Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 3 * BOOK 72
THE BIG PICTURE OF WHY WE BELIEVE IN THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE – 3
I Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25
You’ve all had your break, and I’ve had mine. We’re going to go right back to where we left off. We’re going to keep going in Acts chapter 7. Again, we want to thank our television audience for everything. We just can’t thank you enough for all your prayers, your financial help, your letters, and your encouragement. We trust that one day we’ll all meet in Glory. I don’t know whether we’re going to have the wherewithal to know how all this transpired or not, but if we do, boy, it’s going to be a great reunion. It really is.
You know, even today we have folks that met some relatives they didn’t even know were around, and that’s what we like about our ministry. Iris said it on our way to Florida the other day, “You know what the best part of our ministry is? How many friends have been brought together and new friends and they continue to be friends for years to come.” And that’s all part of it that—when like-minded believers get together and meet new friends, it’s quite a thrilling experience.
Okay, we’re going to continue right heading toward why are we adamant on our Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Well, you have to get the big picture to understand what we’re talking about. You can’t just jump in and say, “Well, this is what it says.” Well, yes, so far as we’re concerned, but for the Doubting Thomas, you’ve got to show him the big picture. All right, that’s what we’re moving toward.
Acts chapter 7, and Stephen of course is addressing the high priest and some of the other religious leaders of Israel. This is Israel’s last opportunity to repent of having killed their Messiah and recognize Him for what He was. So, Stephen lays it all out on the line throughout this chapter 7. And if you have any doubt that He’s talking to Jews, why all you have to do is come down to verse 51. He’s winding up his message and again, remember, this is all Holy Spirit inspired; not a word of this is anything but God’s Word. Stephen says to these religious leaders-
“Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart (Oh, they were circumcised in the flesh, don’t think they weren’t. But heart? No.) and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; (or the Holy Spirit) as your fathers did, (going back to Israel’s history) so do ye. 52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?…”
In other words, all the way through Israel’s history when the prophets would come warn then of chastisement to come and the blessings that could follow what would they do? They would kill the messenger—over and over. Jeremiah was found in a dungeon when the Babylonians came to Jerusalem. Stephen is reminding them of all that.
“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain (or killed) them who showed before (that is the prophets now) of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:” Pretty strong language, isn’t it?
In fact, as a rule when I teach these early chapters of Acts, I always remind folks—is this the message that you hear me or anyone else proclaim today? You killed the Messiah. Repent of it. No. But for Israel, that was their dilemma. They had in unbelief rejected their Messiah and killed Him. That’s what they were guilty of. For you and me, it’s the other side of the coin – He loved us and died for us. That’s the big difference. All right, now verse 53, he says:
“Who have received the law (So you know he’s talking to Jews.) by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. 54. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” They were convicted. But they didn’t respond the way they should have. They should have responded in repentance and sorrow for what they’d done, but instead they rejected even Stephen and now began putting him to death.
“But he, (Stephen) being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the Glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,” Now, that throws a curve at a lot of people. I get question after question. Every other Scripture says He’s seated; He’s sitting. Why here is He standing?
Well, I think I can take you back quickly to the Book of Psalms. If I’m not mistaken, it should be Psalms 68. These old priests of Israel knew especially the Psalms, and as soon as Stephen said, I see Him standing, they were reflecting on this portion, I’m quite sure. And it infuriated them! Scared them maybe into their infuriation, but here it is.
“Let God (What?) arise, (or stand) let his enemies be scattered: (And what were these priests of Israel? Enemies! They hated Him.) let them also that hate him flee before him. 2. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.” Do you think that sounded very pretty to these Jews? Not at all. So their anger was simply stirred all the more, and that caused them then to cry out.
“Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears (They didn’t want to hear another word like that.) 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.” Highlight that. That’s the name of the next character on the stage of biblical history. Peter and the Eleven are going to go down into the unknown area, and up to the front comes this new Apostle. We are introduced to him here as the young man’s name was Saul, later to be called Paul.
