Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 29
THE MAIN HARVEST
Now to continue with our lessons about the resurrection, and we’ll be turning back to I Corinthians Chapter 15. And as we study the Scriptures always remember it just as important to see what the Scriptures don’t say as well as what they do say. Paul is now in this great resurrection chapter, and is making the point that not everyone, as seemingly implied back in John’s Gospel, is going to be resurrected at the same moment.
I Corinthians 15:20-22
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,”
In fact John Chapter 5 tells us that all are going to one day be resurrected and that includes the lost. The unsaved will have to face the Judge Who is Christ Himself at the Great White Throne Judgment. Now in verse 23 we have the separations of the resurrections, and that of course was where we were in the last series of lessons.
I Corinthians 15:23a
“But every man (every human being that has ever lived is going to be resurrected) in his own order:…”
Or own company, like we find in the military which is an organizational set-up and easy to keep track of everybody. But remember God is a God of order, He has everything so organized. God never does things in a mumble-jumble way. So even the resurrections are going to be brought about in an orderly way. And as we saw in the past few lessons, first Christ and His resurrection, and Who was the very first. Then those who came out of the graves in Matthew 27 after His resurrection, which we taught, comprise the firstfruits as it was in Israel’s harvest days. And now you see in verse 23 we have the next order in the resurrection and they are:
I Corinthians 15:23b
“…Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
Now we know that every believer of every age naturally belongs to Christ. He is the Creator and everything is His, but when it comes to the positional term, especially as we see it in the Book of Ephesians, to be in Christ, in Him, then that is speaking uniquely of
the Body of Christ. Now we never see the Jew in the economy of Law spoken of as being in Christ, because that is strictly a Pauline term. So I have to feel that verse 23 then is speaking of those who are in Christ will be the next main group to be resurrected. after the firstfruits which took place at Christ’s resurrection. Now in all of my years of teaching I think the one thing that has come through for people is that you have to separate God’s dealing with the Old Testament economy and His dealing with the Church. Remember you can not mix them; you must keep them sorted, and here again in order to understand this 23d verse you have to realize that Israel and the Church are two separate economies.
An economy is something that makes something go. In other words, when we speak of the economy of the nation we’re speaking about the whole system of business, politics, you name it, and that comprises an economy, a system. Now in the economies of God you cannot take that which He was doing with Israel and bring it in to the Church which is His Body. Nor can you jump ahead and put the Tribulation saints back into the Body of Christ, so we’re going to try and sort all this out in these next few lessons. Now we’re going to go all the way back, if you will, to the Book of Acts. In the last lesson we pretty much covered the first fruits and how it was associated with the feast days of Israel, and also in the last lesson we covered the whole scope of God dealing with the Nation of Israel preparing them for the coming of their Messiah, their King, and their Redeemer, Jesus of Nazareth. And I think my closing remarks were, “That even though things look hopeless for the little Nation of Israel today, and it just seems like the whole world is trying to push them into the Mediterranean sea, yet take heart because the Scripture has promised that the little Nation of Israel will never disappear because it has to be there for Biblical prophecy to be fulfilled. Remember, God has to have the Nation of Israel in the land, in Jerusalem, in order to fulfill all things, and if that did not happen this whole Book becomes a fallacy.”
But now we’re going to come on this side of the Cross, and as Christ presented Himself to the Nation of Israel as their King and Redeemer and for the most part the Nation of Israel rejected it. Now some believed, but it was a relativity small percentage, and so for the most part the Nation of Israel said, “We’ll not have this man to rule over us.” And they finally demanded He be crucified. And one of the chief proponents of all that would have been Saul of Tarsus, who we will see in a few moments. Now as you come into the Book of Acts we find God so benevolent, and gracious that in spite of all that the Nation of Israel has done with regard to their Messiah, God still comes back in the early chapters of Acts through Peter and the other eleven disciples, and is still going to give Israel the opportunity to repent of the horrible sin of having crucified their King. And He’s still giving them the opportunity of having the King and the Kingdom if they would only believe it. Now we pick that up primarily in the great chapter on Pentecost in Chapter 2. This is just an overview now as we see everything building for God turning from the Nation of Israel to the Gentile world for the purpose then of calling out a people for His name, “The Body of Christ” Here in Acts Chapter 2 Peter is standing up on the day of Pentecost there at the great Temple complex, with thousands upon thousands of Jews having come into Jerusalem from all over the then-known world. And verse 22 says so plainly:
“Ye men of Israel,…”
Now you remember what I said in my opening remarks? It’s just as important to see what the Bible does not say as what it does say. Now most of us have been programmed to think that the Bible here should say, “Ye men of Israel and all you Gentiles” But it doesn’t say that, it doesn’t include a single Gentile. Here Peter is only addressing the Nation of Israel, and he’s still on the same ground that he was before the crucifixion, and that was the Abrahamic, and the various other Old Testament Covenants.
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him, in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”
Now that’s plain language isn’t it? What is Peter accusing the Nation of Israel of? Having killed their Messiah, they murdered Him. Even though they didn’t do it with their own hands, they demanded it, and this caused Rome to carry it out, and so Peter is bringing this message to them that they had openly rejected their Messiah. Now you come on down to verse 36, and here again it’s just as important to see what it does not say as what it says, and again Peter doesn’t say anything about a Gentile, but rather:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Well just because they killed Him that didn’t stop God’s program, because God raised Him from the dead. He’s still alive and Peter is making that known. So the message to Israel now was to “REPENT.” Of what? Of having rejected their Messiah. My that was something to repent of, and they were to repent of it, and naturally they were to prove their repentance with, as Peter says here in verse 38, baptism.
“Then Peter said unto them, (the Nation of Israel in response to them having crucified their Messiah) `Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,…'”
And as you come on over to Chapter 3 we find Peter again preaching to this massive crowd of Jews who have gathered because of the miracle that has happened to the lame man as a result of Peter and John. And in verse 12 of Chapter 3 we find:
“And when Peter saw it, (The amazement of all these Jews) he answered unto the people, `Ye men of Israel, (Again no mention of us Gentiles) why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? (But Who did?) The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers,…'”
Now did that mean anything to Gentiles? No! The Romans could have cared less Who came from Abraham, but to the Jew it meant everything. And again as we continue the verse, Peter reminds the Nation of Israel that they killed Him.
“…hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.” And we see also in verse 15:
“And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.”
Now when we were studying the Book of Acts more or less verse by verse, I made the point that if you study and pick it apart you’ll notice that never does Peter associate salvation with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection like the Apostle Paul does. All Peter is claiming in verse 15 is that Jesus was the Christ, and they had crucified Him, but God raised Him from the dead, and He could still fulfill all those Old Testament promises because He was alive. The secret of all of God’s purposes in His going to the Cross had not been revealed yet, that’s going to come a little later when the Apostle Paul comes on the scene. And always remember that God is Sovereign, and He has the prerogative of keeping things secret until He wants them revealed. And Deuteronomy 29:29 says so.
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever,…”
So God keeps things secret until He reveals them, but when He does reveal them He expects mankind to believe it. And so this is the whole scope of Scripture that God will keep things secret until a particular point in time. And here in Acts Chapter 3 God hasn’t revealed yet that in that death, burial, and resurrection was wrapped up the salvation of the whole human race, but only that He’s still dealing with Israel on the grounds of those Covenants promises. Well, as a rule, when we come through the Book of Acts I like to bring my classes all the way over to Chapter 7, and remember this is just an overview to bring us up to Saul of Tarsus and the out-calling of the Church which is the next part of resurrection. So in Chapter 7 we find Stephen has gone through the whole sphere of Jewish history from the call of Abram, through the Law, through the coming of Christ proclaiming Himself as their Messiah. And now the Jews (Israel) are ready to jump on Stephen and put him to death when he lifted up the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And then you remember in verse 57.
“Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: (And don’t forget who the they are, the Jews, and this was their way of capital punishment) and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. “
Now this is the first time that we have someone other than the Twelve and the elders of Israel introduced into the Acts account. Never heard of him before have we? Now all of a sudden he’s going to fill the pages of the biggest part of our New Testament. So as they were stoning Stephen in verse 59:
“And they stoned Stephen , calling upon God, and saying, `Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, `Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Now Chapter 8, and verse 1.
“And Saul was consenting (promoting) unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church (Those believing Jews) which was at Jerusalem; …”
Come on over to Chapter 9, and everything up to this point in time has been God dealing with His Covenant people. Everything up through the Old Testament with just a few exceptions was directed exclusively to the Nation of Israel. But beginning with Chapter 9 there is a parting of the ways in God’s program for the human race. For the first time now He’s going to deviate from that whole concept of Jew only, Jew only, Jew only. And now He’s going to make this tremendous statement to Saul of Tarsus, that he is a chosen vessel to proclaim the name of Christ to the Gentiles. We won’t take time here for his salvation experience on the road to Damascus because I think most of you are acquainted with that. Come all the way down in Chapter 9 and we deal with Ananias, a believing Jew there in Damascus, and The Lord is speaking though Ananias concerning Saul who will shortly be coming into his acquaintanceship. So let’s begin with verse 13:
“Then Ananias answered, `Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here (In Damascus) he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.'”
Remember Saul was the chief persecutor and he was going to stamp out anybody who has embraced Jesus of Nazareth as Israel’s Messiah. Now you want to remember the major mentality of most Jews even today is the same as Saul of Tarsus. They still think that Jesus was an impostor and He was a blasphemer, and they think to do away with the name of Jesus from amongst Israel is doing their God a favor. I was reading in one of the Jewish magazines where an evangelist and an old Jewish rabbi were arguing the point of Jesus’s Messiah-ship. And when this evangelist had claimed that Jesus had already been here, and had been crucified, and gone back to glory and we’re waiting for him to come the second time, the old rabbi said, “No way, He’s never been here.” Well they argued that back and forth, and finally the old rabbi said, “Tell you what, we’ll just wait till He gets here and then I’m going to ask Him, `Have you been here before.'” Well that pretty much says it, and that’s the Jewish thinking that He has not yet come. Even when we were in Israel a few weeks ago our guide was a dyed-in-the-wool Orthodox Jew, and he made no bones about it. Now he could talk about Jesus, he knew the Four Gospel accounts of Christ’s earthly ministry better than most of us, but when you would ask him, “Well then are you a believer, are you a Christian?” He would answer, “Oh no, I’m an Orthodox Jew.” But they have to know all these things if they’re going to guide people like us, but nevertheless it comes through real clear and plain that Christ has not yet come. They are still looking for Him. Oh, they think His coming is getting close. You talk to a Jew who knows his Old Testament and he’ll be quick to tell you that, “The Messiah is coming soon.”
And of course most of you have been reading in all of your papers about the Red Heifer in Israel. Well it’s just another indication that these Orthodox Jews are excited about the prospect of their Messiah’s soon coming. And when He comes He will set things so that they can have their Temple and something will happen to the Muslims on the Temple mount peaceably or other wise, but they’re sure when Messiah comes they’re going to have their Temple worship. And they will! However, it’s not going to be the true Messiah. It’s going to be the counterfeit Messiah, the Anti-christ. If you have Jewish friends and you have a chance to visit with them, as I have, and I have a lot of Jewish listeners out there in television, I’ll ask them what they are looking for in a Messiah? And they always reply, “Well, He’s not God like you claim. He’s just a man, but he’s going to be like a superman.” Well that’s just exactly like I teach the Anti-christ will be. He’s going to have tremendous charisma, and ability to lead militarily, and economically, and every which way. But he’s the counterfeit, he’s the Anti-christ.
