There is a common concept that the Lord Jesus Christ came to
this earth to set up or establish his kingdom, but being rejected by the Jews,
he postponed his kingdom and set up the church instead. Proponents of this
doctrine believe that Jesus will set up his kingdom on earth when he returns the
second time. This concept relegates the church to the role of a stop-gap
measure, a kind of after-thought conceived by Christ to provide something to
fill the gap between his return to the Father and his return to the earth. It is
also commonly believed that the prophets said nothing about the church. They saw
only the first coming of the Christ and his yet to come, earthly kingdom. In
this lesson, our aim will be to show that the New Testament church was planned
by God and prophesied by the prophets and that these prophecies were fulfilled
on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Was the church predicted by the prophets? In order to arrive
at the correct answer, it is imperative that we understand, that in the Bible,
the kingdom and the house of the Lord in the prophecy of the Old Testament often
refer to the church of the New Testament.
Jesus predicted that he would build his church (Matthew
16:18). He called his church "the kingdom" (Matt. 16:19). Therefore, the church
and the kingdom in this sense, are the same. Christ is the head of both the
church and the kingdom. The terms of admission are the same. Those in the church
are also in the kingdom. The apostle Paul said, that "the house of God is the
church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15). From these Scriptures, we may
conclude that the Lord's house, the kingdom and the church often refer to one
and the same thing.
At this juncture, I suggest that you read and consider the
seventh chapter of Second Samuel. This chapter reveals that David the king, had
purposed to build a house for God. In contrast, God rejected David's proposal
but promised to build a house for David and the people. This mission would be
accomplished through David's seed after the death of the former. In addition to
building his house, his throne would also be established (2 Samuel 7:12-16). The
full accomplishment of this prophecy, related to Jesus Christ who is often
called David and the Son of David. He was of the seed of David (Acts 13:23). The
promise "I will be his Father and he will be my Son," is expressly applied to
Christ by the apostle (Hebrews 1:5). The establishing of his house and his
throne, and his kingdom for ever (2 Sam. 7:13 & 16), can be applied to no other
than Christ and his kingdom. David's earthly house and kingdom long ago came to
an end. Only the kingdom of Christ is everlasting. On the day of Pentecost, the
apostle Peter said that God had sworn unto David that he would raise up Christ
to sit on his throne (Acts 2:30). The announcement of the reign of Christ was
given on the day of Pentecost. See Acts chapter two.
The first prophecy we will consider was recorded by Isaiah.
"The word that Isaiah the son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it
shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall
be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the
hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say,
Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God
of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for
out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem
(Isaiah 2:1-3). This Scripture prophesied of the church which was to be
established on the top of the mountains or above all other governments. Isaiah
also stated three fundamental facts, namely:
1. The prophecy would be fulfilled in The Last Days.
2. All Nations would flow unto it.
3. It would have its Beginning In Jerusalem.
After interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, king of
Babylon, Daniel predicted that the God of heaven would set up a kingdom which
would never be destroyed. This kingdom would not be left to other people, but
would break in pieces and consume all the other kingdoms and would stand for
ever (Daniel 2:44).
When John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of
Judea, his message was, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt.
3:1). To be "at hand" meant "to be near," denoting that the kingdom was not in
actual existence in the days of John. This prophecy of the kingdom was a
prophecy of the church.
Others who preached the kingdom as near but yet in the future
was Jesus (Matt. 4:17) and his disciples who preached it to the lost sheep of
the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5-7). The seventy disciples preached it also (Luke
10:1-9). Each of these Scripture references point to the kingdom to be
established in the future.
Again, let us recall that Jesus said that he would build his
church (according to Matt.16:18), and he called his church "the kingdom" in
verse 19. Since the kingdom was predicted, therefore, the church also, was
Jesus gave another prophecy when he said, "Verily, I say unto
you, 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" (Mark 9:1). Here we can
see that some of the people standing there with Jesus would not die until they
had seen the kingdom come with power. Now we ask the question, what is the power
predicted to come?
After his resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples: "Thus it
is written and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the
third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his
name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47). In this
prediction, the prophecy of all nations and beginning in Jerusalem, spoken of by
Isaiah, is about to be fulfilled. Now we must check to see if it occurred during
the last days.
Shortly, before Jesus ascended back to heaven, the disciples
asked him if he would restore again the kingdom to Israel. (Acts 1:6). Jesus
said unto them, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the
Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the
Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts 1:7-8). The Lord made it known that power
would come with the Holy Ghost. When we establish the time of the coming of the
Holy Ghost, we will know when the power came and also, when the kingdom, which
is the church, had its beginning.
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and filled the
apostles. They spoke with new tongues or languages as the Spirit gave them
utterance (Acts 2:1-4). They were charged with being drunk or filled with new
wine (Acts 2:13). Peter denied the charge and stated that what the people were
seeing and hearing was that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, "And it shall
come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all
flesh..." (Acts 2:16-17). Here we may learn that the events of Pentecost
transpired during the last days. The three fundamental facts of Isaiah's
prophecy were fulfilled on Pentecost. They took place in the last days; all
nations were assembled there; and these events had their beginning in
You will remember that Jesus said that the kingdom would come
with power. The power came with the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit came on
Pentecost, we conclude that the kingdom, the church, came on Pentecost as was
prophesied. On Pentecost, the people heard and obeyed the gospel. The Lord added
to the church those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). No one was added to the
church before Pentecost. Therefore, the church had its beginning on the day of
The church was also according to the plan or purpose of God.
This purpose was a mystery or secret. Paul said that he was less than the least
of all saints but God called him to preach to the Gentiles, and to explain to
all people the meaning of the secret. God kept this secret to himself from the
beginning of the world. What was his reason for this? To show to all the rulers
how perfectly wise he is when all his family--Jews and Gentiles alike -- are seen
united together in the church, in just the way he had planned through Jesus
Christ our Lord (Ephesians 3:7-11).
The actual historical formation of the church occurred in
Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. On that day the Spirit was poured out upon
the disciples to form the body of Christ, the church. Peter referred to that as
the beginning (Acts 11:15-16). The beginning can only refer to Pentecost, thus
identifying it as the time of the "baptism with the Holy Ghost." Pentecost marks
not only the beginning of the church as the spiritual reality of the body of
Christ, but also the visible church.