The images of the church that God has chosen are powerful! In fact, God very often communicates in His word through imagery and metaphors, and why wouldn’t He given their use “takes an abstract, hard to understand idea and compares it to a simple, concrete, well-understood idea” (“Why Metaphors are Important”, Psychology Today). God’s prophets were literally “seers” — God showed them the revelation they were to preach with beautiful imagery.  In fact, we have many images of the Messianic kingdom, Christ’s church, in their writings several hundreds of years before the first century. These images of the church carry through to the New Testament and are quite pronounced.

How Scripture answers "Top 5: Images of the church?"

The top five images of the church are that it’s a flock11,12,13, city1,2,5,13,14,17,19 (also referred to as “kingdom” and “land”), temple6,8,10, bride2,3,4,7,9, and body15,16,18. Specifically, the teaching power of these images carried throughout scripture are listed below with the IMAGE of the church and the IMPLICATION for Christians:

IMAGES OF THE CHURCHIMPLICATIONS FOR CHRISTIANS
A flock led by Jesus, the “good shepherd”11,12,13…where SHEEP11,12,13 are called to and led by only His voice – the fellowship of God’s word.
A city of God where He dwells6,8,10 and protects5,10,11,14…whose CITIZENS1,3,19 are written into the “book of life”17
A temple for God’s dwelling…whose STONES6,8,10 are made HOLY1,4,6,8,10,14 and PRIESTS14 in His service.
A bride of Christ2,4,7,9…to which Christians are to remain PURE4,6,7,9,10,17 and in SUBJECTION3,4,12,15,17.
A body where Christ is head15,16…into which its MEMBERS are baptized4,16 and grow together as one8,16,18.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Therefore, you have come to Mt Zion, the city of God, the spiritual Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in fine clothing with all the assembly of the firstborn who have their names written in the Book of Life, together with God who judges all and the spirits of believers now perfected, and Jesus the mediator of the new law and the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than Abel’s blood.

The Hebrews writer’s grand conclusion and “victory chapter” in defense of all things “better” that the Christian enjoys.  Ultimately, he argues their endurance is for the spiritual Promised Land – a city that is not made with hands (vs 26) – and they should be “grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (vs 28).

This text correlates with the throne scene and the 144,000 in Revelation 14 as well as the prophet Haggai’s temple/kingdom prophecy in Haggai 2.

Scripture-block application to this question

Christ’s church is like a “city of the living God” (e.g. a “heavenly” or spiritual “Jerusalem”).

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I [John] then saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the original heaven and earth had gone away, and there was no sea. I also saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared just as a bride is adorned for her husband.

The book of Revelation is what John saw and was told to write down (1:1-2). Using “in the Spirit” as a structural marker, the book can be sectioned into four visions in particular:

  • Vision One (1:9-3:22) – Jesus speaking to the seven churches
  • Vision Two (4:1-16:21) – Seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath; “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls” introduces the last two (and therefore possibly connected):
    • Vision Three (17:1-21:8) – Babylon the Harlot
    • Vision Four (21:9-22:5) – Jerusalem the Bride
Scripture-block application to this question

Christ’s church is like a “holy city” (e.g. a “new Jerusalem”) prepared as a bride is for her husband.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Wives should submit to their husbands as they submit to God, since the husband is the head over the wife as Christ is head over the church, His body, and is the Savior of it.  Therefore, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in all things to their husbands.

Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus giving encouragement and instruction.  In this immediate context, Paul is instructing on household relationships.  He speaks specifically to wives (vss 22-24, 33), to husbands (vss 25-33, 6:4), to children (6:1-3), and finally to the master-servant relationship (6:5-9). Furthermore, all of these relationships are likened to Christ and His church throughout.

Scripture-block application to this question

The church is the metaphorical wife to Christ and is to submit to Christ as “the head”.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.  Having been cleansed by the washing of water by the authority of His word, He sets the church apart in order that He might present her to Himselft in splendor, being holy and without any spot or blemish.

Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus giving encouragement and instruction.  In this immediate context, Paul is instructing on household relationships.  He speaks specifically to wives (vss 22-24, 33), to husbands (vss 25-33, 6:4), to children (6:1-3), and finally to the master-servant relationship (6:5-9).

Scripture-block application to this question

Christ is a metaphorical husband to the church (“her”) which He will “present to Himself” (exactly what John sees2). The church is to be holy and pure (like a bride).

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress.

God is great and worthy of praise in His city.  It is His holy mountain, Mt Zion, beautifully high and a joy of all the earth.  It is in the far north and the city of the great King, within which God Himself is its protector.

