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The Plain Truth – May 1986
The Plain Truth – May 1986
Chapter Six
Mystery Of The Ages

Mystery of the Church

by Herbert W. Armstrong

We continue, with this ninth installment, the serial publication of Herbert W. Armstrong’s last book, Mystery of the Ages.

PERHAPS the greatest mystery of all will not seem, at first glance, to be a mystery to most readers of this volume.

The reason that is true is the fact that the true purpose and meaning of the Church is as little understood as the Bible itself. The revelation of that mystery must come as a shocking truth. The real truth about the Church – the reason for its origin, and its purpose – has remained hidden from even the professing Christian world.

Church Exclusive to Christian World

This is inextricably intertwined with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a fact to stagger the mind of the reader that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not proclaimed to the world from about A.D. 50 until the year 1953. The apostle Paul foretold this when he said, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Cor. 4:3-4).

Millions have read over this passage without grasping its meaning.

The term church is applicable only to the Christian religion. (The Christian religion, as is generally understood, is the largest religion in the world in number of professing adherents.) Other religions may have mosques, synagogues and temples. But is the Church a building? Many assume it is, which assumption reflects their ignorance of the purpose and meaning of the Church. But in this volume we are concerned only with the Church. For when stripped of its mystery, the Church is of paramount concern to all peoples of the earth.

The Church, founded by Jesus Christ, has an all-important meaning to every human life that ever lived. Yet almost no one has ever known that meaning.

Even within the Christian world, apostasy, division and changing times have blotted out the true original meaning and purpose that now is indeed a mystery.

The word church is an English-language word translated from the original Greek ekklesia. Ekklesia means an assembly of called-out-ones. Old Testament Israel was usually called by the term “congregation.” In some respects the word congregation is synonymous with the word church. Yet there is a distinct difference between the terms church and congregation. The congregation of Israel was separate, as a separate nation. But they were not called-out-ones spiritually in the same sense that characterizes the New Testament Church.

What has been hidden from even the professing Christian world is the real purpose of the Church – the real reason why Jesus Christ, the second Adam, founded the Church.

Real Purpose of Church

To the shocking surprise to nearly every reader of this volume, I will state first what the Church was not and is not. It is not the instrumentality by which God is trying to “save the world.” Few may realize it, but Jesus made no attempt to gain converts or to invite people to “give their hearts to him” or to “accept him as their personal Savior.”

On the contrary, he “called out” – drafted – twelve disciples. The word disciple means student. These twelve were students being taught by Jesus the true gospel of the kingdom of God. This involved the entire purpose of God in creating the human race on this earth. That meaning had been rejected, then lost, by the first created man, Adam.

At this point let us recapitulate. 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 God’s law. God’s 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.

Adam, the first created human being, was given opportunity to receive eternal God-life with obedience to God and total submission to the law of God and God’s government. He could have replaced Satan on earth’s throne. He rejected the government and way of God. Thus Satan was left on the throne where he still rules as of this day. Adam and the human family were kidnapped, deceived into living the self-centered hostile way of Satan. Thereupon God closed off the tree of life and the Holy Spirit of God, until Jesus Christ, the second Adam, should conquer and replace Satan on earth’s throne. At his First Coming, appearing on earth as the human Jesus, Christ came, not to seize the throne, but to conquer Satan, qualify to replace him on the throne, and to ransom the kidnapped world with his shed blood.

Now, why the Church? 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.

Seven annual festivals were given to Old Testament Israel and were ordained forever. Their true meaning had long remained a hidden mystery. They picture God’s plan of redemption – the divine plan by which God is reproducing himself. The Passover pictures the death of Christ in payment for the penalty of human sin repented of. The seven days of the Festival of Unleavened Bread picture the Church coming out of sin, even as Israel came out of Egypt. The Day of Pentecost, originally called Feast of Firstfruits, pictures the Church as the first to be begotten and born as children of God during the Church age. The Feast of Trumpets pictures the Second Coming of Christ to take over earth’s throne and to rule all nations. The Day of Atonement pictures the putting away of Satan. The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the thousand-year reign under the rule of Christ and the born children of God. The Final Great Day pictures the final judgment, which will be covered in chapter seven. Let’s return now to the subject of this chapter, the Church.

The Institution of the Church

What is the Church? Why is the Church? The institution of the Church, at first mention, may not seem to be a mystery. The modern Western world takes the fact of the existence of churches for granted, as a part of the world’s civilized life.

WHY the institution of the Church in the world? – WHY was it started, and for what purpose?

If you ask people in the non-Christian world where other religions are accepted, they would probably have no answer. They know little about the Church. Those in the more modernist and liberal areas of traditional Christianity would probably say the Church exists merely as an emotional lift, having a psychological influence on those who have not embraced the evolutionary theory as accepted in modern higher education.

