So how, exactly, does the Lord Jesus Christ see each member of humanity?
The answer, it turns out, is more relevant than ever—and has three parts.
The three parts are: God’s Kingdom. God’s Family. God’s Church.
They’re not the same, but how are they different? People in the churches we lead need to know!
At the risk of oversimplifying what the Bible teaches, allow me to use the image of three concentric circles.
In the first and smallest sphere, we see God’s Church.
In the second sphere, which encompasses God’s Church, we see God’s even bigger Family.
In the third sphere, which encompasses both God’s Church and God’s Family, we see God’s much bigger Kingdom.
Thankfully, Scripture doesn’t blur the distinction between these three spheres. So, let’s look at them briefly one by one.
Again, this will greatly help us understand how Jesus saw others during His earthly public ministry—and how He wants us to see people today.
How Jesus Sees His Church
The first and smallest sphere in our diagram, again, is God’s Church.
The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is the Head of His Body, the Church.
The Church is made up of all true followers and disciples of Jesus Christ from A.D. 33 to 2020 and beyond. It’s amazing to realize that you and I belong to the same Church that Mary, Peter, James, John, Paul, Aquila and Priscilla, Lydia, and others belonged to nearly 2,000 years ago.
Thankfully, the Church is front and center of God’s plans for eternity.
Look at what the apostle John wrote in the opening verses of the second to last chapter of the last book of the Bible.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:1-3 NIV).
The exclamation point of heaven isn’t the pearly gates or streets of gold. Instead, the exclamation point of heaven is God with us—and with men and women from every nation, culture, and people group.
So who do we find in heaven? Well, first, we find God’s Church. Revelation 21:14 says: “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (NIV). This speaks about how the Church was built on the faith of Jesus’ closest friends and followers, often called the twelve apostles.
We see the Church referred to again in Revelation 22:16a, the last red letter verse in the Bible. There Jesus says:
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches”
(NIV here and all verses quoted below).
Eternity will be enjoyed by all the authentic followers of Jesus Christ. Yet…
How Jesus Sees His Family
The second sphere in our diagram is God’s Family.
God’s Family stretches from Adam and Eve to today and beyond. God’s Family includes all authentic followers of Jesus Christ who belong to the Church. It also includes many others who live outside the Church.
Among others, God’s Family includes all authentic Jewish believers in Old Testament times.
We see this in Revelation 21:12, where we read that the eternal city of God has twelve gates.
“On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.”
God’s Family includes even more ancient individuals like Noah, Job, and Abraham who believed in God long before the existence of the ancient Israelite nation, the Jewish faith, and the Hebrew Scriptures.
God’s Family also includes the massive numbers of Muslims coming to faith these days. Two former Muslims, who now are outstanding evangelists proclaiming the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, keep me spellbound. They and many others tell us that Muslims are coming to Jesus Christ by the hundreds of thousands around the world. One of the most amazing things is how many report that they first heard from Jesus Christ Himself, who appears to them in dreams and visions.
I am so thankful we can be sure that eternity will be enjoyed by all of God’s redeemed children down through the ages. Among other places, we see this in Revelation 22:16b, where Jesus says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David and the bright Morning Star.” There He speaks both to the ancient Jewish people who believed in Him—and to others, like the ancient magi and a primitive tribal chief, who see God’s reality, power, beauty, and might in creation, and passionately long for that reality in their own lives.
Eternity will be enjoyed by all God’s Family down through the ages.
David Sanford’s book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale House, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His speaking engagements have ranged everywhere from UC Berkeley (CA) to The Billy Graham Center at the Cove (NC).