A Psalm of the Sons of Korah that speaks about the city of God and the great protection and security He gives its citizens.
Scripture-block application to this question

A song of the metaphorical city of God, Mt Zion, where the “great King’ reigns and God is the protector.

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

God’s temple has nothing to do with idols.  We  are God’s temple, just as He said that He would make His dwelling among us and go with us as our God and His people.  Therefore He says we must separate ourselves from idols/the world and touch nothing unclean in order that He will welcome us as a father welcomes his children.

Paul has dealt with numerous issues that have sown division and discord among the Christians in Corinth. In this chapter/section, he addresses yet another problem — apparently, some have negatively influenced the church to the extent that they were false teaching.

Paul cites several passages from the Law and Prophets and combines them together here to apply to first-century Christians (which he has every right to do as an inspired writer). The quotes and references include but are not limited to:

  • Vs 16 – Leviticus 26:12, Exodus 6:7, 29:45, Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 11:20, Zechariah 2:10-11
  • Vs 17 – Isaiah 52:11, Ezekiel 20:34, Zephaniah 3:20
  • Vs 18 – Isaiah 43:6-7, Jeremiah 31:9-10, Hosea 1:10
Scripture-block application to this question

The church is the ‘temple of the living God’ and as a result, Christians are to be holy.

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
I [Paul] feel a divine jealousy for you because I’m the one that married you to your husband and presented you as a pure virgin in Christ.
Paul, while away from Corinth, is being marginalized by other men that Paul refers to as “super-apostles” (vs 5).  They are criticizing what Paul spoke when he “preached God’s gospel” to them “free of charge” (vs 7 xref
Acts 18:8-11
).  He is warning the Corinthians of these individuals’ inferiority in the knowledge of Christ and labels them as “false apostles” and “deceitful workmen” (vs 13).
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul wed those at the church in Corinth to Christ as “pure virgins”.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
You are no longer set apart, but now are fellow citizens with the saints of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus, Himself is the chief cornerstone, in whom the entire building joins together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In Christ, you also are adding together to form a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Paul is pointing out to the Ephesians and Gentile Christians, that though they were at one time “called the uncircumcision by the circumcised” (vs 11), they are now part of the inheritance in Christ as a result of the “peace” that has been preached (vs 18).

Scripture-block application to this question

Christians at the church in Ephesus are “fellow citizens” of God’s household, metaphorically stones that are part of a temple that is holy.

And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me My Husband, and no longer will you call me My Baal.

God says that in that day you will call me My Husband, and will no longer call me My Baal.

Most of the first three chapters of Hosea are about God’s instruction to Hosea to take a wife (a prostitute) and have children, giving them specific names (“No Mercy” and “Not My People”).  It was all a ‘real-life’ enactment to graphically illustrate what the relationship of God to His people had become (1:2).  The disobedience of the people is elaborated on in most of chapter 2.

Introduced here and repeated several times we see the common prophetic phrase “in that day”, especially as we draw to the close of chapter 2 and into chapter three with its derivative “in the latter days”.  In addition to a return to the Lord and David as their king, we find Hosea divulging this time to be when:

  • the peoples’ betrothal to God (2:16, 19-20),
  • a new covenant made that brings peace to the land (2:18) – e.g. a “covenant of peace” (Ezekiel 34:35),
  • the idea (again) that they will be God’s people and He will their God (2:22).
Scripture-block application to this question

While Peter14 and Paul interpret other parts of this Hosea section (chapters 1-3), these verses 16-20 almost certainly refer to the first century (new “covenant” vs 18) and the church that God will “betroth” forever (vss 19-20).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and the Holy Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy them because it is holy.  You are that temple!

Paul is in the midst of correcting the divisions (“I am of…” vs 4) that had arisen in the church in Corinth.  In this context, Paul is clearly speaking of them as a collective group (“body”) or local church that he planted and Apollos watered (vs 6).

In these first four chapters, he emphasizes the need for them to rely upon the word of God that he had shared with them as the foundation to solve these issues.

Scripture-block application to this question

The church is God’s holy temple, where the Holy Spirit dwells and protects.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

I am the door, the only way by which someone can be saved and find spiritual solace.  The imposter comes only to steal, kill and destroy.  Jesus came to give abundant life.  Jesus is the good shepherd, who will always lay down his life for the sheep.

