Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Acts Transition, Part 4

You may listen to the audio version of this study on SoundCloud.

Today, we pick up our study in Acts 1:12.

VERSE 12: Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. A Sabbath day's journey is slightly over a mile.

VERSES 13-15: And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Luke now names the apostles present by name. Of course, by this time, Judas was no longer with them. Notice also that it says that they were all in one accord in prayer and supplication. That is important to know since many today will contend that what they do next in choosing Matthias was not of God.

VERSE 16: Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. Peter, being the designated leader, points out from the Psalms 109 that Judas' office must be filled. Interestingly, there is no way that we would have known from simply reading the Psalm that Judas was being referred to. This is the case many times in the New Testament when light is shed on Old Testament passages. It has often been said, and it is true, that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. We must study both to fully understand either. Too many people today want to shy away from the Old Testament. That is not possible if you want to understand the Bible in its entirety.

VERSE 17: For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Yes, Judas was one of the original twelve apostles. Our Lord chose him knowing full well what he would do and prophetically had to do (Matthew 26:21-23). He was used, of his own will, by the way, to facilitate the crucifixion.

VERSES 18-19: Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. These verses are parenthetical in that they are just filling in the blanks in regards to background. It must also be noted that the field spoken of here is not the field that was purchased by the chief priests in Matthew 27:6-8 with the money that Judas returned to them. It must also be noted that the field that was purchased was not where Judas hung himself since they did not purchase that land until after he had done so (Matthew 27:1-5). Remember that Judas did hold the money bag and he was a thief according to John 12:6. In all likely hood, he hung himself somewhere else; even possibly on another piece of property that he himself purchased with his ill-gotten gain.

This brings up another point, too many times when we think of Judas, we imagine this shifty-eyed little creature that looked like a thief. However, that was obviously not the case since he was entrusted to hold the money. It is apparent that he was considered to be above reproach in this area. Furthermore, when the Lord told them at the Last Supper that one of them would betray him, none of them called out Judas. Instead, they each, in turn, said, "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:22).

VERSE 20: For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Again, this is the quote from both Psa 69:25 and Psa 109:8 that Peter was referring to in regards to why Judas needed to be replaced.

VERSE 21-22: Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. Here we also learn that there were others who had been with them from the time of the baptism of Jesus by John until that same day that he was taken up in the Ascension. They were more than likely part of the one hundred and twenty spoken of in Acts 1:15. I believe that the point of these requirements is that the one that was chosen must have full knowledge of what was going on and present for the 40-day Kingdom seminar that he apparently had given according to Acts 1:3.

VERSE 23: And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Based on the qualifications outlined in the previous verse, they chose two men.

VERSES 24-25: And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. Before proceeding, it is important to note that the apostles were with one accord (v.14), basing their decision on Scripture (v.20) and after careful deliberation (v.23) and with prayer (v.24). If the apostles cannot make a valid decision under these circumstances, then what hope is there for any of the rest of us?

VERSE 26: And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. This verse is a clear reminder that even after the Ascension the apostles were living in a different dispensation, for we would never condone this method of decision making. However, in their dispensation, Joshua divided the land by lot (Jos 18:10, Act 13:19), the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement was selected by lots (Lev 16:8), the division of the Levites was divided by lot (1Ch 24:5), and Jonah was determined to be the guilty party when the sailors cast lots (Jon 1:7). The casting of lots is never seen as luck or as poor judgment under the Dispensation of the Law; however, it is never used again under the new Dispensation of Grace.

Interestingly enough, even with all of that, because Matthias is never mentioned again, it has led many to assert that the apostles made a hasty decision and got ahead of God. Examples of this can be found in practically any commentary. They usually ask questions like, "Whose name will be on the 12th foundation of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:14? - Matthias or Paul?” Why would they ask this question? - Because they believe that Peter and the others got ahead of God and chose Matthias when they should have waited for Paul. Another commentary goes on to point out that the decision was made prior to Pentecost which insinuates that the decision was made in the flesh. After all, they conclude, "Peter did make his share of mistakes."

All of this just goes to prove that far too many in the church today do not understand what was truly happening in the first eight chapters of Acts.



Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Acts Transition, Part 3

You may listen to the audio version of this study SoundCloud.

Today, we pick up our study through the book of Acts in verse six.

VERSE 6: When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? It is obvious that the apostles were still looking for an earthly kingdom. To them, nothing had changed. They were still expecting the kingdom to come at any time just as they had been expecting and proclaiming all along. Remember the first words of John the Baptist and our Lord? Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mat 3:2; 4:17). Their message stayed the same as they kept their sights on the Lord's promise to them that they would sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mat 19:28) when he restored the kingdom.

VERSE 7: And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. Notice that he did not correct them, but instead, he just said that it was not for them to know at that moment.

