Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST: ITS FUTURE

Hebrews 12.22-24

 

The approach I will pursue with this message will be quite different than my usual approach to preaching, combining two departures from my normal practice of delivering the message from God’s Word and focusing your attention on the text. Let me draw your attention to the timeline below. It shows the following future events from left to right. On the far left next to Eternity Past is the Church Age in which we presently live. In the middle of the time is the seven-year long Tribulation period that will take place after the Rapture of all believers alive and dead during this Christian era. The Millennium in which the Lord Jesus Christ reigns following His Second Coming to earth in power and great glory is farther to the right. At the end of the Millennium, you will see the Great White Throne Judgment of all who throughout history have died without being reconciled to God. After that comes the eternal state. You will notice upon examining that there is no reference to Old Testament events in this timeline, or the crucifixion of Christ, or the resurrection of Christ, or anything in history before this present Christian era. The timeline shows present and future events only because this message from God’s Word deals only with the future of the church of Jesus Christ as I will relate it to two individuals.

My first departure from usual practice, then, will be to focus your attention on the timeline with your Bible left unopened. Closed if you please because of the second departure from my usual practice, which will be to provide for you a superficial overview of what I am convinced is a Biblical understanding of the future of the church of Jesus Christ. Please grant that what I present to you is a considerable departure from majority evangelical opinion about the church’s future. My departure from majority opinions should be no surprise to you in light of my differences from majority evangelical thought regarding the church of Jesus Christ’s founding and the church’s present composition.

The format will be question and answer, beginning with two hypothetical unsaved individuals living some time after the resurrection and ascension to glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. I will name them Bart and Brett. I will ask and then answer according to their two responses and experiences in life, giving us the opportunity to see what will happen to each of them with respect to the church of Jesus Christ from the time they are born until they reach eternity future and the New Heaven and New Earth. The nature of this overview means that I cannot address every issue that might come to your mind. However, I hope that I will ask and answer questions that will fill in many of the blanks that you have in your understanding of the church of Jesus Christ.

Before asking questions and answering allow me to make several statements related to the church of Jesus Christ:

  1. First, I am convinced the church of Jesus Christ was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, forming it by gathering into His church His twelve apostles, who were qualified by being baptized disciples. It was those and only those who at that time comprised the church of Jesus Christ, who were invited to attend the Passover celebration in the Upper Room when our Lord instituted the communion of the Lord’s Supper.
  2. Next, I am convinced the universal church does not exist at present, with the universal invisible church being a concept invented by the Reformers in their attempt to counter the Roman Catholic Church’s claim to being the universal visible church. It is certain that no one in Biblical times would have imagined the Greek word ekklesia being used to describe an entity that has neither visibility nor locality. A church is a congregation.
  3. Third, I am convinced the baptism of the Holy Spirit was predicted by John the Baptist to be a sign and, in fact, was a sign.[1] Spirit baptism was not the means by which someone came to be incorporated into the so-called universal invisible church, not in Acts chapters 2, 8, 10, or 19. Rather, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a means of authenticating to unsaved Jewish bystanders that those speaking to them about Jesus Christ were indeed witnesses to the Jewish Messiah.
  4. Fourth, I am convinced that all Christians are born into the family of God by means of the new birth, being immediately sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.[2] It is afterward that Christians are added to a particular church of Jesus Christ by means of believer baptism administered by that same congregation.
  5. Finally, I am convinced that there was once but one church of Jesus Christ, both before and after the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. However, that church began to grow on the Day of Pentecost and eventually founded other churches of Jesus Christ that were engaged in gospel ministry and seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. At present, there are many churches of Jesus Christ. However, there will someday be yet again but a single church of Jesus Christ, which single church will be mentioned later on in this message.

Now we turn to our questions and answers:

 

First, WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR BOTH INDIVIDUALS AFTER THEY ARE BORN?

 

We are told by the Apostle Peter in Second Peter 3.9 that,

 

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

 

Therefore, let us presume that two different individuals, Bart, and Brett, come to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, come under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit of God, and are born again. Thus, through simple childlike faith both Bart and Brett are saved from their sins.

 

Second, WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR BOTH INDIVIDUALS AFTER THEY ARE BORN AGAIN?

 

We know from the account of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28.18-20 that it is God’s will for both Bart and Brett to be immersed in obedience to Christ’s command and to then commence a life of instruction and training in the context of a church ministry:

 

18    And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20    Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

However, let us suppose that for one reason or another one of the new Christians, Bart, is baptized and becomes an active member of a church of Jesus Christ while the other, Brett, is not baptized. This would mean that while Bart is incorporated into what Paul describes in First Corinthians 3.16 as the temple of God, where he lives and serves God and earns a reward for his Christian ministry in the church, First Corinthians 3.13-14, while Brett, the other believer, does not:

 

9      For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

 

13    Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

14    If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

 

16    Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

 

There is no question that though only Bart is part of a church of Jesus Christ, both believers are members of the family of God, Ephesians 3.14-15, and they both are temples of the Holy Spirit, First Corinthians 6.19, both bought with a price, First Corinthians 6.20:

 

14    . . . I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15    Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named

 

19    What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20    For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

 

Third, WHAT HAPPENS TO EACH OF THEM WHEN THE RAPTURE OCCURS?

