When Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, put down his pen in 420 B.C., the Old Testament Canon was closed. As the centuries rolled by the Holy Land, was conquered by the Persians, then by the Greeks, later by the Syrians, and finally by Rome. Suddenly, after 450 silent years, when there had been no prophet in the land, astonishing news began to spread. There was talk of a prophet whom the Lord had raised up. He was preaching in the wilderness of Judea and was call “John the Baptist” (Matthew 3:1-12).
Thus, after the 450 years of intertestamental silence, the New Testament period had at last begun. Approximately one hundred years elapsed between Christ’s birth and John the apostle’s writing of the book of Revelation. During this period the Savior came and died on the cross for man’s sins. The church was formed and began to spread the gospel message throughout the world. The momentous events of the New Testament period are worthy of the most careful study for their historic, exemplary, and spiritual lessons. They include:
37-1 The World into Which Christ Came
The coming of the promised Messiah into the world, to die for man’s sin, was truly God’s great gift to mankind. The circumstances of the waiting world at that time were ideal for the long-awaited arrival of the Christ. Scripture says, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Galatians 4:4).
1) His birth in Bethlehem prophesied. Herod asked the religious leaders of Israel where Christ was to be born (vv. 3-6). They quoted Micah’s prophecy (Micah 5:2), given seven hundred years before, naming Bethlehem as the place from which the “Ruler in Israel” was to come. The virgin birth of the Savior was also prophesied (Isaiah 7:14). It should not seem strange to us that the conception of the unique Son of God should occur in a miraculous way.
2) Childhood of Christ. In His infinite wisdom, God permitted the childhood of Jesus to pass us by quietly. These are “silent years.” We are given only the account in Luke’s Gospel concerning Jesus, the twelve-year-old boy, who already was:
a) amazing the rabbis with His questions and answers;
b) completely conscious of His unique relationship to God the Father;
c) fully aware of His unique mission (Luke 2:41-52).
All non-biblical stories of the boy Jesus are fabricated and of late origin. Jesus did no miracles as a boy; John’s Gospel makes that fact unmistakably clear (John 2:11).
3) Greek language and culture. The Roman chief captain asked Paul, “Can you speak Greek?” (Acts 21:37). The language of the Western world in New Testament times was Greek (though some early church fathers claimed that Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic). The reason was that from 336 to 323 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered Persia, Egypt, and the Middle Eastern world, spreading the Greek language and culture to all conquered areas. In the providence of God, this provided an almost universal language that would carry the message of God’s salvation in Christ throughout the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern world. That the New Testament was written in Greek, the international language of the day (in contrast to the Old Testament which was written in Hebrew, a language of only one people), fit God’s purpose to form the church out of believers of all kindreds, nations, and peoples (Acts 2:4-12). At this same time, many Greek intellectuals had lost faith in the pagan gods and goddesses of Mt. Olympus, and at last were open and longing for a faith that would meet their real needs and answer their questions about life. Such a faith came with Christianity (Acts 17:15-34).
4) The rule of Augustus Caesar. During the reign of Augustus Caesar (31 B.C.-A.D. 14), the world saw a brief era of peace, unparalleled in history, called the Pax Romana. In the providence of God it allowed the first missionaries to travel safely throughout the Roman world. At the time of Christ’s ministry, Pontius Pilate was governing Judea (including Jerusalem) from his headquarters, the Roman-dominated coastal city of Caesarea.
5) The rule of Herod. Herod the Great ruled by intrigue and murder from 37 to 4 B.C. He was an Idumean, descended from the Edomites, a people south of the Dead Sea who had often treated the Jews cruelly (Amos 1:11, 12). Herod was the great builder of Palestine. He constructed the architectural and engineering marvel of the mountain fortress of Masada (on a cliff thirteen hundred feet high), as well as the Herodium, and the city of Caesarea with its amazing man-made harbor. He also built the three great battle towers by the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, the Praetorian Fortress (the “Antonia,” named for Mark Antony), and the Jewish temple where Christ sometimes taught. He had the temple sanctuary dramatically refaced and then set about rebuilding all of the porticos, walls, courtyards, and outer buildings of the second temple.
But Herod is more commonly known for the series of murders he committed to protect his throne. He murdered Antipater, his eldest son and heir, his wife Mariam, and two more of their sons, and then hunted down the survivors of the previous royal family—the Hasmoneans (descendants of the Maccabees). Satan had a servant well prepared to kill the infants of Bethlehem as he sought to murder the newly born Christ child (Matthew 2:16; cf. Revelation 12:4).
6) Judaism. The Jewish world of the day was divided into various parties and sects. Chief among these were:
a) The Pharisees (meaning “separated ones”)—scrupulously legalistic in their religion, and seeking righteousness through their works (Matthew 23:2, 3).
b) The Sadducees—religious liberals of the day. They accepted the first five books of Moses, but denied the other writings, the possibility of resurrection, and the existence of angels (Matthew 22:23, 29).
c) The Herodians—members of the Jewish political party that backed the Herodian family reign. They favored home rule and compromised with Rome in order to keep the peace (Mark 3:6).
d) The high priesthood—descended from the new Hasmonean family line which led the fight against the Syrians in 168-165 B.C. The high priest, as the religious ruler of Israel, was always from the tribe of Levi, and headed the Sanhedrin (the important council of seventy). He also had great legal and civil power. Annas and his son-in-law, Caiaphas, were high priests during Christ’s ministry, Caiaphas serving at the time of the Crucifixion (John 18:13, 14, 19-23).
37-2 The Earthly Ministry of Jesus
When Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem (vv. 7-11), He was aware that He was making a messianic entry, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 that the Messiah would someday come into Jerusalem on a donkey. He had sent for the donkey and approved of the messianic shouts of Hosanna (“save now”—Psalm 118:25, 26). He had come to live and die as the Christ, to purchase human redemption (Mark 10:45). Claims that “He was just another Rabbi,” of that “He never claimed to be the Messiah,” appear wholly fallacious in light of His claims in the Gospels (e.g., John 8:56-59; 11:23-26).
Christ’s ministry may be divided into the following eight chronological periods:
1) The birth and childhood years. We have the scriptural account of Jesus’ virgin birth (Luke 1:26-38; 2:7), the visit of the wise men, the flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:1-23), and His return to dwell in Nazareth. At the age of twelve He astounded the doctors of the Law in the temple (Luke 2:41-47). The other years are not recounted until the beginning of His ministry at the age of thirty (John 2:11).
2) The ministry of John the Baptist. John was the forerunner of Christ, fulfilling Isaiah 40:2-5. He preached repentance and baptized with water, outwardly signifying the inward cleansing. A fearless preacher, he was imprisoned and later beheaded by Herod (Matthew 14:1-12).
3) The year of introductions. Jesus’ baptism, temptation, and initial teaching ministries in Judea, Jerusalem, Samaria, and Galilee took place during that time.
4) The year of popularity. This was the year of His great Galilean ministry, when He chose the twelve disciples, delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and worked many miracles around Capernaum. Huge crowds eagerly followed Jesus in those days.
5) The year of antagonism. After the feeding of the five thousand in Galilee, when He refused to become a political King in opposition to Rome, the huge crowds for the most part deserted Him (John 6:66). He then began to minister in the Caesarea Philippi region to build the faith of His disciples (Matthew 16:13-16). By this time the leaders at Jerusalem were set against Him, so He avoided overexposure in Jerusalem (John 7:1). He still taught, healed, and did many other good works.
6) The final months. Toward the end of His earthly career, He ministered east of the Jordan River and periodically visited Judea. During this time He raised Lazarus (the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany) from the dead, thus showing His glory (John 11:1-44).
7) The last week. This week was filled with drama for heaven and earth: His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; His rebuking of the Pharisees and scribes (Matthew 23:1-36); His Olivet Discourse on future events (Matthew 24:3-51); the Last Supper; His betrayal, arrest, and trials before the high priest, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod, and the mob; and His crucifixion for the sins of mankind on the hill of Calvary (Matthew 26:47-68); 27:33-54).
