Matt 16:18                             I Will Build My Church                                           2/2/2014        

·                    The Lord’s Plans (Matt 16:13-20, John 10:27-30)

 

 

 

 

#1.       Before the Foundation of the World (John 10:27, Eph 1:3-7, Rom 3:11, 9:16, Heb 10:12-14)

 

 

 

 

·        Forever (Heb 10:12-14, John 10:28, 2Cor 5:8)

 

 

 

 

#2.       Is It Possible That the Church Dies? (Mat 16:18, Isa 59:2, Phil 1:6)

 

 

 

 

·        Forever (Heb 10:12-14, Ecc 7:20)

 

 

 

 

#3.       Is the Church Dead? (Dan 8:23-25, Rev 11:7-10)

 

 

 

 

·        Is the Church still Alive? (1Thes 4:15-18, 1Cor 15:51-58)

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew, Mat 16:13 (2X). The Lord Jesus is with His disciples in Caesarea Philippi. This is not the harbor-city Caesarea on the coast of the Mediterranean, but it is the Caesarea further inland, about 30 miles East of Tyre. It was not near the city of Philippi in Asia Minor where the apostle Paul and Silas were whipped and cast into prison, but it was called Philippi because the son of Herod the Great, Philip the tetrarch, enlarged the town and named it Caesarea Philippi. We read in Mat 16:13-20 about the Lord’s plans:

·        The Lord’s Plans (Matt 16:13-20, John 10:27-30)

Mat 16:13, “¶  When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Matt 16:14  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

Matt 16:15  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

Matt 16:16  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matt 16:17  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.

Matt 16:18  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (Petros), and upon this Rock (lit: upon this The Petra) I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matt 16:19  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be, (having been) bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be, (having been) loosed in heaven. (And thus: The prior action occurred in heaven.)

Matt 16:20  Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”

The text for this sermon is taken from Matt 16:18, “I Will Build My Church”. Or literally, in the Greek text: “I will build the Church of Mine, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against her.” Is this not a very comfortable statement of the Lord Jesus? He declares that if we are in His Church, we are safe and secure for all eternity. Can all the rhetoric from preachers everywhere that the church is dead be safely tucked away? How do we understand these messages that the Church is dead?

What is the Lord’s focus in this text of Matt 16:18? The focus is this: This is the Church of Mine which I will build. You human beings have no authority over it. You humans are not building it. I will build it. And since I will build it, and since it is My possession, I will not allow you humans to destroy it, or to defile it, for this is My possession. I will protect it and I will defend My Church until the end of time. My Sheep abide there, and I will defend My sheep. We read in John 10:27-30 how My sheep are loyal to Me forever.

John 10:27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

John 10:28  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

John 10:29  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

John 10:30  I and my Father are One.

Do we believe those words? If we are Christians, meaning if we are of the family of Christ, then we believe what He has said. It means we believe that we shall never die, and we believe that the Church, which is possessed by Christ, will never die or go apostate. These are the words of Christ, who is not only the Son of God, but He is also God the Son, the second Person of the Triune Godhead, and each Person in the triune Godhead is fully God. Therefore Jesus Christ is fully God, which is the only conclusion we can come to when we believe His words, “I and My Father are One.” God does not lie. Therefore these promises are absolutely true.

Let us now come to a clearer understanding of what the Lord has said. When we look out into the world, and when we consider world history and when we consider Church history, we see that saints die all the time, and churches go apostate and also die all the time. Is this not in conflict with all these promises of the Lord? We need to consider the words of the Lord very carefully.

