American Christian University

Revelation 2:4  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

We find throughout Scripture that God never indulges in political correctness or skirt around an issue. If there is something that needs to be said, one can rest assured that it will be said without ambiguity.  Here Jesus instructs John to introduce the accusation with these words, indicating the separation that comes as a result of sin.

Separation between God and man and man and man, is expressed in this way in Scripture on several occasions: some places as a petition and other places as a rebuke.

Numbers 12:11 And he said to Moses, "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed."

Psalm 79:8 Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.

Ezekiel 34:10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.

Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Acts 7:60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Revelation 2:14  Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.

Revelation 2:20  Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

Revelation 2:4  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Their love for Christ and his gospel has faded over time, while it is the most important component of a Christian life, in both that of the church and that of the individual.  Scripture admonishes us to remain true to our calling:

Hebrews 3:1  Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.

Obviously, Jesus knows that this church has cooled down in their zeal for Him; that they have forsaken their first love, which is him. But this church is not unique; the church has suffered this fate since the days before being liberated from Egypt:

Jeremiah 2:2, 5, 6, 8, 9 "Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: "'I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. 5This is what the LORD says: "What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves." 6They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?" 8The priests did not ask, 'Where is the LORD?' Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. 9Therefore I bring charges against you again," declares the LORD. "And I will bring charges against your children's children."

Our struggle against wickedness and sin is a continuing struggle and it may wear us down. But perseverance makes us whole and completes our refinement for the final day, standing firm and receiving the crown of glory.

James 1:2 - 4, 12  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

But if we grow weary of the struggle against temptation and sin, we may slowly and over time give in to our own evil desire leading us to death.

James 1:13 -15 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Knowing their hearts, Jesus instructs the apostle John to write these words very clearly to the church in Ephesus, 'this I hold against you: you have forsaken me.'  When one's love for Jesus cools, then the temptation that is already out there gets closer to our hearts and once we believe that a sin is doable, our own evil desires take hold of our actions and we are dragged away and enticed.  These passages in James 1 describe clearly the metamorphosis of sin, starting with the joy of perseverance when facing trials, which leads to a state of 'not lacking anything,' which is perfection of faith.

Already when one proclaims that perhaps God is tempting him, there is a breakdown of the love for the Lord and as soon as doubt creeps in, evil desire increases.  The process from temptation to death as described in James 1:13 - 15 is only stoppable by repentance, forgiveness, and perseverance, which leads to maturity in faith.

Matthew 24:12, 13 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. 13But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

When the love for Christ cools down, there can be no other virtue that replaces it, or makes up for the loss. It becomes an abomination before God.

Revelation 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Jesus equates the cooling of their love for him to someone who has fallen from a high place, striking a parallel between the height of the fall to the amount that their love for him has cooled.  The church's life in the faith is not the same as it used to be and this rebuke serves as a warning that things cannot continue in this way.

Revelation 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

God never only announces punishment, he also gives the solution - how to avoid the punishment and live a godly life. Even the wicked receives an opportunity to avoid sin and repent.

Genesis 4:5 - 7 But on Cain and his offering [God] did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

What an amazing opportunity Cain had to avoid falling into sin by killing his brother Abel?  Who better to offer him advice on how to proceed than God Himself?  God offered him salvation, explaining to him what was about to happen and also what he should do to avoid it. But, alas, Cain could only see up to his own anger and wickedness. He had no vision of a godly life beyond his own selfish and wicked desires and calloused heart.  He could only hear his own justification for what he was about to do: murder his brother.  Once his desires conceived sin, he was lost and already dead in sin.

So, it is no wonder that Jesus not only rebukes the church in Ephesus, but also offers them the way back to his love and righteousness, telling them exactly how to avoid that which befalls those who do not open their eyes and ears and soften their hearts.  The gospel teaches the path to righteousness and it calls it repentance; turning away from sin towards Christ.

Repentance is something that can only be accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit and it is given to those whom the Father has selected before creation to receive it, by writing their names into the book of life. Repentance is one of the key elements that separates the elect from the reprobate.

Let's briefly look at the doctrine of repentance, which is by no means a complete commentary on the subject.  Firstly, one of the most compelling Scripture passages defining repentance is the call of the apostle Paul in,

Acts 26:17, 18 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Here Jesus speaks directly to Paul at his dramatic conversion and announces to Paul the identity of the Author of repentance, 'I will rescue you.'  Then Jesus announces the identity of the Sender, 'I am sending you to them.'  Jesus also gives Paul the purpose of his mission, 'to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.'  Then Paul hears the effect it will have on them, 'so that they may receive forgiveness of sins.'  Finally Jesus declares the result of having one's sins forgiven, to receive 'a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me,' which is eternal life.

