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 (Manna 86: Go and Make Disciples of All Nations)
Are We the Final Restoration?
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Peter Shee—Singapore

The Bible is about God and His covenant people, whom He had chosen from before the foundation of the world (Deut 7:6–9; Eph 1:4) and who will enjoy everlasting fellowship with Him in the new heavens and the new earth (Isa 65:17–18; 66:22). This is more than a return to Eden, in that our bodies will be transformed through God’s redemptive program, and death utterly defeated by resurrection. The original creation, with the son of God created out of dust, is finally and permanently restored.

Israel and the Church

Israel was the Old Testament elect. The church—comprising Jews and Gentiles—is the New Testament elect.

God’s eternal purpose—our election in Christ (Eph 3:11; 1:4–11)—unravels in time and space through Abraham and his seed (Gen 12:7; 13:15; 24:7). The repeated use of the singular “seed” in the Genesis narrative is explained by Paul as a reference to Christ, in whom we receive the status of co-heirs (Gal 3:16, 29; Rom 8:17). The story of Israel, and God dwelling among them, is thus a pattern for the church. This is further attested by the allusion to Isaac and Jerusalem (Gal 3:22–28).

The exodus from Egypt resulted in the birth of Israel as a nation, with God dwelling in their midst (Ex 25:8; 29:45–46; Lev 26:11–12). The divine Presence in the tabernacle was evident throughout the wilderness journey and later in Solomon’s temple (Ex 40:34–38; 1 Kgs 8:10–11). Likewise, the church as the “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:22) is filled with glory.     

We then see a progression in the way God dwells among His people—from a physical sacred space in the tabernacle within the camp, to a physical temple within the city of Jerusalem, and finally, under the new covenant, God dwells directly within the redeemed human community itself. This is described by Peter as a “spiritual house” built up with “living stones” (1 Pet 2:5).

The chosen people in the Old Testament were known as the “assembly [qahal, Hebrew] of God” (Neh 13:1; Deut 23:3). The Hebrew qahal for “assembly” is conceptually identified with the Greek ekklesia, translated as “church” in the New Testament. Hence, when Jesus establishes a new covenant with us, He re-organizes a new assembly of the chosen, comprising both Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2: 11–18; 3:6, 10), which He calls “My church” (Mt 16:18).

The Church’s One Foundation

God’s church in the New Testament is founded on the works of Jesus Christ and apostolic teaching.

Towards the end of the apostolic era, sectors of the church were only alive in name but were in fact dead, and others were ready to die (see Rev 3:1–2). The post-apostolic church went through considerable syncretization. Simple home gatherings centered on prayer and the Scriptures (Acts 2:42) gradually morphed into elaborate liturgies with incense, candles and even images. Daily prayers in the temple (Acts 2:46–47) were replaced with daily rituals in buildings filled with icons and statues. Baptism in natural living water was brought indoors and embellished with ritual; with this deviation from scriptural prescription, the sacred ordinance became divested of the efficacy of Christ’s blood brought about by the Holy Spirit. Receiving the Holy Spirit evidenced by glossolalia—speaking in tongues—was substituted with ritual conferment of the Spirit through the imposition of hands by bishop or priest.

But revival would certainly take place, for Jesus Himself declared that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail” against the church founded on solid rock (Mt 16:18). The solid foundation, the works of Jesus Christ completed in His lifetime and enshrined in apostolic teaching, was fully laid during the apostolic era (Eph 2:20). Thankfully, the form of doctrine, the pattern of sound words (Rom 6:17; 2 Tim 1:13), has been perfectly preserved in the canon of the Scriptures, comprising the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Peter attests that apostolic doctrine, or the New Testament, is built upon the Old Testament, and is in fact the sole interpretive authority for the Old Testament. This is because Jesus, as the beloved Son who came to fulfill Old Testament Scriptures, speaks with final authority (2 Pet 1:16–21; 1 Cor 15:1–4; Heb 1:1–2).

Since the foundation of the church is Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, revival does not involve laying the foundation all over again. Nothing needs to be added to Christ’s work or to the Bible, and the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) can be rediscovered within the pages of the Holy Writ. We just have to build on the existing foundation. The church is revived once we return to the Bible, specifically to the gospel that accords with apostolic doctrine in its fullness. Baptism in Jesus’ name, as preached by the apostles, traces its roots to the Old Testament ablutions and makes the important link to real effective cleansing based on the Old Testament concept of atoning blood (Heb 6:1–2; 10:19–22). With the return to efficacious biblical baptism comes the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38); thus, members of the revived apostolic church only need to ask in faith to receive the Holy Spirit, with tongue-speaking as evidence.

The Temple and the Church

God’s church—typified by the latter temple—is built over two stages: foundation-laying during the apostolic era, and revival in the present era.

