Where is the original true Church that Jesus Christ promised to build and still heads today? The Bible is clear that “the gates of hell” would “not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). In other words, that Church would be in existence from the time of its founding in A.D. 31 (see Acts 1 and 2), right up to the return of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:20). It exists today.
Many believe today that they can attend the church of their choosing, that all churches are alike. Most suppose the church to be a building or maybe a set of beliefs. Yet only one spiritual organism is led by Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 1:13; Ephesians 4:4) to the exclusion of all other organizations of men.
Jesus Christ Himself taught that an individual could not enter this spiritual organism of his own volition, but that he had to be placed in it by God the Father (John 6:44).
Don’t Be Deceived
To His own disciples, Jesus Christ issued the warning: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5). The depth of this warning may not have really hit God’s people until we saw a great falling away from the truth of God (2 Thessalonians 2:3), in which the power of the holy people was dashed to pieces (Daniel 12:7).
Some individuals called by God the Father will fail to remain faithful to Him (Daniel 11:35). How can this be?
The answer to this question lies in understanding and clinging to the true purpose of the Church.
The Apostle Paul dealt with people falling by the wayside because they lacked critical understanding: “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven …” (Colossians 1:23). There are strong parallels between the first-century Church and our time today. This is explained in detail in Colossians: First Century Parallels (request your free copy).
We must be grounded and settled so we will never be moved from the hope of the gospel. You can only ground and settle your faith as immovable if you first understand what the gospel is. Even most of God’s people have forgotten what the gospel is. They weren’t grounded and settled in the faith. They didn’t deeply understand and firmly believe the purpose for their calling.
Mark 1:14-15 show us that the gospel is the good news of the coming Kingdom! Jesus Christ will soon return to the Earth to stop the madness of man’s total self-annihilation (Matthew 24:21-22), and to restore all things to all mankind (Acts 3:20-21). The word restitution in verse 21 means restoring what has been taken away to a former state or condition. Our Messiah is coming to restore that which was taken from the Earth: the government of God. God has already restored that government in His church through Herbert W. Armstrong (Matthew 17:10-11).
The great archangel Lucifer had been appointed to administer the government of God on Earth (Ezekiel 28:12-15), but instead of administering that government, he rebelled and implemented his own rule (verses 16-18; Isaiah 14:12-15).
Lucifer became Satan the devil by resenting the government of God over him. He despised God’s authority. Satan instills his resentment in human beings so that they reject and resent God’s rule, His government—His authority.
Satan has been able to deceive most of God’s own people in this end time, because they didn’t hold on to the government of God (Colossians 2:19). Paul records this point right after warning not to be deceived into worshiping demons (fallen angels). God’s own people let go of their Head and succumbed to the worship of demons by going after another ruler—Satan the devil.
Messenger of the Covenant
God has a purpose for everything He does. There was a reason why He had Jesus Christ establish a Church.
And there is real purpose in our attendance of God’s commanded assemblies.There is real purpose for the function of the Church. Most observe religious holidays or attend services without understanding why they do it.
Jesus Christ is called the Messenger of the covenant (Malachi 3:1), speaking of the New Covenant. The Old Covenant established the nation of Israel as God’s congregation. The words congregation and churchare synonymous in the Bible. Both describe a called-out group of people. But Christ was a Messenger sent with a message about a new covenant.
The Old Testament congregation was named after its ancestor Israel. But the Church is named after its progenitor, God the Father. That is why we are called the Church OF God. God becomes our Father and we His children.
As the Messenger of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ proclaimed the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of Israel.
Verses 1-5 show that a human messenger would prepare the way before Christ’s coming to set up this Kingdom of God. Jesus did not fulfill what is described in these verses at His first coming, but He will when He returns.
A Message About Government
When Jesus Christ came the first time, He began to build His Church. But how did He do that? Few people have ever given any real thought to it. Why did there have to be a Church?
Jesus came preaching the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. Today, God’s true Church is preaching that same message, backing and supporting the one Apostle sent forth with that message to proclaim it to the world (Revelation 10:11).
The message Jesus Christ preached was and is: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The kingdom had not yet come, but the time was fulfilled to begin dispensing the message of the soon-coming government of God.
In order to dispense that message, the disciples were admonished to repent. Christ didn’t just call people to repent from what they had done, but from being wrong, from thinking wrong, from having believed wrong. That is the hardest thing for a human to admit. Repentance means acknowledging you are wrong to the point that it leads to a complete change to God’s way of life.