If you ask those who follow one of the evangelical Christian denominations, they would probably say that the Church is God’s instrument in his effort to save the world from an eternal hell fire. It has been assumed by those people that the Church is a sort of soul-saving station to get people “saved.” If the Church came into existence as an instrumentality for “getting people saved,” then, I ask, by what means did God try to save people prior to Christ’s founding of the Church? Jesus did not appear until 4,000 years after Adam and the original sin. If God is and has been trying to convert the world, what means did he use during that 4,000 years between Adam and Christ? As we have seen in chapter three, God closed the tree of life at the foundation of the world. The Holy Spirit and salvation were shut off from the world during all these years.

But in view of the facts revealed by God Almighty in his Word, covered in the preceding chapters, all these suppositions are wrong. They only give vociferous testimony to the fact expressed in Revelation 12:9 that the whole world has been deceived by Satan the devil. Their minds have been blinded to the truth about God’s purpose for humanity as stated in II Corinthians 4:3-4.

The existence of the Church, then, does indeed become a mystery to nearly everyone on the face of this earth.

News concerning some church appears frequently in newspapers and on newscasts. People think of a church on some near corner, or perhaps of some denomination in the news, but the fact of its existence would not occur to the mind to be a mystery. But when we ask, why do churches exist, how did the Church as an institution come into being? – what is its reason or purpose for its existence? – does it make any difference whether, or to which church you belong? – then, indeed, it becomes a mystery. The average person has no answer.

The facts of the Church’s origin and its purpose are revealed in that book of mystery – the Holy Bible. To make clear that mystery may well require more pages in this book than any other subject.

My Personal Experience

I am reminded of my own personal experience, probably typical of many others. My parents were members of the Friends Church, commonly known as the Quakers. The family had been Quakers for many generations. I was taken to church from babyhood, taking it for granted as a normal part of life. I was in church every Sunday because my parents took me. As a routine habit I continued until age 18. It never occurred to me to question why we should attend church or how the church came into existence, or what was its real meaning and purpose.

I never went through the experience in those years of being “converted.” As I grew into the teens, I was told that I had a birthright membership in the church. I was led to take it for granted that I was an immortal soul and that when I died I would not really die, but rather pass away into heaven where I would have no responsibilities but only a life of idleness and ease in sublime glory forever and ever. But I was not religiously or doctrinally interested. I simply took churchgoing and a religious phase of life for granted. But I had no special or deep religious or spiritual interest, and by age 18 I started in the advertising business, lost all interest in religion or the things of God and gave up regular church attendance. I still believed in God – that is to say, I took the existence of God for granted since I had been taught of God’s existence from earliest memory.

Then at age 25 I had met and married that one and only particular young woman. She was more seriously interested in the things of God. We began to feel that we should join a church. My wife’s ancestry had been part Quaker and part Methodist. There was no Quaker church in the neighborhood where we lived in a Chicago suburb. We joined a Methodist church because it was located within walking distance, we liked the personality of the minister, and we liked the membership socially. I think our experience was typical of millions of others. But it never occurred to me to ask or even wonder why we ought to go to church, or why the institution of the Church had ever come into being. Like millions of others I assumed that the “good people” went to church and so ought we.

The Church in Relation to Past History

And so now I ask, Does anyone question the reason or purpose for the Church as an institution? I ask, Does anyone know why there are churches? Is there a REASON for it? The very existence of the Church known as “Christianity” is one of the great mysteries of our time. This very subject brings to mind again the fact that, not having lived through and seen events of the past 6,000 years that led up to the present, we do not grasp the real meaning or purpose of the Church. In this chapter we shall view the Church in its TRUE relationship to all the events described in the first five chapters of this book. Again, what is the Church?

Most think of the Church as a building with a sharply sloping roof, a steeple atop pointing heavenward and a cross on its face. Indeed Webster defines the word church as a building. It was something altogether different when originally founded.

People suppose a church is a building to which people – some of them – flock on Sunday morning for “worship.” They think people go to the church. As founded in the New Testament, the Church went to a building, at first a private home. And the Church assembled on a Saturday, not Sunday.

The churches of today have changed drastically from Christ’s pattern! This fact, also, is cloaked in mystery, understood by virtually no one. But for WHAT PURPOSE did Christ found the Church? What has happened to it since?

Some may know Christ started the Church. But who and what is Christ? And if he was the founder of the Church, for what purpose did he start it? Jesus founded only one Church. Yet in the Western world today there are many different churches – Catholic, Protestant, independents. And within them many denominations, sects and divisions or congregations, each with its differing beliefs, teachings, rituals and programs.

The Church started out as one Church. As it is recorded in I Corinthians 12 the Church consisted of many members, but only the one body – the one Church – of which Jesus Christ was the Head.

