- Published: 09 December 2010
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All the time we are getting new readers, and it is likely that they will get various impressions as they read the pages. One thing in particular they will notice, and that is that there is a people, a church, that has certain peculiar blessings, privileges, and responsibilities which they have not heard of before.
Since the great dividing line, the frontier, the turning point in earthly and heavenly history is at the end of Acts, we would like to set forth in a series of articles some of the changes that did take place at that time and their bearing on God's plan and purpose for today.
It is not a question of when did the administration of the mystery begin. There is no question about that. What matters is the sorting out of the things that pertain to a former administration and what belong to a present administration . This seems to be the great field of confusion. This great confusion among the various factions and divisions of Christendom has led to dimming the line of demarcation, and many have lost sight of it.
In these days we hear a great deal about unity. Various segments of fractured Christendom are trying to get together again. They are trying to make a unity. But in Ephesians 4 we have a unity that is already made and we are to keep it. Men are trying to invent a unity, rejecting the one that God has already created. Man-made unities are nearly always centered about the LORD'S SUPPER and BAPTISM, and some may add SPIRITUAL GIFTS. But the unity that is made without hands and which we are to keep has as its center ONE LORD. And the things that man highly esteems are thrown out ( Col 2:16).
In that day many of God's workmen are going to be throughly ashamed because they have not rightly divided the Word of truth. The main areas in which they fail to rightly divide are in the kingdom and the church. For example, Peter was given the keys to the kingdom, not the church.
It may be that some have noticed that in the 6,000 years since Adam, there can be a division into 3 parts; roughly 2,000 years of Gentile predominance, 2,000 years of Israel's prominence, and now almost 2,000 years of Gentile kingdoms again. The first 2,000 years takes the first 11 chapters of Genesis. The rest of the Bible with the exception of 9 books, has to do with the second 2,000 year period where Israel was on the scene.
During the second period we cannot fail to note that Israel had a profound influence upon the way God dealt with the nations with whom they came in contact. The promise made to Abraham and the special mission of Israel can explain this. We also note that histories of nations are not recorded where they had no contacts with Israel. In all the racial disputes in these days, it might be well to look back to Deuteronomy 32:8, He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel. Evidently each nation had its own assigned place. And we can say that as long as Israel is a nation, we have HISTORY.
The times of the Gentiles began when practically all of the 12 tribes were taken out of the land into captivity. This times of the Gentiles is the times during which the streets of Jerusalem would be trod by foreigners or Gentiles. The image in Daniel 2 gives the scope. It began with the head of gold, Nebuchadnezzar, and ends with the 10 toes, whatever they may represent. They are yet to come. Could they be the 10 kings of the Moslem empire?
This period of time we now live in is an interval that is not recorded in prophecy. The length is hinted at in Hosea 6:2, the two days which may be 2,000 years. But contrary to popular opinion, this period is not in the 70th week of Daniel 9:24, but about the end of the 67th week is where this parenthesis begins and there are about 3 to 3 ½ weeks to be fulfilled yet before the kingdom is set up.
We need to examine Israel's national position and how it is connected with the administration of the mystery. Between what we call the OT and the NT is an interval of several hundred years. It is a period of silence prophetically. No revelation is given to God's people during that time.
Men assume that the Old Testament is finished with Malachi and that the New Testament begins with the Gospels. But is that true?
If you read Malachi, you will find that it is written to the Jews and that it announces the King and His kingdom. Go on into Matthew and you find the same people addressed and in the same land. The temple is there, they have the same law, and the same city is their beloved city. So what difference do we find between Malachi and Matthew?
Just this; Malachi says that the Messiah shall come, and Matthew says that the Messiah has come.
John the Baptist announced the kingdom. The Lord announced the kingdom. The 12 announced the kingdom. The 70 announced the kingdom. And all of them asked Israel to repent so as to be in readiness for that kingdom. It was at hand.
The Son of Abraham, the Son of David, walked their streets and gave them the good news of the kingdom. They crucified Him. That was their answer to the good news. The nation of Israel will never see Him again till they look upon Him Whom they pierced. They will receive Him then.
But there is something else about the gospel preached in the gospels. It also had a message for the Gentiles. You will note that above we spoke of Christ as the Seed or Son of Abraham. And it was in Abraham's Seed that the nations (Gentiles) should be blessed. David's Son was to be the everlasting King of Israel. But there is a condition here.
Israel was to be a channel of blessing to the Gentiles. But their sins stood in the way. They never were able to accomplish that for which they were chosen. So their Messiah came to take away their sins so that they might be able to witness.
They had limited the many nations spoken of to Abraham, to their one nation, and forgotten the very purpose for which they had been chosen as a nation. Even today they have not remembered this.
