Is the church a heavenly or an earthly institution?

What kind of an entity is the church? Is it a heavenly institution with earthly aspirations? Or is it an earthly institution with heavenly aspirations?

An earthly church, it seems, would be concerned with its members getting into heaven when they die (life on earth ends). A heavenly church would be concerned with bringing God’s mandates from heaven into the earth during the time its members are here on earth, perhaps in an effort to make life on earth more heaven-like.

The church certainly is an odd institution. The small-c church is a building that houses many different kinds of religions. Some of these religions get along with each other, and others don’t. Lest you think that churches housing a religious group have to be heavenly based, for years in Seattle I walked by the Church of the Divine Man on my way to attending a more traditional church.

Of course, once the government tax collector gets into a church, that church will immediately adjust its spiritual preferences to ink up the 501(c)(3) stamp of government approval. Sometimes I wonder if the IRS might actually have a book of approved sermons. What a boon to pastors, struggling with the next Sunday sermon! Any former pastors working for the IRS now want to comment?

The church in the book of Acts in the Bible does seem to be more heavenly based, because of the miracles, and signs and wonders displayed in its midst, here on earth.

Once you begin thinking about the church, it becomes clearer that it’s an institution that inhabits both the spiritual (heavenly) and physical (earthly) realms. This immediately makes it a very interesting entity. How much better would our judgments and decisions be if we had divine guidance in making them? If the church is composed of individual members who have the mind of Christ and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, we should expect them to have supernatural knowledge about how both the church and even individual members should proceed in the decisions, opportunities and even difficulties ahead of them.

Angels regularly inhabit both the spiritual and earthly realms. They may even appear as one single realm to them – I don’t have that understanding at this point. Death angels were mentioned in the Old Testament, and I believe they have been assigned in our time to God’s enemies here on earth. Consider this when you read of unsaved, evil people dropping dead in unexpected places, or unusual circumstances. God repeatedly tells us that He will not be mocked. It is sobering to consider that those people so appointed will have made their own choice for a very terrible eternity from which they will never escape. Please don’t be one of those unrepentant people! The Bible is not a fairy tale. It is well documented. God seems to use prior situations in the Old Testament to give us insight into His thinking in similar, current circumstances.

Ah, but the church. You can actually find her in the Old Testament, too. The Song of Solomon refers to her as the Bride of Christ. Take a moment to consider both the love relationship that title communicates and the authority that accompanies it. Understand that God operates in both the spiritual and physical realms, even in our day. So, too, does the church.

Here’s how Jesus metaphorically describes the church in the Song of Solomon (Chapter 4, 9-10):

You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume
more than any spice!

There is only one way to read the curious phrase “My sister, my bride.” Jesus, speaking through the young man in the Song of Solomon, is making his bride his equal.

The church has been a great mystery throughout history, but we are now entering a time in which it will have influence on all seven mountains of culture. She will operate in Jesus’ full authority. God’s kingdom operates on authority. When Jesus departed after his resurrection, He said that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given unto him. Those who hinder the church in her efforts will find themselves dealing directly with the Bridegroom. Not exactly a winning hand.

[“The Sacred Journey,” by Brian and Candice Simmons (Broadstreet Publishing), covers this in more detail. Highly recommended.]

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