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60. 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.” Or he died physically. Now I call that, you’ve heard me say it before, the crescendo, the very end of a great symphonic piece of music to Israel’s rejection. It was just the epiphany—we will not have Jesus of Nazareth as our Messiah and King!
All right, now go right into chapter 8. And again, here’s where you see Saul’s name coming to the top.
“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church…” The Jerusalem church. The Jewish church. Not the Body of Christ church. Not a Gentile church as most of Christendom tries to make it. This was the church composed of believing Jews who had embraced Jesus as the Messiah. They formed, starting at Pentecost, the local Jerusalem Jewish church. They’re law-keeping Jews, but they are Messianic Jews. They are not Paul’s Gentiles, and keep that straight. Otherwise, you’ll get confused all the more.
All right, so this Jerusalem church was under great persecution by, of course, Saul and the rest of the Jerusalem priesthood.
“…and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except (Whom?) the apostles.” They didn’t leave. They didn’t go out into the Gentile world. They stayed right there at Jerusalem—and then verse 3.
“As for Saul, (He just continues his mad persecution against these believing Jews.) he made havoc of this Jerusalem church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.”
All right, now to see how Paul had to live with that all the rest of his life, keep your hand here I’m going to come back, go ahead with me to Acts chapter 26. This, I think, just plagued the Apostle all the days of his life. That, of course, is one reason he was able to cope with all the hardships of his ministry. He could never forget the misery he had caused the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Acts 26 and drop in at verse 7. Paul the Apostle, he’s already spent many years out there amongst the Gentiles, and he is before King Agrippa as he’s on his way to imprisonment in Rome. He says to King Agrippa in verse 7 just for sake of time. When you’ve got time read it all.
“Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.” In other words, there’s still the hope of this coming King and His Kingdom.
“Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? (Agrippa, you should know that there’s enough knowledge of Scripture that resurrection is a part of our Jewish belief.) 9. I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” This was what precipitated his hate and his persecution.
“Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: (Now watch this.) and many of the saints (That is the Jewish believers.) did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they(these Jewish believers who had been imprisoned and then committed to death) and when they were put to death, I gave my voice (or my vote) against them.”
“And I punished them oft in every synagogue, (Where he would go in and arrest them if they were gathered together in the worship of their Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.) and compelled them to blaspheme; (Now, I feel that’s an indication of torture.) and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. 12. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,”
And then of course he rehearses for the umpteenth time his Damascus Road experience. All right, while we’re still up there in chapter 8 in the Book of Acts, I want you to keep coming with me now if you will to chapter 10. Paul has now had his Damascus Road salvation experience back in chapter 9, and the Lord has led him out to the backside of the desert. I think to the same mountain where Moses received the Law.
But in the three years while Paul is out in the desert, God is doing something to get ready for another future event. You know, God is the God of all. And He does things way back just to have something ready way out in the future. Well in this case, I think, He’s getting Peter ready for a great conference in Jerusalem twelve years later. And I maintain, without apology, that had Peter not had this experience in Acts chapter 10, he would have never come to Paul’s defense in Acts 15 and Galatians 2, where they finally agreed that Paul would be the Apostle of the Gentiles. Peter would have never agreed to that. But here God had to, before anything really starts unfolding supernaturally, He had to bring Peter to an understanding that God was going to save Gentiles.
Now, a Jew could never understand that. That was beyond them. Now you’ve got to get a mental picture of all this. From the time that they came out of Egypt, what was their constant instruction concerning the Gentiles around them? Have nothing to do with them. Have nothing to do with them. Don’t intermarry with them. Don’t do anything, because if you do, they’re going to convince you to worship their pagan gods and you’ll go down the tube with them. So, stay away from them. Have nothing to do with them.
Well, that stayed with the Jew all the way through. Even though they rebelled and disobeyed, yet it was still God’s teaching that the Jew was to have nothing to do with the Gentile. Nothing. They were never told to go out and evangelize the Gentile; they were to stay separated and insulated from them.
