The awe-inspiring process by which plain caterpillars become beautiful butterflies lies behind the surprising meaning of this word. Metamorphosis is change of physical form, structure, or substance, especially by supernatural means. Anyone who is still sensitive to the wonder of nature knows there is something supernatural about this change. When the process is complete the once beautiful chrysalis becomes useless — a cage even. Out of it the new, brilliant life must escape.
Nor are such transformations limited to the natural world. In the Old Covenant a name change meant a metamorphosis of another kind. “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”1 His character had been so profoundly changed that he could be, he had to be, called by a new name.
In the New Covenant, when our Master Yahshua called His disciples, He had the authority to speak this transformation into existence. Simon was indeed one who hears, but now he was to be a rock or stone. He was the first disciple to know that Yahshua was the Messiah. The Master said to him, and to us:
Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. (Matthew 16:17-18)
What is this rock that shall not be moved? It was revelation given to the disciples from His Father. It gave them eyes to see who He really was, and what kind of response He was worthy of. He told them how to build on the rock:
Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. And the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been built upon the rock. (Matthew 7:24-25)
Anything built upon the rock will never fail, but what if something is not built upon it?
Paul the apostle said the same thing in his letter to the Corinthians:
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each one be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)
Was the early church careful how they built, as Paul warned them to be, or did they build something else that was not of the Messiah, Yahshua? For the community in Jerusalem was not merely a nice way to live, an alternative way of life for the sincere. No one outside of it could even pretend to be a disciple of Yahshua. It was the beginning of the preaching of the gospel which liberated men from sin and death, Thus it is written, that the Christ shall suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins shall be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.2
The New Covenant writings paint a sad picture: the Corinthians had so little care that members of their church went hungry.3 Even more shamefully, their moral standard had fallen below that of the Gentiles around them.4 Truly, there was not one wise person among them — they were all fleshly.5 Paul’s repeated warnings to the Galatians make it obvious that they had fallen a long, long way from the pure fellowship the saints in Jerusalem had once enjoyed.6 The Ephesians also fell from their first love, and the church at Sardis had only a few overcomers left.7
Do all these examples describe the growth of the Body that is spoken of in Ephesians 4:11-16, or do they suggest a metamorphosis?
If the church has changed its form, structure, and substance, then does what the Son of God said to Peter apply to this new thing? Was the vibrant community life of Jerusalem a cocoon from which the church had to break free to allow something new and greater to be unleashed on the world? Or was the division,8 selfishness, greed,9 immorality,10 and the clergy-laity system11 that overran the early church something more grave than weaknesses we can, with sorrow, identify with? Was it actually the destroying of the Temple of God, and the bringing forth of His wrath? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.12
So, did the gates of hell prevail against the Church, or did God Himself destroy it, member by member and church by church? Eventually, the last sincere people who were not indelibly stained with sin died off, and there was nothing left but empty form — the words of the gospel without the ability to communicate the faith to obey them.
Does Matthew 16:18 have the magical power to hold together what is accursed? Paul said cursed were those who preach another gospel.13 He even said that everyone was cursed who didn’t love Messiah.14 How could anyone know they loved Him? By obeying Him.15 The division, carnality, political involvement, riches (and the guns and power needed to protect those riches) of Christianity today completely removes it from the realm of Yahshua’s church. It is just like the words the people of Jerusalem uttered in the days of the prophet Jeremiah:
This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord... But God said: Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, “We are delivered!” — that you may do all these abominations?16