THE GOAL OF THE CHURCH
By Dr. Robert Thompson
From: It Is Time for a Reformation of Christian Thinking
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The traditional understanding of the goal of the Church, of the Christian discipleship, is eternal residence in Paradise. But our goal is not to go to Heaven to live forever. Our goal is to learn to live in the Spirit that is from Heaven, from God, so that when the Lord Jesus returns to earth we may return with Him in the fullness of the glory and power of Heaven. The goal of the Christian salvation is not a place. Our goal is the eternal Life that Christ Is. Our goal is to dwell in God, in the glory and joy of His Presence. Our final destination is the earth, for the Kingdom of God will be established on the earth.
THE GOAL OF THE CHURCH
The traditional understanding of the goal of the Church, of the Christian discipleship, is eternal residence in Paradise. The truth is, no covenant of God, whether found in the Old Testament or the New Testament, has as its goal our eternal residence in Heaven. The most commonly-held hope in all Christendom is that the Lord Jesus is our "ticket" to Paradise. If we believe in Jesus and if we try to be good we will go to Heaven when we die, there to live forever with God.
It indeed is true that our goal is to live forever in the Presence of God. It is true that our life, our hopes, our treasures, our joy are in Heaven in the present hour. It is true that our citizenship is in Heaven, that the saints are in Heaven around the Throne of God, and that our redemption is coming down from Heaven.
The Kingdom of God is of Heaven and will come down from Heaven. The spiritual Jerusalem, the "Zion" to which we have come, is in Heaven in the present hour. Our life is hidden with Christ in God in Heaven.
But our goal is not to go to Heaven to live forever. Our goal is to learn to live in the Spirit that is from Heaven, from God, so when the Lord Jesus returns to earth we may return with Him in the fullness of the glory and power of Heaven.
The goal of the Christian redemption is not a place. Our goal is the eternal Life that Christ Is. Our goal is to dwell in God, in the glory and joy of His Presence. Our final destination is the earth, for the Kingdom of God will be established on the earth.
This is not to say that in the resurrection we shall be restricted to the earth. God alone knows the joys and opportunities that await us. Our emphasis is that the Scriptures, especially the writings of the Prophets, point toward the glory that will come to the earth with the return of Christ. We prosper when we adhere to the written Word.
Going to Heaven will not satisfy the deepest longing of our heart. The deepest longing of our heart is to be one with Christ and the saints in God. It is the beauty and joy of Heaven that we are seeking, and that beauty and joy proceed only from the Presence of God in Christ.
One day the same beauty and joy will proceed from us, as God in Christ in us brings the nations of saved peoples of the earth into the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21; Revelation 21:3,4).
To go to live forever in mansions in the spirit realm, there to have no responsibility, to perform no useful service, is not the goal of the holy Scriptures. The goal of mansions, and the accompanying idea that we achieve the goal by means of a one-time assent to the truth of Christ’s atoning death and triumphant resurrection, have resulted in confusion concerning the necessity for our conversion to godly behavior. They have produced a continuing state of spiritual immaturity on the part of the believers.
In any endeavor it is important to have a correct goal, or mark. It is impossible to run a race wholeheartedly if there is any confusion concerning the direction of the course and the location of the finish line. One cannot run to win when there is no clearly defined mark. But this is the condition prevailing in Christianity.
The scriptural goal of the Church is to become the eternal house of the Lord God of Heaven.
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
The goal of Christianity is not where we go but what we become. The goal of our redemption is the forming in us of the eternal Tabernacle of God, the holy city, the Wife of the Lamb. The Christian salvation is God-centered, not man-centered. The Holy Spirit is building something for the pleasure and use of God. Our pleasure and benefit are secondary in importance.
We need to repeat often, in the twenty-first century, the concept of God-centeredness. God was not created for man’s benefit, man was created for God’s benefit.
At the time of the Exodus, God revealed His intention to create a dwelling place for Himself:
Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. (Exodus 15:17)
And a little later:
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)
Again, in the New Testament:
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? (Acts 7:49)
The Lord God of Heaven desires a house, a place of rest. God already has a temple in Heaven and His will is being performed there (Isaiah 6:1). However, God’s intention is to live in the earth among the nations of people He has created.
In the beginning the Lord God walked on the earth, as described in the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis. In the last days His throne will come down from Heaven to rest on the earth for eternity as portrayed in the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation. God is creating a house in which He can dwell among people on the earth.
God loves the nations of people whom He has created. But the nations have no spiritual light. They have no access to the Presence and blessing of God.
God’s solution to this problem is the creation of a living house in which He can dwell forever on the earth and through which He can rule and bless the nations of saved peoples of the earth. This living house is being formed from living stones.
The living stones are people whom God has separated from the remainder of mankind for the purpose of serving as His royal priesthood. Some of the living stones were born Gentiles; but the character of the new Jerusalem, the eternal Tabernacle of God, is of Israel. It is the new Jerusalem and the elect Gentiles are an integral part of it.
God is creating a house for Himself. The living stones of which it is composed will serve for eternity as kings and priests of the nations of saved peoples of the earth. They are the Presence of God among mankind.
. . . all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed. (Isaiah 61:9)
If the true Christian salvation is the extending of an amnesty to us so that our sins are overlooked, with the intent of bringing us to Paradise to live useless lives in an environment that presents no challenge to our characters, then the bringing forth of a new, godly creation in our personalities may be desirable but it is not essential.
If the true Christian salvation is the building of an eternal house for the God of Heaven, a tabernacle of glory that will serve for eternity as the light of the nations of saved peoples of the earth, then the bringing forth of a new, godly creation in our personalities is necessary for the gaining of our inheritance. Transforming grace must be added to pardoning grace.
Going to live forever in Heaven, and being changed into the image of Jesus, are two different goals. The first is not found in the Scriptures. The second is found in the Scriptures (Romans 8:29).
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. (Revelation 21:24)