And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
-- 1 Peter 5:4

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
-- Habakkuk 2:14

The Early Church (Chain #4309g)


INTRODUCTION.  From the Ascension of Jesus, A.D. 30, to the imprisonment of Paul at Rome, A.D. 60 (?).  The apostles did not, originally, comprehend the breadth of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15). They sought to establish a Jewish Christian church consisting of converted Jews and Jewish proselytes. Later, through the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit, they recognized the universality of the gospel call and admitted Gentiles into full fellowship.

NOTE: The dates on this chart are only approximately correct. As Harnack says, "We must be contented with relative, rather than absolute chronology in the Bible."


1.  Period of Organization, 30-37 (?)  Acts 1-7

Church membership restricted to Jews.
Gentiles excluded.
Jerusalem the center.  

A.D. 30
The ascension of Jesus was followed by ten days of waiting in prayer and the choice of Matthias as an apostle in place of Judas (Acts 1:4-14,15-26). 

The Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon believers, furnishing them equipment for service (Acts 2:1-13).

Peter's sermon resulted in the conversion of 3,000 souls (Acts 2:14-41).

The first persecution. The healing of the lame man, followed by a fearless address on the part of Peter, led to the arrest of John and himself. They were released; but the church assembled in prayer, resulting in a great manifestation of divine power (Acts 3:1-4:22, 4:23-33).

A terrible judgment came upon Ananias and Sapphira, who suffered immediate death because of their deception (Acts 5:1-11).

This sad event was followed by a season of rapid growth and a manifestation of miracle-working power in the church (Acts 5:12-16).

Persecution arose; the apostles were imprisoned but were delivered by an angel of God and continued their work in spite of opposition (5:17-42).

Seven deacons were appointed, among whom was Stephen, whose miracles and convincing preaching led to his martyrdom (Acts 6:1-7, 6:8-15, 7:1-60).

2.  Period of Transition A.D. 37-48 (?)  Acts 8-12

The gradual recognition of the duty of the church to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  Jerusalem the center.

The first evangelistic campaign outside of Jerusalem grew out of the scattering of the Christians throughout the country by the persecutions under Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8:1-4).

Philip, Peter, and John preached with great success at Samaria, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the Samaritans, foreshadowing the future work among the Gentiles (Acts 8:4-17).  The revival spirit spread throughout the region, and Philip preached in many of the coastal cities from Gaza to Caesarea (Acts 8:25-40).

A.D. 37

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus near Damascus, while he was on a tour of persecution, had a profound effect on Christian history (Acts 9:1-22).

He preached first in Damascus, then retired to Arabia (see Galatians 1:17); returning to Damascus, he labored until driven out by the Jews (Acts 9:1-22).

A.D. 37 - 43

Paul next went to Jerusalem and attempted to help the church there, but the hatred against him was so bitter that he was compelled to leave and returned to his early home at Tarsus (Acts 9:26-30).  A period of rest for the church followed his departure (Acts 9:31).

Peter's enlightening vision. While the apostle was on an evangelistic tour, he came to Lydda, where Aeneas was healed, and to Joppa, where Dorcas was raised from the dead.  While here the vision occurred that sent him out to preach to a Gentile congregation in the home of Cornelius at Caesarea (Acts 9:32-43, 10:9-43).

A.D. 41

Here the Holy Spirit sanctioned his work by coming upon the Gentile assembly (Acts 10:44-48).

Dawning of the Foreign Missionary Movement.  Under the leadership of Christians who were driven out of Jerusalem by persecution, evangelistic work was carried on in Cyprus, Phoenicia, and finally as far as Antioch in Syria (Acts 11:19-21).

Barnabas, sent to Antioch by the church at Jerusalem, found a rich field for evangelistic work and went to Tarsus for Saul to assist him in the task. A strong church was established here, which became the center of the foreign missionary movement (Acts 11:22-26).