Today we find many teachers, in their over anxious zeal for Paul and what they call Pauline teaching, deny that Paul was to proclaim those things which he had seen (Acts 26:16). Some tell us that Paul never at anytime preached concerning the kingdom, but in all his ministry taught the mystery.
Let us see what the Word says. In Romans 15:8 Paul speaks of the ministry of Christ as of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. Right here it would be a good thing to go back and read how the promises were made in turn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What did these promises have to say?
The next verse in Romans 15 starts to explain this point, And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to Thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto Thy name. This is a quotation from 2 Samuel 22:50 and Psalms 18:49. This is not the administration of the mystery. It was no secret, but was foretold.
Then the 10th verse goes on, And again he saith Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people. The Gentiles are to rejoice with His people, Israel. This is no secret and is quoted from Deuteronomy 32:43.
Verse 11 almost repeats the same thing, but is quoted from Psalms 117:1.
Now note verse 12. This is millennial, it is concerning the kingdom the hope of Israel. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and He that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust (hope). This is plainly the kingdom and Paul is talking about it. Romans is Paul's last epistle before Acts 28:28 and he is still proclaiming the kingdom!
We might go back and remind ourselves that in Matthew 10:5-15 the Lord instructs the disciples, Go not into the way of the Gentiles ...but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This began to change when Peter was instructed to go to the house of Cornelius and Paul began to preach to the Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia. But did this change mark the beginning of the church of the administration of the mystery? As we have seen above, this was no secret. Therefore the grafting in of Gentiles to partake of Israel's hope and blessings was no secret, neither was it THE SECRET. If it were, then Peter was the one who first proclaimed it, not Paul. Think this over, and read it again.
Furthermore, this abrogation of the command of GO NOT, did not mark the beginning of GO YE in Matthew 28:19, for that is to be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom when the Lord will be with the 12 in their ministry, even unto the end of the age.
The door of mercy was opened to the Gentiles at Acts 10 and nowhere else. At that point they were no longer dogs eating crumbs from the Children's table, but guests and partakers with them. They then could become children of Abraham by faith and be partakers of the promises. All of this had been foretold, so we must conclude that when the Gentiles could eat at Israel's table as guests, this was not the administration of the mystery.
Wrong division has caused a great deal of confusion in Bible teaching today. The dividing of the Bible into the Old and New Testaments is an example of this wrong division. The New Testament or Covenant with Israel and with Judah (Jeremiah 31:31) has never been in force yet. And the synoptic gospels can be seen to be a continuation of the OT. The historical events of John's gospel are likewise a continuation of the OT. Then Acts is a continuation of what the Lord began to do and to teach in the gospels (Acts 1:1,2 ). And if this be true, then we will have to add to these the books that were written during the ministry recorded in Acts.
If the reader will see the truth of the above, he will find the answer to a lot of questions that otherwise will remain forever unanswered. And the proof that we speak the truth is found in Hebrews 1:1,2, where we read, God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son. The Son spoke while here on the earth, and He spoke from heaven after His ascension.
And since the period covered by Acts was a continuation of what He both began to do and to teach while here in flesh, we cannot expect to find much that is new in Acts and in the epistles written in that time. The numerous quotations from the OT show that this is true. And even as late as Acts 26:22 Paul declared that he had not preached anything except what the prophets and Moses foretold. In Hebrews 8, Paul quotes from Jeremiah 31 concerning the New Covenant, and again in 10:16,17. Between these two you will find that the new does not come in until the old has waxed old and is put away. And where was the old put away? Was it before Acts 28:28?
Like all men in the flesh, Israel had to see the need of a Savior from sin before they could appreciate a kingdom of righteousness. This was the stumbling block to their progress.
So we read of the result of this in Matthew 12. In verse 6 we see One rejected who is greater than the temple. In verse 41 we see One rejected who was greater than the prophets. And in verse 42 we see the rejection of One greater than Solomon, yea, greater than any king of past, present, or future.
Then in this same chapter the King of Israel foretells the end of this wicked generation, repudiates even fleshly ties with His family and identifies Himself with those who will believe. Then begins chapter 13 and the mysteries of the kingdom, but not without a quotation from Isaiah 6:9,10 (Matthew 12:14,15 ). Mystery begins where the history of Israel leaves off. And so it is with the parables of the kingdom, they have a future application. The 8 parables of Matthew 13 should be carefully studied in detail and in structure.
When the rejection is complete and Israel murders their King, the Lord's prayer on Calvary is answered and Israel given another chance to repent.
They failed, and so in Acts 28 Paul quotes for the last time Isaiah 6:9,10. Israel passes off the scene and the administration of the mystery begins.
