"If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth"(1 Timothy 3:15).
Today, the Christian church has hundreds of denominations. Every Christian thinks and insists that the church, which he is attending, is right and just. But most of them never study the Bible sufficiently and say so in ignorance. Only the Bible can judge whether the church is following the truth or not.
Some people say that in some ways they are different but it will be gathered to one place so we can choose any church according to our preferences. And every religion is teaching righteousness or goodness so we don't have to consider whether it is right or wrong. But Jesus said there is only one way leading to salvation. He never said any way is okay.
Some other people say, 'I had better read and study the Bible by myself, because there are too many sinners and hypocrites in churches. But remember this; Jesus didn't neglect anyone. He even accepted Judas who betrayed Him. So we have to be careful with the wrong principles or doctrines but we have to be lenient to those who come to church.
Some people even complain, 'Do we have to join a church to be saved?' To answer this question, we only need to heed Jesus' words, "Church is his body, Christ is head of the church"(Cf. Ephesians 2:22-23) "If you are not in Christ, it is like that unconnected branch"(Cf. John 15:4).
In the days of the Old Testament, the people of Israel thought it a disaster that they were taken out of the census of God. Today we have to regard it a downfall to part from church.
So, which one is the real church for salvation? Do you think Jesus will be glad with the fact the church is divided into hundreds of dominations? No way. Jesus wants to gather all the truthful Christians together in one real church. There are some religious Christians in the confusing world; God loves them so much that he can help them walk on the right path. Let's go back to the age when the first church was organized to find out which church is the real church.
At that time, the church was a real church with Jesus Christ. In Revelation, it says, "a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head"(Revelation 12:1).
Clothed with the sun refers to the glory and glow of Jesus. The gospel and the moon under her feet symbolize the sacrificing in the Old Testament. It is like the moon that shines dimly by the reflected light of the sun. The twelve stars on the crown are the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, this woman represents the church of the New Testament Age. It tells us that the faith of the New Testament is based on that of the Old Testament. So a church that says we don't have to read and study the Old Testament misunderstands the principles of the Bible. So it doesn't have the truth.
The history of the Christian church started with persecution. If it had not been from the true God, it would have disappeared. But the more they oppressed the Christian church, the more widely Christianity spread throughout the world. In the time when Paul lived, it was known in Asia and all of Europe. But Satan, who realized he couldn't exterminate the Christian church with persecution, changed his strategy. That was to make the Church itself corrupt and fallen.
As a result, the people who commit corruptions get more powerful and they organized the Roman Catholic Church. But God saved His church from danger as He revealed His will to John, "The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1260 days. When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach.
Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth"(Revelation 12:6, 13-16).
The word, '1260 days', a time, times and half a time is referring to 1260 years, ie.A.D. 538-1798 when Roman Catholic church persecuted the real Church. Roman Catholics insist that the pope is the real inheritor of the apostle Peter and the pastor of English church say that he has received the authority of apostle from the olden days.
By the way, the Bible says that the real church-a woman-fled into the desert for 1260 years. She lived a humble but religious life there, not in a city. But the pope lived with the great power during those days. At that time, darkness covered this world but the light of the truth remained.
We can see an example of the Waldenses people, they tried to read the Bible and spread the Gospel during the Dark Ages. They taught people that they could learn the principles of Jesus directly from the Bible so they were regarded as heretics. They had to hide themselves in the steep valleys in Italy and kept their faith. They educated their children in the faith and wrote some short stories based on the Bible and sent the missionaries all over Europe. The Albigenses also had to hide from the persecution for their faith in the southern Alps. A few centuries after this, America was found and all the faithful Christians, who had been persecuted by the Catholic Church or other national religions, could have a safe place to live and practice their religion.
The Bible predicted, "But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth"(Revelation 12:16).
"The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert."(Revelation 12:14)
When we compare it with the phrase in Deuteronomy 32:11, it symbolizes that God will protect them. Following the prophecy, in the 16th Century there came the religious reformers such as Martin Luther(Germany), Zwingli(Switzerland), Melanchton(Germany), Calvin(France), Knox(Scotland). And severe persecution also decreased because of the discovery of America. England, Germany and Austria proclaimed freedom of religion. Finally the persecution stopped. The days of persecution were shorter than as it is written in the prophecy, it showed how deep the Love of Our Lord is. "For the sake of the elect those days will be shortened."(Matthew 24:22)
Whenever the truth of the Bible was neglected or forgotten, God made the people who felt responsible for it come out and cry out the truth to the world.
The religious reformers in the 16th century were those who were called by God. They rose up to reform the Catholic Church that was far from the principles of the Bible.
But the church didn't listen to them and dismissed them, instead. They were separated from the Catholic Church and called 'Protestant'. But before long, some of the leaders placed emphasis on the things that they thought were right. As result of it, there arose different opinions among Protestants and they made different dominations.
For example, in England the Anglican Church was founded. But because it had the ceremonial form of the Catholic Church, some people who were not satisfied with it made other organizations. The Baptist Churches in England and Europe emphasized Baptism, freedom of spirits and the separation of church and state.
The Anglican Church dismissed John Wesley and his supporters because they emphasized the Holiness of church and Grace of freedom. So they founded the Methodist Church.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the principle of being reasonable and high-criticism penetrated into Christianity, many people started to deny the truth such as the divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth, a spotless life, redemption, ascension, Second Coming and so on.
Therefore God made the brave leaders spread His Gospel again. This caused the births of other denominations. Actually, hundreds of denominations started with good intentions. Every one of them has the truth. But the important thing is that all of them follow the Bible through their deeds. If we can find a church that is putting the truth of the Bible into practice, we can call it a real Church.
As we have studied, the real church was persecuted for 1260 years. But God protected His church during those days. He also said the remnant Church would be persecuted continually. Then, what did the Bible say of this Church?
"Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus"(Revelation 12:17).
We can see the two characters of the church that Satan wants to attack.
First one is to obey God's commandments and the other one is to hold to the testimony of Jesus. God's commandments are Ten Commandments including the Commandment of Sabbath. But many churches neglected this fourth commandment because they believe that the Law was abolished at the cross.
To hold to the testimony of Jesus' is mentioned in Revelation, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy"(Revelation 19:10).
To have the spirit of prophecy, in other words, to have prophets, is the specific character of remnant church. Satan wants to challenge this church. So the remnant church will meet the persecution of the Catholic Church again.
God used the religious reformers to fulfill His work. Like this, He gave the last remnant church the important mission. It is to proclaim the Three Angels' Messages.
The first angel tells the news, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water"(Revelation 14:7). In other words, we are near to the Jesus' Second Coming and we have to keep the Sabbath to honor our Lord. The second angel cries out, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries"(Revelation 14:8).
It points out the status of the corrupted churches that are in a state of confusion.
The third angel says, "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name"(Revelation 14:9-11).
It is the most severe warning that God will judge those who follow the Sunday laws made by Catholic Church and the pope. The three angels' messages are spreading throughout the world. By this, the truth of the Gospel will be restored and God's loving children will get back the pure faith that the first church had in the beginning.