THE CHURCH THAT CHRIST PROMISED
IN MATTHEW 16:18 IS IN HEAVEN
To compare the common understanding of the concept of church in relation with The Savior’s teachings and presentation.
To learn about the more accurate English translation of ‘EKKLESIA’ instead of the word ‘church’.
To understand the teaching of The Christ on the ‘EKKLESIA’ that He promised to build in Matthew 16 v18 to be that of the Holy City or New Jerusalem that He is currently building in heaven.
One of the many teachings of The Savior that Christianity either partially or completely misunderstood is that of ‘ekklesia’ a Greek term that is vaguely translated in English as church. Regardless of any church’s complete presentation of this topic, the bottom line is that all of them believe that the term church refers to a body of believers as being of an organized group. And what naturally comes of being organized? First comes structure, and leadership and rules and regulations. And anyone’s disregard of those things just mentioned almost guaranteed one being frowned upon or even dismembered. Let me be very upfront about this perspective - this is not the concept of The Savior about His ‘ekklesia’. On the contrary, this is the perfect climate that caused the creation of a cult movement of what is now Christianity, a movement that is more enslaving in contrast with The Lord’s program of discipleship that He initiated and promoted which is liberating.
As already mentioned, the term ‘church’ is what has become the common translation of what is in the original Greek as ‘ekklesia’. However, that is not the most accurate word to have been the used in the English language. If so, what then would have been a more accurate translation? For us to get the answer to this specific question, let us first find out the etymology and the meaning of the original word ‘ekklesia’ which is in Koine or the common Greek during the time of The Savior? From Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary as presented by the website biblestudytools.com, here’s what we can read:
Definition of Church.
The New Testament word for "church" is ekklesia [ejkklhsiva], which means "the called out ones." In classical Greek, the term was used almost exclusively for political gatherings. In particular, in Athens the word signified the assembling of the citizens for the purpose of conducting the affairs of the polis. Moreover, ekklesia[ejkklhsiva] referred only to the actual meeting, not to the citizens themselves. When the people were not assembled, they were not considered to be the ekklesia [ejkklhsiva].
The word ekklesia is classical Greek for ‘the called out ones’, and during the time of The Lord on earth was only used to refer to gatherings. What else should we understand about the Greek word ekklesia? This term referred only to the actual meeting or gathering and not to the citizens themselves in such that the ekklesia only exist when people are actually assembled.
There are 2 things that we would like you all to be objective and logical:
Instead of the English word ‘CHURCH’, the more accurate English translation for ekklesia should have been either – a) gathering; b) assembly, or, c) congregation – any one of these English words would have served the translation better.
The fact that ekklesia only exist when people are actually gathered, and cease to exist when they are dismissed only proves that this concept could not mean to be an organization as what has become with all “churches” around the world since the beginning.
HOW THEN DOES THE SAVIOR describe this gathering or assembly of His believers and what does He promise to them that He will do?
(Matthew 18:17-20 Complete Jewish Bible)
17 If he refuses to hear them, tell the congregation; and if he refuses to listen even to the congregation, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-collector. 18 Yes! I tell you people that whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. 19 To repeat, I tell you that if two of you here on earth agree about anything people ask, it will be for them from my Father in heaven. 20 For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.”
The Savior made mention of a congregation on earth. But first allow me to clarify verse 17 when The Savior taught about treating someone who refuses to listen even from the congregation as a pagan and tax-collector. Why clarify? Because a common misunderstanding among the majority of churches is that The Lord in this instance was teaching about judging or condemning certain sinners. In fact, they made this statement of The Christ as their doctrinal basis for their church doctrine on expulsion or delisting a sinful member from their church or congregation. How are they wrong in their supposition? It is because that was not what The Savior meant. Why are we sure? Because the true character and mindset of The Savior is that of being non-judgmental and non-condemning, just read John 8:15 and John 12:46-48 for further proof. What then does The Lord mean by “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-collector”? He simply meant to be not bothered anymore by this kind of person – meaning to not take him seriously.
