Ekklesia as Church
The Rise of the New Christianity makes some very interesting assumptions and projections concerning the state of the church in the near and far future in the two hemispheres. Although Jenkins paints a fairly grim picture of the Global North in the European theater, His assessment of the American church is not nearly as grim. Jenkins states that “for better or worse, in numerical terms at least, the United States is substantially a Christian country now, and Christian predominance is likely to be still more marked in decades to come (p. 133). He goes on to comment that of the main Christian based nations over the last 200 years, only the American expression of Christianity continues to occupy the role of leadership in the world of faith. This ascendancy of the American church experience should cause the American churchman a moment to stop and ponder the weight of impact that this position brings with it, and the immense opportunity that this level of responsibility unleashes.
A significant problem can easily happen when we attempt to blend the application of modern thought into ancient language. This seen in the distortion that some are applying to the term ekklesia. Biblically, the term simply means a gathering. At times, ekklesia referred to gathering to serve as a body politic, at times as a general gathering for religious purposes. Here’s a basic definition is taken from a standard Greek Lexicon: Any public assembly or gathering of people in a political, religious, or informal sense.
In some instances, Old Testament quotations are closer to the LXX than the modern Hebrew text, which is why we rely on the LXX over the Hebrew text, as the modern Hebrew Scriptures are based on the LXX. For a thorough analysis of all texts see Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey by Gleason L. Archer & G.C. In some places, the chapter, verse, and book divisions in the Septuagint differ from what is found in the Hebrew Bible, which is what most English translations use.
In the New Testament ekklesia always refers to the assembly of the saints. After the New Testament ekklesia, like synagoge referred to the assembly and the place of assembly, with synagoge becoming a Jewish assembly exclusively, while an ekklesia was exclusively a Christian assembly. The Greek word Ekklesia is used a total of 114 times in the New Testament, and the common English translation for the word church. The words assembly and congregation are also used. It’s also one of the most common used words used for Synagogue in ancient writings.
Some modern scholars, authors, and teachers are trying to reinterpret and reapply the term ekklesia by narrowing its focus to political force alone, or in its non-religious usage. In other words, they are saying that the ekklesia met to govern, therefore removing the general assembly meaning, which directly affects the way we understand Church and Synagogue as gathering places for instruction, inspiration, impartation, deployment, etc.
Ekklesia isn’t an easy word to distort from a meaning standpoint, as there are multiple manuscripts from both the secular and religious communities of the ancient world that used it. It’s pretty easy to extract an understanding of what the word meant to them, which is a basic hermeneutical principle of interpretation.
It’s difficult to say that Jesus coopted the term ekklesia for the biblical community as a political force. I humbly say this based on the minuscule number of references in Matthew 16:16 and 18:17, which is a paltry three instances in the Gospels. Mark, Luke, John, 1st and 2nd Peter, 2nd Timothy and Titus, although one is a redundant inclusion, in the Gospels. In both of the Matthean instances where Jesus used the term ekklesia, it was used in the direct context of building His body, or community, not governing His body. James uses the used both ekklesia and Synagoge as a referral to Christian congregations (James 2:2, 5:14) . It is easy to extrapolate that James was speaking to the transitioning terminology that was beginning to be employed as he disputed doctrine with Paul.
Paul, on the other hand, used the term often, with a total of 64 usages of the term ekklesia. Interestingly, Luke uses the term 23 times with the meaning of church, government as in town councils, and other secular and religious usages. However, all of Luke’s instances are in the second half of his Magnum Opus on the life of Christ Jesus and the ensuing immediate aftermath of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension, The Acts of the Apostles. This makes sense with his Judeo-Roman background, education and mission once he began accompanying one of the two main Apostles that are featured in The Acts, Paul who had been known as Saul of Tarsus.
Internal evidence allows us to see that Luke probably had a Nautical Background, possibly serving in the Roman Navy. This is deduced from the detailed information Luke includes about the storm that ship wreaked the Prison Transport Ship that was bringing Paul and others to Rome in Acts 27:27 – 28:5. He apparently had some medical knowledge also, which would be a requirement for Naval Officers who served in the Navy. My added contention is that Luke joined Paul on his trip to Rome to serve as his Legal Counsel, serving as his Lawyer, which would make the original manuscript of Luke/Acts a Legal Brief that would be presented to the Court. Luke would have written it as a document explaining the rationale and reasoning for Paul’s arrest and ensuing trial as Hellenized Jew who was a legal Roman citizen by birth.
Empowerment is a great way to describe what Jesus said about ekklesia. In Matthew 16 Jesus used the budding revelation of who the disciples were discovering who Jesus is as the foundation for the church to be built upon. Faith in Jesus is the key to entrance into the Kingdom.
Matthew 18 contains the other two instances where Ekklesia occur. In both instances, the issue is forgiveness and repentance as means of inclusion into His corporate body or Synagogue community, if you will. We are empowered to believe and to forgive or exclude on occasions. The gates Hell cannot stand against the force of forgiveness, which is the basis of Jesus real culture. In my opinion, the LXX is where we need to find our definition of the meaning of ekklesia, as there is a huge body of material that we can examine.
Jesus and Synagogue Jesus habit was to attend synagogue regularly, just like we attend church. Interestingly, we can call church synagogue because it means the same thing and functions in the same way as the synagogue. They both mean ‘an assembling’ or ‘gathering.’ At the synagogue, God’s people joined together in worship, education, and ministry. Leaders would be chosen and responsible for caring for the people.
In This Changes Everything, Wagner discusses paradigm shifts that he has went through over the years concerning theological ideas and practical implementation of biblical dynamics. Chapter 13 contains his thoughts on the shifting emphasis of ministry from the church structure into the workplace. Much of his argument is based on his understanding of the Greek word, ekklesia. Ekklesia, in its various forms, addresses the idea of gatherings, and it is the main word that is translated as church. On p. 164-5, Wagner proposes the idea that not all the uses of the word ekklesia directly address the church as believers gathered together as the body of Christ. He states that “about half the time it (ekklesia) is used in the traditional way of believers gathered, but the other half it is used for believers scattered.”
The phrase scattered implies church outside the traditional norms of church life according to Wagner. He continues, “for example, in the book of Ephesians, Paul makes nine references to the ekklesia and not one of them signifies a church building, a geographic location or a certain congregation.” In my opinion, this a specious argument concerning the use of Ekklesia in Ephesians, as the letter was written to the ekklesia that was located in Ephesus, which a locational congregation. Paul was talking to a specific church about specific church issues. Addressing the members of a church as the extended church when they are in their marketplaces is fine, but it is disingenuous and misleading to reidentify biblical terminology in new ways that do not fit the textual constraints of original intent. This is how serious doctrinal error is birthed when left unchecked and unchallenged.
