Ekklesia - The Church or God's Government (Part 5)
This is where the rubber meets the road. In this chapter I will finally be able detail for you exactly who the Ekklesia are - straight from Scripture. No conjecture, no theories, no opinions, just good old fashioned hermeneutics - "letting Scripture interpret Scripture" - with no add-ons, by-products - or preservatives. Let's break this down and see where it goes...
I would truly love it, if the above banner was all that is needed for us to be able to explain who the ekklesia/ecclesia really are, but I'm afraid it just isn't that simple. For years, based on the training and education I received, I would have looked at this banner and just came to the conclusion many of you might have from your previous training and education - that the ekklesia is "The Church". As this has unfolded, however, I have discovered something very different.
We have already seen, in the simple to follow bread crumb trail that Abba has led us along, the ekklesia is definitely not the church. In fact, it's not too much of a stretch to even come to the conclusion that "church" may never have been the intended name by which God wants His children known. If you haven't read parts 1-4 yet, I recommend you start there so the claims I just made and those I will express as we move forward in this chapter will not seem so extreme.
I was so fervently convinced the church was all there was to say on the matter, it is difficult now to find the words to adequately and gently say that it just isn't the whole truth and the rest matters far more than this tiny bit of the whole truth. Yes what people call the church is part of the ekklesia. The real problem begins with the fact that we have been trained to believe God absolutely intended His children to be "the church", or called by that name. I am exposing the fact that much of the teaching about these two words (ekklesia and church) is short of adequate by leaps and bounds, some is actually based on human presumption, and some is frankly just plain heresy. Keep in mind that heresy used to be defined as teaching anything which did not line up with Scripture. That is the definition I am choosing to use. Not the modern definition which is anything which doesn't agree with accepted orthodoxy. More on this below.
It deeply pains me to say this, but it also feels like the most important declaration of my more than 30 years in ministry. It's time for the Body-Bride to get back to solid Biblical teaching in academic honesty and set aside human creations of theological pursuits. We must finally, once and for all, commit ourselves fully to the pursuit of what Scripture says. To label and conduct ourselves accordingly and NOT based upon traditions passed on to us as if they are Scripture.
In many ways, though not all, we have taken poor doctrinal foundations from previous generations and without questioning or digging them out, perpetuated Biblical myths that fall short of good hermeneutics (methods to interpret Scripture), filled with poor exegesis (breakdown of Scripture). We've used them to create beautiful word pictures that can be executed as fully acceptable to all crowds, and even bring adulate praise from nothing more than a poetic and powerful sounding homily (sermon).
May God forgive us for letting it get this far and in His mercy guide us back to a more sound understanding of His Inspired Word like that of the First Century believers. Believers who had something so tangible, moving, and life-changing they were able to accept a fate worse than mere death in the spreading of that very same Gospel left to us all by Yeshua/Jesus. They were those who carried a purity of purpose and singleness of heart that transcended above the intimidation of the Roman war machine. This 'something' they had, drove those believers to meet in hiding, anywhere they could, while their very lives could have been spared had they just walked away from TRUTH.
We must, like the Bereans, search the truth of God's Word minus the external factors of man made tradition and re-discover who and what we are - as He sees us and as He destined for us. In our habit of calling ourselves the "ekklesia" or "The Church" have we missed a far more critical role that God has for us to play? Our perception of what this means will determine our effectiveness in the world we live in by limiting or unlocking destiny contained within Scripture and Scripture alone.
On my path discovering these truths, I eventually felt like I'd made it to a place where I understood what the ekklesia was not; but I still didn't have an answer for who they were or are.
It was near the end of June 2018 when I began writing all of this. So it was a few months before, that I ran across the reference to William Tyndale and his having been martyred partly for refusing to translate "ekklesia" as "church". The trail sort of had me all over the place at first. I kept thinking I could solve it by just looking at some websites on the matter and resolving it in my own heart. If that had been the case, I'd have never written about it. I wasn't at all satisfied with the answers I was finding though. My spirit just felt unsettled and I knew I hadn't dug deep enough yet. Then I had the idea to look at the etymology (history of words) of the word "church" (where I discovered the horror of it's relation to the Roman Coliseum - see chapter 1) and that threw the whole thing into a tailspin. It really wrecked me and was extremely discouraging. My heart sank and actually broke more than once as I was faced with the lies I'd adopted as truth which now stared me in the face - in fact, eye to eye. It was as if it was sizing me up to see who would have the greater resolve. Who would blink first, allowing the other a split second to launch an assault and settle once and for all who the victor would be in my heart - truth or deception.
