The Only Church That Is Saved—True Jesus Church (I)
H.H. Ko—Heidelberg, Germany
In the end-time, God has established the True Jesus Church as the Ark of
the Last Days. Thus begins the great work of the dragnet before the
close of this age (cf. Mt 13:47–50). God’s chosen people within the ark
are convinced of the one true church—True Jesus Church, but by-standers
together with the “mixed multitude” (cf. Ex 12:38; Num 11:4) who benefit
from their shallow acquaintance with the True Jesus Church, would often
cast doubts or put forth grilling questions. Those “beside the walls and
in the doors” who only seem
to be God’s people (cf. Ezek 33:30–33) behave likewise. Worse still
are the modern Pharaohs who do not know the True Jesus Church; they
slander, attack, persecute and oppress her, simply because she is the
only saved church.
The notion that the True Jesus Church is the only church that is saved
elicits diametrically dichotomous responses—from firm-believers with a
deep understanding of the church to persecutors resolved to wipe her off
from the face of the earth (Acts 22:22–24; 23:12–24). We shall pursue
this subject by first defining “church” based on its etymological and
categorical meanings, followed by a Bible-based examination of the
spiritual essence and characteristics of the church, and hence discern
the church’s uniqueness. This then forms the yardstick for scrutinizing
the essential nature of the True Jesus Church, giving us an insight into
her exclusiveness and her place in the history of salvation.
Definition of “church”
Modern understanding of the word “church” embraces a multiplicity of
use. Sometimes it alternatively refers to the body of believers or the
physical building used for worship; sometimes it refers to a local
organized assembly, e.g., “Singapore Church,” “Malaysia Church,” “Taiwan
Church” etc. There are times when it is appropriated for denominational
bodies, such as “Presbyterian Church,” “Lutheran Church,” and “Anglican
Church.” The word “church” is sometimes even associated with certain
systems of beliefs within Christendom, e.g., “Roman Catholic Church,”
“Protestant Christian Church,” “Eastern Orthodox Church.” But how should
“church” be defined? We shall approach it in two ways: firstly we take a
peek into the etymological meaning, and secondly we scan the Bible for
every instance of use to arrive at its categorical meanings.
It is common knowledge that the word “church” used in the New Testament
for the gathering of Christians originates from the Greek εκκλησια
(ekklesia). This compound word concatenates the preposition εκ (ek),
which means “from” or “out of,” and the verb καλέω (kaleo), which means “to call.” Hence the etymology of εκκλησια
(church, ekklesia) shows that “church” means “an assembly called out
from the multitudes.” On this basis, the meaning is extended to “a
convened assembly,” “a gathering.”
(a) Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures
Two different words are used in the Hebrew Old Testament (OT) Scriptures
to refer to the assembly of God’s people. The first is
קָהֵל (qahal), translated as
εκκλησια (ekklesia) in the Septuagint (LXX). Qahal means “to let out a
sound” and gradually evolved to mean “to call out,” “to summon.” In the
OT, it first appeared in Isaac’s blessing of Jacob: “…that you may be an
assembly of peoples” (Gen 28:3). This was a prophetic blessing, as the
“assembly of peoples” would only be realized through Jesus’ blood (Gal
Subsequent use of קָהֵל (qahal)
refers to the assembly of Israel, God’s chosen people. Examples include:
• “assembly of the LORD” (Deut 23:1–3)
• “assembly of God” (Neh 13:1)
• “assembly/great company” (Ezek 16:40,
17:17), which is also the assembly
of those who responded to God’s calling (Ex 35:1; Num 16:26; Deut
9:10, 31:30; 1 Kgs 8:14).
Sometimes the term is also used to describe a specific gathering (Jer
44:15; Ezra 10:1).
(qahal) is not used exclusively for the assembly of Israel. In Ezekiel,
it almost always refers to Gentile nations and armies (cf. Ezek 16:40,
17:17, 23:24,46–47, 26:7, 27:27,34, 32:3,22–23, 38:4,7,13,15).
The other term used in the Hebrew Bible is
עֵדָה (edah). This word appears later than
קָהֵל (qahal) and is first used in
the context of the Passover (Ex 12:3). It specifically refers to the
Israelites when they were assembled—“the congregation of Israel” (Ex
12:3,6,19,47, 16:1,2,9,22). People who were not ethnic Israelites would
not be referred to as עֵדָה (edah)
(Num 31:12). Hence the Septuagint translates the term as συναγωγή
(synagogue), the same as in “synagogue of the Jews” in the New Testament
(Mt 10:17; Lk 12:11; Acts 6:9; Jas 2:2).
