By Christine Darg
I often hear preachers declaring, “The Lord is coming for a GLORIOUS church!”
The statement is made so frequently that we may think these preachers are directly quoting a verse word-for-word from the Bible!
Actually the reference to a glorious church is Paul’s statement in Ephesians 5: 27, where he makes a matrimony metaphor between the Bridegroom (Jesus/Yeshua) and his Bride (the Invisible Church, the New Jerusalem). At the end of the Church Age, the Bridegroom will present the Church to Himself and it will be comprised of members throughout the Church Age without spot or wrinkle. The Glorious Church as an entity will be totally righteous and perfect due to the washing and cleansing of the Lord’s holy blood.
Here is the verse in its context in Ephesians 5: 25-27:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
This is a scriptural picture of the Glorious Church in heaven throughout eternity.
Yet we constantly hear that before the Second Coming of Jesus the visible Church on earth will become this glorious church “without spot and wrinkle or any such thing;” so many believers are striving and putting expectations upon the Church Militant to become the Church Triumphant.
And, YES, we should daily strive against sin. YES, we should constantly examine our lives to get rid of the negative and the vile. However, the Bible clearly teaches that in the Last Days the true Church on earth will be a remnant in the midst of apostasy.
Revelation 3: 8 describes the church in Philadelphia as a type of the End-Time church prior to the Rapture:
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
You can examine the histories of some of the world’s most famous churches and denominations as far as consecration is concerned–churches and denominations full of men and women who devoted themselves to the Great Commission. The land of the Eskimos was not too cold for them and the Sahara, India and Malaysia were not too hot – they sacrificed everything for the Lord, yet these denominations were not necessarily the Glorious Church because all denominations in this dispensation are full of the mixed multitude–so to speak, there are the Korahs, the Dathan, and Abirams within, the spots and the wrinkles of a fallen world. The church visible is very often a stumbling block to many, and then there is the Church Invisible. These are the true ones, the ones known by the Lord who will be part of his presentation of the Glorious Church in the Day of the Lord.
Preachers, it is an admirable goal to preach revival and overcoming sin. But the church on earth will never fully become the Glorious Church until the Bride of Messiah is presented by the Lord to Himself according to Ephesians 5: 27. We must hope for a Great Awakening, we must contribute toward all revival efforts, but we must not be deceived into “Kingdom Now” theology that we are going to bring the Glorious Church on earth when that is a finished work of the Lord in the New Jerusalem.
The commentaries on the Glorious Church of Ephesians 5: 27 explain that the metaphor used is that of an oriental wedding. The apostle Paul had in his mind the figure of a marriage. In the customs of the East, the bridegroom had a friend whose duty it was to find him a bride, to secure an introduction, to prepare for the nuptials, and to be in close attendance on the wedding night. But Jesus is His own Friend of the Bridegroom, “that He might present it to Himself.” John had a glimpse of the sublime scene in his wondrous vision on Patmos; the glorious destiny of this glorious Church shall become the Bride of the Lamb. The bride shall live with her Husband, and be under His protection forever.
In this life our imperfections are metaphorically expressed as spots, and wrinkles. But by divine grace and washing of the Word and the Blood fo Messiah, we shall be presented “without spot or wrinkle,” says the text, “or any such thing.”
Here Paul tells us, that in the future the Church presented will be glorious; You may ask, Can’t His Church be glorious now? It is! It is not a glorious Church in the eyes of the world, for we are often like our Lord, “despised and rejected of men.” But though the Church is now “glorious,” yet its glory is partially prevented and obscured by the thinness of its numbers, moral infirmities and mixtures. The lilies are among thorns; the tares are among the wheat. The glory is obscured but not forever! And according to the apostle in the future:
“He will present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”
There is much preaching about the visible Church becoming the glorious “mighty army” of Ezekiel 37 when, in fact, that Ezekiel reference refers to the resurrection and resuscitation of the nation of Israel prior to the Second Coming of Jesus!
In conclusion, my dear friends, let’s not confuse the Church Visible with the Church Invisible! Let’s strive against sin for sanctification of believers, but let’s not create false expectations that the Church on earth will bring about the Kingdom of God without the Second Coming.