Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 3 * BOOK 53
All right, now before we go on into our verse-by-verse study, I want to make another timeline explanation so that you get a clear picture (like I said in the very first program in our introduction to James, which was now six programs back), that not only were these little Jewish epistles written to Jews who thought the Tribulation was coming right down the pipe in their lifetime, but it is also appropriate for the Jews who will be living when the Tribulation yet comes, which is, of course, we think near in the future.
So in order to explain the opening up of the timeline I have here on the chalkboard, I’m just going to briefly again look at where the Scripture delineates the Apostle Paul as the Apostle of the Gentiles – and no one else has that distinction. So turn with me if you will to Acts chapter 9 and, after his conversion on the road to Damascus before he even gets his sight back, God speaks to a believing Jew in Damascus and gives him this tremendous bit of information.
Now I know this is a complete departure from everything that has been going on because, as we’ve always taught, all the way up through the Old Testament economy, especially from the call of Abraham in Genesis chapter 12, God pulled off of the mainstream of humanity from the offspring of Adam, one man – and through that one man brought about the Nation of Israel, or what we call the Jewish people. We’re also going to see that, after Israel has rejected the Messiah and they reject Peter and the Eleven in their preaching, the day will come when they will be dispersed once again back into the whole river of humanity, which of course, began with the invasion of Titus of Rome in 70 AD.
Now then, prior to that (about 30 years in 40 AD), we have this conversion of Saul of Tarsus, which leads to another group of people pulled off of the mainstream of humanity, and it’s the Church, the Body of Christ, the Gentile believer, which is still being pulled out even as I speak. All right, now let’s just look at that briefly before we go back and look at James.
“But the Lord said unto him, (that is unto Ananias) Go thy way: for he (Saul of Tarsus) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles,…” Now I always have to stop and qualify. What did the average Jew on the street think of Gentiles? Oh, they were the pits, and they were. They were pagan, they were idolaters, they had no morality. And so the Jews never had anything to do with the Gentiles.
In fact, whenever I get on this I always have to think of Jonah. Jonah was the perfect example of a good godly Jew. And when the Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh, that pagan Gentile city, what did Jonah do? Well, he went the opposite direction. Instead of going east across the desert, he gets on ship and he’s out on the Mediterranean, see? In other words I always put it this way just for the sake of keeping people awake. Jonah was such a good Jew that he’d rather walk the plank out there in the middle of the Mediterranean as go to a Gentile city. Well, that was their mentality. They were to have nothing to do with Gentiles, unless God made the exception, as He did with Jonah.
All right, so when the Lord reveals to this good Jew, Saul, that He’s going to send him to the Gentiles, I want you to realize that must have been a shock supreme. “Me? A good Jew, go to those pagan Gentiles?” That’s where you’re going Saul! And I’m going to “call out a people for my name.” All right, so we’ll finish the verse here in Acts 15, and then I’ll take the verse where I just took that from.
“But the Lord said unto him, (Ananias) Go thy way: for he (Saul of Tarsus) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:”So the Jew can become believers just like the Gentiles, even today, but they must come to salvation the same way the Gentiles do. And Paul’s Gospel of salvation tells us, that we must believe in our hearts that Jesus died for us, was buried, and rose again., and that will give us eternal life. And then He says in verse 16:
“For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” And we know Paul suffered more than anyone, with the exception of Christ Himself! All right, so that was the beginning, then, of God turning toward the Gentile race of people and beginning to let Israel slip through the cracks. All right, now, years later, of course, after about twelve years, in about 52 AD, Paul has now been out there ministering among the Gentiles especially up in Asia Minor – and he would establish these little Gentile congregations based on his Gospel of Grace, not of works but by faith plus nothing.
However, the Judaisers from the Jerusalem church would come in behind him, and begin to cast doubt on that and say, “You can’t be saved by faith alone, you have to keep the Law, you have to practice circumcision.” So they had this counsel in Jerusalem in about 52 AD where Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem and confronted the Twelve about this problem.
And as I shared with Laura, I had one young lady (I couldn’t imagine that she had this kind of insight because she’s only been a believer out of a religion for the last six-seven months), and she asked the question, “Weren’t the Twelve getting awfully close to the anathema that Paul spoke of in Galatians 1:6-9, that ‘if any preach any other Gospel than what I have preached then let them be accursed.’?” And I said, “You know, I’ve thought of that.” Yes they were close. Because they were promoting it evidently. They said they didn’t command it but they certainly didn’t forbid it, and that’s why Paul and Barnabas go up to Jerusalem and confront the Twelve over this question.
All right, now, the reason I’m rehearsing all that is because I’m taking you now to Acts chapter 15 (and at the culmination of this Jerusalem counsel now in around 51 or 52 AD, when Peter, James and John finally make a gentleman’s agreement with the Apostle Paul that they would confine their ministry to Israel and they would quit sticking their nose in Paul’s dealing with the Gentiles, and Paul and Barnabas could go to the Gentiles). That was a gentleman’s agreement, and I don’t think they ever broke that agreement after they shook hands on it, and the Bible doesn’t indicate they did.
All right, now then, here’s where James, of the James and Peter and John that writes in the back of our Bible – this is the statement that James makes at the end of this counsel in Jerusalem. Starting in verse 13:
“And after they had held their peace, (in other words, the argument was finally settled and everything quieted down) James (not Peter. James who is moderator of this Jerusalem counsel) answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14. Simeon (or Peter) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” What’s he referring to? The house of Cornelius, when Peter was forced by the miraculous power of God to go to that Gentile Roman household, and he saw the proof that God was now saving Gentiles – even those pagan Romans, see? All right, so James says, “this is the conclusion that at the first He did visit the Gentiles to take out of them (out of the Gentiles) a people for His name.” And then look at verse 16.
“After this (after what? The calling out of the Church, the Body of Christ, the calling out a people from amongst the Gentiles) I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David,…” In other words, after He’s through calling out the Church, God will pick up where He left off with the Nation of Israel. Now, since this Old Testament timeline has been interrupted, I’m going to draw a second timeline to clarify. This top timeline was interrupted because God is going to call out a people for His name beginning with the Apostle Paul there in about 40 AD, and that is still going on today. And since this top timeline was interrupted, God just funneled the Nation of Israel because of their unbelief, back into the flow of humanity in what we call the dispersion in 70 AD, and they were scattered amongst all the Gentiles of the world.
Now here’s where people get confused when I talk about two Gospels. Well, it stands to reason, while you’re in that transitional period of almost 30 years here on the timeline, that you have Peter and the Eleven still preaching to the Nation of Israel. And their message was believing that Jesus was the Christ, the One they had been looking for. So that message was called the Gospel of the Kingdom. Repentance and water baptism was also preached under that Gospel of the Kingdom. But before that Gospel of the Kingdom message comes to an end (and it did come to an end), God has already set the Apostle Paul aside and sent him out with that revealed mystery, the Gospel of Grace that you and I must believe in our hearts for salvation tonight. Oh, how that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again! Plus NOTHING ELSE!!
So the two are operating for a little while contemporary with one another. Peter and the Eleven are still preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Jews, and Paul has now begun to preach the Gospel of Grace to the Gentiles. That stands to reason. That’s a transitional phenomenon. But once Israel has finally fallen through the cracks because of their unbelief, and God has finished dealing with them and He’s going only now with Paul and his Gospel, then yes, now there is one Gospel of salvation. There’s one Gospel for Jew and Gentile, black and white, rich and poor – there is only one plan of salvation today.
Now, of course, we know (as we saw a little bit in the last program) that when the Gentile Body of Christ is finally filled (and we think we’re getting real close), it’s not going to go back into the human race (like God did with the Jews), but rather God will just take the Body of Christ off the earth. It’s going to be taken out. It’s going to be caught up in what we call Paul’s teaching of the Rapture.
After the Rapture happens, then God will bring Israel back onto the scene, and as we’ve already seen, she has now been reappearing since 1948 – she’s been amongst the family of nations in dispersion and so, once again now, after the Rapture is over, the world is going to be faced with this seven years of Tribulation that is still on the timeline. You can’t cast it aside because it’s prophesied. And so this seven years is still out in the future. This Body of Christ out of the Gentile world can also include some Jews, we’re not going to leave them out. There are not many but there can be. And so once that Body of Christ is removed and Raptured out, then will come the wrath and vexation that has been promised ever since the Old Testament prophets. When the seven years have run their course, then Christ will yet return and yet set up the 1,000 year Kingdom rule.
Now the reason I’ve done all this is; as these Jews who have been out here in the dispersion now for almost 2,000 years – as they come back and establish the homeland, and they are being prepared for these end-time events that were originally intended to come here, just a few years after Christ’s ascension – that means that these little Jewish epistles are just as appropriate for Jews who will be facing and going into this horrible seven-year period now as it would have been if the Tribulation had happened back there. Now does that make sense? Am I making it plain? So yes, you remember in my very first program six weeks back I said that, yes, these little epistles are not just for the Jews of the day that the Scriptures were written, but it would also be for Jews as they were approaching the end-time Tribulation as we still see it.
So, hopefully that’ll clarify it and that’s why I told you, I’m not putting it at one end or the other, I’m putting it at both. It was appropriate for the Jews of Peter’s day because they thought this was all coming, and it’s appropriate for the Jews of today. Now the question came up at break time, “Was Peter looking for the Rapture? Or the Second Coming?” Peter didn’t have, I don’t think, a foggy notion of the Rapture, and I’ve got a reason for that. Now before we start James, I’ll let you look at that one. It’s found over in II Peter. We’ve used it over and over through the years, but let’s look at it again, and then we’re going to come back to James.
Now you remember a couple of programs back, I put it on the board that II Peter was written at the end of Peter’s life about 68 AD and almost within, I think, a month of Paul’s writing his last letter II Timothy, and both men spoke of their martyrdom. They both realized that they were not going to continue on and they were not going to see the return of Christ, but that they would be martyred.
