“He’s the spitting image of his father.” We’ve probably all grown up hearing expressions like these. It’s amazing how true to life they can be, because not only has God so designed the physical, genetic seed to reflect the very image of the progenitor, but likewise children manifest even the personality and behavioral traits of their parents, sometimes embarrassingly so. What could be a more compelling example than the Reverend Billy Graham and his son Franklin? Billy Graham is proud that his son is finally walking in his footsteps. He feels assured now that all he has done to build up Christianity will not be abandoned when he dies, because he has the confidence that his son will carry on the work he began.
Often you find this same pattern being repeated in families. The sons carry on their father’s name and occupation. This was the normal way of life a few hundred years ago, but times have changed. Sons are rarely satisfied to do things exactly the same old way as their parents. Many want a new-found freedom; they want to break away from the old traditions and patterns which they feel are too deep set in their parents. It’s too stifling, restrictive; and confining for their modern tastes. They are open to hearing of new trends and ways of living. So it was with those in the first-century church.
In the beginning all those who believe were together and had all things in common. You could sum up the expression of their lives in one very special word — DEVOTION (Acts 2:42). After hearing the good news preached through Peter they were baptized into Messiah and began to be devoted to four essential, foundational things which formed this new life (Rom 6:4).
The first apostles were foremost in importance, for they were the ones who taught the disciples everything they knew about Jesus and His life. They were the ones who had been with Him personally, and now the church was absolutely dependent on these men to lead them, direct them, and give them understanding of God’s purpose for their lives and how they were to live that life in obedience to Messiah here on earth.
They were devoted to koinonia — the social life or fellowship of the community. This meant the continual participation, attentive distribution, and contribution of all wealth (both material and spiritual resources) within this new social order. Acts 2 and 4 describes the commonwealth or common life shared together with all who believed in Messiah. They shared unselfishly all their possessions together and sold personal properties (land, houses, farms, etc.) to meet the pressing needs for the common good of all (Acts 2:45; 4:34). They couldn’t even conceive of being anything different from what they were, for they had no other model to follow other than those men and women who first followed their Savior.
They had no other desire than to be devoted to each other as they were devoted to Him. They lived together, ate together, worked together, and participated in the breaking of bread together as the reality of the Embodiment of Messiah on earth. Their thanksgiving — communion meal (Acts 2:46) was a renewal of the eternal covenant that had been ratified by the blood of their Savior. They examined themselves on a corporeal level week by week (household to household) to make sure they were preserving the purity of their covenant and devotion to their Master (1 Cor 11:27-29).
Their earnest desire was to know Messiah, and to be united with all who believed (like the Levites of old who responded to Moses). To this end they were devoted to prayer for God’s Kingdom to come to earth as it was in heaven. Acts 4 continues to describe in detail the essence and spirit of those who first believed, saying...
...and those who believed were of one art and soul; and not one of them was saying that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them ... there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the price of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.
And so we see the beginning of the Body of Messiah in Acts 2 & 4.
The pattern was set. The first fruits of a new nation, Israel, had come (Matt 21:43). Their faith was obvious for all to see. The unity and glory that Jesus had prayed for in John 17:20-23 came into reality through the Acts 2 & 4 community. They were the model for all the churches to pattern themselves after. An indisputable witness of His life had now began to be lived out among the nations.
But where do you see that witness today being lived out among God’s people? Where is that devotion being expressed on earth today? Where has the glory and unity gone that Messiah prayed for, which was manifested in the church of Acts 2 and 4? Does the modern-day gospel of Christianity bear any likeness to the first message that was preached by the apostles in the first century?
Certainly, no one could deny that Franklin Graham is walking in the footsteps of his father. But could we honestly say that Billy and Franklin Graham’s gospel produces the same fruit, the same life, the same devotion as what we read about in Acts 2 and 4? If not, then why not? Why isn’t the same gospel preached today? Surely the gospel didn’t become too stifling or too confining to those early believers? And even if it did, why did they feel this way? What came in to destroy and break up that devotion they first had to Messiah? And what would you call the results of that break up today? Does Christianity as a whole demonstrate the same likeness of love and devotion today as the first church? Is the same pattern of love and faith that existed among all who first believed being demonstrated today in Christianity? Do you think it’s possible that Christianity as a whole has broken away from what believers were first founded on by the apostles, and has become something entirely different? Perhaps they began to feel that the message they first received through the apostles was too oppressive and extreme. Maybe there was a better way. Or were they deceived by smooth talkers who deceived by speaking the very words of Christ but failing to apply their true meaning. Did they cast the words of Messiah and His apostles aside for a more convenient, modern way of believing and living which suited their taste (2 Tim 4:3-4) ?
Jesus said you know a tree by it’s fruit. You know what the tree is, by what it produces. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit ... So then, you will know them by their fruits. Fruit tells you everything. What he was saying was, “You really don’t know what kind of tree it is until you see its fruit. You can’t go by what people say. They may be dressed up in sheep’s clothing and look really good (2 Cor 11:14-15; Matt 7:22), but the acid test is what they produce the fruit. That tells the whole story. The fruit cannot lie. You can’t produce apples unless you’re an apple tree. Dogs beget dogs. Human beings beget human beings, and on and on. So it should be obvious: Like produces like. Even as the saying goes, “Like father, like son.” There is an absoluteness about this statement that is undeniably true. You can’t produce something that you’re not. You produce something that you are.
