Jesus Christ said, "I will build my church." He did not say "churches." Somewhere that original true Church exists today. But where? Which? What is the Church? Why is it? Here is the eye-opening plain truth!
WHAT about this whole church question — as it concerns YOU? WHERE IS the original true Church that Jesus Christ founded — the one the living Jesus Christ STILL HEADS today? That is the question that haunted me, back in 1926 and early 1927. I had been reared, like many of our readers, in one of the respected and older Protestant denominations. From infancy I was taken to Sunday school and church. I was told that I was "saved" because I had a "birthright membership" in the church. I didn't know much about what my church believed — but I don't remember worrying about that. But by age 18 I lost interest, and seldom attended after that. On leaving school I entered the advertising profession. I was ambitious. I craved STATUS. SO I worked hard, studied continually to improve my abilities, drove myself relentlessly toward that goal of STATUS! Then, after nationwide occurrences beyond my control had twice taken businesses I had started, I was angered into an intensive study of the Bible for the first time in my life. So far as the Bible was concerned, I had always said, "I just can't UNDERSTAND the Bible." Strange — I had always craved understanding, but about other things. The Bible seemed to me a dry, dull, dead book that NOBODY could understand. I assumed that the churches had received all their beliefs, teachings and customs from the Bible — but then, I just had no interest in religion. But finally, early fall of 1926, I was challenged! I was doubly challenged! My wife had taken up with "religious fanaticism " — that is; it seemed fanaticism to me! She claimed she found it IN THE BIBLE — but I knew well that was impossible, because it was a belief and practice utterly CONTRARY to the churches. "All these churches can't be wrong," I said. "They get their teaching from the Bible, and this fanaticism of yours is contrary to what they teach." "Well, maybe they teach contrary to the Bible, then," my wife insisted, "because I got THIS out of the BIBLE!" Argument was no use. She said if I'd show her where the Bible taught differently, she'd give it up, but not otherwise. At the same time a sister-in-law challenged me in regard to the theory of evolution. I had never happened to study evolution in school or college. She said I was just plain IGNORANT if I didn't believe in evolution! This stung my pride! Me IGNORANT? What an INSULT! "All right," I answered, "I'll study into the evolutionary theory thoroughly, and if you're wrong, as I know you are, I'll PROVE IT to you, and make you eat those words!"
Proving God Exists
I had always believed in GOD — though I knew little about him, and just was not concerned about " religion." Of course, I had never researched the question deeply and thoroughly, to PROVE whether God exists, or whether evolution is true. Few ever have. I just took God for granted, and supposed evolution was a false theory. Nearly all who believe either in God or evolution have assumed their belief WITHOUT PROOF! But that was no longer good enough for ME! Now I had to KNOW! It became an almost night-and-day study of the Bible, and of in-depth research in books on evolution, geology, paleontology, biology, physics. I delved into the writings of Darwin, Haeckel, Huxley, Vogt, Chamberlin. I did research into radioactivity. That proved there had been no past eternity of matter, but CREATION! I studied the creation account in Genesis. It was a six months' intensive research, which often involved studying until 1 or 2 a.m. But in the end I PROVED the existence of GOD and the infallible inspiration of the Bible; I disproved the evolutionary theory and did make the sister-in-law "eat those words"! But in the argument with my wife, I LOST! She was right. I was wrong. It was by far the bitterest pill to swallow that had ever confronted me. You see, it meant not only confessing I was wrong. That is hard enough for the carnal mind. But I now learned HOW wrong I was, not only what I had believed through assumption, but what I had done and what I was. I had thought I was pretty good! Human nature always thinks that. I learned human nature is just plain BAD and EVIL. I thought immediately: If I accept Bible teaching, and begin to LIVE by it — if I give in to accept Christ, become converted, live a Christian life, what will all my former business associates and friends say? In my mind, it meant GIVING THEM ALL UP — for good! It meant conversion! And that is something I don't believe happens really , and fully, without an inner struggle. It certainly didn't in my case. It meant GIVING up! I t meant giving up everything my heart had been set on — my life goal. It meant forsaking my way of life — a total about — face! Actually it meant giving up my IDOL, though I didn't see it that way, then. It meant UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER to God. It meant giving up MY LIFE, actually, and GIVING IT TO GOD! In the end, I did it! But now I faced a NEW CHALLENGE! In this intensive study, I had found that "all these churches" CAN BE WRONG! I found that, so far as I knew of what the church I was reared in believed, it taught what was diametrically contrary to the Bible.
Where Is the True Church?
