Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 5
CALLING OUT A PEOPLE FOR HIS NAME
Turn to Acts Chapter 15. We showed that the Old Testament program as it was laid out in Psalms Chapter 2 never gave the slightest hint of this 1900+ years we call the Church Age. The Old Testament program foretold the coming of the Nation of Israel on the scene by virtue of the Abrahamic Covenant. And how The Messiah came and they rejected Him, they crucified Him, and after that was to come the Tribulation; that awful period of seven years spoken of in Daniel. And then Christ would return and set up His Kingdom. Not a mention of the Church in there whatsoever! But, as we’ve been pointing out, just when it seemed like the rebellion was reaching its pinnacle under Saul of Tarsus, God saved the chief rebel by His Grace, on the road to Damascus.
In Acts 15, we saw how the Jewish believers at Jerusalem got all shook up over the fact that Paul and Barnabas were bringing Gentiles into the Church at Antioch and, consequently, they sent men from Jerusalem to check it out. It caused so much consternation that they requested Paul and Barnabas come down to Jerusalem to ‘call them on the carpet’ because they were bringing Gentiles in and offering them God’s Salvation. That was just an anathema (a formal ecclesiastical ban) to the Jew of that time! Then, I showed how Peter had been silent during all the first part of this great controversy in Acts 15 until finally, Sovereignly, God reminded him of what he had experienced twelve years before when he had gone up to the house of Cornelius. And, I stress the fact that Peter, the good Law-keeping Jew, didn’t really want to go to Cornelius. I put it as ‘heel marks in the sand from Joppa to Caesarea.’ But, God forced it for this situation right here. Had Peter not had that experience of having Gentiles saved in Acts Chapter 10, I doubt he would have come to Paul’s defense in Acts 15. And had not Peter come to Paul’s defense in Chapter 15, I’m afraid Christianity would have stopped in its tracks! But God, in His Sovereignty, wouldn’t allow that to happen:
“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, ‘Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.‘”
Let’s look at what Peter had to say. “And when there had been much disputing (I am sure this was later on after the meeting had begun), Peter rose up and said unto them, ‘Men and brethren, you know how that a good while ago (12 years ago) God made choice among us, that the Gentiles (remember the house of Cornelius) by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel (the Good News) and believe.'”
“Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, (the Gentile believers at Antioch) which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Now, that was the Law, and Peter, of all people, stresses the fact that it was a burden, it was a yoke:
“Then all the multitude (that crowd of Jews meeting in Jerusalem to consider whether Gentiles could have access to Israel’s God) kept silence, (after all, when Peter spoke they respected him) and gave audience (listened) to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered,…”
Most people automatically think it was the James of Peter, James and John; but it wasn’t. That James, who was one of the Twelve, was beheaded some time before. This James was not even a believer during Christ’s earthly ministry. He was one of the other children of Joseph and Mary. We call him a half-brother of Christ. The amazing thing is that, at this point in time, Peter is no longer the chief spokesman. When we study the Book of Acts, I always point out that beginning in Acts Chapters 1 and 2, Peter is the spokesman. He is the moderator – the head man. But, by the time we get to this situation, Peter has been sitting off in the corner, not really having a part in the discussion because he’s not part of the wheels anymore. Sovereignly, God shakes him up, brings him to the forefront, and he makes this statement that God had shown him Gentiles could be saved even as Jews! So this James, who is the moderator, shows just how far the Kingdom program has already slipped — that Peter is no longer the chief spokesman.
Acts 15:13b,14 continued
“…Men and brethren, hearken unto me (listen): Simeon (Peter) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.”
Now, who are ‘a people?’ The Body of Christ; The Gentile believers! There can be Jews, but for the most part, this Age of Grace has reached into the Gentile people to bring out of them ‘a people’, or the Bride. The two words, ‘a people,‘ are the calling out of the Bride of Christ, that Gentile Bride. The Holy Spirit has been working amongst (predominately again) the Gentiles. We are not going to leave the Jews out completely; there are some, but it’s predominantly a Gentile Bride. Then verse 15 (watch this carefully):
“And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,…” This calling out of a people – and to this, James says, agrees the words of the prophets; ‘as it is written….’ Now, verse 16:“After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:….”
