Tuesday, 8 May 2018

When church is not church

A Strange thing happened this week.

I was busy having a quiet time with the Holy Spirit about what we understand church to be, when I received a question on the meaning of the churches names in the book of Revelation.

By the time I received the question I had already coined the title of this post - "When church is not church".

Amazingly my quiet time turned into more of a revelation than I expected ...

Let's get to the word church first

What is translated in our Bibles as church, is in fact the original Greek word ekklēsia, which simply means to be called out from amongst or summoned. The object can be one person or a group of people. Sometimes the ekklēsia assemble and fellowship.

Ekklēsia is to be summoned or called out from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light, to be called out from the kingdom of death into the Kingdom of Life.

So, where do we get church from?

The word church in our Bibles is a modern English word borrowed from the Germanic word kirche (Dutch - kerk), pronounced "kirk." The word originated from the  medieval Greek word kurikon or kuriakon (dōma) meaning the house of kurios - the house of the Lord (Master).

The word kurikon has no resemblance to the original word ekklēsia that was used in the Bible

How did it happen that a total "foreign" word was used to translate the word ekklēsia with?

Fowl play

Well, the translators broke the rules of translating big-time.

The word ekklēsia was entirely substituted with the word kurikon and subsequently, the word church was later used in the English versions. The word church would have been an acceptable translation for the Greek word kuriakos or kurikon. However, the word kuriakos or kurikon does not occur in the original scripture in reference to those summonsed by God. The word ekklēsia does ... a 118 times.

The Greek word kuriakos appears in the New Testament only twice. Once in 1 Corinthians 11:20 where it refers to the Lord's supper and once in Revelation 1:10 where it refers to the Lord's day. In both instances it is translated the Lord's... and not church. Nonetheless, this is the unlikely, peculiar and strange history of the word church and how it found its way into the English translation of the Bible.

So, what then is church today?

Today the word church has been perverted even more, distancing it even further from the original word ekklēsia. Church, according to the Oxford dictionary is:

  • A building used for public Christian worship;
  • A particular Christian organization with its own clergy, buildings, and distinctive doctrines; or
  • The hierarchy of clergy within a particular Christian Church or institutionalized religion as a political or social force.
As you can see it has absolutely nothing to do with the called of God.

I do not recall Jesus instructing us to build a building, form an organization, develop a doctrine, elect some clergy and institutionalize ourselves so that we can meet on some day/s of the week perform some rituals! 

My post on being built to specifications dealt with this.

Now to the question I was asked

The Question: What do the names of the seven churches in Revelation 1-3 mean when translated from the Greek and what could the significance be?

Firstly, the seven ekklēsia of Revelation 1-3 are seven physical groups of ekklēsia in close proximity at the time in Asia-minor (today Turkey). John's message to them was a direct address in an effort to meet their needs and shepherd them at the time.

Secondly, there is also a spiritual message and significance for ekklēsia and believers of today. The purpose is to reveal seven different types of individuals/ekklēsia and to shepherd them towards God's Truth and God's Grace.

In both instances these are/were all ekklēsia living within the Roman pagan empire (worldly kingdom of darkness) and they are/were all called out of the kingdom of death into the Kingdom of Life. (1 Peter 2:9 - see previous posts, Called and A Marvellous Work for more details on this)

Let's look at their names within the context of scripture (Rev 2-3)

In Revelation each ekklēsia is commended, criticized, instructed and given a promise.

Ephesus (Greek - Permitted or acceptable) or the loveless ekklēsia. They are commended for rejecting evil, for persevering and patience. They have rejected those who see themselves as superior to others and allow idolatry. They are criticized that their passion for Christ became dull. They have left their Fist-Love. They are instructed to remember from whence they have fallen and to repent (metanoia - turn to God's way of thinking). They are given the promise that they will eat from the Tree of Life.

Smyrna (Greek - Myrr ointment) or the persecuted ekklēsia. They are commended for endurance through hardship. They are not criticized. They are instructed to stay faithful and to overcome. They are promised the Crown of Life.

Pergamos (Greek - fortified) or the compromising ekklēsia. They are commended for keeping the faith in Christ. They are criticized for idolatry, immorality and heresies. They are instructed to turn their thinking to align with how God thinks. They are promised the Hidden Manna and White Stone with a New Name written thereon. 

Thyatira (Greek - Odour of affliction) or the corrupt ekklēsia. They are commended for growth in love, faith, perseverance and patience. They are criticized for idolatry and immorality. They are instructed to keep their faith in Christ. They are promised that they will rule over nations and receive the Morning Star.

Sardis (Greek - Red ones) or the dead ekklēsia. They are commended that some have kept the Faith. They are criticized for being dead. They are instructed to wake up, return to what they had first received, to hold fast and turn to God. They are promised to be honoured and clothed in White (Righteousness).

Philadelphia (Greek - Brotherly love) or the faithful ekklēsia. They are commended for perseverance in the faith, keeping the word of Christ and honouring His name. They are not criticized. They are instructed to keep on keeping the Faith. They are promised to be a pillar in God's presence in His Kingdom and that they will be written as God's New Name in the New Jerusalem. 

Laodicea (Greek - Justice of the people) or the lukewarm ekklēsia. They are not commended for anything. They are criticized for being indifferent and unresponsive to God's love. They are instructed to become enthusiastic and eager, to open the door for God's Love and to return to Him. They are promised to share in Christ’s throne.

Two ekklēsia are found without criticism. One ekklēsia is found without commendation.

What is the point here?

The message to the seven churches are all encouraging.

Get this!

It says: It does not matter whether you regard yourself as acceptable even though you are loveless; lovely perfumed even though you are persecuted; strongly fortified even though you compromise; smell nice even though you stink of corruption; coloured distinctively even though you are dead; filled with brotherly love even as you are faithful; or see yourself as being just to the people around you even though you are neither there nor here - God's Grace is available to you when you receive and repent to align your thinking with the loving way God thinks about you, you will eat from the Tree of Life; wear the Crown of Life; be satisfied with the Hidden Mana and have the Name of Jesus written on a pure white slate being declared righteous; rule over nations and shine like the Morning Star Himself; be clothed in pure white garments of Righteousness; stand in God's presence as strong pillars in His Kingdom, in the New Jerusalem with a pure new Label attached to and defining you; and  share the throne of Christ! 

The central message to all seven ekklēsia is to wake up, repent (align their thinking to what God is thinking - remember our post on repentance here?) and be sincere - believe the Good News that God made you pure and holy and sanctified you and justified you by the blood of Jesus! The Gospel is the true Grace message of life, hope and a future with Jesus.

The temple built not by the hands of man, was designed to receive and house the Gospel of Truth that resonates with the One Spirit Who comes to indwell and testify about Himself, Jesus!

Stephen said it

Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands Act 7:48-51

Paul said it

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 1Co 3:16


And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 2Co 6:16


Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building Heb 9:11

Jesus said it

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. Joh 16:13
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