The Myth Of The Universal Invisible Church
By Pastor Roy Mason
Previously, I have called attention to some Scriptures that refer to the
church in prospect. That is, it does not exist as yet, but it will
exist. This use of the word church does not violate the local, visible
significance of the word, for it relates to what is now only a concept.
is, we can conceive of this assembly which will be both local and visible
when it convenes. When Paul wrote of the time when God shall present the
church to Himself "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,"
he was looking forward to this very time. Hebrews 12:23 tells us
about the time when this "general assembly" will convene.
I will deal with this passage more in detail presently. This assembly now
in prospect will be the Bride. Of this Bride we read in Revelation 19:7
- "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage
supper of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready."
Will The Bride Be?
Before I go further let me call attention to a later passage that relates
to the Bride. It is found in Revelation 21 :9-10 - "Come hither
and I will shew thee the Bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away
in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city,
the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." Some have
been alarmed at this passage and have said, "I thought the Bride would
be the church, but here she is spoken of as a city." This Scripture is
not hard to understand, if we consider it in the light of the way we often
speak of things. A friend speaks to me and says, "I passed your church
on my way here." Did he? No, he didn't pass a single member of my church
- HE PASSED A BUILDING. He passed the church house - the place of meeting.
The church building personified the congregation wont to assemble there.
I am persuaded that in the Scripture just referred to, the City - the New
Jerusalem - is personified as the Bride, when the City will only be the
home of the Bride. This illustration should make the point clear, although
illustrations of similar import could be multiplied.
BUT WHO EXACTLY WILL THE BRIDE BE? When it says in Revelation 19:7-
wife hath made herself ready," JUST WHO IS THIS WIFE? If she is
the Universal Invisible Church she is not the church that Jesus started
and made mention of back there in Matthew 16:18. If she is the Universal
Invisible Church, she is not the one Paul spoke of when he said, "I
have betrothed you as a chaste virgin to Christ," for he spoke
to the church at Corinth when he said that. He said that a local visible
church was the one engaged to Christ, and there is no denying it, so if
this Wife - this Bride - is the Universal invisible Church, then the one
to whom He was engaged has been thrown aside, and He finally marries somebody
I have been very much dissatisfied with the conclusions of some learned
men, who have been clear in their thinking until they came down to this
question, "who is the Bride?" In their answer they made the Bride to be
all of the redeemed of the ages. For instance, Dr. B. H. Carroll
in the booklet "Ecclesia - the church" page 12 says, "The general
assembly, by all accounts, includes all the saved." On page 13 he says,
"But for the church in glory the conditions of membership are justification,
regeneration, and sanctification of soul and glorification of body."
Louis Entzminger wrote a splendid book on the New Testament Church in which
he took exactly the position that I have tried to set forth in the preceding
pages. This book was the basis of his teaching concerning the church, in
the seminary with which he was connected. But when he came to the end,
and dealt with the Bride - the church in glory - he flopped! He said that
a few Baptist preachers seemed to hold that the Bride will be composed
of all of the saved who have held the essential doctrines of Baptists through
the centuries. But, said he, he had concluded that the Bride will be composed
of all of the saved. Such a conclusion is totally at variance with all
that he had written concerning the validity of genuine New Testament churches.
When men argue against the hoax of the Universal Invisible Church, and
when they show that the promise of Christ has been fulfilled in His preservation
of groups holding the doctrines of Baptists - then when they conclude by
saying that the final assembly - the Bride, will consist of all the saved
of this age, they simply run up the white flag and surrender!
One thing that is wrong and one thing that keeps many men from taking the
position that the church in glory will be composed of those from the New
Testament churches of this age, is the fact that such a belief seems
Yes, it IS narrow, but so is all truth narrow. To say
that twice two makes four, and to insist that anything else is error is
to make a narrow statement. But is it true or false? The question is not
does a thing sound narrow, but is it the truth?
To hold that the church is local and visible, and is a continuation of
the institution that Christ started and promised to perpetuate, then to
shift from this, the true church, and to teach that the church that finally
assembles over yonder will be composed of all of these redeemed regardless
of whether they ever belonged to any church or not, is an inexcusable contradiction.
If that were true, then several other things would have to be true:
1 - As already argued, the Bride would turn out to be different from the
one betrothed to Christ.