All right, so now God has to show Peter that He’s changing His modus operandi. He is going to go to the Gentiles, but not through Israel. It’s going to be through one little Jew—not through the Nation, but through one man, Saul of Tarsus. All right, so while Saul is out there in the desert being confronted, I feel, by the Lord Jesus Himself, teaching him all the things pertaining to this next dispensation that’s going to follow the dispensation of the Law, here comes God dealing with Peter.
Acts chapter 10 and again for sake of time we’ll drop down to verse 7. An angel has appeared unto this Roman officer, up there in Caesarea on the sea, up there on the Mediterranean seacoast. The angel tells him to send for Peter down in Joppa. And of course the Lord works on Peter from the other end, and he brings the two together. But all right, in verse 7:
“When the angel which spoke unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; 8. And when he declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.”
In other words, this Roman officer is going to send a couple of his underlings down to Joppa to tell Peter that he has to come up and fulfill God’s obligation. Okay, now at the same time, you see, down at Joppa, God’s going to deal with Peter—verse 9.
“On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: (or noon) 10. And he became very hungry, and would have eaten:(It was lunch time, but the girls weren’t ready is the way I put it. They hadn’t completely finished fixing the noon lunch.) but while they (the women of the house) made ready, (prepared a lunch) he fell into a trance,” All right, verse 11, now this is all happening in a matter of minutes during a noon hour.
“And he saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12. Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. (It was a great mix of all the unclean things that a Jew would never think of eating. And what does God say?) 13. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.” My, what an abhorrent thing for a Jew. All right, look at his response in verse 14.
“But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. (Why not? He was a law-keeping Jew. He wouldn’t eat pork or birds of prey or anything like that.) 15. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, call that not common.” This was done three times. Well, throughout the whole event, of course, Peter is now forced by an act of God to go with the emissaries from Cornelius back up to Caesarea.
And you’ve heard me say it over and over, heel prints in the sand from Joppa to Caesarea! Peter didn’t want to go! No more than Jonah did, because these are good Jews who know better than to try to have anything to do with Gentiles. But God forced the issue, and so Peter gets there.
Now, just to show you again how legalistic he is. Come all the way down to verse 28. He is now stepping over the threshold into this house of these Romans. Can you imagine how that good Jew must have felt? He must have almost felt like the demons were just crawling all over him to come into a pagan Roman household and especially the military of all things! Now, here you pick it up in verse 28 as he steps into the Roman house. He said:
“…Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man who is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation;…” Now, isn’t that plain enough? What’s he saying? Cornelius, you know enough of our Jewish customs that I can’t rightfully come to a Gentile house. It’s unlawful. And I’m not a lawbreaker.
“…but God (See, that made the difference) hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” Since when? Since now that God is ready to go to the Gentile world with salvation. He had never done this before, except in exceptions – when He sent Jonah to Nineveh and a few other exceptions where Gentiles were brought in, but on the basis of Jewish law, no. They could have nothing to do with anything other than Jewish people.
All right, so Peter says that under the circumstances I came. So, here we have the great big change of modus operandi, one of my favorite words. How God is now going to operate with the Gentile world as over against the Jew. This just takes a few moments of time, and I have to do it. Peter comes into the house of Cornelius and, of course, all he can tell them is that this Jesus of Nazareth presented himself as Israel’s Messiah, that Israel had rejected Him and killed Him, and how God raised Him the third day. Now verse 44:
“While Peter yet spake these words, (In other words, he hadn’t even wound up his point yet) the Holy Spirit fell on all them who heard the word.” Now, we don’t know how many there were. A house full? Ten, twelve, fourteen—your guess is as good as mine. But they all suddenly became believers by believing that Jesus was the Christ and that He’d been raised from the dead. All right, so the Holy Spirit fell in response to their believing, but what have they not yet done according to the Jewish plan?
