18.02 Final Instructions And Ascension

18.02 Final Instructions And Ascension

Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 18, 2015  -  Comments Off on 18.02 Final Instructions And Ascension

Unit 18

Resurrection And Appearances


Chapter 02

Final Instructions And Ascension


18.02.00.A. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. Artist Unknown

18.02.00.A. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. Artist Unknown. The greatest event of all human history occurred when Jesus walked out of the tomb.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 18, 2015  -  Comments Off on 18.02.01 JESUS COMMISSIONS APOSTLES

18.02.01 Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:16-18




Mt. 16 The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.

18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Mk. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”


At this point Jesus announced His Great Commission to the disciples.  They were told to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God and make disciples throughout the world.[1] While the church is called to baptize and make disciples, the true goal is to make disciples who will also become apostles. Throughout the Hebrew Bible there are numerous references (i.e. Ps. 117:1) to all the nations praising God.  This Commission again proves the New Testament is a fulfillment or continuation of the Old Testament.

In a momentous event centuries earlier, when Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind (much to the disappointment of his disciple, Elisha; see 2 Kg. 2:11-12), his mantle, a/k/a prayer shawl,[2] fell to the ground.  Elisha picked it up, walked to the Jordan River, and used it to strike the water and thereby imitated the miracle of Moses parting the Red Sea.  Immediately the Jordan River waters parted to the right and left and he crossed over into the land promised to Abraham (2 Kg. 2:13-14).  The prayer shawl was symbolic of God’s anointing upon Elijah which was now passed on to his disciple. Only when he received God’s anointing did he preach the Word of God and perform miracles.   


As Elijah passed his anointing Elijah, so now it was time for Jesus to pass His anointing to His disciples. However, rather than giving each of them a prayer shawl, He told them that divine authority would be upon them to perform signs and wonders and they were to preach and make disciples throughout the whole world.

“They worshiped [Him]”  The Greek proskyneo means to worship, to fall on knees in front of or to prostrate one’s self. After being with Jesus for more than three years, this was the first time the disciples worshiped Him in this manner, and even then some had their doubts.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Amazingly, the word “baptizing” is singular and in the three-part name.  This was probably to distinguish it from other baptisms that were commonly used in Judaism. The early Church did precisely as Jesus commanded.  Three well-known baptismal interrogations have been preserved by the church fathers: Justin Martyr (100-165), Irenaeus (130-200), and Hippolytus of Rome (c. 215).  The latter recorded the baptismal procedure as being a three-fold immersion with a three-fold confession of faith.  The questions and answers between the new convert and the Church elder were as follows:

Pastor: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?

Convert: I believe.

Pastor: Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, Who was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose the third day from the dead and ascended into the heavens, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead?

Convert: I believe.

Pastor: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, and the resurrection of the flesh?

Convert: I believe.

– A Common Baptismal Interrogation[3]


Jesus specifically made reference to the Trinity, which is also found in other passages.[4]  For the Jews, who for centuries believed in only a singular concept of God, the idea of a Trinity was most challenging.  While it took centuries for the church to develop a doctrine of the Trinity, the Jerusalem church quickly developed this concept into the following hymn, which was sung in many synagogue-churches (the first “churches” were converted synagogues).

Glory to the Father

Glory to the Son

And to you blessed Spirit

While all ages run.

            Early Church Hymn[5]


Concerning the Great Commission, the church has often criticized the Jews for failing to proclaim the Word of God to the nations, but after nearly two thousand years, not a single nation has been discipled in the ways of our Lord.  Unfortunately, the church has failed as miserably as did the Jewish leadership.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”    Heaven is a real place that God has prepared for all those who accept His Son and lives according to His word.  Likewise, there is a real hell for those who refuse the offer.  The devil and his angels, the beast, the false prophet, and all those persons whose names are not written in heaven’s Book of Life will be confined to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire and brimstone.  This is the second death.  Based upon various Scriptures, the Church has maintained this doctrine that after physical death the soul continues to live in one of these two places.[6]  It is the choice of each individual to determine where he/she will spend eternity.  The entire purpose of Jesus Christ’s coming to earth was to teach the Kingdom of God, offer salvation to all people and bring those who accepted the offer into heaven.  The Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) is therefore the fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 12:1-3, where God promised to bless all the people through Jesus.

