Rethinking the Ekklesia [The Differences Between the Visible and Invisible Church]

In last month’s lesson, The Church of the Old Testament, I emphasized how Jesus’ church is the promised re-gathering of scattered Israel.

Through the Prophets, GOD promised a new covenant with Israel that would be different than the first (see Jer. 31:31-34).

This month’s lesson continues developing the theme of re-thinking Jesus’ church by examining the differences between the visible and invisible church. While the differences may seem obvious at first, realizing the implications of these differences and how people have conflated the two churches provides a powerful “Aha!” moment for us.

Let’s begin our analysis by visualizing the two covenants GOD made with Israel.

GOD’s Vision for Ancient Israel

At Mt. Sinai, GOD offered the physical children of Israel (Jacob) a covenant.

5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be a special people to Me above all nations; for all the earth is Mine. 6 You shall be to Me a royal priesthood and a holy nation.’
(Ex. 19:5-6 OSB)

Here was GOD’s vision for Israel:

  • GOD would be Israel’s King.
  • GOD offered them a covenant, contingent upon Israel’s obedience.
  • GOD prescribed the Law of Moses to govern Israel.
  • Through Israel’s obedience, GOD would give them the land of Canaan.

Sadly, Israel rejected GOD as King and broke the covenant:

  • Israel asked Samuel for a human king so they could be like everyone else.
  • Israel refused to keep the Law of Moses, thereby breaking their promise to keep the covenant.
  • After waves of prophets were unsuccessful, GOD rejected Israel and booted them out of their land, scattering them to all nations in the known world.

GOD promised a new covenant with Israel:

  • A new King would reign on David’s throne, Jesus.
  • Israel would be comprised of children by faith, not physical birth.
  • Israel would be governed by grace rather than the Law.
  • Israel would have its long-awaited land, Mt. Zion, the new Jerusalem.

But how would the transition between covenants occur?

  • From both GOD and the remnant of physical Israel would proceed the Messiah, Jesus.
  • Through His obedience culminating at the cross, Jesus became the author of the new covenant.
  • As the gospel was preached in all the world, Jew and Gentile believers turned to Jesus for salvation. In so doing, these individuals became children of Abraham by faith—spiritual Israelites.
  • Jesus spiritually gathered these believers to Himself. This gathering (ekklesia) is Jesus’ church.

Now that we have established the connection between GOD’s promise to re-gather Israel and Jesus’ invisible church, how does all of this relate to physical churches?

That is the question I attempt to answer in this month’s video: Re-Thinking the Ekklesia.

Watch the entire video series here.


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