THINKING ABOUT MATTHEW 18:15-17, PART 3

What if the brother, after standing before the congregation, does not repent? He who refused to listen to his brother, to the witnesses, and to the assembly is now to be viewed and treated in a specific way, which though harsh, Jesus made completely clear to His audience. “Let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” There would have been no mistaking the sentiment. This brother is now to be treated as a heathen who would have no interest in God or a tax collector/publican. Jesus casts no aspersions on tax collectors; He simply acknowledges how the Israelites would have treated such a person. Numerous examples exist: Matthew 5:46-7, 9:10-11, 11:19, Luke 7:29, 18:11. No self-respecting Israelite would have been caught dead associating with a tax collector or a Gentile, Acts 10:28.

Clearly, if this brother refuses to listen, he is to be put away, 1 Corinthians 5:13. See John 12:42. The Amish say “shunned.” We might today say “disfellowship”, but I prefer the terms “note”, “mark”, or withdraw.” Since fellowship is based on our being in a right relationship with God and each other, this man has already removed himself from that fellowship. He has, in essence, “disfellowshipped” himself. The assembly is merely acknowledging his action and engaging in the proper response which, Jesus says, is to treat him as you would a heathen or tax collector.

The specific meaning is brought out through the New Testament. Look at these verses to get the sense of what Jesus is saying regarding the association.                                                                   2John 1:10 “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him….”

Romans 16:17 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”

1Corinthians 5:11 “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person.”

1Corinthians 5:13 “But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ‘put away from yourselves the evil person.'”

2Thessalonians 3:6 “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.”

2Thessalonians 3:14 “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note (or mark) that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.”

2Timothy 3:5 “(men) having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

Paul still gives place for repentance when he adds in 2Thessalonians 3:15, “Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” Remember, the hope is for his restoration.

Some important facts result from this understanding. First, think of the particular phrases: “do not receive…nor greet”, “avoid”, “not to keep company with”, “put away from yourselves”, “withdraw from”, and “turn away.” There is no ambiguity in these. They are not hard to understand, yet brethren often ignore them. Today, we still maintain relationships with such brethren whether it be in person or over such media as Facebook. We associate ourselves with brethren who have been marked. This activity is not scriptural and is, in itself, sinful. It also ignores the discipline of the Lord that will help to save that person’s soul.

Second, what effect does such marking have on other congregations and Christians outside of his congregation? Some say that there is no effect. In other words, such marking of a sinful brother by a particular congregation has no binding effect on other congregations. They are free to bring the brother into their congregation (congregational autonomy). Brethren, how can such a thing possibly be? The language of scripture is clear: do not associate with him. How could the admonition be that his marking only extends to the boundaries of his local congregation? If a brother were marked for having his father’s wife and being unrepentant and put out of the local assembly, is he free to go to another assembly of saints? Is another congregation free to accept him into their assembly? Think, would Paul have approved of such practice? How could such a discipline possibly be effective?

Good brethren with strong Biblical knowledge comprehend the meaning of these verses. They do not, however, seem to like to put them into practice. We don’t mark when we should. We don’t disassociate ourselves when we should. We do welcome sinners into our congregations when we should not. Such things are contrary to the clear teaching of Jesus for several reasons, 1 Corinthians 5:5 (necessary for saving), 1 Corinthians 5:6 (bad effect on others), 2 Thessalonians 3:14 (shame), 1 Timothy 1:20 (to learn the error of his ways).

THINKING ABOUT MATTHEW 18:15-17, PART 2

Let me a say a word, at this point, about something that I had not considered. Jesus commands that the one sinned against or the one who knows of the sin go to the sinner alone and explain to him the error of his ways. We might make the assumption that this is a one-time event and not a process; however, where does Jesus say this? Is it not reasonable to assume that it may take more than one visit for the sinner to comprehend his wrong and come to repentance? Is it not worth a few visits, if necessary, to win back the brother? Somehow, we have gotten the idea that if the brother does not repent on the spot in that first visit; we go right to the second phase. Consider for yourself whether this idea is true.

What if the brother will not listen to you when you, alone, have approached him directly? Jesus speaks to that possibility. If the brother will not listen to you, take witnesses to him. It is only at this point that others outside the situation are to become involved. When the possibility of a private restoration has been exhausted, bring witnesses. I know there is a debate about what the witnesses should be. The term, witness, as we think of it, often means one who has seen something with his own eyes. This sense cannot be the sense here. These witnesses could not have seen the sin. If so, it would not be a private matter but a public one. I believe the witnesses are specifically to serve the function of helping to convince the brother of his sin. If this matter is simply a dispute about hurt feelings or some such thing, then it becomes a matter to be judged by the wise among the brethren as in 1 Corinthians 6. Jesus is not addressing a difference of opinion here but a matter of sin. The witnesses are to serve to reaffirm the brother’s need for repentance.

In that sense, they are not to serve as objective mediators who have been brought in blind. The one who is going to the sinning brother must choose the witnesses, hopefully for their spiritual maturity and knowledge, inform them of the brother’s sin, and make sure they have the backbone to do what is necessary to help the brother to see his guilt.

Jesus is not dealing, here, with those situations where a brother brings a frivolous accusation. He is giving guidance on what to do when a brother actually transgresses. The point of bringing the witnesses, then, is to establish or confirm the matter. They are there to witness the telling to him of his fault, to make sure that it is done appropriately, and to help the brother to understand that he has done wrong and must repent. They also serve as witnesses to his repentance, if he listens. Again, there is no question, here, but that the goal of this second visit is like unto the first, the restoration of the brother. If he repents, praise God! Again, is this a one-time event, or can it take more than one visit? What if he refuses the bringing of witnesses? Such is the same as not hearing them, and the matter must then be taken to the next step.