So Acts 2 and 4 churches can only beget Acts 2 and 4 churches, just like John 17:21 begets John 17:21. Our Savior’s prayer for unity and oneness among those who believe in Him in John 17:20-23 was answered in Acts 2:42-45 and 4:32-35. He prayed that “they may all be one ... who believe in Me ... that the world may know (with certainty) that You sent Me.” The world is still waiting to know if God really did send His Son to earth, because the church system is so divided and split with so many factions that there no longer exists any evidence of love or unity amongst so-called believers. So they will never know that God did indeed send His Son if their only reference point is Christianity. It was meant that all those who believed in Him would demonstrate that oneness — that unity, that witness of His Kingdom having truly come to earth. But where today can you find that reality of oneness and unity among all those who believe in Christianity? It is impossible to find it there for ... All who believe were together. All ... those who believe ... were ... together. Can you understand what the plea of our Savior’s heart was when He prayed this for his disciples and for all those who believed in Him through their word? John 13:34-35 comes before John 17:2123. Love precedes unity. First the love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and as a result we are compelled by the Holy Spirit to live in unity and oneness of mind, heart, and soul (every aspect of our life) — just like the disciples in Acts 4:32. This one essence (of heart and soul) among those who believed is what our Master said would cause the world to know that we were His disciples. It’s the distinguishing mark.
Most deny that this kind of oneness is possible in Christianity, and they are absolutely right. It cannot exist in Christianity. That system does not facilitate unity. It’s whole foundation is based on division. The first Church was founded upon a different premise. The way they believed in the first century made this kind of oneness and unity not only possible, but absolutely the norm for all who believed and it continued to be so for several decades in the initial development of the Church. What the first Church was like is what all the churches would be like. They couldn’t produce anything different or of a contrary nature, for they knew nothing else but that life in Messiah of being together. They defined what believing in Christ meant through their normal response to the message of Christ’s death on the cross. But close to the end of the first century we see the apostles laboring and struggling among those early churches to restore the definition of simple things like what eternal life is, what it means to believe, what faith is, what love is, what the church is, and on and on.
What happened to cause such confusion among the churches? By reading the epistles and writings of the apostles you get a clear picture that something changed — something else came into the churches to confuse them about these simple, fundamental aspects of salvation. It was like someone or something foreign was introduced to these churches, and it was taking them off course from what they had heard in the very beginning. They were being deceived into thinking contrary to what the apostles had laid previously in them concerning such matters. Why were they going off track, what were they giving ear to, and what would be the outcome if they continued to listen to these men with another gospel? 2 Cor 11:23,14-15; Gal 1:7-9; Rom 16:17; 2 Cor 11:13; Acts 20:30; Phil 1:15, 2 Pet 2:1; Rev 2:2; 1 Tim 6:20-21; 2 Cor 11:4, etc.
Death entered Adam when he was lead astray and sinned. So it was with the church in the first century. Satan entered the church (through His servants) just like sin entered Adam. “Servants of Righteousness” came in which caused them all to fall away from the simplicity and devotion they began with. Adam’s innocence was taken away by Satan and replaced with a nature that had corruption (sin) lodged in it — an indelible mark, a stain which no man could remove on his own. From that day forth all mankind who descended from Adam had the same fallen characteristics and traits of their forefather. Since Adam’s fall everyone has followed in his footsteps, like Billy Graham and his son — it is inescapable. Like produces like. Adam produced a fallen mankind.
In the same way that Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent and mankind has been fallen ever since, so we see in 2 Cor 11:3 that the church was seduced by the serpent (but this time through his servants — verse 15). They took the bait and the church could never get itself back on its feet, back on that same foundation again. It was at this point that she became something other than a pure virgin. Her nature changed and since that time she has been producing other churches in her likeness. Like produces like.
Understand? They continued on but everything changed. All that they had previously learned and understood on a proper foundation, in its proper context through the apostles, was now being re-adjusted and redefined to fit into a different context and a false premise. That premise was outside God’s purpose, outside His intention. It was a more comfortable and accommodating belief system because an individual’s accountability to the Spirit and his conscience was transferred over and whittled down to mere mental gymnastics. Doctrines and creeds became the summation of their faith, whereas before the love and unity which existed among them in practical and tangible ways expressed the outworking of their faith. This is where they had confidence before God that they had indeed passed out of death and into life (1 John 3:14-20).
Once the church fell it ceased to be the House of Jacob (Luke 1:33), yet continued to produce other fallen churches. Like produces like. That’s why in Revelation 18:2 it says she became something she was never intended to be — a Harlot and a habitation of unclean spirits, which masqueraded like clean spirits, a form of godliness and holiness, but having no power — the light had gone out completely. John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, could see it coming and it was recorded as Revelation, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great ... she has become ...” The word become infers pre-existence, that a change took place, a transition was made, to become something else. The word became is used again when speaking of our Lord in John 1:14, when it says that the Word became flesh. The meaning is the same, referring to the divine pre-existence of the Son of God before he became a flesh-and-blood human being (Phil 2:7-8).
