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Dispensations, the Church, the Rapture,

and the Destruction of the Universe

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Question #1: 

Hello Robert, Have you come across a Maurice Lloyd and Charles H Welch? If you have - do you agree that the Church started after Acts 28:28 and that this was the 'mystery' that was hidden in God until revealed to the apostle Paul in Eph, Col, Phil 1 & 2 Tim and Titus were the 'prison' epistles? And this is really what appertains to the Church today. I have noted that some of the teachers that preach this are very supportive of the Gap Theory. Maurice Lloyd is either extremely old or passed away (I find him amazing he is straight to the point) was not to sure but did not dismiss it. C.H. Welch totally endorses this as other teachers of this dispensation do.

This does not make easy reading and frankly has totally thrown me ... I have long realised that the established denominations are not correct neither do they preach the TRUTH. So these peoples understand of dividing scripture certainly makes sense, but that does not make it right! There understanding of hell is bizarre however I can see where they are coming from - and several profound scriptures of Jesus Himself mentioning about hell as though it is a place rather then the grave on more then one occasion.

I can also see that dispensationism reads well - however I find the doctrine confusing (which is not right as confusion does not come from God) and their is doctrine of dividing scripture is very radical. I would very much like to know what you make of this - I am sure you must have come across this in your study of the bible - and your teaching must cross the border of dividing scripture correctly - so I am going on that basis this will not be new to you.

I do not mind being challenged (your writing challenges me) however I hate being thrown.

In His Wonderful Name,

Response #1: 

I confess that I am not acquainted with these two individuals you mention (so I am at a loss especially regarding your concerns about whatever they may teach about heaven and hell), but then I am not deeply involved with the ebb and flow of the various trends out there in the world of evangelicalism; I tend to stick to my own knitting.

As to your question, the Church is very often, one might even say usually, misunderstood. The Church actually begins with Adam and Eve (for we shall all rise to meet the Lord when He returns; see the link in CT 5: The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride). However, it is correct to call our present time "the Church Age", since these two thousand years (rapidly running to their conclusion) are the time of the great influx of the gentiles into the Body of Christ (which I take to be the point behind wanting to begin at Acts 28), the filling up of our Lord's Assembly or Church, a process greatly helped and accelerated by the Spirit's unique ministry in our time. Because of this latter point, many conservative theologians have put the beginning of the Church at the Acts Pentecost. While this is fine in terms of seeing that as the point where the new dispensation of grace begins, my main problem with that slightly askew view is that sets "the Church" and "Israel" in opposition. Indeed, most Christians would probably be shocked to discover that the two are part of the same Body of Christ, the same Bride of Christ. However, when one thinks of it, it is really even more preposterous to suggest that Paul, a Jew, and Jesus, a Jew in His humanity, are somehow "not of Israel"; and of course, all the apostles and all the writers of all the scriptures were/are Jewish (Luke included, in my view; cf. Rom.16:21 where "Lucius" is an alternative form of "Luke" according). One could go on, but suffice it to say that what we have in the age of the apostles is the beginning of a dramatically new age of the particular method or manner of the "dispensing" of God's grace, and the opening up in a very broad way of the plan of salvation to the gentiles (in practice; though in principle God's salvation has always been available to anyone who wants it and will be as long as human history continues). Another large part of the change is the shift from shadow to reality, since Jesus came in the flesh, and now is seen and understood face-to-face (making the shadow rituals of the Law obsolete and, more than that, offensive to God because they suggest by their continuation that Jesus' sacrifice was not real or otherwise insufficient: delineating this is the main purpose of the book of Hebrews). The "mystery", another major part of the "problem" in keeping these things straight is essentially contained in the fact that with the coming of the Messiah in the flesh and the carrying out of redemption through Him, God would now expand the community of believers widely beyond Israel. Given the roughly two thousand years of a lonely Jewish remnant in a sea of gentile hardness, this really was an unexpected development (though not without its prophetic foreshadowing as even James recognized: Acts 15:13ff.). Thus the reality of Christ, "in us" in fact, gentiles though we are, is the unexpected and largely unappreciated "mystery" of the Church; that is, the expansion of the franchise of salvation in the Body of Christ to peoples and numbers unimaginable before our Lord came into the world and died on the cross. However, there are and were and will always be Jewish believers, so that what we have is a [temporary] reversal of proportions rather than any fundamental change in kind. Please consult these links for further information:

The Uniqueness of Israel

The Church

The Mystery

The Bride

Hinted at in the above but perhaps requiring a bit of further comment is the issue of dispensations which you also raise. If one sees a "dispensation" in terms of the people in it, then the sort of thing you relate regarding Acts 28 "I will go the gentiles" makes some logical sense. But this is another widely misunderstood and misapplied doctrine. Scofield, followed by many admirable Christian teachers over the years, rather overplayed the significance of the dispensations, and this has had a contributory effect in the problem of [falsely] splitting the Church from Israel in a way scripture never actually does. We are all "true Israel", and true Israel is who we are. From the strictly biblical point of view, a dispensation is a period of time as defined by the means God uses to dispense His grace; so that the difference between the dispensation of Israel and that of the Church is not to be found in any sort of eternal differentiation between those saved then or now, but rather in the way in which the truth of God was/is disseminated. In Israel, the Law and its symbolism along with the gift of prophecy carried the load of teaching the truth; in the Church it is the completed scripture and the intensified indwelling ministry of the Spirit that provide spiritual nutrition. But the key is to be found in the word oikonomia "dispensation" (Eph.1:10; 3:2; 3:9; Col.1:25; 1Tim.1:4), of which Paul for instance tells us he is a diakonos or steward (Col.1:25; a synonym of which is oikonomos, a word closely akin to oikonomia and also used for the one who dispenses the truth of God; cf. 1Cor.4:1; Tit.1:7; Pet.4:10). One can easily see the word "economics" (i.e., in Greek the management of a household, in this case God's "whose household we are") in the former and "deacon" in the latter (in Greek a servant who works in the household). The image here is of God's household being provided for not with physical but with spiritual food, and the means and method used for this is different before, during, and after the age of Israel. The key point I should wish to make is that the true distinction which scripture makes by dividing, for example, Israel and the Church in terms of "dispensation" is thus not between those who are provided for, but in the different mechanics in each age of supplying the provision of truth required for salvation and spiritual growth.

Please see the following links:

The Five Dispensations of Human History

Dispensations (in CT 2A)

The Scofield Reference Bible

Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church I

Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church II

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ who provides for all of our needs,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Was reading your answer to What is Heaven Like. I am under the impression that in your answer, God would renew the current world (earth), and this would be heaven. Can you give me more detail on the scriptures on how this earth will become a heaven. Doesn't the bible say it is destroyed?

Response #2: 

You are absolutely correct about the present earth:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
Revelation 20:11 NIV

For on that day the heavens will burst into flame and dissolve, and the elements will catch fire and melt. But we are awaiting new heavens and a new earth just as He promised - [a world] where righteousness dwells.
2nd Peter 3:12b-13

I would liken it to our present bodies. They are very likely to "see corruption" (except in the case of those believers who survive the Tribulation and are resurrected while still alive). But even though this present earthly and corrupt tent is completely destroyed, the new one, the resurrection body, in some sense "comes out of it" and is in many ways (all good / none bad) like the old one. We will be recognizable, but eternal. In the same way, we can expect the new heavens and the new earth to be recognizable, yet different – and all for the good – having been created anew in the place of the old heavens and earth.

Our eternal home will be the New Jerusalem which descends from heaven to earth as the Father returns once all enemies have been put under Christ's feet and all sin and evil burnt out of the universe forevermore (Rev.20-21).

So I can't be any more specific about the process (any more than I can tell you exactly how God produces the resurrection body: see 1Cor.15 for details on that), but scripture is consistent about expressing the eternity of the earth, the destruction of the earth, and the re-creation of a new earth and heaven that will abide forever – this latter is what most people (should) mean when they speak of "heaven" – it is the New Jerusalem where we shall dwell with our Lord and the Father in bliss for ever.

