The Temporary Ekklesia Theory is generally the work of Jack and Kay Pelham. It sits atop the foundation, however, of what is generally called “Preterism”, which is the understanding that most or all of Bible prophecy was fulfilled in the past. A large body of work already exists to establish the theory of Preterism, and for all those authors, we are very grateful. Where the Temporary Ekklesia Theory differs from Preterism is that it includes amongst the fulfilled prophecies the literal event at which the ekklesia (wrongly called “church”) was “caught up” (often referred to as “raptured”) to be with Jesus in heaven, and there to remain with him forever.
Preterists seem generally divided as to the interpretation of these events, but many, it seems, interpret the catching up to have been some sort of a “spiritual” event, at the end of which, the people remained on the earth and were thenceforward the official “kingdom” of God on the earth. After having briefly accepted this idea myself some years ago, for lack of any better idea, I found myself continually troubled by one outstanding fact: “The Church” today is void of the victories, power, and glory that we witness in the scant accounts we have in the Bible.
Let me interject at this point a sadly-necessary defense of my last statement. A great many people are in the habit of using the poor examples of the churches in Corinth and Galatia as being typical of the entire ekklesia. That is, they cite the very letters that were written to demand immediate repentance and to warn of the danger should that repentance fail, and they use them to justify a lack of such repentance today! They completely miss the exemplary status of congregations such as in Thessalonica, where they were lauded for their maturity, love, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. The accounts tell us that Jesus was indeed leading, and that he empowered the ekklesia through his indwelling and miraculous works of the Holy Spirit.
This is clearly not happening today—regardless of how many people claim to have the indwelling, and even the miraculous abilities. If they are indwelt as before, why do they not achieve the same results?
With this puzzle naggingly unsolved, it seemed to me to come down to a matter of the reliability of the scriptures. That is, if I was indeed reading promises that God would always lead and correct and discipline and strengthen, then why was the church in my generation so aimless, incorrigible, undisciplined, and weak? Was God no longer faithful? Or was it, rather, that I (and practically everyone else) were suffering from unrealistic expectations based upon a misunderstanding of the texts?
Of the two choices (that men were in error, or that God is no longer faithful), the first seemed much less troubling. Indeed, if God’s nature had changed, we could very well be in incurable trouble! But what if we had all been caught up in a massive wave of errant popular opinion and hearsay, and had been collectively misinterpreting the scriptures such that we misunderstood the nature and timing of what had been prophesied? In that case, the truth would still be the truth, and we could simply correct our understanding of it accordingly. This was, in my mind, much to be preferred to the idea that God had failed to maintain control of the kingdom/church (which is what I had believed I was a member of), or that God got mad and quit, or that something else equally troubling had happened.
This investigation is exceedingly difficult on account of the obvious fact that the scriptures give nothing even close to a full accounting of what was taught and practiced in the First Century ekklesia. Yes, I’m quite aware that most churches, even though they won’t print it in their official doctrines, teach more or less that the scriptures are “complete”, that “we’ve been given everything we need”, that if it’s not in the Bible, we must not really need to know it, etc. In fact, many go so far as to claim that God somehow “tests” us by putting us in a situation where certain questions would arise in the practice of church, and yet the answers to those questions were simply not included in the Bible. This notion quickly breaks down, however, when one imagines a denizen of the First Century ekklesia asking an apostle a question and being refused an answer on the grounds that God specifically didn’t want to give them any information on the subject! (Several of the epistles seem to have been written expressly to answer questions!) Indeed, we are encouraged somehow to believe that God, in his wisdom, knows that it will be “good for us” not to understand the the tenets and facts of our very own religion!
Because the record is so scant, the best that can be done is to try to arrange the remaining pieces of the puzzle in such a way as to paint a plausible, if unprovable, picture of what might have happened. This is a regrettable and yet unavoidable reality for us all. Indeed, even for those who believe that the church today is still under God’s control and leadership, they can find in the Bible not one hint of a prophecy explaining the current state of the church. Nowhere are we told that in subsequent generations, God’s ekklesia would be fractured into thousands of vying competitor groups, that it would be abused by a great many leaders for personal and political gain, that the members would be no more righteous than the unchurched (as reliable survey statistics show), and that somehow, this was “OK” and was part of God’s wise plan. Thus would anyone trying to defend the present situation be faced with the same insufficient data set that I have had to work with.
In short, the difference between my position and that of so many others is that, in my view, this present status of what is called God’s church demands explanation. To neglect that investigation, in my view, would be irresponsible and unbecoming a person who has subscribed to the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. Others, meanwhile, are content not to examine the issue at all, and even to lie, exaggerate, and speculate in defense of the status quo. When others do investigate it, it is often with a view toward condemning all the other churches and promoting their own as superior—as the “one and only true church”. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, their investigations seem to stop after considering what is wrong with everybody else; they do not stop the presses to figure out their own church’s failures and mysteries.
Work in Progress
I hesitated to launch this website incomplete, yet it seemed a waste of irreplaceable time to spend years completing it first. Besides that, I’m hoping to find help in this investigation, so keeping it private seemed antithetical to that end. I hope the visitor can pardon its scant beginnings. The “big picture” of the Temporary Ekklesia Theory is the result of painstaking research we have done. What remains, therefore, is to document that research for the reader, showing evidences and arguments and proofs as available.
The commenting feature of this website has been disabled for a few reasons. I am, however, interested in dialog—especially when it can be published for the benefit of others. This way, since my time is limited, I won’t be investing hours in a conversation that nobody else will ever see. If you have a comment, correction, idea, or criticism, feel free to contact me through the Contact Page. And if you don’t mind your correspondence being posted, please let me know. (Don’t worry, I’ll ask before I post anything publicly.) Please understand, however, that time is my most precious (and unrenewable) resource. I may or may not be able to get back to you in a reasonable period!