“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Heb. 10:25)
For most of us who have grown up in the church system, the church has been our spiritual foundation. It has defined our identity and served as the platform for much of our Christian activity. We looked to it for support, encouragement, community and our spiritual development.
But it wasn’t long before it became commonplace for our spiritual standing and union with the Lord to be measured by our attendance and involvement there. Thus to be absent from church programs became synonymous with backsliding or lukewarmness. To break from that institution was considered rebellion against God and the appointed leaders. To step away was to lose your “spiritual covering” becoming vulnerable to spiritual attacks.
Perhaps more troubling is the belief ingrained in the mind of the average church goer that no truth can come but from the pulpit – that no one except the ordained ministers who are certified by their ecclesiastical order could receive/impart divine revelation. And so it was that the person who forsook the assembly and challenged its dogmas was considered a heretic who had abandoned the truth.
With every great awakening of the church’s history, organized religion has built fortified walls within which diverse assemblies have emerged. These walls, motivated by factions and schisms, served to safeguard predefined creeds and doctrines ensuring that both the overseers and congregation stayed in line – subservient to the established ways, teachings and structures of authority.
And yet many saints fail to discern that these are not the walls of Salvation in the City of God but the walls of religious Babylon. Today we find numerous assemblies who gather within these confines – assemblies of Pentecostals, Charismatics, Baptists, Lutherans, Assemblies of God, Methodists, Presbyterians, Aglicans, etc. each citing the aforementioned verse to safeguard attendance within their walls. However, to use Hebrews 10:25 to make such a case is to miss the main message of the verse.
The Greek translation of the word “assembling” sheds more light on this. It is the word ‘episunagoge‘. The root word is sunagoge from which we get our word synagogue; the assembly place. Sunago (the verb form of sunagoge) refers to the meeting, gathering together and assembling of people.
However, note that the words ‘sunagoge‘ is prefixed with ‘epi‘ (i.e. epi-sunagoge) meaning that something more than a physical gathering is implied. Epi signifies that which is above. Therefore, episunagoge rightly refers to the above-assembly.
The only use of episunagoge occurs when Paul entreats the believers saying: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering (episunagoge) together unto Him” (2 Thes. 2:1). Similarly, every usage of the word ‘episunago‘ occurs in reference to the gathering of people to Christ (e.g. Mat.23:27, Mar. 13:27).
More than our Sunday morning gatherings, it is this above-assembly which we are warned not to forsake. This assembly is a spiritual gathering of God’s elect that is neither in Jerusalem nor in the mountain tops. It is neither bound to an established structure nor a geographic locations. It is an assembly in Spirit and in Truth.
Of this spiritual gathering we read: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant” (Heb. 12:22-24). Notice that this is a present assembly.
This above-assembly is now being experienced by every son of God who lifts their affections from the things of the earth to seek those things which are above where Christ sits. This is an assembly comprised of those who love and wholeheartedly pursue the Truth, who have entered into union with Christ and who have ascended the spiritual heights of God’s kingdom by following the Lord all the way to His throne (Rev. 14:4).
The writer of the Hebrews reminds us that it was the manner of some to forsake this above-assembly. It was in Sinai that the children of Israel refused the upward call of God to communion with him face to face. And though they were to be unto Him a kingdom of priests, they settled for Mosses to be their spokesperson. They settled for an assembly in a lower realm. That generation rejected His invitation to the above-assembly saying: “speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us” (Exo. 20:19).
What of our generation of kings and priests who have opted to be under guardians all their days? Today we have saints who have sat in the pews for one, two, three or more decades but whose spiritual understanding is that of babes. They love the warmth and support of their community, but fail to recognize their spiritual stagnation and apathy regarding deeper things of God’s kingdom. And though by this time they ought to be teachers, they need someone to encourage them and teach them again the first principles of the oracles of God needing milk and not solid food (Heb. 5:12).
Dear saint, you will only partake in the assembly of the spiritual and heavenly mount Zion when you step out from your religious walls to yield to the ministry of the Word and the Spirit. Therein is progress and maturity. Any assembly that is not fully surrendered to these two witnesses is merely a religious/social gathering.
Today organized religion has rejected the message of these two witnesses refusing to move on from the encampment of its formulated doctrines and creeds. This is precisely what John the revelator observed when he saw the dead bodies of the two witnesses (the Word & the Spirit) laying in the street of that great city (religious Babylon) (Rev. 11:8).
Sadly many of our fellow brothers and sisters are unaware of the demise of the two witnesses in their assemblies. They have turned a blind eye to the absence of their testimony. Perhaps this is why may are unable to hear the truths we now share.
Jerusalem, that great city that was once called by His name, had become so filled with pride in its religious structures that it dismissed His witness refusing the invitation to be gathered unto the Lord. Jesus laments: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered (episunago) thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Mat. 23:37).
There remains today an invitation to the fellowship of the above-assembly that no son of God should forsake. For it is in that assembly that we are seated with Christ, hidden with Him in God, liberated from all religious bondage to serve and follow Him to the magestic heights of the Kingdom of God.