Search for the Bride
By Arlen L. Chitwood
The Bride Revealed
Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel;
for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?" The servant said, "It is my master. ” So she took a veil and covered herself. (Genesis 24:64, 65).
The complete Church — all Christians, comprising the one new man (all of the saved from throughout the present 2,000-year dispensation) — will be removed from the earth at the end of the dispensation and be taken into the heavens. The dead will be raised, and believers alive at that time will be “caught up” with the resurrected dead “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). This all-inclusive nature of what is often called “the rapture” can not only be clearly seen through comparing the Old Testament types (cf. Genesis 5, 19, 24) but it can also be clearly seen in the New Testament antitype as well (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4, 5; Revelation 1-4).
After the one new man “in Christ” has been removed from the earth and taken into the heavens, this new man will stand before Christ in judgment. This judgment will occur in the Lord’s Day, not in Man’s Day; and this judgment will be with a view to showing whether a Christian has overcome or has been overcome, resulting in the Christian either experiencing salvation or experiencing wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 2, 3).
At the judgment seat, the One Who “searches the minds and hearts” (Revelation 2:23), will bring all things to light. Nothing will remain covered or hidden; all things will be opened up and made known (Matthew 10:26, 27; Luke 12:2, 3). And through this full revelation of all things, the bride will be revealed.
Those Christians forming the bride will be separated from the complete body of Christians, fulfilling a type that God established when He created man in the beginning (Genesis 2:21-24). This will be synonymous with “the resurrection [‘the out-resurrection’]” in Philippians 3:11 — a segment of Christians being allowed to stand up out of the complete body of Christians.
(For a discussion of the out-resurrection [Gk. exanastasis] in Philippians 3:11, refer to the Appendix in the author’s book, THE BRIDE IN GENESIS [reprint edition].)
The bride, possessing a wedding garment (made up of “righteous acts [works],” which will have previously been revealed at the judgment seat [cf. Ruth 3:3; Revelation 3:17]), will be allowed to walk with the Lord in “bright-white” raiment. But this will not be the experience of any Christian lacking “righteous acts,” for that Christian will not possess a wedding garment (Revelation 3:4, 17, 18).
Then, at the marriage festivities that follow, the bride will be granted the privilege of arraying herself “in fine linen, clean and bright-white [the same garment previously revealed at events surrounding the judgment seat]” (Revelation 19:7, 8). But attendance will be denied anyone not being clothed in a wedding garment (Matthew 22:11-13; 25:10-12).
The marriage itself will occur between events surrounding the judgment seat in Revelation 1-3 (when the bride is revealed) and events surrounding the marriage festivities in Revelation 19:1-9 (which precede Christ’s return to the earth). The actual marriage — quite unlike marriages in the West today — will occur through a legal transaction, entered into and completed by Christ prior to these festivities.
This legal transaction has to do with a future redemptive work of the Son — a work relative to the forfeited inheritance, the domain presently ruled by Satan (over which Christ and His wife will rule following the redemption of the domain, a redemption seen in Revelation 6-18). Only then can subsequent events in the book occur (the marriage festivities, Christ’s return, the overthrow of Gentile world power [chapter 19], and Christ’s millennial reign [chapter 20a]).
The book of Revelation, closing the New Testament canon, outlines the whole of end-time events surrounding the bride — extending from the judgment of Christians to Christ’s millennial reign (with those Christians found qualified at the judgment seat, forming His bride). And it could only be expected that the book forming the capstone to the New Testament would be structured in this manner, for that seen throughout the whole of the New Testament progressively moves toward one revealed goal — that day when the King and His consort queen ascend the throne and rule the earth, as one complete person.
(In that day, man will finally realize the purpose for his creation in the beginning — to rule the earth in the stead of Satan and his angels. The second Man, the last Adam [with His bride], will bring into full realization that which the first man, the first Adam [with his bride], forfeited in the fall.)
That part of the book of Revelation that details all these events — the first twenty chapters — can be outlined under six headings:
1) The Judgment Seat (chapters 1-3).
2) Crowns Before the Throne (chapter 4).
3) The Inheritance Redeemed (chapters 5-18).
4) The Marriage Festivities (chapter 19a).
5) Christ’s Return and the Overthrow of Gentile World Power (chapter 19b).
6) The Messianic Era (chapter 20a).
