Servants' News

Jan/Feb 2003

Church Buildings

by Al Van Dyk

(Mr. Van Dyk has written numerous Bible-based booklets and tracts. His literature list is available from Servants’ News [order CALLIT] or directly from him: Christian Action League; P.O. Box 1035, Bella Vista, CA 98008.)

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?’”
(Isa 66:1)

 

For the first fifteen hundred years of human history there is not the slightest indication of a building of any form in which to meet and worship God. Adam and Even communed with God in a relationship of innocence and holiness in the out of doors in the Garden of Eden. Enoch “walked church buildingwith God” (Gen 5:24) without having a religious building to go to. Abraham, the great man of faith and father of all who live by faith, related to God in a wonderful and pure relationship, without a religious building. Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, lived a long and rich life of intimate relationship with God without a religious building in which to meet and worship God. These early patriarchs and pillars of faith along with hundreds of thousands of God’s people for centuries never had any religious buildings. They lived in daily fellowship with God, relating to Him in the ordinary affairs and places of everyday life.

Then the children of Israel went to Egypt where they were slaves for hundreds of years. When they came out of the darkness of pagan Egypt, in their ignorance of not knowing how to relate to God in a personal way, God taught His people to relate to Him through the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a portable tent and a temporary means by which the people could be aware of the presence of God among them. Such a physical structure was only necessary because of Israel’s ignorance of God due to their many years in paganism. Those were dark and pagan days. We need to go back to the ways before Egypt, when people related to God in purer and more personal relationships.

Both the tabernacle and the temple were temporary structures for a limited time and purpose in the history and development of God’s people. They served as places for animal sacrifice for sin until Christ the final and complete sacrifice came. Even when the temple stood in Jerusalem as a place for sacrifice and offerings to God, most of the people lived a great distance away and they related to God daily without relying on a building in which to worship.

The tabernacle and the temple were temporary physical structures representing the presence of God until the actual reality of God’s presence came to dwell among us in Christ. God did not initiate the idea of building the temple. It came from David and Solomon and then God gave the detailed plans because this was what the people wanted (2Sam 7:1–7).

Now that Christ, the perfect, complete and final sacrifice for our sins, has come, we no longer need the tabernacle or the temple in which to offer sacrifices to God. God’s Word, the Bible, says we the people of God, believers in Jesus Christ, are the temples of God where Christ dwells by the Holy Spirit in us (1Cor 3:16, 2Cor 6:16; 1Pet 2:5).

The idea of having religious buildings throughout the land for people to go to find and relate to God comes from pagan Babel and pagan Babylon.

Babel

Notice the similarities between Babel in Genesis 11:2–9 and churches today.

The people settled in one place (Gen 11:2) instead of, “filling the earth” (Gen 1:28), and as the New Testament tells us to do, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News” (Mark 16:5). Christians are meeting together in the comfort of church buildings instead of going out into the world to confront sinners with the good news of forgiveness.

church building…come let us make brick… (Gen 11:3).

Here we see two things: 1) human resolve to do their own thing instead of resting in God and just doing what He tells us to do, which is usually easier and always better; 2) the people hunted in Genesis 10:9 and became the servants/slaves of Nimrod, making bricks for his city/kingdom (Gen 10:10). Today people are slaves of religious systems, working and paying for church buildings, etc. Many people are in bondage to man-made religion which is difficult versus Jesus’ way which is humble, restful and easy (Matt 11:28–30).

And they had brick for stone… (Gen 11:3b).

Babel was made out of man-made human products instead of God-made natural things; made out of the things of the earth instead of heavenly things. Babel is the product of the kingdoms of men versus the kingdom of God. Physical church buildings versus the spiritual body of Christ creates an attitude of material, earthly and passing values instead of heavenly and eternal values. There’s a mystery here. The mystery is that religious people who do not really know and follow God spiritually prefer to make physical man-made religious buildings instead of allowing God to dwell in them and live by His life within. We gravitate toward what we really are, mere temporary physical beings or eternal sons of God, the temporary kingdoms of men and this world or the eternal kingdom of God. The bodies of true Christians are the temples of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19).

