Shelby G. Floyd
This subject ought to be brought before young people and others continually. It is a topic that must be stamped indelibly upon the hearts of all who would please our heavenly Father and who would know the truth. It is a simple subject, and yet one that is not known or understood by many people. The subject is, “The Establishment of the Church.”
Are you a member of the church of Christ? Are you sure the church of which you are a member is the church you can read about in the New Testament? Are you sure it is the New Testament church? Are you sure you have entered the body of Christ, or the church, in the way God has asked all people to enter the church? These are questions only you can answer. As we pursue the topic, “The New Testament church and its Establishment,” do some soul searching to find out if you are really a part of the church that we read about in the Bible.
The Church in Prophecy
The first item to be discussed is the church in prophecy. Prophecy is like a telescope. A telescope can be used to see something before one gets there. Men were able to see the moon through a telescope hundreds of years before anyone actually set foot on the planet. The telescope brought it down to man so he could see it before he got there. The Old Testament prophets looked through the telescope of prophecy, seeing the church before it actually took its basic form or its being.
Isaiah the Prophet
Isaiah was one of those prophets. He lived about eight hundred years before Christ. In Isaiah 2:1-5 we have these words,
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
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.
3 Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They 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 anymore.
5 O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the Lord.
There are several points to notice in this prophecy about the establishment of the Lord’s church which was made eight hundred years before the event actually happened. Number one, he talks about “the mountain of the Lord’s house.” In prophecy the word “mountain” stands for government or kingdom. A mountain is something that is stable; something that attracts reverence and all because of its great height and strength.
The Lord’s House or Kingdom
Then he says it is the kingdom or government of the Lord’s house. “House” literally is a structure or a dwelling place in which a family lives; but by a figure speech the dwelling can stand for the people who live in the dwelling. Here he is not talking about a literal dwelling house. The word “house” here stands for the people who live in it. It is a family. When Isaiah says, “It shall come to pass in the last days that I will establish the mountain of the Lord’s house,” he is really talking about establishing the kingdom of the Lord’s family—that is what is being discussed—the kingdom, or the church, or the family of God.
The Time—the Last Days
What about this family or kingdom of the Lord’s family? In the first place, notice the time in which it will be established. It shall come to pass in the “last days.” This denotes the time element when the kingdom of the Lord’s house will be established.
Second, notice the place where the Lord’s house or the Lord’s family will be established. He says, “For the law of the Lord will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Mount Zion, or Jerusalem, would be the place where the kingdom of the Lord’s house would have its beginning. It was established in the top of the mountains. Jerusalem was located on mount Mariah. Therefore, we know the place.
Next, the scope of the kingdom of the Lord’s house is described. Isaiah says, “All nations will flow unto it.” It would be universal in its scope, or the makeup of his people. It would not be exclusively made up of Jews like the Old Testament kingdom, nor would it be made up exclusively of Gentiles. It would be made up of both Jew and Gentile because, “all nations will flow unto it.”
In the fourth-place, notice the nature of the kingdom. “The people will take their swords and beat them into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” The United Nations in New York has a large statue in front of its building showing a sword being beaten into a plowshare.
The Lord, through Isaiah, was not talking about the abolishment of carnal warfare. One can wish and pray for the time when there will be no more wars, killing or bloodshed; but this is not the history of mankind. Since the days of the beginning of the church, history has been characterized by warfare and bloodshed. This instead is a figure of speech. He is not talking about the literal abolition of carnal warfare. He is talking about how the kingdom of the Lord’s family will be a spiritual kingdom. Its weapons will be spiritual and not carnal. Basically, this kingdom will be a kingdom of love and will not be characterized by carnal warfare. This shows the nature of the kingdom.
Please remember these four things about the establishment of the church according to what Isaiah said eight hundred years before it became a reality.
1. The “last days” tells the time.
2. “The law of the Lord will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” denotes the place.
3. “All nations will flow unto it,” denoting the makeup of the kingdom will be universal.
4. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,” denotes the peaceable and spiritual nature of the kingdom.