I include a recent FaceBook post by a former Associate who decided to pursue his calling through his career as a physical trainer. Nate Furlong has been Ordained to the Ministry and has been Ordained as a Marketplace Apostle through the church I pastor, FloodGate Renewal Fellowship. His experience and views are relevant to the discussion:
WHAT IS SUNDAY MORNING CHURCH FOR?
“When people gathered around Jesus, they gathered to learn about Scripture from a pastor/teacher. There are so many people talking about how they don’t like that local church seems to center around an individual teacher, but that’s the model Jesus and the disciples gave…worked pretty well. Thanks to my pastor, I know so much more in the past couple of years than I’ve known my whole life being in church. In fact, some of the methods I was taught were downright harmful to my walk. As much as I love marketplace ministry, Marketplace ministers simply cannot attain the depth and intensity of study that an educated pastor/teacher can. I believe a well-educated individual who is not bi-vocational and is solely devoted to the study of the word is extremely important. I think too many people are becoming pastors of churches who have great hearts but are unwilling to put in years of intensive study and regurgitate bill Johnson sermons on Sunday. They mean well, but it’s a blind leading the blind scenario.
I think it comes in part from people not understanding how important the marketplace is. So they feel a call to ministry and start a church, even though they’re not willing to go through formal education… their call to ministry was probably to the marketplace. There is a HUGE distinction between Marketplace ministers and pulpit ministers…but people want to minister so you have a group of 5 or 6 pastors who have some leadership ability, a pastoral anointing and a bookshelf full of John Bevere books who become the primary source of theological knowledge for a community… When you say it that way, that’s messed up. Pastoral anointing and leadership ability doesn’t mean someone should shepherd a flock.
The Biblical model is for pastors to get paid to pour themselves into the word and teach it, not to be bi-vocational and study some books for a Sunday service. In my opinion, that’s why people devalue the church gathering so much- their pastors are great leaders, communicators, and motivators. PLUS, they’re charismatic and likable…but because of the lack of education, the congregation is only being taught inspirational/motivational messages, rather than a good mix of motivation and deep theology that can only be gained by intensive study.
Yes, the Ekklesia should have church all week but the Sunday morning gathering is for marketplace ministers (saints) to gather to be equipped by the four fold ministers for the work of the ministry (which happens outside the church building), according to Ephesians 4:11-12.
In Ephesians 4:12, Paul uses a phrase that includes energon (works/energy). Hagios (saints), and Diakonia (deacon/ministry). Wagner refers to this in his argument for the extended church, but as my friend Nate Furlong has said, there is a marked difference between those who are trained to lead the church and those who lead in their chosen fields. All are saints. All are called to be equipped. All work for the King. Not all vocations are the same, nor is the training that may be necessary for the work the same. I include a graph with the phrase attached .
saints for the work of ministry
ἁγίων5 εἰς6 → ἔργον7 → διακονίας8
ἅγιος εἰς ἔργον διακονία
JGPM P NASN NGSF
Mark 3:38-39 Is a story about the stilling of a storm by Jesus that contains a significant subtext that is often overlooked by most commentators. It is a story that stipulates the beginning of a Synagogue that would be dedicated to Jesus Himself. The storms rage must have been intense, as even the seasoned sailors were fearful and afraid. The sea of Galilee isn’t like an ocean with rolling waves in a storm. It has short, choppy waves that are especially treacherous in creating ship wreaks, kind of like the Great Lakes. The rebuke of Jesus was a basic statement that said in effect, “cut bait or swim.” I love Jesus response, peace, be still. The words translated “rebuked” and “be still” were used in 1:25 concerning an exorcism. This consideration may imply a demonic element in the storm. In fact, the latter word (pephimosō) can be translated “be muzzled .” The word is from the two words epí, upon, and timáō, to evaluate. In the NT, it means to punish, rebuke, charge, however, this is a subpoint.
Anthropomorphic Nuances The greater reality in the disciples’ rude rousing of Jesus from His sleep in Mark, should be contrasted with the more reverential ‘prayer’ in Matthew of LORD save us! We are going to drown! (Matthew 8:25), and continued in the account of Jesus’ response. In Matthew’s account, Jesus has time to rebuke their lack of faith before getting up to address the situation, in Mark Jesus acts first and talks later. His authority is asserted in strikingly anthropomorphic (very human) commands, as He ‘rebukes’ the wind as if it were a living being, and addresses the lake like it was an unruly heckler, ‘Be quiet! Shut up!’ Both the verb ἐπιτιμάω (epitimauo) and the command πεφίμωσο (pephimoso) are the same as in 1:25, where they were also used in an account of exorcism, where the demon was rebuked and silenced by Jesus. Both terms occur elsewhere, in connection with deliverance, and the conjunction of the two verbs in 1:25 and here, has led some commentators to suggest that Mark sees the calming of the storm as a sort of ‘exorcism.’ In this scenario, the demonic forces which control wind and water are ‘bound’ and subdued.
Real Faith Expressed What I think is cool about this is that it shows us that the same faith that is needed to cast out a demon is the same level of faith that it takes to still a storm. When together with 6:45–52 (the other lake miracle), this periscope or story places Jesus in a more starkly ‘supernatural’ light even than the healing miracles. Why? Because we like the disciples see the control of nature as more extraordinary and inexplicable than the restoration of humans. It’s why in the Old Testament storm control is a frequently noted attribute of God in distinction to we mere mortals who find ourselves helpless before the forces of nature.
The disciples’ question for Jesus strongly rebukes Jesus and is another example of Mark’s candor, which Matthew 8:25 and Luke 8:24 tone down. I think Moffatt’s rendering: “Teacher, are we to drown, for all you care? ” is a good one. The teachers of the law come from Jerusalem. We should also see that the open rebuke of Jesus by the disciples demonstrates for us the veiled nature of the Christ. They just didn’t get who He was.
The 12 as the Taught
This passage is important to the transition of Jesus ministry as it contains the first of twelve times Jesus is addressed or described as “Teacher” (5:35; 9:17, 38; 10:17, 20, 35; 12:14, 19, 32; 13:1; 14:14). The similar term “Rabbi” is used in 9:5 (10:51, “Rabboni” in Greek); 11:21; 14:45. The verb “to teach” is used concerning Jesus fifteen times (see the references in the comments on 1:21). Obviously, Mark emphasized that Jesus was an authoritative teacher.