At the outset of this chapter we are primarily concerned with four basic questions that constitute a mystery that needs to be revealed with understanding.

1) Who and what is Christ? Why did he appear on earth?

2) What is and why was the Church brought into existence?

3) What is the gospel the Church is commissioned to proclaim?

4) What is the history of the Church? Why is Christianity so different today than at its inception in the first century?

Institutionally the CHURCH is thought of today as a religious organization, association or society. One – if “good” – is supposed to join the “church of his choice.” Of course there are the “good guys” and the “bad guys” and the “good” go to church. But does it make any difference which church – which denomination?

A Minister without a Pastorate

I am reminded of an incident of more than 50 years ago. I was still in Eugene, Oregon. An ex-minister came to me who had just recently been married. His wife had money, but he was too proud to let her support him. He had not been employed in the ministry for some time but now needed a job.

“Do you know of any pulpit vacancies in Lane County?” he asked. “I want to support my wife, and she wants to remain here in Lane County.”

“Well, yes,” I replied. “I do know of one vacancy, but that wouldn’t help you because that is a Christian church, and you are a Methodist with different beliefs and practices.”

“Oh, that won’t make any difference,” he assured me. “I’ll preach whatever doctrines they want me to preach.”

But does it really make any difference what we believe? Let the Word of God answer that question.

The Church seems to be something concerned with worshiping with others. Supposedly it refers to the worship of God.

But if God is related to the Church, what is his relationship? How did the Church start? All this is a mystery to today’s world.

Back in the early part of 1927 when my intense Bible study was bringing me toward conversion, I asked myself such questions. I supposed questions of that sort never enter the average mind.

In the New Testament Greek, the Church is called the ekklesia, a Greek word meaning called-out-ones – an assembly, a congregation, a gathering, a group. There is no sanctity to the word ekklesia. The name of the Church, however, used 12 times in the New Testament, is “Church of God,” which denotes that it is God’s Church – which name attaches sanctity. The Old Testament Church was the “Congregation of Israel,” the congregation descended from the biblical patriarch, Israel.

Why Jesus Founded the Church

The first place in the New Testament where the word church appears is Matthew 16:18, where, speaking to Simon Peter, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” As noted above, the inspired Greek word for church was ekklesia, meaning called-out-ones. Stated in more clear English language, Jesus said “I will call out of Satan’s world disciples, to grow into the altogether new and different world, which will be God’s kingdom.” And in Ephesians 5:23 it is stated that Christ is the Head of the Church.

So this we know. Whatever the Church is, it belongs to God and its name is the Church of God. Jesus Christ is its founder, and he its living Head.

But if it is God’s Church – if Jesus Christ founded it and today heads it – it is something important to God, and therefore vital that we come to understand! We must bear in mind what went before – what led up to it – to understand why the living Christ created the Church – what it is, and where it fits into the divine purpose being worked out here below.

Church of the Old Testament

Old Testament Israel had a function preparatory to ultimate establishment of the kingdom of God. The first mention in the Bible of the Church, in time of existence, is Acts 7:38 where it speaks of “the church in the wilderness” at Mount Sinai, under Moses. So Old Testament Israel was the “Church.” Most generally in the Old Testament, Israel, as a Church, is referred to as the “Congregation of Israel.”

However, as we shall see, the Church of the New Testament is entirely different and has an entirely different purpose than the Old Testament “Congregation of Israel.” Almost no one has understood that the gospel could not be proclaimed to the world, nor could God’s called congregation of people have the Holy Spirit until Jesus a) had qualified by overcoming Satan, and b) had been glorified after ascension to heaven (John 7:37-39).

And that is something not even the theologians and church leaders of our day understand. It is, indeed, a mystery, which needs to be revealed and understood. Now let us understand clearly who and what is Christ.

We have already seen in chapter one that Christ, in the eternity before the world came into being, was the “Logos” who also was God, and as Jesus, was born as the Son of God. Now as the Son of God just what was Jesus? He was called the second Adam (I Cor. 15:45). Why should he be called the second Adam? The first Adam had the opportunity of taking of the tree of life, which meant God-life – obeying God and thereby replacing Satan on the throne of the earth. Jesus came to do just that, to qualify to replace Satan on that throne and to start the government of God on the earth through those called out from Satan’s world. He came also with a message from God called the gospel. The word gospel means good news. And actually, his gospel – the message sent by him from God – was the good news of the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God, as we shall see, is to be the restoration of the government of God over the earth and the ousting of Satan from that throne.

Jesus came also to build the Church. And he came to pay the ransom price for a kidnapped world and by that price – his death – to pay the penalty incurred by all humans for their sins.

