Kingdom of God Bible Study:
"Paul's Pause" &
Why "The Kingdom" Isn't What You Probably Think It Is
In this Kingdom of God Bible Study, John Lilley explains how understanding "Paul's Pause" and the Scriptural definition of "the kingdom of God" removes a tremendous amount of confusion when trying to understand the Bible and in particular the New Testament, the preaching of Jesus, and the preaching of the apostle Paul.
This article is an excerpt/adaptation from Chapter 9 of John's book Hell Is A Mistranslation
Note from John: I highly recommend you read my new book Hell Is A Mistranslation in conjunction with this article. Doing so will help you understand the "bigger picture" which includes God’s logical reasons for instituting "Paul's Pause" as part of His overall plan for mankind.
My dad is the greatest father anyone could ever ask for, but he’s not a great cook. I remember one time when I was kid, Mom was away for some reason and Dad was stuck cooking for us kids. He opened two cans of soup – a can of cream of mushroom, and a can of chicken noodle – and threw them together into a pot on the stove. When he served it up to us, we tasted it and instantly started making faces. “Dad, this tastes nasty!” “Dad, this is no good!”
Instead of listening to us, he replied with a smile, “Awww, gimme a break. Just eat it! It can’t be that bad!”
After more bellyaching from us kids, Dad finally tasted the soup himself. As the spoon came down from his mouth, he said with a chuckle, “You kids don’t have to eat this.”
To this day we love to hear him tell the story, it makes our whole family laugh.
I tell you this story because in this chapter I’m going to tell you about two cans of preaching – Jesus’ preaching to Israel, and Paul’s preaching decades later – that taste great on their own but when you try to mix them together into one pot, they make a nasty-tasting, confusing doctrinal soup. Modern Christianity has been eating this soup for so long that they just put up with the taste and tell themselves “the New Testament just tastes like this, it must be normal, after all, it’s the only New Testament doctrinal soup I’ve ever tasted”.
But when I separate the two types of soup for you – when I explain the vital difference between Jesus’ primary message to Israel and Paul’s later message to the whole world – you will be astounded at how good each type of soup tastes on its own! You will appreciate and understand Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s teaching so much better, and a couple of key areas of confusion regarding the Bible’s teachings that have plagued you in the back of your mind will be resolved once and for all.
What I’m going to teach you in this chapter will drastically change how you read the New Testament and how you look at the teachings of Jesus and Paul. Because of this it may feel a little bit like I’m trying to upset the whole apple cart of Christianity – but I’m not. What I’m about to teach you doesn’t change what the church actually does in any way; it’s just going to help us understand that we’re fulfilling our true God-given mission in this age much better than we thought we were, and it’s going to help us change the terminology we use to talk about our mission, to make it more accurate.
What I’m about to teach you is going to resolve a number of little nagging problems with understanding God and the Bible that bother Christians in the back of their minds, on the edge of being consciously expressed as frustrations. This is what I mean by a “confusing doctrinal soup that Christianity thinks is the only kind of New Testament soup there is”. I guarantee that by the end of this chapter you will understand the New Testament, the teachings of Jesus, the teachings of the apostle Paul, the mission of the church in this age, the role of works in salvation (or lack thereof), and what God expects of you personally, far better than you ever have before.
This chapter would not be necessary if you were a disciple of Jesus living 2,000 years ago; everything I’m about to share with you would have been extremely obvious to you because you would have been living through it. Modern Christians are 2,000 years removed from the events that shaped the writing of the New Testament. Because of this, we assume the first Christians always knew everything we know today about God and His plan, when in reality the first disciples knew much less than we do until the apostle Paul came along. My main task in this chapter is to help you rediscover the unfolding experience of the first Israelite disciples back then through careful study of Scripture. This will clear up several issues for you about which modern Christians are easily confused because of our lack of historical perspective.
The first disciples and Christians living 2,000 years ago would never have dreamed of casually throwing Jesus’ preaching and Paul’s preaching together into the same doctrinal soup the way modern Christians do, because they realized that Paul’s preaching contained brand new elements Jesus had purposefully never told them about. To put it simply, Paul’s preaching was a major game changer in terms of the primary thing believers were instructed to do in order to “get right with God” (my term). Modern Christians simply assume the primary instructions Jesus and His original twelve disciples were giving people were exactly the same as the instructions Paul gave later. This is an incorrect assumption that causes massive confusion in the body of Christ, especially about the role of works in salvation.
So in this chapter I will carefully separate the Jesus soup from the Paul soup, allow you to taste (understand) each one by itself (probably for the first time in your life), and explain which soup is the one you are supposed to eat (which message’s primary instructions apply to your own life today). As I do this the role of works in salvation will be clarified in your mind probably for the first time in your life, you will finally understand exactly what "the kingdom of God" is (and isn't), and you will also learn several pieces of information that are vital for understanding the parable of Lazarus and the rich man and God’s plan for humanity better than you ever have before.
The content of this chapter is worthy of a book all its own, but I wanted to take one chapter of this book on hell to briefly share this information because it makes the point of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man so much easier for modern Christians to understand. Because most modern Christians do not understand the content of this chapter, they tend to think the setting of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is the point of the parable, when really the setting was only a fictional vehicle to make a point. That’s what a parable is – a fictional story told to make a point. But with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, modern Christians do something they don’t do with any other of Jesus’ parables – they mistake the fictional story for a literal teaching (about the supposed “afterlife” a.k.a. conscious death), failing to remember that it is a fictional story, and failing to realize that if it really was a literal teaching about conscious death it would contradict everything else in (accurately translated) Scripture about what happens at death. Modern Christians make this mistake because they don't understand the historical context in which Jesus was preaching to the Israelites, and the mindset of Israelites at that time in history. The information you learn here will clarify this for you.
I’m going to approach this chapter by sharing 18 simple Scriptural facts with you that will fit together like a puzzle in your mind. When you see the complete picture the puzzle pieces form, you will have clarity about several Biblical issues that previously were about as clear as mud. Eighteen facts may seem like a lot to absorb, but they’re all quite simple and I’m going to present them in a naturally unfolding order where each point builds on the previous point, so it will be easy for you to understand and get the big picture. The first few facts will take a bit longer to explain, and as we go along each subsequent fact will require less explanation because by the time we get to the later facts you will have plenty of background information to help you understand them.
All right, let’s dive into our eighteen facts one by one. Please understand that for the sake of space I will only (relatively) briefly prove each point here rather than going into all the abundant Scriptural evidence for each fact I share.
Here we go.
Fact #1: “The kingdom of God” in the Bible does not refer to hanging out in heaven forever, but to the next two ages of life on earth. (Acts 1:6-7)
When most Christians hear the term “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven” they think of going to heaven and living there for eternity. However, that is not what the Bible is talking about when it uses these terms. Acts 1:6-7 shows us exactly what Jesus and His disciples meant when they used the term “the kingdom” (they used the terms “the kingdom”, “the kingdom of God”, and “the kingdom of heaven” interchangeably).
In Acts 1:6-7, Jesus’ disciples were excited because He had recently risen from the dead, and they asked Him a very revealing question, to which Jesus had a very revealing reply:
“So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:6)
The revealing phrase here is “restoring the kingdom to Israel”. The disciples were not talking about going to heaven, they were asking Jesus when He would do the main thing every Israelite expected the Messiah to do: physically take over the world by force and rule over the earth from Jerusalem with Israel.
Jesus did not correct His disciples or say, “Listen guys, forget about ruling over the earth with Me – let’s think about going to heaven and hanging out far away from this wretched place.” No, He shared the same definition of “the kingdom” as they did! Look at His reply:
“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.’” (Acts 1:7)
Jesus said, essentially, “The kingdom (rulership over the entire earth with the Messiah) will be given to Israel, but it’s not for you to know when it’s going to happen.” This reveals that His definition of “the kingdom” was exactly the same as His disciples’ definition of “the kingdom”: His future reign over the earth – what we modern Christians would call “the millennium” and the “New Jerusalem age”.
Revelation 19:11-20:7 tells us that at some point in the future Jesus will return to forcibly take over rulership of the earth. This is exactly what the disciples were expecting, because they were familiar with the many Old Testament Scriptures that prophesied this event (such as Isaiah 14:1-2 and 66:7-24 to give just a couple examples). They were just confused about when it would happen! Acts 1:6-7 reveals that Jesus’ disciples thought it might happen 2,000 years ago. By the end of this chapter you will understand why they thought this. (Also keep in mind that the apostle John, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples who was part of the conversation recorded in Acts 1:6-7, did not write the book of Revelation until the very end of his life; he obviously had no concept of the things he later wrote about in Revelation when he was talking to Jesus decades earlier in Acts 1:6-7.)
Young’s Literal Translation does not even use the term “the kingdom of God”, but rather “the reign of God”. For example, Young’s Literal Translation of Luke 17:20 says, “Having been questioned by the Pharisees, when the reign of God doth come…” Friends, the reign of God does not have to come in heaven. God already reigns in heaven, of that there is no dispute. The only question is when the reign of God will come on earth.
If you study all the uses of the terms “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” (or just “the kingdom”) in the New Testament, it is obvious that Jesus, His disciples, and later the apostle Paul used these terms interchangeably. “The kingdom of heaven” does not refer to the location of the kingdom, but the source of the authority of the kingdom that will eventually come to earth when Jesus returns to take over the world by force and rule from Jerusalem (Rev. 19:1-20:7).
You should also realize that in Jesus’ day “heaven” was a common euphemism for “God”, partially because of the idea amongst some Israelites that God’s name was too sacred to say out loud. This idea had been widespread among the Jews (and still survives among some to this day) despite the fact that it is unbiblical and ridiculous – the Bible itself uses the name of God countless times (including in many Psalms which were composed to be sung aloud and many parts of the Old Testament Scriptures which were supposed to be read aloud). But in any case, this idea took root among the Israelites back then and affected the culture to the point where “heaven” became a common euphemism for “God”. When Jesus used the term “the kingdom of heaven” interchangeably with “the kingdom of God”, He was not endorsing the idea that God’s name should not be spoken aloud; He was simply using what had become a common way of speaking amongst the Israelites. So keep that in mind when you see the word or term “heaven” being used in the New Testament; remember that it may simply be another way of referring to God with a common expression of the time. (Of course this depends on the context and the way it is used; obviously the New Testament sometimes uses the word “heaven” to literally refer to heaven where God lives. Also keep in mind that in Bible days they also used the term “heaven” or “the heavens” to talk about the sky where the birds fly and/or space where the stars are; it all depends on the context.)
Scripture also uses the terms “the kingdom”, “the kingdom of God”, and “the kingdom of heaven” interchangeably with the terms “eonian life” (life pertaining to an age or ages) and “the ages of the ages”. This becomes exceedingly clear when you study all the uses of these phrases by Jesus, His twelve disciples, and the apostle Paul in the New Testament. (See Matthew 19:16, 23, 28-29 for just one example.) All these terms refer to life on earth during the greatest two ages of the ages God planned from before the beginning of time in order to reach the consummation of His plan: the millennium (the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth referred to in Revelation 20:1-7) and the New Jerusalem age (Rev. 21-22).
When Jesus or Paul referred to “having eonian life” (e.g. John 3:16) or “having a part/portion/inheritance in the kingdom of God” (e.g. Gal. 5:21), they were not talking about hanging out in heaven forever, they were talking about the special privilege of experiencing life on earth for a specific period of time – the millennium and the New Jerusalem age, “the ages of the ages”, the best two ages of the ages of human history God planned from the beginning of time. Most of humanity who has ever lived will be dead and unconscious during these two ages (Rev. 20:1-7, 14). Since Jesus will be ruling over the earth during these two ages, they will be wonderful to take part in. Whereas this current age is ruled by Satan, making it unpleasant in many ways (2 Cor. 4:4, Lk. 4:5-6 & Jn. 10:10), the next two ages will be characterized by a level of prosperity, peace, freedom from financial problems/oppression (and accompanying time freedom and freedom to enjoy life), joy, fun, etc. that is almost impossible for people alive in this age to even fathom. (Not to mention that raptured Christians will be in immortal bodies – that will add to the fun, I’m sure!)
Dear Christians, our future is on earth, not in heaven! Even in the New Jerusalem age (Rev. 21-22) we will live and fellowship with God on earth – a new (or possibly this same, but renewed/resurfaced) earth, but still earth! The city of New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven to earth, and we will live on earth (Rev. 21:2-3). This is because God originally created humans to live on earth, and He is not going to abandon that plan. The unbalanced and incorrect obsession with heaven and “the afterlife” (a phrase not found anywhere in Scripture, which people use to refer to conscious death) so common amongst modern Christians is an inheritance from Catholicism/paganism. Yes, we will go to heaven at the rapture towards the very end of this age, but we’ll only be there a short time (several days, see my book End Times Explained) before we return with Christ to rule over the earth! Read Revelation 19:1-20:7!
