CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS FUTURE
FORMATION OF THE KING'S BRIDE
W. E. Best
W. E. Best
quotations in this book designated "NASB" are from the NEW AMERICAN
STANDARD BIBLE, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1977 by
the Lockman Foundation, and are used by permission. Those designated
"translation" are by the author and taken from the Greek Text. All
others are from the King James Bible.
book is distributed by the
W. E. Best Book Missionary Trust
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is Volume III of an extensive series on the subject of Christ's future
Kingdom. Volume I presents the King's genealogy; Volume II, the introduction
of the King; and Volume III, the formation of the King's Bride. Future volumes
will be released periodically. The complete series will comprehensively cover
all aspects of Christ's future Kingdom as revealed in the Scriptures from
Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.
The first advent of Jesus Christ ushered in the age of Christ's assembly during the period of the times of the Gentiles. Distinction must be made between the times of the Gentiles and the fullness of the Gentiles. The times of the Gentiles began with Nebuchadnezzar, and they will be consummated when the Son of Man comes in power and glory to establish His kingdom on the earth (Luke 21:24). The fullness of the Gentiles speaks of Christ, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, taking out from among the Gentiles His assembly which He is presently building (Rom. 11:25; Acts 15:13-17). Subsequent to the fullness of the Gentiles, the last form of Gentile rule on earth will be destroyed by Christ's second advent (Rev. 19:11-21). Hence, the assembly which Christ is building is not an eschatological kingdom.
Jesus Christ assumed human nature in order to bring Himself into reality with His covenant people, both elect Jews and elect non-Jews. The eternal covenant has the God of peace as its Author, the great Shepherd of the sheep as its fulfillment, and the sheep for whom Christ died as its recipients (Heb. 13:20). The incarnate Savior must suffer before He enters into the glories of His kingship. Thus, He was qualified for His future reign as King of kings and Lord of lords by His sacrificial death on behalf of the elect and His taking on Himself human nature in its glorified form. Furthermore, His redeemed ones must not only be regenerated but also have glorified human natures like Christ's in order to reign with Him in His future kingdom. This is the concise meaning of "so great salvation" (Heb. 2:3) for both the assembly and Israel (I Thess. 4:13-18; I Cor. 1:10; Is. 25:9; Rom. 11:26).
The prophets described the sufferings of Christ, and they also spoke at length about the consummation of salvation in the coming kingdom. Although we must never detract from the sufferings of Christ (Rom. 3:24-26), it is equally important that we do not limit the full scope of Scripture which includes the completion of salvation in the kingdom. The sufferings of Jesus Christ were the means of securing "so great salvation" (Heb. 2:3-5).
The "mystery of godliness" (I Tim. 3:16) enables us to better understand the heavenly treasure being committed to an earthly vessel, the local aspect of Christ's assembly. Christians embrace the truth that practical sanctification is wrought in us through the local assembly. The assembly is the pillar (support) and ground (basis) of the truth, and truth is the means of practical sanctification (I Tim. 3:14, 15; John 17:17; I Thess. 4:1-8; 5:14-23). Truth has been entrusted to the assembly; therefore, faithful men should be appointed to handle the word of truth (II Tim. 2:2). Men with ordinary gifts are given to local assemblies for the edification of believers (Eph. 4:11-16), and these men should be recognized by the assemblies before their appointment (I Tim. 3:1-7). This is why behavior is emphasized in I Timothy 3:15.
The nature of Christ's assembly which He is building is revealed in her invisible and visible aspects. The invisible aspect is the life principle; therefore, it is the great institution of unanimity--harmony and unity. Hence, one does not believe in Christ because he believes in the assembly, but he believes in Christ's assembly because he believes in Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which the assembly Christ is building can say, "No one comes to the Father except through me." Why? It is the invisible principle of life. Conversely, the visible aspect of the assembly would be heretical to say, "No one comes to the Father except through me." Why? That would be institutional salvation.
As the human nature of Jesus Christ is the visible manifestation of the invisible God, the local assembly is the visible manifestation of the invisible principle of life. Therefore, to say Jesus Christ was wholly spiritual in His first advent is to deny the incarnation; likewise, to say the assembly is wholly invisible is to repudiate her visibility. Furthermore, to deny the incarnation of Jesus Christ is to deny the new birth which is the principle of life coming by virtue of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Moreover, to say the assembly of Christ is only visible is the same principle as saying Jesus Christ is only human.
Since Jesus Christ and His assembly are both invisible and visible, Christ and His kingdom are both invisible and visible. The visibility of the kingdom at Christ's first advent was in the one born King, because it was in Him that "the kingdom of the heavens has approached [perfect active indicative of eggidzo]" (Matt. 3:2--translation). However, the invisible kingdom of heaven, which is presently with the Father, shall be given to the Son to be visibly manifested on the earth at Christ's second advent (Luke 19:11 ff). Furthermore, to say the kingdom is wholly spiritual and invisible is like saying Christ, His assembly, and His kingdom are wholly spiritual and invisible thus denying the visibility and materiality of Christ's body, His assembly, and His kingdom. As God's purpose in the incarnation was accomplished, His purpose in both His assembly and His kingdom shall be accomplished.
There was only one place in Israel where God established His name (Deut. 12:5, 14, 18, 21, 26), and there is only one place in the New Testament where Christ has established His name (Rom. 16:16). In the Old Testament, the place was the tent of meeting; and in the New Testament, the place is the local assembly. God's name is associated with His chosen and redeemed people. Depraved men have no desire to fellowship with God; hence, left to their own choice, they will follow the god of this world. Who is depraved man to dictate God's chosen place for worship?
The place God chose to establish His name (Deut. 12:5) is contrasted with "all the places, wherein the nations...served their gods..." (Deut. 12:2). Men have almost forgotten that God has an assembly, and He has given it an order and constitution which is universally the same. God's people are under obligation to withdraw from everything that is contrary to God's order and constitution (II Tim. 2:19-22).
Christians must return to first principles. In a time of apostasy, we find few with whom we can walk in truth. But the truth itself is universal, and every believer is obligated to embrace it. There is a terrible gap between word and deed or proclamation and action. The passion for statistics is greater than the passion Paul expressed for the elect: "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (II Tim. 2:10). People who attend self-chosen places of worship want nothing to hinder their routine. Observe the way the Bible is used in self-chosen places.
most popular Book in the world is the Bible. It is popular to all self-serving
religionists, but it becomes unpopular to the same people when they are
subjected to the whole counsel of God. The following list shows the popularity
and unpopularity of Scripture with religionists:
|1. God loves you (Eph. 2:4)||1. God hates some (Rom. 9:13)|
|2. Salvation is of God (Phil. 1:28)||2. Faith does not regenerate (John 3:8)|
|3. Judge not that you be not judged (Matt. 7:1)||3. Do you not judge the one inside the local assembly (I Cor. 5:12)|
|4. If you ask anything in my name, I shall do it (John 14:13)||4. If we ask anything according to God's will. He is hearing us (I John 5:14)|
|5. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (I John 1:7)||5. Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Cor. 7:1)|
|6. The foundation of God has stood firm, having this seal (II Tim. 2:19a)||6. Let everyone naming the name of the Lord keep away from evil (II Tim. 2:19b)|
|7. Love your enemies (Matt. 5:44)||7. Hate God's enemies with a mature hatred (Ps. 139:21, 22)|
|8. Everyone has a right to his own belief (I Cor. 11:16).||8. Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good (I Thess. 5:21)|
list of approved and disapproved Scriptures among religionists could extend
into the hundreds; but these examples should suffice to show the difference
between one giving lip service to Scripture and the other saying with David,
"O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.... Through thy
precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way" (Ps.