(Material under the first two headings [covering chapters 1-4] will be dealt with in this chapter; material under the next two headings [covering chapters 5-19a] will be dealt with in chapter 14; and material under the last two headings [covering chapters 19b, 20a] will be dealt with in chapter 15.)
The Judgment Seat
I was [‘became’] in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,
saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, and, what you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea. ”
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest [‘breasts’] with a golden band.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
…the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:10-18, 20b).
In Revelation chapter one, John is transported from Man’s Day on earth into the Lord’s Day in heaven. He is then shown a scene occurring in the Lord’s Day. And the Lord chose to reveal the scene to John in a manner that would cause him to extensively use descriptive language, metaphors, and numbers in order to convey into words that which he had seen.
Revelation of this nature is something seen quite often in Scripture, particularly in the book of Revelation (e.g., Isaiah 2:1-4; Daniel 2:31-45; 7:1ff; Revelation 12:1ff; 17:1ff). And there is always complete consistency in Scripture concerning how descriptive language, metaphors, or numbers are used. Man is never left to his own imagination in the matter.
Chapter one in the book of Revelation presents a scene that not only occurs in the Lord’s Day but also in heaven. The Church is seen removed from Man’s Day (on earth, during the present dispensation) and placed in the Lord’s Day (in heaven, following the present dispensation). And the Church (the complete Church, all Christians [shown by the number “seven” — all seven churches]) is seen in Christ’s presence, with Christ occupying the position of a Judge, not a Priest (e.g., this is shown by the girdle placed about His chest [breasts] rather than about His waist, the descriptive use of brass, fire, a sword, etc.).
Christ will perform the work of a Priest on behalf of Christians throughout the present dispensation. But once the dispensation has run its course, Christ will come forth from the sanctuary, not only to have a part in removing Christians from the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff) but also to judge those for whom He had previously ministered as High Priest ( 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; cf. Hebrews 4:11-16; 10:19-39).
The book of Revelation, in the first chapter, begins at a time following the Lord’s completion of His ministry in the sanctuary. After introductory remarks concerning Christ — where the end of the matter is seen as Messianic (vv. 1-8) — revealed events move immediately to the removal of the Church from the earth. This is seen through John being removed from Man’s Day on earth and placed in the Lord’s Day in heaven [v. 10]). Then, immediately following, a judicial scene is presented. All Christians are seen in Christ’s presence at what can only be a depiction of His judgment seat.
This is the material that God has provided to form the foundational setting for the book. This material begins with the removal of Christians from the earth and centers on their judgment in heaven; and this material sets the stage for that which can be seen throughout the remainder of the book, culminating in Christ’s millennial reign, followed by the creation of a new heavens and a new earth.
(Other parts of Scripture can be seen in this same light. Note that the foundational structure for the whole of Scripture is set forth at the very beginning, in Genesis 1:1-2:3 — a septenary structure. Or, note how the book of Hebrews is structured. In the first chapter, after several brief comments concerning Christ as “Heir of all things,” there are seven Messianic quotations from the Old Testament [remaining within both the septenary structure established at the beginning and the significance of the number seven]. The Messianic Era is that period when deliverance will be effected for the world and its inhabitants; and the book of Hebrews deals with a salvation to be realized during an era introduced in the opening chapter.
This is the way in which Scripture as a whole, the book of Hebrews in particular, and numerous other parts of Scripture [books, sections of Scripture] are structured. And a person must grasp that which God reveals at introductory points if he would properly understand subsequent revelation on the subject.)
Judgment, following the removal of Christians from the earth, is seen occurring in chapter one, though no details surrounding this judgment are given. This chapter simply sets the stage for that which follows. Then, in chapters two and three, seven epistles are directed to seven churches in Asia, with each epistle structured exactly the same way.
The epistles are introduced by revealing Christ in the midst of the seven churches, as seen in chapter one (cf. 1:12, 13, 16; 2:1); and each epistle begins with something either directly stated about or related to Christ’s description from chapter one. Christ’s knowledge of their works is dealt with next. Then there is a call for repentance and/or watchfulness. And this is followed by an overcomer’s promise — a promise to be realized following events surrounding the judgment seat, during the Messianic Era.
In this respect, chapters two and three simply form a continuation of that seen in chapter one, providing details concerning the judgment introduced in this chapter. Judgment alone forms the natural flow of continuing thought from chapter one, and this fits perfectly with that which is stated in each epistle and the way each epistle is structured in chapters two and three.
