Let’s begin our study with a brief look back on the type of cloud and the pillar of light that was in place during a phase of the Old Testament Dispensation.
God appeared to His people in the midst of a pillar of cloud during the day, and in a pillar of light during the night. God did this to give them instructions through Moses, and directions as to if, when, and where they were to go on their journey to the Promised Land, here on Earth.
Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar/cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses (Ex. 33: 9 NASB).”
“And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day, and with a pillar of fire by night to light for them the way in which they were to go (Neh. 9: 12 NASB).”
“The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people (Ex. 13: 21: 22 NASB).”
During that period of the Old Testament dispensation, it was when the cloud/pillar hovered over the entrance of the Tabernacle (portable tent), that Moses would receive commands and instructions. It was by the movement of the cloud/pillar that the ancient Hebrews were told when to move and in which direction they were to head. It was when the cloud/pillar stopped, that they would stop and set up the Tabernacle (tent) and camp until the cloud/pillar moved again. The ancient Hebrews were NOT to move until they were led to do so by the cloud/pillar, but nor were they to delay once it did.
Groups of priest within the Tribe of Levi had been given specific assignments and functions to perform when setting up, dissembling, transporting, and reassembling the Tabernacle upon arriving at the next location in the timing and the plan of God.
The instructions that Moses received were also to be strictly followed if they were to experience the blessings for having done so.
During the forty punitive years in the Wilderness, the Hebrews were not always happy about the environment, the provisions, or geographical location that the cloud/pillar brought them. They mumbled and grumbled against God in a spirit of rebellion. There were times when they obeyed, and there were times when they did not obey the commands and instructions that Moses received. When they were obedient they were blessed, and when they were disobedient they suffered the consequences.
Here, in the dispensation of the Church Age, there are NO holy structures (tents-tabernacles/tangible temples) authorized by the Word of God. The “temple of God” here on Earth, during the dispensation of the Church Age, is the collective bodies of born again believers (1Cor. 2: 16) all over the world. Accordingly, Church Age believers do not " go to" a structure, but gather together to engage in corporate worship.
Such born again believers gather together in local assemblies to worship God in many different types of structures, such as in private homes, market places, and open air locations, as did the believers of the first century. In times of persecution, they gathered together in secret hiding places.
Contrary to what had taken place during the Old Testament dispensation, the type of structures (if any) are of no spiritual significance (Matt. 18: 20), here in the Church Age. The Lord being where His people gather together in His name for worship (Matt. 18: 20) has got nothing to do with type of structure (if any) that is involved/
The re-introduction of the Old Testament concepts of “holy” buildings with tangible altars attended by sacrificing priests is the work of Man-made religion. The last tangible “altar” that God acknowledged was the Roman cross on which the last (Hebrews 10) “sacrifice,” being the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ was made. The stated (1Cor. 11: 24, 25) purpose for celebrating the Lord's Supper (Communion) is to "bring into remembrance," and NOT to reproduce on or around an altar, the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were NO officiating priests from the Tribe of Levi present, nor were there any altars present when this ritual was introduced in the "upper room" where the Lord and His disciples gathered together to celebrate the Passover Meal. Although traditional teachings cite the Upper Room as being the place where several important events, before and after the crucifixion took place there, there is an ongoing dispute to exactly where this "upper room" actually was located in Jerusalem. Some sources identify it being in the area of King David's tomb, some say it was in an ancient Jewish synagogue. Note that none of the proposed sites have it in the Temple, being the "House of God" of that day and age.
There is no necessity, place, or Biblically ordained function in the celebration of the Lord's Supper for an altar or for an officiating priest in the Church Age in which we are presently living.
Man holds in high esteem (Luke 16: 15) what can be seen with the human eye and with what Man has introduced (or re-introduced) into the Christian Community. Among such things are the elegant cathedrals with all the idols, graven images, altars, pageantry, and religious activity that are the products of Man-made religion. What question that an advancing disciple will inevitably ask is how much of it (if any) has the approval of God (Luke 16: 15)?
