CHURCH HISTORY | PART 1 | Keith Sharp
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:8-12).
The church is the revelation of the secret hidden in the mind of God but made known by the Holy Spirit to the inspired apostles and prophets of Christ. The Lord purposed the church “from the beginning of the ages”; indeed, it is the fulfillment of His “eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” behold the church, God’s people brought to salvation in Christ Jesus, they see “the manifold (many sided) wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:8-12).
The history of the ancient world, properly viewed, is the development of the divine plan for the church as the fulfillment of God’s will to save all who come to obedient faith in Jesus Christ. In God’s infinite wisdom, He used whole peoples and nations to prepare the world for “the fulness of the time” (Galatians 4:4). The rise and fall of ancient Middle Eastern kingdoms – Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Macedonia/Greece, Rome – was but the preparation for the eternal kingdom (cf. Daniel chapters two and seven).
The Romans helped prepare the world by developing a sense of the unity of mankind under universal law and by establishing the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) whereby preachers of the gospel could travel to all parts of the Empire on Roman roads protected by Roman soldiers
The Greeks helped by giving people a common language, Koine (common) Greek, in which they could hear the Word and, negatively, by being at a low spiritual ebb, leaving a void for the gospel to fill.
Israel was specifically the nation/people through whom the Lord brought about the fulfillment of His plan. The Jews (Israel) helped by holding up the one true God to the world, by keeping alive the hopes of the Messiah (“Anointed,” promised Savior), by providing the Old Testament, which paved the way for God’s plan, by giving the pure morals of the Law of Moses, and by providing the synagogue as a place the Gospel could be preached. How glorious is “the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10).
The kingdom of Christ and the church of Christ are the same entity (Matthew 16:18-19). The kingdom (rule) of God is within the hearts of His people (Luke 17:20-21), who are His church, the spiritual assembly of people called out of the world into fellowship with Christ (Hebrews 12:22-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18; 1 John 1:3).
The Lord promised that His indestructible kingdom, His church, would be established during the time of the rule of the Romans, the fourth empire of Daniel chapter two (Daniel 2:44-45).
John the Baptist promised that the kingdom was at hand (near) (Matthew 3:1-2), and, “after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand’” (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18) and declared the kingdom would come with power while some of His hearers were still alive (Mark 9:1).
Just before his ascension back on high, when the apostles asked the Master when the kingdom of God would come, He refused to tell them the time, but answered, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:6-8). It takes power to set up a kingdom. It takes spiritual power to establish a spiritual kingdom.
On the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Sabbath of the Passover, when Christ had been in the tomb, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles (Acts 2:1-4), and they received the power to preach the gospel in the various languages of men from throughout the world (Acts 2:4-11). On that day the kingdom came with power.
Thereafter the church is a present reality (cf. Acts 5:11; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18) as is the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9). The first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ is thereafter known as “the beginning” (Acts 11:15).
The kingdom of the Lord, the church of Christ, began on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, traditional reckoning of time, A.D. 33. If you will repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, the Lord will save you and add you to His church, the body of the saved (Acts 2:38, 47).