The judgment of Christians will be on the basis of works, this judgment will be with a view to showing whether a Christian has overcome or has been overcome, and the goal will have to do with proffered positions with Christ in His kingdom. All of these things, with numerous details surrounding the different parts, are shown in chapters two and three through that stated in these seven epistles directed to seven first-century churches.
Then, in another respect, these two chapters present an additional picture — a dispensational picture of the Church during Man’s Day. Though John was moved forward in time and placed in the Lord’s Day in heaven — to not only depict the future removal of Christians but to be shown the future judgment of Christians, along with things which follow — the Church, at that time, was actually still on earth during Man’s Day (1:4, 10-16).
And it is evident that these seven epistles have been arranged in a divinely designed fashion, one which reveals the history of Christendom throughout the dispensation. In this respect, these epistles begin with the church in Ephesus, which left its “first love,” and end with the lukewarm Church in Laodicea, described as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (2:4, 3:17).
This depicts exactly the same deterioration in Christendom that Christ had revealed during His earthly ministry about sixty years earlier, in the first four parables of Matthew chapter thirteen. That depicted in these parables moves from fruit-bearing in the first parable (though corruption is seen as well in this parable, as also seen in Ephesus [Revelation 2:4]) to something that had become completely leavened in the fourth parable (as also seen in the church in Laodicea [Revelation 3:14ff]).
Thus, a two-fold picture of the Church is given in Revelation chapters two and three, with the emphasis placed on judgmental matters at the end of the dispensation rather than upon a history of the Church throughout the dispensation. And, in keeping with this two-fold picture of the Church, two different accounts showing the removal of the Church at the end of the dispensation are given — one relating to the removal of the Church to appear before Christ in judgment (1:10), and the other relating to the removal of the Church at the end of the dispensation (4:1, 2), preceding the Tribulation (6:1ff).
(For material relating more particularly to preparation for meeting Christ at His judgment seat, refer to the author’s book, JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST.)
Crowns Before the Throne
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice that I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things that must take place after this [‘after these things’].”
Immediately I was [‘became’] in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:1, 2, 4, 10, 11).
Immediately following events surrounding the judgment seat, attention is again called to that previously seen in Revelation 1:10 — John being removed from Man’s Day and placed in the Lord’s Day, depicting the Church being removed from Man’s Day and placed in the Lord’s Day. And, as previously seen, calling attention to the same event again at this point in the book would show the dispensational nature of the removal of the Church — a removal occurring at the end of the dispensation (end of chapter 3).
But, with events surrounding the judgment seat already having been dealt with (in chapters 1-3), John is now shown subsequent events. In this chapter, John is shown events which will occur immediately following those surrounding the judgment seat and the revelation of the bride; and these subsequent events will occur preceding the beginning of the Tribulation (6:1ff).
1) The Heavenly Scene
Immediately after attention has been called to the same event seen in Revelation 1:10 (Revelation 4:1, 2a), John, rather than seeing a judgmental scene (as in chapter 1), now sees a rainbow encircled throne, with God seated on the throne (vv. 2b, 3). And surrounding this throne, John sees twenty-four other thrones and twenty-four crowned “elders” seated on these thrones (v. 4).
Then John begins to describe various things about God’s throne, which he both sees and hears — “lightnings,” “thunderings,” and “voices” coming out of the throne, and “lamps of fire burning before the throne” (v. 5). And “in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne” John sees four living creatures who “rest not day nor night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come”; and these living creatures “give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, Who lives forever and ever” (vv. 6-9).
Then the scene returns to the twenty-four elders, who rise from their thrones, fall down before God, worship Him, cast their crowns before His throne, and express adoration to the One worthy “to receive glory and honor and power” (vv. 10, 11).
If an apex is to be found in the book of Revelation, aside from Christ’s return in chapter nineteen, the action of these twenty-four elders would have to be considered. Their action — relinquishing their crowns to the One Who originally placed them in the positions which they occupy — is significant beyond degree in relation to the central message of this book.
2) Crowns, Regality, Government
“Crowns” have to do with regality, and the government of the earth is in view throughout the book of Revelation. At this point in the book, the judgment of Christians, with a view to regality, will have just occurred; and, with a view to this same regality, Christ, following this, is seen as the One about to redeem the forfeited inheritance through taking the seven-sealed scroll from God’s right hand and breaking the seals (chapter 5).