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The type of cloud and the pillar of light that was associated with receiving instructions and directions for the believers in the Old Testament dispensation no longer exists. They have fulfilled its purpose (Matt. 5: 18), as did the Tabernacle (tent), the Temples, the altars, and the officiating priesthood of the Old Testament dispensation.
The instructions, the directions, and the primary mission (Matt. 28: 19, 20) of and for the people of God in the Church Age are all laid out in the pages of Scripture. As in the case of many religious leaders during the course of the Old Testament dispensation, "religious" leadership during the course of the Church Age has introduced, re-introduced, maintained, and elevated many traditions of men in place of, or in addition to, what the Word of God has authorized for the Church Age. The end result (Matt. 15:9), has been the same.
"But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines (what are only) the precepts of Men (Matt. 15: 9 NASB italics mine)."
"And He said to them, "You are those who justify (make yourselves right) in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God (Luke 16: 15 NASB italics mine)."
The only “light” that should be found emanating from the local assemblies of the Church Age is the light of truth that shines into the spiritual darkness of the devil’s world.
Sad to say, but some of “light” that comes from many of the pulpits in these days of apostasy (1Timothy 4: 1) is only contributing to the darkness (Matt. 6: 23) that the devil promotes.
“But the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some (believers) will fall away from the faith (accurate doctrine), paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1Timothy 4: 1 NASB italics mine).”
This "falling away" does NOT result in the loss of salvation, but can destroy the productivity, and therefore the quality, of one's post salvation spiritual life.
“But if your eye (spiritual discernment) is bad, your whole body (soul structure) will be full of darkness. If then the light you have is darkness, how great is the darkness (Matt. 6: 23 NASB italics mine).”
In the type of local assembly that God designed, this enlightenment of truth (Gospel Message/Bible Doctrine) is received by disciples when they are gathered together (Heb. 10: 25) to worship God in the way that He desires to be worshiped (John 4: 23).
Once received, this light shines through the advancing disciple illuminating the dark corners of the devil’s world as they go about their daily affairs.
If one is NOT gathering together where the truth is being provided, he/she cannot receive it. Like a runner in a torch relay race, one cannot pass along to others what he has not first received for himself.
A soul canbe a believer in the one true God, and yet be deceived (Gen. 3/James 1: 22). If deceived, he/she can be wandering around in the darkness can be unwittingly used by the devil to lead others into the same realm of darkness. This is the blind leading the blind scenario that the Lord spoke of in Matthew 15: 14.
The light or enlightenment of the t-r-u-e Gospel Message and accurate Bible Doctrine is what has taken the place of the type of cloud/pillar that the Old Testament believers experienced. Here in the Church Age, the Gospel Message is the New Testament point of contact, and accurate Bible Doctrine is the tangible means through which the post salvation spiritual life is revealed to us. The principle concerning the blessings vs. the consequences for responding (or not responding) to the timing, directions, instructions, and commands of the cloud/pillar that IS in place, has not changed.
Believing in the Gospel Message, encapsulated in John 3: 16, is what saves the soul and opens the door to the post salvation spiritual life.
Learning (2Pet. 3: 18) and applying (James 1: 22) Bible Doctrine is primarily the means through which God the Holy Spirit provides the advancing disciple with instructions, commandments, and directions for all that God has in mind for him/her to engage in throughout the course of his/her post salvation spiritual life. Some things are done in unison with fellow believers (Heb. 10: 25/1Cor. 11: 24, 25/Matthew 28: 19, 20) and some things are more individually (1Cor. 12) tailored, but with the common good of all in mind.
Like the followers of the cloud/pillar of the Old Testament, the cloud/pillar of the Church Age will instruct, command, give directions, as to when, where, and what, and how one is to "move," and when he/she is to remain in place in accordance with the plan and timing of God.