Jesus anticipates the brother’s not listening to the witnesses. If he does not hear the witnesses, then and only then, the matter is to be brought before any outside organization. Obviously not. Before the elders. No. Before the men of the business meeting. No. Jesus clearly says, then and only then, bring it before the “church.” It is my personal opinion that the word “church” here is an unfortunate translation. When most people think of church, if they have a proper concept of what that word entails, they will think of the universal body or the gathering of the saints. Jesus, however, was not talking to saints/Christians. He was talking to Israelites under the Mosaic Law. Yes, He was introducing them to concepts of the new covenant, but He was still not talking to Christians. The “church” had not come into existence universally or locally. So, where is this brother-in-sin to be brought? He is to be brought before the assembly just as the manslayer in Joshua 20:5-6. In Jesus’ lifetime, the man could be brought before the assembly in the temple/synagogue. Once the church came into existence, the man would be brought before the assembly of the local saints.

Some say this is a process separate from the first day of the week assembly, a congregational meeting, but I see no necessary inference for this. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul says that the man who had his father’s wife was to be put out from among them. It makes sense that he could only be put out from among them when there was a “them” to be among. So, Paul says in verses 4 and 5, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” When would they have been gathered together? On the first day of the week. See 1 Corinthians 11:17 ff.

So, the brother who sinned, who would not listen to the one who knew his sin or against whom he had sinned, who would not listen to witnesses, is now to be brought before the assembly of the brethren. Imagine the situation if this is to be a fact-finding, open mediation. Disorder and a poor use of the time of assembly. By this point, the matter is already established as fact. The brother has sinned. He has not listened to the pleas to repent. There is no doubt or need for further discussion. The plea to repent is now made to him by the entire local body of assembled saints. If he repents, praise God! I suppose I would have to ask, how many times is he to be brought before the assembly? Likely just one time since this is no longer an on-going persuasive effort.

THINKING ABOUT MATTHEW 18:15-17, PART 1

It seems to be my preference to write about topics or passages that are misunderstood or misapplied or both. This particular passage fits both categories. It is an important passage because it gives us guidance for action in a particular situation, guidelines that are spelled out nowhere else in the scriptures.

Jesus answers His apostles’ question about who among them would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven by telling them they need to become like children. He warns against offenses and urges being rid of a member that causes one to stumble. He, then, proffers the parable of the lost sheep. Directly after showing the importance of the restoration of one who was lost, he gives the guidelines about which we speak here. This progression should establish in our minds that the goal of verses 15 and following is the restoration of a brother who is “lost.”

In verse 15 Jesus says, “If your brother sins”. Some translations add the words “against you.” I believe they make this addition for what is, in their minds, clarification’s sake. “If” indicates a condition, the condition that a brother sins. The question really arises as to what “sin” means. Is Jesus merely making a broad statement? Is the consideration, here, of any and every sin a brother commits, or is this sin qualified in some way? We know that the matter is not just one of a mere dispute over doubtful things (NKJ) or opinions (NAS), Romans 14:1, but over a sin.

The fact that Jesus says that the one who is aware of the sin must go to the sinner alone means that the sin committed is a private matter or is not generally known. So as I see it, we have two qualifications of the sin under consideration here. First, the sin is a privately-committed and privately-witnessed sin. For example, if I were to drive by a bar, see the car of a brother there, enter the bar, and see my brother drunk and disorderly, his sin would be known by me alone (among the brethren, anyway). I alone, become aware of a sin that my brother has committed. Second, my brother acts in a way that directly impacts me alone. For example, a brother, whom I have invited for dinner and who develops a liking for a small keepsake I have decides to take it home with him, steal it, in essence. In that manner, he has sinned “against me.” Those who add these two words assume correctly that the sin is a private matter, but they incorrectly, I believe, limit it to those sins directly committed against another person. So, Jesus says, basically, if the situation is that your brother commits a sin of which you, alone, become aware or that your brother commits a sin directly against you, then follow these guidelines.

Let’s bring in 1 Corinthians 6 here. This chapter deals with the idea that two Christians having a dispute submit the resolution of that dispute to the judgment of heathen. Paul’s reaction to such a thing is disgust. Is there no one among the brethren who can resolve such a dispute? In verse 7, Paul says, “Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?” How does this verse relate to the discussion of Matthew 18? If the brother takes my keepsake, could we apply what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6? Could I simply “accept wrong” and let myself “be cheated?” The answer, in that situation, is no. If I were to say to myself the brother can keep the painting, I may be fine. It is within my prerogative to allow the transgression. The problem is not with me but with my brother. He has committed a sin, stolen what does not belong to him. If I merely ignore the theft, he may not suffer godly sorrow and repent of the crime. He is, therefore, in sin. Jesus’ admonition is that I must go to him and tell him his fault. This admonition is akin to Matthew 5:23-4 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Go to your brother. Whether you have aught against your brother or he has aught against you, go to him.

The cornerstone of these verses to me is Jesus’ qualification that one go to talk to the other who sinned. In fact, Jesus says this with much added stress by the words “tell him”, “between you and him”, and “alone.” Is this so hard to understand? So much trouble in the kingdom could be avoided by heeding this simple command. Go to him only by yourself. Only later are others to be brought into the discussion. In fact, bringing others in at this point is contrary to the command and is sin. Yet, what is the reaction all too often by brethren? Sadly, when someone is wronged, he goes to a third person and begins talking about what happened. This action is called GOSSIP. Proverbs 11:13 says, “A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” Whether the tale being borne is true or not is of no importance. There is no Biblical authority to discuss the matter with a third person! We do not go to the elders. We do not talk to a third person because we are “concerned” about someone. We do go directly and only to the person who sinned. Jesus commands it here.

Jesus makes clear that the purpose of this action is to restore the brother when He says, “If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” If you, yourself alone, go to him only and tell him about his transgression with the goal of helping him to see his sin and repent of it; and if he does listen to you and repents of his sin, you have helped your brother to be restored. See Galatians 6:1 and James 5:20. What would we, as Christians, rather see? Would it be that our brother continue in his sin or repent of it and be restored? Restoration should be our goal. Restoration will not be achieved by going to a third party and spreading the matter to others. This action is inconsistent with what Jesus teaches here.

ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME

The t-shirt said “Only God Can Judge Me”, though I cannot be sure of his particular reason for wearing it. Apparently, the slogan has become famous enough to put on a t-shirt as the result of a couple of Hip-Hop songs by that title. Such a sentiment, however, is not uncommon today and is often expressed in the defiant question, “Who are you to judge me?” I have spoken about this issue before under what I refer to as “Pop Christianity.” Everyone is familiar with, and I believe this idea originates from, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:1, though distorted. Taking only that verse into consideration, however, results in a problem since, among other reasons, Jesus also uttered the command to judge of John 7:24.

