The 'Church' Defined
Whenever we read 1Thessolonians 4:16 we see the following two word phrase ‘In Christ’ which in and of itself has profound implications regarding The Church which is aka The Body of Christ.
1 Thes. 4:16
Therefore, it will be the small but limited scope of this article to offer a reasonable theological explanation regarding our understanding of this simple but atomic phrase ‘In Christ’. In Romans 5:17-19 Apostle Paul reveals the explosive contrast between the sin of one man (Adam) whereby ‘death’ was passed upon ALL mankind and the ‘righteousness’ of one man (Jesus) whereby the gift of life would be passed upon ALL mankind hence, through one’s faith in the righteous work of Jesus in the shedding of His own Blood for the forgiveness of Sin and the ‘Redemption’ of ALL mankind. (emphasis added)
Going forward, the phrase ‘In Christ’ is more than just one being a ‘member’ of the Body of Christ but rather encompasses the ‘OWENERSHIP’ of the Redeemed Body of Christ by the Redeemer Jesus Himself. It is this ‘ownership’ that reveals the true meaning of being ‘In Christ’ – it is to be ‘owned’ by Christ. Apostle Paul reveals in both 1Cor. 6:19-20 and 7:23 that OUR spirits are NOT our own but that we are the property of God and that we have been purchased/redeemed by the price of the Blood of the Lamb – Christ. (emphasis added)
1 Cor. 6:19-20
Therefore, by Scriptural definition to be ‘In Christ’ is to be ‘Owned’ of and by Christ. Meanwhile, the phrase ‘In Christ’ could NOT be applied in the times of the Old Church because the redemption price had NEVER been paid by the planned Redeemer Christ. However, the Old Church was looking ‘forward’ in faith and practice to the coming successful work of the redemptive Cross of Christ whereby they ALSO could become a part of or members of the ‘Owned’ of Christ. The ‘righteous’ work of the Cross was to include Christ ‘ownership’ of the spirits of ALL Redeemed hence, BOTH the Old Church and the New Church.
The redemptive work of the Cross then extends with Christ’s ownership of the spirits of righteous Abel to ALL Redeemed up to and including the 2nd Advent of Christ. It should be noted that we will not endeavor to include nor explore the events of the Millennial Reign here.
Meanwhile, it must be understood that as far back as Abel were the members of the ‘total’ Church and that these original members were in NO way Jews as was Abel, Noah, etc., but nonetheless potential members faithfully abiding by the then imposed Covenants awaiting their ‘redemption’ by Christ. The Old Church was founded upon extreme limitations and Covenants in relation to the promises of the New Church and the New Covenant. However, it was still The Church in progress.
The Holy Spirit was NOT given as a promised ‘Comforter and Gift’ to the Old Church because the infilling of the Holy Spirit as stated was a gracious GIFT ‘sent’ to the New Church from and by Christ after His Redemptive purchase (ownership) of ALL Churches – both Old and New. This is why most righteous John the Baptist who was then a ‘member element’ of the Covenants of the Old Church and was declared by Jesus Himself to be the ‘least’ in contrast to the better promises of the New Church. John himself was awaiting and faithfully looking forward to his own individual ‘Purchase’ by the Blood of the Lamb. He too desired to be ‘In Christ’ – Owned of Christ.
Meanwhile, it was at the ‘finished’ work of the Cross that BOTH the spirits of the Old Church which as stated extended all the way back to Abel (perhaps even Adam and Eve) and the spirits of the New Church became the PROPERTY of the Redeeming Lamb of God – Christ and His One Body. This ‘ownership’ and integration of the ‘total Church’ is evidenced in Ephesians 4:8 when Christ entered Paradise which was then in the heart of the earth and led ALL those who were awaiting their ‘redemption’ and the ‘way’ to Heaven (Christ) as a result of Christ Himself authoring their/our (mankind) ‘reconciliation’ back to God which did NOT exist prior to Christ. It was then and only then that the GIFT of the Holy Spirit was ‘sent’ by Christ as a gift of ‘earnest payment’, a promise to ALL those who then, NOW and hereafter will believe. Thus, that GIFT is none other than The Comforter and the ‘Fire’ declared by John which by ordinance and design was NOT part of the promise of the Old Church. However, Redemption by the Blood of the Lamb WAS.
Therefore, the necessity of ALL Blood Sacrifices for Sin was finished at the Cross for evermore because the TOTAL debt for the Sin of ALL mankind of ALL ages had/has been paid by the Redeemer Christ. To this end, then Christ became the absolute Master of ALL those redeemed from ALL ages and they became HIS servants and the ‘property’ of Redeemer Himself thus, ‘In Christ’.
When we as Christians speak of the Church we tend to think in terms of only the New Church, this is technically incorrect. The Total Church, the absolute Body of Christ, is and has been a work in progress and continues as such even now and is ONE BODY and is OWNED by ONE HEAD and that Head is Christ. As such, no matter what the age, dispensation nor time Christ ‘Bought’ ALL Redeemed – He owns THEM!!!
Once again, to be ‘In Christ’ is to be ‘OWNED’ by Christ. For us to assume that the Church must be removed (raptured) as a mandatory condition for the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th Week with the Jews is not agreeable. Why? The Rapture was designed as an instrument from God for the changing of the living Redeemed immediately AFTER the Resurrection of the dead in Christ. (1st. Thes. 4:16-17)
Scripture plainly reveals that God’s plan of Redemption by the Blood of the Lamb ‘continues’ as a parallel to the ‘re-grafting’ of the ‘natural Olive Branch’ (Jews) during the final fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th Week and during the Great Tribulation – the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. Moreover, ALL of those redeemed even during this time are still under the ownership of Christ and thus an element/component part of the Body of Christ – The absolute Church.
In summary, Christ Himself declared the following: (emphasis added)
Therefore, the little two word phrase ‘In Christ’ is about far more than simply mere Church membership regarding the Old Church vs. New Church but, rather more about the total OWNERSHIP of ALL Redeemed spirits from ALL ages which have been and will be BOUGHT and paid for by the Blood of the Lamb – Jesus Christ.