It would seem that, among Christians today, there is some confusion or perplexity about the identity of the entity described in scripture as "the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Revelation 21:10). It is shown to John by an angel, who describes it as "the bride" and it is represented by a city with many great features. There can be no doubt as to what is spoken of here in figure: it is the assembly, the Church. Some would say, however, that the bride is only a portion, a sub-set or a remnant of the assembly. I know there are brethren on this forum who believe that, and I'm not bringing up this subject with a view to stirring up contention or debate. I don't intend to get drawn into argument on this most holy and precious of subjects. However, the question must be examined in the light of scripture. How precious the assembly - that company formed of every believer in Him - is to the Lord Jesus! We can't possibly comprehend the depth of His feelings about it, but, we must enter into those feelings as far as we're able to and view it as He views it. It is, to Him, "My assembly" (Matthew 16:18) - "on this Rock will I build my assembly, and hades' gates shall not prevail against it." It is His, His own, not "an assembly" or even "the assembly", it is "my assembly". It is personal to Him, not merely of Him or by Him, but in Him. There is to be glory to God "in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages. Amen." (Ephesians 3:21).The feelings of Christ for the assembly are shown throughout the scriptures. There is Ephesians 5: "Husbands, love your own wives, even as the Christ also loved the assembly, and has delivered himself up for it, in order that he might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of water by the word, the he might present the assembly to himself glorious, having no spot, or wrinkle, or any of such things; but that it might be holy and blameless." Can this scripture leave any doubt at all that the assembly and the bride are one and the same? The assembly is the bride, and the assembly is not divided. Turn to the Song: "My dove, mine undefined, is but one; She is the only one of her mother, She is the choice one of her that bore her..." (Song of Songs 6:9) The assembly: she stands alone, she is indivisible, she is the object of Christ's affections. If any doubt remains that the assembly is one, never to be broken or divided, we can be assured by the parable of the merchant, who "having found one pearl of great value..." It is one pearl of great value, secured as a result of suffering and death, the suffering and death of the great Redeemer, who "emptied himself, taking on a bondsman's form, taking his place in the likeness of men, and having been found in figure as a man, humbled himself..." (Philippians 2:8). Truly, the Lord Jesus "sold all whatever he had" to secure the assembly. So far, we've glanced briefly at just a few of the scriptures which give us precious impressions about Christ's feelings about the assembly. But this fleeting glance is enough to impress us with something of the unspeakable depth of love and wealth of affection on the part of the Lord Jesus. Could we entertain, even for a moment, the thought that a portion of this precious company of the redeemed, a section of this entity, would not form part of the bride? Let us compare Genesis with Ephesians. In Genesis, we have Man presented with his counterpart, "This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..." (Genesis 2:23). In Ephesians: "For no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, even as also the Christ the assembly: for we are members of his body; we are of his flesh, and of his bones. Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ, and as to be assembly." (Ephesians 5:29-32). The assembly and the bride are one and the same. Let us touch again on the personal identification of the Lord Jesus with the assembly. On the Damascus road, note His words: "Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). Saul was literally persecuting the saints of the assembly, not the Lord Himself - but it was the Lord's body which Saul was persecuting, so it was Himself. How He felt it, the sufferings of His dear ones! How could it be that He should leave even the feeblest of that company out of that blessed company which is His bride? We should touch on a type of the Old Testament: Isaac and Rebecca (Genesis 24). Clearly, here Rebecca is a type of the assembly, Isaac of Christ, Abraham of the Father and Abraham's servant of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is sent of the Father to prepare the bride for the Son. She must not be of the daughters of the Canaanites, she must be kindred to Isaac. The bride is of Christ's kindred, she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. Time doesn't allow to go into all the rich and wonderful detail of this chapter, so we must pass on to the end: "Isaac led her into his mother Sarah's tent; and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted after the death of his mother." (Genesis 24:67) Here, Sarah is a type of Israel. Of her He could say, by the prophet, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain..." (Isaiah 49:4), "He came to his own, and his own received him not..." (John 1:11). How it grieved His heart, Israel's rejection of Him! "Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:37). But, in the assembly, He is comforted. In the bride, He is consoled. There will come a time when Israel will recognise her Messiah, "they shall look upon Me whom they pierced..." (Zechariah 12:10), but, before then He will take the assembly, the bride, to be with Himself, and will be comforted. The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25) has been cited as scriptural proof that the bride will be separated out of the midst of the body - that five prudent virgins will go in with the bridegroom to the wedding feast, while five foolish will be shut