In Part 1 I stated that if the Church was to cooperate with God in the fulfilling of His eternal purpose for this world then it needed to know what “the Spirit was saying to the Churches” in that time and season. I stated that the church was the prophetic ear and voice in the world and to the world. Scripture clearly states that God has an eternal purpose for planet earth and that He is moving the world along that prophetic timeline towards that purpose.
History is His story and the unfolding of His eternal purpose. Studying history and especially biblical history gives us a better idea of where we are along that timeline. Biblical history records the prophetic words given over time and those that are fulfilled and those that are yet to be fulfilled. Church history is prophecy fulfilled. Prophecy yet unfulfilled is simply the part of Church history yet to be fulfilled. Church history also records the failures of the Church throughout the ages but God is faithful to His Word and is in the restoration business.
Church history can be divided into three periods: Origination, Decline and Restoration. We are now in the period of the Restoration. God in His mercy and for His own eternal purpose has been restoring to His church that which since its origination it had lost.
As we look at these three periods we will see more clearly were we are today in the eternal purposes of God.
Origination : The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
The prophets had declared that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem in Judea and not in His parent’s home town of Nazareth in Galilee where they were now living. But how could this be? God ordained that in 63 BC Israel would become a part of the Roman Empire and that in the year designated for the incarnation, God becoming man, the Roman Emperor would hold a census and command all people to return to the ancestral home town to register for the census which in their case was Bethlehem. Mary being very advanced in her pregnancy gave birth to Jesus whilst in Bethlehem. This was the season of the Lord’s appointment and the fulfillment of ancient prophecy.
Times and seasons are so important to God. For example nothing could motivate God to send the Messiah until everything was in divine order and the time was right.
Jesus came as the “firstfruits of a new race” born “not of man’s will but of Gods”, a new human species of Godmen, born of the Spirit, with the very nature of God within them, His spiritual DNA. This would be called the Church race…….the Saints!
Every person born of the Spirit, would be part of the Church race.
Now I don’t want to be controversial but we are often taught that the Church was born at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in the upper room.
The reason for this is that she begins to function as a community of Christ like, Spirit filled believers, as from that point. However if the Church is the company of those men and women, boys and girls born of the Spirit then the Church came into being when the Jesus breathed upon the disciples in Jn 20:22 and gave them authority to forgive sins and said ”Receive the Holy Spirit”.
However I believe that the Church was born on the cross of Jesus when the spear was thrown into His side and He shed His blood purchasing Her for Himself. This blood was His dowry…Her purchase price. I suggest that the Church, the Bride of Christ, was born out of the rib of Jesus, the second Adam, just as Eve was born out of the rib of the first Adam. The first Adam lost everything that God had prepared for Him, authority, relationship with God and eternal life. Jesus the second Adam won that back for us when He died on the cross.
At Pentecost the Church was empowered.
Now the first century of Christianity in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and Europe was a period of amazing growth and missionary activity. It was often in the midst of terrible persecution, yet the Church was vibrant and mission driven.
Persecution caused a further spread of Christianity and as the saints were scattered signs and wonders followed their preaching. …”and many mighty things were done at the hand of the Apostles”, “and the Lord added daily to their number those that were being saved”. Acts 5 v 15
The Church was scattered throughout the Roman Empire taking their new found faith with them. It advanced into Europe and into Africa although tradition suggests that the Ethiopian Eunuch of Acts 8 might have been responsible for the birthing the Church in North Africa. Paul expresses his intention to visit Spain in Romans, whether he arrived or not is church tradition, but it suggests he did. Tradition says that the Apostle Thomas birthed the Church in India.
By the end of the second century Christianity was firmly established in Europe, Asia and in Africa. These were the three centres of Christianity for the first 500 years since its birth and developed somewhat independent of each other. One of the early Church theologians was an African called Augustine of Hippo, whose teachings although not sound in every area, was responsible for giving us much of our doctrine on the Trinity.
