The Bible is composed of 66 books, written by over 40 authors, over a period of over 1,500 years. It is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Old Testament being God’s progressive revelation of Himself leading up to Christ (John 5:39 / Hebrews 1:1-2), the New Testament being God’s explicit record of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3 / Ephesians 2:20).
Scripture describes itself as being inspired, that is, it is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). It all of its words and concepts, its origin is directly from God; thus it is called “the Word of God” (John 10:35). God moved through men to write Scripture, though it did not originate with man’s ideas (2 Peter 1:21). Thus, it is wholly of God, but it is not stripped of its human sentiments.
God’s purpose in the Bible is to reveal Himself and His purpose in His creation, especially His work of salvation through His Son. While in God’s creation we can see His eternal power and deity (Romans 1:20), we see the full range God’s personal attributes and our obligation to them in Scripture (see Psalm 19).
Since the Bible is fully God-breathed and since God cannot lie, it has to be inerrant, that is, not able to err (Proverbs 30:5 / Psalm 12:6). This gives it more reliability than even eyewitness testimony (2 Peter 1:19). Because God possesses all authority, it is also infallible, that is, it cannot fail as to its purpose and power (John 10:35 / Luke 16:17). Scripture holds immunity from all error, illegitimacy, or failure.
God has given such a profound book to stand as an objective authority and guide over the affairs of men, especially His people (Matthew 22:29). In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read, “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for training/instruction in righteousness: so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped/fitted for every good work.” This sets the Bible forth as being sufficient for the believer, both for what he believes and how he lives.
The promises are great to those who embrace this book. God has invested divine power in the Scriptures: power to give new life (1 Peter 1:23), power to crush lies (Jeremiah 23:29), power to pierce hearts (Hebrews 4:12), power to bless the believer with stability (Psalm 1:1-3), power to restore a soul (Psalm 19:7), and power to lead (Psalm 119:1-5). This book will forever endure as a solid foundation, for “the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8).
Our obligation to the Scriptures is at least threefold. First, we are to tremble at them, for that is a sign we recognize their authority (Isaiah 66:2). Second, we are to meditate on them day and night because of our delight in them (Psalm 1:2). As we meditate, the Spirit of God will illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture (1 John 2:27). Third, we are to live the truth of Scripture in purity and faithfulness (Psalm 119:11). Learn to love God’s Book, “because it is your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). “Man shall not life by bread alone but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
God is invisible (1 Timothy 1:17) because He is a spirit in His substance (John 4:24). Thus He can never be known apart from self-revelation (1 Corinthians 2:11-12). In that God is spirit, He is not dependent on any reality outside of Himself (Acts 17:24-28); He is self-existent. The self-existent One cannot but be immutable (Malachi 3:6) and eternal, (1 Timothy 1:17).
God is also infinite. Thus we can never expect to understand Him fully (Romans 11:33-36). His infinity expresses itself in three main ways. First, God is omnipotent; He possesses all power (Jeremiah 32:17). Second, God is omnipresent, that is, He inhabits all space and time (Isaiah 57:15 / Psalm 139:3, 7). Third, God is omniscient, meaning He knows and understands all things intrinsically (Psalm 139:2 / Isaiah 40:14).
There must, then, only be one God (this is called monotheism), as Deuteronomy 6:4 shows. Isaiah 40:25 says that no one is like God or equal to Him. Yet the Bible teaches that God is a Trinity, that is, that three equal Persons compose one divine, inseparable Being. Hence, we read of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17 / Matthew 28:19 / Ephesians 4:4-6 / John 15:26 / 2 Corinthians 13:14). Again, because God is infinite, we cannot understand this concept fully, but we do not compromise it since Scripture teaches it so clearly.
This God is the Creator of all things (Genesis 1:1) and the Sovereign over all events (Romans 11:16). God is working out His purpose in creation to display His glory in redemption, which man will recognize because of His infinite wisdom (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Obviously, then, He must have personal attributes by which men must know Him. God has a personal name, Yahweh (Psalm 83:18). God also has two primary attributes by which man knows Him personally: “God is light” (1 John 1:5) and “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Scripture says He dwells in light unapproachable (1 Timothy 6:16) and that He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). This is called God’s holiness. Holy means “set apart.” No attribute was emphasized as this one was (Isaiah 6:3). It tells us that God is pure and abhors the sight of sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Related to this is the fact that He is righteous.
