Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum
What is the future destiny of the universal church? One thing it is not: it is not the destiny of the Church to conquer the world with the gospel. For centuries, this was a common misconception: once the world had been conquered with the gospel, then the Kingdom could be set up; once the Kingdom was set up, only then would Yeshua return.
This view ignored the passages of Scripture, which taught that the Church will lose ground in the last days and become more and more apostate. The Church was not destined to conquer the world with the gospel. In fact, no point in Scripture ever teaches that the Church is to rule in this age. In fact, the opposite is taught by the Bible: the function of the Church is to be subservient to "Caesar," the government, not rule over Caesar. Believers are to obey Caesar as long as the government does not ask them to do something that is clearly against the teachings of Scripture. So whatever the destiny of the Church is, one thing it will not do is conquer the world with the gospel. The future destiny of the Church involves five things.
The first thing involved in the future destiny of the Church is that it will be raptured (1 Thess. 4:13-18). One of the purposes of the universal church is to take out from among the Gentiles a people for his name. This process will continue until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, until the set number of believers that God has ordained to be in the Body, then the Body will be complete. Once the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, the Church is going to be raptured. The ones who are going to be raptured are those in Christ. This term used by Paul is a technical term referring only to those in the Body of the Messiah. The Church does not include Old Testament saints, Tribulation saints, or Millennial saints; the Church includes only those who have been saved between Acts 2 and the Rapture. Therefore, the Rapture will include only the Church.
The second thing involved in the future destiny of the Church is that it will be rewarded according to 2 Corinthians 5:10:
For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad.
The judgment in which the rewards will come is the Judgment Seat of the Messiah. The basis of the judgment will be works. The judgment is not to determine whether one is saved or not, because that is determined once a person believes. But those who have believed will then be judged on the basis of how they conducted their spiritual lives.
A more extended passage that deals with the aspect of the Church's rewards is 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Verses 10-11 state:
According to the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation; and another builds thereon. But let each man take heed how he builds thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Believers are going to be judged on how they build on the foundation, which is Jesus Christ; He is the foundation of spiritual life.
Depending upon how believers conduct their spiritual lives, these rewards will be given or withheld according to verses 12-13:
But if any man builds on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble; each man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man's work of what sort it is.
Every believer's work is going to be evaluated and tested to see if it can withstand the fires of purification. Wood, hay, and stubble will not withstand the fires of purification and will be totally burned away. Gold, silver, and precious stones will withstand the fire, and any impurities in the gold, silver, and precious stones will be burned away.
The results are given in verses 14-15:
If any man's work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.
Those who build wisely on this foundation will be rewarded; those who do not will suffer loss. They will not suffer the loss of salvation, but they will suffer the loss of rewards.
The third thing involved in the future destiny of the Church is that it will be married to Yeshua the Messiah according to Revelation 19:6-9:
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said unto me, These are true words of God.
After the Church has been purified at the Judgment Seat of the Messiah and has been cleansed, she will then be married. By comparing the first part of chapter 19 with the second part, it is obvious that this marriage of the Lamb to the Church will take place in Heaven before the Second Coming. The Second Coming is in verses 11-16. This is one of the evidences that the Second Coming and the Rapture are not the same thing, because the Church, the Bride of the Messiah, is already in Heaven before the Second Coming takes place. She was brought into Heaven by means of the Rapture. Also according to this passage, at the time the Church is married to the Messiah she is wearing fine linen, bright and pure, symbolizing the righteous acts of the saints. Obviously, the marriage takes place after the Church has undergone the purification of the Judgment Seat of the Messiah and has been duly rewarded.
All of these events follow a logical progression: the Church is raptured into Heaven; once in Heaven, she undergoes the Judgment Seat of the Messiah and is purified; then she is married.
Co-reigning with the Messiah
The fourth thing involved in the future destiny of the Church is that it will co-reign with the Messiah in the Kingdom according to Revelation 20:4-6:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: over such the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Both the Church saints and the Tribulation saints will reign with the Messiah. After the marriage takes place between the Messiah and the Church in Heaven, the Messiah will return and set up His Kingdom. The Church is destined to co-reign with the Messiah in the Kingdom. The degree of authority that each individual Church saint will have will be based upon the rewards he received at the Judgment Seat of the Messiah. This co-reigning goes on for only a thousand years, so this cannot be the final destiny of the Church.
Abiding in the New Jerusalem
The fifth and final thing involved in the future destiny of the Church is that it will abide with the whole Triune God in the eternal New Jerusalem. This is brought out in detail in Revelation 21:1-22:5.
- The Universal Church • Ariel Ministries (Arnold Fruchtenbaum)
- Evidence that the Church Began at Pentecost in Acts 2 • BPB (Arnold Fruchtenbaum)
- Why Teach About Rewards? • GraceLife (Charlie Bing)
- The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Messiah • BPB (Arnold Fruchtenbaum)
- What is Dominion Theology? • Pre-Trib Research Center (Thomas Ice)