You know the rest from that point to now after reading the first 4 chapters in this chain of events. I had hit a wall. The trail ended and I had no idea where to pick it back up again. It had suddenly halted. It seemed I had been chasing ghosts. Had the whole thing had just been an enigma, a specter that led me into a dead end? I was frustrated and felt as though I'd been duped into looking for something I thought would bring clarity but turned into nothing more than a red herring; a distraction to keep me from being about my Father's Business while here in Asia.
With a now cold case and not at all the hot trail I'd been on, what was I to do? Just drop the whole thing? That was honestly an option I considered. But then while on an outing in Missouri in early June, just a couple of weeks before I began writing all of this, I was in a conversation that sparked something in me. Maybe it was in my mind, or maybe my spirit - but it was explosive and sent me straight into orbit!!
It dawned on me that I was chasing answers for a word study about a Greek word - ekklesia. There was one source I hadn't considered. One Greek reference that never crossed my mind, except to tell people how many errors there were in it.
Oh, the anticipation, the relief to have another lead!
THE SEPTUAGINT may hold the answer!
One quick reflection from the previous chapters, to keep it fresh in your mind before I reveal what I discovered...
...this will get a bit academic but it is necessary to bring this all together. Please don't skip this part even if it seems a little "busy" with too much info in too short of space.
The word ekklesia literally means "called out ones". After discussing this with many during this process, most have said to me "well, that's the church". To which I ask in return, "how can that mean "church" if "church" had never been used before by the Greeks [because their pagan houses of worship were called Temples naos or hieron - not ekklesia]?". Ekklesia wasn't translated into "church" until some years after Constantine slowly made "church and state" one and the same entity with himself as its Pontifex Maximus (Latin for "greatest priest") and referring to himself as Vicarious Cristi (Vicar/Replacement of Christ). In fact, I found zero evidence indicating the earliest believers who met regularly called themselves a church, nor that they called where they met a church. The first mention of anything remotely connected to the word "church" is from early Catholicism and they were called an apostolic see (now called a diocese). Though I cannot find any definitive connection to the first usage of the word "church" at all, it does seem reasonable to conclude it also began with early Catholicism, due to the etymology from chapter 1, clearly leading back to Roman origin by way of Kirke/Circe and its lineage back to the coliseum circuses (which were somewhat circular in shape). Keep in mind, this is also where early believers were murdered for their faith. This being the case, then it is also not much of a stretch to conclude that "church" may never have been God's intended label for His Gentile Children or His children in general. We need to understand that much of the doctrine and teaching decided upon during Constantine's Council at Nicaea was voted upon and decided with input from pagans of various ancient religions and not solely by believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They certainly did not all believe in Jesus as Messiah, nor were they all filled with Holy Spirit. Yet much of what they began and which has evolved into modern Catholicism remains a part of the theology and doctrine taught throughout Christendom, including those who are Protestants. Are you beginning to see why this matters so much?
NOTE: The Council at Nicaea is not totally dissimilar from the more modern Vatican 1 and 2 Councils.
The "Protestant Reformation" brought us many great truths and much revelation about our place in Christ and relationship with the Father. The Reformers, however, only began the work and frankly the Body-Bride of Yeshua/Jesus is still being reformed - moving from Realm to Realm and Glory to Glory.
I found the key to all of this in Deuteronomy 4:10, in the Septuagint. God had called all the "assembly" of Israel to the base of Mt. Choreb (Horeb) to initiate what would be the first of the Feasts - Yom Teruah - The Feast of Trumpets. From the Greek Septuagint "ekklesia" is often translated as assembly in English. In Deuteronomy 4:10 the Hebrew Scriptures use 'qahal' (kah-hal) which means to convoke, assemble, gather together. Ekklesia was about God's Covenant people responding to a call from Him to all assemble and meet with Him in celebration. Sure, it sounds like what we would call a church, but when we do, we are taking away from the actual value of what was happening here and only reiterating the Supersessionism (Replacement Theology) which began at the Council of Nicaea mentioned above. Constantine even instituted an edict in his new "Christian State" which made it against the law to even mention the Feasts of YHVH. At that point in our history, and for the first time, "Christianity" totally separated from Judaism. If we go through the New Testament we can find that the Apostles and followers of Yeshua (Gentile and Jew alike) celebrated the Feasts and more.
NOTE: If it would not take up so much space and time, I would detail this all out for you now. It will just have to suffice for me to have mentioned it and trust each reader to search out these things for themselves. This much of the story at Mt. Choreb is important to where we are headed.
