1. Phase one of Christ's "church"  was a 'kingdom church', a fulfillment of the 'gathering' foretold by the Hebrew prophets which would restore the earthly kingdom to Israel.

2. Phase two of Christ's "church" is the same 'gathering' in mystery form as Israel proceeded to reject God's offer of their prophesied kingdom.

3. Phase three of Christ's "church" is not part of God's eventual plan to restore the earthly kingdom to Israel, but is a totally new mystery that takes a people chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be part of God's purpose to transform a heavenly people into an inheritance for the Lord Jesus Christ.


 by R.L.B.

The Early Church, What Was It?

        The Lord announced in Matthew 16:18-19 that He would "build" His ekklesia (gathering).  Was this "gathering" ("Church") a gathering with a heavenly calling and blessing, a "one body" consisting of believers called by God without regard to national or covenant status and advantage?  Or was it a "kingdom church" with an earthly, millennial expectation?  Consider the following:

  1. Acts 1 - 8: Christ's kingdom church as revealed in O.T. prophecy, with a direct offer to restore Israel's earthly kingdom.

  2. Acts 8 - 28:28: Christ's kingdom church in "mystery" form, not as revealed in prophecy.

  3. Acts 28:28 and beyond: Christ's heavenly church totally unconnected with Israel.

  1. Christ's "ekklesia" was originally revealed as the fulfillment of prophecy which stated that Israel would be "gathered", the Holy Spirit's gift would be poured out upon them and a believing Israel would be the gospel messengers to fulfill the great commission by going to all the world and bringing Gentiles into the earthly kingdom.
  2. When Israel at Jerusalem rejected their Messiah by stoning Stephen (Acts 7) God changed the nature of His "gathering."  He opened the gospel door to Samaritans (Acts 8:5-17), and finally to Gentiles (Acts 10), to provoke Israel to jealousy so they must either believe or disbelieve the gospel.  A believing Israel was still in mind to be the missionary arm of the Lord to bring Gentiles into a relationship with God. Hence, "the Jew first." But bypassing non-believing Israel by allowing Gentiles to participate in Israel's exclusive covenant promises totally apart from Israel was a "mystery" never revealed in Old Testament prophecy.
  3. Once the Jewish leaders of the diaspora at Rome joined Israel at Jerusalem by totally rejecting their Messiah Paul with apostolic authority, and with the enabling of the Holy Spirit as expressly stated in Acts 28:25, cast spiritual blindness and deafness upon national Israel, thus ending the offer of the millennial kingdom to Israel. Israel was shut up. The sin against the Holy Spirit had been committed by Israel. (See Mat. 12:32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10). The Jew was no longer first.  The charismatic signs of the Holy Spirit (the works of power of the age to come) ceased. A new "mystery" was revealed, not a mystery provoking Israel to jealousy, but a mystery not revealed in O.T. prophecy, that simply allowed anyone anywhere to believe the gospel and partake of all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, totally apart from any covenants promised to Israel.

Because the word "ekklesia" simply means any "gathering of people" It is not exclusive to any one of the three expression of Christ's "gathered believers" mentioned above. Each of the three above expressions of the "ekklesia" qualify as Christ's "gathering of people" who bow down to Him in humble worship, as the One Who is fully "worthy" of worship (see Rev. 4:11; 5:2, 4, 9, 12, etc.). 

Some final thoughts

   "Wherefore remember that *ye*, once nations in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that called circumcision in the flesh done with the hand;
   "that ye were at that time without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
   "but now in Christ Jesus *ye* who once were afar off are become nigh by the blood of the Christ.
   "For *he* is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of enclosure,
   "having annulled the enmity in his flesh, the law of commandments in ordinances, that he might form the two in himself into one new man, making peace;
   "and might reconcile both in one body to God by the cross, having by it slain the enmity;
   "and, coming, he has preached the glad tidings of peace to you who were afar off, and the glad tidings of peace to those who were nigh.
   "For through him we have both access by one Spirit to the Father.
   "So then ye are no longer strangers and foreigners, but ye are fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God,
   "being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the corner-stone,
   "in whom all the building fitted together increases to a holy temple in the Lord;
   "in whom *ye* also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." (Eph. 2:11-22)


For more information you might enjoy the following two papers:

How many "churches" existed during and following the Acts record? 

(A paper questioning the theory that two "churches" simultaneously existed during the Acts period.  This article makes certain logical conclusions raised by another paper  on the real meaning of the word ekklesia - church, gathering, assembly, meeting, etc.)

                  The Birthday of the Church vs. the Beginning of the    Present Dispensation

(A survey of dispensational truth as its understanding developed under the ministries of J. N. Darby, C. H. Mackintosh, E. W. Bullinger, C. H. Welch, C. I. Scofield,  J. C. O'Hair, C. R. Stam, and others)

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