“In the Greek New Testament [ecclesia] is used for the Church. The evangelists took it from classical Greek, where it means an Assembly. Literally it means ‘CALLED OUT.’ The famous Ecclesia in ancient Athens was a special Assembly of leading citizens, who were summoned or ˜called out” from time to time to decide on urgent matters of government. It usually met on the Pnyx Hill or the Acropolis. A herald with a scroll would ride on horseback through the beautiful streets of Athens, calling out the names of the councilors in the Ecclesia. As each man heard his own name, he would stop what he was doing and hurry to the meeting place on the hill.
“We might translate the word Ecclesia as ‘paged.’ In the old days before electronics, a page-boy would go through the lounges of a hotel, ˜calling out” the name of someone wanted at the desk. Today it is done on a P.A. system. Have you ever been paged at an airport? It gives you quite a shock to hear your own name booming out over the loud speakers! You feel everybody is looking at you, as you straighten your tie or pat your hair and set off proudly to meet the one who has ‘called you out.’
“The early Christians thought of themselves as having been paged, or ‘called out” by the Lord Jesus Christ, summoned to a special meeting with him. This shows very clearly in the Book of Revelation chapter 18, where after a powerful description of Babylon with all its wealth and corruption, the author reports: ‘I heard a voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. COME OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE!’ The early Christians believed that not merely had they chosen the Lord, but, incredible as it might seem, He had chosen them! The pagan world, symbolized by Babylon, was about to be destroyed; but to the Christians a voice was sounding on the celestial loud-speakers, ‘Come out of her, you, and you, and you; that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues’ (Revelation 18: 4)]. What a thrill! Those who responded to the summons, setting themselves apart and refusing to conform to the ways of a wicked and adulterous generation, were in the short term persecuted by the pagan world, even put to death, as their Master had been; yet they knew in their hearts that their beloved Lord had taken them to himself. The Christian Ecclesia grew rapidly, even during the period of the most intense persecution. After three hundred years, converts had been ‘called out’ from every corner of the Roman world, and a wonderful band they were! That was Christianity’s finest hour.
“[Now, however,] we have come to the point in history when the Old Christianity is moribund, and a New Christianity is taking its place. This New Christianity has not yet ‘jelled,’ so we cannot say in detail how it will develop. But I do know that if you and I are to belong to it, we shall have to begin by making a clean break with most of the attitudes and values of our western culture. We must become a New Ecclesia, called out from the world and dedicated to a truly Christian life. I do not mean that we must separate ourselves from the world in the sense of forming a closed community. Jesus himself said of his disciples: ‘I pray not that they should be taken out of the world, but that they should be kept from its evil.’ (John 17:15.) As members of the New Ecclesia we should live actively in the world, facing its trials and temptations, going to church, getting along with other folk, earning our living, and so on; but with a much greater sensitivity to the demands of our religion.
“Most people, I suppose, regard life as being so many years of time to be passed through as pleasantly as possible. But in the New Ecclesia we learn that we are not in this world just to pass the time. We are here for a divinely ordained purpose: which is, to qualify as citizens of the Lord’s heavenly city, the Kingdom of God, to become angels.This world is the anteroom of eternity, a School in which we are enrolled in order to train for angelhood. Unfortunately a large proportion of the students in this school do not take their studies very seriously! They have a lot of fun, join the correct clubs and fraternities, go to the dinners and dances; but when it comes to graduation day, they are totally unprepared.
“To express it in another way, our purpose in life is to be spiritually regenerated or ‘born again’ as children of God. (‘Except a man be born again,’ said Jesus to Nicodemus, ‘he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ [(John 3)]). By our first birth we are basically selfish, dominated by love of self and love of the pleasures of the world. Our major task is to remove these two loves to a subordinate position in our hearts, and become motivated instead by love to the Lord and the neighbour. From being ego-centric we must learn to become God-centric; from being concerned only with the things of this world, we must become supremely concerned with the things of heaven. The whole of our life here on earth should be geared to this process of regeneration. When at last we die and enter eternity, nothing will be asked about us at all, except this one vital question: to what degree are we regenerated or reborn as Children of God? Evidently, if we are to undertake membership of the New Ecclesia, we shall have to make some vital changes in the pattern of our living. Most of us must admit that a large part of our waking lives is wasted from the point of view of regeneration.
“The world today is very bad, and is getting worse. It is also very good, and getting better! We are at a turning point in human history. A new spirit is stirring, both within the churches and outside them. More and more people, young and old, are reacting against the sterile materialism of the age. The celestial loud-speakers are booming out from the clouds in the sky. Listen! Your name is being called! And mine! And others too. ‘Come out of her, my people,’ says the voice. Come out of the humdrum, mediocre, secular, complacent, self-centred life that most of you have been living up till now. Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from hence, touch no unclean thing [Isaiah 52: 11].
“Where is this New Ecclesia to assemble? On the top of a hill, of course. Which hill? The Pnyx or the Acropolis in Athens? No. Read from the Book of Revelation, chapter 21: ‘He carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain’ (a spiritual mountain, elevated high above the ordinary levels of life) and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. That is where our Assembly is to be held: in the NEW JERUSALEM. Eventually we shall find we are assembling there so often that we shall leave our present abode (our present level of life) and become permanent residents of the New Jerusalem, living to eternity in perfect peace and heavenly joy, near to the royal palace of the King of kings.
“The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of the city, and kings shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie: but they that are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21: 24-27)”
(from B. Kingslake, Out of This World. Lay-bys on the Road to Heaven (Evesham, Worc.: Arthur James Limited 1978, pp. 168ff.))