The ICHTHUS was a symbol used by early Christians to identify one another. During times of extreme persecution a Christian would draw one of the two intersecting arcs of the ICHTHUS in the sand, if another person drew the other intersecting arc, then, they would know that they were fellow-believers. The ICHTHUS or the sign of the fish was used because the Greek word for fish, ΙΧΘΥΣ, could be used as an acrostic for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”
Ι = first letter of Iēsous, Greek for “Jesus”
Χ = first letter of Christos, Greek for “Christ”
Θ = first letter of Theou, Greek for “God’s”
Υ = first letter of (h)uios, Greek for “Son”
Σ = first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for “Savior”
THE ICHTHUS CHURCH
The church of Jesus Christ was born into a world hostile to its message. In its fledgling days it was persecuted by Jews who believed Christ to be a phony Messiah and Christianity a false religion. What little protection the church was afforded from this initial persecution was provided by the Roman Empire. The church soon found itself, however, under far more severe persecution from its former protector, Rome, than it had ever suffered under its initial persecutors, the Jews.1 An indisputable, not to mention phenomenal, particular of church history is found in the fact that the more severely the church was persecuted by Rome the further its message spread throughout the Roman Empire. This phenomenon prompted these famous words from Tertullian, an early church father, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church!”2
During its two thousand year history, the church has known times of persecution at the hands of the state, as well as times under the state’s favor. Those times under the favor of the state have proved to be both a curse and a blessing.
During the Dark Ages, a thousand year period when the state not only sanctioned the church, but was for all practical purposes supplanted by the church, the world was plunged into such religious superstition that the flickering light of the Gospel was almost extinguished upon the earth. Had it not been for the Protestant Reformation, the flickering light of the Gospel under the bushel of Roman Catholicism may have never been fanned back into a illuminating white-hot flame.3
On the opposite side of the ledger, the favor enjoyed by the church under Western Civilization translated into the greatest missionary era in the entire Church Age. The Gospel was taken far and wide throughout the world by a church cradled in countries founded upon the Judeo-Christian ethic. Among these countries, America arose to become “the shining city on the hill,” as the Puritan John Winthrop had envisioned it. More than any other nation in all of Christian history, America shined the Gospel light all over the world, even to some of the world’s darkest and remotest places.
Unfortunately, today’s America is no longer that shining city on a hill. Neither are European countries cradles from which the Gospel is going out all over the world. Instead, the once great bastions of the Christian Faith have now become arid, spiritual wastelands; nations that have abandoned the faith upon which they were founded in favor of secular humanism and democratic socialism. Whether we look at the pervasive ideology of political correctness now permeating America and all of Europe, at the atheistic communism espoused by countries like Russia, or at Islamic States, within which the mere profession of Christianity is punishable as a capital offense, it is clear to see the dark clouds of unprecedented and biblically predicted end-time persecution gathering around the world against the church.
Despite the obvious growing “spirit of antichrist,” a spirit the Apostle John predicted would grow until it finally crests and breaks over the whole end-time world,4 the contemporary church in America hardly raises an eyebrow at the ever-intensifying hostility in today’s world toward Christ and all things Christian. Erroneously believing that it will suffer no end-time persecution or tribulation, thanks to being stealthy snatched from the world to the safety of Heaven in a secret rapture before the perilous times of the last days commences, the contemporary church sits smugly in the complacency of its false security. Little does it know, however, that the Bible offers us no escape hatch from end-time persecution and tribulation. In fact, far from teaching us that we will not suffer end-time tribulation, the Book of Revelation guarantees it.
The comforting and encouraging message of the Book of Revelation is threefold. While it teaches us that the church will definitely suffer the unprecedented persecution and tribulation of the end times, it goes on to teach us three stupendous and consoling truths.
First, God is over our suffering. He is sovereign. Therefore, no matter how out of control things may appear, we can be assured that God is always in control. Nothing can happen to us that God does not allow for our ultimate good.5
Second, Christ is with us in our suffering. As Christ promised, He will never leave us nor forsake us, but will be with us always, even to the end of the world.6 Therefore, we can count on His grace proving sufficient for us to bear up under any burden,7 as well as on His presence providing us with the comfort and courage we need to endure all suffering.