As to God’s love, it has always been, for Christ is God’s eternal beloved Son (Mark 1:11). To us specifically, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His unique Son into the world that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)
As to God in His Fatherhood specifically, we see Him in four primary aspects: (1) He is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3), (2) He is “Father” in that He is the source of all life (Acts 17:29), (3) He is “Father” to Israel (Exodus 4:22) (4) He is the personal “Father” of every believer in the sense of a spiritual relationship (Matthew 6:9). He is the father of the family (Ephesians 3:15). His Fatherhood is special to us as Christians, because we relate to Him as mature sons and know special intimacy because of Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:6).
Whether it be the Old Testament’s looking forward (Luke 24:27), or the New Testament’s looking back (Ephesians 2:20), the entire Bible has a single centerpoint: Jesus Christ. No question is more important than, “Whom do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
In Christ’s Person, He is eternally deity. He is God (John 1:1). He created all and sustains all; everything exists for Him (Colossians 1:16-17). For the purpose of redemption, Christ took on true humanity (Philippians 2:6-8) which was sinless (1 John 3:5). Thus, He eternally will be fully God and fully man (two undiminished natures) in one Person: “in Him [one Person] dwells [presently] the fulness of divinity [fully God] bodily [fully man].” (Colossians 2:9).
The Bible presents Christ in three main eras. First, it speaks of His pre-existence (John 8:58), that is his timeless pre-birth existence as the eternal Son of God (John 1:18 / Mark 12:6). Second, it speaks of His first advent, His first coming in to the world as a man. He took on humanity at His Incarnation (John 1:14), by a miraculous virgin birth (Matthew 1:21-25). In His life, He fulfilled the will of God (John 4:34) and the Law of God (Mathew 3:15) as the perfect Servant (Isaiah 42:1). His chief purpose, however, was to die on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), to give Himself as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5). His death was not defeat, but victory, for He took up His life again (resurrection) in power over death (Romans 6:9). His first advent culminated in ascension to God’s throne (Acts 1:9). Third, Scripture describes His Second Coming to the earth in glory to judge sins and deliver Israel (Matthew 24:30).
Christ also possesses the three anointed offices of Israel: Prophet, Priest, and King. Christ and Messiah mean Anointed One (John 1:41). First, He is the Prophet (John 7:40) anointed to declare God’s good news (Luke 4:18). He is the perfect God-Revealer (Hebrews 1:1-2). He fulfilled this office primarily in His earthly ministry. Second, He is the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14); this is the office He exercises presently (Hebrews 8:1) and will exercise forever (Hebrews 7:24). He is qualified by His deity, sinless humanity, and once-for-all offering for sin (Hebrews 4:14-15; 7:27). In this office, He sympathizes with us in trial, provides access to God’s presence, saves sinners, intercedes for us, represents us on our behalf, and gives us a firm hope (Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:9; 6:19-20; 7:25). Third, He is the King (Psalm 2:6-9). He possesses the right to three thrones: His Father’s throne over all things (Revelation 3:21), David’s throne in Jerusalem over Israel and the nations (Isaiah 9:7), and the throne of His spiritual Kingdom over His people (John 18:36).
He is known by four primary titles in Scripture: Son (of God), Lord, Jesus, and Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9). As Son of God, He is divine and heavenly One Whom we worship and by Whom we know God (1 John 5:20). As Lord He is the authority to Whom we bow (1 Corinthians 7:22). As Jesus, He is personal Saviour Whom we trust (1 Thessalonians 1:10). As Christ, He is the exalted One Whose glory we adore (2 Corinthians 4:4). Obviously, the implications of these names overlap, but these are their general emphases. To this glorious Person we owe our identity, our future, our life, our all (Colossians 3:1-4).
