In these “perilous times,” God’s people are under constant attack—continuously bombarded with “every wind of [false] doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). This includes the truth about whether or not the Church is our spiritual mother.
When Herbert W. Armstrong was alive and the Church was doctrinally “on track,” we were all taught that the Church of God is our spiritual mother.
Yet, some among the splinters teach just the opposite—that the Church is not our mother! Who is right? Mr. Armstrong and the Church of decades ago—or these splinter leaders?
What do you believe? Can you prove it from your Bible? Is this a “doctrine vital to salvation”—or merely knowledge that we may retain in our minds, but do not have to act upon?
Unfortunately, many who still possess a measure of God’s Holy Spirit either have not proven the truth of this doctrine or do not believe it really matters. They say, “What’s the big deal? This isn’t a doctrine vital to salvation.”
Or is it?
Read on, and you will soon discover the startling truth of this misunderstood subject.
“Jerusalem Which Is Above…”
Regarding the Old and New covenants, Paul writes, “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid [Hagar], the other by a freewoman [Sarah]. But he who was of the bondwoman [Ishmael] was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman [Isaac] was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the Mount Sinai, which genders to bondage, which is Hagar” (Gal. 4:22-24).
In Paul’s analogy, Hagar represents the Old Covenant, and symbolizes human efforts (rituals and animal sacrifices), which do not remove continuous bondage to sin. On the other hand, Sarah represents the New Covenant, which includes better promises and requires the faith of Jesus Christ. This leads to freedom from the “wages of sin”—death (Rom. 6:23).
Paul calls Hagar “Mount Sinai,” which “answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children” (Gal. 4:25).
Then, in verse 26, he writes, “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”
What is this “Jerusalem which is above”?
Here is how the margin notes of the New King James Version explain this verse: “Believers are children of the heavenly Jerusalem, the ‘mother-city’ of heaven.”
The margin notes from the New International Version state, “Here it refers to the heavenly city of God, in which Christ reigns and of which Christians are citizens, in contrast to the ‘present city of Jerusalem’ (vs. 25). As citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, Christians are her children.”
But what does this mean? Again, what exactly is this “Jerusalem which is above”? Is it the Church? Is it God’s throne? Is it some kind of “mother-city” that resides in heaven? We have just read what carnal men think—but what does God’s Word teach?
Do not assume that you know. We must carefully examine the scriptures and simply let the Bible interpret itself.
Hebrews 12 reveals the identity of “Jerusalem which is above.” It also provides our first biblical proof of whether or not God’s Church is our spiritual mother.
Let’s begin in verse 18: “For you are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest.” This and verses 19-21 are referring to ancient Israel, “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38).
God called His physical church (Israel) out of Egypt (a type of the world and sin) and taught them in the physical wilderness. In the same way, God has called spiritual Israel—the Church—out of spiritual Egypt, and is teaching them in the spiritual wilderness (again, the world).
It was at Mount Sinai that God revealed the Ten Commandments to Israel. He also proposed a marriage covenant—the Old Covenant, which included physical rituals involving human effort (remember Hagar in Galatians 4).
In Hebrews 12:18-21, Paul shows that, as Christians, we “are not come” to the physical rituals of the Old Covenant.
Instead, “…you are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels [which surrounds and protects it], to the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (vs. 22-23).
Did you see that? As Christians, we “come unto” the “heavenly Jerusalem”—“Jerusalem…above” (Gal. 4:26)—the Church of God!
Christ is the “Firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). Collectively, the brethren compose Christ’s body, which is the Church (I Cor. 12:12-14, 27; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23).
When put together, Hebrews 12:22-23 and Galatians 4:26 (remember the biblical prescription of proper Bible study, found in Isaiah 28:9-10) clearly reveal that the “Jerusalem…above” is God’s Church—which is our mother!
How can so many falsely teach the opposite of what the Bible so plainly proves?
Let no man or carnal reasoning convince you otherwise. Do not allow yourself to be deceived or confused by “cunning craftiness” and “sleight of men.” Simply let the Bible speak for itself.
Further Biblical Evidence
Let’s now examine additional proof that the Church is the spiritual mother of all spirit-begotten Christians.
In Revelation 12, the apostle John describes a vision that overviews the last 2,000 years of Church history. It also looks into the immediate future for God’s people.
Verse 1 symbolically describes “a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars…”
This “woman” symbolizes ancient Israel, the physical “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). The twelve stars represent Israel’s twelve tribes.
In verses 2 and 5, the woman is pregnant, and gives birth to “a Man Child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.” This “Man Child” is none other than Christ, who was born to rule all nations and currently resides at God’s throne (Isa. 9:6-7; John 18:37; Rev. 19:11-16).
Revelation 12:3-4 reveals that Satan the devil—the dragon (vs. 9)—tried to kill Christ when Jesus was just a baby (Matt. 2:1-16). Using the Pharaoh of Egypt, Satan tried to do the same to baby Moses (Ex. 1:15-22; 2:1-10).
