Introduction (Part 1)
“Power from on High!”
When the Lord Jesus was about to ascend to His father in heaven His disciples were gathered around Him. They had spent three and a half years with Him and had been eye witnesses to His Life, His miracles, His Words, His death and of His Resurrection. Furthermore, He had breathed His Spirit into each one of them individually and they were now spiritually born again by the work of the Holy Spirit. (John 20: 22) They had received His commission to go into the whole world to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and they undoubtedly felt the urgency to go. However, He told them to wait in the City of Jerusalem until they had all been “Endued with power from on High.” They were to be His witnesses but to wait until they had received His power to do this great and momentous task He had ordained and commissioned them to do. (Luke 24:49) (Acts 1:8)
“Spiritual Armour and Weapons”
When the Lord Jesus had called them to follow Him they had been enlisted into the LORD’S Army. However, once He had gone into heaven they would need spiritual armour and weapons to fight the battle for the souls of men and women who had been captured by Satan, the god of this world. The disciples now understood that the purpose the Son of God was revealed was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) They understood that the battle was the LORD’s but that they had a role and a part to play in it. Victory had been assured but many skirmishes lay ahead and some fierce spiritual combat that they would have to engage in to see men and women saved out from the kingdom of Satan and brought into the kingdom of God. There were many sinners to be saved and in due course many saints to be sanctified! This would take supernatural power from on High to do this great work for the LORD! Through these men the Lord Jesus would establish His Body, the faithful Church. The Holy Spirit would continue Jesus’ ministry through His Body corporately. On the Day of Pentecost 120 men and women were corporately filled with the Spirit and Power of God and of course the rest is history!
“The Rock of Revelation Knowledge”
At one time during His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus had asked His disciples a question concerning who He was. Peter, by the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit, said “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus went on to say that He would build His Church upon the great rock of revelation truth that He was the Son of God and that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church! He of course was the solid Rock and He would give them His Word (The New Testament) to be the solid foundation upon which His Body, the faithful Church, would be built. The Key was the Rock of revelation truth that the Lord Jesus was that Rock and the way, the truth and the life and that no man or woman could come into the Father’s presence unless they came through Him. (John 14:6) The 120 would preach and teach that “Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:2).
“Not an Institution!”
According to the New Testament the Church is not an institution or a hierarchical structure or religious system at all but a living and spiritual body of men and women living by faith individually and corporately in the power of the Holy Spirit. After the Day of Pentecost the believers continued to worship within the precincts of the established system of Mosaic Judaism (The Temple). They were still a part of the system but separate from it. However, the day came when the followers of Jesus were kicked out of the religious institution. Up until 70AD Mosaic Judaism practiced in the Temple was still a valid religious system that God has ordained but had become spiritually corrupted and spiritually bankrupt. The 120 believers had tried to stay within the system that they were familiar with but were driven out by the religious hierarchy (The ‘College of Cardinals’). While the believers in Jesus were under the umbrella of Judaism they were protected from the demands of the Roman Empire regarding religious worship. Judaism was an accepted religion by the Roman authorities. It was a government licensed religious system; much like Institutionalized Christendom is today.
“An Illegal Religion?”
However, the time came when the believers in Jesus were evicted from the temple grounds they suddenly became an illegal religion by the standards of Roman law concerning religious worship. From the time of Augustus emperor worship began in the city of Pergamum (present day Turkey) the believers in Jesus were then outside the law and as far as Rome was concerned they were ‘Outlaws!’ Initially the Jewish religious establishment, mainly the Jewish religious leaders, persecuted them because of the name of Jesus. Within a very short span of time after that the severe persecution of Jesus faithful followers kicked into full swing beginning with the Emperor Nero in around 68 AD.
