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PROPHECY: Perceiving The Bride Of Christ
January 6, 2003

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Dear Readers:

Recently, the Lord, speaking through Bob Neumann, leveled the charge against WPA that “WPA has no perception of the bride of Christ”. Bob, as a member of WPA, is including himself in that charge. Since I read it, I have sought the Lord to either acquit myself of it, or to see my lack clearly, to repent and be free of it. I truly do want to perceive.

Perceive: to attain awareness or understanding of…to become aware of through the senses.

Perception: a mental image….awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation, quick, acute and intuitive cognition.

I recall, several years ago, a conference where Gene Edwards began to tearfully and loudly cry out: THE BRIDE….WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO HER? WHERE HAVE THEY HIDDEN HER? Gene had much to say about this. The bride is barely visible here in the American church, and Gene was bemoaning that fact. He said that none of us really have any idea of what or who the bride really is because we have never seen her. Perhaps that may be one reason why I lack a perception of the bride of Christ: I simply haven’t seen her very much.

When I heard Gene say that, I resisted it at first. I thought that surely, what we have at Harvest Fellowship must be the working of the bride of Christ. But I spent some time considering it, and I understood how much we lacked, and how desolate we really are.

Now, it has been said before and again, and at first, I resisted. Surely, I must have some perception of the Bride of Christ. But again, I find that since I never see the bride, I can only perceive her if I make a constant effort to create a mental image of her in my mind. Everything in churchianity wars against the formation of that mental image in my mind, and distracts me from what is supposed to be.

Once in a while, I would see glimpses of what she could be like in a home fellowship. But, then we would all retreat to the self reliance of our own little worlds, independent of one another, and the bride would vanish, for the bride is ONE BRIDE, she is not a collection of millions of little brides. The bride is certainly not the present church system built upon the foundation of the pastor. It is not the mega church. Where is she?

God says of certain of his people that they are ever seeing, but never perceiving. I find that I not only have a lack of perception, but I have not seen very much of her either, other than in my imagination.

Who is this bride? I shall make my own feeble, inadequate attempt to portray her from God’s word.

1) Scripture says she comes down out of heaven. Since those who come down out of heaven are comprised of those who are caught up in the air to be with the Lord, and these are preceded by the dead in Christ, this is a group of people who have followed the Lord in all ages. They have known the Lord, and He has made His home with them while they lived on the Earth. This is the return of Christ, with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, as Jude saw.

2) Jesus says she is not foolish, and she is a virgin. She doesn’t go after other lovers. She knows her bridegroom. She waits for him. She is prepared. She may go to sleep, but she wakes up when the cry goes forth. She has a lamp that she pays attention to, and she keeps it lit and trimmed and looks after her oil supply. 50% of the eligible virgins were wise, and 50% were foolish. The foolish ones have terrible timing: they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They left their post. They try to take oil from the wise. Those who were foolish Jesus NEVER KNEW. They are not saved. They only look saved.

3) Jesus says she has on the right clothes: spotless ones. She comes to the feast when she is called. She is ready. She is not so busy with the things of this world that she blows off His invitation.

4) John says he is a friend of the bridegroom. Apparently, the bride is not the only one at this feast.

5) She has many names. She is called the holy city, the New Jerusalem, THE CHURCH..EKKLESIA, the body of Christ. The called out ones, the sought after ones. But, this church shares all things in common. This is unlike any church I have ever seen with my eyes.

6) Paul compares our condition to natural marriage, and wrote to the Romans that we, as brothers, died to the law, so that through the body of Christ, we might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. She brings forth this fruit in common, and shares all things in common. She is alive.

7) We are informed that we are presently espoused to the Lord, and that He watches over us with a Godly jealousy. Imagine just how jealous He must be just about now?

I have heard of places where this bride of Christ has been seen on the Earth. Today, I hear she has been seen in Africa, where the per capita income is $400 per year, there are no television sets, and the nominal Christian prays about 4 hours per day and fasts several days per month. I can imagine she is alive and well in Indonesia and Vietnam and China as believers huddle in secret under the threat of murder at the hands of the Muslims and Communist regimes. She was once very strong in Rome, but not very visible, since she was in hiding in the catacombs under the city.

