Following the murder of Abel, the Bible records dual genealogies descending from Cain and Seth (Gen 4). If we call one, “the line of the righteous,” we can then call the other, “the line of the unrighteous.” During the days of Noah, the line of the righteous was reduced to eight people. When the scheme of re-population commenced, there was unrighteousness in the family of Noah (Gen 6–9).
The righteous called upon the name of the Lord, while the unrighteous did not. The line of the righteous became more distinguished during the days of Abraham (Gen 12). God revealed that He was entering into a covenant relationship with the righteous, exemplified by Abraham. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness (right standing with God). The righteous are distinguished by their faith in the Word of God.
Through the family line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob came the tribes of Israel. This was God’s chosen nation, to reveal Himself through to the other nations. He called Israel out of pagan idolatry, by entering into a relationship with Abraham and his covenant offspring. Abraham was called, “a friend of God.” God’s unconditional covenant to bless Abraham and His covenant offspring was confirmed with Isaac, and then Jacob, who was re-named, “Israel.”
God was not just the God of the Jews, but He is the God of all nations, too. All other gods are demons in disguise. Israel served as a type of God’s people, who would be faithful to Him. History exposes Israel’s infidelity. Still, God called out and kept a remnant of people who demonstrated faith. Visible Israel was only a type, but the invisible remnant of faithful ones was “faithful Israel” of the Old Testament. They were imperfect, but they had faith in Yahweh.
Israel received the Law of God and the promises of a coming Messiah. God raised up prophets to keep Israel disciplined and set apart from the surrounding pagan nations. Israel failed to stay faithful to Yahweh, and they even killed their own prophets. Israel turned to the ways of the neighboring nations and became idolatrous and disobedient. Even God’s harsh judgments did not keep Israel in alignment with the boundaries Yahweh had set for His beloved people. The remnant kept their hope in the promised One, who was to come.
Messiah came at the fullness of time, and immediately the prophetic Scriptures were coming to fulfillment. Only one person in history has fulfilled what God had been revealing. He was the anticipated, Anointed One. Here was the true Israel (Is 49:3); the promised seed of Abraham; the obedient Son; the keeper of God’s Law; the suffering Servant; the faithful covenant partner; even God Himself in the flesh (Isa 9:6). God revealed His name, “Jesus.” The Messiah, or Christ, was here to deliver Israel.
Visible Israel’s error was thinking that Messiah would be a warrior king, born into royalty, with great education and military prowess; but Jesus Christ came the first time, to bring God’s peace treaty with true Israel, who would incorporate a remnant of Jews and Gentiles (Is 49:6; Rev 5:9). These people were identified as Christ’s church. Jesus declared, “I will build My church (Mt 16:18a).”
First, Jesus Christ gathered a small number of disciples and taught them about God the Father and the kingdom of God. Second, He presented Himself as the Lamb of God for sacrifice, to pay for the sins of His people. His blood sacrifice (death on the Cross) was acceptable to God, who raised Jesus from the dead, to show His approval of His Son’s passive work of substitutionary atonement for His people. He delivered them from sin, Satan, and death. This was far different than what visible, ethnic Israel had expected.
Jesus returned to His glorious place on God’s throne in heaven, at the right hand of majesty (Ps 100). The church building project received a new on-site leader, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Christ’s Passover sacrifice of Himself, and ten days after His ascension into heaven, God the Father and God the Son sent forth God the Holy Spirit into the world (Jn 14:26; 15:26).
His first visit was to the small, hiding church at Jerusalem (Acts 1–2). The Spirit descended on the disciples with a baptism of fire. Immediately, God’s Spirit empowered the first sermon by the Peter (Acts 2), and Christ added to His church some three thousand in one day. The message was Jesus Christ, crucified, the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets. Some believed the word of the Cross, but others did not (Jn 10:26; 1 Cor 1:18).
The Holy Spirit filled the apostles, who were scattered away from Jerusalem, by persecution from the Jewish authorities. Who could possibly believe the apostles’ report? Everywhere they went and preached, some believed. A remnant of Jews believed, and then came the ingathering of elect Gentiles, from the nations visited by the church’s earliest missionaries.
The Spirit of God filled the preachers, and then He opened the heart of the hearers to respond in faith to what they had heard. The book of Acts is the first account of the progress of the Spirit’s witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Resistance was common, and persecution ensued, but the missionary evangelists kept heading for the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
God was calling out people from all nations to be His people (Rom 8:30; 2 Thess 2:14; 1 Pet 2:9). They were called, “members of the body of Christ,” and “children of God in the family of God,” and “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” and “a chosen race,” and “royal priesthood,” and “a holy nation,” and “a people for God’s own possession.” The New Testament is rich in metaphors, descriptive of the elect ones of God.