#1.       Before the Foundation of the World (John 10:27, Eph 1:3-7, Rom 3:11, 9:16, Heb 10:12-14)

John 10:27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

Am I one of His sheep? If I am not one of His sheep I will not hear His voice. Who are considered His sheep? They must have been His sheep from the beginning of time. If I am not one of His sheep I cannot pray to Him, and He will not listen to my prayers. But He will listen to the prayers of His sheep. Please turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 1:3. We read here who His sheep are. They were His sheep from the beginning of creation, and they will always be His sheep. We read in Eph 1:3-7,

Eph 1:3 ¶  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Eph 1:4  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Eph 1:5  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Eph 1:6  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Eph 1:7  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

We are talking about God’s action: “I Will Build My Church.” And who are those who will be part of His Church? They are certainly blessed individuals. God says in verse 3 that He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings. These are not earthly blessings like money and health and a growing membership in our church and a gigantic auditorium on Sundays. But He has blessed us with spiritual blessings which are blessings concerning salvation and concerning spiritual growth. Spiritual blessings are blessings to our souls, and not blessings to our bodies on this earth.

In verse 4 God says that He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Before God created the first speck of dust He already chose us to be in Christ and to be holy and without blame in His sight. It means then that God has predestinated us, verse 5, He determined our destiny to be adopted children of God through the actions of Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His Will. He did not make us children of God according to the good pleasure of our will, for He said in Rom 9:16, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. And God did that “To the praise of the glory of his grace.” In other words, it is the glory of His grace which must be praised and which must be magnified. That is why we preach about election so often, for this is the subject matter that God likes to hear, for this glorifies Him for all eternity.

The word “grace” means “unmerited favor”. Salvation comes through God’s unmerited favor upon an individual whom God intends to save. This is what brings glory to God alone. God receives all the credit; we receive no credit at all. How can this be, since we are full of sin? Do we not receive any penalty for our sins? The Bible says, NO! For those whom God intends to save, the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all our sins on the cross in AD 33. And when He rose from the grave two days later it was the proof that all our sins were fully paid. This is the spiritual blessing that He has bestowed on our souls through Jesus Christ. What a wonderful plan of salvation! What an immense grace that God has given us freely! Did He love us so much that He was willing to suffer for our sins in our place? Yes indeed. God so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not be condemned but have everlasting life. But who is there who will believe? The Bible says that no one will believe. “There is NONE that understandeth, there is NONE that seeketh after God.” (Rom 3:11) This salvation plan of God is simply too wonderful to believe. It takes an act of God to make a person believe that God’s plan of salvation is so simple, and yet so full of grace that we cannot fathom the depths of the love of God for sinful mankind. Indeed, it takes an act of God to make a person believe this. That is why God chose whom He was going to make believe this plan of salvation, and God chose these persons from before the foundation of the world. In fact, if God would have chosen these persons at a later time, then God would not be omniscient. But the omniscience of God and the infinite wisdom of God demands that He would determine from before the foundation of the world whom He intended to save. And then God sent the Lord Jesus Christ into this world to atone for these specific sins on the cross on Friday, April 3, in the year AD 33. And when He rose from the grave it was all accomplished. We read in Heb 10:12-14,

Heb 10:12  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God;

Heb 10:13  From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

Heb 10:14  For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.

What is this church that Christ has perfected forever? It is the church consisting of all those who have been made “Born Again” who are either still living as “The Church militant”, or who have died and gone to heaven, and they are known as “The Church triumphant”. This is the eternal Church, Christ’s Church forever, consisting of only Born Again saints for whom Christ has died and perfected forever them that are sanctified.

·        Forever (Heb 10:12-14, John 10:28, 2Cor 5:8)

Was Christ’s atonement for sins effective forever? Indeed it was, as we read in Heb 10:12-14. We should not try to do anything to make the forgiveness of our sins more acceptable to God. That would be an insult to Christ who has suffered an infinite amount of suffering for our sins. For example, the Roman Church has introduced the doctrine that every time the Lord’s Supper is celebrated Christ is crucified again, and again, and again. This is contrary to what we read in Heb 10:12-14, and it takes all the glory from the atonement of Christ away from Christ and it is given to those who perform the ritual of serving the Lord’s Supper. This doctrine came under the scrutiny of the Reformers during the Reformation, and they called it “An Accursed Idolatry.” It is idolatry because it focused on a different Christ than the Christ of the Bible. The Christ of the Bible is God the Son who does everything perfectly and completely. When He atones for specific sins it is an action which does not need to be repeated, for the atonement which He does is valid forever. The Christ of the Roman Church is unsuccessful in obtaining a full forgiveness of sins forever, because he is a human invention rather than eternal God himself. Therefore he is a man-made idol, incapable of doing anything perfectly. Those who worship him are engaging in an accursed idolatry. The Lord Jesus said in John 10:28,