Going back to our study, what does The Savior want His disciples to do that He even tag a promise to be there with them? He wants them to assemble or congregate in His name. That is why in verse 17 He referred to it as a congregation. Who are these people desired by The Savior to assemble or congregate in His name? The same group of people who are special to The Savior in such that whatever they agree on earth, The Father will approve of them in heaven. Can we be more specific? Yes, the same people are The Lord’s disciples (Jn. 8:31), those whom He has made Kings and Priests unto God (Rev. 5:10), the people whom He liberated by His Word, and NOT ENSLAVED. How big has to be a gathering or congregation for Him to be involved in their gathering? He said, “For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.”
Why are we sure that this gathering, or assembly, or congregation in the name of The Christ is not like an organized group or corporate church? Because, going back to the very meaning of ‘ekklesia’, it referred only to the actual meeting, not to the citizens themselves. When the people were not assembled, they were not considered to be the ekklesia. Can any of today’s churches claim this to be true in their organization? The fact that they are an organization and have to be registered with the law of the land proves otherwise, especially when the law allows for a separation of church and state.
How did The Savior, The Christ Yeshua prove to us that indeed His teaching about ekklesia only points to the actual gathering among His followers or disciples and not to a body or organization? How did He invalidate the claim of many of today’s major Christian bodies that the ekklesia pinpointed by The Savior is an organization that is on earth? Here’s how:
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The Savior here talks about those who are born again. Who are they? They are those who received the Kingdom of God because they were born of water and the Spirit. Which water are they born into? The Living Water (Jn. 7:37-38), and that is the Word of Christ being itself the Spirit and life (Jn. 6:63). Thus, those who are born again are those who are baptized or immersed in the Living Water, the Word and Truth of The Christ Yeshua. Once again, if we expand our study, those who are truly born again are those who abide in The Word of The Christ and thus, His disciples (Jn. 8:31).
How could it be that the gathering, assembly or congregating of disciples and believers could not be attributed to any organization on earth? Because The Lord likened them to the wind. How so? He stated, “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” So, if they are like the wind, then you will feel its breeze when it’s present, and not feel it when it is not present. How is this analogy applicable with the ekklesia or congregation or gathering in The Lord’s name? The same is the logic of the disciples’ ekklesia – it cannot be an organization when it only exists during an actual gathering, and cease to exist when the assembly is dispersed.
MISREPRESENTING MATTHEW 16:18
How does Christianity, in general, teach that the congregation of The Lord’s disciples and believers have to be an organization? This has been made a Christian doctrine among most churches starting with the Roman Catholic Church. How would they try to back up this doctrine with scriptures? With their misunderstanding of The Lord’s evangelical mention of the term ‘ekklesia’ as recorded in:
(Matthew 16:18 NKJV)
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Let me first clarify that in the original Greek, that which was translated into the English word ‘church’ is Ekklesia. We already studied how it should have been translated as gathering, or assembly or congregation – and NOT church. Anyway, how do many Christian churches interpret this scripture? They teach that The Savior built His church while He was still on earth, then continue to match it with Paul’s interpretation of ekklesia or church to be that of The Savior’s body composed of members and different offices (Col. 1:18 / 1 Cor. 12:27 / Rom. 12:4-5). What comes with Paul’s ‘structured’ concept of The Lord’s teaching concerning ekklesia? An erroneous conclusion that the Ekklesia promised to be built by The Christ is indeed an organization on earth. How could this be an erroneous understanding? And what shows the universality of this understanding among the majority of Christian groups? Most Christian churches somehow end up with an explanation how their particular church group is supposed to be the one church built by The Savior in Matthew 16 v18. In fact, they all fight over this verse and each of them stake an exclusive claim on being the church mentioned therein. Who among them had started this very shallow and cultist concept of church? It was first claimed by the Roman Catholic Church and all other cult oriented groups just followed their lead. How could all these churches, with hundreds and even thousands of years behind them be dead wrong in their understanding of The Lord’s Ekklesia or congregation? There is then a need for us to take a closer look on the statement of The Savior in Matthew 16:18.
