From my understanding of Scriptures and the things our Lord has taught me, I have a picture of how the Church of Christ, the Bride of Christ, will look in the end times. I would like to paint that picture here.
1. The end-times Church will be small. The Church now is large, but many will fall away and only those who patiently endure and remain faithful to their first love, Jesus Christ, will survive. The strategy, therefore, should be to strengthen the faith of Christians while welcoming those who want to follow Christ.
2. The Church will be very united. The universal Church of Christ is both multi-cultural and multi-denominational. That is one of the greatest characteristics of the Body of Christ; it is richly diverse. This diversity, however, sometimes — maybe, often — pulls us in different directions, making it difficult for us to move forward with unity of purpose. But, the Church of Christ will get past such internal strife and become a very united Body. The diversity will remain, but it will no longer divide us. Instead, that diversity will be harnessed for the continuing survival of the Bride.
3. The Church will be a community. As it is today, the Church will be made up of local churches interconnected to form the larger living organisation which is the Body of Christ. But, the local church of the future will be smaller and very communal in character. The relationship with Jesus will be the focal point of the community and it will influence all other horizontal relationships. We will have to learn how to relate with people who are very different from us. Local churches will not have a “corporate” face but the reality of Christ in the individual Christian’s life and by extension the community’s will be ever present.
The era of mega churches, too, will be over. World culture in the end times would not be conducive for the existence of big churches. Small churches will have better chances of survival. So, there will be a great need for more pastors to lead a bigger number of smaller churches.
4. The Church will be powerful. As the Church will be very united, she will be very strong and powerful — immovable, like solid rock, and deeply rooted in Christ! Inner dissent, confusion and frustrations that sap her of her strength and energy and threaten to swamp her would be resolved. She will fight the demons within her and without and she will overcome. She will draw her power solely from her relationship with her Head, the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. She will be mature, strong and secure in her identity with Christ. She will reach her maximum potential in the future as she comes into a full maturity in her relationship with her Lord.
Terrible forces will be unleashed against her. She will suffer and be wounded but she will recover. She will not be destroyed nor defeated. She will stand to the end. Her power will come singularly from her life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ.
5. The Church will be alone. The end-times Church will stand like a sentinel in the night. No one will keep watch with her. She will be very alone in a world which simply can not fathom her. Though alone, she won’t feel alone because of her spiritual relationship with the Head, Jesus Christ. But, because she is alone, she will be bullied and disrespected. She will take it all and still stand, self-sufficient.
Some may even mock her asking where her God is. She needs to give no answer because the Lord has given her the two most powerful resources she needs to live until His return: the Church, His Body, and the Holy Spirit. In Him in His Body and by the Holy Spirit, she will live. He does not need to be here physically because He is already in our midst in spirit.
6. The Church will be rich. She will have every resource at her disposal for her survival. It will be difficult for her to live because she will not be fully integrated with the world economy but God will provide for her. As a precaution, Christians should be encouraged to invest or go into business to generate income and other essentials for themselves. They should always have cash reserves at hand and assets which can be quickly converted to cash in case of an emergency.
7. The Church will be very beautiful. Because of the above, the Church will be very beautiful in her latter years. She will be self-assured, confident, at peace with herself and rest in confident trust in her Lord. Her inner beauty will reflect outwardly. She will have many admirers and suitors who will want a piece of her or want her to accept a piece of them. She will be harassed and tempted to syncretize with the values of the world but the Holy Spirit will hold her back and she will obey and remain uncompromised, faithful and true to her promised Bridegroom. She will stay faithful because she will realise that her admirers and suitors only want her, but not her God. So, she will turn them all down. Those who embrace her are those who accept her Lord and they will become a part of her.
She will also be most effective in her last years. Her effectiveness will be in being the Bride and enjoying, rather than serving as the Bride and struggling. When she has reached the fullness of her relationship with her Head, the Christ, her mission on Earth will be completed. And, I suspect that is when our Lord Jesus Christ will return to take His Bride with Him.
The challenge now is to see the Church as our Lord sees her and nurture and cherish her to become the Bride the Bridegroom desires. When that happens, she will respond and begin to grow to the full stature of her destiny.