Having now seen a glimpse of God's Eternal Purpose for the restoration
of creation and realizing that the Church is to play a very important part
in this process, we should now look in closer detail at the Church.
CHURCH HISTORYWhat ever happened to the early Church ? Many would say that it simply disappeared about the end of the 3rd century. This is not true. The early church is still with us today, in an unbroken line from the original apostles. We call it the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, but they are the original Church diverted and eroded by the ravages of time itself.
The original simplicity and glory of the first century church has been replaced by the complexity and traditions of men. This is the situation with every movement of God through history.
The Jews - They were once the very work of God. The only nation which knew the Lord, yet by the time of Jesus they were so tied up in the traditions of their past that they could not recognise the hand of God working in Jesus and His disciples even when they saw great signs and read of them in the scriptures.
The Early Church - This was the very work of God. For nearly three centuries it was persecuted to the brink of extinction. Yet by the time of the Reformation it was so tied up in its tradition that it openly slaughtered thousands for reading the Bible.
The Reformed Church - This also began as the work of God. In the early days of the Reformation there was a great out pouring of the Spirit, with signs and wonders, mighty conversions and restoration of truth. Yet by the time of the Wesleyans they were so tied up in their traditions that they openly stoned and hanged many Christians for believing certain aspects of the Bible which they did not, such as adult baptism and evangelism.
The Methodist Church - This began as a mighty work of God. People were saved in their thousands. Mighty works of deliverance were performed by the Spirit. Yet by the time of William Booth it was so set in its ways that Booth was howled down for wanting to take the gospel to the common poor.
The Pentecostal Churches - Today we have the Pentecostal work. This too began as a mighty work of God, with a great out pouring of the Holy Spirit in both the United States and Wales. Yet is it possible that the Pentecostal Church has gone the way of all the others before it ? Is there such a thing as Pentecostal "Tradition" ?
I believe it is so. Throughout Church history there has been a fixed pattern. A movement will start off well and then slip gradually into some form of tradition. The underlying force behind this is Presumptuous Pride. We are trying to do things our way, rather than yielding to the ways of God. In short we are trying to "make a name for ourselves" (Genesis 11:4) just as those who built the tower of Babel wanted to. We can "have a form of godliness and yet deny the power of it" (2 Timothy 3:5).
For the Church to continue to forge ahead it requires a fresh revelation from God with every generation. The Church must continue to "grow up into the head ship of Jesus" (Ephesians 4:15). The Church is a living thing (the Body of Christ). Living things grow and move, pride is fixed and dead.
The history of the church can also be seen in the book of Revelation.
TWO CHURCHESEven a simple look at the history of the Church in this form is enough to show us that the Church which we see in the world today is not what Jesus had in mind when He said "I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
What then is the situation ? Has God's plan been foiled ? Is God unable to bring His purpose into being ?
I think not. What may appear to be failure to our human eyes has been well and truly allowed for in God's purpose. There are in fact two "Churches" in existence. The first is the one which the world sees with all its faults and sins, a man made organisation with little spiritual life. The other is within the first. These are the "elect", "those who overcome". It is this second, hidden Church which will fulfill God's Eternal Purpose. In His divine wisdom, God has permitted the visible church to exist, so that the hidden church may be nurtured and developed like a pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46) within it, to be revealed as the glorious, liberating sons of God (Romans 8:19-21) in due time.
It is for this reason that the Lord says "many are called but few are chosen" (Matthew 20:16). Those who have not made them selves ready for the Lord's return will in no way enter into His Purpose. Jesus spoke of these things many times in His parables. I.e. the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the parable of the faithful stewards (Luke 12:42-48) and the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30) etc. In each case those who were ready and doing the Lord's will when He returned were rewarded, while those who were unprepared and not doing the Lord's will were excluded.
This is the situation within the Church. Not all who call themselves Christians are indeed going to reign with Jesus in His kingdom, but only those who have "prepared" themselves will.
So we have two Churches, one is the visible Church which is seen by the world, while the other is the hidden Church which is made up of God's true sons. Only God knows which is which and "He is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His Purpose" .
Created: 23 - Jan - 1997.