Foundations of Our Faith – Part 10 – The Past, Present and Future Church

 

To download or stream this sermon please scroll to the bottom of the page.

The Greek word translated “church” simply means “assembly or community.”

When the term is used in the bible in the spiritual sense it refers to both a local community  and a world-wide community.

The World-Wide Church (1 Cor. 12:13).

Notice the word “all.” When all trust Christ for eternal life, they are immediately baptized into one body. The body into which all are baptized is the body of Christ, The church. Paul put it perfectly when he says; (Eph. 1:22-23) Everyone who trusts in Christ become related to one another.

The Beginning. 

The word “church” does not occur in the Old Testament in the sense of the universal church of Christ. In fact, it only occurs three times in all of the Gospels and in one of those references it is obvious that it is still to come. (Matthew 16:18) I believe along with most that the universal church, began on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 1:5) Acts 2 records the fact that the Holy Spirit descended on 120 believers on the day of the Feast of Pentecost. Therefore, I believe it is clear, the church began on the day of Pentecost. In the future, the universal world-wide church will be taken out to be with Christ in something called the rapture. That’s why the word “church” never occurs beyond Revelation chapter 3.Therefore, a definition of the doctrine of the universal church is: “The spiritual community composed of all saved people from Pentecost to the Rapture”. But at any point in time that community is expressed through the;

The Local Church community

When the word “church” is used in the New Testament to refer to a local group of believers who are organized locally for a specific purpose.  So, a simple definition of the local church is a group of saved believers who are organized for the purpose of doing God’s work and will. The organizational structure of a local church is at outlined in the New Testament.

Organization.

Five simple statements spell out, as well as summarize, the organization of the church in the New Testament:

  • Christ is the Head of the Church.
  • Pastors/Elders are responsible for the local Church.
  • Deacons serve.
  • Gifted believers also help equip the saints.
  • All believers minister Christ.

Christ Himself is the head of the church, that must never be forgotten.

Elders or Pastors are responsible to see to it that God’s will is carried out in a church.

Deacons then are called to serve. The qualifications for deacons are given in 1 Tim. 3:8-13.  The New Testament nowhere indicates that they are to meet like a board, and make decisions. They are to serve, in carrying out the decisions of the Elders/Pastors who should meet in that way. They are expected to carry out acts of service under the direction of the Elders or Pastor.

 

Gifted believers are believers called upon to express their gifting by equipping the saints for work of service. They are not called to rule or to make leadership decisions. Rather, they free of that responsibility and accountability in order that they can focus on ministering with their gifting across the whole community.

All believers are called to minister. Throughout the epistles of the New Testament believers are constantly told to minister to one another. Christians are not to go to church to be spectators, but to be participants.

The local church – Its Ordinances.

Baptism

The word “baptism” means “to dip or immerse.” The very word used when John the Baptist is described as baptizing believers in (John.3:23). Interestingly, did you know that infant sprinkling was not generally practiced until the 12th century[1]

Lord’s Supper

Most Evangelicals, Protestants and Pentecostals contend that the Lord’s Supper is merely a memorial, a symbolic remembrance of Christ’s death. I believe the Bible supports the symbolic position.  The definition of an ordinance is: “an outward symbol of a spiritual truth”  The two ordinances of the church are both symbolic, but just because they are symbolic does not mean that they should be treated lightly.

Its Commission

After the resurrection of Christ, and before His ascension, Jesus appeared repeatedly to the apostles and others. On several of these occasions He gave them what is commonly called “The Great Commission”. Five versions of it are recorded in the New Testament (Mt. 28:16-20; Mk.16:14-18; Lk. 24:44-49; Jn. 20:19-23; Acts 1:6-11). An examination of the five passages containing the Great Commission reveals that the overriding, the overall commission is to

Summary:

The essence of the biblical doctrine of the church is that there is a universal church, which is a spiritual organism composed of all saved people throughout biblical salvation history. Which covers Pentecost up to the future rapture. At any point in time turn this will manifests itself in the local church who are an organized group of believers.

What are you called to do as being part of this local church?

  • Attend it—Hebrews 10:25. 2
  • Support it— Financially - Galatians 6:6-9
  • Minister to others while there—Hebrews 10:24-25

SESSION 2 - THE FUTURE CHURCH It seems to me there are three possible levels of knowledge of Bible doctrine.