(b) New Testament (NT) Era
God wants to “save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:21) and since “the
children have partaken of flesh and blood, He … likewise shared in the
same” (Heb 2:14). God “became flesh” (Jn 1:14), “manifested in the
flesh” (1 Tim 3:16), and “according to the flesh” was born a Jew “of the
seed of David” (Rom 1:3). So He started off calling only Israelites as
in ancient times, going only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”
(Mt 10:6, 15:24). Hence He went into the midst of the “congregation
[עֵדָה (edah)] of Israel,”
synonymous with “synagogue (συναγωγή) of the Jews.”
“Synagogue” is a compound word comprising the preposition
σύν (syn—with, together)
and the verb
(ag’o—to lead, to bring, to induce). Hence the word specifically refers
to the place where Jews gather for worship as an assembly of people
drawn together by God.
In the New Testament Bible, συναγωγή (synagogue) was:
1) a place where Jesus worshipped, ministered, preached, taught,
performed signs and drove out demons (Mt 4:23, 9:35; Mk 1:21,23,29,39,
3:1, 6:2; Lk 4:15–16, 43–44; Jn 6:59, 18:20). It was also a place where
the Jews opposed Jesus and plotted to kill Him (Lk 4:20–28, 6:6–11,
2) a place where chosen people under the OT gathered (Acts 15:21; Jas
2:2). It was also a place where scribes and Pharisees showed their
hypocrisy (Mt 6:2,5, 23:6; Mk 12:39; Lk 11:43).
3) a place where Jesus’ disciples were beaten, accused and judged by the
unbelieving Jews (Mt 10:17, 23:34; Mk 13:9; Lk 12:11, 21:12; Acts 22:19,
4) the base camp of those who opposed salvation through Jesus during the
apostolic era (Acts 6:9, 9:2).
5) the prime evangelism ground where Paul and later missionaries
preached during their outreach (Acts 9:20, 13:5,14,43, 14:1, 17:1,10,17,
18:4,7,19,26, 19:8, 24:12).
6) what Jesus described as the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9, 3:9) at
the end of the apostolic era.
When Jesus had completed His earthly ministry, He was “lifted up from
the earth” and drew all peoples to Himself (Jn 3:14, 8:28, 12:32; Acts
2:33, 5:31). After the downpour of the promised Holy Spirit on the day
of Pentecost, He began to extend His “call” to everyone in the world who
belongs to Him (Mk 1:14–20; Mt 11:28–30; Jn 4:42, 7:37). Before His
ascension, Jesus entrusted this commission to His disciples (Acts 1:8;
2:39; 1 Thess 2:4), and so the NT church emerged after Pentecost.
Categorical meanings of “church” based on the NT Greek Scriptures are as
1) Usual political gathering (Acts 19:39) and also common gathering of
people (Acts 19:32,41).
2) Assembly of Israelites, particularly a gathering for religious
purposes (Acts 7:38; Heb 2:12).
3) Mostly referring to Christian churches in the NT time.
a. Gathering of Christians in various regions
e.g., “the church that is in their house” (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col
4:15; Phm 2); churches in diaspora, e.g., the church in Jerusalem (Acts
5:11, 8:1), Antioch (Acts 13:1, 15:22), Caesarea (Acts 18:22),
Thessalonica (1 Thess 1:1), Corinth (1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1), Cenchrea
(Rom 16:1), churches of the Gentiles (Rom 16:4), churches in Galatia (1
Cor 16:1), churches in Asia and Macedonia (2 Cor 8:1), churches of God
(1 Cor 11:16).
b. A local church as an organized unit or its members.
Hence the “church” could hear and even fear (Acts 5:11). She could also
receive guests, send missionaries or workers, and make intercession
(Acts 15:3,4,22, 12:5).
c. The universal church, commonly termed “church of God” (1 Cor 10:32,
11:22, 15:9; 2 Cor 1:1), “church of Christ,” “churches of Christ” (Rom
16:16). In other words, the church is seen as a whole (Acts 9:31; 1 Cor
d. In the spiritual dimension, the church is pre-existent and perfected,
that is, “the church in heaven” (Eph 1:4; Heb 12:22; Gal 4:26; Rev
12:1). From such a perspective, the church is the body of Christ and
Christ, who fills all in all, is the head of the church (Eph 2:22,
3:7,11,21, 5:25; Col 1:18–25).
In summary, the etymological and categorical meanings of the word
“church” derive from God “calling” His people and “gathering” His
children together since the OT times. God chose Abraham in antiquity to
establish an “assembly” (qahal) of many nations. This promise was
proclaimed through Isaac’s blessing to Jacob. It was first fulfilled in
the “holy assembly” of the Israelites in the OT. After the exodus,
ethnic Israel as a whole was known as “edah.” From Moses to Jesus, God's
election was limited to ethnic Israelites. Hence “qahal” and “edah” were
used interchangeably. Subsequently, Jews who were called to Christ
adopted the term “qahal,” translated “ekklesia” in Greek, which became a
specific reference to the Christian “church.” The Jews who chose to
remain under the OT law retained the word “edah” for their assembly,
thus its Greek translation specifically refers to the Jewish synagogue.
