The spiritual organism of the Church of Jesus Christ is so unique, and non-earthly that the Holy Spirit uses many earthly illustrations to help us understand this spiritual union:

No one of these illustrations gives a total picture of the Church, nor are the illustrations intended to parallel exactly every aspect of the church. We must carefully see what aspect of each illustration the Holy Spirit is using to demonstrate what aspect of the church. Then all illustrations must be blended, harmonized and must not contradict any other teaching of the Word of God. In this way, we can properly understand the concept of the Church. Even after we have blended and harmonized these illustration, we find that there are some aspects of this spiritual organism that still cannot be perfectly described in physical terms. Many times Christ taught concerning the church, even though the church is not mentioned by name in His teachings except on one occasion. The disciples did not recognize Christ’s teachings as relating to the church until after Christ’s resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Any reference by Christ to the fact of the church would, of course, be a prophetic proclamation. Prophecy in this sense would be a proclamation of God concerning things, events, or actions before their existence.

No prophetic statement can be fully understood 
until after its complete fulfillment.

It would do us well, and it would do the theologians well to keep that fact in mind. We have many so called teachers of the Word of God making rash definitive statements, and predictions concerning future events. They also claim that these predictions are detailed in the Scriptures. They know these details because they know all about Biblical prophecy before it happens, so they say. Unless a future event is clearly detailed in Scripture, we need to be very careful not to add our own un-inspired details. Future events are declared in Scripture, not so we can boast of knowing the future, but so we can see and know the Son of God and God’s Eternal Plan. Anytime a person’s presentation of prophecy is more about signs than about the Son, we need to look very suspiciously at the conclusions of such a teacher.

By the way, just to alert all our affiliates (or however those big time news casters do it), this lesson is one of those that cannot be completed in one session. Because we will need other sessions to complete this lesson, let me take part of this session to give a warning concerning the ever popular presentations of so called prophecy. With the upcoming new millennium, the computer problems with the year 2,000, the change of currency in Europe, etc. there has been a rash of predictions given by so called prophecy experts which they infer are taken directly from the Scriptures. There will be many more of these predictions to come. This is one of the big growth industries within religious circles.

Trying to sort out fact from fantasy, in the speeches of these experts, is very difficult, sometimes impossible. I do not question their sincerity, nor do I question that some of what they say will happen. However, much to most of what they are saying has nothing or very little to do with the actual teaching of the Word of God, and more to do with the sale of their books and videos. My fear is that many people are trying to live their Christian lives based on the prediction of these know-it-alls rather than the pure Word of God. When we live by the teachings, philosophies or predictions of men (even good Christian men), we are not living by the Word of God, and therefore are living a non-spiritual life. Which means we are living in carnality. A person may do a lot of good things based on the teachings of men, but none of those things will count for eternity. Before we move on in our study of the local church, let me give you some Scriptures that will help you as you face the onslaught of this prophetic frenzy. If you use these truths, they will prevent you from being carried away from the teaching of the Word, and bringing discredit to Christ and His Eternal Plan. This is in no way a study of this subject, only a stop-gap measure to warn you concerning the problem, and give you some equipment to deal with it.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

There is certainly nothing wrong with knowing what we can about the times and seasons as far as future events are concerned. There is nothing wrong with trying to sort the facts of Scripture concerning these events. There is nothing wrong with observing current events as to their relationship with the declarations of Scripture. But when those non-answerable areas possess our lives, and divert our attention and efforts away from living-out the teaching of the Word of God, we have left the Pure Word of God in favor of vain philosophies.

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Paul didn’t think it important enough to detail the prophetic information concerning the times and seasons surrounding the rapture (1 Thessalonians 5:1). Paul points out that one of the major facts we must know concerning that next prophetic event is that we don’t know when it will happen. There is absolutely nothing detailed in Scripture that must take place, in world events, before Christ can come back for His Saints in the air. Christ’s coming will be as a “thief in the night”, and there is no way any human can predict it. However, we need to be ready for that coming, because it could happen at anytime. Paul was looking for and expecting the rapture in his lifetime. The reason Paul was looking for the rapture during his lifetime was because there is no major Biblical prophetic event that must take place before the rapture.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did not think it needful to write concerning the times and seasons of Christ coming, but he did think it important that we know the facts relating to the how and the why of this event, the rapture, and its effect on both the living and the dead.