Jesus – Earth Ruler and King

Next, what nearly all “Christians,” including theologians, do not realize: Jesus was born to become a KING!

On trial for his life before Pilate, Jesus was asked, “Art thou a king then?” And Jesus answered: “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world …” (John 18:37). Jesus also said (verse 36), “My kingdom is not of this world … [else] would my servants fight” – showing that this is Satan’s world. Jesus came to call people out of this world to be prepared to teach and rule under him when he becomes King and takes over the throne of the earth.

Prior to the begettal and birth of Jesus, God had said to his mother-to-be, Mary, by his angel: “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33). His gospel was the good news of that kingdom – the kingdom of God.

It is vital that we understand, at this point, that Jesus, during his human life, was both God and man. In Isaiah 7:14, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was prophesied as the virgin who was going to bear a son. That Son’s name, in this prophecy, was to be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” In other words, Jesus was God as well as human man. He had no human father. God Almighty was his father who begat him by means of the Holy Spirit. But though Jesus was actually “God with us,” he was also human like all other humans. He was subject to being tempted just as all other humans are tempted. Although he was actually God in the human flesh, yet in his ministry he functioned as a human. Remember, he was the second Adam. It was necessary for him that he, as a human, reject the “forbidden tree” and accept the tree of life. It was necessary that he, as the first Adam might have done, choose to rely completely on God the Father. In fact, God was actually in Christ and Jesus obeyed the Father completely. He qualified to wrest the throne of the earth from Satan.

Jesus Was God

Why was it necessary that Jesus be actually God in the human flesh? Why was it necessary that he be God? Why was it necessary that he be human? As God, he was the Maker of all mankind. In Ephesians 3:9 it is revealed that God created all things by Jesus Christ. When Jesus was born as a human, his life as our Maker was greater than the sum total of all human lives. Since it is humans who have sinned and come under the death penalty, God’s law required human death as the penalty for human sin. But, as our Maker, Jesus was the only human whose death could pay the penalty for the sins of all humans.

In no other way could the Creator God have redeemed a vast humanity condemned to the penalty of death.

Jesus Beaten for Our Healing

We need to bear in mind that though Jesus was God in the human flesh, he was also human even as you and I. He could suffer the same physical pains. He had been condemned to death by the Roman governor Pilate on clamorous demand of shouting Jews.

He was a strong, vigorous, young man of about 33 years of age, in the peak of health. Because he had never broken even one law of health, he suffered the process of dying as no other human ever did. He had been up all night without sleep during the trial before Pilate. Pilate, later that morning, delivered him to be scourged before being put to death.

Scourging consisted of being stripped to the waist, bound over in a bent position, tied to a post. He was beaten by whips made of leather thongs weighted down by pieces of lead, broken shards of bone and sharp jagged pieces of metal, attached at intervals of four to five inches along the leather thongs. They were designed to imbed themselves deeply into the flesh as the thongs wrapped themselves around the body. He was whipped until his flesh was torn open and even his ribs appeared. Scourging was intended to weaken the victims so they would die quickly on the stake of crucifixion. As foretold in Isaiah 52:14: “His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.”

This indescribable scourging was endured that believers might be healed from physical transgression, sicknesses or disease (Isa. 53:5; I Pet. 2:24). What a terrible price our own very Maker paid that we might, by believing, be healed. Yet nearly all professing believers totally ignore what their Savior provided for them, and instead of relying on him, put their faith in human doctors, drugs, medicines and knives.

Jesus was so weakened by this terrible chastisement that he was unable to carry his cross, as he was required to do, but for a short distance. Another was appointed to carry it for him.

The Most Painful and Despicable Death

Outside the city walls, at the Place of the Skull (Golgotha), Jesus was nailed to the cross. He was humiliated, spat upon, ridiculed, and jeered at.

More than that, because at that moment he had taken on himself our sins, in order to pay the penalty in our stead, he was forsaken by even his Father, God. As he hung on the cross, helpless, a soldier stabbed him with a spear; he screamed in pain (Matt. 27:50, Moffatt) and then died. He did this because you and I have transgressed the law of God. He paid the supreme possible sacrifice for you and for me.

One more supremely vital truth. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was that of a human being and the only one that could make possible the resurrection of humans, once dead, to immortal life.

Now another vital prophecy. In Isaiah 9:6-7: “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, Counseller, 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.” Notice the government would be on his shoulder. Jesus is going to be King over all the earth. And one of the purposes of his coming was to announce that kingdom. Jesus’ gospel was not only good news – it was an announcement or good news proclamation of the coming kingdom of God. What a tragedy that a “traditional Christianity” has forsaken and lost that vital and glorious gospel message and substituted its own gospel about the person of Christ.

