The Perpetuity of Christ – Matthew 28:18-20

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Calvary Baptist is adamant in its understanding that Jesus Christ created the universe and everything in it. We do not accept the theories of atheistic evolution which are is commonly taught today. So while admitting that there are hundreds of breeds of dogs and new ones appearing every year, we say – that is not evolution. I’m not sure that it is even progress. Despite all the new breeds, Jehovah created the first dog, and the first horse, the first worm and the first man. Furthermore we believe that what He created could not continue without the constant support of our gracious God. “For by (Christ Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Even though, I believe that the evidence of the Creator can be seen in creation, the Lord has not left us to observation and science for proof of divine things. Perhaps since the natural man has no desire to find God in creation, the Lord has chosen to leave us with other witnesses of His presence and authority. First of those witnesses is the Word of God, but to proclaim that Word, the Lord has left us human ambassadors. From the days of Adam, Enoch and Noah, the Lord has ordained men to declare the truth about Jehovah. I am sure that there have been many who are not named in the Bible, but other notable witnesses have included Abraham, Jacob, David, Elijah, Elisha, and a host of later prophets. And for a time even the nation of Israel was to be God’ special witness. But that nation has been replaced as God’s ambassador, and the Lord established His churches to become His witness.

In I Timothy 3, Paul wrote to his protégé, telling him that he hoped to visit soon. But the letter was written so that “if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Paul declares, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the church of Christ is the house of God and “the pillar and ground of the truth.” I say generally speaking the church of Christ is the pillar and ground of the truth. It would be just as appropriate – and even more practical to say – EACH church is a house of God, and each church has been commissioned to observe and preserve the truth of God. Paul’s next statement to Timothy in chapter 3 is significant – “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” I Timothy 3:16 contains some of the major points which the Church of God is commissioned to keep.

Matthew 28:20 promises the eternal presence of Christ with His church in this work of serving God.

It was with my tongue firmly in my cheek that I entitled this message “the Perpetuity of Christ.” My first thought was to temporarily divert us from the perpetuity of the Christ’s church. And then the word “perpetuity” isn’t exactly appropriate in regard to the eternal Son of God. One definition of the word suggests a constant renewal of something – something occurs over and over – ad infinitum. In that sort of way “perpetuity” doesn’t apply to Christ. On the other hand, the word also means “never ending” and “never changing.” Even though it is technically appropriate in regard to Christ, better words like —“eternal,” “timeless” and “everlasting” – might be more concise. “And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” There are two kinds of “worlds” in the New Testament. One is the “kosmos” – the physical world – the planet upon which we live. The other is “aion” (ahee-on’) – which is translated “ever’ and “ever more” 75 times, twice as often as it is rendered “world.” The promise of the Lord is that He will be with His church until the end of creation as we know it – until the end of time as we know it. And thus, there is a promise here of the perpetuity of Christ.

One of the greatest prophetic scriptures in all the word of God has to be Micah 5:2. It speaks about the coming Messiah more than seven hundred years before His birth. The context of the chapter is God’s judgment followed by the Millennial kingdom. Verse 2 says – “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” The prophecy of Micah declares that from Bethlehem would come the Eternal One. King David was born in Bethlehem and so was his more important great-great-great grandson, Jesus Christ. I will readily grant that the verse only DIRECTLY speaks about eternity past. But the prophecy is of a great many years in the future, and the implication is of that aspect of eternity which is yet to come. “And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Christ will be able to guide, comfort, strengthen and bless His church until the end of the world, because He is eternal.

I am not going to demand that you believe and repeat my next point. Perhaps the interpretation as I apply it to this verse is a bit of a stretch, but I am absolutely convinced that the theology is true and Biblical. Notice once again the grammar of the English sentence before us – “And lo, I AM with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Jesus did not say,I WILL BE with you always.” He said, “I AM with you alway.” “I am with you tomorrow. I am with you next week and next year.” In case you are wondering, each of those five words is translated from a specific Greek word I am with you alway.”