Now the question came, WHERE is the TRUE Church — the one Jesus Christ founded — the one he HEADS today — the one that carries out his MISSION — the one he said he would never leave or forsake? I had been shockingly disillusioned! It had been virtually a traumatic six months. When I read Romans 6:23, I stared at that verse in my Bible in shocked, incredulous disbelief! It said, "For the wages of sin is DEATH; but the gift of God is eternal life through ,Jesus Christ our Lord." I had always believed the wages we earn for SIN was just the opposite of DEATH. I had been taught that what we get paid for SIN was ETERNAL life — in hell fire! This verse says eternal life is something we can only receive AS A GIFT from GOD. But NO! Surely no! We already have eternal life — so I supposed — we are immortal souls! I learned that many theologians INTERPRET that verse — that is, they PUT A DIFFERENT MEANING INTO IT. They change the meaning of the words to make them conform to their belief instead of letting God's Word change their belief to conform with God's truth. They manufacture a new definition of the word death. They define death to mean "separation from God." I looked at this verse again. On the one hand, for sin, we get death. On the other hand, the opposite of that penalty is ETERNAL LIFE. Now, it certainly was clear, if ETERNAL LIFE is the very opposite of DEATH, then DEATH cannot mean eternal life! I was shocked to find that in many — if not most — teachings of Jesus Christ and the New Testament, the churches now teach the very opposite, and follow opposite customs and practices! I was confused! My head was swimming! But there it was, in plain language. I read that SOULS can die! "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"! (Ezek. 18:4, 20). It was important enough to be stated twice. Then my startled eyes read, in Revelation 16:3: "And every living soul DIED in the sea." That said SOULS can DIE. Then I saw where Jesus said souls can be DESTROYED! "... But rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna]" (Matt. 10:28). It began to look like the churches were wrong, after all! But did not Jesus Christ found his CHURCH? He surely did, and I found where he said the gates of the grave would never prevail against it — IT COULD NOT BE DESTROYED! I found where Jesus Christ said he would never leave nor forsake it — he would always be "in the midst" of it. I found where he was the living HEAD of it! Jesus Christ was resurrected from the grave. HE IS STILL ALIVE! So WHERE was the Church he was guiding, directing and using? I was perplexed. But I kept searching. I continued studying. I found this discovery of new — to me — truth the most fascinating and interesting pursuit of my life. It was like finding new gold nuggets — new riches — only these were spiritual riches. But I was not to learn for sometime WHERE, and WHICH, is the one true Church Christ founded. I learned that Jesus called his disciples, who were to become the foundation of the Church, to come out of the world and "be ye separate" (II Cor. 6:17-18). Also Jesus said to God his Father that he did not even pray for the world (John 17:9). In Matthew 24:1-3 he was talking about the END of the world. I found the world spoken of in the Bible as "this evil world." In due time I came to realize that even though the world, especially in this 20th century, has made AWESOME progress and advancement, yet it is shot through and through with APPALLING EVILS. And the evils are multiplying. WHY this paradox of good and evil? I was not to learn the PURPOSE of the Church — the reason why Jesus started it — until I learned the truth about the very foundation of the world itself.
Who, What Is God?
I had to learn, first, not only proof that God exists, but WHO, and WHAT, God is. Many of the churches of traditional Christianity believe God is a trinity — God in three persons. The religion of Judaism believes God is one person. Some believe God is mere "principle" — or a better something within each human. But I found God reveals himself in the Bible. In John 1:1-5, we read of "the Word." Verse 14 says the Word was made flesh and became Jesus Christ. The Word was with God, and the Word also was God. How can that be? It was as if there was John, and John was with Smith, and John also was Smith. John might be Smith's son, and Smith is the family name. I learned that in Genesis 1:1, it is revealed that God created the heavens and the earth. But Moses wrote that verse, and the English word "God" is translated from the Hebrew Elohim as Moses wrote it. Elohim is a PLURAL word — more than one person. In verse 26 of that chapter, Elohim said: "Let us make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness." The word God, then, is the FAMILY name of the GOD FAMILY. And although cattle were made after the cattle kind (verse 25), man was made after the GOD kind. In the New Testament we learn that God's Spirit in us witnesses with our spirit that we are the begotten sons of God. Jesus is the Son of God, and the Church is to be married to him (Matt. 25:1-13; Rev. 19:7). So God is actually a FAMILY, into which, through Christ, we may be born. Romans 8:29 states that Jesus was the first to be born of many brethren. He was born very God "by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4). Since the first man, Adam, was of the GOD kind, could he possibly have been made GOD?
