When the battle was being fought between the church of Christ and denominations, and when brethren were willing to contend earnestly for the faith in public discussion, no questions were of more importance than the time when, and the place where, the church of our Lord was inaugurated, set up, and established. A clear conception of its origin has much to do with a correct understanding of what the will of the Lord is.
By the church, we mean that spiritual realm over which Christ reigns as head and in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Let it be firmly stated that no such an institution existed upon this earth until the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Denominationalism is founded upon the opposite of this fundamental truth, and, hence, their minds are blinded and a veil is over their faces until this day.
Daniel prophesied 600 years before the birth of Christ that the time would come when the God of heaven would set up a kingdom. The Jews expected such, and were ever looking for someone who, in the power of God, would proclaim himself king. When finally Jesus appeared, He declared, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…” (Mark 1:15). In Daniel 2:44, Daniel said that the God of heaven would set up a kingdom in the days of the fourth earthly kingdom—i.e., in the days of the Roman kings.
When we open the New Testament, we find in Matthew 3:1 that in those days came John the Baptist, saying, “…the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Those were the days when the Caesars were on the throne of Rome and the Herods were over Palestine. The time is A.D. 26. Jesus also said in Matthew 4:17, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This was A.D. 31. In Matthew 10, Jesus sent forth the 12 under the first commission and bade them say, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In Luke 10, He ordered the 70 to say, “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” In Matthew 6, He taught the disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” In A.D. 32, He said to His disciples,”Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3).
All of this shows that, as yet, the kingdom, or church, had not been established, but that such an event was at hand, had come nigh unto them. In Matthew 16:18, after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, He declared that, “upon this rock I will build my church.” This could not mean that He intended to merely enlarge it, since in the statement He referred to the foundation.
Time passes, and the Saviour said in Luke 22:18, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” In Mark 9:1, Jesus said, “That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” Christ here plainly says that some to whom He was speaking would live to see the kingdom “come with power.” The kingdom was to “come with power.” But when did the power come? After His resurrection, Christ said, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49). In Acts 1:8, He said, “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.”
The kingdom and power were to come together;
the power and the Spirit were to come together;
the Holy Spirit came on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:1-4).
From these statements of facts undeniable, the conclusion that the church was established on the day of Pentecost is forced upon us. No living man can refute the arguments thus made.
In Acts 2:30 Peter said that God had sworn to David that of the fruit of his loins He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne. The purpose of the resurrection is here clearly stated. If, indeed, Christ today is not on David’s throne, the resurrection might have been postponed for thousands of years. Furthermore, in Acts 15:16-17, James quotes Amos as saying, “After this [the sifting of Israel] I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called.” The tabernacle of David means his house, family, lineage. The last of David’s lineage to occupy the throne was Zedekiah. With his being carried away, B.C. 587, the tabernacle of David fell and passed into ruins. Six hundred years go by, but God had made an oath to David that another of his lineage should take his throne; hence, he “raised up Christ to sit on his throne.” If Christ is not now on David’s throne, the Gentiles, of whom we are, cannot seek the Lord, and, therefore, are hopelessly lost. Any teaching contrary is dishonoring to God and destructive to our fondest hopes and holiest desires.
When Jesus was thus exalted at the right hand of God, where He was made “King of kings, and Lord of lords,” He sent forth His Holy Spirit to give life and energy to that material made ready by John the Baptist. The Gospel was that day proclaimed, and Peter used the keys of the kingdom to open the door of the church. Throughout the Old Testament and thus far in the New, the kingdom is always referred to as a matter of prophecy. Ever thereafter it is spoken of as an historical fact.
Begin with Revelation and trace events backward. John says, “I…am…in the kingdom” (Rev. 1:9). Paul wrote Timothy how to behave himself in “the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). Again, he said the Colossians were delivered from the “power of darkness”and translated “into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). In Acts 8:1 we read of a “great persecution against the church,” and in Acts 5:11 it is said that “great fear came upon all the church.” In Acts 2:47 the statement is that “the Lord added to the church.” This brings us back to Pentecost, in the year A.D. 33, where the church, or kingdom, was established in Jerusalem where Zechariah said, “My house shall be built in it” (Zech. 1:16).
God raised up Christ to sit on David’s throne (Acts 2:30). Daniel said, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to [to, not from] the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13-14).
Christ received this kingdom when He was borne heavenward with the clouds and came to the Ancient of days. His reign began when He sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to earth on the day of Pentecost. He will continue to reign “till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Then shall He deliver the kingdom up to God.