How does all this apply to the t-shirt? Well, in time past, I might have simply said that the t-shirt is ultimately correct. I do not have the right to judge the wearer in the final sense. I have decided not to make the wholesale judgment, “You are going to hell” to those who live in sin. God is the ultimate judge of the soul, Romans 2:16, 2 Timothy 4:8, Hebrews 12:23.

My thinking, then, is that, though I do not have the right to send a person’s soul to hell, I do have a responsibility to judge with righteous judgment. In what way do I do that? The scriptures dictate the will of God for man. Though Christians are not under a system of law but are under a system of grace, Romans 6:14, Galatians 5:4; the Bible tells us what God expects of us. The word serves as a guide for our behavior so that we may be considered righteous before God by the blood of Jesus, Romans 5:19.

Clarence Johnson, who preached in Marietta until his death, used to say that we are to be fruit inspectors. What did he mean? John the Baptizer spoke of bearing fruits in Matthew 3:8. Jesus said of false teachers that we would know them by their fruits, Matthew 7:16. How do we know anything about a person? We can inspect the fruits that result from his words and deeds. A person who commits sin brings forth the fruits of sin. These fruits are easily seen and can be used to “judge” a person. Read 1 Corinthians 5:11 and see if Paul is not requiring a judgment. It is necessary to judge a person’s fruit in order to help him see the error of his ways so that he may repent.

The t-shirt is correct in that God is the only final judge of a person’s soul; however, the t-shirt is wrong in that Jesus wants us to judge the fruits of a person. The reality is that most of these people who display such slogans or protest with such questions are producing fruit that is ungodly and must be seen as such, judged as such. In our modern society, a homosexual might be inclined to wear such a shirt or shout such a question. And that fruit is clearly seen to be ungodly in the Bible.

Here’s what I would add today, however. Since God is the ultimate judge of a person’s soul and God makes that judgment by comparing a person’s words and deeds with the word that He has given to us, John 12:48; then the reality is that a person who is living in sin, contrary to the will of God, and who refuses to repent has already been judged by the word. The word says that his behavior is unacceptable to God and that, as such, he cannot be seen as righteous, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. God has said the behavior is wrong and means one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. God has, therefore, already pronounced judgment on the fruit of a sinner.

So, it is true that God will be the final judge; but the reality is that God has already given us the words which will judge us. He has told us what He wants of us and what the consequences of disobedience are. I need not pronounce a final judgment on such a person; God already has. The man who commits adultery or some other such sin and protests that no one but God has a right to judge him as if that makes his actions acceptable does not understand that God has already shown Him the judgment he will receive, Galatians 5:19-21. Isn’t it fair, then, for me to say that the person who is living in sin will be judged by God for that sin; and the judgment is that he will not enter the kingdom of heaven?

It is a sad thing. The person wearing the t-shirt may be living a life of unrepentant sin. He protests that only God can judge him without realizing that God already has. The only way that judgment would be nullified is if he were to repent, something for which we should be working and praying.

THE ASSEMBLY

What is assembly? Is there such a thing as the assembly which might designate one (or more) above others? If so, how is this particular assembly defined and determined? It may be that these questions seem unnecessary; however, because the idea of assembly bears on other questions in the Bible, such as the authority of women to speak and what we do collectively therein, it is important to understand what the term means.

In Greek, the word for assembly is ekklesia, from two words: ek, “out” and kaleo, “to call”. For a good discussion of ekklesia, see the article by Wayne Jackson here. In our modern translations, the Greek word may be translated “church”, “assembly”, or “congregation”. See the previous article on this site for a discussion of the word church which, in these cases, I do not believe helps us to understand anything about the idea at hand.

The definition of assembly/congregation (ekklesia) is a general one that means a coming together of people and seems only to be determinable by the context in which it is used.

1) An assembly can be any gathering of people as in Acts 19:32, a randomly and hastily-gathered mob.

2) An assembly can be a body of Christians meeting locally as in 1 Corinthians 1:2. Certainly, 1 Corinthians 11:18 carries with it the assembling together of those who are called out, the coming together of the ekklesia. It exists there in the sense of the local body of Christians assembling in one locality, Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:11.

3) Another use of the word would be in the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18-24), in other words, the universal collective of all Christians. The universal body, however, is never assembled in one place. Only local Christians are assembled together.

In-and-of-themselves, these assemblies have real defining qualities only by context. In the first example above, the gathering was a random mob which included Christians and non-Christians; in the second, Christians meeting locally; in the third, the entire body of Christians. No one would say that the assembling of Christians would be a random mob. Certainly, there is a difference in these assemblies.

So is there such a thing as “the assembly” for Christians as opposed to or differentiated from “an assembly”? Clearly, this must be the case. As described above, we see that there are various assemblies that can be undertaken with various purposes; and even though they are assemblies, they are not necessarily “the assembly”. As issues bear on the deciding of this question, how would we go about determining the answer? How would “the assembly” be constituted and when?

The question is not really about “the assembly” in the abstract; it is about the literal assembly that is the coming together of brethren. It is about the practical functioning of the local body. How is the local body to conduct itself when it comes together? There is much said about this in the idea of “coming together”.

In 1 Corinthians 11:18, Paul chastises the brethren because it has been conveyed to him that there are divisions among them when they come together. I suppose it would be true that if they are divided outside of the assembly generally, such would be a problem also. It may be, though, that such private divisions are only a private concern between God and the two divided while public divisions become an issue for all in the assembly. Paul clearly defines what he means when he says specifically, “when you come together as a church.”

In what manner could we determine when “the assembly” is constituted? Is it simply anytime the local brethren come together? Indeed, whenever the local brethren come together, they are assembling. How, if at all, is one gathering of brethren different from another? It seems that various factors may be considered.

