Search for the Bride
By Arlen L. Chitwood
An Awaiting Inheritance
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13, 14).
Ephesians 1:13, 14 deals mainly with a work of the Spirit that occurs at the time of man’s salvation — an immersion in the Spirit (cf. Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5), referred to as a sealing with the Spirit in Ephesians 1:13. And this work of the Spirit, though occurring at the time of man’s salvation, has nothing to do with man’s salvation.
When this work of the Spirit was introduced on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D., of necessity, it was seen occurring at a time subsequent to salvation (for those immersed in the Spirit on that day had already been saved prior to this time). And this same order in the work of the Spirit would also have had to occur at other times during these opening years of the dispensation (for numerous individuals, saved prior to Pentecost, were converted to “the faith” during this time [e.g., Acts 2:41, 47; 6:7; 11:14-16; ref. the author’s book, FROM ACTS TO THE EPISTLES, chapter 4]).
However, beyond these opening years of the dispensation (beyond the time when there were individuals living who had been saved prior to Pentecost), Scriptures such as Ephesians 1:13, 14 present this work of the Spirit as something brought to pass at the time of salvation. That is, at the time of the birth from above — when the Spirit breathes life into the one “dead in trespasses and sins” — there is also an accompanying work of the Spirit, an immersion in the Spirit. The former (the birth from above) imparts life, allowing the latter (the immersion in the Spirit) to occur. And it is the latter alone that results in a new creation “in Christ,” allowing the saved person to be part of the one new man.
(Note, in the preceding respect, that the birth from above is not something peculiar to the present dispensation. The birth from above — the Spirit breathing life into an unsaved individual — is something that has been occurring without change throughout Man’s Day, going all the way back to Adam. Apart from the birth from above and the Spirit bringing this birth to pass, there could have been/could be no salvation at any time or in any dispensation during Man’s Day.
But the immersion in the Spirit is something peculiar to the present dispensation, which is separate from “salvation by grace.” The only connection between the two at all would be the necessity of the Spirit breathing life into an individual prior to the occurrence of any other work of the Spirit. That is, only the one made alive spiritually can be immersed in the Spirit, allowing the Spirit to complete the task that the Father sent Him to accomplish.)
The particular work of the Spirit that began on the day of Pentecost didn’t occur before the present dispensation, and it will not occur following the present dispensation. It is a work that has beginning and ending times, extending throughout one dispensation alone — the dispensation in which Christians presently live. And this work of the Spirit is for a revealed purpose.
The immersion in the Spirit is a work which allows the same Spirit performing the work to subsequently search for and to procure a bride for God’s Son. And once the Spirit has procured the bride, there will no longer be a need for individuals to be immersed in the Spirit, making the search possible. Consequently, the Spirit’s present work in this respect can only cease once the search has been brought to a successful completion.
(Though this work of the Spirit, as a whole, will not extend beyond the present dispensation, there is an element of this work that will exist beyond the dispensation, during the coming Messianic Era. Note that on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two, this work of the Spirit, at its beginning point, also had to do with a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy [Acts 2:4, 16-21; cf. Joel 2:27-32]. Because of the reoffer of the kingdom to Israel, the Spirit’s work in relation to Joel’s prophecy was introduced as part of His work beginning on the day of Pentecost. However, with the termination of this reoffer [about 32 years later], any fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy was set aside with Israel, awaiting Israel’s future conversion and the Messianic Era.
But that part of the Spirit’s work having to do with a search for a bride for God’s Son continued beyond the termination of the reoffer of the kingdom to Israel. This is that part of the Spirit’s work, peculiar to and extending throughout the present dispensation, seen in Ephesians 1:13, 14.)
And it is a simple matter to see that this work of the Spirit, peculiar to the present dispensation, can have nothing to do with “salvation by grace.” If it did, something would have changed at the beginning of the dispensation relative to “salvation by grace.” And a change of this nature, at this time or at any other time during Man’s Day, would have been/would be completely out of place.
“Salvation by grace” can never change throughout Man’s Day. “Salvation by grace” is seen throughout Scripture only one way — being brought to pass on the basis of two unchangeable things, established at the beginning: death, and shed blood.
The basis for God’s restoration of fallen man in this respect is introduced in Scripture in the opening chapters of Genesis (chapters 3, 4 [death and shed blood, seen in connection with Adam; and death and shed blood, seen in connection with Abel]). God established the matter in these foundational types at this early point in His Word, and no change can possibly ever occur in that which God established after this fashion.
