What Happened to the Biblical Saints of the First Century?
The purpose of this article is to present a theory concerning the manifestation of the early saints who were sealed by the Holy Spirit in the first century as presented in Scripture. From the day of Pentecost onwards, the early ekklesia flourished, even under persecution as the their faith started to spread. Some two-thousand years later, with many claiming the "continuity" of the saints, there is really no resemblance to the same manifestation of the Holy Spirit today with the events of that time. It seems that the record that they left behind has not continued in the same magnitude today, but at some point abruptly declined, or came to a halt.
I believe there may be some clues by reading Scripture in the context of the audience to whom it was speaking to. Often, many will read Scripture believing that words apply to them when it actually applies to the people of that day and age. With this in mind, I am going to propose a theory that may hold truth, or may be too farfetched to have any merit, but please bear with me. I would like the reader to affirm, refute and discuss the evidence presented.
I am fully aware Scripture has been presented through many different doctrinal lenses and that many have a particular bias that leans a certain way, but please have an open mind as you read. If the context is correct, it may present a different perspective that you may have not thought of, or sways from popular “church” doctrine.
I will attempt to lay foundation and then build upon it with different components. Will this theory have any merit for discussion, or will the whole thing will come crashing down? That will be up to the reader to decide.
The Greek word hagios means saint, which means people who are set apart for God, the Father. He has made them into special people separated from the world system through His Son, Yahshua Messiah. In the New Testament, when reading about the saints, they are also referred to as the elect. The testament of these saints are found in the following Scripture passages:
The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised – Matthew 29:52
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. – Acts 9:13
The saints of that day (1st century) were sealed by God.
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. - 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit – Ephesians 1:13
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. – Ephesian 4:30
It is obvious that these passages refer to the believers of that time, but there is also another sealing by the Holy Spirit in Revelation that seems to apply to a great multitude at a future event.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands – Revelation 7:9
In this day and age there are those who believe that they qualify to be “saints” as a "continuation" of the early ekklesia, but if there is another sealing at a future date, then the sealing of the first century believers would not apply to believers today until they are sealed as part of great multitude in the future.
Could there be something that is unique concerning the “sealing” of the saints?
It seems that the manifestations of the sealing of the early ekklesia by the Holy Spirit has not manifested in the same manner as with the first century saints.
In the modern churches of our day, people go through their religious man-made rituals, but this is in direct opposition to the testament of the first century saints. “Churchianity” is a world where people go through the religious motions, but in no way resembles, or comes close to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the first century. In their vanity they claim these same manifestations, but they are far from the true power of the Holy Spirit.
It would seem that at some point during the first century, the great manifestation of the Holy Spirit, with great signs and wonders among the early saints, came to a halt.
From the time of the middle of the first century, the “continuation” of early saints all but disappeared as the new counterfeit religion of “Churchianity” via Constantine manifested as the Roman Catholic Church with her offspring.
Isn't it obvious when you look around today that there is nothing that resembles anything like the sealed saints of the first century?
The signs and wonders that were happening among the early saints are not happening among believers today. Many are attempting to re-enact the historical account with their “revival” meetings, but it seems that it is all in vain.
Could the powerful manifestation of the Holy Spirit have to do with sealing of the saints in the first century?
If so, could there be a "sealing" of similar fashion with a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in the future as it applies to a great multitude in the future in Revelation?
A Plausible Event
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. – Matthew 24:31-35
It would seem that these verses in proper context reveal that Christ was addressing the people of that time. This is clear when He refers to the audience as “you” and would indicate that “this generation” was in the first century. Moving forward to the time of Apostle Paul, in similar manner, he addresses the early ekklesia within that same generation.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. – 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
Again, we have to ask ourselves whether this verse applies to believers today, or was Paul actually speaking directly to the audience of that day?
It would seem that the pronouns “you” and “we” whom Paul was referring to applied to the people of that day.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Again, it seems clear that these above words were for the Thessalonian ekklesia living during the first century. Paul’s words were addressed to them.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. – Colossians 3:1-4
So that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ - 1 Corinthians 1:7
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1:7
The picture seems to get clearer to whom these verses apply to when considering the imminent event that was spoken to "soon" take place. Consider the words of Jesus Christ in these next verses and the audience being addressed.
And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” – Matthew 26:62-64
Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” – Matthew 16:28
The word “kingdom” in the above verse is basilea in Greek, which primarily means royalty.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothersthat this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” – John 21:20-23
Was Jesus talking to His disciples concerning an event that would happen in their lifetime about His coming for His own “soon?”
