THE CHURCH IN EPHESIANS
Ephesians 1:22-23 says that not only has Christ been exalted to be Head over all things, He is also Head over all things to the church. This indicates that His being Head over all things is related to the church and is for the church. The church is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.
In 5:25-27 the apostle tells us that Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Furthermore, not only did He shed His precious blood to cleanse us from our sins, but He also cleanses us by the washing of the water in His word that we may become a glorious church. As we have seen, the Spirit and the word are one, and the word is the Spirit. Therefore, the water in the word is the Spirit in the word. The Lord washes the church with the Spirit in the word. This washing is different from the washing of the precious blood. The precious blood washes away our sins and filthiness objectively, whereas the water washes away our spots and wrinkles subjectively. Spots, which are of the natural life, are scars left by the wounded natural life, whereas wrinkles are related to oldness. Hence, spots and wrinkles cannot be cleansed by the precious blood. Only the water in the Lord’s word, the Spirit of life operating within us, can wash away our spots and wrinkles and replace them with something new. The Lord does not perform an operation, like a plastic surgeon does, to remove our spots and wrinkles. Instead, He nourishes us as a nutritionist and removes our spots and wrinkles by the way of metabolism. The Lord uses the water in His word to cleanse the church of the spots from former wounds and the wrinkles due to oldness, thus making the church a glorious church, holy and without blemish.
Verses 28-32 say that we are all members of Christ. Everyone cares for his body and cherishes, rather than hates, his own body. In the same manner, Christ nourishes and cherishes the church, which is His Body. Husbands and wives are a type of Christ and the church. Therefore, husbands must love their wives as their own bodies. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. In like manner, Christ and the church not only are one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17) but also have become one Body (Eph. 1:22-23), as typified by a husband and a wife becoming one flesh. That is why Paul said that he spoke this with regard to the great mystery—Christ and the church (5:31-32).
THE CHURCH IN 1 TIMOTHY
First Timothy 3:15 says that the church is the house of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth. This means that God lives subjectively in the church, and He acts, moves, and works in the church. The church, which is the pillar and base of the truth, holds, bears, and testifies all the real things concerning Christ and the church. Therefore, verse 16 says that the mystery of godliness is great, that is, that God was manifested in the flesh.
THE CHURCH IN REVELATION
The first three chapters of Revelation reveal that while the church is on earth, there is only one church in each locality. The seven churches are golden lampstands in seven localities. Within, the church needs the Spirit, and without, it needs a practical expression in localities. In 1:11, the Lord Jesus charged the apostle John to write what he saw and send it to the seven churches: “To Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamos and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Had there been only one federated church, one epistle would have been sufficient. However, the Greek word for to is used before every place named. Moreover, chapters two and three prove that there were definitely seven epistles written to seven churches respectively, not one general epistle to seven places. This indicates that the seven churches did not form a federation; they were churches in seven different places. Therefore, in 1:12 and 20 the Lord Jesus told John that the seven golden lampstands are the seven churches. This shows us that there is one church in one locality and that each local church is a golden lampstand.
Eventually, in the last two chapters of Revelation there is the ultimate manifestation of the church—the New Jerusalem. This city, the New Jerusalem, is built as a golden mountain, on the top of which is the throne of God and of the Lamb. There, God is the light, and the Lamb, Christ, is the lamp. Therefore, this golden mountain is the ultimate consummation of the golden lampstand shining forth God. In this age, the church appears in every place as a golden lampstand in each locality. In eternity, the church is only one, as the New Jerusalem, the unique golden lampstand. This is indeed very mysterious.
This New Jerusalem, with the golden mountain as its base, is built with precious stones. There are twelve gates all around, and each gate is a pearl. The wall as well as the foundation are built with jasper and precious stones. Within the city, there is a throne, out of which comes a street which passes by the twelve gates in a spiraling manner. In the middle of the street flows a river of water of life which proceeds out of the throne, and on the two sides of the river grows the tree of life. If we study this picture in detail and pray-read and digest it thoroughly, our eyes will be opened to clearly see what the church is.
(Four Crucial Elements of the Bible, The—Christ, the Spirit, Life, and the Church, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)