The Holy Spirit was sent to the first century new believers at Pentecost shortly after Christ’s ascension on the day of the Feast of Pentecost in AD 30. The apostles and first century disciples were the foundational beginnings of the New Covenant church, which was made up of all born-again believers. Jesus told His apostles:
“7Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the HELPER (HOLY SPIRIT) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7).
During the transition period between Christ’s first and second comings, culminating for the church in the rapture May 30 AD 66, the New Covenant Kingdom was beginning in its infancy. Gifted men, such as the apostles and prophets, were chosen and commissioned by God to be the foundation for His church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:20; 4:11). These first century apostles and church leaders had mighty spiritual gifts given to them, but they also had great responsibilities (Acts 1:8).
They were to make disciples, equipping them for the work of the ministry and the edifying of the body of Christ. Jesus told them that He was with them always (day and night) as they carried out His commission given to them until the end of the Jewish age in their generation (Matt. 28:19-20).
Those first century apostles and their disciples operated with the awesome SPIRITUAL GIFTS of power of the HOLY SPIRIT to confirm the gospel to their hearers. The apostles and their disciples, such as Stephen, were able to work miracles, demonstrate signs, heal people, prophesy, teach, and spread the gospel with unusual wisdom and authority.
“8But you shall receive POWER when the HOLY SPIRIT has COME UPON YOU; and you shall be WITNESSES to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
They were given great responsibility to carry out the mission that Christ had given to them during the transition period between AD 30 and the Parousia in AD 66. All of their exceptional work was controlled by the HOLY SPIRIT in such a way that it was effective as never before or after in human history. Much was required of those saints. Jesus spoke to His disciples on a mountain, telling them of the responsibility that they had.
“19Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be CALLED LEAST IN THE Kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be CALLED GREAT IN THE Kingdom of heaven. 20For I say to you (first century disciples), that unless your righteousness EXCEEDS the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will BY NO MEANS ENTER the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:19-20).
Much was expected of those first century apostles and exclusive disciples. They were persecuted by the unbelieving Jews and the Romans. Some of them were martyred for their faith and testimony about Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of all faithful believers.
They were born-again by faith in Christ. Their sins had been atoned for by Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and High Priestly work in the heavenly Holy of Holies in AD 30. They were given the responsibility to build upon the Cornerstone (Christ) the foundation of the spiritual Kingdom until Christ’s Parousia when He would consummate it, reuniting the heavenly (unseen) and earthly (seen realm of the Church) realms of His eternal Kingdom (Eph. 1:10, 2:20-22).
The apostles and first century saints operated by faith, eagerly waiting for the day of Redemption that would come soon at Christ’s Parousia in their generation. The 1st century church had to go through great persecutions and were purified and prepared for the heavenly wedding. Peter said the judgments of Christ would first start with the house of God (Church):
“16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17For the time has come FOR JUDGMENT TO BEGIN AT THE HOUSE OF GOD (Church): and if it begins with US FIRST, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:16-17).
“10Therefore, brethren, BE EVEN MORE DILIGENT TO MAKE YOUR CALL AND ELECTION SURE, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly INTO THE EVERLASTING KINGDOM of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
Even though those first century disciples would go through great judgments, it would not be for sin, as they were forgiven and reconciled to God by their faith in Christ and His atoning work. They were promised this by being born-again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They were “sealed” by the HOLY SPIRIT as A GUARANTEE UNTIL THE DAY OF REDEMPTION.
“21Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22who also HAS SEALED US AND GIVEN US THE SPIRIT IN OUR HEARTS AS A GUARANTEE.” (2 Cor. 1:21-22).
“12For this reason I ALSO SUFFER THESE THINGS; nevertheless I AM NOT ASHAMED, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him UNTIL THAT DAY.” (2 Tim, 1:12).
“11IN HIM also we have obtained AN INHERITANCE, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12that WE WHO FIRST TRUSTED IN CHRIST should be to the praise of His glory. 13IN HIM you (first century saints) also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; IN WHOM ALSO, having believed, YOU WERE SEALED with the HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, 14who is the GUARANTEE of our inheritance until THE REDEMPTION of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph. 1:11-14).
“30And do not grieve the HOLY SPIRIT of God, by whom you were SEALED FOR THE DAY OF REDEMPTION.” (Eph. 4:30).