2 - Christ's promise that nothing would prevail against His church, would
be proven false, for the institution started by Him would completely flop,
for the church in Glory would prove to be a different thing entirely.
3 - In such case, there would be no reward for the church that endured
endless persecution for Christ, and that furnished fifty million martyrs
for the defense of His truth.
4 - Why should so much be made of the church that Jesus started? Why should
its truth be defended so arduously? Why should members of this church have
been willing to die for their beliefs, if in the final windup, the ultimate
triumph is to be given to those who - some of them - persecuted those of
the true church, or else ignored or disdained the true church? If all believers
are to constitute the church in Glory - the Bride - then in the climax
the church turns out to be something different than Christ's church here
on this earth. I don't believe such stuff, and I use the word "stuff' deliberately.
The most remarkable Scripture that deals with the church in Glory, is found
in Hebrews 12:22-23.
"But ye are come unto Mount Zion, 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 ..."
Let us examine this great passage carefully, taking the words at face value
as meaning just what they say. In reading the comment of scholars, I have
found that they confuse things in the passage. For instance, Jameson, Fausett
and Brown, express the opinion that the term "general assembly"
must be referred to the angels. This is a mere opinion and in my judgment
a poor opinion. The King James and some other translators do not so understand
it. And before I pass from this let me say that the picture here has as
a background the Olympic games. I say this because the term translated
"general assembly" is the Creek term "panegyros." This signifies
"festal gathering." The illustration Paul implies is an interesting and
meaningful one. The Greeks back in the past had self-governing city states.
In these different cities there were athletic contests held, with a view
to selecting the very best adults for the Olympian games. These representatives
from the many local communities gathered for the general assembly - the
festal gathering. And it was indeed a festal gathering - a time for singing
and having a general good time. There were many people present, but the
real people - the ones who meant most were the participants - the ones
who had qualified in the local communities, and constituted the real "panegyros."
They were the ones who were crowned and made over. The rest were mere visitors
My suggestion concerning the Olympian games is not an original one. Carroll,
Jameson, Fausett and Brown, and others are in full agreement. I believe
that the Holy Spirit directed the author of Hebrews to introduce this illustrative
suggestion. The history and climax of the true church of Christ is plainly
illustrated. It completely rules out the Universal Invisible Church. Universal
Invisible contestants were not involved in connection with those who qualified
for the General Assembly - the festal gathering of those who had
won out in the local communities. No, they were real, live, visible athletes.
The athletes who won in the local communities, are illustrative of believers
in Christ who became members of the church Christ started. In the final
climax, they shall go from all of these local churches to the great festal
gathering (panegyros), or "general assembly." They will be
the ones honored. There will be many others there, but they will only be
But laying aside this illustrative suggestion that centers about the term
"panegyros" let us take a more general look at the passage as a whole.
The writer of Hebrews has previously spoken of Mt. Sinai and the Law, and
the earthly Jerusalem. Then he halts and unveils the future for us and
gives us a glimpse of the New Jerusalem. Who will be there, when this Scripture
has literal fulfillment? Take note:
1 - The ANGELS will be there, myriads of them - a company that cannot be
2 - A GENERAL ASSEMBLY composed of members of the true, local assemblies
which Jesus preserved through the centuries in spite of "dungeon, fire
and sword." These local assemblies did not start in the sixteenth century
or any time thereafter. Jesus started them during His earthly ministry,
and although they received many nicknames, the term Anabaptist or later
Baptist generally characterized them. These local assemblies gathered in
one place, now constitute the GENERAL ASSEMBLY. "But," says someone, "do
you think that all the members of all of the local assemblies were truly
saved persons?" No, I do not, because there were in these imperfect local
assemblies, some who were unregenerate. The Holy Spirit makes a pointed
specification. He says "General Assembly" then adds, "WHICH
ARE WRITTEN IN HEAVEN." Many have their names written on the
church rolls of Baptist churches, who are strangers to God's grace. They
are on the roll here all right, but they are not on God's roll in heaven!But
continuing, who else will be there?
3 - GOD THE JUDGE OF ALL, will be there. Who else?
