The Church and the Millennial Kingdom
The second point is: The distinction between the Church and the Millennial Kingdom.
The Christian Church (ekkleesia) , meaning assembly or congregation, is distinct from the congregation of the Mosaic dispensation, or Church in the wilder- ness. For, until after Christ came, it was a thing of the future. This is proved by His assertion in Mat. 16 :18, "On this rock will I build my Church," showing that it had not yet been built.
And, it is likewise distinct from the Millennial Kingdom, which is to follow it.
The Church is a companion of Christ in His humiliation, manifesting His sufferings and filling up the afflictions which are behind.
The Kingdom is the manifestation of the glory of Christ which shall follow, when He "shall sit in the throne of His glory," and when they who have suffered with Him during this time of the trial shall also be exalted to regal power and authority. This Kingdom was at hand, that is, it came nigh (or approached, same Greek word), when Jesus, the King, came. So much so, that the three favored disciples witnessed a foretaste of its glory and power on the Mount of Transfiguration.
It was in the future when the thief cried, "Lord remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom." Luke 23 :42. Joseph of Arimathea, who laid Jesus' body in the sepulchre, "waited for the Kingdom of God," which also indicates that it was still in the future. Mark 15 :43.
It was still future when Paul exhorted the disciples to continue in the faith, and said "that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God." Acts 14 :22. It was in the future while the persecuted Thessalonians suffered, that they might "be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God." 2 Thes. 1 :4-5.
It was most assuredly future when, years afterward, Peter gave his exhortations as follows: "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." ,2 Pet. 1 :10-11. And it has been future during all the long, sad history of the faithful and godly Church, while she has suffered the terrible persecutions of fagot, inquisition, banishment, ridicule and false accusation.
And it will be future until Jesus, "having received the Kingdom," shall return to recompense tribulation to
But the Jews rejected it and slew their King. They were not willing to have this man reign over them, and therefore the Kingdom did not "immediately appear." It became like a nobleman which "went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom and to return." See Luke 19 :11-27. By this parable Jesus distinctly taught that the Kingdom was in the future.
The Kingdom Still Future
It was in the future when Christ said: "I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof (the Passover) until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God," and again, "For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God shall come." Luke 22 :16-18; also Mat. 26 :29; Mark 14 :25. those who have troubled the Church11 and "sit in the throne of His glory."
Then the Kingdom, which, for these centuries, has been hid in mystery; shall be manifested in power and glory.
Then shall "the kingdom of the world become our Lord's and His Christ's," and then shall the Kingdom be given unto the Saints of the Most High.18 Therefore we pray, as Jesus taught us,
"Thy Kingdom Come."
The Church militant, which was begun on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) ends at the Rapture, before the Tribulation.
The Kingdom begins with the Revelation, at the close of the Tribulation.
It is the personal reign of Christ on earth.
He was prophesied to be king of the Jews. Isa. 9 :6.
He was born King of the Jews. Mat. 2 :2.
He said he was the King of the Jews. Mat. 27 :11.
He was crucified as King of the Jews. Mat. 27 :37.
He came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, saying, "The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand." Mark 1:14-15.
He said the Kingdom was among them. Luke 17:21,' margin.
He came unto His own, but His own received Him not. John 1 :11.
He would have set up the Kingdom (Mat. 23:37-39), but they rejected and crucified Him.
However, God raised Him from the dead and set Him on high.
He sent the Holy Ghost into the world, and under His power and guidance the apostles went out preaching the good news of the Kingdom (Acts 2, etc.) to the Jews first, but they rejected it, and the disciples turned to the Gentiles. Thus the Kingdom came nigh unto the Jews, who spurned it, and while it waits God visits "the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name" (Acts 15:14), breaking down the middle wall of partition to make of twain (all Jews and Gentiles who believe in His name) one new man, that is, the Church, or Mystical Body of Christ.
*This we believe Is the true explanation of this subject. The Kingdom did come "nigh" when Christ came, and had they received Him, it would have been manifested, but now it is In abeyance, or waiting until He comes again. However the Greek word engizo, which is translated at hand in Mat. 3:2; 4:17: 10:7, and Is come nigh in Luke 10:9-11, does not necessarily mean Immediately near. For we find the same word used In Rom. 13:12: "The day Is at hand," and in Heb. 10:25, ''as ye see the day approaching" and In James 5:8, "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh," and in 1 Pet. 4:7, "the end of all things Is at hand," each of which passages are yet unfulfilled.
So we see that the word englzo (is at hand) covers a period of more than 1800 years, and reaches unto the second coming of the Lord.
Thus the Church came in as a mystery, and was but rarely, if at all, spoken of in the Old Testament prophecies. For we read in Rom. 16:25 that it is a "mystery, which was kept secret since the world began," and in Eph. 3 :3-6, "The mystery. . . which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men," and in Col. 1 :24- 27 . . . "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest . . . the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles."
It was this mystery of the Church which so puzzled the prophets and caused them to inquire and search diligently what the Spirit meant when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ. See 1 Pet. 1 :10-12. They could understand the glory of the Kingdom, which should follow, but could not understand the mystery, which has been revealed unto us, and which interested the angels; to-wit, a suffering Messiah and a persecuted Church.
The Church is to be the Bride of Christ, which He is going to present unto Himself. Eph. 5 :23-32.
But now she is a Virgin of sorrow and affliction, a companion in suffering with her espoused Husband-the Lord Jesus Christ.
