One cannot, in reading the Bible carefully, but only be struck at the prominence of marriage as a symbol for the relationship between Elohim (God) and His people - in the New Testament, Christ and His Church or Messianic Community. But what perhaps most Christians/Messianics don't always appreciate is that the Bible furnishes us with many models of marriage and of the Church (Messianic Community), of which only one is the correct one.
A. THE CORRECT PATTERN
Every human being starts as a baby, grows into an infant, child, and then a youth. He (or she) will spend some time as a single person before entering the estate of marriage. If we compare this with the scriptural model of the marital consummation and joy of the saints with Christ at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb (which is the model we shall be using throughout), then singleness can only represent the condition of being cut off from Yahweh and from salvation. Singleness cannot, therefore, be viewed as anything else but an unnatural state for man, as is confirmed by Yahweh's reason for giving Adam a mate in the Garden of Eden. Singleness represents loneliness. The few instances where a man or woman may be called to serve Yahweh in a single estate can only ever be seen as a rare exception to the general principle.
Everyone entering the marriage estate must do so as a monogamist, monogamy being the first rung on the metaphorical marriage ladder. The number of rungs on the latter will be determined in part by the spiritual preparedness of those entering matrimony and, therefore, Yahweh's will. There are times and seasons for all things, as the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us. Taking the model of the union of the Church (Messianic Community) to the Bridegroom, the monogamous estate can only be seen as symbolically representing a soul coming to faith in Christ for the first time. Monogamy therefore symbolises a man or a woman coming into a personal relationship with Christ, a relationship which is unique to him/her and his/her Lord.
The life of a believer does not, as we know, end as a single, solo, private relationship with the Saviour. The moment a person enters such a relationship he is at once a part of a larger family with which he must also enter into a relationship. That family is the Universal Church (Messianic Community) or Body of Christ and specifically the local church (assembly). Once born again of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), the believer is immediately thrust into life of fellowship as a witness and edifier of the Body as a whole. Just as he must cultivate a relationship with His Lord and Master, Yah'shua (Jesus), he is expected to cultivate a relationship with Yahweh's people too. And according to Yah'shua's (Jesus') High Priestly Prayer in the Gospel of John, the unity or oneness (echadness) that he is to seek is to be directly compared to the oneness (echad) he has with Christ, which in itself is to be compared to the oneness (echadness) that Christ has with His Father, Yahweh. Thus we come to the central model of the Church (Messianic Community), which is represented allegorically as a polygamous marriage of believers to Christ - relationships are to be cultivated horizontally (between the plural Bride) and vertically (between the plural Bride and Yahweh through Yah'shua/Jesus). We all recognise this (or should recognise this) as the reason and justification of POLYGYNY (one man married to two or more women). Without polygyny there is, indeed, no Church (Messianic Community) - only solo personal relationships with Christ, which in reality is probably as far most believers want to go.
We see in this very simple pattern that polygyny or plural marriage is the final unfolding of the marriage estate. The fact that the relationship between Christ (the Messiah) and the Church (Messianic Community) is further described as a single Bride alerts us to the fact that marriage is essentially about relationship and begins with the one-to-one relationship between man and his first (chronological) wife. But we must not be deceived into looking at this model as being anything more than a symbol within a symbol - it is not a vindication of the monogamy-only mindframe. The Bride is simply a symbol of plural people. Christ cannot marry an abstract entity called the 'Church' (Messianic Community) because the 'Church' (Messianic Community) is itself composed of many millions of the saved (a 'community'). Were this to be a representation of the monogamy-only model, then Christ would have to be no more than a symbol also, which is patently absurd. Indeed, such thinking leads you into pantheism, the occult, and paganism, which views the 'Christ' as essentially being a property of the Self which is to be awakened or attained. In the allegorical marriage of Christ to His Church (Messianic Community), Christ cannot be seen as anything but real Deity - His unitary Bride is simply a convenient way of representing the purpose of the whole symbol, which is to portray as the supreme goal of our Heavenly Father His desire that the redeemed be completely one (echad) in mind, heart, and soul. The reality is that this unitary Bride is plural, consisting of many other people. To insist otherwise is to deny that humans have any real, objective existence in the next life.
It is for this reason that I insist that polygyny is the natural, final end-result of the redeemed in Christ - the overcomers - and that monogamy is but a stage - important and vitally necessary though it is - in that process. Indeed, the fact that it is biologically impossible to jump from the single state to the polygynous one is to remind us that the Church (Messianic Community) cannot be built until each individual is in a personal, saving relation with Christ. There is no such thing as a 'nominal Christian'. Likewise, there is no such thing as being 'born in a Church (organisation/denomination)' any more than there is such a thing as being 'born into a marriage' - marriage is something that must be actively sought for and entered into only when the hearts and spirits of the two concerned are in harmony with one another.