1)  The specific people – We have seen that an assembly can be made up of any kind of people. It might be the guild of craftsmen as called together in Acts 19:25. It might be a nebulous mob of people as in Acts 19:32. Certainly, we are only concerned with gatherings of Christians, but does a mere gathering of Christians constitute “the assembly?” If it were only the coming together of the local Christians, a potluck or Bible study could constitute “the assembly.” If we say not, then we are using more factors to define our assembly.

2) The place or time – Since we have no designated place, there can be no assembly definition constituted around a particular location. Since Christians are to assemble on the first day of the week, maybe this time of meeting determines “the assembly”. Is any gathering of Christians on the first day of the week “the assembly?”

3) The amount of people – Is “the assembly” when a majority of Christians are present? Is it when all Christians are present? It cannot be any of these because God puts no such strictures on an assembly.

4) The local congregation’s designating it as such – If so, what scripture shows it? Could we designate a potluck as an assembly beyond just a mere gathering? Specifically, if the congregation designates a “worship” time in the morning and evening on Sunday, are these both assemblies? In the general sense, they are; but do they carry the same weight? If so, is it just because we say so? If we were to designate every hour of Sunday as an assembly, does it make it so? Would we then have the power to dictate hours of other days as assemblies? Some seem to see Wednesday night Bible study this way. And if Wednesday night study is not “the assembly”, then neither is the Sunday AM Bible study. If those hours are assembly, then is it because we say so, and why? Because they are designated as religious functions, i.e. studying the Bible?

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul speaks about the coming together of the Christians and gives them a host of instructions for an orderly assembly. In v23 we read, “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place….” Is the idea expressed here, “the whole church comes together in one place” a definition of “the assembly”? In other words, anytime the whole church comes together, is it “the assembly”? Paul is speaking of the assembling of Christians together in what we might call the “worship assembly” on the first day of the week.

There are three ideas expressed by Paul to show the assembly. First, “whole”. Whole means just what you would expect it to mean; entire, complete, as opposed to partial or incomplete. The expression “whole church” is used also in Romans 16:23 where it does not seem to be speaking of the congregation as gathered and Acts 15:22 where the congregation was gathered. Those uses do not say anything more than that what is being discussed is the whole congregation. Whole would be a state that is most often not observed in literal practice today. It may be that one Christian is at work or sick or some may be travelling. Some see a distinction made between the Bible study classes when teachers are not assembled with the rest of the Christians and “the assembly” when they are. Such a distinction is only valid if what constitutes “the assembly” is that every Christian is present.

Second, “comes together.” The assembly, as we have said, is a physical coming together. Third, “in one place”. The coming together of brethren can only constitute an assembly if they are all in one given location. Christians cannot come together in separate places. Such is an oxymoron. The whole church’s coming together is the same as the whole church’s coming together in one place. The whole church in one place is the whole church come together. “In one place” need not be said; yet Paul did say it.

Because Paul uses these three descriptions, one of which is not strictly necessary, it is my contention that Paul is employing a technique here that we employ as well, hyperbole, deliberate exaggeration for effect. He has just written at length addressing the Corinthians’ seemingly overwhelming desire to speak in tongues. It was to the Corinthians the “in thing” In chapter 14, Paul tells them that tongues are useful but that all other gifts and abilities are useful. In fact, he says pray especially that you may prophecy (v1). He says that tongues are like a trumpet that makes a strange sound (v8) and, as a result, confuse the hearers. He says if you speak in a tongue, pray that you might interpret (v13). Otherwise, the speaking is meaningless to the hearers. He says, then, that both the Spirit and the understanding are necessary for edification. The one who cannot understand your blessing cannot say “amen” (v16). He also expresses his thankfulness for tongues and his desire to speak five words with understanding rather than ten thousand words in a tongue (vv18-19).

With that context established, Paul says in v22 that tongues are a sign to unbelievers while prophesying is for believers. And here comes the hyperbole, verse 23. Paul says, in fact if every single one of you (the whole church/assembly) were here (come together) in one place and every one of you were speaking in tongues, the unbeliever who comes in will think every single one of you (and this assembly) is crazy. He will not be overwhelmed with the edifying expression of God’s power and the gospel of salvation. The same sentiment might be expressed as “if every single married person in America committed to their marriage, divorce would end” or “If every single person in America together stopped paying their taxes, the government would be forced to hear the American people.” Similarly, “If we spent every waking moment in the study of the Bible, we still would not have it mastered by the end of our lives”.

I believe Grotius captured this concept when he said, ‘The more there are assembled, and the more that speak in unknown tongues, the more will the impression be conveyed to strangers “coming in” from curiosity (“unbelievers”), or even from a better motive (“unlearned”), that the whole body of worshippers is a mob of fanatical “madmen”.’

I do not see verse 23 as a definition of assembly but rather an means of Paul’s trying to illustrate to the Corinthians the fallacy of their consuming desire to speak in tongues by using a statement of exaggeration.

It seems to me that “the assembly” is more scripturally definable by the reason or purpose for our assembly. In Acts 20:7, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight”. It seems that the main purpose of the gathering was to partake of the supper. It also seems that Paul took the occasion of their being gathered together to break bread to speak with them. There is also no mention of singing or praying. This idea that the Lord’s Supper was their primary interest in coming together is bolstered by Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 11:17ff. He speaks of their “coming together” in v17 which he further defines. The divisions are practically expressed in this coming together. Then in v20, he says, “Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper”. He is not saying that their assembly is not for the purpose of partaking of the Lord’s Supper; he is saying that when they come together it should be for that purpose. They have turned the assembly away from that purpose.

Paul proceeds to give instruction, to remind them of the institution of this memorial, and to admonish them to eat and drink in a worthy manner. So he says, in v33, when you come together wait for each other; in v34, if you are hungry, eat at home, lest you come together/assemble for judgment or judgment be on your assembly. Paul ties chapter 11 with chapter 14 by the same phrase in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

If “the assembly” is the time when we gather to partake of the Lord’s Supper, primarily (along with other aspects of our collective worship), and the time of 1 Corinthians 14 is that assembly, then the prohibitions of women speaking in that assembly in 14:34-35 would pertain to that assembly only – “the assembly”.

