Search for the Bride
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man? ” And she said, “I will go. ” (Genesis 24:58).
The question that Rebekah was asked in Genesis 24:58 (“Will you go with this man?”) and her response (“I will go”) form the heart of the most important matter that will ever confront any Christian at any time throughout the entire present dispensation. The question and corresponding answer have to do with the very reason for an individual’s salvation. A person has been saved for a revealed purpose, and it is this purpose to which the question and corresponding answer in this verse relate.
Ministry of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is in the world today seeking a bride for God’s Son. That’s what Genesis chapter twenty-four is about. This chapter is not about eternal salvation. That’s seen through events back in chapter twenty-two (events surrounding the offering of Isaac). Rather, this chapter is about the purpose for salvation; and events in the chapter are set within the framework of the present dispensation — detailing events, from God’s perspective, between the time when Israel was set aside (preceding the present dispensation [chapter 23]) to that future time when Israel will be restored (following the present dispensation [chapter 25]).
1) The Type
In the type, Abraham sent his eldest servant into Mesopotamia to procure a bride for his son. And before Abraham’s servant departed to fulfill this mission, Abraham made him swear that the search would be conducted solely among his own people, among those referred to as “my kindred” (vv. 3, 4, 9).
Then the servant took ten camels, which is a number showing ordinal completion, for “all the goods of his master were in his hand.” And these goods, belonging to the father, would one day belong to the son.
In one respect, Isaac is seen as already being the owner of these goods (v. 36); but, in another respect, Abraham is not seen actually giving these goods to his son until after a bride has been procured, the son has married, and the father has remarried (25:5).
The servant was placed in complete charge of all the goods of his master, he was to take these goods into Mesopotamia, he was to find the prospective bride, and he was then to show the prospective bride that which could be hers, if…
The bride, becoming Isaac’s wife, was to inherit with him. That belonging to Isaac would belong to her. The bride would complete Isaac, they would be one flesh, and they would inherit together as one complete person (Genesis 2:21-24).
2) The Antitype
The Holy Spirit, in the antitype of Abraham’s servant in Genesis chapter twenty-four, is in the world today seeking a bride for God’s Son. And he is seeking this bride from among God’s Own people — the saved — not from among the unsaved. He is seeking the bride from among those comprising the one new man “in Christ,” during a time in which Israel has been set aside (cf. Genesis 23:1, 2; 25:1-4).
And the Spirit, in complete keeping with the type, has “all the goods” of the Father in his possession to show the prospective bride.
In one respect, as set forth in the type, the Son is seen as already being the Owner (in the same sense that the Son is seen as already being King, in possession of all power [ cf. Matthew 2:2; 28:18; John 18:33-37; 19:19]).
But, in another respect, the Father is not seen actually giving these goods to the Son until after the bride has been procured, the Son has married, and the Father has restored His wife, Israel (which awaits the Son being crowned, at which time He will exercise all power [cf. Daniel 7:12-14; Revelation 19:7ff]).
Relative to this entire matter, Christ, near the close of His ministry, told His disciples,
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 Spirit is in the world today searching for a bride for God’s Son. And He conducts this search by taking the Word which He gave through “holy [‘set apart’] men of God” during past time and revealing to Christians, from this Word, “things to come.” The Spirit takes this Word and reveals to Christians that which the Father has given to His Son. He shows the prospective bride that which can be hers, if…
The bride, inheriting with the Son, will inherit as co-heir with Him. That belonging to Him will belong to her. The bride, exactly as seen in the marriage relationship in Genesis chapter two, will complete the Son (Hebrews 2:10). They will be one flesh, and they will inherit together as one complete person (cf. Genesis 2:21-24; Ephesians 5:22-32).
Salvation, Purpose, Dispensations
That revealed in Genesis chapter twenty-four is often erroneously dealt with by well-meaning individuals in relation to eternal salvation. And the widely prevailing general treatment of Scripture after this fashion is a major problem in biblical interpretation today. Teachings surrounding eternal salvation are being derived from texts that have nothing to do with eternal salvation. And, through this process, not only is that which the text actually deals with being done away with, but the message surrounding salvation by grace is often corrupted.
