Journey 4 The People of God

Day 1: The Crossroads

For hundreds of years, the Jewish nation had been looking for a Messiah. They knew the Scriptures—God would send a deliverer who would “strike the earth” and “slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4), who would “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). To the Jews of the first century, it seemed obvious—this Messiah would free their nation from the yoke of Roman captivity and lead their people into a golden age of peace and prosperity, ruling the nations “with a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9) and crushing Israel’s enemies like chaff (Isaiah 41:15-16).

But they were wrong. The Messiah wasn’t coming to overthrow the Romans.

He was coming to die.

As we learned in Journey 3, the entire plan of God hinges on that sacrifice—and it was part of the plan “from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

Today, with almost 2,000 years of hindsight, we can understand what the Jews of the first century didn’t—namely, that the Messiah promised by God would be coming to earth twice. His second coming, pictured by the Feast of Trumpets, will see Him returning to the earth as a conquering King (Revelation 19:11-16; Isaiah 11:4). At His first coming, though, Jesus Christ was destined to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

His disciples (who were also Jewish) had a hard time coming to terms with a Messiah who had come to die. When Jesus told His disciples that He would “be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21), one of His disciples rebuked Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (verse 22). Even after it happened—even after Jesus was crucified and resurrected—the disciples still had their minds on Israel’s return to greatness. “Lord,” they asked, “will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

They were missing the point. Jesus hadn’t come to the earth to establish the Kingdom just yet. But He had come to establish something else:

The Church of God.

During His time on the earth, Jesus made a promise to His disciples. He told them, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). After His resurrection, He gave them specific instructions: “Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Later, He elaborated: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, emphasis added).

Christ didn’t intend for His disciples to sit still. His sacrifice made the plan of God possible, and now there was work to be done. The door to salvation had been opened, and the Kingdom of God was on its way. It was time for the world to know about it, so Christ gave His disciples a mission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The mission has two parts—spread the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) and nurture the Church established by Christ (John 21:15-17). Both goals were designed to build off the other. As the gospel spread, the Church could grow, and the more the Church grew, the easier it would be to spread the gospel.

Today, nearly 2,000 years later, there’s still work to be done. The gospel must still be preached. The Church must still be nurtured. Jesus knew He was leaving His disciples with a mission that would stretch far beyond their lifetimes—which is why He said, toward the end of His human life, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

Faced with His own impending death, Christ’s focus was on the disciples He was leaving behind. He prayed that God the Father would give them the strength and focus to do the job they had been given—but more than that, He prayed for all those who would be coming on the scene later. He prayed for all those who would one day hear and respond to the message of the Kingdom (Acts 2:39).

He was praying, in other words, for you.

For three Journeys now, you’ve been digging into the Word of God. You’ve been discovering who He is, why evil exists and what He’s going to do about it. And now?

Now you have a decision to make.

You’ve seen a bird’s-eye view of the plan of God, but where you fit in it depends on what you do with the knowledge you’ve been given.

Knowledge, after all, is just that. Knowledge. It doesn’t do anything; it doesn’t change anything. It simply exists. What makes the difference is what we choose to do with it.

The easiest choice is to ignore it. Cram it into a mental filing cabinet and let it be nothing more than an interesting collection of facts.

But this Journey is for the person who understands that it’s not enough to just know about God, that it’s not enough to know why He allows evil—that it’s not even enough to know His plan for the entire world.

This Journey is for the person who is ready to take that knowledge and do something with it.

Hopefully, that person is you.

But before we can talk about what needs to be done, we have to take a step back and understand what already has been done. You’re a single thread in a tapestry that stretches thousands of years into the past. Before you can understand where you belong and why, it’s vital to understand the threads that came before you.

As we take this Journey, we’re going to look at the incredible power that has tied God’s people together through the ages. And then we’re going to explore just what the Church is, why God wants you in it, and what that means for you.

The Jews of the first century weren’t wrong to be looking for a conquering Messiah. The Bible is clear—that Messiah is coming. Jesus Christ will return to this earth “with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He will establish a Kingdom that “shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44).

But that’s in the future. It hasn’t happened yet. It could happen soon, but there’s also a chance it might not happen for some time. And that’s okay—because in the meantime, Christ has given His Church a job to do.

Are you ready to get to work?

Go to day 2

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