Apparently, she does not do well with the soft, tender care from men. Approval from government is a death knell to her. To the contrary, she seems to require rough handling, starvation, persecution, abuse and suffering to be healthy. From my chair in South Florida, I can only imagine what she must be like, although I have seen glimpses of her during the last fifteen years.

I saw her briefly after Hurricane Andrew while I worked for ten days helping those who had lost everything in that terrible storm. The bride was visible, but just for a short time, and not constantly, but here a bit, and there a bit. Then, we went back to our independent lives, and she became invisible once again.

Once in a great while, I saw her in my ministry to the urban poor and the addicts. I have seen evidence of her in me at times…once, when my Father disinherited me for the sake of the gospel when he was worth $100 million, and I rejoiced. I saw her light coming forth from within me.

Very soon now, she is going to be visible in America in all of her glory. She will be seen arising from the ashes of burning American cities. In that hour, and in those many hours, American believers will need to seek the Lord and each other. They will become DEPENDENT upon one another and upon their Lord. They will have nowhere else to turn, and she will be visible like she has never been before in America.

Some claim to be prophets, but issue prophecies that shilly shally all over the place. There are more loopholes in their prophecies than may be found in your typical used car warranty. These continually emphasize that we need to pray, pray, pray, and God will spare our land. Prayer is wonderful, but God is not going to spare our land with prayer alone. People must TURN.

How can people turn when we can’t even see or perceive the bride? My people, under God’s conditions must humble themselves, and pray and seek His face and TURN from their wicked ways. How will they turn when they don’t even know how to be the bride, let alone know who she is, or what she looks like?

Some will say that I ascribe a viciousness to God. Why would God give us a command to turn when we have no ability to do it? Surely, there must be the ability in the strength of the Lord to do this, yet will America turn…will the bride be manifest in America through some type of Apostolic reformation? I sincerely and most totally doubt it.

Saturday, the Lord woke me at 5:00 A.M. and sent me to an intercession meeting at a Spanish church. I was asked to speak concerning what God is saying to America, but before I could finish my word, a young lady named Patricia was struggling to get my attention. She began to wave just after I began speaking, and I ignored her for awhile, but she was persistent. Finally, I asked for her comments, and she said the Lord had told her earlier to give this word to me, from Ezekiel 33:

“Son of man, say to the house of Israel, This is what you are saying: Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live? Say to them, As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?”

How is the present church in America going to manufacture the bride? How will this present system bring her forth? We are clueless in how to do it. If we do bring Her forth, the people will not participate. We have the church we have because the people will have it no other way.

No, God must bring forth the bride here in America. She is going to be awakened with a very strong tonic mixed in God’s pharmacy. Then, we will see her. God longs for her with a Godly jealousy.

Years ago, the Lord gave me a revelation in which He likened America to a cancer patient in the advanced stages of the disease. The patient needs chemotherapy, but the family doesn’t want the patient’s hair to fall out, so they are arguing against it’s use. They are demanding that the doctor not use that strong medicine, yet, the cancer is spreading, and more delay will mean that stronger and stronger chemotherapy will be required to kill the cancer. Too long a wait will kill the patient.

Since that day, I stopped praying that God would not send the cure to America. I only pray that he administers the medicine wisely and mercifully, and that He turns every heart to Himself. Perhaps, with some strong medicine, the Bride will be seen, and hearts will be inflamed with Christ so that all of our cities will not need to be set on fire.

What is mercy anyway? Is it merciful for God to allow this present church to continue in America? Is it merciful for this present strangulation of the Bride to continue? Some say, with respect to children, that we are abusing them when we spank them, yet our Lord says that if we do not discipline them, we do not love them. We are God’s children, and He believes in proper discipline.

Very soon now, the rod of discipline will be seen. It will not be pleasant. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

I know that what I have written about the bride of Christ probably resembles what a Fiji Islander would write about New York City based upon the reading of a travelogue, but it is a very good travelogue. I do long to see the bride with my eyes. I long to be a part of the bride, not just in the heavenly throng, but as a member of an earthly body of many members. I know that we lack so much. Have mercy upon us, Lord Jesus.

Stephen L. Bening

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