The situations we face in life can usually be handled in several different ways. But, God saw to it that Israel, His Old Testament people, were drawn to an inescapable conclusion in Ecclesiastes 12:13. This is one Old Testament Commandment that is also applicable to those of us in New Testament times. Of course, all of God’s Directives to man must be “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15). In that way they can be properly understood and followed.
But you may be asking: “Why is keeping the Commandments of God the whole duty of man?” Because man will be judged! And either sentenced to eternity in a place of condemnation or rewarded with eternity with God. When Jesus came to earth, He did not come to judge man (John 12:47). Jesus will become judge after His present reign over the kingdom for which He gave His life on Calvary’s cross. We also know that the kingdom exists now and is not some future entity which is to be expected.
The judgment is an inescapable conclusion if one reads and studies the Bible. We do not know when this will occur, except to the degree the Bible tells us. But in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 we do know that Christ will “rule” and “reign” until the end.
This leads to another inescapable conclusion; that all will die. Hebrews 9:27 makes this clear that death precedes judgment. From these passages, one must conclude all will have died (or been changed) when the judgment will occur (1 Corinthians 15:51).
From these Bible facts, we can conclude the time to make the needed changes in our lives is while we have full access of our faculties. One way of making the changes that are needed within us is to prioritize. Jesus told those hearing Him the “kingdom” (the church) and the righteousness of God would have to be first in their lives (Matthew 6:33). The “these things” of which the Lord spoke were the other necessities of life such as food, raiment, and shelter.
The Choice Is Ours
How do we prioritize our lives to ensure that we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first? Well, it must be through that which will judge us after this life is over(John 12:48). It is a choice all must make. We can receive His Word or we can reject it. As we read John 12:49-50, the verses that follow, we can surely “conclude” that God’s Word was what Jesus spoke. If we want the desired outcome at the judgment, we must put the Word of God first in our lives. It is an inescapable conclusion that only the Word of God, rightly divided and properly lived leads to the eternal life.
What is it that is keeping you from doing the things found in the Word of God? Why can we not see that God’s Word is that which directs us? The Psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is an inescapable conclusion that if we walk the path of this life without the light of the gospel, we will reach a destination we do not wish to reach.
When Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am,” Peter and the other apostles confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied to this confession and said, “…upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:15-19).
So, we see these words of the Lord stand today as a monument to the folly of man. According to His promise, He built His church. Yet despite His promise, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted” (Matt. 15:13), men have “built” (or added) many other churches to the one which Jesus built. However, it seems there are many who are perfectly willing to compete with the Lord by establishing other churches.
Today, in the United States, there are more than 400 distinct religious organizations in existence, each one different from all the rest in a few ways or, in some cases, many ways. And they make all kinds of different claims as to purpose, authority, source, etc. In the face of so many claims, how can one know which is the right church; or even if any of them are? The only way to be sure is to go to the Bible, the inspired word of God, and find the church revealed there.
The beginning of the church of the Bible
We need to find where, when and how was the church to be built. The
scriptures supply the answer. “Now it will come about that In the last days The
mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the
mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream
to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain
of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning
His ways And that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from
Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:2-3). Notice some
pertinent information in this passage.
1. The “house of God” was to begin in Jerusalem. 2. It was to begin “in the latter days.” 3. It would be composed of “all nations.” 4. It was to be established by “teaching” and not by war.
The “house of God” is identified by Paul in giving direction to Timothy when he says, “in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Also, Zechariah confirms that the house of God, the church, would begin in Jerusalem: “Therefore thus says the LORD, “I will return to Jerusalem with compassion; My house will be built in it,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and a measuring line will be stretched over Jerusalem” (Zec 1:16).
It must have been quite a surprise to the Jew, for centuries the chosen people of God, that the “house of God” would consist of “all nations.” But a change was coming. Other nations would be a part of the church that was to be built. A church built in some other place cannot be the church of the Bible.
Jesus promised to build the church of the bible
Notice, in Matt. 16 the Lord promised, “I will build My church … And I will give you the keys of the kingdom.” The church is repeatedly identified later as the kingdom: “the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven…a kingdom which cannot be shaken…” (Heb. 12:23, 28). And those who were “translated into the kingdom” (Col. 1:13) were members of “the body, the church” (Col. 1:18).
But the Jews were looking for an earthly kingdom, one that would cast
off the political and military yoke of the Roman Empire. However, Jesus
plainly said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of
this world, then My servants would be fighting…” (John 18:36). Physical
birth made people citizens of the kingdom of Israel, but Jesus told
Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he
cannot see the kingdom of God…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one
is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”
(Jn. 3:3-5). This kingdom, this house, this church was to be completely
different from Israel.
