Revelation: A Short Summary of the Church
The word “church,” is often used in the New Testament books to describe believers in Christ Jesus, whether in a group bound together with others who live in similar beliefs, or loosely to describe all such believers across the world, and through time. The meaning of the word church includes those living and those who have died in Christ after His resurrection to the present. In all these cases, the word used in Greek, ekklēsia, from Blue Letter Bible, describes the working of Christ Jesus in building His church, through the ages. The following graphic illustrates this, showing God in eternity past, creating the world, working through the ages in human history, to form a body of believers in Christ Jesus who are conformed to His image, Romans 8:29, and are joined with Him into eternity future. Much of the chart is devoted to the prophetic plan of Israel, as highlighted at the bottom of the timeline, but there is an insertion by the Lord, to bring into existance the body-of-Christ, during the dispensation of grace.
The next graphic elaborates on mystery program for the Body-of-Christ against the standard base timeline used to describe the prophetic program of Israel. Overlaid on this timeline are the references concerning Gentiles. On the left side of the graphic, Paul writes to the Ephesians about their past, not having any commonality with the commonwealth of Israel in times past, Ephesians 2:11-12. But now, Gentiles are accepted into the Body-of-Christ, Ephesians 2:13. They are accepted through faith in the work of Christ, 1Corinthians 15:1-4, by the grace of God, by the blood of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 2:8-9. Because of this unmerited standing in Christ, in the ages to come, Gentiles are promised exceeding riches in His kindness toward us though Crist Jesus, Ephesians 2:7.
the term “church” was not exclusive to the New Testament churches, but it was used in a similar manner in the Old Testament. Stephen, when brought before the council of Israel’s religious leadership under false charges, Acts 6:9-15, spoke by the Holy Spirit, condemning them for not believing and accepting Christ Jesus as their Messiah. One of his many points included a reference to the church in the wilderness led by Moses, during the time that the angel spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, Acts 7:38. There is a discussion of God’s prophetic program that began with God’s purposes.
The following chart will serve as the basis of building the following concepts in this section, to illustrate where each concept fits, and help to increase the spiritual understanding of the Lord’s great prophetic plan of Israel and when each of the churches begin, and then transition to the next church. This chart shows the overall premillennial view of the ages, beginning with the days of King Nebuchadnezzar (long after the formation of the nation of Israel on their exodus from Egypt), which is atop the long gold-to- iron, mixed with clay horizontal bar, (shortened for readability purposes) representing the Gentile age that was revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel, by the Lord, Daniel 2:19-45. The chart highlights the period of time (not to scale) known as the seven years of tribulation, Daniel 9:17. When the end of the tribulation occurs at the battle of Armageddon, it is then the Antichrist and the false prophet, Revelation 13:11-18, are defeated and thrown into the lake of fire, Revelation 19:20, and their armies destroyed and eaten by the birds, Revelation 19:17-19, 21, which is when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, Luke 21:24. Then comes the millennial reign of Christ, Revelation 20:4-7, or the dispensation of the kingdom, followed by eternity future. At the bottom of the chart is a list of the saints in each time period, in bright blue.
The word “church” is used in different connotations throughout scripture, but all refer to the collection of believers in Christ Jesus, throughout time, (detailed information on this site is also provided for the events from Adam to Noah, showing the faith the prediluvian saints had in God, beginning with the nation of Israel after they were given and accepted the law of God to obedient to it, Exodus 24:3-8. This was the beginning of the dispensation of the law. To them were committed the oracles of God, Romans 3:2, and through whom came Jesus into the world, Matthew 1:1-17. The giving of the law to Israel is a dividing line between those living before the law was given and all those who were given the law and made aware of it. Paul wrote to the Romans that as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law, Romans 2:11-16. All the saints who died since the creation of Adam and Eve, until the resurrection of Christ Jesus, their bodies were buried in the ground, but each saint’s soul and spirit were taken to hades on the side of paradise. The unrighteous were also taken to hades, but on the side of torment. Jesus described the physical characteristics of hades (hell) when He spoke of Lazarus and the rich man, Luke 16:19-31.
God had also begun to further reveal more of His plan to mankind after the flood that Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives survived in the ark. That is when God separated to Himself Abram and his lineage through Isaac and Jacob. God made covenants with Abraham that were reconfirmed to his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, Exodus 2:24, Exodus 3:6. More is available on these topics concerning the predeluvian saints on this website, and in the discussion on dispensations.
