Part 1 – The nature of the present church
When reading about “the church” it is essential to understand clearly that church means PEOPLE/members/humans . If a church is called lukewarm it is people that are lukewarm not a building.
The meaning of “Ecclesia”
Ecclesia in biblical Greek is a compound noun, ek, “out,” and klesia, “called.” literally “out-called.”. In the King James Bible it has been rendered 112 times as “church” and three times “assembly.” The English word “church” derived from the Greek kuriakon doma meaning “house of the Lord.” later “Kirk” and finally church. Commonly church is thought of as a building, but the true house of the Lord is a living organism of spiritually joined people in whom Christ dwells. While the word church does today indicate this body the original meaning of “out-called” is generally overlooked.
The evolving of regular gatherings
Jesus Christ came as revealed truth, preached the gospel of the kingdom and manifested the life of God. He was lifted up in the fullness of His sacrificial death upon the cross. Rising from the dead, he ascended into the heavens of God’s Spirit, and poured out the Holy Spirit upon His disciples.
Drawn toward His light, soul after soul was taken out of the darkness of ignorance, sin, and death into the power of His resurrection. To each person this call is personal and individual..
(John 1:12 NRSV) But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
Such individual men and women in believing the same truth, receiving the same experience, or sharing the same vision and purpose tended to like being together. Out of this disparate crowd of disciples developed the practice of corporate gathering. The individual believers in, and followers of, Jesus Christ became one in their common life, love and hope.
These Christian groups were simply a gathering together of people. In such meetings the realizing of the Ecclesia concept impressed the meaning of being called away, of leaving something behind. Its people have come out of some place, condition, or state and felt separate; even peculiar.
A Meeting is not the Ecclesia.
Although all the individual members are meeting as a group or an assembly, the significant point of the Greek term “Ecclesia” is not the process of being together. The forming of the organism of individuals into the Ecclesia becomes reality to the extent that each hears the Master’s call and is drawn out of their former lifestyle to become the “out-called” Individuals who are being instructed, prepared, and trained to receive guidance by the spirit.
The essential Ecclesia in any age has always been such individual people. Called out by God, called out of the world, out of their human, earthly identity and consciousness, called out to God in the Spirit. Called out of every religious system on earth; they know His voice and do not heed the voices of strangers.
When Jesus said, “I will build my Ecclesia.” It was not to be an organization or a meeting but the building of the lives of men and women. The bringing forth of spiritual maturity in the children of God is to create the habitation of God by the Spirit.
The body of Christ is “built up” by spiritual growth, not just by adding more and more babes to the family, wonderful as that is. Christ said, “I will do it.” “I will build my Called Out Ones.”
Choice and choosing
You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. (Jn. 15:16).
People tend to join a church of “their own choice.” Sometimes an evangelistic campaign strengthens the belief that it is up to them to “choose Christ,” and then attend the church of their choice. However becoming part of the Ecclesia is not something a person does. This happening is a call of/by God.
Self choice motivation often brings “meeting bondage” and loss of liberty. Christendom has tended to box God into “the meeting.’ As individuals gather for such “meetings” and the appointed time arrives, a change seems to come over people, the ‘meeting mentality’ sets in. Suddenly an air of what they deem to be ‘spiritual’ takes over. The preacher’s voice changes to his ‘official voice.’ People try to ‘get in the Spirit’ so there will be a “good meeting.” This will continue for an hour or two, depending on the group, and then the ‘meeting’ is over and people can relax and be themselves again until the next appointed time. The meeting becomes all-important and the hub around which lives are built.
Meetings are not the Ecclesia Jesus said He would build.
The greater reality
Much that has been called “church” has been responsible for keeping people from an intimate relationship with the Father.
Men try to fill lives with programs and activities; our Father longs to fill us with Himself. It is the desire of our Father that we all “know” Him.
(Heb 8:11 NRSV) And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
Gatherings help bring forth from within awareness of the greater reality of our Father’s presence with and in us.
(Mat 18:20 NRSV) For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Changing the present reality
The present gatherings throughout Christendom need to change. Now is a time of an over-lapping period as the call changes from Shiloh (form) to Zion (life). Those who want life will come out from the lifeless forms of Shiloh and climb to the heights of Zion. The Christ seeks to manifest Himself in our midst.
