Did the Body of Christ Begin on the Day of Pentecost?

by Jerry Shugart

I. The Body of Christ as an Intercalation or Parenthesis

Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founding President of Dallas Theological Seminary, understood that the Body of Christ is "wholly unrelated to any divine purpose which precedes it or follows it ":

"But for the Church intercalation -- which was wholly unforeseen and is wholly unrelated to any divine purpose which precedes it or which follows it. In fact, the new, hitherto unrevealed purpose of God in the outcalling of a heavenly people from Jews and Gentiles is so divergent with respect to the divine purpose toward Israel, which purpose preceded it and will yet follow it, that the term parenthetical, commonly employed to describe the new age-purpose, is inaccurate. A parenthetical portion sustains some direct or indirect relation to that which goes before or that which follows; but the present age-purpose is not thus related and therefore is more properly termed an intercalation" [emphasis added] (Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:41; 5:348-349).

The Church Parenthesis in Progressive Dispensationalism

Today the progressive dispensationalists deny that there is such a things as a Church parenthesis or intercalation. Charles Ryrie says that progressive dispensationalism "has modified or clouded the classic, normative, dispensational dictinction between Israel and the church...by abandoning the concept of the church as an intercalation or parenthesis. Classic dispensationalism used the words 'parenthesis' or 'intercalation' to describe the distinctiveness of the church in relation to God's program for Israel. An intercalation is an insertion of a period of time in a calendar, and a parenthesis in one sense is defined as an interlude or interval (which in turn is defined as an intervening or interruptive period). So either or both words can be appropriately used to define the church age if one sees a distinct interlude in God's program for Israel (as clearly taught in Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks in 9:24-27)" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, Dispensationalism [Chicago: Moody Press, 1995], 134).

The Gap in Daniel's 70 Weeks

The "distinct interlude" of which Ryrie speaks is the same thing as the "gap" between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week.

Thomas Ice, the founder of the Pre-Trib Research Center, writes that "I think that sound biblical exegesis of Daniel 9:24-27 must lead to an understanding that the seventieth week is separated from the first sixty-nine weeks of years because of Israel's failure to accept Jesus as their promised Messiah. Therefore, God has postponed the final week of years until the start of the seven-year tribulation. In the mean time, the New Testament teaches us that the church age will intervene during the postponement of Israel's final week of years" [emphasis added] (Thomas Ice, Why a Gap in Daniels's 70 Weeks).

For more on this "gap" found after the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week please go to Appendix #1.

It is clearly seen that the events which make up the 70 weeks are in regard to the LORD's dealing with the nation of Israel. And during that time the nation is described this way:

"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deut.7:6).

But as Ice says, the Church age intervenes during the postponement of Israel's final week of years. And during the church age the only special people of the LORD are those in the body of Christ and in the Body these is no difference between the Jew and the Greek:

"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3:27-28).

Ryrie understands that in "time" the LORD can only be dealing with either the nation of Israel or the Body of Christ but not both:

"That God is continuing His work of redemption in calling out a people for His name in the church, the Body of Christ, we gladly affirm, but we also insist that this Body of Christ is distinct from any previous body of redeemed people in its nature, characteristics, time, and promises" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 131).

II. Did the Body of Christ Begin on the Day of Pentecost?

If the LORD is dealing with the nation of Israel then at that time the Israelites are a special people unto Him and therefore the Body of Christ cannot possibly be in view since in the Body there is no difference between the Israelite and the Gentiles.

Therefore, if we see something taking place at Pentecost that is in regard to the divine purpose toward the nation of Israel then we know that what is being described has nothing to do with the Body of Christ. With that in mind let us look at what Peter said here to the nation of Israel on the day of Pentecost:

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, that 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).

In the Scofield Reference Bible we read the following commentary on this passage:

"The appeal here is national to the Jewish people as such, not individuals as in Peter's first sermon Acts 2:38,39. There those who were pricked in heart were exhorted to save themselves from (among) the untoward nation; here the whole people is addressed, and the promise to national repentance is national deliverance: 'and he shall send Jesus Christ' to bring in the times which the prophets had foretold" (Scofield Reference Notes, by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield--1917).

Scofield certainly understood that on the day of Pentecost the divine purpose was in regard to the nation of Israel. The mood of the Greek words translated "repent ye" and "be converted" is the "imperative" and we read the following about that mood:

"The imperative mood corresponds to the English imperative, and expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding. Thus, Jesus' phrase, 'Repent ye, and believe the gospel' (Mk.1:15) is not at all an 'invitation,' but an absolute command requiring full obedience on the part of all hearers" (Blue Letter Bible).