Power was to come with the establishment
When was this church, or kingdom, to begin? Jesus had told the
apostles, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here
who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come
with power” (Mk 9:1). Later, after His resurrection, He told them, “behold, I
am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the
city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). So, we see that
the kingdom was to come during the lifetime of the apostles, it was to come
with power, they were to wait in Jerusalem until Jesus sent the power upon
Just before His ascension, Jesus “commanded them not to leave
Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised…you will receive
power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:1-8). As we continue to
read, we notice, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in
one place…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak
with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:1, 4).
When the accusation was made, “They are full of sweet wine” (Acts 2:13), Peter
answered: “These men are not drunk, as you suppose…but this is what was
spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God
says, ‘that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind’” (Acts 2:15-17). Thus,
all the pieces of the prophecies come together.
Prophecies concerning the church of the bible
The church was to begin “in Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:8; Zech. 1:16) “in the last days” (Isa. 2:2-8), during the lifetime of the apostles (Mark 9:1) “with power.” The power was to come when the Holy Spirit was given (Acts 1:8). It all fits. The apostles were waiting in Jerusalem as Jesus instructed and the Holy Spirit came as He had promised. And they preached that “the last days” had now begun. Therefore, we should expect the church (kingdom) to begin – and it does!
When the gospel was preached, people asked, “What shall we do?” God’s answer “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls…And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:38, 41, 47). Jesus had promised, “I will build My church.” That promise had now been fulfilled. That church had now been built, and when the Lord saved people, He added them to His church.
Continuing through the book Acts, we find the church growing as people were “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). This was the church of the Bible. Any church that began at some place other than Jerusalem cannot be the church of the Bible. Nor can any church that did not begin during the lifetime of the apostles be the church of the Bible. Also any church that is not composed of ALL the saved cannot be the church of the Bible.
The head of the church of the bible
The apostles writings (Romans through Jude), picture Jesus’ church for us. The apostle Paul wrote of Jesus, “He is also head of the body, the church…God gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body…There is one body…He Himself being the Savior of the body” (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-28; 4:4; 5:23). The church that Jesus built is the “body of Christ.”
Surely no man-made church can make that claim! That church is also the bride of Christ; “I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin…For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23-32).
Without a doubt the most meaningful description of the church of the Bible is that of “the family of God.” Paul wrote to those in the church in Ephesus, “you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19-20). Also this same apostle said, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). When those on Pentecost were baptized, the Lord saved them and added them to His church (Acts 2:47). In other words, because they were “born of water and the Spirit” they were now in the kingdom (Jn 3:5) which is the church. Thus, all of God’s children are in His family, which is the church of the Bible. Therefore, if one has been “born again” he is in God’s family, which is the church.
So, the conclusion we reach is; any church with origins at another time or place, or in another way not in keeping with what we read in God’s word is not the church of the Bible. Nor is one composed of different people than what we read in God’s word the church of the Bible. Jesus taught clearly about the source of the church, the kingdom, “The seed is the word of God” (Lk 8:11). The apostle Peter wrote later, “you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God…And this is the word which was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:23, 25). So, if you will receive the same seed, the word of God, and obey it the same way those people did 2000+ years ago, the Lord will add you to that same church.
Much of the time young people do not think too far into the future. Perhaps
it is because of the fact they are young. But what would the answer be if they
were asked what they were going to do in the future?
What Then Questions
But, what would the conversation be like if a father were to ask his son
if he had given any thought to his future, he might get several
different answers. It quite possible he would be somewhat surprised if
his son was to tell him he had it all figured out. If we were to listen
in on the conversation we might hear something like this.
The father asks his son to tell him about his plans. So the son proceeded to tell him that after he graduated from high school he would go on to college. “Fine, son; what then?” Then his son stated that after he graduated from college, he’d get a well-paying job and buy a big house and a nice car. “Great, son; what then?” The boy said he’d then get married and raise a family, just like his dad. “Wonderful, son; but what then?” Well, the son figured that he’d probably work until he was old enough to retire. Excellent, son; so, what then?” Perhaps somewhat perplexed by this time by his father’s continued inquiries, the son figured he’d live out his golden years traveling and enjoying his grandchildren. “Splendid, son; have you considered what then?” Realizing the inevitable, the young man said of course he’d die! And then his father looked straight into his son’s eyes and asked one last time, “Okay, son; have you considered what then?”
