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The Church of Christ Established. The Law and the Gospel
We come now to the direct question, When and where was the institution called the “kingdom of heaven," the "kingdom of God," the “Church of Christ,” established ? If the precise date of its proclamation can be fixed, and this should be found subsequent to the death of Christ, it will be perceived that an important step has been gained, and that the field of inquiry in regard to pardon, under Christ, has been much reduced. In establishing this date we will call attention to some facts which seem conclusive to show that this new religion was not established before the death of Christ. First, as a new covenant, it was ratified by the blood of Christ; as a new testament,
it was not of binding force while the testator lived; as a kingdom, it was not established until the King ascended and was crowned; as a church, its history shows that it was not organized while Jesus lived on earth; as the great salvation, it only “began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”a Finally, as the gospel it was founded
a Heb. ii. 3.
on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and was not preached until these facts had transpired. John the Baptist, Jesus and His apostles in the gospels, speak of the kingdom of heaven as "at hand” — “as approaching,” but not as an established fact. But Paul says that God, "who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” b The kingdom was established then between these two periods of time. Again, the church was spoken of as still in the future, by Matthew, where Christ, in answer to Peter, said: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”c In the second chapter of Acts, last verse, we are informed that “The Lord added to the church daily those that were being saved.” This still narrows its establishment to the time between these two periods. The word “church” occurs but three times in the gospels, and it is not spoken of as an established fact until the statement just quoted; after this it is used some ninety-five times in the singular and plural, and is always spoken of as an existing organization. Besides the apostles, the first officers of the church mentioned are the seven deacons, spoken of in the sixth chapter of Acts. In the succeeding history we have an organization given completę, with its elders, deacons, and evangelists. When was the gospel of Christ first proclaimed ? a 1 Cor. xv.
c Matt. xvi. 18.
b Col. i. 13.
Christ did not claim all authority in heaven and on earth until after He had conquered death. Prior to this His mission was to the Jews and to developing principles which were to predominate in His coming reign. He now made use of the ever-memorable words first heard on earth: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. “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. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of
upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until
be endued with
power from on high.” a Upon this we would remark, first, that it was necessary
for Christ to suffer and rise from the dead before remission of sins could be preached in His name among all nations. Second, that the proclamation was to begin at Jerusalem. And, third, that the apostles were not to begin to preach until they were endued with power from on high. In regard to this enduement for which they were to tarry, Jesus had previously spoken to His eleven apostles, after Judas had gone out to betray Him. In this last discourse, so full of deep sympathy, beauty and love, He says: “But the
: Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach
all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
“But when the Comforter is a Luke xxiv. 46–49.
• John xiv. 26.
that I go away,
come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the be
“It is expedient for you that I for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And, when he is come, he will reprove (or convict) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”+ From these passages we learn that the Comforter (the Advocate), the Holy Spirit, would not come until Jesus went away, and that when He was come He would teach the apostles all things and bring all things to their remembrance, and convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. How important then for us to know the precise time when this Advocate came to teach these wonderful things, clothed with authority from Jesus and the Father. Isaiah evidently spoke of this time over seven hundred
years before, when he says: “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. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they a John xv. 26, 27.
b John xvi. 7, 8.
shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”* This prophecy not only shows that the word of the Lord was to go forth from Jerusalem, but that it was to go forth in the last days—that is, in the last days of the Jewish nation or institution, as will be shown hereafter.
Not only did the prophets point out the time and place of the gospel proclamation, but it was typified in the giving of the law to Moses. It was fifty days from the slaying of the paschal lamb in Egypt until the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. At the giving of the law, there were three thousand slain.
“ And there fell of the people that day about three thousand
says: “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”c It was just fifty days from the slaying or sacrifice of the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, until the Apostles were endued with the Holy Spirit, according to the preceding promise, and Peter holding the keys of the kingdom opened that day its everlasting doors and three thousand entering were made alive. Well might Paul call the former law “The law of sin and death,” and contrast it with “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”
This brings us to the time when the gospel was first proclaimed, and nowhere do we meet with such great contrasts as we do between the law and the gospel. The one was narrow, local, limited to the Jew and the a Isaiah ii. 2-4.
b Ex. xxxii. 28.
1 Cor. v. 7.