THE ROLE OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
We understand from the New Testament that there is Jesus Christ, and then there is the Body of Christ. We read also that all of the gifts and ministries given by the ascended Christ are for the purpose of building the members of the Body to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
The question is, how important is it that a Christian be brought to the stature of the fullness of Christ? What is the purpose of this?
THE ROLE OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (I Corinthians 12:12)
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)
When Paul wrote “Christ” he was thinking “Messiah.” “Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew term “Messiah.”
“Messiah” refers to the Servant of the Lord spoken of in the Book of Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” This is the source of the term “Messiah.”
Messiah is the One whom God has anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit to bring deliverance: first to God’s elect, and then to the nations of the earth.
I say “God’s elect,” but I could say “Israel.” But if I say Israel, then the reader may think only of the physical nation of Israel. True Israel, whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth, consists of those who belong to Christ; who are the one Seed of Abraham.
Israel must be delivered. Then the mission of Israel will be to release the nations from spiritual bondage and reconcile them to God.
When Paul wrote the word “Christ” He was thinking of the Anointed Deliverer whom God will commission to release from spiritual bondage the members of Israel, and then the members of the nations of the earth.
I do not think any believer would be too surprised by that statement. The Jews and the Christians believe Messiah, or Christ, will come and bring deliverance to us.
The truly astonishing fact, a fact made known only to the Apostle Paul it seems, is that Messiah consists of the great exalted Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and also of a Body.
It is not true, as some have emphasized, that Jesus is only one member of a many-membered Christ. God has exalted the Lord Jesus above all others.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18)
Standing firm on the exalted position of the Lord Jesus, we can proceed with the thesis of the present essay, which is the role of the Body of Christ.
When we begin to consider the Body of Christ itself, and then its role, as outlined by the Hebrew Prophets, we realize we have come to the end of one era of Christian thinking and the entrance to a whole new vision of what the Kingdom of God is all about.
Historically the understanding has been that Christianity presents a plan of salvation. The Bible teaches, “The person who believes in Christ and is baptized in water shall be saved.”
Then, at some point after the original Day of Pentecost, the erroneous idea was formalized that to be saved is to obtain eternal residence in Paradise in the spirit realm after we die.
From this incorrect concept, plus the description in the Book of Revelation of the new Jerusalem, and the misleading current usage of the Greek word for “abiding place” in John 14 as meaning “mansion,” there has been developed the thought of going to Heaven to live in a mansion and walk on streets of gold.
To be saved, then, has meant to escape Hell and go to live forever in Heaven surrounded by material wealth. “There is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain,” as the saying goes.
This is how the Gospel of the Kingdom is viewed. In our day, “imputed righteousness” has been emphasized to the point that it is not necessary to live a godly life—just make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and you will go to Heaven when you die to live forever in peace and joy. Then the idea of a “rapture” has been presented, meaning that at any moment we will be carried up to Heaven and thus escape all the troubles of the last days.
When he hold the above incorrect concept of what it means to be saved, the doctrines of the Body of Christ, of coming to the stature of the fullness of Christ, of the coming to earth of the Kingdom of God, has no real, practical application to our salvation. What they are referring to we have little or no notion.
But now the seals are coming off the Scriptures and we can see what Isaiah and the Apostle Paul are referring to.
Let me present the scriptural vision briefly, and then elaborate.
The Spirit of God is creating a body for Christ, for Messiah, for the One anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit to bring deliverance to Israel and through Israel to the nations of the earth.
The gifts and ministries given by the ascended Christ are for the purpose of bringing the members of the Body of Christ to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Today the Head is ready to be joined to the Body, and every member of the Body must learn total responsiveness to the Head.
When the Body has been prepared, the members of the Body will be raised from the dead and then be caught up in the air to be joined to the Head.
Then the entire Christ, Head and Body, will return to earth as an army, strong enough to drive all of Satan’s influence from the earth.
In this manner, justice will be brought to the nations of earth who have survived the Battle of Armageddon.
What we have just described is what John and Jesus preached when they announced the coming of the Kingdom of God, the doing of God’s will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
Now, let us reflect on the above just a bit.
Currently the idea of being saved, and of the Kingdom of God, is that we profess faith in Jesus Christ, are baptized in water, and when we die or are “raptured” we will enter eternal residence in the Paradise realm known to us as “Heaven.”