Deterioration: The Decline of the Church
What started off as a vibrant supernatural mission Church became by the end of the third century a political and state controlled organisation. By the end the fifth century the Church had lost the Fivefold Ministry. These were the ministries sent to the Church by the ascended Lord Jesus of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher. Also the Holy Spirit had been grieved and it appears had begun to withdraw from the Church. (Note the difference between the 9 or 12 gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the 5 gifts of the ascended Lord Jesus).
There was still a witness to the supernatural or miraculous for God will not be without a witness, but generally the visible Church on earth was in a terrible state.
a)The African Church decline saw the birth and the rise of Islam to fill the vacuum that was created. In 570 AD Mohammed was born and soon Islam moved throughout Africa.
b)The Western Church decline resulted in the 1000 years of spiritual darkness in Europe known as the Dark Ages.
c) The Asian Church however continued undeterred until the Muslim Arabs conquered great parts of India, Persia and Mesopotamia in the 7th century and the Hinduism became a predominant religion.
Restoration: God’s Restoration Programme begins
When Jesus came He birthed the church and claimed that nothing would stop Him from fulfilling His prophetic declaration, “I will build My Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”. Matt 16:18. However often building something involves restoration and Jesus is committed to restore and mature His Church in order to present Her to Father as His precious bride. Throughout Church history God has sent seasons of ‘refreshings and revivals’ to restore Her. These ‘Movements of God’ were meant to restore or correct the Church and to advance the whole Church towards that maturity that Jesus desires. It was not His intention to create new denominations. Denominations came about during periods of Church restoration because groups received the new truths but either were rejected by other churches or became possessive of their own revelation, experience or methodolgy.
However from the 1500’s onwards God began to restore those things that had been lost or corrupted since the days of Origination. Church historians have designated the year 1517 AD as the official beginning of the period of Church Restoration known as the Reformation and since that time there have been five major Church restoration movements.
- The Protestant Movement of the 1500’s
- The Holiness Movement of the 1700’s
- The Pentecostal Movement of the 1900’s
- The Charismatic Movement in the 1960’s
- The Prophetic/Apostolic Movement in the 1980’s and 1990’s – 2000
But perhaps the most significant restoration was the restoration of the Fivefold Ministry Gifts of the Ascended Lord Jesus because as Eph 4 tells us that these gifts are for the maturing of the Church and are essential for the fulfillment of Gods purposes for Her as the instrument of transformation
In 1525 after the 1000 year reign of darkness in the Western world and in particular in Europe and the decline of the Church in Africa. God declared ..”Enough is enough” and he began to restore the fivefold ministry to the Church that had been lost for so long. It took a long time to complete but by the beginning of the 21st Century the restoration was finished.
Interestingly God began to restore these gifts of ministry in reverse order to how they are listed in the scripture because the Church had elevated the Apostle to a position above the rest. These ministries were given by the ascended Lord Jesus, according to Eph 4:11-13 to mature the Church. Eph 4:11 says ….” It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers”
He started with the teaching ministry. Martin Luther, a dis-satisfied Roman Catholic priest had the revelation we are saved by faith and not by works. As it says in Romans 1:17 ”For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’”
Martin Luther and his reformers taught the new restorational truth and this ushered in the Reformation and the Protestant Movement.
So in the 1500’s………. The Teaching Ministry was restored.
In the 1600/1700’s……The Pastoral Ministry was restored as groups of protestants formed new churches who needed pastoring.
In the 1700/1800’s…….The Evangelistic Ministry was restored as believers were reading the printed bible and were becoming aware of the great commission once again. Missionary movements and organisations were birthed to take the gospel to all nations. (The Baptist Missionary Society with William Carey in 1792, the father of the Missionary Movement. The China Inland Mission in 1865 with Hudson Taylor, and the African Inland Mission in 1895 with Peter Cameron Scott)
However there were two remaining fivefold ministries that had yet to be restored: The Prophetic and the Apostolic. These by their very nature are supernatural and dependent on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit had been grieved and had withdrawn. There needed to be a return of the Holy Spirit to the Church. There needed to be another Pentecost.
In the 1906 He came in the form of the Welsh Revival and then the Azusa Street Revival, in the USA and the new Pentecostal Movement was born. This opened the way for the last two ministries to be restored.
