I’ve heard the term ‘Bride of Christ’ applied to us Christians by many denominational preachers. But of the grace teachers that teach from a Pauline dispensational viewpoint I’ve only heard a rare mention of it and then only in relation to “the New Jerusalem” that comes down at the end of Revelation. Would you be able to help me better understand exactly who or what the bride of Christ is?
As far as whom the bible says is the "bride of Christ"...it really never does actually use that term, nor defines it specifically. (The term "the bride of Christ" was invented by the Roman Catholic church as a word to describe them as God's people in the earth.) Since it is not a term found in the Bible, it is a non-essential doctrine for today under Grace and nothing to be too concerned about. All one can do is truly speculate about what that term means because it is not found in the Word of God!
But, with all that said, if I had to show a passage from scripture that comes the closest to the words "the bride of Christ," I would go to the book of Revelation where John, an apostle to Israel, is foretelling a future event where the City of God, the heavenly Jerusalem comes down to the earth with Christ at his second coming to Israel.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Notice here that John says that this city comes down as a bride adorned for her husband. John does not say in this passage who the husband is, nor does he actually say that the city is a bride...but only that it is as a bride.
He goes on to say…
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
Here, an angel tells John that the city is the bride, the wife of the Lamb (a term only used in prophecy of the Lord Jesus, and never used by our Apostle Paul in his 13 books on the Mystery). So one can make a case from this verse that if anyone in scripture is to be called the so-called bride of Christ, it is clear that it is not people-group like the body of Christ, but a place, a city, the new Jerusalem!
Again, although the term "the bride of Christ" is not in the bible, and was made up by the Roman Catholic religion as a way of exalting their authority here in the earth, if I had to say what this bride is, according to the above verses, it is not any church, but a city!
Look at this prophetic passage from Isaiah 62 about the time when the Lord will save and redeem the believers in Israel and set up his kingdom...
For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
Notice it is all about Zion/Jerusalem, and those Jewish people (of whom our Lord is the true representative of) being re-united or married to the LAND! In verse 5, both the sons of Israel and the Lord will marry and rejoice over this city.
As far as passages in our Apostle Paul's epistles....he never even uses the word bride, so it is ridiculous for anyone to say that the so-called "bride of Christ" is the church, the body of Christ! Yes it is true that in a couple of passages our Apostle likens the church to a virgin espoused and a wife with her husband, but because he never uses the word bride and we see it used by both John and Isaiah, tells us that this is a prophetic term and not one used by our Apostle in the mystery.
Hopefully this helps...Maranatha!