Sunday, February 12, 2017 am                                                         NT Church Index 

When Did the Church Begin?


We have begun a study of the New Testament church.  This year we are going to examine what the church is in detail. Thus far we have defined what the church is and we have noted how the church is described to give us further understanding of what she is and how she functions. 

In our lessons today we want to address when the church began.  If we determine when the church began, we can address many errors in relation to its purpose and foundation.  By establishing when the church began, we eliminate any church that began at a different time.

In this lesson, we want to establish a timeline to help us see when this happened.  To do this, we are going to examine some prophecies about the kingdom of God and see their fulfillment.  We also want to address how the church IS the kingdom (tonight).

NOTE: In this study, we are addressing the church as the universal church (the body of all who are saved).  We are also addressing this lesson with the assumption that we understand the church and kingdom are one and the same thing.  (If there is an interest, I will gladly present a lesson showing that they are).  In our next lesson, we are going to contrast the universal church and local congregations.  This will conclude our study of defining what the church is.  (Then we will address authority and later this year we will begin study the various aspects of the local church).

 I.                     The Church in prophecy (church in prophecy on study with Christians)

a.       A part of God’s eternal planEphesians 3:10-11.  A part of His plans all along.  This eliminates any doctrine that sees the church as an afterthought. 
We have frequently mentioned this passage to prove this very point.    This morning, for a few moments we want to look at the plans in more detail to show that this was in God’s plans. 

b.       Isaiah 2:2-4 – (Micah 4:1-3) a prophecy concerning Judah and Jerusalem.   
Isaiah prophesies to Israel and Judah around 725-700 BC.  He prophesies during the time of the fall of Samaria.  His book is filled with warnings against both nations (and others) sinfulness including immorality, greed and idolatry.  Yet throughout his book we find numerous messianic prophecies.  In fact, Isaiah is second only to the psalms in NT prophecies. 
AFTER exposing Israel’s rejection of God, we find his first prophecy of the future kingdom – 2:2-4.

                                                   i.      He identifies a time? It shall come to pass in the latter days.

                                                 ii.      What is going to happen? The mountain of the LORD’s house will be established.

                                                iii.      For whom will this be? ALL nations shall flow to it.

                                                iv.      Some details of what will happen - Many people will come and invite others to go up to this mountain, “to the house of the God of Jacob”

He will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths (contrast this with why Isaiah is writing – to nations that are rejecting God’s ways and paths).

                                                  v.      WHERE will this happen? Out of Zion will go forth the LAW (implying a new law) and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

                                                vi.      NOTE: This prophecy is also repeated virtually word for word in Micah 4:1-3.  Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah writing to idolatrous Israel as they faced Assyrian destruction and Judah as they witnessed it.

c.        Joel 2:28-32 – Joel was a prophet sent to Israel/Judah at an unspecified date (some see this as one of the earlier prophets (in the 800s BC, while others see it as later, even after the return of Judah from Babylonian captivity (500s BC).  It was a time of judgment against Israel because of corruption with the people and the priesthood.  The prophecy describes a plague of locust that comes in waves and utterly decimates the land.  This could be reference to either a literal physical disaster or invading armies.  The calamity is a judgment of God against His sinful people.  In chapter 2 the people are called upon to repent (2:12-13).  IF they repent, restoration is promised.
The prophecy has the following elements:

                                                   i.      When will this happen? “Afterwards”, later when Peter quotes this (Acts 2:1ff) he uses the expression, “last days” as in Isaiah 2:2 above.

                                                 ii.      What will happen? I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh
Sons and daughters will prophesy, old men will dream dreams, young men see visions.
EVEN menservants and maidservants will have His Spirit poured out upon them (note: typically – these servants would have been Gentiles who had been assimilated into their household).
Vs. 30- wonders in heavens and in the earth – blood, fire and smoke will be seen
Vs. 31 – the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon into blood
BEFORE the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD

                                                iii.      What will be the result of these events?
Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.

                                                iv.      WHERE will these events occur? In Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance
AMONG the remnant, whom the LORD calls!

d.       Daniel 2:44 – Daniel was a young man carried away into Babylon when Judah was put under the empire.  Around 605 BC, Babylon subdued Jerusalem and carried away many of its nobles captive.  At this time Daniel and others were carried away.  In Babylon they began to be trained to serve the king (Daniel 1).  Daniel excelled and arose above the rest, even of captives from other lands.
Daniel 2 records an event during the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the Babylonian empire.  He has a dream that troubles him greatly (Dan. 2:1).  In an unusual move, he calls for all his wise men – magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, Chaldeans etc.  He mentions having a dream but demands that they tell him the dream before the interpretation, so that he would know they were not lying in the interpretation (2:2-11, esp. 9).  When the wise men could not tell it, the king became angry and ordered the destruction of all the wise men of Babylon (2:12-13).
When Daniel finds out what is happening, he offers to tell the king the interpretation (2:14-18).  He enlists the prayers of his brethren and the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision (2:19).  Daniel prays to and thanks the LORD (2:20-23).
He then appears to Nebuchadnezzar and reveals the dream and its interpretation.  When he appears before the king Daniel gives note that there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets (as opposed to the non-gods of other nations – 2:25-28).