Don’t be confused by Luke 17:20-21 where Jesus says (as it is translated in some English Bibles), “The kingdom of God is within you.” A better translation is, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Jesus said this to the Pharisees because they had just asked Him what signs to look for that the kingdom was coming. (The Pharisees were always testing Him with questions because they didn’t like Him and didn’t want to accept that He was the Messiah.) Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, people won’t say ‘Look over there’ or ‘Look over there’”. You see, the Pharisees were trying to find out if Jesus was going to quote something out of the Old Testament Scriptures or give them some miraculous thing to look for. But Jesus told them, in essence, “Looking for external signs isn’t going to help you guys because your hearts are not right; if you had any spiritual discernment whatsoever you’d know that it’s already in the midst of you because I’m here now!” This is just like the time when Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eonian life (a good spot in the kingdom); these are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” (John 5:39-40). Jesus wasn’t saying, “The kingdom is only internal, not external” – He couldn’t have been saying that because the rest of the testimony of Scripture (e.g. Rev. 11:15-17, 19:15, 20:3-6) tells us that the kingdom will one day forcibly and physically come to earth.
Another reason we know Jesus wasn’t saying “the kingdom is only internal, not external” in Luke 17:20-21 (as some overly-heaven-minded Christians seem to think because they ignore the context and the rest of the testimony of Scripture) is that He immediately went on to explain to His disciples exactly what the outward sign of the kingdom come would be: When He comes to rule the earth His coming will be like lightning that flashes across the sky for all to see (Lk. 17:24, similar to what He said in Matt. 24:29-32 concerning the rapture). Jesus refused to tell the Pharisees the outward signs of the kingdom coming to earth, and only shared that information with His disciples. He wanted the Pharisees to be forced to discern spiritually that He was the Messiah. This is consistent with His policy of giving more detailed explanations of His teachings to His closest disciples while giving less information (or difficult-to-understand information) to those with hard hearts (the Pharisees) and the crowds who were just there for the free food and the miracles (e.g. Mt. 13:13)
Also don’t be confused by Jesus’ statement, “My kingdom is not of this world” in John 18:36. The Greek word translated “of” in some English Bibles is “ek”, which means “out of” or “according to”. The phrase “of this world”, similar to the phrase “of heaven” in “the kingdom of heaven”, is not talking about the location of the kingdom but the source of the kingdom. In other words, John 18:36 could be better translated, “My kingdom is not from this world”, or possibly (but less likely) “My kingdom does not have the same values and priorities as (is not according to) the kingdoms of this world.” Jesus confirms that we should most likely translate this Greek word “ek” as “out of” or “from” two sentences later when He says: “But now my kingdom is not from here.” The fact that Jesus used the word “now” is extremely important as well; the rest of Scripture including many of Jesus’ own words tell us that the kingdom of God will come to earth – eventually. Jesus was clarifying that His kingdom’s source was not earth, and that it was not coming to earth now. Jesus was clarifying these things because Pilate had just asked Him if He was a King. Jesus’ answer was true, but very coy, giving minimal information. (He knew Pilate would not understand more information even if He gave it. Pilate didn’t really even understand Him as it was.) Jesus essentially told Pilate, “You heard that I’m a King, the King of the Jews. I am a King. But my disciples did not fight physically with swords to keep me from being arrested because my kingdom’s source is not here, and it is not coming here right now.” Jesus knew that He would fulfill many Old Testament prophecies by being crucified, and as He stood before Pilate He knew that it was time for Him to die. He knew it was not time yet to bring His kingdom to earth. And He said this to Pilate with minimal detail because He knew Pilate would not understand anything else.
Nor should you be confused by the apostle Paul’s exhortations to keep our minds on “the things above” rather than “earthly things” in Colossians 3:2. Paul is using the same common way of speaking used back then to refer to “the things of God”; he’s not telling us to be obsessed with going to heaven, he’s telling us to keep our minds on the things of God rather than the typical priorities of an ungodly person in this age. Paul is using similar language to contrast “God’s priorities” with “man’s priorities” that Jesus used when He told Peter, “You don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” after Peter told Him He couldn’t die (Mk. 8:31-33). Also keep in mind that the places and reward God is preparing for us in heaven (Jn. 14:3, 1 Cor. 3:14) are in the New Jerusalem, which will come down from heaven to earth as described in Revelation 21:2. Our primary reward is, as Jesus said, “to be with Me (Him) where I am (He is)” (John 14:3, 17:24); and He is going to be on earth throughout the millennium and the New Jerusalem age (Rev. 21-22). (And probably after the consummation of God’s plan too, I see no reason why He would create humanity to live on earth and then take us away from here once He is “all in all” – see 1 Cor. 15:22-28).
I took a moment to examine some of the Scriptures that modern Christians sometimes quote out of context so they’ll fit into their pagan-Catholic-inherited out-of-balance obsession with going to heaven, so that you can understand them correctly in context. God’s plan for mankind is on earth. We Christians are only going to be in heaven for a very short time after the rapture before we return to reign over the earth with Christ, and we will live here with Him during the next age as well (Rev. 19:11-20:6, Rev. 21-22). Let’s get a Scriptural definition of “the kingdom of God” or “the reign of God” in our heads rather than relying on pagan Catholic-inherited notions about the supposed afterlife, escaping earth for heaven or hell for eternity, etc. The Scriptural definition of the kingdom/reign of God is the next two ages of life on earth.
So, Fact #1 is very simple: “the kingdom of God”, “the kingdom of heaven”, “the kingdom”, “the eons of the eons”, and “eonian life” are terms used interchangeably in Scripture, not to refer to hanging out in heaven forever, but to refer to the next two ages of life on earth (the millennium and the New Jerusalem age).
Our next fact is another important piece in the jigsaw puzzle – it may seem unrelated at first, but the pieces will soon start fitting together in your mind.
Fact #2: During His earthly ministry Jesus was sent to preach only to Israel.
Remember the Canaanite (non-Israelite) woman who came to Jesus requesting that He heal her son (Matt. 15:22-28)? Jesus’ initial reply to her indicated that His preaching and miracles during His earthly life were intended only for Israel:
“And lo, a woman, a Canaanitess, from those borders having come forth, did call to him, saying, 'Deal kindly with me, Sir -- Son of David; my daughter is miserably demonized.' And he did not answer her a word; and his disciples having come to him, were asking him, saying -- 'Let her away, because she crieth after us;' and he answering said, 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'” (Matt. 15:22-28, Young’s Literal Translation)
This woman was a Canaanitess, in other words a Greek, a Gentile, a non-Israelite. And Jesus (at first, before He relented because of her great faith and persistence) flatly refused to minister to her – He refused to reply to her plea in any way or spend a single moment ministering to her. He refused to speak a single word to her! Why? How could Jesus be so uncaring and cruel? He wasn’t being uncaring and cruel (as evidenced by the fact that He relented due to the woman’s great faith and persistence). He just understood that His assignment was only to Israel.
Before I learned what I’m teaching you in this chapter, I could never figure out why Jesus only wanted to preach to (and do miracles for) Israel! Didn’t He love the rest of the world too? It made no sense to me. I was confused because I had been eating the confusing doctrinal soup that erroneously mixes Jesus’ preaching to Israel with Paul’s preaching decades later to the whole world. Now I realize that there was no point in Jesus preaching or ministering to anyone who was not an Israelite while He walked the earth, because His “preaching and miracles ministry assignment” from His Father at that time was to give Israel, and Israel only, a specific message. By the end of this chapter you will understand what I’m talking about perfectly, and you will discover exactly what message Jesus had been assigned to give to Israel – just stick with me.
For now just realize that we modern Christians get confused about several doctrines in the Bible because we make the mistake of assuming that every single instruction Jesus gave to Israel back then also applied to everyone else on earth at that time, and applies directly to us today! This is an incorrect assumption that causes massive confusion when trying to understand the preaching and teaching of Jesus. Of course His teaching and preaching to Israel contained many timeless truths and principles that we can certainly learn from today, but there were certain instructions and aspects of His preaching to Israel that only applied to the nation of Israel back then, and no longer apply to us today.
By the end of this chapter you will understand exactly which parts of His preaching no longer apply to us today. Our next Fact (Fact #3) will begin to explain it to you. I’m going to take a bit longer to explain Facts #3, #4, and #5 than Facts #6 through #18, because numbers 3, 4, and 5 are the main points you need to grasp to understand what I’m teaching you in this chapter.
Fact #3: Jesus’ preaching to Israel was still under the Old Testament law; it included the command to continue obeying the Old Testament Law of Moses. Therefore we should categorize Jesus’ ministry to Israel in our minds as “Old Testament” rather than “New Testament”.
You may have never heard that Jesus’ preaching to Israel was still under the Law of Moses, even though it is clear with just a cursory reading of the Gospels. The idea is new to many Christians because Christianity has erroneously mixed Jesus’ preaching with Paul’s preaching into one big bowl of confusion for so long, erroneously treating them as if they are identical. Paul’s preaching removed the requirements for believers to obey the Old Testament Law of Moses (Gal. 5:1-6, Phill. 3:2, 9, etc.). But just think about it for a minute…How could Jesus remove the requirements for Israel to obey the Law of Moses during His earthly ministry, before He had even died to make the removal of those requirements possible? How could He have preached, “Believe that my death paid the price for your sins” when He hadn’t even died yet?
In a moment I will prove to you that Jesus’ preaching to Israel was still under the Law of Moses (still included the requirement to obey the Old Testament Law of Moses) by quoting Jesus’ exact words where He commanded His disciples and the rest of the Israelites to continue obeying it. But first let me psychologically prepare you for seeing it in black and white with your own two eyes and having your entire understanding of Jesus’ preaching go through an enlightening paradigm shift.
One of the reasons most Christians are completely unaware that Jesus’ preaching was still under the Old Testament Law of Moses is because they think of Jesus’ ministry as being “New Testament”. It is natural for modern Christians to think this way because human beings arbitrarily decided to place the descriptions of Jesus’ ministry (the Gospels as they are called, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in an artificial, man-made division of Scripture called the “New Testament”. (Remember the chapter and verse divisions, where the New Testament starts, etc., were not inspired by God, these are just man’s way of organizing the inspired writings of Scripture.)
This is why I often say that Christians would be relieved of so much confusion if the New Testament started halfway through the book of Acts or at the book of Romans with the exploits and writings of the apostle Paul, rather than at the beginning of the Gospels with Jesus’ ministry and preaching to Israel. I say the New Testament should really start with the apostle Paul because Jesus’ preaching to Israel was still under the Law of Moses and as such should fall into the “Old Testament” category in our minds. The “new covenant” (Gal. 4:22-26) or “New Testament” was first explained to the world by Paul. Jesus never explained it to Israel. (The closest Jesus got to explaining it to His disciples was when He held the first communion with them, held up the wine and talked about a “new covenant in My blood” in Matthew 26:28 right before His death. But Acts 1:6-7 tells us that His disciples did not really grasp the meaning of His death or the “new covenant in Christ’s blood” it made possible, and Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:26, Romans 16:25, and the first two chapters of Galatians tell us that no one including Jesus ever really fully explained the concept until Paul came along.)
But because we modern Christians think of Jesus’ preaching as being in the New Testament and fail to remember that it still included the command to continue obeying the Law of Moses (and as such should really be in the Old Testament), we tend to lump Jesus’ preaching together with Paul’s preaching under one big “instructions that all apply to us today” umbrella, creating a confusing doctrinal soup.
This is the first mistake I am trying to “undo” in this chapter. I will explain more about the difference between Jesus’ preaching and Paul’s preaching as the chapter goes on, but for now simply absorb the following:
Jesus’ preaching was under the Law of Moses, while Paul’s preaching later on was the first extensive public declaration and explanation of the fact that the cross had replaced the Law of Moses with a better way.
While Jesus was walking the earth, He knew and understood everything Paul preached later (He knew He would die, He knew the true/ultimate purpose of His death in God’s grand plan, etc.), but He mostly kept mum about these things and instead preached a limited message to Israel that God had assigned Him to preach at that time. (If you doubt this, just look at the times Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for the fact that He was going to die – they couldn’t understand why He would have to do that, and He didn’t explain it to them!) When we get to Fact #5 I’ll explain exactly what Jesus’ limited primary message to Israel was, and it will become exceedingly obvious to you why those primary instructions were for only for Israel at that time in history. You will instantly see why they no longer apply to us today, and why Jesus gave Israel a very different primary instruction than the primary instruction Paul gave the whole world later.
To put it simply, the primary instruction of Jesus’ preaching to Israel was repentance/baptism as a means of having your sins (merely) forgiven, while the primary instruction of Paul’s preaching to the rest of the world later was to put your faith in what the cross accomplished as a means of becoming the righteousness of God in Christ (your very identity becomes righteousness and Christlikeness instead of sin). Like I said, when I share Fact #5 you will learn exactly what Jesus’ limited message to Israel was, and you will understand why Jesus preached only about being forgiven (an Old Testament concept) and not about what the cross accomplished. But for now just remember the obvious fact that during His earthly ministry to Israel Jesus could not preach about what the cross accomplished, because the cross had not even happened yet!
