Did the Church Begin at Pentecost?
Contrary to what many teach, Acts chapter 2 is not the beginning of the Christian church. We can assuredly know this not because we are forced by a denominational leader or by any contention with the Spirit-filled events that happened. Instead, we can make such a confident statement by the evidence of Scripture.
As discussed in ‘What Happened at Pentecost’ and ‘Did God Respond to Extreme Faith’, the supernatural baptism with the Holy Spirit was not a secret or untold event. Major Prophets as well as the Lord Jesus Christ declared the upcoming baptism with the Holy Ghost as a result of the institution of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31, Matthew 3:11, John 14:26).
First, it may be necessary to point out that an established group was already waiting in Jerusalem at Pentecost for the ‘next step’ in their desire to enter the kingdom of God. Acts 2:41 states that on the day of the Spirit-filled preaching by Peter ‘there were ADDED UNTO THEM about three thousand souls’. Therefore, Acts chapter 2 does not describe the origin of a church, but simply the addition to an already existing group that consisted of at least one hundred and twenty (Acts 1:15).
It could be said that although there was already a small up-start that the ‘ball didn’t get rolling’ until the Spirit-filled preaching at Pentecost. Yet, prior to Pentecost, even Peter and the disciples attribute the ‘beginning’ of their group to the preaching of John the Baptist in their conditions for electing the replacement disciple for Judas.
“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” – Acts 1:21-22
Therefore, if there were to be a beginning of this Pentecostal church it would have to start with John the Baptist.
The Beginning or the End
However, there is more scriptural evidence to show that this group of believers even beginning at John the Baptist’s ministry were not looking forward to the beginning of prolonged ‘church age’, but were rightly anticipating the end of times.
Not only did Jesus begin his ministry preaching ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’, but he ended with a preaching about the end times as well (Mark 1:14, Matthew 24). In his Sermon on the Mount of Olives, Jesus spoke of the signs that would accompany the ‘end of the world’ (Matthew 24:3). Such signs include the ‘abomination of desolation’; ‘false Christs’; and signs in the sun, moon and stars (Matthew 24:14,24,29).
At Pentecost Peter filled with the Holy Ghost says:
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the LAST DAYS…” – Acts 2:16-17a
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:” – Acts 2:20
This connection between Jesus’ signs of the end, and Peter’s message at Pentecost leave us no other conclusion but to believe that was happening at Pentecost were part of the ‘last days’ spoken of by Joel (Joel 2:28-30).
Therefore if Pentecost was the beginning of anything, it was the beginning of the end.
The supernatural empowerment of the Holy Ghost would assist the believing remnant of Israel as they ‘endured until the end’ and preached the ‘gospel of the kingdom in all the world’ (Matthew 24:13-14). Not only so, but the supernatural powers provided by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost would help to protect the believing remnant from a great tribulation that ‘was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be’ (Matthew 24:21).
Of course, as I write this nearly 2000 years after that Pentecost, the end has not come. The natural question is ‘what happened’? The dispensational answer is the entire subject of this ministry and the revelation of the mystery given to Paul.
Shortly after that Pentecost, and before God was to pour out his wrath upon mankind, he saved Paul ‘out of due time’ and made him the dispenser of an entirely new and secret message of Grace.
Paul describes the institution of a ‘new creature’, the church, the Body of Christ (2 Cor 5:17, 1 Cor 12:13). It is this church in which Paul says that he was FIRST to be initiated:
“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” – 1 Timothy 1:16
Therefore our pattern is not those believers looking for the end under the New Covenant at Pentecost, but our apostle and model is Paul who tells us what happened after Pentecost.
This dispensation of Grace has been in operation for the past couple millennia, but when it concludes God will once again continue with his prophetic purpose with the noise of trumpets and his return as they were waiting for at that Pentecost.
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” – Acts 3:19-21