Angels have ruled over the earth since time immemorial — since that time when God established the government of the earth in the beginning. Angels will still be exercising this same rule over the earth following the judgment of Christians, at this point in the book. And angels will continue ruling until Christ and His co-heirs (forming His bride) take the kingdom, following Christ’s return to the earth (Hebrews 2:5).
Accordingly, neither Christ nor Christians will receive the crowns that they are to wear during the Messianic Era until after Christ returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation. The crown that Christ will wear during this time is presently being worn by Satan, as he continues to exercise power over the earth. And the crowns that Christians will wear in that day are presently being worn by two segments of angels — the angels presently ruling with Satan, and the angels who refused to follow Satan when he sought to exalt his throne.
When Satan sought to exalt his throne — following his being placed over the earth, with a large contingent of angels ruling the earth with him — only one-third of these ruling angels followed Satan, with the other two-thirds refusing to follow him (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:3, 4). And though the angels not following Satan didn’t continue ruling with him, they could not immediately relinquish their appointed positions. Rather, they had to retain their positions, remaining crowned, for a time.
A principle of biblical government necessitates that an incumbent ruler retain his crown until the one replacing him is not only on the scene but ready to ascend the throne. Only then can an incumbent ruler relinquish his crown.
(For example, note the account of Saul and David, forming a type. Saul, though disqualified, retained his crown and continued to reign until David was not only present but ready to ascend the throne. Then, Saul’s crown was taken, given to David, and David [along with certain faithful men] ascended the throne and reigned in the stead of Saul and those who had ruled with him [1, 2 Samual].
And it will be exactly the same in the antitype. Satan, though disqualified, will retain his crown and continue to reign until Christ is not only present but ready to ascend the throne. Then, Satan’s crown will be taken, given to Christ, and Christ [along with certain faithful individuals] will ascend the throne and reign in the stead of Satan and those who had ruled with him [Revelation 19:11-20:6].)
This same established principle must prevail relative to the angels refusing to follow Satan in his attempt to exalt his throne. They must retain their crowns until those who are to replace them, those who are to wear these crowns, are not only on the scene but ready to ascend the throne.
These relinquished crowns though will be worn only after Christ returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation, overthrows Satan and his angels, and forcibly takes their crowns. Only then will Christ be in possession of all the crowns that He and His bride are destined to wear as they ascend the throne and rule the earth.
Thus, with the introduction of crowns cast before God’s throne in Revelation 4:10, 11, only one group of individuals could possibly be in view (if one remains within context and keeps in mind the earth’s government in both history and prophecy). These twenty-four elders can only represent angelic rulers. Angels alone will possess crowns in relation to the government of the earth at this time.
(Some Bible students, on the basis of the pronouns used in Revelation 5:9, 10 — “us” and “we” [KJV] — have understood the twenty-four elders to represent redeemed men, not angels. However, the majority of the better Greek manuscripts omit the pronoun in v. 9 and render the pronouns in v. 10 as “them” and “they” [ref. ASV, NASB, NIV, Wuest, Weymouth].
But the matter is really not left to manuscript evidence alone. That the pronouns “them” and “they” are correct is evident from the context. Note that the song in vv. 9, 10 is sung not only by the “twenty-four elders” but by the “four beasts [‘living creatures’]” as well.)
And at this point in the book, through the action of the twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne, the way will be opened for God to transfer the government of the earth from the hands of angels to the hands of man.
(These crowns are cast before God’s throne [cf. 4:1-4; 5:1-7] because the Father alone is the One Who places and/or removes rulers in His kingdom [Daniel 4:17-37; 5:18-21]. He alone is the One Who placed those represented by the twenty-four elders in the positions that they occupied; and He alone is the One Who will place individuals in particular positions in the kingdom of Christ [Matthew 20:20-23].
These crowns cast before God’s throne, as previously seen, can only have to do with the government of the earth. And, at this point in the book, they can be worn by angels alone. The Son will not yet have taken the kingdom, though the Father will have previously delivered it into His hands [cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Luke 19:15; Revelation 11:15; 19:11ff]. These crowns are relinquished to God — with a view to man ruling in the kingdom — so that God can appoint those who had previously been shown qualified at events surrounding the judgment seat [chapters 1-3] to positions of power and authority; and those whom God appoints will wear these crowns in Christ’s kingdom.)
The transfer of the government of the earth, from the hands of angels to the hands of man, in reality, is what the first nineteen chapters of the book of Revelation are about; and, as well, this is what the whole of Scripture preceding these nineteen chapters is also about. In this respect, these twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne forms a key event that one must grasp if he would properly understand the book of Revelation and Scripture as a whole.