In 1 Corinthians 5:4, some assume that when Paul says “when you are gathered together” he means a separate assembly for the specific purpose of marking the one who had his father’s wife. Is this conclusion a necessary one, or is Paul simply saying that when they come together in “the assembly”, they should mark the man and put him out from among them? Is this equivalent to what Jesus meant in Matthew 18:17 when He said, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church?” Does he not mean bring it before the assembly? (By the way, not the men’s meeting or even elders.)

In Acts 15, some see a separate “congregational meeting” for the purpose of making a determination in the matter at hand. There seem to be various meetings in this chapter which also says, “Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church” in v22. At some point, it seems, the matter came before the entire local assembly. Is it a necessary conclusion to say that this was not “the assembly” of the first day of the week? Verse 4 says, “And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church (assembly/congregation) and the apostles and the elders.”

To sum up, I see in scripture one assembly on the first day of the week, constituted by the coming together of Christians primarily to partake of the Lord’s Supper. This assembly is, for Christians, “the assembly.” It is also the only assembly in which God restricts the speaking of women. (Which certainly precludes their preaching.) This manner, I believe, is the easiest and most scriptural way to define “the assembly.”

What do you think? Let me know at preachsl@verizon.net.

THE WORD “CHURCH”

Upcoming on this site soon will be an article on the idea of assembly. In the course of writing that article, I became involved in thinking about this word, church. Many of us are so used to hearing and using the word that we probably think nothing of it. We use the word in our “name”; however, we do not capitalize it so as to indicate that it is a description rather than a proper name. The question arises, though, as to what the word actually means. I suspect that this word church carries with it connotations that were intentional.

When the English translators of the Bible, such as Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Coverdale, began their work, the English language was in its infancy. The translations of the Bible into English corresponded with the very development of the language. What are the roots, then, of that language? The site jebbo.uk.co traces our modern English language back through Middle English, Old English, and finally to Proto-Germanic. So the reality is that our language is rooted in the pre-German language. “This whole issue of word origins is very difficult as Latin, the Germanic tongues, Old English (derived from Germanic), and the Celtic tongues are all ultimately derived from a common Indo-European root….”

Why is this idea important? Because it bears on the origin of the word church. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the etymology (origin) of the word church is:

‘Old English cirice, circe “church, public place of worship; Christians collectively,” from Proto-Germanic *kirika (source also of Old Saxon kirika, Old Norse kirkja, Old Frisian zerke, Middle Dutch kerke, Dutch kerk, Old High German kirihha, German Kirche), probably from Greek kyriake from kyrios “ruler, lord”….’

There are two interesting things in that etymology. First, knowing that the origin of our language comes from a Germanic root, we see that the above still says ” probably from Greek kyriake”. The problem with this is that the Greek word does not mean “church”; it is from kyrios which means ruler or lord. The same dictionary says, ‘Greek kyriakon (adj.) “of the Lord” was used of houses of Christian worship since c.300, especially in the East, though it was less common in this sense than ekklesia or basilike.’ How did a Greek word meaning ruler or lord or of the Lord come to be translated “church”? The connection seems very loose at best.

Second, anyone who knows anything about Greek mythology knows that Circe (see above Old English word) was a Greek goddess of magic. The Greek word, circe, itself is thought to mean bird. If so, it is unlikely that the word church came from the Greek word. It almost seems as if someone is trying to make a link to Greek, where there is not really one, to the word for lord or ruler. It would be interesting to know more about the goddess, Circe, and her connection to the word church.

It seems, then, that the word church was evolving from a possible Germanic root into the word as we know it now. The problem, however, is that in the Greek, the word we find that is generally translated as “church” in our Bibles is not kyriakon anyway but ekklesia which does not at all resemble circe or kyrios. Ekklesia is from two words: ek, “out” and kaleo, “to call”. It is more properly translated as assembly or congregation.

William Tyndale, in his translation of the Bible, never used the word church to translate the Greek ekklesia. Instead, he used the word congregation. The King James Version only uses the word congregation one time in Acts 13:43; however, the Greek word is not ekklesia but the Greek word sunagoges from which we get our word synagogue. The New King James translation uses the word congregation one other time, in Acts 7:38, where the Greek is ekklesia. In all other cases where the word church is used, the Greek is ekklesia.

Why all this fuss? Who cares? We should care as Christians. We want to speak as the Bible speaks, 1 Peter 4:11. Well, you still may say, the word church is in my Bible. True enough; but the word church really only has the meaning or meanings it has developed. It is only loosely attached to any linguistic root. Or maybe better said, it appears some translators decided to use one particular English word where the Greek would have demanded another. Tyndale understood this.

Tell me, what is the church? What does it mean? Is it the building where we meet? In early America, those buildings were referred to as meeting houses, not churches. Is church what we do when we get there? Many people have these misconceptions and, so, do not understand the real meaning behind the word church. It may be that you can study and ascertain what the church is or have been taught what it is; but if so, you are still attaching a meaning to the word rather than understanding the word by its definition. Why is it necessary to have an “invented” word to translate the Greek when we have the perfectly good assembly or congregation?

It seems to me that there may have been a reason why the word church was used ( just as the word baptizo was not translated into English as dip or immerse but was transliterated into baptize). I may not know the reasons such a thing was done, but I have my suspicions. I also am beginning to believe that if the word were translated correctly, it might alleviate some difficulties of doctrine that we have. I freely admit that I am neither a Greek scholar nor language expert, so I would encourage you to investigate all of this for yourself.

HATE AND LOVE

When we think of hate and love, we think of them as emotions, and emotions as mere feelings. There is, however, a difference in the way that the Bible speaks of these emotions. There is the emotion and the expression of the emotion. For example, there is anger which is the emotion and there are outbursts of wrath, Galatians 5:20, Colossians 3:8. There is the emotion and the action the emotion produces. The Bible speaks this way consistently. How can we separate faith and obedience? Why are the demons who believe and tremble not saved, James 2:19? Because they do not act upon that belief. Why is the person who has not been immersed for remission of sins not saved? Because he did not act on his faith in the way prescribed by God unto salvation. This principle is illustrated in Matthew 7:21.

