About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Meaning Of Meeting Together
begin, we should remember that the book of Hebrews was written to first
century Christian Jews and thus it has a Jewish flavour.
So, to understand the book of Hebrews we should view its contents
as a first century Christian Jew would have viewed it.
To attempt to understand Hebrews, including the above verse,
through a 21st century western world lens is a mistake.
author referred to the "the Day" in this verse.
Most of us understand "the Day" to mean the period of
time that ends this age, culminating in the specific day Jesus returns to
author encouraged his readers to "not give up meeting together".
Most 21st century western world Christians probably understand
this instruction to mean that they should not stop attending church
meetings, but is that how a first century Christian Jew understood it?
English words "meeting together" are translated from the Greek
word "episynagoge" which is really a Hebrew word that migrated
into the Greek language. To a
Jew, any word associated with the Hebrew word "synago," as
"episynagoge" is, meant more than a place of worship called a
synagogues were erected as a place to worship, the word "synago"
often referred to the community of God's people where individuals in the
community were meant to live in harmonious and supportive relationships
with each other.
a first century Christian Jew read the instruction to not give up meeting
together (episynagoge) I'm sure he would have thought about attending
meetings. I also believe he
would have thought in terms of not forsaking the relationships with those
to whom he was joined in God's New Testament community, otherwise known as
the Body of Christ. That makes
sense because that would have been part of his traditional frame of
reference concerning "synago."
The word "encourage" in this verse is translated from the Greek word "parakaleo" which means "to be called alongside," as in being called alongside those to whom we are joined in Christian community, in harmonious and supportive relationships. It's within these relationships we find mutual support, encouragement, guidance, instruction, and whatever is needed at any given time. "Parakaleo" includes all of that. It has a much broader meaning than our English word "encourage" that is seen in the above version of the NIV Bible.
conclude that this verse might well be talking less about attending
meetings and more about being properly joined alongside those to whom
Jesus has called us in the Body of Christ.
This is especially important as the Day of the Lord draws near
because Scripture teaches that Christians will suffer hardship and
persecution from the anti-Christ culture in which they live as that day
approaches. Being properly
fitted together in the Community of Christ is one way God has ordained to
help us survive the hardships imposed upon us by the world in which we
live. This kind of Christian
community is what Chinese Christians have experienced for decades.
It's what Iranian Christians are experiencing right now.
It's what western world Christians must experience as our
anti-Christ culture makes it progressively more difficult for us to live.