The writers of the Septuagint chose to use the word "ekklesia" where the Hebrew used 'qahal' and this is the the first use of it in the Greek Old Testament. This is just the first clue in a direction which should help us to narrow down exactly what/who the ekklesia are and their role. Obviously, the ekklesia at the time of Deuteronomy 4:10 is the entire assembly of Israel - those whom God had recently redeemed from slavery. Does this sound familiar? So, yet another parallel to what many in Protestantism and Catholicism both believe to be the church.
The fact is, however, the word church
doesn't mean "called out ones",
it doesn't mean "assembly",
it doesn't even have any connotation to meeting with God.
Lastly, "church" doesn't have anything to do with the freedom of captives.
Ekklesia is connected to all of these things by historical context, Scriptural context, the culture of Israel in Deuteronomy and Exodus, and finally linguistics. All four parts of solid hermeneutics.
If we choose to accept its actual etymology "church" is the opposite of the list above. It was sort of nicknamed after a place where those taken captive for their faith in Yeshua/Jesus were put to death.
We have grown so used to the idea of calling ourselves "The Church" that an entire genre of theology has been grown around it - "churchology". Yet, the word church doesn't have a track record which actually supports the theology. It simply doesn't even go back to the First Century believers, or the The Word of God. For all intents and purposes, it seems to stop cold in the 3rd-4th Century around the time of Constantine and his primary theologian Eusebius. Though, I am not certain it even goes back that far.
Due to a lack of access to the level of information we now have at our fingertips via reference books and especially the internet, the Reformers could not accomplish what can be done now. We can now trace the lineage of both "ekklesia" to it's first usage in relation to the Bible and "church" back to its earliest usages via its etymology. Again, why does this even matter? Let's continue and I believe it will become apparent.
Constantine needed exclusivity for his new Church-State of Christianity. So one of his first steps was to distance his Christian Church from any connection to Israel, the Jewish people, and a Jewish Messiah. It's no secret and can be easily verified that he removed and replaced the practicing of the Feasts of YHVH, which eventually led to translating Bibles to call them the "Feasts of the Jews". In even the earliest of Catholic art, Yeshua/Jesus looks distinctly Anglicized. The "Sabbath Day" was changed, and so on. The efforts of Constantine to monopolize Christianity and reign in all those who believed in Yeshua HaMashiach but refused to bend to his version of Christianity resulted in them being hunted and eliminated. In fact, it is recorded that more believers were martyred by Rome AFTER Constantine's supposed conversion than before. It was during this time period that "Christianity" began looking very different than its big brother Judaism. Below is an interesting quote from a thorough article on Wikipedia which is obviously and openly not pro-Judaism or pro-Messianic Judaism. It is heavily influenced by the same teachings we have had for centuries about "the church".
NOTE: As you'll see as we progress, God didn't nor does He now, expect us to become Judaized or convert to Judaism before we accept Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah. Just as I've said before, not all we have been taught is incorrect, but may be influenced by an incorrect perspective overall. Again, it likely was not His Plan for "The Church" to be a completely separate entity from our Judeo-Christian roots.
"Earliest Christianity took the form of a Jewish eschatological faith. The Book of Acts reports that the early followers continued daily Temple attendance and traditional Jewish home prayer. Other passages in the New Testament gospels reflect a similar observance of traditional Jewish piety such as fasting, reverence for the Torah and observance of Jewish holy days. At first, Christians continued to worship alongside Jewish believers, but within twenty years of Jesus' death, Sunday (the Lord's Day) was being regarded as the primary day of worship."
Find the whole article HERE.
NOTE: I do NOT agree that Sunday is "the Lord's Day" since Scripture clearly does not support this. However, to remain an honest researcher, I left it in the above quote so as to not to be guilty of making disagreeable material agreeable to my agenda. That is the worst kind of academic dishonesty. We have to be able to present material with complete honesty and allow the reader to see through some of the minutia and listen to Holy Spirit to find the truth in the presentation.
All of these things that I am pointing out which fit into the category of not supported by Scripture are part of something accurately referred to as "Consensus Orthodoxy" - a phrase coined by author William DeArteaga in his book "Quenching the Spirit".
In this book, DeArteaga defines "Consensus Orthodoxy" as, “A term used to refer to the theological interpretations accepted by the majority of religious people during a given time period.”
Regarding this concept, DeArteaga says: "Consensus orthodoxy is dangerous because its doctrine is accepted on the merits of current popularity rather than biblical accuracy. In contrast, I use the word orthodoxy alone to signify a doctrine which is consistent with Scripture. As Paul warns, on earth we only know 'in part' (1 Corinthians 13:12), and thus, all biblical orthodoxy may never be possessed by any one individual or denomination. This should keep us humble before those we believe to be in error."