If the foregoing is true, then we would expect it to follow in regards to the emotions of love and hate. Hate is a strong emotion. In Matthew 5:43 Jesus says, ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”‘ Hate, here, is juxtaposed against love. It is the opposite, the dark to love’s light. Then in the very next verse, Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, not “love your neighbor”, at least not overtly; but He says “do good to those who hate you.” Well, that is actually love your neighbor, but more about that later. The point is that He enjoins an action on the part of that person who would otherwise passively hate his neighbor.

In Matthew 5:21ff, Jesus brings up the letter of the law, “You shall not murder.” Murder is an action that results from an emotion. Elsewhere, he makes it clear that such an action comes from a debased heart, Matthew 15:19. In fact, all of our actions originate in the heart as either good or evil thoughts. “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment,” Matthew 5:22. Jesus says that when it comes to hate, harboring that emotion in one’s heart is enough to condemn him. Condemnation does not require that the emotion become action when it comes to hate.

What does this mean when applied to 1John 2:9 “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now?” See also 1 John 2:11, 1 John 3:14-15, and 1 John 4:20. In the second to last verse, John calls one who hates his brother a murderer. Certainly, it means that if we harbor any sort of hateful emotion in our hearts toward a brother, as Jesus said, we are in the darkness, which means we are not in the light, not in a right relationship with God, dead. And being in that condition required no outward action.

Love, as well as being the opposite emotion, is also treated in a diametrically opposed way. Love in the heart is not enough. The Bible speaks profusely about love. We are to love God, Matthew 22:37. We are to love our brothers, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 John 4:21. We are to love our enemies, Matthew 5:44. Husbands are to love their wives, Ephesians 5:25. The question really is, “What does love mean, here?” Many people have trouble defining love, but the Bible clearly illustrates what God wants. James 1:22 reinforces our need to “do” and not just “feel”. John concurs in 1 John 3:18. Jesus said that we should love our enemies, and Paul tells us how to love our enemies in Romans 12:20, give him food and drink if he is hungry and thirsty.

The Bible is not, however, as direct as we might like. There is no verse that says, “Love your brother by doing xyz.” The New Testament, however, is filled with such verses instructing us in our relationships. These instructions, when followed, show us exactly what loving our brethren means. Note this sampling of verses:

Give preference to one another, Romans 12:10

Distribute to the needs of the saints and be hospitable, Romans 12:13

Greet one another, Romans 16:16

Bear one another’s burdens, Galatians 6:2

Put away lying, Ephesians 4:25

Forgive one another, Colossians 3:13

Pray for one another, James 5:16

See 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Hebrews 10:24-5

What all of this means is that emotions are tricky things. They cannot be depended on to guide us but can lead us to do things, even things we may not want to do. Jesus clearly says that from our hearts our deeds spring. Good deeds come from a pure heart, and bad deeds from an impure one. It is worth noting that the mere contemplation of hatred against another is enough for us to stand condemned, while love requires an outworking. John goes so far as to say that we should be willing to lay our very lives down for our brother, 1 John 3:16. Why? Because laying His life down is exactly what Jesus did for us in the ultimate illustration of love in action.

These thoughts should give us pause. To know that God holds us accountable for hate merely in our hearts is a sobering thought. In addition, knowing that love in the heart MUST translate to action encourages us to put our faith into deeds. We are also accountable for the good deeds that we do out of love. Think on Proverbs 4:23.

“AN OUTWARD SIGN OF AN INWARD GRACE”

This catchy expression is oft-encountered when the subject of baptism/immersion arises. It is not an expression found in the Bible. While its absence does not mean that such teaching is not there, its absence should give us pause about whether such teaching is scriptural. It seems that the expression is a rather old one since Augustine spoke of baptism as “the visible form of an invisible grace.” The question is, though, did Augustine mean what those today mean by the expression?

There are several things that we should all realize about baptism. 1) It is by immersion. If the Greek word had been translated, it would have been translated as dip or immerse. Those who protest that translation would have to speak of Holy Spirit sprinkling or pouring on of fire, Matthew 3:11. Any other manner is an assumption. 2) It is for those old enough to understand the word, in other words, baptizing children is an assumption in the household passages (Cornelius in Acts 10:2, Lydia in Acts 16:15, the Philippian jailor in Acts 17:31, and Crispus in Acts 18:8) or from the unscriptural view of original, inherited sin. 3) It is an action that God has ordained in response to belief in the message of the gospel. Look at all the conversions in Acts. Every one of them involves baptism/immersion. Even if one were to argue against the necessity of baptism for salvation, he certainly has to contend with the fact that everyone who converted was baptized and Jesus, himself, submitted to John’s baptism of repentance even though He had committed no sin.

Once the basic Biblical facts of baptism are established, the debate becomes about the necessity of baptism. Does God require that we be baptized? It has always struck me that even though everyone agrees that we need remission/forgiveness of sins to enter the kingdom, they deny that scripture tells us that we receive that forgiveness through baptism, Acts 2:28, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:1-6. The Bible also tells us that we are “baptized into Christ”, Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27. How else do we get into Christ? We often hear that the sinner’s prayer involves inviting Jesus into our hearts (a phrase and action not in scripture), but how do we get into Him? Peter says that baptism “saves us”, 1 Peter 3:20-21. At what point do we “put on Christ”? Paul says in Galatians 3:27 that it is after baptism.

One further point. Would we say that it is important for us to be buried with Christ? See Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12. If Christ was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness”, does our baptism mean anything in regards to fulfilling righteousness?

So is baptism a sign? Yes, in the sense that it has meaning. Romans 6:4-9 clearly gives the meaning of the figure of baptism, and verse 3 clearly tells us that what Paul is speaking of is baptism. One may protest that he is talking of Holy Spirit baptism. If so, how? And I would say, then, that he is just as likely to be speaking of baptism with fire. Being immersed in the Holy Spirit is what happened to the apostles in Acts 2:2-4 and Cornelius in Acts 10:44-46. Is this what Paul is referring to in Romans 6? If so, then each of us must speak in tongues (languages) which was the consequence of those Holy Spirit baptisms.

