Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 55
The End of All Things is at Hand
I Peter 4:1 – 5:14
Okay, we’re ready to get started and take up where we left off in our last program, which will be in I Peter chapter 4. We want to constantly be reminded that these little epistles of James, Peter, John, Jude and on into Revelation were all part and parcel of the Old Testament prophetic program laid out for the Nation of Israel. A good example of that is Psalms chapter 2. And, consequently, it is addressed to Jews.
Now go back with me for just a second so you can pick up what I’m talking about. Go back to James chapter 1 verse 1, because we just never want to lose sight of the fact that you must always look at the Scriptures in light of this; to whom was it written? Who’s writing it? When was it written? And what were the circumstances? Then you can begin to understand. All right, now in James verse 1 of chapter 1, it is so obvious who the first of these little Jewish epistles were written to. Now remember, this is not the James that was part of the Twelve disciples but, rather, this is the half-brother. James of the Twelve was beheaded earlier.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, (written) to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” Well there are no Gentiles in the Twelve Tribes of Israel, so James is writing to the Jews.
Well, you come to I Peter chapter 1 and, even though he doesn’t mention the Twelve Tribes, he’s writing to Jews, but he calls them “those who are scattered,” as James does. Well, that wouldn’t apply to Gentiles, they’re not scattered – but Jews were. They were driven out of Jerusalem because of Saul of Tarsus’ persecution, and they’ve been scattered throughout that part of the Middle East and on up into Asia Minor – what’s present day Turkey. And, in fact, that’s the area I think that James and Peter and even John (to the most degree), are writing.They wrote to little Jewish congregations up there in Asia Minor.
In fact, in my own mind I think the Jewish congregations that James and Peter and John are writing to are the same congregations addressed in the first three chapters of Revelation. In other words, those, too, are Jewish churches, and we’ll see that when we get back there in a few months because there’s no Church language in there. There’s no Church language in James. There’s no Church language in Peter. There’s no Church language in I, II or III John. Not a word. It’s all addressed to Jewish believers who had, no doubt, been scattered out of that church in Jerusalem, back in Acts 8:1. So, when you keep that in mind, all these things just fall in place and become so easy to understand.
In fact, I’ve learned a lot in the last few months preparing for these TV programs – things that I never saw before. And I’m sure everyone that hears me teach this is going to say the same thing. All right, but now in I Peter chapter 4 (writing to these Jews probably up there in Western Turkey and Asia Minor in separate little Jewish congregations), they’re under intense pressure. The rest of the Jewish world has pretty much made life easy with the Romans – but these believers who are now living a life that is according to God’s program, are being persecuted. And it’s always been that way. You go back into the Old Testament.
Go all the way back into Israel’s history – how did even the mainstream of Israel treat the true believing Jew? They persecuted them constantly. What did they do with the prophets? Killed them. And that’s just been part and parcel of the human history; that the true believers of any age are hated by the majority of the human race. So these Jews here now, in these little epistles are under intense pressure. Not only from the Romans but probably also from the more lackadaisical Jews who are religious but not godly.
The thrust of these letters is to give them the wherewithal to resist the tribulational persecution they’re under. No they’re not in the Tribulation, as Peter is writing this, but remember according to the Old Testament program (and by the time we get into these little Jewish epistles), they feel like the Tribulation is right out in front of them. And all they’re seeing is the stage being set for the Tribulation, as I call it, even today.
Now, as I pointed out when we started all these little epistles, this was back in the first century between 40 and 70 AD. But now here we are in 2003 and we’re almost in the same identical scenario. Oh, a different world technologically and socially but, humanly speaking, nothing has changed. The only thing that is different, is God has now given the Gentile world through the Apostle Paul’s teaching of Grace nearly 2,000 years to complete the Body of Christ. And I think we’re getting close to that completion.
Mankind is still the same. They still practice the same wickedness. True believers are still under the same kind of pressure. The political systems haven’t changed. In fact, we just thought of something the other night, and I’m going to turn right around and share it with our whole television audience. Isn’t it amazing that God did not let Rome destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, and scatter the Nation of Israel, until Paul had finished his epistles? So the stage was set, that they would no longer need the central Jewish element because, as Peter writes, they’re scattered. And because Paul’s epistles are now complete, everything is ready to send the Gospel of Grace to the ends of the earth, which has been going now for almost 2,000 years.
So it’s amazing that those two things were pretty much in proximity – probably a year and a half or two between. Now the next big amazing thing is that, just about the time that Israel started reappearing as a nation (and coming back into the Promised Land back in 1946, and finally culminating with their independence in1948), almost at the same time we have the Roman Empire also reappearing in the area of Western Europe. So Israel and the Roman Empire went down into the dustbin of history together. They were dormant for almost 2,000 years together – and now they have reappeared together. Isn’t that amazing?
When we were down in Florida, we were out fishing in the Gulf. And one day, there was a pair of dolphins, a mother and its baby, and I couldn’t help but think of it. All afternoon they were just going up and down side-by-side. You’d think they were glued together. And then they told us, “No, that’s the baby.” Well, you know I couldn’t help but think of that when I pictured this, this is exactly what happened with Rome and Israel.
