Kingdom Myth 5. The kingdom is separate from the ekklesia.
By “ekklesia,” I’m not talking about a church building, a Sunday morning service, a denomination, or an institutional organization that people call “church.”
I’m speaking about what the New Testament writers meant by ekklesia—a local, face-to-face community of people who surrendered their lives to the lordship of Christ and were learning to live by His indwelling life together. (I’ve detailed the difference between ekklesia and “church” as we know it elsewhere.)
Those face-to-face communities are “the manifestation of God’s ruling presence” in the earth. Consider Revelation 1:6:
“[He] made us to be a kingdom.”
And also Revelation 5:10:
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.”
In the New Testament, the people of God are the “kingdom of priests” that was prophesied in Exodus 19 and fulfilled in 1 Peter 2 and Revelation.
A kingdom involves three things: A king who rules, a people who are ruled, and the king’s actual rulership.
The ekklesia are the people who are ruled. They embody the kingdom, just as Jesus Christ incarnates it.
When Jesus was on earth, He incarnated the kingdom. But at Pentecost, the kingdom came to earth again in the city of Jerusalem. So if you wanted to see God’s rule manifested in the earth, you had to visit the Jesus community in Jerusalem.
Just as you cannot separate the King from His kingdom, you cannot separate the kingdom from the kingdom society—the ekklesia, the people who are ruled by the King.
A widely held claim asserts something like this: “Jesus only mentioned the ekklesia [church] a few times, but He mentioned the kingdom over 100 times. So the kingdom is more important than the ekklesia.”
Well, Jesus didn’t mention the kingdom over 100 times—there are 88 distinguishable references to the kingdom in the four Gospels. Nevertheless, this statement is false and misleading in another respect. And I’ve fully discounted it in this message in 2011.
To summarize the argument, Jesus did use the word “kingdom” more than He used the word “ekklesia” in the Gospels. But so what? Jesus made abundant references to the ekklesia in the Gospels, He just didn’t use the word “ekklesia” every time He referred to it.
For example, whenever you see that little band of twelve men and five to eight women following Jesus closely and faithfully in the Gospels, you are seeing the embryonic expression of the ekklesia. That little band of women and men was the community of the King, the new society that Jesus was creating.
And every time you see Jesus use the word “you” when speaking to His disciples, He is almost always speaking to and about the ekklesia, the community of the King.
Consequently, you cannot separate the ekklesia from the kingdom of God any more than you can separate the body from the head. The two are inseparably connected.
Put another way, to separate the ekklesia from the kingdom is like separating light from visibility. It cannot be done. The kingdom and the ekklesia are distinct, but they are not separate.
So let’s finally, once and for all, put this myth to bed, shall we?