119:97, 104). Love for God's law is preceded by knowledge of God's law (torah,
teaching or God's instruction for His people). How can we love that which we
do not know? The very altitude of Holy Scripture reveals its Divine origin.
Therefore, no one apart from the grace of God can scale the heights of God's
mountain of revealed truth.
creeds reveal how much one knows; the word of God manifests how little one
knows. Roman Catholicism has been justly criticized for her view concerning
the Scriptures. Although admitting the Scriptures, Roman Catholics say they
should be interpreted by the holy Mother, the church, who has held and holds
the truth, and to whom belongs the responsibility of judging the true sense of
the Scriptures. The rule of faith for the church of Rome consists of three
parts: The Bible of the Romish church, tradition, and interpretation by the
said church. Thus, she claims that such rule of faith banishes all doubts,
resolves every dispute, and preserves unity. Granting that the criticism of
Roman Catholicism is correct, a warning must be given concerning
denominational creeds. Seeking to understand the suffering Savior and the
assembly which He is building in the light of restricted creeds by men leads
to subjectivism. The confessional life of the assembly must be tested by the
unlimited sky of revelation rather than an artist's portrayal of a limited sky
of eschatology are characterized by various views on ecclesiology. One's
belief about ecclesiology is reflected in his eschatological opinion.
Therefore, error in one of these sciences leads to mistaken perception in the
other. All systems of ecclesiology which contend that Christ's assembly is the
new Israel of God have much in common in the realm of eschatology. Those who
are basically in agreement that Christ's assembly is the new Israel of God are
historicists. Futurists make a distinction between Israel and Christ's
assembly. However, all futurists are not what is commonly classified as
dispensational futurists. To identify them as such is the same as categorizing
as amillennial all systems that teach Christ's assembly is the new Israel.
believe that Israel is Christ's assembly under the Old Testament, and Christ's
assembly is the true Israel under the New Testament. The following are their
major arguments: (1) They maintain that God first gave the name
"Israel" to one man (Jacob) and then to one nation, which was a mere
shadow of the full Israel, the Israel of God. (2) They say that as the first
Israel began with a man (Jacob), the new Israel also began with a Man (Jesus
Christ), God's messenger of the covenant of grace. (3) They contend that God
chose the national minority to point to the spiritual majority in Christ.
Thus, in the fullness of time, God brought into the world One by whom
"all Israel" (Jew and Gentile) would be saved. (4) They believe that
Christ's kingdom was not of this world, but it was a spiritual kingdom
established by God and given to Jesus Christ as His assembly, which is the new
Israel of Scripture, the Israel of God. (5) They say that Christ brought a
transfer from a physical to a spiritual nation. Their explanation is that the
old Israel was "Israel after the flesh" (I Cor. 10:18), and this
Israel was cast away (Rom. 11:15); hence, the house of the old was made
desolate (Matt. 23:38), and the kingdom was given to another nation (Matt.
21:43). They assert that God took a new people with a new name, and the new
people became the Israel of God. (6) They maintain that those who believe old
Israel will be restored are building their hope for the future on a castaway.
(7) They say that to speak of the restored Israel's salvation "by
sight" is false, because the Jew must find Christ by faith now, or he
will not be able to find Christ "by sight" tomorrow. (8) They affirm
that people are deceived who talk about a physical kingdom in this world; and
as the Pharisees of old, people who focus their eyes on national Israel may
among the historicists are much stronger in their denunciation of national
Israel. They state that Israel of old has been reprobated forever and replaced
by the assembly which is the new Israel. They accuse the Jews of being the
cause of every major world problem. According to these historicists, the
following are errors to be avoided: (1) The election of Israel is not based on
physical birth, since the elect are the seed of Jesus Christ and not the seed
of the Devil, as Christ said to the carnal Jews (John 8:44). (2) Prophecy does
not make physical Israel the Israel of the New Testament; references to Israel
in the New Testament refer to true believers in Jesus Christ, while Gentiles
and heathen are now the Hebrews and Old Testament carnal Israel. (3) We are
God's elect due to being Christ's seed, not because we are Abraham's seed. (4)
There is no Old Testament prophecy of the restoration of Israel to her land
following her return from Babylon in the days of Nehemiah and Malachi. (5) The
New Testament states that Jews do what they do for filthy money, and Judas is
a perfect picture of the modern Zionist. (6) We are to beware of the
concision, or mutilation (Phil. 3:2); therefore, Paul said the Jews were to be
cut off (Gal. 5:12). They state that persons with improper understanding say
we are to pray that God will graft the Jews in a physical and carnal sense and
give them world dominion.
aforementioned views must be exposed and answered from Scripture. Paul
included three chapters in his Epistle to the Romans to discuss God's purpose
for the nation of Israel (Rom. 9-11). He began by telling us who she is:
"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren,
my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the
adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the
service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as
concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.
Amen" (Rom. 9:3-5). "I could wish" is the imperfect middle
indicative of euchomai which is correctly translated "I was
wishing." It denotes a wishing which began and also stopped in the past.
Although there is no indication when the wish occurred or how long Paul's
wishing continued, there is one thing for sure--Romans 8 proves that it did
not continue. Paul saw God's purpose pursuing its way through the strange
mingling of light and shadow which mark the complexities of the checkered
history of this chosen people. The apostle recognized at every turn the hand
of the sovereign God and the amazing riches of His grace. Hence, he concluded
his discourse on Israel by saying, "O the depth of the riches both of the
wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways
past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been
his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed
unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to
whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36).
great facts concerning Israel contributed to Paul's adoring wonder at God's
dealings with that nation: (1) The chosen nation was rejected. (2) The
Gentiles are being received. (3) Israel will be restored.
the nation of Israel was chosen by God from among all the nations of the world
(Deut. 7:6-8), there was much hatred toward her. Nothing enrages the natural
heart so much as the subject of Divine election, whether the choice is
national or individual. God chose Israel to be the heir of special privileges
and trained her through long centuries to discharge her task. Israel was the
recipient of the covenants, the law, the true worship, and the promises; and
the Savior's human nature came through her. Israel's unbelief was foreseen by
God; it was foretold by the prophets; and God rejected the chosen nation.
Nevertheless, He made provision for Israel in His plan. God's sovereignty
embraces the whole range of human history. Therefore, the depth of Paul's
message in Romans 11:33-36 is the depth of God's riches, not the depth of a
volcano full of horror and disaster. Paul did not answer with a
counterargument on the same level of the assertion that God is arbitrary in
His choice; rather, he rejected this abstract projection because he saw the
situation to be altogether different. Election is not an arbitrariness in
which no meaning can be found. It is the way by which God's salvation is
realized in human history. Therefore, the apostle said, "...For of
him...are all things...."
reception of the Gentiles was brought about by the fall of Israel. The
Israelites to whom so much had been given stumbled into darkness. Christ's
rejection of Israel was followed by His bringing in the Gentiles. Thus, the
rejection of the chosen nation brought about "the reconciling of the
world" (Rom. 11:15). God's purpose was not frustrated through the
unbelief of the Jews any more than it will be frustrated by the failure of the
assembly. His purpose will never fail: "For what if some did not believe?
