As we begin the study of Chapter Two of the Book of Acts we emphasize several facts mentioned in this chapter. “When the day of Pentecost was fully come”; “There were devout men, Jews from every nation under heaven.” “Ye men of Israel, . . . Jesus of Nazareth was approved of God in your midst by miracles.” “This is that (concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit) which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” “In fulfillment of Scripture (by David) Christ was raised from the dead to take David’s throne.” “Let all the house of Israel know that God hath made this same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ.” “Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
By careful study of the first eight chapters of Acts we shall observe that as Jesus Christ was a servant of the circumcision during the days of His ministry on earth, sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law, it is also to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that Peter and the Eleven proclaim the message of the resurrected Christ in those eight chapters. Romans 15:8; Galatians 4:4; Matthew 15:24; Acts 11:19. To Israel, in the temple at Jerusalem and in every house, they daily preached Jesus Christ. Acts 5:42. The Jews from every nation under heaven represented all the house of Israel. Those guilty of the rejection and crucifixion of Christ are referred to, in I Thessalonians 2:14, as “the Jews”, and in Acts 4:27 and Acts 5:26 to 32, “all Israel”. This is in agreement with the prophecy of Isaiah.
“AND HE SHALL BE FOR A SANCTUARY; BUT FOR A STONE OF STUMBLING AND FOR A ROCK OF OFFENCE TO BOTH THE HOUSES OF ISRAEL. FOR A GIN AND FOR A SNARE TO THE INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM.”
As we take up the study of the second chapter of Acts let us bear in mind that the Twelve Apostles were wholly ignorant concerning the revelation that the risen Lord afterward gave for the Gentiles, through the Apostle Paul, concerning the Gospel of the Grace of God and that truth concerning the Body of Christ designated in Paul’s closing Epistles, as “the Mystery “which was not made known to the sons of men in other ages, but rather hid in the mind of God. On the contrary we should have our minds saturated with the Old Testament Scriptures, especially the many prophecies concerning Israel’s kingdom and the confirmation ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, who was indeed a man in the midst of Israel, approved of God by miracles and wonders and signs. Acts 2:22.
It would be well to read about the Vine out of Egypt, mentioned in Psalms, 80:8 to 12 and the Vineyard of Jehovah mentioned in Isaiah 5:1 to 7. If we read these Scriptures concerning the Vine and the Vineyard together with the Parable of the Vineyard in Matthew 21:33 to 46, it will help us to understand the place of Israel in the Book of Acts and the ministry that the risen Lord gave to the twelve apostles for that Nation. And it will help us much to read carefully Galatians 2:7 to 9, which we quote.
“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
“(For He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
“And when James, Peter and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”
If God’s Word plainly states that the Twelve were the Lord’s chosen messengers to Israel and that Paul was His chosen apostle to the Gentiles, let us bow to the authority of the Word.
PETER AND THE ELEVEN
After the first chapter of Acts seven of the twelve apostles are never mentioned by name; only included in “Peter with the Eleven”. The death of James, the brother of John, is mentioned in Acts 12:2. John is mentioned in his ministry with Peter. And James, the Lord’s brother, is mentioned several times. That James, with Peter and John, seemed to be pillars of the church. Peter is mentioned fifty-seven times in the first half of the Book of Acts. His name disappears from that record about 45 A.D. Aside from Paul’s words in Galatians 2:7 to 14 the last mention of Peter is recorded in Acts 15:7, until he wrote his two epistles. In the last half of the Book of Acts Paul is mentioned more than 100 times and all other disciples are mentioned in connection with Paul’s ministry, from Acts 16 to 28.
According to the Acts record, none of the Twelve preached outside of the land of the Jews, though both James and Peter afterwards wrote to the dispersion, or the twelve tribes scattered abroad. James 1:1 and I Peter 1:1 and 2.
According to the same Record, none of the Twelve preached the gospel of the uncircumcision. Only one message was preached by one of them to the uncircumcision, and that was the “word” which God sent to Israel. Acts 10:35 and 36. That one message was preached to the household of a Gentile, who feared God, who loved Israel, who prayed to God always and who gave much alms to Israel. He was a just, devout man. Acts 10:1 and 2 and Acts 10:22.
Concerning the Book of Acts, Sir Robert Anderson, one of God’s most gifted Bible teachers, declares, in his “Silence of God”: “My contention is that the Acts, as a whole is the record of a temporary and transitional dispensation in which blessing was again offered to the Jew and again rejected.” “The right understanding of the Acts of the Apostles . . . a Book which is primarily the record, not as commonly supposed, of the founding of the Christian Church, but of the apostasy of the favoured nation.”
Let us not consider this learned brother as final authority, or his exegesis as infallible, neither let us be prejudiced by the teaching of any other so-called “big” Bible teachers who insist that the day of Pentecost ushered in the “dispensation of the mystery” mentioned in Ephesians 3:9, but let us receive their testimonies and search the Scriptures daily. It is rather difficult to believe that the “dispensation of the mystery”, with reference to the untraceable riches of Christ among the Gentiles, began on a Jewish feast day before the Apostle to the Gentiles was converted and commissioned, even seven years before Peter was authorized, by the “sheet of unclean creatures”, to preach the gospel of the circumcision to one respectable God-fearing Gentile, who apparently was an uncircumcised proselyte.
