Church and Kingdom
By Clarence Larkin
The Church is not a continuation of the “Jewish Dispensation” under another name, nor does the Church edifice take the place of the Synagogue. It is because some religious bodies believe that the Christian Church is but another phase of what they call the “Jewish Church,” that they insist on a “Ceremonial Ritual” and retain the Priesthood with its altar, vestments, etc., and Temple-like buildings; and call the ordinances of the Christian Church “Sacrifices” and “Sacraments.” They also go further and advocate a “State Church,” with the Church as the head, and claim that all the Old Testament promises of riches and glory have been transferred from the Jew to the Church.
The Church is not to be confounded with “The Kingdom.” The Church is compared to a “House” (1 Timothy 3:15), to a “Temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), to a “Body” (1 Corinthians 12:27-31), but never to a “Kingdom.” Christ is the “HEAD” of His Church (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:18), but He is never spoken of as its KING. The Church is a “MYSTERY” and was first revealed to Paul. Ephesians 3:1-11. The Kingdom was no Mystery. The Old Testament prophets describe it in glowing terms. What they could not understand was, what was to come in between the “Sufferings” and “Glory” of Christ. 1 Peter 1:9-12. That is, between the “CROSS” and the “CROWN.” That the Gentiles were to be saved was no Mystery. Romans 9:24-30. The “Mystery” was, that God was going to form an entirely “NEW THING” composed of both “JEW” and “GENTILE,” to be called the “CHURCH.” The purpose of this Dispensation is seen in the “Divine Program” outlined by the Apostle James in his address to the First Church Council held at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-18), where he declares that God has visited the Gentiles to “take out of them ‘A PEOPLE’ for His Name.” The purpose of this Dispensation then is not the bringing in of the Kingdom, or the conversion of the world, but the gathering out of an “elect body,” the Church.
While Israel is a “called out body” it is a “National Body,” composed exclusively of the descendants of Abraham, but the Church is not a “National Body,” for it is not composed of the people of any one nation, but of individuals from every kindred, people, tribe and nation.
I. THE CHURCH
The Church is not only a “called out Body,” it is the “BODY OF CHRIST.” In Ephesians.1:22-23, we read – “And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him (Jesus) to be the ‘Head’ over all things to the Church which is His BODY.” The context shows (vs. 20) that this “Headship” was not possible until Jesus had been raised from the dead, and seated at the right hand of the Father. The Church then could not have been in existence before there was a “Head,” for God does not make headless things. The Church then is the “Body” of which Christ is the “Head.” In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 we are told how this “Body” is formed: “For as the body is one, and hath many members; and all the members of that one body being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one ‘Spirit’ (Holy Spirit) are we all baptized into ‘ONE BODY,’ whether we be Jew or Gentile, whether we be bond or free.” From this we see that it is the “Baptism of the Spirit” that incorporates us into the “Body of Christ.” That is, there could be no Church until the “Day of Pentecost.”
The fact that the Church is a “Body” made up of “living members” shows that it is not an “Organization” but an “ORGANISM.” As the human body is for the manifestation of a Personality, so the Church, the “Body of Christ,” is for the purpose of manifesting “His Personality.” The only way then the world can see Christ is through His Body the Church.
But the Church is not only the “Body” of Christ, it is to be His BRIDE. At present it is but a virgin espoused. 2 Corinthians 11:2. Some hold that the Church cannot be both the “Body” and “Bride” of Christ, and that the “Bride” must be Israel. But we must not forget that there are “Two Brides” mentioned in the Scriptures, one in the Old Testament, and the other in the New Testament. The one in the Old Testament is Israel, the Bride of Jehovah; the one in the New Testament is the Church, the Bride of Christ. Of Israel it is said – “Thy Maker is thine husband.” Isaiah 54:5-8. Because of her Whoredoms, Israel is a cast-off wife, but Jehovah, her husband, promises to take her back when she ceases from her adulteries. Jeremiah 3:1-18; Ezekiel 16:1-63; Hosea, 2:1-23, 3:1-5. She will not be taken back as a “Virgin,” but as a “Wife.” But it is a VIRGIN that the Lamb (Christ) is to marry. So the “Wife” of the Old Testament cannot be the “Bride” (Virgin) of the New Testament. Again the “Wife” (Israel) is to reside in the earthly Jerusalem during the Millennium, while the “Bride” (the Church) will reside in the New Jerusalem. These distinctions make it clear that Israel cannot be the “Bride” of Christ. As to the Church being both the “Body” and “Bride” of Christ, we have the type of Eve who was of the “body” of Adam before she became his “bride.”
WHO BELONG TO THE CHURCH?
If the Church had its origin at Pentecost and ends at the “Rapture of the Saints” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17), then only those who are saved between those two events belong to the Church. The Old Testament Saints are the “Friends of the Bridegroom,” but they are not the “Bride.” In Revelation 19:9 we read, “Blessed are they which are called unto the ‘Marriage Supper’ of the Lamb.” The Bride is not“called” (invited) to her own wedding, she has a place there of her own right. The “called” are the “Guests.” The Old Testament Saints will be “Guests,” as will also the “Blood-washed Multitude” that come out of the Tribulation, for they are not saved until after the Rapture of the Church. Revelation 7:9-17.
Angels and Heavenly Beings will be spectators of the scene, but they cannot be “Guests,” as that honor is reserved for those who have been redeemed by the “Blood of the Lamb.”
THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
As we have seen, the Church is not an “Organization” but an “Organism.” Therefore it is not a “Social Club,” organized and supported solely for the benefit of its members. Neither is it a “Place of Amusement” to pander to the carnal nature of man. Nor is it a “House of Merchandise” for the sale of “Indulgences,” or other commodities, whereby the money of the ungodly can be secured to save the penurious church member a little self-sacrifice. Neither is it a “Reform Bureau” to save the “bodies” of men. The reformation of men is very commendable, as are all forms of “Social Service,” but that is not the work or mission.
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