"As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD, "so will your name and descendants endure."
Isaiah 66:22 NIV

For more details, please see the following link:

The New Heavens and the New Earth

In anticipation of that wonderful day of days to come,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Would you please explain the meaning to 2 Peter 3:10-13. It sounds as if Peter is saying that at Jesus' Second Coming that a new heaven and new earth are made at that time and the old is melted away, but I thought other scripture says we will live on this earth for 1000 years and then a new heaven and earth are created? Also Revelation 19:14, who is John saying the "armies in heaven are"? Pre-tribers say this proves that believers are in heaven prior to the tribulation. What then does this mean?

Response #3: 

I take 2 Peter 3:10-13 to be the destruction of the universe following the millennial reign of Christ (also described in Rev.21:1 following the last judgment of unbelievers at the end of chapter 20). Conflating future events is a very common thing in scripture (see the link: "Prophetic Foreshortening"), but I think that passage reads quite sensibly according to this interpretation without any great need for explanation, at least when translated aright. The key is understanding that the "Day of the Lord" is, in addition to a point of time also a period of time (see the link: "The Day of the Lord"). That is, one may expand the translation "in which" of verse ten to "in the course of which", for that is precisely what Peter means. The "Day" is the final thousand years of human history which begins with the Tribulation and ends with the final destruction of the universe, that is, the day when God settles everything through Jesus Christ (see also the link: "The Seven Days of Human History"):

And the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire by that same Word (of God), preserved for the day of judgment and the destruction of godless men. Let not this one fact escape your attention then, beloved, namely that one day is like a thousand years in the Lord's eyes, and a thousand years like one day (i.e., the "day" will span a millennium). The Lord is not delaying in the fulfillment of His promise (as some think); rather He is exercising patience for your sake, being unwilling for anyone to perish, but desiring all instead to come to repentance. For the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, a day in (i.e., over the course of) which the heavens will depart with a roar, the very elements will ignite and dissolve, and the earth and everything which has been done upon it will be laid bare [for the Lord's inspection]. Since all these things are destined to disintegrate in this way, [consider] what sort of [Christians] we ought to be, [devoted to] holy and godly conduct, as we wait with eager expectation and apprehension the advent of the Day of God. For on that day the heavens will burst into flame and dissolve, and the elements will catch fire and melt. But we are awaiting new heavens and a new earth just as He promised – [a world] where righteousness dwells.
2nd Peter 3:7-13 (cf. Rev.21:11 - 22:3)

As to Revelation 19:14, our resurrection only takes an instant (1Cor.15:52), so there is no reason not to assume that those who are resurrected ("raptured") at Christ's return and meet Him in the air can't/don't become immediately part of this heavenly army. The rewarding of the Church doesn't take place until during the Millennium in any case.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I've been reading the questions section of your site regarding the pre-tribulation rapture theory and I have to say that I agree with you. I feel from reading the scriptures and praying for interpretation from the Holy Spirit I can't accept the pre-tribulation rapture theory. I know I'm not as learned in Greek and Hebrew as you are Dr. Luginbill, but the Lord knows I have a sincere desire to know the truth of his Word. I know there are probably more scriptures concerning this, but here are few that have given me the impression that the pre-trib theory isn't true, some scriptures from the Lord's mouth himself: Matthew 24:3-31, Mark 13:3-27, Luke 21:6-28 (all of which state that immediately after the tribulation hearing the great sound of the trumpet signifying Christ's coming. Previous to that Christ tells the disciples that the would be delivered up to be afflicted, killed and hated for his sake. Knowing that Christ was addressing his disciples at that time, It also applies to the saints of this day and age, that we would have to endure the same.) Revelation 3:10, (gives me the impression that due to the Church of Philadelphia keeping God's word wouldn't endure the temptation to come only leaves that last Church Laodicea. Seeing that the Church of Laodicea is the last church that Christ addressed means that due to their lukewarmness would endure that testing (i.e., The Great Tribulation that the Church of Philadelphia avoided.) Revelation 13:7, 15:2, and 20:4. If the Church is to be raptured, why was the beast allowed to make war with the saints in Rev 13:7 if we're supposedly not going to be here? As for the second chapter Rev 15:2 John sees a vision of those who have gained victory over the beast, his mark, his image, his number and his name. In the last chapter Rev 20:4 John sees the souls of them that were beheaded for the sake of Christ, not having worshiped the beast, his image nor received his mark in their hands or foreheads. Im not a bible scholar but the above scriptures are referring to the saints having come through the tribulation losing their lives for the sake of Christ.) Dr. Luginbill please feel free to correct if im wrong in the above observations. It would seem very clear to me that those saved individuals who are alive during the coming Tribulation will be going through it. You have to ask yourself given the above scriptures by themselves how could one come to any possible conclusion of a pre-trib rapture? To me it seemed quite simple to see that such a theory couldn't be possible from just reading those scriptures alone. They seem very clear cut to me. This era is truly living up to being lukewarm. A lot of pastors and church leaders settle for music and entertainment over preaching and teaching the truth for fear of losing their members. Church members are too lazy to read and study the scriptures themselves and just except what is preached and taught to them. World conformity, a lot of saints don't realize that they're in a spiritual war. Once you have chosen a side you're involved whether passive or active. The devil is relentless and untiring, you can either be a casualty or combatant. Why else does Ephesians speak of putting on the whole armor of God? As a Christian to be a passive and lukewarm, results in becoming a casualty. Its sad, but true. I just want you to know Dr. Luginbill that I fully support your ministry and I will continue to pray that the Lord will continue and bless you and keep you.

