EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 5)

After watching the Lord rise up before them enveloped by a cloud, the disciples removed from Mount Olivet and returned to Jerusalem per the Lord’s command. It was time to await the promise.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4

LESSON 5

ACTS 1:13-15

13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. 15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said…  

This Upper Room was most likely in the house belonging to Mary, the mother of John Mark, as mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Acts after Peter’s miraculous release from certain execution:

…he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. [Acts 12:12] [1]

It was a very large room which, of course, implies a large house. This denotes Mary, a probable widow, as a woman of means. Mark was a cousin of Barnabas, the apostle Paul’s traveling partner, which made Mary his aunt. One can deduce that the respective fathers of Barnabas and Mark were brothers who were wealthy enough to (1) Own a large high end property in Jerusalem with servants, and (2) Send Barnabas, a man of letters with probable training under a rabbi to school. Barnabas was also the most likely writer of the Book of Hebrews.

The Last Supper was held in this same Upper Room, which made the private home a regular place of meeting for the Early Church. In fact, the entire Early Church at that time could take up residence within it. All eleven apostles were there along with possible family members. The Lord’s brothers were there, maybe all four, as was, of course, His mother Mary. Many other women were there, which must have included Mary Magdalene. With all of these together, it came to about 120 people, on the one hand a large group for a house church, but on the other relatively quite small.

After preaching to perhaps hundreds of thousands over a three and a half year period, having a large band of following disciples, and appearing to as many as five hundred after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus only gathered 120 dedicated praying disciples in the Upper Room awaiting the Day of Pentecost.

This should enlighten us to His selection process.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Posted on April 6, 2020, in Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. It helps to remember what a relatively small nation of people we’re discussing. People knew each other, knew each other’s relatives. Word spread quickly. They didn’t need the internet–they had their social networks 🙂

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    • Thanks Linda. Though estimates vary widely, Josephus said over a million Jews died in the War against Rome by AD 70. The Roman historian Tacitus claimed the population of Jerusalem at that time was 600,000 though other estimates are far fewer, ranging upwards to 100,000. Josephus is the only eyewitness historian for the entire time of the 60s AD, since he was personally involved in the war effort, and is most reliable. The population of Jerusalem swelled as the war proceeded as the Roman armies continued advancing south to an inevitable siege and showdown. Jerusalem was seen as the ultimate place of protection where the Israelites must make their stand, which contributed greatly to the great tribulation of that time. Considering all of Galilee, Samaria, and Judaea, the population estimates are just that. Samaria and Galilee average maybe a million at the most, though some say half that number.

      By comparison, the city of Rome in the first century is estimated at about a million. We can see then, that the numbers of first century Israelites in the Empire are quite large and in the range of maybe three to four million overall. So considering the great destruction of the Great Revolt, the numbers that Josephus gives must be seen as fairly reliable, especially since he was a Jew and a Pharisee and would not seem to have any reason to inflate the count. It was just as bad as the Lord Jesus prophesied it would be but such dire warnings never registered except within the ranks of His own followers.

      Be Blessed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting numbers. And today? As more and more Zionists return to Israel, the population of Jerusalem and its surrounding suburbs is literally exploding.

        I was thinking more in terms of family relationships, which were intricate and widespread, and carefully recorded. No one did anything of note that didn’t get the attention of the relatives and friends, and you know how fast that sort of news travels 🙂

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        • Yes, especially when it came to the highly controversial actions and teachings of the Lord Jesus. Early first century Judea/Galilee/Samaria was a hotbed of Messianic hope and religious fervor. The fighting factions, though quite contentious among themselves and all against Rome, did not overly affect the relative stability in the land until John the Immerser began preaching. But everything changed when the Lord Jesus came forth. Large population numbers notwithstanding, news traveled extremely fast and quick knee-jerk judgments were made. The religious leaders were quick with criticism because the Lord simply did not match up with their own beliefs and teachings, and the people themselves were under the strong sway of the leaders and believed what they were taught. There was great fear of breaking convention even in the slightest. Most jumped on the defamation bandwagon early on and closed their minds to the Lord’s truth. It’s why He ended up with such small numbers of real disciples early on. This dynamic never changes. Most people usually choose their social constructs/place in the group over greater truth. The Lord warned us. He said the servant should not be expected to be treated any different than the Master.

          (Did you read Lessons 6 and 7?) I plan on posting Lesson 11 probably tomorrow. I always appreciate your contributions. You add a lot here. Blessings.

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          • I think I did, RJ, but I can certainly go back and make sure 🙂

            We can’t help noticing, of course, how similar the reactions of Estbalishment Religionists are today to the Jewish religious authorities of His time on earth. Sad state of affairs. And colonial true believers waged a sometimes bloody battle to establish freedom of religion in this country. It wasn’t just magically THERE until many suffered for their faith.

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            • Thanks. It is such a blessing to have you here catching up, and I know it takes a lot of your time, and I appreciate it. I just want to make sure. It’s the teacher in me, something I know you obviously relate to. I planned this series as more of a classroom. The results have been great so far.

              Regarding the second part of your comment, there is the issue some Christians have that taking up arms during the Revolution for the cause of liberty was against the teachings of the Lord. We know such a perspective is incorrect because it never addresses the big picture. The colonists were already free to a large extent and were also loyal to the English king.

              But England changed their tune by doing a reversal based on the dictates of the Bank of England. This was a private bank established about eighty years before that had the government of England as its main client. England wanted to pay off its war debts of the French and Indian War by taxing the American colonists through the Stamp Act and other legislation, even though it was the Americans who did most of the fighting. But it was the Currency Act that caused most of the commotion. It outlawed all American paper legal tender and attempted to establish a single hard currency in the American colonies. The Stamp Act also demanded tax payments in the form of hard currency. There was very little hard currency in the American colonies and it made it very difficult for all.

              It was only a matter of time after this. England never really let up and continued eliminating American freedoms. It forced the issue. Americans realized if they didn’t take up arms they would lose everything. That’s why even Christian ministers were joining the fight. It was an effort to save their God-given rights in a place where such rights were already established. Even so, only about a third of Americans were willing. One wonders how low that percentage is now. Why do so few Americans care about the rule of law continually being violated and God-given rights removed?

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