Underline those first two words, ‘After this:’ now what have you got? Well, you’ve got a time setting. Now, you haven’t got a month and a day and a year, but you’ve got something denoting a time factor. So, ‘After this:’ well, after what? After ‘the calling out of a people for His name!’ See that?! It’s so easy to just read and not see what you read. But, all this just falls into place if you look at it carefully. James says, ‘yes,’ prophesy indicated that God would call out a people for His name. And when that is finished, when that has been concluded, after this, then what’s God going to do? Rebuild again, or He will return (verse 16), and rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. In other words, who is He going to go back and work with? His Covenant people, Israel! But in the meantime, He’s calling out a Gentile Bride. Now, do you see that? To enlighten us a little more on that, let’s turn to Romans Chapter 11.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
This is the chapter where Paul draws the analogy of grafting a tree. I’ve got a horticulturist in one of my classes who loves to graft, and he showed me a perfect example of it just a few weeks ago. This fellow had taken an ordinary native pecan, cut it off, and grafted in two or three other new varieties; and now he could show me the results. It’s unbelievable! He had clusters of pecans as big as my fist! That’s what grafting can do. He also explained that if he wanted to cut off those grafts, he could take another native pecan branch and graft it right back in – no problem.
That’s what Paul is describing here in Romans Chapter 11, concerning the Nation of Israel. They were the native tree! But, after dealing with the Nation of Israel for almost 2,000 years from the call of Abraham (1,500 years under the Law), they rejected, and rejected, until finally what did God do? He broke off those native branches and He grafted in the Gentiles. Then, Paul uses the analogy that if God could take a wild branch and graft it in, then how much easier will it be someday for Him to break off these grafted branches and bring back the natural – speaking of His coming back to deal once again with His Covenant people. As you come down through that Chapter, in verse 25, Paul writes, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be (what’s the next word?) “…ignorant….(!)“ We have to be careful in our use of language. We can be ignorant and still have a pretty high intelligence level, can’t we? Any one of us can be totally ignorant of a particular discipline, without having a low IQ, because ignorance is brought about by a lack of teaching; a lack of learning. That’s the only reason I teach.
All I try to do is get people to come into The Book and see what it really says. I’m not interested in making a Methodist something other than a Methodist, or making a Presbyterian something else, or a Baptist something else. I just want to get everyone to where they can study The Word of God on their own. As many of the people in my classes who are Sunday School teachers and deacons have found, they can go back into their local situation and teach The Book to others. So, Paul says here he would not have us be ignorant of this mystery or this secret, this very fact that has been hidden, even in the Scriptures. A lady here in Oklahoma said the first thing she got from my teaching was that, indeed, the Church was hidden until it was revealed. You know, I read something like that and I just about hit the ceiling, because this is what I want people to understand! What does The Book say about these things? Verse 25. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery (secret), lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that (here’s the mystery)blindness in part….” The words ‘in part’ mean not forever, but for a period of time. There’s a good illustration of that in Acts 13. Paul and Barnabas have just begun their missionary journey and, as they have taken off from Antioch, they first stop at the island of Cyprus. This is a prophetic picture of the Nation of Israel.
“And when they had gone through the isle (of Cyprus) unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus (a Roman), a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.” This Gentile officer, or political leader, wants to learn more of the word of God, but his right-hand man is a Jew, a sorcerer, and a false teacher. In verse 8 this Jew is called Elymas, the sorcerer:
“But Elymas, the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.” He tried to keep Paul and Barnabas from this Roman deputy. “…seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.” Have you got the picture? He’s doing everything he can to keep this Gentile from Salvation.
“Then Saul, (who is also called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, ‘O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season.’ And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.”
Look carefully at these verses. “Then Saul (Paul), filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes upon him, and said (to this Jew), ‘O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease (or stop) to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now (Paul continues), behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind (now watch it carefully), not seeing the sun (or daylight; for how long?) for a season.'” Not for the rest of his days, but for a time. Now, what’s this a picture of? The Nation of Israel! Everywhere Paul and Barnabas, and later Paul and Silas, went in their missionary journeys, who was their chief opposition? The Jews! And, when he came down to Thessalonica, Paul even says that the dishonorable women withstood him — Jewish women. So, what did God do? Pick it up as we go back to Romans 11:10, to follow our line of thought on Israel being blinded even as Elymas was.
“Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.”
“Let their eyes be darkened….” — now this is out of Isaiah. God knew all this was coming, yet it had never been revealed until now, as Paul lays it out so clearly: “Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.” Then he goes on to the description of grafting. Now, back to Romans 11:25: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part (or for a time) is happened to Israel (what’s the next word? A time word! Not a month, day or year, but a specific time in God’s program that blindness is going to cover the Nation of Israel, spiritually) …until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” Now, the fullness of the Gentiles is what? — that ‘calling out of a people for His name’ back in Acts Chapter 15 — the Body of Christ! Now, when the Body of Christ is full, then that period of time will come to an end. God will remove the Body, and He’ll pick up where He left off with His Covenant people, Israel. There’s an interesting sidelight to all of this back in Luke 21. Running concurrently, side by side, are two great fillings; that’s what I like to call them. Not only the filling up of the Body of Christ, but also a filling up of the cup of iniquity of the Gentiles, or the world in general.
“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
At your leisure, read verses 20-23. For now we’ll jump on down to verse 24 where Jesus is speaking. And He says to the Twelve, “And they (that is the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword and shall be led away captive into all nations:…” Now see, that is the clue in this verse that we’re not talking about the return of Christ. We’re not talking about Armageddon.We’re talking about Titus in 70 A.D.
The attack by Titus, remember, was about 40 years beyond Christ’s Crucifixion, and so he was foretelling what is going to happen. And, we know it did from history in 70 A.D. They fell by the edge of the sword. They were besieged by the Romans! It was one of the most awful sieges in all of human history! I won’t take time to go into all of the details, but it was awful! In fact, one of the things that made the Romans so vicious (when they finally got over the walls, and knocked down the gates) was that, as those Roman soldiers would be climbing their ladders to get over the walls, the Jews would pour boiling oil on them. This just infuriated the Romans! And so, when they finally made it in, they were ruthless! They had no mercy, and that’s what Jesus is referring to when He said, “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive to all nations: (and here’s the crucial part)and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, (what’s the next word?) until (there’s that word again. There’s coming a time when the Gentiles will no longer have Jerusalem under their feet. So Jerusalem, Jesus said, will be trodden down by the Gentiles) the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
I’d like to illustrate this as two concurrent vessels, if I may call it that. Beginning back in 606 B.C. That’s back before the Cross. Nebuchadnezzar, remember, came from Babylon and besieged the city of Jerusalem; he destroyed the Temple and took the Jews captive. From that point on, after the Babylonian empire, came the Medes and the Persians, and then came the Greeks, and then came the Romans, and up until the time Jesus is speaking, Jerusalem and Palestine had been overrun by these succeeding Gentile empires.
Even up to our present time of 1991: all this time, for the most part, Palestine and the Jew have been under the heel of the Gentile. Granted in 1948, they seemingly became a sovereign state; but for all practical purposes, are they all that sovereign? Not really. They wouldn’t survive a day without Uncle Sam and the wealth that comes from this nation, although a lot of it comes from the Jewish people. But still, they are not what you would call a sovereign state, fully independent of the Gentiles. Now then, from 606 B.C. up until Christ returns, Jerusalem will not have peace (and we don’t know exactly when His Second Coming will be). Now, I’m not talking about the Rapture of the Church, but at His Second Coming to the city of Jerusalem — that is when Jerusalem will finally have her peace – not until! They can talk peace until they’re blue in the face over there in Madrid, or Washington, or anyplace else, but there will be no peace for Jerusalem until the Prince of Peace returns.
All this period of time called the ‘times of the Gentiles,’ is like filling a container with the iniquity of the Gentiles. Running concurrently with that now, from sometime just beyond the Cross until The Lord takes the Church out, is the fullness of the Gentiles, and the coming in of a people for His name, which we refer to as the Body of Christ. Do you see how beautifully those two work together. While God is calling out the Body, during that same time, the Gentiles are filling their cup of iniquity, until the Second Coming. Let’s go all the way back to Revelation and you’ll get the full picture of how this iniquity is going to fill up.
“Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”