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Lesson Two - Decline & Restoration

"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" Ephesians 5:25-27.

From before the creation, God has had a wonderful plan for His Church to be:

God's plan is still being outworked in the Church. Satan, in opposing the plan of God, seeks to undermine each of these aspects, crippling the Church and stripping her of her call and inheritance.

Overview of History

The history of the Church, in overview, can be divided into four stages:

A glorious birth

"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need" Acts 4:31-35 (see also 2:1-4,41-47).

The Church of God was birthed in the power of the Holy Spirit and had a dynamic impact on the community of that day.

A period of decline

"Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first - that is, unless the [predicted] great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come" 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (Amp).

Satan began an immediate program of attack against God's Church, outworked on two levels:

  1. Persecution
  2. Deception

Even in the time of the First Century Church, errors began infiltrating the Body of Christ. Most of the epistles of the New Testament are letters of correction, readjusting doctrine and purging heretical concepts (read Revelation 2 and 3).

A period of restoration

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you - even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets" Acts 3:19-21.

The decline of the Church as a whole reached rock bottom during the Dark Ages, where the Church was hardly recognisable as the same holy, dynamic company birthed by God on the Day of Pentecost. Even then, however, there were always true believers, lights shining in the darkness of apostasy. But then, God began to raise up people of God - the "Lights of the Reformation" - who rebuilt, layer by layer, the foundations of the Church. We are now at the finishing stages of this work of restoration.

A glorious finale

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" Romans 8:18-23.

At the time of Christ's return, "the mystery of God will be accomplished" (Revelation 10:7), and God will bring His plan for the Church to its climax.

Picture of the Locust

"What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten" Joel 1:4.

God pictures apostasy as like the work of a locust swarm. A plague of locusts covers the land, stripping it every green leaf - every appearance of life. This is a vivid picture of the condition of the Church during the Dark Ages. But just as a tree that has been stripped by locusts is still alive, and begins to put forth green shoots again, so the hidden life of the Church is breaking forth.

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you" Joel 2:25.

Foundation of Truth

"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment" Hebrews 6:1-2.

These six elements are the foundation of Christian doctrine - but they are more than just things that we learn about. Everything the Bible teaches is not just facts but also experience. The early Christians experienced each of these truths in their daily lives:

God began to restore the essential truths of the Gospel, and their accompanying outworking in the daily life of the Church, in the order they were lost:

AD 1517 Justification by faith - Martin Luther.
AD 1524 Water Baptism - Mennonites, Anabaptists.
AD 1738 Sanctification - John Wesley.
AD 1860 Missionary Vision - William Carey, CT Studd & others.
AD 1902 Baptism in the Holy Spirit - Azuza Street.
AD 1948- The laying on of hands
AD 1960- The Charismatic Renewal.
AD 1980- Purging and purification of the Church.
AD 1990- New wineskins for new wine (Matt.9:17).
AD ? Resurrection and Eternal Judgment.

Note that these dates and the names mentioned are meant to be as a broad overview only, and not taken to be either precise or exhaustive.

Restoration

"Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the Lord Almighty" Zechariah 1:3.

There are two parts to the restoration process: repentance on our part and the actual act of restoration on the part of the Holy Spirit.

Double Portion

"Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs" Isaiah 61:7.

God does not simply restore what was lost He always restores with a double portion! The early Church is not our standard; Christ is! (Ephesians 4:13). God never finishes on a lesser note than on what He began (Haggai 2:9). He always leaves the best wine till last (John 2:9-10). Like Elisha, the last day Church will have a double anointing of the Holy Spirit (2 Kings 2:9), so that God's glory will fill this earth (Numbers 14:21).

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day" Proverbs 4:18. [NEXT] [UP] [HOME] [WORLDSCOPE] [FEEDBACK] [POST OFFICE] [RANDOM] [SEARCH]

Copyright © 1995 Paul, Bunty and David Collins. All rights reserved. This study may be freely used and reproduced, wholly or in part, by the Christian Church for the non-profit purposes of study and training only, provided copyright and contact information is included.

Unless otherwise stated, all scriptures quoted in these studies are from the New International Version of the Bible, © New York International Bible Society, used by permission. Other versions referred to are: KJV (King James Version), NKJB (New King James Bible), TLB (The Living Bible), Amp (The Amplified Bible) and The Message. All versions used by permission.

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