The woman in Revelation 18:2 didn’t descend from what we see as the starting point of the church among those first believers in Acts 2 and 4, but rather she was cut off for her transgression against the covenant and played the harlot (Rom 11:22). The woman in Revelation 18 and the church in Acts 2 bear no resemblance to one another. They are nothing like one another. Instead the woman in Revelation 18 became something else, though she still thinks of herself as a Queen. If like begets like, if all those who believed were together in Acts 2 and 4, and that is the set pattern for all those who were its offspring for generations to come, then this Woman in Revelation 18 can hold no claim to being the descendants of the early believers, but instead took on another nature all together and transformed itself into a false light — going from something true to something false. The church that we see described and read about in Acts 2 and 4 was not fallen, but the church we see today, pictured in Revelations 18, is fallen. They stopped hearing what the Spirit said through the prophets, like John, and their candlestick went out — completely. What remained took on a totally different form. Satan entered the Church, just like sin entered Adam. Though the light it began with went out, they continued on in form, ritual, tradition, doctrine, creed, and a form of godliness but no longer having the power of the Holy Spirit among them. They were no longer a united Kingdom, but became a fallen house.
“Come out of her my people lest you participate in hers sins and receive of her plagues.”... for she has no part in My covenant — the covenant where her sirs are no longer remembered. But here in Revelation 18:5, instead, her sins have piled up as high as heaven for she has no Advocate, no High Priest over her, and God has remembered her iniquities. John was seeing in a revelation what became of the virgin first church. The very churches he himself (along with other apostles and prophets) had labored and suffered over to establish. She was corrupted by Satan’s servants and corruption is what fills her to this day.
It has become a Babylonian religion, a statement of confusion to the world, far from being a statement of conviction that would cause the world to believe that God did indeed send His Son. The word comes from babel meaning confusion and that is the very thing that thousands of sincere ones in her feel about their new-found freedom in Christ. John describes this woman in Rev 17:5 as The Mother of Harlots. She is the mother (the initiator) of this mystic religion of Babylon. She (the Roman Catholic Church) was the forerunner of her daughters, who were to soon follow in her steps during the Protestant Reformation spearheaded by Martin Luther.
Luther got the ball rolling, being the catalyst for this reshaping (reforming) of the fallen house of Jacob. He never was able to restore, but only reform what was already dead. The well-trained daughters made every advantage of their mother’s skills in harlotry and corrupted the whole world. Like mother, like daughter.
Like produces like. The mother gave birth to many daughters over the last 1900 years. Each one just as skillful in sorcery as her mother. She and her daughters bear the title of the Abominations of the earth.
Abomination is a word used throughout the Bible time and time again to describe something that God greatly detests, loathes and hates. And we know what He hates — it’s described again in Revelation 2:6,15,16 — the Nicolaitan system. This is the clergy-laity system (the evil system of one head priest over an assembly.) Literally Nicolaitan means conquer the people. We know that God hates the clergy-laity system that crept into the first communities because it usurps (takes the place of) the active response of each member and their accountability in the church; it sedates and makes ineffectual a person’s normal priestly participation in the Body and so they become subservient to the head bishop. Of course, in the Protestant system there is usually no such thing as Bishop, Cardinal, or Father, but these titles become modified into Reverend, Pastor, Minister, and Preacher. It was never God’s intention that such an evil system would exist where one man would call all the shots and direct the entire affairs of its assembly. Past history knows what Revelation 17:6 means and in the very near future who. this woman really is (Rev 17:16-18).
The prophets and apostles who were a part of the first century church understood and had labored themselves to see 1 Pet 2:9, Ex 19:56, Mt 21:42-44, etc., come into existence, but by the turn of the second century they witnessed the horrifying decline of that united twelve-tribed holy nation. That is why James 1:1 was written. It was an attempt, futile as it may have seemed, to preserve what remained out of the faithful from the remnant of those twelve tribes. Again James 2:14-26 labors the point about “faith without works is dead.” There was so much confusion about so many things by the time this epistle was written, so many making claim to faith, but not producing the fruit of the Kingdom. A mental system of belief had set into the church like rigor-mortis in a dead corpse. The greatest preservation of truth that was obtained during all this confusion were the writings and letters of the apostles. Everything else which had once been a living testimony to the truth had faded away. The evil one had usurped the place of God again but this time masking himself craftily behind the very words and commands of God. The delusion was complete. All the first communities died away, leaving only the records of their life, their faith, and their love behind. Our Father’s purpose was put into abeyance. And from that time until now He is waiting ... waiting for the day that the Twelve Tribes would rise up again and finish (at the end of this age) what the Prophet Daniel spoke of in 2:44 that would occur only during the latter days. That was the setting up of His Kingdom “which will never be destroyed... or be left for another people.” The pieces to the puzzle are coming together. What has been preserved in scripture has been recorded for those to whom the end of the ages has come.