Reprobate men are aware of this formula, how to achieve eternal life, and they have tried to grasp that prize since the fall, as we will see later.  It's such as huge prize to receive that,

It is not surprising, then, [that Satan's] servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. (II Corinthians 11:15)


…such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ, (II Corinthians 11:13)

then, it stands to reason that they are not necessarily distinguishable from true believers. So, what are they doing in the church, some preaching the word of God, driving out demons, and lead seemingly godly lives?

They have a dual purpose, namely, seeking to claim the fruits of the gospel, which is eternal life, and to assist in the work of their father, the devil, in deceiving the elect.

II Corinthians 2:11, 11:3 In order that Satan might not outwit us … we are not unaware of his schemes. 11:3But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

The visible actions of men do not always reveal the intent of their hearts, as we see when some seek it through carnal means, such as transcendental meditation, or other doctrines. Some will worship in the church, some even preaching and driving out demons and yet be there as an adversary of the gospel, pursuing their objective to grasp eternal life without claiming it on the merits of Christ.

They appear to worship Christ in exactly the same manner as the elect do, but they are hypocrites and will fail. It begs the question, why would they go to the trouble of sacrificing their carnal lifestyles, go to church, seem to be devoted to Christ and the gospel, but yet, they do not share in the fruits of the merits of Christ.  It would be easy to merely proclaim that the Father did not elect them, and, therefore, they cannot be devoted to Christ and the gospel.

Although that would technically be correct, but the cutting edge of their rejection lies within themselves, their own corrupt nature, calloused hearts, and their refusal to believe the truth -- just as Cain did -- even if God Himself should offer them an opportunity to repent.   They wish to obtain eternal life, but they do not believe that Christ is the way and rather rely on themselves or something else. They deny that Christ is the Son of God, or even worse, they deny that there is a God at all.

But they are quite prepared to grab hold of the promise that would lead to eternal life:

Acts 3:19 Repent … and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out …

To be able to truly repent, faith in Jesus is required.

John 3:15 That everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

But faith in Jesus is an ongoing process, something in which one grows and matures.  It can be destroyed by sin, so the sinning believer has to have a manner in which he can find his way back to Jesus, otherwise, given the state of sin that all of us are in, in this life, our faith would not survive our sins.  Also, sin, inescapably, leads to death, as we have seen in James 1:13.  So, if sin is the road to death, then it stands to reason that if sin is removed, then that which is consequent upon sin, which is death, is also removed.  So, we can safely argue that if repentance leads to forgiveness of sin, then repentance is the key to eternal life.

Now we may draw from the foregoing argument the following conclusion: repentance is a crucial element of faith and without it faith cannot survive. Or, without repentance faith in Jesus is impossible, so, faith without repentance is a contradiction.

It is, then, necessary to carefully analyze the act of repentance of believers and that of hypocrites.  When we realize the difference between these two, we will understand the zeal with which they seek to grab that which does not belong to them.

Repentance is only possible if the sinner is convinced of his sin, which means that he should not only have a mere knowledge of it, but he should also be convinced that he offended God, his Father.  It is this love relationship with the Father that has been violated by the sin, is the understanding of the believing sinner and whatever corrective discipline follows is met with rejoicing and glorification of God's Name.  The believer is heartbroken that he did what he did and is driven to sorrow and mourning, not because of the sin, but because of what he did to his Father.

The hypocrite, on the other hand, may also repent, but his repentance is driven by the fear of the punishment that is expected. There is neither broken-heartedness nor any sorrow for the dishonor inflicted upon God.  He rather tries to justify his actions as right and just and accuses God of being unjust in punishing him or denying that their afflictions are the work of God, making true repentance impossible. Even when they appear before the judgment throne of Christ, now fully aware of who Christ is and what is about to happen to them, they still deny that they did anything wrong.

Matthew 25:43, 44 "…I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." 44They … will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'"

One would have expected them to fall to the ground, prostrating themselves pleading for mercy. But oh, no, they still challenged Christ, arguing with him, in spite of knowing that they will imminently be thrown into the pool of fire.