“Let us build a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4).

People still erroneously try to reach God through physical towers, physical church buildings, sometimes with steeples reaching toward heaven like Babel.

church buildingGod is not found in a religious place any more than He is found anywhere else. (John 4:21) Jesus said, “…true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23) The Spirit of God can and does reach people anywhere if hearts are open, honest and really ready to come to Jesus Christ for salvation.

While people build and attend church buildings to find God, the Bible tells us of a better way. The better way is: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). God inside of you, not in a physical building. The same wonderful truth is taught in John 15:5 and Galatians 2:20.

And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4).

Notice that this is in direct disobedience to Genesis 1:28 and Mark 16:5. This is an example of trying to establish central control over all mankind through the use of a central, religious building. The building was to be famous—there would be “nothing else like it”. But this is a man trusting in self instead of trusting and obeying God. Trusting in man brings a curse (Jer 17:5) but trusting in God brings a blessing (Prov28:25).

“And from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Gen 11:8). God cursed the Babel project by making different languages so the people could not understand each other. Their communication sounded like “babel” to each other. Just as God scattered the people abroad in Genesis 11 to fulfill His command (Gen 1:28) so He is using confused and imperfect churches to accomplish His great commission (Mark 16:15) today. However now in these last days God wants to do a higher and better work than ever before. God wants us to come to Him through the Living Lord Jesus, not a dead religious building.

Babylon

Babel was the beginning of Babylon. Babel and Babylon are the same words in Hebrew and they mean “confusion” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary 894). Just as Babel and Babylon were places of confusion, so churches are confused today. Churches are in confusion because of different theological doctrines and thus they do not understand each other, and their confusion prevents people from understanding the truth of God. Theologians and seminary trained priests and ministers and their institutions and “churches” are usually a hindrance rather than an asset to the cause of Christ. The gospel is compromised by religious systems and religious buildings because they stand in the way of people finding Jesus in a personal, powerful and direct way. While it is true that many people come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ through compromised religion, we should press in for the highest and best relationship and understanding that God has for us, a relationship direct and pure with Him, free from the influence of Babel/Babylon.

Babylon was known for her elaborate temples, a continuation of Babel’s tower. The temples of Babylon were beautiful structures but without the truth of God. They were deceptive and false religious structures as are most “church” buildings today. Church buildings can look and feel “impressive”, but are substitutes for a vibrant living relationship with Jesus Christ.

Big religious building
For centuries, religious buildings have been expensive and impractical. High towers provide little usable space, but simply look “impressive”—reminiscent of Babel’s “tower whose top is in the heavens” (Gen 11:4).

But it gets worse. Babylon became a satanic center for the occult, for demons and witchcraft. Many of the wicked teachings and practices of pagan Babylon were taken over by the Catholic Church and mixed with Christianity resulting in a deceptive and corrupt religion that claims to be “Christian”. This ungodly mixture of paganism and truth has confused millions and persecuted true Christians throughout the centuries.

The book of Revelation contains more references to a later Babylon that seeks to be wealthy and control the nations in opposition to preaching the true gospel and worshiping the true God. Notice:

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Rev 14:6–8).

The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement (Rev 17:4–6).

A woman often symbolizes a church in the Bible, and this one is again interested in wealth and persecutes the true believers. Babylon will be destroyed when Jesus returns, on “the day of God” (2Pet 3:12). God’s explicit instructions regarding Babylon are, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Rev 18:4).

High Places

The principle of Babel’s religious building to find God continued throughout Old Testament history with pagan people who built and worshipped their false gods in religious structures usually located on hills or other elevated places and therefore, the name, “high places”. Israel borrowed the idea from its pagan neighbors and also had “high places”. This is where Israel practiced a mixture of worship to the pagan god, Baal, and to the true God, Yahweh. The principle of “high places” continues today in this New Testament time in the form of “church” buildings where people go to try to find and experience God. Both true and false Christians meet together in religious buildings they erroneously call “churches”.