Response #4: 

Thank you very much for your thoughtful e-mail. Clearly, you have done quite a bit of thinking and searching the scriptures on this issue. As you probably can tell from the material posted to the site (especially, "The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory."), I am in complete agreement with your conclusions. I also want to commend you on some very sound thinking and argumentation. I plan to post this exchange at some point, because I am sure that many will benefit from seeing how you have reasoned it out. As you have framed it (entirely correctly in my view), a believer coming to the Bible with no preconceptions about the issue would be unlikely to come to any other conclusion than that, of course, believers of the present age will not be exempt from enduring the Tribulation when it does begin. This is a very important perspective, and one I probably do not emphasize enough. Generally speaking, I have taken the approach of showing how there is no evidence for a rapture, and how instead all of the passages which look forward to the Lord's return look forward to the Second Advent, including so-called "proof texts" like 1st Thessalonians 4:13ff. But just as it is true that the natural way of taking all of those passages which look forward to our Lord's return is post-Tribulational, so as you point out so well all of the passages which look forward to the trial and testing of that coming day are focused on believers, and a large number of them too – a very strange situation if all believers are to be "raptured" off of the earth even before the Tribulation begins. But without the preconception of a pre-Trib rapture, these passages as you show naturally point to the Tribulation as a time when the faith of all believers will be tested. If we are not these people, then who would these people possibly be?

It is true that proponents of the pre-Trib rapture have answers for every objection (insufficient in the extreme as they may be), but your approach of seeing the continuum of prophecy as pointing very clearly to believers going through the Tribulation, especially if taken in tandem with mine of the Second Advent being the point upon which we are directed to focus our hope, together very clearly demonstrate that the correct view is the one which flows naturally and effortless from a straightforward reading of the scriptures. Alternatively of course, the pre-Trib rapture, as I have pointed out many times, is not a doctrine which one Christian in a thousand would come up with from reading the Bible on his/her own without being "taught" that such was the case (and that is surely true of "exemption" from undergoing the Tribulation as well). A brief history of the reasons for its origin may be found in the link above, but I would entirely agree with you that the reason why this view, so clearly false, has continued to persist has much to do with the lukewarm nature of our current Church era. The pre-Trib rapture has become a tradition, and as such, for Christians who are not interested in diligently seeking the truth, sadly carries more weight than the easily understandable refrain the scriptures so clearly sing on this point.