1 Thessalonians 4:14-5:1 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. 5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.

"I do not want you to be ignorant... concerning those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thessalonians 4:13) "...but concerning the times and the seasons you have no need that I should write to you" (1 Thessalonians 5:1). Folks, that should tell us something! Knowing the doctrine of the how and the why of the rapture is one of the main factors in the comfort for the saints during life, and in death. Don’t let the chapter division get in your way, and divert your thinking from the flow of this passage. Please note that in this same context of the need to know the facts of the rapture, Paul says, “There is no need to write concerning the times and seasons. ”

The rapture is sure, and we should know about it. It should be a motive for the way we live, and should shape the attitudes we live by. Therefore, information about the rapture brings comfort to the Believer. We can’t know for sure the events concerning the times and seasons. Any detailing of those events can only be man’s speculation, at best. Therefore the detailing of these non-confirmable events brings confusion and apprehension to the Believer.

Acts 1:6-8 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

In this passage, the disciples had just ask the Lord for information concerning these future events. These questions were ask just before Christ’s ascension. In effect the Lord said, “It’s none of your business! You don’t need to write a book or make a video about the times and seasons, but it is needful for you to be witnesses about and to Me, the Son of God. You don’t need to be fiddling with the signs of God concerning future events, because when your mind and time are filled with the signs, there is little time and space left for the Son and the work of God.”

Mark 13:31-35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. 32 But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming-- in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning

In this account, the disciples had ask Christ some questions. Two of which were; “What is the sign of your coming?” and “When is the end of the age?” During Christ’s discourse dealing with those questions, He places the emphases on His Word (v.31), not events. In effect saying that His Word was far more important than when and how the earth will pass away. Don’t miss what Christ said. Christ stated that His Word is more valuable and more important than heaven and earth, but you will not find out about the “Day or the hour” of these events in the Word of God. No human can find that information in the Word. No angel can find that information in the Word, even though they desire to look into what the prophets wrote, as Peter tells us in 1 Pet 1:12. Even the Lord, Himself, could not find that information in the Word of God. That information was only in the heart of God the Father. In effect the Lord told His disciples not to waste their time trying to out-guess God the Father as to the times of these events. Instead, they were to “take heed, watch and pray”.

It is interesting that Christ, while telling His disciples about trends and systems of the world that would take place before His coming, made another very important statement. This is the famous Matthew chapter 24 discourse. This discourse is referred to by some of the other writers also, as we see in...

Luke 21:28 "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

When they see these things happening (the things leading up to and into the Great Tribulation), it should bring strength to their living and increase their confidence. Not because they knew the future, but because they knew the One, Who holds the future. Even the beginnings of these events would mean that they were closer to the time of seeing their Redeemer face to face.

Any true knowledge of Biblical prophecy will make the person of Christ more precious and real to the Believer. Biblical prophecy should not leave the Believer with fear or despair, but should increase our confidence in God’s plan of redemption, and should cause us to walk with our spiritual heads lifted high because of who we are in Christ. First, always test the prophetic presentation with: Is this presentation, glorifying and making the Son of God real, or is it appealing to human fear and curiosity by means of the spectacular? If the prophetic presentation passes the first test, then carefully compare Scripture with all Scripture to see if the conclusion fits, and is in harmony with all Scripture.

Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

I know we joke that this verse is my secret weapon so I can answer any question, but its truth is far more than a joke. We should give diligence to know and understand all that is revealed, but when it is clear that the subject is not revealed in the Word, we should accept it as presented, and leave it alone. For when it is not revealed, and we try to explain that non-revelation, we affect our ability to do all that is revealed. We need to strive to live according what we know of the Word of God.

