“And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” (Isa. 58:12)
The Gathering Together of the Saints
True Christians from all backgrounds share an expectation commonly known as the rapture of the church (see 1 Thess. 4:16-17). Although debate surrounds the timing of this event, Scripture assures us that at the last trumpet we will be caught up to “meet the Lord in the air” (v.17). So, while critics will say that Francis does not believe in the rapture, the truth is that I do. However, it is plain that, according to many Scriptures, there will also be a time of unusual grace prior to the rapture in which the living church of Jesus Christ, like a bride, makes “herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).
During this unparalleled season of preparation, those who are alive in Christ shall realize a level of holiness and purity that will be the overflow of the presence of Jesus Himself manifested through the church (1 Thess. 3:11-13; Eph. 5:26-27; Phil. 1:9-10). The result of this new spiritual fullness will be a new level of unity. Faultfinding and gossip will disappear. In their place will be intercession and love. Wholeness will return to the citywide church. This also means that the ambition and division we see today between congregations will be identified as sin, which will be repented of before Jesus returns.
The truth of this message must be made clear, for most Christians consider oneness within the body inconceivable before Jesus returns. They have not discerned nor warred against the enemy’s lies, which have conditioned believers to accept strife and sectarianism in the church. It is my passionate conviction that the church that will ultimately be raptured will be free of strife and carnal divisions – it will be a bride “having no spot or wrinkle” who has “made herself ready” for her bridegroom (Eph. 5:27; Rev. 19:7).
According to Scripture, during the rapture, “in a twinkling of an eye” our bodies will be changed (1 Cor. 15:52). But our character, that is, the essence of who we have become, will remain intact. There will be no regrets or wondering how “those from that church” made it, for the living bride will be a church built together in love, meeting in separate buildings but serving the one and only Lord. These true disciples of the Lord Jesus will be known for their intense and holy love for one another – not merely in their individual local assemblies but within the context of a citywide church.
It is highly significant that the scriptural term for the rapture is called the “gathering together” (2 Thess. 2:1; Matt. 24:31). What ultimately will be consummated in our gathering together physically to the Lord will be precipitated by a spiritual gathering together of His body on earth. Concerning the era known as the “end of the age,” Jesus taught that the “good fish” shall be “gathered . . . into containers” (Matt. 13:48). And in the context of spiritual warfare, Jesus warned, “He who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).
This scattering, dividing process among the Lord’s sheep has gone on long enough. Jesus has set His heart to bring healing and unity to His body. In this regard, through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord spoke a somber warning. He said, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” (Jer. 23:1). The Son of God is not pleased with the carnal divisions in His body! Indeed, the Lord promises to chasten those pastors who continue to build their kingdoms without laboring together to build His. To them He says, “I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds” (v. 2).
In the tenth chapter of John, the Lord makes His goal clear: there shall be “one flock with one shepherd” (v. 16). He reveals it is the wolf nature which “snatches [the sheep] and scatters them”; and it is the hireling nature that allows the scattering to occur. But His promise to His sheep says this: “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock…and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer . . . nor will any be missing” (Jer. 23:3-4). The pastors of the last Christian church will be under-shepherds to the Lord Jesus; they will be anointed to gather together His remnant and under that anointing shall be “fruitful and multiply.”
Indeed, right now, in the context of humbling ourselves and submitting our hearts to His will, we are participating in being “gathered together.” This process will progressively increase until the barriers between brethren are melted by the overcoming nature of Christ’s love. Before Jesus returns, we will truly be “one flock with one shepherd.” We will be a holy and blameless sheepfold, meeting in different buildings but baptized into one body.
“Thus says the Lord God, ‘Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord'” (Ezek. 13:3-5).
The Lord is raising up a remnant of true Christ-followers. When they see a need in the church or their community, instead of just finding fault, they go “up into the breaches” and stand in the gap. They are not just critics; they are agents of redemption.
It is easy to find fault and do nothing. Yet, when we see a battle raging in another congregation, the fact is that all churches are imperfect. The issue is not whether we can see what is wrong, but will we stand in love and prayer until that which is wrong is made right?
You may be thinking, “You don’t understand; I have revelation of the end-time move of God. These churches barely believe in Jesus.” Even if a church is weak, the Lord’s heart is such that He will not extinguish “a dimly burning wick” (Isa.42:3).
Even if we consider ourselves more spiritual than other churches, that is not a reason to stand aloof from their need. Hebrews tells us that “without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater” (Heb. 7:7). If you are truly “greater,” without a hint of pride you will seek ways to be a blessing to struggling churches. Your Christlike love will help carry them through their battle.
If we truly have Christ’s heart, we will desire to see the entire body of Christ brought forth, not just our local assemblies. We will respect and appreciate the diversity of ways through which Christ reveals Himself in the church. Remember, there are four Gospels, not just one. Each provides a different angle into the nature of Christ. We need the variety of churches to reach the variety of people in our cities.
In truth, Jesus said that the greatest among us would become the “servant of all” (Mark 9:35). If a church in your city holds to and confesses Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then that church is needed to complete God’s work in the city. As you join one another for daily or weekly prayer, you will be blessed and surprised by God’s preparation of others. Do not come with an attitude to teach or lead, but to love and serve. In this, God is not looking for leaders but followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we do not adjust to His will, we will be unable to stand against the enemy. Indeed, the day in which we live is not a day of peace; it is a time of war, and a house divided cannot stand. God is gathering us together not only to Him but also against the spiritual forces of wickedness in every region. Therefore, the breaches between us must be filled, the walls built, and we must learn to stand together in the day of the Lord.
You Be the People
You do not have to go to Bible college to find fault with the church. In fact, if you remember, you could find fault with the church even before you were a Christian. However, if you want to be like Christ, you will position yourself to see God’s mercy triumph.
We are called to stand “in the gap.” What is the “gap”? The gap is the distance between the way things are and the way things could be once they are redeemed. God calls us to stand in that space between realities, to cast down the accuser of the brethren and pray for redemption!
Some of us have cried for years, “Where are those who will lead us into Christ’s fullness?” We have assumed that God had others in mind. What the Lord is saying, however, is, You be the men and women that others are looking for. You be the peacemakers, the sons and daughters of God that bring healing and order and love to His church.
The responsibility is upon each of us. There is a tremendous job ahead, but the Lord Himself has promised, “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell” (Isa. 58:12).
Let us lay our lives down in committed faith believing that in our lifetimes, on this earth and in our communities the corporate church of Jesus Christ will be restored, united and made ready as a bride for her Beloved!
–adapted from The Three Battlegrounds