 

Let us suppose that over the course of time, Bart died, and his body was buried, while Brett is still alive at the time of the Rapture. What can be said about where Bart and Brett are when the Rapture occurs?

Brett is still alive and is whole and intact here on earth in his physical body at the time of the Rapture. Bart has a different experience. While Bart’s body has been buried following his physical death, his soul was immediately taken into Christ’s presence in heaven. We see this in Second Corinthians 5.6 and 8:

 

6      Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

 

8      We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

 

This explains the wording of the Apostle Paul’s revelation of the Rapture in First Thessalonians 4.13-18, where he refers to deceased Christian loved ones as being asleep:

 

13    But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

14    For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

15    For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

16    For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17    Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18    Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

 

Bart and Brett were separated from each other by the physical death of Bart. This passage shows that the Rapture is comprised of the resurrection of those who are dead in Christ (that would be Bart) as well as the up taking of those Christians who have not yet experienced physical death (which would be Brett). Every believer in Jesus Christ, those dead and those alive, will “meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

 

Fourth, WHAT HAPPENS TO EACH OF THEM AFTER THE RAPTURE OCCURS?

 

There are several passages in the New Testament that refer to the Judgment Seat of Christ. In Romans 14.10 the Apostle Paul writes,

 

“for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

 

Next, we have First Corinthians 4.3-5:

 

3      But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

4      For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

5      Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

 

In Second Corinthians 5.10 he writes,

 

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

 

The Judgment Seat of Christ is convened immediately following the Rapture of all believers in Jesus Christ, both those who have died (such as Bart) and those who are still living when the Rapture occurs (such as Brett). That judgment will be an evaluation by the Savior of each Christian’s life and service from the time of his conversion until the time of his physical death, based upon the criteria Paul describes in First Corinthians 3.10-16:

 

10    According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11    For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12    Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13    Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

14    If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15    If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

16    Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

 

What the rewards given will precisely be is another sermon entirely. However, the criteria for one’s evaluation by the Savior for rewards at His Judgment Seat in heaven is ministry and service in building the spiritual temple of God, while living the Christian life on earth, with gold, silver, and precious stones and not with wood, hay, and stubble. Some will obviously and appropriately be rewarded more, and some will be rewarded less. Others will still be in heaven but rewarded not at all, because they did not serve Christ according to the guidelines of His Word.

God’s plan is for sinners to be saved, to be baptized, and to live then for Him and serve Him in a church congregation. Those who do so in accordance with Hebrews 10.25, such as Bart, will be appropriately rewarded. However, not every believer in Christ does everything the Savior wants him to do. This is particularly important with respect to being part of a church of Jesus Christ where one worships and serves with other believers. Those Christians who are not so engaged, such as Brett, will not be so rewarded when they get to heaven, according to the principle of Second Timothy 2.5:

 

“And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

 

Fifth, WHAT HAPPENS TO EACH OF THEM AFTER THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST?

 

Both Bart and Brett are in heaven in glorified resurrection bodies following the Rapture. Each has been judged by his glorious Savior, Jesus Christ, with Bart among those who are rewarded with crowns and a commendation:

 

“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.”[3]

 

Both Bart and Brett are blissful and full of joy, with the only difference between the two of them being Bart shining with a greater brightness of glory in glory as his reward for obedient service during his Christian life on earth than Brett. Bart was a church member before the Rapture, while Brett was not. However, by God’s grace both Bart and Brett are in heaven, both promised to “ever be with the Lord,” First Thessalonians 4.17.

The question is how that will be brought about? Keep the guarantee of Philippians 1.6 in mind:

 

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

 

God’s plan, according to Romans 8.29, is for each believer in Jesus Christ to be “conformed to the image of his Son.” We know by our own observations that no Christian leaves this life with that promise fulfilled. Every Christian, who dies and goes to heaven, still has a great deal of finishing work to be done by the Lord before he is conformed to the image of his Savior.

I am persuaded that the guarantee of Philippians 1.6 assures that whatever is lacking in my sanctification when I die will be made up after the Rapture and after the Judgment Seat of Christ. Whatever I should have done here on earth as a Christian but did not do will be fixed once I am in heaven. And if a Christian lives and dies without becoming a church member while on earth he, too, will become a church member once he gets to heaven.