Erroneously seeing events in Genesis chapter twenty-four as having to do with eternal salvation can mislead a person dispensationally in relation to salvation. Events in this chapter have to do with a distinctly different work of the Spirit, performed during a dispensation when God is dealing with the Church, not with Israel. And, through applying this particular work of the Spirit to salvation by grace, individuals can be misled into believing that the Spirit’s work in effecting one’s eternal salvation is different during the present dispensation than it was during the past dispensation. They can be misled into believing that God’s means of salvation for man changes with a change in His dispensational dealings with man.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The manner in which the birth from above is brought to pass does not change when dispensational changes occur. A person is saved exactly the same way at any time throughout Man’s Day — through the Spirit breathing life into the one having no life. And the Spirit does this on the basis of death and shed blood. This was just as true at the beginning of Man’s Day (when God slew animals and clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins) as it is during the present time, near the close of Man’s Day (following the events surrounding Calvary).
God’s means surrounding eternal salvation is one of the great constants of Scripture. Matters surrounding the birth from above never change at any time throughout Scripture. They remain the same from the opening chapters of the book of Genesis to the closing chapters of the book of Revelation. It is God’s dispensational dealings alone that are seen to change. And these dispensational dealings with man are seen to occur only following salvation and, thus, have nothing to do with salvation.
The word “dispensation” comes from the Greek word oikonomia, which is a compound word having to do with “household management,” or “stewardship.” Accordingly, a dispensation has to do with the management of the Lord’s house through stewards whom He has placed in charge of His house.
And those whom He has placed in charge of His house could only be the saved alone during both Man’s Day and the future Lord’s Day, else they could not be looked upon as household servants.
During the past dispensation, this was Israel. During the present dispensation, this is the Church. And, during the future Lord’s Day, a succeeding dispensation — which will not only be following Israel’s national conversion and restoration but following the Spirit’s successful search for the bride during the present dispensation — God will deal with both Israel and the Church in this respect, as He deals with the Gentile nations through Israel and the Church.
(Note that the expression, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:6; 15:24], has to do with the issue at hand — the kingdom of the heavens — not with eternal salvation. It has to do with deliverance relative to a kingdom. The Jewish people could not have been looked upon as eternally lost, else God could not have dealt with them in a dispensational respect — as household servants.
God deals with the unsaved only one way — relative to passing “from death unto life.” An individual must possess spiritual life before God can deal with him relative to spiritual values, as a household servant [i.e., deal with him in a dispensational respect].)
Then, the reason for the birth from above, as the means of salvation itself, also never changes throughout Man’s Day. This reason, going back to that revealed in Genesis chapters one through three, remains completely constant throughout Scripture. These three chapters reveal man’s creation, his fall, and his redemption. And purpose is seen throughout, whether relative to God’s creation of man, Satan’s intrusion into God’s creative work, or God’s restoration of ruined man.
Man was created to rule the earth; but, as a result of Satan’s intrusion, seeking to thwart God’s plans and purposes, man fell. And man’s restoration involves bringing him back into a position where he can realize the purpose surrounding his creation.
Thus, the purpose for man’s salvation is inseparably connected with the purpose surrounding his creation, which has to do with regality. But different facets of this central purpose are seen at later times in Scripture, depending on God’s dispensational dealings with man. There is a facet having to do with Israel, both past and future; and there is facet having to do with the Church, which is future.
God dealt with the Jews essentially relative to an earthly calling, though a heavenly calling (beyond the earthly) was always present. And this heavenly calling was brought to the forefront when Christ came the first time.
God’s dealings with Christians though are quite different. Christians are dealt with solely relative to a heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1), which was taken from Israel at the time of Christ’s first coming (Matthew 21:33-43).
In this respect, the purpose behind man’s salvation no more changes when God’s dispensational plans and purposes change than does salvation itself. Man is always saved the same way, and his salvation is always with a view to regality. Both remain completely constant throughout Man’s Day. The only thing that changes has to do with different facets of God’s purpose for man’s salvation, in keeping with the dispensation in which He is dealing with man.
1) Israel, Past Dispensation
During the past dispensation, Israel was called out of Egypt to realize an earthly calling, in relation to regality. The nation was to be removed from Egypt and placed in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And, with Israel occupying the position of God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22, 23), the nation was to realize the rights of the firstborn within this land.
The rights of the firstborn had three parts: The firstborn was to be the ruler within the family, he was to be the priest within the family, and he was to receive a double portion of all the father’s goods. This is what lay in store for Israel at the time God called his firstborn son out of Egypt under Moses.
In relation to the rights of the firstborn, as it would pertain to national regality, the Lord’s house would be this earth — a province within God’s universal kingdom.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house [the kingdom of Christ, filling “the whole earth” (Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45)] shall be established in the top of the mountains [established above all the kingdoms of the earth], and shall be exalted above the hills [exalted above all the subordinate and lesser earthly kingdoms]; and all nations shall flow unto it (Isaiah 2:2).