The Holy Spirit is a Person. This we know in that He possesses consciousness (1 Corinthians 2:10b), emotion (Ephesians 4:30), and desire (1 Corinthians 12:11). He is God, sharing the full essence (John 14:17, 23), identity (Acts 5:3-4), and authority (Ezekiel 2:1-2) of God with the Father and Son (2 Corinthians 13:14). As a general principle, the Father originates (1 Corinthians 8:6a), the Son fulfills (1 Corinthians 8:6b), and the Holy Spirit empowers (Isaiah 42:1). As such, all the attributes of God are His, and reverence is due to Him (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
The Old Testament first portrays Him as the Creator, directly empowering the things of God on earth (Genesis 1:2). Though He equipped workers (Exodus 31:3), leaders (1 Samuel 16:13-14), and prophets (Numbers 11:25) to fulfill God’s will in the nation of Israel, He generally did not indwell Old Testament believers permanently (Psalm 51:11). However, prophecy makes clear that God will bless Israel with the Spirit and cause Him to indwell Israelites with a regenerated heart (Ezekiel 36:26-28). This is the New Covenant. The Old Testament especially anticipated the Messiah, Who would be empowered by the Spirit in His works (Isaiah 42:1) and words (Isaiah 61:1).
In the New Testament, the Spirit was responsible for the virgin pregnancy (Matthew 1:18-20) of Mary and the incarnation (Luke 1:35) of the Son of God. At the beginning of Christ’s ministry, the Lord was anointed by the Spirit at His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) and immediately showed His submission to the Spirit’s power and will (Mark 1:12; Luke 4:14). This culminated in His death (Hebrews 9:14) and resurrection (Romans 8:11), which He did in the power of the Spirit.
Following the ascension of Christ (John 7:38-39), the Spirit of God was poured out on all believers at Pentecost (Acts 2). This was the beginning of the Church which is the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). This event initiated the indwelling of the Spirit in every believer (1 Corinthians 6:19). Thus, throughout Acts we see Him moving in power (Acts 1:8) and revelation (Acts 1:2) to build up the newly formed Church of God. Throughout, we see Him working sovereignly, doing signs (Hebrews 2:4), equipping believers (1 Corinthians 12:7), and raising up leaders in local assemblies (Acts 20:28).
These signs manifested in Acts ceased with the completion of Scripture (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). The Spirit gave revelation (John 16:13-14) during the time of the apostles until the completion of the Scripture which He inspired (2 Peter 1:20-21).
As believers, we receive the benefit of the Spirit’s work on our behalf. We experienced His work before conversion (John 16:8) called the sanctification of the Spirit (1 Peter 1:1-2). We experienced His work (John 6:63) at conversion, called the new birth (John 3:5-6). We experience His work in giving us power to live for God, not according to legalism but according to life (Galatians 5:16-26). The Lord has given Him to us as the Illuminator (2 John 2:27), the Helper (John 14:16-18), and the Intercessor (Romans 8:26-27).
Since the Spirit of God indwells us, we must be holy (1 Corinthians 6:20). Since the Spirit of God indwells us, we must subject ourselves to His power (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Thus, we must be sober (Ephesians 5:18), we must be prayerful (Ephesians 6:18), and we must be careful (Ephesians 4:30). And as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus, the Spirit cries with us “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:17) giving us hope (Romans 8:23-25) and assurance (Romans 8:14-16) in the mean time while we are on earth.
Angels are personal spirit beings whose primary role is the service of God (Hebrews 1:14). They are intelligent (2 Samuel 14:17, 20), powerful (2 Chronicles 32:21), immortal (Luke 20:36), and holy (Daniel 8:13). Because they are spirits, they cannot reproduce (Matthew 20:30); thus, though the number of angels is innumerable (Revelation 5:11), the number is unchanging.
Angels mediated the Law (Galatians 3:19 / Hebrews 2:2). Angels announced the birth of Christ (Luke 2:10-14). Angels assisted Christ in the wilderness (Mark 1:13). An angel ministered to Christ in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). 12 Legions of angels were set aside for Christ’s request on earth (Matthew 26:53). Angels rolled away the stone of Christ’s resurrection tomb (Matthew 28:2, 5). Angels administer God’s judgments in the end times (Revelation 7:1-2). Angels will judge the world at Christ’s return (Matthew 24:31). Angels rejoice in salvation (Luke15:10). Angels look into the themes about Christ (1 Peter 1:12). Angels have interacted secretly with believers (Hebrews 13:2).