Under the light of t-r-u-e Gospel Message provides, one can identify all the false gospels. A false gospel is one that distorts or adds further requirements to either obtain or to retain eternal life. The insecurities and doubts that these false gospels generate plays right into the hand of the devil. The devil knows that he can do nothing to undo the saving work that has taken place in the spiritual life of a born again believer, but if he can raise such false ideas in the born again believer that salvation can be lost, he/she is not likely to advance very far along the road to spiritual maturity.
“But if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a (false) g-o-s-p-e-l contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed (Gal. 1: 8 NASB italics mine).”
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully (2Cor. 11: 4 NASB).”
This bearing (tolerating or worse, promoting) of false gospels beautifully, should be received as a stinging rebuke, NOT a compliment!
This cloud/pillar of light will tell the advancing disciples IF and when he/she is to make “moves” along his/her path to spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of accurate Bible Doctrine one that one has in his/her soul structure, coupled with his/her willingness to apply it to the events of his/her daily life.
Heading out on one’s own in pursuit of things that are not a part of the plan that God has in mind can be disastrous. Refusing to take the next step that God has in mind can be just as disastrous.
Therefore, timing is everything (Eccl. 3). There are times when the plan of God calls for one type of action (or restraint), and there are time when the plan of God calls for just the opposite.
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is an appointed time for every event under Heaven (here on Earth)...A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what has been planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3: 1-9 NASB)."
If an action involves a sin of commission (what one does) or omission (what one fails to do), it should be clear that it is NOT the next move that God has in mind.
One should not expect the cloud/pillar to move on until the issue(s) that God the Holy Spirit has already brought to mind are addressed. When the issues involve sin, they can ONLY be addressed by making a 1John 1: 9 confession, followed up by a John 8:11 commitment to forsake the same type of sin the future.
These moves can call for the elimination or adjustments in such things as one’s daily priorities, long term objectives, priorities, personal relationships, sex life, geographical location, career, employment, recreation, , and/or one's present (or lack of)choice of local assembly. In fact, these moves can involve anything that God desires to remove, add to, or amend in our daily lives. There will NEVER come a time, this side of Heaven, that there are not more issues for us to address if we are to advance in the post salvation spiritual life. It matters not if we are 9 yrs. old, or 99 years old. If there was not more for us to do, we would have been taken home.
Discipleship is a 24-7 lifestyle that impacts EVERY area of life. What takes place (or fails to take place) during each one of the 168 hours that God gives to all of us each week, is just as important as what takes place (or fails to take place) during the 1 hour or so spent in corporate worship. One hour a week"in Church" only
accounts for less than 1% of the time that God gives us to bring glory to Him! God is just as interested with what one is doing with the remaining 99.5 % of one's post salvation spiritual life as in what takes place in the one hour or so that many Christians spend "in Church."
In most cases, long before one makes any overt changes in any of the above areas of life, God has been working behind the scenes (Romans 8: 28), conforming (Romans 8: 29) the thinking of the a-d-v-a-n-c-i-n-g disciple to His image, in preparation for the next “move.”
One has found his “place” in the universal Church that moment he/she has been born again, being sealed (baptized) (Eph. 4: 30) and regenerated (Titus 3: 5) by the Work of God the Holy Spirit. The now born again believer has then and there received the promised eternal life (John 3: 16).
Finding or changing one’s choice of local assembly within the Church-at-large does not always come easy. For some, God many never have such a change in mind. For others, God may have several changes in mind along the way. Many find it difficult to leave a local assembly due to familial traditions and/or social pressure. IF and when the move is from God, the born again believer is challenged to choose between moving on with the plan of God, or prioritizing his/her relationships with people or personal interests over what discipleship requires of him/her (Luke 14: 26).
"If anyone comes to Me (is born again), and does not *hate (*love less) his own father and mother and wife (husband) and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14: 26 NASB italics mine)."