What Man IS
God is composed of Spirit — he IS Spirit (John 4:24). But he made MAN of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man (dust) became a soul — the dust of the ground became a soul. The man had only a temporary existence, kept alive by the breath of air, and circulation of blood — and continually refueled by food and water out of the ground. But God is revealed as IMMORTAL — having self-containing and inherent life. Yet we see God offered Adam immortal life, through the "tree of life" in the garden of Eden. But God did not purpose to give this inherent immortal life to the man unless and until the man received the very holy, righteous, spiritual and perfect character of God. And this the man had to choose for himself — else it would not be righteous character. The other special symbolic tree was that of "the knowledge of good and evil." God commanded Adam not to eat of that tree, lest he die. That was therefore a tree of death. But the tree of LIFE also was a tree of knowledge — that is, of spiritual knowledge as imparted from God. When Adam chose the tree of death, he took to himself the knowledge of good and evil. Let me explain at this point that other scriptures reveal that God created man with a human spirit in the man. Job 32:8 says "there is a spirit in man," and verse 18 says this spirit in man constrains him — suggests, sparks, impels. I Corinthians 2:11 says one could not possess human knowledge save by the spirit of man that is in him. Man is wholly matter — not spirit. The soul is matter from the ground, but there is a spirit IN that soul, howbeit only human spirit. This spirit imparts the power of intellect to the human brain. Let me explain at this point that the recent science of brain research has shown that human brain is very similar to animal brain. But animal brain is governed by instinct and cannot think, reason, plan or devise as man can. Animal brain cannot know good from evil — cannot have appreciation of music, art and literature. The human spirit adds the psyche to human brain. WHY, then, did God place the human spirit within humans, and not in animals? The answer is a profound TRUTH! The human spirit within man is the only real value of a human life — for it is the means by which a human may be united with God. On repentance and belief those called by God may be BEGOTTEN of God, to be BORN as children of God — very God — part of the GOD FAMILY. God's Holy Spirit may thus unite with the human spirit. Thus, as in Romans 8:16, God's Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God — now begotten of God and to be born at the resurrection as spirit beings. As God was later to reveal in this intensive open-minded study of his Word, the human FAMILY, started by Adam, was potentially the GOD FAMILY through which God purposed to reproduce himself. And human reproduction is the very type of God's divine reproduction. But this has 'been revealed knowledge too profound for a sinning and Satan — deceived rationality to comprehend — except to those God has called and who have been begotten by him through his Holy Spirit. This tremendous TRUTH leads to understanding of WHY the Church, and WHICH IS the one true Church of God! Now back to the garden of Eden and FOUNDATION of this world.
The Foundation of This World
The first human, the man Adam, was led by his wife Eve to disobey God, and reject the tree of LIFE. The tree of life would have united him with God. But upon his choice, God CLOSED OFF the tree of LIFE from Adam and his family — UNTIL God would send Jesus, the SECOND ADAM, to make possible the reconciliation of humankind with God. Actually the PURPOSE of God's Church is to reconcile man — unite man — with God. Eve had believed Satan. He said she would not die — she was an immortal soul. She believed that, and her children have believed that lie ever since. Adam followed her in choosing SELF-knowledge of good and evil, rather than God-REVEALED knowledge — following the human spirit, rather than receiving and being led by God's divine Spirit. Stated another way, they were kidnapped by Satan, and followed the WAY OF LIFE, knowledge and understanding of the kidnapper rather than their potential Father, whom they disbelieved. But — GOD'S PURPOSE SHALL ST AND! God will yet ransom back his kidnapped potential family. But since the human family in Adam had chosen the way of SIN, and since sin brought upon them suffering, anguish, unhappiness and death, God shut off the tree of LIFE lest they gain eternal life in pain, sorrow, misery and suffering. But the eternal life of happiness and fulfillment that God wants us to have would, through Christ, be yet made possible for all who later would make the right choice, through the SECOND Adam. So, it was then decreed, at the very FOUNDATION of this present human world and civilization (Rev. 13:8), that Christ, the "Lamb of God," should come and be sacrificed to redeem the lost. At the same foundation of this world that started from Adam, it was decreed that " it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). But how could a man be judged after he had died? That is described in I Corinthians 15:22-24: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all [the same all] be made alive" — by a resurrection. This is described in Revelation 20:11-12 as the Great White Throne Judgment. The "book of life" is opened in that judgment. Those judged guilty, as all will be, shall learn that Christ the second Adam had come and paid their death penalty in their stead. And if they then repent, the tree of LIFE will be open to them. They may yet be begotten and then born as sons of God, converted into the GOD FAMILY. However, in the meantime all have died and remain dead until the resurrections.