Now, the disciples would no longer be disciples, but apostles.  As disciples they were under the tutelage of Jesus, but as apostles,

  1. They were rabbis who established their own network of disciples, and
  1. They were sent out to tell others of the good news of Jesus and His Kingdom of God.

The word apostles was used by Herodotus to mean a personal envoy,[7] which is precisely what the apostles of Jesus Christ were, His personal envoys to spread the gospel.[8]


[1]. See Appendix 27 concerning the lives of the apostles.

[2]. W. E. Vine is typical of many scholars who have made minimal reference to the Jewish characteristics of Scripture. For example, every Jew knows that the “mantle” was a prayer shawl, but it is not mentioned (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:105-06). Another example is the Hebrew term “Torah” which is translated as “law.”  Yet every Jew knows that it also means “instruction,” a definition that is missing from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:354-56

[3]. Martin, Worship in the Early Church. 61.


[4]. 1 Cor. 6:11; 12:4 ff.; 2 Cor. 1:21ff; 13:14; Gal. 3:11-14; 4:4ff; 1 Peter 1:2; Heb. 10:29.


[5]. Martin, Worship in the Early Church. 65.

[6]. For other references that pertain to heaven and hell, see Rev. 19:20, 20:10-15, 21:1-3; Mk. 16:16; Jn. 14:2-3; 1 Cor. 2:9.

[7]. Polybius, The Histories of Polybius 1.21; 5.38


[8]. Shepherd, “Apostle.” 1:171.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 18, 2015  -  Comments Off on 18.02.02 PARTING INSTRUCTIONS

18.02.02 Lk. 24:45-49; Acts 1:3-4a




Lk. 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”

Acts. 3 After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4a While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise.


Wait for the Father’s promise.”  It is interesting that Jesus did not tell them when the “promise” would arrive.  So they went to Jerusalem, and after ten days of prayer, the promised gift of the Holy Spirit came upon them during the Festival of Weeks (Pentecost).  The eight day Festival of Passover[1] was at the beginning of the harvest season when barley was harvested. The Feast of Weeks ended the harvest season with the gathering of the wheat. At the Feast of Weeks the First-Fruits were offered to our Lord and it was at that time when the Holy Spirit came upon 120 disciples who were in the Upper Room, in an event that to be known as Pentecost.  The Festival of Weeks commemorated the time when the Mosaic Law was written on tablets of stone.  The Mosaic Law was, by divine purpose, an incomplete and partial revelation of God. It was the plan of God that in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) His divine purpose would become fully understood. That was through the words and work of Jesus. Then, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to write the perfect law of liberty and life in the hearts of men.



18.02.02.A.  MEDALLION COMMEMORATES THE DAY OF PENTECOST. The only medallion known to honor the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Papal Bull of Our Lady of Zion). The medallion was minted by a small mediaeval monastic order in the 12th century. Photo: J. Boudet.



18.02.02.B. THE DAY OF PENTECOST AS DEPICTED IN THE RABULA CODEX OF 586.  One of the earliest surviving representations of the Day of Pentecost is from the Rabula Codex of 586.  The Virgin Mary is in the center with the apostles around her. A dove above her, representing the Holy Spirit, descends and “cloven tongues like as of fire” are above everyone.

[1]. The term refers to the Festivals of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruit. See also “Levitical Feasts as Prophetic Reflections of Jesus” in Appendix 5.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 18, 2015  -  Comments Off on 18.02.03 JESUS ASCENDS

18.02.03 Acts 1:6-11




Acts. 6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?

7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. 10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.”


Jesus and His disciples went to a high point on the Mount of Olives, where they had a brief discussion. His most important thoughts pertained to their future ministry, the coming Holy Spirit in a dynamic form, their faithfulness during persecutions, etc. He then lifted His hands and blessed them.  They had seen this blessing many times before in the temple, when the high priest would come out, stretch forth his hands, and bless the people.  Soon Jesus, the Ultimate High Priest, would do likewise and then ascend to His Father in heaven.

Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”  This may be one of the most stunning questions in the Bible.  After all they had experienced, they still “didn’t quite get it” – they still misunderstood the purpose of His coming and sacrifice. They still believed Jesus would destroy the Roman Empire and establish a kingdom of international power and significance.  That was obviously not the goal of Jesus at this time, but it will occur when He returns for a thousand-year reign.

Within three decades of the crucifixion, the gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom of God was preached in every major city in the Roman Empire.  By the time the temple was destroyed, the message of salvation had gone to all nations within the empire. Persecution could not quench the movement but rather, it only fanned the flames of Christianity.  No Roman or demon could stop it.

It is not for you to know times or periods.”  Acts 1:6-7 and Luke 17:22ff both agree that anticipation of the future is not to be the focus of life. Rather, believers are to do the will of God. In His divine wisdom and knowledge, Jesus predicted certain events that will occur, but these were stated to underscore the fact that He is very much aware of mankind’s plight and He is in control of all events. (Maybe it would be more correctly said that Jesus permits certain events to occur, because to say that He is in control suggests that He deliberately orchestrates harmful events.) Equally important is that Jesus did not deny the restoration of kingdom to Israel; that prophecy is waiting to be fulfilled.

“A cloud took Him out of their sight.”  This was most certainly not an ordinary rain cloud, but the Shekinah Glory of God.[1]   The word Shekinah or Shechinah means that which dwells.[2]  It was the same cloud of divine glory that led the Israelites as they wandered through the desert, appearing as a cloud during the day and as a pillar of fire at night. It was the same cloud that appeared to the shepherds, and later at the Transfiguration. It was God the Father to whom Jesus ascended.  It also confirmed that the Father was greatly pleased with the work and ministry of Jesus, hiding Him in His love.

At this point the ministry of Jesus changes radically.  All too often it is assumed that the ministry of Jesus was completed, but not so. Since the day of Ascension, the life of Jesus is one of continued ministry for His saints.  He stands before the throne of God, interceding for His believers who have been accused of various sins by the evil one. Because He functions in this role, as well as through His words and work on earth, believers have a direct link with God the Father, which is available only through Jesus (2 Tim. 2:5-6).  For nearly two thousand years this has been in His ministry.  He also has been preparing a place for His saints to live with Him in heaven. He is also waiting for His Father to tell Him to return to earth, where He will meet His saints in the air. From there He will take the saints to a great messianic banquet.  This will be followed by His return and His thousand year reign on the earth in which believers will participate with him.  At the end of this reign, the devil, his angels, and all those who rejected the call of Christ will be thrown into eternal hell (literally, the hell of fire)[3] forever.  Those who believed in Jesus and have kept their faith in Him, will live forever in heavenly glory with the One who is the Creator. The essence of the Gospel is Jesus; His birth, life, and death and victory over death, His ministry, His teaching, His miracles, Jesus is the divine act, the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purpose, the incarnation of the Kingdom of God.  This is the greatest love story ever told.

Closing thoughts by the second century Church father, Justin Martyr:

What sober-minded man, then, will not acknowledge that we are not atheists, worshiping as we do the Maker of this universe, and declaring, as we have been taught, that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense; whom we praise to the utmost of our power by the exercise of prayer and thanksgiving for all things wherewith we are supplied, as we have been taught that the only honor that is worthy of Him is not to consume by fire what He has brought into being for our sustenance, but to use it for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns for our creation and for all the  means of health, and for the various qualities of the different kinds of things, and for the changes of the seasons; and to present before Him petitions of our existing again in incorruption through faith in Him.  Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the times of Tiberius Caesar; and that we may reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove.  For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all; for they do not discern the mystery that is herein, to which, as we make it plain to you, we pray you to give heed. 

Justin Martyr, First Apology 13[4]


This Jesus … will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven. “Jesus lived His life as an orthodox Jew, something modern Christians can hardly imagine. He ministered as a Jewish rabbi, was crucified, arose, and continued to minister as a Jewish rabbi for forty days until His ascension. When He returns, He will do so in dynamic power and glory, and as a Jewish rabbi.

This promise of His return led the first century Church to pray a short prayer in the Aramaic: Maranatha meaning Our Lord come.  It was included in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (16:22) and a similar prayer was used by John when he closed his book with “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).[5]

There are two documents from the early Church fathers that reflect upon the place from which Jesus ascended.  Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea in the year 312 said this.