Those first century apostles and distinct disciples were given special SPIRITUAL GIFTS that were given by the Holy Spirit as He determined, for a specific purpose and time prior to the Parousia and the arrival of The Perfect. When at that time the office of prophecy and tongues and those things which were only the “part” would be done away (1 Cor. 13:8-12).
Determining What Goes and What Stays Now Post AD 70, After The Parousia and the Arrival of The Perfect:
Some Principles That Help Us Decide What Goes and What Stays:
- 1. Anything mentioned by Jesus and the apostles as being a part of the coming Kingdom (Sermon on Mount & Parables). What will life in the Kingdom be like? Much (if not all) of Jesus’ Kingdom teaching was focused on defining what life in the Kingdom would be like, and what was required of anyone to be allowed to enter it and dwell in it when it arrived.
- The beatitudes (Matthew 5) and the virtues that are characteristic of life in the Kingdom after the Kingdom arrives. The beatitudes define the character of those who are Kingdom dwellers. They stand in stark contrast to the life of the Jews under the Law. Notice the contrast between “you have heard” versus “but I say to you.”
- All of the parables were about the Kingdom (“the Kingdom may be compared to”). All the apostles gave a lot of teaching about what life was supposed to be like in the Kingdom, and what the nature of the Kingdom would be. And they got this straight out of the OT prophets and Moses himself who constantly emphasized the spiritual nature of our relationship with God.
- 2. Anything given to the Gentiles by Christ and the apostles (and by Paul especially) has to be considered applicable AFTER AD 70, unless it is specifically said to cease at the Parousia, or “restricted” to the transition period, such as the gifts of prophecy and tongues which included speaking and writing by inspiration (1 Cor. 13:8-10).
- Since Paul said that those gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29), how could those gifts cease being practiced at AD 70 if the people who had those irrevocable gifts were still alive on earth after the Perfect arrived? The cessation of the practice of those gifts at the Parousia (when the Perfect arrived) is answered fully by the very thing that was to happen to every Christian still living at the arrival of the Parousia –> every believer, including everyone who had those irrevocable gifts were raptured and taken to heaven where those gifts were no longer needed, because of the better things that they now had in heaven (“knowing fully” and “seeing Him face to face” – 1 Cor. 13:12).
- Those gifts ceased being practiced by those irrevocably gifted saints simply because those saints were no longer on earth to practice them. However, the gifts were not revoked, but simply replaced by the better things of “knowing fully” and “seeing face to face.” The eternal Kingdom was fully consummated and the purpose of those gifts had been fulfilled.
The earthly realm of the eternal New Covenant spiritual Kingdom (Church) began to grow after AD 70, slowly at first (as depicted in Ezek. 47:1-12). Some of the new Christians would have included the unbelievers who had previously had a “seed” planted within them. Many would have probably heard the gospel from their deceased or raptured parents or friends, while others would have come to faith after finding the many New Testament Bible scrolls which would have been scattered throughout the Roman Empire. These new believers would have been born-again in the very same way anyone comes to faith, and then been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who guided them in truth as they grew as babes in the faith. They had the completed Canon of the New Testament to instruct them in doctrine.
Even though the apostles and all Christians had been raptured, these previously “seed planted” unbelievers had heard (or read) the gospel, and now believed, repented and were born-again after AD 70. They were the first offspring of the New Covenant marriage of Christ and His Bride in heaven (Rev. 19:7-9). The first trickle of the River of Life “emanating from the throne in the heavenly realm in Revelation 2:1-2” which Ezekiel sees “entering the earthly realm” coming out from under the door to the temple in Ezekiel 47:1. This trickle, which over time would continue to grow in width and depth throughout all history, and everywhere the river (gospel) would goes it will bring “medicine/healing” (save souls: Ezek. 47:12; Rev. 22:2). Christ has proven that His Words will never pass away, and His Kingdom never cease from growing! (Matt. 24:35; Isa. 9:7; Eph. 3:21).
While the position/office of the “time and purpose specific” SPIRITUAL GIFTS of the 1st century do not exist today, God still does, as He wills, answer prayers and perform miracles and wonders, and as post AD 70 believers we also have our own special spiritual gifts and talents that God has given to us in the Body of Christ. These are useful in the earthly realm of His Kingdom going forward in human history. Our calling is to be faithful and serve Him with humility, thanksgiving, and love for one-another, seeking His glory in all that we do.
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 2 God’s Festal Calendar (Fall Feasts)”]