A.D. 43

Second persecution. About this time the church at Jerusalem suffered great persecution by Herod Agrippa I, who killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. Peter was also apprehended and thrust into prison but escaped through an angelic deliverance (Acts 12).

3.  Period of Expansion and Development of Foreign Missions A.D. 48-60 (?)

The views of the church leaders broadened.

Gentiles were admitted to equal rights with the Jews without the observance of Jewish rites and ceremonies.

Antioch became the center (Acts 8-12).

A.D. 46-48

Paul's first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-14:28).

The church at Antioch, inspired by the Holy Spirit, ordained Saul (later Paul) and Barnabas as foreign missionaries, and they set forth on an evangelistic tour, accompanied by John Mark (Acts 13:1-3). 

Their work began on the island of Cyprus, from here they went to Perga in Asia Minor, where John Mark deserted the party (Acts 13:4-13).

Paul and Barnabas carried forward their evangelistic campaign to Antioch in Pisidia, then turned southeast to Iconium and Lystra, where Paul was stoned, and they departed to Derbe (Acts 13:14-14:20).

A.D. 49

From Derbe they retraced their steps through the same cities to Perga and Attalia, from which port they sailed to Antioch, in Syria, the city from which they started (Acts 14:21-26).

It is estimated that they covered a distance of about 1,500 miles, and their mission lasted about two years (Acts 13:1-3, 13:4-13, 13:14-14:20, 14:21-26).

A.D. 50-52

Paul's second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22).

Starting from Antioch with Silas as his companion, Paul revisited the churches of Asia Minor he had established on his first journey, and extended the work into Galatia and Phrygia, and westward to Troas (Acts 15:40).

Here the missionaries were called into Europe by a vision and came to Philippi, at which place they were beaten and imprisoned, but were miraculously delivered by an earthquake. Before leaving they established a church here and also one at Thessalonica, their next stop (Acts 16:9, 25-29; Acts 17:1-4).

As they moved forward they found the Bereans very receptive to the truth, but Athens proved to be poor soil for the gospel seed, and they left for Corinth. Here Paul met violent opposition but was encouraged by a vision and remained to found a flourishing church. (Acts 17:10-11

A.D. 51-52

The missionaries started back to Antioch, by way of Jerusalem, stopping off at Ephesus, having been gone, it is estimated, about three years, and having traveled about 3,500 miles (Acts 17:22-23, 18:1-18, 18:19, 21).

A.D. 54-58

Paul's third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:17).

Leaving the home church at Antioch, Paul revisited the churches of Galatia and Phrygia and came to Ephesus (Acts 18:23).

During his absence some preliminary work had been done in the city by Apollos, which prepared the way for a successful campaign. Paul's preaching and miracle-working power made a profound impression, putting to confusion those who used black arts and deceived the people (Acts 18:24-28; 19:1-20).

A.D. 56 -57

A great work was accomplished, and a church founded, but labor troubles made it wise for Paul to leave, and he departed to Macedonia and Greece. He remained three months at Corinth, then revisiting the churches of Macedonia came to Troas, where he preached a midnight sermon and raised Eutychus to life (Acts 19:23-41; 20:1-12).

A.D. 58

On his way to Jerusalem he stopped at Miletus and delivered a notable farewell address to the Ephesian elders. Arriving at Jerusalem he found himself the object of intense hatred, and a conspiracy against his life was formed (Acts 20:17-38).

He was arrested under false charges, but the Roman soldiers rescued him from the mob. His Roman citizenship secured him certain rights. (Acts 21:27-30)

A.D. 59-60

The voyage to Rome. Paul was taken to Caesarea and was a prisoner for two years, during which time he appeared before Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa, but having appealed to Caesar, he was sent to Rome, where, chained to a soldier, he preached to Caesar's household and others who came to him (Acts 23:31-35; 24-28).

While thus confined he wrote epistles to various churches he had founded. He was finally beheaded in Rome about A.D. 67.