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

by Jerry Shugart

All Things Common

On the day of Pentecost the believers sold their possessions and had all things common:

"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" (Acts 2:44-45).

The actions of the believers on that day cannot possibly be reconciled with what Paul told the members of the Body of Christ as to how they should live during the Church age:

"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (1 Tim. 5:8).

What was happening on the day of Pentecost among believers more closely resembles what the Lord Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself" (Mt.6:33-34).

In The Scofield Study Bible we read the following about the Sermon on the Mount:

"Having announced the kingdom of heaven as 'at hand,' the King now, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt.5-7), declares to His disciples (5:1) the principles of that kingdom" [emphasis added] (The Scofield Study Bible; King James Version [New York: Oxford University Press, 2003], note at Matthew 5:3, 1241).

We can also see that on the day of Pentecost the believers were of "one accord" and they possessed a "singleness of heart":

"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46).

What was happening there was a foretaste of what the OT prophecies foretold of the time surrounding the bringing in of the earthly kingdom:

"I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them" (Jer.32:39).

On the day of Pentecost the believers were preparing for the coming of the kingdom by living in a manner which will be the norm during the kingdom age.

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 Acts 2 dispensationalist 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.

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).

Barbieri 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.