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The “Church” will become “Ecclesia”
A new series of prophetic teaching, on the occasion of celebrating 500 years since Luther’s 95 theses against the Roman Catholic Church (October 31, 1517)
500 years after Luther – what happened since Luther’s 95 theses?
-> from “Roman Catholic Church” to a global Body of Christ
Next step of the Reformation – what is the next move of God?
-> from a Reformed Church to an Ecclesia that is Royal Priesthood
What is the difference between the two?
-> from Salvation to Kingdom
-> from organised Religion to organic Relationship
-> from Temple (buildings & services) to Household (“Oikos” family meetings)
After several centuries of Darkness in the world, as well as in the “Church”, during the times of the “Enlightenment” the Lord used Martin Luther to bring some Light back into the religious organisation that had usurped the role and institution of the Church of Jesus Christ (ie. the ‘Roman Catholic Church’ of the Middle Ages).
We need to understand the call of God for our time and generation, so that we may be prepared, and hopefully willing and available, to embrace the next move of the Holy Spirit on earth – a move that will bring Reformation to our “Ecclesiology” – i.e. the understanding, doctrine, duty, practices and forms of worship of the “Ecclesia”.
God began the process of Reformation through Luther (mainly) by giving him the understanding of what is “salvation”.
That was the 1st and most important thing that needed to be restored back to the “Church” – the doctrine of salvation. That is known as “soteriology”, i.e. the ‘logos’ of ‘soteria’ (which means ‘salvation’), which is only by grace through faith in God’s redemptive work through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.
Once this ground-breaking foundation of salvation by faith in the free gift of salvation through Jesus had been laid again, the Lord continued the work of restoration of Truth, in an expected sequence of priority, through the ensuing generations. Some of the major stages of reformation, leading to restoration of Truth, have been:
– water-baptism (ref. Anabaptists)
– baptism in the Holy Spirit (ref. ‘Azusa str’ pentecost)
– evangelism/outreach/missions, coupled with…
– healings, miracles, signs, wonders
– teaching ministry (through certain great teachers)
– pastoral ministry (ref. “shepherding” movement)
– ministry of prayer, intercession, worship
– prophetic ministry
– apostolic ministry
The above steps of restoration have taken place over the last 500 years since 1517 that Luther nailed his 95 theses on the main door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. But we see that the “Church” of Jesus Christ has not yet been fully restored to its original state and status, as we reflect on how the Spirit of God established the “Ecclesia” in the first 2-3 centuries after the ascension of Jesus to the right of His Father.
The time has now come that the Holy Spirit will propel us forward to the next major stage along the process of Reformation of the Body of Christ on earth, so that we may come closer to what Jesus died for.
And that is… reforming the Body of Christ back to its rightful, original status.
Ecclesia is NOT a religious temple where people gather as observing audience to a religious service, ceremony, mass, or, liturgy!
Ecclesia is NOT a religious organisation but a living organism, a Body, made up of eligible members, the saints!
The true Ecclesia of Jesus Christ is a body made up of many members, where the whole body grows and is fitted and held together through every supporting ligament, whereby each one does its part (as Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:16).
Ecclesia is the people who (among other things)
– have been redeemed by the Blood of Jesus;
– have been filled with, and anointed by, the Holy Spirt;
– worship God as Father and Jesus as Lord;
– have been seated with Jesus in heavenly places;
– have been built up on earth into a Body of which each one is a member that has corporately become the ‘oikos’-family of God;
– are witnesses of Jesus being alive, King and Lord;
– are living manifestation of God’s character full of love and compassion;
– function as vessels through whom the Holy Spirit manifests through each one, for the edification of all;
– make up the Royal Priesthood that represents and manifests the Kingdom of God on earth, with a mandate to rule in the gates of heaven;
– are endowed by power and corporate authority of the Kingdom of heaven to bind and to loose, to forgive sin and to retain, thus causing the enemies of Jesus to become footstool under His feet.
500 years after Luther’s Reformation,
the next move of God will cause the necessary shift
that will bring the “Church” a step closer to her original calling
God will convert the “Church” into the real “Ecclesia” for which Jesus died
Throughout the generations, God’s moves involved “new wine” poured out from heaven, which filled God’s people with new understanding of what was already written in the Scriptures (yet had been misinterpreted before God opened up the minds of His people to see His original purpose).
Throughout the generations, Satan’s efforts aimed at keeping the people bound by the old mindset, which blinded them so that they could not receive the new “light” and “sight” coming from God for that new season and generation.
That is the main thrust of the ‘spirit of religion’ which kills the ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’ that God gives to those who are humble in heart, who do not consider themselves wise in their own eyes, and who give themselves to serve God’s plans and purposes only, without mixing their “service” with other self-serving ambitions.
In spite of Satan’s efforts to hold the Body of Christ bound by the old mindset of the counterfeit “Church”, where Satan rules through Humanism, God is still at work to reform His Body according to His original plan, and stated purpose, which He made known to us through the Bible – see next.
