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THETRIUMPH OF THE CHURCH

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This posting is an excerpt from a article written by Reformed Baptist pastor, William Einwechter

From its earliest days and throughout its history, the church has faced a hostile world intent on its destruction. Today, the church is confronted with enemies on every side and the persecution of believers is severe in many nations. In the West, the church is no longer a respected or dominant factor in society; instead, it is scorned and ridiculed. Evil is on the rise and a pagan worldview has captured the minds of both young and old as the influence of the Christian worldview recedes. Statism has gripped the nations of the world, and men have rejected the true Messiah for a messianic state; salvation is seen in terms of civil government power and legislation, and not in terms of the power of Christ’s atoning blood. The laws of God have been set aside for the laws of men. The gospel is preached in many lands and there are many “professions” of faith, but the gospel that is preached is often devoid of a call to repentance and submission to the lordship of Christ. In the majority of churches, the discipleship model is one of pietism, the theology is Arminian and man-centered, and the perspective on the future is pessimistic. As the church approaches the 21st century it is in retreat, plagued by false doctrine, division, and worldliness. The places where the church is exerting a culture-wide influence are few, if any. The enemies of God are gloating over the fall of the church into irrelevancy and impotence.

Given this sorry state of affairs, there seems to be little room for optimism for the followers of Jesus Christ. The dispensationalists tell us that we are witnessing the inevitable “failure of Christianity” and that the “church age” will end in apostasy in the church and the triumph of evil in the world.1

John Walvoord states that in this “age of grace. . . things are going to get worse and worse. There will be more oppression, more injustice, more persecution, more immorality as the age wears on.”2 In terms of the future prospects of the church before the end of the age, dispensationalists say that things will actually get worse than they are now. Dispensationalists teach that in history and before the Second Coming, “kingdom power” is withheld from the church, and therefore, the church is “at the mercy of the powers of this world.”3 Hence, the church will not overcome its enemies; rather its enemies will persecute and nearly crush the church4 (only a tattered remnant will be rescued by Jesus at the rapture).

But the dispensationalists (and any others who hold pessimistic views on the prospects of the church in this age) are seriously mistaken. Yes, the church is in a general state of weakness and decline in our day. However, this condition will not last; according to the Scriptures in both Old and New Testaments, the church of Jesus Christ will triumph in history and before the Second Coming. A brief survey of a few selected texts confirms the glorious future prospects of the church before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the age.5

Old Testament Predictions of Triumph

The significance of the Old Testament for understanding the earthly triumph of the church is based on the New Testament teaching that the church is the new Israel, or “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). The Apostle Paul affirms that believers in Jesus Christ are the true seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16-17, 26-29), that elect Jews and Gentiles are one body in Christ (Eph. 2:11-3:7), that the Old Testament covenantal distinctions between them have been removed in the church (Eph. 2:11-3:7), and that the New Testament church is the heir of the promises given to Israel (Eph. 2:12, 19-22, 3:7). Hence, the new covenant promises given to Israel are fulfilled in the church (cf. Jer. 31:31-34 with Mt. 26:18; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:7-13; 10:12-18). Jesus Christ himself declared that the kingdom of God would be taken from Israel and given to the church (Mt. 8:10-12; 21:19, 43; Lk. 20:9-16). Furthermore, as the new Israel of God, the church is designated by the same terminology that was used of Israel in the Old Testament (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9; Gal. 3:29). Hoekema states:

Is it not abundantly clear … that the New Testament church is now the true Israel, in whom and through whom the promises made to Old Testament Israel are being fulfilled?6

Therefore, the Old Testament texts that predict the triumph of Israel, Zion, or Judah must be applied to the church, i.e., they predict the triumph of the New Testament church.

Genesis 22:17

. “. . . and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.”

This prediction appears in the Lord’s word of promise to Abraham in response to his faith and obedience in being willing to follow the Lord’s command to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. In context, this prophecy is a part of the comprehensive plan of God for the seed of Abraham: Abraham’s seed shall multiply and be as the stars of heaven in number; Abraham’s seed will possess the gate of his enemies; Abraham’s seed will be the means of blessing to all the nations of the earth (Gen. 22:17-18). Thus, three distinct aspects of the plan of God for Abraham’s seed are stated: fantastic growth, triumph over their enemies, and blessing to the nations through them. Carefully note the prediction of triumph. It is as important and distinct as the other two predictions.

The Hebrew word for “possess” (yarash) means to take, to take possession of, to inherit, dispossess, or to occupy. The word was commonly used in reference to Israel’s possession of the land of Canaan by conquering the inhabitants and occupying their land (Dt. 31:3). The specific object to be possessed in this prediction is the gate of their enemies. The word “gate” is filled with significance in the Old Testament. The gate was important for war, commerce, and civil government. In war, if one could penetrate the gates of a city, his victory was virtually assured; control of the gates determined the outcome of the conflict. In commerce, those who controlled the gates determined who could and who could not enter the city to do business. In civil government, the gate was the place where the elders and rulers of the people would sit to hold court and carry out the other aspects of civil ruling.

Therefore, to “possess the gate” of your enemy is to conquer him and take control of his city, commerce, and civil government. Genesis 22:17 is thus a powerful prediction of the complete triumph of Christ and his church (the seed of Abraham) over all its enemies. In New Testament perspective, it promises the church complete dominion over the heathen and possession of all the nations of the earth, i.e., all nations will be conquered by the gospel of Christ and be discipled in the Christian Faith. Believers in Jesus Christ will dispossess the enemies of God and control the “gate” in all nations.