Society seems to repeatedly go through what I call "Generational Amnesia", especially where theology, and subsequently doctrine is concerned. Generational Amnesia occurs when a generation passes the things they do and believe onto the next, then at some point a generation forgets the significance of WHY they do and believe as they do, even though they continue to do and believe it.
I think Generational Amnesia leads to Consensus Orthodoxy. The "church" of today is filled with both. Things that have been taught to past generations have continued to be taught to the current generation and no one (or very few) can explain why. At the same time, the revelation being taught from this generation is QUICKLY becoming Consensus Orthodoxy because most do not care to dig things out for themselves. We have become a Body which expects a leader to tell us 'what to believe' and 'what we should do in response to those beliefs' - my definitions of theology and doctrine respectively. No, we cannot all be Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, William Booth, C.S. Lewis - or - add any other influential theologian you may choose to the list. These I've listed all had their theological issues, and we all do, but their issues aren't as cleverly hidden as many seem to hide such things today. Notice I didn't list any any theologians from this current generation? That's because as I've researched many of the most popular, I found influences of Supersessionism, Dispensationalism, Praeterism, Futurism, and other such heretical teachings in their most basic theology and doctrine. Most of these teachings are from Catholic and/or Jesuit beginnings, but few who follow them seem to question the source of the teaching. It is almost as if society, especially "church" society, has willingly chosen to have Generational Amnesia and accept Consensus Orthodoxy. THIS is why it has become so vitally important for every believer to learn to rightly divide the Word and do at least some level of studying/digging/research for themselves!
Now that we can see the ekklesia is actually the whole assembly of Israel (the Covenant People), in the Septuagint, we can discuss how the post-crucifixion post-resurrection Gentile Believers fit into this picture.
The obvious place to begin is with word of our Savior. In John 10:16 He says:
“But I have other sheep which were not from this fold; I must also bring them. They also will hear my voice, and the entire fold shall be one, and One Shepherd.”
(Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
I think a couple of other translations may help...
"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
(King James Bible)
"And I have other sheep which are not of this fold. It behooves Me to bring those also, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd."
(Berean Literal Bible)
There has been a lot of teaching on this topic, but if we use proper hermeneutics (see the graphic from chapter 2), it's really not hard to understand who that other fold is.
Shaul (Paul) tells us in Romans 1:16:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone believing--both to Jewish first, and to Greek." (Berean Literal Bible)
"I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God's power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles." (Good News Translation)
I am not a fan of "word replacement" translating of Scripture, but sometimes a little common sense goes a long ways when putting things into perspective. While the literal translation is 'Greek' we all know that anyone who isn't born in the lineage of Abraham, is a Gentile. So in this case we can overlook it. Obviously, letting Romans 1:16 interpret John 10:16 tells us exactly who the two folds are - Israeli/Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua/Jesus.
That said, we are just about ready to put this to the test with good hermeneutics to see if we are correct about the two folds of sheep from John 10:16.
Let's try adding more reference for good measure:
Romans 11:16-24 (Tree of Life Version) -
"But if some of the branches were broken off and you—being a wild olive—were grafted in among them and became a partaker of the root of the olive tree with its richness, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, it is not you who support the root but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” True enough. They were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but fear— for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Notice then the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell; but God’s kindness toward you, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off! And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of that which by nature is a wild olive tree, and grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?"
Without redigging too much here, let's just quickly clarify who the wild and cultivated olive trees are. Those of the cultivated olive tree are Israel, the Covenant People. Gentiles are the wild olive tree of which some branches who believed on Yeshua have been grafted in. This is pretty obvious from Romans 11:16-24. God made room for those Gentiles when those of Israel who rejected Messiah were broken out of the Renewed Covenant Yeshua/Jesus brought.
Now let's consider John's Revelation (vs 11:4)
"These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth."
If we combine these symbolic sets of Scripture allowing them to explain one another (proper hermeneutics) we find something very different than is taught by the current Consensus Orthodoxy of the church.
The sheep of two folds as Yeshua/Jesus put it, and the two olive trees from Paul are two people groups - again it's obvious they are Israel and Gentiles. The theme of God dividing people groups into twos is common so there is no conjecture in this symbolism. If one is Jew, the other is Gentile. There are other divisions into two (such as the wheat and tares) that are actually subdivisions of only one people group so they are not related to this particular discussion. Is that easy enough to see?