Philippians 3:14-16 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

This little speech has very little to do with the subject of the local church. However, since the subject of prophetic statements came up, I though it would be a good time to at least mention this present problem and a solution. Possibly in this manner, you will not be whipped around with the slight of hand and mouth of those who would deceive, deliberately or otherwise. Remember, it is not just the weirdo preachers out there that get carried away with the spectacular, but also some good and sincere men and women of God. This is not intended to make us apprehensive or avoid the real prophecies of Scripture, but to alert us to make sure that what we are hearing or reading is truly Scripture. It behooves us to be good Bereans, search the Scriptures and make sure that what we hear and accept is Biblically right and accurate.

Let’s move back into the subject for this lesson, and that subject is some of the prophetic teaching of Christ concerning the church. Last week we looked at the two cleansings of the Temple by Christ. The first cleansing took place at the beginning of His ministry, shortly after the marriage in Cana of Galilee where He turned the water into wine. The last cleansing took place after His triumphal entry, and just days before His crucifixion.

Mark 11:15-17 So they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "

Mark recorded a little phrase that the other writers left out, and when it is combined with the other teachings concerning the Temple by Christ, it becomes more than significant. Mark tells us that the House (or temple) of God was to be a place of prayer for all nations. By the way, at the time of Christ the Temple was not a house of prayer even for the Jews. The only ones who could enter the Temple for prayer were the priests. In reality, only one priest could enter into the presence of God for prayer, and that was the High Priest only one time a year. All the rest of the Jews had to pray outside the temple.

There were a series of courts or meeting places around the Temple. The closest was the Court of the Priests. Then further from the Temple and the presence of God was the Court of the Israelites, but this was only for men. Further still was the Court of the Women. Then as far away from the presence of God as one could get, and still be a part of the Temple complex was the Court of the Gentiles. However, no matter what classification a person might be, none but the priests could enter the Temple to pray, and only the High Priest could stand in the presence of God when he offered his service and prayer once a year.

No, the Temple, or the House of God could not have been considered a sanctuary for the Jewish people in which to fellowship with God. Certainly, the temple could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered a house of prayer for all nations. When we read something of this nature, even if we don’t understand it, it should disturb us enough to drive us to search for more Biblical information by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Remember Peter told us that no one passage stands alone or can be fully understood on its own merit, but must be seen in the light of the entire prophetic Word. If you cannot think of any other passages that deal with this subject, one should jump out and grab you! Remember the Blessing of Abraham? I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this one ain’t dead. God promised Abraham a personal blessing, a national blessing to the Jews, and a blessing to “all families of the earth”. We know, from our study, that the blessing “to all families of the earth” was the New Covenant through the blood of Christ shed on Calvary.

Galatians 3:1-143 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

We can’t review the Abrahamic Covenant and the blessing aspect of that covenant, but most of you have a wealth of information tucked away in your memory which the Holy Spirit can make use of to teach by bringing it back to your conscious reality. OK, we’ve seen that the phrase is consistent with the teaching of Scripture, but it still does not fit into the real pattern of our understanding. So, set that piece of the puzzle aside for now, and let’s see if we can keep putting more of the puzzle together until we find where this piece fits within the total teaching and plan of God. Remember context, context, context:

Does Christ teach anything else about the Temple or God’s house of prayer and worship that has to do with the Temple being used by all nations? Well, now that you mention it, yes He does! Quite a bit in fact. Most of it we would miss unless we were comparing it with all Scripture in order to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us. We can’t look at everything Christ said in this regard, or that is recorded throughout the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, I doubt that I have discovered all of that information, or will during this lifetime. I would like to look at two other teachings of Christ regarding this matter. John states that he wrote the Gospel of John so we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we might have life eternal. So for this study, let’s stick with John, but there is far more information concerning this subject than is recorded by John.

John 20:31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
John 4:21-24 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

This passage has a context, and we need to see that context if we are to understand the passage, and then we need to compare it with our passage in Mark for a clearer understanding. Now don’t look at me like that! I warned you that this was going to take several lessons.