Third, we will be eternally rewarded if we faithfully endure our suffering. Knowing that our suffering in this world is only temporary, as well as completely incomparable with the unimaginable and eternal reward God has reserved for us in Heaven, we, like the Apostle Paul, should be able to faithfully endure for Christ all of the hardships and heartaches we encounter in this fallen world.8
Our world is obviously headed into the biblically predicted perilous times of the last days. There is unprecedented persecution on the horizon, persecution against the church that would have been unimaginable in these United States just a few years ago. We are already experiencing the forerunners of this biblically foretold persecution. For instance, consider the following:
- The church in America is already under the threat of losing its tax exempt status for refusing to condone same-sex marriage.
- The church in America is already under the threat of financially ruinous civil litigation for discrimination against sinners for refusing to deny sin’s existence and for declaring the sinner’s need of salvation.
- The church in America is already under the threat of possible criminal prosecution for inciting hate crimes under our country’s new hate crime laws.
Regrettably, these present perils are only the tip of the iceberg. They are only the foreshadowing of far more severe persecution ahead. In the coming dark days of impending and unprecedented persecution, the conventional, traditional, and denominational church will disappear from the American landscape. It will be impossible for it to exist and operate publicly in a culture diametrically opposed to it, not to mention a culture hellbent on stamping out the church by every means at its disposal. The church in America, as well as throughout the world, will be forced underground.
As is proven by the church in China, being forced underground is not necessarily a bad thing. While the Chinese government lifted some restrictions on the church a few years ago, allowing it to emerge somewhat from underground, it is once again cracking down on the church, because of the threat the emerged church is posing to the government. Thanks to the church’s phenomenal growth underground, the Chinese communists were caught off guard when the church emerged stronger than it had ever been, not to mention a most formidable foe to the communist ideology of China’s current communist regime. The phenomenal growth and vitality of the church in Red China is directly attributable to the fact that it was forced to follow the New Testament blueprint for the church when forced underground years ago by the Chinese Communist Revolution.
I believe the coming persecution of the church in America will force us, like persecution forced the church in China, to return to the New Testament blueprint for the church. Rather than continuing to go to church and competing to see who can build the biggest church buildings, we’ll be forced to start being the church and cooperating together to build the kingdom of God. Without the parameters of church walls and property stakes, we’ll start spreading the Gospel from house to house, which is the way Christ taught us to do it, not to mention the way the first century church turned the world upside down.9 Remember, it was persecution that caused the first century church to leave Jerusalem and take the Gospel elsewhere, as Christ had commissioned the church to do.10 Likewise, I believe coming end-time persecution will force us to return to the New Testament pattern for the church and the Master’s plan for evangelism.
Wisdom dictates that we prepare for the coming end-time persecution by reformatting our churches. Rather than foolishly and vainly attempting to salvage our traditional and denominational churches, which are doomed to extinction on a planet being enveloped by the spirit of antichrist, we need to restructure the church so as to make it less visible and vulnerable to antichrist forces. Also, by restructuring our churches we can assure ourselves of remaining as formable a force for Christ as possible in the dark days ahead.
Reformatting our churches will be no easy task, especially since the contemporary church in America will recoil at any suggestion of forfeiting public attention in order to preserve itself as the lone steward of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this fallen world’s final days. Believing that its future survival is dependent upon assimilating today’s politically correct culture so as to make itself appealing to those within it, the contemporary church in America balks at the biblical admonition to refrain from being squeezed into the world’s mold.11 Instead, it jumps in with both feet, believing that by appeasing a world at enmity with God it can make itself attractive to its Christ-rejecting inhabitants. Therefore, the mere suggestion that the church strip itself of all of its worldly trappings, which it proudly and publicly parades in as being essential to attracting the world to itself, is completely nonsensical to the vast majority of modern-day evangelicals, who have no idea of what is about to befall us in these biblically predicted perilous times.
Most evangelicals today either don’t know or just simply refuse to believe that the only way to assure the church’s future survival as a pervasive and permeating force for Christ in the dark days ahead is for us to become far less visible and targetable to a Christ-hating world. Far from assimilating ourselves to today’s politically correct culture, so as to make the church appealing to those within it, the Bible teaches us to separate ourselves from today’s politically correct culture in order to offer those within it a true alternative to it! It is to these two ends—(1) assuring the church’s survival as a pervasive and permeating force for Christ in the dark days ahead, and (2) separating ourselves from the world in order to offer those within it a true alternative to it—that we are inviting all interested parties to partner with us in the planting of a new kind of church that is actually as old as the New Testament. We’re going back to the future, by resurrecting the New Testament blueprint for Christ’s church, along with the Master’s plan for evangelism, both of which enabled the first century church not only to survive, but to thrive under the intense persecution of a Christ-hating world.