Then the nation of Israel was looked upon in the sense of a house as well (“the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:6; 23:38]). The Lord, within a theocracy, was to rule through His house (Israel, comprised of household servants) over His house (the earth). Israel, as God’s firstborn, was to be placed over all the house and, in this position, exercise the full rights of the firstborn.
Israel was to exercise both kingly and priestly functions within the house. Not only was Israel to rule over all the Gentile nations but these nations, as well, were to be blessed through Israel (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; 22:17, 18; Exodus 19:5, 6; Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 7:1-24; 28:1ff).
Then the double portion of all the Father’s goods comes into view, which can only have to do with both heavenly and earthly spheres of the kingdom. And these two spheres of the kingdom can be seen throughout Israeli history, extending all the way back to Abraham (cf. Genesis 14:17-24; 22:17, 18; Matthew 8:11, 12; Hebrews 11:8-16).
The earthly sphere of the kingdom remained at the forefront throughout most of Israeli history (though matters surrounding the heavenly sphere were always present). Then the heavenly sphere of the kingdom was brought to the forefront when Christ came the first time.
The earthly sphere of the kingdom was extended to Israel under Moses. But, in the final analysis, through disobedience, the earthly sphere of the kingdom was rejected. And it matters not whether one views the activities of the generation at Kadesh-Barnea under Moses or the activities of later generations, beginning with those under Joshua. The end result is the same.
The activities of the generation under Moses resulted in an entire accountable generation being overthrown in the wilderness, outside the land; and the activities of succeeding generations — ultimately continuing in disobedience — eventually resulted in the theocracy coming to an end, the nation being uprooted from the land, and the Jewish people being scattered among the Gentile nations.
Then the heavenly sphere of the kingdom was extended to Israel at Christ’s first coming. The nation was called upon to repent, which would be relative to past disobedience, continuing into the present. And, because of the nation’s refusal to repent, the heavenly sphere of the kingdom was rejected as well (acceptance was inseparably connected with repentance [Matthew 3:1, 2; 4:17]). And this rejection reached a climactic apex with Israel’s crucifixion of the One Who made the offer — God Himself, in the person of His Son.
Israel, through disobedience, had rejected the earthly sphere of the kingdom; and the kingdom had been taken from Israel some six hundred years prior to Messiah’s appearance. Then, when Messiah appeared with the message that the kingdom of the heavens was “at hand [had ‘drawn near’],” the Jewish people continued in the footsteps of their ancestors. They persisted in their refusal to repent, and the heavenly sphere of the kingdom was rejected as well.
This climaxed the totality of Israel’s rejection in relation to the kingdom, resulting from disobedience and a refusal to repent; and the Jewish people climaxed all of this rejection — which covered over fourteen centuries of Israeli history — through pledging their allegiance to a pagan Gentile king and calling for the crucifixion of their true anointed King, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2; John 18:31-37; 19:14, 15).
Is it any wonder that Israel is seen to occupy the position set forth in Genesis chapter twenty-three, following the events set forth in chapter twenty-two? That would be to ask, “Is it any wonder that Israel is seen in the place of death (typified by Sarah’s death [chapter 23]), following the crucifixion and resurrection of the nation’s Messiah (typified by the offering of Isaac, with Abraham receiving his son from the place of death on the third day [Genesis 22])?”
2) The Church, Present Dispensation
Once Israel had been set aside, God turned to the Gentiles to take out of them “a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). A new dispensation ensued, in which God would deal with an entirely new group of household servants. And the thought of regality continued, unchanged, from the past dispensation into and through the present dispensation — with man continuing to be saved exactly the same way for exactly the same purpose.
This must be the case; it cannot be otherwise. Man was created for purposes surrounding regality, man’s fall resulted from these purposes (Satan, the incumbent ruler, brought about man’s fall in order to assure his own continuance on the throne), and man’s subsequent redemption surrounds these purposes.
The means of and purpose for redemption were set at the very beginning of Scripture and can never change. They remained the same when God dealt with Israel during the past dispensation, and they can only continue the same when God deals with the Church during the present dispensation.
(And note that positive promises or negative consequences surrounding either obedience on the one hand or disobedience on the other are also the same, regardless of the dispensation. Positive promises in either dispensation are seen to result in an exaltation over all the Gentile nations [Deuteronomy 7:1-24; Revelation 2:26, 27]. But negative consequences in either dispensation are seen to result in death [Genesis 23:2; Romans 8:13].