The separation of the 12 who are now in the boat with Jesus has always intrigued me, and I have wrestled with the ideas of modern vs. ancient Apostles due to these passages. Once again, I am rethinking what my perspective is based on this latest go around with Mark. Mark is the primitive Gospel protoevangelium/1st case). Although most Bibles use the Header Appointment of the Apostles in Chapter 3, Mark does not use the term, Apostle. Jesus was organizing His Synagogue, and these men were the core group that was needed to be an officially recognized community of faith. This is where Jesus transitions from being a traveling speaker/healer to a legitimate Rabbi, and this verse is the first record of anyone using that designation for Jesus. Jesus travels don’t cease, but His new modus operandi is to take His church with Him.
Q and Mark Part of my shifting perspective is based on the nature and age of Mark’s Gospel. The recently discovered fragments of Mark that were found in an Egyptian Sarcophagus are dating in the 40 AD’s , which would make Mark by far the earliest target document. It appears that Mark is the real “Q.” If so, Mark’s lack of identification of these disciples as Apostles could be compelling, as it may imply that Matthew’s and particularly Luke’s Gospel accounts use a later designation that the readers would identify through their position as Apostles. Mark doesn’t make the Apostolic designation in his early account, which is suggestive of personal recollection, unlike Luke’s more sterile legal treatise, or brief.
Israel was made up of 12 Tribes originally. By the time of the New Testament, when a groups’ leader chose twelve co-leaders, they served as something like a Cabinet and gave the group legal status within Pharisaic regulations. This is what the Community that authored the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran did. Groups did this to demonstrate their belief that their group was the only real remnant of Israel, and it usually had a note of protestation toward the Temple culture of the Sadducees. The later Gospels use the phrase “Apostle,” which sort of means commissioned representative, and it was a term that had its origin in Nautical terminology, which seems to indicate that the Gentile Luke had a significant role in the terminology of the New Testament as he worked alongside Paul. The closest thing that we have today that carries the nuanced meaning in secular society would be an Ambassador to a foreign country. In this context, the Kingdom of God could be seen as an Embassy. It is reasonable to assume that Apostolic Ministry happened in the Ekklesia, as the Ekklesia is the Embassy of Heaven.
Even though it is officially on foreign soil, the Embassy grounds have the same force as the Country that their Ambassador represents, as they are truly dignitaries of another land. In biblical times, the Apostle/Ambassador would have a Signet Ring that was the official seal of the land they came from initially. Any message they brought to the reigning potentate of the land where they were currently residing had the same authority as the King they served. The point of this is that Jesus’ authority to expel demons and to proclaim the kingdom continues through his followers, which began with the 12 Synagogue Quorum members.
It is clear by the use of ekklesia in the LXX that the word had a deep and reverential meaning for the Greek-speaking Jews, which was well over 90% at the time the New Testament was written. Although an ekklesia could be merely a crowd of people as in 1 Samuel 17:47 (LXX 1 Kings 17:47) or an assembly of evil-doers (Psalm 26:5, LXX 25:5), the ekklesia of the LORD was the Covenantal Assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:10). When assembled, they gathered to worship God (2 Chronicles 29:28, 31, 32), present appeals to God (2 Chronicles 20:5), and repented to God (Joel 2:16). They also made choices for the nation as a whole (1 Chronicles 13:2,4; Ezra 10:12, LXX 2 Esdras 10:12). Standing in the midst of the ekklesia was a major responsibility (1 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Chronicles 20:5). Failing to gather as the ekklesia was a serious let down of duty (Judges 21:5; Ezra 10:8 LXX 2 Esdras 10:8). Although the ekklesia could include men, women, and children (Ezra 10:1 LXX 2 Esdras 10:1), there are no examples of women addressing what the LXX calls the ekklesia.
Ekklesia in the LXX
It goes without saying that the Greek Septuagint (LXX) was widely read among Jews in the years before Christ, and Christians after the first century, as more than 90% of the then Jewish community were Hellenized Jews, living in regions outside of Israel. Nicene writers attest to this by their frequent quotations from the LXX in their comments on New Testament writings. It is my opinion that Holy Spirit used this familiarity in the word choices and the use of words that the New Testament used to convey thought and structure. A lot can be understood about New Testament words and phrases by looking at the LXX for background and contextual use. This is a compilation of the term ekklesia.
Ekklesia was used habitually in the LXX, including first use, which dictates basic laws for interpretation (the law of first use). The assembly at Horeb, where the Lord spoke directly to the Israelites is: on the day of the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 4:10). This is where God commanded Moses to “gather [verb for ekklesia] the people before Me” (Deuteronomy 4:10), and when God made His First Covenant with Israel (Deuteronomy 5:2). Scripture significantly plays down the status of this day by simply logging that it was on the day of the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 9:10; 18:16). Additionally, the sacred assembly of Israel for both worship and business was identified as the ekklesia of the LORD. The Law of Moses contained strict regulations about who was part of the ekklesia and who as to be excluded from the ability to enter the ekklesia of the LORD. The emasculated were denied access to the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 23:1). People who were born of illegitimately and their offspring for ten generations were excluded (Deuteronomy 23:2). Ammonites, Moabites and their offspring for ten generations could not be part of the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 23:3), Interestingly, the Edomites and their descendants were only excluded for two generations (Deuteronomy 23:8). The Song of Moses was to be recited at the close of the Book of Deuteronomy in the hearing of all of the ekklesia of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:30).
Once the Israelites were officially in Canaan, the concept of the ekklesia as a covenantal as is maintained. When Joshua reads the commandments, blessings, and curses of Moses, it is in the hearing of all of the ekklesia of Israel (Joshua 8:35, LXX 9:2). The story about the Levite’s Concubine’s death informs the reader that all the leaders of the tribes came together and took their place in the ekklesia of the people of God (Judges 20:2). Failure to attend the ekklesia was harsh and frowned upon by the Ekklesia. If you failed to attend the ekklesia, you were put to death (Judges 21:5).
The Time of the Kingdom
During the time of the Kings when David spoke to Goliath, he said that all this ekklesia should know that the battle is the LORD’s (1 Samuel 17:47, LXX 1 Kings 17:47). The use of the word ekklesia is more general here, however, as it includes the company of Philistines and the Israelites together. Ekklesia was also used to refer to smaller religious assemblies. When Saul sent his men to capture David, they came to the ekklesia of the prophets, who had Samuel as their leader. Remarkably, they prophesied along with the Prophets when they entered the ekklesia (1 Samuel 19:20; LXX, 1 Kings 19:20). When David was preparing to bring the ark from Kirjath Jearim to his city Jerusalem, David spoke to all the ekklesia of Israel, who consequently agreed to help David with his undertaking (1 Chronicles 13:2,4). When the announcement was made concerning the selection of Solomon as the builder of the Temple of YHWH, David stood up in the midst of the ekklesia (1 Chronicles 28:2). It was during his speech that David charged the people to be faithful in the sight of all the ekklesia of the Lord and in the hearing of our God (1 Chronicles 28:8). As David instructed the people about Solomon, they were referred to as the ekklesia repeatedly (1 Chronicles 29:1,10,20). Solomon escorted all the ekklesia to Gibeon and the ark (2 Chronicles 1:3), where the ekklesia inquired of the Lord (2 Chronicles 1:5).