The Ichthus Church or House Church Movement calls for a totally unconventional church. While members may opt to remain in their conventional, traditional, or denominational churches as long as possible, they must do so with the acute awareness that the days of such churches are numbered. Therefore, they need to immediately turn their attention to the formulation of a house church comprised of immediate family and close friends,12 with the clear understanding that the house church (Ichthus Church) will eventually be their church when all other churches are either swept away by the state or surrender, for the sake of their own survival, to state imposed apostasy.13
It is critical that house church members, as well as house churches, be loosely connected, in order to avoid being targeting for persecution in these perilous times.14 Both communication and fellowship between them will prove edifying to them. Yet, communication among them must be as untraceable as possible in these days of high-tech surveillance. For instance, times and dates of house church meetings, as well as large group gatherings of networked house churches, should be communicated mostly, if not exclusively, by word of mouth. Furthermore, large group meetings should take place at neutral, ever-changing, and out-of-the-way locations, never in owed or rented facilities, which would leave a paper trail for church persecutors to track down church members.
The purpose of large group gatherings will be “body life.” The church will come together so that everyone may participate in the meeting as the Spirit leads them, anoints them, and has gifted them to participate. This way, all the members of the body will be used by the Spirit to edify and encourage one another.
The large group gatherings will not resemble conventional church services. You will not come to look at the back of someone’s head, while someone else looks at the back of your head, while everyone sits silently listening to what the pastor has to say. Although pastors will oversee and facilitate the meetings, they will be, like you, participants, not the main attractions. Now, this is not to say that pastors will never have a word from the Lord for the church or that participants in the meeting will not be subject to pastoral authority, but only to say that pastors are not to be seen exclusively as the ministers. Instead, as the New Testament teaches, every member will be seen as a minister capable of ministering to the church through their spiritual gifts.
The large group gatherings will be opportune times to encourage one another, by testifying to each other about what God is doing in individual lives, as well as individual house churches. They will also provide opportunities for house churches to share burdens and needs with others in their network, so that all house churches and their members can pray for one another.
The real dynamics of the spiritual life of the Ichthus church, however, will occur in the house churches, regular small group meetings held in the private homes of church members. These small groups allow for intimacy among the saints that will translate into the kind of effective exhorting of one another that the Scripture commands.15 It is only in a small group that Christians can come alongside one another and earn each other’s confidence so as to share one another’s burdens.16 It is only when we have the intimate fellowship with one another that a small group alone affords that we will suffer when our brother or sister suffers, be honored when our brother or sister is honored, and rejoice when our brother or sister rejoices.17
These small groups in church members’ homes will also serve as the outreach arm of the church. Unbelievers, especially unbelieving family members and friends, will be far more comfortable attending an informal meeting of a few people in the home of a relative or friend than the church’s large group gathering. In addition, all converts will be immediately encouraged to start a small group meeting in their homes. By doing so, they can invite and attempt to win to Christ their lost loved ones and friends. This is exactly how Christ taught His disciples to spread the Gospel and how the first century church turned the world upside down.18
Are you interested in stepping outside the box? Are you interested in going back to the future, by returning to the New Testament blueprint for the church and the Master’s plan for evangelism? Are you interested in being a part of a nonconventional church, one designed to be a formidable force for Christ in the dark days ahead by separating itself from today’s politically correct culture in order to offer to those within it a true alternative to it? If so, the Ichthus Church is for you. To learn more and to join with other likeminded Christians who are daringly walking together under divine direction into the dark days ahead, contact Time For Truth Ministries. You can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. or call us at (352) 238-1279.
1 It is always the tyrannical state, in its pursuit of empire, along with its terrorized populace that join league to silence the Gospel and stamp out the church. For instance, the Jewish persecution of the church was perpetrated to protect the Jews from the ire of the Roman Empire. The Jewish religious leaders plotted the execution of Christ in order to protect their nation and their place (John 11:47-50). Likewise, the Jewish people cried for Christ’s crucifixion out of their publicly professed allegiance to Caesar (John 19:12-15). Make no mistake about it; allegiance to Caesar inevitably leads to antagonism toward Christ.