“Persecution a Reality”
The final war of Rome with the Jews really started in around 66 AD when Nero was Emperor. In 68AD both the Apostle Peter and Paul were martyred by Nero’s henchmen. Then in 70AD the religious institution was demolished by Titus’ legions that saw the demise of Biblical Mosaic Judaism which has, since then, not existed for over 2,000 years. These events not only teach us about the past history of the Church but also teach us about the future history of the Church. Just as the Emperors of Rome persecuted faithful Christians so the Antichrist’s beast empire will do the same thing to those who stay faithful to the Lord Jesus. Already the Beast Empire is persecuting the saints. Historically there were 10 major Imperial persecutions of faithful believers in Jesus. These persecutions that came into full swing by the Roman Emperors were continued by the Pontiffs of Rome (Roman Catholicism) for several centuries during the inquisition. While this persecution of born again Bible believing Christians, and Jews for that matter, continued through the Roman Catholic Church in the West in time persecution also came to the Church in the Middle-East with the onslaught of Islam. Today it is happening again on a global scale. Persecution has always been around but in these last days it is multiplying rapidly. Already we have seen the demise of Middle-eastern Christianity especially in Iraq and Syria as an institutional system as Church after Church is either burned to the ground of turned into Mosques. Some of these Churches can date their existence from the time of the Apostles when the Church flourished throughout the whole Middle-East.
The reality facing Christians today is that institutionalised Christianity is finished! Like the Judaism of Moses it has become spiritually bankrupt with many denominations now teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. It took 40 years after the time of Jesus before the axe was laid to the root and Biblical Mosaic Judaism no longer existed with the destruction of the Temple. After the Lord Jesus had ascended to His Father God gave Israel another 40 years to repent and to embrace Jesus as their Messiah but they continued to reject Him and twist the scriptures and add to them the commandments and doctrines of men and ultimately reaped the consequences as Jesus had predicted 40 years before.
“Back to the Bible!”
Today the Western Church is being given time by the LORD to repent and turn again to the final authority of the Bible before the axe is laid to the root and institutionalised Christianity will become a thing of the past. However, time is running out. The spiritually bankrupt institutional Church system, like the spiritually bankrupt Jewish religious institutionalised system that kowtowed to Rome, in the same way the false Church system will ultimately kowtow to Islam as Judaism did to Rome. In the end Rome destroyed the system of Mosaic Judaism. In the end the Antichrist’s empire will destroy the system of institutionalised Christendom. Faithful, born again, Bible believing Christians will be forced into underground Churches and be found meeting in homes, factories, warehouses, in the bush or in caves or wherever they can worship freely undetected by the government authorities. The Church the Lord Jesus comes back for will be vastly different than the one we see today. This has already been a reality for the underground Churches in China, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and in many third world countries with Islamic governments.
“A Blueprint for the Church”
There are those within the hierarchy of the denominational system of institutionalised Christianity who treat the Book of Acts as a history of the early Church and so it is and Luke was a master historian as there is internal as well as external evidence to show this fact clearly. However, did the Holy Spirit include the book of Acts just to give us a history of how the first century Church operated or was there another purpose in Luke writing it? Paul writing to Timothy spoke about scripture when he wrote; “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul also wrote to the Romans; “For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). You could say that the Bible is the LORD’S street directory for His people so that they can find their way around the Kingdom of God. Likewise, the book of Acts is not only accurate history but a pattern or blueprint of what the LORD intended his Church to be like. In the book of Acts we not only see the Biblical model for Church leadership but also the Biblical model for evangelism and discipleship. They are all there! Tragically over the centuries the Church has become a huge ponderous institutional denominational religious structural system that, by enlarge, is moving away from the Bible and the simplicity that is found in Christ. Today we have denominations, Seeker- Sensitive, Purpose Driven, Ecumenical, Interfaith, Post Modernism, Kingdom Now, Hyper Charismatic, New Apostolic and psychology and marketing strategies replacing the plain teaching and meaning of the Word of God!
“Past history is future history!”
What happened in the early Church will happen again just before the Lord Jesus comes back. Past history will become future history. The book of Acts provides a spiritual rollercoaster of situations and events that span 30 years of history. By 70 AD, with the demise of Mosaic Judaism (the old religious system), New Testament Biblical Christianity had spread like wildfire throughout the known world and even beyond its borders. The Old “wineskin” of Judaism was gone and the new “wineskin” of the Gospel of the Kingdom in the believer’s life was full to the brim with the “New Wine” of the life and power of the Spirit of God! David’s fallen tabernacle had at last been spiritually restored! Before the Lord Jesus comes back what we see in the Book of Acts will again be seen in the faithful Church. However, it will be outside of denominational structures and the institutionalised Church as we see it today. At the end the false Church system will come to its demise at the hands of Antichrist who will have no rivals. In that day the Body of Christ will be as it was in the days of the Apostles. Acts will be repeated!
“A Spirit led, Spirit filled Church!”
