In preaching Christ, we often experience the same things as the Early Church did. Let’s find out how the apostles of the Early Church preached Christ who came in the flesh and how the religious leaders in those days opposed them. Also, let’s see who can enter the kingdom of heaven and who are to go down into hell.
“who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”1 Ti 2:4-5
Paul emphasized that Jesus was the man in his letters to Timothy; he used the word “man” before Christ, saying, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
In those days, almost all the religious leaders expected God to work in the spirit, not in the flesh, when He did His ministry as the Son in this earth. By having such a wrong expectation, they fell into the error of regarding Almighty God as the one incapable of having flesh and blood like men; and as the result of their thought, they rejected and persecuted Jesus and they also persecuted many Christians who believed Him in the Early Church.
However, the apostles who were sincere in their faith confidently testified that every spirit denying that Christ came as a human being is the spirit of the antichrist from the devil.
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, …” 1 Jn 4:2-3
The saints and apostles in the Early Church believed that it was natural for Christ to appear as a human being when He came into this earth. On the contrary, the religious leaders reproached and opposed them, saying it was impossible for Him to come in the flesh.
Seeing how the situations were in the Early Church, let’s consider why the apostles said the following words:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”Jn 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word [God] came into this earth in the flesh and used the name Jesus; He preached the things of heaven to all men and testified to the truth by which they could be forgiven and saved, so that people with a sincere faith believed that Jesus was the very God and followed Him.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, …”Php 2:5-6
Paul, who is acknowledged as the apostle of apostles, believed firmly that Jesus is God. Likewise, the Apostle John testified that Jesus is God the Word of the beginning.
Paul and John the Apostles viewed Jesus in a spiritual eye, and they realized and believed that Jesus was in the very nature of God. They are representatives of the Early Church as examples of faith for us; they are now respected by all Christians. How were they in their times? They followed Jesus who was not esteemed at all in those days. Now almost all the people consider Jesus as God; but at that time, people regarded Him merely as a carpenter’s son. However, those two apostles were different from the people in their faith.
The Apostle Paul testified that Jesus is God who created all things, in his letters to the saints at Colosse.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”Col 1:15-16
While people were mocking and saying, “How could God come as a man?” the Apostle Paul believed Jesus to be God the Creator and followed Him. Through all ages, there are always followers of the truth and its opposers as well. When people blasphemed Jesus Christ and the truth, afflicting and persecuting its followers, the apostles like Paul and John constantly testified that He is the very God.
All the religious leaders such as the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, who had ecclesiastical authority in those days, turned their faces from Jesus and rejected Him. However, the apostles believed and received Him, saying, “By him all things were created,” “He is the image of the invisible God,” “He is in very nature God,” or “He is God over all, forever praised!”
Those days’ situation was totally different from today’s; it was much harder to have faith in Jesus at that time. About 2,000 years ago, Jesus, like a tender shoot, had no beauty to attract people to Him, nothing in His appearance that they should desire Him; when He preached the gospel, it appeared to be a pseudo-religion in the eyes of religious leaders.
Until that time, animals had been used in all ceremonies for sacrificing to God; people offered sacrifices to God with the blood of animals in worship. So when Jesus said, ‘There is no need of the blood of animals any more since I’ve come,’ there was a great difference between Jesus’ teaching and their ceremonies of sacrifice. That was why they regarded Jesus as a heretic.
Since they didn’t recognize that Jesus is the Christ, they blasphemed God and obstructed His work of salvation in this earth; they even cursed God, falsely saying all kinds of evil against Him.
“I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”Jn 10:30-33
Those days’ religious leaders opposed Christ, saying that He was a mere man but made Himself God. The apostles, however, recognized Christ: The Apostle Paul testified that He is in very nature God, and the Apostle John testified that He is God the Word who already existed in the beginning.
Their thoughts were quite different from those of the religious leaders who already acquired ecclesiastical authority; they thought that God was to come in the radiance of His glory, not in the same manner as men’s. Contrary to their expectation, however, God came as a human being; and He preached, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” and warned against their wicked deeds. At this they became indignant, and rejected Him. They regarded Jesus only as a man, while the apostles recognized Him as the very God.
It is the same now. Through the history of the Early Church, we can see it is prophetically described that Christ coming in the flesh is to arouse people’s resistances in this age, too. Let’s see how Jesus was unjustly accused, when He came into this earth in the flesh and preached the gospel and told people to believe in His name 2,000 years ago.
Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Cae-sarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. … “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” … When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: … My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.Ac 24:1-16
There was no charge against Paul, but they accused him just because he taught different doctrines from theirs; Paul was accused of believing in God, not of committing a crime.
In those days, the gospel of Jesus Christ already spread all over Jeru-salem and other regions. However, at that time people didn’t recognize Jesus to be in very nature God, and they charged Him unjustly with her-esy-‘the Nazarene sect.’ The religious leaders also brought the Apostle Paul into governor’s court by reason that he believed Jesus as God. It was natural for the two groups to be opposed to each other; for one group taught that Jesus is the very God, and the other objected to it, saying, “How can you say that Jesus, a mere man, is God?”