As the Law was committed unto Moses for Israel, so was the Mystery for the Gentiles that deposit which was committed to Paul’s trust. It would be just as intelligent and Scriptural to believe that the Law was committed to Israel first and Moses chosen afterward, as to believe that the Mystery among the Gentiles was revealed before the Apostle to the Gentiles was chosen and commissioned.
The Law dispensation was temporary and parenthetical. Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 8:11 to 13. So also is the Dispensation of the Mystery. Ephesians 3:1 to 11; Ephesians 4:9 to 12; Colossians 1:24 to 28. There was an overlapping of the Law dispensation into the “Acts” period, during which period even Paul was authorized to become as one under the Law to those who were under the Law, while God’s order was “to the Jew first.” I Corinthians 9:20; Acts 13:46. This ceased with the revelation or the proclamation of the Dispensation of the Mystery.
This period of Divine Gentile favor will come suddenly to an end whether or not we can be certain that its beginning was sudden or gradual. With its close “the times of the Gentiles” will be fulfilled. Luke 21:24; Romans 11:25 and 26. At that time the gospel of the kingdom shall again be proclaimed and the kingdom shall be restored to Israel and David’s throne will be occupied by Wonderful, the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 and 7. Matthew 24:11 to 24.
Read carefully the Parable of the Vineyard, Matthew 21:33 to 45, to which we have referred. We quote Matthew 21:38 to 41.
“But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come. let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard and slew him. When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
“They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him their fruits in their seasons.”
Judging from these words of Israel’s Messiah and His Words of Matthew 23:38, certainly we would anticipate the desolation and almost complete annihilation of Israel with the death of Christ. But that awful judgment was postponed for some years.
Matthew 23:38 and 39:
“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
But we should study these pronouncements in the light of Matthew 22:7 and Luke 21:20, which we also 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”
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies. then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.”
And all of these statements of the Lord Jesus should be carefully studied in the light of what actually took place during the 37 years following the rejection, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, until the destruction of Jerusalem about 70 A.D.
About 25 years after the day of Pentecost was fully come, Paul hasted to reach Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. Acts 20:16. Most assuredly if Israel was celebrating their Pentecost in their temple at Jerusalem, in 58 A.D., preserved and protected by God under the covenants He had made with Israel, and if that nation was dwelling in their land and worshipping in their temple, enjoying the favor of the Roman government, God did not fulfill Matthew 22:7 and Luke 21:20 during the “Acts” period and did not begin that awful judgment until after Paul’s declaration of Acts 28:25 to 28. In that declaration Paul quoted God’s judgment pronounced by Isaiah. Isaiah 6:9 to 12.
Let us observe some facts concerning the Lord’s message to Israel during the years of Christ’s earthly ministry and during the years covered by the Book of Acts.
1. John the Baptist was to turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord. Luke 1:16; Luke 1:80; Acts 13:24.
2. John the Baptist baptized with water that Christ might be manifest to Israel. John 1:31.
3. God sent Christ to Israel; raised up a Saviour for Israel. Acts 5:30; Acts 13:23.
4. God sent His Son, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. Galatians 4:4.
5. Christ was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matthew 15:24.
6. Christ was sent to redeem Israel from Gentile government, dominion and authority, in fulfillment of covenants made with Abraham and David, according to promises made by all of Israel’s prophets since the world began. Luke 1:67 to 80.
7. Christ was born to occupy the throne of David and reign over the house of Israel for ever. Luke 1:31 to 34.
8. Israel’s house is to be desolate until they shall say: “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 23:39.
9. Christ on the cross prayed to the Father for Israel: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Luke 23:34.
10. God offered to send Christ back from heaven, if Israel would repent. Acts 3:19 to 21.
11. God raised Christ from the dead to sit on the throne of David. Acts 2:28 to 33.
12. God raised Christ from the dead to give Israel the sure mercies of David. Acts 13:32 to 34.
13. God exalted the resurrected Christ to be a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:30 to 32.
14. As Israel rejected the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth, Israel likewise rejected the Holy Spirit’s witness that the Son of Man was standing in heaven. Acts 7:51 and 52.
15. Israel’s continued rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit was the unpardonable sin of Matthew 12:31 to 34. Read Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6 And Romans 11:7 to 32.
16. Seven or eight years after the death of Christ repentance unto life was granted unto the Gentiles. Acts 11:18. This by the mouth of Peter. Acts 15:7.
17. Several years still later the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles by Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27; Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; I Timothy 2:7; II Timothy 1:11; Ephesians 3:1 and 3:8; and Colossians 1:24 to 28.
18. Salvation was being sent to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. Romans 11:11. Gentiles obtained mercy through Israel’s unbelief. Romans 11:30.