We know that the ability to repent comes from the work of the Holy Spirit and it is not inherent in the believer to truly repent.  Repentance is a function of a knowledge of the will of God, which again is a product of studying the word of God, which is what we are doing here.  The Holy Spirit, exercising one of his offices, reveals to the believer the will of God, which puts him in a position to discern his sins and come to an understanding of the misery in which he finds himself.  The Holy Spirit, then, leads the believer to repentance, which is the same as saying that the sinner comes to the understanding of where he will find forgiveness, which is Jesus Christ.  Repentance also encompasses action, which means the Holy Spirit not only disperses knowledge but wisdom to the believer to take action and resist the sin, mortifying his old nature in the process. And then, the believer gives praise to God for the relief from sin and the realization of his eternal life, which completes repentance.

So, we see that the Holy Spirit intervenes in the sin - repentance process where the elect are concerned, but not where the reprobate are concerned.  Can we say that the Holy Spirit is unfair by not giving equal opportunity to all? If He intervenes and reveals to the elect the will of God, should he not do it for the reprobate also?

Scripture is clear on this point, and the answer is 'no.' From what we are about to prove to you, it will be evident that giving them a so-called equal opportunity would not be equal by any measure, but it will be to hand them the keys to eternal life without having to depend upon the merits of Christ. And without the merits of Christ, the sinner is dependent upon himself to bring satisfaction to the Father for his sins, which will kill him in the process, because of his mortality. 

Those, on the other hand, who depend upon the merits of Christ having fully and sufficiently made this satisfaction already, do not have to sacrifice their lives, but have to change their lives, from ones leading to death to ones leading to eternal life.  They are the ones able to repent and grow to maturity, gradually and sufficiently dying off their old natures in which the reprobate choose to remain.

So, instead of imagining that God is unfair, one should rather see that He withholds from the reprobate an alternative means that they seek to get to the tree of life than through the merits of Christ.  Let's look at the evidence in the light of Scripture.

Jesus spoke to the disciples in parables and they were quick to ask him why is he doing this.

Matthew 13:10, 11  The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" 11He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them."

So, Jesus purposefully withholds the secrets of the kingdom of heaven from the reprobate.  Jesus does not speak to some secretively or tell the disciples one thing and the rest of the people another, but He speaks openly to everybody, saying the same things to all, yet some are not understanding what He is saying.

Matthew 13:13, 14 This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.'

Keeping the reprobate from the secrets of heaven is like keeping them from the tree of life, just as God did back in the garden after banishing Adam and Eve.

Genesis 3:22, 24 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 24After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Speaking in parables became the flaming sword with which the reprobate were prevented from grabbing that which do not belong to them.

The reprobate would like nothing more than to fulfill the promise of repentance and then claim from Christ eternal life.  But without true repentance the promise cannot be invoked.  Faith in Jesus is also required, because repentance is the way to the tree of life: it removes the way to death, which is sin. And if the way to death has been removed then the way to eternal life has been restored because without sin there is no death.  Speaking in parables, or not revealing the will of God to some, is the flaming sword of the New Testament, preventing the reprobate from robbing the fruits of the promise and live in sin forever.

But why, you may ask.  Scripture responds to that question as follows:

Matthew 13:15 For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.

Here Jesus gives the answer, 'otherwise they might see and understand and I would [have to] heal them.'  Opening their eyes and ears would not change the fact that they hate God. It would just mean that they can then legitimately claim eternal life without the merits of Christ -- just as they still did not get it when they faced Christ face-to-face before his judgment throne.  Even that close encounter could not move them to repentance. Revealing the will of God to them would not change anything except leading them to grab the fruits of the tree of life and live in sin forever.

So, the flaming sword of the New Testament, the prevention of the revelation of the will of God to the reprobate, protects the church from the angels of Satan who masquerade as angels of righteousness.

But to the elect, Jesus says,

Matthew 13:16, 17 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Jesus confirms that there is only one way to the tree of life and that is through Him who has removed all those things that could separate us from God.  So, we see that repentance consists of these three things, admit your misery, turn to that which will bring you closer to Christ, and then take active and affirmative steps to accomplish it.

And herein lies the solution Christ offers the church of Ephesus: 'remember your sins' and that you have fallen from your love for me, or know your misery; 'repent' or turn from the road that you are on and take corrective action; and 'do' the things that you did at first.

We have spent a bit of time on repentance, but our proper understanding of the concept will help us understand the rest of the book of Revelation.

Revelation 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

As we have shown earlier, God makes clear what the consequences are when someone does not abide by the instructions that will bring salvation.

To the reprobate these threats of affliction are to exact from them the payment for the satisfaction of their sins, not fully but sufficiently at this time, which will be completed at the end of time after they appeared before the judgment throne of Christ.