Jesus was born as a human, to become a King, ultimately to establish the kingdom of God, ruling the whole earth with the government of God! But that rule required more than the individual Jesus. The king, president, prime minister or ruler over every nation governs with and through a more or less vast organization of others who rule various phases and departments under him. Likewise, Christ must have an organized government with numerous others trained and qualified to rule under him. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). The Church was to consist of many to be called out of Satan’s world to be taught and trained for numerous governmental positions under Christ when he comes to rule over all the nations.

Jesus – Spiritual Savior

Jesus came also as spiritual Savior, to save God’s people in their due time from their sins, that they might be born into the very divine family of God (Matt. 1:21).

Remember, the tree of life, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, had been cut off from mankind at the foundation of the world after the sin of Adam. What the world does not understand is that the Spirit of God was cut off from humanity as a whole until the second Adam actually removes Satan and restores the government of God on the earth.

As for humanity as a whole, it was appointed at the time of Adam’s sin for humans once to die and after death, by resurrection, shall come the judgment (Heb. 9:27).

The Holy Spirit was not given to the people of ancient Israel. Since God called and raised up prophets for a specific purpose preparatory to the salvation of humanity, it was necessary, in order for them to perform their called function, that an exception be made and they be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In the same manner since God through Jesus was now calling out his Church for a specific function preparatory to the establishment of his kingdom and government over all nations, it was now necessary that the same exception be made for the Church and that they be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

God emphatically did not empower the prophets with his Spirit merely for the purpose of giving them salvation. Likewise, God did not call saints out of this world merely for their salvation and entrance into his kingdom. Otherwise God would be a respecter of persons to have called the few of his Church at this time, while refusing to call others to salvation.

If God is opening salvation to the few in his Church only to give them salvation, while he excluded the preponderance of the world as a whole until later, then God certainly would be a respecter of persons, discriminating against the world as a whole. Jesus said plainly no man can come unto him except God the Father draws him (John 6:44). A professed Christianity believes precisely the opposite. This false Christianity teaches that God is calling and trying to save everybody in this present time. If that were so, then Satan is certainly winning a great victory over God. For the overwhelming majority of mankind know little or nothing about Christ or salvation through him.

A Time-Order for Salvation

God’s master plan calls for offering salvation and eternal life to every person ever born, but his plan calls for doing that in a time-order.

Those called out of the world and into the Church at this time are called for a specific purpose and a specific work. This specific work is to make possible the spiritual training to aid in the conversion of humanity as a whole. They are called at a time when they are persecuted and fought against by Satan and by various organizations in the world. The rest of the world will be called at a time when Satan is removed and they are aided and helped by Christ and the saints then made immortal in the kingdom of God.

Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving world and the professing traditional “Christianity” to this fact (II Cor. 4:4). Satan has deceived the entire world, including a professing traditional “Christianity” (Rev. 12:9).

Neither professing Christians nor their scholarly theologian leaders today comprehend the major PURPOSES for which Jesus Christ came!

Why Jesus Came

Jesus did not come to save Satan’s world while Satan sits on the throne deceiving them. Jesus will save the world at his Second Coming, when Satan shall be put away. Why, then, did Jesus come more than 1,900 years ago? Not to rule, not to reign over all nations, not to save the world while Satan still rules over them.

His human birth was the arrival of the “second Adam.” 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.

Meanwhile, Satan’s Rule

Meanwhile, for 4,000 years since the first Adam, the wily and evil Satan had been invisibly swaying and ruling a mankind CUT OFF from all contact with and knowledge of God! He still sits at that throne of power – though not administering God’s government, but subtilely swaying all humanity to live under the precise opposite to the law of God’s government – that is, the ways of vanity, coveting, competition, strife and violence, instead of God’s way of outflowing love, cooperation, peace, happiness and joy.

Immediately after the birth of the Christ-child, Satan sought, through the Roman-appointed King Herod, to physically slay the future King (Matt. 2:13-15). But God warned Joseph and Mary to flee with the Christ-child into Egypt until King Herod was dead.

When Jesus was about age 30, he was ready to begin choosing his apostles, and proclaiming and teaching them his message from God to man – his gospel. But first, it was imperative that he qualify to replace Satan and set up the kingdom of God, by overcoming the devil.

This perhaps was the most important, momentous, decisive confrontation and battle ever fought in all time in the universe. It is described in detail in Matthew, chapter 4.

The Titanic Battle of the Ages

Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights – with neither food nor water. But in his physical weakness he was made spiritually strong.

Satan now used his most cunning, subtile, masterful powers of deception. He must have thought he really could outwit and spiritually strike down the Christ. Satan knew well he was now fighting to prevent his dethroning over all the earth.

Satan struck his first blow at what he regarded as the most vulnerable points both physically and spiritually. Surely a man without food or water for 40 full days would be weakened to yield to almost any temptation for food. And the most vulnerable spiritual weakness is VANITY!