Shall their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? Absolutely not! But you
let God be true and every man a liar..." (Rom. 3:3, 4--translation).
Hence, Paul could say that all things are "of," "through,"
and "to" God, and "God's ways are past finding out."
shall be restored because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. The
adjective ametameleta of Romans 11:29 is the nominative neuter plural
of ametameletos, which means irrevocable. Paul had much to say about
Israel's rejection, but his final word was not one of judgment but mercy.
God's people have not been rejected with disapproval forever. When Jesus
Christ informed the disciples He would baptize in the Holy Spirit, His
disciples asked, "Lord, are you at this time restoring the kingdom to
Israel?" (Acts 1:6--translation). The Lord Jesus replied that the time of
the kingdom's restoration was not for them to know (v. 7). He did not tell
them that the kingdom would never be restored to Israel. During the
transitional period recorded in Acts, the message of repentance as a
prerequisite to restoration was continuing to be proclaimed: "...the
times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; And He may send
Jesus Christ, the One who has been appointed for you [Jews]: Whom it is
necessary for heaven to receive until the times of restoring
everything..." (Acts 3:19-21--translation).
Jews' restoration will be followed by a work of spiritual illumination. Paul
foresaw the salvation of Israel in prophetic vision. On this note, the apostle
concluded his discourse on Israel: "For God has shut up all in
disobedience that he might show mercy to all" (Rom. 11:32 NASB). All
things are "of" Him, "through" Him, and "to"
Him. It has been said that the river whose strange windings have been traced
pours its waters at last into the infinite sea of the glory of God. Some of
God's dealings are so clear that they can be easily traced and understood, but
others are mysterious and beyond the range of human comprehension. But whether
comprehended or apprehended, they lead every recipient of grace to the throne
of the God of salvation. Only there, the believer finds rest from all his
questioning and falls in humble submission before the sovereign God.
assembly which Jesus Christ shall continue to build (progressive future active
indicative of oikodomeo) (Matt. 16:18) must be distinguished from Jews
and Gentiles. If Christ's assembly is the new Israel, why did Paul distinguish
them? "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor
to the church [assembly] of God" (I Cor. 10:32). Christ's assembly is the
living organism which Christ said He shall continue building. The only way to
learn the difference between Israel and the assembly is to learn the meaning
of the word "assembly" (church).
word "assembly" (church) comes from the Greek word ekklesia,
which means a calling out. It is used 115 times in the New Testament, and it
is used more than one way: (1) It is used in the sense of an assembly apart
from any spiritual meaning (Acts 19:32, 39, 41). (2) It is used in the sense
of a local assembly of Christians (Acts 8:1; I Cor. 1:2; I Thess. 1:1). (3) It
is used when speaking of the body of Christ (Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18, 24). (4)
Among the 115 references to ekklesia, only one is used to refer to
Israel. In Acts 7:38, Luke recorded Stephen's defense (apology) before the
high priest in which he referred to Israel as the "church [assembly] in
the wilderness". In what sense is ekklesia used in this reference?
It is a type of the New Testament assembly only in the local, not the
universal sense. Luke did not contradict Matthew's account in Matthew
16:18-19, where Matthew spoke of the universal aspect of the assembly. Luke
used this as an illustration of the local aspect of the assembly; because in
the local aspect, there are unsaved people, as there were in the assembly of
Israel in the desert. Most of the Jews to whom Moses preached were
disobedient. They rejected the oracles of God and turned back in their hearts
to Egypt (Acts 7:39). God was not well-pleased with many of them. They lusted
after evil things. Paul records in I Corinthians 10:1-11 that some of them
were idolators, committed fornication, tested the Lord, and murmured. He used
this to show the Corinthian assembly that the assembly in Israel was an
example to local assemblies that the same sins are possible in them.
Therefore, these things should be avoided. The assembly, which is the body of
Christ, is represented as a virgin being prepared for marriage (II Cor. 11:2);
whereas Israel is described as an unfaithful wife who will be restored (Hos.
1-3; Ezek. 16).
believe Christ's assembly is the New Testament Israel of God, the one
continuing body in the Old and New Testaments. They assume that the New
Testament assembly is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy concerning
Israel; therefore, prophecy concerning the promised kingdom is to be
understood in spiritual, not natural, terms. They contend that God chose the
Jewish nation as the means of making Himself known to mankind; the nation was
abandoned. Hence, they conclude that she is no longer an elect nation; Christ
wrought a transfer from a physical assembly to a spiritual nation. Those who
believe in an assembly/kingdom suppose that God cast away fleshly Israel and
gave the kingdom to a new people who became the Israel of God, the assembly
Christ is building.
to what the assembly/kingdom advocates claim, Paul did not have in mind the
assembly as the "new Israel." The assembly being "spiritual
Israel" will not harmonize with his train of thought in either Romans or
Galatians. Paul's teaching in Romans reached a climax in Romans 8:28-34. He
dealt with such great truths as God's purpose, foreordination, predestination,
calling, justification, glorification, election, and Christ's death,
resurrection, and intercession. Following these truths, the Holy Spirit led
him to give something on the subject of election as it related to the nation
doctrine of Divine election differentiates Israel from Christ's assembly.
There was an internal (spiritual) election within the external (national)
election of Israel: "...For they are not all Israel who are descended
from Israel" (Rom. 9:6 NASB). The assembly, however, is the body of
Christ by internal, spiritual election. Those elected to constitute Christ's
assembly, non-Jews as well as some Jews scattered among the nations, are
called out of the world.
Holy Spirit informed the Gentiles that God's covenant was made with the Jews
and not with them. The gospel was first given to the Jews and then to the
Gentiles. Furthermore, the elect Gentiles would be grafted "into a good
olive tree" (Rom. 11:24). Election to salvation runs only in a certain
line of Abraham's seed, in Isaac, the child of promise (Rom. 9:7).
"...Except the Lord of Sabaoth [Lord of the armies of Israel] had left us
a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrah" (Rom.
9:29). The elect Gentiles are engrafted into the Israelite olive tree, the
root of which remained untouched by apostasy because of the elective purpose
of God. God did not repudiate His people whom He foreknew (Rom. 11:1, 2). Some
think Romans 9-11 is parenthetical, but a closer look reveals it is closely
connected with Romans 1:16-17--"...to the Jew first, and also to the
Galatian believers were reminded of a distinctive relationship that they
sustained to the elect nation of Israel. They were shown that the promises and
inheritance were given through Abraham, and Gentile believers are related to
him by God's elective purpose (Gal. 3:14-18). The Epistle to the Galatians was
written to Gentiles. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed,
and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29). (See Eph. 2:11-22; 3:6.)
Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave this information to Gentile
Christians to show them into what they had been grafted by the grace of the
three senses in which Abraham's seed is viewed in Scripture must be considered
at this point: (1) There is the natural seed of Abraham, which is not
spiritual. Christ had a running debate with the unsaved Jews who claimed that
because of their being Abraham's seed they were not in bondage to anyone (John
8:28-40). Christ acknowledged they were Abraham's seed; but they sought to
kill Him; and that was something Abraham never did. (2) There is the spiritual
seed of Abraham: "...they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In
Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the
flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are
counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:6-8). (See Hebrews; I Pet. 1:1, 2.) (3)
There is the spiritual seed of Abraham which is not his natural seed:
"And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according
to the promise" (Gal. 3:29).
is a sharp distinction between Israelites and Gentiles in Romans 9-11, where
there are twelve references to "Israel" (Rom. 9:6--twice, 27--twice,
31; 10:1, 19, 21; 11:2, 7, 25, 26), one to "Israelite" (Rom. 11:1),
and one to "Israelites" (Rom. 9:4). Paul's discussion of national
Israel is not interpreted in Romans 11:26, when he said, "all Israel
shall be saved." Those who oppose the pre-kingdom coming of Christ say
verse 26 refers to the totality of those to be saved, Jews and Gentiles who
constitute the true Israel of God. They allege that Romans 11 indicates that
the "fulness" of the Gentiles and "all Israel" make up the
total number of that body which is called Christ's assembly. However, there is
no break in Paul's concern for national Israel from his first reference to
them in Romans 9:6 to Romans 11:26. The final support for the literal
interpretation of Israel is the argument following the salvation of "all
Israel" of verse 26. "As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for
your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers'
sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom.
11:28, 29). "Israel" remained a vital issue with the apostle because
of the irrevocable gifts and calling of God. History will close with the
people of Israel.
prospect was Israel's salvation. This salvation belongs to those who shall be
living when "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25).
At that time "all Israel" shall be saved from her present
dispersion. The Deliverer coming out of Zion does not refer to Christ's first
advent. The Roman Epistle was written subsequent to Christ's first advent. It
refers to a time following the writing of this Epistle. Christ's first coming
has not turned away ungodliness from Jacob (Israel), but His second coming
will. (See Lev. 16:17-19; Is. 59:20, 21.) Therefore, Israel will yet be
"received" as definitely and publicly as she is now rejected as a
nation. During this time of Israel's dispersion, every regenerated Jew is,
like Paul, a proof that God in His election of grace is mindful of Israel.
is a remnant of Israel at the present time, but there is a difference between
the remnant in the first part of Romans 11 and "all Israel" in a
coming day in the last part of Romans 11. Paul desired to see some from among
his people saved (Rom. 10:1). Those saved now are a part of Christ's assembly
6:16 cannot be used to prove that Romans 11:26 is talking about Christ's
assembly. Both verses are frequently misinterpreted. In Romans 9:6, Paul was
not speaking of a distinction between Israel and the assembly but between
believers and unbelievers among Abraham's natural seed. The apostle used the
term "Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16 to speak of those who were
once Israelites after the flesh, but by grace they are now the "Israel of
God," that is, the spiritual children of Abraham: "For neither is
circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal.
believe the terms "kingdom" and "assembly" (church) are
synonymous. They say the kingdom includes the members of the assembly, and the
assembly is composed of members of the kingdom. Others claim the assembly is
the visible form of the kingdom of Christ, but some affirm that it is the
invisible form while recognizing the invisible form has its visible forms.
Thus, the heated debate continues without spiritual light.
assembly may be understood in a twofold sense--universal assembly and local
assemblies. But the kingdom cannot be divided into local kingdoms. The word
assembly is used in the sense of including all who are being progressively
added to the assembly by Jesus Christ. The verb "will build" of
"I will [shall] build my church [assembly]" (Matt. 16:18) is
progressive future active indicative of the verb oikodomeo. Hence, it
denotes that Christ is continually building His assembly during the period of
time between His two advents. The word assembly is also used in the sense of a
local assembly (Matt. 18:15-20). Each local assembly has the responsibility of
assembling at God's appointed time to worship and solve her problems as they
arise. Local assemblies may increase and diminish according to the
circumstances of Divine providence, but the assembly Christ continues to build
increases but never decreases. On the other hand, the word "kingdom"
can never be used in the sense of local assemblies, because Christ does not
have kingdoms in the sense that He has assemblies and walks among them (Rev.
1:13). The kingdoms of this world cannot be equated with the assemblies of
Christ (Rom. 16:16). Scripture never states that the kingdoms salute Christ.
There are only four references where the word kingdom is used in the plural
number, and they refer to the kingdoms of this world (Matt. 4:8; Luke 4:5;
Heb. 11:33; Rev. 11:15).
belong to the assembly Christ is building, but we are heirs of the future
kingdom. The noun kleronomia means property, possession, what is
promised, or an inheritance. Paul used this noun when he spoke of the Holy
Spirit being an earnest (arrabon, pledge or guarantee of what is to
come) of a future deliverance (Eph. 1:14). He used the noun kleronomos,
which means an heir, when he said, "And since children, also heirs; heirs
on the one hand of God, joint-heirs on the other hand of Christ..." (Rom.
8:17--translation). Hence, the apostle proceeded from the possession to the
possessors. An heir is one who is entitled to inherit something, but an heir
of Christ's future kingdom is also assured by the Spirit of regeneration that
he shall receive final deliverance into or will be kept safely for the kingdom
which shall be forever. Local assemblies are in the present, but the kingdom
is the only actor in Ephesians 1:1-14--(1) The Father purposed; (2) the Son
provided the means of carrying out the Father's purpose; and (3) the Holy
Spirit is the quickener and pledge of the elect's complete salvation. As an
heir legally receives all the property assigned to him in a will, the elect of
God shall receive all that God decreed for them in the death of Jesus Christ.
(See Heb. 9:11-28.) As the elect receive eternal life by right of inheritance
guaranteed by the death of Christ at Calvary, Christ lives as the executor to
carry out His will: "By so much indeed Jesus has become [perfect active
indicative of ginomai, which means Jesus has permanently become] a
guarantor [egguos, an adjective acting as a noun, used only here in the
New Testament as a pronominal adjective] of a better covenant" (Heb.
7:22--translation). The unchanging character of Christ's priesthood gives a
permanent guarantee of a better covenant. The legal side of suretyship is
stronger when the surety becomes the substitute for the debtor by having the
debt charged to himself and the debtor released. Both eternal life and the
kingdom are guaranteed to the elect. Scripture states, "then the King
shall say to those on his right hand, Come, you who have been blessed [perfect
passive participle of eulogeo, have been permanently blessed] of my
Father, come into possession of the kingdom which has been prepared [perfect
passive participle of hetoimadzo, which means has been permanently
prepared] for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt.