The development of the church overall, began with Israel and the giving of the law. There is an equivalent word for church in Hebrew, Strong’s H6951, from Blue Letter Bible, that refers to the assembly of the Israelites. Examples include Judges 21:8, 1Chronicles 29:1 and others.
All the saints who died from that point until the resurrection of Christ Jesus, their bodies were buried in the ground, but each saint’s soul and spirit were taken to hades on the side of paradise. The unrighteous were also taken to hades, but on the side of torment. Jesus described this when He spoke of Lazarus and the rich man, Luke 16:19-31. Those in paradise were aware and were anxious when the Lord would fulfill the prophecies concerning His death in Jerusalem, as the scriptures taught. This occurred when the Lord took Peter, James and John to the mount of transfiguration. There, the apostles saw the Lord’s countenance change, His raiment became a brilliant white and it glistened. Then they saw Moses and Elijah who appeared in their glory, speaking with the Lord concerning His death in Jerusalem, Luke 9:31. Once the matter was discussed, Moses and Elijah disappeared, and the Lord’s appearance returned to normal, Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:1-10, Luke 9:28-36.
As prophesied, the righteous who had died, did not remain in paradise. Instead, when Christ Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to His Father the morning of the His resurrection, John 20:17, He took with Him all those in paradise to be with Him with the Father in heaven, Ephesians 4:8-10. They will wait for their resurrection to receive their eternal bodies in their order for the resurrection, 1Corinthians 15:20-23, Daniel 12:1-3, 13. Since the resurrection of Christ Jesus, the paradise side of hades has been emptied, never to be filled with righteous saints again, but the torment side of hades remains filled with the dead souls of the unrighteous and continues to grow as more unrighteous people die over time. They are all waiting for the time they will appear before Jesus Christ at the great white throne to be judged, Revelation 20:11-13. When each person has been judged, and their name not found in the book of life, they will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity, Revelation 20:14-15, where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched, Mark 9:44, 46, 48.
The following chart, in a very simple way, illustrates the end of all the Old Testament saints at the cross when the testator dies, and the new covenant becomes in force for all believers in Jesus Christ, Hebrews 19:16-17. Some of the dispensations are shown in red on the chart. The chart shows the latter portion of the dispensation of the law, which began much earlier when Israel became a nation before the Lord at Mount Sinai. However, the blue double arrow line at the bottom of the chart is intended to include the saints all the way back to Adam and Eve.
When Jesus asked His 12 apostles, whom do men say that I the Son of man am? Matthew 16:13, they presented Jesus with a number of responses that they had heard others say, Matthew 16:14. But when Jesus rephrased the question to ask each apostle who they said Jesus was, Peter was the singular voice to declare that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Matthew 16:15-16. The Lord said that based on the confession of Peter to the question posed by Jesus, there were three things that would characterize His church, Matthew 16:17-18:
- It was revealed only by God the Father in heaven
- That the church would be built upon the confession of all believers, that Jesus is the Christ
- The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church
This is what was revealed to His apostles, His little flock, Luke 12:32, that would be manifest after the Lord was resurrected, met with them the first night and He breathed the Holy Spirit on them, John 20:22. This is the beginning of the church age. From then on, the apostles were emboldened to meet publicly and spread the news about Jesus to other Jews in Jerusalem and abroad, Acts 11:19, with boldness, Acts 4:1-31. The New Testament church led by the 12 apostles were all Jewish, following the laws of Moses and the traditions of their fathers. But they never had all the nation of Israel accept Jesus as their Messiah. Three times, men filled with the Holy Spirit appeared before the council of the Jewish religious leadership, and all three times, the message from God was rejected. The third time, ending with Stephen being martyred, Acts 7:59-60, the nation of Israel fell, and the Jewish church diminished, Romans 11:11-12. At that same time, a man was introduced for the first time, Saul of Tarsus, was identified as the enemy of the church, and how he approved the killing of Stephen, Acts 7:58, Acts 8:1. It was Saul who then set out, with the permission of the religious council, to persecute the Jewish believers in Christ, known as the “way,” Acts 9:1-2. Saul continued as a fierce persecutor of the “way,” that is until he was met on his way to Damascus by the Lord Himself, Acts 9:3-6. Saul was blinded by the incident, and had to be led by those traveling with him, on to Damascus, where for three days he neither ate or drank, but was in prayer the entire time, Acts 9:7-9, 11. This is when a major transition in God’s plan for mankind’s salvation occurred; because of the fall of Israel, salvation was given to the Gentiles, Romans 11:11. The summary of the prophetic program with a timeline are shown on this website.