“If,” sneered Satan tantalizing – he used that effective little word if – “IF thou be the Son of God” – a normal human would have been insulted, indignant. He would have defiantly hurled back: “What do you mean, if I be the Son of God? I’ll show you that I am the Son of God!”

But Satan in this first attack, said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” In other words, “The Son of God can produce miracles. Prove to me you are the Son of God! You are desperately hungry. Perform a miracle. Feed yourself by a miracle!”

But Jesus only answered by quoting and obeying the Word of God: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

Satan’s first and most effective strike was parried. But Satan never gives up. He took Jesus into Jerusalem and sat him on a high pinnacle of the Temple. He continued to question that Jesus was the Son of God.

“If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Now Satan quoted Scripture. But he misapplied it, twisted its contextual meaning, just as Satan so frequently influences scholars to do.

Jesus came back to him, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” This is quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16 and refers to tempting YHWH (Hebrew), who became Christ.

But still Satan did not give up.

Next he took Jesus atop a high mountain, showing him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”

Jesus did not deny that Satan was now over the nations of this world. This was a temptation for gaining immediate power. Satan well knew Jesus would inherit all these kingdoms more than 1,900 years later. But he tempted Jesus to take Satan’s word that he would turn them over and give Christ world power immediately. But Jesus decided it was time to end this titanic battle for the rulership over the earth.

Jesus now snapped out an order – a command showing that he was master over Satan!

“Get thee hence, Satan!” he commanded with supreme authority! Satan slunk away defeated. But Satan did not give up. Nor has he given up yet. He battles against God’s Church still today!

Jesus Had Qualified

Jesus Christ, the second Adam, had qualified! Never until that minute could the good news of the coming kingdom of God be announced to the world. Now the Son of God resisted and conquered Satan – had qualified to reestablish GOD’S government and set up the kingdom of God on the earth! But now the Church must also qualify to rule with him!

Jesus came, among other purposes, to call out of the world his Church. Those called out had been in – and of – this world. Each had brought on himself by sin the supreme death penalty. But God had created all things by the Word who became Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus’ life was greater in value than that of all humanity collectively!

Picture a son of the wealthiest, most powerful man on earth. The tycoon’s son is his heir – to inherit his immense wealth. The son has been allocated a sizable portion of it already while an heir. This young man feels deep affection for another young man. His friend has committed a crime, plunged into debt for millions of dollars, which he cannot pay. He is deeply repentant but unable to save himself from imprisonment for the theft. In compassion for his friend, the son pays the multimillion-dollar debt out of his own money. His guilty friend’s debt is paid in full. His guilt – his tremendous obligation – no longer hangs over him – he is freed from that obligation and its heavy penalties!

All humanity had followed father Adam – had brought over it the supreme death penalty. Before Jesus (the “Word”), now the Son of God, could found his Church, those called out of the world into that Church must be freed from the supreme death penalty, so that they might inherit eternal life!

One of the purposes for which Jesus came as a human to earth was to pay that penalty – that supreme death penalty – for those called into his Church not only, but ultimately to free ALL HUMANITY each in his due time!

But since that death penalty he would pay for sinning humanity would end his human life, paying it was reserved as his final human act after all other purposes of his human life had been finished.

Nevertheless this gives the reader a grasp of how great is the Jesus who came to found the Church of God!

Continually bear in mind that, although his earthly ministry began when he was barely 30 years old (in his human life) yet he was the ever-living – the Eternal – who had always existed. How GREAT was that 30-year-old human life!

And this Jesus, who had grown up in the town of Nazareth, had since human birth resisted and overcome Satan – had rejected Satan’s self-centered way of “get,” and in the final titanic confrontation had qualified to restore the government of God and to establish on earth the kingdom of God, to rule that government! Where the first Adam had failed to do this, Jesus the second Adam succeeded.

“Peter,” a Title Designating Leadership

Immediately after the decisive battle to overcome Satan, two of the disciples of John the Baptist saw, with John, Jesus. Jesus asked them to follow him to his home. One of these was Andrew, son of Jona. He called his brother, Simon bar-Jona.

Jesus looked on Simon, and said to him, “Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas [in Greek, Peter],” meaning a stone (John 1:42).

In Mark 3:14, 16, we read: “And he [Jesus] ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach … And Simon he surnamed Peter.” A surname is, according to Webster, “an added name derived from occupation.”

The surname Peter had for centuries been a surname or title, designating a religious leader, head or headquarters. Peter was the first and chief apostle. An apostle is “one sent forth to proclaim or preach.”

