The “Easter Season” on the calendar of Christ’s Church ends when the “Season of Pentecost” begins, but the Easter story never ends. However, there have always been those skeptics who question the fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Furthermore, there have always been those prophets of gloom and doom who also question the survival of Christ’s Church, who speak of the demise of Christianity and a “post-Christian” world. In his vision of the risen and glorified Christ (Revelation 1:9-19), the Apostle John tells us He saw “seven golden lampstands” (7 is the number symbolizing completeness and totality, and the seven”lampstands,” identified as the 7 churches of Asia Minor, represent the complete Church, the whole Body of Christ), with the reigning Christ, the object of heaven’s worship, standing in the midst of them (i.e. victorious, with all power and authority, having conquered death). Later in The Revelation of the Risen Christ to John, the “beloved disciple” tells us how he saw what no man had ever seen before, heaven at worship, and the Church Triumphant, “…a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands” (“white robes” symbolizing purity and “palm branches” symbolizing victory – Rev. 7:9).
So many believers do not seem to realize that it is impossible to separate the birth and survival of Christ’s Church from the fact of His resurrection, His victory over sin and death. Christ’s Church is The Church of the Resurrection, and its survival is not dependent on any man-made schemes or strategies. It is the Church Christ has been building for more than two-thousand years, and will continue to build until He comes again (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:25-27; and Revelation 19:9) in “the fullness of time” (i.e. “kairos” time, God’s own determined time, the time known only to God – Acts of the Apostles 1:7-8). Until then, no power on earth or in hell, will be able to prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18).
The Pentecost event is often called “the birthday of the Church.” Actually, it was the birthday of the Church’s power,” for the Church existed before the Day of Pentecost, but needed the power of the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish Christ’s purpose and mission in this world. The Greek New Testament word for “power” is dunamis, from which the words “dynamic” and “dynamite” are derived (i.e. the “dynamite of God,” the explosive and expulsive power of the Holy Spirit, operating within the Church and through the Church in the world, which is it’s mission field). It is the same mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead! We must never forget that although there have been many times in the history of the Church, when and where persecution was so intense, that many thought Christ’s Church would not survive, Christ’s Church would never die as long as there were believers in those places. In my own lifetime Christ’s Church had to borrow a tomb for forty years in Eastern Europe, because of oppressive communist regimes following World War II. However, the “underground Church” remained vital and was “fully alive” in those countries that had become a part of the Soviet Union. Then, in the fullness of time, when communism was finally overthrown and the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989, Christ’s Church emerged and became stronger than it was before.
The same can be said of North Korea, where Christianity was strongest on the Korean Peninsula before the communist revolution, but the Church has been forced to borrow a tomb until the underground Church can safely emerge to help provide new leadership for the creation of a new government, to promote peace and support a union of the two Koreas. There are other places in today’s world where Christ’s Church may have to borrow a tomb for awhile, since Christians are being persecuted and killed openly without any protection because of religious persecution and political opposition. However, we must never forget this fact: OUR GOD IS THE ONE WHO BRINGS LIFE OUT OF DEATH!
Nevertheless, there are those unbelievers, as well as gloomy “spiritual soothsayers” who say Christ’s Church is now actually dying in the West, and has already died in some parts of this world. Furthermore, they contend Christianity may never be resurrected. Nothing could be farther from the truth, for Christ’s Church will never die, so there will never be any need for another resurrection! Our resurrected and reigning Lord is the “Head” of the Church and its “Savior” (Ephesians 5:23). The Apostle Paul wants us to understand that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy”, and in the fullness of time to “…present her to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind” (i.e without any fault or frailty, without any imperfection or terminal illness), so that she may be holy and without blemish (i.e. perfect, complete – vs. 27). However, the visible Church, the universal Church, the worldwide Body of Christ as it now exists, is far from perfect, for we are the Church, and God is not finished with any of us yet (Philippians 3:10-16). I am in agreement with those believers who maintain that the contemporary Church has been found guilty of conforming too much to this world, especially in the West, and needs to be renewed and transformed by the Spirit of God (Romans 12:2). Let us never forget that the followers of Jesus are “aliens” and “exiles” in this present world (I Peter 2:11), and are called to live as belonging to the coming age (Ephesians 2:2-7; I John 2:15-17).
Furthermore, I join many other believers who pray regularly, confidently, and fervently as Paul prayed for all of us who belong to Christ Jesus, who are already citizens of the kingdom of God in this world, that we will have “…the eyes of our hearts enlightened, understanding what is the hope to which Christ has called us…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand (i.e. the hand of his authority and power) in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:17-22). The very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work today in the lives of those who believe all this is true, and are seeking to fit into God’s plan and purpose for His Church, which is called to be an outpost of the kingdom of God in this world until Christ comes again.
In his Epistle to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul speaks of the time when God “…will gather up all things in him (i.e. in Christ), things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10), including all of His “own people” (i.e. His Church – I Peter 2:9-12), when all the redeemed will “…be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1: 4). In his Letter to the Romans Paul speaks of what else will happen at that time, when he says “…the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay” (i.e. death); the whole created order which “…has been groaning in travail until now, will obtain the glorious freedom of the children of God” (vs. 21) – and then we will know that all of the travail Christ’s Church has experienced and endured through the centuries has merely been the “birth pangs” of the sons and daughters of God (vs. 23).
Today we have the witness of history, “The blood of the martyrs has become the seed of the Church.” We have now reached that time in Christian history when there are Christians in every nation on the face of the earth, and in spite of continued intense persecution in so many non-Christian lands Christianity is by far the largest religion in the world; regardless of all the disinformation and anti-Christian bias, even in our own nation, Christianity is still the fastest growing religion on planet Earth! The world’s population is about 7 billion today, and about one-third of the people on planet Earth profess faith in Jesus Christ. According to religious surveys conducted in the United States, about 80 percent of American citizens profess to be Christians, believing Jesus Christ is Lord, the Head of the Church, and alive and at work in the world today. During this post-Easter season of Pentecost, when we celebrate not only the resurrection of Jesus, but the birth of Christ’s Church, we should give thanks for the incredible growth of Christianity in so many parts of the world today (especially Africa, Asia, Latin America, South America, and even in Muslim countries, in spite of persecution) and remember that even if there are many churches (small “c”) that are in decline in the United States and in the United Kingdom (nations that have become more and more secularized in recent decades), CHRIST’S CHURCH IS STILL ALIVE, GROWING, VITAL, AND WILL NEVER DIE!
When Leslie Newbigin, respected theologian, leader in the ecumenical Church, Bishop of Madras, India, was questioned about the survival of the still fledgling Church of South India (an ecumenical Church that was formed from several Protestant churches, and still in its infancy, a union in which Newbigin had played a key role), he simply replied: “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and therefore this question doesn’t arise. In regard to a fact, one is not optimistic or pessimistic. One is believing or unbelieving.”