Lesson 21 - God’s Church Identified
According to a recent handbook of American churches, there are more than 250 major religious groups in the United States. In addition, there are hundreds of smaller independent churches, sects, and religious groups. Each one professes to represent God. Each one claims to be teaching truth. At the same time, each group is different from the others. Teachings of one church or group often vary significantly from another. Obviously all these churches with their conflicting teachings cannot be right.
The average person is confused by this bewildering array of churches. Some people have even concluded that the discovery of truth is extremely personal. They argue that truth is a matter of opinion. “You have your truth and I have mine,” they say. “You look at it your way and I will look at it mine.”
This leads us to some important questions.
Is finding truth a matter of chance? Does God have a true church today? Does it make any difference which church I attend? If God has a true church, how can I find it?
This lesson will help you answer these important questions directly from the Bible itself. Throughout the history of the world God has always had a people who followed Him. This group of loyal and committed followers have composed His church in every age.
1. How does God identify His genuine followers in the early beginnings of Old Testament history? Genesis 26:4, 5Answer: Obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws
Because Abraham was faithful to Him, God desired to acquaint the nations of this world with a knowledge of the true God through the family (or church) of Abraham. Abraham's son, Isaac, passed God's blessing to his son Jacob. Jacob's 12 sons became the founders of the nation of Israel. Israel was the church of the Old Testament. God desired to reveal a knowledge of His glory to the world through His church, Israel.
2. How does God describe His special relationship with Israel? Deuteronomy 7:6, 9
Answer: A people holy to the Lord your God and His treasured possession
Although at times they were unfaithful, Israel remained God's chosen people (or church) throughout the Old Testament. God's people or church are described as those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9, NKJV).
3. What instructions did Jesus give to His New Testament followers? John 14:15
Answer: If you love Me, you will obey what I command
In both the Old and New Testaments, God identifies His followers as those who love Him and keep His commandments. Love always leads to obedience.
4. What clear identifying characteristics of the true church does God give? Revelation 12:17; 14:12
Answer: Those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus
The King James version of the Bible uses the word "remnant" in Revelation 12:17 to picture God's true church. Some translations, such as the Revised Standard Version, say rest of her offspring. The word remnant literally means those who are left. In the setting of Revelation the remnant are those who are left or remain faithful to God. In both the Old and New Testaments, from the beginning of time to the end of time, God has a group of people who lovingly obey Him by keeping His commandments. They are the faithful ones, the ones left. Like the New Testament church their allegiance to God's truth is uncompromising.
5. What does the apostle Paul call the New Testament church? 1 Timothy 3:15
Answer: The church of the living God, the pillar and the foundation of the truth
The New Testament church is based on the word or truth "of God". In Matthew 16, verse 18, Jesus promised, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (NKJV). Christ has a church, an organized group of faithful, obedient believers.
6. How universal is Christ's last-day church? How widespread will His end-time message be preached? Revelation 14:6
Answer: To every nation, tribe, language and people
God's last-day church, preaching His final message, must be an international movement proclaiming His truth to the world.
7. What is the central message of Christ's church today? Revelation 14:6
Answer: The eternal gospel
The gospel is the good news that Jesus has forgiven our sins, that through His death we can become the children of God, and that through His power we can live transformed, obedient lives.
8. What time period does God's last-day church announce we are living in? Revelation 14:7
Answer: The hour of his judgment
The true church teaches we are living in the judgment hour preliminary to the coming of Christ. It has an urgent message for the world. It is an Adventist Church. It teaches that Christ came once and that He is coming again.
9. In the light of the urgent end-time message of the judgment hour, what are the three things God's true church urges God's people to do? Revelation 14:7
a. Fear God
b. Give Him glory
To give glory to God is to honor Him in all that we do, including eating and drinking. It is a message of obedience to God's physical and moral laws.
c. Worship Him who made the heavens
The true church calls men and women to worship on the Bible Sabbath as a memorial of Creation (Revelation 4:11; Exodus 20:8-11). It is an invitation to return to the Bible Sabbath of the seventh day, Saturday.
10. What significant or important announcement is made in Revelation 14:8?
Answer: Babylon is fallen
Babylon is a symbol of religious confusion. Wine is a symbol of false doctrine that confuses the judgment. God's last-day message calls us from falsehood to truth.
11. Whom is Revelation's message a warning against worshiping? Revelation 14:9
Answer: The beast and its image
12. How can we avoid worshiping the beast? Revelation 14:12
Answer: Have the faith of Jesus Obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus
The true church warns men and women not to accept the counterfeit worship of the beast. In a future lesson we will study the subject of the mark of the beast. The final crisis will be over worship. God calls us from the false to the true. He graciously invites us to worship the Creator on the seventh-day Sabbath as a sign of our allegiance to Him.
13. According to Revelation's end-time message, what does the true church teach about death? Revelation 14:13
Answer: They will rest from their labor
The true church teaches the truth about death. It clearly reveals that death is a peaceful rest until Jesus returns (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
Characteristics of God's True Church
• It is a worldwide movement.
• It proclaims the everlasting gospel.
• It teaches that we are living in the judgment hour and emphasizes that Jesus is coming soon.
• It leads men and women to obey God's commandments.
• It teaches men and women to "give glory" to God in what they eat or drink. It helps them to understand the necessity of refraining from alcohol, tobacco, and unclean foods.
• It explains the significance of worshiping our loving Creator on the seventh-day Sabbath.
• It leads men and women out of religious confusion to God's truths.
• It warns against accepting any sign of human authority (the mark of the beast) in the place of God's Word.
• It teaches that death is a peaceful rest until the resurrection.
There is only one religious movement in the world that is preaching these heaven-sent messages of Revelation 14. There is only one church in the world that is urgently proclaiming the truths of the three angels of Revelation 14 the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not merely another denomination. It is not merely another religious body littering the landscape of churches. It is a divine movement of destiny raised up by God. It is a prophetic movement proclaiming God's last-day truth.
* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.