Why Did Christ Build His Church?
“Jesus Christ came to die for the sins of mankind!” cries the preacher on Sunday morning. And he’s right. But why so little understanding about the many other reasons Christ came to this Earth 2,000 years ago?
In Matthew 16:18, for example, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Why, after 4,000 years of human history, was it necessary to build something new like the Church? And why did Jesus select just 12 disciples for special training and preparation in laying the “foundation” for the Church? And why, since that time, have nearly 2,000 years passed without any sign of Christ returning to this Earth as He promised He would?
What, exactly, is God working out here on Earth?
A Parable Reveals the Answer
Throughout much of Christ’s ministry, the disciples thought He was going to establish His Kingdom during their lifetimes. Realizing this, Christ uttered a prophetic parable in Luke 19 concerning the timing of when that Kingdom would be set up. “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” (verse 12). The nobleman in this verse refers to Christ. He went away into a far country, or heaven, to receive for Himself a Kingdom. He is to return when He receives the Kingdom. And since He hasn’t returned yet, He hasn’t yet received the Kingdom! But why?
“And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come” (verse 13). Understand what the pounds represent. These are a gift the nobleman gives the servants. We become a servant of Christ at baptism (see Romans 6:4). And in Acts 2:38, Peter said that at baptism we receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So the pounds in this parable represent a small portion of God’s Spirit.
Before returning to set up His Kingdom, Christ has called out servants to whom He has given a small portion of the Holy Spirit. With this Spirit, Christ said, “occupy till I come.” Occupy means “to carry on a business.” So these servants were to continue, or carry on, something Christ started.
The parable continues, “But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). Here Christ introduces another group of people. First, He says His servants are to occupy. Then He mentions the citizens—or the overwhelming majority that hate Him and simply will not have Christ reign in their lives!
Millions of people today claim to be followers of Christ, but how many actually do what He taught? How many put God first in everything they do in life and actually allow Christ to reign over them? Nations in this world today are suffering because they will not have Christ reign over them. This is a message about government.
The small handful of Christ’s servants, however, are learning how to be ruled. Christ said occupy, or keep growing and learning how to be ruled so that you might eventually rule others!
Verse 15: “And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.” This is when Christ comes back—this time to RULE. And notice, He commands only His servants to come before Him! Why not the citizens? He calls only the servants because they are the ones being judged now in this age (1 Peter 4:17). The servants are being called out of this world and trained now for future responsibilities when that world-ruling government will be set up. Once that government is set up, then the citizens will have an opportunity to be called by God.
After Christ qualified to be King and after He finished His work (John 4:34), He ascended to heaven and received “all power” from the Father (Matthew 28:18). Christ is under God the Father in God’s government. Then, when Christ returns to Earth, those servants who have been called out of this world (John 6:44) will be commanded to come before Christ (Luke 19:15). Christ went to the Father to receive His authority—and true Christians will go to Christ to receive their authority! That is how God’s government works.
In order for the problems of this world to finally end, there must be a completely new government established by Christ as the supreme ruler—with many other servants serving under Him, fulfilling other governmental responsibilities. Christ is coming as the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). There are to be many other kings and lords serving under Christ.
The reason Christ did not set up His Kingdom when He first walked this Earth is that God’s ruling family government was not yet ready. God is preparing servants for government positions today within the Church!
That is why Christ said, “I will build my church.”
Christ Prepared the Early Apostles
Christ, as King of that future government, came first to establish His Church. But before the Church could begin, the Holy Spirit had to come—and that couldn’t happen until Christ ascended to heaven (John 16:7). So during His earthly ministry, Christ called out and prepared 12 disciples who would be taught and trained in that government, even prior to receiving the Holy Spirit. Christ did this in advance because the Church needed a foundation; and even though the disciples couldn’t understand much of what Christ taught, He knew that once the Holy Spirit came, it would guide them in the truth and help them remember much of what He told them (John 16:4, 13).
When the Holy Spirit finally did arrive, the Apostle Peter gave an inspired sermon of deep understanding (notice Acts 2:14-40).
After that, the early Church grew rapidly. New converts were taught and trained to “occupy” the Spirit, or carry on the work of Christ, within the government of God being administered in the Church.