out. It is important to see what the elements of the parable represent, because then we understand its real meaning. The oil is the Holy Spirit. It should be noted that "They that were foolish did not take oil with them; but the prudent took oil in their vessels with their torches" (Matthew 23:3-4). The whole company were virgins: they had all kept themselves from certain things, maintained separation from worldliness - the difference here is that the prudent had oil, and the foolish did not. It's quite possible to go on in an outwardly respectable religious way, and profess Christianity, and keep from blatant worldliness, but do it in a fleshly way, without any inward change - without real conversion. Christendom today provides a thousand hiding-places for foolish virgins: sects and denominations which have a superficial appearance of Christianity and give their members that appearance. Tragically, many will be deceived, deluded into believing that they're earning their place in heaven by good works and church-going. But, they don't have the Holy Spirit. Because they don't have the Holy Spirit, they don't have truth: "the Spirit is the truth" (1 John 5:6). He is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13). To have an outward profession but not to have the Spirit is a unacceptable state before God, because, as the psalmist says, "Behold, thou wilt have truth in the inward parts..." (Psalm 51:6). All the virgins "grew heavy and slept". There has been a general neglect of recognition of the Holy Spirit in Christendom. All too soon after the apostolic period, the evils of ritualism, formalism and clericalism crept in, and dependence on the power and direction of the Holy Spirit was turned away from. Even before the last of the apostles was taken to be with the Lord, the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes (those who divided between 'clergy' and 'laity') was active (Revelation 2:6, 15). Consequently, expectation of the soon coming of the Lord Jesus was all but lost in Christendom for a dark period. But then, the midnight cry: "Behold, the bridegroom; go forth to meet him." (Matthew 25:6). God has, through recovery of the blessed truth, stirred up fresh expectation of the coming of the Lord Jesus. Faithful ones have heard the exhortation to "go forth to meet Him", and they're suitably prepared, because they have the Spirit. The foolish virgins, the empty professors, when the time of testing comes, will realise their deficiency. They will realise the emptiness of the world's religion, the uselessness of cultivated religious flesh. They will see real believers going on in the power of the Holy Spirit, and they'll want that power for themselves - but to no avail. True believers in the Lord Jesus can never link on with empty religious professors - we might think we can help them, but we can't help them at all by associating with them in their ways. We'll only grieve the Holy Spirit by moving in that way. The foolish virgins were not ready. The exhortation to "Go rather to those that sell, and buy for yourselves" (Matthew 25:9) would speak of spiritual exercises - exercises which the prudent virgins had gone through, which had led them to value the Spirit and have their vessels filled. When the Bridegroom is already here, when the bride is taken to be with Himself, it'll be too late for unreal professors to get reality, too late for soul-searching. They are held to a higher standard than the out-and-out infidel - they took an outward place of profession of Christianity, they had torches (which represent public profession) and so their judgement will be severer. So, we see that the "foolish virgins" were never part of the body, never part of the assembly. They took up an outward position as being part of it, when they didn't have the Spirit and they didn't have truth in their inward parts. This cannot be said of a believer in the Lord Jesus. Not even the feeblest believer in Him will be shut out by Him at His coming. The feeblest believer stands on the same ground of acceptance with God as the mightiest champion, exponent and defender of the faith. There is a strong word of caution for us in this parable however - all the virgins slept - the neglect was general, amongst real believers as well as the empty professors. The question would be, have I woken up, have I trimmed my torch? Have I removed superfluous anything which would dim my light, anything of the flesh? Is my vessel filled with the Holy Spirit? These are real exercises that every believer is called to take up, and we're responsible to do so. We see then, from the Holy Scriptures, that the body and the bride are one, and that there is no division or breaking of the body - Paul asks the Corinthians, rhetorically, "Is the Christ divided?" (1 Corinthians 1:13). The answer is an emphatic 'No'. However, more than that, we have to question what the conditions are that allowed this question even to arise. Is our appreciation of the assembly, and our consciousness of its place in the heart of Christ, so diminished that we're led to question whether or not that that cherished and beloved entity will, in its fullness and entirety, be joined to Christ? Beloved brethren - if we view the assembly as Christ views it, we can be in no doubt as to this matter. The basis on which the Lord Jesus takes up the assembly as His bride isn't a matter of our love, or our faithfulness, or our constancy. We must be found in love and faithfulness and constancy - it grieves His heart when we aren't - but individual failure in these things will not diminish by one iota what Christ finds in the completed assembly for His delight and glory. It is His work, and it is perfect. He takes it up in His great love and makes it His bride - it is His, built on the everlasting Rock - it shall never fail. I hope that we all - the writer with more urgent need than the readers - take up these things prayerfully and consider them for ourselves.