Who Is The Church?
by Christine Egbert
The first time I heard a preacher say, “The church is not a building. It’s the people,” I thought it was insightful, and it was. But this insightful comment would’ve been unnecessary had ekklesia been translated correctly in the first place. Strong’s dictionary defines ekklesia as “a calling out, a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation or an assembly. Unfortunately, most English translations render it simply as church, and this separates believers from their Hebraic roots!
Around 275 BCE—before the birth of Yeshua (Jesus)—some 70 Hebrew scholars translated the Tanach (Old Testament) into Koine Greek. In this translation, known as the Septuagint, the Hebrew word qahal (an assembly or congregation of Israelites) was translated most often as ekklesia. Thayer Bible Dictionary asserts that “in the Septuagint, ekklesia is often equivalent to the assembly of the Israelites.”
Now, there was a Greek word in Koine Greek that actually meant church. That word was kyridakon. It means “the lord’s house, a meeting place for any religious group including pagans.” But kyridakon was never used in the New Testament Greek manuscripts.
So how did a called out assembly ever become a church? Where, and by whom, did it start?
The first time it appeared was in 1382 in the John Wycliffe Bible, translated, not from the Greek but from the Roman Catholic Church’s “Latin VULGATE.” Later, however, English translations such as Tyndale 1524, Coverdale 1535, Matthew Bible 1537, and the Great Bible 1539, all translated ekklesia correctly as congregation or assembly. It wasn’t until 1611, in the lauded King James translation from the Greek, that this deliberate deception began.
King James gave specific edicts to his translators. Edict number 3 forbid the KJV translators to render the Greek word ekklesia as congregation or assembly, except in a very few strategic passages. These are: Acts 19:32 and Acts:19:39. (http:www.jkvonly.org/other/kj_instructs.htm)
Let’s read them:
Acts 19:32 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another, for the (ekklesia) assembly was confused, and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.”
Why did King James permit his translators to correctly translate ekklesia in Acts 19:32? Go back and start reading from verse 29, and you’ll find the answer. That “called out assembly” was a mob. A few verses later, in Acts 19:39, you will find the second instance in which “ekklesia” is translated correctly. In this case the ekklesia is an illegal assembly.
King James (the ecclesiastical head of the British Empire) commanded ekklesia to be translated as “church” only when the assembly referred to the followers of Israel’s Messiah.
Psalms 22:22 “I will declare thy name unto my brethren. In the midst of the congregation (ekklesia) will I praise thee. This very same verse when quoted in Hebrews 2:12, is translated: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church (not congregation) will I sing praise unto thee.”
WHEN DID THE CHURCH BEGIN?
Another un-truth spread to separate believers from their Hebraic roots is the claim that this new entity called “the church” was birthed at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out in the second chapter of Acts.
But if that were the case, and it’s not, why does Acts 7:38 say: “This is he (referring to Israel’s promised Messiah, Yeshua), that was in the church in the wilderness (with Moses)…”?
King James’ agenda to prove that the “church” was a new entity would have been served better had his translators correctly translate ekklesia as congregation. It was changed in the MKJV version, which reads “the congregation in the wilderness.”
The fact remains, however, that God’s ekklesia was not born when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Shavuot (Pentecost) as recorded in the second chapter of Acts. The Holy Spirit was given at that Shavuot to empower God’s people so they could proclaim, with signs and wonders, the Gospel of the Kingdom. The ekklesia–that called out assembly of God–officially became Yah’s people at the base of Mount Sinai, on that very First Shavuot, when after being called-out of Egypt, they stood at the base of the mountain and entered into a marriage covenant with the Most High. It was then that they become the Nation Israel, a nation of people who would contend with God and prevail.
It all started with a man named Abram. Genesis 12:1 Now YHVH had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.
Abram was the first called out member of God’s ekklesia. Brown-Driver Briggs Hebrew dictionary defines Hebrew as “one from beyond.” Abram became Abraham, who begat Isaac, the son of promise, and Isaac begat Jacob, whom God loved, and was later renamed Israel.
In Hebraic thinking one’s name is destiny. It designates character, destiny and purpose. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel because Jacob refused to let go until God blessed him:
And He said, your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with men, and have prevailed. So the name Israel represents not only one of the patriarchs, not only the Promised Land, but everyone who comes into Covenant with the Most High.
