Statue of mother and child (public domain)
God’s love is like a mother’s love for her children, but God’s love goes much deeper. God’s true Church conducts herself as a caring mother toward her children.
Old Testament Israel was thought of as a mother and her citizens as her children. The Bible uses the term mother to illustrate the love of God for His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you …” (Isaiah 66:13). Describing the way he and other elders had served the Church, Paul wrote, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
~ UCG Bible Study Course – Lesson 10: What is the Church?, “God’s Church Is Like a Loving Mother“
Sometimes, as you see above, you hear that the Church “is like”, or even just “is”, our mother. However, as I pointed out before, can the Church be both mother and bride of Christ? If so, that makes Jesus our father, not God the Father! Also, it is very inconsistent in that we are the Church! So, can we be our own mother?
This inconsistency slips through in the very next paragraph of the article cited above:
Paul symbolically characterized the Church of God as a mother (Galatians 4:26). In Revelation 19:7 the Church is seen as the betrothed bride of Christ. Clearly God, through His merciful, loving instructions, has provided His children with a nurturing environment through the Church.
So, is this consistent? Are we our own mother? What does Paul really say? We’ve already looked at Revelation 19:7 where the Church is the bride of Christ before the marriage ceremony, and we already looked at Revelation 21 and 22 where we see the Church becomes the New Jerusalem (after marriage). So, what of Galatians 4, then?
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
~ Gal 4:22-26
So, does that settle it? Is the Church our Mother? If so, why all of the tangled analogies?
The New Jerusalem
I guess what surprises me the most is that UCG points to Revelation 19 instead of Revelation 21. After all, that is where New Jerusalem is described “as a bride adorned for her husband”, not to mention actually being the “Lamb’s wife”:
21 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
9 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.
~ Rev 21:1-2, 9
This is where most people point when trying to compare the “Jerusalem above” with the “New Jerusalem” and somehow make it “clear” that the Church is our mother in spite of being us and in spite of marrying Christ, who would then not be our father even though He is.
Is It “Just an Analogy”?
Yes, all analogies do break down at some point. However, that’s because analogies are just that. They are not the actual thing. That is the same reason that women can be used as symbols in prophecy. They stand for something, but they are not that thing.
However, this is the same tack taken by many Protestants who say that God is not building a family! “It’s just an analogy,” they say. Of course, if you believe in some sort of trinity, you are forced to either say that or give it up because God is 3 beings squashed into 1 by some sort of new math, and we are not really made in the image of God.
However, HWA never taught that, and most COGs don’t teach that, but then suddenly some will say, “It’s just an analogy.” Well, is it?
Revelation 21, as you might recall, does not use the symbol of a woman, but it is about an actual city! The woman, the bride of Christ, the symbol, is now being explained. Remember, the Bible interprets the Bible! We only go outside of it for deeper meaning or if the words themselves are not clear and require more context than what is stated. What we see in Revelation 21 is a clear statement that what was being referred to as the bride of Christ becomes the New Jerusalem.
So, what of this New Jerusalem? Is this what Paul was referring to in Galatians 3? I will concede to you that this for a long time tripped me up. I think I had been so conditioned by what others were teaching that the real simple words of the Bible slipped right by me!
Here is Revelation 21:1 again in a more modern translation:
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and there was no sea anymore.
~ Rev 21:1 (NCV)
So, we see a New Jerusalem because there is a new Heaven and a new earth both. The New Jerusalem comes down to be on the new earth.
This is in the future.
Old Vs New
Remember what Paul wrote? “But Jerusalem which is above is free…”. He is writing of the present! If you will allow, he is talking about old Jerusalem!
What happens on earth is often patterned after what occurs in Heaven. Zion is acknowledged as being a physical type of God’s government in Heaven. The Tabernacle and later the Temple were patterns of what is going on in Heaven. The entire Book of Hebrews is devoted to such types and antitypes.
If God the Father married Israel (recall Revelation 12), then it stands to reason that there now exists a spiritual Jerusalem currently in Heaven! Paul is not talking about the future! He is talking about the present!
So, just as I went into great detail in describing the second woman of Revelation 12, we are the offspring of spiritual Israel, not the Church! We are the Church!
God is not the author of confusion (1Co 14:33).
What Is New?
As I am fond of saying, “It ain’t rocket science.” That doesn’t mean there are not nuggets of truth to mine for within Scripture. I can even be forgiving of those who are simply teaching what they have always been taught, to a point at least, because some items are not exactly high up on the priority list. However, we all need to try to strive for clarity and cohesive doctrine.
In the end, the answer is that we, the Church, will all be given new bodies, new roles and new powers. The Church will then become the New Jerusalem.
Is there anything that will not be made new? No, for as “he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5)!