Jesus has just healed the man blind from birth and gives His great dissertation of the good shepherd.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus is the metaphorical shepherd that protects and sacrifices for the sheep (His followers that are saved).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (vs 2)

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
I [Peter] encourage the elders in your midst, as a fellow elder and witness of Christ’s sufferings, as well as a fellow saint: shepherd that flock of God that you are charged with, not as if forced, but in Godly willingness, eagerly instead of for shameful gain, leading the flock by example instead of domineering.  Do this, and when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Peter’s closing to his first letter written to Christians abroad (“the dispersion”, 1:1) that are suffering persecution in the name of Christ.  He is giving some final instructions to church leaders (e.g. elders) and followers (vs 5).

Scripture-block application to this question

The church is like a flock of sheep. Elders preside over local churches as shepherds, as Jesus presides over the entire church/flock. The flock is subject to the shepherd, and ultimately subject to the “chief Shepherd.”

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin but live in righteousness.  By His suffering, you have been saved.  You were straying like sheep but now have returned to the great Shepherd and Overseer of your spiritual being.

Peter is writing to the “elect” of the “dispersion” – Christians that have been scattered throughout Galatia and Asia Minor.  He is encouraging them to stand firm in the face of current persecution and reminding them of the promise they have in and through Christ.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus is the Shepherd and His followers are like sheep.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

You are a select race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people possessed by and for the God that called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light so that you might proclaim His promises. At one time you were nobody’s people without mercy, but now you are God’s people who have received mercy.

Peter is writing to the “elect” of the “dispersion” – Christians that have been scattered throughout Galatia and Asia Minor.  He is encouraging them to stand firm in the face of current persecution and reminding them of the promise they have in and through Christ.

In this chapter, Peter calls forward several prophetic statements including Isaiah 28:16 (vs 6), Psalms 118:22 (vs 7), and Isaiah 8:14 (vs 8).  In verse 9, Peter takes all of the characterizations that God made (through Moses) to his people in

Exodus 19:5-6
and applies them to Christians. Finally, in verse 10, he recalls Hosea 1:6, 9, 10, the same verses that Paul applies to the Gentiles being grafted in by God in
Romans 9:25-26
.
Scripture-block application to this question

God’s people (e.g. Christians) are priests and part of a “holy nation” that is God’s possession.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

All things were put in subjection to Christ by God, including the church which is Christ’s body, who fills all things.

Paul’s opening to the church in Ephesus.  His prayer continues for several more verses, including a third “what” he is praying for them to know – specifically that “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (vs 19).

These verses closely parallel Paul’s letter in Colossians 1:18-20.

Scripture-block application to this question

The church is Christ’s body, and He is the head of all.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.

Just as our bodies have many body parts that all together form one body, so it is with Christ’s body.  Regardless of whether you are Jew or Greek, slave or free, we were all baptized in one Spirit into one body, drinking of the same Spirit.

Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth addresses many serious and difficult issues they were facing.  Division among the body was a recurring theme – addressed in chapter 1 as following after certain prominent men (instead of Christ) – and here in chapter 12 as boasts in various spiritual gifts.

Scripture-block application to this question

The church is Christ’s body, and individuals are members through baptism and are one.

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Nothing unclean will ever enter it nor anyone that is unholy or false, but only those that are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The book of Revelation is what John saw and was told to write down (1:1-2). Using “in the Spirit” as a structural marker, the book can be sectioned into four visions in particular:

  • Vision One (1:9-3:22) – Jesus speaking to the seven churches
  • Vision Two (4:1-16:21) – Seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath; “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls” introduces the last two (and therefore possibly connected):
    • Vision Three (17:1-21:8) – Babylon the Harlot
    • Vision Four (21:9-22:5) – Jerusalem the Bride
Scripture-block application to this question

This “holy city”2 will only be comprised of citizens who have remained holy and are written in the “Lamb’s book of life”.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There is one body and one Spirit.  Likewise, you were called to one hope that is your calling.  There’s also only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over, through, and in all.

Paul is turning to urge the brethren to be unified and to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling”  to which they were called (vs 1).  He is encouraging them to do so humbly and in love (vs 2) while remembering the grace that has been given to each one (vs 7).

Scripture-block application to this question

There is only one body (e.g. church14), unified.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.

By faith, Abraham obeyed the command to go out from where he was to receive an inheritance.  He went not knowing where he was going.  It was by faith that he went to live in the land of promise – a foreign land where he lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob, his sons and heirs with him of the same promise.

The Hebrews writer accounting many of the “heroes of faith.” After Abraham, the writer also mentions his wife Sarah who “received power to conceive” (vs 11).

Scripture-block application to this question

Abraham’s faith drove him to sojourn in “the land of promise” and looked toward a “better country” and “a city” that God had prepared for them (vs 16).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

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