What comes to peoples minds when the word 'Church' is mentioned? Do they think of a pretty white building topped with a steeple reaching for the clear blue sky, filled with joyous hat wearing worshipers, singing, swaying, and clapping white glove clad hands to soulful gospel music? Do they think of being dragged to an austere industrial warehouse by their spouse, or parents, only to sit for at least an hour upon an uncomfortable recycled pew, listening to a boring sermon and impatiently glancing at their watch, while thinking of where they will go for lunch? Do they think of ancient cold stone facades, and the scent of candle wax mingled with incense, and elaborate stained glass windows that dimly light elevated pulpits, where sermons are droned in a dead language? Or perhaps they think of fire and brimstone preaching being shouted at shell-shocked parishioners accompanied by an angry pointing finger aimed at the cowering sinners seated below the alter? Or perhaps some envision the sleek and stylish mega complexes that house state of the art amenities, where the hip and happening crowd sits under the pastorate of a spellbinding showman. How about you? What do you think of when you hear the word 'church' ? More importantly, what does the Bible have to say about what Church is, or isn't?
The word 'church' comes to us from an old English word cirice , which comes from the West Germanic word kirika (many English words are borrowed from German), that came from the Greek word kuriake meaning, 'of the Lord'. But our faith didn't originate with the Greeks, English, or the Germans. You see, these peoples were already worshiping their nature deities in sacred areas, like little clearings in massive oak groves, or in midst of large stone obelisks set upon wide open expanses, or around green clad sacred burial mounds, when Jesus walked this earth preaching the gospel. These where the sacred houses of their rural and territorial gods, or lords. So there are those who will not use the word 'church' for this reason -- because it's linked to Germanic and British idolatry. Now then, I'm certainly all for keeping wholesome words, but the best English translation for the Greek word "ecclesia", is apparently "church." Translators do the best they can to make things understandable for their audiences, so just keep that in mind when discussing the use of words in Scripture. Anyway, we now have the ability to look up words in our English translations to find the original Hebrew or Greek words, something that was not available to the average Joe Christian hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
Anyway, in the Old Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew, the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, were commonly referred to as 'The House of the Lord." These houses were where the people would go to hear the word of God read to them, and to worship, and it was not meant to be a place to bring heathen Gentiles, or other profane people. These man made structures were not where God was literally housed, or where he literally lived, because Scripture rightly proclaims that God can't be housed in a mere building made by human hands. These places were places of meetings, or encounters with God and other people of like faith. So, when the gospel spread to other parts of the world, the use of kuriake in the German/English languages may be the shortening of the Greek term for the house, or congregation of the Lord, or it might be what they used after they were converted from paganism to Christianity, not thinking to make any distinction from God's house and the former house of their pagan deity. This makes sense, since we humans are lazy and love to mix paganism with godliness, and we even like to shorten long phrases, or there was simply no other word to best describe the Hebrew or Greek word. Now we come to the term that the New Testament manuscripts use, which is ekklesia, to denote a gathering of those that are "called out", or that are of "the way" and sometimes ouvaywyn , or synagogue was even used, when speaking of the place where Paul went to reason with Jews about Jesus being Messiah and to preach the gospel to them. So does it really matter what word we use?
Words are containers of meaning. We use them to communicate our ideas, emotions, and instructions; they are are essential to making our self heard and understood, or even misunderstood depending on the listener. Whenever an argument is to be made regarding a topic, definitions must be assigned to the words that are being studied, or discussed. I can say a word that means something to me, but it may mean something entirely different to someone else, for instance the word 'dream', or 'freedom'. But without defining, or being specific regarding my use of these words, they could mean many different things to many people, and this can lead to unintentional misunderstandings, or even cleaver and intentional misleading.
What is the whole point of whether or not our gatherings are referred to as an ecclesia, or church? Before I am accused of splitting hairs, the point is that over time, people substitute words for other words, or meanings can get lost in translation and the meanings attached to words can change over the course of time. The New Testament is careful to define ecclesia as a gathering of the 'called out' ones. I think it is important for us to realize that this should lead a thinking person to ask, "called out from what , and/or into what?" A person who accepts Jesus as their Savior has been called out from the world, according to John 17, and gathered into the family of God, for the purpose of living and preaching the gospel, which is salvation from sin and death! Jesus told Peter that the knowledge of Jesus being the Messiah (the Son of God) is the rock upon which He would build His ecclesia. So, we who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and follow Him, we are all likened to living stones, which are gathered together to make up the 'Church' , or for some, the better term being ecclesia, of Jesus. Which ever term you choose to use, just know that you are a called out one, called out from the world system of idolatry, and called into God's system of faith and the worship of Him alone!