The actual message of the Scriptures is that the Spirit of God is creating a Body for Christ so Christ—Head and Body—can return to earth and bring justice to the nations.
Compare the two viewpoints. Can you see what we mean by saying we have come to the end of one era understanding and are beginning a new era of understanding?
If the new understanding is scriptural, then the previous understanding is limited in scope.
If the new understanding is scriptural, what does this mean for us as an individual Christian?
It means it is not enough to make a profession of Christ, to repent of our ways in the world, to receive forgiveness through the blood atonement, to be baptized in water, and to be born again of the Spirit of God.
It means it is not enough to be baptized by the Spirit of God into the Body of Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (I Corinthians 12:13)
It means today—right now—the Head, Jesus Christ, is requiring of us that we take a further step into Himself. We have been saved through the blood; we have been baptized by the Spirit. Now we must take a further step: we must tell the Lord that from this point forward in our life we are going to surrender all to Him and look to Him for every detail, every decision we make. He is to be our life from now on.
Our relationship to the Head must be developed each day. It is developed as we learn to keep looking to Christ for all that we do, from the moment we arise in the morning until we retire at night—and through the night should we be wakeful.
We are of no use to the Lord until we are totally responsive to the Head.
The Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, lives by hearing from the Father. He does nothing of Himself.
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30)
You would think the Lord Jesus is capable of doing many things on His own. He may be capable, but He does nothing except as the Father shows Him.
This is the way Jesus lives, moves, and has His Being, and this is the way we are to live, move, and have our being. We are to do nothing whatever apart from the Lord Jesus.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57)
We are to be crucified with Christ to the extent He is living in us. He must become our life if we are to return with Him.
Here is the point of the present essay: only those who are totally responsive to the Head are qualified and competent to be resurrected, and then to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
You might conclude from what I have just stated that only a small fraction of today’s believers will be raised from the dead and be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
I believe this is the truth. The story of Gideon is a major type of the next coming of the Lord. Only a small fraction of Israel gained the victory. Then all Israel shared in the victory. So it will be with the Body of Christ, at least that part of the Body that will be ready when the Lord returns. Through them God will gain the victory over Satan; then the remainder of God’s Israel will share in the victory; finally the victory over Satan and his forces will spread throughout the earth.
The parable of the ten virgins is of interest to us. I wonder if this is taking place right now. I wonder if the Lord is coming to His Church and is taking those who have oil in their lamp, that is, those who are filled with His Life.
Our traditional thinking causes us to perceive the virgins who were taken were caught up to Heaven at this time, far beyond the farthest galaxy. But if we realize Heaven is all around us, that the Lord can come to us in the spirit realm and grant us a closer experience with Him without taking us anywhere, then we can see the possibility that ours is a day in which Christ is drawing near to those who are looking for Him.
We are not speaking now of His historic coming in the clouds when every eye shall see Him, but of His coming to His saints in the Spirit to prepare them for His historic coming.
All I am saying is what every Christian believes: that we should live in the Lord Jesus moment by moment, always obeying His slightest wish. The difference is, I am suggesting that if we do not live this way we will not be raised from the dead and caught up to meet the Lord when He appears.
One major flaw in Christian thinking has to do with the purpose for the return of Christ to the earth. The current vision is that Christ is coming to bring His Church to Heaven. There absolutely is no passage of Scripture, to my knowledge, that supports the belief that Christ is coming to bring His Church to Heaven.
Do you know of any passage that states Christ is coming to bring His Church to Heaven?
The famous “rapture” passage is employed to prove Christ is coming to take His Church to Heaven. But if you will examine closely what the rapture passage states, you will see that the idea of catching up His Church to Heaven is an assumption.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (I Thessalonians 4:17)
Look carefully at the above. “Caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
Being caught up to meet the Lord in the air is certainly not the same as being caught up to Heaven. The air is not very high above us, and the air is of the physical realm. Heaven is in the spirit realm.
One cannot employ I Thessalonians 4:17 to prove the Christian people will be caught up to Heaven when the Lord appears, because the passage does not mention Heaven.
The members of His Body will be raised from the dead, and then caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Then they will descend with Him to the Mount of Olives to wage war against Antichrist and His forces.
When the Lord comes He will bring with Him most of the members of His Body. They have died and have been waiting in the spirit realm for the Day of Christ.