Psalm 110

. This Messianic psalm is a declaration of the victorious reign of Christ. This psalm of David predicts the complete triumph of the exalted Christ and his people over the enemies of God. The psalm contains 3 sections: the Messiah’s exaltation and promised victorious reign (v. 1); the Messiah’s dominion, people, and priesthood (vv. 2-4); the Messiah’s victorious warfare (vv. 5-7). Each section emphasizes Christ’s power and his conquest of all who oppose his reign from the Father’s right hand.

This psalm is crucial for understanding the fact that the kingdom of Jesus Christ will triumph in history before the return of Christ. The text establishes that Christ will not leave his place at the Father’s right hand in heaven until after all his enemies have become his footstool (v. 1). Christ was exalted to the Father’s right hand at the time of his ascension (Ac. 2:34-35; Heb. 1:13), and he will not return until the time of the resurrection at the last day when the last enemy, death, will be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:20-28). Therefore, the “day of thy [Christ’s] power” (v. 2) when Jesus Christ goes forth to rule and conquer in the midst of his enemies (v. 3) is the inter-advent period. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will triumph and all nations will submit to his reign during this age. The return of Christ marks the end of his mediatory reign (1 Cor. 15:24-25), and the promises of dominion given to Christ in the prophetic Scriptures are fulfilled before his Second Coming.

The church is specifically identified with Christ and his victory in verse 3.

The text says, “Thy people will be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauty of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of youth.” Here we learn that Christ will not be alone in the conflict, but that he has an army of loyal followers. This army of the Lord is described as being clothed in holy garments and as possessing the strength of youth. During the day of his power (this present age) Christ will be served by a host of willing followers who go with him into battle. The victorious warfare of the Messiah and his people is described in graphic terminology in verses 5-7. In Revelation 19:11-21 the fulfillment of Psalm 110 is presented to John in a vision of Jesus Christ, going forth to conquer his enemies. In that vision, as in Psalm 110:3, Christ is followed by an army clothed in holy garments (Rev. 19:14, 19). This army is the church. The church goes forth under Christ the King and shall one day share in his victory over all the enemies of God.

Romans 11:11-36

. This text outlines the great purpose of God concerning ethnic Israel and the nations during the New Testament era. First, Israel will remain “blinded in part . . . until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (v. 25). Israel will be hardened in unbelief (except for a remnant according to election [Rom. 11:1-7]), until the fulness of Gentiles is accomplished. The phrase “fulness of the Gentiles” speaks of the time when the Gospel will have converted the nations to faith in Christ (as predicted in the Old Testament and by Christ). Second, Israel will be provoked to jealousy by the conversion of the nations, and then there will be mass conversions among the Jews and “all Israel will be saved” (vv. 26-27). The Jews will be converted and incorporated into the church. Third, the result of Israel’s conversion will be “the reconciling of the world” and “life from the dead” (v. 15). Both of these phrases speak of the glorious future for the world as all the nations of the world (including Israel) come to faith in Jesus Christ. At that time in history, the world will truly experience “life from the dead” and the great Old Testament prophecies of world-wide blessing through Christ and his church (e.g., Isa. 2:2-4) will come to pass!

Conclusion

The testimony of the word of God is clear concerning the future triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ and his church. It is hard sometimes to believe that such a glorious future awaits the church. In our day, the church is beset by problems on all sides and is in a state of decline and retreat. Many teach that the best days of the church are behind us that and all that we can expect is the increase of evil and the triumph of wickedness as the age progress. But don’t believe one word of it. The Scripture declares that the best days for the church lie in the future; in fact, a most glorious future awaits the followers of Christ! Some have given up, and look only for Christ to rescue them from the present mess (and failure of the church) by the rapture. But don’t be like them. Faithfully serve the Lord Jesus Christ, because the victory is ours through him who loved us. The church will triumph in his name over all the enemies of truth and righteousness. Christ is at work in his church at this very hour, laying the foundation for a great resurgence of the Faith.9 We know this, not by sight, but by faith in the word of God that proclaims the triumph of the church in the world and in history.

http://www.reformationonline.com/triumph.htm

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Notes

1 For a discussion of the dispensational view of the “church age” and its pessimism, see William O. Einwechter, “‘The Failure of Christianity’: The Dispensational View of the Church Age and Its Effect on Christian Political and Social Action,” The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, vol. xiv, no. 1 (Fall 1996), 223-252.

2 John F. Walvoord, “Why Must Christ Return?,” in Prophecy in the Seventies, ed. Charles L. Feinberg (Chicago, 1971), 43.

3 Robert L. Saucy, “The Presence of the Kingdom and the Life of the Church,” Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (January – March 1988), 45.

4 ibid.

5 For a more in-depth study of the Scriptural teaching on the triumph of the church in this age see, Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler,1992); idem., The Greatness of the Great Commission (Tyler, 1990); Rousas John Rushdoony, God’s Plan for Victory (Vallecito, [1977] 1997); Andrew Sandlin, A Postmillennial Primer (Vallecito, 1997).

6 Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids, 1979), 198.

7 For a detailed discussion of Isa. 2:2-4, see William O. Einwechter, “The Latter-Day Triumph of Christ and His Kingdom,” The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, forthcoming.

8 cf. Luke 11:20-22; Col. 2:15; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Rev. 19:11-16; Mt. 16:18-19; ROM 8:37; 16:20; 2 Cor. 2:14; 10:3-5; 1 Jn. 5:4.

9 One indication of this is the Christian Reconstruction Movement. Christian Reconstruction is breathing new life into churches, individuals, and Christian organizations throughout the world. Because Christian Reconstruction is committed to the absolute authority of Christ and the word of God, to the application of the Faith to every sphere of life, and provides the church with a vision of victory, it is revitalizing the church in this hour of need. No wonder the enemies of Christ hate Christian Reconstruction with such a vehemence!

 

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