25:34--translation). The kingdom is permanently prepared because the sheep are
permanently blessed. Those two perfect passive participles (completed action
in past time with a resulting state of being) give Christian Jews and Gentiles
a hope that will never make them ashamed (Matt. 25:34; I Thess. 2:12). Matthew
spoke to Jews, telling them the kingdom is guaranteed to others than those to
whom Jesus Christ spoke. His proclamation applies to the elect Jews and
Gentiles to whom Christ will speak at His second advent.
understanding of the nature of each, the kingdom and the assembly, will show
that they cannot be synonymous terms. The following is a summary of the major
views of the kingdom/assembly (kingdom/church) theory: (1) Roman Catholics say
the Roman Catholic Church is the visible kingdom of Christ on earth. (2)
Reformers are united in the teaching that the assembly is universal and
invisible. They take a firm stand against the Roman Catholic Church. (3) Many
who are neither Roman Catholic nor Reformers say the assembly is the visible
manifestation of God's kingdom on earth. Those who hold this view are divided
between those who take a strict local concept and others who adopt the
universal/local concept of the assembly. One thing they have in common is the
erroneous view that the keys of the kingdom in Matthew 16:19 denote the
authority given to the assembly to be exercised by her on the earth at the
summarized the major views of the kingdom/assembly (kingdom/church) theory, we
must categorically state that Christ's assembly can in no way be called a
kingdom. The assembly is being called out; and as heirs of the kingdom, we are
being prepared for the kingdom. Furthermore, the "keys of the
kingdom" of Matthew 16:19 have no more to do with imperfect local
assemblies than the Pope of Rome has to do with the assembly Christ is
continuing to build.
who misunderstand the nature of the kingdom have, according to their view of
Matthew 11:12, the passive unregenerate forcefully entering the kingdom. Some
say that since the gospel of the kingdom has been preached, there is a rush to
it. However, Christ said, "And you will not come to me that you may have
life" (John 5:40--translation); and "No one is able to come to me,
unless the Father who sent me may draw him" (John 6:44--translation).
"...There is not one who seeks after God" (Rom. 3:11--translation).
Hence, the unregenerate are without hope in the coming kingdom, because the
King Himself has no attraction to them. "For everyone practicing evil
things hates the light, and does not come to the light, in order that his
works may not be exposed" (John 3:20--translation). During the ministry
of Jesus Christ, the Preacher of all preachers spoke a parable in which He
pointed out what the unregenerate think of His rule--"We do not desire
this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14--translation).
of the term kingdom (basileia, which is ruling) for assembly (ekklesia,
which is a calling out), or vice versa, where they are found in the New
Testament will prove they are not synonymous terms. There are twelve
references to the kingdom in the assembly Epistles, and to substitute the word
assembly for the kingdom or to speak of the kingdom/assembly (kingdom/church)
will in each instance demonstrate how ridiculous it is to make the terms one
and the same. The following are some examples of such substitutions:
Substitute basileia for ekklesia in Matthew 16:18--"...thou
are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my 'kingdom'...." Since
"I will build" is the translation of a progressive future tense
Greek verb, how can Jesus Christ, according to those who say the kingdom has
arrived, continually build what He has already received from the Father? (See
Luke 19:11-15; II Tim. 4:1.)
Substitute basileia for ekklesia in Philippians 3:4 and
6--"Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man
thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more....
Concerning zeal, persecuting the 'kingdom' ...." How could Paul have
persecuted the kingdom of which he later said, "And the Lord shall rescue
me from every wicked work, and shall preserve [future active indicative of sodzo,
which means to save, deliver, or keep one safe for] me for his heavenly
kingdom..." (II Tim. 4:18--translation).
Substitute ekklesia for basileia in Luke 12:32--"Fear not,
little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure [eudokesen, aorist
active indicative of eudokeo, which means to take pleasure in, choose,
or determine] to give you the 'assembly'." The Father chose (determined)
to give the kingdom to His little flock already being called into the
assembly. Therefore, as members of Christ's assembly which He is building, we
are heirs of the kingdom. (See James 2:5; II Pet. 1:10, 11.)
Substitute ekklesia for basileia in Matthew 16:19--"And I
will give unto thee the keys of the 'assembly' of heaven." If the
authority denoted by the keys of the kingdom is given to the assemblies of
God's people today, does that mean that whatever the assembly binds on earth
is then bound in heaven and whatever the assembly shall loose on earth shall
then be loosed in heaven? The King James translation of the Greek text of this
verse has been responsible for much heresy. Is God's action in heaven His
reaction to our action on earth? Since this is commonly taught in professing
Christendom, no wonder religionists are saying the sinner must open his heart,
let Jesus in, etc. However, the Scriptures teach that man's action on earth is
his reaction to God's action in heaven. Any honest student of Scripture knows
that both "bound in heaven" and "shall be loosed in
heaven" are perfect passive participles of the Greek verbs deo and
luo, which should be translated "shall have already been bound in
the heavens" and "shall have already been loosed in the
heavens." Anyone who thinks God's action is contingent on man's action
does not understand the sciences of theology (God), anthropology (man), or
kingdom is not given to the elect at the time we are born of God; but having
become believers, we are said to be called to something not yet realized in
Christian experience. Being members of Christ's assembly, Christians are heirs
commanded to be diligent in making our calling and election sure, because in
so doing an entrance shall be richly provided for us into the eternal kingdom
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Pet. 1:10, 11). The chosen, redeemed,
and regenerated are legally in the kingdom (Col. 1:13) before actually
inheriting it (James 2:5). Every elect person legally but not literally died
with Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20). When Christ died, His righteousness was imputed
to every individual for whom He died. That righteousness is imparted to the
elect ones in regeneration. Since it could never be said the
"assembly" is the heir of the "assembly" or the
"kingdom" is the heir of the "kingdom," we understand that
Jesus Christ gave Himself for the assembly which He is calling out by the Holy
Spirit in order that He shall, at her completion, reign with her in the
ekklesia represents what Jesus Christ is doing between His two advents.
Luke gave a report of the Jerusalem conference in which we learn what is
presently taking place and what is the prophetic hope of God's people (Acts
15:13-18). Some Jewish believers insisted on the necessity of circumcising
Gentiles. The Jews were slow to learn that the law was given not to be kept
for salvation but to prove it could not be kept for that purpose, because
"by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). Although
deliverance from sin presupposes a bondage in which all mankind is involved,
salvation is not a reward of merit but the gift of grace.
some future point in time, Jesus Christ shall personally return (John 14:1-3;
Acts 1:9-11). Not one of the eight references to the kingdom in the book of
Acts refers to an established kingdom. In Acts 15:16, the "return"
is as literal as the "tabernacle [tent] of David." Christ's present
ministry as high Priest is not connected with David's throne but with the
Father's throne (Rev. 3:21). It is true that in Acts 15 James was dealing with
a problem concerning the early assembly. But he was also making a prophetical
statement subsequent to the age of the assembly; therefore, he referred to the
visible, personal return of Jesus Christ. James dealt with the fact that elect
Jews and Gentiles saved following the first advent of Jesus Christ constitute
the assembly. Furthermore, the assembly plus elect Jews and Gentiles who will
be saved in preparation for and at the time of the establishment of the
kingdom at Christ's second advent will culminate Christ's work (Acts 15:14-18;
several views of Acts 15:14-18 are given by students of prophecy, we will not
discuss those at this point in our study of the kingdom of God. However, two
important things must be pointed out: (1) The ekklesia is being built
by God taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name (v. 14). (2) God shall
rebuild David's destroyed tent or tabernacle some time in the future.