Unfortunately, modern Christians don’t think about these things, so they think of “your sins being forgiven” and “being justified and becoming the righteousness of God in Christ” as being the exact same thing. There’s that pesky Jesus-Paul-combo soup again! These concepts are similar (they both involve receiving mercy and grace), but they are not the same. Becoming the righteousness of God in Christ is a far greater concept than merely being forgiven. Being forgiven is like asking your dad for money every time you need it, while being justified and becoming the righteousness of God in Christ is like your dad establishing a bank account for you with unlimited money in it.
Remember, as I’ve explained in the rest of this book, the cross justified all mankind – making it as if mankind had never sinned – and God is not taking it back! See Romans 5:18 and Romans 3:23-24! God has given humanity a bank account with unlimited mercy and grace in it. Modern Christianity has a hard time accepting this concept because of a pagan/Catholic-inherited hell mindset that causes them to think God is going to take back and reverse what the cross accomplished for most of humanity who won’t have faith in this age. The Bible says no such thing; nowhere does Scripture say that the justification of all mankind described clearly in Romans 3:23-24 and 5:18 will be undone. Modern Christians just have a hard time wrapping their heads around it because they don’t understand that some people will “get it” (receive this justification in an experiential way) now, and everyone else will “get it” later at the white throne judgment and the consummation of the ages, as I’ve explained in this book.
So, if you read the Bible carefully you will see that the ministries of Jesus and His disciples recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and even at the beginning of Acts (before Paul came along) contain the Old Testament concept of “repentance” (changing your behavior, doing good things instead of bad things, a focus on works – what the whole Law of Moses was all about) and “forgiveness of sins” (for example, read the Psalms and you’ll see that David understood the concept of having his sins forgiven), but not the far greater concept of “Christ’s death has justified us – made just as if we’d never sinned – and we have become – in our very identity – the righteousness of God in Christ”. Paul preached this greater concept later; he was the first person to ever preach it in detail, because he was the first person Jesus ever explained it to! (See Gal. 1:11-12, Eph. 3:9, Col. 1:26, Rom. 16:25.)
Jesus always knew this greater concept and the full understanding of what the cross accomplished would come to light later after His death, but saved it so that Paul would be the first to learn and preach it. Also remember that John 3:16-17 was spoken to one man in private at night and was not part of Jesus’ public preaching to Israel. Jesus made a few passing comments to Israel that hinted at the amazing stuff Paul preached in detail later, but never fully explained it to Israel like Paul did to the whole world many years later. During His earthly ministry Jesus purposefully kept Israel in the dark about certain parts of God’s plan, saving the whole enchilada for Paul to learn and teach later. You’ll learn more about all this…keep reading!
Now let me show you a couple of things Jesus said that make it extremely clear that His preaching to Israel was still under the Law of Moses and thus should be considered “Old Testament” in our minds.
In Luke 18 a rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked how he could obtain “eonian life”:
“A ruler questioned Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eonian life?’” (Lk. 18:18)
What would you say if someone asked you how to get into the kingdom of God? If you’re like me, you’d probably say something like, “You need to confess your sins to God and pray a prayer of salvation” or “Romans 10:9-10 says that you need to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord.”
But remember, when the rich young ruler asked Jesus how to get into the kingdom of God, Romans 10:9-10 hadn’t been written yet, and Jesus hadn’t even died yet to make the “Romans 10:9-10 salvation prayer” possible! So let’s see what Jesus told this man to do in order to “inherit eonian life” or get a good spot in the kingdom of God (the future reign of Christ on earth). Jesus replied:
“You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery’, ‘Do not murder’, ‘Do not steal’, ‘Do not bear false witness’, ‘honor your father and mother’…’”
Amazingly, Jesus’ instruction for getting into the kingdom of God was: “Do stuff.” “Do the right things.” “Obey commandments found in the (Old Testament) Scriptures.”
Hmmm…Why is this so drastically different from the apostle Paul’s “doing stuff is worth nothing when it comes to salvation, you can’t earn it, it’s not by works, only faith in Christ’s work on the cross can save you” (Eph. 2:8-9) instructions for inheriting the kingdom of God and taking part in the next two ages of life on earth?
Because Jesus’ preaching to Israel was still under the Law of Moses! It was still what we modern Christians would think of as “Old Testament”. It had to be, because He hadn’t even died yet! I mean, what was He supposed to say to the rich young ruler, “Believe in My future death and resurrection which haven’t even happened yet”?
Now let me show you the undeniable proof that Christ did not remove the requirements of the Law of Moses from Israel in His preaching to them during His time on earth, but instead reinforced those requirements. He commanded His disciples and the rest of the Israelites to obey the Law of Moses in Matthew 23:23.
“Then Jesus spoke to the (Israelite) crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” (Matt. 23:23)
As part of His warning about the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, Jesus plainly commanded the Israelite people and His disciples to obey the Law of Moses. The scribes and Pharisees were teachers of the Law of Moses, hence the phrase “they have seated themselves in the chair of Moses”. And Jesus told the Israelites and His own disciples to obey the Law of Moses taught by the scribes and Pharisees!
Can you imagine a modern preacher or the apostle Paul saying anything remotely similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 23:23? (Not the hypocrisy warning part, the “obey the Law of Moses” part.) Can you imagine your pastor standing up in the pulpit and saying, “Obey the Law of Moses; do everything the teachers of the Law of Moses tell you to do…”? Of course not! No modern preacher would ever say such a thing! This is because modern preachers understand that Paul’s gospel (which Paul started preaching many years after Jesus walked the earth) removed the requirements for Christians to obey the Law of Moses!
So you see, unlike Paul’s preaching many years later, Jesus’ preaching to Israel did not remove the requirement for them to obey the Law of Moses, but reinforced it!
Are you starting to see how mixing Jesus’ preaching to Israel, which reinforced and commanded obedience to the Law of Moses, with Paul’s preaching many years later, which removed the requirement to obey the Law of Moses and replaced it with faith in Christ’s work on the cross, creates a confusing doctrinal soup? If light bulbs are starting to go on in your head, great – but keep reading, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Check this out! Even after His resurrection, Jesus still did not explain to His disciples that the requirement for obeying the Law of Moses would one day be removed! After He rose from the dead, He explained some things to them from the Scriptures about the fact that He had to die, etc. (Luke 24:44-49), but He still did not explain to them the whole picture of God’s plan and the true, full purpose of His death. We know this because in Acts 1:6-7 the disciples were still only thinking about Israel ruling the earth with Jesus. At that point, just before Jesus went up into heaven, they still had no concept that Jesus had a great plan for the rest of the world too (not just Israel) and that the cross had laid the groundwork for the outworking of God’s great plan for humanity. They had no idea the true magnitude of what the cross and resurrection had accomplished. They just thought it was more proof to try to convince Israel that Jesus was the Messiah.
When you put Luke 24:44-49 and Matthew 28:20 together with Acts 1:4-8 you see that they are parallel passages, a description of the final instructions Jesus gave to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. Notice what Jesus told the disciples to preach, starting in Jerusalem (the center of Israel’s power): Repentance for forgiveness of sins and obedience to everything He had commanded them, which included obedience to the Law of Moses (Matt. 23:23). This is the same thing He and His disciples had been preaching to Israel before His death and resurrection.
Dear friends, “repentance/baptism (change of behavior, doing stuff, doing the right things instead of the wrong things, an outward show of intention, etc.) for forgiveness of sins” is an Old Testament concept, not what we would think of as a New Testament concept. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what Paul later preached in Ephesians 2:8-9: “Put your faith in what Christ accomplished on the cross, not in your own works” (my paraphrase). In Jesus’ and His disciples’ message to Israel, repentance (changing your ways) is what got you forgiveness. They preached “repentance for forgiveness of sins”.
In contrast, in Paul’s preaching much later on (which included, for the first time, full information about what the cross accomplished), faith in what the cross accomplished gives you something far greater than just forgiveness; it gives you justification and makes you in your very identity the righteousness of God. In His preaching, repentance (changing your ways) is just a grateful response to what God has given you for free without you doing anything (Rom. 3:23-24, Rom. 5:18, Eph. 2:8-9). In Paul’s fully informed preaching, there is no such thing as “repentance for” anything – what you do or don’t do does not earn you a spot in the kingdom or accomplish your salvation from death (earlier than the rest of mankind at the rapture instead of at the consummation, see 1 Cor. 15:22-28).
But in Jesus’ and His disciples’ preaching before Paul came along, repentance is what earned you a spot in the kingdom (if you were an Israelite, this works-based message which still included obedience to the Law of Moses was not preached to anyone else). They preached repentance for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-38). They also preached baptism for forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:44-49). Same idea. An outward show of changing your ways got you something. It was a trigger to get your sins forgiven and get you a spot in the coming kingdom of God on earth. But in Paul’s later preaching, repentance and baptism are not a trigger to get you something, but a response to what God has given you and provided for you for free (Rom. 3:23, 10:9-10). In Paul’s preaching, faith is the trigger, not repentance.
Modern Christianity, because of their failure to understand the distinction I’m teaching you in this chapter (between Jesus’ limited under-the-Law-of-Moses message to Israel and Paul’s later fully-informed message for the whole world), have made a habit of lumping the two messages together as if they are exactly the same, and one way they mentally blur and artificially glue the two together in their minds is by equating the repentance Jesus preached with the faith Paul preached. But only when we unglue these very different messages from each other will we truly understand either one. Jesus and His disciples before Paul came along preached repentance as the trigger for forgiveness under the Old Testament Law of Moses, while Paul preached faith as the trigger for becoming the righteousness of God in Christ (with repentance as a grateful response and natural outworking of confessing Jesus as Lord), removing the requirement to obey the Old Testament Law of Moses as a means of getting “right with God” (my term).
These are two vastly different messages with two very different “this is the primary thing you need to do” instructions! By the end of this chapter you will understand exactly why Jesus and His disciples preached “Old Testament” instructions to Israel that later became outdated when Paul came along. You will realize that it was all part of God’s plan, and you’ll understand exactly why God did it this way (sending one message to Israel, which Israel failed to heed, which was then replaced by a new fully-informed message to the whole world).
For now simply remember that Jesus’ and His disciples’ message to Israel (even after Jesus’ resurrection) before Paul came along still included the requirement to obey the Law of Moses. See Matthew 23:23 and 28:20. Nowhere in Scripture is there a record of Jesus telling His disciples that they no longer had to obey the Old Testament Law of Moses. Instead, we find a clear record of Him telling them to continue obeying it (Matt. 23:23)! And even after His resurrection He just told them to keep preaching the same thing He had preached all along: “Do stuff”, “repentance – change of behavior – for forgiveness of sins”, “teach others to obey everything I’ve commanded” (remember He commanded them to obey the Law of Moses!), etc. (Lk. 24:44-49, Matt. 28:20, Matt. 23:23). Jesus knew that the requirement to obey the Law of Moses would eventually be removed, but while He was on earth and even in His parting instructions to the twelve disciples, He never removed that requirement. He was saving the removal of that requirement, the full understanding of what the cross accomplished, etc., for Paul to understand and preach later.
This is confirmed by the fact that as described in Galatians 2:7-8, years after Jesus had ascended into heaven both the apostle Paul and Jesus’ original disciples called the message the twelve disciples were preaching “the gospel of the circumcision”, contrasting it with Paul’s brand new “gospel of the uncircumcision”. (If you see the word “to” instead of “of” in your Bible in this verse, it is a mistranslation, probably caused by the fact that the translators could not fathom that the disciples were still preaching that the Law of Moses still had to be obeyed. The Greek word is “of”, not “to”.)
Circumcision was a requirement of the Law of Moses, and thus the disciples’ still-under-the-Law-of-Moses message was dubbed “the gospel of the circumcision” – it was actually defined by the fact that it included the requirements of the Law of Moses! On the other hand, Paul’s new message declared that you didn’t have to obey the Law of Moses in order to be right with God, and thus it was dubbed “the gospel of the uncircumcision”.
Of course, the book of Galatians is a letter from Paul telling the Galatian church the story of how he got a brand new message directly from God that he did not learn from the original disciples of Jesus, and how God prompted him to go share this brand new information with the original disciples. Paul was reminding the Galatians of this story so that they would resist going back to requiring obedience to the Law of Moses. Paul had taught the Galatian church his new gospel that removed the requirement to obey the Law of Moses (because his new gospel contained full information about what the cross accomplished), and he didn’t want the Galatians going back to the old gospel that still included the requirements of the Law.
So that’s Fact #3: Jesus’ preaching to Israel was under the Old Testament Law of Moses; He never removed the requirement to obey the Law of Moses while He was on earth, but actually commanded that it still be obeyed. Even after Jesus’ death and resurrection, His disciples continued to preach the same “repentance for forgiveness of sins”, “obey the commandments”, “do stuff” message under the Old Testament Law of Moses up until (and even for a short while after, see Gal. 2:7-12) Paul came and talked to them about his new “you don’t have to obey the Law of Moses anymore” gospel as recorded in Galatians chapters 1 and 2.
