What is the church?
‘Church’ is a word used to describe a group of people that are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is frequently used in the Bible to describe specific groups of people that met together due to their geographic locality:
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2 (Further examples; Acts 13:1, Romans 16:1)
‘Church’ is also used as a general term to describe the entire group of believers, as mentioned in the above quote, “…all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here is an example from a passage directed at husbands:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25 (Further examples: 1 Corinthians 15:9, Colossians 1:18).
According to Robert Young’s ‘Analytical Concordance to the Bible’ (First Published 1879) the word ‘church’ is the Greek word ‘ekklēsia’ which means ‘that which is called out’. If we take this meaning and its use in the New Testament we can conclude that the church is the collective group of people, followers of Jesus, who have been called out of the kingdoms of the world to become obedient subjects of God’s kingdom.
What is the kingdom of God?
A kingdom typically consists of a ruler, subjects, a specified geographic location and laws of government. Here is the perfect kingdom: God is the King in heaven, His heavenly subjects the angels are always obedient to His commands:
“The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!” Psalm 103:19-21 (Also see Psalm 91:11-12)
Does God’s kingdom exist on earth? God was the king of the nation of Israel; however as sin-prone humans they were not entirely obedient subjects (unlike the angels in heaven). In fact they rejected His kingship and demanded a human ruler instead. This is recorded in 1 Samuel 8:1-9:
“And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7
Today many people still reject God from being the ruler in their lives and pay no heed to His laws. Even those who would accept God as King (the church) struggle to obey Him entirely. The complete kingdom of God, as described above, does not exist on planet Earth…yet. Jesus asked his disciples to pray for such a perfect kingdom state to come:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9 (Also see Matthew 6:33)
God has appointed Jesus, His son and heir, as king of the future global kingdom (see Daniel 2: 35, 44, Luke 23:42, John 18:37, 2 Timothy 4:1-2 and 2 Peter 1:10-11). When Jesus returns to establish his rule; those of the church who are faithful will be invited to become part of the universal complete kingdom of God (see Matthew 25:31-46, in particular v34). The many kingdoms of the world that exist today will be no more. This time is prophesied in the book of Revelation:
“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11:15
Those of the church who are faithful, the people who have acknowledged God as King and surrendered their lives to Him, will be given a part in the kingdom of God. They will no longer be subjects who often struggle to follow His rule. By God’s grace, they will be given a place with Christ, to reign upon His throne.
“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:21