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Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 35
THE COUNSEL OF THE GODHEAD
In our last two lessons we started in Ephesians 1:10 and during those two lessons we only got about half way through the verse. Remember we were dealing with the earthly and heavenly aspect when all things would be one under Christ in His 1000 year reign. We pretty much took care of the earthly aspect in those last two lessons, but we still have just a bit more in Acts. After that we’ll start the heavenly aspect. Let’s read that verse again and pick up where we left off on our Ephesians timeline.
“That in the dispensation (or that period of time or that administration) of the fulness of times (which would be that final 1000 years of human history which we refer to constantly as the millennial reign that) he might gather together in one all things in Christ,…”
“In Him” is a prepositional phrase and always refers to our position in Christ. You know one of my sons asked the other day a logical question concerning the Bible. “Well how do we know we’re in Christ? We don’t look or feel any different, do we? ” Well you know what my answer was. We take all that by faith, because the Book says that when we believed we became a member of the Body of Christ. The Book says we were baptized into the Body of Christ by a work of the Holy Spirit. At the same time we were justified, glorified, forgiven, and all the other things that come with salvation the moment we believe. Did you feel any of that? You don’t all of a sudden get a diploma, but we take it by faith, this is what the Bible has claimed. Now reading on in verse 10. Now here is where we divided the earthly and heavenly aspect.
“… both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:”
So in the two previous chapters we took the premise that beginning way back in Genesis chapter 12, God started dealing with one little nation in particular, the earthly people, Israel. Now that’s as far as we came with our timeline. From Adam to Abraham was about 2000 years, and then 2000 before Christ we had the appearance of Abraham, and the Nation of Israel. From Genesis chapter 12 until we get well into the Book of Acts it’s primarily, but not exclusively, God dealing with Jew only. Now let me show you where I picked up the term Jew only, and I use it without apology. Except I usually add the phrase “with exceptions.” See those exceptions were also in the Old Testament economy. In God’s Sovereign Grace He did send Jonah to Ninevah, a Gentile city. By His Sovereign Grace, the spies ended up on the wall of Jericho, and met Rahab. Naomi by His Grace met Ruth and brought her back to Bethlehem. Now those were all exceptions of Gentiles. But for the most part it has been Jew only. Let’s go back to Acts chapter 11 and look at it. This verse refers back to the time of Stephen’s martyrdom, which was about seven years after Pentecost.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen (back in chapter 7) travelled as far as Phenice and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.”
Now that’s what the Book says, that’s not my idea, I’m not being a bigot or anything like that. The Book makes it so plain that as these believing Jews, who had followed Christ, probably in His earthly ministry, or had responded to Peter and those eleven preaching in the early chapter of Acts, because of Saul’s persecution had fled Jerusalem, had gone as far north as Antioch in Syria, but wherever they went they preached the Word to Jews only. Remember there’s not a New Testament yet, that would come much later, so what did they have? The Old Testament, which was written to the Jew. But remember that fits right in with Jesus’ earthly ministry, and I showed you the verses, He commanded the Twelve –
“…Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
People have such a hard time swallowing that. I can remember a couple of years ago when we were teaching in Israel, and we were having our Bible class after dinner in the hotel, and there were some other tour groups that also came in and attended. The other tour groups hadn’t been with us before as we taught, and all of a sudden some felt that they had been hit in the face with the concept that Christ didn’t come but to the Jews only. And I remember this one fellow in particular got angry. He was as red as a beet, and finally exploded, and said,“You mean to tell me that Jesus did not have anything to do with the Gentiles?” I said, “I’m not telling you, but rather that’s what the Book tells you. Christ came only to the Jew, and when Israel rejected Him, then yes, He’s going to turn to the Gentiles, and we’ll see that next in our timeline.” But I want it understood from the Scriptures all the way from Genesis 12, and the call of Abraham till we get way into the Book of Acts it’s Jew only with exceptions. In our last lesson we stopped in Acts chapter 1, verse 6, and maybe that’s a good jumping off place.
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus did not ridicule them for being ignorant, or foolish for thinking that an earthly kingdom would be set up. But just the opposite –
“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.'”
The kingdom is coming, and don’t you ever forget or doubt that the kingdom is coming to this earth. Now the world has already been waiting, since that verse, over 1900 years, but in God’s mind that was only a couple of days. Remember a thousand years is only as a day, and a day is as a thousand years in God’s sight.