Level one, people can describe a particular doctrine.

Level two, they can demonstrate it.

Level three, they can defend it.

How much do you know about biblical prophecy? Most Christians don’t know much. Those of us in a Bible-teaching church may be aware that there will be a thing called the Rapture or have heard of the Tribulation. Maybe even have heard of a Millennium of rule by Christ on the earth. That would be level one knowledge of the Bible doctrine of prophecy. Not very many Christians can go to level two. Could you? Could you take a Bible and show another person where it says which comes first the Rapture or the Tribulation? Could you demonstrate from the Scriptures where it says that Christ will reign on the earth for 1,000 years? Perhaps this evening I can take you firmly to level 1 knowledge. And maybe just one step towards having a level two understanding of biblical prophecy.

Several of the major events concerning things to come are outlined in one passage of Scripture. Matthew Chapter 24 Jesus In Matthew 24:4-14, describes the end of the age. He says it will be a period characterized by false Christ’s (Mt. 24:4-5), as well as war (Mt. 24:6-7). There will be both the reality and the rumour of war. This period Jesus is describing will also be characterized by natural disasters (Mt. 24:7). There will be famines, epidemics, and earthquakes. Persecutions will also take place (Mt. 24:9-10). There will be tormentors outside the church and traitors from within it. There will be general spiritual decline (Mt. 24:11-13). There will be false prophets; in fact, many false prophets. As deception increases, devotion will decrease. This period that Jesus describes in Matthew 24 grows to be become something that is called the Tribulation Period (Mt. 24:29). Other passages give us more details. Daniel indicates that this “tribulation” period will last for seven years (Dan. 9:25-27). John confirms that also in; (Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5). A straight forward definition of the Tribulation is: a period of judgment lasting seven years and covering the whole earth, which will precede the second coming of Jesus Christ (Mt. 24:4-14, 29-30).

After the Tribulation the Lord will return to the earth. Jesus himself says, (Matt. 24:29-30). Notice, “Immediately after the tribulation” the Son of Man will come.

Much, much more could be said about the Second Coming of Christ. For example, He will arrive on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:3-4) and it will split in two. The great contrast, however, is between the first coming and the second coming. The first time, He came as a lamb to die and to save. The second time He will come as a lion to judge and to rule.

Matthew 24:30 says the Son of Man will come “with power and great glory.” The book of Revelation describes the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in chapter 19. Then, Revelation 20:1-3 says the Lord will rule on the earth for 1,000 years.

Let’s put all of this together.

The Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and part of Ch 25 outlines for us three of the major events of coming prophecy.

  • Matthew 24:29 tells of the Tribulation.
  • Matthew 24:30 I believe teaches that Christ will come immediately after the Tribulation. (Possibly mid trib)
  • Matthew 25:31 clearly teaches He will sit on His throne after that, which means He will rule on the earth for 1,000 years.

What about the Rapture? The Bible teach that Christians will be removed from the earth? But the next big question is when.

There are three possible answers:

Before the Tribulation. In the middle of the Tribulation. After the Tribulation?

Which answer is correct? We are not going to go into that this evening. While I recognize there is a great debate with many differences among Christians on this question. However, I do believe the New Testament teaches the doctrine of immanence. There is a difference between something being “soon” and something being “imminent.”  “Imminent” means, impending, likely to happen.” The Rapture is imminent. It is pending, but it might not necessarily be immediate. Paul believed the Rapture might even possibly take place in his lifetime. (1 Thes 4:13)

Summary:

An outline of things to come is: We can all agree on.

  • The Lord will rapture the church (Rev.3:10)
  • There will be a period of Tribulation (Mt. 24:29)
  • The Lord will return (Mt. 24:30)
  • The Lord will reign on the earth (Mt. 25:31).

Those four statements, and those four references are not disputed. They should also give any believer a step towards level two knowledge of the doctrine of biblical prophecy. It’s up to you now if you feel God is calling you to go seek beyond and deeper into these things of God. Now go and do something with it. Don’t let it just sit as dry words on a page, or an intellectual exercise. Go out in the world and use what God has revealed to you to make disciples.

[1] (Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine, p. 152).

Topics: