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We are all well aware of Jesus’s words:
„on this rock I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18)
The first thing we need to notice here is that Jesus is not talking about the church of the people, He is talking about His church. The second thing we need to clarify is what particular rock His church is being built on. Once we look at the related Scripture, it all becomes clear to us.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 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.” (Matthew 16:15-18)
Many people think that they have understood the message of Jesus and have actually put Peter as the rock of their church. They did not only misunderstand the above Scripture but the following one as well.
“Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?” (Isaiah 66:1)
Apparently the way this Scripture has been interpreted resulted in the following; huge cathedrals and church buildings “reaching to the skies” have been built for God at enormous expense. These are beautiful pieces of art and tourist attractions rather than dwelling places of God. The few religious people showing up to their services can get easily get lost in their grandiose size. There are a few very famous churches that are only functioning as spectacular sightseeing destinations. The mega churches of today don’t build high towers, but places of worship big enough to seat tens of thousands of people. It can be observed that if a small congregation gathers together in a house, soon the need for their own church building or place of worship comes up. This is the first reaction of the flesh. The proud, old man nature has always liked huge buildings reaching up to the sky. It was similar at the time of building the tower of Babel. God was not pleased with it; furthermore, He scattered them all across the face of the Earth.
Had the believers of past centuries been spiritual people and had they understood the message of the prophet of Isaiah, then they would have realized that here Isaiah was posing a rhetorical question, to which the answer is obvious i.e. not only is it impossible to build a house worthy of God (in a traditional way), this isn’t what God desires.
Jesus did not feel sorrow over the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, which was built of rocks and was one of the wonders of the world, because He wanted to build something much better and more worthy of God.
“Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (John 2:19-21)
Jesus as the mediator of the New Testament wanted to demolish many things of the Old Testament, including the temple built of rocks. The first disciples were able to understand this after the resurrection of Jesus and believed His words.
„Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:22)
Should we have any doubts about this? The book written about the life and ministry of the first disciples makes it clear to us:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.” (Acts 17:24)
In this Scripture God plainly declares that not only is it impossible to build a house worthy of Him but He, Who is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, finds this rather offensive, thus He does not want to live “in temples made with hands”!
What was Jesus talking about with Peter when He mentioned the building of His church?
It was not flesh and blood, who revealed it to Peter but the Spirit of God that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”. This revelation was the particular rock to which Jesus referred when He said the following:
„you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
With these words Jesus made the following clear:
- „you are Peter” (only a little piece of rock) „a living rock” and not the rock onto which I will build my church,
- Jesus did not think about physical rocks, not in terms of “flesh and blood” but in spiritual terms,
- Jesus did not say that He would be that rock, rather by having used the words “on this”, He referred to the spiritual revelation of the reality of Christ,
- this spiritual revelation is the rock onto which Jesus is going to build His church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
When Jesus is talking about His church, He is talking about a spiritual church. The time of the stone-built temples of the Old Testament which were used to “offer a sacrifices” (“Mass” or service) ended back when Jesus died on the cross. With dying on the cross, Jesus, as the “sacrificial lamb” ended the recurring need to offer a sacrifice once and for all.
The incarnation, life, and ministry of Jesus were in itself a prophetic revelation.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
When the New Testament speaks about the temple, we are always to understand it not as a building built of actual stones but as a spiritual one built of “living stones” where Jesus is the chief cornerstone and every believer who has been reborn is a “living stone”.
“having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22)
“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.” (1 Peter 2:5)
“Living stones” are all the believers in whom Jesus Christ lives through the Holy Spirit and to whom, similarly to Peter, all truth about Jesus Christ will be revealed by the Holy Spirit, not by “flesh and blood”. We can see this work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the glorious church as recorded in the Book of Acts.
In English the word of church is used for both the building and the congregation. This is confusing because on one hand people associate the congregation with a church building built of stones. On the other hand, in the New Testament this word has a spiritual meaning as it indicates that the church is a congregation built up of believers as living stones who have been reborn. This is the holy temple of God.
This spiritual interpretation of the church (congregation) sheds light on an important spiritual truth that the church of Christ is not made up of those who gather regularly in a church building, but of all those in whom the Spirit of God lives, regardless of where they are! Thus, a person who goes to church (a building) regularly is not necessarily a part of Christ’s church, yet another person who never goes to a church building can be a part of Christ’s church, as well as a person who has been excluded from a church by those who lack spiritual revelation and therefore do not know God and thought excluding such believers was an act of worship.
On its own, it doesn’t mean anything if one keeps repeating the name of Jesus, uses “Lord, Lord” or knows that Jesus is the rock. Jesus only becomes the rock in the life of those who have received spiritual revelations about Him, similarly to Peter.
It’s a mistake to think that the end times begin now and Jesus is just starting to restore and build up His church. Based on the above Scriptures, it is obvious that both the end times and the building of Jesus’s spiritual church have already started by the incarnation of Jesus and by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit 2000 years ago. The first apostles and the believers of the first century understood and believed in this spiritual truth and acted accordingly. Thus the gates of Hades did not prevail against the glorious church of the first century which had turned the world of that time upside down.
During the past centuries believers lost sight of that important truth as neither did they have revelations about it nor did they believe it. Instead, they built houses out of stones for themselves which had resulted in the gates of Hades having prevailed against the churches having built by people.
Today many people desire to experience the glory of the church and would like to be part of a glorious church. To this end, one would need to have a spiritual revelation, faith, and enough courage through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to accomplish all this.
Let us remember that after Pentecost 3000 people got saved due to the work of the Holy Spirit and not of people, which number increased to 5000 in Jerusalem, counting only the men. At that time the apostles were not concerned about building a temple, rather they gathered together in the open air, in the “porch of Solomon” and in the houses of believers every day. The money collected by having sold their unnecessary properties, assets, and lands was not spent on churches built of stone. Because of this, they did not have to bother with operating expensive properties. They did not have paid priesthood although they were a real mega church. The first apostles knew the spiritual truth about Jesus’ church and thought about such matters accordingly. The money they collected was not spent on the above mentioned, but on fulfilling the needs of the poor so that there would be no one in need among them.
Taking all that into consideration, it is very easy to realize that the churches of the past centuries and that of today have missed the point greatly, which is why they have been defeated.
We can only be part of building the church of Jesus if we have a continuous living and spiritual revelation about Jesus and His church through the Holy Spirit. Considering the example of the first church, we are to take care of the poor as our most important duty instead of building stone houses and having abundance for ourselves in a selfish way. If the spiritual revelation about Christ had truly become our rock and there were no one in need among the believers, then we would really experience that the church of Jesus Christ does prevail against the gates of Hades.
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