All right, let’s keep moving, to Fact #4. Again, as you stick with me all these related facts are going to gel together and become a very clear picture in your mind. You can probably already begin to feel a fog of confusion that you barely realized was there when you read the New Testament being lifted from your mind.
Fact #4: During Jesus’ earthly ministry and afterward, up until the apostle Paul came along, Israel and Jesus’ disciples were looking for Rambo Messiah; they only understood the Old Testament prophecies that Israel would one day rule over the earth by force with the Messiah, and had no conception of what the cross had accomplished or God’s grand plan for humanity.
When the Israelites living 2,000 years ago heard claims that Jesus was the Messiah, their first thought was, “OK, so when are you going to whip the Romans and rule over the earth with us?” If you read the Gospels (the Biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) you will notice the Israelites and Jesus’ own disciples continually saying things that reveal they were waiting for Jesus to do this.
To put it simply, the Israelites were waiting for Rambo Messiah (my term). This was the great hope of every Israelite; they all knew the Old Testament prophesies about this event (such as Isaiah 11-12, 14:1-2, etc.). Even to this day most Jews do not accept that Jesus was the Messiah because the first time He came to earth He did not do the main thing they were expecting the Messiah to do!
This was why even Jesus’ own disciples were utterly confused when Jesus began to try to prepare them for the fact that He was going to die. Remember how Peter even dared to rebuke Jesus, saying in essence, “You can’t DIE! You’re the Messiah!” (Matt. 16:21-23) Jesus had to rebuke Peter in return, saying, “You have man’s selfish short-term goals in mind, not God’s big long-term goals in mind.” (That’s my paraphrase; Jesus actually used the terms “the things of men” and “the things of God”.) Please catch the significance of this conversation! Peter – who had probably heard every word Jesus had preached for the greater part of two to three years – had no concept of God’s grander purpose for Christ to die! And notice that even though Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for the fact that He was going to have to die, He still didn’t explain to them the grander purpose for His death.
Of course, John the Baptist had prophesied that Jesus was the Lamb that would take away the sin of the whole world (Jn. 1:29). But John’s prophecy about this grander aspect of God’s plan evidently did not sink in to the Israelite’s or the disciples’ minds; they certainly didn’t realize that Jesus had to die to accomplish this goal. (Even John the Baptist himself later doubted that Christ was the Messiah, probably because Jesus did not do the one thing all Israelites were expecting the Messiah to do, take over the world by force - see Luke 7:19-20. Jesus’ reply to John’s doubting was simply to point to His miracles. He did not even explain to John the Baptist the full meaning of John the Baptist’s own prophecy about the Messiah taking away the sins of the world!)
Again, Acts 1:6-7 tells us that even after Christ’s death and resurrection, Peter and the other disciples still had no clue about the true, grand purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection. At the time they thought it was just additional proof that Christ was the Messiah, a convincing sign to convince Israelites that Jesus was Messiah so that the nation of Israel would accept Him and the prophesied Rambo Messiah plan could move forward with Israel on board, ready to serve as His leadership team as Jesus forcibly began to rule over the earth as prophesied in the Old Testament. They had no clue (see Acts 1:6-7) that it would be another couple thousand years before what we now call the millennium rule of Christ would occur; they thought it would occur within their lifetimes. In the next fact I share (Fact #5) I will explain why they thought this.
Unfortunately, modern Christians tend to lump Peter’s preaching at the beginning of Acts in the “New Testament” category, as if it is the same thing as Paul’s preaching later. But it’s not. It’s still the same “baptism/repentance for forgiveness of sins under-the-Law of Moses” message Jesus and the disciples were preaching before His death and resurrection. At the beginning of Acts Peter is excited by the fact that the resurrection was proof of Jesus’ Messiahship and that the Holy Spirit had come to empower them to prove that Jesus was alive. If you read Peter’s sermons recorded in Acts 2:13-40 and 3:12-26 you will see that he does not mention anything about what the cross accomplished, justification, becoming the righteousness of God in Christ, or any of the amazing stuff that was the primary message Paul brought later.
Don’t be confused by certain things Peter said in these sermons that sound to a modern Christian like they are similar to what Paul preached. You have to put yourself in Peter’s and his audience’s shoes (in their mindset, which is revealed by Acts 1:6-7) in order to properly understand these phrases.
For example, Peter said in Acts 2:39, “For the promise (of the Holy Spirit) is for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself”. This sounds to the modern Christian as if Peter is saying, “Anyone worldwide will be able to receive the Holy Spirit”. Yet later on (Acts 10), God had to give Peter a special vision to let him know that it was OK for non-Israelites to receive the Holy Spirit! What gives? Was Peter schizophrenic? Of course not. When he said, “The promise (of the Holy Spirit) is for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” in Acts 2:39, he obviously meant “all Israelites who are far off, as many Israelites as the Lord our God will call to Himself”. Remember, his audience in Acts 2 was all Israelites, and the prophecy he quoted earlier in that sermon (from Joel) was about Israel (“the Holy Spirit will be poured out on your sons and daughters”), and only Israel, at least in their minds at that time. Peter was trying to get Israel to listen to the message and believe Jesus was the Messiah so that Jesus could return and have His leadership team (in their minds, this was only Israel) ready and waiting to help Him rule the earth.
And don’t be confused by Acts 4:12, where Peter says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” The “we” here is Israelites. Peter was not talking about “being saved from hell” (as modern Christians think) or about salvation from death being made available to the whole world, a concept only brought to light later by Paul; Peter was talking about Israel being saved from the rulership of the Romans. This is confirmed by his statement in Acts 2:36, “Let all the house of Israel know that God has made Him (Jesus) both Lord and Christ”. The word “Christ” means “Messiah”. Same word. Peter was trying to convince his Israelite audience that Jesus was the Messiah who would save them from Roman rule (the primary purpose of the Messiah in their minds).
By the end of this chapter you will be able to read through Peter’s sermons in Acts 2:13-40, 3:12-26, and 10:34-48, and understand them perfectly. You will understand why he was still preaching the same basic message (“repentance/baptism for forgiveness of sins, believe that Jesus is the Messiah, keep obeying the Old Testament Law of Moses, and if we Israelites do this collectively Jesus the Messiah will save us from Roman rule”) as Jesus and the disciples were preaching before the cross, and you will understand why Jesus did not give the twelve disciples a brand-new message about what the cross accomplished, but saved that message for Paul to preach later.
The key to understanding Peter’s sermons at the beginning of Acts, Stephen’s defense in Acts 7, and Peter’s Acts 10 sermon (after he realized that non-Israelites could receive the Holy Spirit too), is Peter’s statements in Acts 2:32, 36, Acts 2:37-38, 40, Acts 3:18-19, 23, 26, and Acts 10:39, 42-43, 47-48. These statements make it clear that the disciples at this time were still merely trying to:
1) be witnesses of Christ’s resurrection in order to prove to Israel that Jesus was the Messiah (so that Jesus would return to be Rambo Messiah ASAP), and
2) preach repentance/baptism for forgiveness of sins as well as obedience to the Law of Moses (so that Jesus would return to be Rambo Messiah ASAP).
By the end of this chapter you will fully understand why they were trying so hard to get Israel to listen to them before going to the rest of the world, and why they were still so Israel-centered in their thinking. The bottom line is that in their mindset, getting Israel to believe that Jesus was the Messiah was the key to “the restoration of all things” and “times of refreshing coming from the presence (return) of the Lord”, (terms Peter used in Acts 3:19-21), by which they meant the return of the Messiah to rule over the earth by force, or what we would call the millennium. In their minds, if Israel believed that Jesus was their Messiah, repented and were baptized, changing their ways with an outward sign and having their sins forgiven as a result, then the Messiah would have a good leadership team ready and He could return to forcibly rule over the earth with Israel. They didn’t understand that God had more to His grand plan than this. Nor did they understand that repentance for forgiveness of sins (works) under the Law of Moses would never be good enough, and that Israel would need far more than just attempts to be better on their own in order to be qualified to rule with Christ. They would only find that out later when Paul came to explain to them why Israel wouldn’t listen to them. (I’ll explain it later in this chapter.)
The term “gospel of the circumcision” used in Galatians 2:7 tells us that even many years later (long after Peter’s Acts 2, 3, and 10 sermons) the disciples were still preaching the same limited “Old Testament, under the Law of Moses” message that they were preaching with Jesus before Jesus’ death and resurrection! Until Paul came along as recorded in Galatians 1-2 and explained it to them, the original twelve disciples were completely clueless about what the cross accomplished for all mankind.
In Acts 2 God gave the disciples the Holy Spirit to empower them to preach and demonstrate God’s power as proof of Jesus’ Messiahship and Lordship. Then in Acts 10 God showed Peter that non-Israelites could receive the Holy Spirit too. This was a major surprise to Peter! He was thinking that Israel would be the only leadership team Jesus would have or need when He returned to rule the earth, and thus only Israelites would receive the Holy Spirit to empower them to lead. Peter knew the rest of the nations would be made to obey God’s rules when Jesus returned and that they could be forgiven of their sins if they repented (Matt. 28:18-19, Lk. 24:44-49), but he thought only Israelites would ever get the Holy Spirit as empowering proof of Jesus’ Messiahship and empowering for preaching and leading. When he saw God pour the Holy Spirit out on non-Israelites, he said, “Oh well, it looks like these guys might as well get baptized (their formula for receiving forgiveness of sins, see Acts 2:38) too.”
The key to understand is that it did not cross Peter’s mind to go to non-Israelites until God essentially forced him to do so. By the end of this chapter you will understand why Peter and the other disciples did not go to the rest of the world yet, and were still totally focused on getting Israel to listen to their message first.
Modern Christians read Acts 10 and think, “Duh, Peter! Are you stupid! Of course God wants non-Israelites to receive the Holy Spirit too!” This is because we modern Christians now have the benefit of reading Paul’s preaching, which came much later and fully explains God’s purpose for the whole world. But in Acts 10 (and even much later, see Galatians 1-2), Peter knew nothing of the cool stuff Paul preached later about the salvation of all mankind (1 Cor. 15:20-28, 1 Tim. 4:10, Rom. 3:23-24, Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:20, Eph. 1:10, Phill. 2:10-11, etc.), which we Christians take for granted.
Peter had a conception that God would use Israel to bless the rest of the world, but his idea of how this would occur was limited to Jesus ruling the world by force with Israel, thus bringing peace and prosperity to the world through their benevolent rule (what we would now call the millennium). Peter had no idea that there was any plan beyond this, beyond what we would now call the millennium. He had no idea that God wanted to bless the rest of the world not just by ruling forcefully (enforcing benevolent rules and laws rather than exploitative rule like we have in this age) with Israel for a while, but also – in a far, far, far greater way – through what the cross accomplished (justification for all mankind, which would eventually allow God to become “all in all”, see Rom. 5:18, Rom. 3:23-24, and 1 Cor. 15:22-28). Peter’s limited “millennium mindset” is proven by this statement he made to Israelites in his sermon to them recorded in Acts 3:25-26:
“It is you (Israelites!) who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ For you first (Israelites first, then the rest of the world), God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one from your wicked ways.”
In this sermon shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter said that the whole world will be blessed through Israel. But when you read the second sentence above, notice how he says the families of the earth will be blessed through Israel (Abraham’s seed). Peter did not explain about what the cross accomplished and how what Jesus did on the cross would bless the whole world. Nope. He was clueless about that. Instead, he explained to his Israelite audience something that is true, and will actually occur (in the millennium), but Peter thought it would happen very soon after he was preaching it, not over 2,000 years later. Peter explained to his Israelite audience how the rest of the earth will be blessed because Israel turns from its wicked ways (baptism/repentance for forgiveness of sins), thus (in his mind) qualifying Israel to rule the earth with Christ and reach the rest of the world to do the same: “For you first (Israelites first, then the rest of the world), God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one from your wicked ways.”
In Peter’s mind, this is all under the Law of Moses! Jesus had never removed the requirement to obey the Law of Moses, but instead commanded the disciples to obey it and commanded them to tell everybody else to obey it too! Read Matthew 23:23 and 28:20!
But to the modern Christian this sounds the same as what Paul preached later; the modern Christian erroneously lumps everything Jesus and Peter preached in with what Paul preached later, forming one confusing pot of soup that fails to distinguish between the purpose of repentance in Jesus’ and Peter’s message vs. Paul’s message. The modern Christian reads Peter’s words to Israel in Acts 3:25-26 and thinks, “Well, of course we’re supposed to turn from our wicked ways.” However, what Peter is talking about here is very different than what Paul talked about later. Under Paul’s preaching, repentance is a response to the free gift of justification accomplished for us at the cross. But in Acts 3 Peter is talking about repentance not as a response, but as the main trigger, the main action, that will cause blessing to come to the world. Peter in Acts 3 is saying that the world would be blessed by (because of) Israel turning from their wicked ways (works!), which would qualify them (HUH? Repentance qualifying you for anything? Only faith in the cross truly qualifies us! This is very different than Paul!) to rule the earth with Christ, at which point (hopefully, in Peter’s mind), the rest of the world would also turn from its wicked ways (either by being forced to obey Jesus’ rules/laws, or by agreeing to be baptized for forgiveness of sins, see Matt. 28:18-20, Lk. 24:44-49.) Peter in Acts 3 is talking about works under the Law of Moses, while Paul later talked about faith through grace, which replaced works under the Law of Moses!