The Roman persecution of the church was instigated in earnest under Nero, who, in an attempt to divert blame from himself, blamed Christians for the burning of Rome. Afterward, all subsequent persecutions were perpetrated by making Christians into scapegoats for all of Rome’s problems. This was propagandized to the populace by the preposterous presupposition that every problem in the empire was precipitated by the gods of the Roman Pantheon who were angry over the refusal of Christians to bow to them, as well as to Caesar, who was held to be their human embodiment.
Adolph Hitler’s “Final Solution,” which resulted in the execution of more than six million Jews, was justified on the basis that Jews were to blame for Germany’s problems. According to Hitler, the Jews had to be eradicated from the nation like a cancerous tumor; otherwise, Germany’s supreme Aryan Race would never rise to establish the Third Reich as the great, glorious, and world-conquering empire that Hitler envisioned it to be.
In 2001, in Durbin, South Africa, the United Nations’ World Conference Against Racism unanimously agreed, with the lone exceptions of the American and Israeli delegations, that all racism could be traced to two sources—the Jewish State of Israel and “Christian America.” In other words, the whole world concurred that the lone culprits of all intolerance throughout the world are Christians and Jews.
Years after the Durbin I Conference, we are witnessing something even more astonishing in our own country. Although it would have been unimaginable to the average American just a few short years ago, our country is becoming something positively beastly—an antichrist nation whose politicians and populace are becoming increasingly acrimonious towards Christians, who are readily and roundly condemned, along with the Jewish state of Israel, as the sole obstacles to a peaceful and paradisiacal planet long envisioned by pipe dreaming socialist utopians.
2 “Mark well O popular Christian and worldly-wise preacher, venturing how far you must go with the world in order to win the world: never had the church so much influence over the world as when she had nothing to do with the world. Completely separated from the Roman world, those early Christians plunged back into that sunken Empire to lift it off its hinges and change the entire course of the world’s history.” (L. E. Maxwell: Born Crucified)
3 The New Testament blueprint for Christ’s church was for Christians to assemble together in their houses. In addition, the Master’s plan of evangelism was to reach people one by one, as well as one household at a time, with each converted household becoming a house church. The phenomenal growth of the early church, which turned the world upside down, resulting in the toppling of the Roman Empire and the conversion of a third of the earth’s population, was thwarted when Constantine transplanted the church from Christian homes to church cathedrals. Not long afterward, the church got in bed with the state and the world was plunged into the Dark Ages. Although the Reformation brought the world out of the religious superstitions of Roman Catholicism and back to the sound doctrine of the Scripture, it left the church in cathedrals and failed to return it to the New Testament blueprint.
4 "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." (1 John 4:3)
5 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:28-29)
6 “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:20)
7 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 2:9)
8 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
9 “…These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (Acts 17:6)
10 “…And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1)
11 “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” (Romans 12:2 PHILLIPS)
12 The New Testament church met “from house to house” (Acts 2:46; 20:20). The church met in the homes of believers (Acts 5:42; 8:3; 12:12; 17:1-9; Acts 18:7; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). It was more than 300 years after Christ before the first church building was built, and by that time the phenomenal growth of the church had resulted in the conversion of one third of the earth’s population. The Master’s plan of evangelism was simple. His disciples were to seek “sons of peace”—someone receptive to the Gospel message (Matthew 10:11-15; Mark 6:10-11; Luke 9:4-5; 10:5-12). Once a “son of peace was found,” he or she, along with their “household,” were converted and a church established in their “house” (Acts 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; Romans 16:10-11; 1 Corinthians 1:16; 16:15; 2 Timothy 4:19). The Greek word for “household” or “house” in the New Testament is “oikos,” which means, among other things, one’s immediate sphere of influence, consisting of one’s immediate family and closest friends. This New Testament blueprint for the church and Master’s plan for evangelism is clearly illustrated for us in the first incidence of the Gospel being preached to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48). Furthermore, its phenomenal success, even in the difficult days of great persecution against the first century church, is proven by the fact that the Apostle Paul, while under “house” arrest in Rome, had won converts and started a church with members of Caesar’s own “household” (Philippians 4:22).
13 “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35)
14 “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Timothy 3:1)
15 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
16 “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
17 “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)
18 “…These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (Acts 17:6)