Consensus Orthodoxy teaches the "Two Witnesses" of Revelation 11 are two people. But as we can see, the Two Olive Trees in Revelation 11, the two grafted together as one in Shaul/Paul's parable and that of Yeshua/Jesus regarding two folds which become one flock, are actually two people groups who are believers in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah). I'll just quickly give you the Lampstands so it doesn't turn into a long rabbit trail. Most teach that Lampstands represent "churches" in Scripture. But, that is assuming "church" is a proper interpretation of ekklesia. If we view them from the perspective I have presented in this chapter it's a little different and better fits the typology presented throughout Scripture. I'll connect this momentarily.
In Deuteronomy 4:10 Moses' recounting of God's earlier proposition from Exodus 19, and knowing now the ekklesia in those Scriptures, was all the assembly of Israel; that they rejected the Covenant God offered to them to become a kingdom of priests who would be a blessing to the entire world...
...then Yeshua came to the "lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 15:24) and renewed the Covenant opportunity. His being the final sacrifice once and for all for all of mankind (Hebrews 10:10) we who are Gentiles and believe on Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah, have in a sense become our own Olive Tree, but are grafted to the Olive Tree of Israel and therefore are now attached to the root (Yeshua/Jesus) for nourishment - two olive trees into one and two lampstands bringing the Light of Christ into the world - and THAT MY FRIENDS IS THE EKKLESIA.
The greatest importance of it all is how we perceive ourselves. After all, we become what we dell upon in our hearts (Proverbs 23:7). Shall we continue to move forward on this path which is carrying us farther and farther from the "Cultivated Olive Tree" and risk being detached from it? Would this not be turning ourselves back into a wild olive tree whose fruit is inedible?
Let's consider it another way. Yeshua/Jesus said that many will say they cast out devils, did miracles, healed the sick, etc in His Name and He will answer "I never knew you"(Matthew 7:23). That word "knew" is "ginosko" in Greek and indicates a strong intimacy. It can be translated as "knew you entirely". We can only know someone entirely if we have a close relationship with them. One synonym for that kind of relationship is "connection". We have to stay connected and in the Way He designed, else we risk being one of those who thought they were serving Him all along, but did so in a way which was not His Love Language. We have to love Him the way He desires, not one fabricated from religious leadership based on the theology of Consensus Orthodoxy and doctrine passed on by those suffering from Generational Amnesia.
The farther the "church" goes from the "root" of Yeshua (using Romans 11 again) who grafted us into Israel, the farther we are from God's design. The more we resist the fact that the early believers' only had one difference from their Judaic older brother, they knew their sins were washed away by the shed blood of the Lamb of God, the more we find ourselves falling into patterns of Generational Amnesia and Consensus Orthodoxy. The deeper truths of our theology must be rooted in Tanakh (Old Testament) and it has been slowly becoming less and less relevant to the majority of "Christians". We're witnessing the birth and growth of all kinds of CRAZY doctrine like "Christian Jews still have to follow the 'Law' but Gentile Christians don't"; or as the son of one famous Bible Teacher of the last few decades recently said, "Christians MUST 'Unhitch' Old Testament From Their Faith". This mess has to STOP.
This is greatly a matter of mindset and perhaps less about the usage of the word "church". It is likely another paradigm shift we are moving into as members of the Ekklesia. Indeed the little foxes spoil the vine, and I would imagine to many this seems like a little fox, a tiny detail. So as a little fox, should we just ignore it and hope God deals with it? Or as the Ekklesia, is it left to us to to do something about it? We'll discuss this at length in the next chapter, but I want to leave you with some things to ponder.
If William Tyndale (part 4) was correct in his willingness to die, at least in part, due to his conviction that Ekklesia should be translated as "assembly" or "congregation", maybe it's something we should consider and not be too quick to sweep back under the rug. We would be wise to keep in mind that every move of God has brought new verbiage; and vernacular must evolve to meet the greatness of His new paradigm in relating to and meeting with His Ekklesia. Those same Moves expose some measure of previously believed doctrine which He proves is untrue, then replaces with the increased clarity of His Word, His culture, and HIs desires for His Children.
Are we standing on the edge of a precipice about to be launched into the unknown of yet another step in our Faith? I think we are.
This is the raw materials needed to create the new wineskin which will require us to carry new wine in preparation for the return of our Groom Yeshua. The context of the new wine and old wineskins parable in Matthew 9:15-17 is the bridegroom going away and returning. How will we prepare for His return? Should we not do so from a proper mindset and truly and finally seeing ourselves as HE sees us in order to become what He sees instead of what we currently are? We have not yet met the potential He sees in us and this new shift in perspective will tear down ancient falsities to make straight the crooked path of disunity within the 30,000+ denominations (in the US alone), and bring a true and lasting unity not formed by mankind as we see in the modern ecumenical movement.
Next, we will consider what is in store for the Ekklesia, what our role is, and a Biblical roadmap for where we are headed.
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