When the Temple was finished, Solomon blessed the ekklesia (1 Kings 8:14, 22, 55, LXX 3 Kings 8:14, 22; 2 Chronicles 6:3). Solomon stood in front of the altar and prayed before all the ekklesia of Israel (2 Chronicles 6:12,13). The ekklesia feasted for seven days (1 Kings 8:65 [LXX 3 Kings 65; 2 Chronicles 7:8). Following Solomon, all the ekklesia of Israel came to Rehoboam to ask for relief from their burdens (2 Chronicles 10:3).
Jehoshaphat stood in the ekklesia of Judah as he prayed to God (2 Chronicles 20:5). After Jehoshaphat prayed, a prophet stood up in the ekklesia and urged them to follow Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:14). When Joash was crowned as King, all the ekklesia of Judah made Covenant with him in the house of the LORD (2 Chronicles 23:3). When Hezekiah restored worship in Judah, the ekklesia laid their hands on the male goats for a sin offering (2 Chronicles 29:23), and the ekklesia worshipped with singers and trumpeters (2 Chronicles 29:28). Once the people were consecrated, the ekklesia brought sacrifices of 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs to be offered to the LORD (2 Chronicles 29:31,32). Hezekiah had all the ekklesia in Jerusalem keep the Passover, as the practice had ceased to be enacted from the time of David and Solomon (2 Chronicles 30:2,4,13,17,23, 24,25).
The prophets spoke a lot about the ekklesia. It was in the ekklesia of Lord that land was divided by lot (Micah 2:5). When Joel pushed Israel to repent, Joel prodded them to consecrate
Ekklesia (Joel 2:16). The ekklesia held a sacred place of importance to the Prophets of Israel.
Ekklesia was used as a synonym for the word therapeian, which means a service in the LXX (Joel 2:15) in the same way we use the word service for our church gatherings. When Babylon conquered Jerusalem, and the Jewish Temple was destroyed, Jeremiah said that those who God had commanded not to enter had come into Your [God’s] ekklesia” (Lamentations 1:10). This probably reflects an association of the place of ekklesia with the ekklesia itself.
Synagogue was used synonymously with ekklesia in the LXX. The LXX refers to religious assemblies of the Jews. By the first century, a synagogue referred to an assembly and the place of the assembly. In the New Testament, congregations of Christians were usually called an ekklesia, but the congregation could also be called a synagogue in the earliest New Testament writings (James 2:2).
During his days of sorrow, Job says I have stood in the ekklesia crying (Job 30:28). In the Psalms, praise happens in the midst of the ekklesia (Psalm 22:22, LXX 21:23) and in the great ekklesia (Psalm 22:25, LXX 21:26). The Psalmist stays away from the ekklesia of evildoers (Psalm 26:5, LXX 25:5). The Psalmist give thanks in the great ekklesia (Psalm 35:18, LXX 34:18). The Psalmist proclaims his willingness to talk about God’s loving kindness and truth to the great ekklesia (Psalm 40:10, LXX 39:10). When ekklesia is used in the plural, it typically refers to the smaller assemblies of each tribe, which has the overtone of the body politic as well as religious applications. The Psalmist calls for the reader to bless God in the ekklisias (Psalm 68:26-27, LXX 67:27-28). Ekklesia can also refer to the repeated assembling of the great ekklesia. The Psalmist also promises to bless the LORD in the ekklisias (Psalm 26:12, LXX 25:12).
Scripture declares that even the heavens praise God’s wonders and His faithfulness in the ekklesia of the saints (Psalm 89:5, LXX 88:6). The Psalmist admonishes us to exalt God in the ekklesia of people, which is what happens in the ekklesia of our day, in the church service (Psalm 106:32). The Psalmist admonishes Israel to worship God in the in the ekklesia of the saints (Psalm 149:1).
After the exiles return, Ezra prays that a very large ekklesia of men, women and children from Israel gathered to him (Ezra 10:1, LXX 2 Esdras 10:1). When Ezra realized that a multitude of the men had pagan wives a proclamation to gather in Jerusalem was made. Those who refused to assemble would be separated from the ekklesia of the settlement (Ezra 10:8, LXX 2 Esdras 10:8). When the people gathered, Ezra told the gathered men that they must leave their pagan wives and all the ekklesia agreed to the stipulation (Ezra 10:12, LXX 2 Esdras 10:12]. Nehemiah recognized that Moabites and Ammonites were not to enter the “ekklesia of God (Nehemiah 13:1, LXX 2 Esdras 23:1). Ezra read from the book of the Law before the ekklesia, and the assembly kept the feast of Tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:2, 17, LXX 2 Esdras18:2,17).
Ekklesia Word Group
There are two other words in the ekklesia family are in the Septuagint that is not in the NT. Ekklesiazo a verb that means to call an ekklesia and ekklesiastes, a noun that speaks of the agency for one who speaks to the ekklesia which has the same implications of a pastor/teacher or Elder/Overseer in the New Testament.
The common name of the Book of Ecclesiastes is taken from the Septuagint’s title, and the reference throughout the book to the “preacher” (Ecclesiastes 1:2,12; 7:28; 12:8,9, 10). The verb form occurs when the people are called before the Tabernacle for the consecration of Aaron and his sons: and all the synagogue was called to an ekklesia at the door of the tabernacle of testimony (Leviticus 8:3).
Scripture uses the verb form of ekklesia when God tells Moses to call the synagogue to an ekklesia (Numbers 20:8). The call refers to the time when Moses presumptuously strikes the rock, and it gushes water at Kadesh. The result was that Moses himself was condemned for his outburst of anger by striking the rock instead of speaking to it as YHWH had instructed him. This action excluded Moses from entering Canaan, The Promised Land. The Lord told Moses, you did not believe me to honor me before the children of Israel (Numbers 20:12).
