Moses returned from atop Mount Sinai, radiating the glory of God. As soon as he arrived in the camp, he “assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel.” This Torah portion takes its name from the first Hebrew word of Exodus 35:1, “vaykhel.” The verb kahal (קהל) means “to assemble,” so vaykhel (ויקהל) means “and he assembled.”
The descent of Moses at the end of the previous Torah portion alludes to the second coming of the Messiah. Just as Moses assembled Israel at the time of his appearing, when Messiah comes again, He will gather together the assembly of Israel from the four corners of the world. Then the whole nation of Israel will be called the assembly of Messiah.
This concept helps us understand the meaning behind the New Testament word “church.”
As a noun, the Hebrew word kahal means “assembly,” “congregation,” or “community.” The Torah refers to the community of the tribes of Israel as the kahal, i.e., “the assembly,” a common Bible term denoting all Israel. The word kahal passes into the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible as ekklesia (ἐκκλησία). The Greek word ekklesia appears throughout the Greek version of the Old Testament to speak of the assembly of Israel or an assembly of worshippers in the Temple. However, when it occurs in the New Testament, English translators rarely render it as “assembly.” Inexplicably, English translators substitute the theologically charged term “church.”
The “church” translation of ekklesia has misled us. Because of the double standard in translation, it appears to most readers that “the church” first appeared in the New Testament, completely disconnected with the Old Testament and the nation of Israel. After all, the word “church” never appears before the book of Matthew. In reality, the word “church” does not appear in the Bible at all. By translating ekklesia as “church,” our English Bibles have led us to believe that “the church” is a new institution outside of Judaism and the Jewish people.
All of this information about the original languages implies that the New Testament church needs to be understood in continuity with the Jewish people, not as a disjuncture. In the broad sense, the church is the nation of Israel. The Messiah will gather all Israel into His assembly. In the narrow sense, the church is a subset of the larger assembly of Israel, consisting of believers who have identified Yeshua as the Messiah and cast their allegiance with Him.