It is the ‘one in the midst’ declaring the Father that changes lives.
(Rev 1:13 NRSV) and in the midst of the lamp-stands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest.
Early believers gathered daily from house to house or in the temple. There was no inner sense of compulsion. They had come into contact with the Christ and they wanted to gather together. Christ was becoming more and more real in their midst. The life within was growing. The kingdom of God was flooding their inner being. There was no need for any carry over from the law age to persuade them to gather together. Christ was their reason.
When God speaks of the Ecclesia He is speaking to the called-out ones wherever they may be found. Everyday conversation tends to perverts the meaning of the assembly/church. Use of; “Going to church.” What “church” do you belong to? Why don’t you come to our “church”? is common, If the meeting is going exceptionally well, “Now we’re really having church.” Phrases like, “That is an Anglican church, that is a Pentecostal church” are used.
This careless conversation changes the meaning of the word Ecclesia from “called out ones” to mean a building, an organization, or a meeting. In the mind the meaning is lost, the reality covered up. To change this attitude and mind set is the beginning of understanding the new reality.
Stages and Experience
There are groups of God’s people everywhere, each in different stages of growth and experience.
Some are called out of the world but do not believe in any further experience or revelation.
Others are called out from those who have embraced salvation to a further experience of sanctification.
From the sanctified people are called out and become a Spirit-baptized people.
From the Spirit baptized people are called out a gifted people.
From the gifted people are called out a fruitful people.
There is also a calling out of those who are reaching the maturity of son-ship.
Typically disciples having been called out from a group of God’s people gather around what is to them a present revelation of truth. As each level unfolds the tendency is to form a called-out “assembly” and develop a fixed doctrine. In this way the church has become a church within a church, within a church; wheels within wheels.
The New Testament Assembly formed by the apostles was called out from the congregation in the wilderness (Israel) with the addition of the Gentiles who were called out through the ministry of the apostle Paul.
This process will continue to develop more dogmatic and sectarian levels, if the confusion of Babylonian form continues to be accepted and development of the present day church accepts these layers of organized systems. .
God will continue to guide each level towards being a habitation of God by the Spirit but growth will only continue as all who are called out are willing to be lifted in their experience from the glory where they now reside to the glories that are above.
(2 Cor 3:18 NRSV) And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
This will continue until all believers have been raised to be the glorious bride without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
(Eph 5:27 KJV) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
God recognizes all believers as being His children, but He does not recognize them all as being of one stature. He sees some as babes, some children, some young men, and some fathers”
Regardless of which group the called out one belongs to, all of the Lord’s people at whatever the level of growth and experience attained, are part of God’s called-out or His Ecclesia.
4. The seven churches of Asia: part 2 – The seven realms or realities within
The seven churches (Assemblies) in the book of Revelation are seven realms of challenge containing opportunities to develop as an over-comer. All who are believers are represented in these seven churches. As the seven Spirits are but one Spirit in fullness, so the seven churches represent one Church in its completeness.
All the characteristics of the seven may be found in each of us individually, in every local body called out, and also in the whole universal church collectively.
In each of our experiences there is the capacity to partake of everything that the seven assemblies represent. All of us will be tested in each of the seven realms and face the challenge of each set of negatives and positives.
These realms are seven realities and potentialities within each of us fulfilling the whole reality of our calling. These promises to be given to the overcomers are fully available to all who seek and walk in the spirit
The destination of the called out one
There is a meaning connected with the Ecclesia that implies “in progress”, from one position to another, a movement. Ecclesia/assembly/church is not a static position. The call is to go from some state to another.
To be called out
From the values of the world, from the ways of the world, from the spirit of the world, from its philosophies and concepts, and from the flesh, from sin, from death;
To be called to Son-ship and the kingdom of God
The destination is not the ecclesia group. (Church). The Ecclesia is the instrument of God leading the called out from the Babylonian systems of this world to the fullness of His kingdom We are called to move; ever ascending from glory to glory and from realm to realm in our experience of Christ. Son-ship and the kingdom are via the Ecclesia. But the Ecclesia is neither son-ship nor the kingdom. Those who overcome within the Church realm will inherit the kingdom, and those who overcome within the Kingdom realm will attain to son-ship.