Since on the day of Pentecost Peter had received the Holy Spirit to guide him in all truth (Jn.16:13) then it is certain that the LORD's purpose on that day was in regard to the nation of Israel and not toward the Body of Christ.

From all of this we can understand that if the Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost then it is impossible to defend a Church parenthesis and Progressive Dispensationalist Robert Saucy is correct when he says the following:

"The historical plan of God, therefore, is one unified plan. Contrary to traditional dispensationalism, it does not entail separate programs for the church and Israel that are somehow ultimately unified only in the display of God's glory or in eternity. The present age is not a historical parenthesis unrelated to the history that precedes and follows it; rather, it is an integral phase in the development of the mediatorial kingdom. Thus the church today has its place and function in the same mediatorial messianic kingdom program that Israel was called to serve" [emphasis added] (Saucy, The Case For Progressive Dispensationalism [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993], 28).

The foundational teachings found in traditional dispensationalism can only be defended if the idea that the Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost is abandoned. Next, it will be demonstrated that the church (ekklesia) spoken of on the day of Pentecost is not the Body of Christ and it will be shown when the Body of Christ actually had its beginning.

III. The Baptism Into the Body of Christ

Charles Ryrie gives the following explanation as to why he believes that the Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost:

"Before His ascension the Lord promised the disciples that they would be baptized 'en pneumati' (in the Spirit,' Acts 1:5). In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul explains that being placed in the Body of Christ is accomplished by being baptized 'en pneumati.' Since the promise of Acts 1:5 was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (see 11:15-16), and if this is the baptism explained in 1 Corinthians 12:13 as effecting entrance into the Body of Christ, that is an irrefutable argument for the Body church's beginning on the day of Pentecost" (C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism, [Chicago: Moody Press, 1995], 205).

Let us look at the first verse which Ryrie cited:

"For John baptized in water, but in a few days you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5; NIV).

Here the Greek words pneuma haigon are translated "Holy Spirit" but in the original Greek there is no definite article ("the") which precedes those two words. In The Companion Bible we read, " 'Pneuma hagion' (without Articles) is never used of the Giver (the Holy Spirit), but only and always of His gift. What this gift is may be seen by comparing Acts 1:4, 5 with Luke 24:49, where 'the promise of the Father' is called (in the former passage) 'pneuma hagion,' and in the latter is called 'power from on high.' This 'power from on high' includes whatever gifts the Holy Spirit may bestow 'according to His own will' " (The Companion Bible, [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1990], Appendix 101; Section II, Part # 14, p.147).

Indeed, we can see that truth illustrated when we look closely at the following verse:

"And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (Jn.20:22; NIV).

It is impossible that this translation is correct. That is because in the following passage the Lord Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would not be sent until He departed to be with the Father and He had not yet departed to be with the Father when He said those words:

"But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (Jn.16:5-7).

It is impossible that they had received "the Holy Spirit" because the Lord Jesus had not yet departed to be with the Father when He spoke the words at John 20:22. Therefore the correct translation of John 20:22 is as follows:

"And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive holy spirit'" (Jn.20:22).

The correct translation of Acts 1:4-5 is as follows:

"And, being foregathered, He charges them not to be departing from Jerusalem, but to be remaining about for the promise of the Father, 'which you hear of Me, seeing that John, indeed, baptizes in water, yet you shall be baptized in holy spirit after not many of these days'" (Acts 1:4-5; CLV).

Now let us examine the verse which Ryrie cites which speaks of people being baptized into the Body of Christ.

By One Spirit Are We All Baptized into One Body

"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor.12:13).

The "One Spirit" is obviously referring to the Holy Spirit as witnessed by the following passage:

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph.4:4-6).

In the Doctrinal Statement of Dallas Theological Seminary we read that the following:

"We believe that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the blessed Trinity, though omnipresent from all eternity, took up His abode in the world in a special sense on the day of Pentecost according to the divine promise, dwells in every believer, and by His baptism unites all to Christ in one body, and that He, as the Indwelling One, is the source of all power and all acceptable worship and service" [emphasis added] (DTS Doctrinal Statement; XII--The Holy Spirit).

DTS teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who baptizes believers into the Body of Christ.

it is clear that the following two different verses are not speaking of the same baptism:

"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor.12:13).

