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The Church in Eternity

Excerpted from “The Church In Prophecy” – John F. Walvoord (1964)

One of the significant prophecies relating to the future state of the church is the fact that believers in this present age are promised to be “with Christ.” In the preliminary announcement of the rapture of the church in John 14:3, Christ promised, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Just as the church is promised to be with Christ in heaven in the period between the rapture and the second coming to the earth, so the church also accompanies Christ in a subsequent activity in the millennial reign and in the eternal state. Other Scriptures bear testimony to this same concept. In connection with the revelation of the rapture in I Thessalonians 4:17 the prediction is made, “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.”

In the figure of the church as the body of Christ in Ephesians 5:25-33, the marriage figure itself indicates that the church will be with Christ even as a wife with her husband. Colossians 3:4 indicates, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” From these various passages and other allusions of a similar nature, it may be concluded that the church will be in the immediate presence of the Saviour throughout eternity to come. The church is specifically mentioned as related to the second coming of Christ in Revelation 19:7-9 and is seen in the new Jerusalem in the eternal state as represented by the twelve apostles.

In connection with the predictions concerning the future kingdom Christ told His disciples prior to His death and resurrection that they would join Him in His kingdom and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. As recorded in Matthew 19:28, Christ said to His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Further light is cast upon this in Paul’s word to Timothy recorded in II Timothy 2:12, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” The fact that Christ promised His disciples that they would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel and promised to faithful members of the body of Christ a similar position of honor of reigning with Him, constitutes a confirmation of the premillennial concept that there will be an earthly kingdom between His second advent and the inauguration of the eternal state. These predictions imply a mediatorial kingdom in which Christ is the ruler and in which His followers will share responsibility. This, of course, is in keeping with the many predictions of the Old Testament.

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That there is clearly a full and active role for the church after the rapture comes through clearly from the above passage. There are times it seems as if we feel that  the rapture signals the end of our work. Christ came for His bride, his church, what else can there be? Yes, there will be joy, there will be praise and worship, the likes of which we have never seen on earth and can only imagine the beauty and majesty of. Tears wiped away, never to return in a place of eternal, divine light.

But our God is an active God, and has been from before the foundations of the earth were laid down. Why expect that to change in an earthly millennial reign or in the eternal state? God’s nature is immutable in our lives, why expect it to be any different at any time going forward?

Upon placing our trust in Jesus as our Savior, as the only means to our eternal salvation, there is a calling into a ministry of the gospel, into a life of service to the Lord. And that is not just for pastors and preachers, that is for everyone in the body of Christ. The Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 is for the entire body of Christ, not just some small and privileged priestly class. We are all to be the priests of His Kingdom. We are to serve, not to be served, just as He did (Matthew 20:28). Why expect anything different when we are with Him, and He is reigning and ruling, fulfilling all the prophetic Scripture as only He can, and as He must.

This is very good news to all, for we are to rule with Him, as co-heirs in the millennial reign. We are to be with Him, and be in worship, as a body of faithful believers. While the functioning of the church will most likely take on dimensions inconceivable now, there will be a church, a body of Christ into eternity. Given the attacks we often see the church on earth face from day-to-day, that is a comfort and a source of strength to know the church will survive through it all until He comes for us. And at that point in many respects, things will just be getting started.

Oh, the joy of joys it will be for us to be part of it. Forever.