John 4:1-9 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Palestine is only about 120 to 150 miles long, and about 50 to 75 miles wide depending how generous you are with the borders and at what time in their history. At the northern part is an area called Galilee in the southern part there is an area called Judea. Now if you have an area to the north called Galilee, and an area to the south called Judea, what do we have in between those two areas? Why of course, between these two areas we some-area or Samaria. It is important that we know or review the context of time and history of this area, if we are to understand what took place that day, and thereby have an understanding of its application to the church.

This area of Samaria was rich with religious memories and ancestral pride for the Jews. Yet, the Jews hated this area more than any other in all of the known world at that time. The shortest travel time from Galilee to Judea was, naturally, through Samaria. However, it would be a cold day in August before a Jew would go through Samaria, unless he was desperate. They would instead cross over the Jordan, and add a day or two to their journey rather than get close to a Samaritan. This in spite of the great Jewish heritage of this area.

It was one of the first stopping places for Abraham when he came into the land.

Genesis 12:5-6 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.

It was some of the first Jewish real estate purchased by Jacob.

Genesis 33:18-20 Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. 19 And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money. 20 Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel.

It was here that Joseph was buried.

Joshua 24:32 The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.

Jacob’s well was also here. In spite of all this religious heritage and ancestral pride, the Jews threw that all over board because of national-pride and prejudice. About 720 B.C. the Assyrians invaded Israel and took many of those living in Samaria and the northern region and carried them off to Assyria. These captives are the ones that have been dubbed the 10 Lost Tribes. Assyria transported to Samaria a good number of people from Babylon, Cuthan, Ava, etc. to help repopulate the land. This was a very common practice by conquering nations. In this way there would ultimately be inter-marrying breaking down the racial purity. Because of this inter-marrying, revolts based on patriotism were lessened considerable. This inter-marrying produced, what was referred to by the strict Jew as, a race of half-breeds. To the strict Jew this was an unforgivable crime, and those committing this crime lost their right to be called Jews. Years later, Babylon invaded the southern kingdom and carried off to Babylon many to most of those in the southern region. Most of these exiles remained unalterably Jewish in their lineage.

During the return and rebuilding under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Samaritans offered their help in performing this sacred task. They were rebuffed, and told in no uncertain terms that they were not welcome. Then there was the conflict with the Samaritan Sanballat. A story you can read for yourself. Adding to all that, the Samaritans established a rival temple or place of worship on Mount Gerizim. This added more fuel to the fire of this feud which was still raging with the same intensity, if not worse, at the time of Christ.

This is the breaking point in our lesson for today, but I want us to see a fact that is so evident in the life of Christ, and should be in our lives today. Christ ignored and broke down the phony artificial barriers, most of which had been set up in the name of religion. There are some natural and proper barriers and differences in life that we do well to observe. However, most barriers are set up and used only to advance selfish pride, thereby bringing real damage to the cause of Christ.

Christ not only said that He needed to go through Samaria, He talked to a Samaritan, plus, He talked with a woman. The strict Jewish code forbade a Rabbi to greet a woman in public, not even his own wife or daughters. These phariscal Rabbis were know as the Bruised and Bleeding Ones, because they shut their eyes when they saw a woman on the street. Therefore, they often walked into walls, posts, people, etc. causing lacerations and even broken bones. For a Rabbi to be seen talking to a woman in public was the downfall of his reputation. This was not just any woman! This was a woman with an area wide notorious reputation. No self respecting Jew would have talked to a Samaritan, who was a woman, and a woman with the lowest of morals.

Christ not only spoke with her, He spoke with her in full understanding and redemptive compassion. Christ did not condone or accept her life style. He did not make excuses for that type of living, or place the blame on her circumstance and poor living conditions. He did, however, recognize that life style as wrong and dared to offer forgiveness and reconciliation. You know, we might reach more of the world for Christ, if we followed His example.

© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998