We have noted that 1st Thessalonians 4 was specifically addressed to the Church. One requirement for the Rapture is evident in verse 14, “…if we believe that Jesus died and rose again….” Those who do not believe that Jesus died and rose again obviously are not waiting for His coming in the clouds of Heaven because they are not born again.
Which Denomination Represents The Real Church?
Today many denominations are found under the umbrella of Protestantism, including: Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Baptist, Lutheran, and many others, all of whom consider themselves to be the Church of Jesus Christ. This presents a problem as there are some glaring differences among the doctrine and theology of these Christian denominations.
One denomination states that everyone who is baptized as a baby is automatically born again and therefore, is a member of the Church. Others say there is a special second baptism of the Holy Spirit which must be experienced in order to finalize our salvation. Which, then, is the “real” Church?
The word “church” no longer means the same thing it did almost 2,000 years ago. When we hear the word “church,” we think of a building where people gather once, twice, three times or more a week for fellowship, worship, singing, and praying. However, that does not qualify any group of people or denomination to be considered the Church of Jesus Christ. Who then comprises the true Church? The answer is rather simple: Jesus stated, “… where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” That is the Church of Jesus Christ! Therefore, any local church, denomination, or group of people who claim to be the exclusive representatives of the true Church of Jesus Christ on earth is fundamentally wrong.
The Catholic Church is the most powerful denomination in the world. We need to understand that the organizational structure of the Catholic Church claims absolute jurisdiction over Christianity.
This self-claimed monopoly on salvation can be found as the basic belief of all false religions, whether they are Mormons, Moonies, Jehovah Witnesses, Adventists, or others; all have a similar message. “We are the absolute authority in the Christian religion and we are the way.”
The Church Is An Organism
If two or three believers born again of the Spirit of God exist in any local church, then the true Church of Jesus Christ may be found within that particular church building. The moment that there are not any true believers found in a church, the Church of Jesus Christ is not present. They should be considered a supper club, entertainment spot, or cultural center, but not the true Church.
In order to be organized and to obey the laws of our government, we must be registered as a church. We need an infrastructure, programs, staff, equipment, and proper facilities to function. However, we may have all of the above listed essentials, and yet not necessarily represent “the” Church of Jesus Christ.
The Church Is His Body
Ephesians 1:23 refers to the Church of Jesus Christ as, “His body.” Jesus is the head and we are the members. Chapter 5:30 further explains, “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Notice that it says, “his flesh, and of his bones.” This cannot be applied to the living members of His Church because our earthly composition is not described as “flesh and bones” but “flesh and blood.”
Jesus poured out His blood as full payment for all of our sins. His flesh and bones were transformed at the moment of His resurrection. He testified to His unbelieving disciples, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39). Remember that when He was crucified, His bones were not broken. Through His broken flesh, He opened the way to the Holy of Holies, “By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:20). At the moment of the Rapture, and not before, we will be instantaneously translated into His likeness!
First Corinthians 12:12-13 reads, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” Based on these scriptural facts, we can easily recognize that there is no direct relationship to any organization or denomination.
The true Church of Jesus Christ is a living movement, a channel of blessing from which the Word of God issues forth into the outermost parts of the world. Evidence of a prospering church is where faith is growing, and its primary concern is preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Task Of The Church
Believers from around the world, no matter what their nationality, race, or color, have become citizens of Heaven: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). No one can obtain this privileged citizenship by any other means than by trusting Jesus alone as his or her personal Saviour.
In addition, the exclusive responsibility of building the Church is not in the hands of a denomination or a community, but exactly as Jesus prophesied, “…I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18). Not only is Jesus the Creator but He is the very foundation of our faith, “[We] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone ” (Ephesians 2:20). The Church, consisting of all of its members worldwide, will complete the spiritual temple of God, “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Verses 21-22).
This great mystery of the Church of Jesus Christ is often misunderstood because there is no visible proof of the existence of the true Church. We cannot present a membership list of all who are truly born again. Nor can we show the progress of this spiritual temple to anyone. No wonder so many liberal theologians who have abandoned the faith of the Lord talk about a world-wide church that needs to be organized and visibly manifested through various movements such as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), the World Council of Churches, the Ecumenical Movement, or the Vatican. These and many other unity-seeking movements and organizations do not represent the Church of Jesus Christ.
The danger of deception does not lie in the obvious but is camouflaged so that it often becomes difficult to analyze who the true Church is. Not only is the Ecumenical Movement hard at work in uniting various church denominations, but the visible unity-seeking spirit of the end times goes much further. Such ‘unity’ will prevail among all religions under the Antichrist.
The Spirit of God does not tolerate a mixture of truth and lies. The Spirit corresponds precisely with the written Word. Whenever someone claims to have a special message from God, we must carefully check that message against the Bible. Even well-intended, pro-Gospel statements are not necessarily the works of the Holy Spirit. In our day, many will fall for virtually anything that seems spiritual and is loosely connected to some verse in Scripture. When questioned, supporters of these false teachers say, “It can’t be of the devil, they are preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We should learn that not all things that seem good are Christian, but they may be the works of the great deceiver. It is however, not our task to eagerly search for mistakes that fellow Christians may make and identify them as “works of deception” or even as the “devil’s work.” Jumping the gun is not necessarily the work of the Spirit of God either.