The Spirit has always been present in the world throughout Man’s Day to breathe life into the one having no life, else there could be no salvation for fallen man. This fact was set forth in types previous to those seen in Genesis chapters three and four. The work of the Spirit, in this respect, was introduced in the Genesis chapters one and two (1:1-5; 2:7; cf. Ezekiel 37:1-10).
Accordingly, the whole of the salvation picture is set forth in Genesis chapters one through four. The Spirit in chapters one and two is seen doing a work on the basis of that seen in chapters three and four. And if man today would view salvation from the unchangeable perspective in which God established matters in these opening four chapters of His Word, all of man’s false soteriological ideologies would crumble in the light of the Word of God.
Truth would exist where error presently exists. Clarity would exist where confusion presently reigns supreme. In short, light would “shine out of darkness” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
If the unchangeable nature of “salvation by grace” was not only established but operative in the opening chapters of Genesis — which it was — then the Spirit being sent on the day of Pentecost, along with anything connected with the reason for His having been sent, could not possibly have had anything to do with salvation by grace.
If it did, then God, on that day, added something to the whole soteriological foundational structure that He previously established 4,000 years earlier, recorded by Moses some 1,400 years earlier; and, had this been the case, the work of the Spirit relative to salvation would have been incomplete for the first 4,000 years of man’s existence — throughout two-thirds of the whole of Man’s Day.
The problem surrounding man’s erroneous views of the entire matter lies with man being unable to see past salvation by grace in Scripture, seeking to relate everything to salvation by grace, including the work of the Spirit that began on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. “Salvation by grace” is one thing, and the work of the Spirit that began on this day, a work peculiar to this present dispensation, is something else. That is to say, the Spirit breathing life into the one having no life is one thing; and the individual, with life now imparted, being immersed in the Spirit (something peculiar to this present dispensation), is a work that — though occurring at the time of the Spirit’s work of imparting life — is separate from His work of imparting life.
The Spirit’s work in the latter respect has to do with bringing the one in whom He has imparted life (through His breath) into a state where that individual can meet all the qualifications set forth for the bride in the Old Testament. And this work of the Spirit, bringing the individual into this state, would be twofold: 1) bringing the saved person into a position where he can qualify to be dealt with by the Spirit with respect to His search for the bride (the individual becoming a new creation “in Christ” through the immersion in the Spirit, forming a part of the one new man, with all which that involves [ref., chapter 7]); and 2) the Spirit dealing with the one placed in this position (leading him into all truth — from immaturity to maturity, from gnosis to epignosis — with a view to that person realizing the purpose for his salvation).
Saved, Immersed in the Spirit,
for a Purpose
The direction toward which all things are moving through the work of the Spirit during the present dispensation is seen in Scripture within that body of revealed truth referred to as “the mystery.” This body of truth — the mystery — details matters being brought to pass in such a manner that Gentile believers have become “fellowheirs” with Jewish believers. And, through being members “of the same body” in this respect, they become “partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
Things surrounding the mystery lie at the center of that which the Spirit, in the world, is presently making known to Christians. And He is making these things known for a revealed purpose. The Spirit is presently in the world seeking a bride for God’s Son; and the bride — taken mainly from Gentile believers, though Jewish believers are included as well — will reign as co-heir with Christ during that coming day when He is revealed in all His glory. Christ will reign as King, and His bride will reign as consort queen.
Christ and His bride (a bride who will be comprised of multitudes of individuals, occupying various assigned positions of power and authority) will replace the incumbent rulers in the kingdom of the heavens (Satan and his angels). And these things are not only being made known to Christians throughout the dispensation, but they were made known to Satan and his angels at the beginning of the dispensation as well.
These things are presently being made known to Christians by the Spirit, Who is both present in the world and indwells Christians (John 14:17; 16:7-15; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19); and they have been made known to Satan and his angels through the Church (Ephesians 3:9-11), leading into the reason for the dual way in which Paul ended his letter to the Christians in Ephesus: 1) revealing the spiritual warfare on the one hand (because the mystery had been made known to Satan and his angels [6:10-18]), and 2) revealing the necessity for a bold proclamation of the message surrounding the mystery to Christians on the other (for this is the message of the hour, having to do with the purpose for the entire 2,000-year dispensation [6:19]).
1) Good News
It is through the good news surrounding the grace of God that individuals can be brought into a position where they can receive and understand spiritual truth, allowing them to understand things pertaining to the mystery; and it is through the things pertaining to the mystery — additional good news, associated not with the gospel of grace but with the gospel of glory — that individuals can be brought into a full realization of the reason why they have been saved. That is, individuals have been saved for a purpose, and that purpose is what the mystery is about.