In Acts 20:29-31 Paul warned followers of the Messiah about wolves: “For I know that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember . . .”
Who were these grievous wolves and what perversities did they speak? Here’s an example:
Origen of Alexandria (185-254 A.D.) “We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.”
During the 4th Century, under Constantine’s rule, Paul’s dire predictions saw its fruition. Departing from Yahweh’s instructions, Constantine outlawed Yahweh’s Appointed Times, starting with Passover. He changed not only the dates on which the Messiah’s death and resurrection would be commemorated, but he renamed it after a pagan sun-goddess named Ishtar (in English Easter), and declared that those having anything to do with Yahs’ Feast Days, which he declared Jewish, would be excommunicated. Persecuted! And this was only the beginning of Rome’s paganizing agenda. So while God’s ekklesia existed in the dessert of Sinai with Moses, the Sunday-worshiping, Easter and Christmas celebrating, and swine-eating Christian Church of today was born during the 4th Century in Rome, under the rule of Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church.
ONE GOD! ONE SPIRIT! ONE FAITH!
There is one God, one Spirit, one baptism, and one faith! (Ephesians 4:4-6). And there is but ONE Covenant people spoken of in the Scriptures: It is the “whole” House of Israel, comprised of the House of Israel and House of Judah. For only with these two groups of people did Yah ever enter into covenant. The first time, His covenant was written on tablets of stone, and broken by (the whole house of) Israel. Now, in the blood of Yeshua, His TORAH has been written anew, on our hearts and in our minds, so that this time we would keep our part of the agreement!
Why are there two houses (Israel and Judah), if there is only One People of God?
Because of Solomon’s spiritual adultery (his worshiping Yahweh AND worshiping pagan idols), Israel was split in two. The House of Judah in the south was made up of the tribes of Judah and of Benjamin. The House of Israel, in the north, consisted of the other 10 tribes. In Scripture you will find the House of Israel often referred to Ephraim and sometimes as the house of Joseph.
And he said to Jeroboam, Take ten pieces for yourself. For so says Jehovah, God of Israel, Behold, I am tearing the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and giving to you (Jeroboam) ten tribes. And he (Rehoboam/ Solomon’s son and King of Judah) shall have the one tribe (Benjamin) for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.
Behold, the days come, says Yahovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, says Yahweh. But this shall be the covenant I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says Yahovah, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Notice that in the new (renewed) covenant, the law did not change. It was ONLY where God’s law would now be written that changed. No longer would God’s TORAH (His instructions) be written on tablets of stone, but now they would be written on hearts and in minds.
“But what about the Gentiles? Where do they come into this?” you are probably asking. The following scriptures provide that answer. Just remember that by definition a Gentile is one who is NOT in covenant with God.
Wherefore remember, that you being in times past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh, made by hands. That AT THAT TIME you were without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants (PLURAL) of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But NOW in Christ Jesus, you who were sometimes far off have been made nigh (near) by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore you are NO MORE STRANGERS and foreigners (GENTILES), but are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (ISRAEL)!
For if you being cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree (Israel’s): how much more shall these “natural” branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that you be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (to the commonwealth of Israel), and so all Israel shall be saved.
Who are these Gentiles, these people from those Nations not in covenant with God?
And this spoke he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Yeshua should die for that nation (Israel); And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in ONE the children of God who were scattered abroad.
Who are these children of God who are scattered abroad?
I said, I would scatter them into corners. I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:
Unlike the House of Judah, which returned after its Babylonian exile, the Northern Kingdom, the House of Israel, never returned. They assimilated. They are scattered into all the Gentile nations. They have lost their true identity. But even though Judah played the harlot, Judah never lost its identity. Like a wedding ring never removed, the House of Judah (known now as the Jews) have kept the Sabbath which the Most High said was to be a sign between Him and Judah forever.
EXODUS 31:16-17 “Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It (the Sabbath) is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth, and on the 7th Day, He rested and was refreshed.”
Hosea 1:4 And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.
Hosea 1:6-7 And she conceived again, and bore a daughter. And God said, “Call her name LoRuhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. But I will have MERCY upon the house of Judah, . . .
Now when she had weaned LoRuhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then said God, Call his name LoAmmi: for you (Israel) are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered. And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, You are the sons of the living God.