The verb ekklesia is also used when YHWH commanded the congregation of Israel to gather together at Horeb. This is the incident in the Scriptural record where God spoke from the cloud and the fire to the Israelites. God ordered Moses, call to ekklesia the people before Me (Deuteronomy 4:10). This event was simply known as being on the day of the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 4:10). The verb form for ekklesia is also used when the Law stipulated that the people of faith gather every seventh year for the reading of the Law. God commanded that a call to ekklesia the people: the men and women and their offspring and the proselyte in your cities (Deuteronomy 31:12). When Moses called an assembly of the leaders of the tribes to read the Law to them, he uses the verb ekklesia, call to the ekklesia before me the leaders of the tribes and the elders and the judges and the court-scribes (Deuteronomy 31:28).
The verb ekklesia is also used when David called out to ekklesia all Israel when the Ark was returned to Israel (1 Chronicles 13:5). The same verb ekklesia is also used when a fast is called to pray for deliverance from the edict to kill the Jews in the Book of Esther. Esther sent a message to Mordecai, saying call to ekklesia the Jews in Susa and fast for me (Esther 4:16).
It is clear by the use of ekklesia in the LXX that the word had a deep and reverential meaning for the Greek-speaking Jews, which was well over 90% of the entire Jewish population at the time the New Testament was written. Although an ekklesia could be merely a crowd of people as in 1 Samuel 17:47 (LXX 1 Kings 17:47) or an assembly of evil-doers (Psalm 26:5, LXX 25:5), the ekklesia of the LORD was understood to be the Covenantal Assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:10). When assembled, the Covenantal Assembly gathered to worship God (2 Chronicles 29:28,31,32) and presented appeals to God through prayer and petition (2 Chronicles 20:5). The ekklesia also repented to God for sin, both individually and corporately (Joel 2:16), and to make directional decisions and choices for the nation of Israel as a whole (1 Chronicles 13:2,4; Ezra 10:12, LXX 2 Esdras 10:12). To receive the honor of standing in the midst of the ekklesia was a major responsibility and privilege (1 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Chronicles 20:5). Failing to gather as the ekklesia was a serious let down of duty (Judges 21:5; Ezra 10:8 LXX 2 Esdras 10:8). Although the ekklesia could include men, women, and children (Ezra 10:1 LXX 2 Esdras 10:1), there are no examples of women addressing what the LXX calls the ekklesia.
THE RAPTURE – BEFORE OR AFTER THE GREAT TRIBULATION?
After examining 1 Thessalonians 4 and the other thief passages, it is hard to find scriptural support for the teaching that the rapture will be secret, invisible, or a quiet event. The evidence in Scripture points to a contrary conclusion. Where do the Scriptures place the rapture? Is the parousia before the Tribulation of Daniel’s Seventieth Week, which is seven years, or will it be at the end of Daniel’s Seventieth week?
THE WORLD and the TRIBULATION: GOD’S MEANS FOR DELIVERANCE
Before the death of Jesus, He spoke these words to His disciples: In the world you will have tribulation… (John 16:33). Following Jesus High Priestly prayer for His disciples, Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father. He said: I do not pray that You would take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from evil (John 17:15).
Even though it would be no easy task to stand for Jesus, as they would be persecuted, and in the world they would have tribulation, Jesus never prayed for the church to be removed from the world. In Jesus view of the church, the church was to always remain in the world, but it would not be of the world.
Some interpreters have objected, however, contending that Jesus was praying only for His immediate disciples of that time, but this cannot be the case. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (verse 20). Jesus prayer includes us today. We have all believed what we believe about Jesus as a result of the message that was handed down to us from the original disciples. Jesus was praying for us also. Jesus said that this was the case. Jesus prayer was that we would be kept from the evil of the world, but Jesus never prayed that the church would be removed from the world. This includes the fact that Jesus affirmed that in the world we would have tribulation.
Suppose that Jesus had told His disciples: “In the world, there will be tribulation… But I am praying that you will escape the world’s tribulation.” If Jesus had prayed this prayer, those who teach the Pre-Tribulation Rapture would be justified in their position – and this prayer would be used as the proof text. But since this is NOT what Jesus prayed – and that what Jesus prayed was the opposite, this would be regarded as evidence against the idea of the special, secret pre-Tribulation Rapture. Under those conditions, the Rapture would be designed by God to take the Church out of the world to escape the tribulation where the Antichrist is unleashed on humanity.
THE CHURCH: CALLED TO REMAIN UNTIL THE “END”
Jesus taught that the church would remain in the world to accomplish a definite purpose. The church is supposed to preach the Gospel until Jesus returns, not find an escape clause. Jesus has commissioned His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel… and teach all nations (ethnos).” Along with the Great Commission, Jesus promised: Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (aion/age) (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Church be in the world fulfilling the divine commission and will remain in the world until the end of this present evil age. Jesus’ promise to be with the Church until the end of the age would be strange if he plans to remove the Church seven years before that time. If, when the end of the age comes, the Church will no longer be on the earth, this promise would be rendered meaningless.
THE WHEAT AND THE TARES PARABLE
In the Book of Matthew in the Parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus makes it clear that the righteous WILL not be separated from the wicked until the end of the present evil age.
Jesus presented a parable to His disciples about “a man which sowed good seed in his field.” While the men slept, “his enemy came and sowed tares (weeds) among the wheat.” When the crop had grown a little, the servants discovered what had happened. Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn (Matthew 13:24-30).
Scripture answers the question, when does the end happen in Matthew’s Gospel. We read, He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels (Matthew 13:37-39). As in many of the parables that are recorded in the Gospels, Matthew doesn’t leave room for speculation about the proper interpretation of this parable, as Jesus gives us the interpretation. The good seed, the wheat, is sown by Jesus Christ Himself. The tares are sewn by the children of the wicked one under the wicked one’s direction. Both the seed and the weed are sown in the same field, which is identified as the world. The weeds and the wheat grow together until harvest time. The harvest happens at the end of the world.
Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Verses 40-43)! The time of separation between those who perform acts of unrighteousness and the righteous is at the end of this present evil age.
Jesus said that both the seed and the weed would grow together until the end of the age. Then the harvest happens, which produces the great separation as an action item. This is the biblical teaching. For the pre-Tribulation rapture position to be consistent, it would have to say that both the seed and the weed will not grow together in the field until the end of the world. This is because they teach that the wheat will be harvested before the time of separation seven years before the end of the present evil age.
Instead of teaching that the separation of the wheat and the tares happen simultaneously at the end of the age, those that hold the Secret Rapture position say that the wheat will be gathered first. Then after a seven-year gap, the tares will be gathered. This is Scofield’s point in his footnote on page 1016 of the Scofield Reference Bible: “At the end of this age (v. 40), the tares are set apart for burning, but first the wheat is gathered into the barn.” If anything is implied in this passage as coming first, it would be the judgment of the wicked. In the parable, Jesus said: “first gather together first the tares (for destruction) then gather the wheat into the barn” (Matthew 13:30).