The whole of the matter begins, as in the type of the Israelites under Moses, with the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:1ff). That is, the beginning point must have to do with death and shed blood; the beginning point must have to do with Christ’s finished work at Calvary. An individual must first believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; he must first pass “from death unto life.” Only then, only after spiritual life has been imparted, can the work of the Spirit surrounding the reason why He was sent on the day of Pentecost come into view.
In the type — the Israelites under Moses — that which followed the death of the firstborn had to do with a deliverance from Egypt (always a type of the world in Scripture), with a view to being established in another land, within a theocracy. And there was an immersion “in the cloud” on the one hand (the visible presence of God among His people) and “in the sea” (the Red Sea) on the other (1 Corinthians 10:2).
And for Christians in the antitype, it is exactly the same. That which follows the death of the firstborn has to do with a deliverance from this present world, with a view to being established in another land, within a theocracy. Subsequent to the Spirit breathing life into the one without life, there is an immersion in the Spirit (possible because of God’s presence, by means of the Spirit, among His people today); then there is an immersion in water (showing burial, followed by resurrection [shown by a rising from the waters; Romans 6:2-6; Colossians 2:12; 3:1ff]).
(Refer to chapters 6 and 7 of this book for additional details concerning both the immersion in the Spirit and the immersion in water.)
2) Land of Our Calling
The land to which Christians have been called, unlike the land to which the Israelites under Moses were called, is a heavenly land; and Christians will enter into this land only during the coming dispensation. Christians are being called out of this world during the present dispensation, with a view to realizing an inheritance in another land during the coming dispensation.
This is set forth in Colossians 1:12, 13 as a deliverance from one kingdom (the present kingdom under Satan [cf. Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:12]), with a view to realizing an inheritance in another kingdom (the coming kingdom of Christ). And though the way in which verse thirteen reads in most English translations leads one to believe that Christians have been transferred or translated from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of Christ, such cannot possibly be the correct understanding of this verse.
The kingdom of Christ does not presently exist, and it cannot exist until that future day when the Father places His Son in charge of the kingdom (Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 11:15), which will occur only at the end of Man’s Day. The kingdom of Christ will cover exactly the same domain (the earth) and His rule will be from exactly the same sphere (heavenly) as Satan’s present domain and rule. Further, Christ is to wear the crown that Satan presently wears, and Satan has yet to relinquish this crown.
Accordingly, the kingdom of Christ cannot exist during the present time. Satan is still the crowned ruler of this earth, holding the scepter. Only after Satan has been put down can Christ hold the scepter, wear the crown, and exercise power and authority (exercise power and authority from the same realm, over the same domain, as presently seen in Satan’s exercise of power and authority). And all of the preceding can occur only at the end of Man’s Day, not before.
Thus, if there were a present kingdom of Christ, the kingdom would have to exist prior to that time when the Father is seen delivering the scepter into His Son’s hand; it would have to exist apart from a domain and a crowned King; it would have to exist during Man’s Day (preceding the Lord’s Day); and it would have to exist during a time when Satan is still on the throne.
Seeing a present kingdom of Christ, in any form, becomes completely absurd when the matter is viewed in the light of Scripture. Man may erroneously think along the lines of a present kingdom of Christ, but Scripture reveals something entirely different.
The whole purpose for the kingdom of Christ has to do with Christ and His co-heirs taking the kingdom of this world and effecting a cosmos out of the present chaos, bringing order out of the present disorder.
Thus, from a biblical standpoint, one cannot possibly speak of a present kingdom of Christ as long as Satan continues to hold the scepter — whether seen existing in a so-called mystery form, or any other form.
To the contrary, the Father has told His Son to sit at His right hand until He makes His enemies His footstool. Only then will the Son ascend the throne, hold the scepter, and rule the earth (Psalm 110:1ff). Only then will the kingdom of Christ exist.
(Then there is another realm in which the thought of a presently existing kingdom of Christ becomes possibly even more theologically destructive and dangerous. Christians erroneously seeing a present kingdom of Christ usually think of individuals being transferred or translated into this kingdom at the time of the birth from above. Then, a transference of this nature moves the whole thought of entrance into the kingdom from the realm of reward to the realm of gift. And that is completely out of line with any sound Scriptural teaching concerning the kingdom of Christ.)