This is why Jesus’ and Peter’s works-based, still-under-the-Law-of-Moses message to Israel was destined to fail – in God’s grand plan it was destined to be rejected by Israel (I’ll explain this to you more fully later in this chapter, for now just take a peek at Romans 11:7-10, 25). Before Paul came along, Peter did not realize that man’s works were destined to failure as a method for accomplishing anything good, and thus the entire “repentance for forgiveness of sins and trying to continue to obey the Old Testament Law of Moses” message Jesus and the twelve disciples preached to Israel was destined by God from the beginning to fail as a testimony to point to the need for what the cross accomplished (Rom. 11:7-10, 25-26, 32, Gal. 3:24). After the resurrection Jesus assigned Peter and the disciples the task of continuing to preach the same Old Testament message they had been preaching before His death…but did not tell them that this message was destined to fail! (Jesus knew that Paul would come explain it to them later after it failed and Israel on the whole didn’t listen or behave even with the resurrection as proof, see Galatians 1-2).
So Acts 3:24-26 reveals that Peter’s mindset at the time of that sermon was exactly the same as it was in Acts 1:6-7 when the disciples asked Jesus when “the kingdom would be restored to Israel”. They had only one thing in mind: getting Israel to believe Jesus was the Messiah (with the resurrection as added proof and the Holy Spirit as added help) so that Israel would repent/behave/obey-the-Law-of-Moses-better, showing it with baptism as an outward sign, in order to prepare the nation of Israel to be Jesus’ leadership team when He returned to earth to rule by force. Unfortunately most modern Christians fail to realize that Peter’s preaching even after Jesus’ resurrection in the beginning of Acts was still under the Law of Moses, was only designed to prepare Israel to rule the earth with Rambo Messiah, and contained no information about what the cross accomplished for all of mankind.
Again, by the end of this chapter you will fully understand all this. For now simply realize that if you read all the way through the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the beginning of the book of Acts, you will not find a single time when Jesus gave a detailed explanation to Israel or even to His own disciples about the grand purpose of the cross and God’s grand plan for mankind. He only made a few passing comments about these things, hints that “there’s a grander plan here” (e.g. John 12:32), which no one, not even His own disciples, understood. Before His death Jesus gave a few warnings to His disciples that He would have to die (e.g. John 20:28), but the disciples didn’t understand why He would have to die (Matt. 16:21-22) and even after His resurrection they just thought His death and resurrection was proof that He was Messiah; they didn’t realize what the cross had accomplished (Acts 1:6-7, 2:32, 36).
This was why an Israelite leader named Nicodemus was so confused that he took the time to seek out Jesus and ask Him what He was all about (John 3). Nic at Nite could not figure out how this man Jesus, who did so many miracles that it was exceedingly obvious God was with Him, could be the Messiah when He had not yet done the one thing they were all expecting the Messiah to do – take over rulership of the world by force. Jesus tried to explain it to Nic. He tried to tell Nic that Israel (“you” – plural in the Greek) “must be born again”, or have a supernatural change of heart (far greater concept than repentance/baptism for forgiveness of sins, because it depended on God’s supernatural working rather than man’s effort), in order to be ready/qualified to rule with Him. Jesus essentially said, “I can’t just take over the world, Nic! Israel must have the right hearts to rule the world with Me! When I rule the earth I can’t have a leadership team that’s just as sinful as the rest of the world! And Israel is never going to be good enough just by doing their best to obey rules and the Law of Moses! They are going to need a supernatural work of God in their hearts that goes far beyond just trying harder (repentance)!”
Today we know that Israel will be given this supernatural change of heart (as prophesied in Isaiah 66:8) at the beginning of the millennium, and Israel will rule the earth during the millennium with Christ along with raptured Christians (Is. 14:1-2, Rev. 20:4-5). But Nic didn’t know that (although Jesus told Nic that he should already understand the concept that Israel needed a supernatural change of heart because it was prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures in Isaiah 66:8), and even when Nic asked Him about it, Jesus didn’t go into a whole lot of detail because Nic didn’t understand even the most basic things He was saying.
Nic was simply not in the frame of mind to understand what Jesus was trying to tell him about God’s grander plan, because Nic was an Israelite – like all Israelites, he had a Rambo Messiah mindset, and he wanted it to happen ASAP. Hearing that God had a grand plan that would require waiting another 2,000+ years wasn’t exactly what they wanted to hear. (This is very similar to modern Christians who want God to win now, and don’t want to hear that God will allow Satan to rule over the earth for a little while longer – making things get worse and worse for a while longer – because He has a purpose for allowing it in His grand plan.) Because Nic took the time to seek Him out, Jesus was nice enough to try to give Nic the basics of what He was all about (He had come to put God’s grand plan into motion) and to try to explain to Nic why He hadn’t yet done the Rambo Messiah thing (Israel needed to be “born again” or given a supernatural change of heart, not just try to be better at obeying the Law of Moses). But Jesus didn’t give a whole lot of detail because Nic was not even close to being ready to understand it.
Jesus gave more information to Nic at Nite than to almost anyone else during His earthly ministry, because Nic asked Him a direct question (“What are you really all about? It’s obvious God is with You but if You’re the Messiah why haven’t You done the Rambo Messiah thing yet?”) – a question that not even Jesus’ disciples ever asked Him! Remember that Peter simply assumed Jesus’ agenda was the same as his own, and rebuked Jesus when He said He was going to have to die. Also remember that after the resurrection Jesus explained to His disciples from the Old Testament Scriptures the prophecies about His death and resurrection, but still did not explain to them what the cross had truly accomplished beyond that it was a fulfillment of prophecy and that the resurrection was now additional proof that He was the Messiah.
John 20:29, Luke 24:25-27, 44-49 and Acts 3:18 tell us that after His resurrection Jesus only explained to the disciples the Old Testament prophecies about the fact that He would have to die and rise from the dead, and that “repentance for forgiveness of sins” – which you must remember is an Old Testament concept that operated before the cross, and did not need the cross to operate – was to be preached to Israel first, and then after Israel listened, worldwide (Acts 1:7-8). By the end of this chapter you will understand why Jesus told the disciples to keep preaching an “Old Testament” to Israel and then (if Israel listened/obeyed it) to the rest of the world. The key to understand for now is that in these passages there is no record of Jesus explaining to His disciples what the cross accomplished (the justification of all mankind) as Paul explained later (Rom. 5:18, Rom. 3:23, Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:20, Eph. 1:10, Rom. 11:32, etc.).
And notice John 21:21-23 where Jesus said to His disciples after His resurrection, “As the Father has sent Me” (to preach a message of repentance for forgiveness of sins that included the Law of Moses) “I also send you.” Jesus told them to keep preaching the same primary message He had preached, which included obedience to the Law of Moses! Then He reiterated it by saying, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” It was all about forgiveness of sins, an Old Testament concept that did not require the cross to work. And notice how Jesus even told them that if they did not forgive a person’s sins, that persons sins would be “retained”! This is the exact opposite of Paul’s preaching in Romans 3:23-24 and Romans 5:18, etc., which declare that the cross accomplished the justification of all mankind, not counting mankind’s sins against them because the cross had paid the price for all mankind’s sin.
In other words, at the cross God said, “I’m not going to retain anyone’s sins because all sin has now been paid for”…but He didn’t reveal to mankind that this is what happened at the cross until Paul came along! Before Paul came along, God wanted the works-based “repentance/baptism for forgiveness of sins” message that still included obedience to the Law of Moses to be preached one more time to Israel – so Jesus instructed the disciples to do this (Acts 1:6-8, Matt. 28:18-20, Lk. 24:44-49). Although God instructed Jesus to command the disciples to start with Israel and then go to the rest of the world with this message, God and Jesus both knew (Acts 1:7) that Israel on the whole would not heed this message or “obey the rules and repent” (obey the Law of Moses, do good things instead of bad things) well enough for this message to reach the rest of the world, and He also knew that after Israel rejected this message a second time (through the disciples preaching after the resurrection) He would then assign Paul to preach about what the cross accomplished, effectively replacing the old “gospel of the (possibly soon-coming) kingdom (through obedience/repentance/works)” with Paul’s new, fully informed gospel. (See Rom. 11:7-10, 25.)
So after His resurrection Jesus’ disciples were instructed by Jesus to keep preaching the same Old Testament message (Jn. 20:21-23, Lk. 24:44-49, Matt. 28:18-20), and even His explanations of the Scriptural prophecies He had fulfilled were limited to what they needed to keep preaching this Old Testament message with the resurrection as added proof and the Holy Spirit as added help/power. And before His death, Jesus had told His disciples that He would later send them the Holy Spirit to help them learn things over time that He could not explain to them at that time because they were not capable of understanding it or were not emotionally ready to handle it (could not “bear it”) right then – see John 16:12-13.
But amazingly, even before Jesus died, a curious guy named Nicodemus asked Jesus a direct question that prompted Him to give Nic more detailed information concerning God’s grand plan than He gave anyone else during His earthly ministry: “You’re obviously from God, but You haven’t done the main thing we expect the Messiah to do, so what is going on?” (my paraphrase of John 3:2). Little did Nicodemus know that he was opening a can of worms that really was not supposed to be opened until Paul came along. But because of Nic’s hunger and willingness to ask a fairly perceptive question (“There’s more going on here than you’re letting on Jesus, what is it?”), Jesus was nice enough to give him at least the basics of an answer of the true/full/ultimate purpose of why He had come. “What was going on” was that Jesus was ultimately following God’s grand plan, not Israel’s self-centered “we want to rule now regardless of how ready we are to do so” agenda. So in John 3 Jesus gave Nic at Nite three basic pieces of information that Nic had a very hard time comprehending because of his Israelite Rambo-Messiah mindset:
1) Israel’s hearts had to be supernaturally changed in order to rule with the Messiah. Jesus told Nic he should already understand this one because it was prophesied in the Old Testament, of which Nic was a teacher (Is. 66:8, 20-24).
2) Some people would have faith in Christ in this age and would get eonian life (life in the next two ages, in the kingdom of God on earth). Modern Christians take these words of Christ in John 3:16 for granted because we can read Paul’s in-depth explanation of this concept in the rest of the New Testament. We forget that John 3:16 was not something Jesus preached publicly to Israel; it was spoken in private, at night, to one man who didn’t really understand it. Nic would have taken the phrase “whoever believes in Him” to mean “whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah”, not “whoever believes in what Jesus accomplished on the cross”, because at the time of that conversation Jesus had not even died yet and Jesus had not explained what the cross would accomplish. Modern Christians, on the other hand, assume Jesus meant, “whoever believes in what the cross accomplished”, because we have the benefit of reading Paul’s explanations about what the cross accomplished in the rest of the New Testament. Nicodemus had no concept of what the cross would accomplish because like most Israelites he was clueless about the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the cross that today seem so obvious to modern Christians. So Nic would have partially understood John 3:16 (because he knew what “eonian life” was and understood that Jesus wanted Israel to believe He was the Messiah), but not fully like we modern Christians can understand it today because we have the added benefit of the apostle Paul’s in-depth explanations in the rest of the New Testament.
3) Jesus’ ultimate purpose was the salvation of the whole world. This would have been brand new information to Nic; it would have blown his mind. Modern Christians tend to stop reading at John 3:16 and fail to see that John 3:16 is only part of the story. Unfortunately, most modern Christians erroneously think Jesus will fail at the ultimate goal He stated in John 3:17 (as if God could ever fail). Verse 17 was Jesus’ plain declaration that His and His Father’s goal was to save everyone. Because modern Christians have inherited a pagan belief in eternal punishment from Catholicism (which is reinforced by mistranslations of a few key words in their English Bibles), they tend to gloss over the many verses in Paul’s later writings that plainly declare that God will accomplish this ultimate goal (and has already done it in principle through the cross) and the verses where he explains in detail exactly how it will be accomplished (1 Cor. 15:20-28, Col. 1:20, Eph. 1:10, 1 Tim. 4:10, Rom. 5:18, Rom. 3:23-24, Phill. 2:10-11).