The word 'Church'has devolved (for some) into representing a hollow, and hypocritical institution, so they tend to want to shy away from it. These days it also carries the connotations, or meanings of both a building and denomination. The former needs to be maintained by the ones who gather within its walls, and the latter is a man-made invention used to divide and exclude, based on man-made religious ideals and criteria, rather than on compliance to Scripture. Yes dear reader, what you have heard is true, Christianity is an exclusive religion, regardless of how modern preachers try to make it into being their brand of "I'm okay, you're okay" religious inclusion.
Anyway, which ever word you chose to use, church, ecclesia, or your particular denomination, one thing is for certain, we need to get back to the original meaning and intent behind the gathering of called out ones, or the saints. We are the living stones that make up the house of the Lord, and not an actual building, or a particular denomination! Jesus said, "For where there are two or three gathered in My name, there will I be also." Notice He didn't say, "For where there are two or three gathered under a roof with four walls in the name of (insert your denomination here), there I will be also." According to Jesus, a gathering of two or more people, anywhere, in any circumstance, in His name (meaning His character)is His church, because He will be there with them. The Church, or Ecclesia is supposed to be made of people who are already saved; not mortar, not brick, not hewn stone, but saved people gathered somewhere. The Church, or Ecclesia, as displayed in the New Testament, gathered together and fellowshiped with one another by having broken bread together, heard the New Testament letters read, perhaps prophesied and edified one another, sang hymns, and to even shared stories of salvation, and perils suffered for the sake of the gospel, and Jesus. And then, after basking in fellowship with each other and their Lord, they went out into the world to evangelize it, many times risking their lives to spread the gospel. Is that what we see going on inside the four walls of a rented, or mortgaged building in this day and age? Church these days is more like a country club to be honest, where dues (tithes) are paid and amenities (coffee carts, rock concerts, and motivational speakers) are enjoyed. What a mess we have made of Jesus' body, Lord forgive us!
When did the modern'church' as we know it happen? You know, the process of getting all gussied up, climbing into our means of transportation, while fighting and bickering with one another, or singing along with the tunes from a favorite rock-n-roll station - I mean - Contemporary "Christian" music station? When did we sheep start piously filing into a mortgaged, or leased building, where we worship God with three self-centered worship songs? When did we, the Lord's lambs, agree to listen to a milquetoast topical sermon, which we then hope will lead to an unbiblical and emotionally charged "altar call" for our unsaved loved ones that we tricked into going to Church, followed by another self-centered worship song? This happens all the time, right? I have even observed sheep who gather to chit chat with friends in their click, not about the sermon, or about what they learned from it, but about their favorite T.V. show, or about a movie they recently saw. They maybe even decide which of their favorite lunch spots they will go to. After 'playing church', then perhaps they pile back into their vehicle - where they fight and bicker with one another some more on the way back home. Once back home, they live like the world for six days, and start the whole hypocritical parade all over again. Believe it or not, this is the way most of us "Christians" act on Sundays, or Saturdays, or whenever we go to church. [Be sure to see the You Tube video: This church video is cool]
To be honest, I don't really know when this behavior started; I'm just kinda tired of it; my soul is weary of sighing at all the lawlessness and idolatry I see among the so-called people of God. I can't tell you how many times I have heard a pastor say in front of his congregation - "We don't do church as usual here!" Uh...yes they do! If they really wanted to "do" church "differently", then they would not have a church building to begin with, much less a huge 'campus' with their very own book store loaded with volumes upon volumes of Christianized witchcraft manuals, and other occult merchandise. They wouldn't have a coffee cart, rock-n -roll band, and laser lights show. Instead, they would go back to having small gatherings in someone's home, where they might share a meal, read from Scripture, and have communion, pray, sing psalms, prophesy, exhort and admonish one another, and yes - even speak in tongues - that is, if someone was there who would be able to interpret it. Then, they'd go back out into the world after refreshing themselves in one another's edifying company, and preach the gospel to the lost. They'd also take care of widows and orphans with in their reach, and collect offerings from cheerful givers and distribute the proceeds to the members of Christ's body, who need financial assistance, rather than make a name for themselves and pay for worldly amenities and staff salaries, oh and maybe even foreign missions. But does this happen? No! What we really have are whitewashed shams dedicated to another Jesus. While the real Jesus, whom most of their congregants don't even really know as their Lord and Savior, is ignored and even ridiculed by them. The biblical model of fellowship has been replaced with the man-made hippy atrocity known as "relationship." If you don't know what the difference is between the two models of living are, then please click here, and it will take you to the Wrested Biblical Words page, where I define them.