The feet of the Lord stood on the Mount of Olives at the cave shown there.  There he prayed and revealed to his disciples the secrets of the end of the world and ascended there to heaven from the top of the Mount of Olives.

Eusebius, Demonstrations of the Gospel  6:18


A few years later, Emperor Constantine gave instructions for the Eleona Church, also known as the Church of the Disciples, to be constructed over a cave on the Mount of Olives where Jesus and the disciples met. It was one of three basilicas, the other two being the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity. Construction began in 326 and was finished in 333. Concerning the Eleona Church, the bishop and historian wrote,

The emperor’s mother ordered a holy church to be built on the top of the entire hill, and there a prayer house in honor of the Redeemer, who stayed there and where, as it is handed down by a credible report, he, in that same grotto, let his disciples into the unfathomable secrets.

Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:43


The Pilgrim of Bordeaux (A.D. 333) and Dame Egeria (384) both celebrated liturgy there.[6]  It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, and today it is known as the Convent of Carmelite Nuns. However, another site claims to hold the rock from which Jesus ascended.  It is but a small prayer house that was converted into a mosque (see below).[7]


18.02.03.A. THE MOSQUE OF THE ASCENSION.  The traditional place from which Jesus ascended was once a church, but is now a mosque. The small building was constructed in 187 by Pomenia and reconstructed by Constantine in the year 326. It was transformed into a mosque in 1187 by Salah Ed Din because Muslims consider Jesus to be one of their prophets.  Foot impressions on the stone inside are said to be the footprints of Christ.[8] Photograph by the author.


[1]. The Shekinah Glory appeared four times in the life of Jesus: 1) to the shepherds (Lk. 2:8-9), 2) at His baptism (Mt. 3:16), 3) at the transfiguration (Mt. 17:5) and, 4) at His ascension (Acts 1:9).


[2]. Barclay, “John.” 1:69.


[3]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:40.


[4]. Elwell and Yarbrough, Readings from the First-Century World. 126.  The title of Pontius Pilate was always thought to be procurator because some early church fathers referred to him with that title.. However, an inscription was discovered in Caesarea that has his title as “Prefectus Judaea.” See 16.01.06.B.

[5]. Martin, Worship in the Early Church. 32.

[6]. Pixner, With Jesus in Jerusalem. 60, 69.

[7]. Avi-Yonah and Kraeling, Our Living Bible. 303.


[8]. Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus. 30; Tsafrir, Yoram. “Ancient Churches in the Holy Land.” 19:5, 39.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 18, 2015  -  Comments Off on 18.02.04 DISCIPLES RETURN JOYFULLY

18.02.04 Acts 1:12-14 Jerusalem




Acts. 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem — a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying:

Peter, John,
James, Andrew,
Philip, Thomas,
Bartholomew, Matthew,
James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon the Zealot,
and Judas the son of James.

14 All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 18, 2015  -  Comments Off on 18.02.05 MATTHIAS CHOSEN AS JUDAS’ REPLACEMENT

18.02.05 Acts 1:15-26




15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers—the number of people who were together was about 120 — and said: 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David spoke in advance about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of our number and was allotted a share in this ministry.” 18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst and burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out.     19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own the Law that field is called Hakeldama (that is, Field of Blood). 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

Let his dwelling become desolate;
let no one live in it (Ps. 69:25);                                                                                             and
Let someone else take his position (Ps.109:8).

21 “Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us — 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us — from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

23 So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know the hearts of all; show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic service that Judas left to go to his own place.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was numbered with the 11 apostles.


According to Church tradition, Matthias was selected because he was one who had followed the entire ministry of Jesus and, therefore, was familiar with all His teachings.  He was also one of the original 72 missionaries sent out by Jesus.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 18, 2015  -  Comments Off on 18.02.06 THE DISCIPLES PREACHED AND PERFORMED MIRACLES

18.02.06 Mk. 16:20; Jn. 20:30-31; 21:24-25




Mk. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.

Jn. 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written.


“His testimony is true.”  When the New Testament writers used terms such as “testimony” or “bore witness” or “I have seen and testify,” these are statements of legal terminology. These were common in Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures whereby the author placed himself under oath concerning the truthfulness of the statement made.[1]  The purpose of the miracles that Jesus performed was to vindicate His message and ministry (Jn. 3:2; Acts 2:22).


I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written.”  The ministry of Jesus was so profound, that it was impossible to record all of the events. Scholars have estimated that all the events written in the gospels comprise less than 100 days of His life. Therefore, it is not surprising that references to Jesus, or what He said and did, may not be found elsewhere in the New Testament. For example, a summation of a teaching of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 begins with “According to the Lord’s own word….” Yet no reference to this quotation is found anywhere in Scripture.  In another example, a rare quotation of Jesus is found in Acts 20:35 and 1 Clement 46:7 where He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Yet within a few decades after Jesus, a number of teachers attempted to change the true gospel. Jesus and the apostles had warned that false teachers would come and deceive many (Mt. 24:4; Acts 20:29). Likewise, modern students of the word should not be deceived by so-called ancient writings. One of the challenges of this study has been to continually discern truth from elaborations and embellishments by various individuals throughout history.

The gospel writers wrote primarily of historic events, while the Apostle Paul wrote of historic events along with their implications and the many infallible proofs of the resurrected Christ Jesus.  Note the following from one of his letters:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. 15 In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ —whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19


A final Judgment Day is coming for every person; no one can escape it.  Those who accepted Christ will enter heaven’s eternal gates and those who denied Him will have eternal death.

The message of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire across the Roman Empire to both the Gentiles and Jews.  While the Oral Tradition was an accurate transmission within Judaism, it was not so for Gentiles who did not have an oral cultural tradition. The gospels were written and within two or three decades the message of Jesus was spread accurately by first and second generation Jewish apostles. Note the similarities in 1 Corinthians, written by the Apostle Paul and Acts, written by Luke.


(Paul) 1 Cor. 15:1-4                                                    (Luke) Acts 2:23-33


Death of Jesus (v. 3)                                                    Crucifixion      (v. 23)

Burial of Jesus (v. 4)                                                                            (v. 31)

Resurrection    (v. 4)                                                                            (v. 32)

Eyewitnesses   (v. 5 ff.)                                                                       (v. 33)


Jewish congregations that believed in Jesus as their Messiah continued to read the Torah and the Prophets during Jewish worship services.  The Jerusalem believers met daily in their homes as well as at the Church of the Apostles, for communion and the words of Jesus were studied, as were the Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible. The church leadership consisted entirely of Jews, under the direction of James, the half-brother of Jesus.

It is believed that these leaders continued to meet in the traditional Upper Room, where the disciples had their last supper with Jesus. Supposedly, the Upper Room survived both the destructions in A.D. 70 and the Second Revolt in A.D. 132-135, although not all ancient sources agree on this point.  Note these interesting words by the 4th century church father Epiphanius, who wrote of a small church that survived Hadrian’s destruction of Jerusalem.

Hadrian found the city completely leveled to the ground and God’s temple treaded down, except for a few houses and the church of God, which was quite small.  To it the disciples returned after the Savior’s ascension from the Mount of Olives.  They went up to the Upper Room, for it had been built there – that is, in the part of the city called Zion, which part was exempted from destruction, as also were some of the dwellings around Zion and seven synagogues, the only ones which existed in Zion, like monks’ cells.  One of these survived until the time of Bishop Maximos and King Constantine.  It was like a tent in a vineyard, to quote the Scripture.

Epiphanius, De Mensurie et Ponderibus 14[2]   


By the mid-second century, Justin Martyr recorded that the Scripture was read along with the “Memoirs of the Apostles.” Those “memoirs” collected and became known as the New Testament.[3]


Finally, a story is presented that has often been called mythical in the West.  But some congregations in the Middle East believe it is absolutely true.  It is the story of King Abgarus and a letter that he wrote to Jesus. To many it is not worth reciting, but to others it is a mystery; an enigma.


[1]. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 5.


[2]. Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus. 143, 259-60; Baldi, Enchiridion Locorum Sanctorum. 733, 478.

[3]. Martin, Worship in the Early Church. 69; Justin Martyr, First Apology 67 Internet Archive.

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