Spiritually, the antagonism between the two can be explained as the enmity between God and Satan. When Paul was taken to court, he asked them what crime they found in him. Actually, they found no basis for a charge against him. For he just preached that Jesus Christ is God and He rose from the dead and so whoever believes in Him would not taste death but be resurrected.
Disputing with them, he said that he followed the way which they called a sect (heresy, KJV). The way was not really heresy, was it? Let’s see what Jesus said about those who called Him the Nazarene.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”Mt 23:13-15
Jesus said to the religious leaders esteemed in those days, “Woe [Curse] to you.” He said that they shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, for they hindered people from entering the kingdom by any means, saying, ‘How can Jesus, a mere man, be God? He was unlearned.’ With such evil speakings, they constantly tried to hinder people from having faith in Christ.
They kept the people from recognizing God who came into this earth and made them take the lead in opposing God and do more evil than before. So the Bible says that they make each of them twice as much a son of hell as they are.
They can never enter the kingdom of heaven. Ananias, Tertullus, false elders and all the Jews who stood by them … Where are they now? They are tormented in hell; the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.
The Bible says that Christ will appear a second time to those who are waiting for Him (Heb 9:28). All the 66 books of the Bible testify to Christ’s second coming. However the religious leaders, who have already obtained ecclesiastical authority, would not receive Christ.
So concerning those people, Jesus said, ‘You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. You make them twice as much a son of hell as you are.’ There arose lots of arguments between gospel preachers and existing religious leaders.
At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”Ac 5:26-28
The apostles proclaimed, “Jesus is God,” and the gospel was regarded as a new religion which the Jews had never heard before. This caused a great argument among them.
To the people who detested the corruption of the religious leaders in those days, the gospel of Christ was a refreshing rain and the water of life appeasing their thirst. The number of believers grew to about three thousand or five thousand a day.
They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. … “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, …Ac 4:2-21
In a day, about five thousand men repented and received Jesus as the Savior. When the religious leaders saw such a great thing happen, they were greatly astonished. They were afraid of losing their authority over religion; it was of secondary importance to them whether they had a sincere faith in God or not.
They made all efforts to stop the apostles; they arrested and threatened and warned them, having them flogged and putting them in the public jail. Despite all that, the number of believers increased all the more. The apostles had longed for the truth and waited for the kingdom of God; they were not dispirited at all, even though many falsely incriminated them, spreading vicious rumors. The gospel spread to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The world couldn’t stop the work of God.
In the days of Nehemiah, Sanballat and Tobiah took the lead in hindering the Israelites from building the temple. They scorned and ridiculed them, saying, “If even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” Thus, they brought so many troubles on Israel. Despite such hindrances, all the officials and leaders of the Jews continued building the temple, being one in mind; half of them did the work and half stood guard, holding spears and shields (Ne 4:1-23).
At last they finished building the temple. When all their enemies heard this, they were afraid and lost heart, because they realized that the work had been done with God’s help (Ne 6:15-16).
Even in persecution and affliction, the apostles were burning all the more with a sure faith in Christ. Where are they now? They are comforted by God in the eternal kingdom of heaven. Where is the Apostle Paul who proclaimed that Jesus is God? He is at rest forever in the glorious kingdom which no one has ever seen or heard or thought. How about the high priests and religious leaders who brought a false charge of ‘a ringleader of the Nazarene sect’ against Paul and afflicted him? Where are they now?
If many religions had hope for heaven, they would not be conformed to this world but pursue the truth of the Bible. But they do not follow it, just like the religious leaders in the time of the Early Church.
The 144,000, spiritually represented as materials for the temple, repent and receive the Christ, seeing the light of the Spirit and the Bride and hearing Their voices. All unreasonable things that happened in the Early Church are occurring in this age, too, according to the prophecies. However, even under such circumstances, we are not disheartened; for God gives courage and comfort to us, who will enter the kingdom of heaven. The Bible says:
“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea [the sand of the sea, KJV].” Rev 12:17
The sand of the sea represents human society, which the dragon dominates; he is standing on it to fight against the rest of her offspring. The spiritual fight is to be made. However, the Bible says that mighty is God who wins a victory over the dragon. The Apostle John saw how the spiritual war would start and how it would come to an end. Eventually, the devil will be thrown into the lake of burning sulfur.
Life is too short. We can’t even live to be a hundred.
“The length of our days is seventy years-or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”Ps 90:10
Then, how should we live such a short life? We should live right before God. Though we are hindered and troubled by our enemy the devil, though the truth is maligned, we should follow the truth.
We must keep the faith to the end, as did our forefathers of faith and the apostles such as Paul, Peter and John. Like them, we too shall live happily forever, together with God and thousands upon thousands of angels in the glorious kingdom.
In the days of the Early Church, when the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and wrote the Bible, they put the word ‘the man’ before ‘Jesus’ and said, “Every spirit that does not acknowledge that Christ has come in the flesh is the spirit of the antichrist.” This shows how much people mocked and hindered them, saying that Jesus is merely a man. Considering how the apostles were in those days, let’s trust in the name of God the Holy Spirit-the Savior of this age-and proclaim the name to the whole world, as the heavenly children who will enter the everlasting kingdom.