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THE CHURCH DURING ACTS

This church did not begin at any time during the Acts period.  In Acts 7:38, Stephen spoke of it as the church in the wilderness, at Mt. Sinai it was the congregation of Israel. This church at that beginning received the law which was in effect till the last chapter of Acts.

But the earliest mention of an assembly or church is found in Job 30:28, I cried in the congregation. But Job was not of Israel.

So the congregation or church of Israel in the OT is the assembly or church of Acts period. In all, it lasted about 1560 years. After the end of the dispensation of the mystery, this church will be restored and last 1,000 years on this present earth.

We then realize that the church in Acts is only one phase of it. And it will last thru the history of this earth and have its place in the new earth as found in Revelation 21. No end there.

Now this church during Acts was really the third phase of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13), and has one phase yet to go before the millennium. That will be a period of 21 years. This has been explained in former articles. That is why the Lord speaks of a church in Matthew 18:17; another proof that there was a church in NT times before Pentecost. That also explains the church mentioned in Acts 2:47, And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

The churches in Revelation 1-3 were really synagogues, existing at about 43 A.D. when the Revelation was written. In fact most of the churches of the Acts period were synagogues except maybe the school mentioned in Acts 19 and that was connected in some way to the synagogue.

Also the congregations in these synagogues were Jews, Gentiles sat outside the main room on one side and the women and children on the other side. Men only of 12 and over who were circumcised could sit in the congregation. And somewhat the same in the temple, the women had a court, and the Gentiles had their court. They dared not go beyond the wall of partition.

When Paul began to preach his gospel of the grace of God to the Gentiles in the synagogues, these Gentiles were said to have been wild olive branches grafted into the true olive tree, Israel. In so doing they could partake of the blessings that were promised to Abraham. Read Romans 11 for some light on this.

So we find a rather strange situation in the synagogues. The apostles of the circumcision had only a message for the Jews, but on the other hand, Paul had messages for both Jews and Gentiles. But it was all about the kingdom to come, not some other gospel. The kingdom was in view as long as Israel were a people. The divorce of Hosea 3 finally happened in Acts 28. From that time Israel has not been a people. After 2 days will be their restoration which you find in Hosea 6:2. So Israel still has a future. The promises to Abraham will be fulfilled!

From the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem after the captivity, till the birth of Christ, was about 401 years. A time of silence as far as Scriptures were concerned. From His birth till the beginning of His ministry was 30 years. His ministry was preceded by a 6 months ministry by John Baptist. This was the first sowing in Matthew 13. Then the Lord's ministry was the second sowing, 31/2 years. Both these sowings brought forth very little harvest. The wayside was not a good place for sowing nor was stony ground. These two sowings took 4 years.

Acts was the third sowing, that in thorny ground. And we see the result at the end of Acts. It was a field that had to be burnt to got rid of the thorns (Hebrews 6:8). A common practice even today. Note that the fourth sowing is in Revelation 7, a great harvest. But back to Acts.

From the question about establishing the kingdom now, as asked at Acts 1:6 till the end of that time period, there was a looking for the coming kingdom. It did not come. They were not ready. And finally at the end of Acts rejected the King and kingdom. And so they rejected and the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles. This was the beginning of the great mystery which had been hid from ages and generations. And after this program is complete, then will Israel come into view and finish their course.

So all during Acts there was a looking for the Messiah. That He would come with millions of angels and that believers would be seized (raptured), and carried into the air to meet the Lord as He descended to the earth to set up His millennial kingdom. And since the prophecy of Daniel 9:24,25 set the date of that coming as of A.D. 85, they would have experienced it had Israel accepted the gospel of the kingdom as preached by the 12 and Paul. The Jews were still under the law and practiced their rituals and sacrifices as before. The Gentile believers were not obligated to do the deeds of the law as was decided in Acts 15.

And further than all this, it was plainly brought out in the Acts epistles that Israel would some day be in the New Jerusalem on the new earth. But even back in the times of Isaiah 1:3, Israel did not know as much as the ox and the ass. And by the end of Acts they do not seem to have learned very much more.

Remember that the 4 sowings of Matthew 13 were preparatory for the coming millennial kingdom. So the coming kingdom was preached all during the period from Pentecost to Acts 28. Paul was accused of preaching another king but Caesar.

So that generation missed the millennium and also the New Jerusalem, and so held up God's program. That is from the human standpoint. God knew what He was doing, but man failed. And we know that the church of today will also end in failure. 2 Timothy 3:1-9.