To the elect these threats of affliction are loving discipline to bring them to a better understanding of sin and be refined to perfection in the process.

Zechariah 13:9 This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'

Malachi 3:3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.

Psalm 66:10 For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.

Isaiah 48:10 See, I have refined you … I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

Daniel 11:35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

Daniel 12:10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

I Peter 1:7 These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Revelation 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Because the congregation at Ephesus moved away from the love of God, God will withhold from them his love and protection, removing from them His light.

As we have shown in the introduction to this study, the Holy Spirit may remove his effectual presence from a believer to afflict him for a period of time to bring him back to the faith. To the believer it is not punishment in the same sense as punishment is meant for the reprobate, but it is like a loving discipline from a father.

Job 5:17 "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law.

Hebrews 12:5, 7, 8, 11 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you. 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father. 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Revelation 3:19  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

Revelation 2:6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

We do not know who these Nicolaitans were, except that they practiced heresies that God hated.  The fact that the congregation in Ephesus also hated their practices counted as favor in eyes of God.

Revelation 2:7  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

This phrase is a declaration, an admonishment, and an instruction. It declares that it is by hearing the Word of God that faith is obtained.  It is also an admonishment that it is by cutting off the hearing, not physically but spiritually, through which one is cut off from the faith, as we have shown when we discussed repentance and the reprobate. It is also an instruction to listen, be sensitive, and understand what the Holy Spirit says to us.

All seven letters conclude with this admonishment. Other passages in Scripture admonish us to listen by using the same phrase.

Matthew 11:13 - 15 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15He who has ears, let him hear.

Matthew 13:8, 9 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear.

Mark 4:21 - 23 He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."

Revelation 2:7  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

The Holy Spirit speaks to all the churches, his entire body. When we speak of the body of Christ, we mean the invisible, universal church.  The visible church may also consist of hypocrites who worship not to glorify God but to obtain benefits from their association with the elect that is outside the light of Christ. But the body of Christ, as embodied in the universal church, only consists of the elect and nobody else.

Let's briefly pursue what Scripture teaches us about the body of Christ, the universal, invisible church.

The Baptist church, which claims to be the true church that Christ founded, previously called the Anabaptists, deny that there is an invisible universal church, among other, based upon their interpretation of the word 'church' as used in Matthew 18:17, "tell it to the church" and Matthew 16:18, "on this rock I will build my church."  They claim that those references to the word "church" are the same in the original text, and seen in context, the one cannot be physical while the other is spiritual.

They wrongly base their accusations against the doctrine of an invisible universal church on these and other similar passages of Scripture, while the truth is that the invisible universal church was created by God the Father himself before creation, when he wrote the names of the elect into the book of life, and promised through covenants and prophesies that that is the only congregation that would enter into his kingdom, without exception. They are the only true body of Christ. When Scripture speaks of the church in Matthew 16:18, it is meant the spiritual church, just as the rock is the gospel and the church in Matthew 18:17 means the physical congregation under whose supervision the case described in those passages fall.  To imagine that Christ only established his church after his incarnation, is to deny the existence of the church from when the Father created it before creation.  When Christ proclaimed that He will build his church on this 'rock' He proclaimed the New Testament church and the doctrine that will be its foundation until the end of time. But it is the church that the Father created that will from then on forward exist under the rules and doctrine of the gospel and not the law.

Let's look briefly at the doctrine of the universal church, also professed in the Apostles Creed as the one, holy, catholic church. It's important that we have a solid understanding of the term 'church,' 'congregation,' 'assembly,' and 'body of Christ' to fully comprehend the teaching of this book.

The Heidelberg Catechism answers the question, what do you believe concerning the holy catholic church as follows:

I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith.  And of this community I am and always will be a living member.

Let's read some Scripture passages that were used to compile this answer:

I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word

John 10:14 - 16 I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

out of the entire human race

Genesis 26:3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."

from the beginning of the world to its end

Isaiah 59:21  "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD.

Revelation 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

John 10:28 - 30 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one.

Romans 8:28 - 30 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Ephesians 1:2 - 14 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding, 9and he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12In order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

and united in true faith

Acts 2:42 - 47 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common, 45selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Ephesians 4:1 - 6 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called-5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

And of this community I am

I John 3:14, 19 - 24 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

and always will be a living member.

John 10:27, 28 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

I Corinthians 1:4 - 9 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-6because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

I Peter 1:3 - 5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

This answer is based upon what Scripture teaches in its entirety without deviation and misinterpretation.

Next, we will look at the doctrine of the church.