And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. (Acts 1:4-5)
The church has a distinct time period…from Pentecost to the rapture. Only the Father knows the length of this time period, and it is the exact amount of time needed to prepare us, His bride, for our union with Him.
Unlike Israel, the church has a mysterious character. Whereas Israel was always well known throughout the Old Testament, the church seemingly popped up out of nowhere. That is, it was unheard of in the Old Testament, and it wasn’t revealed until Christ came. Even then, the concept of the church was hard to grasp. Here are some of the features of its mysterious character.
It is made up of Jews and Gentiles. Whereas Israel is made up of only Jews, the church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. At the beginning of the church period, the church consisted of mainly believing Jews. Then later the church caught on that Gentiles were welcome too. However, at this present time, there are very few Jews who are church members. Instead, the church is made up of mostly Gentiles.
It is indwelt by Christ. A very mysterious and wonderful thing about the church is that its members are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and by Christ. Therefore, the Bible says that we are all one in Christ. Jesus unites us into one new man, and this is our hope of glory.
…by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:15-18)
It is the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ and He is our head. As the spiritual body of Christ, each of us is a different part of the body and each has a different function in the body.
Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the “body” of Christ. Each of us is a part of the one body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But the Holy Spirit has fitted us all together into one body. We have been baptized into Christ’s body by the one Spirit, and have all been given that same Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12-13)
It is the bride of Christ. God has designed human marriage to show us how He has intended us to relate to Christ. Thus as His bride we are to submit to Him in everything, and as our husband Christ is the head of us, and He loves us – as He gave Himself for us.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 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. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:22-32)
The church will be raptured. In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 Paul writes…
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
This is obviously the rapture, and it is the single “event” that signifies the commencement of the tribulation period.
The church will not endure any of the tribulation period. Why? Well, the fact that the church is the body and bride of Christ should give you the answer. God has poured out His grace on us and has forgiven us of our sins; Christ has paid for them in absolute totality. The tribulation is meant for wrath – to punish wickedness, and also to bring Israel to repentance. None of this is needed for the church.
Why the church and Israel must remain distinct groups. As stated, there are many today that are trying to merge the two groups. They are saying that Israel is no longer a people of God, and they no longer are privy to the promises of God. Some are even going as far as stating that Israel no longer has the right to exist as a nation and as a people. They are saying that God has rejected them as His people and has replaced them with the church. THIS IS WRONG. Israel and the church will remain distinct groups. From eternity past God has had the people of Israel and the church in His mind, and He has made plans for them. He has given them each a purpose and promises. God has given Israel promises that are yet to be fulfilled, and He also has plans for the church. Who are we to try and manipulate God and change His plans? The Lord tells us that in the end Israel will be saved. We MUST believe this. This is sound doctrine. Yes, Israel has been stubborn all throughout scripture and today, but God has plans to break them, to cause them to repent and turn to Him. He takes them through the fire of the Great Tribulation described for us in the book of Revelation. Most of Israel will die but the remaining few, 1/3 to be exact, will be saved.
Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!
declares the Lord Almighty. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’ (Zechariah 13:7-9)
This believing remnant will go into the millennial kingdom and will be God’s trusted leaders on the earth – with believing Gentiles under them, serving them.
The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. (Deuteronomy 28:13)
The church will be residing in the New Jerusalem with glorified bodies along with the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation saints. We will all together rule over the earth with Christ! Therefore, in the coming kingdom, God has a place and a purpose for each person and each group of people. As we wait for that kingdom we must pray, wait on God, and do His will until His plans are carried out – as they eventually will be.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)