Daniel the Prophet
There was another prophecy made about six hundred years before Christ. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of the Babylonians, swept down against Judah and Jerusalem. He conquered them and carried away many of the utensils and pieces of furniture from the holy place. He carried them back to Babylon and also took some of God’s people. Among them was Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Ezekiel and certain other of the Hebrews.
Later, Nebuchadnezzar had a great dream. He could not remember the dream and therefore could not interpret it. He called for all of his wise men, soothsayers, astrologers and magicians. None of them could tell him the dream or its interpretation. Then Nebuchadnezzar made a decree stating that unless someone could tell him the dream and its interpretation he would have all his wise men put to death. Upon hearing this Daniel said, “Bring me before the King. I will tell him his dream and the interpretation of it.”
The dream was of a great image with a golden head; with arms and breast made of silver; with belly and thighs made of brass; with legs made of iron; and feet made of part iron and part miry clay.
And Daniel gave the interpretation of that great image. “Thou O King, are the head of gold.” Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian kingdom were represented by the head of gold. “After you shall follow another kingdom inferior to your kingdom inasmuch as silver is inferior to gold.” This represented the Medo-Persian kingdom or empire that followed the Babylonian kingdom. Then followed a third kingdom represented by Alexander the great and his father Philip of Macedon, the founders of the great Grecian kingdom. The fourth kingdom was the kingdom of the Caesars and the Roman Empire, which began about 68 BC and continued until 476 A.D.
After Daniel had interpreted the dream and made known the image, he said in Daniel 2:44, “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” The question is, “In the days of what Kings?” Following the line of the interpretation, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek and finally the Roman Empire would be the last kingdom. The antecedent of the pronoun “these kings” refers back to the Kings of the last kingdom mentioned, which would be the Roman Kings. While the Roman Kings were on the throne in Rome, and the Herod Kings were on the throne in Judea, then in the days of the Caesars and the Herod Kings, God would set up a kingdom which would never be destroyed.
The Prophecy of Jesus
The Lord himself, about one year before the church was established, made a prophecy about the church or kingdom. It was made about 32 A.D., or one year before the day of Pentecost as found in Acts chapter two. Jesus and the apostles were in the area of Caesarea Philippi. He asked the apostles what men thought about him. They replied, “Some say you are John the Baptist, others Jeremiah or even Elijah or one of the old prophets.” There were many different answers, opinions and ideas about Christ. There still are today. Then Jesus asked the apostles a direct question—not what did men think about him, but what did they think about him. The impetuous Simon Peter spoke out first and in a very simple and forthright manner said,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 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. 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 16:16-19).
Note several things about the church. First of all, that the church had not been established in about 32 A.D. There are some who say the church had been established since the beginning of time. There are others who say it was established in the days of Abraham. There are still others who say it was built in the days of John the Baptist. But, John the Baptist was dead and Abraham had been dead for hundreds of years when Jesus said, “I will build my church.”
In English grammar “I will build” is future tense. It is not simply future tense, but it is stronger than future tense. If Jesus had simply been trying to get over the fact that he was going to build his church in the future he would have said, “I shall build.” He made it even stronger by saying, “I will build” showing determination and strength of will power.
He says “Upon this rock I will build my church.” Notice, the church is not simply the remodeling of an old institution. It is not just a Jewish institution remodeled and refurbished. It is a brand new institution built from the foundation up. What is the foundation? It is the confession Peter made that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The church is a new institution built from the ground up. It has a new foundation; it has a new superstructure. It is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God.
The Church Belongs to Christ!
The next thing we to notice is, “I will build.” When Jesus made this statement it was to be in the future. We may look for the church to be established sometime after about 32 A.D.
Jesus said, “It is my church.” This is the reason the church should be called “the church of Christ.” Many denominational churches show ownership because they are named after man. But the church of Christ shows divine ownership because it belongs to Christ. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “I will build my church.” It belongs to him.
Jesus Only Built One Church
In the next place, notice that the church is singular. Jesus did not say, “I will build my churches.” Sometimes people say, “Just join the church of your choice.” No! The only church of choice is the church that Jesus built, and he built only one. “I will build my church.”