Angels are usually generalized in Scripture; nevertheless at least two classes and two names are given. The two classes mentioned are Cherubim (Ezekiel 10), the protectors of God’s holiness (Genesis 3:24), and Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2-3), the proclaimers of God’s holiness. Two angels are given names: Michael (Daniel 10:13), the chief warrior, and Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21), the chief messenger. Aside from this, the Bible speaks of ranks among angels, though it is not specific in what they are (2 Peter 2:11; Colossians 1:16). At times, God Himself would interact with earth as the Angel of the Lord (Judges 13:15-22), which would have been the pre-incarnate Son of God (Hebrews 1:2).
The Devil (meaning “Slanderer”), also known as Satan (meaning “Adversary”), was created as a chief angel (Jude 9) but fell because of pride (Ezekiel 28:14-16). Though powerful, the Devil is not the opposite equivalent of God, for he has limitations in power, wisdom, and presence (1 Peter 5:8). The Devil is a liar and murder (John 8:44) who opposes God’s purposes of salvation (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). He will finally be judged and spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10).
Demons are evil angels (Matthew 25:41) who rebelled at the time of Satan’s rebellion (Revelation 12:4). They empower paganism (1 Corinthians 10:20) and error (1 Timothy 4:1), working through religion (Revelation 18:2), politics (Ephesians 6:12), and individual hearts (Mark 5:1-20). Though bold in resisting angelic missions, they tremble before God (James 2:19) and before Jesus Christ (Mark 5:7-8). Christ has ultimately stripped the Devil and demonic realm of their hope by His resurrection and ascension (Colossians 2:15).
The believer must reverence angels (Jude 10), while not worshiping them (Colossians 2:18). In the future we will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). While the Devil attempts to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8-9), God has given us the resources to defend (Ephesians 6:10-11) against his attacks and those of his angels. The battle takes place in the mind primarily (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). In all of this, we must focus not on shows of power over the spiritual realm but over the power of God in our salvation (Luke 10:20).
Man is the pinnacle of God’s creation and was made in His image (Genesis 1:26). God created man to subdue and populate the earth (Genesis 1:28). Man is distinguished by having both a body and a soul (Genesis 2:7) containing his spirit, heart, mind, will, conscience, and emotions.
Man expresses himself in terms of relationship. A personal relationship with God is the primary thing, in which man receives both command and blessing (Genesis 2:7, 16-17). But man also relates in terms of male and female distinctions . These are to unite in marriage (Genesis 2:23-25), with the male being the Head and the female being the helper. Man and woman are interdependent (Genesis 2:18, 22). But humans also relate in terms of societies and cultures, which are based on location, nationality, language, and religion (Genesis 10-11 full). Because man has fallen into sin, civilizations always tend to decay both morally and structurally (Romans 1:18-32).
Humans, though created perfect, fell into sin as a result of deception and a violation of male-female roles (Genesis 3 full). Because of Satan’s temptation (Genesis 3:1), Eve took the forbidden fruit, followed by Adam (Genesis 3:6). This plunged the world into the curse of sin and death (Genesis 3:14-19). Because we are linked with Adam, we inherit a sin nature and rebel against God in the same way (Romans 5:12-21). Sin essentially is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Human depravity affects every aspect of one’s being and lifestyle (Isaiah 1:5-6; Ephesians 2:1-3), as well as the entire creation (Romans 8:20-22).
Because sin is a violation of God’s holiness, God must condemn sinners (Isaiah 6:5). The world is presently condemned (John 3:18) and awaits the ultimate wrath of God in a coming day (Luke 12:5). God’s wrath is expressed currently (John 3:36) by His withdrawal from preserving society (Romans 1:18). Judgment for sin is eternal (Revelation 20:10). Hell is the present location of those under judgment (Luke 16:19-31), while the Lake of Fire is the ultimate destiny of all who rebel against God (Revelation 20:11-14).
The ultimate Man is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He manifests God perfectly as the unique image-bearer (Colossians 1:15). He possesses true, eternal humanity (Luke 24:39). He possesses sinless humanity and is unable to sin (1 John 3:5). He perfects the role of a husband to His Church (Ephesians 5:25). One day He will rule from a perfect throne in the dominion that Adam lost (Luke 1:13). And though Adam plunged the world into sin, Christ is the Last Adam Who is able to give life rather than take it (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:45). God’s very purpose for creating man was to ultimately display His Son (1 Peter 1:20).