There is another distinction between the type of pillar/cloud of the Old Testament, and the type of cloud/pillar in the Church Age. When the OT cloud moved, it was giving directions that impacted the whole group. No one was left behind. Here in the Church Age, there are times when the cloud/pillar is directing some individuals to move and others to stay where they are. This is true of pastor teachers, and of individual families, and of individual members of each family.
One may or may not be called to different local assemblies, in keeping with the plan that God has in mind. This is true of individual pastors and individual members of the Church-at-large, here on Earth. Church Age believers are all equally saved, but are at different levels of spiritual maturity and have different edification needs (1Cor. 3:2/Heb. 5: 12). Husbands, wives, adult offspring, children and siblings WITHIN any given household may need different pastor teachers and/or local assemblies than what one's other family members need at any given time. The same cloud/pillar that moves for one, may not be moving for another.
Any born again believer should be able to be used by God to share the Gospel Message with an unbeliever. However, neither a pastor teacher nor a fellow believer can be used of God to bring a fellow believer any further along the path to spiritual maturity than where he/she has first arrived for himself. All to often, the decision to go to, remain in, or move on to another pulpit is made for all the wrong reasons.
There are NO FAMILY PLANS for salvation, and there are no FAMILY PLANS for discipleship. Scripture (Luke 12: 52) teach that in any given household, there will be those who are born again/saved and those who are not, even though in most cases, they all went through or were put through the same "religious" rituals at one time or another. In any given household, there will be born again believers who identify, execute, and remain in the The Post Salvation Spiritual Life of discipleship, and there will be born again believers who will not.
Matt 7: 14 teach that it is the minority that find the one and only (John 14: 6) way that leads to life.
Making movements/changes/decisions independent of the timing and the plan of God is not wise, as it can lead to spiritual ship-wreck. Failing to identify and/or to make the moves in the timing and in the plan of God can also lead to spiritual ship-wreck. One can survive a ship-wreck, but it will not be a pleasant experience.
By keeping a sharp eye to detect the movements and instructions of the cloud/pillar of the Church Age, the born again believer can avoid such shipwrecks along the way to his/her ultimate destination.
“You (advancing disciples) are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does any light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Therefore, let you light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5: 14-16 NASB italics mine).”
The light, or enlightenment, and the accompanying spiritual gift/ministry that one receives is not for his/her own benefit alone, but for the common good of all (1Cor. 12: 7). If one is not concerned or involved in the spiritual well-being of others, he/she is not involved with the mission that God gave to His Church (Matt. 28: 19, 20)."
The cloud/pillar of the Church Age will guide the advancing disciple to where he/she can learn what his/her individual spiritual gift (1Cor. 12) is, and where it is that he/she is to engage in it. In doing so, the advancing disciple will learn what his/her individual "niche" is in the master plan of God.
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The cloud/pillar of the Church Age, and those who bear its light (Matt. 5: 16), will illuminate the dark corners of the devil’s world.
The dark corners of the devil’s world are wherever evil is found.
Evil can be as far away as the ends of the devil’s world (Luke 4: 6), and as close as one’s own soul structure, thus the o-n-g-o-i-n-g need for 2Cor. 13: 5 and 1Cor. 11: 28 examinations. Such examinations are fruitless if one does not make the needed adjustments that God the Holy Spirit brings to mind James 1: 22) when these examinations take place.
Evil is a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g , be it in teaching or practice, that contradicts, distorts, adds to, or takes from, either the Living Word of God (John 1: 1), or the Written Word of God. To the extent that one knows and is obedient to with the Written Word of God, he/she knows and is obedient to the Living Word of God. The Written Word of God is the inspired Scripture (1Tim. 3: 16-17). The Living Word of God is God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1: 1).
Evil, in the form of false gospels, promotes alternative and false means to either be saved.
Saved from what? Saved from what the Bible calls the lake of fire, awaiting all those who do not believe in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 20: 15). Only believing in the existence of Jesus Christ falls short of the believing (placing one's personal trust and confidence) in the atoning Work that accomplished on the cross. This is why, in order to be saved, one must believe in both the Person (Who He is) and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is when one makes a personal connection with the Person A-N-D the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ that he/she is saved.