The Ecclesia of Jesus
will become an ‘Oikos’ family of God on earth
with juridical authority in the courts of heaven
Jesus proclaimed the plan that He came to execute, and purpose of His work on earth, when He said in Matthew 16:18-19:
“I will build My Ecclesia, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (literally ‘against her’). And I will give you (i.e. ‘you, my Ecclesia’ – see note below) the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Notes of clarification – 2 important keys for the message of this teaching
- Jesus proclaimed that the gates of Hades shall not prevail
-> That is mainly the message of Redemption from the grip of Death and Salvation on to Eternal Life, but that is only the 1st part of what Jesus said; the 2nd part:
- Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom to all the people who make up His Ecclesia on earth, throughout all times and generations
-> That is the very reason that He came to build up His Ecclesia, to be the ‘Body’ that represents the Kingdom of God;
-> that is a ‘Body’ on earth that holds the stewardship of the power and authority of the Kingdom of heaven;
-> this ‘Body’ is made up of “earthen vessels of choice”, i.e. people, of whom Peter was a leader and ‘firstfruits’.
When Jesus said to Peter “I will build My Ecclesia” He was making the proclamation of God’s plan and purpose of His coming to earth, as first step. Then as second step, He addressed His Ecclesia in the face of Peter as a representative and leader, saying: “to you, i.e. you as a leader, and one of the people who make up my Ecclesia, to you I will give the keys of the Kingdom of heaven…”.
The fact that Jesus was speaking to one person only at that time does not limit the giving of the keys to him alone. Those keys were given on the day of His Resurrection from the dead when He said to all who were present in the ‘Upper Room’: “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”.
So let us keep this in mind, which is very important for our understanding why God will leave the counterfeit “Church” behind and will move on to continue the work of Restoration of His Truth and His Ecclesia on earth:
The “Church” is content only with Salvation of sinners
The “Ecclesia” is called to proclaim, reveal and manifest the Kingdom of God
-> What may be extremely hard for some to comprehend, is that when the Body of Christ fails to see and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, because the “Gospel of Salvation” is the main or only focus of the Church, that is the work of Satan who hinders the original plan of God and purpose for which Jesus died.
-> That is the same operation of the spirit of Humanism which caused Peter to rebuke Jesus saying “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!” – to which Jesus replied “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:22-23)
What is the “Ecclesia” and why is she different from the “Church”?
To understand this important concept, we need to start by examining the word.
The Hellenic word “Ecclesia” was originally a secular concept used in ancient Athens already 500 years before the coming of Christ to signify the assembly of the eligible citizens (elders) of the city. That was the city council that ruled the city and made civil, court, and military decisions.
Still carrying the same meaning, in Acts 19:32 and 42, the non-religious, secular gathering of the Ephesians to judge Apostle Paul, is recorded as “ecclesia” (translated as “assembly” in English).
By contrast, the Hellenic word “synagoge” (‘synagogue’ in English) was used in the days of Jesus to describe the religious gathering place of the Jewish people – a word originally used by Septuagint (Hellenic translation by Hebrew scholars of the Old Testament scriptures) to translate the Hebrew words ‘edah’ (Strong’s H5712) and ‘qahal’ (Strong’s H6951), which are interchangeably translated as ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’ in English.
A key question to unlock our understanding:
-> why Jesus did NOT use the available word ‘synagoge’, already in use for religious worship assembly, when He said “I shall build my Ecclesia and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”?
Why did Jesus choose a word with secular connotation, instead of an existing word that was associated with religious assembly and worship of God? What is the major and foundational difference between the Ecclesia that Jesus said HE would build, and ‘synagoge’, or, ‘church’, or, ‘assembly’, or, ‘congregation’?
The word “synagogue” is used extensively in the New Testament writings; e.g. Matthew 4:23 “He taught in their synagogues”. Jesus also used that word; e.g. in Matthew 23:6.
But He did not use “synagogue” for the body of His followers; therefore, His purpose was not just to assemble people together for religious purposes. His intention was not to establish an alternative type of synagogue, of a different “religion” than Judaism.
Therefore all modern English words used as alternative to “church” such as congregation, assembly, gathering, meeting, fellowship, worship – they all fail to convey the core of the message that Jesus was sending when He chose to use the word “Ecclesia”.
Clarification – “ecclesia” was also used by Septuagint
The same Hebrew word ‘qahal’ (Strong’s H6951) translated as “synagoge” by Septuagint, in other verses was also translated as “ecclesia” both in noun and verb forms. That was mainly when it had to do with a general assembly versus the religious place of worship.
So the word “ecclesia” was not exclusively secular since it was used for both secular and religious assemblies. However, “synagoge” was pointedly religious and would have been more appropriate for religious worship, if that is what Jesus had in mind about His Ecclesia.
But Jesus did not die on the cross to establish an alternative religious assembly- the purpose He proclaimed for His Ecclesia was that she would be victorious against the gates of Hades, and she would have heavenly authority on earth (“the keys of the Kingdom of heaven”) to bind and loose in the heavenly realm.
So… what is wrong with the “Church” as it is now?
Ecclesia is NOT WHERE the people assemble…Ecclesia is the PEOPLE!
