Before proceeding with this blessed theme it may be necessary to justify the designation used at the head of this paper. It is customary to refer to the "church": such an appellation conjures before the English mind some material edifice used for religious purposes. Does the word in its Scripture usage justify such a thought? Decidedly not! The word is used some 115 times in the New Testament, even apart from the reference in Hebrews 12:23. Three times it is used rightly in Acts -19:32,39,41. That in Acts 7:38 refers to the congregation of Israel in the wilderness. The use of the word in Acts 19:37 is a mistranslation and should read "temple plunderers." The other three uses in the 19th chapter are related to the tumultuous gathering in Ephesus. The word from which we get "church" is "ecclesia" - meaning "called out." In this and the following papers we desire to speak of this unique company of people who are God's called out ones, under six headings:
1) Foretold, 2) Founded, 3) Formed, 4) Furnished, 5) Functioning, and 6) Future. Numbers 1-5 were the direct subject of the first article; number 6 that of this article.
In the previous paper we have looked at the Assembly under 5 headings: - Foretold, Founded, Formed, Furnished, and Functioning. We will now consider the Future of the Assembly, Foretold by our Lord and Founded on the truth of Who He is, having been Formed on the day of Pentecost by the down coming of the Holy Spirit and completely Furnished by the apostolic teaching, with a view to Functioning correspondingly. To those who form the Assembly the Future is viewed with glad anticipation. They know, from the Scriptures of Truth - received in faith and in the power of the Spirit's application of them - that they possess a sure, steadfast, blessed, purifying hope (He. 6; Ti. 2; 1 Jn. 3:3). When our Lord comes to reign - for He must reign (1 Co. 15:25) - they shall be brought with Him by God (1 Th. 4:14). In order to this "the Lord Himself" shall first come for them. Those who sleep through Jesus and those who are alive and remain unto His coming shall be caught up together to meet Him in the air. Then shall be realised the change spoken of in 1 Co. 15:51-54.
The Scriptures also teach that we must all "stand before the judgment seat of Christ (God)" (Ro. 14:10; 1 Co. 3:13, 1 Co. 4:5; 2 Co. 5:10).Our responsible history in life and service shall then be reviewed.
Remember that when we read of reward or loss - 1 Co. 3:14-15 - there is no thought of punitive judgment, for we shall be like Him Who is the Judge (1 Jn. 3:2). There will be no raising of the matter of guilt there, for that has been dealt with satisfactorily in the God glorifying work of our Saviour in His sacrificial death for sin at Calvary. We can say with absolute assurance: "God will not payment twice demand, Once at my bleeding Surety's hand, and then again at mine." As to the judicial matter of our sins the apostle Peter has written, "Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Pe. 2:24). Bore our sins! Where? On the tree! we repeat, not to the tree. How did He bear them? In His own body! the judicial work is done - for ever done - gloriously done. The matter of sins or sin will never be raised again!
"Praise Him again, again, for us the cross He bore." 1 John 4:17-19 declares plainly and unequivocally, "Herein is our love (love with us) made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love (Him) because He first loved us."
When the judgment seat review is over we read, "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth" and "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness(es) of the saints."
The assembly shall then be brought into marital union with Christ, the Lamb. This, in view of sharing the administration of the kingdom with Him.
The assembly is here described as making herself ready, such is the outcome of the review at the judgment seat of her course in the world. In Ephesians 5:25-27 we learn that Christ had loved and given Himself for her that He might prepare her for the day of presentation. Then shall He present the Assembly to Himself, all glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Then shall be realised that which he had mentioned in His memorable prayer to His Father, "and the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou has sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me."
There shall be displayed in glory such a unity and love that the world shall know beyond the slightest shadow of doubt that the Father had sent the Son.
After the one thousand years of kingdom glory with their righteous rule have run their appointed course, the Assembly - the only New Testament company that will retain its distinct and unique identity for eternity - shall be seen as the holy city, New Jerusalem, eternally fit for the new heavens and the new earth, coming down out of heaven from God.
The Assembly shall still possess the dual character which has been hers since the commencement of her history. She will be seen as a "Bride adorned for her Husband" - proof, were it needed, that Christ abides a Man for eternity. She will no longer be seen in the administrative character of wife, in which she has been active for the duration of the kingdom reign: rather will she be seen for eternity as the object of the satisfied affections of Christ, who had loved and given Himself for her.
The Assembly shall also be introduced for that period which Peter describes in the last verse of his second epistle as "The day of eternity" (New Translation) - in these words, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men."
We have looked at the Assembly in these several and blessed ways: FORETOLD by our Lord; FOUNDED upon the glory of His Person as Son of the living God; FORMED, historically in the world; FURNISHED by the apostolic teaching; and FUNCTIONING as the Body, the Bride, and the Wife of Christ; also, as the House of God now, and growing to an holy Temple in the Lord for the day of display. Finally, in the eternal future, as the means of contact by God, not with Israel nor the nations, but with men. May we have grace and teaching by the Spirit so that, with divinely formed intelligence as to the master-piece of God, we may stand apart in sanctification and separation from all that which, in the religious world, is a denial of it.