What is the Visible / Invisible Church?

Question

What is the Visible / Invisible church?

Answer

The Visible Church is designated "visible," as it consists of everyone who professes the faith once given to the saints, along with their children. The Invisible Church are the elect and "consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof ...". See WCF 25.

There are four categories of human beings within the confines of God's covenantal relationships with humanity. These can be easily understood by the following examples:

  • (1) John the Baptist: Effectually Called from the womb. He was a member of the Visible / Invisible Church.

  • (2) Jacob: Effectually Called later in life (the norm for the elect). He was a member of the Visible Church for a length of time (circumcision, corporate community, et. al.). Then he was saved. While he was still a member of the Visible Church, one who is elect is among the members of the Invisible Church too.

  • (3) Esau: Reprobate, but a member of the Visible Church. However, he was never a member of the Invisible Church.

  • (4) Goliath: Reprobate. An Unbeliever. Never a member of the Visible / Invisible Church.

The diagram below gives us a picture of these relationships:

visible and invisible church graphic

Related Topics:

The Old/New Testament Church
Dispensational Pre-Mills and Israel?
Pre-Mill Dispensationalism and Historical Premillennialism Problems?
The Re-Newed or New Covenant?
What Is Covenant Theology?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).