They went down into the dustbin of history about the same time. Two thousand years later, they come back up into view almost the same time. Well, that should make an imprint on your thinking shouldn’t it? That, as Israel reappeared, so did the Roman Empire reappear – because, after all, we know that Daniel told us in chapter 9 that the empire that would destroy the city and the sanctuary (which was Rome), would also be the empire out of which this man of sin (the Anti-christ) would come.
So, we know that there has to be a semblance of the Old Roman Empire. Well, that began of course, right after World War II. First they called it the Club of Rome, ten nations. Then for the longest time they just called themselves The Ten. And now we know them as the European Union. The ‘EU’. But it’s a Revived Roman Empire and it’s coming more and more to the fore as I mentioned in my last newsletter. Just watch Western Europe because, as Israel comes more to the fore, right beside it comes the Roman Empire – because they will be operating in unison again by the time the Tribulation starts.
So, we’ve got two scenarios. They thought it was all coming as it was being written – it was just right out in front of them. They didn’t know that God was going to stop His time clock and not permit the Tribulation to come in, and instead offer grace for 2,000 years. But now we see that those same elements of what we see here are back in view – and so there’s going to be a group of Jews that will play the role that these Jews were playing (and that is being prepared to go into the horrors of the Tribulation). You’ll see it more and more as we come along.
I Peter 4:1a
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, (speaking of course of His death on the cross,) arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;” Now that sounds a lot like Paul in Philippians, doesn’t it?
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” So Peter is aware of the death and the burial and the resurrection, but he never proclaimed it as the Gospel of Salvation, as Paul does. He merely proclaims it as a fact that the One Israel rejected and crucified has now been brought back to life and He is still in a position to bring about the Kingdom and His role as King.
I Peter 4:2
“That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” Now what’s Peter saying here? That when a believer dies for his faith, he naturally is being subjected to the power of ungodly men who put him to death. But as soon as that believer is put to death, he is out from under the authority of the enemies of the flesh, and he’s in the presence of God. And the whole idea here is that when persecution and death stares the believer in the face (and they’ve faced it for thousands of years), we have to take comfort in the fact that once the suffering has ended and death comes, we’re immediately in Glory! And that’s what’s going to have to keep us if we are faced with persecution someday. And the whole thrust here is that (for these Jews Peter is writing to), if they should have to die for their faith, then their eternal life would immediately begin. Now verse 3.
I Peter 4:3a
“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the (who?) Gentiles,…” Now do you see how obvious this is that Peter is talking to Jews? As he writes to Jews he makes reference to those Gentile persecutors. Which, of course, were Romans in that case.
I Peter 4:3b
“…when we walked in (now this was the moral state of the Gentile world in which the Nation of Israel had to move and breath and live. This was typical of Gentiledom)lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, (or drunkenness) revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:” That was the picture of the Gentile society in which these Jews had to live. Now I’m always reminding people that this was the horrible climate in which the Apostle Paul moved during his whole 25 years of ministry. He was constantly up against this kind of a lifestyle. And yet, by just the simple preaching of the Gospel of Salvation (that to believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose again), he had multitudes come out of it and enjoy a Godly lifestyle.
All right, let me just show you a little bit of what I mean by this. Come all the way back to Acts chapter 15 – after they’ve had that counsel at Jerusalem – and when James, Peter and John finally agree that Paul can go out to the Gentiles, and that they (the Twelve) would stay amongst the Nation of Israel, the Jews. Come over with me to Acts 15 verse 19. If you understand the wicked lifestyle, the rotten social structure of the Roman Empire (Gentiles), then you can understand why these Jewish believers like the Twelve were concerned as to how Paul would handle these Gentile converts. So James attaches this string to his okay.
“Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: (but here’s what he had to warn them against; be sure that they are taught that they have to separate from this kind of Gentile action) 20. But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, (the whole world was steeped in idolatry,) and from fornication, (in other words, the whole Roman Empire living in an immoral state) and from things strangled, (in other words, they had no compunction about the Laws of God,)and from blood.”
Now, from day one, even before Israel became a nation, God had given instruction way back there at Noah’s time that the human race was not to partake of drinking blood. But the pagan world was doing it all the time. And these Jews knew that and so James says, “Now all right, if you’re going to go out and preach this Gospel of Grace to the Gentiles, well and good. But make sure they understand that, in the freedom of Grace, they don’t keep on doing what the Gentiles do.” Got the picture? Oh, it was wickedness on every hand. And so when Peter speaks of it in his little epistle, he knows well, and so did Paul.
Now I’m going to stop a minute in Galatians on our way back to I Peter – where Paul gives us the same kind of a verbal picture of the lifestyle of the Gentile world at that time. Now, granted, to a certain degree it’s the same way today. The world has always been this way. But, I think at the time that Paul and Peter are ministering, it was probably worse than maybe any other time in history. And here in Galatians chapter 5 is, again, the verbal picture of the social fabric of the Gentile world at the time Peter and Paul ministered.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, (no marital fidelity whatsoever) fornication, (the most gross forms of sexual immorality) uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20. Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, sedition, heresies.” Not a very pretty society was it? And yet this was normal. This was the lifestyle of the wicked Gentile. All right finish the verse,
“Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.” That was the lifestyle of the Gentiles. And this is what these Jewish believers were up against – when they withdrew from that kind of lifestyle they came under persecution. And so, Peter is admonishing them not to give in and to maintain their testimony with Godly living. All right, now let me read verse 3 in I Peter chapter 4 again, so that you catch the language, how that it’s all the same.
