The Gospel of Christ

Series: The Church That Jesus Built

Lesson: The Church in Prophecy

(a capella singing)

The Gospel of Christ: Spreading the soul-saving message of Jesus. And now, Kevin Pendergrass…

Welcome to The Gospel of Christ. This is our first lesson in our study on “The Church That Jesus Built”. And in this lesson, we're going to be looking at how the Old Testament prophets foretold about the church and what they had to say in regards to it. Now, there are many things that we can learn about the church from these prophets, and that's exactly what we are going to do with this lesson. Now, while we'll be alluding to several different prophets, we'll specifically be looking at the prophecies found in the book of Isaiah and the book of Daniel.

And so let's begin with Isaiah. In Isaiah 2:2-3, here Isaiah lays forth a prophecy. And this is seven centuries prior to the birth of Christ. This is what Isaiah proclaimed. He said that “now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it.” Isaiah goes on to say in verse 3 that “many people shall come and say ‘come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” I want us to look at this prophecy and break it down to what I like to call “the When”, “the What”, “the Where” and “the Who” of Isaiah.

The first part of that is “the When”. That is, the time period. When were these events going to take place according to Isaiah? Well, Isaiah 2:2 said that these things were going to take place, they were going to come to pass in the latter days, or the latter times. Now, what does that phrase mean? Well, the only way we can know is by going to the Bible. In 1 Peter 4:11, the Bible says that “if any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.” Whenever we see a word or a phrase in the scripture and perhaps we're not sure how it's being used, let the Bible always define that for you. The Bible is always going to be it’s best commentary. And so as Isaiah 8:20 says, let us go “to the law” and to the scriptures to see what this phrase means. Well, the way we're going to do this is by going to another prophet, the prophet of Joel. Joel had made a prophecy about the Holy Spirit in Joel chapter 2, beginning in verse 28 and following, and he talks about how the Holy Spirit would be poured out. And then he goes on to say when this would happen: in the latter days, or “in the last days”. And so, the same terminology is used by Joel that was used by Isaiah. Well, the apostle Peter, in Acts chapter 2 quoted Joel's prophecy, showing that it had its fulfillment in connection with the outpouring of the Spirit on that very day in Acts chapter 2. In fact, let's look at what Peter said in Acts 2:16-17. Here Peter is preaching, and this is what he says.  He says, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.’” Now, what we see here is that clearly on the day of Pentecost the last days had begun, because Peter was saying that these are the last days in Acts 2. This is further supported by Peter's reference to Pentecost in Acts chapter 11. In fact, there he was explaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles, Cornelius and his household. And Peter went on to say that this event in Acts chapter 10 represented the same gift- in Acts 11:17 he says this- even as the apostles had received, notice this, “at the beginning”. What is he referring back to? He's talking about the beginning of the Christian age, or the beginning of the last days. Another verse that I want us to look at in connection with this would be found in Hebrews 1:1-2. The Bible says, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,” Verse 1 the Hebrews writer begins, by saying that God has communicated His will to individuals in different ways.  Sometimes He did this perhaps through dreams. Other times He did this directly, sometimes through a burning bush. Well, notice verse 2, though:  “has now in these last days spoken to us by His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things, to whom through whom He also made the worlds.” And so the Hebrews writer was saying that what? They were in the last days at that time period: “has in these last days”. And so this prophetic expression or this phrase depicts the final dispensation of time. It is the Christian age. It represents that era from the day of Pentecost until the ultimate return of the Lord. And so these events were going to start, this is going to begin and be established in Acts chapter 2. And so we see “the When” of Isaiah's prophecy.