B. FALSE PATTERNS
1. The Solo-Christian
The solo Christian, the one who accepts Yah'shua (Jesus) as Lord and Saviour, and then keeps to himself, would best be described as being in a state of arrested development. He is a spiritually self-inflicted pigmy - someone who has deliberately retarded himself. Such a person is living in an unnatural state. Though he began correctly, he literally cuts off his hands and feet so that he can go nowhere and do nothing meaty for Christ - he is limited to a milk diet. Not until such a person is in a polygynous relationship with Christ as an active member of the Body (Messianic Community, local Congregation/Assembly on a lower level) is he actually in proper relationship with his Lord. He is like the single-celled amoeba as compared to a human being with organs and organ systems consisting of lots of individual people (cells) working together for the common good. Who can argue that a human being is not altogether more glorious and wonderful to behold than a microscropic single-celled amoeba?
2. The Serial Polygamist
When monogamists marry and then divorce one another to then marry again - often many times in our modern Western culture (cult) - we are looking at a chain of abortions. What this symbolises is either (a) an incorrect view of Christ, or (b) an unwillingness to be a disciple.
For true marriage you need:
- (a) Many women abandon their husbands because they consider them to be defective. Many turn away from Christ because they have actually formed a relationship - not with the true Christ - but with a false image of Him. He may be the 'christ' of cultic groups who teach false gospels or may simply be an inner projection of what the woman wants her 'private' christ to be. And when 'he' fails to deliver the spiritual goods, she rejects him and looks for another one;
- (b) Many marriages break-up because the woman is quite simply a bad wife. She may have feministic tendencies (reject patriarchy), thus rejecting the biblical pattern or tavnith of discipleship. Quite understandably such a relationship will either end up as a kind of prison or spontaneously abort.
Without these one relationship leads to another. The serial polygamist is someone who is quite simply doing it all wrong.
- (a) a correct view of your spouse and his/her rôle in the relationship, and
- (b) a correct understanding and obligation of your own responsibilities.
3. The Multiple Monogamist
There are some polygynists who set up their wives in separate homes because the wives don't get on with one another and it's easier for them to manage them that way. This can only symbolise divisions within the Body of Christ or DENOMINATIONALISM. Because denominations have been around for so long, people have grown accustomed to them and accept them as being a part of the 'natural' Christian landscape. They aren't. A polygamist man and his wives who has failed to bring unity to his family is reflecting either a spiritual deficiency in himself, his wives, or both. The Bride of Christ is One Symbolic Bride, not several, as denominationalism represents, and as such is a sin. Denominationalism represents multiple bodies of Christ within a single Body. It isn't natural or right.
A close examination of the family's doctrinal beliefs and of their individual discipleships ought to reveal the deficiencies. Since a single symbolic Bride is commanded, then repentance and reformation is called for. Paul teaches that the Body of Christ has been given multiple ministries to ensure that this happens until the believers come to a "unity of the faith". Starting with that list is most instructive, for it begins with 'Apostles' and 'Prophets' (1 Corinthians 12:28) - where these ministries are absent, you are in trouble right from the start.
4. The Polyamorist
Popular amongst pagans is polyamory, lots of men and women all 'married' together. The symbolism of this suggests that there are many christs (the 'husbands') and (in most instances) a parallel number of believers ('wives'). One cult I know of specialises in this kind of relationship, which it calls 'patri-matriarchal marriage' (a misnomer if ever there was one).
The liberal or the ecumenist is probably one of the best illustrations of this model. Indeed, this model is the foundation of our modern liberal democracies - even the motto of the United States, 'Out of Plurality, Unity' may be seen as a symptom of this upside-down model of true marriage. If we look at the biblcal model, a truer motto would be 'Out of Unity, Plurality'. Ecumenicism accepts the status quo, recognising the equal authority of the various disagreeing denominations. It is an 'agreeement to disagree' which, whilst acceptable on a human level (so that we can all live together in peace) is definitely not acceptable if it purports to represent the mind of Elohim (God). Yahweh is most definitely not happy with denominations and factions because they imply that all the 'christs' they represent are equally valid.
There is only one Christ and one Plural Bride; this model multiplies the christs and makes them all equally valid. It multiplies different laws and authorities in the universe, which cannot be, because the creation hangs upon a unified Torah or Law, not many.
Polyandry - one woman married to two or more men - may be said to be the exact inverse of the true principle of polygyny. Symbolically this represents a single individual worshipping a multitude of gods. It is, in short, POLYTHEISM. Worse, the gods are actually SUBJECT to the individual, since the individual person is the HEAD. We are, in fact, looking at RAW OCCULTISM, in which the occultist, through magic, attempts to control and manipulate unseen forces for his own personal use.
Because this is probably the least easy of marriage forms to maintain, it is not surprising that it is so unsuccessful.
6. Homosexuality and Lesbianism
These are actually two separate principles even though they are usually incorrectly lumped together. Homosexuality represents multiple fasle christs or heads all married to themselves (an explosive and unstable mixture if ever their was one) whereas lesbianism represents the Church (Messianic Community) with no Head or Christ at all (a kind of spiritual anarchy).
Christ does not allegorically marry little children, He blesses and protects them until they are old enough to make up their own minds. The pernicious doctrine of Infant Baptism, practiced by many of the older 'established' churches, is actually a symbolic representation of pedophilia.
8. Gunshot Marriages
The equivalent of forcing someone to convert to Christ against their will.
This is a well recognised symbol in the Bible. When Yahweh's people turn to false gods, they have prostituted their marriage relationship to Him.
Turning the allegory into literal marriage.