Salvation begins with a basic understanding of God and man. God is righteous (Isaiah 5:16). Man has violated God’s righteousness (Romans 1:18). Therefore, God must judge (Ezekiel 18:4). God is love (1 John 4:8). Therefore, God desires to forgive man and deliver him from his sin (Ezekiel 33:11). The question then becomes, how does a righteous God forgive sins and bless the sinner without violating His own righteousness? This is accomplished through the work of Christ and justification by faith (Romans 3:21-26).
From the beginning of the Old Testament, we find the concept of sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). It is explained as “atonement” in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 1:3-4); this put sin out of God’s sight and away from the sinner (Psalm 32:1-2; 103:12), therefore bringing the sinner into acceptance. Though proper for the time, it failed to bring a permanent solution for sin and the sinner’s conscience (Hebrews 10:1-4).
In the New Testament, we find Christ by His death to be the Propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2), that is, the full satisfaction of God (Isaiah 53:10-12). His death was substitutionary (Romans 5:6-8). He was not punished for His own sins but on behalf of others’ sins (Isaiah 53:4-6). This is the price required to set us free from sin and death; it is called a ransom (Matthew 20:28). His sacrifice was of infinite value, and He therefore can offer salvation to the whole world (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
This brings about a message of life to the world called the gospel (Romans 1:16). Gospel means “good news.” It puts the work of Christ into a message and offers it to sinners, invoking a response from them and offering salvation when they receive the message (Romans 10 full). The gospel is composed of five primary tenets: (1) Christ died for our sins, (2) He was buried, (3) He was raised on the third day, (4) He appeared bodily to His disciples, (5) All this was founded upon Scriptural testimony (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Thus, the gospel is not only about an event but about the Person of Christ Who perfectly reveals God in all His glory (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). Man responds to a Person when he believes the gospel, for the primary issue is that man must be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). God calls all men to repent and believe the gospel (Acts 20:21). Works cannot earn salvation, but simple faith in Christ is the means (Ephesians 2:8-9).
When a man believes the gospel, he is saved from sin (John 8:34-36) and judgment (Hebrews 2:2-3). Though he was saved at a point in time (John 5:24), his salvation was really in the eternal plan of God (Romans 8:28-30), enacted by God’s power (John 6:35-51). From beginning to end (1 Peter 1:1-5), “Salvation is of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). So then, when a person exercises faith in God, he is justified, that is he is declared righteous before God in that God’s righteousness has been credited to his account (Romans 4:1-8). No charge of condemnation can be laid when a person is justified (Romans 8:33). At salvation, a person is also redeemed (1 Peter 1:17-21), purchased by God from the bondage of sin into the blissful ownership of God Himself (Titus 2:11-14). We are also born again (John 3:3-7) into God’s family, at which point we are given a new heart and the Spirit of God (Ezekiel 36:25-28), both of which enable true devotion to God (Galatians 6:14-15). We are thus “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A person is also adopted to a mature position of sonship when he is saved (Romans 8:14-15). One is reconciled to God when he is saved, having the enmity removed and a relationship established (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). The Bible calls all of this “eternal life,” which is defined as knowing God personally (John 17:3). This is a possession that can never be lost; it is permanently secure (Romans 8:30-39).
Christ and His cross are not only our means of salvation, but they change the source (Galatians 2:20) and scope of our lives (Galatians 6:14). Christ is now the very essence of our life (Colossians 3:3-4), and God aims to complete us in Him (Colossians 1:27-28). Part of this entails a new rule of life, which is “Christ formed in you” (Galatians 4:19) through the new nature that God has given us in salvation (Galatians 6:14-15). In this rule of life, though our positional standing before God is changeless (Romans 8:33), we are to strive for a greater condition and state that conforms to our righteous position (1 John 3:7).
