It seems that a lot of news these days regarding God’s church tends to be focused on negative trends, whether implied or blatant. We hear news that young people are leaving the faith, church buildings are being abandoned, sold, and repurposed, church buildings being burned or vandalized, etc. It may be assumed that the churches being burned are only Catholic since outrage is allegedly pointed at the Catholic Church for its role in abusing indigenous kids in Canada. But all churches are being targeted and the attacks started to increase when governments made congregations the bad guys for wanting to hold services in opposition to draconian COVID lockdowns. All the negativity regarding Christianity can make one wonder if we’re getting to the point where no Christians will be left, all churches will die off, and no lost souls will be saved.
Will the body of Christ become like a decayed cadaver? Things in some cases may look hopeless and that’s what the secular world is wishing for us. But our God, Jehovah, the Almighty whose Bible is still in every corner of the globe, specializes in counteracting the hopeless. When it may seem like not enough people are being saved and that Christians are losing ground, we can look to the scriptures to find encouragement beyond how things may appear, in order to see God’s reality. One such scripture is Ezekiel 37 when the prophet saw nothing but dry bones everywhere (and no, these bones didn’t become zombies like some have mockingly stated). His vision of Israel has parallels for how God works for the sake of his church:
11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
13 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord. …
24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. …
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
Ancient Israel’s experiences are what, at some point, all the people of God have experienced. Our world is like a valley of dry bones where we were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins thinking that there couldn’t possibly be any different life experiences for us beyond what we were living when we didn’t know Christ. Worldly people, the majority walking this planet, still live like this. However, those of us who have been saved have been called by God’s power out of our spiritual graves. We are “risen with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). The Lord Jesus came to give new life to our formerly lifeless souls. When we were in a decayed, desolate, desperate spiritual state, even when we weren’t aware of our condition, Christ the Lord pulled us out and put his Holy Spirit in us.
God gave us a new citizenship in a new land, his everlasting kingdom of the New Jerusalem. As we live under his everlasting covenant with his presence always near, he has promised that his people will continue to multiply (v. 26). The heathen may assume they can be rid of us, just like many people assumed Israel would never be a nation again, but eventually the heathen will see that there is no getting rid of God’s people. He has established that his sanctuary will abide for evermore on Earth, just as it is in heaven (v. 28).
I’ve heard some Christians say that such promises like we see in Ezekiel 37 only apply to the physical Israel. Nevertheless, we know from scripture that God can and did apply this prophecy to his church. We know this because Paul quoted directly from Ezekiel 37:27 when he wrote to Corinth in 2 Corinthians 6:16 to remind them of their spiritual identity. Like Ezekiel, our focus shouldn’t be on how many spiritual cadavers we see filling up our world. Our focus should be on carrying out God’s commands by his Spirit, as Ezekiel did–with the hope that at least some of those dry bones around us will be called to a new life by the Lord’s supernatural power.