Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 00:51:15 +0700
From: John Henry <KJV@LandmarkBibleBaptist.com>
Subject: Re: Universal Cyber Church
Dear _____ and friends:
I received your invitation to join your electronic [Universal Cyber Church]. I think you know that I love you in the Lord, and have great respect for you as a man of God. So please do not take offense at this open letter.
Back in March you wrote some studies on The Church. I meant to comment on them then, but having my missionary duties and several lists of my own to manage they got laid aside. Sorry. I'll try to comment on them now as they relate directly to your decision to start a "cyber church."
I agree fully with [you] about what [you said] ... about the Church Age:
"[U]nknown to [Israel] there was a secret 'other' age which would be inserted between the [Age of Law and the Kingdom Age]. … This would be the "church-age", which was "HID in God" (Col. 1:24-26; Rom. 16:25,26; Eph. 3:5,6; 5:32). ..."
However, we begin to disagree when [you] say:
"[T]he church-age extends from the day of Pentecost to the Rapture/Resurrection, after which, God will pick up where He left off with Israel. ..."
I agree with what you said concerning after the "Rapture ..., God will pick up where He left off with Israel [i.e. the last 7 years of the Age of Law]." But do not agree with what he said about the church starting at Pentecost.
This is a common error among believers that has been taught extensively for over 100 years, but it is not correct. The New Testament church was started by the Lord Jesus Himself during His earthly ministry, not at Pentecost. Although it is true that Christ's future church in Heaven will be made up of all the saved of this Church Age, there is no such thing as either a visible or invisible universal (catholic) church. The NT church is rather local and visible. Here is Scriptural proof that the NT church predates Pentecost:
1. The apostles were the first members of Christ's church (1 Cor 12:28; Luke 6:12-16).
2. They were commissioned before Pentecost (Matt 9:36-10:8, 28:18-20).
3. The ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper were already in place before Pentecost. (John 3:22; Luke 22:14-20).
4. The Lord set a system in place for the NT church to discipline members before Pentecost (Matt 18:15-20).
5. The church that the Lord Jesus started fit the common definition of the Greek word (ekklesia) which is translated "church." To the Greek of Christ's day "ekklesia" simply meant "an assembly or gathering of citizens called out from their homes and convened in the public place for the purpose of deliberating." It means a local assembly [this excludes universal].
6. The church had 2 pastors prior to the day of Pentecost: Christ and Peter (John 10:11, 14, 21:15-17; Acts 1:15, 2:14; 1 Pet 5:1-4).
7. The church was assembling regularly before Pentecost (John 20:19, 26; Acts 1:4, 13, 14).
8. Christ's gave His assembly ability to understand and authority to carry out His will on earth before Pentecost (John 16:13-14, 20:21-23; Luke 21:44-47)
9. They had a church roll of 120 names before Pentecost (Acts 1:15).
10. On the day of Pentecost 3000 souls were added to them (the church) (Acts 1:41). The church had to already be established in order for it to be added to.
The church was lacking just one thing on the day of Pentecost: power to witness!!! That is what the church got that day. Christ imparted spiritual power for His already established church in the form of spiritual gifts by way of His baptizing them with the Holy Ghost.
Luke 21:46-49: "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with POWER from on high."
Acts 1:4-5, 8: "And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. ... 8 But ye shall receive POWER, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
The local NT church was empowered to win souls on the day of Pentecost. Before that they already had instructions on church discipline, they already had the church ordinances, and they already had the Great Commission along with understanding and authority to carry it out. They were only lacking Holy Ghost power, and they got that on Pentecost!
The very word "universal" defies the meaning of the word "church." You can't have some believers in Heaven, others in Asia, and others in S. America, etc. all being members of the same church. They aren't assembled. The Greek word translated "church" is translated "assembly" 3 times. The occurrences of the word "church" in the Word of God are generally local (except for some generic uses and a few prospective uses). The lion's share are clearly local. Note a few Biblical examples of the uses of the word church:
Acts 19:32: "... the assembly [ekklesia] was confused..."
Acts 19:39: "... a lawful assembly [ekklesia]."
Acts 19:41: "... he dismissed the assembly [ekklesia]."
GENERIC USES (These uses of the word "church" speak of all NT churches collectively):
Matthew 16:18: "... I will build My CHURCH ..."