I Peter 4:3a
“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles,…” In other words, to live like the Gentiles. Now let me stop a minute again. Do you realize that from day one, from the time that Moses brought Israel out of Egypt, what was the one thing that God had to constantly warn Israel to beware of? “Don’t be like the Gentiles.” Now think about that. God had to tell them over and over, “Don’t be like the Gentiles.” Now I can give you one glaring example of how that came to the top. They’d been ruled by the judges of which Samuel was the last – and in Samuel’s older years, what did Israel come and say? “We want a king like the Gentiles have. The Gentiles all have kings, why can’t we have a king?” See? That was the first glaring example.
And so all up through their history, God had to constantly warn, “Don’t ever want to be like those Gentiles.” But it was a constant temptation to Israel to do just that, and it’s the same way today. That’s one of the big problems even in Israel in the Middle East is that they want to be recognized as just another nation like the Gentiles. And they’re not supposed to be, they’re supposed to be different.
All right, and so now back to I Peter again – now this is what Peter is alluding to. Don’t try to assimilate and be like those Gentiles. Now I’ve got another thought. Have you ever stopped to realize why the Nation of Israel hasn’t disappeared? You know that’s one of my favorite topics when we’re on seminars with people that I haven’t been teaching all the time. What a miracle that, after three to four thousand years that little tiny nation of never more than fifteen million people has not disappeared. Well they should have. Under normal circumstances they would have intermarried and they would have ceased to be a nation of people. But they didn’t. And they have still maintained their identity in spite of this constant temptation to be like the Gentiles.
If they’re going to be like the Gentiles, then they have no compunction about intermarrying. I read the other day in the Jerusalem Post that 52% of Jewish young people are marrying Gentiles. And, of those 52%, 80% are not raising their children in the Jewish teachings. And so now we’re getting to the place that, if it doesn’t stop, they will disappear. They will go into an assimilation and lose their identity. But, miracle of miracles, so far they have not, and that’s why we think it’s proof that This Book is the Word of God because God says they will not disappear. They will never leave the scene. Now verse 4.
I Peter 3:4a
“Wherein they (the Gentiles) think it strange…’ Sound familiar? That’s just like your neighbors around you today, isn’t it? They think we’re kind of strange. There’s something wrong with us that we don’t go out there and revel with the world, see?
I Peter 3:4b
“… that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, (Consequently, they’re what? They’re) speaking evil of you:” Now verse 5.
I Peter 1:5
“Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” Now what is it saying? That’s a shifting in gears, as I say. Here we have Peter all of a sudden admonishing these Jewish believers not to even want to be like those Gentiles, but why? Because we as believers know that we’re going to be confronted with the Holy Judge of all – God Himself, see? Now that speaks of Christ Who will be the Judge at the Great White Throne. Now verse 6.
I Peter 1:6a
“For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead.,…” In other words, those that already died for their faith. That’s what we’re driving at here, those who have died by persecution. The Gospel of the Kingdom was preached to them, they died as believers.
I Peter 1:6b
“…that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, (they hated them. They didn’t like their holy lifestyle, so they killed them.) but (the result of that persecuted death was to)live according to God in the spirit.” Get the picture? So Peter’s admonishing them saying, “Sure, as soon as you separate from the wild drunken living of the Gentiles, they’re going to persecute you, they’re going to hate you, they’re going to kill you. But when they kill you, you immediately end up in the eternal life side, and so it’s still worth it.”
Now with this I’m going to take you back to what Paul says in Romans chapter 8, and we may use this again before we get out of I Peter. Now this of course is from the other Apostle. The Apostle of the Gentiles – but we’re dealing with the same God; we’re dealing with the same ungodly world. So that part is no different – whether it’s Paul, whether it’s Peter, whether it’s Jeremiah, or Ezekiel or whether it’s the story of Cain and Abel (because after all why did Cain kill Abel? Because Abel was a just man. And Cain was intensely jealous of his righteous relationship).
“For I reckon that the sufferings (persecution) of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” You see what he’s saying? Almost the same thing that Peter said, Paul says, “Okay, so you’ve come under intense persecution because of your faith. It may even bring you to the place of physical death, but the minute you slip out of this human experience by virtue of a martyr’s death, you’re into the eternal bliss and presence with the Lord.” And that’s what we have to comfort ourselves with if persecution should come; if we are ever faced with a martyr’s death. We just simply go through it knowing that when death comes we escape this old body of flesh and we’re going to be in Glory! And we have no idea of the glory that Glory is going to be! And that’s the thing that keeps motivating us to live under the pressure. Now we’re fortunate in America, we don’t know yet what pressure is, but the day may come that we will.