It is those who believe who comprise the Church Christ came to build (Matthew 16:18).

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1 God s Plan for the Ages as Revealed in Scripture 1 The age in which we now live, the Church Age, having had its foundation laid by Christ s earthly ministry, began on the Day of Pentecost and will continue unto Christ returns to earth again referred to in Scripture as Christ s Second Coming! This present period, 2000 years of which have already elapsed, is also referred to as the Dispensation of Grace because God s grace, which is now revealed in fullness to every man, is the main characteristic throughout this age. God s grace is unmerited love, or favor, toward free moral agents. Grace is the spring, the source, the very fountain head of all the manifold benefits, and blessing, of God to all of His creation. Such blessings are wholly apart from any works on man s part. God s purpose during this Age is not the conversion of the whole world, but rather, the calling out of all nations a people that will willingly serve, and worship, Him. (See Acts 5;13-18). Of course, according to 1 Timothy 2:42 and 2 Peter 3:9, as wall as many other Scriptures, it is God s will to save all who will believe, and, those who do believe are, in fact, saved (See 1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 1:16; John3:16-21 and mark 16:16). It is those who believe who comprise the Church Christ came to build (Matthew 16:18). During this present dispensation, God s test to man is whether he will believe His Word, which tells him that although salvation is a free gift which He offers to all. However, this salvation only benefits those who, by faith, believe, and receive, Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, and consequently, live according to the Holy Scriptures. Jesus said if we truly love Him we will obey His commands. As was true in every other age, during this present Church Age, man continues to fail God. While it is true that not every man has failed God, because there have always been some who have lived for God, nonetheless, man, in general, has continually failed God s test of him to choose to love, obey, serve, and live for Him. The coming Tribulation period, at the end of this present Church Age, will be God s final judgment upon man as far as God s dealing with man in time for his refusal to receive the truth, and righteousness found only in Jesus Christ. What is the Church? In modern speech the word church has a variety of meanings. It can mean a building a congregation a denomination Christendom in general and a religious service. None of these meanings, however, are found in the new Testament because, in the New Testament, the word church never refers to a building, a denomination, or to Christendom.

2 God s Plan for the Ages as Revealed in Scripture 2 The Greek word, which is translated as church in the New Testament, is derived actually from two Greek words; one which means to call out from, and another one which means that which belongs to the Lord. So, when the word church is used in the New Testament it refers to a body of believers who have been called out from the world and who are under the dominion, and authority, of Jesus Christ. This Church, as so defined, is a New Testament institution, which began with Pentecost and which will end when Jesus Christ returns to earth again. The New Testament speaks of only one church which, when it began in Jerusalem, held its meetings in different houses (See Acts 1 and 2). In the 8 th chapter of Acts, we are told that the church began to spread throughout Judea and Samaria and, then, on into all of Asia Minor. Eventually, the term Church came to be used of the whole Church universal, that is, the entire body of Jesus Christ, wherever it existed in every place all over the world (See 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:2, 13; and Matthew 16:18). Membership into the Church The only requirement for one to become a member in the Church, to become a part of the Body of Christ, is that he has faith that is willing to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Divine Redeemer (See Matthew 16:16-18; Acts 2:38-39 and John, chapter 3). In Matthew 16:16-18, Jesus said, On this rock will I build My Church. Upon what rock was Jesus referring? The context shows that it was upon the rock of Peter s confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This confession, that Jesus is the Son of God, is the requirement for salvation (John 3:36). One must believe to the extent that he receives (John 1:12). The duty of the Church 1. To administer the ordinances of WATER BAPTISM and THE LORD S SUPPER (Matthew 28:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:20-34) 2. To meet together (Hebrews 10:25 and the book of Acts). 3. To worship and glorify God (Ephesians 1:4-6) 4. To evangelize the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts, chapter 2, and 6:5-6; and Ephesians 3:8). 5. To yield to the Holy Spirit as He operates in, and through, the Body of Christ (John 16:13; Acts 10:19-20; 16:6; and Romans 8:14) 6. To be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8 and Romans 10:9) Why did Jesus have to die? Man was created sinless by God and given dominion over all the works of God s hand, however, because man sinned, he forfeited his right to life and fellowship with God. The penalty for his sin was death, or, eternal separation from God. To be reconciled to God, some sinless

