The Age of Majority
Anyone who looks into Church history will soon discover how incredibly complex and multi-faceted it is, although the astute disciple will readily note pivotal times in her past often accompanied by costly upheaval and social reform that became a defining moment or period in her journey to where she is today. Since the early missional movement chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) the timeline of the church has been delineated with historical landmarks epitomising key moments or periods of this saga until now. Like the various councils of the early church fathers who contended for the faith and defence of Truth against many heresies, their rulings consequently formulated much foundational doctrine to influence church dogma for the next two millennia. But it would be wrong to think the church always got it right or has been above reproach. Sadly there are far too many occasions when the practice of the institutional church grossly failed to exhibit the nature of the Saviour it professed, and rather than a light to the world became enshrouded in sinister darkness. Yet behind the ecclesial veneer persisted a remnant whose testimony of faith, hope and love pierce through the doleful pages of church history to reassure us the Holy Spirit has always been present where He has been welcome.
The advent of the Gutenberg Bible around 1455 was another defining moment heralding the dawn of an era in which the printed Bible would become widely distributed and available to all, whether ordained or not. Like the missional movement, this essential Bible translation and distribution still continues to unreached people groups around the world. Then shortly after Gutenberg came the protestant reformation in the 16th century which finally rendered a break away from Catholic Rome and established the Bible as the sole authority for all matters of faith and conduct with the sacrosanct doctrine of salvation entirely a work of God’s grace through the confession and belief in the person of Yeshua Messiah. Dissatisfied with Pope Clement VII refusal to consent to his divorce, it was King Henry VIII who led the way for the Reformation in England, founding the Church of England to legitimise the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533 in order to marry Anne Boleyn in the hope of siring a male heir to the throne. The events of his life and six wives are well documented, but the reason I mention this tumultuous time is because it was part of another defining season that would set the course of church history on a trajectory eventually culminating in the life and death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022.
I realise I am applying a very large brush stroke over an intricate and particularly European church history and so ask for a little leeway because my aim is not to get bogged down by an exhaustive account of such a complex past, but to tease out the prophetic significance of how all these things have led us to where we are today. Regardless of our location in the world or national history, what I will share is not restricted geographically, politically, or denominationally, but takes a step back (or should I say higher) to look through the Bridal lens and perceive the spiritual reality unfolding which supersedes the natural realm entirely.
In other words, what we may learn from the historical record is an indication of something taking place in the unseen realm. In this way history serves us with a gateway to discern the spiritual development of the Bride.
Of course, each nation has its own story to tell and defining moments or periods of how receptive it was or not to the missionaries who crossed their borders and whether the church was persecuted, compromised or indeed flourished, but no matter the unique narrative of a nation’s history, there is a shared spiritual identity that embraces the diversity of the church across all boundaries, because as Paul instructed the Ephesians we are one.
“(4) [There is] one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6) one God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all.” – Ephesians 4:4-6 NKJV
In short, all of church history has brought us through the millennia with a remarkable testament to the faithfulness and provision of God during times of great darkness and apostasy, but also times of great renewal and reformation, revival and refreshings. Incredible as it may seem, somehow we have arrived in the 21st century and reached another watershed moment this time a decree from Heaven “THE BRIDE HAS COME OF AGE”. Whatever has gone before must now give way to that which is ahead because the reality facing the church though climactic is glorious indeed: beyond her wildest expectation or merit she is betrothed to another and destined for a wedding, the wedding of the Lamb, in which she shall be most beautifully adorned for her Husband without spot or wrinkle. The overarching question we must ask ourselves therefore is not if this day shall come but will we be ready for it when it does? For whilst the church still wakes to her Bridal identity the prophetic timeline of God’s eternal purpose ticks unabated.
First of all then I should clarify what I understand “THE BRIDE HAS COME OF AGE” to mean, namely, the Bride has reached the “age of majority” which Wikipedia describes as “the threshold of legal adulthood as recognized or declared in law. It is the moment when minors cease to be considered such and assume legal control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thus terminating the control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over them”. This is a concept we are all familiar with because every nation has determined its own legal age threshold between someone considered a “minor” from someone who is not. In other words the age from childhood to adulthood. Typically, a minor will be legally prohibited from certain privileges or rights such as the right to vote, sign a binding contract, or marry, and until they reach the age of majority they remain under the supervision (or ward) of another, usually this would be parental supervision, or that provided by foster parents, grandparents, or another family member. But when someone reaches the “age of majority” they become legally entitled to make certain choices and legally binding decisions they were not entitled to before including marriage. As we shall see later, this is an extremely important point, because it means the decisions made by the Bride who has “come of age” are legally enforceable and upheld in a court of law.
Now we understand the concept, let’s see how it applies to the Bride of Yeshua Messiah and as we proceed I will navigate carefully across scripture upholding its doctrine whilst exploring deeper into the treasures contained. Whilst we have always been betrothed through the New Covenant, and therefore have always been the Bride (although strictly speaking the wife see Quick Bite XX), I am proposing a threshold exists between a minor and an adult in the eyes of God. It is a legal threshold that Heaven recognises and until the Bride comes of age, she is awarded a guardian who is charged with her care until she reaches the age of majority and crosses this threshold. Okay, before I go any further let’s take a look at a few examples in scripture. The first is from Song of Songs:
“(8) [The Shulamite’s Brothers] We have a little sister, And she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister In the day when she is spoken for? (9) If she [is] a wall, We will build upon her A battlement of silver; And if she [is] a door, We will enclose her With boards of cedar.” – Song of Songs 8:8-9 NKJV
We’ll come back to Song of Songs later because it’s very insightful concerning the dynamic at work between the Bride and her guardians. For now though, notice the guardians disclosed are the Shulamite’s brothers whom we find asking what their response should be when she is spoken for. This is consistent with ancient Semitic culture in which the brother could be the guardian of the sister as seen with Laban who kept watch over his sister Rebekah.
“(51) “Here [is] Rebekah before you; take [her] and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the LORD has spoken.”” – Genesis 24:51 NKJV
Another great example is Mordecai with his cousin Esther.
“(7) Now he was acting as the guardian of Hadassah (that is, Esther), the daughter of his uncle, for neither her father nor her mother was alive. This young woman was very attractive and had a beautiful figure. When her father and mother died, Mordecai had raised her as if she were his own daughter.” – Esther 2:7 NET
In each of these examples, whether the Shulamite, Rebekah, or Esther, the Bride had a guardian until a time arrived when she came of age and would no longer be held under the ward of her guardians but leave her custodial home to live with her husband. I believe this same principle is also true when Israel sojourned and was later enslaved for four hundred years in Egypt.
“(22) “Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.” – Deuteronomy 10:22 NKJV
Only Jacob’s household first went to live in Egypt, but during those four hundred years a Bride came of age. The custodial role of the pharaohs who in this context were Israel’s guardians, had most emphatically come to an end and even though Pharoah refused to co-operate with Yahweh’s command to “Let My People Go”, the Lord raised up the prophet Moses to enforce the decree. In summary then, when we consider the implication of “THE BRIDE HAS COME OF AGE” it is most profound indeed.
Something has shifted in the spiritual realm, and certain rights and privileges have been imputed directly to the Bride, which were previously held on trust by her guardians. She is in an unprecedented position which affords her a unique and legally enforceable opportunity to determine her destiny free from the control of others.
But all is not that simple or straight forward not least because the Bride has many enemies, and even some previously entrusted for her care will eventually try and oppose her. Another battle looms portending great upheaval and change, but make no mistake, I do not refer to any existing reformation in the church whether past or present, but something not yet beheld upon the earth.
To be continued.