“Ecclesia” is not all about religious organisations with hierarchical structures of clergy, temples with organized religious services, do’s and dont’s, good’s and bad’s, moral codes of social behaviour, rules of conduct dictated by the particulars of each religious group, buildings and charity, or, theater-style religious shows of professional experts who have rehearsed their show program to entertain the religious audience, or organised fund-raising and funds-dispersing for social aid.
Most of these things are good, useful, needed, important, and sometimes helpful – some of them are also a form of practical application and manifestation of God’s love and compassion for the world – good! I am not saying we should do away with any of the good things, but, that is not what the real “Ecclesia” of Jesus is all about!
The key difference between the “Church” that is of this world and the Ecclesia that is of the Kingdom of God is the bond of love that unites people’s hearts and lives into a family-style community, where the presence of the supernatural bears witness to the reality of God’s Kingdom manifesting on the earth.
The true Ecclesia is NOT a Hollywood-style religious show of preacher and musician superstars who entertain the religious audience who come-in, sit-n-watch, enjoy-n-applaud, and leave to return to their normal, natural lives which are full of this world… and void of God’s supernatural presence and power.
The difference is in the supernatural presence of God’s Spirit indwelling and manifesting through all the human vessels, who are agents of God’s Kingdom representing the interests of their (our) Lord, doing His will.
The emphasis here is that the Ecclesia is made up of ALL individuals who are God’s children – ALL of them (us) have His Spirit, which manifests through ALL of them (us). The Ecclesia of Jesus is an army of “priests”, ALL of whom are fully active and engaged in manifesting God’s supernatural Kingdom in the earthly realm.
The Body of Jesus Christ has not yet been fully restored to its original state and status, as we reflect on how the Spirit of God established the “Ecclesia” in the first 2-3 centuries after the ascension of Jesus to the right of His Father.
For example, when we read 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14, we have to ask the question, “why all these things described there in the Bible are not happening in most church services today?”
Similar, relevant questions could also be:
-> how is it that we have not yet recognised the reality that what is considered “church” today (even among the most charismatic circles) is so different to what we read in the Bible?
-> can it really be true, that the “Church” as it is today, is more of a projection and continuation of the “church” of the Middle-Ages than what is written in the Bible? (where the Priest has now become the Pastor, the mass or liturgy has now become the worship service, where the religious audiences continue to come and go without any meaningful, real relationship to each other, where individuality prevails over corporality, etc)
What are some things in the Bible of the early Ecclesia which are not present in today’s “Church”?
In the Ecclesia of the early days the entire Body of Christ was made up of active participants who functioned like a family coming together. There was no separation between “clergy and laity”, or, in modern Evangelical circles, between “the anointed servants of God and the forgiven sinners”.
So, in the “Church” there is division between the “anointed servants of God” and the “simple believers who need the anointed priests, preachers and pastors to serve them”. But in the Ecclesia of Jesus Christ there is no such division of a higher class anointed ones and a lower class of believers – every child of God is anointed and full of God’s power, authority and calling to manifest Jesus alive on earth.
In the early Ecclesia there were those among the people who were given responsibilities of service, leading, and protecting. But that was like parents looking after their children, whereby everyone who was an eligible member of the Body of Christ, was of equal stature and responsibility and member who made up the Ecclesia of God, as children are of equal stature with responsibilities, as their parents.
The job of the anointed/appointed ministers was NOT to be the only ones who do the ministry for others to attend/observe, but to equip the believers to do the work of the ministry (Eph.4:11-12).
Everyone was actively participating in the common gatherings, and the Holy Spirit was using everyone according to their calling from God, giftings and level of spiritual maturity (1 Cor. chapt 12 & 14).
The ministers were not some special clergy; they were the elders among the people who helped the younger members of the Body grow up in all things in Christ.
The whole set up was more of a family gathering than a religious assembly. That is also shown in the choice of words that Jesus spoke to Peter, when He said “I will build up my Ecclesia”.
The Ecclesia of Jesus Christ is an “Oikos”-family (of God)
The word “build” is “oiko-domeo”, a word made up of
“oikos” = household (implying family) and
“domeo”= erect or establish a structure (implying foundations).
That can be any structure other than a physical building; also applies to hierarchical or military structures, or a structure of parts that make up a body!
Ecclesia is a body of brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, ‘called-out’ (which is what the word ‘ecclesia’ means):
– out of the system of this world, and,
– into the household-family of God,
– to be built up together as members of a family;
– a family that functions as a structured body
– a body like a council with heavenly authority,
a body of people believing in Him, following Him, being submitted under His authority and guidance, which also has the physical appearance of a civil community which has a calling and a purpose – not just to be saved but to be the stewards of the authority of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Luther got as far as the need to become saved… now it is time to move on…
This teaching will continue next week.
We shall see more of what the Bible shows us about the “Oikos”-family of God which is part of the foundational definition of the Ecclesia, and the duty which God has assigned to His Royal Priesthood on earth.
That has to do with the Juridical Authority (that we did not speak about in this article), which God has delegated to the Ecclesia to rule in the gates of the heavenly places
– so that the Kingdom of God can manifest in the earth
– so that the Gates of Hades do not prevail when the Ecclesia prays
– so that the Light of God shines in the earth so that all men can see it