Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 75
CONNECTING THE DOTS OF SCRIPTURE – PART 23
Genesis – Revelation
Okay, it’s good to have everybody again after your break. We are going right back in where we left off, because these minutes go too fast. I only get a complaint once in awhile and it’s “don’t make announcements; you haven’t got time for that.”
So we’ll just go right back into Acts chapter 11. Peter has just finished rehearsing with the Jewish believers of Jerusalem his tremendous experience up there at that Roman’s house in Caesarea. They were military people, no doubt, and how God instantly saved them the moment they believed Peter’s message—which was faith in that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah!
All right, now remember, Acts is transitional and so far, except for the little interlude of Paul’s conversion in chapter 9, it’s been all Jews and Peter and the Twelve. Now all of a sudden we’re going to see it changed from Israel and the Jews to Paul and the Gentile world. We’ll hear almost nothing more from Peter except maybe in chapter 15 when Paul goes up to the Jerusalem counsel. But Peter is going to fade off the scene and become a nonentity, and Paul comes to the fore.
This is the beginning of the transition now. They’ve had all this persecution up at Jerusalem because of Saul of Tarsus and the attending religious Jews. Now come down to verse 19 of Acts 11—to one of my favorite verses. This is the verse that began to open my eyes.
“Now they who were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose around Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch (Up there north of Lebanon in Syria, now watch the remaining part of the verse.) preaching the word (Which would be the Old Testament, as no New Testament is written yet.) to none but unto the Jews only.” Now why is that so hard for people to comprehend?
Because that’s the way it was. It would have been totally a Jewish thing coming out of the Old Testament and Christ’s early ministry, as we showed in the first moments of the first half hour today. What did Jesus tell the Twelve? “Go not to the Gentiles; go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” All right, then we go through the whole death, burial, and resurrection, and Christ ascends back to glory. Peter and the eleven hold forth on the day of Pentecost. It’s all Jewish, not a word about Gentiles. Everything is hanging onto faith in who Jesus was because of the Old Testament covenants.
All right, it’s no different here in verse 19. These scattered Jews are still only approaching fellow Jews about this Jesus of Nazareth. All right, verse 20.
“And some of them (Some of these believing Jews coming out of Jerusalem.) were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were come to Antioch, spoke unto the Grecians,…” A lot of your translations should say Greeks. I think the reason is that there’s such a small difference between the Greek word for pure Greek and the Greek word for a Jew who was from outside the land of Israel. One is Hellenes and the other one is Hellenists. So I think what happened here is we have a change in the translators. One translator that I read quite exclusively says there wouldn’t have been anything unusual talking to fellow Jews who were merely from outside the land. But what made it so alarming was they were now approaching Greeks and that follows what just happened up here in chapter 10. So I’d like to read it.
“…when they were come to Antioch spoke unto Greeks (Gentiles), preaching the Lord Jesus.” Now remember, they cannot preach faith in the death, burial, and resurrection until we get Paul coming on the scene with what he had learned in his three years in the desert with the Lord Jesus. So it’s still all based on the Kingdom gospel. It’s still just faith in who Jesus of Nazareth really was. All right, now verse 21.
“And the hand of the Lord was with them: (It’s all part of God’s design now to take this out to the Gentile world. And the hand of the Lord was with them–) and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.” Greeks. Now, like I told you in the last half hour, when the Jewish system up at Jerusalem heard some of these things, they got all shook up. Why? This isn’t supposed to happen. This is our God. This is the God of Israel. This isn’t the God for those Romans. And now here we got the Greeks becoming believers. So again, Jerusalem is all shook up.
“Then tidings of these things came (What things? Gentiles are responding.) unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: (the Jewish church) and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.” Well, for what purpose? Barnabas, go up there and find out what’s going on. Straighten things out. This is going to ruin our religion. We can’t have these Gentiles coming in. So, that’s the alarm. But you know what? I always make the statement: God always has the right man at the right place at the right time! Had they sent anybody but Barnabas, it would have just exploded. But good ol’ Barnabas, see—verse 23.
