Why There is a Church on the Earth
By Pastor Peter Bond
1. The Dwelling Place of God
I Jn.4:1-3, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
At first glance the text that John offers to us in verses two and three would appear to be a straightforward one. It would seem to make a clear division between believers and unbelievers. However, at second glance verse two, taken in very simple form, suggests that a very broad range of religious groupings could claim that they are very much the work of ‘the Spirit of God.’ If the verse were simply intended to attest to the fact that there was a man called ‘Jesus Christ’ walking this earth some two thousand years ago, who was the Son of God and the Saviour of the World, then we would find included in that confession all the mainstream denominations including Catholics, Anglicans, the Orthodox ‘churches’ as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians. Evidently there must be more to this verse than first meets the eye!
The sifting process begins as we seek to establish from the Scriptures, the Deity of Jesus Christ. Both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians believe that Jesus is the Son of God – but NOT GOD. This is one of the fundamental points of division between true Christianity and the pseudo-Christian cults.
The Deity of Christ is conclusively revealed in such scriptures as Colossians 2:9 which plainly states “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” John’s gospel chapter one, verse one establishes very clearly that: ‘the Word’ that ‘was God’ (and therefore could never cease to be other than ‘God’) and verse 14: ‘was made flesh and dwelt among us’.
Isaiah 9:6 leaves us in no doubt that the ‘child born [in Bethlehem] the son given (as a sacrifice for our sins) would bear the name (or inward character) of ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’; and of course there are many, many other scriptures that could be linked with these.
However, on this point we are still going to find ourselves in company with, for example, the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox systems.
A further sifting takes place as we begin to consider the ramification of that miracle, generally termed The Incarnation. When the Lord Jesus Christ walked on this earth, ‘the Godhead’ took up residence, or made His dwelling place in a fully human vessel; the literal body of Jesus Christ of Nazareth: ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’; ‘all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily’; in a bodily form, visible to the natural eye.
This significant and profound gesture of the Almighty was a step so radical, so miraculous, and so far-reaching that there is no comparison with it in Scripture up to that point. God in all His fullness in the person of His Son walked the very earth He had created: for ‘All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made’ (John 1:3)
Heb.10:5 Wherefore when he (the Son) cometh into the world, he (the Son) saith, Sacrifice and offering thou (Father) wouldest not, but a body hast thou (Father) prepared me:’ Dialogue within the Godhead between Son and Father can be seen again in Hebrews 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom’ which quotes Psalm 45 where the Father assures the Son ‘Thy throne. O God, is for ever and ever.’
That ‘body’ prepared by the Father for the Son was not only to be the Lamb of God sacrificed to take away the sin of the world but was also to signify that from now on God’s dwelling place on this earth would always be in relation to men and women; human vessels of flesh and blood, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God and born again of His Spirit.
God designated the Tabernacle in the time of Moses through to the time of David, and the Temple from Solomon’s time onward, as His chosen dwelling places. In II Chronicles 6:2 King Solomon, at the dedication of the Temple, confirms before the people of Israel that he has built an ‘house of habitation’ for God and a place for God’s ‘dwelling for ever’ — clearly not in the sense of ‘for all eternity’ but ‘in continuity’.
With the coming of Christ, God no longer is seen as dwelling in a tent or a building, albeit valid for the time being and constructed according to God’s specific instructions; but God dwells in a human form; He makes His dwelling place in a human body — the man Christ Jesus and among those who believe in Him. Thus in Matthew 12:6 in referring to himself, Jesus says, ‘in this place is one greater than the temple’, in this case meaning the literal, physical building but in John 2:21 He speaks of the Temple of His Body.
That we, the body of Believers, the body of Christ (I Cor 12:27) are now that temple and dwelling place of God is beautifully stated in I Peter 2:5 which says ‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house’ and in Ephesians 2:21 the church is depicted as growing into ‘an holy temple in the Lord’ while in the following verse we are told that we are ‘builded together for an habitation (a dwelling place) of God through the Spirit’.
At this moment God has no specific dwelling place on this earth apart from in the hearts of human beings, sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ and washed in His blood and in the midst of such vessels of clay as they gather together in His name.
To confess that ‘Jesus Christ is come in the flesh’ (I John 4:2) is also to confess this great miracle of God’s truth stated in the previous paragraph. And on this point we are going to see a further division occurring in our original list of religious groupings; and to understand that this further division is also on account of the workings of the Spirit of Antichrist.