The Second Adam
In God's due time, some 4,000 years after Adam's sin and the foundation of this world, God sent his Son, Jesus, born of the human Mary, and sired by God. He came as the second Adam. Unlike the first Adam, he chose the tree of LIFE. Jesus was born through the Holy Spirit of God. He was filled, without measure, by God's Spirit. He had the close relationship with God that THE FIRST Adam rejected. He was begotten arid humanly born of God. He said: "I have kept my Father's commandments" (John 15:10), whereas the first Adam rejected them and chose instead his own human good, as well as evil. Jesus thus chose the tree of LIFE. Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). This is the first place in all the Bible the word church is used. If we are to answer the question of the title of this article, Where is the true Church? we must pause here to ask, What IS a church? Just what did Jesus build? WHY should there be a church? Is the Church divided into many denominations and sects? Or is there only the ONE original true Church that Jesus built?
Why the Church?
The New Testament of the Bible originally was written in the Greek language. The English word church is translated from the original Greek word ekklesia. It means "called-out ones" — from ek (out), and klesia (called). The Greek word means "a calling out," to meet together, especially as a religious congregation. It does not mean a building with sharply sloping roof, with a steeple atop pointing to heaven, with a cross on its facade. Symbolically the Church is referred to as the household (or family) of God (Eph. 2:19-21), and a building that grows into the holy TEMPLE to which Christ shall come at his return to earth as King of kings, ruling all nations. But WHY the Church? WHY call its members out from those of this world? That is answered by another question. What's wrong with this world? It was founded on a faulty foundation. It is shot through and through with evils, causing suffering, anguish, frustration and death. In traditional Christianity there seems to be the concept that God created Adam a perfect immortal spiritual being — that Satan came along and wrecked this perfect spiritual mechanism — and that Christianity is God's attempt to repair the damage, and make man as good as Adam was before Satan wrecked him. That is TOTALLY FALSE and contrary to biblical revelation. It has been shown that God created man MORTAL, with only a temporary animal existence, kept alive by the breath of air, the circulation of blood and continually refueled by food and water from the ground. Man rejected the tree of LIFE, which was freely offered him. Man never obtained immortal self-containing life. Instead man embarked on the way of life that results in pain, suffering, discontent, unhappiness, anguish and death. A civilization of organized society was built on — that foundation. I compare this civilization to the structure of a building, built of faulty materials, on a rotten and crumbling foundation. God is NOT trying to repair this decaying and rotting superstructure we call civilization. God sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, as the SECOND ADAM, to START ANEW a totally different new structure of civilization.
A World Held Captive
Let me picture it yet another way. God said: "Let us [God and the Word] make man in our image, after our likeness." God made man after God's own kind, just as he made cattle after the cattle kind, and every animal after its own kind. But God formed man of the DUST OF THE GROUND (Gen. 2:7), having temporary existence by the breath of air. God told the mortal man that if he sinned he would SURELY DIE. Man was not and is not an immortal soul, but a temporarily existing soul. But he could have become a child of God. Had Adam taken of the tree of LIFE, he would have received the immortal LIFE of God injected into him. God's Spirit would have entered him, joining with his human spirit, uniting him to GOD as God's SON — an actual member of the GOD FAMILY. Therefore Adam and all his children were the potential children of God. Then Satan came along, and through mother Eve induced Adam to submit to being kidnapped. Satan had kidnapped God's own POTENTIAL children. But by their deliberate disobedience of God, rejection of God's offer of sonship and turning to the WAY of Satan, man not only chose the way of life and type of civilization of the kidnapper, he brought upon himself and his family the penalty of sin — DEATH. THINK WHAT THIS MEANT! Man was allowed to make his own decision — either LIFE eternal by obeying God and taking of the tree of LIFE — OR, DEATH by disobedience and taking of the tree of death. Adam disobeyed. God could not suspend the penalty he had said plainly would follow disobedience. So what did God do? How would God even yet rescue his potential children from the kidnapper? Not by compromising with HIS LAW and suspending the penalty. BUT, by decreeing at that very foundation of the world that he would send his own Son, Jesus Christ, to live without sin and then, not having brought the penalty of death on himself, Jesus would pay the penalty of human sin — DEATH — in man's stead. So, thereupon, God also decreed at the very foundation of the earth that, as in Adam all