8) The risen ministry. After three days He arose from the dead and appeared frequently both in Jerusalem and at the Sea of Galilee, to the twelve disciples and to others, “to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
37-3 The Church: Its Beginning and Development
After the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, His church was formed to take the gospel to the lost of all nations. The church went forward with the Good News, and the book of Acts records the two chief events: evangelizing the Jews (Acts 1-10) and the gentiles (Acts 11-28).
1) The church was established in Jerusalem and Israel through the following phases:
a) Commissioning. Soon after Christ arose, He commanded that everyone be evangelized in Jerusalem, Samaria, and among all nations (Acts 1:8).
b) Empowerment. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the Upper Room congregation of about 120 persons and filled them (Acts 1:15) with power to go with the gospel and evangelize (Acts 1:8). They shared their faith with the masses, resulting in approximately three thousand conversions (Acts 2:1-44).
c) Witnessing. The apostles preached, performed miracles, suffered persecution, united in prayer for Holy Spirit power, shared their faith and their worldly goods, and rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 3-5).
d) Serving. The first deacons were chosen by the apostles by the laying on of hands and prayer, and were commissioned to serve tables (Acts 6).
e) Martyred. Stephen was the first Christian martyred for preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 7).
f) The church persecuted and scattered. As they went they evangelized, winning souls to Christ. Philip, the first evangelist, conducted a great soul-winning evangelistic crusade (Acts 8 and 9).
g) Conversion of Paul. Paul, who was then called Saul, was the chief persecutor of the church. He was miraculously converted as he was doing his destructive work (Acts 9).
h) Opened doors. The Gentiles were brought into the church—beginning a great new era of soul-winning and discipling of the Gentiles (Acts 10 and 11).
i) Deliverance. Simon Peter was imprisoned by Herod. That night the angel of the Lord led Peter out of prison and to his Christian friends who were assembled as a church in prayer for his deliverance (Acts 12).
2) The church was established among Gentiles:
a) By evangelism. The church at Antioch was ministering to the Lord when the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). On their three missionary journeys, they were led by the Holy Spirit to evangelize in what is today Turkey and Greece (Acts 13-21).
b) By deliverance from legalists. Paul and Silas journeyed to the Jerusalem council to settle the question once and for all that the Gentiles who had been converted to Christ should not be expected to be burdened with the Jewish ceremonial laws (Acts 15).
c) By continuing evangelism. Paul and Silas took a second missionary journey in the Greek world (Acts 16-18).
d) By strengthening. The third missionary journey, again into Turkey and Greece, edified and strengthened the churches (Acts 19-21).
e) By Paul’s chains. Though Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, the gospel was not bound (Acts 22-26).
f) By Paul’s perilous voyage. Paul was saved to evangelize on his hazardous voyage to Rome (Acts 27).
g) By divinely opened doors. Paul’s imprisonment in Rome gave him the opportunity to witness and win those who were serving in Rome’s palace guard (Acts 28).
37-4 The Evangelistic Missionary Journeys of Paul
Missions are spreading the Good News that God forgives sinners who trust in Christ. The church sent forth Paul and Barnabas from Antioch of Syria (Romans 10:15). The first missionaries were sent out by their local church, and were undoubtedly supported by it, as they prayed together seeking God’s will for these ministries (vv. 1-3). The apostle Paul and his associates endured extraordinary labors and poverty to give others the message (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). There may never have been another who labored so arduously, so long, and under such hardships, with such astonishing success as the brilliant apostle Paul.
1) Paul’s calling and commission (vv. 1-3). Paul and Barnabas were called to evangelize the Gentiles.
2) First missionary journey (Acts 13 and 14).
a) Cyprus—First they evangelized in Barnabas’ native land. Saul became known by his Greek name, Paul. John Mark deserted them and returned to Jerusalem.
b) Pisidia (Turkey)—Next they evangelized Paul’s native land. They preached the gospel in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. They were persecuted everywhere, but some believed.
c) They returned to Antioch of Syria and reported to the church (Acts 14:24-28).