4 - Now take a good look - ! "THE SPIRITS OF JUST (justified)MEN
MADE PERFECT." So many Bible students and teachers throw these
in with the others of the General Assembly. They don't belong there. They
are a class separate from the General Assembly, the church in its final
and complete form. They are justified persons, and they are now in glory,
"made perfect," but they don't belong to the church in Glory. I have noted
that all sorts of efforts are made to avoid facing up to the fact that
there is a class of saved people who are not identified with the church
in Glory. Some would say, "That's just awful, to think that some will not
be in the church!" The time to think of that is now, while you can take
membership with a true church. Quit deluding yourself with that Universal
Invisible pabulum. Quit that talk about one church being "just as good
as another." Study and find out the truth about the church that has borne
the brunt of religious persecution through the centuries - the church that
Jesus has preserved as He promised, and take membership with it, if you
are a saved person. No, it is not accidental - it is not mere tautology
that after mention of the General Assembly there is this second class of
saved persons mentioned - "the spirits of just(justified)
men made perfect." Hadn't you rather be a member of the General
Assembly - the church of Glory, than to be a mere spectator? Or to change
the figure, would you not rather be a member of the BRIDE OF CHRIST than
to merely be a "guest at the wedding supper?" If so, then get the church
question straightened out in your head, and likewise in your life, while
yet there is time.
There are two important groups of people dealt with in the Bible. One
of these is ISRAEL. God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham as recorded
in Genesis 12: He promised territory to Israel that has never been
occupied by them. But it will be, for God is a covenant keeping God. Israel
went deeply into sin and idolatry, and God warned the nation through the
prophets, that He would utterly wreck the nation and throw them out of
the holy land if they did not change their way. They kept on in sin, and
God kept His word, and sent them into Babylonian captivity. But always,
following God's awful condemnation of their sins, and His promise to terribly
punish, He foretold that He would bring them back into favor, and that
they would finally rest under His favor forever. The Babylonian captivity
came to an end, the people returned to Palestine, the Messiah of promise
came according to promise, but He was rejected and killed. Before this
happened Jesus foretold what would happen in the future. He foretold His
rejection and death, and He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the
dispersion of the Jews throughout the world. The holy city would be trodden
under the feet of the Gentiles, said He, "until the times of the
Gentiles be fulfilled." That dispersion has long been history,
and the Gentiles domination of the world has been in progress for nearly
twenty centuries. Many who ought to know better, have taken the promises
made to Israel and have given them over to the "Church." They have fallen
into that most abominable type of interpretation - SPIRITUALIZING! "God
is through with the Jews," say these spiritualizers, and they say it in
spite of the fact that according to promise He has brought Israel back
into Palestine. They say it in spite of the fact that they have taken over
all of Jerusalem. The "times of 'the Gentiles" must be almost
run out, and the coming of the Lord must be very near.
I have said these things by way of pointing out that the theory that God
is through with Israel, and that the promises made to the prophets now
belong to what some call "spiritual Israel" - the 'Church, is largely the
product of the Universal Invisible Church theory. The spiritual Israel
they speak of is nothing that Jesus started - it is THE CHOORCH! The same
spiritualizers talk glibly of "THE CHURCH AGE." Do you realize that the
Bible nowhere uses such a term? The better term would be "the age of outcalling"
during which time God is calling out from among the Gentiles a people for
His name. Acts 15:14-18 makes this clear. Nearly every time we turn
around we bump into that Universal theory. Out here in the religious world,
that huge figment of perverted imagination - the Universal Invisible church,
completely overshadows in importance the church that Jesus Christ started
and which He committed His Commission. A blessed truth is the fact that
before long a showdown is coming. Evidences are that Jesus will soon come
-; not to bring the "Rapture of the Church" - that Universal conglomeration
that exists only in unscriptural minds. He will bring about the resurrection
and translation of the saved. The time for the "Marriage Supper of the
Lamb" is not far beyond this. It will then be revealed that the Bride will
be composed of all the saved ones of those local, visible assemblies who
have witnessed for Christ and carried on His work, gathered together in
one happy group. He started this assembly, and in Matthew 16:18,
promised to be with it and perpetuate it. We hear about them, read about
them, and find evidence of their existence all through the centuries. That
word Anabaptist was mockingly applied to them during much of the time.
The "ana" was finally dropped, but the people - the assemblies are
There will be no mockery, no reproach, when at that festive gathering designated
"the marriage Supper of the Lamb," our wonderful Lord presents His Bride
and says, "I wish to present my beloved WIFE!"
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