Was Jesus talking about spiritual event, or physical one?
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. – Revelation 1:1
The questions we must ask ourselves, “What must soon take place?”
It is kind of hard to put “soon” in the context of our time almost two-thousand years later. This does not necessarily mean that the book of Revelation does not have things that are to be fulfilled in the future, but when John wrote it, it would seem first and foremost was to the audience of the first century with words that were directed to them, and what they were to expect in their lifetime.
I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. – Revelation 3:11
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” – Revelation 22:6
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! – Revelation 22:20
Did John know that Jesus was coming soon, possibly within his lifetime?
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. – 1 John 2:18
Does the “last hour” apply to believers today, or was John speaking about the signs that Yahshua was coming for them soon?
Are There any Supporting Factors?
The Biblical accounts of the early saints seem to have come to an end within the first century as there is a “silence” from 70 to 120 AD until the manifestation of the Roman Catholic Church.
Is there a continuation of the ekklesia that Christ is building in existence today?
It seems that all modern church doctrines are in direct conflict with the “the faith once delivered” to the early saints?
Did the early ekklesia become corrupted and cease to be zealous for the truth?
One thing to consider is that upon the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the elect were severely persecuted and martyred by the Romans. This could be the reason that they fell into obscurity through persecution. Today, it is the same, the ekklesia are a small fringe body of believers who do not take part in counterfeit “Churchianity” of human rule, but awaiting a future sealing and return of Yahshua. The genuine elect today, although small in number, remain faithful to the basic truths of the faith.
Another scenario is that the sealed saints went through a spiritual, or physical event when they met with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). During the time of great persecution and destruction of Jerusalem, Yahshua fulfilled the imminent event that he prophesied and what Paul reiterated to the early ekklesia of what was to happen “soon” of him coming back for them.
Did the early saints self-destruct into obscurity from within by conforming to false doctrine after the death of last apostle?
Did the early sealed saints meet with Christ as he came back for His elect during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD?
One thing to consider, if you believe any of these events are plausible, are there any secular records of the disappearance of the first century saints?
If the Roman Catholic Church had any evidence, it would have been in their best interests to destroy, or suppress it from becoming common knowledge. The simple reason is that their counterfeit system called church would hold no legitimacy and be fatal to their ability to have power and control over the people.
One thing that clearly stands out is that the Scriptural evidence seems to refer directly to the saints of the first century about an imminent event that was “soon” to take place that was to happen within their generation.
What do you think this imminent event was?
Are the first century saints who were sealed by the Holy Spirit part of the first fruits group?
Is it plausible that there are two people groups that John refers to in Revelation; those who have already been sealed in the first century, and a great multitude that will be sealed in the future?
What is interesting to note is the past tense in this verse,
And I heard the number of those having been sealed: one hundred forty four thousands, having been sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel. – Revelation 7:4
And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel – Revelation 7:14
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. – Ephesians 4:30
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Does these above verses above apply to a past event that has already happened, or a future one?
Does this verse below apply to believers today?
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb – Revelation 7:9
One thing that remains certain is that when reading Scripture many will apply certain verses to themselves, when they may actually apply to a different people group in the past.
In the case of this article, we must determine whether these Scripture verses used as evidence exclusively apply to the early saints, or if they have application to believers today.
In the modern church, it is customary to believe that "everything" in the Bible applies to the here and now. They just pick and choose verses that they want to apply in this age and discard the ones they don't want. With that in mind, does anyone become a saint by reading about the saints? When you read the Old and New Testament, who do the words you, your, we and one another apply to? Do you automatically believe these verses apply directly to the reader today?
Have you ever thought that the words may apply to a people from a different time in history, as in the case of this article, the first century?
We often have no problem saying that the Old Testament does not apply to our day and age, but have you ever though that some of the New Testament may not apply either?
Before you get worked up on these questions, please keep in mind that I wrote this article to present a theory. There is no claim to infallibility, but to encourage discussion concerning how we view the Scriptures and how we apply them to our belief system. That is why there are so many diverse perspectives. Since there is only one correct interpretation, we must strive with the guidance of the Spirit to pursue truth with an open mind that we could be wrong.
Almost two-thousand years later, the inspired voice of God is all summed up in His Word. There is no new revelation. We must rely on, and look back to the inspired historical account knowing that God has said all that He means to say. Since His purposes are not finished, we can continue to look forward to His leading and guidance till the consummation of all things.
Which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. - Ephesians 1:9-10
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