I'm sorry dear reader. Do I sound jaded? Maybe I am, or maybe I'm just sick and tired of the hypocritical farce and charade that goes on every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, that tries to pass itself off as 'church.' I'm tired of going to churches where the pastors are seeker sensitive, and preach luke-warm milquetoast sermons to fat babies, who can't stand the meat of sound doctrine, and/or refuse to submit to a good spanking when they are being naughty. I'm sick of pastors who fleece the Lord's sheep, and devour them after they have fattened them up on their empty calorie diet of milquetoast and fast-food, all the while promising them that God will supply all their needs according to his riches in glory. However, these fleecers claim the sheep will only be "blessed" if they send their tithe and offering money right away, to support their local hireling's church business - this stuff makes me kinda angry. When I think about this stuff, the urge to start braiding a whip and turning over some tables starts to come over me, ya know?
In today's modern church, as back in the apostle John's day, there are pastors who allow Jezebel and Balaam to speak from their pulpits, those who teach the sheep to eat things offered to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. They are sadly, far too many to count. This is all done under the guise of bringing in what they call "fresh water" in order to avoid what they call "spiritual stagnation." Spiritual stagnation is actually avoided by obeying God's word, and not by inviting Jezebel and Balaam in to your church to spew their idolatrous drivel. These charlatans who pass off their demonic manifestations as Holy Spirit giftings- are just sickening to me; the hurl factor is reaching toward the critical stage here. But instead of protesting, and turning up our noses to this sordid fodder, the masses of spiritually dumbed down and lawless sheep eat up this kind of sugar covered poison, and then hungrily bleat for more. I know... I shouldn't be jaded, after all the Bible does foretell that all of this will happen in the last days- so apparently it can't be stopped, but nevertheless, part of me can't help engaging in some bitter sarcasm.
However, now that I've poured out my jaded heart, I think I will make an effort to rejoice in what these signs show, which is the proficiency of God's word. Even though this cancer will only get worse (the Bible says so), and spread, does that mean I should just give up entirely and accept seeming defeat? No way Jose! Because thanks to Jesus, there is still hope! So, I am compelled to get the word out, to warn those sheep who are getting tired of their sad situation. This brings me to the subject of those who keep praying for a last days 'righteous revival' that won't come. In truth, the great apostasy is what is on the religious horizon, or the false revival that is being pushed by the 'Emergent Church', and it has already been birthed.
This apostasy will only grow, taking with it, all those who love to have it so. These apostates love the world and it's material goods: music, toys, amusements, pagan holy-days, false religious unity, and false, or "paranormal" spirituality, also known as lying wonders. Well, as far as I'm concerned, they can have it-- ALL OF IT! Even though I have grown weary of looking for a genuine spirit filled church, that actually teaches and obeys all of God's word, and holds it as the only final authority, and even though it seems like I'm looking for a needle in a haystack, I must remember that God still keeps for himself a faithful remnant. Not only that, but he eventually brings them together, usually during a national crisis that has come upon the church as a whole, due to the refusal of its wayward members to repent for their wickedness. So I have decided to cling to that faithful and true promise! If there is anyone out there that is part of this righteous remnant, then please contact me a.s.a.p. so I can welcome the assembling of ourselves together in exhorting one another in the truth, especially since I see the Day of the Lord, is fast approaching! Amen.
In the first chapters of the book of Revelation, Jesus is dealing with his body - the church, or ecclesia, and astonishingly, it seems that during John's lifetime, our Lord had a bone to pick with five out of the seven churches in Asia. I don't really like math, but this situation compelled me to do some figuring. We have heard the adage that "numbers don't lie," which is true, but people can use numbers to lie. Well dear reader, these numbers were provided to us by a man who doesn't lie, our Lord Jesus Christ. So, when I ran his numbers, I found that a whopping 72% of the named churches in Asia, had some manner of corrections by Jesus. That's a lot, dear reader! Not only did Jesus reveal what their problems and strengths were, but he also gave them the dire consequence of any disobedient non-compliance, which was their removal from Jesus' candle stick - - yeah, that can't be good!
Some more numbers to crunch are that four out of the seven churches were in trouble concerning some form of heresy; that's over 50%! Even more troubling, one of the seven was even declared to be dead! Well, mostly dead, which is slightly alive, but only because they had a few who hadn't defiled their garments, and were worthy to wear white [a kittle/white robe] and walk with Jesus. That means, only 28% of the churches in Asia, during John's apostleship, were living as they should, and were completely safe from Jesus' rebuke. That's right, only two out of the seven were living completely right! Would you say that made John 'feel' successful as a pastor? Is this numerical tally not extremely alarming to you dear reader? It should be!