Now, I’ve got to take you back to Acts chapter 2. This is what I like to do with Scripture. You compare Scripture with Scripture, and my goodness you can’t help but see the difference. Acts chapter 2 verse 36, Peter on the day of Pentecost—who’s he talking to? Jews. Not Gentiles.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, (There are no Gentiles in the house of Israel.) that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37. Now when they heard this, they were pricked (Convicted, of course, and they said,) Men and brethren, what shall we (the Nation of Israel) do?”
Now look at the process. Repent. Be baptized. Be forgiven, and be filled with the Spirit.
“Then Peter said unto them, 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 Spirit.” Mark them down on your notes. Repent, be baptized, be forgiven, and experience the Holy Spirit. That’s the Jewish process.
Now, look what happens up in a house of Gentiles. And if you know anything about math, you invert and multiply, isn’t that one of the rules. Well, here we have it—a complete inversion of the process. Now, instead of repenting and being baptized and being forgiven, it’s the other way around. The Romans suddenly believe, and they’re being forgiven. They haven’t repented. They haven’t been baptized. And Peter is just…he’s bonkers! Hey, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to work! It’s all backwards. Well, why? Because we’re dealing with Gentiles. We’re not dealing with Israel. It is a whole new ballgame, a whole new modus operandi. Here it is, the beginning then of God’s dealing with Gentiles on a whole new plane—not with repentance and water baptism, not with a forgiveness and then that filling of the Holy Spirit.
But the moment these Romans believed, they were forgiven naturally, and the Holy Spirit evidenced Himself upon them, and Peter was just beside himself.
Okay, now come on down to chapter 11 just to show that this was such an unusual phenomenon. The Jews weren’t used to this. The Jerusalem church had never heard such a thing. Gentiles coming into a knowledge of our God? Complete unbelief of that, so you come into chapter 11 verse 1.
“And the apostles (the Twelve) and brethren that were in Judea (the Jerusalem church) heard that the Gentiles had also received the Word of God.” I imagine messengers even ran faster than Peter to tell them what had just happened up there in Caesarea.
Now, know your geography. Caesarea on the sea is only about 80 miles from Jerusalem. So a good runner could make that in fairly good time. Anyway, before Peter gets back to Jerusalem, messengers have come telling what happened.
“And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they who were of the circumcision…” That is the Jerusalem Church—praised the Lord and just pumped Peter’s hand and said, Peter, well done? Hardly! What did they do?
“…they contended with him, (They argued with him over what? Here it is next verse.) 3. Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, (What’s that? Gentiles. Romans! And then horror of horrors they also what?) and didst eat with them.”
You know, I’m always so thrilled when God gives me confirmation of something. You know, for all the years that I’ve been teaching, I’ve emphasized that I know that what really shook them up was that Peter ate ham sandwiches! And it does wake people up and make them smile. But here the other day I was reading in an archaeology magazine that they had just uncovered another pagan sacrificial temple place, and the place was littered with bones. What kind of bones? Pig bones! So, I’d been right all along. Absolutely, pork was the mainstay of the Gentile diet. So it was just natural that if Peter went in and ate with him, he must have eaten pork.
And, oh, they were all shook up. Okay, Peter rehearsed the matter and told them all the things that took place and how that God was in it. All right, now then, I always, while I’m in Acts chapter 11 anyway, I’ve got to come down to verse 19. Because some people can’t quite believe me when I say that the Jews would have nothing to do with anybody but Jews. Here it is. A verse that opened my eyes, I guess about 30 years ago, now. And it just blew me away.
“Now they who were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen (See how plain this is?) traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, (north of present day Beirut) preaching the word (only Old Testament, there’s no New Testament yet) to none but unto the Jews only.” Now, don’t ever lose sight of that.
Here we are almost ten years after Pentecost, and the Jews have made no overture to approach the Gentiles, except this one time when God forced Peter to share with Cornelius, so that about twelve years later Peter could come to Paul’s defense in Acts 15 and Galatians chapter 2.