                                                   i.      The dream – (2:31-35) - the king saw a great image whose form was awesome. 
The head of the image was of fine gold; The chest and arms were of silver; its belly and thigh were of bronze; its legs of iron and its feet partly iron and partly clay.  As the king watched, a stone was cut out without hands which struck the image at its feet and broke the image in pieces.  All the elements of the statue became like chaff and were carried away with the wind.  The stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. 

                                                 ii.      The interpretation – (2:36-44) – Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold – Daniel notes that the God of heaven had given him his kingdom, power, glory and strength. 
Bat after him another kingdom would arise that was inferior to his (silver)
Then a third kingdom of bronze would rule the earth
Then a fourth kingdom which would be as strong as iron which will crush all the others.  The feet and toes which were part iron and part clay indicated it would be a divided kingdom implying a kingdom that was partly strong and partly feeble.

                                                iii.      Vs. 44 – And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.   
Vs. 45 notes that this dream was revealed so that he would know that “the great God” had revealed what would take place.  The fact that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands indicated that this would be the work of God.

                                                iv.      It is THIS VERSE (44) that we focus on.  Notice:

1.       WHEN it would happen – during a 4th kingdom following Babylon.

2.       What would happen THEN? God would set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed

3.       It CHARACTER – it will consume all kingdoms, never be destroyed and stand forever.

e.       THESE prophecies set the background for a kingdom that God INTENDED to establish according to His eternal purpose. 

 II.                   The church in preparation – John and Jesus

a.       The above prophecies were made centuries before our Lord came to this earth.  They demonstrate that this was in God’s plan all along!  But when John the Baptist came, there was a change in the message.  Matthew 11:13 says, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”  Jesus is here addressing the greatness of John the Baptist as His forerunner.

Later, in Luke 16:16 as Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees He speaks of John again noting, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”  WHEN John came to this earth, while not yet in existence, the kingdom was spoken of as near.

b.       John the Baptist –

                                                   i.      Luke 1:15-17, when Gabriel the angel appeared to Zacharias (John’s father) he foretells that John will be great and filled with the Holy Spirit and will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will come in the spirit and power of Elijah.

                                                 ii.      Matthew 3:2, when John began preaching his message was, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

c.        Jesus –

                                                   i.      Luke 1:31-33, Mary told she will conceive the Lord Jesus.  He will be great and will be given the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.  the church/kingdom at hand

                                                 ii.      Matthew 4:17, as Jesus began preaching His message, like John’s was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

                                                iii.      Matthew 4:23, Jesus went about Galilee preaching and teaching “the gospel of the kingdom.”

                                                iv.      Matthew 6:10, as He taught prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth…”

                                                  v.      Matthew 10:7, as He sends out the twelve He says to go to the lost sheep of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

                                                vi.      Matthew 16:18-19, as Peter confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declares He WILL build His church “and I WILL give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven,…”

                                              vii.      Matthew 16:28, Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

                                             viii.      John 18:36 – where Jesus declares to Pilot, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  It is spiritual in nature.

d.       Acts 1 – after the resurrection of Jesus, He taught His apostles.

                                                   i.      Acts 1:3 – as He continue to teach them He spoke of “things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

                                                 ii.      Acts 1:5-6, Jesus instructs them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father noting they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Vs. 6, the apostles ask Him, “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?
1:8 - They are instructed to wait until they receive power from the Holy Spirit.

 III.                 When did the church/kingdom begin? 

a.       Acts 2:1-4 – When the day of Pentecost had fully come the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues.  This would bring the people of Jerusalem together and afford an opportunity for Peter and the others to preach to them. 

b.       Acts 2:14ff we find the sermon of Peter. 
Vs. 16 – he begins by noting the events that happened where that which was prophesied by Joel.  Here we have it unequivocally established that this is WHEN the kingdom was established.
Furthermore in this lesson Peter will declare that the promise to David concerning his throne has been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. 
Vs. 29-30 - Quoting David as a prophet that Christ would be raised from the dead, he notes in Acts 2:29-30, “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. “ This “throne promise” goes back to 2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16 – where the LORD promised to establish the throne of David forever.
Vs. 34-36 – Peter concludes his sermon declaring that Christ is in heaven seated at the right hand of God and says, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  

c.        THIS friends is the beginning of the Kingdom.

d.       Concerning the times of this – it happened in Jerusalem in “the last days” (as Isaiah 2 and Joel 2 says).  The events of Joel are fulfilled in this time frame – Peter said so!
AND, this is during the 4th kingdom AFTER Babylon – namely – 1) Babylon, 2) Medo-Persia, 3) Macedonia (Greece) and 4) Rome.  Jesus was born and His kingdom was established during the Roman empire. 

e.       After Acts 2 – the church/kingdom is spoken of as in existence.  
Church - Acts 2:47, 13:1, 14:23, etc.
Kingdom – Acts 8:12, 28:23, 31; 1 Corinthians 15:24, Colossians 1:13, Hebrews 12:28, etc.


Tonight, we want to notice the details of these OT prophecies and see their fulfillment in the church/kingdom.  Time permitting, we will also notice that the church and kingdom are the same thing.  So what is the point of this lesson?  We have shown WHEN the church began AND how it is a part of God’s plan.  As we study what His church is about, let us resolve to keep it pure and true to His pattern.