19. With the close of Acts the Nation Israel was set aside and God then declared (about 63 A.D..) “salvation is sent unto the Gentiles” Acts 28:28. Salvation sent unto the Gentiles after the “Acts” period was independent of Israel’s covenants and blessings.
20. It was after the “Acts” period that the Apostle Paul declared himself the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ, entrusted with the unsearchable riches of Christ for the Gentiles, the custodian of the “Mystery” among the Gentiles. To him for the Gentiles was committed the dispensation of the grace of God; to make all see the dispensation of the Mystery. Ephesians 3:1 to 11; Colossians 1:24 to 28.
THE DAY OF PENTECOST
The regular annual feasts of Jehovah are set in order in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus. The feast of Pentecost was set fifty days after the feast of first fruits. The day of Pentecost was fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, fifty days after He became the first fruits of them that slept.
The Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ went back to heaven, in fulfillment of the Lord’s own words and in fulfillment of the words of Israel’s prophets. So we should know that the two great events mentioned on the day of Pentecost in God’s message to Israel, by the mouth of Peter, were, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled; namely the ascension of Jesus, the Son of God, and the advent of the Holy Spirit.
Concerning these two great happenings Peter quoted Joel and David. Both of these prophecies pertained to Israel and Israel’s kingdom. Neither Joel nor David had any revelation or information concerning the Church which is Christ’s Body, nor any light upon this parenthetical age of Divine Gentile favor. Neither did any other prophet, priest or king. This period and program of the Body of Christ, designated after the “Acts” period as the Mystery, was foreordained before the foundation of the world but was not prophesied by all the prophets since the foundation of the world, as was Israel’s kingdom. We do greatly err when we confuse the fact, the hope, the calling, the people and the promises of the Messianic kingdom and David’s throne guaranteed to Israel and Gentiles with all that God purposed in Christ Jesus, concerning the Head and members of the Body before the world began. Ephesians 1:3 and 4; II Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 3:11; Titus 1:2.
God’s purpose and program, declared in the second chapter of Acts, was that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. God’s purpose and program of Ephesians, Colossians and II Timothy fulfilled no Scriptures, for all prophets were silent concerning those truths which were hid in God. Ephesians 3:6 to 9. Colossians 1:24 to 28. This should teach us to obey Philippians 1:10, “distinguish things that differ?” (R.V.) The Church, which is Christ’s Body was not the subject of prophecy. Several thousand Israelites, on the day of Pentecost, were added to the Church of God. Let us be careful, intelligent, and spiritual in the matter of separating in the ministries of Peter and Paul, that which was promised by the prophets and that which was unknown to the sons of men in other ages. Prophesied truths are generally identified with covenants. Who are Israelites? To whom pertaineth covenants?
THE KINGDOM REPENTANCE MESSAGE
Then we compare the message of Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” with the repentance and covenant messages of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, on the one hand, and the grace message of the second chapter of Ephesians, revealed by the risen Lord through Paul, and truly we have a contrast, things that differ. No grace messenger of today has Divine authority to preach to any one that God-given message of Acts 2:38 any more than he has to impose upon members of the Body of Christ the Kingdom program and message of Matthew 10:5 to 8 or Mark 16:14 to 18.
A comparison of the Third Gospel, written by Luke, with the Acts, written by the same Luke, will prove both interesting and profitable. Luke’s Gospel closes with the statement that it behooved Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. These were the words of the Lord Jesus after He had said to two of His disciples, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have written; Ought not Christ to have suffered and entered into His glory?”
In Acts 2:23 we are told that Christ was delivered according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.
This causes us to ask the question, “how could Christ have offered in good faith, the kingdom to Israel before His death and resurrection, if His death was foreknown, foreordained, and foretold and therefore inevitable at a set time. He had said “For this cause came I unto this hour.” John 12:27 to 31.
According to prophecy, the glory of Christ was to follow His sufferings; therefore it would seem that the kingdom should have been offered to Israel after the Son of man had fulfilled the Scriptures concerning His death and resurrection rather than before “they had fulfilled all that was written of Him and put Him in the sepulchre,” Acts 13:37 to 31. And another question we might well ask is concerning the prophecy of Joel and Israel’s Messianic kingdom. Could that kingdom have been established without the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the other promises mentioned in the second chapter of Joel? According to the words of the Lord Jesus, His death and ascension were necessary before the Holy Spirit could come. John 16:7 to 9; John 7:39.
In closing let us suggest that we diligently search the Scriptures and carefully consider this question lest we thoughtlessly or hastily answer this question; “what new Divine movement began on the day of Pentecost?” Was it the birthday of the Church which is His Body? Was it the beginning of the dispensation of the grace of God, mentioned in Ephesians 3:1 and 2? Was it the beginning of the dispensation of the mystery? Ephesians 3:9. Was it the beginning of a new Jewish or Israelitish church or the continuation of the same church under a new covenant? Just what began on the day of Pentecost?
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.