He that overcomes will inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he will be my son. (Rev. 21:7).
All over the world there are people being called and drawn to a union in the high places of the Spirit where their nature and existence are being changed. (not in church buildings or assemblies)
This is the birth of the man-child, a life out of a life, a people out of a people, a company out of a company, a son out of the bride, to produce the full image of Christ Jesus in the earth again.
The fully manifest presence of His glory and power, of His life and light and love, will mark the beginning of a transfer of the powers of this dying age into the hands of a people who have understood the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
(Phil 3:14 KJV) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
The whole purpose of redemption is to save, deliver, quicken, restore, and transform humankind according to the life and truth that are in Christ Jesus. This involves the calling out and raising up of a body of sons ( /daughters) in His image, filled with His wisdom, knowledge, love, grace, and power to be the instrument through which Christ will appear on the earth again in the fullness of Himself to liberate all of humankind and all nations from the tyranny of sin, ignorance, poverty, limitation, sickness, pain, sorrow, and death.
I will build my Ecclesia; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mat. 16:18).
He is still building that Assembly. There is no person or group who may of themselves build this people as He will build it. The life of its members does not depend upon human-made organization membership, or upon Old Testament style outward forms of rituals, ceremonies, types, and shadows such as water baptism and communion, or any other natural, outward, external observance. These are Old Covenant which “stood in meats and drinks, and divers washings (baptisms), and carnal (outward, fleshly, natural) ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation (change)”
(Heb 9:10 NIV) They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
The true Ecclesia has only one Head, one great Shepherd, one chief Apostle and Bishop—Jesus Christ. He alone, by His Spirit, admits the members to this assembly. Till He opens the door no man on earth can open it—neither bishops, presbyters, evangelists, pastors, nor boards, convocations, nor synods. Let a man be called, touched, awakened, and quickened by the Spirit of the Lord and in that moment he becomes a member of this assembly. There is no Ecclesia membership in heaven or on earth apart from this. God Himself must call you out and God Himself must set you in place.. Only God can do this.
And the Lord added to the assembly daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:47).
Any other form of membership is an invention of man, a carnal-minded example of that which is true. The moment one is born of God’s Spirit is the moment of membership of the assembly of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven
(Heb 12:23 NIV) to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,
Every effort on the part of humankind to join people with one of the man-made organizations falsely called “the Church” tends to lead them astray from the union with Christ the Head and that work which the Holy Spirit accomplished when He placed them into His body, the true Ecclesia.
God’s thought is not the church systems of man; it is not churches as organized denominational systems; it is not propagation of denominational teaching and enterprise.
God’s thought is to have a people in whom, and in the midst of whom, Christ is all. The Ecclesia begins and ends with this—the life of Christ formed and reproduced in a people. He passes by the great institutions, the so-called “Church” and He is with those who in themselves are of a humble and contrite spirit and who tremble at His word. God’s thought for the humble is Jesus Christ, who as God in bodily form, is to be our fullness and destination.
The hidden Ecclesia
The Church that humankind is building is visible. The assembly that the Christ is building is invisible, but it is the powerful and all-inclusive one. The Church that men build is of the earth and seeks physical, material blessings; but the Ecclesia that the Christ births out of His life, dwells in heavenly places and is blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. Lively, living stones, stones for another world, are being daily added to this assembly and it is growing and becoming more powerful in the Spirit with each passing day. The Ecclesia is the miracle of Christ’s resurrection life appearing again in a people upon the earth. At God’s appointed time, this living assembly will be made known to all men, and begin to openly work to bring the whole of creation into the fullness of God.
The cost of pressing on
It is easy to settle for tradition, it is easy to settle for less than God has called one to; to settle for the feast of Passover or Pentecost rather than paying the price required to press on into the feast of Tabernacles. It requires no effort to settle for the immaturity of the church realm instead of pursuing son-ship to God. The disciple needs courage, patience and faith to go beyond weak-eyed (lack of spiritual vision) ; to leave the in-part realm of the Church world behind and reach into God’s highest and best—the hope of fullness and maturity in God.