What is the first mistake or oversight among most of Christianity on their understanding of Matthew 16:18? They look into this verse through the lens of Paul, the self-proclaimed apostle and New Testament writer who should have no business explaining this gospel. How could we say that unto someone whose writings were included in the New Testament canon? Simply because he was not the one who was given the wisdom on this truth. Here’s a fact that not too many believers know. At the time when The Savior taught the apostles about His teachings about God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, as well as the Ekklesia or assembly that He promised to build, where was Paul? Paul was not yet in the picture. How then could he have had a clear understanding of this topic when He did not hear it from The Lord? There is just no way! Who then, was given the understanding concerning The Lord’s ekklesia in Matthew 16 v18, and thus, should be the keynote speaker on this subject? The verse in focus is Matthew 16 v18, we can read the answer in v19:
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…
The Lord promised Apostle Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. What does the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven signify? A complete understanding on The Lord’s Ekklesia or Assembly in the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us then open our ears of understanding from the teaching of the lone keyholder, or holder of the truth about this gospel of The Christ, the valiant Apostle of The Lord, Peter.
Referencing back to Matthew 16 v18, let us ask Apostle Peter the following key points for clarifications:
Who is The Rock upon whom the Ekklesia is being built?
What is being built up by The Savior?
How could the gates of Hades not prevail against it?
NOTE: All these key points will give a very defined clarification regarding The Lord's Ekklesia promised in Matthew 16:18 and its present location.
Since Apostle Peter was given the understanding on this teaching, he should be the one to give us these clarifications. Moving on to the first clarification, who is the Rock upon whom the Ekklesia is being built?
(1 Peter 2:7-8)
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
Apostle Peter gave the answer to our first point of clarification. Who is the Rock upon whom the promised Ekklesia is to be built on? Peter testified, the Rock of offense is the same CHIEF CORNERSTONE – and He is none other than The Savior, The Lord Yeshua. Our first point for clarification has been cleared – the Rock is The Savior, The Lord Yeshua. Where is the Ekklesia that is being built up? Because it is being built on the Rock, then logically wherever the Rock is, the Ekklesia is present. And where is the Rock situated at present time? He is in heaven with God building something for His disciples. How about the Ekklesia that is being built on him? Of course, it is in the same place, it is also in heaven. For how could it be on earth when the Rock where it is built on is not on earth but in heaven? So, the understanding that The Lord’s Ekklesia as mentioned in Matthew 16 v18 is an organization that is present on earth is proven to be unscriptural and even illogical and therefore, it is an erroneous view.
What evangelical truth validates this presentation? This leads to our second point of clarification – what is being built up by The Savior? Once again, we will refer to him who was given the keys or understanding concerning The Lord’s promised Ekklesia in the Kingdom of Heaven, the Apostle Peter. What we read earlier is 1 Peter 2 v7-8, we will just bring our reading up to verses 4 and 5:
(1 Peter 2:4-5)
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Let me take a moment to remind you why we are leaning on the explanation of Peter concerning The Lord’s Ekklesia that He promised in Matthew 16 v18 and NOT on Paul’s presentation as most of Christianity do. It is simply because Apostle Peter was the one given the keys or understanding about the Kingdom of Heaven and also about the Ekklesia of The Savior that He promised to build in Matthew 16 v18. And so, we ask Apostle Peter - what is being built up by The Lord for His disciples? Peter declared, they are being built up a Spiritual House. How could the Ekklesia be a house? Because He who promised to build is Himself a builder, a master builder in fact! Let us take a good note that The Lord Yeshua was a son of a carpenter. And Peter was very aware of this fact.
What logical conclusion then can we draw from the fact that which is being built up is a Spiritual House? The fact that is it Spiritual House proves that it is not an earthly organization like all these proliferating Christian churches and groups. What is the Spiritual House being built by The Savior? This is the home and final gathering place He prepared for His disciples that He promised in John 14 v2 when He said, “in My Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.” Where is this Spiritual House being built? In His Father’s house, therefore in heaven! Allow me to once again bring your attention unto this logical and most importantly evangelical fact that has been overlooked by most of Christianity. That the Lord’s Ekklesia, or the gathering place that He builds is a Spiritual House in heaven, in fact, in His Father’s house. That’s the evangelical aspect of it. What is the logical validity of this understanding? It brings us back to the fact that The Rock or The Savior is in heaven, therefore, that which is built upon Him is also there where He is, in heaven. Could any other explanation be more logical than this?