So the House of Israel got scattered into the nations, where they ceased to be God’s people, and He stopped being their God. But wait! What about the part that says “it shall come to pass”?
I am so glad you asked. The Apostle Paul will solve that mystery.
“. . . whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of the nations. As also He says in Hosea, I will call those Not My people, My people! And those not beloved, Beloved! “And it shall be, in the place where it was said to them, You are not My people, there they will be called, “Sons of the Living God.”
Those Gentiles coming to faith in the New Testament were the very scattered tribes prophesied by Hosea! This explains WHY Yeshua, in Matthew 15:24, said that He was sent ONLY to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
God’s Promise To Restore Israel.
. . . Then, He said to me, Son of man, these bones are ALL the house of Israel. Behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is perished; we are cut off to ourselves. So prophesy and say to them, So says the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, O My people, and I will bring you to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am Jehovah when I have opened your graves and have brought you up out of your graves, O My people. And I shall put My Spirit within you, and you shall live; and I will put you on your own land . . . son of man, take one stick to yourself and write on it, For Judah, and for his companions,the sons of Israel. And take another stick and write on it, for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim (those northern tribes) and all the house of Israel, his companions. And draw them one to one for yourself, into ONE stick. And they shall become one in your hand. And when the sons of your people shall speak to you, saying, Will you not declare to us what these mean to you? Say to them . . . Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions. And I will put them with him, with the stick of Judah, and I will make them ONE stick . . .
Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations. . . and will gather them from all around, and will bring them into their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one King shall be for a king to all of them. And they shall NOT be TWO nations . . . and they will not be split into two kingdoms any more. And they will not still be defiled with their idols, even with their filthy idols, nor with all of their transgressions. But I will save them out of all their dwelling places where they have sinned . . . and I will cleanse them. They shall be a people to Me and I will be their God. And My Servant, David, shall be King over them. And there shall be ONE Shepherd to all of them. And they shall WALK in My judgments and KEEP My statutes, and DO them. And they shall dwell on the land that I have given to my servant, to Jacob . . . they shall dwell on it, they and their sons, and the sons of their sons, FOREVER. And My Servant David shall be a ruler to them forever. And I will cut a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant it shall be with them, And I will place them and multiply them, and I will put My sanctuary in their midst forever. And My tabernacle shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And when My sanctuary shall be in their midst forever, the nations (those not in covenant) shall know that I, Jehovah, sanctify Israel.
Does this mean that all who come to faith in the Messiah are physical descendants of the Northern tribes that got scattered into the Nations? No! But both descendants of Israel who lost their identity and Gentiles without a bloodline linage to ancient Israel MUST be GRAFTED IN To ISRAEL’S cultivated Olive Tree if they are to be included in the new (renewed) covenant. Once a Gentile is grafted in and becomes part of the Commonwealth of Israel, then he or she is no longer an out-of-covenant Gentile.
The story of Ruth, a Moabite, provides the example Gentiles are to follow. “Your people shall be my people,” she said, “and your God my God.” Christians cannot claim Israel’s God without claiming Israel’s people. Jews who accept the Messiah do NOT become part of Constantine’s mutated faith known as the Church. It is quite the other way around. Gentiles who accept the Jewish Messiah become one with Israel. Ruth, a Moabite, joined herself to Israel’s people, just like that “mixed multitudes” that fled Egypt along with the Israelites and later stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and entered Yah’s Covenant.
Exodus 12:37-38 And the sons of Israel traveled from Rameses to Succoth, the men being about six hundred thousand on foot, apart from little ones. And also a mixed multitude went up with them. . .”
This mixed multitude agreed to observe the very same laws and statutes that those natural Israelites said they would.
Exodus 12:49 ONE LAW shall be to the native and to the visitor, the one staying in your midst.
In closing, let me ask you a question? Through which one of the 12 gates naming the 12 tribes of Israel will YOU enter into the Kingdom during the Millennium?
Rev 18:4 And I heard another voice out of Heaven saying, My people, come out of her (the paganized church system), that you may not share in her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues;
Rev 21:12 . . . and having a great and high wall, having twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates and names having been inscribed, which are of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.
Rev 22:14 Blessed are the ones doing His commands, that their authority will be over the Tree of Life, and by the gates they may enter into the city.
Rev 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are the ones keeping the commands of God, and the faith of Yeshua….