The Character of the church changes.
We don’t mean that you will notice the changes in the character of the church. Rather, the character changes in the ages in which the church exists. In our age, we see the church as a militant church. That is, the church is called into and is engaged in a holy warfare. This means that she is duty-bound to carry on an incessant warfare against the hostile world, whether in the church or outside of it. The church may not spend all its time in prayer and meditation; however important these things may be, but must be engaged with all her might in the battles of the Lord.
But if the character of the church here is militant, the Church in Heaven is triumphant. There the sword is exchanged for the palm of victory, the battle cries are turned into songs of triumph. The strife is over, and the saints are with Christ for ever and ever.
The Roman Catholic Church sees another characteristic of the church that is suffering. It sees as included in the Church, the believers still on earth, and who are not yet in heaven. These are those who are still being purified by suffering in purgatory.
Another characteristic of the church, we have already mentioned briefly, and that is both visible and invisible. While we mentioned that these are not two churches, but are one church, we should also mention that they are not exactly the same churches. For example, some who may enter into the invisible church Triumphant may never have joined the visible church on earth. An example of these would be a missionary subject converted on his deathbed. On the other hand, there may be members of the visible church who may never enter into the invisible church. These are individuals who profess Christ, but have no true faith in Him, and therefore do not belong to the invisible church.
Before going any further, it might be wise for us to investigate the origin of the church. It is not possible to place our finger on any place in history and say that here was the church born. In one sense, the church was born in the upper room at the last supper of Jesus with His disciples. In another sense, it goes back to the creation of the world when God created man in His image, anticipating fellowship with him. In particular, it begins with God’s calling Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to establish the covenant with him. For the Church is the body of people called out of the world to be separated to God, and from then on they become His people, and He becomes their God.