While baptism is a sign in the sense that it represents something, the assertion of the phrase above is that it is merely a demonstration by a saved person that he has accepted the gospel and is now of Christ. If we look at the construction of phrase in such verses as Acts 2:28 and Acts 22:16, we see that forgiveness of sins, which delineates a Christian, is obtained in conjunction with baptism. Forgiveness of sins is a function of baptism as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:20-1. We say, therefore, that baptism is more than a figure of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And it is more than a sign to others that we are publicly acknowledging our newfound Christian status. What if we want to make no such profession? Then we must be free to ignore baptism altogether. In fact, one cannot become a Christian until he is baptized. Considering all that the Bible says about baptism, does it feel correct that we can simply ignore it? Our own savior was baptized.

The one who hears the gospel and believes, such as the eunuch in Acts 8:26ff, is now repentant of his sins. How does he receive forgiveness for those sins? He submits to immersion in water for the remission of sins. The scripture nowhere tells us that baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace. Would you think that the Jews of Acts 2:38, the Samaritans of Acts 8:16, the Ethiopian Eunuch of Acts 8:36, Paul of Acts 9:18 and Acts 22:16, Cornelius and household of Acts 10:47-48, and all the rest in Acts saw their baptisms as merely a sign to others that they had been saved?

 

 

PUBLIC NURSING

Admittedly, the subject of this article is not as weighty as some of those with which I have previously dealt. I certainly never imagined that someday I would write an article about nursing. It is, nevertheless, becoming an issue for Christians to consider. When I speak of nursing, I mean breastfeeding. And I do not mean to suggest that the issue over nursing is whether or not to nurse or even how long to nurse, even though the past has seen a push away from nursing and we have seen bizarre examples of mothers nursing far too long. The real issue is not even public nursing. Until recently, I assumed that people had no problem with a mother nursing her baby in public, though I have been surprised to learn that even that issue is not settled. The real issue, here, however is nursing in public without any covering.

Recently, I saw that a picture of a woman nursing her baby had gone viral. The headline of the article accompanying the picture (from England) said, “Breastfeeding Mum Confronts Judgemental Onlooker, Fights For Every Mother’s Right To Feed Her Child In Public”. See how this whole discussion has become a bit disingenuous and misleading? This woman is not fighting for the right to nurse in public. She is staring down someone in the photo and fighting for the right to nurse in public without any type of cover. She, and many other women, want the right to nurse uncovered in public.

In response to the movement, Target has established a policy that a woman may nurse, covered or uncovered, anywhere in their stores. Women have mocked businesses who have posted signs asking them to cover up by starting campaigns with pictures of them nursing with their heads covered and have started “nurse-in” campaigns. Magazine covers boast nearly naked breastfeeding models. Pictures have been posted online of one mother breastfeeding while exercising and another who was … pole dancing. We seem to have a desire to turn our country into a live National Geographic for adolescent boys and say it is their fault when they stare.

Argumentation for this practice generally has revolved around the fact that nursing a baby is a natural act. No one would doubt this. God created it to be this way. In fact, I would agree with this mom’s effort to promote nursing as the most natural method. But should the criteria for open breastfeeding be that it is natural? Certainly, there are other human acts that are natural. The sexual relationship is natural; however, I cannot imagine any sane person advocating that such an act should be allowed in public, at a restaurant, for example. (That having been said, there are a lot of less-than-sane people advocating for all sorts of behaviors, so I would not be surprised to see it happen at some point.) The sexual relationship has no place in such a place. So, saying that open nursing is natural; and therefore, should be accepted by all people no matter where is a hypocritical, selective, and weak argument. Or saying that nursing is natural, therefore, uncovered nursing is perfectly acceptable does not follow.

In her post, this woman wrote, “Let me make my reasoning clear on why I post pictures of my son and I publicly breastfeeding uncovered. [which begs the question, who wants to see this on a blog? sl] I don’t mean to say, ‘Everyone should breast feed without a cover. …If a mother is more comfortable covering herself because SHE feels better doing so, then I totally support that” (emphasis hers). Do you see the attitude? The one who is important in the decision is only the mother and her comfort level. If she feels comfortable, she should do it. If not, she should not. There is no inherent right or wrong to this; only the mother’s comfort. Very much like the abortion arguments.

So, it does not surprise me that the biggest problem, here, is not merely the insistence that this act is natural and should not be censored in any way, but is the very attitude of the women involved. It is the same attitude that we see among so many people today – do not tell me what to do or say, nothing is wrong unless I feel like it is wrong, if it feels good do it, what you want does not matter.

She continues, “No person should be isolated and shunned because they’re eating, especially when you yourself are eating while ridiculing how someone else is eating. Is it not certainly easier to avert your eyes from a displeasing sight rather than suggest or demand a mother and child remove themselves from your presence? How pompous and selfish is this? Just look away. It’s simple to do so. No harm done at all.” Again, who has the problem? The people who do not approve of open nursing. They are the ones who have the problem. It brings to mind the charge that such people are prudes. Daniel Webster, in his 1828 dictionary defines “prude” as “A woman of great reserve, coyness, affected stiffness of manners and scrupulous nicety.” The major idea seems to accord with a Biblical concept that should govern this issue, great reserve. What we have centered on today is the part of the definition that is “affected”. Anyone who disagrees with such a natural thing as public, open breastfeeding is objecting, not on any legitimate grounds, but because of an affected morality, i.e. a high-mindedness.

I would encourage all women who are considering open breastfeeding or those who may be confronted with a woman doing so to consider that there may be more to this practice then simply comfort and willingness and one’s supposed rights. What might that something be? Well, since we believe in God, here; we must think about what His will is on the matter. I would dare say that any nursing mother who calls herself a Christian must consider God’s will.

So, what does God say about this? Is there a right and wrong to the issue that can only come from God? Certainly, the Bible reveals the will of God to us in this matter. What should govern this decision is not the feelings of mothers or onlookers but the principles of God.

