III. The ORIGIN of the Church.
While, as we have seen, the Church had its origin in the mind of God
"Before the Foundation of the World,"
yet it did not exist until after Christ's Ascension.
In the summer of the third year of Christ's ministry, when Israel had practically rejected Him and He was entering the "Shadow of the Cross," knowing that the offer of the Kingdom would soon be with drawn, and the Church be set up, and wishing to prepare His Disciples for what was coming, He took them over into Cesarea Philippi, and there asked the question "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Matt. 16:13-20.
After they had told Him what others said of Him, He said to them "But whom say Ye that I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said- "Thou Art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And Jesus answered and said unto Peter "Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church; and the 'Gates of Hell' (Hades) shall not prevail against it." Notice that there is here a little play upon words. It is from the Greek word "petros" that the word Peter is taken. "Petros" in the Greek means a stone, the small fragment of a rock, while the Greek word "Petra" means a rock, or large mass of stone. It is significant that in the Greek the word "Petros" is masculine, while the word "Petra" is feminine. The change of gender then is not without significance, as if it would distinguish Peter the man, from his confession that
"Christ Was the Son of God,"
and that upon that confession, or upon Christ THE ROCK, Christ would build His Church. That the "Rock" means Christ Himself is in harmony with other scriptures that speak of Him as a "Rock." That Peter understood that Christ meant that He Himself was the "Rock" is evident from Peter's address in Acts 4:5-12, where he says of Christ
"This Is the STONE
which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner" that is the Corner Stone of the Building.
Peter reaffirms this in his First Epistle (1 Pet. 2:3-8), and thus disclaims that he was the "rock" Christ meant.
The Apostle Paul also declares that by the "Rock" Christ is meant. Writing to the Corinthians he says-
"Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ." 1 Cor.3:11.
In Eph. 2:20-22, Paul declares of the Church that it is being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself Being the CHIEF Corner Stone,"
in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth into a
HOLY TEMPLE in the Lord; in whom we also are builded together for an
Habitation of God through the Spirit.
There could be no foundation for the Church until Christ's death, resurrection and ascension. Then Christ became the Rock and upon Him the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets (New Testament Prophets) was laid, and the first layer of the superstructure of 3000 "Living Stones" was laid on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), and a few days later the second layer of 5000 was added (Acts 4:4), and so on, down the centuries, the Church has been growing as a "Holy Temple" for the "Habitation of God," through the Spirit. The Church then had its origin at Pentecost. If Peter was the "rock" upon which the Church was to be built, it seems reasonable that the "Mystery of the Church" should have been revealed to him instead of to Paul.
By the "Gates of Hell" is meant the "Gates of Hades" or the "Underworld." The "Underworld" is composed of two sections with an "Impassible Gulf" between. See the chapter and chart on the "Spirit World." One of the sections was called "Paradise," the other "Hell." Luke 16:19-31. To the "Paradise" section Jesus went to meet the penitent thief after His death on the Cross, and when He came back from Paradise He took all the "captives" that Death had locked up there, with Him, and locked up that compartment of the Underworld, and HE now has the Keys of "Death and Hades," and so the "Gates of Hell" shall not prevail against the Church. The Roman Catholic Church claims that Peter was the "Rock" on which the Church was to be built, and as Christ promised to Peter the "Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" that therefore the Pope and his successors can unlock the "Gates of Purgatory." But Peter never did have, and never will have the "Keys of Hades," for the Keys of the "Kingdom of Heaven" are not the "Keys of Hades." The "Keys of Hades" are in the hand of Peter's MASTER, who said to the beloved John on the Isle of Patmos-
"Fear not; I am the First and the Last; I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forever more, Amen, and have the 'Keys' of HELL (Hades), and of DEATH." Rev.1:17,18.
This at one stroke destroys the claim of Rome.
As we have seen that the Church is not the Kingdom, the Keys of the "Kingdom of Heaven" therefore cannot be the Keys of the Church. The "Kingdom of Heaven" is the "Mystery Form" of the Kingdom during the absence of the King, and is broader than the Church, and takes in the World, particularly that part known as Christendom. This is seen in the "Kingdom of Heaven Parables" of Matt. 13. The Keys of the "Kingdom of Heaven" that were given to Peter were the "Keys" by which he opened the way into the "Kingdom of Heaven" to the Jews at Pentecost, Acts 2:14-40, and later to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius at Caesarea. Acts 10:34-48.