John 10:28  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

We are talking about a child of God, an elect of God. Is it true that such a person shall never die? Consider what God says in 2Cor 5:8. And there we read,

2Cor 5:8,  “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”  It means when our body dies, our soul is immediately present with the Lord in heaven. We will never die like the unsaved die who have to wait until they will be arraigned at the resurrection on the Last Day when Christ shall judge the living and the dead. Therefore, when we have become “Born Again” the words of John 10:28 will apply immediately,

John 10:28  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.

“They shall never perish” can refer to “They shall never bodily die” or “they shall never come under judgment.” Both conditions are equally impossible for a child of God. Therefore, comfort one another with these words. With our eyes we see that a person has died. But what we observe with our eyes is only the body, and that is not the full story.  

#2.       Is It Possible That the Church Dies? (Mat 16:18, Isa 59:2, Phil 1:6)

When we consider a church which consist of saved and unsaved people we are speaking of a corporate church, not the eternal Church. Christ did not suffer and die for everyone in the corporate church. But when Christ said, “I will build My church,” did He also build this church of saved and unsaved people? The answer is YES! There are not two gods out there, one god for the saved and one god for the unsaved. There is only one God, and He does everything that comes to pass. We do not know why Christ gave us a church of a mix of saved and unsaved people. But since He is all wise, we must believe that He does all things well. The saved people in that church of mixed people belong to the eternal Church of Christ. That is a church that will never die, because Christ watches over their souls. But the Bible declares: as we approach the end of time men shall be lovers of their own selves, and they shall be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. And so the fraction of people in the church who will be ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth will grow greater and greater, until there are no more saved people in that church. At that point in time it is no longer the church of Christ. Can we say that the gates of Hell have prevailed against that church? No, for that church has been removed from Christ and Christ has abandoned that church. It is no longer His church, for only if there are saved people in that church can it be called the Church of Christ. And when it is not His church anymore, will the gates of Hell prevail against it. That is indeed the case, for when they have removed themselves out of reach of hearing the Word, they have become open game for the devil to tempt them into serious paths of unrighteousness. Can we say that their sins have separated them from Christ? Like God says in Isa 59:2,

Isa 59:2, But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

No, that is not the case either, for this separation from God has also been orchestrated by God. We cannot give credit to the people during the Reformation for being so eager to hear the Word of God, for it was God who orchestrated it all. Likewise we cannot claim that the wickedness of the people near the end of time is the cause for God to bring on Judgment Day, for it is God who is orchestrating it at any time. It is only the grace of God which keeps us faithful forever. This is what we can see clearly. If God has elected us unto salvation before the foundation of the world, and if it has pleased God to make us “Born Again”, then He who has begun a good work in us will not abandon us but will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:6) This is a promise, and God will not lie.

·        Forever (Heb 10:12-14, Ecc 7:20)

Heb 10:12  But this man (Jesus Christ), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God;

Heb 10:13  From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

Heb 10:14  For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.

And so, the church out of which all the saints have departed has already spiritually died. On the other hand, the eternal Church consisting of all the elect saints shall never die. This is the Church of which the Lord Jesus said, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against her.” Hades is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Sheol, which is the abode of the dead. If we speak of physical bodies then Hades or Sheol refers to a place on earth, like the grave. If we speak of spiritual matters, then Hades or Sheol refers to Hell, for the grave is not a place where souls can be contained.

How can the knowledge of these things be of any help to us? The purpose of all the things that I am preaching about is to comfort us in our sufferings. When we have discovered that we have been Born Again, we are comforted that we are children of God, and if so it is a condition which will be forever. God calls us righteous in His sight. It does not mean that we are truly righteous, but God declares us righteous, for He does not see any more sin in us. Christ has paid for all our sins.

