By Francis Frangipane
True Christians from all backgrounds share an expectation of the second coming of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16). Although debate surrounds the timing of this event, Scripture assures us that it will occur when Jesus Himself returns.
Before we are “caught up” to meet the Lord, however, there will be an unusual season of grace in which the living church of Jesus Christ, like a bride, makes “herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). In this unparalleled season of preparation, while we will not become perfect, we shall realize a new level of holiness of the quality in which Jesus Himself walked (1 Thess. 3:11–13; Eph. 5:26–27; Phil. 1:9–10).
The result of this new spiritual fullness will be a new level of unity. Faultfinding and gossip will disappear. In their place will be intercession and love. Wholeness will return to the body of Christ. This also means that the ambition and division we see today between congregations will be identified as sin, which will be repented of before Jesus returns.
The truth of this message must be made clear, for most Christians consider oneness within the body inconceivable. They have not discerned nor warred against the enemy’s lies, which have conditioned believers to accept strife and sectarianism in the church. It is my passionate conviction that the church will be free of strife and carnal divisions–it will be a bride “having no spot or wrinkle,” made ready for her bridegroom (Eph. 5:27; Rev.19:7).
According to Scripture, “in a twinkling of an eye” our bodies will be changed (1 Cor. 15:52). But our character, that is, the essence of who we have become, will remain intact. There will be no regrets or wondering how “those from that church” made it, for the living bride will be a church built together in love, meeting in separate buildings but serving the one and only Lord. These true disciples of the Lord Jesus will be known for their intense and holy love for one another –not merely in their individual local assemblies but within the context of a citywide church.
It is highly significant that when the Son of Man appears there will be a “gathering together” of the saints. (2 Thess. 2:1; Matt. 24:31). What ultimately will be consummated in our gathering together physically to the Lord will be precipitated by a spiritual gathering together of His body on earth. Concerning the era known as the “end of the age,” Jesus taught that the “good fish” shall be “gathered . . . into containers” (Matt. 13:48). And in the context of spiritual warfare, Jesus warned, “He who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).
In the tenth chapter of John, the Lord makes His goal clear: there shall be “one flock with one shepherd” (v. 16). He reveals that it is the wolf nature that “snatches [the sheep] and scatters them” (v.12); and it is the hireling nature that allows the scattering to occur. But His promise to His sheep says this:
“Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock . . . and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer. . . nor will any be missing.” –Jeremiah 23:3-4
The pastors of the last Christian church will be under-shepherds to the Lord Jesus; they will be anointed to gather together His remnant and under that anointing shall be “fruitful and multiply.”
Indeed, right now, in the context of humbling ourselves and submitting our hearts to His will, we are participating in being “gathered together.” This process will progressively increase until the barriers between Christians are melted by the overcoming nature of Christ’s love. Before Jesus returns, we will truly be “one flock with one shepherd.” We will be a holy and blameless sheepfold, meeting in different buildings but baptized into one body.
Do Not Criticize the Breach, Repair It!
Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord.” –Ezekiel 13:3–5
God needs people who, when they see a gap in the wall of the citywide church or amongst the body of believers, will go up into the breaches and rebuild the wall so that the church will stand in the day of battle. In every city, each of us needs the other churches if we are going to stand in the day of battle.
You may be thinking, “You don’t understand; some churches barely believe in Jesus.” The Word tells us that “without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater” (Heb. 7:7). If you are truly “greater,” without a hint of pride, you will seek ways to be a blessing to other churches. Your Christlike love will cast out fears. You will sincerely have a burden to see the entire body of Christ brought forth, not just your local assembly; you will respect the diversity of ways through which Christ reveals Himself in the church. In truth, Jesus said that the greatest among us would become the “servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
If a church in your city holds to and confesses Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then that church is needed to complete God’s work in the city. As you join one another for daily or weekly prayer, you will be blessed and surprised by God’s preparation of others. Do not come with an attitude to teach or lead but to love and serve. In this, God is not looking for leaders but followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we do not adjust to His will, we will be unable to stand against the enemy. Indeed, the day in which we live is not a day of peace; it is a time of war. God is gathering us together not only to Him and each other but also against the spiritual forces of wickedness in every region. Therefore, the breaches between us must be filled, the walls built, and we must learn to stand together in the day of the Lord.
You Be the People
You do not have to go to Bible college to find fault with the church. In fact, if you remember, you could find fault with the church even before you were a Christian. You do not need skill to find fault. But if you want to be like Christ, you must be willing to lay your life down for people’s sins. You must be an intercessor who “stands in the gap.” The “gap” is the distance between the way things are and the way things should be. You stand in that space, cast down the accuser of the brethren, and intercede! Have you seen something that is wrong? It is only because Jesus wants you to stand in the gap and pray to see it changed.
Some of us have cried for years, “Where are those who will lead us into Christ’s fullness?” We have assumed that God had others in mind. What the Lord is saying, however, is, you be the men and women that others are looking for. You be the peacemakers, the sons and daughters of God who bring healing, honor, and order to His church.
The responsibility is upon each of us. There is a tremendous job ahead, but the Lord Himself has promised, “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the paths in which to dwell” (Isa. 58:12).
Let us lay our lives down in committed faith, believing that in our lifetimes, on this earth and in our communities, the corporate church of Jesus Christ will be restored, united, and made ready as a bride for her Beloved!
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Adapted from Francis Frangipane’s book, The Three Battlegrounds available at www.arrowbookstore.com.