The prophets of Israel condemned the high places (Jer 17:1–3; 32:35; Ezek 6:3; Amos 7:9). Isaiah’s message concerning religious buildings is that God is not found in religious places erected by men (Isa 66:1). God wants us to come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, and Jesus calls us to personally follow Him, not a church organization or a church building (Matt 11:28–30).

Synagogues

The practice of building synagogues in the cities of Israel after her Babylonian captivity was learned in pagan Babylon, and is continued today all over the world by Jews. God never told His people to build these man-made structures even though Jesus did sometimes reveal Himself in the synagogues. God is sometimes found in compromised situations that are not His highest and best for His people.

The Roman Catholic Church

This church is a departure from the original teachings of Jesus Christ and a mixture of compromised Christianity and Babylonianism. This false religion began building churches about 300 years after Christ. These religious buildings incorrectly called “churches” were beautiful structures for the eye to behold but they were neither churches of God according to the Bible nor were they places where God abode (2Sam 7:5–6). Religious leaders tell people to attend the religious church buildings but God’s Word, the Bible, says nothing of the kind. The Catholic Church attracts people to their compromised version of Christianity by mixing the teachings of the Bible with whatever pagan background people come from. Thus it is no problem for Catholics to have Babylonian type religious buildings and to have Babylonian teachings and practices.

Protestant Churches

Protestant Churches are products of the Reformation, and are a partial correction of Roman Catholicism. The Reformation only corrected some of the false teachings of Catholicism. While Protestant churches came to realize the wonderful truth of salvation by grace through faith, they still hang on to many of the traditions of Catholicism and ancient paganism.

One of the strongholds of Babel/Babylon/Catholic Church is the idolatrous practice of having religious buildings to supposedly meet God instead of relating to Him daily and moment by moment. Church organizations and buildings become religious control centers, a two class system where the “clergy” control the “laity”. These words are not found in the Bible, but are part of Nicolaitanism (Rev 2:6).

Church Buildings

The Bible pattern for church meeting places is in the ordinary homes of believers (Acts 20:20; Rom 16:5; Col 4:15; Phil 2). The early Christians related to God in natural everyday living situations, not religious buildings like the pagans. Special larger meetings involving several home churches can meet in rented halls or buildings (Acts 19:9). Avoid religious property which leads to church idolatry.

women outside
The Apostle Paul once spoke to a group of women who gathered to worship at a river (Acts 16:13)—similar to a park of our day.

God wants you to relate to Him in a personal and vital relationship and with other believers in every day situations and homes of people. However, in the fourth century, Christianity became paganized under Rome and religious buildings became a way and place to worship God, and this wrong practice is with us to this day. Millions of religious people still think in terms of worshipping God at “church” buildings like the heathen Babylonians did.

Beautiful church buildings create a false spiritual atmosphere, a man-made awe or reverence, created by architecture, stained glass windows, etc. It is a false religious spirit, not the Holy Spirit of God. It is a substitute spirit for the Spirit of our true and living God. God wants you to relate to Him daily and moment by moment in a natural and living way through Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ didn’t have a preaching/teaching center and neither should we. Jesus never instructed anyone to build a church building and thus we have no basis for building them. Jesus rebuked Peter for wanting to build a religious structure. We should do as Jesus did and as he instructed us to do. We are told to go to people in the world to tell them the good news, not invite them to a church building (Mark 16:15).

Meeting in a larger than home sized building is not wrong in itself. Paul met in a rented hall in Ephesus where there were several home churches. It is having institutional type church meetings, whether large or small and either in a house or in another building that is wrong because they tend to take the place of a personal relationship with God and with His people. It is sometimes good to have large Christian meetings where several home churches come together for a special teaching, celebration or other occasion.

It’s the idea of God in a building at a physical address that’s wrong. We must know Jesus, walk with Him, and talk with Him everywhere and all the time, and going to a church building short circuits that personal relationship. Steeples, stained-glass, ornate designs and other architectural elements that make people think “God is here” are all false and need to be discarded. If a larger congregation needs a place to meet, and their own building is the only practical option, it should be no fancier than the members’ homes. God does not “live in the building”—it is a tool for the people.