Planning For The Future, Have You Considered What Then?
It is always wise to take time to plan for the future. A young couple will usually try to plan their finances so they can afford to buy a home. Most of the time, they also plan for the size of family they want and the children’s education, even going so far as to set up a savings plan, shortly after each child is born.
People make sure they have car insurance before driving their car. They also buy health insurance to cover the event of serious illness or injury and life insurance to protect the family against the loss of a loved one, particularly a bread winner. Sometimes they look far enough into the future to set up some kind to plan for retirement. All kinds of people carry day planners around with them to plan their daily schedules. It’s wise to plan!
Death Comes, Have You Considered What Then?
But in the face of all the planning we typically do, many carelessly fail to put God in their plans (Jas. 4:13-17). So, it isn’t surprising so many also fail to plan for the most important day of our existence, the day we’ll all stand before our Lord at judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). The young boy in the story above sounded as though he had his life and future well under control. But he had failed to plan for eternity which awaits everyone after this life is over. And that’s probably the way it is, to one degree or another, for most people.
Seventy, eighty, ninety or a hundred years sounds like a long time. But, it’s less than a drop in a bucket compared to eternity. To consider planning for the time we will spend in this life is wise. But to give little thought to what lies just beyond this life is utter foolishness! Someone has said there are only two sure things in life: death and taxes. But, with death come the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Have your future plans gone as far as that ultimate day of reckoning? When you reach the point of first drawing in and then releasing that last breath of life in this physical world, have you considered what then???
Marriage and the marriage vows are something that should never be taken lightly. What happens when two people come together under the idea of marriage? They stand before a man to recite wedding vows to each other. But, what does this mean? Consider if you will, the words both the male and female make: “Will you take this woman/man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor her/him, and keep her/him in sickness and in health…, forsaking all others for as long as you both shall live? Will you take to yourself to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and to love and cherish each other till death do you part?”
Your Marriage Vows are before God, do you mean it?
When two people repeat their wedding vows, those involved in that marriage make this promise to each other and to God. They promise they will be together forever. However, far too many times, this is far from the truth. Separations occur and eventually divorce comes (annulments included). But what is divorce? Obtaining a divorce is a legal (by man’s standards) dissolution of a marriage. It is a ceasing, a breaking of promises, to let go, or to release from bonds that terminates a marriage. But what is ceasing? However, what are things that break in divorce? Could we say that we are breaking two hearts in a marriage or breaking a family into jagged pieces? But what are we letting go? Could it be the bond that was first made on the wedding day between each other and between God? But, why the release?
Did not Jesus say to the Pharisees who came tempting Him
with questions on divorce that, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and
be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5)? Two
lives join into one. Therefore, the bond of husband and wife is stronger than
that between children and parents. And, to be as one means that they are to be
the only ones together. Yet, if this is true, then what comes in between them?
It should be said that when something comes in between the one flesh, it must
be a painful experience seeing as how pain always comes when something is
inserted between flesh. With a marriage, this insertion is planned and cannot
happen by accident and once it is between flesh, it separates it and divorce is
seen shortly down the road.
Marriage Vows Combine Two as One
Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Now, what could be so forceful that it could separate flesh? Perhaps a friend? Maybe they just drive each other crazy. Perhaps they are just not compatible. Jesus again speaking said to the Pharisees, “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (fornication), and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).
What is fornication? It is illicit sexual intercourse. It is sexual intercourse whether it is with a man, woman, homosexual, lesbian, animal, etc. Jesus said that for this reason only can one divorce. Why? It is because sexual intercourse breaks the one flesh into two. Also, because there is a foreign flesh attempting to rip part of the flesh from the rest. It is because it breaks the covenant relationship between man and woman. In addition, it breaks the covenant relationship with God because once you are in a marriage, you are commanded by God to keep it (Rom. 7:2).
Men can attempt to justify this by saying that the laws of the land permit other actions. Well, so did the laws of the land in Jesus’ day (Matt. 19:1-9). But just because it is a law of the land, does not give us a right to violate God’s law. The apostles, which were led directly by the Holy Spirit said, “. . . We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, if God defines what a marriage is and what it is not and defines the reason to end a marriage, we must obey God rather than man for only God can dissolve a marriage.
Divorce Means Ignoring Your Promise to God
Divorce that comes outside of fornication, happens when men forget God (Rom. 1:18-32), when they forget His word (Psa. 119:11), and when they want to do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). May we each do the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23).