Well, now let's move on to the next point, and that is “the What”. What is Isaiah speaking of? What is he prophesying about? Well, he says, “that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills”. Isaiah is prophesying about the Lord's house and how it is going to be established in Acts chapter 2. Well, what is the Lord's house? We know that this cannot be the tabernacle, because the tabernacle had already been taken away and replaced by the physical temple, which was in Jerusalem. We know that this could not be the physical temple that was in Jerusalem because this was something that was still in the future.  And they already had the physical temple in Jerusalem. And so what is Isaiah talking about? What is the Lord's house? Well, the Bible teaches us that the Lord's house that Isaiah was prophesying about is nothing other than the Lord's church. It is the church of Jesus Christ. How do we know this? Well, because Paul tells this to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15.  Paul is writing, and he is writing to Timothy, and he is telling him how he needs to conduct himself. And notice what he says. He says, “if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Now, Paul says I'm writing so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, or the Lord's house, and he goes on to say what that is. It is the Lord's church. It is the church. That is what the house of God is. Peter also in 1 Peter chapter 1, beginning in verse 13 through 16, he's talking about Christians. And he talks about
how Christians are to “be holy in all of their conduct”. The reason being is because Jesus is holy. Peter goes on to talk about in 1 Peter chapter 2 how Christians are of the “royal priesthood”. We are the “royal priesthood”. You see, under the Old Testament, if you wanted to be a priest, you had to be of the tribe of Levi. Out of those twelve tribes, you had to be out of that tribe.  Well, now, under the new covenant, anyone who's been baptized into Christ, anyone who has had their sins washed away in the watery grave of baptism, Acts 22:16, is considered to be part of the household of God. And so therefore, you are part of the royal priesthood. And in talking about the church, notice what Peter calls it. In 1 Peter 2:5, Peter says, “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.  The church is what? It is the “spiritual house”. That is what it is. It is a “spiritual house”. It's not a physical house. But the church is the people. We are the people. Those who have obeyed the gospel, those who are the “royal priesthood”, we are the household of God according to 1 Peter 2:5. In Ephesians chapter 2 beginning in verse 19, Paul is talking about the church. When you look at the book of Ephesians, it's a great book if you want to have a better understanding of the church. I would encourage you just to start at the very beginning of Ephesians and read all the way through because Paul goes into much detail about the church.  And in verse 19, Paul says, “Now, therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and” notice this, “members of the household of God”. What is the church or the household of God? He goes on to say, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets”. Now, how was it built on the foundation by the apostles and the prophets? Well, that's what we're looking at in this lesson. The prophets laid the groundwork because they were the ones who foretold.  They were the ones who prophesied about the church and about the Lord's house. He goes on to say that “Jesus Christ himself, being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord”. You see, the church is a temple, but it's not the temple in Jerusalem physically speaking. We are the “holy temple in the Lord”.  In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. And so what is Isaiah talking about? It is clear that the subject under consideration that Isaiah's talking about is the church. It is the Lord's house. Spiritually speaking, it is the church of Christ.

Well, now we move on to our next point. And that is where. Where was the church to be established? Where were these events going to take place? Well, Isaiah 2:3 tells us: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”. Here, these things were going to take place. It wasn't going to take place in America; it wasn't going to take place in any other region or any other town or any other place besides Jerusalem. This is where the Lord's church was going to start, to begin and then from then on it was going to spread out into all the world. In Isaiah 28:16 the Bible says, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; and whoever believes will not act hastily.’” Christ was that cornerstone. He was the foundation.  He was the groundwork to the church that was going to begin in Isaiah 2:3, which Isaiah prophesies about that was going to begin in Acts chapter 2. And this is where the apostles were when they proclaimed the facts of the gospel. They were in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 2. We read about this in Luke 24:47-49, Acts 1:4-5, and Acts 2 verses 1 and following. So, so far, we have seen “the When”. When are these things going to take place? They were going to take place in the latter times, Acts chapter 2.  Where was the church going to be established? It was going to be established in Jerusalem. Now, that already tells us something. That tells us that if we are a part of a church that was not established in Jerusalem, if we are a part of a church that was established before Acts chapter 2, or was established after Acts chapter 2, then you are not a part of the household of God. You might be a part of “a” church, you may be a part of “a” religious group, but you are not a part of “the” church that you read about in the Bible because the church you read about in the Bible had a specific time in which it said it was going to begin and a specific place and where it was going to begin, and we see that clearly from Isaiah's prophecy.