So, at the very beginning of his earthly ministry, preparing the foundation for the Church, Jesus Christ chose his chief human apostle and the other original 11. They, with the prophets whose writings were preserved from the days of God’s first chosen Congregation (and nation), Israel, were to form the very foundation of God’s Church. Jesus himself was to be not only Founder but Head, and chief “corner stone” of the Church (Eph. 2:19-21; 5:23).

Importance of a Firm Foundation

Prior to age 30, Jesus had been a carpenter – also building with stone as well as with wood. He well knew the foundation should be laid first, before the structure itself.

But Jesus had himself chosen his apostles. He said to them later, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” (John 15:16; see also verse 19).

Now Jesus began proclaiming the gospel message God the Father had sent into the world by him as God’s Messenger (Mal. 3:1).

We read of it in Mark, chapter 1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God … Jesus came into Galilee, preaching [proclaiming, teaching] the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:1,14-15).

And, from Matthew, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom …” (Matt. 4:23).

This prophetic message (gospel) of the kingdom of God will be explained in detail in chapter seven. 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, to replace the present evil world of Satan.

Jesus’ proclaiming of this amazing future news – combined with his miracles of healing, turning water into wine, and others – caused great excitement. Immense crowds followed him and his disciples. He was teaching his disciples to become the future apostles, while he preached this message to the public.

Why Pharisees Opposed Jesus

The news proclamation had spread to Jerusalem. There the Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees became alarmed by it. The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect some of whom occupied minor – yet to them important – government offices. The Roman Empire then ruled over Palestine. The Romans sent a district king and a limited occupation army to supervise rule in Judea. But the Romans set some of the Jewish Pharisees in offices of lower civil rule, under the Roman king. These were well-paying political jobs, and these Pharisees did not want to lose their jobs or their power over the people. These Jewish rulers and their chief priests completely misunderstood Jesus’ gospel message. They knew he proclaimed a government that would take over and rule all nations of the earth. What they MISunderstood was the TIME and NATURE of that kingdom of God. And a professing “Christianity” still misunderstands it today. The religious leaders of that day assumed Jesus was a subversive, intending himself, immediately in his human lifetime, to overthrow the Roman Empire and set up his own kingdom.

Immediately they feared being accused of sedition and disloyalty, losing their jobs and probably being executed as subversives. So they opposed and denounced Jesus.

Traditional Christianity has really never understood this basic reason for Pharisaical opposition and persecution of Jesus. The Pharisees included unscrupulous politicians.

At the time of the first Passover to occur during Jesus’ ministry, the spring of A.D. 28 (almost exactly 100 time cycles – 1,900 years – before I kept my first Passover), Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Passover.

While there, a notable Pharisee named Nicodemus came to see Jesus secretly by night. He feared having fellow Pharisees know he had talked personally with Jesus.

Nicodemus said, “Rabbi, we know [we Pharisees know] that thou art a teacher come from God …” (John 3:2).

The Pharisees KNEW JESUS WAS THE MESSIAH! They were familiar with Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 53. The Pharisees knew Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. But they understood only one Messianic appearance. So they supposed he was planning to overthrow the Roman Empire then!

Of course Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he launched immediately into the fact that the kingdom of God, ruling all nations, could not be set up until the time of the new spirit birth – the time of the resurrection!

The “Born Again” Question

Jesus answered immediately, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (verse 3).

But Nicodemus did not understand this. He knew that being born was an actual birth – parturition from the womb of the mother. Today’s theologians do not know even that! They deny a real second birth as a spirit being. They spiritualize away the real truth by assuming that merely saying that one accepts Christ as his Savior constitutes being born again. In this, Satan has deceived them and in turn they have deceived millions of others.

Nicodemus said, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (verse 4).

Jesus now made the meaning plain – but Nicodemus did not receive his plainness of speech, nor do theologians or religious leaders today.

“Verily, verily,” replied Jesus, “… Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”(John 3:5-6, emphasis mine).

The Pharisees knew about water baptism. They had used it for years in converting gentile proselytes to Judaism. They knew of John the Baptist’s baptism – a baptism of repentance “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). Jesus’ meaning should have been plain to Nicodemus – that water baptism was an initiatory rite preparatory to the start of being born of the Spirit.

Jesus made it doubly plain when he said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” That which is born of humans is mortal HUMAN – composed of flesh and blood – composed of MATTER from the ground. “That which is born of the Spirit is SPIRIT” – no longer human but composed of SPIRIT, immortal! No longer composed of matter or flesh.

Jesus explained even further.

“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (verse 7). Then he compared one born again to invisible wind – invisible to human eyes. “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, Revised Standard Version).

But Nicodemus did not understand such plainness of speech, nor do religious leaders today!

Our free booklet What Do You Mean – Born Again? should be read by every reader of this book.