The Christian life manifests itself by various acts of obedience. The first expression of this is baptism (Acts 2:41; 8:35-36), an outward identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6). This should evidence an attitude of heart that gives the whole person to do God’s will without reserve (Romans 12:1-2). This is empowered by faith, an unreserved trust in God that lives in light of unseen realities based on God’s Word (Hebrews 11). This will produce increasing virtue in the Christian’s character as he learns to crucify his old nature with its passions and desires (Galatians 5).
The essence of all this is found in worship (John 4:23-24), responding to God appropriately in light of His Word. We study Scripture for this purpose: both to know God and to live according to His will (Psalm 1, 19, 119). As we grow in the knowledge of God, we will grow in our desire to pray in expression of our aim to know Him and please Him more (Psalm 63). This personal experience in the presence of God, however, cannot replace our collective participation in God’s presence in a local assembly (Hebrews 10:23-25; Acts 2:41-42). The local church is a necessary part of the Christian’s life. As to his relation to the world, he desires to testify for the sake of Christ both personally (Luke 8:39) and collectively (Philippians 1:27) with his assembly.
When the Christian grows in his life, he will be met with various struggles. He may struggle with the assurance of salvation: ultimately this comes from the promises of God (1 John 5:13), the witness of His Spirit (Romans 8:16), and the confirmation of a changed heart (1 John 1:7; 2:10, 15; 5:20). He may struggle with the reality of false believers, something which we must be aware of (Matthew 7:21-23). But his main struggle will be with his three enemies. The Devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8) and we are called to resist him (James 4:7). The flesh fights with the Spirit of God to gain control of our desires and actions; we must walk in the Spirit’s power and will to combat this enemy (Galatians 5). We also face the world, the system that opposes God, and we are to keep ourselves from loving it in any capacity (1 John 2:15-16). The question arises, then, “How does a Christian respond when he does sin?” The answer is to confess our sins to God directly, understanding that Christ’s righteousness opens the way for restoration to communion with the Father (1 John 1:9-2:2). Life will face us with both trials and temptations to challenge our relationship with God, but we must remain joyful in God during trials and keep ourselves from deception when temptation arises (James 1). This is all part of the process of spiritual growth (John 15:3-5) which comes by growing in the knowledge and grace of Christ (2 Peter 3:17-18). The ultimate question of Christianity is “Do I love Christ?” (1 Corinthians 16:22; 1 Peter 1:8; John 21:15-22; Ephesians 6:24; Philemon 4-6). It is the answer for both trials and restoration. The Christian life is to love the Lord will full heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
To understand the local assembly, we must understand the background of God’s presence in the Old Testament. The first mention of “House of God” is in Genesis 28, and the scene is marked by fear, simplicity, and communion with heaven. The first organized dwelling-place was the Tabernacle, and it was marked by a definite pattern for how God must be worshipped (Exodus 25:8-9). Similarly, a New Testament assembly is governed by simplicity (Matthew 18:20) and order with a consciousness of God’s holy presence (1 Corinthians 14:25, 40). Therefore, it embraces all the New Testament pattern and rejects all that is not of the pattern so that God’s wisdom alone is displayed (1 Corinthians 3:10-22). Membership in a local assembly is a necessity for the Christian (Hebrews 10:23-25).
The assembly is different from the Church which is the Body of Christ (cf. Matthew 16:18 w/ 18:17). It is a local congregation of which individuals form a consistent part upon being received into the fellowship (Acts 2:41-42; 1 Corinthians 14:23-25). It is called a flock, a field, a building, a temple, a body, house of God, the pillar and ground of truth, and a lampstand. Ultimately, Christ’s name holds the central place, and His authority is given supremacy (1 Corinthians 1:2, 12-13). All assemblies are autonomous and accountable directly to Christ (Revelation 2-3).
In that God has designed assemblies to administrate God’s will (Matthew 18:18-19) and to worship Him (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), there are a specific set of activities in which assemblies engage themselves. Acts 2:42 describes four foundational activities of an assembly: (1) teaching of the Word of God given through the apostles, this to ensure the transmission of the Bible’s complete teaching, (2) fellowship and participation together in their meetings, (3) observing the Lord’s Supper regularly in remembrance of Him (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), (4) being diligent in both thankful and intercessory prayer. Because the assembly has the audience of heaven, it gives a visible display of headship by a head covering worn by the sisters in the gatherings (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). An assembly also gives supremacy to teaching and preaching the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1; 1 Corinthians 15). Because the gospel demands purity of life and accuracy of doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-5), God give the assembly the responsibility to judge/discipline primary errors in this regard, with the view to restoration (1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 6:1-2).
