By John Larkins
Jesus Christ’s mission was to allow Himself to be sacrificed in order to “gain all power on heaven and earth” given by His Father, to redeem humankind. This mission restored the relationship we had with God. Humans were now eligible for an eternal life in heaven after they died as humans. If they passed His judgement, their eternal souls could be brought into God’s presence.
Jesus created a Church for that process and trained His priests for the purpose of ministering to us so we could be saved. Since this process of salvation started during Jesus’s life on earth (about 5 anno domino, or AD, until 33 anno domino) and continues today, the Church had to be eternal in the same sense that we are being born into life, death and eternal life.
Jesus told His priests (we call them apostles or disciples) that He was going back to His Father but would be “with us in His Church, forever.” Jesus had taught these somewhat ordinary men all they needed to know in order to carry out this duty. You can imagine how frightened and stunned they were when He told them He was leaving and that they were in charge. At that time there was no New Testament. Jesus taught by His words so the Apostles had to remember His lessons. Between Jesus’s death and about 100 AD (70 years later), the Apostles began writing down Jesus’s lessons so that their written word could endure for their own use in sending letters to the churches they were founding. All but one of the Apostles were killed by this time. John, the youngest evangelist, died of natural causes about 95. The enemies of Christ’s Church had tried to kill him, but according to tradition, they could not do so. We have the New Testament today as a result of the Apostles efforts to maintain a written record.
One might be surprised at this holy and very necessary accumulation of writings. First and perhaps foremost, there is no table of contents for the New Testament. The writings that would comprise this record of truth were gathered by the Catholic Church – the only Christian Church – about 270 years after Christ’s Resurrection into Heaven. Since the Church was commanded to take God’s message to all nations, the writings were in several languages.
By that time, most educated people wrote and read Latin, so the translation was in Latin. However, the big job was establishing which of the many writings circulating among the Catholic Churches were most important and written early enough to be produced by the Apostles. This scholarly and sacred effort took many priests and many years to produce the authentic New Testament. It lasted until 1500 years later when the Catholic Father Martin Luther revolted against his vows and decided to edit his own version of God’s truth.
Many people today say they would like to know what the Church was like right after Jesus was taken up to heaven and the Apostles were in charge of teaching and conducting services. Fortunately, this is fairly easy. We believe that Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles, and so a great wealth of information and insights are there for us to read and study. We must sympathize with Peter, because suddenly he was in the limelight! Jesus appointed him as the leader of the Church when He said earlier, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I build my Church.” Jesus gave the Church His seven sacraments for salvation, and the Apostles went to work. You will see in the Acts of the Apostles the one and only time anyone is called a “Christian” in the Bible.
For the past 15 years, John Larkins has evangelized on the street, door-to-door, in tent revivals and in church situations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.