Really, if we are to appreciate the crisis at the end of Acts, we must have some idea of what was going on during Acts. What was the plan and purpose of God at that time? It is essential to know this.
If it had not been for the Lord's prayer at Calvary, we would not have the book of Acts. For at that time Israel would have been cut off. But that prayer was answered, and so Israel had another chance to accept the King and the kingdom. They had another opportunity to be the priestly nation they had been chosen to be ( Exodus 19:6).
But Israel had only confessed Christ as their Lord and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, they would have escaped the fate that overtook them when Titus took their city and burned their temple.
A double event happened in Acts which gives us some more insight as to the purpose of Israel and how that it will be worked out some day in the future. The Son of God descended and met Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road. And Saul, upon seeing the Lord, was converted (changed his mind). And so it will be in that day when the Lord shall come, that Israel shall be converted ( Zechariah 12:10-14).
It can readily be seen, then, by the type of Paul what Israel was to do, and will do some day. They will be converted and then in turn will evangelize the nations. The gist of their message will be similar to that of John the Baptist, the Lord, the 12, and the 70. It will be concerning the kingdom. And that is exactly what Paul proclaimed all through Acts, first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. This message to the Gentile believers in the Synagogues was Paul's special gospel, the gospel of the grace of God. At no time during Acts did Paul mention or know the administration of the mystery. It came later.
Paul speaks of his typical ministry as one born out of due time. He said he was a type of those who would believe hereafter (referring to Israel in that day). He foreshadowed the work of the 12 and other overcomers in the millennium, the great commission given to the 12 in Matthew 28:18-20.
Note Paul's argument in Romans 11:1 and verses following. He was a type of the believing remnant then. He was saved, he was an Israelite, and so a type and pledge concerning those who believed at that time, as well as in a future time when Israel would believe. This was no mystery, but kingdom truth.
Paul's ministry was a priestly ministry, even as Israel's will be some day. He speaks of the offering up of the Gentiles as being acceptable. This is in connection with Isaiah 61:6 where it says that Israel will be priests of the Lord. And back in Exodus 19, we saw that the nation was to be a kingdom of priests.
The gospel in Acts is concerning the kingdom. It is to the Jew first. But they rejected it. Then it was spoken to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to bear fruit. This began with Peter in the house of Cornelius. But later on the Jew ceased to be first. And that was an historic episode in world events, even till now. Then the Salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles.
In Acts 20:24 Paul expresses the wish that he might finish his course with joy. In reading this chapter slowly, we discover that he is on his way to Jerusalem, not knowing what might befall him there. It is well that we examine very carefully his statements to the Ephesian elders.
Paul sums up his ministry so far. It is connected with tears, temptations (trials), and the like. His message to the Jews and also to the Greeks was repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. This course he is about to finish is connected with proclaiming the kingdom of God, and since he is testifying of the grace of God, we are to know that this is a kingdom message, not the administration of the mystery. And Paul further states that in regard to this kingdom message, he has not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. This is not claiming to declare the plan and purpose of God, but only God's counsel as to the kingdom. We dare not add to these words. Just leave it there.
So far, Paul has known only one course which he is to run. That was to proclaim the kingdom to the dispersed of Israel, and then to Gentiles when Israel failed to take advantage of the message. This latter is the gospel of the grace of God. The apostle has been in the major centers of the world in which Jews have their synagogues (Rome excepted) and there is a reason that he should feel that his course was just about ended. He knows no further steps as yet.
It was no secret to Paul that Israel had been chosen as a priestly nation, a mediator between God and the nations. He knew that Israel had failed so far in her mission because of her sins. He also knew that Christ came to save His people from their sins so that they could fulfill this mission. He was aware of the fact that the ministry of the Lord and of the 12 had failed to bring Israel to repentance so that this mission might be fulfilled. And now he is face to face with the fact that his own ministry among the dispersed of Israel has produced no change. So far, nothing has been revealed to any apostle as to what might take place if Israel failed and refused to witness to the nations. When we study Romans we see some of the grief of the spirit of Paul as he sees his nation becoming a failure and the world in darkness.
It is no wonder then that Paul makes his last trip to Jerusalem with fear and trembling, not knowing what would befall him there. He has not been told what would be the outcome of Israel's failure to receive their Messiah. No doubt Satan is full of glee as he sees the nations deprived of a witness to the salvation that was of the Jews. The only plan so far revealed seems to be going to pieces and failing. It appears that the nations will be left in darkness and that the name of the Most High God will not be known by them. A great crisis is approaching.
Paul's trip to Rome was a further fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. Events on that trip may now appear as prophetic, the breaking up of the ship and the serpent dropped into the fire. But it is significant that when Paul left Jerusalem, that city lost its influence and importance in the world.