To this representative of the Pharisees, Jesus referred to the “salvation” or “spiritual” phase of the kingdom of God. That kingdom will NOT be composed of mortal humans! It is not composed of mortal flesh-and-blood persons who have “accepted Christ” and joined a church of their choice! Yet millions of church members are deceived about that today.

These millions of church members do not understand what the Church is, nor why – its purpose – the reason for it!

Compare Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus with the “resurrection chapter” of the Bible, I Corinthians 15: “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living [mortal] soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God …” (I Cor. 15:45-50).

I repeat again and again, GOD IS REPRODUCING HIMSELF!

The popular teaching in churches today is that the Church is the kingdom of God. But “flesh and blood [mortal humans] cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).

Once Again: Why the Church?

But what, then, is the Church? And why is the Church? Why should there be the Church of God?

To many – and probably most – the Church plays no part in their lives. Indeed God plays no part in their lives. God is not consciously in their world. Just people, material things and interests. Of course, far back in the subconscious recesses of many minds may lie the dormant supposition that God exists. But he does not seem real to them.

That means also that the average person has no conception of what he, himself, is, why he is, or of any purpose for his being alive.

Yet the Church, too, does exist. But, again, why? What is it, really? What purpose does it serve?

We have seen that there is indeed a purpose being worked out here below. Winston Churchill stated that before the United States Congress. There is a reason for the presence of humanity on the earth. And for the working out of that purpose there is a master plan. The Church is an important part of that plan.

Never lose sight of the setting that led up to the raising up of the Church. Keep in mind WHO and WHAT God is – the divine creating family, now reproducing themselves in man.

Bear in mind further: In order for Christ to restore God’s government over the earth, he would need with and under him a qualified and organized personnel of God Beings – all having rejected Satan’s false way and having proved their loyalty to the government and righteous ways of God!

God’s Church was designed in his supreme master plan to prepare that dedicated and organized personnel of God Beings. The Church, then, became God’s instrumentality for aiding him in bringing about salvation to humanity.

Remember God has set out a 7,000-year master plan for accomplishing his purpose. We have stated that his purpose is to reproduce himself. But actually reproducing himself means converting the world from sin into God’s righteousness. It means instilling within God’s potential children the perfect spiritual character of God. They would become finally born sons in the God family.

And just as God has not created all at once, but in successive stages, so he is bringing salvation to the world in successive stages. The Church is a necessary instrumentality preparatory to, and in order to, bring salvation to humanity. Therefore, once again, let it be emphasized that the purpose of the Church is not merely to give salvation to those called into the Church, but to teach and train those predestined and called into the Church as instruments God shall use in bringing the world to salvation.

Church a “Teachers’ College”

Let us illustrate by an analogy. Many states in America have state teachers’ colleges. The states could not start or conduct schools until they had first trained teachers for those schools. The Church may be called God’s teachers’ college to prepare rulers and teachers for the kingdom of God when God does offer redemption and eternal life to the World as a whole.

The Church was planned to be God’s instrumentality for calling predestinated human beings out of this world to be trained for positions of leadership in the world tomorrow, when they shall teach and train others. That is why in the New Testament the Church is called the firstfruits of God’s salvation.

All this necessitated certain vital steps – one at a time – in the procedure of God’s supreme master plan!

Now we remind the reader that the Holy Spirit was closed to humanity at the time of Adam’s sin at the very foundation of the world. It was closed to humanity as a whole UNTIL Christ the second Adam should restore the government of God and unseat Satan from the throne of the earth. That fact is made clear by Jesus’ statement in John 6:44, applying to this Church age, that none could come to him except the Father that sent him draws them. That is why repeatedly in the New Testament those in the Church are referred to as having been called or chosen. That is why the Church is called a chosen generation. That is why predestination is mentioned twice in the New Testament – that the called were predestinated to be called. Indeed, they have been drafted. They are not volunteers.

True Christians: Draftees – Not Volunteers

It is only through Christ that sinning humanity may be reconciled to God the Father. They must first come to Christ. But none can come to Christ except God the Father selects and, through his Holy Spirit, draws them.

That may come as an astonishing new truth, but the more you study the New Testament, and how this truth is constantly borne out throughout the New Testament, the more clear this will become to you.

No wonder the Church and its purpose has been a mystery. Satan has blinded the minds of a deceived and counterfeit Christianity.

Anyone who “joins the church of his choice” has not come into God’s true Church. One cannot just “join” the TRUE Church of God. One is first selected and drawn by God the Father through his Spirit, brought to a complete heartrending repentance, and changed in his total life-style, and has also not only believed in and accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior, but also has believed Christ. Remember Christ is the Word of God. Jesus was the Word of God in Person. The Bible is the same Word of God in writing. To believe Christ is to believe what he says – in other words, to believe God’s Word the Holy Bible.