In Mt 16 Jesus said: “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.” (Mt 16:18) The word ‘church’ means so many things to many people.
The term translated church in the English Bible is the Latin ‘Ecclesia’ and Greek ‘Ekklesia’ and means the “gathering of those summoned” or the assembly of citizens in a city-state. It often refers to a formal assembly of people, especially in a political or religious context. In modern usage, ecclesia is not the same as church.
A church in modern usage is an ecclesial community headed by a bishop or someone recognized as the equivalent of a bishop, e.g. a General Overseer, Prelate or Patriarch. Here, church is denominational, and also a mixed multitude. This is the norm in the organized church-system or churchianity that you have in the world today.
6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (NKJV)
Before His ascension into heaven, the Disciples asked Jesus a legitimate question: “will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus did not rebuke them for asking the question. Rather He said to them: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”
God had planned even before the foundation of the world to reward Jesus with the gift of sons of God for His meritorious sacrifice on the Cross. Secondly, the vacuum created by fallen angels must be filled. God chose to use sons of men to replace the fallen angels. In the redemption program, there was need to transform sons of men into sons of God for habitation in heaven. In the original plan of creation mankind was not created to live in heaven.
34 And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.
35 “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;
36 “nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
With the rejection of her Messiah by the Jews, God decided to call-out people from the Gentile and Jewish nations to fulfill this role. Hence the charge to the disciples was to go into the whole world and preach the gospel of grace of God with a view of making disciples of those who believe the message and are saved.
The assignment was given a time-span of two days or two thousand years. The duration is about to expire.
The number of those to be called out is limitless, but the number of those to be chosen among the called is finite. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mt 22:14) It’s also hierarchical in structure as of kings, lords, chief priests and the priesthood.
According to the Apostolic doctrine, the church is made up of those baptized into Christ through hearing of the gospel of grace of God and believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. When those saved through the preaching of the gospel come together with one heart and one soul for fellowship, in the breaking of bread, in prayers and edification of one another, they constitute a local gathering of the church of Jesus Christ. This is the ecclesia.
The church is one. The head is the Lord Jesus Christ. The builder is God the Holy Spirit. When the building is completed, the church will be taken up to heaven. It will cease to exist on earth just as there was no church on earth before the Day of Pentecost.
The true church is the Body of Christ. It is the ecclesia. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor 12:12) Jesus said He will build His church by revelation; the church will be made up of those chosen to be in the Body of Christ.
The present-day church is mostly the called-out ones but the ecclesia is made up of the chosen ones.
To many ‘church’ is a place, a geographical location; a building; a denomination; a board of incorporated trustees; a mixed assemblage of worshippers; a gathering of saints of God; privately-owned corporations; and registered and unregistered religious partnerships.
In recent times, whenever I am studying the word of God, I prefer to read ‘ecclesia’ wherever I come across the term ‘church’ in the New Testament Bible. It makes more sense to me. You cannot be in the body of Christ without being part of the ecclesia, the called AND chosen ones.
If you are part of the ecclesia you will know because “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Rom 8:16)