Note that even the devil (Luke 4/Matt. 4) and the demons () believe in the existence of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ!
The last place that the devil wanted to see the Lord Jesus Christ was ON the cross, making atonement for the world' sin. It was the devil's desire to disqualify (Luke 4/Matt 4) or to destroy His Humanity B-E-F-O-R-E He arrived and "finished(John 19: 30) His atoning Work work while on the cross. The physical death of our Lord's humanity did NOT take place until AFTER His atoning Work had been "finished-John 19: 30 NASB."
The devil knew and understood the significance of this John 19: 30 announcement. The devil understood God 's plan of salvation for the human race better than some of our Lord's closest followers, even though our Lord had it made it perfectly clear to them (Matt. 20: 18). The devil understood God's plan of salvation better than most of our Lord's religious/political enemies who thought that they had finally disposed of Him. The physical death of our Lord's humanity was the means of His departure (John 19: 30) that set the stage for His bodily resurrection three days later.
By paying closer attention to the doctrines that the cloud/pillar has for us today, we can face our own departure and the departure of others in a totally different light than those around us (Luke 23: 43/Matt. 20: 19/John 11: 26).
Evil, in the form of false doctrines/practices, promote deceptive alternatives to the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. They are deceptive, because like any other form of counterfeit, they must appear to the be the real thing if the deception is going to work. When "sucessful," God is denied the glory that He would have otherwise received, and the deceived believer forfeits the accompanying (1Cor. 3) rewards and (Rev. 2/Rev. 3) privileges that he/she would have otherwise received in Heaven.
False teachers, many of them being wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7: 15), promote false gospels as the means of salvation, and "religious" alternatives to the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
Just because something is promoted from a pulpit does NOT, in itself, mean that the person is conveying the "mind of Christ (1Cor. 2: 16)" to the congregation. Church is the last place that one would expect to hear the voice of Satan, and therefore makes it the best place for the devil to establish himself through the misguided sols involved in "religion." Granted, this type of false teaching/practices is usually done in ignorance, but a bullet fired in ignorance can be just as lethal as the one that is fired with malicious intent. Thus the Biblical warning (Luke 8: 18) for believers to take heed (pay close attention) to what choose to listen..
"But false prophets (people who claim to speak for God) also rose among the (Old Testament) people, just as there WILL also be false teachers among (Church Age believers) you, who wilL secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying (the completed Work of) the Master who bought them (with the shedding of HIs blood), bringing swift destruction on themselves (and those who listen to them) (1Pet 2: 1 NASB) italics mine."
False teachers and what they promote have been in existence from the very beginning of the Church Age (2Pet. 2: 1/Galatians 3), and have found a home in many sectors of what it generally perceived to be a part of the Christian Community today (1Tim. 4: 1).
Any Gospel Message that does not call for personal faith (trust and confidence) in the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, or adds further requirements (religeous rituals) to it in order to obtain/retain salvation, is a false Gospel. The type of faith that saves is likened in Scripture (Mark 18: 2-4) to the type of faith of a child that has NO DOUBTS.
The "additives" that are promoted by religion (including some "Christian religions" raises doubt by raising such questions as what ritual must be done, by whom, when, and by what method.
The Psalms 96:5 "religions" of the world misidentify the one true God of the Bible, and leave faith in the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ out of the salvation process out of the picture. Promoters of such religions will take the position that we all worship the same God, but refer to Him by different names, and follow different paths to Him. The flaw in this position is that it denies the ominous “no one” principle found in (John 14: 6 NASB).
"Jesus said to him (and to us), "I am t-h-e way, and t-h-e- truth, and t-h-e (source of eternal) life; n-o o-n-e comes to (God the) Father but through Me (John 14: 6 NASB italics mine."
Critics of Christianity are correct when say that this is being very narrow-minded. Scripture concurs that the only "way (Matt. 7: 17 NASB) to Heaven is "narrow (Matt. 7: 14 NASB)."