God does not take man’s reaction to His plans and purposes lightly — whether positive or negative, and whether pertaining to the past theocracy or to the future theocracy [Leviticus 26:1-39; Deuteronomy 28:1-67; Hebrews 10:23-11:16]. God himself dwelt among His people in the past theocracy; and God, in the person of His Son, will dwell among His people in the future theocracy, as the Son’s “greatest regal magnificence” [literal translation of a superlative in 2 Peter 1:16] is set forth for all to see.)
Israel being called into existence and being called out of Egypt had to do with purposes surrounding regality, which is in complete keeping with the purpose surrounding man’s creation, Satan bringing about his fall, and God effecting his redemption.
And it can be no different for purposes surrounding the existence of the one new man “in Christ.” This one new man has been called into existence (as a nation was born in Egypt during Moses’ day) and is presently being called out of the world (as Israel was called out of Egypt under Moses) for a purpose. And that purpose, in the light of biblical history and prophecy, is self-evident.
The one new man “in Christ” has not only been called into existence to exercise a regal position, but the full spectrum of the rights of the firstborn — kingly, priestly, and a double portion of the Father’s goods — must come into view as well. The Church, through the future adoption, will be placed in the position of God’s firstborn son (Hebrews 12:23). And Christians occupying this position will exercise all the rights of the firstborn.
And any forfeiture of these rights, insofar as Christians are concerned, will occur prior to the adoption. Forfeiture will occur during the dispensation in which God is removing from the Gentiles “a people for His name.” It will occur during the dispensation in which the Holy Spirit conducts His search for the bride (seen through events in Genesis 24), prior to the adoption, with the adoption not including those who previously forfeited these rights.
(God’s two national firstborn sons — Israel [already adopted] and the Church [yet to be adopted] — will one day realize the rights of the firstborn.
Israel, following the nation’s repentance and acceptance of their Messiah, will be restored — a saved nation, back in the land, exercising kingly and priestly rights. Israel will exercise these rights within a theocracy, occupying a position at the head of the nations. And though Israel has forfeited the right to rule in heavenly places as well, Israel will realize the double portion of the birthright through two means: 1) through O.T. saints who qualified to rule from the heavens [cf. Matthew 8:11, 12; Hebrews 11:8-16, 32-40], and 2) through the Church, comprised of individuals who are Abraham’s seed, grafted into a Jewish trunk [Romans 11:13-21; Galatians 3:29].
Christians, not having forfeited their birthright, will be adopted, forming another national firstborn son. And this son will exercise the rights of the firstborn through ruling as a kingdom of priests [exercising kingly and priestly functions] from heavenly places, over the earth [realizing the double portion of the birthright]. This firstborn son will rule as co-heir with Christ, inheriting with Him all that the Father will give to the Son [Genesis 24:36; 25:5; John 16:15; Romans 8:16-23; Philippians 3:10-14; Hebrews 3:1; Revelation 1:6; 5:10].)
“Will You Go with This Man?”
The question, “Will you go with this man?,” moves to the heart of all matters surrounding the work of the Spirit in the world throughout the present dispensation. The work of the Spirit in the life of a Christian is designed to bring that individual to the point where he can be confronted with this question. Then, the Christian’s response to the question will have direct bearing on the manner in which the Spirit will be able to continue a work in his life from that point forward. The goal has to do with bringing the Christian to a place where he can one day participate in activities attendant the bride. A negative response to the question will quench a continuing work of the Spirit relative to matters surrounding His search for the bride. But a positive response will allow the Spirit to continue a proper work in the individual’s life, continuing to move that individual toward the goal in view.
1) The Type
After Abraham’s servant had entered Mesopotamia, he journeyed toward the city of Nahor. Nearing the city in “the evening,” he came to a well of water and made his camels kneel down by the well. The servant then prayed, asking the Lord to prosper his journey through a particular set of circumstances.
It was the time of day when women from the city came to the well to draw water. And before the servant had finished praying, Rebekah had already come out of the city with the other women. The servant saw her, that she was “very fair to look upon, a virgin.” Then, after she had drawn from the well, he requested water from her pitcher to drink; and she, completely on her own, apart from the servant making any other request, offered to perform all the things that the servant had previously requested of the Lord in his prayer. She not only drew water for the servant to drink but she drew water for his camels to drink as well.