VERSE 8: But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Yet, while he refused to elaborate on the timing of the restoration of the kingdom, he did tell them that when it did come, it would be preceded by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost who would come and empower them to take the message to Jerusalem and beyond just like he told them in Matthew 24:14 when he said, and this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. We are all too good at taking this verse and applying it to the church today.


VERSE 9: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. At this point, a question needs to be asked. Why did Jesus have to ascend? After all, why didn't he just stay and help the newly commissioned apostles complete their task? I believe that Ephesians 4:9-10 answers this when it says, now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. No doubt, we could get lost in the weeds in those two verses, but the latter part says that he might fill all things. The word fill means to make full or to complete. In other words, while the apostles were doing their part on earth, he was to do his part in redeeming the earth back unto himself, e.g., Revelation 5:5, or as foretold by his Father in Psalm 110:1 until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 

VERSES 10-11: And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. In the previous verse, we saw that a cloud received him. Now we see two men in white apparel. This lends itself to the fact that this cloud may not be atmospheric, but instead, heavenly hosts. In fulfillment of the promise by these two men, the Lord will also return with the clouds. Jesus said in Matthew 26:64, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Also, in Matthew 24:30 he said, and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Also, The Apostle John wrote in Revelation 1:7, Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Remember also that those who are with him at his return, you and I, will be clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

One final note on the clouds. They are present at the rapture of the church as well. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Paul said, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Also, the two witnesses that give their lives during the Tribulation ascend up to heaven in a cloud (Rev 11:12).

I also find it interesting that the angels asked them "why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" It is almost like they are saying, "Hey, he is going to do his part, you guys need to get moving to do yours now as well!" What was their part? - To continue proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom as told in Matthew 24:1-31.

On a side note, we need to stop reading the church into Matthew 24,  or the rest of the Gospels for that matter. Always remember that while the promises for Israel are earthly in nature (Luke 19:11-28), e.g., a throne, a land, and a kingdom; the promises for the church are heavenly. Paul reminded the Philippians that their citizenship was in heaven (Php 3:20). As the Body of Christ, our future is heavenly and not earthly.

Finally, notice once again that the Lord shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. As I mentioned before, he left with clouds and he will return with clouds. However, he will also return to the same place from which he departed: the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4, 9).

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Acts Transition, Part 2

You may listen to the audio version of this study SoundCloud.

As we discussed last time, this book must be viewed as the setting aside of Israel and the rise of the church. To see it any other way brings about nothing but confusion.

Former Treatise
VERSES 1-2: The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: The former treatise that he is talking about is the Gospel of Luke which he had penned earlier to the same person, Theophilus. No one really knows for sure who Theophilus was. His name means lover or friend of God. In his Gospel, he wrote about all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up. Now, he is going to write about things that happened after the Lord's ascension.

Notice that Jesus had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen. What commandments had been given to them? Pick one. They are all contained in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The bottom line is that all of these commandments had to do with the Kingdom that was at hand and had nothing to do with the age of Grace that would come instead.

40 Days
VERSE 3: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: Apparently, during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus spoke to them the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. That means that Jesus had 40 days to explain to the eleven what was going on. As I stated earlier, they were no doubt caught off guard with the crucifixion. With that said, too many today erroneously think that the apostles were ignorant of what was going at Pentecost. No, not at all. They were fully aware of what was going on. In truth, the problem today is that most in the church do not realize what was truly going on in the first eight chapters of Acts. If they did, I assure you that it would change the church drastically because far too many teachings today rely upon a faulty understanding of these events.

Promise of the Father
VERSE 4-5: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. They were told not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father. What was that promise? The promise of the Holy Ghost as foretold in Joel 2:28-32 which says, And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. So, they were to await these events in Jerusalem. This point is too powerful to be overlooked with a casual reading. They were to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit as foretold by the Prophet Joel which would enable them to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the coming Tribulation which would culminate with the return of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom as foretold by the Lord in Matthew 24:14.

Just a note at this point, if you have a red-letter edition of the Bible, you will notice that the entire phrase wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence is in red letters. In actuality, Jesus never spoke these words. Instead, they were spoken by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16. Incidentally, the red-letter editions of the Bible did not come out until around 1899.

On another final note, the King James Version of the Bible always uses the term Holy Ghost when referring to the third person of the Trinity. This is done 90 times in the New Testament.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Back to Basics, Part 10

Today in our Back to Basics series, we look at Basic #11 which says, "We believe that all people are by nature separated from God and responsible for their own sin, but that salvation, redemption, and forgiveness are freely offered to all by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. When a person believes and accepts Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord, trusting Him to save, that person is immediately born again and sealed by the Holy Spirit, all his/her sins are forgiven, and that person becomes a child of God, destined to spend eternity with the Lord."

