The global church is the church around the world. It is all the redeemed, saved, forgiven people who are believing in Christ from all places. Often, this massive, worldwide group of Christians is referred to as the universal church.
In Revelation 7:9–10, we find this description of worship in heaven:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”When considering what is the global church, this passage is helpful. In heaven, people from all times and places on the earth will be worshiping our God and the Lamb. The redeemed before the throne transcend ethnic, cultural, and racial categories. It is truly a global church.
In Colossians 1:24, Paul refers to Christ’s body as the church, and in Christ national and ethnic distinctions become meaningless: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, . . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26–28; cf. Colossians 3:11).
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus states that “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” In this passage, Jesus, who is the creator of all things (John 1:3), declares that He will oversee the building and sustaining of His church. Nothing can stop Him from achieving His plan to build for Himself a body of people who belong to God through faith in the gospel. In His Great Commission, Jesus told the disciples to start in Jerusalem and then spread the good news through Samaria and “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The church was to be a global church in that people around the world were to receive the gospel.
Colossians 1:15–20 is also helpful in understanding the nature of the global church. In reference to Christ, Paul writes these words:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 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. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.Perhaps the key reason that God, through Christ, created everything is for the purpose of establishing a group of people who will worship Him throughout eternity. God does all things for His glory and praise, including saving His people, the global church (Ephesians 1:3–14).
In understanding the nature of the global church, it is important to recognize that it is made up of multitudes of local churches. These are the small assemblies of believers located throughout the world who gather, usually on Sunday, to worship our heavenly Father. Although there are many indirect references in the New Testament to the global church, much of the instructions are directed to local churches.
In summary, the global church is the universal group of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language from all over the world who have been saved through faith in Christ. Christians everywhere—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from Sweden to the Solomon Islands—comprise the global church. Members of the global church are separated by distance and so assemble and worship in local churches. Once in heaven, the church will be seen for what it is: one body worshiping God the Father and His Son, Jesus, throughout eternity. And, as Revelation 7:9 states, this global church will be a massive multitude that no one, except our sovereign God, can number.