Have you found the gate and the way? Have you entered through the gate and followed the way? Or have you been deceived and are therefore relying on one or more of the many alternatives promoted in the name (authority) of Man-made religion?
Throughout Scripture, Man was warned NOT to sin by adding to the what is written in the Word of God (Deut.4:2/Deut/ 12: 32/Prov. 30: 6/ Rev. 22: 18, 19).
Adding additional requirements, to the ONE requirement found in the true Gospel Message, is not only a sin, but an insult to God. It is an insult in that such “requirements” imply that faith in the atoning work that He “finished (John 19: 30)” on the cross was/is not enough for a believer to receive and/or to retain salvation.
If one truly believes, and therefore has the type of child-like faith (no doubts) that saves (Matt. 18: 3), then why would one see the need to engage or continue to engage in the alternatives and or additives that are promoted by religion in order to obtain or retain the salvation (eternal life) that one already has and can not lose? Just in case? Just in case of what?
These rhetorical questions are not asked to rattle anyone's cage, but to provide the means for one to take a 2Cor. 13: 5 self-examination to determine if one is really in the faith.
Granted, there are many more things for a born again believer to do in order to identify and to execute the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship, glorify God, and reap the benefits for having done so. But such things have got N-O-T-H-I-N-G to do with either obtaining or retaining salvation. The post (after) salvation spiritual life does not even begin until after the issue of one's salvation (eternal life) has already been addressed and received!
Evil, in the form of Man-made religion, has made its way (2Pet. 2: 1) into, and has found a home in virtually every Man-made “denomination” or non-denominational local assembly/assemblies in what is generally considered to be a part of the Christian Community at large.
It is for this reason that believers are warned to take heed (pay attention) to what they listen to, and to what they choose to make a part of their soul structure. This warning does not only apply to all the garbage that the world bombards the soul with on a daily basis, but can include what comes from the pulpits WITHIN THE CHURCH that get involved in apostasy (Gal. 3/1Tim. 4: 1/Rev. 2: 13-15/2Cor. 11: 14, 15).
“Woe to them (whoever or wherever they are) that call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness (false Gospels and false doctrine) for light (the true Gospel Message and accurate Bible doctrine) and light for darkness; who substitute bitter (what people need to hear) for sweet (for what they want to hear) and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes (human viewpoint) and clever in their own sight (Isa 5: 21, 22 NASB italics mine).”
Paul spoke of some of the Church Age believers in ancient Galatia as being “bewitched-Gal. 3: 1 NASB)” when they began to doubt or question the integrity of the salvation that they had a-l-r-e-a-d-y received.
Demonic influence (1Tim. 4: 1) manifested in false teachings/practices WITHIN the Christian Community will increase during the end times (1Tim. 4: 1)that lead up to the Rapture (1Thess. 4) of the Church.
Due to the considerable "success" that the devil has had in the time and age in which we are living, one is NOT going to find the “perfect” denomination, local assembly, or ministry. Even finding one that has a tolerable level (Rom. 12: 16, 28/1Pet. 3: 8) of negative issues can be a "hard find" in times of apostasy and moral decline. If the present decline of the Christian Community had not be foretold (1Tim. 4: 1), many would be at a loss to explain what is going on as Satan makes his last run against the Church that God designed, knowing that his time is short (Rev. 12: 12).
There always has been, is now, and always will be problems and issues that need to be addressed among the people of God. Many of the New Testament epistles were written to address the issues of that time. No all that much has changed! We face the many of the same basic spiritual issues today.
To varying degrees, the products and practices of Man-made religion, based on human viewpoint, that runs contrary to the “mind of Christ (1Cor. 2: 16), can be found in virtually all of the denominations and local assemblies of what is considered to be a part of the Christian Community at large.
Many will offer attractive open door policies, socialization, and humanitarian projects, while taking compromised positions on doctrinal issues in order to recruit and/or retain membership in last ditch efforts to keep them financially afloat.