But it wasn’t long before persecution came. Many became deceived. Paul rebuked those in Galatia for already having turned to “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). The saints during this first era of God’s Church grew complacent. John wrote about this era in Revelation 2:1-7. In verse 4, it was criticized for losing its “first love.” True Christians became lukewarm and eventually lost their understanding of God’s purpose and plan for man. And so, Scripture reveals, God removed the lampstand that guided the Church. He raised a new era to carry on with the work of God.
But from the first century forward, God’s Church remained very small and scattered and was virtually powerless. The Church did continue just as Christ said it would (Matthew 16:18), but it was made up of very few converts. There never was a worldwide work—that is, not until the 20th century.
Government Restored Within the Church
Jesus Christ prophesied that, prior to His return to Earth, a man would come on the scene in the spirit and power of Elijah the prophet, and prepare the way for His Second Coming (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6).
Notice this exchange, recorded in Matthew 17:10-11: “And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” This wasn’t referring to John the Baptist. He had already come. This was referring to an end-time “Elijah” who would restore all things! John the Baptist didn’t restore anything. But to whom would this end-time Elijah restore all things? The world? That won’t happen until Christ returns (Acts 3:19-21). The end-time “Elijah” was to restore all things to the Church!
Much of what Christ had revealed and taught to the apostles was lost after the first century. For the government to be ultimately restored to the world, God had to restore it to the Church in this end time in order to prepare the way for Christ’s return.
We believe the individual who fulfilled the prophetic role to which Christ referred was Herbert W. Armstrong.
In a sermon on Oct. 2, 1982, Herbert Armstrong said this: “God raised me up to restore the government of God. But it is only restored so far in the Church. I have no authority from God; no ability to restore the government of God any further than just over you brethren in the Church. But that has been done.”
The problems and evils of this world stem from the fact that nations simply do not want Christ to reign over them (Luke 19:14). God will soon send His Son back to establish His government. But that will not happen until other government positions are filled by those who have been thoroughly prepared for and taught under that government. That is why Mr. Armstrong said it was only restored within the Church and not the world—not yet.
Mr. Armstrong knew who was behind him in his work. An example of this spiritual reality appears in John 4:1-2: “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples).” Notice that! Christ baptized more than John and yet it says He didn’t actually baptize any! His disciples did. Yet it was as if Jesus Christ did it Himself!
Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. He raised up Mr. Armstrong to establish God’s government within the Church and restore all things to the Church. God did not raise up anyone else for this purpose.
Restoring God’s Government
God’s master plan is to reproduce Himself (Genesis 1:26). Right now, that reproduction is happening in the Church first. But God’s plan of salvation will soon be offered to all who have ever lived! Those in God’s Church right now, who have been called out of this present evil world, are being trained to administer the government over all the Earth.
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Remember in the parable of the pounds where the citizens wouldn’t have Christ reign over them? When Christ is finally crowned as King over the Earth, people will then have to submit to His reign. At first, Christ will literally have to force man to be happy.
The saints, or servants, who have been called out in advance of the others, will have been trained in that government before Christ’s return. They will be rewarded with government positions at His return. Read Isaiah 40:10, Luke 19:15-27, and Revelation 11:18 and 22:12.
Also notice Revelation 20:4: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them ….” How different this plain biblical teaching is from the popular belief today! These verses are not talking about a life of ease in heaven. Those who have been called out today are preparing for a time when we will rule the nations from thrones! Christ will be our King!
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (verse 6). Death will have no more power over those resurrected to immortal spirit life.
God’s plan ultimately gets down to either submitting to His reign, or submitting to the power of death. God’s servants have been called out of this world now to learn His way of life so that we might teach all others during the wonderful world of tomorrow!
What, then, is God doing? He is reproducing Himself in man. In doing so, He has allowed this world to go according to the way of Satan for 6,000 years to prove beyond doubt that Satan’s way of selfishness and get only results in misery and death. In reproducing Himself, God’s plan allowed for His Son to come in the flesh to not only die for mankind, but to establish the Church. The main function of the Church is to prepare people for positions of rulership. When Christ finally does return as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Church will have been made ready and will rule with Christ. Satan will then be put away and God will proceed to reproduce Himself in every human being who has ever lived—provided they sincerely want God’s government to reign over them.
Beyond that, as the Prophet Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 9:6-7), the government of God and peace will continue to grow forever.