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Bible verses about Church, Identity of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 37:6-10

In Genesis, Jacob clearly understood that he was the sun, his wife was the moon, and his twelve children were the stars. This is the root of the nation of Israel. In Revelation, these symbols are used for two reasons. One is to signify the root of the woman portrayed there, that she is Israelitish: sun, moon, stars—Jacob, Rachel, and the twelve sons. But the sun, moon, and stars also have a secondary meaning: to indicate glory. She is a glorious woman—one that can be associated with the glorious things in the heaven—the sun, moon, and stars.

Note this allusion to glory because, as God is looking at Israel at this time—that is, in the prophetic sense, in the time within the prophecies—Israel is glorious. Israel's beginning was glorious—glorious as the heavenly bodies.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Matthew 16:18

Jesus is prophesying here. Clearly, He intends His church to continue until His return, but He does not say it will always express the same personality. Is not a purpose of prophecy to provide the church with signs along the way to prepare for His coming? The letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 provide some of these signs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Letters to the Seven Churches: Attitudes, Eras or Both?


 

Matthew 16:18

Multitudes of organizations in the Protestant world have no idea of what the church actually consists. This illustrates that even on the simplest of levels, the Bible is a "coded" book. Many refer to a physical building or a legal corporate structure as the church. Few seem to understand the church consists of the members themselves. The word "church" is translated from the Greek ekklesia, meaning "called-out" or "assembly." The "church in the wilderness" consisted of those called out of physical Egypt; the New Testament church are those called out of the spiritual Egypt of false belief and practice dominating this world. Without this knowledge, it is extremely difficult to identify the church Christ built.

Staff
Biblical Symbolism: Symbols of the Church


 

Matthew 16:18

Upon establishing His church, Christ affirms that it would not die out, but continue until His return. This means a body of true believers has continued from Pentecost AD 31 until today. Revelation 2-3 is written in such a way that any Christian in any century could examine it and conclude he had some characteristics of each era, just as we can today.

As described in Revelation 2:1-7, the record of the Ephesian church closely resembles what happened to the apostolic church. Research done in the early days of the Worldwide Church of God also showed a close parallel between Smyrna, Pergamos, and Thyatira and the sketchy history of true believers until the modern age. This information indicates a possible succession of eras.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Eras?


 

Matthew 16:18

When Jesus said, "I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18), He was not describing a church in its normal English usage, as an organization with buildings, offices, services, and activities. He was implying a fellowship of believers. God's ekklesia is not a church in the denominational sense, but a fellowship of all believers in Jesus Christ, not identifying it with any particular group men might establish, but embracing all who fit the Bible's qualifications. So, when the biblical writers use ekklesia in a context involving God and His people, they are drawing attention to the transcendent purpose for which God calls them out.

In a majority of scriptures, the ekklesia is the whole of God's people, of which a congregation, a denomination, or a corporate entity form but a part. Remember the classical Greek usage: Ekklesia included all the citizens of Athens. An army parallel may help illustrate the point. A division is part of an army. The army has several divisions. So then a division is an element of a greater army, and the army in turn is part of something even greater, the nation. Ekklesia, in this analogy, is the nation. In the Bible it is most often used in this sense.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Acts 20:28

The Bible names the body of believers "the church of God" in twelve specific passages, yet literally tens of thousands of religions today claim to be connected with the true God but have names bearing little similarity to what God names His church in the Bible. Because "church of God" is generic, the Bible adds "at Ephesus," "at Corinth," or at other locations to define which part of the church is meant in a specific context. Paul adds "living" in I Timothy 3:15, showing that God allows some leeway in expressing the church's name, utilizing more of God's specific names and attributes as part of the identification.

Staff
Biblical Symbolism: Symbols of the Church


 

Ephesians 1:13-14

This chapter extols the uniqueness of the church, which Paul refers to as "the purchased possession." Israel became God's personal possession through the destruction of Egypt, and more importantly, with the killing of Egypt's firstborn as the price for Israel's liberty. God "purchased" Israel and its liberties by this means.