"John, indeed, baptizes in water, yet you shall be baptized in holy spirit after not many of these days'" (Acts 1:5; CLV).

An examination of these two verses demonstrates that the baptism spoken about at 1 Corinthians 12:13 is not the same one spoken of at Acts 1:5. For more on this subject please go to Appendix # 2.

IV. I Will Pour Out My Spirit

On the day of Pentecost Peter spoke about the pouring out of the spirit of the LORD:

"But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 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 handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come" (Acts 2:16-20).

Stanley D. Toussaint said that "in Peter's words, This is what was spoken by the Prophet Joel. This clause does not mean, 'This is like that'; it means Pentecost fulfilled what Joel had described. However, the prophecies of Joel quoted in Acts 2:19-20 were not fulfilled. The implication is that the remainder would be fulfilled if Israel would repent" [emphasis added] (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament, ed. Walvoord and Zuck [Colorado Springs:Chariot Victor Press,1983], 359).

The prophecy of Joel that "your sons...shall prophesy" was fulfilled that very day. The Greek word translated "prophesy" has a much wider meaning than foretelling future events. It also means "to utter forth, declare, a thing which can only be known by divine revelation" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

That is exactly what happened when the believers began to speak in tongues on the day of Pentecost. And the following passage describes the spirit being poured out on that day:

"And at the fulfillment of the day of Pentecost they were all alike in the same place. And suddenly there came out of heaven a blare, even as of a violent, carrying blast, and it fills the whole house where they were sitting. And seen by them were dividing tongues as if of fire, and one is seated on each one of them. And they are all filled with holy spirit, and they begin to speak in different languages, according as the Spirit gave them to declaim" (Acts 2:1-4; CLV).

The following passage we see Peter describing what happened when he preached to Cornelius and his household and we can see the same exact phrase, "baptized in holy spirit":

"Now as I begin to speak, the Holy Spirit falls on them, even as on us also in the beginning. Now I am reminded of the declaration of the Lord, as He said that 'John, indeed, baptizes in water, yet you shall be baptized in holy spirit" (Acts 11:15-16; CLV).

In these verses it was the falling of the Holy Spirit which caused Peter to remember his own experience of being baptized in holy spirit. So there can be no doubt that what happened when the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household defines the meaning of the phrase, "baptized in holy spirit." Now let us look at the actual events which Peter described at Acts 11:15-17:

"While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God" (Acts 10:44-46).

The Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household and those who had accompanied Peter were astonished "because that on the Gentiles was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit." How did they know that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Cornelius and his household? Surely they did not see the Holy Spirit baptizing anyone into the Body of Christ. That operation of God is invisible and cannot be observed.

They knew that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on them because "they heard them speak with tongues." Let us look at these verses again:

"...because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God..."

Here the word "for" is translated from the Greek word gar, and the meaning of that word as used here is "it addresses the Cause or gives the Reason of a preceding statement or opinion" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon).

The reason that those with Peter knew that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius and his household was because they heard them speak with tongues. Therefore, we can know that receiving the "gift of the Holy Spirit" and being "baptized with holy spirit" are one and the same thing and it happened when the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and His household. So at Acts 10:45 the reference is to a gift that is bestowed by the Holy Spirit. This "gift" of being able to speak in tongues is spoken of here by Paul where he names many of the gifts "given by the Spirit":

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit...For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues" (1 Cor.12:4,8-10).

So when we look at all these things we can understand that the pouring out of the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was totally in regard to believers receiving the ability to speak in known languages of which they previously had no knowledge. There is absolutely nothing in any of these verses which even hints that anyone was being baptized into the Body of Christ on the day of Pentecost.

V. The Church (ekklesia) at Acts 2

I will begin the study by quoting this verse which speaks of the "church" at Acts 2:

"Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church (ekklesia) daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).

The Greek word translated "church" is ekklesia and that word can be found in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the LXX). Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish convert to Christianity and a respected Bible scholar, wrote the following:

"Nor would the term 'Church' sound strange in Jewish ears. The same Greek word (ekklesia), as the equivalent of the Hebrew 'Qahal,' 'convocation,' 'the called,' occurs in the LXX. rendering of the Old Testament, and in 'the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach' and was apparently in familiar use at that time. In Hebrew use it referred to Israel, not in their national but in their religious unity" [emphasis added] (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. M. Eerdmans Publishing 1971] Book 3, Chapter 37, p.84).

