You will be my witnesses…to the
ends of the earth
[Jesus said,] “But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses in
Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
When did Jesus say this?
He said it after his resurrection.
They were the very last words he
spoke to the disciples.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
When would the Holy Spirit come to
them? What happened at that event?
The Holy Spirit came to them at
Pentecost, where the disciples
preached and the Spirit brought
thousands in Jerusalem to faith.
He gave them a job to do. What
They were to be his witnesses
out into the world.
The word “apostle” means,
literally, “sent out”/
Peter’s “Gentile Conversion”
Read Acts 10:9-16, 28, 34-48
What had been the Jewish attitude
(and God’s Law for the Jews regarding
Death of Stephen
Acts 7:55-59, 8:1-4
What began to
happen with the
death of Stephen?
Summary so far
God no longer made the nation of Israel the place where
He would focus His Word and blessings.
Jerusalem had committed the ultimate act of treason by
killing the Son.
While there were missionaries like Paul doing major
missionary work in the decades following the
Resurrection, He wanted to force the believers out into
God Gets Serious
Matthew 23:37, 24:1-2
[Jesus said,] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the
prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have
longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers
her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”…
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his
disciples came up to him to call his attention to its
buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell
you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another;
every one will be thrown down.”
When was this prophecy, recorded in all three of the
synoptic Gospels, fulfilled?
Jerusalem was destroyed in the summer of 70 A.D., less than
forty years (within a generation) of Jesus’ prophesy.
It’s worth paying close attention to the level of detail Jesus
gave in Matthew 24; it saved much of the Christian Church
still in Jerusalem when they saw the signs and fled because of
In 66 A.D. things started to escalate to the point that the
Romans lost an entire legion to guerilla warfare.
In the years following, Roman legions systematically and
brutally crushed all opposition in the region. When they
got to Jerusalem they utterly destroyed it.
As was their practice when trying to make a very clear
point that the power of Rome was not to be disputed, they
burned everything that would burn, demolished the major
buildings that did not burn, and salted the fields so that
nothing could grow in them.
July 17th, 70 A.D., was the last time sacrifices would ever
be made in the temple. According to both Jewish and
Roman historians, around a million Jews died in the war.
For the next two thousand years the Jews would no longer
have a homeland.
A new center of Judaism was established near modern-day
Tel Aviv, where Jewish scholars began writing theTalmud
and redefining Judaism outside of the covenants and
rituals of the OldTestament.
Change in Makeup of the Church
Previous to the fall of Jerusalem,
Jewish Christianity dominated the
After 70 A.D. it became predominately
made up of – and led by – Gentiles.
With the exception of Nero’s blaming the Christians for burning
Rome, the Empire in general didn’t really care about the
Christians until the middle of the 3rd century, under the reign of
250 A.D. was the very worst Christian persecution in all of Rome’s
There was basic religious freedom, and most pagans didn’t even
see saying that Jesus was God was all that unusual.
Mythology is full of part human, part divine people: “demigods.”
Hercules is just one famous example.
Until that time, persecution was primarily a local thing.
Christians were seen as troublemakers and not to be trusted.
One reason Christians were considered troublemakers was because
they refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods. By-and-large,
you could practice whatever religion you liked, but as Roman
citizens you were expected to honor the gods that had made Rome
It was very much like the Roman version of saying the Pledge of
Allegiance. For most people, it was a “whatever” kind of thing,
and they just did it to get that part of their duties as Roman
citizens over with.
When Christians refused, it was seen as being an act of sedition
against the state.
One of the more familiar examples of this kind of thing is Daniel 3.
Christians also could not be trusted because they caused
so much domestic trouble.
Read Matthew 10:34-36 for Jesus’ own words on the
Rebuffed friends and family became extremely suspicious.
Think about how you’d react if your sister suddenly stopped
doing all the stuff that you know she enjoys, joined some
cult, sold all of her possessions, and started talking about
how you’d be damned to eternal torture if you didn’t do the
No PR Agency…
Most of the Christian communities were communes. Just as
most such tight societies are held with suspicion these days,
they were held in the same way then.
It didn’t help that the Christians referred to each other as
“brother” and “sister,” gave each other ritual kisses (the “holy
kiss” referred to many times by Paul), participated in “love
feasts” (another name for the Lord’s Supper, cf. Jude 1:12), ate
the body and blood of a man (“This is my body…”), met
primarily at night, etc.
We know from many letters of that time that the common
perception was that the Christians participated in incest, orgies,
“The Word is unbound”
With those kinds of rumors, it’s easy to see
why Christians were easy targets.
Regardless, the Gospel was still preached,
and the Holy Spirit continued to do His
The size of the early Church continued to
The Pax Romana Fails
When the 4th century began, the Roman
Empire had been split into four pieces, each
lead by an “emperor.”
This time period, with some of the worst
persecutions in Roman history, became the
biggest turning point in the Church’s history
since the first century until the sixteenth
The Rise of Constantine
After distinguishing himself in Britain, Constantine became a
Caesar when his father died. He made it illegal to persecute
Christians, and tried to get the other emperors to do the same
(with mixed results on all sides).
According to tradition, on his way to conquer Rome he received
a vision of the Chi-Rho and the words “In hoc signo vinces” (“In
this sign, conquer”). He has his soldiers put this sign on the
standards of his army (shields, flags, etc.). He then routed an
army four times his in number (though not nearly as
experienced) at the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D., and
clinched his military control of the Empire.
In Search of Faith
The Roman gods had increasingly shown to be impotent, and
Constantine was now the Emperor of a fractured and failing
He knew from almost three hundred years of persecution that
Christianity was a faith that powerfully drew people together,
and produced some of the best citizens that Rome had.
Constantine became a Christian, though the tension between
being a disciple of Christ and the realities of being a Roman
Emperor was a constant battle that usually came out on the
“Emperor” side. He was baptized just before his death.
Christianity Becomes “Official”
Therefore, even though Christianity was very much a minority
religion in the Empire and he personally was still very much a pagan,
he granted Christianity the position of being the official religion of
Though religious toleration was still very much (officially) still in
effect, over the years it became more and more “advantageous” to
be associated with the Christian Church rather than another religion.
Unfortunately – as with anything else that granted political or social
advantage – a lot of people became “Christian” because they wanted
those advantages, not because of religious conviction.
This lead to a great deal political intrigue inside the church, which would
curse her from that time on.
A Different Kind of
Shortly after unifying the Empire, he built a new city closer
to the center of the Empire and called it Constantinople.
That became the new capitol of the Empire.
A forged document, claiming to have been written by
Constantine celebrating his baptism, made the bishop of
Rome the Pope and gave him the city of Rome.
The document acted as a primary justification for Papal
authority until it was proven to be a fake, but by then
“possession being nine tenths of the law” in both land and
power, it was a moot point.
Shortly after consolidating his power and declaring Christianity to be
the religion of the Empire, Constantine called for the Council of
Nicaea. The purpose of the Council was to unify Christendom.
As part of that effort he also commissioned St. Jerome to compile the
books of the Bible together and translate them into Latin.
Constantine needed a united Christian Church to help unify his
Empire; the Church Fathers needed a united Church and an official
statement of faith from her in order to fight heresy.
It was Nicaea that defined “orthodoxy,” and therefore made “heresy”
possible. Obviously, groups like the Gnostics held heretical beliefs,
but it was one thing to break an “unwritten rule,” but quite different
to go against a clear statement of faith.