Unfortunately, the Pentecostals kept it and made it denominational so God waited till around 1960 and then breathed again and the second wave came which is known as the Charismatic Movement. Now the final two could be restored.
So…… in the 1980’s ………….The Prophetic ministry was restored through the movement known as the Prophetic Movement (Evidence : The many books and conferences that appeared on the subject….‘Know your Prophetic Gift’)
In the 1990’s……………..The Apostolic Ministry was restored. (Evidence: The books and conference in this decade appearing on the subject ’Know your Apostolic and Prophetic gift’)
Notice that it was the Apostolic gift or ministry that was restored and not the Apostolic Movement. This is not a reference to the NAR (New Apostolic Restoration) or any other Apostolic Network for governance for that matter. We are not suggesting that God has restored a new hierarchy of Apostolic Governance to the Church but rather that the function of an apostolic calling has been restored.
By the year 2000 the restoration of the fivefold ministry had been completed.
Between the year 2000 – 2007 these last two Restorational Movements continued to be established as God ‘bedded’ these ministries down as it were.
Then in the year 2008 the church I suggest entered a new ‘season’.
The year 2008 is known in numerology as the year of New Beginnings. When, in 2008 in China, the Olympic Games were held, it prompted a response of great national expectation. In China 2008 represented the start of a new era for them, since eight in their culture also means new beginnings.
Some prophetic voices in the world wide Church have suggested that there was a shift in the spiritual realm in around 2008. Many believe that we entered a new season called the Season of the Saints and a new movement was born known as the Saints Movement.
The Season of the Saints and the Saints Movement
This was a time and now is when like never before the Saints are rising up to do the work of the ministry. It is no longer the day of Christian celebrities. It was the beginning of the day of the ordinary made extraordinary in God as He had always intended it to be, a time when every individual local believer being filled with the Spirit would rise up in power to do the work of the ministry.
It was as if God was saying…..”This is what Church is about. It is not about huge churches or celebrity stars. It is about a community of ordinary people made extraordinary by My grace and empowerment.”
So where exactly are we today in God’s eternal programme? What is happening today? Where are we in the programme of God right now?
The Third and Final Season – The Season of the Bride.
I believe that there is another season that we are now transitioning into. All transitions are accompanied by refreshings and revivals. These condition the saints throughout the world Church and prepare them to be receptive to the new movement of God. In the past few decades there have been many major revivals in many parts of the world. There was the Chile revival in 1902. The Welsh revival in 1904. the East Africa and Rwanda/Uganda Revival of the 1930’s, the Hebredes Revival, Scotland, UK in 1949. Brownsville Revival also known as the Pensacola Outpouring in the USA in 1995; the Florida Revival or the Lakeland Revival of April 2, 2008; the Bay Revival (also known as the Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival) in Daphne, Alabama in July 2010; and most recently the Dutch Revival starting on April 20th, 2012 in Hardewijk, Holland. An outpouring of the Holy Spirit has continued in many of these places ever since.
When we witnessed the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and then the Japanese Tsunami in 2009, we saw the awful power of unbridled nature. Then the prophetic word came to the Church through the prophets… “I will send My own Spiritual Tsunami upon the Church”. People began to talk about a ‘Third Wave’, a huge wave of revival that would begin to usher in the Great Harvest. Yet this will happen amidst the increase of great darkness and wickedness.
It is suggested that this Saints Movement has begun to transition us into what can be called the final period of mortal Church history and the final Reformation. It will accelerate the movements of God in our generation to complete the full number of the Bride and bring Her to Her maturity. This is now the season of the Bride and throughout it we will become more and more conscious of our Bridal identity. In this season believers will be driven by a passionate love for Jesus and an intense desire for intimacy with Him as the Bridegroom King.
It will be a period of indeterminable length, but will mature us as the Bride, either before or during the great tribulation and then we will be taken for the Wedding of the Lamb. This will mark the end of the mortal Church history and the beginning of the immortal Church history where, having returned to planet earth, we will reign here in married partnership with Jesus our Bridegroom King.
It is then….”that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and His Christ”.