Keep up your good work for the Church of Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for kind words and encouragement. I agree with you, the theory of a pre-trib rapture is a tradition of men. The individuals who have come up with that theory are just modern day Pharisees and Sadducees. I feel if you genuinely desire to know God's truth then he would by no means withhold it from you. I have addressed this very same theory with a close friend and she declares that because that is what she was taught in church that is what she is going to believe. I've learned that your relationship with the Lord is your own and it's personal. You have to seek the truth for yourself and not just take what someone has taught you as gospel. The Apostle Paul says, prove all things. I was baptized a Baptist an was taught the very same theory. As I studied and read the bible for myself concerning that theory I found that something in my spirit wouldn't let me accept it. As I researched it further especially in Matt 24: 3-31 Christ made reference to the events in Revelation and he made reference to them in a specific order leading up to his return. We have a God of order, not confusion. I guess it is easier to accept an easy way out of your trials and tribulations, including the Great Tribulation. It will be a sad day when some saints find themselves right in the midst of the Great Tribulation when they have accepted such an unscriptural belief. I don't desire to go through such a terrible event, but I have to choose, a brief time of comfort and security (ending in your eternal damnation!) or a brief moment of suffering resulting in eternal life. Acts 14:22 states that through much tribulation do we enter into the kingdom of God. It may seem like a hard saying, but I accept it as truth. I encourage you sir to keep up the excellent work and I will continue to pray for you and your ministry. May the Lord continue to bless and keep you.

Response #5: 

As I say, I appreciate your method and your diligence. I have often said that it is the "problems" of scripture which often turn out to be our best friends. That is to say, sometimes passages we honestly don't understand or which "prove" something we have believed or are supposed to believe but which don't seem to us to hold water on that score, or which seem to run counter to what we "know" altogether often prove to be the life-preservers that keep us from drowning in a sea of false doctrine. But if we keep pursuing the truth, it usually turns out that we are led sooner or later to the answers we seek.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Do you agree with this view on when the church began?

"Jesus started building His church with His disciples during His public ministry, continued to build it at Pentecost - and is still building it today. So I am unsure how the future tense ("...and upon this rock I WILL BUILD my church.") indicates Pentecost any more than it indicates ongoing activity. The NT church was in existence during Christ's ministry, but empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost."

I agree, here is something to think about.

1. The church had a rule of discipline before Pentecost, Mt. 18:17

2. They had a business meeting before Pentecost and elected someone to take the place of Judas Acts 1:15-26

3. The church had it's commission to preach before Pentecost, Mt.28:18-20, Mk.16:15

4. The church had authority to baptize before Pentecost, Jn.4:2

5. The church had the Lords supper before Pentecost, Mt.26:30

6. During Pentecost there were about 3000 "additions".

These and many other reasons I believe the church was in existence before Pentecost. How can you add to something that doesn't exist. BUT, as Hebrews states, the New Testament can't begin

without the death of the testator, so Christ's death (for the church) marked the starting point; whether it began exactly then or at Pentecost isn't really relevant. I don't agree that the church began later in Acts, though I do believe that several aspects of church doctrine changed drastically between Christ's ministry and Paul's ministry. (personal, dispensational beliefs; been there, done that elsewhere). I've discussed this with you before but need some clarification on this subject.

Response #6:

I agree with the quote that the future of "building the Church" is a continuing activity. The rest of this e-mail confuses the particular administration God uses during this present era with what is Christ's assembly. While there are different means of "dispensation" of divine grace at different times in history, the Church is the Body of Christ without distinction regardless of the way in which things are organized here on earth or the way in which truth is dispensed. We are all one "Church" regardless of "testament", "covenant" or "dispensation", and the ROCK upon which this assembly or Church of all believers is built is Jesus Christ (please see the link: "The Pebble and the ROCK"), and He has been that ROCK since Adam and Eve, since before time began. The word "Church" is actually our strange English translation for the Greek word ekklesia (from which we get "ecclesiastical" et al.); it means "assembly" and refers not to some new development in the plan of God but to the fulfillment of the Body of Christ in our present age; the Church per se includes all believers from Adam to the last person to believe at the end of the Tribulation just prior to Christ's return. The Church is the second phase of the resurrection (Christ being the first) and is Christ's bride at His return. Clearly, Abraham and Moses and David will be at the wedding supper of the Lamb – so how could they not be part of the Church? The false distinction between a "church" of gentiles and a company of Old Testament believers composed mostly of Jews is a misreading of everything the New Testament has to say, and can be a spiritually dangerous position, especially if it leads to a false sense of superiority by gentiles over Jews (cf. Rom.11). Consider just the following passage:

For He Himself is our peace, for He has made both [Jews and gentiles] one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition, that is, the enmity between us, by discharging the Law of the commandments and its requirements in His [own] flesh, so that He might re-create the two into one new Man by making [this] peace, and might reconcile both in one Body to God through His cross, having by means of it abolished the enmity [between God and mankind].
Ephesians 2:14-16

The following excerpt from part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series, "The Church", should clarify this further:

(ii.) The Church: Given Israel's obvious uniqueness in the plan of God and her special relationship with Him (Deut.4:6-8; 4:34; 7:6; 1Ki.8:53; Zech.2:8), the calling out of the gentiles in such unprecedented numbers to be part of the family of God, though foreshadowed in prophecy (as documented above), came as quite a surprise – especially to the devil. We can assume that the seven thousand year outline of human history is well-known to him, as is the one for one replacement of him and his followers with believing humanity – a plan that should by rights be completed at the inception of the day of rest. Looking at his no doubt carefully tabulated scorecard before the day of Pentecost, it must have seemed impossible that the necessary replacement figure could possibly be met on schedule, given that in the two thirds of the available time already elapsed (i.e., the Gentile and Jewish ages), only a small fraction of the requisite number had believed and chosen for God. But just as the incarnation and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, God taking on true humanity and dying for Man, is God's great strategic surprise and victory of the ages, so the filling up of Christ's assembly of believers with a flood of gentiles during the last pair of millennial days is the great "mystery" that followed in the wake of the victorious cross. Just as the final pair of Genesis days sees the re-created earth filled in earnest with a plethora of inhabitants, so the final pair of historical millennial days fills up the family of God with believers, filling up the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, to its full and complete number – the fundamental purpose for the history of the world from the divine point of view.

The word and the concept of the Church must be seen in these terms. For the Church, properly understood, is ultimately composed not just of those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ since the day of Pentecost, but of all believers throughout the first six millennial days (on the Millennium, see below). Stephen's mention of "the Church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38 – NIV "assembly") is a clear indication that the universal assembly of believers antedates what is often thought of as "the Church". The English word "church" is derived from the Old English borrowing and transformation of the Greek adjective kyriakon, or, "belonging to the Lord", a clear attempt on the part of believers of an earlier time to distinguish between local assemblies of believers and the universal Church. In the Greek New Testament, the word translated "church" is an entirely different term: ekklesia (ἐκκλησία). Derived from the verb "to call" and the preposition "out of", this is the same word used for the assembly of enfranchised citizens in the classical Greek city-states. These notions of special selection and special privilege can also be seen in the adjectival form eklektos, cognate in form and meaning with the Latin word from which our English "elect" is derived. That the Church is thus properly the universal assembly of all who choose to faithfully follow Jesus Christ during the first six millennia of human history, a chosen few (by grace through faith, Eph.2:8-9), an elect group called by God out of the devil's world and into His own family, is a truth not only supported throughout the New Testament (cf. Matt.22:14; Rom.8:33; 1Cor.1:27; 1Thes.1:4; 1Pet.1:1; Rev.17:14), but consistent with the picture given by the Old Testament as well, where ekklesia is the standard translation for Israel's assembly (קהל), the qahal. Central to the idea of our "election" is the purpose for it. For we who are elect are so because of Him who is the elect, Jesus Christ, and it is for Him that we have been chosen out of the world, to share eternity together with the chosen One (compare Is.42:1 with 44:1; and cf. Lk.9:35; 23:35; 1Pet.2:4):

Though the world hates you, know that it came to hate Me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own. Now because you are not [a part] of the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you. John 15:19

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing heaven has [to offer], seeing that even before the world was founded He chose us in Him to be sanctified and blameless before Him. Ephesians 1:3-4

This, then, is the true meaning of the Church, the select assembly of Christ, formed and chosen for Him from every age of human history to be His special unique possession.

In our dear Lord who is Head of the entire Assembly, the Church which is Body and Bride.

Bob L.

Question #7: 

I quoted 1 Cor. 10:32 to show that the Greek word translated "nor" in the phrase, "nor the church of God" is "kai" and is often translated "even", as it should, in my opinion, be translated here. Paul's point is that nothing we do should be the cause of any believer to stumble. So the phrase "church of God" is used to indicate all believers.