The following chart summarizes the work of Christ with His resurrection, ascension, and the apostles with other disciples of Christ Jesus receiving the power of the Holy Spirit. Also shown, is the Lord’s identification and development of the little flock, Luke 12:32, consisting of the 12 apostles. They were activated after the Lord rose from the dead, and breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, John 20:22. This is the beginning of the church age, shown in purple near the top of the chart. Near the bottom of the chart is an arrow showing the continuation of God’s prophetic plan for Israel, and below it, the continued sealing of the mysteries of God, yet to be revealed to Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, Romans 11:13.
Saul, who later became known as Paul, Acts 13:9, was chosen by God to bear the name of God to the Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel, and he would suffer for God’s name’s sake, Acts 9:15-16. Paul was the one given the revelation of the gospel from the Lord directly, Galatians 1:11-20, and only Paul received the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began. Paul preached this revelation to the Body-of-Christ, Ephesians 3:1-12, as expanded upon in this website. The beginning of Paul’s ministry is the start of the dispensation of grace. The premillennial and dispensational view of the end times is shown in the following graphic
In this church led by Paul, there were no distinctions between Jew and Gentile, 1Corinthians 12:13. There was no requirement for a male believer to be circumcised, 1Corinthians 7:18, on the contrary, believers in the Body-of-Christ were made free from the law of sin and death, and have become servants of righteousness, by Christ Jesus, Romans 6:18, 22, Romans 8:2. The souls of those who die in Christ, are immediately taken to be in the presence of the Lord, 2Corinthians 5:1-9, since paradise in hades remains empty of the righteous.
This New Testament church, which is both the Jewish church led by the 12 apostles, and the Body-of-Christ, led by Paul, will end on earth when the Lord comes in the clouds to snatch His church to Himself for evermore, John 14:1-4, 1Corinthians 15:51-58, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Until the snatching away, the church has been assigned specific actions and order, as instructed by Paul. There is an order to the activities within the church, and responsibilities assigned to those working as servants within the congregation. Paul had written to Timothy and Titus concerning the order and structure within the church. Those who are assigned positions of responsibility within the congregation are to be upright, as well as their families. Those who are assigned as elders, bishops, and deacons within the church were evaluated for an irreproachable behavior, which applied to both husbands and wives, 1Timothy 3:1-12, Titus 1:4-8. Paul outlined the role of the church leaders. They were to hold firmly to the trustworthy message they were taught, and they were to encourage others by sound doctrine, Titus 1:9. They were also to refute those who oppose sound doctrine, Titus 1:9, 1John 4:1-3. These roles and responsibilities were not just for the early church, but are very relevant to today’s churches. This is evident in the Lord’s words directed to the seven churches. Peter also addressed these issues. He wrote that they were to be shepherds to God’s flock that were under their care, 1Peter 5:2:
- Not serving out of duty but willingly as God wants them
- Not to be greedy for money, but eager to serve
- Not lording over the flock, but to be examples
- A reward is prepared for them who willingly pursue this calling
The following provides a preview of five future events that await the church and the verses to back up the statements:
- The rapture of the church
- The mystery of the rapture 1Corinthians 15:51-58
- The shout of the Lord, and the trumpet of God 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1Thessalonians 5:4-11
- A place prepared for His church, John 14:1-6
- The church before the judgment seat of Christ, 2Corinthians 5:6-10
- Judged for the words we speak, Matthew 12:33-37
- Giving an account before God, Romans 14:7-12
- The marriage of the Lamb
- The Lord as the bridegroom, John 3:29
- The church as the bride of Christ, 2Corinthians 11:2
- The mystery concerning Christ and the church, Ephesians 5:29-31
- The scene in heaven, Revelation 19:7-8
- The return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Revelation 19:11-19
- The call to the marriage supper of the Lamb, Revelation 19:9-10
- The Lord’s return from the wedding, Luke 12:34-40
The following chart shows Paul being chosen by God to be His ambassador to the Gentiles, the temporary rejection of Israel, and the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome. The Body-of-Christ is shown in the blue oval, the rebirth of the nation of Israel, and the snatching away (rapture) of the New Testament church, which are all contained within the church age, is illustrated below.
