Where was the Church before it was restored?

bible-questionsIf the New Testament church was not restored until the 1800s during the restoration movement, then where was the church of Christ all of those years before? Didn’t Jesus say that Hades would not overcome His church?

We should note, first of all, that even if the New Testament Church were destroyed on the earth that it would still exist spiritually. Jesus is the head of the church, after all; (Eph.5:23; Col.1:18). In addition, Hebrews 12:22-24 states,

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

For the gates of Hades to overcome the church, would it not also have to overcome it in the spiritual realms as well? Certainly, there is more to the church than just its physical presence on the earth.

Second, most protestants themselves believe that the church of Rome (Catholicism) was a corruption of the original church that Jesus built, and that it needed reforming. That’s how the reformation began. So, the same question could be asked of them. Prior to the reformation, where was the church that Jesus said would never be destroyed? What would the denominational answer be to that question, we wonder?

Third, let’s understand that just because popular history doesn’t record a continuous line of faithful New Testament churches that doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist. History is written by the powerful, and they preserve what they will. So, even if we had no historical records concerning the existence of the church that would not mean that there was no New Testament church. It would just mean that we have no record of it.

The point is this: the assumption of restoration does not necessarily imply non existence of that which needs to be restored as the question seems to imply. We recognize that restoration means that that which needs to be restored has deteriorated badly. In what sense? In the sense that not very much of the original is left. But that means that SOME of the original is still there. How can it be restored? By following the pattern for the original. In the case of the church, where do we find that pattern? In the New Testament.

Let us turn there to consider the seed principle. Luke 8:11 says, “the seed is the word of God.” Many denominations look back through the centuries at a continuous succession of clergy back to the apostles and think that this makes them the New Testament church. The Bible teaches that if you plant the same seed (the gospel) today (or in the 1800s) as they (the apostles) did in the first century you’ll have today what they had then (the church of the New Testament).

So it matters not whether the church on earth exists in any particular place at one time or not. Jesus said that his words would never pass away (Matthew 24:35). The church always remains in “seed” form. It cannot, of course, be destroyed from the spiritual realm. The question we should be asking, is “What is that church?” and “How can I be part of it?”