Even more amazing is that only one of those two faithful churches [Philadelphia], would entirely escape imprisonment and the testing of their faith, provided that they remained faithful to Jesus' command to patiently endure. The other compliant church [Smyrna], had members that would be tested by being thrown into prison by Satan, even though they were doing what was right! So not fair, right? Well, we may not think it's fair, but Jesus encouraged them to be faithful witnesses even unto death! Their reward? Only the crown of life, and the promise that they would not be hurt by the second death, and they would get to rule with Jesus in the Millennium! Not a bad compensation, huh?
So - let's review - according to Revelation chapters 1 through 3, an astounding 72% of the church was in dire need of repentance, do to some sort of moral, and/or spiritual infraction on their part. As you can see, holiness is VERY important to our God. They were given instructions on how to deal with and remove their infractions, and were warned what awaited them if they didn't voluntarily repent. Non-compliance would result in their outright removal - ouch! Mean while, only some with in the faithful Smyrna church were to be persecuted and martyred as a testing of their faith, with the promise of great reward. This leaves only 14% of the churches in Asia, which were told that they would be kept from the hour of trial, which will come upon the whole world, because of their faithfulness to holiness. And that one church out of the seven is the church of Philadelphia. Now that, my very dear reader, is what is known as a remnant!
I truly believe that this situation is just as real today, right now (if not more dire) as it was back then, when John received this painful revelation from Jesus. Dear reader, I hope we have ears to hear and consider the ramifications of this alarming truth. You and I, dear reader, may belong to the 72% of the church body, that is in dire need of repentance! So, I want to encourage us all to read the first few chapters of Revelation, and see if we can find the church that we represent, within those troubling, yet blessed passages. And I pray that we would be brutally honest with ourselves in that soul-search. And I hope we take heed to our Lord's warnings recorded there, and be counted as one who overcomes. However, those of us who stubbornly hold onto any:
But by then, it seems that their fate will be sealed due to their callous hearts; if they didn't repent of their heresy in the first 3 1/2 years, then it is unlikely they will repent when the seriously heavy judgments start to fall upon them due to their apostasy. Meaning, they will curse the God they once claimed as their own, along with those who never wanted anything to do with Him in the first place.
This is a very real future reality, the numbers don't lie, and neither does our Lord. He said that all of this would come to pass, that many will not make it through the difficult to find narrow gate, and that many will be surprised to find that they were never known by the Savior. Are we listening? We each must determine if we are on the wide and easy ecumenical path leading to destruction, or if we are on the hard to follow path of righteousness that leads to life, and the map that helps guide us is God's word, rightly divided. It is entirely possible to misread a map and be lost while thinking you are on the right path. This is a very serious matter, so let us make sure we are not among the numerous who will say, "Lord lord," but will be rejected by Jesus, as one whom he never
knew, and even be called a worker of lawlessness. Amen!
Since the Scriptures say that each of us is a dwelling, or temple for the Holy Spirit, and we are also living stones that make up the entire Ecclesia, or Church, then logically speaking, each individual is a type of church that is represented in the book of Revelation. I myself, have done this bit of soul-searching, and personally, I found that I was a Laodicean Church. I know dear reader, truly it is the worst church next to the nearly dead one, right? I know I was a Laodicean church, because I was once a Word of Faith minion, and these congregants boast and 'say' that they are rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.
In reality, most of them are poor, blind and naked. I know I was poor, and I still am, even after decades of sowing my money to these false teachers, who were the only beneficiaries in that deal. But thanks be to God, I'm no longer that kind of church, and I don't go to that kind of church any more either! I am now striving to be a member of the Philadelphian church. But perhaps, the Lord will count me as the church of Smyrna; a possibility which I must be ready to face - meaning the possibility of martyrdom during the Tribulation period. Don't you see that dear reader? Don't you see that we are individually considered to be a temple, ecclesia, or church, which we in turn make up the entire church, or body of Christ?
