THE AGE OF GRACE
FROM PENTECOST TO THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
The Early Church
After Jesus ascended back into Heaven, the disciples returned to Jerusalem, as Jesus had instructed them, to wait for “the promise of the Father” and the power from on high. One hundred and twenty believers gathered and continued in prayer until the day of Pentecost (50 days after the crucifixion) when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:12-26 The Holy Spirit equipped them with spiritual power to accomplish the great commission of witnessing to the ends of the earth. So the birthday of the Christian Church began with the descent of the Holy Spirit as an abiding presence to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
The period of the Apostles can be divided into three sections: The founding of Christianity among the Jews under the leadership of Peter; the founding of Christianity among the Gentiles (Greeks and Romans), under the leadership of Paul; and the unifying of the Jewish and Gentile Christians under the leadership of John. John lived the longest of all the Apostles.
The Apostolic Fathers
The apostolic fathers were the immediate disciples of the twelve apostles. The title “father” was given them by people in the early church who excelled in learning, judgment, their spiritual walk, and holding to the traditions. After the union of the church and state by Constantine, there was a decline of spiritual life and freedom, which found it’s lowest state in those centuries that became known as “the dark ages.” The Reformation of the 16th century was an important part of the rise again of the Church in history. It was a revival of God’s people that had fallen to the tyranny of tradition and corruption. It was the turning point from the middle ages to the period when many of the evangelical denominations were formed, and when Protestantism took a strong stand against the Papacy of the Catholic Church.
The Age of the Holy Spirit
The age of the Holy Spirit, or “The Church Age,” ends with the Church (the saints, or Christians) being translated to Heaven. In that event those who belong to Christ and died, are resurrected, and the living born again believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Lk. 21:25-28; 1 Thes. 4:13-18 Paul explains the mystery in his famous chapter on the resurrection in 1 Thessalonians 4. “We shall not all sleep” (those born again believers, living and ready on the day of Christ’s return shall not die) for our mortal bodies shall put on immortality (eternal life). The dead in Christ shall be raised in the moment when Christ returns to take home those who belong to Him. Those alive that are believers follow right behind them in the glorious trip home. Rev. 20:4-6
Manifestation of the Antichrist
The next event is the revealing of the Antichrist, who’s short, but demonic reign brings upon the earth the greatest time of tribulation since the beginning of time. 2 Thes. 2:1-4; Matt. 24:14-21 This time of lawlessness and rebellion against God will be brought to a climax of hate and bloodshed at the great Battle of Armageddon. Those alive at that time will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with power and great glory to take vengeance upon those that do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rev. 19:11-16 The armies of the Antichrist will be destroyed and their leader cast into the Lake of Fire. Satan will be bound and imprisoned a thousand years, during the reign of the earth’s rightful ruler, Jesus. Rev. 19:20; 20:1-3 The Prophet Zechariah declared that when Christ returns to earth again, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. Zech. 14:1-5 And all the earth will be blessed by the glory of His presence. Then Christ, as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, will sit upon the throne of His glory, and He will separate mankind as sheep are separated from goats. Matt. 25:30-33 Those that survive this judgment will become a part of the Heavenly Kingdom, acknowledging and worshipping the King, the Lord of Hosts. The judgment of the living nations shall be followed by an eternity of universal peace on a new earth and a new Heaven. Zech. 14:6-11; Rev. 21:1-2
1. Describe what you think was going on in the minds of those who were present on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and the events that followed.
2. Do you think we could enter into another “dark ages” if our country continues to cast off God? Do you think America is “morally correct” enough to not let spiritual corruption enter and take over?
3. Where do you want to be if you are alive on the day of the rapture? Is there anything you need to take care of if it were to happen tomorrow?
4. Have you come to a belief of your own about the chronology of the end time events? What if it doesn’t unfold as you expect it to? What have you done to prepare your faith in that event?
5. Describe what you think it is going to be like during the reign of Christ, when Satan is put away and Christ rules without hindrance.
6. If you were to leave behind a time capsule for those who have to endure the Great Tribulation, what words or advice would you put in it?