According to Edersheim the Greek word translated "church" was in familiar use and "it referred to Israel...in their religious unity."

Next, let us look at the events here which were in regard to the ekklesia of Acts 2:

"For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 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" (Acts 2:16-17).

The following prophecy was totally in regard to the religious unity of Israel and Israel alone:

"Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation (ekklesia) , assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts...And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:16,27-28).

So the ekklesia mentioned at Acts 2:47 is referring to Israel in her religious unity and it is not referring to the Body of Christ.

VI. The Body of Christ Not Found in OT Prophecy

Charles Ryrie writes that "dispensational premillennialism has insisted that the mystery is something unrevealed in the Old Testament (though now revealed) in order to demonstrate the distinctiveness of the church from Israel and to emphasize its unique place in God's program for this age...this whole age with its program was not revealed in the Old Testament, but constitutes a new program and a new line of revelation in this present age" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, "The Mystery in Ephesians 3," Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan. 1966).

We also know that the present "dispensation of the grace of God" is described as a mystery truth, or something which was not revealed in the OT:

"...and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things" (Eph.3:9).

Peter said that what was happening on the day of Pentecost was in fulfillment of the OT prophecy found at Joel 2:27-28:

"For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 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" (Acts 2:16-17).

It is also evident that what Peter said in the following passage on the same day was also in regard to prophecies found in the OT:

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, that 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. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days" (Acts 3:19-24).

From this we can understand that since what was happening on the day of Pentecost was foretold by the OT prophets then the Body of Christ did not come into existence on that day.

VII.Tell It To The Church (ekklesia)

Let us look at the following words of the Lord Jesus where He speaks of the church (ekklesia):

"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church (ekklesia): but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"(Mt.18:15-18).

In his commentary on this passage Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., writes: "...two or three witnesses should be taken along for a clear testimony. This was in keeping with Old Testament precedents, as in Deuteronomy 19:15. If the sinning brother still failed to recognize his error, the situation should be told before the entire church, or 'assembly.' The disciples probably would have understood Jesus to mean the matter should be brought before the Jewish assembly" [emphasis added] (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament, 62).

In the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges we read that the word ekklesia in this passage means "either (1) the assembly or congregation of the Jewish synagogue, or rather, (2) the ruling body of the synagogue (collegium presbyterorum, Schleusner) is meant. This must have been the sense of the word to those who were listening to Christ."

In the next section we will see how the words about binding on earth and in heaven of verse 18 relate to the Jewish ekklesia.

VIII. The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven

Let us now look at another verse where the Greek word ekklesia refers to Israel in her religious unity:

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church (ekklesia); and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt.16:18-19).

Here the Lord refers to the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," the same kingdom referred to here by John the Baptist:

" And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt.3:2).

Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., writes that John "announced a coming kingdom, which simply means 'a coming rule.' This rule was to be heaven's rule: 'the kingdom of heaven'...John must mean that God's heavenly rule was about to be extended directly to earthly spheres" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament, ed. Walvoord and Zuck [Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1983], 24).

Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote that "it may be concluded that the term 'kingdom of heaven' as used in the early ministry of Jesus referred to the Messianic, Davidic, earthly kingdom seen in the Old Testament" (L.S. Chafer, "The Kingdom in History and Prophecy," 51).

Since the nation of Israel failed to recognize the Lord Jesus as their promised Messiah the setting up of the earthly kingdom has been postponed until the return of the Lord Jesus to earth:

"And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand" (Lk.21:27-31).

It will not be until the kingdom is brought to earth when the Apostles will "bind on earth" what "shall be bound in heaven." That will not happen until the Apostles will sit upon twelve tribes judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the kingdom:

"That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Lk.22:30).

"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Mt.19:28).

This speaks of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus, the time when Israel will be restored to her previous position of being a special people unto the Lord. Therefore the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" have nothing to do with what is happening now within the Body of Christ.

IX. Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church (ekklesia)

Let us look at the following question asked by the Lord Jesus and the answer given by Peter:

"He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt.16:15-18).

This confession of Peter, that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is the "rock" upon which the Jewish church was to be built. Alfred Edersheim, a Jew who converted to Christianity, explains the meaning of the "rock" here:

"Perhaps it might be expressed in this somewhat clumsy paraphrase: 'Thou art Peter (Petros)--a Stone or Rock--and upon this Petra--the Rock, the Petrine--will I found My Church...so Christ promised that He would build His Church on the Petrine in Peter--on his faith and confession" (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah; Part Two [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1971], 83-84).