Therefore, the rebuilding of David's tent cannot be, as many affirm, the
assembly which God is using to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
Christ gave Himself for the assembly, and He also made provision for her
spiritual growth. The local aspect of the assembly was weak in assembly
government at her inception and early history because she lacked a constituted
form of government (Acts 6:1-6; 14:23; 20:28-30; Eph. 4:11-16; I Tim. 5:17-19;
Heb. 13:7, 17, 24). Furthermore, local assemblies can never reach the stature
of strength under human government executed by imperfect servants in local
assemblies which the completed assembly shall experience under the perfect
government by Jesus Christ during the kingdom (Is. 9:6).
cannot pass from Israel to the assembly, thus making the assembly the new
Israel of God. God elected not only the nation of Israel, but He also elected
some to salvation from within national Israel. The Gentiles chosen to
salvation are grafted into the root (spiritual Israel) (Rom. 11:17-19) in
order to partake of her spiritual blessings. Hence, God's election of some to
salvation in Christ cannot pass from them to others any more than grace can
pass from one to another. Whatever God purposed shall be done; therefore, all
He purposed to save were foreordained, predestinated, and will be called,
justified, and glorified because they were given grace in Jesus Christ before
the beginning of time (Rom. 8:28-30; II Tim. 1:9).
is used more than one way in Scripture; therefore, one kind of election cannot
transfer to another of a different kind. For instance, the choice of national
Israel cannot be transferred to the assembly. The purpose of God is fulfilled
in each sense in which election is used. Observe a few ways election is used
in Scripture: (1) Jesus Christ was chosen to be the good Shepherd, great
Shepherd, and chief Shepherd of the ones He chose to be His sheep (I Pet. 2:4,
6; Ps. 22-24; John 10:11, 14; Heb. 13:20; I Pet. 5:4). (2) The nation of
Israel was chosen to a covenant relationship for the purpose of giving both
the incarnate Word and the written word (Rom. 1:3, 4; 3:1, 2). Furthermore,
the nation was chosen with a view to the kingdom. Conclusively, the covenants
and the promises were given to the Jews (Rom. 9:4, 5). Salvation was first
given to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. The chosen Gentiles shall inherit
the future kingdom with the chosen descendants of Abraham. (3) Some are chosen
from among all mankind to be redeemed by Christ, to be regenerated by the Holy
Spirit, and to become heirs of the kingdom. "Blessed is the man whom thou
[the Lord] choosest..." (Ps. 65:4). Christ calls His own sheep by name
(John 10:3, 16). (4) God's choice sometimes signifies the temporary
designation of some person or persons to the filling of some particular office
in either a local assembly or in civil life, such as Judas in the former (John
6:70) and Saul in the latter (I Sam. 10:24). Who can say that any one of these
choices has failed or will fail to accomplish God's eternal purpose. Although
God's purpose has been fulfilled in both Judas and Saul, no one, according to
Romans 11 and Revelation 7, can say that God's purpose in national Israel has
Christ has gone to heaven to receive the kingdom, not the assembly, from the
Father. There is as little agreement concerning the beginning of the kingdom
as there is concerning the meaning of the kingdom. Some believe the kingdom
began with Christ's first advent; others, that it began on the day of
Pentecost; and some, that it shall begin at the second advent. The kingdom has
not been manifested, because the Father's purpose was that His Son should be
honored and glorified in heaven before He should be honored on earth. When
Christ takes up the kingdom, it will not be from the earthly but the heavenly
side. Thus, Luke 19 emphasizes the Lord's being received up into heaven. He
has gone to heaven to receive His kingdom from the Father, not from
religionists who are always talking about bringing in the kingdom.
parable of the nobleman was added to Christ's message concerning the purpose
of His first advent. Following His declaration that He came "to seek and
to save that which has been lost [apololos, perfect active participle
of apollumi, to lose or to be lost]" (Luke 19:10--translation),
Christ represented Himself as a nobleman who "went to a far country to
receive [labein, aorist active infinitive of lambano, to
receive, to obtain the right to] for Himself [heauto, dative masculine
singular pronoun of heautou, a reflexive pronoun meaning Himself which
makes the middle voice possible] a kingdom, and to return" (Luke
second coming is the blessed hope of the assembly (Titus 2:13). The
Christian's hope includes Christ's coming and His kingdom which are
amalgamated in II Timothy 4:1. If the kingdom were already present, as many
claim, "hope being seen is not hope; for what anyone sees, why does he
also hope for it?" (Rom. 8:24--translation). Those who say the kingdom
does not come with observation add more confusion to what is already confusing
to them by saying this proves it is a spiritual kingdom. Hence, they have an
unseen spiritual king reigning over an unseen spiritual kingdom composed of
unseen spiritual subjects. Conclusively, in the distinction between the
kingdom and the assembly, how can people who say they are already in the
kingdom pray for its coming? Christ taught His disciples to pray, "Let
your kingdom come. Let your will be done as in heaven also on earth"
(Matt. 6:10--translation). Christ's kingdom will not come to the earth until
He has completed His assembly. The Christians' blessed hope of Jesus Christ
and His kingdom will never make us ashamed.
the first advent of Jesus Christ, the Savior set aside national Israel until
His second advent. According to Matthew 16, the Jews were cognizant of the
signs of the weather; but they were spiritually incapable of discerning the
signs relating to the Person of Jesus Christ. Natural intelligence can
understand natural phenomena, but the spiritual mind alone can comprehend
spiritual facts concerning the Person and Work of the Son of the living God.
The first verses of Matthew 16 manifest the blindness of the religiously
depraved hearts of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Christ had told them that no
sign will be given except the sign of Jonah (Matt. 12:39, 40). This was a
prophecy of His death, burial, and resurrection. Therefore, no greater sign
can be given to validate His Person and Work thus proving that "salvation
is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).
Father made known to the disciples that Jesus Christ is the foundation of the
assembly: "Now Jesus having come into the districts of Caesarea Philippi,
He was asking His disciples, saying, Who are men saying the Son of man to be?
And they said, Some indeed John the Baptist; and others Elijah; and others,
Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He says to them, But who do you say Me to
be? And answering, Simon Peter said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living
God. And answering, Jesus said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because
flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in the heavens"
(Matt. 16:13-17--translation). The subject of the first twenty verses of
Matthew 16, which close the first half of the Gospel of Matthew, is the
presentation of the King. The subject of the second half of his Gospel, which
includes Matthew 16:21-28:20, is the rejection of the King. The first verses
of Matthew 16 show the religious Jews coming to Jesus Christ to test Him. They
wanted to see a sign (semeion, miraculous sign or miracle), something
spectacular that defied nature. These religionists knew how to discern the
sky, but they were not spiritually illuminated to discern the signs of the
times. The Lord Jesus told them an evil and adulterous generation seeks a
sign, and the only sign that would be given was the one about which He had
already told them. He referred them to the Old Testament record concerning
Jonah being in the belly of the whale three days and three nights and applied
the experience to His being three days and three nights in the heart of the
earth. The Lord Jesus then commanded the disciples to be on guard concerning
the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (v. 12). Christians must be on
guard concerning the fermenting power of false teaching.
difference between observation and revelation is recorded in Matthew 16:13-17.
Christ's first question, "Who are men saying the Son of man to be?"
(v. 13--translation), is related to observation. Observation is the act of
noticing or perceiving by men. The Lord Jesus, coming to the conclusion of His
earthly ministry with Israel until the end time, asked this question. The Lord
had previously given the disciples the commission to go only to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5, 6). The Pharisees called Him Beelzebub,
and some of them accused Him of being born of fornication. He did not ask who
the Jews thought Him to be but who men thought Him to be. The word
"men" lifts the question above all national distinctions to men out
from all nations; hence, all national distinctions are excluded from the
observations by men are disclosed in the disciples' answer to Christ's
question (Matt. 16:14). Although the observations were not unfavorable, they
were incorrect because they were observations by men apart from spiritual
discernment by the Holy Spirit. Men thought Him to be John the Baptist,
Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
second question, "He says [present active indicative of lego] to
them [autois, third person plural of autos], But who do you [humeis,
nominative second person plural] say Me to be?" (Matt.