2. The Disembodiment of Christ
1 John 4:3-6 “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
It is abundantly clear that from the scriptures quoted above that in the late A.D. 80s and early A.D. 90s ‘the spirit of antichrist’ was already in the world. That same ‘spirit’ has continued ‘in the world’ and remains very much with us at this present time.
John calls this time the ‘last time’ (I John 2:18). John reminds his fellow-believers that ‘antichrist shall come’ but also brings to their attention the fact that ‘even now are there many antichrists’ meaning many individuals, organizations and powers in this world who are working under the direct influence of the ‘spirit of antichrist’.
In II Thessalonians 2:7, Paul states ‘For the mystery of iniquity doth already work:’ He is referring to the ‘spirit of antichrist’ and in Ephesians 2:2 he assures us that when we were without Christ we ‘walked according to the course of this world’; according to the prince of the power of the air; the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. He is referring to the ‘spirit of antichrist’ and it is to the progressive workings of this ‘spirit’ that we now turn our attention in this study, remembering that while Satan is greatly concerned and involved with every aspect of world-system of thought and government, he is perhaps even more concerned with making such inroads as he is able in to the ranks of the ‘Body of Christ’.
Earlier we established that under New Covenant, God’s only designated dwelling place on earth is His Church. As with ‘tabernacle’ and ‘temple’ under Old Covenant, God now specifies that He will presence himself wherever there is a gathering together of His people, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. God calls His New Testament house ‘the body of Christ’ (I Cor 10:16), ‘an holy temple in the Lord’ (Ephesians 2:21) and ‘an habitation of God through the Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). Let it be noted here that never before the birth of the church of God (Acts 20:28) had the Lord ever termed a company of people or an entire nation ‘His Body’. It is necessary to bear in mind that under the terms and promises of the New Testament, God has taken a profound and radical step forward in the ordering of things in this planet with respect to the revelation of Jesus Christ reaching now ‘to the uttermost part of earth’ (Acts 1:8).
The church is God’s culminating thought revealed to all mankind before Jesus comes again. There has never been anything superior to it and nothing, as long as time endures, will ever replace it or supersede it. It is the immediate forerunner of God’s intended plan for all the faithful, for all eternity, and therefore, it is no marvel that Satan works restlessly to lessen the status and significance of the church. Satan works to demote it — as he has in the minds of thousands — to a necessary interlude in the REAL plan of God or even a kind of essential ‘loop’ in the overall proceedings, contingent upon Israel’s rejection of Jehovah under the Old Covenant…nothing of course could be further from the truth.
The Holy Ghost reveals through the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 2:11 that Satan works to ‘get an advantage of us’ but adds ‘for we are not ignorant of his devices’. How true that last statement is today remains to be seen!
Warning is given by Paul in II Corinthians 11:4 of ‘another Jesus…another spirit and another gospel.’ The word ‘another’ in this context is equivalent to the prefix ‘anti’ as in ‘antichrist’ meaning: an alternative, a replacement for. Satan has successfully sold such a Christ to countless thousands in the religious market places of our time. But notice the sobering fact that this enterprise is not carried forward by schemes and programmes of mere man; it is accomplished by ‘another spirit’ — the spirit of antichrist.
One of Satan’s most long-standing and persuasive tactics is to convince believers (and I use this term in the very broadest sense) that the Lord is specially drawn to, is to be found in or indeed dwells in buildings places of religious or historic significance, religious rituals and priestly ceremonies.
If Satan can accomplish such a feat of ‘spiritual engineering’ then he has effectively moved us ‘away from the hope of the gospel’ (Colossians 1:23); has brought us under the influence of the spirit of antichrist and has manifestly denied that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. The Incarnation of the Son of God ‘the Word made flesh’ declares to us that from the fulfilment of God’s promise on the day of Pentecost and for ever, ‘…the tabernacle (or dwelling place) of God is with men and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people and God himself shall be with them and be their God’ (Revelation 21:3). This was the very substance of God’s promise to Israel in Jeremiah 31:33 and confirmed to us in II Corinthians 6:16 ‘…as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them and I will be their God and they shall be my people.’
These great promises have never been and will never be rescinded nor will they be dislodged or superseded in times to come. The Lord is progressive in His revelation and will not return to that which ‘decayeth and waxeth old and is ready to vanish away’ (Hebrews 8:13).
I call the adversary’s strategy to convince us otherwise The Disembodiment of Christ: the displacement of Christ from His revealed dwelling place on this earth.