According to the Lord Jesus it is faith in the truth that He is the Christ, the Son of God, upon which the ekklesia is to be built. On the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter used facts of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus to prove that the Lord Jesus is the promised Christ. Peter ended his sermon with the following words:

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).

Charles Ryrie says the following about the theme of Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost:

"To us today it does not mean much to say that Jesus is Christ or Messiah. To a Jew of that day it was an assertion which required convincing proof, and it was the theme of Peter's sermon. Peter's proof is built along very simple lines. First he paints a picture of the Messiah from the Old Testament Scriptures. Then from contemporary facts he presents a picture of Jesus of Nazareth. Finally, he superimposes these two pictures on each other to prove conclusively that Jesus is Messiah" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, "The Significance of Passover," Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1955, Vol.112, # 448, 335).

Zane Hodges, past Chairman of of the New Testament Department at Dallas Theological Seminary, writes the following in regard to Peter's words:

"Peter concludes his address with the assertion that 'God has made this Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ' (2:36). His hearers then reply, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' (2:37). But such a reaction presumes their acceptance of Peter's claim that they have crucified the one who is Lord and Christ. If this is what they now believe, then they were already regenerated on Johannine terms, since John wrote: 'Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God' (1 John 5:1; cf. John 20:31) " [emphasis added] (Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, 101).

On the day of Pentecost those who believed the "good news" that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, were "born of God" and saved. Later, after hearing the gospel preached the Ethiopian treasurer asked to be baptized with water and his faith was based on the same truth:

"And Philip said, If thou believeth with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37).

That is the same gospel which Paul preached to the Jews shortly after he was converted:

"And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God...proving that this is the very Christ" (Acts 9:20,22).

The following is what Apollos preached to the Jews:

"For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus is Christ" (Acts18:28).

The fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is the heart and soul of the gospel of the kingdom and Lewis Sperry Chafer said that "the gospel of the Kingdom...consisted of a legitimate offer to Israel of the promised earthly Davidic kingdom, designed particularly for Israel" [emphasis added] (Quoted from G. E. Ladd, Crucial Questions about the Kingdom of God [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952], 50).

Certainly that is not the gospel by which the Body of Christ has been built and is now being built. H.A. Ironside said the following about the gospel which Christians are to preach today and the same gospel by which the Body of Christ is built:

"All through those OT dispensations, the gospel was predicted, and when Jesus came, the gospel came with Him. When He died, when He was buried, and when He rose again, the gospel could be fully told out to a poor lost world. Observe, it says, 'that Christ died for our sins.' No man preaches the gospel, no matter what nice things he may say about Jesus, if he leaves out His vicarious death on Calvary's Cross" [emphasis added] (Ironside, God's Unspeakable Gift [London: Pickering & Inglis, 1908], Chapter 2).

X. Nations That Do Not Know You Will Hasten To You

Shortly before the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven and shortly before the day of Pentecost He gave the Apostles the commandment to go "into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk.16:15).

Since the Apostles concern prior to the day of Pentecost was in regard to the kingdom being restored to Israel (Acts 1:6) they certainly understood that the Gentiles would be brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus as a result of the agency of the nation of Israel according to the OT prophecies:

"Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor" (Isa.55:3,5).

According to prophecy Gentiles will saved as a result to the agency of the nation of Israel:

"And I will bring them (Israel), and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness...And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing...In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech.8:8,13,23).

Before the disciples would go to the Gentiles they were waiting for Israel to repent and be converted. Since the nation had not repented and turned to the LORD then when the disciples were scattered upon the persecution of Stephen they preached the gospel only to the Jews:

"Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only" (Acts 11:19).

None of the Apostles who were originally given the commission to preach the gospel to every creature ever went to the Gentiles except for Peter, and even then it took a special revelation from the LORD before he would go to a Gentile. John Nelson Darby, who is widely recognized as being the father of modern dispensationalism, wrote the following about that commandment:

"When the Lord was parting from the disciples, He gives them the commandment, 'Go ye and disciple all nations.' Where is the fulfillment of this by the apostles whom He had chosen? This was their special commission from Him, as risen and having all power in heaven and earth. The principle and value of the dispensation could not be altered. But where is the fulfilment by the twelve apostles? Scripture affords it not. There is no account of the twelve in Scripture going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature: nothing which Scripture recognises as the accomplishment of this command" [emphasis added] (Darby, The Apostasy of the Successive Dispensations).