From every nation, tribe, and tongue and from every generation (Rev 5:9), the Holy Spirit has been saving Christ’s beloved bride, His church (Eph 5:25). She is local and global. She is visible and invisible. She is in Christ (Eph 1), “the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).” Those saints (“set apart ones”), who have died in Christ, comprise the church in heaven. Those who remain on the earth experience many trials and tribulations brought by Satan, sin, and the world system (Jn 16:33).
The Holy Spirit-filled church is the representative embassy of the kingdom of God on earth. Each member is an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). The kingdom of darkness is not happy with the intruding King Jesus, nor His evangelists on reconnaissance missions to gather in the flock of God.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, is the divine weapon of war (Eph 6:10–20). As enemy troops surrender their lives, unto new allegiance to King Jesus, it is the Word of God that calls them to defect. It is the Holy Spirit that illumines and empowers them to come into the marvelous light of Christ’s kingdom (1 Pet 2:9). The change of citizenship comes from their adoption by God (Rom 8:15, 23), who causes them to be born again as new creatures (2 Cor 5:17; 1 Pet 1:3). They are the first fruits of the new creation, coming to heaven and earth, after the full number of Gentiles has been added into the church. This will occur after the Gospel has been preached to all nations (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15).
At that time, the Lord Jesus Christ will come a second time from heaven to earth (Rev 19:11–21). A covenant of peace was determined for His first mission, but He will come again in His second advent to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). All bodies will be raised and reunited with all souls, and then the separation of the righteous and the unrighteous will occur (Jn 5:28–29).
Christ’s sheep will be on His right, and Satan’s goats will be on His left (Mt 25:33). Condemnation of the wicked will be affirmed by their endless evil deeds done in the body. No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1), means that judgment day will include crowns of reward. The stark imagery contrast is a powerful warning, for the unrighteous at enmity with God.
In the new heavens and the new earth, the church will be complete (Is 65–66; Rev 21–22). God’s predestined elect from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4–5), for whom Christ’s died on the Cross to save (Mt 1:21; Jn 10:11, 15; Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 2:24), will all be home in the New Jerusalem. The new heavens and the new earth will be an eternally secure and prosperous universe. Satan, sin, and the last enemy, death, will be no more. God’s people will finally have their permanent Sabbath rest in the presence of Christ Jesus.
Some instructions before leaving earth may be in order. First, the church serves in the power of the Holy Spirit, to represent the kingdom of Christ. Our presence, although offensive to the unrighteous, is to be the children of light and truth. We are to live our lives in holiness and godliness.
Second, the church is the company of Spirit-filled believers, who are known by their use of the means of grace. We recognize one another by our mutual love for one another and shared interests in Christ.
Third, using the spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, we should minister the Word, with mercy toward the people of the world enslaved to sin.
Fourth, we are to gather each week on the Lord’s Day for corporate worship and fellowship with our local church family.
Fifth, we have a ministry of reconciliation, as ambassadors for Christ in the world.
Sixth, our lives should be a living sacrifice, offered to Christ in grateful return for all He has done, is doing, and will do for us. Jesus Christ is Lord, and we labor in love, for the One who gave Himself to secure us for Himself and for eternity.
In conclusion, the church is a group of people, scattered across time and around the world. They have been bought for a price with the precious blood of Christ. They have been ransomed and forgiven for their lawless rebellion against Christ. The Holy Spirit has indwelt them. They have transferred kingdoms. They have been adopted out of the orphanage of sin, death, and hell. They are being made holy and will be presented blameless by Christ before the Father. A glorified body and soul await the Christian.
The numbers of those Christ redeemed is multitudes upon multitudes. The line of the righteous has grown, by the mercies of God. His kingdom will have no end. And all of Christ’s church members who have died with Him in baptism, and who have been raised with Him, to be seated in the heavenlies, can say, “Amen.” We will be with Him, and we will reign with Him on His eternal throne. These mysteries are so great, and they serve to humble His church, in anticipation of being clothed in white robes of perfection.
My dear reader, are you a member of Christ’s church? Are you filled with Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit? Do you love and eat up the Bible, as you would your daily bread? Are you in God’s temple on the Lord’s Day to worship Him in Spirit and truth? It must be said that there are only two groups of people in the world: those who are in Christ, and those who are outside of Christ. Search your heart and be honest with yourself. If you are not in Christ, you are in great peril of hell and the lake of fire.
God calls you to repent of your sin, and He calls you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against Him. He has defeated the devil at the Cross, and His Spirit continues to destroy the strongholds of the devil’s deceit in the world. Jesus Christ is the truth, and you must come into His light. By His mercy and grace you will; but for His justice and judgment you will not. The reason is that you are either a member of His body, His church, or you do not belong to Him. You know which one you are, by the truth revealed to you.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 27, 2020