Scripture says: First the weeds. Scofield says the opposite. According to Scofield, Jesus said: First gather the wheat. This is a direct contradiction to what the Bible says. It should be enough to create suspicion in any Christian’s thinking. When you have to resort to the twisting of terms to uphold doctrine, it should make us see how questionable the teaching of a rapture seven years before the end of the age is.
According to Jesus, both the righteous and the wicked remain together in the world until harvest time happens, which happens at the end of the world. If the great separation is not until the end of the world, the idea of the Church is removed from the earth seven years before that time is an impossibility.
THE GOOD FISH-AND THE BAD FISH PARABLE
Later in Matthew 13, he records another parable of Jesus and its interpretation. This parable stresses the end of the world as the time of the great separation. In this parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a net. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:47-50).
Both the parables of the wheat and the weeds and the parable of the good and bad fish pinpoint the time of separation as the end of this present evil age. It should be clear that the timing of the parousia is based on the explanation Jesus gave in these parables. This is an important hermeneutical principle. Doctrine must always be based upon the plain and the clear statements contained in Scripture. We do not create a doctrine that is based on symbolic or parabolic expressions typically, as Symbolism and metaphorical expressions can be capable of several meanings. According to Jesus, at the end of the world, those who belong to Jesus will be spared, while destruction will be the reward for the wicked.
THE DAYS OF LOT
Jesus also compared the time of the end to the days of this present evil age to the days of Lot. In Lot’s day people ate, and drank, they bought things, and they sold things. People planted, and people built… In other words, people continued to perform, common, routine things that people have been doing as long as people have existed. The people of Lot’s day were not expecting any catastrophe according to Scripture. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:28-30).
When Christ returns, even as Lot was spared, and all the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Christians will be spared the judgment of the LORD in the parousia. That same day will see fiery destruction happen to unbelievers. Luke 17 does not say that Lot went out of Sodom and then seven years later, fiery destruction fell the residents of Sodom. Scripture says that these things happen on the same day.
Remains of The Day
Remaining Until the Day
Scripture gives us a hint as to the message of the Apostle Peter concerning the Lord’s return. Apparently, Peter used the parousia as a topic of interest in his preaching. We can deduce this from the scoffers who berated him with their challenge, where is the promise of His coming? It is logical to assume that Peter would use the return of Jesus as a point of hope in his messages, as he had been a recipient of the Lord’s promise that, I will come again and receive you to myself (John 14:3). Scripture gives us evidence of dissension among the ranks of believers concerning the imminent return of Jesus. We understand this growing sense of skepticism in the church and the community at large through Peter’s acknowledgment of the scoffing challenges to the apostolic kerygma (message) that identified their belief that Jesus would return for the church.
2 Peter 3:3-4 says, First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” Peter’s statement tells us that the end times will be marked by scoffing attitudes, indulgence in lustful behavior, and disbelief in the return of Christ, as people question the promise of Jesus return by asking, Where is the promise of his coming? Peter responds to his rhetorical question with a firm comment of belief in the return of Christ, as he encourages the church with these words, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:8-10).
Peter gives this assurance through a connection to a historical event that many ancient documents and cultures speak of, the destruction of the world by flood. Peter makes this connection between the ancient world’s demise through the noetic flood, and its future destruction, when he comments on the scoffers lack understanding and ignorance. We see Peter’s assertion of the impending doom of the planet a second time as he states that, But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:5-7).
Peter’s dissertation concerning the end of the world as we know it includes some disturbing and telling items that are worthy to discuss. When Peter posses the contrasting views of the end, he assures his readers that even though we may see delays in the judgments of the Lord due to His patience and His lack of time restrictions, the Lord will fulfill what He has promised. What he does assert that is different is the method of destruction. In Genesis 9:12-14 God promised never to destroy the world by flood. The Lord made a covenant with the people of the planet, and He gave the sign of the rainbow as an ongoing reminder of His promise to never destroy the world using the element of water. And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
The Petrine doctrine of destruction changes the element to fire, as he tells us that the creational constraints of the heavens (atmosphere) and the earth are being held in reserve for the day when they will be set on fire. Peter believed the coming of the Lord would be at the end of the age, when Peter says that the heavens and earth shall pass away, at the end of the present evil age, Since everything will be in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat (2 Peter 3:11-12)? When that day finally arrives, it will see the unleashing of forces of destruction that will be crippling to the residents of the nations who are alive at that time. The scoffing and unbelieving communities will meet a swift and certain end. However, the believing community will find their ultimate deliverance in Christ.
Peter echoes the words of Jesus and Paul when he refers to this, ‘day of the Lord, as he tells his readers that it will arrive like ‘a thief in the night.’ His imagery is striking from the standpoint of the current timeline that we live in and our ability to rain down the fires of destruction on the planet through the stockpiles of Nuclear armaments that currently exist. It is interesting to contrast the way God destroyed the earth once, and how He obviously grieved over the loss of life, and to then observe the ability of humanity to be the initiating point of origin for the world to be destroyed by fire in the end. Our technological advancements are problematic and troubling, particularly in light of the generational connection to the budding of the olive tree prophecy of the Olivet Discourse (see chapter___ for a discussion on this).
Jesus statement as to the general time frame of His return segues easily with Paul’s warning about the antichrist and his ability to manipulate peoples belief systems through the use of the (lying) miracles, signs and wonders stipulation of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Paul’s statement says that the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. Paul indicates that this is the time when the heavens shall pass away, and the earth shall melt with extreme heat. Modern anti-supernaturalists have taken this passage and used it out of context in building a doctrinal position that diminishes the believer’s ability to walk in the supernatural displays of the giftings of the Spirit.
This is an egregious attack on the integrity of the supernatural interaction between believers and Holy Spirit, and it is a wrong interpretation concerning the miracles, signs and wonders reference that Paul makes. From a theological point, it is important to contextualize his statement and to refer it to the same elemental destructive forces that Peter refers to in the passage we are currently looking at in our study. The signs and wonders that Paul was warning the church about had nothing to do with the spiritually miraculous manifestations of power. The deception Paul warned against had to do with the manipulation of beliefs through mechanical marvels that were used in the cultic temples to keep the people awestruck. Paul’s warning against the antichrist’s miraculous signs had nothing to do with the charismata, as some suggest. It had everything to do with the current examples of technology, such as weighs and pulleys, steam pressure, and other means of demonstrating sleight of hand trickery using technology in exchange for spiritual reality.