humans would die — because all humans have sinned — so IN CHRIST, the SAME ALL might be made alive by a resurrection from the dead, AFTER their penalty had been paid for them by Jesus Christ. So humanity's only HOPE is through the RESURRECTION from the dead and due to the fact Jesus paid their death penalty in their stead. BUT — AND THIS IS IMPORTANT! — God could not reopen the TREE OF LIFE to humans in general UNTIL after Jesus had come and paid the death penalty for humans — all of whom have sinned. God did not send Jesus to pay this penalty for some 4,000 years — now nearly 2,000 years ago. Meanwhile, multiple millions of people had lived and died. So the PLAN of God (God's MASTER PLAN) for fulfilling his PURPOSE of reproducing himself through humans, had to begin with Jesus, the second Adam. God had allowed this world to be founded by the first Adam. He started the very foundation of God's world through Christ, the second Adam. He started it by the one man — Jesus. Jesus said he would build his Church. The Church is the embryonic beginning of God's new civilization. Just as God established his government on earth through the cherub whom we call Lucifer, whom God set on the throne of the earth, so God's new civilization will be the government of God reestablished on earth through Christ and the Church. So God started the NEW civilization — or government — through Jesus, with the 12 apostles Jesus selected, called and chose out of the generation then living, in the first century A.D. But the Church had to start small and grow. It started with the 12 apostles and the 120 baptized the day of Pentecost, A.D. 31, the day the Church was founded. Jesus said: "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). In Ephesians 2:21, the Church is called a building — actually the spiritual temple of God. It had a FOUNDATION (verse 20). Its foundation is Jesus Christ, along with the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:19-22). Now consider this teaching of Jesus: "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it" (Matt. 7:24-27). Jesus was referring to the Church, built upon the FOUNDATION of Christ ("and that Rock was Christ" — I Cor. 10:4); also to this world built upon the "sand" of Satan the devil and Satan's ways of vanity, self-centeredness, lust, competition and strife — the way Adam chose — the WAY on which this world was FOUNDED. Jesus was going back to the FOUNDATIONS of the world, and of the Church. He likened them to buildings. The building that is the world and its society and civilization — its systems, customs, governments and ways — is a superstructure, as mentioned before, shot through and through with faulty materials and workmanship. And God is going to let that building (the world built on MAN'S concepts of good and evil) FALL — and GREAT IS GOING TO BE THE FALL THEREOF! God says, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1). SATAN, not God, built this house. Jesus did not come to REPAIR the improperly constructed building that is this world. He is not trying to save the superstructure built on the foundation of Satan. Instead, Jesus said: "Come out from among them [of this world], and be ye separate" (II Cor. 6:17-18).
Coming — A New Civilization!
Jesus chose his 12 apostles to be part, with him, of the foundation of AN ENTIRELY new building — a NEW WORLD ALTOGETHER. What was Jesus' gospel — his MESSAGE? What did he teach? Not about himself and himself only — but about the KINGDOM OF GOD — which is the born FAMILY of God, which will rule all nations with the government of God, at Christ's return and Satan's removal. The process of human birth is the precise type of being spiritually born of God. Each human might be called, by analogy, an ovum. To be born of God, the divine sperm — which is the Holy Spirit of God, from his very person — must enter into us, impregnate us. We are then begotten — a divine embryo. We are begotten within our spiritual mother — the Church of God. The Church is "Jerusalem... above... which is the mother of us all" (Gal. 4:26). Then we are fed spiritually through the mother, the Church, on the spiritual food of the Word of God. But we are only begotten — not born until we "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18). It is all clearly explained in our free booklet Just What Do You Mean... Born Again? Jesus explained to the Pharisee Nicodemus (John 3:3-6) that to enter the kingdom of God we must be BORN again. Born of GOD. And what IS God? God is a divine FAMILY. But, as Creator of the universe, God also is RULER over his creation. God RULES with GOVERNMENT. All government is based on a foundational law. A law is a code of rules of conduct — regulating the relationships between individuals or groups. God's law is God's way of life, and that way is LOVE. It is outflowing love toward and in relation to others. For the conduct of human life, it is love toward God, and love toward man. That is the basis for the spiritual CHARACTER of God. What was Jesus' gospel? The word gospel means "good news." Jesus' gospel was the good news of the coming KINGDOM OF GOD — and that kingdom is the GOD FAMILY RULING OVER THE EARTH AND THE UNIVERSE. The free booklet What Is the True Gospel? makes this misunderstood subject plain.