It is evident that the reason why the original Apostles were not going to the Gentiles was because they were waiting for the entire nation to repent and be a blessing to the whole world. Since the Apostles knew that according to prophecy the nation of Israel was to be the agent for bringing the knowledge of the Lord Jesus to every creature upon the earth Peter told the nation to repent on the day of Pentecost:

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, that 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).

All of this provides even more evidence that on the day of Pentecost the divine purpose was in regard to Israel and therefore it had nothing at all to do with the Body of Christ.

Sir Robert Anderson, an early dispensationalists who preached alongside Darby in the 19th century, wrote the following commentary on Peter's words at Acts 3:19-21:

"To represent this as Christian doctrine, or the institution of 'a new religion,' is to betray ignorance alike of Judaism and of Christianity. The speakers were Jews--the apostles of One who was Himself 'a minister of the circumcision.' Their hearers were Jews, and as Jews they were addressed. The Pentecostal Church which was based upon the testimony was intensely and altogether Jewish. It was not merely that the converts were Jews, and none but Jews, but that the idea of evangelising Gentiles never was even mooted. When the first great persecution scattered the disciples, and they 'went everywhere preaching the Word,' they preached, we are expressly told, 'to none but to the Jews'."

"The Jerusalem Church, then, was Jewish. Their Bible was the Jewish Scriptures. The Jewish temple was their house of prayer and common meeting-place. Their beliefs and hopes and words and acts all marked them out as Jews...Nothing was further from the thoughts of these men than 'founding a new religion.' On the contrary, while hailing the rejected Nazarene as their national Messiah, they clung with passionate devotion to the religion of their fathers" (Anderson, The Silence of God [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1978] 75-78).

XI. When Did the Body of Christ Begin?

Since it has been demonstrated that the Body of Christ did not begin on the day of Pentecost we will now determine when it did begin. Let us examine the evidence surrounding the Body of Christ

In Christ Before Me

In this verse Paul speaks of other believers who were "in Christ" before he was:

"Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me" (Ro.16:7).

Those who are said to be "in Christ" are members of the Church, which is His Body. If "any one be in Christ" he is a member of the Body of Christ. Therefore, the Body of Christ came into existence sometimes after the day of Pentecost and before Paul was converted. I believe that the Body of Christ came into existence when Stephen was stoned at Acts 7.

The Unpardonable Sin

Let us look at the following words of the Lord Jesus:

" Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Mt.12:31-32).

In The Berean Searchlight Win Johnson wrote:

"These words of warning came from the lips of the Son of God while He walked among men in His earthly ministry. They were addressed to the religious leaders of the nation Israel. Their blasphemy against Him even when He hung on the Cross was forgiven by the Father in answer to the prayer, 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34).

"But when at Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, announced the return of Messiah on the condition of Israel's national repentance, these leaders instigated a persecution that reached its climax in the stoning of Stephen, a godly man, 'full of the Holy Ghost' (Acts 7:54-60). It was here that the 'unpardonable sin' was committed by Israel's leaders. The Third Person of the Trinity had been blasphemed and His pleadings through the Apostles ignored. This sin will never be forgiven" (Win Johnson, "The Unpardonable Sin," The Berean Searchlight, Feb.2001, p.6).

The "unpardonable sin" was committed at Acts 7, and I believe that at that point in time national Israel was temporarily set aside. I believe that at that time the Holy Spirit baptized all believers into the Church, which is His Body.

It was no coincidence that when Israel was temporarily set aside that Paul first comes into view. He was right there when Stephen was stoned and he gave his approval to that act:

"And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem... (Acts 8:1).

John Nelson Darby writes that "Saul was present at Stephen's death, and consenting to it. This is the end of the first phase of the assembly of God-its history in immediate connection with Jerusalem and the Jews, as the centre to which the work of the apostles related, 'beginning at Jerusalem'..." [emphasis added] (John Darby's Synopsis of the Entire Bible; Commentary at Acts 8).

Therefore, according to Darby, Israel remained the focus of the LORD's purposes as late as the seventh chapter of Acts. We read virtually the same thing in the Scofield Reference Bible here:

"They had brought false witnesses against Stephen; he bears true witness against them, quoting the testimony of writers they owned to be inspired. He speaks of the persistent rejection of God and His servants by the nation til at last it is brought home to themselves, and arouses the maddened enmity of their hearts. It was the final trial of the nation" [emphasis added] (Scofield Reference Notes by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield--1917).

