Purpose of this Session
In this session we will look at the origination, deterioration and restoration of the church through it’s two thousand year history. Again and again the vigour of God’s Spirit is displayed, and men and women are raised to restore vital truth to the Body of Christ. It is a rich and varied journey with diverse characters, each carrying something of the great One whom they serve. And the story is not over yet, the best is yet to come!
The most powerful thing any student can grasp during our study of church history is their part in this epic story. We who live in the end of days are one together with our ancestors in the great story of Christ and His Bride. Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that without us, they were not complete, and so too, a knowledge of our history helps complete and give substance to our present.
Church History Timeline
Essentially the history of the church should be His Story – the continued redemptive ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ to a lost world, in and through His born again people. Instead we find a mixed history – the best of humanity filled and clothed with Christ, and the worst of humanity parading its religious obsessions in the ‘name’ of Christ (although entirely devoid of His heart, character or Spirit).
Following the story of the church is an amazing journey, beginning with a fiery baptism at Pentecost, ten days after Christ’s ascension, soon followed by a time of intense persecution, phenomenal growth, and supernatural manifestation. This then spirals downward into almost 1000 years of darkness and religiosity; the glory of the gospel obscured by the politics and character of unredeemed flesh. But God had His plan. Glimmers of light pierce even the deepest darkness of these desperate years.
Suddenly in 1517, like a lightning flash across the covered skies, the blazing light of redemptive truth explodes again across the earth. Martin Luther, a humble German monk, the unlikely instrument in the hand of the Master. With this one man’s act of protest, the nailing of ninety scriptural arguments against present church practices to a church door in Wittenburg on October 31, 1517, a Holy Ghost revolution began. Apostasy and man-centred religion gave way to a worldwide reformation that shook the very foundations of man’s attempts to reach and represent God to the masses.
With the floodgates flung open by the revelation of justification by faith, the restoration and beautification of the Church Bride was underway. In the years and centuries that followed, wave after wave of God inspired and empowered revival laid, line by line, precept by precept, each and every doctrine of Christ back into the fabric of the church, re-forming the very image of Christ in word, deed and practice in His representatives on earth.
Successive evangelical and spiritual ‘awakenings’ in the 1700’s and 1800’s further stirred the ‘sleeping giant’, the church, to stand to its feet and boldly proclaim the redemptive message of Christ. God poured out His Sprit across the nations with notable signs and wonders to confirm the words of His servants. Moved by the message of Christ’s saving love, missionary zeal filled the hearts of God’s people, and many left the comforts and familiarity of their home, to venture into nations yet in darkness. It was a time of pioneers and church expansion on every side.
Each move of God built upon that which preceded it, and in 1900 God opened the floodgates again, this time filling His developing Bride with the Holy Spirit together with the evidence of speaking in supernatural tongues. This, in addition to the restored ministry of healing that was so much a part of the ‘holiness’ movement in the previous century. The blazing Pentecostal fire swept around the globe, starting fires wherever it touched. A century of multiplied revivals, unprecedented church growth and radical reformation was underway. Towards its end, the Charismatic renewal not only touched those at the forefront of restored truth, but flooded every denomination claiming Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as their true Saviour. The five-fold ministry of evangelist, pastor, teacher, prophet and apostle now functioning in the restored Body, a fresh and widespread movement has begun. Placed in the Body to equip the Saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13), the five-fold are now engaged in the end time ministry to bring the Body of Christ to full maturity, the Bride to complete adornment for her coming heavenly Groom, and each and every saint to fully equipped and empowered ministry in every sphere of society, every nation, tribe and tongue.
The coming of Christ is closer than ever, and soon this chapter of His-story will come to a close. From glory to glory, the churches time on this earth will soon conclude, as we are ushered into an eternal place of universal dominion, ruling and reigning together with Christ our Redeemer and King.
We see throughout history a continual work of the Holy Spirit, progressively restoring to the church all that was lost to it during the dark ages. The scripture in Haggai 2:9 could well be cited in respect to what has and is taking place, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former”. Christ will return for a Bride of great strength and beauty, adorned with both the fruits and the mature gifts of the Holy Spirit. He has been sent to prepare her for the glorious day of marriage to her lover and divine Bridegroom, Jesus Himself.
A Brief History of restoration
The Overall history can be summed up in distinct phases, four of which are yet to be fulfilled:
Origination – Preservation – Deterioration – Restoration –
Glorification – Adjudication – Administration - Continuation
For a more detailed exploration of this subject the reader is encouraged to read Bill Hamon’s book, ‘The Eternal Church’, published by Destiny Image, ISBN: 0-7684-2176-4
Please note: dates used are not absolutely precise