I will build My Church. (Matthew 16:18)
Matthew’s gospel is the only one of the four gospels that records Christ’s announcement that He was going to build His Church. The record of this announcement is given in a gospel that, throughout the gospel, centers on Christ’s kingship and the coming kingdom. And the record is given at a particular time in Christ’s ministry. It is given following Israel’s climactic rejection of the King and the proffered kingdom of the heavens.
Thus, this revelation of the Church occurred following a particular set of circumstances occurring within Christ’s ministry, necessitating a change. This though would not be a change in the message but a change pertaining to the recipients of the message, a change concerning those to whom the message would be proclaimed.
The message would still center on the kingdom, but there would be a change concerning those to whom the offer of the kingdom would be extended. In complete keeping with Israel’s climactic rejection in chapter twelve and Christ’s departure from the house in chapter thirteen, the kingdom was about to be taken from Israel and given to “a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43b).
The Church, in this respect, was to be called into existence for definite and specific purposes surrounding the kingdom of the heavens; and these purposes were not only intimately associated with the coming kingdom, but the complete fulfillment of these purposes could not be realized until that day Christ exercised His office as King.
But, preceding the Church being brought into existence, the events of Calvary had to occur first. A means of salvation had to be provided first (a means connected with Israel, yet separate from Israel), else there could be no new entity of the nature referred to by Christ.
(Note that the Passover lamb was given to Israel, and only Israel could slay this lamb [Exodus 12:1ff]. Thus, only Israel could have slain the Paschal Lamb in 33 A.D., which is exactly what occurred [Acts 2:23, 36; 7:52].
Man today is saved on the basis of the death of a Jewish Paschal Lamb and His shed blood — a Lamb slain by the only one who could slay this Lamb, by Israel. But, though the Lamb was given to Israel and Israel slew the Lamb, unsaved man today doesn’t have to go to Israel per se to avail himself of that which has been done. Rather, the slain Lamb [who was raised from the dead and lives forevermore], with His shed blood, has been made available for all — Jew and Gentile alike.
And because this is true, all that a person has to do today — Jew or Gentile alike — is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 16:30, 31]. Then, because of Christ’s finished work at Calvary, the believing individual passes “from death into life” [John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1, 5].
This then allows the Spirit to perform a work in the individual [an immersion in the Spirit], placing him “in Christ.” And this, in turn, allows the individual to be numbered among those forming the new entity — the “one new man” — which Christ announced during His earthly ministry that He was about to bring into existence.)
And, beyond being brought into existence in this manner, it would be necessary that this new entity, as Israel, have a priest. This would be necessary because, as in Israel, salvation wouldn’t do away with man’s sin nature. And, with man still retaining his sin nature, the ever-present possibility of individuals falling into sin would exist among those within the camp of the saved; and sins committed by the saved, by Christians, would have to be dealt with in a manner that was in complete keeping with the way God, in the Old Testament, had previously established that they be dealt with — through a priest ministering on the individual’s behalf, on the basis of death and shed blood.
The whole of the matter of the sin question in relation to salvation — past, present, and future — was dealt with in the camp of Israel by death and shed blood. It was dealt with first by the application of the blood of slain paschal lambs (Exodus 12:1-13). Then it was subsequently dealt with by the blood of other slain animals and the work of priests (e.g.,Leviticus 1-7, 16).
The whole of the matter of the sin question in relation to salvation — past, present, and future — is dealt with today through exactly the same means, by death and shed blood. This has forever been established in the Old Testament, and it can never change.
Today, as in the Old Testament, the sin question in relation to salvation is dealt with first by the application of the blood of the slain Paschal Lamb (cf.Acts 16:31; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Then it is subsequently dealt with by Christ’s high priestly work and His shed blood presently on the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9, 10).
In this respect — to effect salvation past, present, and future — Christ died “for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3); He presently lives, exercising a priestly office, in order “to make intercession” for us, providing a present cleansing from sin (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 1:6-2:2; cf.John 13:4-12); and Christians, because of this twofold work of Christ (Prophet and Priest), can look forward to a third work of Christ when He comes forth as King. They can look forward to reigning as consort queen with Him during the coming day of His power.
In this respect, everything surrounding God’s redemptive work by and through His Son — past and present — moves toward a revealed time when this redemptive work will be realized in its fullness, in the coming kingdom.
Thus, in Matthew chapter sixteenwhen Peter denied to Christ His work as Prophet at Calvary — “Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (v. 22) — he, apart from realizing that which he was doing, was not only denying to Christ His subsequent work as Priest but he was also denying to Christ His future work as King as well (something that he had previously acknowledged [v. 16]).And, for this reason, Peter then experienced a severe rebuke at Christ’s hands — “Get behind Me, Satan! . . . .” (v. 23)
The events in Matthew chapter sixteen occurred shortly after Israel’s “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” and Christ’s subsequent departure from “the house” — the house of Israel (chapters12, 13). And, for all practical purposes, even though the announcement was not made until later (Matthew 21:43), the kingdom of the heavens (at the time of the events in Matthew 16) had already been taken from Israel and was about to be offered to a separate and distinct “nation.” This new “nation,” the Church (1 Peter 2:9, 10), would, in turn, do that which Israel had failed to do — bring forth “the fruits of it [fruits relating to the kingdom].”
Thus, attention called to the Church in connection with the kingdom of the heavens at this point in Christ’s ministry, to later be more fully revealed through the Apostle Paul, is at the exact juncture where one might expect such revelation — after Israel’s climactic rejection (chapter 12), followed by Christ’s departure from the house (chapter 13).