Colossians 1:13 should be understood in the sense of individuals being rescued and caused to change sides relative to two kingdoms. Christians have been rescued from Satan’s existing kingdom and have been caused to change sides with respect to Christ’s coming kingdom. The former has to do with the present kingdom of this world, as it presently exists under Satan; and the latter has to do with the coming kingdom of this world, as it will one day exist under Christ (Revelation 11:15).
3) That Coming Day
And Christians are being dealt with in this manner during the present dispensation with a view to the coming dispensation. It will be during the coming dispensation alone that the kingdom of Christ will be brought into existence. The present dispensation has to do with purposes surrounding the Spirit acquiring a bride to reign with God’s Son during the coming dispensation, for Christ must have a bride to reign with Him. There must not only be a crowned King but there must be a consort queen as well.
The present dispensation, the third and last of three dispensations during Man’s Day, covers 2,000 years of time (the exact number of years allotted to each of the previous two dispensations, with seven years yet remaining to be fulfilled in the dispensation that immediately precedes the present dispensation [i.e., in the preceding Jewish dispensation]). The divine work that began at the time of and through the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost will last for exactly 2,000 years from that date, which makes it quite simple to ascertain that we are living very near the end of the time allotted for the Spirit to search for and to procure a bride for God’s Son (ref. the Appendix in the author’s book, HAD YE BELIEVED MOSES).
Once the dispensation has run its course and the search has been completed, the bride will be removed, with a view to the coming dispensation. And it is during this coming dispensation that the inheritance spoken of in Ephesians chapter one will be realized.
This coming dispensation, in which the inheritance will be realized, will be the earth’s coming Sabbath. This will be the Sabbath foreshadowed by the seventh day in Genesis chapter two, introduced immediately following man’s creation, and set before the people of God throughout man’s 6,000-year day (e.g., Exodus 20:8-11; 31:13-17; Hebrews 4:1-9).
“This is the day that the Lord has made” (not today, but that coming day when the Stone that the builders refused has “become the head stone of the corner”); and in that day, beyond Man’s Day, when the Lord’s Day is ushered in, man “will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:22-24).
Having Heard, Having Believed
In a sequence beginning in Romans 10:13, salvation (deliverance) is seen being brought to pass through individuals calling upon the Lord: “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Then, immediately following, beginning in the next verse, a question is asked: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” (v. 14a [a reference back to the call for deliverance seen in the previous verse]). This question is then followed by another question: “…and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Then a third question follows, with a fourth question beginning the next verse: “…and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?” (vv. 14b, 15a).
Thus, the order set forth in these three verses is four-fold, though seen in a reverse fashion from the way in which it is presented: 1) God calls a man to proclaim His message, 2) that man proclaims the message, 3) individuals hearing the message believe that which is being proclaimed, and 4) those who have believed the message (which, in this case, is belief in Christ, effecting salvation) then call upon the Lord for salvation (which, contextually, would have to relate to a deliverance for those who had already been saved through believing).
(Believing and calling in Romans 10:13, 14 are not to be equated; nor are they to be thought of as two separate things which, in the end, result in eternal salvation. Romans 10:13 — “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” — has been vastly misused over the years by well-meaning individuals in a Roman’s Road-type presentation of the salvation message.
Eternal salvation is brought to pass through believing alone [v. 14; e.g., John 3:16; Acts 16:31]. It is brought to pass through believing on the Lord Jesus Christ [a one-time event], after hearing the message from the one who had been sent to deliver it.
Calling, on the other hand, follows believing. The person first believes, and only then does he call. The text is very clear concerning this order: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” [v. 14a].
Calling [something that could be repeated time after time] has to do with a deliverance following salvation [brought to pass through believing]. And note that Romans 10:13 is a quotation from the Old Testament, where the verse is used relative to a deliverance of saved people during the coming Messianic Era [Joel 2:32].)
The order seen in Romans 10:13-15 is exactly the same order seen in Ephesians 1:13, 14. Paul had been called, he had proclaimed the message, those in Ephesus had believed, and they were now in a position to call upon the Lord (from time to time, whenever necessary) for deliverance. And the whole of the process would be with a view to the Messianic Era.
This order though, along with the emphasis seen in the order, is often missed in some English translations of Ephesians 1:13, 14 (e.g., the KJV text). Note a more literal rendering of the Greek text, which not only places the emphasis on issues beyond eternal salvation but moves matters forward into the Messianic Era:
In Him you [Gentiles] also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you [Gentiles] were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession [those being preserved, those who have become God’s possession] to the praise of His glory.