Dispensation Of The Church
The Church, contrary to Israel, has a limited amount of time. To be more precise, our time lies between the rejection and the re-acceptance of Israel. Today, we are witnessing Israel coming back to her land where they have established a powerful, prosperous nation.
But until this day, Israel is still blind to her Messiah for our sake, “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Romans 11:28).
For the first time in 2,000 years Israel has become a sovereign nation. As believers, we should recognize this as a great end time sign, if not the greatest, for the Church to be ready for the Rapture.
It is impossible for anyone to deny the reality of the Israeli nation any longer, not even her Arab enemies or those who follow the evil of Replacement theology. This is an unprecedented sign in history, and a special sign of the times for the Church. Jesus told us, “… when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). He is not necessarily encouraging us to be alert and to watch for signs of the Great Tribulation or the coming of the Antichrist, but rather to “Look up” for our redemption and our Redeemer!
The Church continued to grow, and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in the outermost parts of the world. Those who believe in Him are born again, and they become lively stones in this spiritual temple. The moment the last gentile is added, the spiritual house is complete and will be raptured into the presence of the Lord!
Light Of The World
Another vital task for the Church is to be a light in a dark world. Philippians 2:15 reads, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”
Jesus says, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). We must not misunderstand this important statement because Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world.” He is the ultimate Light. Notice that He did not say “ye have the light of the world” but “ye are the light of the world.” This “light” is not physically visible in any way. In other words, we cannot see this light with our physical eyes. The news media cannot come to our churches and report about the light they have seen. The light to which the Lord is referring is a spiritual matter and can only be understood spiritually. Only when a person is born again can he see the light, and subsequently the future kingdom of God.
John 3:3 makes this very clear, “… Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
When Jesus walked on the earth, both friends and enemies recognized who He was without any publicity campaign. He did not have promoters, booking agents, press secretaries, or a media staff. His being radiated the glory of God and touched those who were in darkness because they saw the light. His light exposed the sins of those with whom He came in contact. Even the devils cried out, “… What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?” (Matthew 8:29).
Fruit Of The Spirit
My dear friend, if you are born again, you are light. Don’t hide the light behind your own flesh and blood. In other words, don’t place yourself in front of the light in that you show off what a great person you are. The works of the flesh, which we have already identified, are the hindering element in letting your light shine. Examine yourself before the countenance of God as to whether or not your light is shining!
How can you know that your light is shining? Through the exhibition of the fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law ” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Often, our problem is that we reverse Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” We are not to promote our works for the Lord for our glory. Naturally we like to do that. Jesus plainly tells us in the correct order that first we should “let your light so shine.” We have mentioned that the light is the “fruit of the spirit.” When people recognize this light, they “see your good works.” Therefore, don’t show off your good works because you will hinder the light: rather, let the “fruit of the spirit” be on permanent display in your life so a direct vision of the Word will fall by those who are in darkness and, as a result, they “will glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Light Shines Best When Dark
Believers frequently complain about the terrible times in which we live and the darkness coming upon this world. That may be true, but remember, light shines brightest in the darkest places. To illustrate this point, look up. You will not see a star in the sky during the day, but in the darkness of the night, stars shine brightly!
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the contrast between darkness and light, ’Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee” (Isaiah 60:1-2). While this is specifically addressed to the children of Israel, we know that spiritually it addresses the Church as well. These verses have not been fulfilled for Israel nationally because the Lord’s glory is not seen upon Israel in this day.
A “gross darkness” is indeed covering the entire earth, a darkness to the truth of the precious liberating Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thankfully, this darkness has been removed from the eyes of millions who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us who believes has experienced the fulfillment of Isaiah 60:3, “… the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
Isaiah’s prophecy continues in the next verse and has yet to be fulfilled to its fullest extent. “Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side” (Isaiah 60:4- 5).
Summarizing, the Church of Jesus Christ cannot be identified with a denomination, a local church, or a group of people, but it consists exclusively of individual born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church does not have an address, a nationality or a political identity. No one can determine the number of Her members. Yet the Church is a powerful, living reality surpassing everything that is of this world.
In recent years, we have experienced the revelation of the Church behind the former Iron Curtain. While virtually nothing of the Church has been visible in communist countries, we have suddenly seen great activity in the most unexpected places. Believers are gathering in fellowship, praising God, teaching the Word, and waiting for the coming of Jesus. China, where extreme strict measures have been taken against any religion, has particularly surprised us. No one can confirm that number, but we do know the Church is alive and well, even during the greatest oppression man has ever seen. As the true Church continues to prosper and grow daily, the Lord is adding those who believe to His body and when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, the moment of the Rapture will arrive.
(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)