From its inception the early Christian believers were led and guided by the Holy Spirit. He led them in making decisions and in their evangelism and discipleship. He empowered them for testimony and service and this is clearly seen throughout the whole book of Acts. There are those today in the denominational circles that try to relegate the book of Acts to an infant Church that was still finding their feet spiritually speaking. These so called “intellectual theologians” fail to see the tremendous effect the early Christians had on people and how in simple faith they lived and moved daily in the Spirit’s power, something lacking in virtually every western Church today if the truth be known. Those so called ‘enlightened theologians’ have no answer why their Churches are empty. In the days of the book of Acts the believers Biblically challenged and changed the society in which they lived. It was written of them; “these who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6). Can this be said of the western Church today? There is no doubt that the rain of the Spirit is falling in many third world countries where the luxuries we have in the west by enlarge do not exist. However, we in the western Churches cannot say; “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk” because we have to confess; “We have silver and gold in abundance!” Many of these huge and rather opulent Church buildings in reality are monuments to those who have built them. The believers in the book of Acts had nothing of that sort of thing but they did have the Power of God!
“Saved and Sanctified!”
On the day of Pentecost around 3,000 were saved in a single day and the LORD continue to add to the fellowship those who were being saved on a daily basis. Imagine a Church fellowship where every day someone was saved! Furthermore, they did not have some programme of discipleship classes once a week on a Wednesday night but we read; “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41-42; 46-47).
“They had their first love!”
Intellectual theologians and those leaders and ministers not open to the gifts of the Spirit are hard pressed to deny the power and purity of those first century believers. They may not have had a great deal of theology but they had their first love for then Lord Jesus and as far as their zeal for Him and the proclamation of His Word they were red hot for the LORD! Their whole community life on a daily basis revolved around the Lord Jesus and His Word. Even though in time the believers would be found working at normal jobs and taking care of their families they still made their times of worship, prayer and Bible study the main spiritual priorities for their live individually and corporately. There main goal was to see sinners saved and saints sanctified.
In these days in which we are now living if we cannot stand together then we will never stand alone. A division is coming and is already here between those who stand solely upon the Word of God from those who compromise and try to bend its meaning and compromise its authority as they seek to blend it into the philosophies and doctrines of men. On the other hand some still insist that what we read in the book of Acts was ‘primitive’ Christianity but now in this so called ‘enlightened age’ we don’t need that anymore. We have committees and strategies of one sort or another for Church growth. We have Popes, Archbishops, and Priests, Archdeacons and the ‘Colleges of the Cardinals’ and the theological institutions! Then there are others teaching that the gifts of the Spirit died out with the Apostles yet they cannot really explain why their ministries and their congregations have no real spiritual power that moves heaven and earth!
Today there are two extremes. There are those who do emphasize the Word of God but do away with the Gifts of the Spirit relegating them to antiquity. On the other hand, we have crazy charismania with its over emphasis on supernatural signs, miracles and wonders with little emphasis on the systematic teaching of God’s Word. Where do we find a church fellowship today that stands on the Bible but also moves in the gifts of the Spirit and practices them Biblically? The believers in the book of Acts were most certainly not ‘primitive’ as they had the teaching of the Apostles to lead them.
“Spiritual Gifts in Abundance!”
In the early Church they had the preaching of the Word with signs following and an abundance of spiritual gifts. In the Church that the Lord Jesus comes back for, likewise we will have the centrality of God’s Word being faithfully preached with spiritual gifts in abundance in the faithful Church. In those days, because the power of Satan and the occult will be very powerful the believers will have to have God’s power to overcome these demonic spirits of wickedness and power in high places. If the book of Acts is ‘primitive’ Christianity then bring it on!!!
False revivals, false fire and fanaticism of one sort or another is nothing new in the Church. As the Great Apostasy gathers momentum today we see more and more of this kind of thing in the Church with leaders and ministers trying to somehow get the Church mobilized. They may have their courses and strategies for church growth but are not connected to the power of God. In the book of Acts you have Simon the sorcerer who was down amongst the Samaritans and one who had a huge following and was into signs, miracles and wonders big time until he encountered the power of God through the ministry of Phillip the evangelist. He supposedly joined the believers professing to be one of them but his motives were exposed when his real desire was to have the same kind of power the Apostles had. Then there is Elymas the sorcerer who was also a big time signs and wonders guru with supposedly supernatural powers. He was rubbing shoulders with ‘the high and mighty’ in the Roman government and Roman society and undoubtedly had great influence on the Proconsul. However, when the real deal came along with the Apostle Paul, Elymas’ whole act fell through. He actually ended up blind!