When this aversion to deceptive practices that are technologically induced is connected to the antichrists epoch being tied to the elements melting under a fierce fire, the connection to nuclear abilities cannot be easily dismissed. I think it is appropriate to consider if Paul and John and Peter all had a glimpse into the future and saw the destruction humanity would eventually be capable of wielding at the end of the age. Apocalyptic pronouncements usually had dual applications as they were given to the seer. All apocalypses’ would have a first blush fulfillment as most of the pronouncements had a historical connection. When God was inspiring the writers of Holy Writ, He did not use fiction or fables as one of the genres that they were allowed to use in the recording of their communication between them and God. This basic rule of understanding is what gives us the ability to disqualify some of the ancient writings that have existed alongside Scripture, such as the Jewish apocalyptic, Bel and the Dragon, or the Gnostic apocalyptic that had been associated with Christianity that is known as The Gospel of Thomas. The fanciful exaggerations and the use of fictional accounts that undergird points of doctrine are what make them unacceptable as referents for biblical understanding.
Bel and the Dragon are included as chapter 14 of the extended Book of Daniel. This story, which was written in Aramaic somewhere in the range of the late second century BC, was also included in the Septuagint. Both the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the extended version of Daniel are disputed as to their canonicity. These two chapters referred to as deuterocanonical, which means that they are not universally accepted among the Christian Church as worthy of inclusion into the canonical works that are accepted as belonging in the Bible. The text of the two disputed chapters is also generally seen as belonging to the apocryphal writings by most Protestants and are usually not found in most modern Protestant Bibles. Both chapters were contained in the original 1611 version of the authorized King James Version. The church of England also includes these chapters in Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England.
Chapter 14 of Daniel contains three independent narratives, which place Daniel in the court of Cyrus, who was the king of the Persians, as the opening passage states that, “When King Matyas was laid to rest with his ancestors, Cyrus the Persian succeeded to his kingdom.” There Daniel “was a companion of the king, and was the most honored of all his Friends (Daniel 14:1).” Bel (Daniel 14:1-22) is a Jewish folktale that ridicules the worship of idols. It is the first of the three vignettes that are contained in the disputed chapter. “Do you not think that Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?” the King asks Daniel. Daniel replies by telling the King that the statue of Bel is made of clay covered with bronze. These substances render the statue incapable of eating or drinking. The implication is made that the statue is not eating the offerings that have been rendered to the false deity.
This inflames the King, who then turns to the priests of Bel, asking them who in fact was eating the offerings. The dialogue continues with the priests asking the King to allow them to lay out the offerings before the statue one more time, sealing the doors to the Temple with his signet, therefore keeping people out of the Temple, rendering the Temple secure from tampering. The challenge continues by asking that whoever is shown to be in error needs to die, whether it is the priests of Bel or Daniel the Satrap.
The priest’s ruse is then exposed as Daniel scatters ashes around the perimeter of the Temple in the sight of the King, yet unknown to the priests. He contended that the priests would secretly enter the Temple through a hidden doorway in the night and eat the meal. He contended that the priests would attempt to deceive the King in the evening by entering to the Temple in the cover of night and remove the offering. Just as Daniel had anticipated, the following morning bore witness to footprints on the Temples floor. This led to the arrest and execution of the priests and their families following their confession to their deceptive actions.
The next morning, Daniel calls attention to the footprints on the temple’s floor; the priests of Bel were then arrested and, confessing their deed, showed the secret passage that they used to sneak inside the temple. They and their wives and children are put to death, and Daniel is permitted to destroy the idol of Bel and the temple.
The second vignette is an independent narrative that embodies the dragon as an actual living entity, as opposed to an idol, that the Babylonians worshipped (Daniel 14:23-30). The passage reads that “there was a great dragon, which the Babylonians revered.” Daniel becomes a dragon slayer by taking tar, fat, and hair (trichas) to make cakes (mazas, barley-cakes), which is translated as “lumps.” This odd rendition is based on the resulting lumps that develop inside of the dragon, which in turn causes the dragon to burst open after he eats the mazas. The Midrash includes additional ingredients including hay with nails lacked in the straw, while other versions make the substance out to be burning coals hidden in tarps or poison-laced tar cakes. The death of their beloved dragon leaves the Babylonians outraged, with the populace accusing the King of converting to Judaism and killing the priests. They demand that Daniel is handed over to them to face a certain execution. The last of the vignettes is the resultant consequences of their demand for Daniel’s head.
This next story (Daniel 14:31-42), finds Daniel back in the Lion’s Den. Scholars disagree as to whether this is Daniel’s first or second trip to the Den of Lions, although the Septuagint adds an addendum that connects the story to Habakkuk the son of Jesus from the tribe of Levi. Just as in the first encounter between Daniel and the Den of Lions, Daniel is miraculously kept from harm. However, instead of attributing the deliverance to an angel keeping the jaws shut, here we find Habakkuk being miraculously brought into the den, where he then feeds the lions, keeping them from devouring Daniel. “On the seventh day the king came to mourn for Daniel. When he came to the den he looked in, and there sat Daniel! The king shouted with a loud voice, ‘You are great, O Lord, the God of Daniel, and there is no other besides you!’ Then he pulled Daniel out, and threw into the den those who had attempted his destruction, and they were instantly eaten before his eyes.”
The two different accounts of the dragon, one depicting the dragon as a false god in the image of an idol, and the other which shows the god as an animated animal that was worshipped highlights the problem of relying on deception as a basis of belief. This is seen in either in the field of outright trickery as in the manipulation of secret doors and passageways, or in the exaggerations of fables.
Jesus addressed the problem of drawing wrong assumptions based on manipulative motivations from a spiritual perspective when He taught about the good fruit and the bad fruit of teachings and the miraculous in Matthew 7:16-24, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21″Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
In this abbreviated parable, Jesus informs about two categories of presenters of the gospel that need to be rejected in the Sermon on the Mount. He starts His warning by addressing preachers who are speaking words as if they were from God, yet only serve the purpose of the speaker. This is a form of veiled false teaching that appears in the form of self-aggrandizement, which seems to become more pronounced as the days of this evil age come to a close. The message of men must be weighed in the crucible of Scripture, particularly if the message becomes a word of deception. The modern message that turns people away from any belief in the supernatural abilities of God and His desire to intervene in the lives of His people is wrong. It is the highest form of false teaching that is available, and it is a doctrinal position that is to be avoided. Jesus equated it to a tree that produces bad fruit. We know that this is point by the reference to false prophets (preachers) who come in sheep clothing, although they are wolves who seek to devour the believer in their web of deception.