“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, (on these Gentiles) was glad, (Contrary to much of the mentality of the Jews, Barnabas was glad.) and exhorted (or encouraged) them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” Now, why would he make a statement like that? Come back with me. Keep your hand in Acts, we’ll be right back. Go all the way up to First Thessalonians. I’ve made the point over and over. I’ve been on the air so long now I can’t help but repeat.
I Thessalonians chapter 1 and this, of course, is dealing with people up in Greece, north of Athens, at the city of Thessalonica. But nevertheless, Gentiles were Gentiles in these days. They had all come out of abject idolatry and paganism. All right, so this is why Barnabas told them to adhere or cleave to the Lord, because of what they’d come from.
I Thessalonians 1:9
“For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, (In other words, referring to people over in the rest of Greece who were just so commending of these Thessalonian believers.) and how ye turned to God from (What?) idols to serve the living and true God:” See that? That was true of all of Paul’s converts, unless they were Jews. All of the Gentile world was steeped in idolatry and paganism and the worship of the gods and goddesses of mythology. And they had been ever since the tower of Babel, because that’s where it all started.
All you have to do is go back into ancient history. You know, Nimrod started the whole ball rolling of all of this false worship of gods and goddesses, and that’s what these believers all had to come out of. All right, verse 10, I’m going to have to use this one. And what were these believers to do?
I Thessalonians 1:10
“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come.” Now we’ve got to remember, we’re up now in Paul’s epistles—years later. And what is he reminding these Gentile ex-pagans—to not only realize that they’re saved, but to be ready for what? The Rapture and the coming wrath of the Tribulation.
The Rapture was Paul’s theme—that all these believers are going to be suddenly translated. Again, Paul thought it was going to happen in his life. So I’m not extreme in hoping that it’ll be in my life. We’re that much closer. But this was the Pauline mentality—that they were to wait for the soon appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ to take them out before the horrors of that 7 years of Tribulation would begin.
All right, back to Acts chapter 11. We’ve got to finish the transition. Now we’re coming away from Peter and the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom economy to the nation of Israel. But before the Gospel of Grace kicks in, God is still saving people on that Kingdom Gospel based on faith that Jesus was the Christ.
So, don’t lose sight that God is sovereign. He can do anything He wants to do. And if He wanted to save Saul of Tarsus by simply recognizing who He was, that was His prerogative. If He wanted to save centurions in the house of Cornelius by faith in believing that Jesus was the Christ, that’s His prerogative. The same way here—God is sovereign. He can do whatever He wants to do.
All right, so reading on in Acts chapter 11 verse 24, coming back to Barnabas again.
“For he (Barnabas) was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit (See, that’s why he could sense what was going on.) and of faith: and much people were added unto the Lord.” Up there at Antioch, in Syria. Now, I love this next verse.
“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek (Who?) Saul:” Why? Why should Barnabas all of a sudden get the idea, “Well, I’ve got to find Saul of Tarsus?” The man is full of faith. He’s full of the Holy Spirit. So he’s the man God can use. Now, how did God cause the man to go? Your guess is as good as mine. But nevertheless, somehow or other God let Barnabas know that because of what’s taking place—the influx of Gentiles into all this—now we need that Apostle of the Gentiles—the sent one for their benefit.
Now, keep your hand in Acts and go ahead to another verse. Go to Romans chapter 11. I’ve got to back up what I just said—that Saul of Tarsus, whom we now know is Paul, was the designated apostle, singular, of the Gentiles. That’s what the Book says. It’s not my idea. It’s Scripture. Romans 11 verse 13, where he is inspired by the Holy Spirit to write:
“For I speak to you Gentiles, (See that? Watch every word when you read your Bible.) inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles,…” And that’s why we’ve got to adhere to that. Oh, my goodness, I read the best little book the other night. I wish everyone could read it, although it’s too hard to read.
The average person, I think, would just struggle through like I did. I had to go back sometimes and read things the second time. But anyway, it was just an unveiling of the history of Christianity. How many Pauline believers were there down through the last nineteen hundred years? Few or many? Precious few, precious few—because you see, most of Christendom, beginning with the so-called church fathers (Origen was the worst.)
all pushed Paul out the backdoor. They taught nothing but the Old Testament and the four gospels all the way down through history. Even the Reformation didn’t make that much difference, because as this author put it (the author’s name wasn’t even on it, so I can’t give him credit), but as this author put it—for example, in the Crusades. When they slaughtered people by the thousands in the name of their religion, where did they get the biblical authority? The Old Testament slaughter back there in the Book of Judges.