Abraham’s servant could only stand by and marvel as he watched Rebekah fulfilling that which, only minutes before, he had requested of the Lord.
God, in his providential control of all things, had directed the servant to a certain well of water at a particular time of day. And this was at the time of day when Rebekah, along with other women of the city, normally came to the well to draw water. The Lord saw to it that both parties involved were at the right place at the right time. And the Lord further saw to matters that things began to unfold, in a systematic manner, which would allow the purpose for the servant’s mission to ultimately be fulfilled.
Similar circumstances are later seen through Moses’ first encounter with his bride. Moses, between the time of his rejection and the time of his acceptance by the Jewish people found his bride by a well of water also (which, within another frame of reference, would correspond to the time between events in Genesis 23, 25, during which Moses, typifying Christ, took a Gentile bride [Exodus 2:15-21]).
“Water” is used in Scripture to refer to both the Spirit and the Word (cf. John 2:7-10; 4:14; 7:37-39; Ephesians 5:26). The symbolism seen through Rebekah drawing water from the well, with the servant looking on, along with subsequent action on the part of both the servant and Rebekah, is fraught with spiritual significance and meaning.
Genesis chapter twenty-four provides a wealth of information concerning the true nature of the work of the Spirit in the world today. He conducts His search for the bride after the manner seen in this chapter. He must, for the matter is set in an unchangeable fashion at this point in Scripture. And, if an individual would properly understand the work of the Spirit as it is revealed in the New Testament, he must first understand the work of the Spirit as it is revealed in the Old Testament, particularly in Genesis chapter twenty-four.
In the type, Abraham’s servant simply stood back and watched as Rebekah drew water from the well. Only after she had drawn the water for both him and his camels, seeing that the Lord had prospered his journey in complete accord with his prayer, did he begin to act. He then brought forth several select things from the goods belonging to his master, carried on the camels, and gave them to Rebekah (vv. 15-22).
The servant, at first, brought forth only a small portion of these goods. But later, after he had made known the purpose for his journey — to procure a bride for his master’s son — he then began to bring forth more of the treasures, giving them to Rebekah as well (vv. 33-53).
Only then, only at a time when Rebekah — one able to draw water from the well — had been made fully aware of the issue at hand, was she confronted with the question: “Will you go with this man?” There was no coercion whatsoever connected with the question. The issue at hand had been sufficiently revealed, allowing her to make a rational decision, based entirely on that which had been revealed and shown to her by Abraham’s servant.
Rebekah’s response to the question would have no bearing on her family relationship with Abraham. It was only because of this family relationship that circumstances could be brought to pass that would allow the question to be asked. Thus, regardless of whether Rebekah responded positively or negatively, her family status would remain completely unchanged.
Rebekah’s response had to do with her willingness to “go with this man.” And going with this man had to do with her one day coming into a realization of all the things that had been revealed through the man.
Responding positively to the question, Rebekah could look forward to one day becoming the wife of Isaac and inheriting with him. The servant’s work could then continue in her life, with matters moving toward completing his mission.
A negative response though would result in these things not being brought to pass in Rebekah’s life. Though Rebekah would remain a member of Abraham’s family, the servant could not continue working with her in the same manner as before. And she could not one day become the wife of Isaac and inherit with him.
2) The Antitype
From that revealed in the type, the work of the Spirit in the world today, searching for the bride, should be a matter simple enough for any Christian to see and understand. The Spirit’s work is foreshadowed by the servant’s work in Genesis chapter twenty-four. And that seen in the type will, it must, be seen in the antitype as well.
The Spirit is conducting His search during a dispensation set aside for this purpose; and, exactly as in the type, He is conducting this search among members of the family, among Christians.
Following salvation — brought to pass through the Spirit breathing life into the one having no life — the Spirit then begins a work in the individual’s life, designed to lead that person from gnosis to epignosis, from immaturity to maturity. This work is designed to bring the person into a position where he can draw from the well. Then the Spirit can progressively continue leading him “into all truth,” showing him “things to come.”
And, in complete keeping with the type, it is only after the individual has been brought into an understanding of “things to come” — through the Spirit taking the one able to draw from the Well and leading him “into all truth” — that the person is confronted with the question: “Will you go with this man?”
The question is seen brought to the forefront only after the person has come into an understanding of the issue at hand. And the person’s response to the question will have no bearing on his family relationship — i.e., on his being a Christian — but it will affect forever whether or not he will one day find himself among those forming the Son’s wife, inheriting with Him.