II Peter 3:8
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Now for this timeline review I’m going to come on through Acts real quickly, and now let’s drop in at Acts chapter 2. Now we’re going to see how Israel is still being approached with the same message that Jesus and the Twelve proclaimed in His three years of ministry. Now in verse 22 of Acts chapter 2 we find Peter speaking on the day of Pentecost, and look who he is talking to. And again people miss this in order to make their doctrine fit. But you see the called-out Body of Gentile believers, the Church, won’t fit in these verses. God is still dealing only with the Jew, the Nation of Israel.
“Ye men of Israel, (and you Gentiles? No.) 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:”
So there’s no question who Peter is talking to. He’s talking only to Jews. And again Peter brings these Jews down to the same message that Jesus and the Twelve preached, and he almost repeats it word for word in verse 38.
“Then Peter said unto them, (these Jews, the children of Israel) `Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.'”
Now that was the very process for the nation to become believers. Believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, repent and be baptized in water. As soon as you get to the Gentile plan then the whole format is inverted. We’ll look at that a little bit later. But now coming on up through the Scriptures, we find that Peter keeps preaching his heart out, and now come all the way up to Acts chapter 7. Here it’s about seven years after Acts 2:38 and Pentecost. And here again someone sent me a timeline the other day from someone who in 1920 had this same timeline that I use. He too had Stephen about seven years after Pentecost. Let’s start at verse 2, because I want people to see who Peter and Stephen were talking to. That’s very crucial in being able to separate the Scriptures. If you can’t separate the Scripture, then how are you going to be able to receive this beautiful free gift that God offers to everyone.
“And he (Stephen) said, `Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; (or listen to me) The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, (now who alone can claim Abraham as their father? The Jew!) when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,'”
Then Stephen comes all the way up from Abraham, and builds on the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises made to this nation, and finally comes all the way up toward the end of the chapter, and he puts it on the Jewish religious leaders.
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; (the Messiah) of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murders:”
Now you analyze those two verses, does that fit a Gentile? No that wouldn’t fit Gentiles. Gentiles’ fathers didn’t persecute the prophets, but Israel’s did. So always be careful that you don’t just spread this out over people who are not involved. This is strictly for the Jew, it’s still Jew only.
“Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, (the Nation of Israel again) and have not kept it” Now after that you know what happens to Stephen.
“Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.”
Remember when we were in the Book of Acts I called this the scenario of Israel’s rejection. This is where they hit the high point of unbelief and rejection. “We’ll not have Jesus of Nazareth to rule over us. He was an impostor, He could have never been the Messiah.” And of course Saul of Tarsus was egging them on. Then you remember we get into chapter 9, and now this is where we come to that fork in the road. Where God has finally left off dealing with the Nation of Israel, and He’s going to do something totally different. This is something that has never been imagined by Peter or the eleven. Jesus never betrayed what was about to happen, because God in His Grace is now going to do something totally out of the secret recesses of His own mind, and here it is. I guess we might as well start right with verse 1.
“And Saul, (who was holding the clothes of those who stoned Stephen) yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples (here it’s not the Twelve) of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2. And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”
Then of course you know the account. Outside of Damascus the Lord I think struck him down with this beam from Heaven, probably a laser beam as we understand them now.
“And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, `Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?’ 5. And he said, `Who art thou Lord?…'” ( Jehovah)
You want to remember that Saul was a deeply religious man. Oh he was a murderer, he was one who slaughtered Jewish believers, but it was all in the name of his religion. Remember anybody that is religious certainly has a concept, whoever their God is, that he’s up above. I don’t know of any religion that looks at God being down, it’s always up. So when this event comes from above with the stream of light, and the voice, immediately Saul knows it’s got to be God that he’s dealing with, so that’s why the question, “Who art thou, Lord?” But in the original it really should have been, “Who art thou, Jehovah?” Because that’s who Saul understood. Jehovah was the God of Abraham. Well what answer did Saul get for his question?
“…I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:…”
Now imagine the man’s reaction when he heard that. The One that he thought was such an impostor and blasphemer, and the One whose name he was trying to just simply obliterate from Jewish thinking was the same Jehovah that had called Abraham. He was the One that had spoken to Moses, that had spoken to David, and He was the same One that was now speaking from Heaven after having been crucified, buried, and risen from the dead. No wonder the man became what he was. What an experience Saul had when he heard that voice from Heaven say, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Well remember God always works the ends into the middle. So while He’s dealing outside the city with Saul, He’s dealing in the city with Ananias. So now let’s drop all the way down to verse 11. This is just a quick review of our timeline.