Christ and His bride, in that coming day, will rule the earth in the stead of Satan and his angels. And, in the process of ruling in this manner, they will wear all the crowns worn by Satan and his angels prior to his fall.
3) Action of the Elders
Thus, that which is depicted through the action of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:10, 11 is contextually self-explanatory. This has to do with the government of the earth, it occurs at a time following events surrounding the judgment seat but preceding Christ breaking the seals of the seven-sealed scroll, and it occurs at a time when Satan’s reign is about to be brought to a close.
After events in Revelation chapters one through three have come to pass, for the first time in man’s history, the person (the bride) who is to rule with the One to replace Satan (Christ) will have been made known and shown forth. And events in the fourth chapter reflect that fact.
Only one thing could possibly be in view at this point in the book, for the bride will not only have been made known but will be ready for events surrounding the transfer of power to begin. The twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne can only depict the angels who did not go along with Satan in his rebellion relinquishing their crowns, with a view to those comprising the bride wearing these crowns during the Messianic Era.
But the crowns worn by Satan and those angels presently ruling with him are another matter. These crowns will have to be taken from Satan and his angels by force when Christ returns to overthrow Gentile world power at the end of the Tribulation (a power exercised during Man’s Day under Satan and his angels [Daniel 10:13-20]).
(The fact that angels represented by the twenty-four elders are not presently ruling with Satan can be shown not only by their present position — in God’s presence, in heaven — but by the Greek word that is used for the type crown that they are seen wearing.
There are two words in the Greek text for “crown” — stephanos, and diadema. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, with regality in view, one major distinction stands out concerning how these two words are used. Diadema refers to the type crown worn by a monarch, one presently exercising regal power. Stephanos, on the other hand, is used in an opposite sense. It is used to show someone crowned but not presently exercising regal power.
For example, the crown seen on Christ’s head in Revelation 14:14, preceding His reign, is referred to by the word stephanos in the Greek text. A crown on Christ’s head at this time could only anticipate His impending reign. Then, when Christ returns to the earth to take the kingdom, He will have many crowns upon His head; and the Greek text uses diadema rather than stephanos to refer to these crowns, for Christ will be returning as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” [Revelation 19:12, 16].
The twenty-four elders in chapter four cast crowns referred to as stephanos before the throne, indicating that, though crowned, these elders were not exercising regal positions. And the many crowns that Christ will have on His head at the time of His return are undoubtedly these same crowns (Revelation 19:12). But, anticipating that day when Christ reigns, the book of Revelation uses the word diadema to refer to these crowns, for Christ will be exercising a regal position, with Satan about to be overthrown.
The crowns on Christ’s head at this time though will not be worn by Christ when He rules the earth, for He is to wear the crown presently worn by Satan [the incumbent ruler] in that day. Rather, these crowns will be given to those forming the bride [whom the Father will previously have appointed to various positions of power and authority with His Son]; and this will occur following that time when the remainder of the crowns having to do with the earth’s government are forcibly taken from Satan and his angels.
Refer to the author’s book, JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST, chapter 12 [reprint edition], for additional details concerning the use of the words stephanos and diadema in the New Testament )
The identity of the twenty-four elders is shown not only by their actions and the place in which this occurs in the book but also by their number. Comparing Revelation chapters four and twelve (4:4, 10, 11; 12:3, 4), it appears evident that the government of the earth — originally established by God prior to Satan’s fall — was representatively shown by three sets of twelve, thirty-six crowned rulers. “Three” is the number of divine perfection, and “twelve” is the number of governmental perfection.
Those angels who did not follow Satan in his attempt to exalt his throne would be represented by the twenty-four elders — two sets of twelve, showing two-thirds of the original contingent of angels ruling with Satan. And the angels who did go along with Satan, presently ruling with him, would be represented by a third set of twelve, showing the other one-third of the original contingent of angels ruling with Satan (Revelation 12:3, 4).
In this respect, these three representative sets of twelve would show divine perfection in the earth’s government. And also in this respect, this same perfection in the structure of the earth’s government has not existed since Satan’s attempt to exalt his throne.
But, this structured perfection will one day again exist in the earth’s government. When Christ and His bride ascend the throne together, crowns worn by those represented by all three sets of twelve will be brought together again. Then, divine perfection will once again exist in the government of the one province in God’s universe where imperfection has existed for millennia.