We have already mentioned that the church in Acts was the congregation of Israel in the wilderness spoken of by Stephen (Acts 7:38). Also there was a church during the Lord's ministry, the same one (Matthew 18:17). And since Acts is a continuation of the Lord's ministry, there was no new church formed at Acts 2. All thru Acts we have mention of prophecies being fulfilled. So then that church was founded on the apostles and prophets. But the church which began at Acts 28:28 has no part in prophecy, except that it is a blank in Israel's history (Hosea 6:2).

The message of the apostles during Acts was the one given to them by the Lord during the 40 days in which He taught them after His resurrection (Acts 1:3). This instruction was given on a mount which was before decided upon as a rendezvous (Matthew 28:16-20). Why go to all this trouble, if there was a change at Acts 2? Or even if there was a change at Acts 9,10 or even 13?

But we discover that the commission given in Matthew 28:18-20 was for their ministry in the millennium. But in Matthew the commission was to begin immediately and that the signs would follow, which did during Acts.

Luke, in his gospel, records the instruction of the disciples (later apostles), and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). And when Peter preached at Pentecost, there were Jews from nation's present, hearing the gospel in their own tongues, and they were exhorted to repent. But we do not find anything like this after the Acts period of time. For the church after Acts did not have the miracles and signs of the kingdom, but the truth concerning the church which is the body of Christ. No longer the kingdom.

Since the present time is but a parenthesis in the work of God on earth, we can expect that the Revelation should continue right on after Acts. In fact the book is written to seven churches (synagogues) in Asia Minor at that time, and was written about A.D. 43.

Since tradition has made such a mess of things, it is necessary to start all over and take the Bible only for our authority.

There were 14 epistles written during Acts, 7 by Paul, and 7 by apostles of the circumcision. The theme all thru is that of prophecy and its fulfillment and the coming millennial kingdom. The return of the Lord is prominent and the prophets quoted to sustain the argument. In fact, it is quite a chore to tabulate all the prophecies quoted or alluded to in the Revelation alone.

The Acts of the Apostles, so called, was written after the events had taken place and is designed to show the failure of Israel and pave the way for the revelation of the dispensation of the mystery by the apostle Paul after the divorce of Israel at Acts 28.

The time period of Acts is from A.D. 29 to 64. This is 35 years, 5 X 7 which is of prophetic significance and has a part in the prophecy of Daniel 9:25. For that prophecy had to do with the history of Israel from the dedication of the temple in 405 B.C. till the coming of the Lord as mentioned in Revelation 19, a total of 490 years (70 X 7). The coming was dated by Daniel as being in A.D. 85. But it did not happen. The record we have in Acts falls short of that 490 years by 21 years. And that 21 years has not been fulfilled yet today (1997).

This little review can set up a lot of questions. And it can make one wonder when we see about us all indications that the truth has been ignored and man has set up his own series of events. According to the prophecy, there is no possibility that the Lord could have come and set up His kingdom before A.D. 85. Yet many seem to think that it could have happened at any moment then and even yet today. No regard for prophecy and its dates.

And so then the great parenthesis of Hosea 6:2 is ignored and man is still looking for the kingdom, and has ignored and denied the church which is the body of Christ.

Some have a notion that the church came into being at Acts 13 at Antioch. That was in A.D. 46. Yet the coming of the King is looked for in 1 Thessalonians 4 written in 53, and also in 1 Corinthians 15 written in 57, just 14 years after the Revelation was written (43). There are many more facts that can be brought out along this line, but time and space do not permit the presentation here. But just note the time elapse between The Revelation and 2 Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Now if people would cease to read all the junk by the Church Fathers and modern theologians and turn to the Word, they would be informed. But that is too much work!

And here let me say, as Mr. Welch said so often, "Do not take it from me, but search and see." Just try this rule for once.

Peter was the last to write during the Acts period of time, yet he is looking for the Revelation (apocalypse). See 1 Peter 1:13. And he speaks of a priesthood in 2:9 as well as many other expressions that belong to the kingdom, the churches during Acts.

It is a great surprise to many that during Acts, 3 of the gospels were written, Matthew, Mark and Luke. John was written after the final rejection of Christ by His own, John 1:11.

Gentile believers during Acts were not subject to the law. But because of the new nature in them, they did the things contained in the law. See Romans 2:14. They did not bear fruit. That is, they had no ministry. Salvation was still of the Jews. Wild olive trees do not bear fruit. But these were grafted in to make Israel jealous and bear the fruit they were ordained to bear. The grafting was a failure.

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August 18 2006
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