Well, now I want us to look at the last point of Isaiah's prophecy, and that is “Who”. Who can enter into the household of God? Isaiah 2:2 puts no limitations. The Bible says that “all nations” can “flow into it”.  Anybody can be a part of the Lord's church. Anybody can be a part of spiritual household of God. And this was different than under the Old Testament, because under the old law, under the old covenant, you either had to be born a Jew, physically speaking, or you had to be converted into that nation or proselyted in. Aside from that, that was the only way that you could be saved. Not all nations could be saved. In fact the covenant wasn't even for all nations, Deuteronomy 5:1-5. But now we live under a “new” and “better covenant”, Hebrews chapters 7 through 10.  And because of that, anybody and everybody can be a part of the household of God. In Romans 1:16, Paul there is writing and he's talking about the power of the gospel, and this is what he says. He says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”. It went to “the Jew first”, Acts chapter 2, and “also to the Greek”, Acts chapter 10, to the whole world, and anybody can be a part of it. And why, and how is that made possible? How can we all be part of the household of God?  Well, it's made possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 2:14 the Bible says, “For He Himself is our peace,” talking about Christ, “who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of separation”.  That law that separated us, that law and that covenant that separated Jew and Gentile, now has been taken out of the way, and we can all be one, because of the sacrifice and death of Jesus Christ. That is why it is called the gospel of peace, because Christ is our peace that we can be reconciled to one body. When Jesus was commanding the apostles to preach the gospel and to go out, notice what type of limitations that He placed.  You'll notice that he put no limitations on where they were to go. Matthew 28:19, the Bible says, “go therefore and make disciples of some of the nations”?  Is that what the Bible says? No. Does it say: “go therefore and make disciples of most of the nations”?  No The Bible says, “Go there and make disciples of all nation the nations, every single nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Remember in Acts chapter 10 when we read earlier about Cornelius and his household, and we alluded to that point, about how they were the first Gentile converts. Well, in alluding back to that in Acts 11:18, the Bible said that “when they heard these things, they became silent and they glorified God, saying, ‘then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life’”. You see, we can all be part of the one body of Christ.  Galatians 3:27-28 tells us how we do that. The Bible says: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” If you have been baptized into Christ, you have literally clothed yourself with Christ. You've been put into Christ. And because of that, there's no longer male, there's no longer female, there's no longer Jew, Gentile, but we are all one in the body. Now, this is talking about salvation, of course.  We know that there are different roles for individuals. But when it comes to salvation, we can all be saved. Now, when we look at the idea as I made mention earlier about Israel, see, under the Old Testament, Israel were God's people. But in Romans 9:6, the Bible says that “it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel”. Think about that for a moment. What does that mean? “For they are not all Israel who are Israel.” Well, you see, just because you are a Jew physically does not mean that you are a Jew spiritually. Because the church today is the spiritual Israel of God. Galatians 6:16 says that “as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God.” Today God's people are called Israel in a spiritual sense, not a physical sense, and all nations can be a part of spiritual Israel. You see, Jesus died for all. John 3:16, the Bible says, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Unlike Calvinism and unlike a lot of other false beliefs, the Bible does not teach that Jesus only died for certain people. Jesus died for all. 1 John 2:2, John says that “He himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also”, notice this, “for the whole world's”. But we must obey the gospel. 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 teaches us that we must obtain salvation. See, you have to be obedient to the gospel. Hebrews 5:8-9 teaches us that the Lord is the “author of eternal salvation only to those who obey him”. Yes, while Jesus died for you, you still have to obtain that gift. And the way to do that is through obedience to the gospel, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

And so as we come to an end on Isaiah's prophecy, we're about to move to what Daniel had to say. But we have seen when the church was going to be established. We have seen what is going to be established, the Lord's house, the church of Christ. When it was going to be established and where and also who could be a part of that. Anybody can be a part of that. Well, now let's move to Daniel's prophecy.

I want us to look at Daniel 2:44, and I want to read this verse, and then we're going to take it and put it in it’s context. The Bible says that, “in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people.  It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” We see this verse, but now let's put it in its proper context. In the context of this verse, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar, he had just had a dream in which he saw a great image. And in this image it had a great head of gold, it had breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass and feet of iron and clay. And then in this dream he saw a stone that was cut out without hands and it struck this image upon its feet and completely destroyed it. The stone then went on to continue to become a great mountain, filling the whole earth. Now, just like you would be, the king was greatly troubled about this dream and he wanted to know what this dream meant. You see, at this point in time, Hebrews 1:1, God spoke one way through dreams. Now today, God communicates His will to us through the word of God, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3, even Jude 3 says that “the faith has been once for all delivered”. But at that point in time, God would communicate through dreams. And so King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to know what this dream meant. Now, Daniel was a great prophet of God, and Daniel was the one who ended up telling him what this dream meant. He told King Nebuchadnezzar that he as king of Babylon was the head of gold and that after him would arise another kingdom inferior to him. Then after that, a third kingdom would arise, followed finally by a fourth kingdom. Now, since the stone was to strike the image in the feet, and since the feet represents the fourth kingdom, then it follows that the kingdom and the church was to be established during the existence of the fourth kingdom. Now, from history we learn that the kingdom of Babylon was followed by the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians, under Cyrus and Darius in 538 BC. The third world power to arise was that of Greece under Alexander the Great, who conquered the Persians in 331 BC. He died in 323 BC and ended up leaving his kingdom to his generals. And during that time it fell into two divisions, which was represented by the thighs of the image. Then finally in 30 BC, one division of this kingdom was taken by Octavius Caesar, and a few years later, the other was overthrown by Pompeii; and the fourth world power of Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream was established. And this is when God would set up his kingdom, which is of course, the church, the household of God. In the last few minutes of this lesson, all I want us to do is to take principle and lesson from this passage in Daniel 2 so that we can learn these lessons.

