Building of the Church
Mat 16:18 And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Jesus told Peter that upon the confession Peter made that Jesus was the Christ, He would build His church, and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. That means, to me, that either the church would never die or that it would never be relegated to the unseen, hadean world--as the throne of Jesus was everlasting (Luke 1:33) and He would eventually deliver it to the Father for joint rule (I Co 15:24, Re 22:3). Perhaps too Jesus was saying that even His own death wouldn't stop Him from building His church, since Peter did say in Acts 2 that His soul was not left in Hades and His body didn't see corruption.
Whatever Jesus meant by His comment about Hades, we know that He was going to build His church. When did He do this? We like to say the church began on the Day of Pentecost after Christ's ascension, and I believe that is fine to say.
Act 2:41 They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added [unto them] in that day about three thousand souls.
To whom were these three thousand added? Apparently, even before the Day of Pentecost, something was being built--since it was being added to at this time. Were the righteous dead already a part of the kingdom? Was this referring to the apostles? The one hundred twenty?
Whoever the ones being added to were, it's obvious that, as with Rome, the church wasn't built in a day. And why should it be? Is a building built because it begins? When we level out the ground and lay the foundation, has the building been built? When we frame the house, is the house built? Even when we put in the windows, is the house finished?
I think we can see that building a house, or anything else, is a process. That's why it's called building. Jesus didn't say He would zap His church into existence.
This being said, let's move on.
Gal 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. 23 Howbeit the [son] by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the [son] by the freewoman [is born] through promise. 24 Which things contain an allegory: for these [women] are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him [that was born] after the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman. 31Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
Many people believe that Jesus nailed the Law of Moses to the cross and that was the end of that. They think God's covenant with Israel ended at the cross. They believe that Christ's law began on the Day of Pentecost after Christ's resurrection and ascension. (I'm not sure what law they think was in effect in the interim. As my husband likes to say, maybe it was Mardi Gras.)
Pay attention to the above passage from Galatians. The son of the bondwoman and the son of the free woman were together. Ishmael taunted Isaac. It was not until Isaac was weaned--not until his infancy was over--that the son of the bondwoman was cast out. Until he was cast out, Ishmael persecuted Isaac. And Paul said, "so also it is now."
What was Paul saying? The obvious allegory, and he made it plain, is that the fleshly (son of the bondwoman) Jerusalem was persecuting the spiritual Jerusalem (the church). How could that be if the old Jerusalem was gone? If the Law had passed, how could any persecution take place? The bondwoman's son would be cast out already if the old Jerusalem was dead or abolished.
Paul even said that the solution WAS to cast out the bondwoman and her son. Her son could not inherit. He was fleshly, and flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But the point is that the old law and the new co-existed for a time.
Now it is true that the old law was growing old and was ready to vanish away.
Hbr 8:13 In that he saith, A new [covenant] he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away.
But the question is, when would this happen? Paul is clear in Romans 11 that it had not happened at that point.
Rom 11:1 I say then, Did God cast off his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Yes, as Paul clearly expressed, during the infancy of the church, both the Law of Moses and the law of Christ were present and active and alive.
So when did the old pass away?
1Cr 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. 13 But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
What does "the perfect" mean? The word is "teleios" and means:
1) brought to its end, finished
2) wanting nothing necessary to completeness
4) that which is perfect
a) consummate human integrity and virtue
b) of men
1) full grown, adult, of full age, mature
So Paul's meaning is that when the church had left its infancy, which, in the allegory, was the point when the bondwoman and her son were cast out, then the church would no longer speak as a child, feel as a child, or think as a child. It would put away childish things. It would be weaned. It would no longer drink milk but would be on meat. It would not need to be nourished by partial prophecies. Prophecy would pass away when the church was no longer in its infancy but was instead fully grown. The revelation would be complete, having all its parts, with nothing missing--perfect.
Remember Johnny Cash's song "One Piece at a time"? He left Kentucky in '49 and went to Detroit to work on the assembly line. Over the years he took pieces of a Cadillac home in his lunchbox (the big pieces in his buddy's mobile home), figuring GM wouldn't miss a piece or two here and there. Eventually he had himself a '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55, '56, '57, '58, '59 automobile. The song actually keeps going until 1970, I think. But the Cadillac wasn't built when he took that first piece home in 1949, or even when he took some pieces home in 1962. It was built when he put it all together.
Being "in part"(whether with an automobile or revelation) is not being whole and itâ€™s not complete, or perfect. The full revelation of truth had to come for the church to truly be established. When did this full revelation happen? At the cross? No. At the Day of Pentecost? No. Peter did use the keys to the kingdom on that day. And as time passed the apostles and others used the spiritual gifts they had and continued the revelation of Christ. And when did the partial revelation cease to be? I think most of us believe that it was with the passing of the apostles. At that point, the revelation was complete and not in part and Christians saw no more "through a glass, darkly."
Dan 9:24 Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. 25 Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. 26 And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end hereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. 27 And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations [shall come] one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall [wrath] be poured out upon the desolate.
Daniel's clear meaning here is that at the destruction of Jerusalem, vision and prophecy would be sealed up. Why would anyone need it any longer once the apostles had given forth the revelation that God gave to them in part and made the full mind of God known?
Zec 13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. 2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
We can see in this passage that when the fountain would be opened to the house of David and for Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness, at the same time the prophet and the unclean spirits would pass out of the land. God was not just whistling Dixie here. He was giving prophecy that meant something. When the time came that prophecy would cease, then at that time full forgiveness, full restoration, the times of refreshing from the Lord, the salvation promised, the redemption--all of it would come to pass. (As a side note, since we know that prophecy was to cease at this time, we know that John wrote Revelation before this time and not after the destruction of Jerusalem. Revelation was complete at this time.)
Once the bondwoman's son was cast out, the free woman's son (the new Jerusalem) came into maturity, with full revelation of the mind of God. And until something is mature, finished, or complete (remember the definition of "perfect"), then it is not BUILT but is merely in the process of being built. And while in its infancy the church's "older brother" was there, taunting and persecuting, until he was cast out and the church was fully established and could rightly be called New Jerusalem.
The promised kingdom of God, the mature body of Christ, the new heavens and new earth, the New Jerusalem (which could come into being only after the old Jerusalem was gone) included people from every age, not just Christians of the first century or Christians of today.
Hbr 11:39 And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, 40 God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
There's that word "perfect" again. The structure was in place and the teaching for the church was complete once the old Jerusalem was gone because, as Daniel and Zechariah said, prophecy and vision were sealed up and the prophet had passed out of the land.
Eph 4:11 And he gave some [to be] apostles;
and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12
for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the
building up of the body of Christ: 13 till we all attain unto the unity
of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man,
unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 that we may
be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of
doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; 15
but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the
head, [even] Christ;
16 from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in [due] measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.
Again, we see the building of the body of Christ. And we know that it would be built when the perfect came. The "perfect" was the completed word of God and the fulfillment of the prophecies of Christ and His kingdom, His glorious New Jerusalem. This could happen only after the old city was destroyed and Jesus returned to take His bride.
Tina Rae Dozier
June 6, 2009