One of my favorite dispensational authors and bible teachers Clarence Larkin has an awesome and detailed chapter on the church and kingdom in his book Rightly Dividing the Word. If you can get your hands on a copy, do it and value it as the teaching is golden.
Now, in this third segment of our series on understanding church and kingdom, we want to look at the sameness of the two. We previously explored differences, noted paradoxes and then issued admonitions on ignoring or diverging from the will of God, the King.
And let me just say parenthetically that the Bishop Eddie Long case, has coughed up multiple layers of confusion. Many people are conflicted about what they see and hear and what God intended. These posts are to help clear up that confusion. Do not be deceived, this will happen again, so let us understand God’s will and receive saving knowledge, enabling us to stand strong when tumultuous storms hit again.
To be perfectly clear, I am not anti-church. I am however very much against the commercialized, Jesus-deficient, capitalistic, mausoleum-building empires of men masquerading as the church. I am against any religious organization that does not live out God’s stated purpose for it. The church was never intended to be a den of thieves, but a house of prayer. In fact, notice in Luke 19:46, Jesus says it was man who changed the will of God.
“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
The implication is that what God intended has been forcibly changed to satisfy the lust of wicked men. The result: thieves of all stripes are now comfortable in the house to God. That includes sex thieves, money thieves and power thieves. Theives should never be tolerated in the house of God because they have only one goal: to steal and destroy the sanctity and integrity of the Body (reference John 10:10). If we are to take Jesus’s example, we should drive them out. If you do not drive them out, they will only regroup, recruit and steal again.
But the church as a house of prayer is to birth souls into the kingdom. That’s the only “hospital” analogy I can agree with. Its a birthing room. Sadly, we are seeing less and less of that today and more membership drives.
Major parallels of the church and kingdom
1. Both the kingdom and the church are comprised of saints – Kingdom (Colossians 1:13) – Church (Colossians 1:2). Understand that saints are people who have been “set apart” for a holy purpose. Nothing more, nothing less. Saints are not perfect, they are people being perfected by the will of God. Saints are not ” just sinners who fell down”, saints are called out to live out the purpose of the kingdom of God in the earth. That’s why we must guard against and reject the doctrine of perfectionism. Such a doctrine is false and built of a presumptive self righteousness, rather than grace, mercy and repentance. The Apostle John shot down the doctrine of perfectionism in 1 John 1:8. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Its just that simple. Saints do commit sin, but that does not make them sinners. The bible acknowledges this (1 John 1:8) and consequently provides one corrective response: repentance (1 John 1:9). Its not hypocrisy to call yourself a saint even if you have sinned as a saint. Sinners are those unredeemed who practice sin as a lifestyle.
2. Both the kingdom and the church was purchased with innocent blood – Kingdom – (Revelation 5:9-10) – Church (Acts 20:28). In order for the “purchase” to be authentic, eternal and secure, it had to be by the blood of an innocent man. That man was Jesus Christ. The blood of Christ became the currency, untainted by sin, which paid the price for our sins thus satisfying what God required once and for all. Just like a natural family, it is the blood that is foundational for relationship in the kingdom.
3. Both the kingdom and the church are comprised of priests – Kingdom (Revelation 1:6,9) – Church (1 Peter 2:5). The old system of a selected tribe of men, gave way to a new covenant where every believer is now a priest. We are now a kingdom of levites. This does not conflict with Ephesians 4:11-16. We are all equal in our relationship and standing before God although some from among us have been selected and gifted to edify and equip us for the work of ministry. That is not a license for prophets, pastors, teachers, apostles or evangelists to lord over God’s people. They are to instruct on how to weather the storms and become mature, productive citizens of the kingdom of God. Sidebar: I’m doing that right now!
4. Terms of entrance to both the church and the kingdom are the same. But we should note it is man, not God, who has circumvented those very important requirements with the membership system. – Kingdom (John 3:5) – Church (Ephesians 5:26, Tit. 3:5). Membership does not facilitate discipleship, nor is it in congruence with the Great Commission. As we explained before, one can be a “good” member of a church and never be in relationship with the Lord Jesus.
5. Both the church and the kingdom will experience divine glory and exaltation – Kingdom (Isaiah 2:2-3) – Church (Ephesians 3:21). Both the kingdom and the church will receive glory and honor in the last days. Now, is not the season for our glory. We are to be humble servant exalting God and his Christ for the sake of his will being done on earth. In time, he will glorify us his church and the people of his kingdom. Too many churches are not caught up in marketing themselves in order to attract members. I suspect that is to feed the god of mammon. More members=more money=bigger buildings=more members=more money…ad infinitum. Its a dangerous and rebellious trap to fall into, but some church pastors are driving full steam ahead to glorify themselves using their own devices. Again, I am not suggesting that money and people are irrelevant, just that our priority should always be the glory of the Father and the Son (ref Matt 6:33).
6. Both the church and the kingdom have the same owner. Kingdom (John 18:36) – Church (Matthew 16:18). The head of the kingdom is God who is in Christ. Its obvious who the owner is. Or is it? Some act as if they are the owners: “my church, my people”. Its an arrogant statement to make, yet those who were intended to be managers (undershepherds) are claiming ownership of something, they could never even remotely be qualified to purchase (see #2). The usurping of the Christ’s authority in the church by hirelings and pulpit thieves is partly the blame for the sordid abuses we see happening right now. The other part of the blame is to be laid on those who have passively allowed such people to remain in place (for solutions see Luke 19:46).
Whenever you are confused about something, go back to the beginning. The genesis will give you the blueprint for the Creator’s intent. We are in just one of the many storms of our times which will only worsen as the Lord’s return nears. I encourage you to examine yourself and see if you have been in a spiritually infantile state for too long. Whether you are currently under a leader who keeps you on a pacifier and a bottle of sugar milk or you have resisted the training of the Holy Spirit, get up and move forward. Earnestly study God’s word, pray fervently and be faithful to the will of God. In doing so, you will mature and bring forth fruit that pleases our Father.