This acknowledgment must come before God can begin to cure usof our deadly disease—sin! God cannot give us eternal life unless and until we admit that we are wrong through and through. We have to let God wash us by the blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5) before He can begin to truly educate us.
The next thing Christ called us to do was to believe.What are we to believe? Many people will say we should believe in Jesus. But He Himself said we are to believe not just that He truly was the Son of God but the gospel message He preached!
As the next few verses in Mark 1 bring out, true followers of Jesus Christ will forsake everything, including their preconceived ideas.
“And they were astonished at his doctrine …” (verse 22). The disciples had never heard such a message before. It astounded them, and this same message still astounds people who hear it today. It is different from anything they’ve ever been taught about the Bible.
Sent Forth With a Message
A disciple is simply a student. Jesus Christ started by calling disciples who were to be taught and instructed—before the Church was started 31/2 years later. There were at least 14 disciples, 12 of whom were called to be apostles (see Mark 3:14 and Acts 1:21).
An apostle is “one sent forth with a message.” Matthias was later selected to replace Judas Iscariot, so that Psalm 109:8 would be fulfilled (see Acts 1:20-26). Note that Matthias was among the men “which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us” (verse 21). These men had been there from the beginning.
It was through these apostles that Jesus Christ would build the Church. The Church did not start until the day of Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus Christ had last seen the disciples and ascended to heaven. It began with the understanding that Christ would return in the same way that He had left them (verses 9-11).
By My Spirit
On the day of Pentecost, once the Holy Spirit had been poured out, Peter, the chief apostle, immediately began to preach a message about the return of Jesus Christ and the government He will establish. He spoke of a living Savior who had ascended unto God the Father. Peter specifies that the Father made “Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). This first sermon was a message about the coming Kingdom of God! It was a message about the restitution of what had been taken away from the Earth—the government of God.
The Kingdom of God was a certainty. Jesus Christ had already qualified to wrest the governance of the Earth from Satan the devil. God’s plan was moving full steam ahead.
To make that message clearly understood, Peter focused on King David and how his throne would be given to the resurrected Christ (verses 29-32). The other 11 apostles stood up with Peter to testify of these events and of the veracity of the message.
How did Peter conclude his message that day of Pentecost? He admonished his hearers to repent and be baptized (verse 38). He drew attention to the gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit “imparts to us the faith and love to obey His spiritual law (Romans 5:5; 13:10). … Water baptism is simply an ordinance of Christ by which we symbolically expressour faith …. Baptism is also a symbolic expression of our repentance from sin [and] shows our total surrender to God” (Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 10). Repentance and belief. It was the message Peter first heard at the time of Mark 1.
True Christians fully surrender to God’s rule in their lives. God’s Spirit makes this possible. Such surrender is essential to the real purpose of the Church!
Learning the Way of God’s Government
The real reason or purpose for the existence of the Church is a mystery to mankind. The purpose of the Church is not to save the world. It is not even to save true Christians. That may come as a shock to some.
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Christ came also to call out selected and chosen ones from Satan’s world to turn from Satan’s way into the way of God’s law and to qualify to reign with Christ when He comes to replace Satan on the throne of the Earth. Those called into the Church were called not merely for salvation and eternal life, but to learn the way of God’s government and develop the divine character during this mortal life in the Church age” (Mystery of the Ages).
Christians today are to learn to come under the government of God. We have to learn this thoroughly in order to help teach all mankind when their time comes to have their minds opened to this truth.
Fivefold Reason for Christ’s First Coming
To understand the purpose for the Church, we must understand the various reasons why Jesus Christ came to Earth the first time. If it wasn’t to save people, then why?
Mr. Armstrong addressed this succinctly in Mystery of the Ages: “He had come 1) to qualify, where the first Adam failed, to replace the former archangel Lucifer on the throne of the Earth, ruling with the government of God. He had come 2) to announce the future establishment of the Kingdom of God and teach that prophetic good news (gospel) to His chosen future apostles. He had come 3) to take on Himself, as our direct Creator, the penalty for our sins by His death on the cross—that we might share in that world. And He had come 4) to be resurrected from the dead by God, making possible eternal God-life for the people of God and after His Second Coming for all who are willing, of all humanity, who have ever lived on this Earth. And He had come 5) to establish God’s Church, to be trained to rule under Him.”
Christ’s gospel was a prophetic message about the Kingdom of God. It was the good news of the future establishment on Earth of the government of God, restored and administered by the divine God Family—the Kingdom of God.
Christ had chosen and prepared a number of men to take that message into all the world and to teach others who may teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
God is so excited about the restoration of His government. He desires to share the good news. Do you show that kind of excitement about God’s government? Pentecost makes us look forward to the fulfillment of the early harvest, the immortalization of those individuals selectively chosen to further this great Work of God.
Every Member Counts
God places every member in His Church where it pleases Him (1 Corinthians 12:18). Not every one is sent forth with a message, like the apostles, but every individual has a vital part in support of the proclamation of the good news. The Church is one body and must operate as one whole (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 19-20).
Why does God call out certain ones into His Church?
Christ specifically sent forth 12 apostles with a message, yet there were many more members of the New Testament Church. Early on the membership grew and multiplied. What was their part in proclaiming the good news?
Mr. Armstrong answered that question in Mystery of the Ages. He wrote, “Much! Without this larger body of lay members the apostle could do nothing! [The apostles] sorely needed this loyalty, backing and the prayers of the lay members. They were all a team together!”
The interdependence of lay members and ministry is geared to prepare us for the coming Kingdom and rule of God.
“Without the tithes and generous freewill offerings of lay members, the Church commission could not be performed in today’s world.
“Without the fervent and prevailing continual prayers of all members, the Work could not be accomplished. Without the continual encouragement of lay members and those over them locally, those of us operating from headquarters could not bear up under the persecutions, oppositions, trials and frustrations.
“Also in reverse, the lay members need just as urgently the encouragement, teaching, counseling and leadership from headquarters and local pastors” (ibid).
But isn’t being a Christian something between an individual and God? one may ask. Certainly it does involve a personal relationship, but Christians are placed in the Church, by the Father who begets us, for a wonderful purpose. That purpose far surpasses the relationship between an individual and his Maker. “The ‘loner’—the ‘individual Christian,’who wants to climb up into the Kingdom some other way than by Christ and His way through His Church—is not being trained in Christ’s manner of training, to rule and reign with Christ in His Kingdom!” (ibid).
The Increase of His Government
Man’s rule over man is about up. God will have fulfilled His purpose of teaching mankind what rebellion against His authority accomplishes. Man is about to annihilate himself as he reaps the fruits of Satan’s way of rebellion and conflict.
“God is the Creator and Supreme Ruler over His entire creation. He had placed the archangel Lucifer on Earth’s throne to administer the government of God. God’s government is based on His law. That law is a way of life—the way of outgoing love.
“God’s government was repudiated by Lucifer, who became Satan, and Satan ruled with the opposite way of life—rebellion, self-centeredness and conflict” (ibid).
Each member of God’s one true Church is called out of season to undergo specific training in the restoration of, submission to, and administration of God’s government. That training can only take place in that one, true Church. Christ is not divided. A “kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation,” Jesus said (Matthew 12:25).
How Satan loves to divide God’s people and their thinking about the purpose of their calling. Our repentance must be ongoing to shed the deceit that our ways exceed God’s. God has singleness of purpose. That purpose revolves around the restitution of all things—which will be accomplished by the restoration of His government, which had been taken from Earth through Lucifer’s rebellion and man’s failure to heed God.
Few are predestined to be called now (Ephesians 1:4-6). The vast majority of individuals will have their opportunity later to learn about God’s government, the solution to all problems. Does that make God a respecter of persons? Certainly not. Man’s calling is only a matter of God’s timing. For those called out of season, placed in God’s Church today, that time is now.
What is the purpose of the Church? Those in God’s Church today are to learn the ways of God’s government—the way God conducts education, economics, social systems, civilization and religion. But there is much more to our education than attaining the knowledge of these things.
God’s firstfruits are taught today to become kings who will rule and also priests who will teach the whole world God’s ways (Revelation 5:10).
What an awesome, purpose-filled calling we have!
As His Bride, the collective body of the Church will be cosaviors with Christ (Obadiah 21). Together with our Husband, and under His direction, we will be unified in purpose to administer the Kingdom of God for all eternity. We will look to His lead and eagerly anticipate the accomplishment of all of His directives because we are submitted in unified purpose.
God’s Kingdom will never be divided. There will never be cause for any schism. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Now is our time to learn to increase that government forever by supporting the delivery of the good news of that soon-coming Kingdom. It is time to repent and believe the gospel!