16:15--translation), brought forth Peter's answer (vv. 16, 17). The plural of
the word "you" proves that all the disciples were questioned. Peter,
the spokesman for the disciples, confessed Christ as the Son of the living
God; and Christ commended him for his confession. Peter's confession was the
fruit of Divine revelation, not a human belief and understanding of Scripture.
A person may be humanly correct and yet be a stranger to God's grace.
confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v.
16--translation). His statement included the truths of Christ's human nature,
His office, and His eternality. The human nature assumed by Jesus Christ was
anointed, and the anointing refers to His office. "The Son of the living
God" denotes His eternality. This confession was not the result of carnal
reasoning (I Cor. 2:11). Peter was unable to see through the veil of Christ's
human nature to behold His Divine nature. Therefore, the Father spiritually
enlightened Peter, and spiritual things have the influence of reality on
true conversion experience is impossible apart from the reality of the truth
of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. The word "conceive" best
illustrates the truth of a true conversion experience. Christ was conceived in
the womb of Mary some thirty years before He was conceived in the mind of
Peter. The conception in both the womb and the mind was by the Holy Spirit.
Understanding in the mind is as important to a conversion experience as the
conception in the womb by the Holy Spirit was to the virgin birth of Jesus
Christ. Since Peter's mind had been renewed by grace, the Father made known to
his renewed mind that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; and that
truth became a reality to Peter. When Christ becomes real to the one who has
been spiritually renewed by the grace of God, that person is different and has
a foundation on which his life is built.
confessed the Lord as Israel's Christ--anointed--and Jesus Christ announced
Himself as the assembly's Savior--"I shall continue to build [progressive
future active indicative of oikodomeo] my assembly" (Matt.
16:18--translation). Peter asserted the Deity as well as the humanity of
Christ in his confession. Christ was anointed with reference to His humanity.
"The Son of the living God" (v. 16) refers to His Deity. Men know no
more of Jesus Christ than they see and value in Him.
Lord Jesus replied to Peter's confession, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,
because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in the
heavens" (Matt. 16:17--translation). The word "blessed" (makarios)
means happy or blessed. The Lord's use of this term with reference to His
people is a high and rare privilege for us. Christ gave Simon Barjona the name
of Peter. This change of name was promised in John 1:42, and it was bestowed
in Matthew 16:18. The Lord Jesus used the double name to show Peter what he
was originally and what he had become by grace--a stone. The changing of names
in the Bible is important. Abram's name was changed to Abraham--the friend of
God; and Jacob's name was changed to Israel--the prince of God.
Father, not flesh and blood, made known the truth to Peter that Jesus Christ
is the Son of the living God. There are two major views of "flesh and
blood." Some think the statement refers to Christ Himself rather than to
man. They assume that Christ was calling attention to the fact that His lowly
appearance in flesh had not revealed this truth. The correct view is that man
did not reveal this to Peter.
Greek word for "make known" is apokalupto, a compound word.
The prefix apo means from, and the suffix kalupto means to
cover, hide, or conceal. Within the 26 times this compound verb occurs, it is
used five basic ways: (1) to uncover what has been covered (Matt. 10:26), (2)
to make known or give spiritual discernment (Matt. 11:27; 16:17), (3) to
distinctively declare (Rom. 1:17, 18), (4) to set forth (Gal. 3:23), and (5)
to be manifested or appear (II Thess. 2:3, 6, 8; Rom. 8:18). The noun form apokaluphis
is found 19 times.
verb apokalupto is used in Matthew's account of the Lord's reaction to
His rejection (Matt. 11:25-30). After the return of the seventy sent by the
Lord to the house of Israel, Jesus Christ acknowledged with praise what the
Father had done. The Father had concealed the truth concerning Jesus Christ
from the learned and intelligent and made it known to immature ones: "At
[En, locative of time] that time [kairo] Jesus answering said, I
am praising [present middle indicative of exomologeo], you, Father,
Lord of the heavens and of the earth, because you concealed [aorist active
indicative of krupto, which means to conceal or keep secret] these
things from the wise and intelligent and revealed [apekaluphas, aorist
active indicative of apokalupto] them to immature ones" (Matt.
truth originated in God (Eph. 3:9; I Cor. 2:7-9). God reveals some but not all
truth. Recorded in Holy Scripture is all the truth God wants us to know, but
all truth is not contained in the written word of God. The things concealed
belong to God, but the things revealed belong to God's people: "The
secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are
revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the
words of this law" (Deut. 29:29). The unregenerate cannot understand
spiritual things because God has concealed truth from them.
concealed truth from reprobates: "But you are not believing, because you
are not from my sheep..." (John 10:26--translation). If there is no
reprobation, there is no election. If there is no election, there is no grace.
If there is no grace, there is no salvation. If there is no salvation, there
is no body of Christ that Jesus Christ is presently building. Reprobation is
God's sovereign, unconditional decree to damn some sinners. But He damns
reprobates because of their sin. This is positive reprobation. Negative
reprobation has to do with God's passing by those He did not elect. They are
not condemned by God's passing by, but they are condemned because all are
sinners. God chose some sinners out from depravity to manifest His grace, but
He left some to manifest His justice.
Father fully knows the Son, and the Son fully knows the Father. All men know
God's power and deity (Rom. 1:19, 20), but only the elect know God
experientially because Jesus Christ desired to make known the Father to those
the Father gave Him in the covenant of redemption (Matt. 11:27). For those
persons, Jesus Christ died. He died for the sheep, not all mankind.
apostle Paul used the verb apokalupto to refer to God's making known
His Son in him in order that he might preach the gospel (Gal. 1:16). Here is a
classic example of God's making known His truth to some. Paul was first set
apart in the sphere of God's eternal purpose. He was also separated from the
womb. He was separated in regeneration; and then, in a conversion experience.
Paul was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Hence, his separation did not
begin when he chose to believe. Paul's births, both physical and spiritual,
were without his cooperation. Salvation is of God apart from human merit,
will, or action.
making known His Son in Paul was subjective. The Holy Spirit works
subjectively in giving recipients of grace the ability to understand spiritual
things. The Father makes known to the elect subjectively the same Son revealed
objectively in Scripture. The gospel we preach is to be proclaimed objectively
to mankind indiscriminately. But objective truth is made known subjectively by
the Lord Himself to the elect who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
God gives the elect spiritual discernment that we might understand spiritual
must be made between objective and subjective revelation: (1) One is general;
the other is specific. (2) One is external; the other is internal. (3) One
reaches the intellect; the other reaches the understanding and proceeds to the
affections. (4) The objective message is incomprehensible to the ones who have
not been quickened by the Holy Spirit. The subjective message will become
comprehensible and a realization to the regenerate.
truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, which before was
unknown to Peter, was made known to him. The revelation from God the Father by
means of the Holy Spirit is necessary to make known to anyone that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of the living God. The revelation made known to Peter was
complete, but it was not the complete revelation of God. The complete
revelation of God has never been made known to men. It will take all eternity
to see Jesus Christ in His true character. The context of Matthew 16 proves
that Peter's knowledge was limited. When Christ told him that He must suffer,
die, and be resurrected, Peter said, "May God be merciful to you, Lord!