Number one, it was to be established in the days of the Roman kings. Now, what's interesting about this is when you read Matthew 3:1-3 and Luke 3:1-6, it says that it was the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when John came preparing the way for Christ and for the kingdom. Well, that's when the church was said that it was going to be established. That's when it was prophesied about in Daniel 2.  This was when the kingdom, during this time period, this is when the kingdom was going to be established. Well, do you think that was a mistake that Matthew 3 and Luke 3 specifically say that it was the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar? Of course not. It's letting us know that this is the time period.  And that's why they said that the kingdom of heaven is when? It “is at hand”.

Another lesson that we learn is that this kingdom was to be established by the Lord. This was not going to be some earthly kingdom, but rather this was going to be a spiritual kingdom. It was going to be the spiritual household of God. This kingdom, the church, was to last-was going to be the last world power. It was to be the last world power. There is going to never be a world power again. In other words, there is never going to be another earthly kingdom with worldwide dominion. That doesn't mean there's going to be kingdoms in nations that are very powerful. The United States the very powerful.  But we do not have worldwide dominion. You see, that only belongs now to the church, to the kingdom of heaven, Daniel 2:44. You can go anywhere in the world and there can be members of the church of Christ-Members of the Lord's kingdom.  Anywhere you go- because it is the only worldwide kingdom at this point, and it is a spiritual kingdom.

 We also learn from this prophecy that the kingdom was never going to be destroyed. It was that rock that went out filling the whole world and that crushed all those other kingdoms. In Matthew 16:18-19 when Jesus is talking to Peter, Jesus tells him that “the gates of Hades will not prevail against” the church. The gates of Hades cannot prevail against the kingdom. Now, there may be times that the church is stronger. There may be times that the church is weaker. But it will never be destroyed.

 And finally we see that the kingdom was to have a small beginning and later fill the whole earth. And this is important for us to understand. As we put Isaiah's prophecy with Daniel's prophecy, it was going to begin in Jerusalem. It had a beginning. We read about three thousand being saved that day, Acts 2:40-47. And then it continued to fill the whole world, just as that stone continued going throughout the whole nation or the whole world. Jesus spoke of the kingdom as having a small beginning like a mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32. Have you ever seen a mustard seed? Very small. But you plant it in the ground, and even though it has a small beginning, it continues to get larger and larger and larger and expand. And that's how the kingdom was going to be. And that's exactly what happened. Jesus also spoke as the kingdom of being leaven which is able to leaven all the meal in which it is placed, Matthew 13:33. See, when Jesus was talking to the apostles, he said “but 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”. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus gave the great commission. In Acts 1 Jesus tells them in verse 8 where they were going to begin and where they were going to end. And did this happen? Absolutely. Paul became an apostle, and this is what he said in Colossians 1:23 about the spread of the gospel. The Bible says: “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Paul said that the gospel was carried out to all four corners of the earth. It was preached to every creature under heaven.

And so there's a lot of lessons that we can learn from these prophecies seen in Isaiah and Daniel. A lot of lessons that we need to take into consideration to make sure that we are part of the right church. Well, if you're not part of the church that was prophesied about in the Bible and had its fulfillment in Acts chapter 2, well, then, you need to become a part of that church. You don't do that by writing a check.  You don't do that by simply saying, “I want to place membership” or something of that nature. No. The only way that you can be a part of the church you read about in the Bible, the Lord's church, the only way you can be a part of the household of God is by being added by the Lord himself, Acts 2:47. The Lord only adds you when you are saved.  And according to Acts 2:38, you are only saved when you repent and are baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” If you've yet to obey the truth, we pray today that you will obey the gospel of Christ.

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(a capella singing)