Chapter Four – Part 2
ESCAPING FROM BABYLON
1. CHURCH IS NOT A MEETING.
2. CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING.
3. CHURCH IS A WORD TO DESCRIBE BELIEVERS IN CHRIST.
4. A LOCAL CHURCH IS ALL BELIEVERS WHO LIVE IN THAT LOCALITY.
Jesus made it quite clear that He is present in the smallest assembly of His people, when He said: “Where two or three have gathered together in My Name, there I am in their midst”. (Matt. 18:20)
The Old Testament teaches us that God can regard religious activities as an abomination in His eyes. Even our most solemn services and sincere efforts to please Him in our flesh can be a stench in His nostrils.
God commanded Israel to offer sacrifices to Him, to keep the Sabbaths and to assemble together. However, when it had become a form and a tradition of religious observance to do these things He was angry and said:-
“Hear the word of the Lord you rulers of Sodom. Give ear to the instructions of our God you people of Gomorrah. ‘What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle, and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls and goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer. Their incense is an abomination to Me. New Moon and SABBATH, THE CALLING OF ASSEMBLIES – I CANNOT ENDURE INIQUITY AND THE SOLEMN ASSEMBLY. I hate your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts. They have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you. YES, EVEN THOUGH YOU MULTIPLY PRAYERS, I WILL NOT LISTEN. Your hands are full of bloodshed.’” (Isaiah 1: 10-15)
Like Israel of old, the church has made a religion out of assembling together. Most of our services, even communion services, have become religious rites that are an abomination to God.
The Holy Spirit has no say in the conduct of our services. We plan and arrange our meetings at set times, with a set order of service for hymns, prayers and sermons. We sing choruses, pray, preach and even prophesy at our meetings because it has become the custom to do so, and not because we are directed to do so by the Holy Spirit. We often include “items of song” which primarily entertain the people. At the end we are asked at the door, whether we enjoyed the meeting.
How sad that nobody stops to enquire whether our God enjoyed the meeting.
The deception of religious observance being substituted for walking in the Spirit was a problem even in the early church, which is why Paul had to write these words to the Galatian church:-
“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have laboured over you in vain.” (Gal. 4:9-11)
If you have heard the call of the Holy Spirit to come out of Babylon, it is essential to stop this type of assembling and forsake all our Babylonian traditions. It is often necessary to cease all religious activities for a season, to allow God to show us what He desires. Because of the continual meetings and other church activities which we accept as proper Christianity, we have very little time for true fellowship with God.
Only when we truly give ourselves to loving and pleasing no one but our Lord Jesus will God show us how to assemble together, and how to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
God desires us to worship Him, but true worship is a spontaneous response of love. To speak of “entering into a time of worship” is a nonsensical expression. When we worship somebody, we have that love rising up in our hearts continuously. It is not something that can be switched on mechanically by the leader of a religious meeting, making an announcement.
It is an abomination to have a “worship leader” striving to work up enthusiasm in a congregation, urging them to “sing louder”, as if God is deaf. How His heart must break at our pitiful attempts to manufacture worship, which is not an unfeigned outpouring of love from our hearts.
This is not to say that there are no genuine worshippers within the walls of Babylon, for God always has His Daniels, Shadrachs, Meshachs and Abednigos. There are millions of genuine lovers of God who unknowingly are imprisoned and know nothing of the deceptions of the spiritual Whore City. Since their minds have been programmed by the system, they continue with its forms and methods, and despite the set forms of tradition, their genuine love for Jesus rises up to the Lord. It is to some of these ones that the Holy Spirit communicates and reveals the truth of Babylon the Great in due season.
To face the fact that nearly all of our religious activity is not God directed and not of His design is difficult, when we have lived in Babylon for many years. However, until we question and reject most of our traditional beliefs and concepts, we cannot escape the Harlot’s enticing arms. We must have our minds renewed in many areas, and it is helpful to know the origin of our traditions and some historical facts to appreciate how far our churches have deviated off course.
In the early church, meetings were mainly in homes or any place large enough to accommodate everybody. They were not religious services with an order of worship. Christ was central, and they came together to share HIM, not to hear a professional cleric’s sermon like we do. There were no buildings called churches, in which they held Sunday services. There were no clergy and laity as we understand them today. All the people were able to minister and participate actively, like any family meeting together. It took centuries for church meetings to degenerate into a large audience listening quietly, to a professional minister, and participating only when he allowed them to stand, sit, sing or speak.
Around 325 A.D. Constantine made Christianity the Roman state religion. Both he and virtually the whole city had Pagan minds and were steeped in Pagan culture and religious beliefs.
