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George Barna rightly wrote of these revolutionaries in his new book, The Revolution:

They have no use for churches that play religious games, whether those games are worship services that drone on without the presence of God or ministry programs that bear no spiritual fruit. Revolutionaries eschew ministries that compromise or soft sell our sinful nature to expand organizational turf. They refuse to follow people in ministry in leadership positions who cast a personal vision rather than God's, or who seek popularity rather than the proclamation of truth in their public statements, or who are more concerned about their own legacy than that of Jesus Christ. They refuse to donate one more dollar to man-made monuments that mark their own achievements and guarantee their place in history. They are unimpressed by accredited degrees and endowed chairs in Christian colleges and seminaries that produce young people incapable of defending the Bible or unwilling to devote their life to serving others. And Revolutionaries are embarrassed by language that promises Christian love and holiness but turns out to be all sizzle and no substance.

As a proof-text for their criticism of all who do not meet in buildings the way they do every Sunday, those within Christendom quote the following passage: ". . . not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some. . ." Shouldn't we gather together as Christians? Certainly! This desire to gather together is rooted deeply in the hearts of all believers, but as to the conditions that govern Christian gatherings, we should pay careful heed to these words of Jesus. "No man puts a piece of new cloth onto an old garment, for that which is put on to fill it up takes from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old wineskins: else the wineskins break, and the wine runs out, and the wineskins perish: but they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved" (Matthew 9:16-17 KJ2000).

Great damage is done when God's children attempt to keep, patch up and use the garment of the old religious order. This old wineskin cannot contain or sustain the fresh wine! We are stating the obvious when we say it is very possible for our "Christian gatherings" to do more damage than good. Considering events in the recent past, and the thousands of cases of church abuse, few would deny this. Some of the most carnal things have been done in the name of Christ by men who amassed great congregations to themselves. The very nature of carnality is a party-spirit that is all about gathering. Paul wrote to the carnal Corinthians, "For it has been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them who are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in my own name" (1 Corinthians 1:11-15 KJ2000). Isn't this what a denomination is--a group gathered around a dominate leader (or leaders), claiming him as their own? Later on in this epistle Paul gave his assessment of their gathering, "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse" (1 Corinthians 11:17 KJ2000).

Three hundred people gathered together in a building no more constitute the church than twelve dead men make up a winning basketball team. The true ekklesia is "the fullness of Him that fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). It is assembled by Him alone! The old wineskin cannot contain this kind of fullness. Everything depends on the nature of the gathering. Any group calling themselves "Christian" that does not gather around Christ and God's purpose in Christ through the Spirit cannot rightly claim to be assembled together. Rather this is disorder and disassembly!

The words to an old charismatic hymn come to mind. ". . . We are gathering together unto Him. Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be. We are gathering together unto Him." Jesus spoke of this very important condition when he said to His disciples, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in their midst." All gatherings that are not in agreement with Christ's name, His very character and position, embracing the full implication of His finished work, are not assembled unto Him and are therefore not for the betterment of His kingdom.

So just what is the assembling together that the author of Hebrews is referring to here? The answer is obvious as we look at the context of this passage. Biblical error is often the result of taking scriptures out of context and not seeing the whole council of God. This one is no exception. This exhortation to the Hebrew Christians can only be understood in the greater scope of the epistle.

To get the full impact of what it means to assemble together we must back up to the beginning of chapter nine and follow the writer's developing thought. The logic goes like this. The first covenant had ordinances and a worldly sanctuary (verse1), a tabernacle called the holy place containing the lampstand and the table of showbread. Behind the second veil was the Holiest of all, which had the golden censer, the ark of the covenant overlaid with gold containing the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod that budded and the tablets of the old covenant. The cherubim of glory overshadowed the mercy seat on the lid of the Ark. The priests went continually into the first tabernacle (holy place), accomplishing the service of God. Only one priest (the high priest) could go beyond the second veil into the Holy of Holies, and not without blood, which he offered once a year for himself and for the errors of the people. In verse eight the author presents a great transitional truth and the purpose of all that he had written up to that point. "By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary [for all] is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age)." Why was the way into the holy of holies not yet open to all? The first tabernacle was still standing. This brings us to the true passion of Christ the Son and His work. "Then said he, 'Lo, I come to do your will, O God.' He takes away the first, that he may establish the second" (Hebrews 10:9 KJ2000).

This first tabernacle concerned only meats and drinks and divers washings and carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time of reformation. He goes on later in the chapter with this thought:

Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. (Hebrews 9:23-24 NKJV)

Christ has become our High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, not belonging to this material creation but in the heavens (vs. 8:1). By his own blood Jesus entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Paul was not crucified for you, neither was Peter, Jerome, Augustine, Luther, Calvin or Pastor Wonderful. Christ's perfect sacrifice is what makes Him and Him alone the Mediator of the New Covenant. If our blood was efficacious for the cleansing of sins then we also could also be mediators. But no, we are required to come before the Father purely on the merit of Christ's blood. "Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (see Hebrews 9:2-24). What shall we say if we neglect so great a salvation?