The apostle Peter warns all Christians to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). Like a ravenous lion on the hunt, the devil constantly stalks for easy prey—the young, old, sick, weak and careless.
Immediately after Revelation 12:5, John writes that “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (vs. 6).
However, the woman mentioned here is God’s Church—spiritual Israel—which fled from horrific religious persecution, going “off the radar screen” from this world’s religious landscape for 1,260 years. While God’s one true Church hid (for the most part) from historic view, the counterfeit church at Rome took its place on the world stage.
From verse 6 to the end of the chapter, “the woman” John describes is the Church. His vision reveals that, in the near future, Satan will persecute God’s Church (vs. 13), even inspiring a military force to chase after her (vs. 15; 17:15). However, God will intervene and rescue His people, the Philadelphian Era, delivering them “into her place” (Rev. 12:14)—the place of safety.
While Philadelphians will be spared from the horrors of the soon-coming Great Tribulation (3:10), Laodiceans will not. Though they “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” God expects more: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). Since the final era of God’s people will not be faithful to the full body of truth that was restored to the Church, God will allow the devil to “make war” with them (Rev. 12:17).
Now notice what John writes in verse 13: “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.”
This is the Church. God inspires John to use the same symbol to describe both physical and spiritual Israel: A woman who gives birth to a child. In other words, a mother.
This is further scriptural evidence that, in God’s mind, the Church is our mother!
Why Called “Jerusalem…Above”?
Now that we have seen clear biblical proof of who our spiritual mother truly is, let’s examine why the Church is called “Jerusalem which is above”—why it is referred to as “heavenly.”
Consider these four reasons:
first, Paul writes in Romans 8, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (vs. 14), and “But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (vs. 9).
It is having the Holy Spirit working in our minds—converting our thoughts, desires and will to follow and imitate Christ—that makes us begotten sons of God. From heaven (“from above”), God sends His Spirit to beget and empower us, making us sons of God in embryo. Later, when Christ returns, those who have endured to the end will be changed—resurrected—born into the kingdom of God as spirit beings.
second, before we were called, we were citizens of this world. We walked according to its practices, customs and traditions. But upon baptism, we, in effect, renounced our citizenship with this world’s pagan and carnal ways.
Why? Because “our conversation [Greek: citizenship] is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
When He was put on trial for His life, Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from here” (John 18:36).
As Christians, we are citizens (and ambassadors) of the soon-coming kingdom of God. Our allegiance is to Christ, who is our King. From heaven (“from above”), He rules over us through His government in God’s Church. Today, we are learning to live under the same government that will one day fill the earth and rule over all nations.
third, as saints, our names are written in heaven (Heb. 12:23). This is because we, and the dead in Christ, are now awaiting the First Resurrection.
fourth, the Church is called “Jerusalem which is above” because our eternal inheritance is in heaven. It will be given to us at Christ’s Second Coming. Notice: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible”—I Corinthians 15 describes this in awe-inspiring detail—“and undefiled, that fades not away…” (I Pet. 1:3-4).
Where is our inheritance now? Notice the last part of verse 4: “…reserved in heaven for you.”
Some who read this article will agree that the Bible proves the Church is our mother. Yet, these same people will do nothing about this doctrine. They will continue to tolerate and listen to false teachers who deceitfully preach the opposite of what God’s Word says.
Because they do not think that it is a “big enough heresy” to flee from. And this is because they do not fully comprehend the implications of tolerating this doctrinal lie. They believe that the Church-is-our-mother doctrine may simply be knowledge we retain in our minds—that it is not a “doctrine of salvation.”
But what they fail to realize is that attached to this doctrine are serious consequences. If not zealously acted upon, these consequences could cause you to be shut out of God’s kingdom and denied eternal life!
Analogy: A Child in the Mother’s Womb
Before we examine what these consequences are, consider the following analogy. When a woman is pregnant, she carries her unborn child in her womb.
There, three things happen:
first, the unborn child is protected in the womb from the elements.
second, the mother feeds the child through an umbilical cord. Whatever the mother eats, her child eats. For example, if the mother-to-be eats healthy green vegetables, her unborn child benefits. But if the mother smokes, and drinks alcohol, the child may become seriously harmed.
third, the child in the womb is nurtured. Medical professionals have concluded that when the mother gently massages her pregnant belly—and even lovingly speaks to it—she creates a bond with her child before he is even born. He is affected by his mother’s moods, emotions and attitudes.
These same three points can be applied to Christians—begotten, not-yet-born sons of God—in the womb of their spiritual mother, the one true Church!
In God’s Church—in our mother’s womb—we are (1) protected from false doctrines, (2) fed the purity and fullness of God’s truth, and (3) nurtured through Christian fellowship, sound doctrine, reproof, instruction in righteousness, admonition and correction.
That’s right! Correction is a form of being nurtured. When your mother (the Church, via God’s ministry) corrects you, she is actually trying to straighten your path—keep you from taking a spiritual detour—so that you can make it into God’s kingdom.
God the Father cares for all His children. One proof that He loves us is that He corrects us: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6).
