When was the church established?

It is important to establish when the Church started, and to rule out why it did not start at the cross when Jesus died.  During several conversations I have heard people say that the church was established at the cross (when Jesus died), others have said that the church started at the resurrection.  

Sometimes it easy to just dismiss certain views, only because we may have our own preconceived ideas and views, hence the only authority that we need turn to is the Word of God, the scriptures. 

Why do they say that the church was established at the cross or at resurrection?

I have not yet received strong support of scriptures that show that the Church was established at the cross.  The argument posed was more around that in Acts 2:41 when it is stated that the souls that were baptised on that day (the day of Pentecost) we added to them.  

41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. Acts 2:41 (NKJV)

The question is who are the “them”, and the argument posed is that it refers to those of before, such as Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Daniel, etc.  i.e. those in the Old Testament, saved by faith.  This argument then leads to stating that that since the “them” refer to these individuals, then they are in the kingdom, the Church, so hence, the church was established before the day of Pentecost.  

This further begs the questions, why would these who are saved under faith, require to be part of the church, waiting for Jesus to return?  

 We will answer this question a bit later on in this article.

It is important to consider the only authority - The scriptures

Let’s consider the following below:

1. Kingdom prophesied in Jerusalem not Golgotha

The kingdom here refers to the church.  

  • 2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
    That the mountain of the LORD’s house
    Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
    And shall be exalted above the hills;
    And all nations shall flow to it. Isaiah 2:2 (NKJV)
  • The mountain that Isaiah speaks off is Jerusalem. Also refer to Micah where He refers to this Zion where the kingdom will be established – (Micah 4:1-5)
  • Thus, the church prophesied is to be established in Jerusalem.
  • Jesus was crucified at Golgotha – John 19:17-18 – Golgotha was outside Jerusalem – so this does not fulfil the prophesies from both Isaiah and Micah.
  • The church could not have started at the cross.

2. Peter given the keys

  • Peter was given the keys to the church
  • 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19 (NKJV)
  • Hence, it was Peter who stood up and preached at Pentecost.
  • 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36 (NKJV)
  • The confession had to be made at the right time for all to hear. Peter’s entire sermon.
  • At the cross was an angry, hostile mob – no one would have listened.
  • 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37 (NKJV)
  • The reaction to that they have put the Lord to death and asking what to do for repentance.

3. Baptism

  • 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 (NKJV)
  • 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 (NKJV)
  • They had to be baptized to enter the promised kingdom. This was not possible to enter before at the cross.
  • 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
    5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:3-6 (NKJV)
  • This cannot be possible before Pentecost due to Peter’s sermon on being baptised.  And that Jesus himself saying in Acts 1:4-5 “not many days from now”

4. There is no mention of the church from the crucifixion of Jesus to the mention of the church in Acts 2

  • There is no mention of saints meeting in the church, or the breaking of bread during this time period.

5. Jesus partakes of the Lord’s Supper in the Kingdom

  • When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, it was for the remembrance of Him. Jesus says,29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29 (NKJV)
  • This means that Jesus had to be already resurrected, in spirit form, gone back to His Father in heaven, where He can partake of the Lord’s supper with the saints in the kingdom, the church.
  • This was not possible when He was alive.
  • This was not possible when he was dead on the cross because His spirit went to the Hades, where Jesus had to defeat death.

6. Jesus’ death could only be remembered after His death, burial, resurrection and accension

  • Jesus still walked the earth for 40 days after the resurrection – The Lord’s supper could not have been partaken as Jesus was still in physical form and could not be at the different churches partaking of the Lord’s Supper with the saints and stated in Matt 26:29. This must mean that the church was not established yet.
  • Remembrance also meant that Jesus was no more with them – Jesus referred to them as orphans.
  • The church could not have been established at the cross.

7. Breaking of bread

  • In Acts 2 we have the breaking of bread as part of the establishing of the Church. There is no mention of the breaking of bread in connection with the church before this.

8. They had to wait for the Holy Spirit

  • 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 (NKJV)
  • They had to wait for the Holy Spirit.
  • 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16-18 (NKJV)
  • The Holy Spirit was promised
  • 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26 (NKJV)
  • Peter spoke on the authority of the Holy Spirit
  • 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4 (NKJV)
  • The Holy Spirit had come upon them.
  • 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Acts 11:15 (NKJV)
  • Peter speaks of the Holy Spirit falling upon them in the beginning – only referring to Acts 2, Pentecost – which they had to wait for – the establishing of the Kingdom.

9. Who are the “them”?

41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. Acts 2:41 (NKJV)

Who are the “them” that the ~3000 souls were added to on the day of Pentecost?

Some believe here that the “them” are those who came before the promise and were under the Law, i.e., Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Daniel, etc.

If this is true, then it means that they were added to the church at some point before the day of Pentecost. 

We have shown in the above points that this could not be possible, however, lets explore a bit more.

 

Scriptures that are used to qualify this are:

  • Hebrews 11:39-40 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

All of these (chapter 11 – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, the Patriarchs, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, etc.) – were justified by faith – they were not under the promise – as it says in verse 39.  So, they could not be baptised and enter the kingdom, the church of Christ.

 

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Hebrews 11:13 (NKJV)

 

16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16 (NKJV)

 

God has prepared a city for “them” – for all these mentioned – backward reflection (backward reflexive pronoun) for those mentioned – could not have been added to the church.

 

  • 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” John 14:2-4 (NKJV)

 

Jesus is going to prepare a place for us – the mansions already exists and in this already dwells those who have made it – i.e. He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16 (NKJV).

These cannot come back and enter the Kingdom of Christ to be saved.  The church is for those of the promise – God having provided something better for us – Heb 11:40.

 

  • Hebrews 10:11-13 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
  • Hebrews 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

In the story that Jesus tells of the rich man and Lazarus, when Lazarus dies, he is carried to Abrahams Bosom.  22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. Luke 16:22 (NKJV)

11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 8:11 (NKJV)

Matthew 8:11 tells us that Abraham will be in heaven.  This is the assurance of Jesus’ word that we have that Abraham and Isaac have made it and will be in Heaven.  So those who have died before and have been faithful, i.e., Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.

They will not be judged again, and from Paradise will enter heaven.

Hence Hebrews 11:16 – God has prepared the City for them. 

26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Luke 16:26 (NKJV)

So, there is no crossing over from Paradise to Hades. 

 

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Revelation 20:13 (NKJV)

Only the dead in Hades were judged according to their deeds, not those in Paradise, they already made it – again, no need to enter the church for salvation.

 

So, the “them” cannot be Abraham, or the those mentioned in Hebrews 11.  Hence, we can deduce it must only be the Apostles (Apostolic example) that they were added to, as they by the instruction of the Holy Spirit has guided the Saints on how to worship God, break bread, and as seen in the inspired letters, conducts ourselves in the church.

The snippet above shows the Greek inter-linear bible and in the original Greek language, the word “them” was not included.  

 

Translations:

NKJV; ASV; KJV – uses the word “them”

The NIV says the following:

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41 (NIV)

So, their number can only be the number present – i.e., the Apostles.

Conclusion

  1. The kingdom was to come with Power. 1 And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” Mark 9:1 (NKJV)
  2.  The power was to come with the Holy Spirit. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
  3.  The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
  4. Isaiah and Micah prophesied the Kingdom being established in Jerusalem and not at the cross (Golgotha).
  5. Hence, the kingdom was established at Pentecost.

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