The Church Is Holy

Isaih Ch 6:1-3 1 In the year king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and loft throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. 2 Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet and with two they hovered aloft. 3 "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!"  they cried one to the other. "All the earth is filled with his glory!"

In the Hebrew language, you don't have superlative suffixes like "good, better, best", "black, blacker, blackest". If you want to raise to a higher lever of intensity and emphasis a certain idea, you say it twice and if you want to say, not just good, not just better, but if you want to say best, you say it three times. God isn't just holy. He's not just holier. He is absolutely the holiest being who exceeds and transcends all other beings. When we come before Him, even if we were righteous and holy Isaiah, we would fall at His feet and say, "Woe is me. I am undone".

Summary of Reasons Why the Church is Holy

2 Samuel 7:12-16 12 And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. 13 It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me. And if he does wrong, I will correct him with the rod of men and with human chastisements. 15 But I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul, whom I removed from my presence. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall endure forever. (See Luke 1 for genealogy of Mary and Matthew 1 for genealogy of Joseph) When Jesus Speaks of the Kingdom of God in the Gospels, He Means the Church Matthew 16:18 I for my part declare to you, you are Rock and on this rock I will build my church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it. I will entrust to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  There are several passages in the Gospel of Matthew that makes this very clear. In Matthew 3, verse 2, we find that at the beginning of Christ's ministry, the message that was proclaimed was, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Again in Matthew 4, verse 17, Jesus went about preaching, quote, "the gospel of the kingdom". He preached to all of the people in the Sermon on the Mount, "Seek first the kingdom and its righteousness", and he promised that those who would seek with faith, "to such belongs the kingdom of heaven". In Matthew 12, we read something very interesting: Jesus says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If it is by the spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is come upon you".

The power of Jesus released to overcome evil is the manifestation of the kingdom and that power has been given to the Church, to bind and to loose. It's the power against which the gates of hell will not prevail. Therefore, we have Jesus' own guarantee that the Church is the colonial outpost of God's kingdom on earth; and we've got royal power from God on high, if only we would use it.

In Matthew 13, Jesus bombards His disciples with a series of parables.  They are called "the parables of the kingdom" and He speaks to the disciples about how they have been given the secrets of the kingdom. The kingdom of heaven is a field full of wheat and tares. How is that? A wheat field full of tares. Now, if you want to identify the kingdom with the final state of glory, then this wouldn't be possible. Jesus couldn't say that the kingdom is like a wheat field full of tares. No, the Church as God's kingdom is a wheat field that is full of tares and weeds and the disciples are told not to pluck them up because the angels will come to harvest the wheat and the angels will have what it takes to differentiate between the wheat and the tares.

(read Matthew 13:4, 13:18, 13:24, 13:31, 13:47)

The kingdom in Matthew 13, verse 47 is compared to a dragnet that draws good and bad vessels up. Again, that isn't the final, glorious state in heaven forever. That's the Church in history on earth. You can see this elsewhere, in Matthew 18, where Jesus instructs the Apostles on how to reconcile fallen brethren: by confronting them privately with their sins and asking them to repent. He goes on talking about how, if they refuse to listen "even to the Church" then they should be outsiders. Then in the very next passage, he goes on to talk about a king who forgave one of his servants. The whole principle of forgiveness in Matthew 18 is wrapped up with forgiveness in God's kingdom as well as forgiveness in the Church.

Matthew 21:43, Jesus tells the scribes and the Pharisees and the chief priests in Jerusalem that the kingdom will be taken away from you and given to nations that produce fruit worthy of it. That's the Church, the nations are the Gentiles and the Catholic Church is the kingdom that was taken away from the people who wanted simply a military, political kingdom under David and refused to accept the Son of David who came to establish the kingdom of heaven with spiritual authority.

Matthew 19:28, Jesus tells the Apostles that they will sit on twelve thrones, ruling the twelve tribes of Israel. Once again, royal imagery.

 

The Church is not Fully Identical With the Kingdom of God

 

The Church on earth is The Church Militant

The Church in purgatory is The Church Suffering

The Church in Heaven is The Church Triumphant.

The Church is the kingdom of God on earth but the Church is not fully identical with the kingdom of God. That is why Jesus is at pains to describe the kingdom as also the kingdom of heaven. Only in heaven is the fullness of the kingdom because only in heaven do we have the king in all of his manifest glory. Therein we find divine and royal authority and truth. Only at the end of time is the glory of the kingdom going to be fully manifested, when all history is consummated. And only in the saints who are glorified and residing now in heaven is the reality of the kingdom fully present and really alive.

That's what we really mean when we say that the Church is holy.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints. We are members of the Church. We are saints. We are sanctified.  We are set apart to be holy and yet our membership is, in some ways, provisional, probationary. It is real, but it is something which needs completion and perfection. Not so the saints in heaven. So, when we confess our faith in the Holy Spirit, the soul of the holy, Catholic Church, we confess, likewise, the communion of saints, because the saints in heaven are the full-fledged citizens of the kingdom; for up there, in heaven, is the reality of the kingdom in its fullness.