Church, Body, Bride
Viewing the matter from another perspective, the basic principles relating to the formation of the bride (who is to one day reign with Christ as consort queen) and the redemptive work of the Son in relation to the bride are introduced in the New Testament at this time, though previously set forth millennia before. They were previously set forth in the first three chapters of Genesis, by the experiences of Adam in relation to Eve; and these principles remain unchanged throughout Scripture, having been reintroduced by Christ during His earthly ministry.
Adam was the first man upon the earth. He was also a type of Christ, the second Man, the last Adam (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45-47); and the experiences of Adam in relation to Eve prefigure the experiences of Christ in relation to His bride.
Eve was created in Adam at the very beginning, but was not brought into existence as a separate entity until a later point in time. Adam was put to sleep, his side opened, and from this opened side God took one of his ribs and formed Eve from the rib. Eve, in this manner, was taken out of Adam and then presented back to Adam for a helpmate (Genesis 2:20).
Adam, apart from Eve, was incomplete (for she was part of his very being — bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh). And, because of this, when presented back to Adam, Eve completed Adam, along with realizing completeness herself. In the highest sense, Eve was still part of Adam’s body, and God looked upon both together as “one flesh.” Both of them together, though two entities, formed one complete person (Genesis 2:21-24).
In the antitype, the bride of Christ has existed in the Son from eternity. The bride’s existence and salvation date back to a past time, “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8). The bride, however, could not be brought into existence as a separate entity until the Son, at a time during Man’s Day, was put to sleep and His side opened.
This took place at Calvary. The Son died, and His side was opened. And out of this opened side came forth “blood” and “water” (John 19:34) — the two elements necessary to bring into existence the bride, separate from the body, but still part of the body (the “water” speaks of cleansing after the application of the “blood”).
Once the complete, redeemed bride has been brought into existence in this manner, “nothaving spot, or wrinkle . . . without blemish” — once Christ has completed the work announced in Matthew 16:18, building His Church — the bride will be presented back to the Son; and the bride will complete the Son (Hebrews 2:10 [the word “perfect” in this verse should be understood in the sense of bringing to completion]). Then, when the bride completes the Son in this manner, in the highest sense, as in the type, God will look upon both as “one flesh.” Both of them together, though two entities, will form one complete person (Ephesians 5:26-32).
In the preceding respect, God’s past work in bringing Eve into existence and His present work in bringing His Son’s bride (the Church) into existence, based on the events of Calvary, must be studied in the light of one another.
As previously seen in Genesis 2:22, God took a rib from Adam’s side, which “He made into a woman.” The Hebrew word translated “made” in this verse is banah,which means “to build.” Eve was created in Adam at the very beginning, later taken out of Adam, built into a bride, and then presented back to Adam.
In Matthew 16:18 Christ said, “. . . upon this rock I will build My Church.” Then Christ was later put to sleep at Calvary, His side was opened, and the two elements necessary to bring the bride into existence flowed forth — blood and water.
(The word “Church” [Greek:ekklesia, meaning “called out”] is used more than one way in the New Testament. The word is used, for example, in Revelation 2, 3 to refer to all of the saved during the present dispensation, those called out of the world. But the word is also used in a futuristic sense, as seen in Matthew 16:18, referring to a segment of the saved — those called out of the larger body of Christians, those called out of the saved [cf.Hebrews 12:23].)
The Church to which Christ referred in Matthew 16:18, synonymous with the bride — created in Christ from eternity — is presently being built in the previous manner. It is presently being removed from the body, called out of the larger body of Christians, and built into a bride. And the time when this process will be completed, with the bride being revealed and presented back to the Son, lies in the future.
Just as Eve was taken out of Adam’s body, the bride of Christ is presently being taken out of the Son’s body. The entire body over which He is the Head consists of all the saved during this present dispensation. But the bride is a smaller groupthat is presently being called out of the larger group, i.e., called out of the body. All of the saved are “called” (or, “called out” in relation to the world) and form the body, but only the “called out” (from among the saved) — those taken out of the body — will form the bride of Christ. The bride is a selection out of a selection (a removal from the body of those previously removed from the world):
For many are called, but few are chosen [lit.,“few are called out,” referring to a select group removed from the “called”].” (Matthew 22:14)
Note that man had no part in God’s work surrounding the formation of Eve — from the time of her creation in Adam, to the time when she was presented back to Adam. Nor can man have a part in the formation of the Son’s bride. Jesus said, “I will build MyChurch.”
The word “Church” comes from a compound Greek word (ekklesia),which, as previously seen, means “called out” (ek, “out”; kaleo [or,klesis], “to call”). And the clear teaching of Scripture attests to the fact that the Church that Christ is building consists of individuals who are being called out of the saved,not individuals who are being called out of the world.
The Church, in the preceding respect, is the body of Christ in the same sense that Eve was the body of Adam. Eve was bone of Adam’s bones, and flesh of Adam’s flesh (Genesis 2:23).
All of Eve was of Adam’s body, but she was not all of his body. “For we [Christians] aremembersof His [Christ’s] body, of His flesh, andof His bones” (Ephesians 5:30). All of Christ’s bride will be of His body, but the bride will not be all of His body.
And as Eve was to reign as consort queen with the first man, the first Adam (Genesis 1:26-28), thus will it be for the second Man, the last Adam and His bride. The first man, the first Adam, could have reigned only as a complete being, with Eve completing Adam; and the second Man, the last Adam, can, in like manner, reign only as a complete being, with the bride completing God’s Son.
In that coming day, the King with His consort queen will reign in this manner — as one complete person — fulfilling that which was set forth surrounding man’s creation (male and female) in the beginning.
(Taken from Salvation of the Soul, Chapter 2)