The Jewish churches will be quickly reconstituted after the Lord comes in the clouds to snatch His New Testament church to Himself to be with Him forever more. These newly formed churches will go to through the seven years of tribulation. The book of revelation and the epistles written by James, John, Peter and Jude, plus the book of Hebrews are all written for their benefit and preparation for the worst time in human history, Daniel 12:1. The departure of the New Testament church does not initiate the seven years of tribulation, it is when the Antichrist confirms a seven-year covenant that marks the beginning of the tribulation.
The effectiveness of these evangelists, 12,000 from the tribes of Israel, is shown by the innumerable multitude from all nations, kindreds, people and tongues who became believers and were slain for the Word of God and for their witness of Jesus Christ, and appear before the throne and before the Lamb, Revelation 7:9-17. These are the large group of tribulation saints whom God allowed the Antichrist to make war upon, and prevail against them during the tribulation, Daniel 7:20-22. This persecution would continue until the Lord Jesus Christ returned for His second advent on earth, the New Testament church was given judgment, and when the saints possessed the kingdom on earth, which is the dispensation of the kingdom. The sufferings and horrors revealed in by the invasion of Putin’s army into the Ukraine, and his war upon innocent civilians will pale during the seven years of tribulation.
The work of the worldwide evangelists from the tribes of Israel will also lead to the 144,000 shown in Revelation 14:1-5. This group of tribulation saints form the first fruits from the great tribulation, that Jesus warned about in Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:21-22, as discussed in this website. In the same way, those saints raised with Christ Jesus from the dead, were the first fruits of the resurrection, Matthew 27:52-53.
From these new Jewish churches, will come the 144,00 identified in Revelation 7:1-8. They are the ones who form the basis the Lord will use to judge the nations when after He appears in His glory and sits on the throne of His glory, Matthew 25:31-32, as shown elsewhere in this website. Then after gathering the nations before Him, the Lord will divide them as sheep, placing them on His right side, and goats, placing them on His left side, Matthew 25:33. He will then judge them according to how they took care of His ministers, who were hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison. Those nations who were of the sheep did well in caring for these called of God, and took care of them. They were the ones who were blessed and welcomed to inherit the kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, Matthew 25:34, 35-40. Those nations who were of the goats, were cursed by the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and they were departed into everlasting fire, the lake of fire, that was prepared for the devil and his angels, Matthew 25:41-45. This is the division of all people born into this world; most will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal, Matthew 25:46.
After the end of the seven years of tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ shall sit upon the throne of His glory, Matthew 25:31, the throne of David, Luke 1:32, with more written on this subject on this site concerning the dispensation of the kingdom. This is when after all the enemies of the Lord were made His footstool, He came to begin His rule over the earth, Psalm 110:1. The summation of the millennial reign of Christ Jesus is found in Psalm 2:8-12, where:
- The Lord was given rule over all the earth, Psalm 2:8, Daniel 7:13-14, Revelation 5:1-7
- The Lord shall rule with a rod of iron, dashing His enemies in pieces like a potter’s vessel, Psalm 2:9
- The leaders and judges in the world are instructed to serve the Lord with fear, and to rejoice with trembling, Psalm 2:10-11
- All are to kiss the Son, lest He be angry and those who rebel perish. But blessed are all they that put their trust in Him, Psalm 2:12
The daily execution of the Lord’s reign is seen in Psalm 101:1-8, which though it was written by David concerning his rule, it also looks forward to the Lord’s reign where:
- The Lord will walk within His house with a perfect heart
- No wicked thing will be set before him, nor those who turn aside to do evil
- He will not know any disobedient and obstinate person, not willing to yield or comply with the Lord’s commands
- Those who are back bitters, or slanderers, the Lord will cut off, as well as those with a lofty self-esteem or with a proud heart
- The Lord will look upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with Him, walk in perfection in their life, and serve the Lord
- Those who work deceit shall not dwell within the Lord’s house, and liars will not stand in the sight of the Lord
- Early, the Lord will destroy all the wicked in the land, and cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord
The worship of the Lord will be centralized, in the millennial temple where the Lord is, Ezekiel 48:35. From this location, the Lord will rule over the entire earth. Every year that everyone who survived the tribulation of all nations, who came against Jerusalem, will be required to appear before the Lord and worship him during the Feast of Tabernacles. Failure to do so will incur severe consequences. They will have no rain for a year. It appears the world will default back to an agrarian lifestyle, so no rain for a year will yield serious impacts on their ability to grow food and potable water, Zechariah 14:16-18.