“They are around today”
God does not tolerate false teachers and prophets for long and they were definitely around in the time of the Apostles. The long history of the Church has been infested with them! Sometimes the LORD will send false prophets to see if His people will obey His Word just like He put a lying spirit in the mouths of Jezebel’s prophets when they were prophesying before King Ahab. In the light of Church history there have been unnumbered false revivals of one sort or another too numerous to mention that fizzled out in the end with many of their leaders proving to be just ”shooting stars” here today but gone tomorrow! Whether it is seeker sensitive or purpose driven, or Alpha or ecumenical unity, or crazy Charismania, or Lakeland or Pensacola or the so called ‘Laughing Revival’ or the Emergent Church or Kingdom Dominion Triumphalism? They are all trying to get the Church empowered in some way. They all pass away in time and nothing will have changed on the whole in society for the better.
“Gimmicks with Razzle’n’Dazzle!”
Programmes, Christian rock stars, strobe lighting and hypnotic music are great features of the Mega Churches mesmerising hundreds of impressionable young and naive believers who should know better but don’t, because their leaders on the whole themselves are ignorant of the Law of God and the Word of God. Many do not lack enthusiasm or commitment but committed to what? Many are very sincere, however, it has also been said; “the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions!” Many are undoubtedly sincere but in the light of scripture sincerely wrong! Sadly many professing Christians are waltzing down the Yellow Brick Road of razzle and dazzle and hype and spiritual euphoria but at the end of the road they will not find the Wizard of Oz but someone far more sinister!
“What is wrong with going back to the Bible?”
There is nothing wrong with going back to the Bible but everything right with going back to the Bible! Why do many church leaders and ministers today feel that they have to have spiritual ‘additives’ as it were to keep bums on seats in Churches? Is the Bible itself is no longer good enough? Does not scripture stand alone? Of course it does! It does not need the approval or embellishments of men! Many of these Mega Churches have grown by church transfer growth, not by sinners being genuinely saved and sanctified. Many undiscerning naive Christians looking for a spiritual fix, flow into these auditoriums to hear and see the latest show with prophecies, signs, miracles and wonders on display for all to see. Many have forgotten that the Lord Jesus Himself said; “It is an evil generation that seeks for a sign.” One of the conspicuous features that will precede the coming of Antichrist will be all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders in the professing Christian Church. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10) Someone has said that many Christians when they come to worship in these crazy churches leave their minds in the car park!
“A Real Revival!”
Society as a whole in the west still continues to decline ethically, morally and spiritually. Where are these so called revivals today! Why have they not changed society for the better? In the days of Wesley, Whitfield or General Booth society was transformed. Revival itself is not people being saved. This is a result of Revival as we will see right through the Book of Acts. A real revival starts when the Church goes back to the Bible and dare I say its Jewish roots! No revival ever started with laughing and rolling on the floor with hysterics and jumping up and down and gyrating down the aisle of the Church. A genuine Biblical Revival will see believers humbling themselves before God and acknowledging their totally inability to serve Him and crying out in their souls for God to revive them and to see sinners saved and saints sanctified and God glorified in and through their lives and through their Church. This is precisely the attitude we see in the believers throughout the Book of Acts.
“The Former and the Latter Rain!”
The book of Acts spans 30 years of Church history and in that time the Gospel of the Kingdom went out from Jerusalem into all Judea and Samaria and even started to penetrate into the remotest parts of the earth. The Lord Jesus Himself said; “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). The last Great Sign that will precede the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Until that is achieved the Lord Jesus cannot come back. In heaven, in eternity, the day of His return is fixed but down here, in time, as we know on earth it is a variable. It is not so much that the bride is waiting for their spouse the Lord Jesus Christ to come back but that He is waiting on His bride to be ready! The first century Church experienced the Former Rain of the Spirit and the last century Church will experience the Latter Rain of the Spirit but it will be in the midst of wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below with blood fire and vapour of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and glorious Day of the LORD shall come. And it shall be in that day that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved! (Acts 2:17-21) This then is the thrust of the book of Acts and when we read the book of Acts we are not only reading past history but future history as well!