It is true that in this one church there are many smaller congregations or assemblies. They are called congregations in the Bible and all of these smaller assemblies, called congregations, make up the one great congregation called the church. All of the smaller assemblies ought to believe and practice the same way, because Jesus built but one church. The one church that is made up of all the smaller congregations ought to be characterized by the same doctrine, the same government, the same worship and the same type of Christian living. All of them together in the aggregate make up the one church. Note the fulfillment of all these prophecies. Three have been mentioned: Isaiah 2, Daniel 2 and Matthew 16. They all center and find fulfillment in Acts chapter 2.
The Prophecies Fulfilled
Look at Isaiah’s prophecy. He says, “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.” How can we know the fulfillment was in the “last days?” Acts two says, “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:14-16). He then quotes Joel 2:28-30: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaids I will pour out in those days of my spirit; and they shall prophesy.”
The Last Days Fulfilled
What was Peter talking about? Peter and the other apostles were speaking in tongues. In the Bible times tongues were languages or dialects. Some of the scoffers said, “These men are drunk.” Peter refuted this false and slanderous charge by saying, “We are not drunk because it is only 9 o’clock in the morning.” Men normally do not drink and walk around in a drunken stupor that early in the morning. He said the phenomenon of speaking in languages or tongues is “that.” What you see and hear is “that.” What is “that?” It is that which Joel said would take place. What did Joel say? Joel said in the last days men would do what they were doing on the day of Pentecost.
The conclusion is then if this is “that,” he is simply saying speaking tongues is a fulfillment of what Joel said. Joel said it would be done in the “last days.” If it was going on, it was the “last days.” Isaiah said the kingdom of the Lord’s house would be established in the “last days.” Therefore, if it can be proved that the kingdom was established in Acts two, then it has already been proved that it was the “last days.” So, the time element is right—the “last days.”
What about the place? Isaiah said the law would go forth from mount Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Was this fulfilled?
Just before Jesus ascended back to heaven he called all of his apostles together. In Luke 24:46 he said, “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to arise 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.” Notice that Jesus said “thus it is written.” Where in the Old Testament is it written that repentance and remission of sins was to be preached among all the nations but was to begin at Jerusalem? It is written in Isaiah 2 that God’s law was to go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Jesus told the apostles to, “Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Why go to Jerusalem? Because that is where the great prophet said the kingdom of heaven would have its beginning. That is where the law of the Lord was to go forth. That is where the word of the Lord was to start—from mount Zion. Therefore, Jerusalem is the right place.
The Right People Fulfilled
What about the right people? Isaiah said, “All nations will flow into it.” He said many people would come and see. Has that been fulfilled? On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up and mentioned the fact that there were about twenty different nations present in the metropolis of Jerusalem. Then he said there were Jews and devout men from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5). How could it be any plainer? Jews and devout men from every nation under heaven were there. Thus, the right people were there.
The Nature of the Kingdom–Spiritual
What about the nature of the kingdom? Isaiah said the people would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. When they came out to arrest the Lord, Simon Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus said, “Put that thing back in your scabbard. Put it up!” The apostles still do not understand the nature of Christs’ kingdom. In John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, Paul said, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
So, here is the fulfillment of the nature of the kingdom; the people of the kingdom; the place of the kingdom; the time of the kingdom.
Don’t you want to be a part of that everlasting kingdom that will ultimately be delivered up to the Lord and to heaven itself? It was established on the day of Pentecost according to Acts chapter 2. On that day the kingdom was inaugurated and the gospel preached in all its fullness for the first time.
When the great audience of people cried out and said, “Men and brethren what shall we do?” Peter gave them the terms of entering the church or the kingdom. He said,
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
The keys that Peter used to unlock the door to the church are still with us today. With the same keys a person can enter the institution that was built by Jesus Christ himself; which was bought with his blood; which is filled with the Spirit; and which gives us the hope of everlasting life.
Don’t you want to be a part of that great kingdom of God over which Jesus Christ is King and the great Monarch?
Copyright © 2019 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd, preached this sermon, May 14, 1978, at the Garfield Heights church of Christ, 2842 Shelby St., Indianapolis, Indiana. I was 41 years old at the time. Now I am 81 and still believe and preach the same truth as in the long ago!
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142