Intrinsic to our affirmation that we are the revived true church is that we are the final restoration, leading to the consummation of all things. But how can we be assured of this? Understanding biblical prophecy is the key to discerning the times. Interestingly, in Matthew Chapter 16, Jesus mentioned the signs of the times and the sign of Jonah just before talking about building His church (Mt 16:2–4). He then moved on to announce His death and resurrection (Mt 16:21) as well as His kingdom (Mt          16:28, 19). Clearly, the sign of Jonah is the sign of His resurrection, the most important milestone in God’s restoration of Israel.

The resurrected body of Christ is identified with the church as a body of believers resurrected in Christ through baptism (Eph 1:20–2:1; Col 2:12). The unmistakable link between the temple and the church, uttered by Jesus Himself (Jn 2:19–22), was well understood by New Testament writers (Eph 2:19–21; 1 Cor 3:6; 2 Cor 6:16; Rev 21:2, 10, 22). They saw the church in their era as the real temple, fulfilling the shadows of Old Testament temple rites (Heb 8–10) as well as exilic and post-exilic prophecies about God dwelling with His people (2 Cor 6:16; Ezek 37:27–28; Zech 8:8–9). Since the body of Christ is the real temple made without hands, it will last till the end of time; it will not be destroyed and there should be no need for rebuilding. As explained earlier, despite the downward spiral of the post-apostolic church, the dark ages of apostasy, and the current fragmentation of denominations, the foundation remained intact. The finished work of Jesus Christ cannot be undone, and the Bible has perfectly preserved the apostolic exposition of salvation by the cross.

Exilic and post-exilic prophets projected into the distant future in their prophecies surrounding the second temple. Careful study in this regard gives us a clear picture of how the True Jesus Church fits in.

I will shake heaven and earth…I will shake all nations…and I will fill this temple with glory. …The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.” (Hag 2:6–9)

This prophecy does not refer to the temple Zerubbabel built, but to a future temple built with living stones—in other words, the church of Jesus Christ to whom salvation came (1 Pet 1:10–12; 2:5), whose foundation was laid during the apostolic age (1 Cor 3:10–11; Eph 2:20). The fact that the apostolic project did not promptly result in a worldwide spread of the gospel and the destruction of Gentile kingdoms (Hag 2:20–22; Zech 14:8–9,17–19) is no reason to doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed commissioned by God, whose disciples constitute the eternal temple to which all Gentiles will turn (Acts 5:38–39). The Jews stumbled at a crucified Messiah, because they did not understand that He shall come a second time in glory. Thus, we should learn to recognize the two stages in the construction of the church: the foundation-laying stage during the apostolic age, and the revival stage in our times. Only at the end of revival will the church have greater glory than Solomon’s temple—when she shall be adorned for her husband, reflecting the very glory of God (Rev 21:2, 10–11). Since death could not restrain the crucified Christ (Acts 2:24), the church would certainly be revived in time, even though she seemed to have descended into abysmal doom after the apostolic age.

Zerubbabel and Temple-Rebuilding

Zerubbabel eventually completed the second temple, despite some temporary disruption. In the same way, Jesus Christ, who raised the True Jesus Church as the revived apostolic church, will surely bring the restoration to its completion.

As the temple-rebuilding was used prophetically to refer to the church being the final dwelling place of God, we must pay attention to the key figure, Zerubbabel, who led the delegation of rebuilders to Jerusalem for this great task (Ezra 2:2; 3:8). Of Davidic descent, he was made governor of Judah (Hag 2:2; Mt 1:1, 12).

Concerning Zerubbabel, the word of the Lord came to Haggai, saying: “I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel…and will make you a signet ring; for I have chosen you” (Hag 2:23). This is of utmost significance, because Zerubbabel was a descendant of the second last king of Judah, of whom the Lord through Jeremiah declared:

[T]hough Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off. …

For none of his descendants shall prosper,

Sitting on the throne of David,

And ruling anymore in Judah.” (Jer 22:24, 30)

Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, was never installed king over Judah. Hence, Haggai’s prophecy of the choice signet refers to a later fulfillment in the Messiah, whose virgin birth averted the curse upon Coniah. Hence, “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:30–33). 

As for the temple, Zerubbabel’s hands were frustrated after the foundation was laid, and the work ceased for about fifteen years (Ezra 4:4–5, 23–24). Nevertheless, the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah brought about a revival and the rebuilding work resumed (Ezra 5:1–2). Likewise, throughout the worst of times encountered by the post-apostolic church, the foundation that was laid through the apostles was preserved in the Scriptures. And in God’s own time, He brought about a revival, with the True Jesus Church continuing to build upon the apostolic foundation. Therefore, the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel is especially applicable to us today:

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit…

Who are you, O great mountain?

Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!

And he shall bring forth the capstone

With shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ” (Zech 4:6–7)

Looking at the trajectory of the apostolic church’s rise and fall, some may wonder whether the True Jesus Church will also and eventually fall away from the truth. The answer is that we will not if we are truly the continuation of the work of the eschatological Zerubbabel—Jesus Christ—building on the very foundation He laid when He first established His church (Eph 2:20). Since the gospel of salvation we preach is the very “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), then we can claim the Scripture saying: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it” (Zech 4:9)!

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Author: Peter Shee
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 09/28/2018