A TYPE OF THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
By Pastor Peter Bond
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:25 – 35
The book of Proverbs chapter 10 verse 7 declares, “The memory of the just is blessed.”
This man Simeon, described in verse 25 of our text as ‘just and devout’ is one of a small band of men and women of God recorded in the scriptures, who, though their part in the overall plan of God was small indeed, encourage us to believe that if we, like them can be found in the right place at the right time and in a right standing with God, He will entrust to us some small part in His divine plan; that it might be said of each one of us, as the Lord tarries: “The memory of the just is blessed.”
Think for a moment in this context of the woman in Matthew 26 who “having an alabaster box of very precious ointment…poured it on [Jesus’] head, as he sat at meat;” and of whom Jesus said, despite the protest of His disciples – seeing the apparent waste of such precious substance – that “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a MEMORIAL OF HER” (Matt 26:13)
The Lord builds His memorials from such instances of obedience; often using faithful saints of God, never mentioned before, and never heard of again; but who stepped into the tiny ‘arena’ of God’s opportunity to perform the task appointed to them.
We might think again in this context of ‘Elizabeth’, described with her husband Zacharias in Luke 1:6, as righteous before God. “Elizabeth was barren” (vs 7), and well on in years; and yet by miraculous conception she gave birth to the one Jesus was later to dub the greatest prophet ever born of a woman, John the Baptist (Luke 7:28).
“The memory of the just is blessed.” Call to mind “a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias” (Acts 9:10), entrusted with the task of ministering to Saul of Tarsus: once the arch-persecutor of the church of Jesus Christ, but now gloriously born again and awaiting this necessary visitation ‘in the house of Judas’ in Straight Street.
I want to encourage all who read this article that if God can find us in the right place, at the right time, and in a right standing before Him, He will entrust into our hands that small but vital portion in His overall plan. The Lord Jesus assured His disciples in Matthew 9:37 that, “The harvest is plentiful, but the LABOURERS ARE FEW”. Could I say reverently and respectfully: The Lord is always short-staffed! Many would claim to be in the Master’s employ; but Christ gives us as insight into Heaven’s perspective – “the labourers are few.”
Simeon was an old man but because of his standing with the Lord, he was given the assurance ‘that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.’ (Luke 2:26). As he took up the infant Jesus in his arms (vs 28), and prophesied over the Incarnate Son of God (vs 29 -32), imparting also a penetrating word ‘unto Mary his mother’ (vs 34 & 35), Simeon knew he could leave that temple at peace with His God and begin to make his own funeral arrangements – ‘he had seen the Lord’s Christ.’ Likewise Joseph and Mary, both of whom had received instruction ‘by the disposition of angels’ and had heard the amazing testimony of the shepherds at Bethlehem, could leave the temple knowing that the child entrusted to them was not only to be a ‘light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of [His] people Israel’, but was also destined for suffering and rejection.
“The memory of the just is blessed”; and none of us, who truly know Him, are too old or too infirm to be of service to the Lord. When His bidding comes, strength to accomplish the task comes with it. For ‘they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagle’s wings…’ (Isaiah 40:31) Simeon came to the temple with eagle’s wings. That ministry, the ministry of Simeon, is still being granted to faithful saints who ‘wait upon the Lord,’ who will come at God’s bidding, whether to His present-day ‘temple’ (the church), or to the lost souls of men and women, with a word in due season.
There are three things I want to mention about this man Simeon, that make him, in my view, a TYPE OF THE BRIDE OF CHRIST.
1. Just And Devout
Firstly, we notice again in (vs 25) that he is described as being ‘just and devout’: like Zacharias and Elizabeth, “righteous before God” and devoted both to God and to His service.
God does not entrust His work into dirty hands. The man in Old Testament times who would ‘minister in the priest’s office,’ if he would avoid bringing down the judgement of God upon himself, must first ensure that he is holy before the Lord (Numbers 3: 1 – 4). While it is clear that God will at time use the heathen, as He did Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, especially in matters of judgement, it is equally clear that the work closely associated with His redemption purpose is not given into the hands of ungodly men, it is given to men and women who have ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ (Ps 24:4), men like Simeon who are ‘just and devout’, who have been reckoned ‘righteous before God.’