He said: "Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you," and "if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:19-20), and "in the world ye shall have tribulation" (John 16 :36), and the apostle says, "yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Tim. 3:12. See also John 17:14; 1st Thessalonians 3 :3. And this is perfectly consistent. For this world bas murdered the Son of God, and is guilty of His blood, but the Father bears this insult to His matchless love and grace, patiently staying the day of vengeance, being long suffering and not willing that any should perish.
If He thus bears with the murderers of His Son, will He not bear with the persecutors of His Church?
And this persecution will continue until Jesus comes and takes the Church away, and saves her from the great hour of temptation (or trial), which shall come upon all the world, when He shall recompense tribulation to them that have troubled her. And this spirit of rebellion and persecution will continue, even through the tribulation and up to the very day of the Lord, when Christ shall be revealed in flaming fire, with His Saints, to execute judgment upon the earth. So we see that there is no place in the whole earthly history of such a persecuted Church, for the Millennial Kingdom. For, in that time, "righteousness and peace" shall kiss each other, "truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look out of heaven."
"A King shall reign in righteousness, and Princes shall rule in judgment." Isa. 32:1. With righteousness shall He judge the poor. Judah and Israel shall be restored and dwell safely. There shall be no harm nor destruction in all God's holy mountain, and even the animals" shall be at peace.
Again, from all of these passages, and especially Isa. 60, we see that restored Israel and Jerusalem are to be the very central glory of the Millennial Kingdom. But God does not restore Israel and rebuild Zion, or Jerusalem, until He appears in His glory.
"When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory." Psa. 102 :16. And He does not build up Zion or the tabernacle of David until He has taken out the Church. Thus we see a clear distinction between the suffering Church and the glorious Kingdom, which are separated by the Tribulation, to-wit:
The Church Shall Be Rewarded
But, do you ask: "Is the Church always to suffer and be persecuted?"
Surely not. For she shall yet be married. And the light affliction shall work out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in the things which are not (yet) seen, and the church shall be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God for which she suffers, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven. Therefore we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope. Rom. 5 :3-4. And when Christ, who is our hope (1 Tim. 1 :1) and our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory. If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him. We shall reign on the earth. Rev. 5:10. Hence we conclude that the Church shall be recompensed in reigning, with Christ, over the Millennial Kingdom. "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Lu. 12 :32; Dan. 7 :18-22-27. O! then, let us pray as Jesus taught us: "Thy kingdom.' come."
But, do you say, "The Church is not persecuted, and does, even now, enjoy comparative peace?"
We answer, it is because the professing Church (and by this we include Roman Catholics, Greeks and all nominal Christians-in all perhaps 400,000,000) has conformed so largely to the world that the world has little, if any, controversy with her.
Of what avail to God are nominal, cold-hearted, world-conforming Christians' He wants a separate and holy people, and the command is, "Come out and be ye separate." 2 Cor. 6 :14-18.
We believe that the birds of the air and the leaven in the parables of Mat. 13 represent the children of the wicked one, or hypocrites, which have lodged in the Church and the false doctrines which have crept in and so pervaded the professing Church that it has, in the main, become merely formal and nominal.
God wants zealous Christians, in whom the Word of Life shall burn as it did in Jeremiah's bones. And are not the number of these few, even today?
The professing Church is luke-warm, and, we fear, almost ready to be spued out of the Master's mouth. But, thanks be unto His name, there are those who are rebuked and chastened, and who are buying gold and white raiment and anointing their eyes that they may see, and who will overcome and sit down with Christ in His throne. Rev. 3:14-22.
The True Church
There is truly a Church, and it is THE BODY OF CHRIST , one and indivisible, composed of all true believers in Him. It may be called a church within, or among the churches-the wheat among the chaff. And let us remember that this true Church of Christ is appointed unto affliction, and that the intervals of rest (Acts 9 :31) only strengthen her to endure new and varied forms of persecution. This has been her history, and we may expect it will be her future, amid the scoffers, evil men and seducers of the last times.
And yet it is her blessed privilege, in all her affliction, to know that she travails in the birth of souls,44 which are born from above by the Holy Ghost (John 3), and that the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom, which she preaches is the power of God unto salvation unto all who believe.
The Bride of Christ
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
In this precious passage (Eph. 5) the Church, as the Bride of Christ, is typified by the most intimate, tender and sacred relationship known among the children of men.
Abraham's servant went into a far country (Gen. 24) to seek a bride for Isaac, who was the honored type of Christ as a sacrifice. Gen. 22. So has the Holy Spirit come into the world to seek a Bride for Jesus. The servant said, "Hinder me not." So the Holy Ghost is striving with the world, and pleading with cold-hearted professors, that He may hasten the presentation of the bride to the Bridegroom. See Matthew 22 :2-10.
Rebekah said, "I will go." So the Bride should be yearning to go. God has made the wedding and prepared the feast, and all things (except the Bride) are ready for the rapturous meeting, and blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. -Revelation 19:9.
0h that the Church would work a hundredfold more earnestly for the conversion of souls and the edifying of the body of Christ, that the bride might be complete, and thus hasten the coming of her Lord, ever listening to catch the midnight cry: "Behold the Bridegroom cometh!" and "so be ready to go out to meet Him." Matthew 25:6.
"O! I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved Is mine; He brings a poor vile sinner Into His 'house of wine.' I stand upon His merit -I know no safer stand, Not e'en where glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.
The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom's face; I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of Grace; Not at the crown He giveth, but on His pierced hand - The Lamb Is all the glory of Immanuel's land."