All right, so before Peter loses his life, and as he writes his second letter, verse 15 of chapter 3, a verse I’ve used many, many times to show how that even Peter now recognizes that Paul is now the man of the hour. It’s Paul’s epistles where the human race has to go for all their instructions during the Church Age. And that’s why many will miss glory because they haven’t gone to Paul’s teaching for salvation.
II Peter 3:15-16a
“And account (or understand) that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; (and it always has been. God has always been concerned about the salvation of lost humanity.) even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath (past tense, it’s all done) written unto you;” (Jews) 16. As also in all his epistles (which makes me think that II Timothy is either just written or Paul is now in the process – the Holy Spirit knew – but anyway, Peter writes by inspiration) speaking in them of these things; (that is things pertaining to the salvation of the whole human race. Now this is amazing. Here’s old Peter at the end of his life having been a contemporary now of the Apostle Paul for some 25 years, and yet he says,) in which are some things hard to be understood.”
Now, when people write and tell me I’m saying things that they’ve never heard before, and that they find kind of hard to swallow, I can understand that, because, here dear old Peter went with the Lord for three years, and preached for umpteen years and, yet, after 25 years he couldn’t comprehend what Paul had written. It was beyond him. All right, so he says finishing the verse.
II Peter 3:16b
“…which they that are unlearned (that is in the Scriptures) and unstable wrest, (twist) as they do also the other scriptures (and if you want to know what’s going to happen to false teachers, here it is) unto their own destruction.” (their eternal doom)
All right, so now then we’ve established that after the Church Age is finished and the Body of Christ is Raptured out, then the Tribulation is still facing the whole human race, and Israel in particular. All right, so now we’ll start looking at the little letter of James. James chapter 1 verse 1. I think I clarified it in an earlier program, but this is not the original James of the Twelve. He’s been beheaded some time before. So this must be the half-brother of Jesus, a son of Joseph and Mary.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to (now watch this – my, I guess if I’ve taught anything over the years, it’s to watch who a portion of Scripture is written to. It’s tantamount to understanding it. All right, and he says he’s writing to) the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad, greeting.”
Now you want to remember that Israel, before being dispersed in 70 AD, had already been dispersed way back in 606 BC (between that and 550 BC) with the Babylonian captivity. And after the Babylonian captivity, only a few thousand Jews came back to Jerusalem in order to get ready for Christ’s first advent. So what happened to the rest of them? Well, they were scattered throughout the whole then-known world. Well, then, you see, it’s going to be compounded a few years after all of this has taken place with the next big dispersion, which is the destruction by Titus. But when James is writing about Jews dispersed, I think the primary reason was the horrible persecution of Saul of Tarsus.
Now then, let’s go back to the book of Acts and pick this up a minute – how that those Jews of Christ’s day who had embraced Him as the Messiah, the Promised Redeemer of Israel, were persecuted to no end by this religious Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. All right, so as you come back then to Acts, we pick up who these Jews are that James is writing to. Come all the way back to Acts chapter 8. Stephen has just been stoned in chapter 7. Now, so I don’t lose you or my television audience, remember what are we establishing? Who are these scattered Jews to whom James is writing? Well, they were Jewish believers of the Kingdom Gospel that Jesus was the Christ, but they had been ravaged by the persecution of Saul of Tarsus.
“And Saul, (the one who becomes the Apostle Paul) was consenting unto his (Stephen’s) death. (Now here it is.) And at that time, there was a great persecution against the church(or the assembly) which was at Jerusalem;…”
Well, who was that assembly at Jerusalem? Believing Jews. Believing Jews who had come out of Christ’s earthly ministry (and others, you remember, on the day of Pentecost, how many were added? Three thousand). So that Jerusalem congregation of believing Jews that believed that Jesus was the Christ, was a goodly number. But old Saul came in there and as he said himself in Galatians 1, he what? He wasted it. He destroyed it. And how did he destroy it? By causing them to scatter like a bunch of quail. All right, so here it is.
“…and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” They were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria – and that’s north of Jerusalem, but I always make the point – who refused to leave? The apostles! Now these people that hang on that Great Commission, I always ask them, why in the world didn’t the Twelve go out and keep the Great Commission? Well, they can’t answer.
But you see they couldn’t do that until they had the King and the Kingdom. Israel couldn’t be an evangelist to the Gentiles, according to the Old Testament, until they had the King and the Kingdom, and then, yes, they would be able to. But, as of yet, that hadn’t happened – so these Jewish believers gathered there in the church in Jerusalem are scattered throughout the then-known world because of Saul’s persecution. Now, we can go look at one more in Acts chapter 11 verse 19. And if there’s one verse that opened up this whole scenario to my understanding, this is it.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” Do you see how plain that is? They weren’t scattering to go out and take the Gospel to the Gentiles. No. All they understood was the Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah – and as a result of Saul’s persecution, they are now going out and that’s what they’re proclaiming to other Jews; that Jesus of Nazareth was the Promised Messiah.