That time of reformation has come! God has torn the veil to the Holy of Holies and has issued a standing invitation to all, ". . . enter the Holiest . . ." Considering these great transitional truths, let's read our text about assembling together again once again.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:19-25 NKJV)

Here we read that Jesus consecrated for us "a new and living way." The old type is done away with in Christ's perfection. Regardless, men choose to bow before the residue of it. We find a perfect example of this in Israel today. Thirty-five years after Jesus died, the Romans invaded Israel in force and destroyed Jerusalem and leveled the old temple. To this day only an outer perimeter wall of Herod's temple (not the temple wall itself) can be seen, "the wailing wall." It is amazing the kind of devotion that is shown to this relic. People stand before it and bob their heads and shove written prayers into its cracks, yet God has moved into another temple!

Just before Jesus died, His disciples were pointing at this murder's (Herod) great structure which the Jews had turned into a den of thieves and Jesus said, "Tear this temple down and three days I will raise it up." What temple did Jesus raise up? Yes, He rose again, but did he instruct the disciples to break forth on that day with picks and shovels, mortar boards and trowels and start building another physical, material temple for this new religion's denominational headquarters? No! He rose from the dead and consecrated a new meeting place for all believers in the heavenly holy of holies. He took away the first to establish the second. He invites us to gather with Him beyond the veil in the heavenly sanctuary and let our bodies be His extended temple here on earth. Only as part of this collective, living organism, holding to its Head that considers one another in order to stir up love and good works can we properly assemble together. This is the place of the gathering together for the true members of His body.

What is new and living about people meeting in earthly sanctuaries, all facing a speaker's platform in total passivity until a dominate leader looks down upon them from his pulpit and directs them to move, pray, sing or pay? Is this what Jesus consecrated for us to walk in? What is new and living about churches with earthly structures with their presiding priests and pastors? Even the pagans order their temples after this pattern. Is this what Jesus died for--to put a new patch on an old, worn out religious garment? Are we to enter through the veil of His torn flesh so we can sit passively on a pew for seventy years and then die? Is this what it means to assemble in that new and living way? Will our tombstone in the church yard read, "Here lies Joe. He was faithful to assemble in the old covenant way for seventy years and his pastor was proud of him"?

If it is not new and living it is not a New Covenant assembly, regardless of how many people are gathered under one roof. The epistle to the Hebrews is a warning and an exhortation. Its author repeatedly warns that those who draw back from this heavenly way to return to the old religious traditions risk failing to enter into the fullness of God's intention. The question is, do we have ears to hear this warning?

It's clear from this epistle that the early Jewish believers were dividing into two camps. Some were forsaking assembling in this new and heavenly way and were turning back to the earthly forms of the old religious order, refusing to heed the high calling of the sons of God. They were forsaking the assembling together as His living body, just as surely as unbelieving Israel at Kadesh Barnea grieved God and did not go in and inherit the land of promise.

T. Austin Sparks, writing about the Book of Hebrews, explains.

Well, all this constituted this crisis of whether they were going to choose this or that, the one or the other. Go back to something earthly from the heavenly, to something tangible from the spiritual, to something temporal from the eternal, something visible from the invisible. And it is quite evident I think, in this letter before you're through, that a division was coming about between these believers. They were dividing into two camps. That is the point of the exhortation "forsaking not the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is". Some were saying, "We're not going on with that any further" and they were having their own meetings and their own circle and not going on, not going on in this way. A division was taking place; two companies. Here were those who had seen the heavenly calling and the heavenly vision and were going on with it; here were those who, if they had seen it, were letting it go, were drifting away from it. And what a forceful word that is! It has a nautical meaning in the original, as you know. It's the picture of a ship approaching its moorings on the current and missing its moorings and drifting away and onto the rocks. Lest we come up to this and miss it and drift away and as Israel at Kadesh Barnea were wrecked, we should be wrecked. It's a warning, it's an exhortation.

Those who refuse the new and living way by turning back to dead religious forms are forsaking the general assembly and church of the firstborn. Those who refuse to go on in this heavenly way and return to sitting mutely on a pew are the ones who are forsaking the proper assembly. The author of Hebrews later tells us of our heavenly calling and assembly, which should not be forsaken.

For you are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as an animal touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a spear: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But you are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel. See that you refuse not him that speaks. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape, if we turn away from him that speaks from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:18-28 KJ2000)

Will we forsake this assembly, the assembly of the firstborn with the spirits of just men made perfect? God has a much higher standard than the religions of men. Will we embrace the new and living way? Will we allow God to shake all that can be shaken in our lives until all that is left is that kingdom that cannot be shaken? Will we cling to the heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly and church of the firstborn, or will we turn back to the shadows of earthly tabernacles and carnal ordinances with carnal men? Will we accept this vast New Covenant transition or continue to reconstruct old temples and block the way into the Holy of Holies, the heavenly Zion, with our dead traditions? Will we be guilty of the very thing that Jesus accused the Pharisees of? " shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither allow you them that are entering to go in" (Matthew 23:13 KJ2000).

Our meetings cannot be heavenly until we are first seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in the general assembly and church of the firstborn. All who do not first gather in that heavenly sanctuary which God pitched and not man, around God the Judge and Jesus the Mediator of the New and lasting Covenant, will be shaken and scattered by God. God desires His kingdom to be in earth as (or exactly like) it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), that all things in earth should be after the heavenly pattern. Just as He did with Herod's temple, He will not permit anything but the heavenly pattern to continue in His name. He resists and scatters everything else in order to preserve the integrity of His work in His children individually, least they come into a unity that is earthly in nature and propensity having lost sight totally of the His eternal purpose.

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