Many commentators connect the false prophet clause to the lack of authority and propriety of behavior on the part of the enthusiasts or charismatically inclined group that make-up Matthew 7:21-23. I think it is best to separate the two groups for study purposes. The first group can be seen as those who preach with no expectation of the supernatural and who manipulate with words. The second group could be seen as those who believe in the supernatural, but who may manipulate with false signs and wonders. Both types of deception are dangerous and should be avoided, as the penalty is severe according to Matthew 7:19 and 23. One type of leadership is cut off and burned up in the fire, with the other group of leaders being turned away with a rejection that is severe, as Jesus “tells them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers.”
Jesus pronouncement is leveled against the Pharisaic style of preaching that created division and strife among the sincere followers of God, and the manipulative deceivers who claim to be miracle workers, yet who resort to the parlor tricks of the prophets of Bel to gain their followings. This was one of the main reasons I loved John Wimber in his heyday, as he attempted to get us to teach without using manipulation in our message that would create a sectarian rift. He also taught us to seek authentication for the miraculous manifestations we embraced. It is wise to seek authentication and verification of the miraculous claims of ministers and ministries.
Without the ability to produce the certificate of healing (Matthew 8:4, Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14). The three verses read, then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them…” “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them…” Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Let me be clear about my belief in the supernatural; I am an ardent supernaturalist. However, I think that it is wise for those of us who live in this camp to expect authentication concerning the miraculous. Healings should be able to be validated medically in most cases. Claims of miraculous weight loss, although a little is more difficult to prove, should occasionally be authenticated also.
In our culture of indulgence, many of us are part of programs that force us to be weighed weekly, keeping logs for the groups we are part of, or the doctors whose care we are under for medication to control our appetites. It seems to be reasonable to assume that a percentage of those people who are claiming to have lost significant amounts of weight would be able to produce a chart from Weight Watchers or a Diet Doctor in at least a few instances. This same standard should apply to the claims of gold teeth, gold dust, and gems, as the compilation of the physical material should produce sufficient amounts of accumulation to sell the ‘stuff’ for profit. This would be particularly relevant in the cases where large unknown gems are claimed as proof. Unknown substances that are rare and without a category are normally very, very valuable, with any number of gemologists desiring to acquire the stones for jewelry or display. Understand, I am not a unbeliever when it comes to God supernaturally provisioning His people. Jesus demonstrated this ability of our Father very capably when He told His disciples to get a coin from a fish to pay their tax bill in Matthew 17:24-27. Matthew says that, After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25″Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?” 26″From others,” Peter answered. “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27″But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
God is more than able to do extreme things to bring provision for His people’s needs. Scripture is resplendent with accounts that demonstrate this truth as being viable. The story of the Hebrews in the wilderness and the Manna and water miracle, Elijah and the raven, the widow and her cruse of oil all demonstrate this capacity of God is moving on behalf of His people to provide for their needs supernaturally. The point that I am trying to articulate is that the signs and wonders in these instances were provable in their addressing specific needs. A friend of mine who was a career missionary told me a compelling story that happened to him in Argentina. Ralph (Rafael) Hyatt was visiting an Indian Tribe on the Rio de la Plata when he was asked to pray for a man who had a severe toothache. Ralph had seen that the tribal members had bad teeth, with most of them never receiving professional dental care. As Ralph prayed for the man with the bad tooth, he noticed that the man had gaps in his mouth and an assortment of dental problems. This man was not the only one, as this indigenous tribe was the equivalent of backwoodsmen in Americana history. They were people who had been brutalized and alienated by the junta’s and were fearful of many of the complexities that interacting with civilization brought. When the prayer had finished, he was amazed at the resulting miracle. Not only had the tooth been repaired, but it was also replaced with a golden tooth.
This proved to be the case with all of his dental problems. That is not where this outbreak ended. As person after person was examined, mouth after mouth was filled with gold. It was a miracle indeed. When my friend left the village, Ralph went his way astonished at the goodness of God but mystified by what he had encountered. To establish the credibility of the man who shared the story of the teeth with me, it is probably important to establish Ralph’s credentials. Ralph had gone to Argentina following an outpouring of the Spirit in the 1950’s where the Pentecostal church made significant inroads into the culture through a series of revivals and miraculous outpourings. Ralph was commissioned and sent to Argentina in the late 1960’s with his wife Francis. Claudio Friezen, Pablo Botieros, Carlos Annacondia, all these men are the fruit of his direct ministry. At one point in his life, he took a young intern from America under his wing. That man eventually returned to America as an evangelist. His name is Steve Hill, the preaching evangelist of the Brownsville Revival.
Approximately one year later, the missionary returned to the outpost on the river. As Ralph approached the stilt homes, he was amazed at what Ralph saw. The homes had undergone significant renovations, and their boats, which were the tribe’s livelihood had been upgraded. As he began to interact with the natives, he realized that there was a distinct change that had occurred with the Indians he was speaking with, as they now had normal teeth. The gold fillings and teeth replacements were nowhere to be seen. Amazed, he asked what had happened. The answer was quite simple. The people of the community had gone to the city and had their gold teeth removed. They took the gold and sold it. The improvements to the community and their fleet of boats had come through the selling of the gold. As a side note, they did get their teeth fixed with the proceeds. I present this story, as I do want you to understand that I do believe in the supernatural, as I believe this account. It is extraordinary, but it is consistent with the dealings of the Lord in the Scriptural record as God provided for His people.
I share this testimony at this juncture, as I think it is important to contrast this occurrence with some of the more questionable claims that have surfaced in recent years concerning healings and manifestations that purport to be supernatural in origin but may be more hoax than truth. I am not saying that all of the claims are exaggerations. I am saying that claims of extraordinary happenings of gold, gems or healings should be placed into the light of scrutiny to ratify what is authentic. The warning of Jesus should make us pause and ask ourselves if our reliance on doctrines that divide or manifestations that the claimants identify as being supernatural in origin, but may be natural in their source should always be taken to heart. Some of the more esoteric claims are reminiscent of apparitions in tree bark and pancakes of historical figures. They may make for good theater, but they detract from the faith, particularly when they are examined in light of verification. We need only listen to the claims of some of the past discredited evangelists who testified to healings, raising people from the dead and other extravagant occasions in their services. Although many people may have had genuine encounters with God, when the evangelists and the Association that served as the covering for a particular revival in Florida to look at the evidence to verify the claims asked the media, the news media drew a blank with every claim of supernatural occurrences in the revival. The lack of evidence is important to note, as the lack of authentication can easily lead to a discrediting of the authentic when we lend our credibility to that which may fall short of being true. This is why it is important to listen to the warnings of Jesus in this area.