After Paul's arrest in the temple in Jerusalem, he was in prison at Caesarea 2 years. He appealed to Caesar and started out for Rome in the fall. It was not till spring that he arrived in Rome. So it was getting close to 3 years after leaving Jerusalem till the all-day conference with the Jewish leaders in Rome as recorded in Acts 28.
Now we are ready to make a more detailed study of Acts 28:23-31. This is the crisis toward which we have been traveling in this studys.
Mr. Charles H. Welch made the discovery of the structure of this passage. So we make use of it.
A. Jews come to lodging. The day.
B. Expounded the Kingdom of God.
C. Persuading concerning Jesus.
D. Out of Law and Prophets.
E. Morning till evening.
F. Agreed not.
G. Departed (sent away).
H. Word of Holy Ghost.
I. Go unto this People.
J. Hear ...not understand.
K. Isa. 6:10 quoted.
J. They will hear.
I. Sent unto the Gentiles.
H. Salvation of God.
F. Great reasoning.
E. Unhindered .
D. With all confidence (no Ref. to OT).
C. Teaches concerning Lord Jesus Christ.
B. Preaches Kingdom of God.
A. All come to hired house. Two years.
Many times in the past Paul had turned to the Gentile believers and preached to them in the synagogues when the Jews rejected his gospel. His gospel was concerning the King and the kingdom, to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles. There was one difference in these two messages. He never told the Jews that they were absolved from the law. But he told the Gentiles that they were not to observe the law, but could partake of the good things of Israel upon the grounds of grace.
But here the Jew is forcefully brought face to face with the finality of the statement that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles. This is the end of the kingdom gospel from that day to this.
Note that he argues from the Law and Prophets to the Jews, persuading them about Jesus (Jewish name). But later, when Gentiles and Jews come to his house he teaches concerning the Lord Jesus Christ (a title by which the Gentiles know Him). This is not from the Law and Prophets, but by revelation.
The reader should study this structure and compare with the Scripture passage, noting the parallels and contrasts of the members.
Peter had opened the doors of the kingdom to the Jews at Pentecost, and later to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. But the rejection of the Jews was completed at Rome, and so Paul closed the doors of the Kingdom. The Mystery now begins.
After the statement, The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, the ministry of Paul was Teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. He no longer had a Messianic witness. Instead of preaching another King than Caesar, Paul began to preach of an ascended Lord who is not only Head of The Church which is His Body , but made Head over all things in heaven and earth.
The one body of an earthly people has passed from the scene. Now there is one body, but made up of a heavenly people. God finished with the one body before taking up another one body. The line of demarcation is sharp and clear. The administration of promise ended abruptly, and the administration of the mystery began - silently, but surely. And no doubt it will end as silently and abruptly as it began.
Up to Acts 28:28 all things came about according to prophecy, in due season. Peter quoted the Scriptures freely at Pentecost. Likewise he could quote them when in the house of the Gentile, Cornelius. For it had been foretold that Gentiles would share in Israel's blessings. At the council in Jerusalem, it was agreed that Paul was right in preaching the gospel of the kingdom to Gentiles in the Synagogues. In his last epistle before the crisis, Paul in Romans spent some time in chapters 9,10 and 11 showing how that his ministry among the Gentiles was according to the law and the prophets. It was no mystery hid from ages and generations. He was proclaiming the good news of the kingdom to Gentiles, that they could partake of the hope and blessings of Israel, but without having to keep Israel's ceremonial law.
Acts 28:31 tells us that Paul spoke with all confidence in his own hired house. When in prison he asks those at Ephesus to pray for him that he might speak boldly. This is the same word as confidence. He had a guard at his side day and night and the Jews could no longer annoy and persecute him.
Could the two whole years have any significance and connection with Hosea 6:2,3? Does it mean that there is to be a period of 2 days (2,000 years) after Acts 28:28 till Israel will be on the scene again? There are other references to 2 days that the reader may wish to look up.
Tradition speaks of the Acts as the early history of the church. Those days were supposed to be the first days. But note how often they are spoken of as the last days. Instead of being the first days of the church, they were the last days of the administration of promise. Note especially 1 John 2:18.
When Paul quoted Isaiah 6:10 the churches were finished and the church began. No longer was the word church used in the plural of assemblies here on earth, but it is the one body or church seated in the heavens with Christ its Head.
No longer could the Gentiles be called aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. That commonwealth ceased to be. No longer were they strangers to the covenants of promise, for those covenants were no longer in effect. Israel were no longer God's people. At last the Gentiles take first place. At last the first purpose of the God was revealed.