And also 1 Tim. 3:5 which I believe that this is a general statement. That is to say it does not refer to a particular gathering, but refers to the fact that if any man cannot rule his own house, he cannot take care of any congregation of believers. Here too then, the phrase, "church of God" refers, in my opinion, to believers regardless of location. But there is one more very important lesson to be learned by the fact that the phrase "church of God" is used of believers in both the previous dispensation and the dispensation of the mystery. I believe that tells us that the phrase "church of God" refers to all believers regardless of location, and regardless of dispensation.

And he replied with:

"Let's not correct the Bible to make some point - if you have to do so, you are wrong. I am KJVonly, so obviously we are not going to agree that the KJV is wrong on this point. Paul is making a distinction between the three groups, not trying to imply they are all the same: the lost Jews (ie. the unsaved nation of Israel), the Gentiles (in the context, unsaved out of every other nation in the world), and the church (saved Jews and Gentiles in this church age). The context of 1 Tim. 3:5 indicates Paul is specifically referring to the pastor of a local church, not making some application to a "universal church." A pastor leads a local church, not a universal one. One distinction we need to keep clear - the church is not Israel. In the OT, the people of God were the saved Jews, the wife of the Lord. In the NT, the people of God are the bride of Christ. In eternity I fully believe both people will be one (ie. OT saints and NT saints), but they are not right now and will not be so until at least after the rapture (whether we will be one starting in the Millenium or only in the new heavens and the new earth, I am not fully sure yet)."

Is his teaching biblical? I'm a little thrown off. Thanks in advance!

Response #7: 

I think you make very good points here. Essentially, one can take – and I believe Paul took – what he said in 1Cor.10:32 in both ways; on the second passage, I believe you and your correspondent are basically saying the same thing. The key point is that the "Church" is composed of all believers since Adam and Eve. The idea that it only started at Pentecost (or thereabouts) and/or that it only contains those saved since the resurrection of Jesus is one that has absolutely no biblical foundation. No passage teaches this, and attempting to apply such an idea to scripture has always led to many problems of misinterpretation across the board. That is not to say that it is not a popular idea – it is. It is just flat wrong and not supported by scripture (please see the previous e-mail for the details). I think my point is made well enough, though unintentionally, by your own correspondent in his concluding paragraph where he provides no scripture and resorts to a very confusing hodge-podge of non-biblical ideas to support the false premise of a distinction between Jews and gentiles in the Church of Christ. Jesus has made us all "one" (cf. Jn.17:20-24). How in the world would there be a distinction now but not in eternity? Especially since the Old Testament believers aren't here anymore anyway but are already in eternity? And of course those of the Church Age who have passed on are standing side by side with them in heaven in the presence of Jesus (with no distinction evident in the passages in Revelation which speak of them; etc.). To be fair, the idea of a distinction between "the Church" and believers before the cross came about as a result of attempts to construct a doctrinal system which would fully explain the significant differences in the way things work now as opposed to the way they worked in Israel and before. But these differences which are focused on the ministry of the Spirit on the one hand the cessation of God's witness being concentrated in a single geopolitical nation on the other are essentially all having to do with the way in which truth is disseminated (or "dispensed" = the different "dispensations"). Taking the additional and unwarranted step of making false distinctions between the believers of these groups solely on the basis of the grace means given to grow spiritually is not supported by anything the Bible has to say. The means of disseminating truth are clearly different before and after the cross, but we are all one Body despite this (just as things were significantly different during the apostolic period before the completion of the scripture than they are now). For those who want to press this distinction, the disciples of Jesus pose an interesting problem, for they were saved during "Israel" but ministered during "the Church" – where would they belong, if there were a difference? The fact that there are only two phases in the resurrection of believers following Christ makes this point well: all from Adam to the last believer in the Tribulation are resurrected at the same time and are described in Rev.19:7 as "the Bride". Clearly, God is putting us together in one group, one "Body" as one "Bride" – and that is what we shall be for all eternity as we enjoy sweet fellowship together in the presence of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

A friend of mine was discussing serving the Lord, and we came to disagreements. Well, he had said:

"I have noticed today that many people believe that when a person is born again that it is then their inherent right to be part of the bride of Christ. That they not only received deliverance from condemnation but also that they will, by default, be included in Christ's bride despite whether they lived to God or mammon. I, however, believe it is not an inherent right but a privilege and reward only to those whom he finds faithfully serving him. I believe we would all agree that a person must be a believer to be part of this blessed event. However, I also believe that it is necessary that we be serving him faithfully. The ONLY place in which he has provided us to do so in this dispensation is within Christ's NT church which he established while he was here on earth and built. However, I don't believe that simply membership entitles one to this blessed privilege. The requirement is that we are serving faithfully in whatever capacity the Lord has guided us to serve within his congregation. I believe that you could be a believer and a baptist and be within a scripturally sound church yet if when he returns or when he takes you home he does not find you walking by faith and serving him in doing so, then you will also be excluded from this event. In no way does that reverse the grace in which he spared you from the flames of hell, but neither does such an experience grant us default acceptance into his bride. You can balk, laugh, mock, and hee-haw; but if what I say is true, then be certain to live a faithful life to our Lord. But if what I say isn't true, no harm ever came from being a faithful servant. For many believers I would hope that what the all-inclusive bride position holds is true, but for Christ's name and what I read in the scriptures, I am relieved in knowing it is not true. Please let me know if you wish for me to provide scriptures and I will give you in abundance."

Do you agree with him? Thanks in advance!

Response #8: 

The term "Bride of Christ" is another name for the Church. That is clear from Revelation 21:2 with 21:9, and 22:17, where the Greek word for bride, nymphe, is explicitly used to describe the resurrected Church, and also from Revelation 19:7 where the word "woman" means "wife" or better "bride" in the context of the "wedding of the Lamb", and Ephesians 5:21-33 where the Church as a whole is described as Christ's bride, even though the word itself is not actually used (i.e., Christ is the Head of the Church in the same way that the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ gave Himself "for her"). The passages above are all difficult to segment into two groups (i.e., between more faithful and less faithful believers – believers are "faithful" by definition). This is especially true of the wedding passage in Revelation 19:7-9 where "those invited" to the supper are the new and as yet not resurrected believers of the Millennium. We find a number of other references to this wedding feast, the celebration of our Lord's return where the guest of honor or "bride" is/are clearly all believers, as for instance where Jesus talks specifically about the victory banquet at His return (Matt.8:11-13; Lk.13:28-29; cf. Is.25:6-9; Matt.22:2-14; Lk.14:16-24), and the Song of Solomon, which is largely a simile describing the Church's relationship with Jesus (Song passim, as is Ps.45:8-17; cf. Is.62:5; Jn.3:29). In none of these passages is there any indication that some believers will be shut out or cut off – indeed, one thing we can count on as believers who fulfill our missions in this life with our faith intact is that, regardless of our relative reward, we will all have an equal share in our Lord (Matt.20:1-16; cf. Heb.2:10-13).

What one does see in many of these passages, however, is a clear distinction between believers and unbelievers. This is the point in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt.25:1-13), where the wise virgins have enough faith (oil) to last the night (the Tribulation), but the foolish virgins allow their faith to lapse and are shut out of the feast as a result. In the same way, those who come "from east and west" to recline at the great victory banquet are believers, whereas the "sons of the kingdom" are those of the physical seed of Israel who refused to believe in Jesus (Matt.8:11-13; Lk.13:28-29).

So it is very true that those who are faithful are rewarded with being part of the bride, whereas those who are faithless suffer the penalty of being shut out of the kingdom. But the distinction between the two is not one of relative production for the Lord (as I have had occasion to point out in great detail many times, true production is not what many people think in any case; true production is furthering the message of God done from proper motivations). The "big distinction" is between believers and unbelievers, and not within the community of believers, the "bride of Christ" which is His Church, namely, all who have believed in Jesus and led a faithful life departing this earth with faith intact from Adam and Eve to the resurrection at Christ's return. For more on these subjects see the following links:

"The Bride of Christ" (in SR #5)

"Believers are part of Christ's Bride" (in BB 3B)

"Apostasy and the Sin unto Death" (in BB 3B)

In our Lord with whom we will share a blessed eternity, wonderful beyond comprehension.

Bob L.

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