What does God call those whom He does not correct? “Then are you bastards, and not sons” (vs. 8). Though correction does not feel pleasant, it is an act of love, because it “yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness,” and straightens our path so that we can make it into God’s kingdom. (Hebrews 12:5-13 speaks of godly correction in more detail.)
Seeing the Link
Keep these three crucial elements in mind (being protected, fed and nurtured). We will now see what the Bible reveals regarding the serious implications attached to the Church-is-our-mother doctrine.
Hebrews 12:22-24 sets the stage: “But you 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…”
When you come to the Church, you come to God the Father and Jesus Christ. They are linked together. They cannot be separated. You cannot “come unto” the Church unless God first calls you (John 6:44)—and God calls and feeds you through the Work of His Church.
This link is described in greater detail in Hebrews 10.
To have access to the Father, we must go through Christ, our Mediator and High Priest (vs. 19-21). To go through Christ, we must accept His shed blood in our stead, and be repentant—change our way of life—“by a new and living way” (vs. 20). We do this by [ing] near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (vs. 22).
This is linked to “hold[ing] fast the profession of our faith without wavering” (vs. 23).
But in order to do this, we cannot focus just on ourselves. We must focus on helping, serving and assisting others—other brethren: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (vs. 24).
But how does God expect us to focus on other brethren?
By “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching” (vs. 25).
Grasp this! God expects us to help, serve and assist each other—“consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works”—by regularly assembling together. Remember Hebrews 12:23—God calls His Church “the general assembly.”
And when does God regularly assemble His people?
On the Sabbath!
Recall what Mr. Armstrong taught the Church—that we have been called to God’s way of love, give, and outgoing concern for others. This is the way of holy, righteous godly character. Mr. Armstrong used to warn that people who focused just on themselves should not expect to be born into God’s kingdom.
In Hebrews 10, regular Sabbath service attendance is linked to (1) focusing on others, (2) then on self, (3) then coming to Christ to (4) have access to God the Father! This link is so serious that God attaches a warning to it: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (vs. 26-27).
Consequence of Rejecting Your Mother
Imagine this scenario: After school lets out, a girl starts to walk for home. But she soon reasons that “it’s just too far”—she decides that she does not want to “walk four whole blocks just to get home.”
Instead, the girl goes to the woman who lives down the block—a stranger! In effect, she rejects her mother (who is waiting for her at home), and allows this other woman—some stranger, who is not her mother—to protect, feed and nurture her, and attend to all her needs.
Yet, this scenario is being played out today among the various splinter groups. People carelessly “hop around” from splinter to splinter, exposing themselves to any “wind of doctrine” that will scratch their “itching ears” (II Tim. 4:3-4).
They sometimes “take the Sabbath off,” not bothering to attend God’s commanded assemblies because they are “too tired.”
They call themselves members of one splinter, but will attend a different one because “it’s closer,” or has more people in local attendance.
And when a true minister of God tries to help them—tries to straighten out their path and keep them from veering down the wrong trail—they bolt! Run! Flee! In effect, their actions say to God’s Church, “You don’t correct me! You’re not my mother!”
Such spiritually short-sighted people do not understand that serious consequences are tied to those who willfully fail to regularly assemble—“as the manner of some is”—with their mother, the one true Church. They do not grasp that the Church-is-our-mother doctrine is linked to first focusing on other brethren, then focusing on self, then going through Christ, our High Priest. Only then, through His shed blood, can Christians have direct access to God the Father.
Hebrews 10 makes this link clear. No man can focus merely on himself and get into the kingdom of God. We were called to help others get there too. We do this by assembling every weekly and annual Sabbath (if we are physically able) with God’s people—the Church. No other “woman” can be a substitute for our spiritual mother.
Those who do not believe or comprehend that the Church of God is our spiritual mother—that she protects, feeds and nurtures us—expose themselves to a Pandora’s Box of doctrinal poison.
They expose themselves to “every wind of false doctrine.” They cheerfully consume every liberalized, watered-down “new truth”—a mixture of truth and error—that comes their way. (This is the same poisonous fruit the devil deceived Eve into eating.) They hold the brethren at arm’s length, and deny themselves the energizing fellowship of “iron sharpen[ing] iron” (Prov. 27:17). And they bolt at the first sign of godly correction.
By rejecting the Church as their mother, they deny themselves protection from heresy. They spiritually starve themselves of all the restored truths supplied by their mother, through God’s true ministry. And they cut themselves off from receiving the motherly nurturing of Christian fellowship, sound doctrine, reproof, instruction in righteousness, exhortation and even much-needed correction.
How can such people reject their spiritual mother, yet still expect to be born into the kingdom of God?
Like any good mother, God’s Church protects, feeds and nurtures her unborn children so that they may grow within her “womb.” She has been doing this for 2,000 years. Peter instructed the ministry to “feed the flock of God which is among you, taking oversight…willingly” (I Pet. 5:2).
Paul amplified the Church’s role as our mother: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto…the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).
As you can plainly see, the Church-is-our-mother doctrine is a biblical teaching that is firmly linked to our future inheritance—eternal life. It is a doctrine that demands action!