In the NT era, Jesus, the Word incarnate, completed the universal
calling of God's people. This work was later carried on by His
Now the word “ekklesia” no longer falls into a general social and
political context. Today, we can go straight to the Scriptures to
understand the true meaning of this term, which is: “The church of God
which He has purchased (or redeemed) with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Spiritual essence of the Church
As we study the church’s definition, we realize that “church” can be
understood at many levels. Historically, we can look at the church
within time and space; spiritually, we can look at the heavenly church.
This article weighs more on investigating the spiritual essence of the
church, as it lies at the core of the “only saved church” understanding.
For our discussion, the Bible’s teachings on the spiritual essence of
the church can be summed up into three aspects:
Within Eternity, the Church Has God’s Pre-existence
In the eternal spiritual realm that surpasses human rationality, the
church is a reality to God even before creation. The church is chosen in
Christ long before the creation of the world. Regarding this
pre-existence of the church in eternity, Paul attested: “…just
as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we
should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined
us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself” (Eph 1:4–5). When the
church was realized in the world, the apostles remarked: “But we speak
the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained
before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor 2:7).
We see then, that from eternity, the pre-existent church based on God’s
absolute foreknowledge and grace, is a reality in the pre-existent
Christ. When the church is realized in the world, her membership
includes NT believers saved by grace, as well as OT saints who “obtained
a good testimony through faith, [and] did not receive the promise” (Heb
11:39). This is “Jerusalem above” in Pauline terms and “heavenly
Jerusalem” attested to in Hebrews.
From Ages Past, the Church Is the Mystery Hidden in Christ
Before God was manifested in the flesh, Christ was already chosen by God
from a spiritual perspective, although He who partook of flesh and blood
had not yet appeared in history. Just as Peter said:
“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” (1 Pet
This is a mystery “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of
men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and
prophets” (Eph 3:5). Paul likewise had deep insight into this mystery,
which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created
all things: “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body,
and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph
3:6). The cross of Jesus not only reconciles humanity with God, so that
man can rejoice in His presence (Rom 5:8–11), it also breaks down the
wall of enmity between the Jews and Gentiles, reconciling “them both to
God in one body” (Eph 2:16).
As the teaching of the cross clearly indicates, the church embodies the
mystery hidden in Christ and hence, manifests both the horizontal and
vertical aspects of the cross. Vertically, the church reaches towards
heaven to God and therefore, she possesses the consistency and integrity
from God (unity); horizontally, she traverses nationalities and thus has
a universal character (catholicity). Also, having been cleansed by the
precious blood of Jesus, she is characterized by holiness (Eph 5:26–27,
Paul explains in 2 Timothy 1:9–10: “who has saved us and called us
with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His
own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time
began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus
Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to
light through the gospel.”
The church presents the “unity,” “catholicity” and “holiness” in Christ.
This is the very “eternal life which God … promised before time began”
(Tit 1:2), showing that the church embodies the mystery hidden in
At Pentecost, the Church Was Founded in History Through the Promised
Before He redeemed and established the NT church, Jesus had announced:
“on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not
prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). Here the “rock” (petra) is to be
differentiated from Peter’s name, “stone” (Petros). Materially, a rock
can be built upon for a house or hewn into for a tomb and is sought
after as a refuge when great calamity comes at the end of the world (Mt
7:25, 27:51,60; Mk 15:46; Rev 6:15–16). Spiritually, “this rock”
specifically refers to Jesus, just as Paul says, “that Rock was Christ”
(1 Cor 10:4; cf. Rom 9:33; 1 Pet 2:8).
The apostolic church is established solely on the redeeming blood of
Jesus Christ. Through efficacious baptism, the blood of Christ brings
about remission of sins. Baptism’s efficacy, in turn, comes from the
power of the promised Holy Spirit, as John testifies: “This is He who
came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water
and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is
truth… And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the
water, and the blood; and these three agree as one” (1 Jn 5:6–8).
Before Pentecost, Jesus sent His disciples “just as the Father sent the
Son.” He has also gave them authority: “And when He had said this, He
breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you
forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins
of any, they are retained’” (Jn 20:22–23). Moreover, before Jesus was
taken to heaven, He entrusted His disciples with the great commission of
preaching the gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15–18; Acts 1:8).
When Pentecost came, the disciples who had gathered in one place to pray
in one accord received the Holy Spirit that God promised some eight
hundred years before. Thus began a new chapter in the history of God’s
kingdom. Salvation through the rebirth of water and spirit had been
initiated and the NT church was realized among men:
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but
fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”
Since the church has the Lord Jesus as her Rock and cornerstone and the
apostles and prophets, who preached the truth of salvation, as her
foundation, she is characterized by “apostolicity,” which is her
heritage of the historical founding by the promised Holy Spirit.
[To be continued…]