Ecc 7:20, “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not”, or: “There is not a righteous man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” This tells us plainly that we are not righteous in ourselves, but we are only declared righteous, and this so called righteousness is through the cross of Christ alone. All our good works, and all our reading and studying the Bible, and all our sufferings for the sake of Christ, and all our prayers to relieve us from our sufferings, and all our acts of love for Christ, are not contributing in any way to our righteousness before God. Our standing before God is all that matters, for this will determine our life after this body has died. And so, if we are in the eternal Church of which Christ is the head, we shall live forever, because Christ has promised it. This should be a great comfort to us. Our life is not wasted, for we belong to the great prize of Christ which He shows off throughout all eternity.

#3.       Is the Church Dead? (Dan 8:23-25, Rev 11:7-10)

When we read the Bible we may become discouraged by all the prophecy we read about the death of the Church. For example, please turn to the Prophecy of Daniel, Dan 8:23 (2X). This is a prophecy which God gave to the prophet Daniel concerning a period in the New Testament time. It is amazing to me that most preachers will ignore this prophecy, because it clearly refers to apostacy of the church in the New Testament time. We read in Dan 8:23-25,

Dan 8:23  And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.

Dan 8:24  And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.

Dan 8:25  And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

What is God saying here? Verse 23 speaks of the latter time of their kingdom, which is referring to Antichrist appearing near the end of the Final Tribulation Period. Verse 24, He shall destroy the mighty and the holy people, which means that he shall come up against the saints. Verse 25, He, shall also stand up against Christ. But in the end he shall be broken without hand.

Please turn in your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 11:7 (2X). God speaks here about the two witnesses who represent the Church during the New Testament time. The Church is doing well, until we get to the Final Tribulation Period. It is then that the Beast that comes out of the Bottomless Pit (Satan) shall make war against the Church and shall kill her. We read in Rev 11:7-10,

Rev 11:7  And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

Rev 11:8  And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Rev 11:9  And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

Rev 11:10  And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

It is significant that the people that dwell on the earth shall see their dead bodies. They shall see that the Church is dead. There is no spiritual life in her. But the edifices of the church, like the buildings and all the ceremonial hoopla shall still be standing. They shall not be buried.

Can we then be sure that the Church, the Bride of Christ, will be dead before Christ returns? Let us not be too quick to draw this conclusion. Please turn in your Bibles to the first Epistle to the church at Thessalonica, 1Thes 4:15 (2X).

·        Is the Church still Alive? (1Thes 4:15-18, 1Cor 15:51-58)

15  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

What is God telling us in this passage? We read here about the rapture of the saints just before Christ returns. This scenario takes place here on this earth. And from many other passages of Scripture we know that this is an event which takes place just before the end of time.

Verse 15 speaks about “we which are alive and remain”, which refers to saints who are still alive and living on this earth. Will they still be alive and living until the end of time? Verse 16 speaks of the return of Christ. It is the end of time. The dead in Christ shall rise first. Verse 17 speaks again about “we which are alive and remain”. In other words, the faithful saints were still alive and remained even until Christ returned. Then they were joined to their new glorified bodies and resided with Christ forever. Does this mean that the eternal Church would live forever? Indeed this is so. Whether they would congregate as a Church or not is not answered in this passage. The Lord tells us here:

Wherefore comfort one another with these words. These words were written that we may be comforted that the eternal Church will live forever. The Lord Jesus said, “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it”

Please turn to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1Cor 15:51. We have here a passage like 1Thes 4:15-18, where the return of Christ and the change of our mortal bodies into our glorified bodies is in view. We read in 1Cor 15:51-58,

1Cor 15:51 ¶  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

1Cor 15:52  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1Cor 15:53  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

1Cor 15:54  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

1Cor 15:55  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

1Cor 15:56  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

1Cor 15:57  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Cor 15:58 ¶  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Again we see that the eternal Church will live forever, and that our labor for the Lord is not in vain, for our labor is in the Lord.