My proof? I admit no proof, but rather suggest two implications: First, in John 3.29 we read of John the Baptist identifying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Bridegroom, himself as the friend of the Bridegroom, and also mentioning the bride. I am convinced all believers in Jesus Christ comprise the bride of Christ, and it will be as Christ’s bride that the promise to believers to ever be with the Lord will be fulfilled after the Rapture. Second, in Hebrews 12.22-24 we are shown the superiority of the Christian faith over Judaism by pointing to the Christian’s ultimate destiny:

 

22    But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

23    To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

24    And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

 

Moses ascended to Mount Sinai but was terrified, while the rest of the nation was not allowed to approach. Those who have trusted Christ, however, are destined for Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, accompanied by the heavenly host, and the general assembly and church of the firstborn. I understand this to reveal that every Christian, whether he was obedient in baptism and a member of a church on earth such as Bart, or not such as Brett, will become a member of the heavenly, universal, church of Jesus Christ in heaven. The final phrase in verse 23 reads, “and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” We are not perfect in this life. Neither will we be perfect at the Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven where we will be judged and rewarded. However, what remains undone will be done when we are all gathered into the church triumphant in glory, whether congregations of Christians in the here and now or those believers who are not in any church in the here and now.

 

Sixth, WHAT HAPPENS AFTER ALL GLORIFIED BELIEVERS ARE INCORPORATED INTO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN IN HEAVEN?

 

Since all believers comprise the bride of Christ, it is my understanding that after the church universal in heaven has been constituted with all who trusted Christ here on earth, after the Rapture, after the Judgment Seat of Christ, and after the formation of the completed church of Jesus Christ on high, John the Baptist will fulfill his anticipated privilege as the friend of the Bridegroom at the marriage of the Bridegroom to His Bride, the Church, John 3.29.

Oh, it will be a glorious affair. Remember what the Savior said in John 6.44?

 

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

 

That day will have come. Christ will have raised each of us up. And what began as a relationship of faith in One unseen, with the promise of ever being with the Lord, will finally be consummated.

We see this fulfillment in Revelation 19.7-9:

 

7      Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

8      And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

9      And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

 

 

Seventh, WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB TO THE BRIDE OF CHRIST, THE CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN?

 

Revelation 19.9 answers this question. If what we see of the patterns outlined in the Bible holds true with Christ and His Bride, then the Bridegroom comes to take away His Bride, which is what the Rapture turns out to be. After that, the marriage takes place, which holds true with Christ and the church triumphant in heaven. Then comes the marriage feast.

Remember, it was at a marriage feast that our Lord performed His first miracle, when He turned the water into wine in Cana, John 2.1-11. However, unlike the marriage and the marriage feast in Cana, our Lord’s marriage and marriage feast will not take place in the same place. While the marriage of the Bridegroom and the Bride will take place in heaven, the marriage feast, or what is also called the marriage supper of the Lamb, is announced in heaven but will take place on earth.

For that to occur the Lord Jesus Christ must return to the earth, an event we refer to as His Second Coming, or Second Advent, to establish His great Millennial Kingdom here on earth. We read it in Revelation 19.11-21:

 

11    And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

12    His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

13    And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

14    And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

15    And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

16    And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

17    And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;

18    That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.

19    And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.

20    And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

21    And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

 

And where will we who comprise the Bride of Christ be at this time? The governing truth is First Thessalonians 4.17, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” We will ever and always be with our Savior, our Master, our Redeemer, and our Bridegroom, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

This is not the end of the timeline, but it is enough for us in one message. After the establishing of the millennial reign of Christ and our co-regency as His bride, the marriage supper of the Lamb will last throughout the Millennium. Just try to imagine a one-thousand yearlong celebration of victory and triumph, with the church of Jesus Christ in a place of great honor at our Lord’s side, He seated on the throne of His father, David. At the end of the Millennium, there will be an uprising that will be put down with our Lord’s rod of iron, followed by the Great White Throne Judgment of all the unsaved throughout human history brought up from Hell for final judgment. Our attention will then be turned to a new heaven and a new earth, as the ungodly are cast forever into the lake of fire, Revelation 21.1-8. Then we will enter the eternal future and time will be no more, with us ever and always at our Savior’s side. That is the destiny that awaits those who turn from their sins to trust Jesus Christ to the saving of their eternal and undying souls. That is what will eventually become of the church of Jesus Christ.

What will we do? How will Bart, and Brett, and for that matter you and me, occupy ourselves? Ephesians 3.21 tells us all we need to know for now:

 

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

__________

[1] Matthew 3.11-12; Acts 2.1-4; 8.17-18; 10.44-46; 19.6

[2] Ephesians 3.14-19; 1.13-14; Romans 8.9

[3] Matthew 25.23

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org