Another problem with large church meetings is that some “gifted” brother will come along and try to take control—Nicolaitanism. Every home church must relate directly to the Lord (Master) Jesus. Don’t let some religiously ambitious brother or sister control the church you attend. Go directly to Jesus. Christian apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are proper and important (Eph 4:11–12), but they should not control the people as in Nicolaitanism, clergy ruling the people (Rev 2:6).

The time is coming soon when institutional church buildings will either be controlled or destroyed by the end-time adversary of true Christianity. Now is the time to prepare by meeting together in homes.

Jesus said, “…I will build my church…” (Matt 16:18). Jesus is doing just as He said He would do. Jesus Christ is building His pure and holy Church, His remnant people, who follow and obey Him, not the false prophets and false institutional church organizations and buildings of men. Don’t be a Roman Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Pentecostal, etc. (1Cor 1:12–13). Be a disciple of Jesus Christ; follow and obey the Lord (Master) Jesus not a religious leader or a church building.

Your body is the temple, dwelling place of Jesus by His Holy Spirit, not physical religious buildings of men (1Cor 6:19).

You are “in church” whenever and wherever two or more of you meet together in Jesus’ name. It is just as Jesus said in the following verse. “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them”. (Matt18:20).

The word church is from the Greek “ekklesia—a calling out… assembly…” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). We are called out of the world to be a people of God, following Jesus Christ and bringing others to Him; being a light for God in a dark world. We are a living church consisting of God’s called-out people, not an inanimate church building.

The True Church

Throughout all the errors and apostacy of church history beginning already in the first century God has had His pure and holy church, people not in the compromised religious institutions of men. It is one body, no divisions/denominations of men (1Cor 1:10–13). Christ alone is the Head of His pure Church (Eph 5:23).

people in a ring

All who really trust, follow, and obey Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Master) of their lives are part of the One Church which in the Bible is simply called “The Church” or “The Church of God”. The Church of God has a government referred to in Eph 4:11–12 and functions through Godly men referred to in Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5 and other places.

God gives supernatural power and abilities called “gifts” to His people (Rom 12:6–8; 1Cor 12:4–12). All Christians are priests or ministers (1Pet 2:5, 9) and all the people may participate as the Holy Spirit leads them (1Cor 14:26). Meeting places are in the ordinary homes of believers (Acts 20:20; Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:19; Col 4:15).

Remember these facts always

God lives in His people (1Cor 6:19), not in physical buildings. We Christians are the containers of God (2Cor 4:7). Christ is our lifeline (John 15:5), not “church” buildings. Christ—the life of God—is in you and you are in Him (John 14:20).

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24).

I appeal to you, true worshippers of God—true Christians! Put away the religious buildings of man. Worship God in spirit and truth. Follow Jesus Christ. Live by His life within you. Don’t accept a substitute. Live by the vital and dynamic life of Christ within you.

Warning: Babel/Babylon persecutes true Christians (Rev 17:4–5). Severe end-time persecution is coming against true Christians. Those whom the Devil cannot get by deception, he will try to get by persecution. Persecution will come from and through institutional churches.

What You Should Do Now

God’s instructions are very clear:

“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty” (2Cor 6:17–18).

“…Come out of her [Babylon], My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Rev 18:4).

“Come to Me [Yahshua-Jesus], all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28–30).

The way of man-made religion leads to death. Leave it.

Come to Jesus, not man-made religion and not a religious building. Trust in Jesus Christ to be saved (John 3:16). Follow Jesus for eternal life (John 10:29–30). Obey Jesus’ commandments (John 14:15). Remember the commandments of God are still in effect (Matt 5:17–19). Follow and obey Jesus Christ as the Lord, which means Master of your life (Acts 16:31).

Tell others the good news of salvation (Mark 16:15).

Meet together with one or more other sincere and true followers of Jesus (Heb 10:25; Matt 18:20).

 


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