“And the Lord said unto him, (Ananias) `Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.'”
I’ll bet he was praying. I mean after he’s gone years now suppressing the name of Jesus of Nazareth as a blasphemer, as a demon, and as the worst of worst could be, and then suddenly realize that it was the God that he thought he served, I bet he did pray. I don’t blame him. So the Lord says, “behold, he prayeth.”
“And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13. Then Ananias answered, `Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: (the believing Jews) 14. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15. But…'” But is one of my favorite words in Scripture. That may all be true Ananias, but the flip side is –
“But the Lord said unto him, `Go thy way: for he (Saul) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles,…'” All of a sudden God is going to do something that He had not done before. You’ve not seen anything like this. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10?
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them saying, `Go not into the way of the Gentiles,…'”
And all the way up through His earthly ministry we have seen that He ignored the Gentiles, and as late as the Passover Feast, and the Greeks wanted to see Jesus, but He didn’t respond to them. He didn’t tell His disciples, “Well bring them in to me.” All He told Andrew and Philip was to tell those Greeks that the hour cometh, speaking of His death, burial, and resurrection. Gentiles would have to wait until that finished work of the Cross could be presented as a saving Gospel for them as we find in I Corinthians 15:1-4. Now reading on in verse 16, here in Acts chapter 9.
“For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name sake.”
Then of course we know that the apostle Paul from that point on goes out to a three year seminary training at Mt. Sinai, where he was revealed the mysteries. And one of those mysteries was the Gospel of the Grace of God by which Gentiles are saved. It’s not limited to Gentiles, but as much as it was Jew only back here when God was dealing with Israel, with a few exceptions. Now we have something totally different happening, God is now pulling out another group of people for His name which we call the Church, or the Body of Christ. It is mainly made up of Gentiles, with the exceptions of a few Jews. So you have two comparisons. Here you have Jew only with a few Gentile exceptions, and now we have predominately Gentiles, but with some Jewish exceptions. And the two you might say just cross over.
Israel goes out into the nations of the world into a dispersion even unto our own present day. The Body of Christ on the other hand is pulled off and becomes a unique group of people, and they are waiting for their period of human history which will be the out-calling or the Rapture. After we’re taken out of the way, then at that time once again God will pick up and deal with Israel for the seven years of Tribulation, and then you’ll have the Second Coming when Christ will stand once again on the earth. We’ll look at that if we can in the next lesson. Now let’s look at some of the heavenly aspects of Ephesians 1:10. Go back and look at some Scriptures concerning Paul’s ministry. Let’s stop at Romans 16:25. This verse uses language that I’m afraid very few people, if they read it, comprehend it. But I’m afraid most people don’t even read it. Very few people understand what Paul is saying in this tremendous verse.
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to (not the prophets, not the Old Testament, not the Abrahamic Covenant, not the teaching of Jesus in His earthly ministry, not the teaching by Peter in the Book of Acts, but) the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world begin.”
Paul’s Gospel had been kept secret in the mind of God since time began. Now that’s what the Bible says, that’s not something I made up. This is what the Scripture says, that this Gospel that Paul is now going to start presenting to the Gentile world has been kept secret. Maybe I should have used this verse first, so in the moments we have left let’s come back to Acts chapter 15. Because here in Acts 15 is more or less the introduction to it. I’m sure that when James, when he spoke, had no real comprehension of what he was saying. He couldn’t have, because nothing like that had ever been revealed before. I think he was just inspired to say what he said without really understanding the ramification of it all. But here in Acts 15 after they’ve had this big run in with Paul and Barnabas, that Paul and Barnabas could not be preaching salvation to Gentiles without adhering to circumcision and Law keeping, they finally are convinced that yes, Paul’s on the right track, and so James makes this tremendous statement.
“Simeon (Peter) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them (the Gentiles) a people for his name. 15. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16. After this (after the calling out a Gentile people, that’s you and I today) I (God) will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins therof, and I will set it up:” Now in verse 17 to back up what I’m saying –
“That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, (this had never been revealed before. But now even James has a little bit of insight that since Paul’s Gospel has been revealed, and it’s primarily for the Gentile world then yes, God is going to call out a people for His name. And it’s going to be the Gentiles who are going to hear it) upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” Now what does that tell you? Oh the Sovereign God is in control of everything, and nothing catches Him by surprise.