XII. Paul and His Ministry

William R. Newell, longtime associate of Moody Bible Institute, wrote the following about Paul and his ministry:

"The twelve Apostles (Matthias by Divine appointment taking the place of Judas) were to be the 'witnesses' (Acts 1:22) of Christ's resurrection--that is, of the fact of it. They were not to unfold fully the doctrine of it as Paul was...But unto none of these twelve Apostles did God reveal the great body of doctrine for this Age. Just as God chose Moses to be the revelator to Israel for the Ten Commandments and all connected with the Law dispensation, so God chose Saul of Tarsus to be the revelator and unfolder of those mighty truths connected with our Lord's death, burial, and resurrection and His ascended Person. And all the 'mysteries' or 'secrets' revealed to God's people in this Dispensation by the Holy Spirit are revealed by Paul. Finally, Paul is the unfolder of the great company of God's elect, called the Church, the Body of Christ, the individuals of which Body are called members of the Body of Chris--members of Christ Himself" [emphasis added] (Newell, Paul's Gospel).

After reading this Bible tract Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founding President of Dallas Theological Seminary, said:

"This is a great tract, a clear treatise on the truth of God for this age. The author was one of America's greatest Bible expositors. It glorifies the Savior as the author desired it to do. It should be distributed by hundreds of thousands" [emphasis added] (Editor, Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1994, Volume 7:12).

XIII. The Beginning of the Present Dispensation of the Grace of God

Here are three quotes from the pen of Paul where he speaks of a "dispensation" that has been committed or given to him:

"If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me toward you" (Eph. 3:2).

"Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God" (Col.1:25).

"...a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me" (1 Cor.9:17).

The "dispensation" which was committed to Paul is in regard to "God's grace", a "ministry", and a "gospel." Here Paul sums up his dispensational responsibility:

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20: 24).

In Bibliotheca Sacra, a journal published by Dallas Theological Seminary, Roy L. Aldrich quotes these three verses (Eph.3:2; Col.1:25; 1 Cor.9:17) and then says, "These passages use the word 'dispensation' (or 'stewardship') to describe the sacred commission or trust to preach the gospel" [emphasis added] (Aldrich, "A New Look at Dispensationalism," Bibliotheca Sacra, January-March, 1963, Vol.120, Number 477, p.43).

Paul first preached the gospel of the grace of God to the Gentiles at Acts 13:46-47 so that marks the beginning of the present dispensation.

Appendix 1

The Gap in Daniel's Seventy Weeks

Let us look at the end of the 69th week and the events of the 70th week in Dainiel's prophecy:

"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate" (Dan.9:26-27).

After the 69th week was accomplished the Lord Jesus was put to death and the events of the first 69 weeks were fulfilled. Before His death the disciples asked the Lord Jesus, "What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Mt.24:3). In reply He spoke of Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks, and warned that the setting up of the abomination of despolations in the holy place would precede the great tribulation and the signs in the sky which would follow immediately upon that tribulation:

"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains...For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be....Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Mt.24:15-16,21,29).

These events are describing the events of the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy and there is no evidence at all that these events happened in the first century or since. Therefore, dispensationalists have always maintained that these events remain in the future. So traditional dispensationalists understand that the prophetic era ceased to run shortly after the end of the 69th week when the promised Messiah was put to death at the Cross and that the 70th week will be fulfilled in the future. That "gap" in prophetic time clock is the same as the parenthesis or intercalation of which Ryrie spoke of when he wrote that "Classic dispensationalism used the words 'parenthesis' or 'intercalation' to describe the distinctiveness of the church in relation to God's program for Israel" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, Dispensationalism [Chicago: Moody Press, 1995], 134).

That is why Ryrie says that the events of the Church age are not found in the Old Testament:

"Dispensational premillennialism has insisted that the mystery is something unrevealed in the Old Testament (though now revealed) in order to demonstrate the distinctiveness of the church from Israel and to emphasize its unique place in God's program for this age...this whole age with its program was not revealed in the Old Testament, but constitutes a new program and a new line of revelation in this present age" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, "The Mystery in Ephesians 3," Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan. 1966).

