About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Meaning Of Meeting Together

"Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).  I suggest that there might be more to this verse than what we think.   


To 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.     


The 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 earth.  


The 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? 


Our 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 "synagogue."  Before 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. 


When 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.  


I 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.  

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