Yet, even with all this going one, we are never-the-less still commanded to together gather (Heb. 10: 25) to engage in the type of worship that God desires. This is the spiritual challenge that an advancing disciple of the Church Age is facing in the times in which we live. At what point does he/she draw a line between harmony (Romans 12: 16, 28/1Pet. 3: 8) and taking a confrontational stand by and opposing evil (Eph. 5: 11)? Does not Scripture (1Pet. 4: 17) teach that judgment must begin with the house of God (Matt. 7: 4)?
At the very least, an advancing disciple is going to have to acquire the ability to discern truth from error taking place in his/her chosen denomination or local assembly. Such discernment is to be based on what teachings and accompanying practices can be (or cannot) be substantiated by the Word of God (Acts 17: 11).
Paying close attention to IF and WHEN the cloud/pillar of the Church Age is calling for a “move,” concerning one’s choice of pastor-teacher or local assembly, is critical to quality of one’s post salvation spiritual life. The integrity of the salvation that a born again believer receives is never any greater or any less from any other born again believer. However, the quality of one's post salvation spiritual life varies greatly from one believer to another. The Biblical standard for evaluating the quality of any given born again believer's post salvation spiritual life is the amount of glory that it brings to God through the production of divine good, symbolized as the silver, gold, and precious stones of 1Cor. 3: 14 NASB.
In these days of modern technology, one can continue to “gather together” by physically attending a local assembly, and/or by connecting via the many modern means of communication. The devil is certainly using BOTH to promote his agenda. Advancing disciples who are willing to think "outside of the box" can use this same technology to greatly advance the Great Commission. One's Bible, local assembly, or ministry can be as close as one's phone, tab, or computer. The "doors" to Internet ministries are open 24-7.
In making the choice of where/how one is to “gather together,” one would be wise to keep in mind that by contributing to the support of any local assemblies, denominations, or ministries, he/she becomes a “partner” in whatever “good” or “evil” that is being promoted there.
Some denominations, local assemblies, and ministries are more culpable than others when it comes to including teachings and accompanying practices that run contrary to Scripture. Anything that runs contrary to, is added to, or that is the result of deleting what Scripture has to say comes under the umbrella of evil. If all the icons, furnishings, wardrobe, and apparatus, facilitating Man-made religion were to be removed from what is generally considered to be the Christian Community at large, what would remain would leave it barely recognizable by many who consider themselves practicing Christians in our day and age.
No wonder that to be delivered from evil is one of the issues that our Lord included when He was teaching His disciples how to pray (Matt. 6: 9-13)!
Since the type of cloud and the type of pillar of light of the Old Testament dispensation is no longer with us, there is the need to identify and to be faithful to the directions and instructions that he cloud/pillar of light of the Church Age brings to us.
All born again believers are Heaven bound, but many are wandering around in the dark, here on Earth.
There are many whose post (after) salvation lives do NOT bring glory to God. Other than “going to Church” (sometimes), there is no overt difference in their lives and the lives of the worldly people around them.
Such believers draw the blinds/shades to block the "light" that the accurate teaching of the Word of God would bring to them. Such believers “draw the blinds” by not going or connecting with a source (pastor teacher/local assembly) that can edify their souls.
Others “draw the blinds” when they do go or connect with a source of edification. They hear, but do not listen (Mark 8: 18), or they listen but do not apply (James 1: 22)what they have learned.
Such believers prefer the ignorance of their darkness (John 3: 19) so that they can avoid the challenges that knowing the truth will bring to them.
“This is the judgment, that Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates (loves less) the Light, and does not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth come to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God (John 3: 19-21 NASB italics mine).”
In closing, are you one who is sensitive to the presence, the leading, and the instructions of the Church Age cloud/pillar, OR are you just floating along in fellowship with the world (James 4: 4), doing your own thing (Proverbs 14: 12), and hoping for the same outcome?