For an assembly to function appropriately, it must possess certain realities. The Bible presents a standing and unity in the gospel as being a primary factor (Philippians 1:27). Scripture also centralizes distinction in gender roles, with the males publicly teaching and praying and the females learning in silence and submission (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:8-15). All believers have a specific function that God has granted them for service in their assembly; this is called a spiritual gift (Romans 12:3-8). It must be exercised for the good of the collective body (1 Corinthians 12). This is all under the oversight and leadership of qualified elders that are raised up to guard the flock and ensure its teaching and growth (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 3).
In all of this, believers must uphold the highest standard of truth (2 Timothy 2:2, 15), virtue (Galatians 5), and togetherness (Philippians 2:1-4) for God’s purposes to flourish in an assembly. Christian living should reach its peak in believers when they are together. Assemblies are places of truth, love, holiness, service, kindness and hospitality, good works, unity, and giving (Romans 12).
God has a purpose He is working out in time, and it will culminate in a perfect reign of righteousness in which God is all in all. In creation, God has worked through man to establish His reign on earth through means of human mediation (Psalm 8:6). He has dealt with man in different dispensations and ages to reveal man’s heart and His own heart progressively (Hebrew 1:1-2). He has also made covenants with man which He is obligated to fulfill (Romans 9:4). These will culminate in an ultimate age in which Christ will reign with the Church, in the nation of Israel, and over the Gentiles throughout the whole world (Isaiah 2:2-4; Ephesians 1:22-23). After Christ has perfected this Kingdom as the perfect Mediator, He will hand over the Kingdom to the Father, and God will reign supremely for all eternity (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).
The coming of Christ set in motion God’s process of consummating all His purposes for His creation (Hebrews 9:26). Israel was promised a Messiah Who would usher in a Kingdom on earth, but when Christ came He first addressed the need for a spiritual Kingdom to be established in that He wanted to reign in men’s hearts (Matthew 13). Israel rejected their Messiah, and thus God blinded the nation and set it aside from its function as the channel of blessing to the nations (Romans 11). This made way for the revelation of the mystery, truth God had hidden from the creation of the world, the truth of Christ’s Body, the Church (Ephesians 1-3). This group of people, made of Jews and Gentiles, was formed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). It is composed of the believers of this age while Israel is in blindness.
Part of understanding the doctrine of last things includes the destiny of those who die. All who die will be bodily resurrected for the body is separated form the soul at death (Daniel 12:2). The unbeliever consciously resides in Hades/Hell (Luke 16:23-24) immediately after death and before the final resurrection to judgment (Matthew 10:28). The believer dies and is immediately in the presence of Christ in heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:6-9). The believer awaits the rapture, when Christ comes to the air to call believers into His presence with a transformed body (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Whether dead or alive, all believers will be caught up in the rapture. After the rapture, the believer’s service is assessed at the Judgment Seat of Christ which is a place of reward (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
After the rapture, the earth will go through the seven-year Tribulation (Daniel 9:24-27), marked by a climax of rebellion against God and judgment for Israel and the nations. The purpose is to refine Israel that it might turn again to God (Zechariah 13:7-9). This period will be marked by the Man of Sin, empowered by Satan to deceive the world and turn them against God (2 Thessalonians 2). The Tribulation will culminate in the battle of Armageddon, at which Israel will be at its lowest point. Before the nations consume Israel, the Lord Jesus will physically return with His saints and land His feet on the Mountain of Olives and consume all who were set in rebellion against God (Zechariah 14:1-11). This is called the Second Coming (Revelation 19).
This will be followed by the initiation of the Millennium, the 1,000 year reign of Christ in His manifested Kingdom (Revelation 2:1-10). This age will begin with an initial judgment on Israel and the nations (Matthew 25). Once the 1,000 years is finished, the final judgment of creation will occur at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). After this, God will initiate the eternal state of heaven and earth (Revelation 21) with a total re-creation of all things in which He will reign supreme (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).