Jesus: How did Jesus prepare His people for the coming of the church?
Before a product hits the market, politician hits the campaign trail, or movie hits the screen, a great deal of advance marketing is done to let people know and prepare for what is coming. The hope is to increase awareness and excitement that translates to action.
Before His death and resurrection Jesus did something similar announcing His plan for His Church, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” [FOOTNOTE: Matt.16:18] Jesus’ imagery is one of spiritual warfare. Satan has held people captive and surrounded them with bars to hold them in their cell. The bars are things like lies, temptations, addictions, and deceptions that keep them in bondage. The Church is to be the equivalent of a spiritual military force coming in to kick down gates and set captives free.
This offensive, on-mission kind of Church is possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit. The only way to battle the unholy spirits at work in the world is by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. In the days leading up to His death, Jesus also said, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you…When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” [FOOTNOTE: John 16:7–14]
Following His resurrection, just prior to his ascension back into heaven, Jesus promised the first Christians, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [FOOTNOTE: Acts 1:8] Jesus’ promise has come true and remained true every day since. The Church has exploded on the earth from one hundred and twenty people in one nation with one language to a few billion people in a few thousand languages in countless nations. What accounts for the power of the church is not its amazing leadership, political strength, or favorable press. The only thing that can explain the power of the Church is the presence of the Spirit.
Before dying, rising, and returning to His throne over all, Jesus anticipated a question that would arise after He departed. God is holy in Heaven, and we are sinful on earth. When Jesus came down, He bridged an infinite gap that no one and nothing else could fill. However, when He returned to Heaven, would we be orphaned without God’s presence, and abandoned by a God like a father who walked out on his family? Jesus promised the family of God called the Church, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” [FOOTNOTE: John 14:16–17; 25-26]