The Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Feast of First Fruits were all fulfilled in just three consecutive days. On the first day of the feasts, as they occurred in the Jewish calendar, Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb. On the second day, Jesus fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread – (He was the Bread of Life, broken and placed in the tomb). On the third day He rose from the dead and became the first fruits of those who will rise from the dead. On the three days of the Jewish feasts He not only fulfilled them, He did everything necessary to bring us into the family of God and open the way for us to be like Him and receive eternal life. Now we wait for His return, when He will reap the harvest and release all the promised blessings to His people. So then we might ask, why did he hang around for forty days between his resurrection and ascension? We know that He met with His disciples teaching them about the kingdom of God, but He had already been with them for three years and He always taught about the kingdom of God. There was more to this interval than mere instruction; Jesus was planting His first church. I guess I should say, Jesus was planting His first congregation, because there is only one church.
A Splintering Church
It is difficult for folks to get along together and if they do, it is very hard to keep the unity of the faith. After a few years pass, I think that unity requires a supernatural miracle. Some maintain unity through rules and fear of excommunication, but that is just control, not unity. The early disciples would have gone their own way after Christ had left the planet, so He had to stay for a while to keep them together. They needed some Holy Spirit glue, and they needed a revelation of the church and Jesus gave it to them.
Jesus gathered them together and met with them over a period of forty days. He led them to Pentecost. The Holy Spirit would soon be poured out and revival would break forth, but first they needed a revelation of the church or there would be no net to hold the harvest, and no plan to disciple the next generation. Furthermore God’s eternal goal of building His family, would have been missed.
The Church – The Fullness of Him
Have you ever tried to grasp the far reaching revelation of the church in the following verse? [God placed everything under Christ’s feet] ,“And appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Eph. 1:22-23
Scripture says that the church is the fullness of Christ. In other words, we complete Him. It is not that He needs us, but that He wants us. The church is why He died and it has become His body, His bride, and His family. If we do not see the importance of the church family then we miss the purpose of the cross.
Jesus could not go up to heaven after His resurrection until He started the church and planted the first congregation. For three years He reached out and taught the world, but for these forty days He taught the church.
A Small Congregation
At first it was not a large church, just one hundred and twenty members. After Jesus went up to heaven we read,
“In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)” Acts 1:15
Carefully read Acts chapter one and discover what happened as the church was birthed. Peter began instructing them. He gave them leadership and direction. It was a small congregation, but once the Holy Spirit was poured out it would burst forth in revival and then it would grow very large.
During those forty days, before Jesus left, He did 5 things to make sure that the church had the right start. The church has often become something so far removed from what Jesus started, but Jesus is always calling us back to the right foundations. We can see the pattern that He personally started and we should return to it if we have wandered away.
1. He ate with the disciples. See Acts 1:4. He did this to show them that He was one with them and not untouchable or unapproachable. He modeled the behavior of a friendly, approachable pastor.
2. He solidified the people and made them into a family so they would not scatter. He showed them they were one body.
3. He established apostolic leadership. Without godly government there would be anarchy. Only apostles build churches. Pastors and teachers maintain, feed and protect. Evangelists lead souls to Christ. Prophets bring a message of power and foresight, but only apostles build churches. If you see a pastor building a church, he is likely an apostle. As the church grew, the apostles went everywhere planting churches. Jesus spent these forty days with the apostles because they were the ones who would build His church.
4. He emphasized the need for the Holy Spirit. He told them to wait for the promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit. He told them they would receive power and be His witnesses after they received the Holy Spirit. We cannot have a healthy church without a powerful move of the Holy Spirit. If we resist the Holy Spirit and try to depend on good ideas, we will not have a church built by God.
5. He taught them about the Kingdom of God. Here are seven things that Jesus taught about the kingdom of God. The Gospels are full of – kingdom of God instructions.
1.The kingdom of God is God’s government. It is His order of things and His rule.
2. The kingdom of God possesses all power and authority under the leadership of King Jesus. He desires to share that authority with His children.
3. The kingdom of God is a people who seek unity with Him and with each other. It is not a kingdom of competition, but of humility, grace and unity of spirit and faith.
4. The kingdom of God is made up of people who emulate and desire the character of Christ. They are full of the love of the Lord. They have joy, peace, goodness,
kindness, faith, love, gentleness and self control.
5. It kingdom of God is where people seek God’s holiness and righteousness in their lives. They know they are made Holy because of the work of Christ on the cross and they endeavor to work out that holiness in their every day lives.
6. The kingdom of God is always growing, so it involves missions both near and far. It is not inward looking, but always reaching out to the lost
7. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of the New Covenant. That involves the infilling and continuous dependence on the Holy Spirit. There is no kingdom of God without the enabling of His Holy Spirit.
Jesus is Coming for His Bride
The church of Jesus Christ will experience an amazing overhaul in the near future. The fear of the Lord will return. Miracles and signs and wonders will become frequent. Prayer will be powerful and revival fires will burn at home and around the world.
Jesus planted the first church and He is about to replant His end-time harvest church. Get ready for change. It will come, not because of the persuasive skill of men, but by a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. It may come during a season of hardship, persecution or judgment, but it will come. Then the church of the apostles will rise again. This time it will be far greater than the one we read about in the Bible. The latter rain shall be greater than the former rain. Get ready church. The harvest is the end of the age. See Mt. 13:39