Christ will wait in the air above the earth until those who have come with Him descend in the spirit realm and reenter their bodies. After this, they, and we who are alive when the Lord returns, will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air in preparation for the attack of Armageddon.
We must remember, those who return with the Lord in order to reenter their bodies will compose an enormous host. We who are alive and remain will constitute only a very small minority of those who are caught up.
By far the great majority of those who are caught up have been in the spirit realm for many years, some for hundreds and thousands of years. Can you see it would make no sense for the Lord to come with all His saints, and then bring back to Heaven those who have been there for such a long time? These are kings who are longing for the day when they can sit on their thrones that govern the earth. Why would they desire to return to Heaven?
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10)
The Lord is not returning to carry a small remnant of His people to Heaven. The Lord is returning because there is a job His Father wants Him to do in the earth.
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope. (Isaiah 42:1-4)
The Servant of the Lord is Messiah, Christ—Head and Body.
There are many tasks waiting to be performed in the earth, that cannot be performed except by Christ working through the responsive members of His Body.
Our job is to bring justice to the nations. The reason we have received the Spirit of God is that we might bring justice to the nations.
Think of the condition of the nations of the earth. Do you see justice or injustice?
The United Nation may seek justice, but it is not in man’s power to bring about justice. This is because the leaders are self-seeking, in most instances.
God desires that justice prevail among the nations. Therefore He is creating a great Servant who will install justice on the earth.
This is why you are being trained so carefully by the Lord. It is so He can use you to bring justice to the nations. Can you see from this how you are not qualified to return with the Lord until you are willing to surrender your own will that Christ’s will might be done in you? Can you understand why we must be brought to the stature of the fullness of Christ?
The world is not waiting for you or me. The world is waiting for Christ. The nations, as well as the Christians, would see Jesus. As long as we must follow our own desires, doing what we think is a good thing, the world will not see Jesus. They will not see Jesus until you and I are willing to cease from our own life and let Jesus live in us.
The Servant of the Lord will not falter or be discouraged until He establishes justice on earth. This is the hope of the future. This is the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God, the doing of God’s will, to the earth.
The challenge before us is to lay down our life, to love not our life to the death.
The greatest problem man has is that of self-will. Our love of the world is a problem. Our willingness to obey the passions of our flesh and soul also is a problem.
But the greatest problem of all is our self-will. The Lord is asking that we turn aside from our own plans, desires, ambitions, and seek His face at every moment of every day. We do not master living by the Life of Christ in one day. It requires time and much suffering before we are able to live by the Life of Jesus Christ.
We are to start today. The issue is one of obedience to the Head. Will we give everything to Jesus that He might be able to use us to perform the will of the Father? We will be of no use at His coming unless we are fully responsive to the Head.
If we are to be perfectly responsive to the Head we must learn to live in the Spirit of God. This is not easy to do. We have the New Testament writings to assist us in learning to live in the Spirit. We have the experienced elders of our church to assist us in learning to live in the Spirit. But even then it is possible to be deceived. The enemy, Satan, is a master of deception.
The Jew under Moses could learn the details of the Law and obey every commandment and statute. Our task is much more difficult. While we have the New Testament for a guideline, the new covenant is one of the Spirit of God. We have to pray at all times so we understand how the New Testament is to be accurately, constructively applied.
It truly is an awesome change in vision, when you think about it, that our destiny lies in bringing people out of bondage instead of bringing them to Heaven. The earth is our eternal home. We are not being prepared to live in Heaven but on the earth.
I stated previously that Christ would first release His own people, and then they would release the prisoners of the earth.
And provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)
Before justice can be brought to the earth, God’s people must be delivered until they are oaks of righteousness. This program is taking place in our day, beginning with the members of the Body of Christ.
As soon as God’s people, Zion, have been made oaks of righteousness, they will set about to restore the chaotic conditions in the earth.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61:4)
God’s salvation is not directed toward bringing people to another place but to releasing them from their bondages.
I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, To open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42:6,7)
Can you see from the above passage that the Christian salvation is not directed toward movement to Heaven but toward release from bondage? We must learn to live by the Life of Christ until we are able to release people from bondage. The keys to open the chains, as well as to install them, have been given to the Church.