All religions, Judaism, Islam and Pagan, need PRIESTS, TEMPLES, ROBES, ALTARS, SACRIFICES, and produce traditions of ritual worship. It was therefore natural for the Roman state religion to require these things. No doubt the Jewish influence and its unseen Babylonian spirit of religion also affected their thinking.
Church buildings were first erected because they thought that they needed bigger meeting places for increasing numbers to meet together, when homes became too small. In Rome the earlier Christians met in the Catacombs because of persecution by the State. After Constantine ended the persecution, it did not take long for the pagan influence to require a temple, priests in robes and laid down rituals.
Buildings in those days had no windows, so candles were needed to lighten their dark interiors. Eventually children were given the task of bringing in the candles, and this is the origin of altar boys and lighting candles in “churches”.
The dark and dank buildings with their congregations of unwashed believers became more and more unpleasant as the years passed, and so incense was introduced to cover the bad odours.
Today, many churches continue with these ludicrous rituals which have nothing to do with Christ or His church.
Over the next 200 years Pagan influence further corrupted belief. Pope Gregory the Great introduced “sacred relics”; the bones of special “saints” which were thought to have magical powers, and are revered by many to this day.
It was the influence of Pagan magicians that produced the hideous doctrine of Transubstantiation; the doctrine that the bread and wine are magically transformed into the actual substance of Christ’s flesh and blood in the Eucharist.
We must face the fact that it is from these superstitious, primitive, Pagan minds that our present day rituals of Sunday services originated, and are conducted in special buildings, misnamed churches. When Martin Luther broke with Rome, he left very little of the forms of meetings behind, as they had become part of European culture and tradition.
The Protestant Reformation was almost entirely intellectual and theological, and left the traditions of meetings intact. Luther is probably to blame for the Protestant concept of Pastors and a Presbytery. Having escaped from Rome, he simply wandered down another street within the great Harlot city of Babylon the Great.
The functions of the Catholic Priests included officiating at weddings and funerals (for a fee), visiting the sick, conducting Mass on Sundays and orating to the faithful. Luther simply altered the Mass to Sunday services, and continued with the other things he had done as a priest, and so our modern day concepts of a pastor and pastoral duties did not come from Jesus or His apostles.
Despite his incredible intellect, John Calvin further entrenched the unspiritual concepts of meetings, and so we have continued with the system which holds us in Babylon to this day.
From these spiritually unenlightened and Medieval days we received our traditional concepts of churches, pastors, Sunday services and sermons, pulpits, pews, liturgies, choirs, robes, altars and all that makes up our totally false ideas of “proper Christianity”. There is nothing in the New Testament to justify our present day concepts of these things. A New Testament pastor was a gift from Jesus Christ in the same way that He gave apostles, prophets and evangelists. Our concept of Reverends or Pastors trained as clergy, ruling over congregations, did not originate in the mind of Christ, but in the carnal minds of Medieval men.
Meeting in a special building, reserved for the conduct of our religious activities, at set times on set days, may comfort our consciences and satisfy our cultural traditions, but most such meetings have become an abomination to God, no less than the solemn assemblies of Israel eventually became to Him.
Prior to Constantine, the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians, divided his empire into provinces called Diocese. Then he appointed rulers over each diocese, and each ruler was known as the Vicar. What a perfect example this is of the way that Babylon controls us, when we continue to use such terms in the church.
The church that Jesus Christ began is one that:-
Had no buildings called churches, cathedrals or chapels.
Had no liturgy, or order of service.
Had no denominations.
Had no clergy or laity.
Had no constitution or rule book.
Had no Hymn books, tracts, or offering plates. Had no choirs and committees.
Had no Sunday schools.
Had no Seminaries or Bible schools.
Had no Para-church organizations.
Escape from Babylon is impossible until we are able to comprehend that JESUS CAN BUILD HIS CHURCH WITHOUT ANY OF THESE THINGS. God may choose to use them, and He does so because of His grace and patience with our ignorance or foolishness, but that does not make them His best way or His desire for us.
When our spiritual eyes are opened, and once we begin to question the church system, we will find ourselves in conflict with those who have not yet understood the deceptions of Babylon the Great. Well-meaning and very sincere brethren will strive to persuade us of our error and fight to protect the doctrines and practices of the system. We may be classed as rebels, deceived, or even demonized, and a rupture of previously loving relationships is inevitable.
This will lead to our rejection, and then we must face a spiritual wilderness experience in the process of escape from Babylon.