The common assertion that the Lord will use anyone regardless of their standing before Him, regardless of the character and quality of their life, is completely unfounded. I am sure we have all too often heard a defence of that assertion based upon the evidence of Balaam’s ass (see Numbers 22:27 – 31) and how ‘the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.’ (II Peter 2:16). Such an extreme and singular instance cannot be cited to support the notion that this is the Lord’s general policy in matters of divine communication. (Some may be well contented to have a congregation consisting largely of donkeys!) But it is certain that when by the grace of God, we sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 8:11) to drink anew the ‘fruit of the vine’ with Jesus in His ‘Father’s Kingdom’ (Matt 26:29), there will be no donkeys admitted to that particular table!
Luke 2:28 offers us a touching expression of very great significance: it says of Simeon, “Then took he him up in his arms and blessed God.” What seems at first merely to be a passing reference, proves to be a statement of profound import – “Then took he him up in his arms…” for we read nowhere else in scripture that apart from Joseph and Mary, any other human vessel was permitted to handle the infant Jesus. He was not, as far as we can tell, passed around at family gatherings! This was the living temple of God; His was “Emmanuel…God with us”! (Matt 1:23). Simeon alone was uniquely granted the privilege of holding in his arms the Light of the world.
I am cautioned as I minister to the body of Christ, His Bride; as I am permitted to handle ‘the Word of Life’ (I John 1:1); to touch with voice and gesture His precious temple, the very ‘habitation of God through the Spirit’ (Eph 2:22); that I must be found as Simeon was ‘just and devout’, ‘righteous before God,’ with ‘clean hands and a pure heart,’ in a right standing before the Lord.
Secondly, it says of Simeon in verse 25, that he was ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel.’ What a potency can be found in that expression! – ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel.’
Doubtless there were many, not only in Jerusalem but throughout the whole nation of Israel, who were living in constant expectation of the coming Messiah; but how many of these missed Him when He came because they were looking for a conquering King instead of a suffering Servant. They looked for someone who would lift the burden of Roman tyranny: they were looking for a material kingdom, a political solution to Israel’s chronic distress.
Dear reader, in this time of earth-shattering events and international unrest, let us not become absorbed with physical, material kingdom or political solutions. Conditions for Christians in this world will grow steadily worse; and nothing can avert them. Let us rather cast anchor in the solid rock of Christ’s own pronouncements. Reproving the Pharisees for the very tendency I have referred to, Jesus said in (Luke 17:20 – 21) “…The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, lo here! Or, lo there! for behold the KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU.” The “Kingdom” we are to look for is a kingdom of the heart, the evidence of Christ’s order and Lordship in lives transformed by a new birth. As the Lord Jesus made abundantly clear to Pontius Pilate in (John 18:36), “My kingdom is not of this world.” If it were, He reasons, “then would my servants fight”; and He adds, “but NOW is my kingdom not from hence.” Yes, the millennial reign of Jesus Christ will come; ‘but now’ our concerns, in accordance with the Lord’s, should be for the establishment of a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men manifested in the lives of those Christ dwells in by His Spirit.
Simeon knew that Israel must pass through a time of intense conflict before the revelation of her conquering King; God would not lift the burden of Roman imperialism merely to allow Israel to continue in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. He knew that Israel’s greatest need, then as now, was not so much the lifting of oppression by a foreign power, but the lifting of the burden of sin; the restoration, not so much of territories promised under covenant by God – that will all take place in its time - but the restoration to a right standing with God, acceptance by faith in Jesus Christ, and a return to the true blessing of the Lord, namely, His very real presence and power felt tangibly throughout the nation. This is the meaning of the word ‘consolation’ in this context.