So this whole mentality was wrapped up in this one man, Saul of Tarsus, that Jesus was an impostor, He was a blasphemer. Now back to Ananias in verse 15. And if you haven’t caught it before, mark this verse down, where Ananias now in Damascus is being spoken to by the Lord Jesus from Heaven and He says:
“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,…'”
Now you’ve never seen this language in the Bible before this. I know people get shook up when I tell them that Jesus never ministered to Gentiles with only a couple of exceptions. Most can’t swallow that, and they try to find all kind of excuses that He must have gone to Gentiles. I always say, “Well, show me in the Scripture? Show me where He had any concert with Gentiles?” Well, He didn’t, except the Roman centurion, and the woman of Canaan. And other than that He confined His ministry in that little neck of land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Only to the Jew did He go, and He made it so plain to the Twelve.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, `Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:'”
Now that’s clear-cut language. Now for a moment go to Acts Chapter 11, this is the one verse I guess that did more to open my eyes on this thinking than any other verse in Scripture. It brought me to the place that I could see that God had been dealing only with the Jew, with exceptions (I’ll always have to put that in there). But He was dealing with the Nation of Israel from the Old Testament promises, and now look what verse 19 says, and it’s so plain.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen (That which we read about back there in Chapter 7. Those Jews that came under that persecution ) travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word (Old Testament) to none but unto the Jews only.”
If you can squeeze a Gentile into that verse then you’re a bigger miracle worker than I could ever hope to be. It just doesn’t happen because they didn’t have Gentiles in their listening audience. They are appealing only to the Jew on the basis of all those Old Testament promises. Now coming back to Chapter 9 for just a moment we find God sovereignly putting a fork in the road, and now He’s going to send this man, Saul of Tarsus, far hence to the Gentiles. And in verse 16 we know it was fulfilled to the last jot and tittle. God said to Ananias:
“For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
And if you don’t think that came true just take a look at II Corinthians Chapter 11 where Paul rehearses all the horrible things that happened to him in his getting the Gospel out to the Gentile world. And then going on in Chapter 9, we find Paul had gotten some food and his sight was restored and then in verse 20:
“And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, …”
See he didn’t go up town in the market place at the beginning. He was still confining his preaching to the Jew. No one has told him anything different yet. Now Ananias knew it but I don’t think Saul understood it yet . But now he goes immediately from his sight restoration, after having recovered from that trauma on the road to Damascus, and he goes to the Synagogue of the Jew. Does he preach Christ crucified? Buried? Risen from the dead? NO!!! He hadn’t heard any of that either, any more than Peter had. But what does he preach? That Jesus was the Christ and was the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel. That’s all he knew. So now what does God have to do? God can’t let him go on with that. He’s got greater things for the man. You know God does things in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? He could have just appeared to him in a vision and said, “Paul, it’s going to get pretty tacky here in Damascus. You’d better be leaving. Go on out the front gate and head down south.” But God doesn’t do that with this man. He waits until the death threats get so heavy and he’s hearing it from more than one direction. And so what do his friends do? They have to let him down the wall in a basket in the middle of the night. And not on the side where the main road ran either. It was on the back side of Damascus. I always have to remind my classes, “How would you have like to have been in Saul’s shoes, without benefit of all the street lights and lights everywhere. It was pitch dark and they let him down on the back side of the wall and he has to find his way, knowing that there are people out there trying to kill him. And that was the way God did it. From Damascus He took him, as He tells us later in the book of Galatians, Chapter 1, that He took him down to Mt. Sinai in Arabia. That was the very same place where God gave the Law to Moses and God was now going to give to this man these whole doctrines of grace. And in this doctrine of Grace Paul usually referred to it as the revelation of the mysteries.