The Church realm, the Church system as we know it, is of God, regardless of how weak-eyed it is, how grotesque it may be, how organized it is, how apostate it often is, how dead, how fleshly and carnal, or how alive it is—the measure of life that is in the church system is of God. Most have a degree of contentment with the Church system and in the first days of church life think they have found the highest purpose of God and the ultimate reality of God attainable in this life.
There is coming the new day of the glory of Christ that can reveal that what was first hungered and thirsted after was not the full desire of the inner heart. From the very beginning there has been hidden a sense in the deepest heart that there is more, something greater, fuller in God.
4. The seven churches of Asia: part 3 – A divinely inspired portrait of the church
The Seven Assemblies of Asia are a portrait of the present state of belief.
An irregular loop or circle the seven Assemblies are in Asia Minor, bordering on the Aegean and Mediterranean seas are used to display a divinely inspired portrait of the church realm. The order of naming follows the great circular road connecting the most populous and influential part of the province. The cities selected lay along the Imperial Post Road. This Roman highway was built about 133 B.C.
The epistle of Paul to the Ephesians and others were circulated around this circle. The messages of the Lord Jesus to the seven Assemblies reveal that the anointing, glory, holiness, and power of the early days had already lost much of their freshness and potency, as the second generation of believers developed. The same conditions which prevail in the church systems today were already manifesting in the church of John’s day.
There were many other local congregations existing contemporaneously with the seven of Revelation. The seven Assemblies to whom John wrote were not even the most important. The Assemblies in Corinth, in Rome, in Iconium, in Lystra, in Derbe, in Miletus, in Antioch, in Heliopolis, in Colossae, in Thessalonica, in Babylon, or Jerusalem itself, are not mentioned.
God knew these seven were facing patterns of trials, tribulations, errors, faith, steadfastness, victories, and triumphs that would be common to all the Lord’s people down through the entire church age.
He that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Assemblies—(plural i.e. all the selected churches)
Every over-comer is admonished to hear all seven messages.
The messages are prophetic and to the whole church realm of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The conditions existing at the time John wrote may be expected to reveal themselves in the midst of the Lord’s people throughout the entire age. Seven Assemblies were chosen for this Revelation—the number of totality and completeness.
The meanings of the names of the cities in which the seven churches were located have prophetic significance. Asia itself, for instance, means slime or mire, an apt type of the world, of sin and death, of the carnal mind and Adamic nature, and the false religious realms out of which we have been called.
Ephesus : Desired or desirable, a term applied by a lover to the woman of his choice.
Smyrna: Myrrh, a symbol of sorrow, suffering and death, an apt picture of the trials, troubles, and tribulations through which we pass on the journey into perfection.
Pergamos: Marriage, elevation, or firm union, and each of us is married to, and in firm union with, either the flesh or the spirit.
Thyatira: Incense, speaking of the outflow of grace, praise, and worship through our lives.
Sardis: Basically ‘red’ but thought to also mean remnant or escaping ones, signifying that God is always bringing out a remnant for His purposes.
Philadelphia: Brotherly love.
Laodicea: The idea of the people’s right, the people’s judgment, or the people’s choice, expressing the negative aspect of the rule of the flesh and the carnal mind.
All names are relevant, chosen by divine wisdom to speak of the great works of God in the lives of His elect. The church at this city or that indicates the Lord’s people who are at that particular stage in their growth, development, and overcoming in Christ.
4. The seven churches of Asia: part 4 – the spiritual walk in the seven churches
The key to the mystery of the Book of Revelation
The secret to all the mysteries of the book of Revelation was given to John by the angel of Jesus Christ—by the Holy Spirit—to be sent to the seven “the complete” Church. The messages to the Seven Assemblies representing all the “called-out” hold the keys to the unveiling throughout the the book of the revelation of Christ’s personal interaction with every called out saint. When called out of any realm of the world or any religion, the disciple may expect to experience “within” all the things written in this book.
He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Assemblies. (Rev. 2:7). “Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears, for they hear. (Mat. 13:16). “Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy. (Rev. 1:3).