Can a natural act, such as nursing, also be immodest? Many would say no, by its very nature. The marriage bed is undefiled, according to Hebrews 13:4. The sexual relationship is a gift from God to be fulfilled under proper circumstances. Fulfilled on a table in a restaurant, it would be immodest. Who could doubt it? In fact, the revealing of the body under improper circumstances is immodest. Proverbs 11:22 speaks of the relationship of beauty and discretion in a woman. God speaks frequently of nakedness. It is often a symbol of shame in two ways as illustrated by Lamentations 1:8 and Ezekiel 16:37. One shows the shame of one’s own revealing of nakedness, and the other shows that God would reveal their nakedness as a punishment.

The human body is not meant to be put on display, whether in a movie, in a store at the mall, or by a woman who is nursing. A woman should seek to be modest. Jeremiah 3:3, Jeremiah 8:12, 1 Timothy 2:9, and 1 Peter 3:3-4. If the act of nursing is natural (and it is) and if some women would be comfortable open nursing and some would not (as is true), then what else would determine the right or wrong of open nursing than immodesty? Is it necessary for a woman to nurse without a covering or is it, again, as the issue of abortion, a convenience to the woman? And maybe in some cases, simply ignorance, a displayed badge of honor, or a rebellion against societal norms. It seems that everywhere we turn today we are confronted with another form of public nudity. This should not be. As with so many other of our behaviors, we should remember the words of the preacher in Proverbs 14:34.

THE EVENTS OF THE END

In an effort to try to sort out some of the false teaching of a rapture, a period of tribulation, and the setting up of an earthly kingdom ruled by Jesus; I have attempted to put together the scriptures below. Though not exhaustive, they serve as a framework of the events at the second coming of Jesus. My attempt, here, is mainly to allow the scriptures, placed in order, to say what they say. Anything else, in terms of a doctrine, is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, slight of hand. Weigh this outline against the Bible teaching: and I believe, you will see that much of what is taught popularly in the religious world is not Biblical.

THE END TIMELINE

The end and the day of the Lord Jesus are linked together: 1 Corinthians 1:8, 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14.
Jesus’ coming: Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43; Mark 8:38; Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 John 2:28

That day will come like a thief in the night: 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10

That day is a day of judgment: Matthew 10:15,11:22; 2 Peter 3:7

The day of the Lord under consideration is the return of Jesus which is for the purpose of judgment.

Resurrection – anastasis, derived from two roots — ana, “up,” and histemi, “to cause to stand”.

Jesus’ coming & The rising of the dead
John 5:28-9 All who are in the graves speaks of all people who have physically died and whose physical bodies lie in those graves. The main point of this resurrection is that it is a bodily resurrection, not only a continuation of the spirit. So all bodies will rise from the graves. When? When they hear His voice.

Acts 24:15 “…there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”

1Thessalonians 4:16 Here is the shout with the voice of John 5 that awakens the dead.

2Thessalonians 1:7 adds that “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels”. This is in perfect agreement with Matthew 13:39 “…the reapers are the angels.” The time of the angels’ coming is the harvest, the end of the age, also Matthew 13:39.

1Corinthians 15:52 This verse says it is the last trumpet (none to follow). It is the trumpet of 1 Thessalonians 4 that precedes the rising of all the dead (bodies).

It is clear to see that there will come a day when Christ will return for a harvest at the end of the age, with a voice, a shout, a trumpet (all familiar accompaniments of the coming of Deity, in judgment); which coming precedes the raising of the dead bodies from their graves.

What happens when they raise?
1Thessalonians 4:15-16 “And the dead in Christ will rise first.”

1Corinthians 15:22-23 Made alive, here, is analogous to being resurrected in body. Christ resurrected bodily as the firstfruits; we (the faithful from 1 Thessalonians 4:16) will follow at His coming. 1Corinthians 15:20-22

The resurrection of the evil is not expanded upon. We know they will rise from John 5:28-9. And we know that their fate is an eternal destruction: 2Thessalonians 1:9. When will this happen? At the same day (2 Thessalonians 1:10) of the rising of the righteous dead, only second as the dead in Christ rise first. There is no bodily “redemption” (Romans 8:23) for the unrighteous.

After the righteous raise
1Thessalonians 4:17 “…we shall always be with the Lord.”

What about those righteous who have not died?
1Corinthians 15:51 “…We shall not all sleep (die physically), but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” This changing of the living righteous, which also must happen to the resurrected righteous, is said to occur “at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52) and the raising of the dead.

Philippians 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who (when He comes) will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

1Corinthians 15:54 ‘So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”‘ 1Corinthians 15:26

After the resurrection of the dead, the changing of their bodies, and their rising to meet the Lord in the air.
1Corinthians 15:24 “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” What kingdom? The kingdom He came preaching was near. The kingdom that was established in Acts 2. See Mark 9:1 and other articles on this site.

1Corinthians 15:28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

What happens to the earth?
2Peter 3:9-12 All of this destruction will happen in the day of the Lord, the same time as the resurrection, changing, etc. When Jesus comes, the earth is finished.

Other thoughts
Matthew 13 – parable of wheat and tares mentions nothing but a harvest at the end of the age when Jesus and His angels come.
1 Corinthians 15
Vv 1 to 11: Jesus died and was resurrected, and there were many witnesses to these facts.
Vv 12 to 19: The consequences if there is no resurrection.
Vv 20 to 34: But Christ was resurrected. And He is merely the first one. Everyone else will follow.
Vv 35 to 50: But with what kind of body are the dead resurrected? Though it be physical, it will be spiritual.
Vv 51 to 58: The dead will be resurrected incorruptible and the living will be changed to put on incorruptible.
This entire chapter is about the resurrection of the dead. Even if we say vv1 to 50 are about the resurrection, the balance is certainly related and cannot be separated to invent some sort of doctrine of a rapture.

1Thessalonians 3:13 “so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” If the resurrection is about the physical body’s being brought back from the dead, then this verse seems to speak of the bringing of the spirits of those dead bodies from the heavenly realm by Christ when He returns. The spirit will be reunited with the resurrected body, and the whole will be changed.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
V6 “since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you” is equated to vv8 & 9 “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power”. In other words, “tribulation” is the same thing as “flaming fire”, “vengeance”, and punishment which is “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” not some sort of temporal, temporary, period of time on earth.

This seems to be the body of scriptural teaching. Hopefully we can see that none of this speaks of any of the trappings of premillennial doctrine. Study it for yourself.