1 Corinthians 10:32: "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the CHURCH of God."
1 Corinthians 12:28: "...God hath set some in the CHURCH, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers ..."
Galatians 1:13: "... I persecuted the CHURCH ..."
Ephesians 1:22: "... gave him to be the head over all things to the CHURCH."
Ephesians 3:21 "... glory in the CHURCH by Christ Jesus throughout all ages ..."
Ephesians 5:23: "... Christ is the head of the CHURCH ..."
Ephesians 5:24: "... the CHURCH is subject unto Christ ..."
Ephesians 5:29: "... the Lord [nourisheth and cherisheth] the CHURCH."
1 Timothy 3:15: "... the house of God, which is the CHURCH of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth."
Colossians 1:18: "... He is the head of the body, the CHURCH ..." (Note: Generic usage of necessity includes the prospective church; cf. 1:20-22, 25-27)
PROSPECTIVE USES (These occurrences look forward to the future church that will one day assemble in Heaven):
Ephesians 5:25-27: "...Christ also loved the CHURCH, and gave himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, 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."
Hebrews 2:12: "... I will declare thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the CHURCH ..."
Hebrews 12:22-24: "But ye are come ... unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem..., to the general assembly and CHURCH of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus ..."
LOCAL USES (Individual or groups of local assemblies):
Acts 8:1: "... the CHURCH which was at Jerusalem ..."
Acts 13:1: "...the CHURCH that was at Antioch..."
Romans 16:1: "... the CHURCH which is at Cenchrea."
1 Corinthians 1:2: "... the CHURCH of God which is at Corinth..."
Colossians 4:16: "... the CHURCH of the Laodiceans ..."
2 Thessalonians 1:1: "... the CHURCH of the Thessalonians ..."
Acts 20:17-18, 28: "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the CHURCH. And when they were come to him, he said unto them. ... Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the CHURCH of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."
Acts 9:31: "Then had the CHURCHES rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria ..."
Romans 16:4: "... all the CHURCHES of the Gentiles."
1 Corinthians 16:19: "The CHURCHES of Asia ..."
2 Corinthians 8:1: "... the CHURCHES of Macedonia."
Galatians 1:2: "... the CHURCHES of Galatia."
1 Thessalonians 2:14: "... the CHURCHES of God which in Judaea ..."
Romans 16:5: "... the CHURCH that is in [Priscilla and Aquila's] house ..."
Colossians 4:15: "... the CHURCH which is in [Nymphas'] house."
Philemon 2: "... the CHURCH in [Archippus'] house."
And many, many more.
[We] come to even more disagreement when [you] say:
"What is difficult to truly realize is that you must learn to reckon that there is only ONE Church on this earth. Thus, one must excuse all the thousands of assemblies and denominations, and come to understand that there is only ONE church. Each must make a serious test for themselves as to whether they are a member of THAT Church. Just saying so won't do it. God, himself, has to place you in it, by His Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:13. ..."
It is true that there is only one church on this earth, but what I mean by it and what [you] mean by it are two different things. The only true church (generic) on this earth are the doctrinally sound churches that have descended from the first church in Jerusalem. Speaking to His first church (Matt 28:16-17) the Lord Jesus said:
Matthew 28:18-20: "... All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD. Amen." (cf. Eph 3:21)
[You are] at least partially correct about being baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13), but I believe that [you] fail to realize that that body has no commission, and no work to do at this time. Believers of this Age, both living and departed, are assembled only spiritually. Yes, God has made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6, cf 2:4-7). However, this will only become manifest "in the ages to come" (Eph 2:7; cf 1:10; Col 1:25-29), not in this Age (1 John 3:2).
[You have] the present NT churches confused with the body of Christ that is seated with the Lord in Heaven only spiritually, and the future Heavenly Church that will assemble at the Rapture.
The idea of an Universal Invisible Church on the Earth is as alien to the Scriptures as the Catholic's idea of an Universal Visible Church on the Earth!!! There ain't no such thing. A Universal Invisible Church on the Earth is just not functional.
What do [we] agree on? I agree fully with [you] on these statements:
1. "[In the Milleannum the nations will] coexist...[with] Israel, in it's glorious position on the earth, when God gives to Abraham and his seed the 'promised' land, and 'the glory of the nations that shall flow unto it'. ... While the Bride, the New Jerusalem, is living and reigning over the earth, with the Bridegroom, the King of Kings. ... [T]hat is the ... future for Israel and the Church. There is no doubt to the different Hopes and Destinies of the two. ..."