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Dispensationalism Revisited

You may listen to the audio version of this study on SoundCloud.

I believe that the apostles were dispensational in the way that they viewed the Scriptures. To them it was simple. The Messiah had come, and as per the Old Testament prophecies, he was going to restore the kingdom, and fulfill the Davidic and Abrahamic Covenants just as God had promised. No, they did not see the cross. This is evidenced both by their increased questioning as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom and Peter's rebuke of Christ for even suggesting his purpose for returning to Jerusalem. Eventually, the cross came and they were demoralized, but after the resurrection, and some obvious clarification laid out by Christ during the forty days before his ascension (Acts 1:9), they were re-energized because the purpose of the cross had apparently been made clear. Moving forward, their focus stayed the same in that they were still looking for the restoration of the promised kingdom (Acts 1:6). This is evidenced by the fact that their message never changed. It still remained as it was in the Gospels; repent and be baptized (Acts 2:37-38).

Sadly, their message was ultimately rejected by the nation of Israel and God raised up the Apostle Paul to start what would become the church age (Acts 9). Yes, initially, Paul did preach the same Kingdom Gospel that the apostles preached, however, at some point between his departure and return to Jerusalem fourteen years later (Galatians 2:1), the mystery of the church had been revealed to him and he was now preaching a different gospel: the Gospel of Grace. No doubt, Peter and the others, realized that something was changing, e.g., Cornelius (Acts 10:1; Acts 15:7), but did not fully understand it until the Counsel in Jerusalem (Acts 15) when Paul returned and explained it more thoroughly. It was at that point that Paul's gospel was confirmed by the twelve (Galatians 2:2) and they parted: the twelve still remained with the Jews in Jerusalem still looking for the kingdom and preaching the Kingdom Gospel and Paul went to the Gentiles preaching the Grace Gospel. They are not the same. The first is still under the Law and the other is under the new dispensation of grace.   

It must be understood that the timeline never changed for the apostles. As per Daniel's prophecy and many others in the Old Testament, their expectation and hope were that Israel would eventually repent nationally, the Tribulation (Daniel's Seventieth Week) (Daniel 9:24; Matthew 24:15) would commence, and would culminate with the Christ's Second Coming, the establishment of the kingdom, and them sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel just as they were promised (Matthew 19:28). This is reflected in all of their writings without exception. This apparently remained a hope until the eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the death of John, the last apostle. One would do well to remember this when they are reading anything between James and Jude in the Hebrew Epistles of the New Testament. They were always addressing the believing Jews and preparing them for the tribulation that they fully expected would come. Paul, on the other hand, had turned to the Gentile and the establishment of the church: the Body of Christ. As such, the apostles were teaching the Gospel of the Kingdom that required repentance and baptism, while Paul was teaching the Gospel of Grace that required only belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Failure to see this transition is the reason for so much confusion in the church today, e.g., baptismal regeneration, amillennialism, postmillennialism, Preterism, Replacement Theology, much of the Pentecostal movement, the loss of salvation, etc. In my opinion, it is only through the lens of the dispensational view that this can be seen clearly.

Unfortunately, it is clear from the writings of Paul that most of the churches that he had founded or mentored eventually turned away from the Gospel of Grace that he preached and placed themselves back under the Law or Gospel of the Kingdom (Galatians 1:6) and have quite frankly done so ever since, e.g., finding the church in the Gospels and the other writings of the apostles. With that in mind and the fact that the kingdom never came, in their ignorance, following the writings of Augustine, they began to spiritualize and allegorize the texts to make it say what they wanted it to say. As a result, the church became Israel, they were now living in the kingdom, the pope became the vicar of Christ on earth, and Rome became the Holy City, i.e., amillennialism. The Protestant Reformation did little to change this theology other than to reject the authority of the pope and gravitate from amillennialism to postmillennialism. Neither interpreted the Bible literally and both led to preterism. Dispensationalism was not lost but purposefully left.

It would not be until Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney on the edge of the Second Great Awakening that progressive revelation was revisited, wrongly so, as they waited for the kingdom that would apparently begin in America as a result of Joel 2 and Acts 2 being fulfilled. Yes, America was going to be that great "city on a hill" (Matthew 5:14) that they were waiting for. Unfortunately, the reality of the Civil War shattered any thoughts of that happening anytime soon.

Dispensationalism did not come full circle again until a fellow by the name of John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in Great Britain began what would come to be called The Dispensational Era. Darby's teaching was popularized in the United States by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield via the Scofield Study Bible and the subsequent rise of fundamentalism between 1857 to around 1956 which sadly came to an end with the advent of Evangelicalism which is another topic for another day. The bottom line is that Dispensationalism is not some new contrived invention as some would suggest. We are merely returning to a literal interpretation of Scripture.