The millennium under the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ, will be the most unique in human history. One reason is the makeup of people who will occupy the earth from the millennium’s beginning until the end of time, after Satan is released for a season. Then Satan will lead the final rebellion against the Lord and His saints on this earth occurs, and God the Father sends fire down from heaven to judge the armies who arrayed themselves up against Jesus and His saints in Jerusalem. Those who make up this army will be seduced by Satan, because they do not believe in Christ, Titus 3:3-5, though they enjoyed the fruits of His kingship (similar to the experience of Judas Iscariot, John 13:18, 21), Revelation 20:7-11, 15, Psalm 41:9-13, 1John 2:19.
The groups of people living in the kingdom of God are:
- Those living in their physical bodies, the flesh
- The righteous who believed with their heart and confessed that Jesus is Lord, Romans 10:9-13
- For all the Jewish people, the Lord will give them one heart, put a new spirit in them, and take out the stony heart out of them and give them a heart of flesh. They will then walk in God’s statues, keep His ordinances and do them, and they shall be His people and He will be their God, Ezekiel 11:17-20, Ezekiel 36:24-28
- The Lord will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. He will put His law within them and write it in their hearts, Jeremiah 31:31-34
- The unrighteous, those who have a zeal of God, but not according to God’s Word, and in its place they establish their own righteousness, Romans 10:2-3
- Those living in their resurrected bodies, who were part of the 1st resurrection, Revelation 20:4-6
- . Of this group, all will be enjoying the Lord’s blessings and fulfillment of all His covenants and promises, like Abraham and his faith, Hebrews 11:8-9
- However, the one group that will not be part of the earthly domain, are those saints in the Body-of-Christ, whose citizenship is in heavenly places, Philippians 3:20
Those who will be ruling with the Lord over Israel are:
- David, Ezekiel 34:23-24, Ezekiel 37:24-25
- The 12 apostles, each sitting on a throne ruling over the 12 tribes of Israel, Luke 22:29-10
- Those in the church of Thyatira, who overcome and keeps the Lord’s deeds until the end, they will be given authority over the nations; and shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star
- Those in the church of Laodicea, who overcomes, the Lord will grant to sit down with Him on His throne, as the Lord also overcame and sat down with His Father on His throne
The central location of worship will be the Lord’s millennial temple, north of the city, Jerusalem. All of the temple’s dimensions, rules for entering and exiting the temple, and how and who can bring sacrifices for worship, are given in Ezekiel 40:1-49 through Ezekiel 48:1-35.
Finally, the characteristics of the kingdom age are described in the seven parables of the kingdom of heaven Jesus spoke of in Matthew 13:3-50. Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord, Zechariah 14:20-21.
At the end of the millennial reign of Christ, Satan and his angels will be released from the bottomless pit for a season. He will then deceive the nations and war against the Lord and His saints. Even with Christ ruling for 1,000 years, there will be an unnumberable host of those in the flesh who well rise up with Satan against the Lord and His host. This will all come to an abrupt end with fire coming down from heaven to consume all the rebels. Then, Satan and his angels will be thrown into the lake of fire. Christ will sit on the great white throne to judge all the unrighteous ever born on earth. Those whose name was not found in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire, followed by death and hades (hell), Revelation 20:7-15.
The Lord Jesus Christ will continue to reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death, 1Corinthians 15:25-26. When all things are made subject to Christ Jesus, then the Son Himself will also be subject to God the Father, so that God may be all in all, 1Corinthians 15:27-28. From then on, all the saints will enjoy eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ, some having their portion and responsibilities in the earthly domain, others in the heavenly domain, and the New Testament church, the Bride of Christ, will reside with God the Father and His son in the new Jerusalem, Revelation 21:1-3.
The following is the complete chart having all the parts shown in the previous six builds.