2. "The...understand[ing of] the 'gap principle', as understood through the correct interpretation of Daniel's 70 weeks [is of essential importance]. 'The GAP' being the period of time between the 69th and 70th week. This Gap has lasted nearly 2000 years. and is refer to as the 'Church-age', which...will conclude with the Rapture of the church, a 'mystery' that is announced in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, and where it is explained in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. ..."
3. "... [S]ince that word 'mystery' is Scripture, God's Word, it behooves the child of God to pay particular attention when encountering that word, and to understand all that it reveals - for they are secrets revealed only to them, the Saints, by His Holy Spirit. And they usually require a basic understanding of God's Word, for they are NOT explained with one or two verses. ..."
4. "Those of you who argue that it is okay for us to disagree, I say to you that it is unscriptural...to promote such a notion. No where in the word of God is this permitted!!!...All it does it reveal that you are either ignorant, unlearned, [stuborn], or not [saved] at all. For if the Spirit of God dwells in us all, we should all see the same thing. The Holy Spirit, OUR TEACHER, cannot teach one thing to one, and another thing to another. Stake your life on that! Therefore, we should be more alert to the false prophets that are in the midst of the Church, for your own sakes, and for Christ's sake. ... "
However, to that last item I will add this: No saint of God, no matter how spiritual and no matter how long he has studied the Word of Truth understands it all. In OT times God entrusted His Word to the Hebrew nation (Rom 3:1-2; Acts 7:37-38) for safe keeping, not to any one person. Likewise, in this Church Age the Lord has entrusted His Word to the local NT church, the kind of church that Christ personally established, and the kind that is revealed in the book of Acts. This is the depository of Truth for this Age. The Bible says:
1 John 4:6: "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
1 Corinthians 14:37: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord."
1 Timothy 3:15: "...the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth." (The Temple in Jerusalem is no longer the center for spiritual Truth. During the Church Age the NT church is. cf Mal 3:10; Dan 5:3)
Members of the church were guided into all Truth by the Spirit of Truth, and made to write the inspired Word. Likewise, the local NT church was guided by the Holy Spirit to know which writings were inspired Truth (John 16:13-14). The church was instructed that they should "... earnestly contend for the Faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). The saints of the NT church have shed their blood in obedience to, and in protection of it. It is responsible for defending it from the assaults of error, and Truth has, in fact, been transmitted to the world by the church.
I once saw Pat Robertson give the Lord's Supper on TV from Jerusalem. It reminded me of the coming Antichrist. I listened to and agreed with most of the doctrine of Southwest Radio Church before there was an Internet, but the term "Radio Church" is a misnomer. Likewise any Cyber Church of the Internet is not Scriptural. Why? Because a true church must:
1. Assemble physically in "one place" (Acts 1:4, 2:1, 4:31; 1 Cor 11:20).
2. Evangelize by going out as a church and by sending missionaries (Luke 10:1; Matt 9:36-38; Rom 10:13-15; Phip 4:15-18; Jude 22-23)
3. Baptize believers (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 10:47-48).
4. Disciple believers (Matt 4:18-19; 28:20; Acts 11:26; 2 Tim 2:2).
5. Observe the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:20; Acts 20:7).
6. Hear preaching (1 Cor 1:21; Titus 1:3; Col 1:28; 2 Tim 4:2; Rom 10:8).
7. Receive tithes and offerings (1 Cor 16:2; 2 Co 9:7-13).
And other items of church business.
I am not against cyber ministry, but don't call it a Church. It's not!!! And cyber ministry is no substitute for the Lord's local NT church. People need to go to a real church.
Blessings in the Lamb,
PS: ... Supposing your fellowship was really a church your CHURCH RULES would be unscriptural where they says, "Anyone found guilty of breaking these rules will be permanently dismissed." Re-admittance for a repentant former member is the Scriptural example (1 Cor 5:1-13; 2 Cor 5:6-11). Believers are REQUIRED to forgive their brother if they repent (Matt 6:14-15, 18:21-22). That is the goal of church discipline along with preventing contamination of the flock by an unrepentant member.