The seven Assemblies with all their virtues and problems represent different spiritual states or conditions in the whole church realm. What these Assemblies did right before the Lord disciples are called to do, and what they did wrong they must abandon, asking that God purify them from it. These assemblies represent the progressive way to the throne of God; the final promise to the over-comer is to reign with Christ upon His throne.. As each overcomes spiritually within all that these Assemblies faced, we receive the greatest reward of all—His mind, likeness, nature, glory, and power developing within.
The spiritual walk
The messages sent by Jesus to these assemblies applied to that day but being prophetic they portrayed the spiritual condition of the church throughout the age, which includes our present day circumstances and experiences.
The spirit of Christ within each of us, walks in the midst of the Ecclesia as Judge, with eyes as a flame of fire, searching the thoughts and intents of the hearts of all the called out ones, inquiring how far each of us has answered to, or departed from, our heavenly privileges and potentialities. The Lord passes sentence on what He finds, approving what is right and condemning all that is contrary to His nature; warning as regards the evil, and giving encouragement and strength to the over-comer. It is “within” each of us that the Christ is walking, and it is within that the judgment is taking place.
God dwells in our spirit. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” The fullness of God is in the Most Holy Place of our spirit. In the words of the Lord to the Laodician church, we see a remarkable picture of God coming out of the Most Holy Place to fill all realms.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” says the Lord. “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20).
This has traditionally been understood in the pictures men have painted as Jesus standing at the outside of a door, knocking, to gain admittance. Christ, however, is not outside the church, not even the lukewarm Laodician church. If He were on the outside, it would not be His church.
(2 Cor 6:16 NRSV) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
The body of Christ is the residence of the spirit of Christ; else it ceases to be His body. Matters not how weak, how sick, how carnal, Christ is never on the outside of a child of God. He IS outside the systems of man. But the church is composed of people, not the systems of Babylon they may be held captive in. Christ is in the spirit, in the deepest and innermost part of the being, knocking to gain admittance into the soul and into the body in the fullness of Himself that He may fill and transform the whole being with the glory of His presence and the power of His life.
John was shown the seven lamp-stands “which are the seven Assemblies and so foretold in detail the entire church age. In the seven assemblies John beheld the good and the evil of the church age, the strength and the weakness of the church and of each one of its members. He saw the church in its beginnings and in its consummation. He beheld the true Ecclesia of the Lord Jesus Christ and he exposed the false church systems, with its unholy spirit, false doctrines, man-made organizations, carnal methods and programs. John showed the full revelation of all the fullness of Christ and His Ecclesia during the age and the glory that would follow.
The seven Assemblies represent the divinely inspired portrait of the church realm. They were imperfect, carnal, childish, idolatrous, and heretical, rebuked—a realm of mixture and duality The Lord commends and praises them on one hand, while warning and rebuking them on the other. These seven Assemblies have correctly revealed the true state and condition of the whole Church and history testifies that John was shown aright. The early church members were a mixture and a duality—flesh and spirit, truth and error, law and grace, spirituality and carnality. Even a casual perusal of the New Testament reveals this. From that day to this, all assemblies have been the same.
The Hidden Assembly.
There is an Ecclesia where each Christian lives and they are all members of it. There is only one and it does not relate to any of the denominations or movements of humankind. It is impossible to come out of this assembly unless you are severed from Christ, for the Ecclesia is His body.
An individual may decide to leave the systems of man but they are still the Ecclesia—the called out.
In every case any other church in a given place has spiritual people as its members, but carnality is evident. To paraphrase; One says, “We are of Luther,” and another says, “We are Baptist,” and another says, “We are Pentecostal,” and yet another says, “We are Roman Catholic,” are they not carnal and walk as men?
(1 Cor 3:3-4 NRSV) for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?  For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
Should the Church age continue for another thousand years the Church will not have changed—the revelation of the seven lamp-stands declares it. The seven lamp-stands are the seven Assemblies. The seven Assemblies are the whole, complete church. The condition of the seven Assemblies is the condition of the church throughout the age. Only the over-comer changes and receives the promises. The great, heavenly and eternal promises are made to the over-comer alone.