Gentile Salvation

When the divine purpose is in regard to Israel it will be through the agency of the "nation" of Israel whereby the Gentiles will brought to salvation and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. When He walked the earth He said the following:

"Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews"" (Jn.4:22).

He also said the following about the Jews:

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt.5:14-16).

According to the OT it would be through the agency of the "nation" of Israel that Gentiles will obtain the knowledge of the LORD:

""Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor" (Isa.55:5; NIV).

However, during the Church age the Gentiles are being brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus through the agency of the members of the Body of Christ (2 Cor.5:18-21). Today Gentile salvation is being accomplished as a result of the fall of Israel:

"I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?" (Ro.11:11-12).

These two ways which the Bible reveals about Gentile salvation are mutually exclusive. If the Gentiles are being saved as a result of the agency of the members of the Body of Christ then it is certain that they are not being saved as a result of the agency of the nation of Israel. With that in mind we can understand what Cafer wrote here in "bold" is correct:

""But for the Church intercalation -- which was wholly unforeseen and is wholly unrelated to any divine purpose which precedes it or which follows it. In fact, the new, hitherto unrevealed purpose of God in the outcalling of a heavenly people from Jews and Gentiles is so divergent with respect to the divine purpose toward Israel, which purpose preceded it and will yet follow it, that the term parenthetical, commonly employed to describe the new age-purpose, is inaccurate. A parenthetical portion sustains some direct or indirect relation to that which goes before or that which follows; but the present age-purpose is not thus related and therefore is more properly termed an intercalation" [emphasis added] (Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:41; 5:348-349).

Appendix 2

In a study written by Lloyd Thomas we read the following:

"E.W. Bullinger (1837-1913) is one source of the false idea that absence of the definite article ('the') from the term Holy Spirit in the New Testament in its original language means that it is not the person of the Holy Spirit Himself but merely a function or action of the Spirit that is referred to." (Thomas, The Greek Definite Article and the Holy Spirit of God)

Here Lloyd Thomas calls Bullinger's idea about the definite article "false." We will now examine the reasons for this belief.

A Scientific Approach

Here Lloyd Thomas says that we should use a "scientific approach" in our efforts to determine the truth in regard to the definite article as used in the first century:

"A scientific approach to this issue would not have focused on the definite article with special regard to the Holy Spirit, but the use of the definite article with regard to any noun in the common Greek of the first century. That language, as the common people of that time understood it, is the real issue!"

Dr. John F. Walvoord, the second President of Dallas Theological Seminary, discusses the presence or the absence of the definite article before the Greek noun translated "law":

"It is obvious that there must be some meaning to the use of the article or its absence, particularly when we observe careful distinction often in the same verse of Scripture. It is the writer's contention that the article when used has some significance, and when it is not used there must be some reason for its absence. He (Paul) therefore concludes in 3:20 that 'by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.' As the 'law' includes both Jews and Gentiles in this summary, it is clear that it has the general meaning of any moral law" [emphasis added] (Walvoord, "Law in the Epistle to the Romans," Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan., 1937, [Vol. 94, #373], 17,21).

As Walvoord says, at Romans 3:20 the word "law" applies to both Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, any translation which renders the passage as "the law" is in error because the Gentiles were never given "the law" (Ro.2:14). The correct translation is "law," and in this case "law" includes both those who are under "the law" as well as those who have the law written on their hearts, that law to which the conscience bears witness (Ro.2:15).

So we can see that a scientific approach confirms the fact that the use of the definite article or its absence can indeed determine the meaning of the Greek word translated "law." Therefore, the same principle can also be in force when it comes to the presence or absence of the definite article before the Greek words translated "holy spirit."

Loyd Thomas did not address the following mis-translation:

"And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (Jn.20:22; NIV).

It is impossible that this translation is correct. That is because in the following passage the Lord Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would not be sent until He departed to be with the Father and He had not yet departed to be with the Father when He said those words:

"But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (Jn.16:5-7).

It is impossible that they had received "the Holy Spirit" because the Lord Jesus had not yet departed to be with the Father when He spoke the words at John 20:22. Therefore the correct translation of John 20:22 is as follows:

"And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive holy spirit'" (Jn.20:22).

The correct translation of Acts 1:4-5 is as follows:

"And, being foregathered, He charges them not to be departing from Jerusalem, but to be remaining about for the promise of the Father, 'which you hear of Me, seeing that John, indeed, baptizes in water, yet you shall be baptized in holy spirit after not many of these days'" (Acts 1:4-5; CLV).