1. You Were Sealed
Gentiles, previously alienated from God’s dealings with Israel and those things which God had committed to Israel’s trust (Ephesians 2:12; cf. Romans 9:4), now, through two inseparably related means, find themselves no longer alienated: 1) through believing the proclaimed message that they had heard, and 2) through being sealed with the promised Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Or, in chapter two, this sequence of the Spirit’s work is expressed another way: Those “made nigh by the blood of Christ” find themselves, through being sealed with the Spirit from chapter one, positionally “in Christ” (v. 13). And “in Christ,” where there is “neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:26, 28), “the middle wall of partition” (previously existing between Jew and Greek) has been broken down. “In Christ” there now exists one new man, in which a “middle wall of partition” cannot exist (Ephesians 2:14, 15).
Then, Paul expresses this same thing another way in Romans 11:5-25. In this section of Scripture, individuals cut out of a wild olive tree (believing Gentiles [vv. 11-24]) are seen grafted into a good olive tree, among branches that have not been broken off (believing Jews [vv. 17-24]). These believing Jews would form the “remnant according to the election of grace,” seen earlier in the chapter (v. 5); and the whole of the matter is referred to as a mystery (v. 25).
Thus, Paul dealt with the mystery when writing to those in Rome through one means, and he used another means when writing to those in Ephesus. Saved Gentiles being sealed with the promised Spirit in Ephesians 1:13, or those cut out of a wild olive tree being grafted into a good olive tree (a tree in which some of the branches had been broken off) in Romans 11:11-24, form two ways in which Scripture deals with the same thing — having to do with the immersion in the Spirit.
Scripture often deals with a subject through different means such as this, frequently through the use of metaphors, as seen in Romans chapter eleven. And Scripture must be compared with Scripture in order to see the complete picture, as God has set it forth in His Word.
In Ephesians 1:13, through the use of the word “sealed” to describe this work of the Spirit, Christians are given an insight into the way God looks upon those who form the one new man “in Christ.” The Greek word translated “sealed” (sphragizo) is used a number of times in the New Testament, and it is used different ways. It is used of Christ’s tomb being sealed (Matthew 27:66), but it is also used in a descriptive manner of things and people (e.g., John 6:27; Romans 15:28; Revelation 7:3ff; 10:4). The word could be used with the thought of confirming, attesting, authenticating, or certifying. It could be used to show a stamp of approval, that everything was in order. Or it could be used to show identification or ownership.
Christians have been sealed with the promised Spirit in connection with becoming a part of the one new man “in Christ.” Thus, the seal would involve being brought into the position that God requires (becoming Abraham’s seed, etc. [ref., chapter 7 this book]). And the seal would show God’s stamp of approval relative to identification and ownership. The seal would confirm, attest, authenticate, and certify that everything was in order for the Spirit to conduct His search for the bride among those forming the one new man.
2. A Pledge[Guarantee] of Our Inheritance
Being “sealed with the promised Spirit” in verse thirteen is said to be “a pledge or guarantee [‘earnest,’ KJV] of our inheritance” in verse fourteen. The bride, for whom the Spirit presently searches, will one day inherit as co-heir with God’s Son. This inheritance was introduced back in verse eleven, and this inheritance, contextually, will be realized only in connection with a future redemption (v. 14).
Relative to this future redemption, Ephesians 4:30 states,
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed [Gk., sphragizo, same as in 1:13] for [‘with respect to’] the day of redemption.
This sealing work of the Spirit, being a guarantee (Gk. appabon), has to do with the thought of a first installment or down payment. Christians, through this means, now possess a legal claim to the inheritance; and a first installment portends full payment at a future date. This guarantees that the inheritance will one day be received.
A realization of the inheritance though is connected with a redemption of those who have become God’s possession; and this redemption, along with the inheritance, is future (Ephesians 4:30). The past work of the Spirit forms a pledge or garanteee that the inheritance will be realized, but only in connection with a future redemption.
This future redemption has to do with the salvation of the soul and related matters (e.g., the bride being removed from the body [Genesis 2:21-23], the out-resurrection [Philippians 3:11], or the adoption [Romans 8:23]). The past work of the Spirit, forming a guarantee that the inheritance will be received, cannot be isolated and understood apart from other Scripture (2 Peter 1:20).
Though the Spirit will complete the work in and among Christians that He has set out to perform (Philippians 1:6), Christians, through faithfulness or unfaithfulness, can either realize or forfeit the awaiting inheritance with God’s Son. This fact must be recognized when studying the work of the Spirit in Ephesians or any other place in Scripture.