In our lessons last Sunday night from the series “Questions We Are Asked”, we looked at why the Lord’s church doesn’t teach the doctrine of premillennialism, and more specifically, why we don’t believe in a rapture of God’s people. One of the things that is wrong with this view of the end times is that it misrepresents what the Bible teaches about the kingdom of God. Specifically, the premillennial theory is that Jesus came originally to establish the kingdom but that effort failed. The church was then established as a temporary fix until Jesus came again. At that time He would successful found the kingdom and He Himself would sit on its throne for a period of 1000 years.
This misunderstanding of the kingdom and the church is critical. Jesus said in response to Peter’s confession of Him as the Son of God, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus was speaking here about the church. But what is the church? In the very next verse Jesus tells us: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19). The kingdom of God is the church! Otherwise what Jesus said was that He was going to build one thing (the church) and then give Peter the keys to something else (the kingdom). Logically that doesn’t make any sense.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus used the terms ‘church’ and ‘kingdom’ interchangeably. Another example is seen in Luke 22:30, where Jesus tells His disciples that they would “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom”, which was fulfilled by the church’s observance of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). Clearly the Bible teaches that the church of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23) was not an afterthought, but was planned before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). The church, the kingdom, is the bride of Christ, for which He will return on the last day to deliver it to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).
With these thoughts in mind, this Sunday we will look at two important lessons regarding the church that belongs to Christ. Sunday morning we will look at “What Satan Separates” in a lesson from Hebrews 10:25. One of the greatest defenses we have against the schemes, lies and outright attacks of our adversary is the protection, strength, encouragement and love found in the Lord’s church. The church is a fortress against the devil and when we make a habit of being unconnected from the church we are endangering not only ourselves, but our Christian brethren as well. As we will see, Hebrews 10:25 is not simply an attendance verse…it is a command to the troops in the Lord’s Army!
Sunday night we will bring to conclusion our series with the question, “Is the church of Christ the only one?” This question has been used to attack the Lord’s church for decades and it is usually asked with much doubt and not a little anger. To answer that question we must look to what the Bible says, and what the Bible says may surprise many of us.
One thing we know for sure is that the church Jesus built, the same one the Apostles spread throughout the world, was never a denomination. Understanding what that means helps us to understand why there has been so much confusion over the years about just exactly what the church of Christ actually is. Is it one vine with many branches? Does it include every person who believes in Jesus? Does it include all humans, whether they know Jesus or not? Is it the brick and mortar that seems to be on practically every street corner in the Southern United States? Sunday night we will examine what the Scriptures have to say.
The church that belongs to Jesus, the church of Christ, is the most important organization in the world today. I hope that our lessons Sunday will show us just how important it is. Understanding that, I hope that we will all treat it with the respect, devotion and love that it deserves.