The consummate assembly ...
"Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial."
About a year ago, I wrote a critique that discussed, among other things, the misapplication of Hebrews 10:24-25 in the modern church to manipulate people into attending church "services." However, I had never taken a closer look at the verses to see what they were really saying. What follows is that overdue "closer look."
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
The final clause is clearly in reference to the Day of the Lord; that period of time yet future when the church will be "caught up," the Father will pour out His wrath on the earth, Jesus Christ will return, and a thousand-year kingdom of righteousness will be established.
The phrase I find of interest is the "assembling of ourselves together." While a bit obscure in the English translation, the Greek text is illuminating because the word used — episynagōgē — is only used twice in the Bible. Its other appearance is in Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, in a passage that is a clear and unambiguous reference to the Rapture:
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together (episynagōgē) to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
In other words, the episynagōgē is not an activity; it is a specific and non-recurring EVENT. The passage in Hebrews is telling us how to prepare for it, and how to avoid being disqualified from participating in it.
We are familiar with the transliterated word "synagogue," which is a Jewish congregation, or the house of worship and communal center of a Jewish congregation. However, the prefix "epi" draws in some surprising new meaning:
episynagōgē (Strongs G1997) - "the assembling together" "gathering together" from three Greek roots:
This can be seen as both the "above-assembly" - the meeting in the air described in 1 Thess. 4:19, and as the "Epic" Assembly - an assembly of the people of God that will certainly extend beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope.
From the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) through Revelation's letters to the seven churches, we learn that the foolish virgins will miss the party, that the promises of Christ are for the "overcomers," and that the bride will have made herself ready. The passage from Hebrews is telling us how to get ready, and it's not by attending weekly church meetings. Rather, we are advised to:
Only those who are prepared will participate. The episynagōgē is for overcomers. Clearly, if we are told to prepare, there is an opportunity for disobedience.
Remember those foolish virgins who were unprepared, and remember Lot's wife, who took her eyes off the leader that God had given her, and foolishly looked back in disobedience (Genesis 19:17).
We are invited and encouraged — but not forced — to prepare ourselves for our "blessed hope." That hope is the "glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ," and our gathering together to Him. I am convinced that this will happen very, very soon. Are YOU ready?
(I am indebted to John Fisk of Shalom Peniel Congregation for this insight.)
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