So many did not heed God’s primary and prophetic call for repentance on the banks of the Jordan and subsequently rejected their Messiah. I want to ask the question in this latest hour: What kind of Christ are we, the church, waiting for? Are many in the professing church looking perhaps for a conquering King? One who will set the world to rights, restoring liberty and justice to oppressed peoples? One who can solve the problems of poverty and starvation? The Bible does not speak of such far-reaching changes in the foreground of our time; and to be expecting such things may well lead many to accept an alternative ‘Christ’ when he eventually makes his appearance. Rather, the Lord Jesus speaks pointedly of ‘wars and rumours of wars’, of ‘famines and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places;’ of affliction, murder, hatred, betrayal, deception, and love growing cold as iniquity abounds. (see Matthew 24:6-12)
Dear Saint of God, I very much want to return with the one whose ‘vesture’ will be ‘dipped in blood’, and whose name is called ‘The Word of God.’ I very much want to be found among ‘the armies… in heaven,’ riding ‘upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean’ (Revelation 19:13 & 14). But at this point in time I am not looking for a conquering King, I am looking for a Bridegroom, awaiting the cry: “Behold the Bridegroom cometh.” (Matt 25:6) I am part of a bride who is awaiting her Bridegroom: the one who will literally catch her up and carry her across the threshold of heaven’s glory ‘unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ (Rev 19:9) This promised consummation is surely the ultimate consolation. As the apostle Paul’s desire and prayer was for his own nation in (Roman 10:1), so the desire and prayer of the Bride of Christ must be for Israel and the world, ‘that they might be saved;’ for without salvation by faith in Jesus, there is no consolation for Jew or Gentile, this side of the grave or beyond it.
(Heb 9:28) affirms that ‘unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation;’ and the crown will be awarded only to those ‘that love his appearing’ according to (II Tim 4:8). Thank God for the day when ‘every knee [shall] bow…And…every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
(Phil 2:10 &11); but first there must come the blessed union of bride and Bridegroom, and a passionate urgency among God’s people that cries, ‘If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead,’ literally (and used once only in the New Testament), the exanastasis (Greek), that is “the out-resurrection from among the dead.” I believe there is a bridal company on this earth right now, ‘waiting for the consolation’ of the church of Jesus Christ, who will not see death ‘before’ (or after) they have seen the Lord’s Christ.
3. The Holy Ghost
Thirdly, the scripture says of this man Simeon, a type of the bride of Christ, in verse 25 that “the Holy Ghost was upon him.” In verse 26 “it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost;” and in verse 22, “he came by the Spirit into the temple.” This man was endued, illumined, and led by the Holy Ghost – and so will be the bride that Jesus catches up from this world of sin.
If any one of us, dear saints of God, could determine what it is that controls us apart from the Holy Ghost, and by His grace get free from that controlling influence, we should indeed be vessels fit for the Master’s use.
Could it be selfishness? another person? the demands of work or family? Could it be pride or ambition? Are we a prey to idleness or secret sin? Is it self-pity? or a desire to be recognized? What is it that keeps us from a complete surrender to the will of God?
I believe Simeon, like countless others, had been brought by the Lord to a place of victory. The Holy Ghost was upon him. And the bride whose heart’s cry is echoed in those much-sung words, “the sky, not the grave is our goal,” will have come to that same place of victory; a victory strangely and paradoxically accomplished in us by a continual process of surrender.
“The memory of the just is blessed.” What does the Lord require of any one of us, but to be in the right place, at the right time, in a right standing before Him, and ready to do and to speak as He directs us? For the voice that called to the woman with the alabaster box, to Elizabeth and Zacharias, to Simeon, to Ananias, and to a host of others, will be the voice that one day calls us to a meeting in the clouds. May God, by His spirit, give us ears to hear that voice. For that voice will not sound repeatedly; it will not reason with us, or appeal to us in our reluctance; it will not come again and again reminding us of the will of God and of the necessity of obedience. That voice, dear saint of God, will sound just once; “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump…” (I Cor 15:52)
God has, throughout scripture and history, set many trumpets to many lips, in order to call and to gather His faithful people together. Let us, with purpose, rise to that call now, as we continue to live in hope of rising to that final call. Amen.