Simply put, Jesus gave Nic at Nite a brief overview of God’s grand plan not just for Israel, but also for what we would now call Christians (those who have faith in this age), as well as God’s ultimate plan for humanity. To put it another way, Jesus gave Nic the Cliff’s Notes version of 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, 1 Timothy 4:10, Romans 3:23-24, Romans 5:18, Colossians 1:20, etc (all the writings of Paul about God’s grand plan for all mankind and the basic steps involved in it). Jesus’ explanation pretty much went right over Nic’s head because most of it was outside the box of his typical Israelite “the Messiah’s primary purpose is to be our Rambo deliverer and to rule over the world with us by force” thinking. This is why Jesus said in John 16:12-13 that His disciples “could not bear” the things He wanted to tell them; like Nicodemus, they simply were not in a mindset to be able to understand God’s grand plan. Their hopes were completely set on seeing Rambo Messiah do His Rambo thing and seeing themselves and Israel rule the earth with Him ASAP.
The disciples’ question in Acts 1:6 (“Is now the time when you’re going to be Rambo Messiah?” – my paraphrase of course) reveals that like Nicodemus, they did not have a concept of the true, larger purpose of the cross at that point in time. Jesus had never explained these things to them. The most information Jesus ever gave to anyone about it was what He said to Nicodemus in their nighttime conversation, but as I mentioned, Nicodemus probably went away more confused than he was before the conversation! Israelites at that time in history were simply not in a frame of mind to understand God’s ultimate plan for humanity; they just wanted Rambo Messiah ASAP. This was not because they were stupid or any worse than we Christians today; it’s just that God was choosing not to reveal His grand plan to them at that time. Jesus purposefully restricted Himself to preaching only a limited message to Israel (John 8:28), and only made a few passing comments about God’s grander plan for humanity, because that was His Father’s assignment for Him at that time. In John 12:32 (and a couple of other similar short/passing statements He made to Israel recorded in the Gospels) He gave a sneak preview of the fact that His death on the cross would accomplish the salvation of all mankind. But no one in His Israelite audience even remotely understood these statements at the time, although His disciples obviously remembered these statements and wrote them down (in what was later compiled to become the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible), and obviously His disciples many years later came to understand these previously-mysterious statements made by Christ, when Paul came along and explained to them what the cross had accomplished.
So that’s Fact #4. Even after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples still had no concept of God’s grand purpose for the cross; they were still only looking for Rambo Messiah. Jesus didn’t correct them or teach them about this in detail, even after His resurrection! Nor did He explain to them at that time anything about God’s grand plan or the full purpose of the cross! As recorded in Acts 1:6-8, He just coyly replied to their question about when He would be Rambo Messiah, “It’s not for you to know when the Rambo Messiah thing is going to happen. For now, go testify that I rose from the dead, be witnesses of My resurrection, and prove it with the supernatural power and help provided by the Holy Spirit. Keep preaching the same thing I’ve been preaching and you’ve been preaching all along – repentance for forgiveness of sins, obeying the Law of Moses, doing good things instead of bad things, etc. Go to Israel first (to try to prepare them to be My leadership team when I return by getting them to behave and obey the Law of Moses well enough), then (if Israel listens) go to the rest of the world with the same rules/message.”
Our next fact will reveal why Jesus did not correct the disciples in Acts chapter 1 or tell them anything about God’s grand plan at that time, but instead told them to keep preaching the same limited under-the-Law-of-Moses message and let them keep thinking for awhile that He might return as Rambo Messiah at any moment:
(Get ready, this is the master key to understanding this whole chapter and the preaching of Jesus…)
Fact # 5: Jesus’ primary message to Israel was “the gospel (good news) of the kingdom”: “I’ll be Rambo Messiah NOW, in this generation (2,000 years ago), IF you (overall, as a nation) accept that I am the Messiah and behave well enough.”
Jesus’ main message to Israel was what is repeatedly referred to in the Gospels as “the gospel of the Kingdom”, most frequently stated as “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.”
What most Christians don’t realize is that the phrase “has drawn near” meant, “has drawn chronologically near” – in other words, “Repent, because the kingdom of God may come soon, in this generation, within your lifetimes.”
The reason most Christians don’t realize that the phrase “has drawn near” meant “may come very soon, in this generation”, is that several of Christ’s other statements that make this fact exceedingly clear contain a Greek verb tense that is difficult to translate into English. This verb tense often gets translated in our English Bibles without its all-important conditional meaning, causing modern English-speaking Christians to completely miss the true meaning of Jesus’ primary message to Israel at that time in history.
Most Christians are completely unaware that Jesus was offering Israel a chance to see the kingdom come in that generation, because of this difficult-to-translate Greek verb tense used in several statements Jesus made such as Matthew 24:34. People who try to “debunk” the Bible love Matthew 24:34. It’s their favorite verse! Why? Because it’s a statement made by Jesus that is obviously untrue – if you fail to translate it accurately. Let me quote you this verse from the New International Version.
"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
This statement seems to be an obvious falsehood spoken by Jesus! He said all sorts of (what we would now call) “end time” events and the rapture would occur, and the kingdom of God would come to earth within the generation of those alive at that time! And that certainly didn’t happen! He (seemingly) repeated the same thing as recorded in other places in the Bible too, such as Luke 9:27, Mark 9:1, and Matthew 16:28. So that makes Jesus a liar, right? Wrong.
The Greek verb tense used in Matthew 24:34 and the other verses I just mentioned, is clumsy to translate into English. And if you don’t translate the verb tense correctly and thoroughly, the meaning of Jesus’ statement changes from a true and revealing statement to a false statement. Jesus made a true and revealing statement, but clumsy and over-simplified translating turns it into a false statement in many English Bibles.
You see, most Bible translators want people to read (buy) their “Bible versions”, so they usually err on the side of being easy to read rather than accurate, complete, and thorough. That’s why if you read Matthew 24:34 or the other verses I mentioned above in most English Bibles, you will not understand what Jesus said at all, because in order to translate the Greek verb tense into English accurately, you have to be more wordy and less “streamlined and easy to read” than most Bible translators want their Bible versions to be. So let’s look at Matthew 24:34 in the Concordant Bible, a translation that focuses on accuracy rather than erring on the side of “readability”.
"Verily, I am saying to you that by no means may this generation be passing by till all these things should be occurring.”
Let’s also look at the other similar statements Jesus made, in the Concordant Version:
“Verily I am saying to you that there are some of those standing here who under no circumstances should be tasting death till they should be perceiving the Son of Mankind coming in His kingdom." – Matt. 16:28
“Now I am saying to you, truly there are some of those standing here who under no circumstances should be tasting death till they should be perceiving the kingdom of God." – Lk. 9:27
“Verily, I am saying to you that there are some of those standing here who under no circumstances should be tasting death till they should be perceiving the kingdom of God having come in power." – Mk. 9:1
Most modern English Bibles simply translate Matthew 24:34 as if Jesus is saying, “Surely this generation will not die until all these things take place”. They mistranslate this and the other verses I mentioned using the word “will” instead of “should”. But Jesus’ statement is recorded in these verses using a Greek verb tense that is hinted at in the Concordant Version’s use of the words “may” and “should”.
The Greek verb tense used in the words that are translated “may” and “should”, shows conditionality. In other words, the Greek makes it clear that Jesus was not saying it’s a sure thing, He was saying “Surely I say to you that if certain conditions are fulfilled, these things will happen in this generation.”
It’s the same thing as me saying to my son, “Surely I say to you that if you get an A on your test, then I will take you out for ice cream.” It’s only a sure thing if a certain condition is fulfilled!
All this is made clear by the verb tense used in the Greek in Jesus’ statements. Jesus was not saying “these things happening before this generation passes away is a sure thing no matter what”; instead He was saying it was a sure thing if certain conditions were fulfilled! If the conditions were fulfilled, it would then be a sure thing that those events would occur in that generation. But if the conditions were not fulfilled, those events would not come in that generation. God was basically saying to the Israelites of that generation, “If you do your part, I will surely do My part.”
So, what exactly were the conditions that had to be fulfilled in order for the end of this evil age to come and for Jesus to resurrect righteous men in the rapture and forcibly take over and rule the world with Israel within that generation (as described in Matthew 24:1-34)? Obviously, for Jesus to take over the world within that generation (within the lifetimes of those who heard Him say this), that generation of Israelites would have had to repent (behave, obey the commandments of the Law well enough, etc.), believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and willingly serve Him. Otherwise, how could the Scriptural prophecies be fulfilled that Israel would rule the world with Christ? If Israel didn’t even accept Jesus as the Messiah and obey Him, how could they rule with Him?
This was why Jesus and His disciples were constantly telling Israel to “repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” – “Change your behavior guys! Obey the commandments! Obey the Old Testament Law of Moses well! Stop slacking! Stop slipping! Change your attitude and actions! Do good things, not bad things! Believe Jesus is the Messiah! Believe the kingdom can come soon! Now’s your chance to get it right! Now’s your chance to reign with Messiah!”
You see, in the next age, the millennium (the 1,000-yr. reign of Christ on earth), Israel will reign over the earth with Christ. God will supernaturally (not by Israelites “being good” or “repenting” in their own power, but by God supernaturally giving them a new heart attitude) qualify Israel to rule with Him. This is prophesied in Ezekiel 26:16-38, where God says He will give Israel a new heart and a new spirit and they will live in the land of their forefathers, and in Isaiah 66:5-24, where God predicts how at the beginning of the millennium, Israel will be “born in a day” along with many more details about the transition between this age and the next. (Note that today only some Israelites live in the land of their forefathers, and they certainly have not been given a new heart or a new spirit; so we know these prophecies have not been fulfilled yet.)
This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You (plural, you Israelites) must be born again” – Ezekiel 26:16-38 and Isaiah 66:5-24 must be fulfilled; Israel must supernaturally be given a new heart attitude so they can reign benevolently and wisely with Christ. We now know that this prophecy was not fulfilled in Christ’s generation, because they did not meet the requirements of “being good enough” (repenting, obeying the Law of Moses well enough), and God did not give them a supernatural heart attitude change at that time, so they were not qualified to reign with Christ at that time. Instead, these prophecies will be fulfilled and Israel (having failed to be “good enough” on their own as proven by their rejection of Christ and His disciples “be good enough” message both before and after Christ’s death and resurrection) will be supernaturally qualified to reign with Christ at the beginning of the millennium.
But during His earthly ministry, Jesus was giving Israel a chance to see Him be Rambo Messiah and bring the kingdom of God earth within their lifetimes, in that generation, if they met certain works/repentance-based conditions. Matthew 24:34, (and similar statements Jesus made using the same Greek verb tense, like Luke 9:27, Mark 9:1, and Matthew 10:23, 16:28) make this extremely clear.
Take a look at the first sentence of Revelation 20:4, which describes thrones being set up when Jesus begins to rule over the earth in the millennium, and compare it with verses such as Matthew 18:1, Matthew 20:20-27, Mark 9:34-35, Luke 9:46, and Acts 1:6 where Jesus’ disciples ask Him about when they and Israel would get to rule over the earth with Him. Israel and the disciples thought that what we now call the millennium (a 1,000 year period when Christ will reign on earth – although the disciples might not have been aware at that time exactly how long it will last) might occur in their lifetimes! They thought this not only because they believed Jesus was the Messiah and they had always expected the Messiah to usher in the reign-of-Messiah-by-force-on-earth/millennium (this was the main thing the Messiah was supposed to do in their minds), but also because Jesus’ primary message to Israel – as we see in Matthew 24:35, Matthew 10:23, and Matthew 16:28 accurately translated – was that this event might occur in their lifetimes! (If Israel met the conditions by believing He was the Messiah and behaving well enough, obeying the Law of Moses, etc.)
So, when we combine the oft-repeated phrase, “Repent, for the kingdom of God has drawn near” with several other statements Jesus made that make it very clear Israel was being offered a chance to see Rambo Messiah bring the kingdom of God to earth in their lifetimes if they met the conditions, we can finally understand the true, full meaning of the primary message (“the gospel of the kingdom”) Jesus preached to Israel 2,000 years ago. It could be paraphrased as follows:
“If you – plural, the nation of Israel – on the whole behave well enough (including obeying the Law of Moses well enough), and believe that I am the Messiah, the kingdom of God (what we modern Christians now call the millennium) will come to earth in this generation (2,000 years ago); and if you as an individual Israelite do these things, you will earn yourself a good spot in the possibly-soon-coming-kingdom.”
Of course, Israel on the whole didn’t meet the conditions necessary to see the kingdom come back then. This is because God didn’t want them to meet the conditions, and He didn’t want the kingdom to come back then (Rom. 11:7-10, 25, 32).
Before I move on to Fact #6 I want to quickly point out one more thing. When you see Jesus and His original disciples in the Gospels or the book of Acts using the word “believe”, you must ask yourself whether they meant “believe that Jesus is the Messiah” or “believe in what Jesus accomplished on the cross”. This is an important distinction that modern Christians fail to make, causing massive confusion. Modern Christians, who have read Paul’s detailed writings about what the cross accomplished and incorrectly assume the disciples and Israel knew all these same details, automatically assume the word “believe” means “believe in what the cross accomplished” any time they see it in the New Testament. This is an incorrect assumption. When the disciples used it before Paul came along, it merely meant, “Believe Jesus is the Messiah”. Jesus’ audience including His disciples did not have nearly enough information at that time in history to believe in what the cross accomplished, because no one explained what it accomplished in detail until Paul came along.