Why is there a need for The Christ to build the Ekklesia or the future gathering place of The Lord’s disciples in heaven? What is the evangelical reason as well as the logical aspect of this? The answer to this has everything to do with our 3rd clarification - How could the gates of Hades not prevail against it? Once again, we will refer to the key holder, the full authority on this topic, and he is none other than Apostle Peter. How did Peter describe the Spiritual House which is the final gathering of The Lord’s disciples in heaven.
(1 Peter 1:4-5)
4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In the presentation of Peter, there is an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled and does not fade away, meaning it is everlasting. Where is this inheritance at present time? It is reserved in heaven to be revealed in the last time. Why in heaven? To be kept by the power of God! Why are we sure that this inheritance in heaven is indeed the place of gathering, the Spiritual House or Ekklesia that The Lord promised to build in Matthew 16 v18? In biblical proportion, when inheritance is promised it usually refers to a place, a land where God wants His people to call home (Exo. 32:13 / 1 Kings 8:36). Isn’t the Spiritual House being built by The Savior a home? Indeed it is, as a matter of fact it is the future home of His disciples in heaven!
Here’s the logical aspect that would answer the 3rd clarification on Matthew 16 v18 - that the gates of Heades shall not prevail against it! How could the gates of Hades not prevail over it? What is the gates of Hades that The Savior mentioned in this verse? Hades is the ancient Greek’s lord of the underworld or darkness. The phrase GATES OF HADES simply points to the kingdom of darkness. Why did The Lord reference to the gates of hades when it is not even part of the Jewish faith? He did so to show that not even the world’s power of darkness can prevail against it. What is one aspect of darkness that usually overcome man and everything else in the world? The corruption of man and all of its related powers and influences. Fact is, there is nothing in the world that is not subject to corruption? Let us not look too far, among all the churches from around the world who claim to be the body of The Christ – is there any one of them that has not been subjected to corruption and scandals? Not one, starting with the Roman Catholic church being one of the oldest to the most recently established church. In fact, everything that is governed by man is corrupted by the simple fact that man is by nature corrupt.
What big conclusion can we draw from the 3 clarifications of Matthew 16 v18 that we just studied? That the Ekklesia, Gathering, Assembly or Congregation of The Lord’s true disciples is NOT contained in any earthly organization including churches. What it is then? The Ekklesia that The Lord promised His disciples is their final gathering or home, reserved in heaven and protected by the power of God to be revealed at His appointed time.
How did The Lord present His Ekklesia or Gathering Place and all its glory to another one of His apostles? This time, we will turn to Apostle John as He was the one who was given the vision of this holy and most glorious place.
(Revelation 21:2-3, 9-11)
2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
The Ekklesia or Home promised by The Lord is none other than the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. How is this Ekklesia revealed by a voice from heaven unto the Apostle John? The voice from heaven said, “behold, the TABERNACLE OF GOD.” The Ekklesia in Matthew 16 v18 is the Tabernacle of God! In the same manner, the building of the Ekklesia or Spiritual House on The Rock, The Christ Yeshua, is the fulfillment of the prophesied Sanctuary as prophesied by Isaiah in chapter 8 v14.
The church mentioned by The Lord Yeshua-Christos in Matthew 16:18 is not an organization where one needs to be a member of, nor an assembly of believers on earth. It is neither the same church or assembly as those mentioned in other New Testament verses. It is not earthly NOR IS IT ON EARTH, otherwise it will get corrupted just like all other religious organizations. In His perspective, the Church is a Spiritual House being collectively built in heaven by Him, The Almighty God and all of The Lord’s chosen people who love Him. Since there is no membership or earthly registration, then there is no such thing as excommunication or expulsion (Jn 6:37-39). This is the future home of the chosen ones in heaven where they can find rest for their souls as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah:
16 Thus says the Lord:
“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’