The Book of Acts conveys the Early Church theology vividly. That book is permeated by the spirit of Easter joy of the Risen Christ and filled with events that followed the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles. The Apostles preach the onset of the new Messianic era fervently. They convert three and then five thousand people on the spot because the Good News came as a shock for most contemporaries. How did this message sound in the age of the Apostles, and what did it boil down to?
1. Death and Resurrection of the Promised Messiah. The message of the Apostles begins with acknowledging the death of Jesus and rebuking the Jews of killing their own Messiah. The Apostles do not shy away from telling that straight in the Jews’ faces. However, they shape their words in such a way so as to make their listeners ready to repent and not to deny the accusations. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs… Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain (Acts 2: 22-23). At the same time, the Apostles are aware of the fact that the execution of the Son of God happened according to the eternal God’s Plan. Apostle Peter boldly states in the Temple that the Jews had rejected the Holy and Righteous One in the presence of Pilate… and killed the Prince of life (Acts 3: 13&15).
Nevertheless, Jesus’s soul was not left in hell. His flesh did not decay. God hath raised him from the dead; whereof we are witnesses (Acts 3: 15). Therefore, the message of Jesus’s death and Resurrection is the chief point of the Good News preached by the Apostles.
2. The Holy Pentecost and Parousia (παρουσία) of Christ. The Ascension is inseparable from the Resurrection and is the peak of the Savior’s glory and triumph. The disciples of Jesus speak of his Ascension to the Heaven and his sending down the Spirit of God, which was made possible thanks to the earthly ministry of the Son of God. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. (Acts 2: 33). Apostle Peter touches on the topic of the Ascension in his sermon in the Temple. He says that Jesus will come back again and the time of restitution of all things will begin. (Acts 3: 20). While the time hasn’t come and the Gospel hasn’t been preached to all creatures under the heaven yet, the heaven had to receive Jesus (cf. Acts 3: 21). Parousia is a Christian term that means both the mystical presence of Christ in his Church, especially during the Sacrament of Eucharist, and his glorious Return in the end times. Christ is here now but his presence is through the Holy Spirit.
3. Messianic Dignity of Jesus of Nazareth. The Jews are rightly called the people of the Book. The Torah is their main sacred object, second only to the Temple. This is why the Apostles always base their preaching on the Tanakh (that is, the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim), where they find prophesies of the coming Messiah and prove that all those prophesies and promises were fulfilled by Jesus from Nazareth. In his sermon in the Temple, Apostle Peter mentions Moses and the Prophets among those who heralded the coming of the Messiah. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. (Acts 3: 22). Later, Apostle Paul will do the same. He would spend days sitting with the Jews in a synagogue and studying the Scriptures to prove that they really apply to Jesus of Nazareth.
The Apostles’ theology is as simple as their background. The Good News boils down to the death, the Resurrection, and the Second Coming of Christ. Everyone who turns to Christ must be baptized in his Name and begin a new life thanks to the Descent of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of God’s Kingdom. It is the life with God, which follows our reconciliation with him through Christ. It is the overabundant life. It is the very good (Gen. 1: 31), which was the reason for creating this world. The Apostles and all early Christians found the source of immense joy and inspiration in the fact that the victory and life, which had shone forth from the Lord’s grave, are given to each believer at baptism. The life of the Risen Christ is ours now. The Holy Spirit strengthens us on the road to the Heavenly Kingdom. This Kingdom is yet to come but a believing heart that longs for Jesus can taste the fruit of his triumph over death here and now.