3) Jerusalem council (Acts 15).
a) Paul and Barnabas participated with the leaders of the church in seeking God’s will regarding the relation of the ceremonial law to the Gentiles.
b) The question of circumcision and ceremonial law was solved at the Jerusalem council, decreeing that it was God’s will that Gentiles be fully and equally admitted into the church, without having the duty to obey the Jewish ceremonial laws (Acts 15:22-29).
4) Second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-18:22).
a) Paul and Barnabas separated, but the work continued. Paul took Silas on the second journey.
b) The churches started on the first journey were revisited (Acts 15:41). This is our example to nurture new converts.
c) In a vision, Paul was guided to enter Europe (Acts 16:9, 10). Lydia was the first convert in Europe (Acts 16:14).
d) They witnessed in the great Greek cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus.
e) They returned to Antioch of Syria and informed the church of their journeys.
5) Third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:16).
a) The churches which had been started by Paul were revisited.
b) Paul taught in Ephesus for three years and displayed flexibility in staying at a location when opportunity or need arose.
c) He revisited the various Greek cities as well as Jerusalem.
6) Witnessed in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-23:32). God gave Paul opportunity to witness to the high priest and the Sanhedrin.
7) Ceasarean imprisonment (Acts 23:31-26:32). God gave Paul the opportunity to witness to rulers of the land: the governors Felix and Festus, and King Agrippa II.
8) Voyage to Rome (Acts 27). God preserved His servants to continue in their work.
9) Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:16-31). God gave Paul opportunity to witness to the Jewish community in Rome and to many great personages of the Roman Empire.
10) Final travels (Romans 15:24). Paul expressed his desire to witness in Spain.
11) Second Roman imprisonment and martyrdom. The writings of the earliest church fathers are uniform in their testimony that Paul was martyred in Rome by Nero.
37-5 The Fall of Jerusalem and the End of the First Century
This passage speaks of those who wandered forty years in the wilderness and, because of their lack of faith, never entered God’s rest in Canaan. Similarly, after the Jerusalem religious leaders rejected Christ, God gave them forty years of apostolic preaching to change their minds and accept Him. When the majority did not believe, approximately forty years after the Crucifixion, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem (A.D. 70). Thus, Jesus told the women of Jerusalem who were weeping as He went to the cross, “Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves” (Luke 23:28, 29). He went on to speak of the suffering which was ahead for this city, because it was cutting itself off from God’s help by crucifying God the Son.
Master Outline 37 – The beginning of the Church
 About what year did Malachi put down his pen? (Read the Intertestamental period page 1332-1336.)
 After about 400 years of silence a new voice was heard in the wilderness. Whose was it?
 What two (2) great events occurred between the period of Christ’s birth and John the Apostle’s writing of the book of Revelation?
 What was God’s great gift to mankind?
 Where in the Old Testament was the city prophesied about where Christ was to be born?
 Luke’s account concerning Jesus, the 12 year old boy, tells us what three (3) things?
 Jesus did a lot of miracles as a boy? TRUE or FALSE. Explain.
 The language of the Western World in the New Testament was what?
 What does the writing of the New Testament in Greek tell us?
 Herod the Great was known for two (2) specific events in his life? What are they?
 The Jewish world of Jesus’ day was divided into four (4) groups. What are they?
 When Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, did he know was fulfilling prophesy, and if so, what prophesy?
 List eight (8) chronological periods of Jesus’ life?
 Why was the church formed?
 The book of Acts records two (2) chief events which are?
 What are nine (9) phrases of establishing the early Church?
 The church was established among the Gentiles by using seven (7) means which are?
 “Missions” are what?
 The Apostle Paul and his associates suffered what two (2) things?
 What was Paul’s calling and commission?
 What two (2) things were resolved at the Jerusalem council, and what was decreed?
 What five (5) great Greek cities did Paul witness in?
 How long did Paul stay at Ephesus on his third missionary journey?
 What came about as a result of Paul’s Caesarean imprisonment?
 How did Paul meet with death?
 When Jesus told the women at the cross “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves,” what did he mean?