3 God s Plan for the Ages as Revealed in Scripture 3 man had to be found who would take man s place, who would be his substitute in order to fully meet the demands of the Law. This substitute had to be more than just a man because, after paying the penalty of death for man s sin, He could only conquer death by being able to rise from death. Natural man was sinful by nature and this substitute must be sinless. This Redeemer could never be from the offspring. Such a Redeemer must come from God, indeed, He must be God. In order to not be guilty of injustice, God had two choices; (1) He could let man pay his own death penalty and remain separated from God forever, or, (2) He could take man s place and pay the death penalty for him, and, by so doing, not only meet the demands of justice, but, also, demonstrate His love and mercy for man and His desire to win man s love, devotion, and communion. God made the choice to pay man s debt by His incarnation in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Whose sinless life made Him the perfect second Adam. He would pass the test that the first Adam failed, by walking in perfect obedience to His Father, even to the point of being willing to die on the cross for man s sin. When Christ did die on the cross at Calvary, He not only opened the way the only way man could be saved, but He also opened the way for man to regain the fellowship and communion that he lost when the first Adam sinned. This salvation, and renewed fellowship with God, is imparted to anyone who repents of his sin and is willing to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. It is only by his acceptance of Christ s substitutionary death, and atonement, that he can have any hope of being saved. Jesus Christ s Virgin birth, His deity, and, His sinless life were all necessary in order to make Him a perfect substitute for man. Because Jesus Christ was a perfect substitute for man, all sinners anywhere, anytime can now be saved, and transformed, by faith in His atonement, His atoning death on Calvary s cross. The Revelation of Calvary Calvary reveals the reality of: sin and sins wages justice and God s supreme vindication of the Law the depth, breadth and height of God s almighty love. The cross of Calvary provides: Redemption Justification Righteousness Peace Sanctification and access to God. No subject in Scripture or anywhere else for that matter is more important to the Church than the subject of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit After His ascension into Heaven, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the Church, not only for Him to be the believer s constant companion, and friend, but also for Him to enable the believer to live a Christ-like life. (See Acts 2:1-10; John 14:16 and 16:7). The six periods of the Church Age

4 God s Plan for the Ages as Revealed in Scripture 4 1. The Apostles This was the period of time in which the apostles lived and during which the New Testament was written. The book of Acts records many incidents of this period. 2. The Fathers This is the period of time that followed on the heels of the Apostolic period. The spiritual leaders who lived during these early years of the Church are known in history as the Church Fathers. 3. The Dark Ages This is a period of time when not only did Christians suffer severe persecution, but also, when the Word of God was almost destroyed. 4. The Reformation This was the period of time when reformers like Luther, Knox and Calvin who, because they were tired of the dead formalism of the church, began to proclaim that man is justified by faith, no by works, a truth that had been all but lost, and forgotten, during the Dark Ages. 5. Protestantism This was the period of time when, because reformers proclaimed that salvation was by the blood of Jesus Christ, Protestantism began to sweep the world over. 6. The Later Rain This was the period of time, early in the 20 th century, when God began to pour out His Holy spirit in what Scripture refers to as the Latter Rain. This spiritual revival spread to all quarters of the world and was characterized by an intense evangelistic fever to no only spread the message of the Gospel, but also, spread the message of Pentecost. Future events oat the end of the Church Age 1. The Return of Jesus Christ back to earth The next main event in God s program will be the return of Jesus Christ back to the earth and the sudden exodus of every born-again believer, as he departs from this world, past the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air! This present age in which we now life, the Church Age (The age between the Day of Pentecost and he Return of Christ) is a mystery that was first unfolded to the disciples through Christ s teachings. In Ephesians 1:9 Paul says, He (God) makes known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one hear, even Christ. What was God s good will which He purposed in Christ?

5 God s Plan for the Ages as Revealed in Scripture 5 Verse 11 answers, In Him (Christ) we (Gentiles) were also chosen having been predestined (that is, predestined to be conformed into the image of Christ, vs.4) according to the plan of Him Who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. In Ephesians 3:2-11 Paul explains, The dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me for you that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has NOW been revealed by the Spirit of God s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God s grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all God s people, this grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery which for ages past was kept hidden in God, Who created all things. His intent was that NOW, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm, according to the eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul speaks of the mystery of the dispensation of the Church Age, during which time Christ s Kingdom is postponed as He calls His Bride, the Church, out of the world, to be His witness to the world, and prepares her for eternity! When Jesus came to earth the first time, now over 2000 years ago, His people, the Jews, knew nothing of this present Church Age in which we now life. They believed that, when their Messiah came, He would deliver them from all oppression and immediately set up His glorious Kingdom. They expected that the Messiah would set up an earthly Kingdom when He came. Wasn t this was the theme, and hope, of all the prophets of the Old Testament and, also the hope of Christ s disciples who, time and time again, had asked Jesus, Will You at this time restore the Kingdom of Israel? But, instead of launching His Kingdom on earth at that time, Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead, and left His disciples and went into heaven. His followers felt that their fondest hopes and aspirations had been dashed to the ground, however, He sent two angels to remind them that His promise was that He would return to earth again.

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