Have you ever read Judges? Oh, my goodness, it’s enough to turn your stomach. How they were just slaughtering them by the thousands. Well, they used that as their biblical authority to do it in the name of Christianity. Then you get the so-called Puritans and the Pilgrims of our New England early days. They weren’t much better. They were so legalistic. Like I shared with my class the other night—in their legalism, if young 17 year-old girls would show a bare ankle, what would they do to them? Beat them almost to death. They were heartless in the name of religion. And you bring it right on up until today. Now we’ve gone the other direction. Anything goes and still be Christian.
But you see, when you get into the Pauline part of it, it’s a whole different world. Most of religion was constantly trying to stamp them out. If they heard of a bunch of these conservative, biblical Christians in some valley, they’d seek them out and kill every one of them. And that was most of history for the last two thousand years. All right, so it’s the same way even here. That Paul has to be recognized as the one and only true apostle, or Christ’s representative, of the Gentile world, and people don’t like that—“but he is the apostle of the Gentiles.”
All right, back to Acts chapter 11 verse 25. He goes up to Tarsus and he finds Saul. You know, I always make the point. He didn’t just know exactly where to find him. He had to look. He had to ask a lot of questions. Where is this guy? He finally finds him. Now verse 26:
“And when he had found him, (Barnabas finds Saul.) he brought him unto Antioch.…” Because, after all, Antioch is where Gentiles are becoming interested in these things of Israel’s God. That’s the best way I can put it.
Now you’ve got to remember, there is still no New Testament. Nothing. Only thing they have is the Old Testament. This gives rise then to why they had to have gifted men in those early years—who, by a gift of the Holy Spirit, could teach these things that Paul had been revealed of first, so that error would not creep in through the spoken word. They had to be gifted. They had to be Holy Spirit led, because there was no written Word. Now once the written Word comes in, you see, then those gifts were no longer necessary. All right, back to verse 26. So when he’d found him, he brought him to Antioch.
“…And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, (or this called-out assembly of primarily Gentiles) and taught much people. (God is opening the hearts of these pagans left and right.) And the disciples (or these followers) were called Christians first in Antioch.” As first I suppose a derogatory term. Those people who think they’re Christ-like. But the title stuck, and we still refer to believers as Christians to this day.
I don’t use it as much, because too often it’s not a true definition. But anyhow, that’s where they were first called Christians, in Antioch. Okay, now I think I’ve got ten minutes left yet in this half hour. Let’s go ahead now to verse 1 of chapter 13. Now Paul and Barnabas have been laboring amongst the Gentiles in Antioch, which was probably one of the most lively cities in the whole Roman Empire at this time. It was pretty much the center of the then-known world. It was a large city.
It had a tremendous amount of commerce, as well as it was a religious center for the worship of Diana. A certain period of years have gone by now, and we get up to Acts chapter 13. We’re now probably around A.D. 40 or 44. Now remember, the crucifixion and Pentecost were in A.D. 29. I always put Saul’s conversion at about A.D. 37, then the three years in the desert. That starts out when he goes up to Tarsus at about A.D. 40. So, about four years later now, after they had been laboring there in Antioch amongst the Gentiles–
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Now, these were all men who were leaders of that Antioch congregation.
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Now, here again, the Antioch leadership didn’t decide to send them out. This was a God thing. The Holy Spirit, one way or another, revealed to the men of this Antioch church that now it was time to get Paul and Barnabas out into the Gentile Roman Empire with this glorious message of the Grace of God.
All right, so now we can pick it up as they go up first to the island of Cyprus. I’m going to bring you down to just one verse here. I think you all know the account. How they ministered to the governor of the island, and there was a false teaching Jew who was a sorcerer. And he was attempting to keep this Roman, probably a Gentile anyway, from letting Paul and Barnabas minister to him with the plan of salvation. All right, so he’s doing everything he can. Verse 8:
“But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them (that is Paul and Barnabas), seeking to turn away the deputy (the governor) from the faith (or from believing). 9. Then Saul (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Spirit, set his eyes on him, 10. And said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease (or will you not stop) to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” Now here comes Paul’s authority as an apostle.