Now with that knowledge, apply it to the first few chapters of Revelation. According to Scripture, the Tribulation Period awaits those who are in need of purification, and judgement; a time which will include even those chosen few, who will bravely represent and prove their faith in Jesus, even unto death (Rev. 12:11;17). Unlike what many sheep have been told by the masses of hireling pastors and false teachers, which is that the entire church will be "raptured," or removed from earth, before the Tribulation; in reality there will only be a few, or a faithful Philadelphian remnant, who will escape this up and coming great hour of trial entirely, to a place prepared for her in the wilderness (Rev. 3:9-10, 12:6;13-16). Now, as to how , when, and where the Lord will take them, in order to keep them from the face of the dragon, or this great hour of trial, is another subject. The Bible only talks about a single elect people, not two separate chosen people, that being his Church, which includes Jews and Gentiles who have the faith of Abraham. No one has been replaced in the sense of removal, but in the sense of restoration. Thank be to Jesus, a true "Jew" is one who is a Jew in the heart and the spirit, not in the flesh, according to Paul in Romans 2:29.
Also, there is only a second coming of Jesus, not a third, spoken of in Scripture. Jesus won't be coming secretly to claim his faithful bride (the church), instead he will make his second coming very public. According to Scripture, regarding the last days, the faithful are warned to run for the hills when they see the abomination of desolation in the temple, so apparently, they will be taken somewhere on earth to be cared for, for those three and a half years that the Anti-Christ will be allowed to run amok. Meanwhile, the only human inhabitants of heaven that we are shown concerning this tumultuous time, are the martyrs from the Great Tribulation, that are awaiting their vengeance that God will unleash on those who murdered them. We are not told about any who were taken up to heaven, or raptured before the tribulation, who are wearing white, are we? I must stress the biblical fact that it is only a watchful and faithful remnant that will be removed and spared the torment that will be unleashed upon the ungodly, and disobedient masses of, and on the earth. And those faithful few who are removed, are taken to a place on the earth, that has been prepared for them (Rev.12:6;14), and not to heaven.
How do I know that? Well, heaven is never described as "the wilderness" in Scripture, it is spoken of as paradise. And if the woman in Revelation 12 was taken up into heaven, then any concern of a murderous flood coming after her would not have been grave enough to require the giving of wings to her as an eagle to escape it. Clearly the woman (who many Bible scholars claim is national Israel rather than the Church) is not taken to heaven, but to a place of refuge on the earth, or the wilderness.
And I don't entirely agree with the differentiation between National Israel and the body of Christ that theologians assert, but that is not of my own opinion, rather it is something I derived from Scripture. What I mean is that there are two "Israel's" if you will. National Israel, and True (or Spiritual) Israel. National Israel is by and large the immoral majority that God had to constantly punish. They rely on their outward observance of religious ritual, and their physical relation to Abraham to save them. Whereas True (or Spiritual Israel) live by faith, they are the remnant that do not bow their knees to Baal, they are those that God reserves for himself. They are the true physical and spiritual descendants of Abraham. They do not rely on their own righteousness, but instead rely on the Lord's righteousness. In the New Testament, they were the first Christians, before the Gentiles nations were giving the gospel.
There is always only one "elect" people of God in Scripture, not two. Spiritual Israel that came from believing Abraham, is the True Israel, and is the root of the Christian faith, we are grafted onto that righteous tree. National Israel will be judged for their rejection of their Messiah, but even so, there will be some that come to the faith in the Tribulation period, namely, the 144,000 missionaries Jesus commissions from the 12 tribes.
And since Jesus is the Lord God Almighty, then that means there is only woman in his life, which is his bride, or the Church. But there is another woman, a harlot, for all of the members of Satan's church, or synagogue. Before anyone gets their shorts in a bunch, I want to assure you that the Church (the elect) is comprised of any and all who have the faith of Abraham, so that would include those who are physical Israelites, and Gentiles, or "the one new man" spoken of in the book of Ephesians. Amen.
When I first saw this video, that I have posted below, it was and still is, the best parody of the modern church service I have seen, and it made me laugh - well - I still laugh every time I watch it. Why? Because it reminds me of the church we left, which was trying to be so "contemprovant!" But sadly, it represents most of what is called "church" these days. Watch it on full screen to get the full effect, and see if it reminds you of where you used to, or currently go to church. And if it does remind you of your church, then I admonish you to consider leaving it a.s.a.p! Or, perhaps you can try and turn it around by bringing your pastor's attention to the dangerous things they are engaged in. If they actually listen, then bravo, well done. If not, then keep warning them until you are asked to leave. I now realize that if I had stayed, and started to speak about what I had come to learn as the truth, then eventually I would have been asked to leave. Maybe that is what I should have done, but I was too spiritually weak back then, and it's too bad that hindsight is 20/20. So in retrospect dear reader, I encourage you to warn the other sheep within your pasture until you are run out of the flock, and then seek out and find others with like minds and hearts - others of the remnant of sound doctrine loving sheep. Now, roll the film...