|A313 : by Tony Garland |
Your buddy sounds to be what would be described as a mid-Acts dispensationalist (or hyper-dispensationist—although some don't like that term).
I've fielded questions related to this topic before:
As for who is married to whom, I discuss this in the Marriage of the Lambc section within my commentary on Revelation.
Yet there will always be some who find ways to interpret the verses that identify the Church as the bride (e.g., John 3:29; 2Cor. 11:2; Rom. 7:4; Eph. 5:24, 30-32) in other ways. For example, A. W. Pinkd vigorously opposed the idea that these passages had anything to do with such a relationship.
In my mind, the clincher is the Scripture-given identity of the Church as the body of Christ. Believers are "one flesh" with Jesus (1Cor. 6:15-17 cf. Genesis 2:24; Eph. 5:28-30). Where else does a similar relationship figure prominently in Scripture? Adam and his wife (Genesis 2:24). One wonders why Paul would describe the relationship of the Church with Jesus in such intimate terms when we are supposed to somehow understand that it is Israel, and not the Church, that is to be considered His bride?!
When it comes to answering the question of when did the Church begin, the answer is not found in when Paul (or Peter) received certain revelation or when they began to teach it. The beginning of the Church does not hinge on revelation from God or teaching by any given Apostle. (Notice that Jesus revealed aspects of the Church in advance of Acts—in Matthew 16.) Rather it flows from an act of God. Specifically: baptism of the Spirit which joins people to the body of Christ which is the church.
If we asked a logician to give us a proof, it might go like this:
THEREFORE (Q.E.D): The Church began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2)
- The church == the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18)
- The body is formed by Spirit baptism (1Cor. 12:13)
- Spirit baptism began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; Acts 11:15-16). [Notice that Peter refers to the events of the Day of Pentecost as a "beginning" (Acts 11:15), as does James (Acts 15:14)]
Understanding what God had done on that day didn't come immediately (Acts 11:16). Paul, who would receive the greatest revelation on the topic, wasn't even a believer at the time the Church began (33 AD)—he wouldn't be saved until some 2.5-3 years later (early 36 AD)e.
The Church is not formed by revelation or information. The Church is formed by Spirit-baptism. So asking when a particular teacher understood or began teaching revelation about the nature of the Church is to ask the wrong question. The real question is: when were individuals first baptized by the Spirit into the Body.
Another resource that might be helpful for someone who is open to the possibility that the Church began at Pentecost, is my presentation on The Birth of the Church (Acts 2:1-4)f.
My experience with folks of this persuasion is that their views regarding the Church are just the tip of the iceberg—that other unusual views on related topics lie under the surface—similar to your friend’s view about the book of Revelation.
Most often, the problems come about from making too many Jewish/Gentile distinctions—adding to those which Scripture itself teaches. If the devil isn’t successful getting Christians to ignore Jewish/Gentile distinctions which Scripture does make, then his next tactic is to get us to make distinctions that are not significant in the text. Sadly, I've yet to have success persuading a person with such views of the error of their way.
Hyper-dispensationalists typically teach that most, if not all, of Acts is not for the Church. Some even extend that view back into the gospels and say the Church shouldn’t be studying them much either. But we would do well to remember the instructions of Jesus in the Great Commission, words which are undeniably meant for the Church (Mat. 28:19-20):
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you [many of which are found in the gospels]; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age. Amen.1
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