“And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun (Now here’s the key.) for a season….” Not for the rest of his life, but for a period of time this false teaching Jew is going to be physically blind.
Now, I take that as a type or a sign that the nation of Israel as a whole is going to experience the same thing; as they were opposing, especially, Paul and Barnabas in these Gentile cities. It was always the Jews that opposed them the most, because they were, of course, defensive of their religion. That’s understandable. But nevertheless, because of their constant opposition to this, God has blinded the nation. To this day they are under a blinding. All right, let me take you ahead to Romans chapter 11. This is from the pen of the Apostle Paul. I don’t know where to start. I guess, just for sake of time, otherwise we won’t make any headway at all, let’s jump in at verse 7. Romans chapter 11 verse 7, because I just want you to see that the Scripture makes it so plain that Israel is going to be spiritually blinded—not for the rest of their life, not until the nation of Israel dies or disappears, but for a period of time.
“What then? Israel (the nation) hath not obtained that which he seeketh for;…” What were they looking for? The Messiah and the Kingdom, but it didn’t happen because of their unbelief. It’s still going to happen. They’re yet going to have it. Don’t think for a minute they won’t. But in this interim they are judicially blinded. All right read on.
“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election, (Or, those few who did believe.) hath obtained it, (In other words, they’ve entered into salvation, and they’re going to be in glory with the rest of us. But what happened to the major part of the nation?) and the rest were blinded.” They were blinded, judicially blinded.
Now, don’t ask me how God can remain fair and do that. But nevertheless, it’s a fact of Scripture that the nation of Israel has been nationally blinded. Now, individual Jews can still come in and be saved. Absolutely! And we get our share of them. But the nation as a whole and I’ve always made reference, you take the nation of Israel over there; they have a form of godliness, but is their government righteous and godly?
No, it’s as secular as any government in the world. They have just as much corruption as anybody else. They’re in a period of spiritual blindness. But now you’re in Romans 11, so you might as well go on to the next verse that speaks of it, verse 25. Here’s where I get the authority biblically to teach this period of time we are now in.
Let’s just drop down below Israel’s timeline, because that was going to take them all the way to the promise of the Kingdom, but God stopped it. The Tribulation hasn’t happened yet. I don’t care what some people say. We’re not in the Tribulation today. It hasn’t happened in the past. It’s still future. God broke the timeline right there, and now we drop down into here.
Now we’re in this parenthetical period of time. Israel has been set aside. Israel is spiritually blinded, and God is pouring out the Gospel and His mercy and Grace upon the whole world with His glorious Gospel based on faith in the death, burial, and resurrection. That’s what we’re going to be looking at after we get out of the Book of Acts. How that Paul will then go to the Gentile world with that glorious Gospel of Grace!
But all right, here’s where I get my authority to open up the timeline. Why do I put in a parenthesis? Well, here it is in verse 25.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (Or secret—now we’re going to be using that word a lot in the coming programs. And what was this secret?) lest ye should be wise in your own conceit; (In other words, don’t get puffed up that the Gentiles have all got it made and God’s through with Israel. See, that’s what a lot of people are trying to tell us—that God’s all through with Israel. But don’t you believe it. God is not through with His covenant people. Next statement–) that blindness in part is happened to Israel, (A spiritual blindness, in part, for a designated period of time.) until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”
Well, what’s the fullness of the Gentiles? The Body of Christ which we’re going to be looking at, hopefully now, in the next half hour. The Body of Christ—this composite group of believers from every walk of life and from every part of the globe that have all been saved by trusting this finished work of the cross. And when it’s complete, it has to be taken out of the way so that God can finish with Israel.
When the Body of Christ has been fulfilled—it’s full, it’s at its time of fruition—however you want to put it, then God has to take it out of the way in the Rapture. Because the Body of Christ will not fit in any part of God’s dealing with Israel as they go into the Tribulation. We’re insulated from all of that.