In John 8, our Lord was in a debate with the Jews, about sin and salvation. They accused Christ of having a devil, which of course He denied. Verse 52 – “Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me…. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” I know that people can get very excited while in the midst of their debates, but why did these Jews pick up stones to try to kill Jesus? It was because they knew the meaning of Jesus’ words “Before Abraham was, I am.” This takes Christ back to the words of God to Moses, from the burning bush in Exodus 3. “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” When Christ said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” he was taking those Jews back to the eternal Jehovah. And I believe that when Christ told his church, “and lo, I am with you alway,” He was doing it again. Jesus Christ is God with all the attributes of God – including eternality.

Parallel to Christ’s perpetuity is the perpetuity of His church.

“And lo, I am with YOU alway, even unto the end of the world.” I believe in the eternal nature of the soul – every human soul will exist throughout eternity. The soul of the wicked will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” And the soul of the child of God will be with Christ for ever. But it is obvious that our lives, and thus our ministries upon the earth, are limited.

Christ was not thinking of Peter or John when he said, “And lo, I am with you alway.” Nor was He talking to the Apostles as a special office within Christianity. He was speaking to His church. And the obvious conclusion is that His churches will exist until the end of the world as we now know it. Because Christ, the Head of the church, is eternal, He suggests that His church is eternal. That is a promise you can take to the bank. It comes from the One in whom rests “all authority.”

During the last two to three hundred years, there have been cults springing up all over the world, claiming to be the restored church of Christ. And the religious assemblies of the Protestant Reformation claimed to be restoring the original churches. But there are at least three problems with that idea. First, the Protestant denominations also claim to have descended from corrupted Catholicism. They were trying to reform what they saw as a fallen church – they were “Reformers.” They were born of a thoroughly corrupt mother – as their founders clearly declared. But as Job 14:4 says, “Who can bring a clean thing out an unclean?” Second, those reformed churches were not teaching New Testament doctrine and they are not today. For example, there is no such thing as infant baptism or immersion by sprinkling – practices of Protestantism. Furthermore it is the official doctrine of those Protestant and Catholic denominations that baptism in some fashion saves people from their sins – including their christened new-born babies. These are just two of the heresies generally taught by Protestantism. Third, there was NO NEED for a restoration of the churches of Christ, because Christ’s true churches were never gone. It was the promise of God that they would exist until the end of the world.

Christ promised the perpetuity of His churches as the only pillar and ground of the truth. And a study of history shows churches standing apart from falling Christendom from the very days of the Book of Acts. As Catholicism developed in the third century, there were churches which were opposed to it, for doctrinal reasons. When Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, Knox, Henry and others started their Protestant churches, there were Anabaptist brethren who refused to join them. Those dissenting churches have borne many names, but many were what we would call “baptistic.”

Matthew 16:13 – “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I know that many people interpret this to mean that Satan can never prevail against the Lord’s church. My interpretation is that hell will never be able to withstand the onslaught of Christ’s church. But the resultant effect is the same – Christ’s earthly church will exist until the end of the world.

Since the days of Moses, the Lord has had His special “house.” First there was the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness. God spoke from the pillar of fire which arose over the tabernacle. That was the place where salvation was centered – the place of the altar. Following Israel’s establishment in the Promised Land, the Lord had another house – the Temple. Again, it was the place from which God spoke. And now for the last two thousand years, the Lord has had another house – God’s Word has been given unto His church, teaching us “how (we) oughtest to behave (ourselves) in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

The universal church is not the house of God, nor is it the Bride of Christ, or the body of Christ. In fact, there is no such thing as a universal, unassembling assembly of believers. And certainly the universal church is not “the pillar and ground of the truth.” All those professing believers, speaking in tongues, baptizing by affusion, sprinkling babies, preaching that Christians can loose their salvation, and a hundred other errors, can not agree on what is the truth. No, Christ established His churches and commissioned them to evangelize, baptize and sermonize the truth of God until the end of the world.

This blessed promise – as an addendum to the Great commission – gives us an incentive to go to the farthest limits of the world so that all the nations may know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Matthew’s Gospel closes in a blaze of glory. Christ is the Messianic conqueror in PROSPECT – and in FACT. Christian history, from the day of that meeting on the Mountain in Galilee, has been about the fulfilment of this promise. Jesus employs the prophetic present tense here – “I am.” He is with His church through every year, every century, every period of prosperity and every period of persecution – until the day that He comes in His glory. And that second coming may be tonight. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”