I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)
Can you grasp what I am teaching? I believe it is important to understand salvation has to do with the transformation of people. Their entrance into an environmental paradise, which can be accomplished easily, is of no use until they themselves have been freed from bondage.
You could be put back in the original garden of Eden. But if you were still bound with fear, or unforgiveness, or hatred, or lust, or worry, or personal ambition, or thievery, or witchcraft, or a lying spirit, you would still be miserable.
Some of the most beautiful cities on earth are centers of moral filthiness, violence, and greed. Male and female children are sold into sexual slavery. The cities look beautiful, but the people who live in them are often subject to misery and terror.
In our own area, which may be as scenic as most areas on the earth, has just experienced the kidnap and murder of a little girl. The parents do not need any more hell than they are enduring right now. Yet they are in an affluent neighborhood. If some poor man from Africa or Afghanistan were to look at their home and possessions he would think he was seeing Paradise.
So God is creating the Body of Christ in order that people might be released from the spiritual bondages that always create chaos and destruction no matter what type of environment the people are placed in.
I think the Christian churches believe when the believers die they automatically are transformed morally, and that sin is not possible in Heaven.
The truth is, Heaven is not as pleasant a place as we imagine. This is where sin began, and where Satan still is accusing the saints. The heavens cannot rejoice until through the saints Satan is removed from the heavens.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. (Revelation 12:11)
Can you imagine what it was like in Heaven when Satan and the angels first rebelled? At that time, Heaven would not have been an enjoyable place to be!
The only reason Heaven is desirable is that Christ and God are there. If Christ and God were not in Heaven, then we would not want to be there no matter how beautiful the environment.
When the Lord Jesus comes and sets up His Kingdom in Jerusalem, and later, when the throne of God and of the Lamb come down through the new sky to settle forever on the new earth, all we desire no longer will be in Heaven.
We understand, therefore, that we have come to a new era of understanding. God is creating the Body of Christ so we can release people from the moral bondages that always create misery and corruption. Until this is done, no paradise would satisfy us.
What is the Spirit saying today?
The Spirit is telling us to turn to the Lord Jesus and begin to respond to Him as our body responds to our head. This means setting aside our own ways, our own ambitions, our own thinking, our own plans, and living day by day in the Presence of Christ.
Only those persons who thus are completely responsive to the Head are eligible to participate in the resurrection and catching up that will occur when the Lord returns to the earth.
The Kingdom of God is coming to the earth. Did you know? Did you know such is the Gospel of the Kingdom?
Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. Let the desert and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops. Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands. (Isaiah 42:10-12)
You and I are being prepared to bring righteousness, peace, and joy to every person of the nations who is willing to accept the lordship of Jesus Christ. Let us therefore do all in our power to build up ourselves in the Head, and everyone who will listen to us. Give all diligence to this. Desire the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit so you can be built up and build up others. Put everything else in your life in second place.
This present world is passing away. The Kingdom of God is eternal. Those who are wise will “sell all,” so to speak, and buy what Christ is offering.
We are not going to have forever to make up our mind. This is the hour of our visitation. It will pass all too quickly. The King is asking for your whole personality to use as He will. If you save your life you finally will lose everything. If you turn over your life to the Lord you will reap an eternal reward. You will keep your life and you will bring forth the image of Christ in yourself and in a multitude of others.
Eternity lies before you. You have but a brief time in this valley of the shadow of death we live in. By giving your all to Christ, learning to live in Him each day, you will reap grandeur beyond human comprehension.
But if you choose to live to yourself, just being a religious person, attending a Christian church supposing this will bring you to a wonderful world in the sky, you will die spiritually and reap corruption in the Day of Christ. Why? Because you have remained unchanged.
If I am hearing correctly from the Lord, we are heading toward problems we never thought we would experience in the United States of America. This is because of the prevalence of murder, adultery, witchcraft, sexual perversions, and the needless aborting of children.
When the Divine judgment falls on our country there will be no safety anywhere except in the Lord God of Heaven.
If you desire to be safe, and have your loved ones safe, then make Jesus Christ the supreme Head of your life right now. If you are willing to be part of the Servant of the Lord, then the God of Heaven will take care of you and your loved ones.
Why don’t you make certain of your safety and the safety of your loved ones, and your eternal destiny, while you still have the opportunity.
Tomorrow may be too late!
(“The Role of the Body of Christ”, 3879-1)