into the world on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D., His ministry on that day and for about the next thirty-two years was not limited to His search for a bride for Godís Son. There was a continuing ministry of the Spirit on this day in connection with the Spirit already being in the world, similar to His continuing presence and ministry relative to manís eternal salvation. Beginning with the work of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two and ending with Paulís announcement in Rome in Acts chapter twenty-eight, there was a reoffer of the kingdom to Israel.
(Joelís prophecy began to be fulfilled in Acts chapter two; and Paul in Rome, about thirty-two years later, announced to Israelís religious leaders for the third and last time ďthat the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear itĒ [Acts 2:16-21; 28:28; cf. Joel 2:28-32; Acts 13:46; 18:6].)
During the original offer of the kingdom to Israel, Jesus performed miraculous works through the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28); and, during the reoffer of the kingdom to Israel, miraculous works through the power of the Spirit continued, though Messiah was absent. And this reoffer of the kingdom to Israel had no more to do with the Spiritís search for a bride for Godís Son than did the original offer of the kingdom to Israel. This was simply a continuing work of the Spirit, continuing from that seen in the gospel accounts. And this continuing work of the Spirit was completely separate from the reason why the Spirit was sent into the world in Acts chapter two (in line with salvation by grace being a separate and continuing work of the Spirit, Who was already in the world prior to His being sent).
And this continuing work of the Spirit, relating to Israel and the kingdom, would only last for about the first thirty-two years of the dispensation. Signs, wonders, and miracles were in evidence during this time, for the kingdom was being reoffered to Israel. It is the Jew who requires a sign (1 Corinthians 1:22); and signs are always seen associated with two things in Scripture, with both having to be present at the same time in order for signs to exist ó Israel, and the kingdom. If God is not dealing with Israel in relation to the kingdom, signs, wonders, and miracles, from a Scriptural standpoint, cannot exist (ref. the authorís book, FROM ACTS TO THE EPISTLES, chapters 1, 9).
Following this reoffer of the kingdom to Israel, the work of the Spirit relative to signs, accordingly, ceased. They had to cease, for Israel was no longer in view. And though the kingdom remained in view, the message surrounding the kingdom following this time was solely for the one new man ďin Christ,Ē who does not require signs.
Signs, wonders, and miracles have no place whatsoever in the Spiritís search for a bride for Godís Son, whether during that time when the kingdom was being reoffered to Israel (from 30 A.D. to abt. 62 A.D.) or following that time (from abt. 62 A.D. to the present). Signs have to do solely with Israel, when the kingdom is in view. Any other type manifestation of signs, from a biblical standpoint, would be completely out of place.
Some of the epistles were written during the Acts period, which is why signs, wonders, and miracles were being manifested in the church in Corinth ó a Gentile church (1 Corinthians 12-14). The Spirit of God was empowering individuals to manifest supernatural works in a Gentile church of that day, not for the benefit of those in the church, or as a part of His work of searching for a bride for Godís Son, but as a means of seeking to provoke Israel to jealousy (Romans 10:19-11:14).
Less than two percent of the total time that has elapsed during the dispensation was taken up with the Spirit performing this additional work relative to Israel. And, even during this time, the Spirit was beginning His work in the antitype of that seen in Genesis chapter twenty-four.
This work of the Spirit ó searching for the bride ó was foretold by Christ during His earthly ministry (John 16:7-15), and various facets of the Spiritís ministry in this respect are outlined in the twenty-one epistles that follow the book of Acts. And this is what must be recognized and understood if a person would properly understand the New Testament.