“BEWARE LEST THAT COME UPON YOU”.
A verse of scripture that is very frequently quoted by Christians is John 3:18:
“HE THAT BELIEVETH ON HIM IS NOT CONDEMNED; BUT HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT IS CONDEMNED ALREADY, BECAUSE HE HATH NOT BELIEVED IN THE NAME OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD.”
A verse that is seldom quoted by Christians is Acts 13:40:
“BEWARE THEREFORE, LEST THAT COME UPON YOU, WHICH IS SPOKEN OF IN THE PROPHETS.”
In John 3:18, the predicament and perilous condition of the unbeliever is already upon him. But in Acts 13:40, the predicament and condemnation has not yet come.
This is all the more difficult to understand because we have been taught to believe that the words recorded in John 3:18 were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ while He was here on earth. Whereas, the words of warning recorded in Acts 13:40, were spoken by His servant Paul about 12 years after Christ had died. Let us consider the verse in Acts first: “Beware therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets.” If language has any meaning, we learn from this verse and the verse that follows that Israel’s prophets had foretold a condemnation that was to come upon Israel. And we also learn here that that condemnation had not yet come.
This should cause us to ask this question: did that condemnation come, and if so, when did it come? “Ye shall in no wise believe”, is the language found in Acts 13:41. About 18 years after these words were declared by Paul to the rulers of Israel, the judgment foretold by Israel’s prophets fell upon that nation. That judgment is recorded in Acts 28:25 to 28. And about 6 or 7 years later, the most terrific judgment that ever fell upon any nation was visited upon Israel in the destruction of their city, and their temple, when about two million Israelites perished under the hand of Titus and his army. This was in fulfillment of the words of the Lord Jesus, recorded in Matthew 22:7, which we quote: “But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth; and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers and burned up their city.”
Any careful, spiritual student of the Word of God will see that the Nation Israel was on trial before God all during the “Book of Acts” period. And inasmuch as that which was spoken by the prophets had not come upon Israel, at the time Paul uttered the words in Acts 13:40, in what sense could it have been said concerning that Nation they then were condemned already, according to John 3:18?
It is not difficult for us today to say to the unbelieving Jew or unbelieving Gentile he is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God. But we might ask this question: was that the reason why Gentiles were condemned while Jesus Christ was on earth? In the language of Romans 10:12 to 17, we learn that faith cometh by hearing the Word. No one can believe without hearing. But in the light of Matthew 15:24 and Matthew 10:5 to 8, Gentiles were not given the opportunity to hear while Christ was in the midst of Israel as Jesus of Nazareth, sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. How could they have believed on Him of whom they had not heard?
Gentiles were condemned in Adam and had been given up by God. Romans 1:28. They were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. They were alienated from the life of God. Ephesians 2:11 and Ephesians 4:18. They were in the world, having no hope, because they were without Christ. Therefore, surely this question presents itself to our minds and hearts: how could they have been condemned already for not believing on Christ when they had had no opportunity to hear of Christ?
This brings us back to the old question as to how we are to reconcile the “whosoever” message of John 3:16 with the exclusive message to Israel, in Matthew 15:24. Does it not seem that the intelligent answer to this question is the fact that John 3:16 to 21 are the words given to the Apostle John, by inspiration, after the judgment mentioned in Acts 13:40 and 41 fell upon the Nation Israel, and salvation was sent to the Gentiles in accordance with Acts 28:28? Certainly, if we say that the Lord Jesus preached in accordance with John 3:16 a “whosoever” message of grace to the Jews and Gentiles alike, while He was on earth, and thus interpret John 3:16 to 21, we find that Matthew 15:24 is a plain contradiction to this teaching. We quote Matthew 15:24: “But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Compare this with John 3:16 and name a Gentile who was saved by the gospel of grace while Christ was on earth.