The New Testament belief is that the Messiah came the first time to bear the sins of the world and offer Himself as the atoning sacrifice for all mankind. Through Him both Jews and Gentiles may partake of the promises given by God to Israel and be reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:11-18) and join the believing church. In the original Greek of the New Testament the word for church, ‘ekklesia’, means ‘the called out ones’, in other words people who have been called out of the world to believe in Jesus as Messiah. It never means a building or a religious organisation. It always means a group of people. The purpose of the true church in this age is to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth as Jesus told them to before He departed into heaven:
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the So and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always even to the end of the world.” Matthew 28.18-20.
This does not mean that all will receive it. The conditions of tribulation at the end of this age make it clear that the majority will reject it. Jesus taught that this message will bring division between those who accept it and those who reject it:
“And this is the judgement that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light that it may clearly be seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.” John 3:19-21.
Those who do accept the Lord through coming to the point of genuine repentance and faith in Him experience the ‘new birth’ which Jesus spoke about to Nicodemus:
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3.
As a result of this new birth the believer receives the Holy Spirit who begins the process of sanctification which aims at reproducing in us the character of the Lord:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22.
Since the whole process is voluntary the extent to which we show the character of the Holy Spirit depends on the extent to which we submit our lives to Him. It also needs to be pointed out that there are multitudes who profess to be Christians who have never experienced this ‘new birth’ and are therefore not Christians at all in the true sense and do not represent the true church.
This age will come to an end at the second coming of Jesus when He will judge mankind on the basis of how we have responded to His offer of salvation. As we have said this offer has first to be given to all nations which is now being done by the evangelistic work of the believing church. The rejection of this offer by the majority will lead to days of tribulation which will bring this age to a close as Jesus told the disciples when they asked Him, “What will be the sign of your coming and the close of the age?” His answer told of wars, famines, earthquakes, plagues, persecutions and deception and said that the age would end with ‘great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.’ Matthew 24:21. This again is in perfect harmony with the words of the Prophets who also taught that there will be tribulation in the end of times:
“At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was seen there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.” Daniel 12:1. See also Isaiah 24, Jeremiah 30, Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 12-14.
(from The Messiah Factor by Tony Pearce, chapter 9)