This shall by no means happen to you" (v. 22--translation).
Peter's confession was commended by Jesus Christ, because it came from a spiritually enlightened mind. All religious affections are not attended with conviction, because they are not produced by the spiritual illumination of the mind. Spiritual affections spring from the beauty of Divine principles. Their beauty is discerned through the illumination of the mind. This produces the conviction of their reality because spiritual things have the influence of reality on the renewed mind. As worldly actions are motivated by worldly affections, spiritual actions are motivated by spiritual affections. Love for the world results in worldly activities, which are forbidden by the Lord (I John 2:15-17). Love for Jesus Christ results in spiritual activities. Love is not only the chief affection, but it is also the fountain of all the affections. The love of the unsaved is selfish and self-centered, but the love of the saved is unselfish and Christ-centered. As there is no worldly affection without worldly wisdom, there is no spiritual affection without spiritual wisdom. The degree of one's affection is determined by the degree of his knowledge. Peter's knowledge of Jesus Christ was by Divine illumination. He had been taught by God (John 6:45). God's love, which has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit of regeneration, gives us spiritual desires, spiritual affections, and motivates us to spiritual activity.
subject, apart from the Godhead, should be of greater importance to the
Christian than that of Christ's assembly. However, it is a subject about which
there is great controversy. The many divisions in professing Christendom
result from arguments over the Greek word ekklesia. How can one word
that seems clear in meaning be so controversial? The answer can be given in
one simple statement, "Satan is the enemy of the assembly." On the
other hand, that simple answer creates a complex problem. Thus, one finds
himself right back where he started. Since Satan is the enemy of the assembly,
he is the great deceiver. Furthermore, there is nothing so false and deceitful
as the human heart (Jer. 17:9). The heart of man is so deceitful that while
misrepresenting outward objects it tries to conceal its own true character.
Human prejudices, traditions, and opinions hinder even believers from
recognizing the full truth, plus the fact that most professing believers have
never been made alive by the quickening Spirit.
people trace the ekklesia to a man, and some trace it to Pentecost.
Many Baptists trace their beginning to John the Baptist; Roman Catholics, to
Peter as the first pope; Lutherans, to Martin Luther; Methodists, to John
Wesley; and Mormons, to Joseph Smith. Others who trace their origin to a man
might be included. Many denominationalists and nondenominationalists trace
their origin to Pentecost. In contrast, true assemblies trace their origin to
Jesus Christ, the One who instituted the universal aspect of the assembly
(Matt. 16:18, 19), which is represented by local assemblies. Matthew traced
the ekklesia to all the saved who Jesus Christ is calling out by the
regenerating Holy Spirit. Luke, unlike Matthew, used the word ekklesia
in Acts 7:38 to speak of the assembly of Israel, which typifies the local
aspect of the assembly. Only the saved are in the universal aspect, but both
saved and unsaved are in the local aspect of the assembly.
word assembly (ekklesia) means many things to different people. Some of
the major theories will be considered:
Catholics teach the universal-visible view of the assembly. According to them,
the assembly is made the mother of believers. As such, she becomes the
dispenser of grace. Rome actually defines the assembly as the society of the
faithful under the Pope's headship. Catholics are taught to depend on the
living, speaking voice of the assembly. Thus, to them the Roman Catholic
Church is the interpreter of Scripture. Catholics do not question the Bible as
God-given, but they insist that the Scriptures within themselves are not
Church of England embraces the territorial theory of the assembly. According
to Anglicanism, the assembly is territorial, governed by the Episcopacy. The
word "comprehensive" is the peculiar characteristic of the National
Church of England.
THIRD--Denominational assemblies are institutions that are subject to the hierarchy of each particular denomination. Some denominations are represented as believing in the autonomy of the local assembly, but what they advocate and what they actually practice are two different things. However, the degree of control varies from one denomination to another.
assemblies of the reformation formulated the theory of the universal and
local, or invisible and visible, concept of the assembly to counteract the
Roman Catholic theory of the universal-visible assembly. They taught that
membership in the universal assembly qualified persons for membership in the
local assembly. After the reformation, some stressed the universal assembly to
the exclusion of the local. They used that idea as an escape from the troubles
in the local assemblies and denominations. Others went to the opposite
adopt the visible-kingdom view of the assembly. Among those who hold to the
strict local concept of the assembly, some believe the assembly is the visible
manifestation of the kingdom on earth. They are of the opinion that anyone who
denies that the institution called the "kingdom of God and the assembly
of Christ" was established by Christ while He was on earth is an enemy of
Christ and Christianity. They use assembly and kingdom as synonymous terms.
are other strict localists who make a distinction between the assembly and the
kingdom, but they teach that one is heretical to say the assembly is both
universal and local, or invisible and visible. Some Baptists teach that during
His personal ministry, Christ founded their assembly or denomination.
assembly of Jesus Christ should be regarded as invisible and visible. This
Scripturally correct view is not dualism, a theory that there are two basic
principles. The invisible and visible are two aspects of the one principle of
life given by Christ to His people. The difference is between the principle of
life and the manifestation of that life. As the principle of life dwells in a
dying body, the invisible life of grace dwells in a dying local assembly. All
the local assemblies mentioned in the Bible are dead, but the principle of
life that animated them is not dead. In fact, the Spirit of life in each
believer who made up those local assemblies is very much alive and was a part
of the local assembly's existence. Christ said to Martha, "I am the
resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet
shall he live" (John 11:25). He said to His disciples, "...because I
live, ye shall live [future active indicative of dzao] also" (John
14:19). This latter view is that of the author, and it will be further
established in the study of Christ's Assembly.
did not leave Himself without a witness in the world after setting Israel
aside. According to Acts 14:17, God has never been without a witness.
Therefore, during Christ's personal ministry, the Lord Jesus established His
assembly and committed to her the responsibility of making Himself known
through the ministry of the word. Since God must be made known in the world
for the purpose of calling out the elect to Himself, He has chosen to be made
known by the ekklesia, the assembly, which Christ is continuing to
progressive future tense of the verb oikodomeo, "I will
build," is used in Matthew 16:18 in the Lord's statement to Peter
concerning Christ's building His assembly. This is what is known in the Greek
as a progressive future active indicative verb, signifying that the Lord Jesus
Christ has not completed His assembly. Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles,
succeeded the twelve apostles; and he and all who have been saved since that
time are part of the assembly Jesus Christ is continuing to build. The Lord
Jesus will continue building His assembly until the last one that will
constitute the assembly is brought into the ark of safety. In order to
accomplish the purpose for which she was established, the assembly must use
only the means set forth in the word of God. Suggesting that the assembly of
Christ has been sent into the world without a divine compass--the word of
God--and chart to direct her course is unthinkable. God's compass and chart
are not to be replaced by man-made programs and gimmicks.
is little agreement among Christians as to when the assembly was founded and
how she was established. Some say the birth of the assembly took place at
Pentecost. Others contend that she was established during Christ's personal
ministry. Those who believe the assembly began at Pentecost say her birth must
be preceded by the following events:
1. They say the death of Christ must be history; thus, the cornerstone was already laid.
They say Christ's resurrection provided the assembly with resurrection
life; therefore, the gates of Hades have been opened.
3. They say Christ had ascended to the Father's right hand; therefore, the assembly's Head had assumed His proper place.