What we see taking form is a separate and unique people. Even though all mankind owes its existence to God as their Creator, Israel and the church are both separate and unique because they belong to God in a way other people and nations do not. Amos 3:2 declares, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." God purchased these people at awesome cost and thus came into possession of them.

When Israel became His property, it gave them certain liberties. So it is with us, but we receive more besides. Among other things regarding the uniqueness of the church, Paul explains that its members have been set apart (redeemed and freed from the rest of mankind and its ways) and sealed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The term sealed is important because it embraces, not only the sense of ownership, but also security and guarantee. Individual seals were unique, used on documents to identify the sender and to render the content secure from prying eyes and theft, and so they were a guarantee that the contents would reach the intended destination.

God's children may look no different on the outside, but they have been given something inside, something spiritual, that makes them different from others and special to God. They are different only because of something God has done, which also makes them His personal, treasured possession.

John 1:12-13 declares, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." That "something" is the right or power (KJV) to believe the Word of God, which opens our minds and imparts to us the knowledge of God and His purpose, faith, the fear of God, the love of God, and so much more.

Billions of people have access to the Bible. They read it and may even attend church and call themselves Christian, but they then ignore and disobey huge amounts of it, thus not living by every Word of God. This is actual evidence that those who are part of God's special treasure do indeed possess something that sets them apart and motivates them to obey more completely.

Deuteronomy 7:6 begins a section that reveals one of the major reasons why God has done this. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." Segullah appears again as "special treasure," but along with segullah is another, more familiar term that identifies being a special treasure as an aspect of a larger subject: the blessings and responsibilities of holiness.

Holy literally means "set apart." Being a special treasure has set us apart from other people. Others, without this advantage, are not set apart. When this principle from the Old Testament is combined with Ephesians 1:13-14, we can understand that the blessing of having the Spirit of God makes us special, different, and holy (Romans 8:9).

This occurs because, in God's self-revelation, His Spirit imparts faith and the love of God beyond what the natural mind is capable. It is becoming clear that being blessed as a special, holy people imposes responsibilities on us that we are required—indeed commanded—to meet. The standards within this relationship are high, requiring gifts and growth to meet them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

Revelation 12:1-17

Chapter 12 is another inset chapter, in which John sees another wondrous vision. Its events do not follow those in chapter 11 at all: Chapter 11 ends with the blowing of the seventh trumpet and the announcing of the return of Jesus Christ, while chapter 12 suddenly introduces a brand new vision. Rather, chapter 12 is a highly condensed history of the true church within Israel, the woman.

God begins the record all the way back in the time of Jacob. In Genesis 37:9, Joesph dreams that the sun, moon, and stars all bow to him. Revelation 12:1 borrows from that vision to help us understand that the true church has its roots in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. It is, first of all, an Israelitish church, but its real roots are in heaven—where the sun, moon, and stars are. God is figuratively, symbolically pointing in the direction of the origins of the true church.

Chapter 12 unfolds a highly condensed history of that church. It takes us through the rebellion of Lucifer and Jesus Christ being born of the woman. We find the Dragon attempting and succeeding in killing the Child, who is, of course, Jesus Christ. However, He is resurrected, so no really serious damage occurs to the Child born of the woman—Israel.

In verse 6, the woman flees into a wilderness. This takes us in time sequence up through the Middle Ages—through the Inquisitions, Crusades, and tribulations of the times where the church hid in the mountains, hills, and Alpine valleys of central Europe. Then, in verses 7-12, the narrative digresses somewhat, showing us something yet to occur: a war in heaven between Satan and his demons and Michael and the angels.

At the end of the chapter, we find the church again experiencing another, far more intensive tribulation that will be not only intense but much encapsulated in time. One part of the church will be protected, and another part will undergo a great deal of persecution.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

 




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