This is why I always say it would be so much less confusing if the New Testament didn’t start until the preaching and exploits of the apostle Paul (partway through the book of Acts, or the book of Romans).
This brings us to Fact #6, which I will not spend much time explaining because I’ve already touched on it. From here on out the points will not require as much explanation (some of them will be simple reminders of points I’ve already touched on) because you now have enough background information to begin to put the puzzle pieces together in your mind more quickly.
Fact #6: During His earthly ministry Jesus never explained to Israel or even His own disciples the true/full purpose of the cross or God’s ultimate plan for humanity; He only made a few passing comments about these things, which no one, not even His own disciples, understood.
I’ve already touched on this so I don’t need to spend much time on it here. Always remember that John 3:16-17 was spoken in private, at night, to one man. It was not part of Jesus’ public preaching to Israel. And comments like John 12:32 would not have been understood by Jesus’ Israelite audience; it was not a full explanation of the hows, whys, and wherefores of the cross like Paul gave later, it was just a quick passing comment that Jesus knew His audience was not in a frame of mind to be able to understand.
The closest Jesus got to explaining to His disciples that things would not work out the way they hoped (He would not be Rambo Messiah on their desired timetable) was when He told them He was going to have to die (E.g. Mk. 8:31-33) and that there would come a time when they would “long to see one of the days of the Son of Man (Himself, Christ) and will not see it.” It is obvious from the disciples’ reactions to Jesus’ warnings that things would not go as they planned (E.g. Mk. 8:31-33), Acts 1:6-7 and the rest of the testimony of the Gospels and the book of Acts that His disciples did not understand these warnings or predictions at all, either before or immediately after His death and resurrection. This is not because they were dumb or stupid, but because they really had no concept whatsoever of God’s grand plan. What we now understand about God’s grand plan through the teaching of the apostle Paul (which came much later, many years after Jesus’ resurrection) was simply not part of the disciples’ or Israel’s mindset.
Israel rejected Jesus because He did not do the one main thing they expected the Messiah to do; He did not meet their expectations, but He fulfilled His Father’s instructions perfectly. He was on a different page than Israel, another level of understanding, and He knew it. He knew they were rejecting Him because He did not meet their expectations or match their preconceived ideas (they thought the Messiah was going to do the Rambo thing regardless of their spiritual level of maturity or ability to rule righteously with Him), and He often said things that He knew would be difficult for them to understand. Not only that, He spoke to the Israelite masses in parables precisely so that they would not understand Him (Matt. 13:13-15). Amazing. Of course, it was part of God’s grand plan for Israel to reject Christ because they didn’t understand Him (Rom. 11:7-10, 25, 32).
Jesus threw in a few comments that hinted at His grand purpose (e.g. John 12:32) so that His disciples could remember these comments, write them down (in what later became books of the Bible), and look back after Paul had explained God’s grand plan to them and see that Jesus was operating according to God’s grand plan all along. The Holy Spirit made sure the Scriptures include a few comments like this by Jesus to let us know that while He walked the earth He indeed understood God’s grand plan as fully revealed by Paul later.
Unfortunately, modern Christians look at the few passing comments Jesus made that touch on God’s grand plan (none of which His audience understood and the most detailed of which was made in private to Nicodemus who didn’t even understand it, see John 3:1-21), erroneously assume these passing comments were part of Jesus’ main message, and erroneously assume every Israelite who heard those comments understood them perfectly like we do today (because we can read later Paul’s writings which fully explain Christ’s brief passing comments)…and the doctrinal soup just gets even more muddy.
Let’s keep rolling. It’s getting clearer and clearer…you’re learning to separate the Jesus soup from the Paul soup…
Fact #7: Even after His death and resurrection, Jesus still did not explain the true/full purpose of the cross, saving that info for Paul to understand and preach fully later.
I’ve already explained how after His resurrection Jesus explained some things to the disciples from the Old Testament Scriptures, such as where His death on the cross and resurrection were prophesied in the Old Testament, etc. – but He still did not give them the whole picture of God’s grand plan for all of humanity and what the cross truly accomplished. Instead He simply commanded them to continue preaching the same limited “if Israel believes I’m the Messiah, behaves and obeys the Law of Moses well enough, etc., the kingdom will come in this generation” message God had given Him to preach to Israel at that time in history.
It’s not that Jesus or His original disciples were inferior to Paul; Jesus did His job perfectly, the twelve disciples did their job extremely well, and Paul did his job extremely well too. It’s just that Paul’s message contained new, greater, fuller information about God’s grand plan and what the cross had accomplished. Jesus saved His understanding about the grand purpose of the cross for Paul to explain in detail later on (after, according to God’s plan, Israel had failed at living up to the “behave well enough to earn it” message twice – once before Jesus died, and again after His resurrection through the disciples’ preaching – see Rom. 11:7-10, 25, 32).
If you read the apostle Paul’s writings in the New Testament you will see that he refers to his message as “my gospel” (Rom. 16:25), to differentiate it from the gospel of the circumcision (the old “gospel of the kingdom” that included obedience to the Law of Moses, that Jesus’ original disciples had been preaching). He goes to great pains over and over again in his writings to make it clear that he was preaching something brand new that had been “hidden from ages past” (Rom. 16:25, 1 Cor. 2:7, 1 Cor. 4:1, Eph. 3:9, Col. 1:26), something he did not learn from the original disciples but rather was revealed to him directly by God (Gal. 1:11-12, Eph. 3:3-4).
Paul was not being proud or egocentric by making these declarations over and over again; it was necessary – indeed, vitally important – for him to repeat “my gospel, my primary message, is brand new and very different than the old gospel of the kingdom preached by Jesus and the original disciples, what I preach was hidden in ages past until God chose to reveal it to me” over and over again like a broken record. He had to trumpet this fact because the greatest threat the churches he started faced was from Israelite believers who kept coming in and trying to tell the Gentile (non-Israelite) Christians that they had to go back to the old gospel and obey the Law of Moses! Paul was trying to keep his new doctrinal soup separate from Jesus’, Jesus’ original disciples’, and the Old Testament’s old doctrinal soup!
You see, many Israelite disciples/believers (Israelites who believed that Jesus was the Messiah) had a hard time accepting Paul’s new gospel because it essentially said, “All this Law of Moses stuff you Israelites have been doing for centuries is now revealed to be useless for being right with God”. That was a tough pill to swallow for Israelites, which is why Paul said his gospel was a “stumbling block” to them (1 Cor. 1:23). So they kept trying to combine Paul’s new gospel with the old, under-the-Law-of-Moses gospel preached by Jesus and the original disciples. Paul had to repeatedly remind the believers and churches he founded, “What I’m teaching should not be combined with the old gospel of Jesus and the twelve disciples which included obedience to the Law of Moses! My new message replaced that gospel and removed the requirement to obey the Law of Moses!”
Paul had to spend much of his life trying to keep cream of mushroom soup from being mixed with chicken noodle soup!
Modern Christians mix the two soups, not out of a desire to hold on to the Law of Moses of course, but simply because we have gotten in the habit of thinking of Jesus’ and His original disciples preaching as “New Testament” when really we should think of it as “Old Testament”.
Let’s keep bringing more and more clarity to this issue. Now let’s look at how what we’re learning affects our understanding of our mission from God in this age.
Fact #8: What we modern Christians call “the great commission” (a non-Biblical term invented by men) is not actually our great commission today! Jesus’ commission to the twelve disciples 2,000 years ago was to keep preaching the old gospel of the kingdom that included obedience to the Law of Moses with His resurrection as additional proof that He was the Messiah.
In Fact #14 I will explain from Scripture exactly what the modern Christian’s primary job (commission) is today as outlined by Paul’s gospel. But for now simply understand that our commission today under Paul’s gospel is not the same as the twelve disciples’ original commission, because they were commissioned by Jesus to keep preaching a message that included obedience to requirements of the Old Testament Law of Moses. If you read Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:44-49, and Acts 1:3-8 with your newfound understanding of the fact that Jesus commanded His disciples to obey the Old Testament law of Moses (Matt: 23:23), you will realize that what modern Christians have dubbed “the great commission” was only the original disciples’ commission, not ours! If that is our commission today, then we better get busy telling people to obey the Old Testament Law! Get your animals ready for sacrifice everybody!
This “continue to preach the under-the-Law-of-Moses gospel of the possibly-soon-coming kingdom and continue to offer Israel an opportunity to rule with Christ in that generation” commission made perfect sense to the disciples shortly after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. They had no problem preaching it because they were still in what we modern Christians would call an “Old Testament ignorant Israelite pure-Rambo-Messiah-focus mindset”. (Again, they were not in this mindset because they were stupid, but because God/Jesus never revealed to them the things that were revealed to Paul later.) They thought Jesus would come back to take over the world and rule at any moment; they thought they were just preparing the world for this event by getting Israel on board and then the rest of the nations on board with their soon-returning new ruler. After all, Jesus had told them to keep preaching this under-the=Law-of-Moses message to Israel (and then if Israel listened and got on board, to the rest of the world), and He had not told them when He would come back…So they assumed that, with Jesus’ resurrection as additional proof that He was the Messiah, Israel would now listen/obey/shape-up/behave/believe-Jesus-was-the-Messiah so they could then get the rest of the world on board in obeying the rules and God-centered requirements/reminders of the Old Testament Law of Moses, and Jesus could come back and rule forcibly over the earth with Israel as His leadership team within their lifetimes (Matt. 24:34, Lk. 9:1, etc. accurately translated).
But after a while the disciples started to realize that things were not going smoothly according to (their desired timing and) plan. Not even Israel got on board! Some Israelites did, but most didn’t. You see, Jesus had told them to go to Israel first before going to the rest of the nations (Acts 1:8), because there was no point trying to get the rest of the world to obey everything the Messiah commanded (including the Law of Moses) if the nation that was supposed to rule with the Messiah didn’t even acknowledge His Messiahship or obey everything He commanded!
Trying to go to the nations with the gospel of the possibly-soon-coming kingdom was pointless if not even Israel was listening and obeying. It would be like trying to gain power over the United States without controlling Washington, D.C. first. Modern preachers often give the disciples a hard time because they stayed in Jerusalem so long instead of going to the nations; when in fact, the disciples were showing great courage by staying in Jerusalem, faithfully doing the last thing Jesus had told them to do (trying to get Israel to accept Him as Messiah and obey commandments, etc. so that they could then go to the rest of the world), even as persecution ramped up against them in Israel.
What God knew, but didn’t let Jesus tell the disciples (Acts 1:7), was the timing of when they would fulfill his promise in Acts 1:8 that they would be His witnesses to all nations. Jesus knew this would be fulfilled in what we now call the millennium – over 2,000 years later. In the millennium Jesus will rule “with a rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15) – He will make the rules and we (raptured Christians along with Israel and the raptured original twelve apostles) will enforce them worldwide (Rev. 20:6, Matt. 19:28).
But the disciples did not understand the timing of when the kingdom was supposed to come – God purposefully did not let Jesus tell them the timing (Acts 1:7), probably because He knew that they would have a hard time preaching the same message they were preaching before Jesus’ death if they knew that it would be rejected (again!) by Israel (John 16:12). I know I would not have been very good at preaching that message if I was in their shoes, if Jesus had told me beforehand, “Israel is going to reject you and Me and our message again even though we now have My resurrection as additional proof.” I would have been extremely discouraged and would have had no desire to preach it!
But because the disciples were in the dark about the timing of kingdom come, they kept preaching the “gospel of the possibly-soon-coming kingdom” message to Israel with gusto (Acts 2:14-40, 3:12-26, 7:2-53). But only a minority of Israelites accepted their message, while most rejected it – just like before Jesus’ death and resurrection. For the most part, the same Israelites that rejected Jesus as the Messiah despite His many signs and wonders still did not meet the conditions of the gospel of the kingdom despite the ultimate sign, His resurrection from the dead.
At this point the disciples knew there was something wrong with their perception of how things were supposed to go – but of course Jesus had told them “it’s not for you to know” the timing of when He was to return and set up the kingdom of God on earth (Acts 1:7). At this point the disciples still had a missing link in their understanding – a missing link that would not be filled in until God revealed His overarching plan to Paul and Paul then came and explained it to them. (Paul tells the story of this in Galatians 1-2.)
What the twelve disciples did not know was:
Fact #9: In God’s grand plan, the works-based, under-the-Old-Testament-Law-of-Moses “gospel of the (possibly-soon-coming) kingdom” was destined to be rejected by Israel 2,000 years ago.
In Romans 11:7-10, 25 the apostle Paul tells us how God purposefully made sure that Israel rejected Christ and His “obey the Law of Moses and do good things well enough and you’ll see the kingdom come now” works-based message. Why would God play these games with Israel, so to speak, giving them a message and then hardening their hearts to make sure they would reject it and its messenger? Well, He did it for the same reason He’s playing games with all of humanity. Paul explains it later in the passage, in verse 32.
