THE BEGINNING AND THE END
There are two important verses spoken by the Lord in the New Testament regarding the church. One is at the beginning of the New Testament in the book of Matthew, and the other is at the end in the book of Revelation. The first time the word church is used is by the Lord in Matthew 16:18. In this verse and its context (vv. 16-17, 19) we see three things which are related to one another: Christ, the church, and the kingdom. Whenever Christ is revealed to man, immediately the church must come into view. The church can only be produced by knowing Christ, and the church must be produced by the realization of Christ. After Peter came to know Christ, immediately the Lord Jesus said that He would build His church, against which the gates of Hades would not prevail.
Then following the church, the kingdom is mentioned. Christ produces the church, and the church brings in the kingdom. Where Christ is realized, the church is produced. Then the church will bring in the kingdom, the reign, and the authority of God on the earth. Therefore, the church is the key.
The Lord is the Alpha, and He is also the Omega. He speaks something about the church in the first book of the New Testament, and then in the last book, as a consummation of the whole Bible, He speaks to the churches about the church. The book of Revelation is not written to individuals but to the local churches. “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (1:8) and “What you see write in a scroll and send it to the seven churches” (v. 11).
If we are outside the local churches, we have no position or standing to take the book of Revelation, for it was not written to individual believers. It was written to the local churches, though the Lord called individual believers to listen to it. We must be in the local church; then we are qualified with the position and standing to accept this book and listen to what the Lord Spirit speaks to His churches.
The Lord Jesus never forgets what He begins. We may forget, but He never forgets. In the first book of the New Testament, He spoke about the building of the church, and what He began He will accomplish. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, to accomplish the building up of the church.
In the beginning He spoke about the universal church, but practically speaking, when He comes to the end, it is the local churches. The Lord begins with the church, and He ends with the churches. The church is universal, and the churches are local. The local churches are more practical to us than the universal church. The local churches are the accomplishment of the universal church. God needs the local churches to fulfill His eternal purpose of the universal church.
May our eyes be opened to see the economy of the mystery according to God’s eternal purpose which He purposed before the beginning of creation. We must see the church according to the eternal plan which God planned in Christ in eternity.
(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)