Romans 11:32 and 36 says, “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all…For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory to the ages.”
This amazing statement of Scripture in Romans 11:32 (with more clarification in verse 36) baffles most Christians because they don’t realize that God must manipulate humanity into humility. Most Christians are in a “God is fighting as hard as He can against Satan in a battle for souls, and is losing badly for some reason I can’t comprehend” mindset. They don’t realize that God is temporarily allowing all evil and human failure for a purpose: to manipulate humanity into humility! I don’t use the word “manipulate” in a negative sense here. I simply mean that God must somehow convince humanity that He is smarter than we are.
Because He created us as intelligent beings and not robots, God knew even before He created us that we were going to want to experience life apart from the way He designed it to be lived. He knew we were going to go through the adolescent, “How do I know my parents aren’t keeping me from all the fun?” stage. That’s why the Bible calls Jesus “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8), because God knew before He even created us that we were going to sin (try out ways of living apart from His design) and that He would send His Son to die for us in order to fix it.
So God’s dealings with Israel are an important part of the “videotape” God is creating throughout human history to show to humanity at the white throne judgment, in order to convince all of humanity that they are not smarter than Him and to remove all excuses from mankind from that point on. Paul tells us that the Law of Moses was a “tutor to lead us to Christ” (Gal. 3:24) – a tool to teach us all that we need God to save us from ourselves because we have all failed to be good enough on our own. Thus, the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus and the disciples preached, which included obedience to the Law of Moses, was also just a tutor to lead us to faith in what Christ accomplished on the cross.
In other words, God had to repeatedly give a segment of humanity (Israel) clear works-based instructions with clearly outlined and quickly enforced penalties for disobedience along with ever-increasing supernatural proof that God was behind it (first with the Law of Moses and the accompanying signs and wonders, then with Jesus and His signs and wonders, then with the disciples and their signs and wonders plus the additional proof of Jesus’ resurrection). God had to do this and allow Israel to fail all three times (the original giving of the Law of Moses, Jesus’ ministry, and the disciples’ ministry after the resurrection) in order to convince the rest of humanity at the white throne that the “God, if You had just given us clearer instructions and quicker feedback we could have done a good job on our own” excuse won’t fly, and that we all truly have failed and need Him to save us from ourselves. (This also explains why God was much harsher with Israel and quicker to punish them during the Law of Moses period than He has ever been with any other group of people; He was proving that even quick supernatural punishment – immediate feedback and quick penalties for disobedience to God’s way of doing things – was not enough to enable people to be “good enough” on their own.)
For this reason Paul says his new gospel is about salvation worked by Christ Himself as a free gift to us without any help from us (Rom. 3:23-24), “not by works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). God’s whole goal for humanity is to get us to the place where we don’t boast – where all human pride is removed, where we humbly realize that our Creator is smarter than we are and we would be smart to simply live life the way He designed it to be lived without getting all creative and trying to do it on our own without Him.
Christians are those chosen by God (Eph. 1:4, 2:8-9) and given a special grace to “get this” now rather than later at the white throne. A Christian hears, “God’s way is best” and thinks, “Duh. Of course.” That’s because God has given us the grace to understand this (even if we struggle to live it perfectly before we receive our incorruptible bodies at the rapture).
Some might ask, “Why doesn’t God just give everyone the same grace He gives Christians, right now, to understand that His way is best?” The answer is, certain experiments with stupidity/evil/sin must be played out fully in order that no member of mankind will ever be tempted to ask “What if…?” again. For example, God must allow humanity to rule itself with a worldwide, enforced-on-penalty-of-death “we’re doing things on our own completely apart from God” unified governmental system so that humanity will never be able to say, “But God, You never really let us try it our own way, full out, to the max!” God will allow this completely Godless worldwide state of affairs to occur during the last days of this age when the antichrist takes over the entire world with a one-world government and uses the mark of the beast to enforce obedience and allegiance to their satanic, completely anti-God-of-the-Bible worldview, rules, and laws.
I’ve now given you so much background information that you are going to be able to quickly absorb and understand the last few Facts I will present in this chapter. I’ve already touched on most of them briefly; I just want to flesh out a few of them more fully. Let’s roll through them.
Fact #10: The apostle Paul was the first person on earth to fully preach God’s true/full purpose for the cross and grand overarching plan for humanity.
Other than Jesus (who mostly kept mum about it), Paul was the first person on earth to understand these things. God revealed this information directly to Paul, and Paul repeatedly states that this information was “hidden from ages past” and was a “mystery” before he understood it and began to preach it (Rom. 16:25, Eph. 3:2-12, Col. 1:26, Gal. 1:11-12, 1 Cor. 2:7, 4:1, etc).
Because modern Christians have been erroneously trained to mix Jesus’ preaching to Israel into the same pot of doctrinal soup as Paul’s preaching many years later, we tend to miss the tremendous significance of Paul’s repeated statements about how his message was brand new and had never been explained in detail before by anyone on earth.
This leads us right into Fact #11.
Fact #11: Paul’s new gospel was very different than the gospel of the kingdom preached by Jesus and the twelve disciples; although it’s moral foundation was the same, its primary instructions were different because it was for different group of people at a different stage in God’s plan than Jesus’ and the twelve disciples’ preaching to Israel.
The word “gospel” means “good news”. Paul’s good news for the whole world was very different than the good news Jesus and His disciples had preached to Israel years earlier. (See Gal. 1:11-12, 7 and the other Scriptures I quoted a moment ago where Paul repeatedly states that he was preaching something that was a mystery before he came along.)
Paul was the first person on earth (besides Jesus) to understand that the true/full purpose of the cross was to accomplish the justification of all mankind, making it as if mankind had never sinned in God’s eyes, paying the price once and for all for all mankind’s sin, past, present, and future (Rom. 3:23-24, Rom. 5:18, Eph. 3:2-5, 9-10, Col. 1:18-20). Paul’s new gospel’s fully informed instructions for taking part in the kingdom of God were no longer “earn it by repenting, behaving well, and obeying the Law of Moses well” as in Jesus’ and the twelve apostle’s gospel, but replaced that previous instruction given to Israel with a new instruction for the whole world: “Accept what Christ has already done for you by faith through grace, apart from works” (Rom. 10:9-10, Eph. 2:8-9).
If you compare Paul’s instructions for getting saved (from death early at the rapture instead of later at the consummation of God’s plan, see 1 Cor. 15:22-28) and taking part in the kingdom of God (the millennium and the New Jerusalem age) as recorded in Romans 10:9-10 and Ephesians 2:8-9, you will see that these instructions differ drastically from Jesus’ and His disciples’ earlier instructions to Israel (at a previous stage in God’s plan) for taking part in the kingdom of God as recorded in Luke 18:18-20, Matthew 23:23, and numerous places where Jesus and the disciples are recorded preaching their primary message to Israel, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near”. This is not because we need to cut either Jesus or Paul out of the Bible so that it doesn’t contradict itself – of course not. It’s simply that Jesus and Paul were preaching different messages with different primary instructions to different groups of people for different purposes at different stages in God’s plan.
I once came across a website that claimed Paul was a false prophet because he preached salvation by faith alone while Jesus preached salvation by works and faith! The man who started that website was confused, but he did have one thing right: Jesus did preach that it required works (including obedience to the Law of Moses) to get a spot in the kingdom of God (Lk. 18:18-22, Matt. 23:23), whereas Paul said it was not by works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 1:4, 2:8-9). The man who started that website didn’t understand that Jesus preached a works-based message (which included believing that Jesus was the Messiah) to Israel at a particular stage in God’s plan, and that the works-based message preached to Israel was destined to fail (Rom 11:7-10, 25, 32, 36) as a testimony for posterity of mankind’s failure to obey rules well enough to “earn it”, in order to make way for (and be replaced by) Paul’s fully-informed faith-based (and non-works based, with faith in what Christ accomplished on the cross replacing works) message about how we all have fallen short of our potential and need God to save us from ourselves all by Himself as a gift to us (Rom. 3:23-24).
By now you should have the beginnings of a clear picture in your mind of why it is a massively confusing error to try to treat Jesus’ primary instructions to Israel (repentance/works as a trigger for earning you a spot in the kingdom) as if they are the same as Paul’s instructions to the rest of the world (your works cannot earn you a spot in the kingdom, you must instead put your faith in what Christ did for you on the cross).
Paul’s new message and primary instructions superceded and replaced Jesus’ old Law-of-Moses works-based primary instructions to Israel. Trying to mix the two is like buying a new car to replace your old one that doesn’t work anymore, but trying to stick one leg in the old car and the other leg in the new car in an attempt to drive them both at the same time!
This does not mean we should throw out every single thing Jesus said to Israel in His preaching and teaching; there are many general and timeless instructions and statements of truth in His teaching to Israel (see Matthew 6:19-24 for example). We must simply remember that anything in the teaching of Jesus regarding obeying the Law of Moses and/or earning a spot in the kingdom through behavior/repentance no longer applies to us because this primary instruction applied only to the nation of Israel back then and has now been replaced by Paul’s new primary instruction to put our faith in what the cross accomplished.
Fact #12: The twelve disciples did not begin to understand why Jesus had not returned yet, the true/full purpose of the cross, or anything about God’s overall plan for mankind, until Paul came and explained it to them. (Gal. 1-2)
I’ve already touched on this but I’ll just give you a bit more information here. In the first two chapters of Galatians Paul tells the story of how God led him to go to Jerusalem to explain his brand new message to Peter, John, and the other original disciples of Jesus. Before Paul’s visit, the original disciples still thought Jesus’ death and resurrection was just more proof that He was the Messiah. They did not realize the full implications of the cross for all of humanity. Their vision did not go beyond what we would now call the millennium when Israel would/will rule over the earth with Christ. They did not realize God had a grander plan.
When Paul came and explained these brand-new concepts to them (as recorded in Galatians 1-2), they finally began to see why Jesus had not returned on their desired or assumed timetable. The missing link in their understanding was finally filled in! Some of the twelve disciples’ later writings that are now part of Scripture, such as the book of Revelation (written by the apostle John toward the very end of his life) and 2nd Peter 3:3-16, for example, reflect some of the newfound understanding they gained from the apostle Paul.
Let’s look at a couple of specific examples of how the original twelve disciples learned new things from Paul, 2 Peter 3:3-14 and 1 John 1:9.
If you read the passage in 2nd Peter it is obvious that by the time he wrote those words, Peter had learned a few things from the apostle Paul. He had learned that the end of this age, kingdom come, etc. would not occur for a while yet. His admonition in verse 3 about the type of people that will dominate the end of this age is virtually a direct quotation of Paul’s words in 2nd Timothy 3:1-5. This is not surprising since Peter in this very passage states that he is familiar with Paul’s writings.
And John’s statement “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us” in 1 John 1:9 tells us that by the time he wrote those words he had learned about justification from Paul. Before Paul’s teachings about justification came along, there was no such talk among Israelites or preaching by the disciples about God forgiving anyone due to justice. But after Paul explained it to him, John understood that the cross satisfied God’s justice, so it is now not just nice of God to forgive/overlook our sins from time to time if we ask Him to (an Old Testament concept, see David talking about this in Psalms 32:5 for example) but it is actually just and fair and right for God to forgive us because the price for our sins has been paid once and for all (Rom. 5:18, 3:23-24). In other words, John learned from Paul that a believer is not limited to pleading for God’s mercy for forgiveness of sins (an Old Testament concept), but that we can now tap into God’s justice for forgiveness of sins – a justice provided for us for free by the cross.
To put it another way, in the Old Testament (and under Jesus’ old gospel that still required obedience to the Law of Moses), you had to ask Dad for money every time you needed it; but under Paul’s new gospel and its full information about what the cross accomplished (justification for all mankind, making it as if mankind had never sinned, see Rom. 3:23-24 and 5:18), all you have to do is pull out your debit card and use it – unlimited money is already in your account. Unlimited mercy is now in mankind’s account because of what Christ did at the cross (Rom. 3:23-24, Rom. 5:18). It is “just as if” none of us had ever sinned – that’s what “justification” means!
This astounding concept is why Paul had to deal with people saying, “If what you’re preaching is true, Paul, then why not sin more so that grace will abound even more?” (Rom. 6:1) Paul had to say, (my loose paraphrase of Romans 6:2) “God forbid that I would purposefully spit in the face of the guy who put unlimited money in my account even though I didn’t deserve it!”
My point for the purposes of this chapter is that John had learned the concept of justification (unlimited mercy/grace in mankind’s account because the cross satisfied God’s justice) from Paul as evidenced by the fact that he used the phrase “faithful and just to forgive us”. No pre-Paul Israelite or disciple of Jesus would have ever used such terminology before Paul came along and explained all that the cross accomplished.
So we see that the original disciples of Jesus had a gradually unfolding understanding, and the final pieces of the puzzle were not evident to them until Paul came along preaching the whole picture and gave them the missing pieces.
I should also mention that understanding the order in which the books of the New Testament were written – a subject I won’t go into here – is also helpful in understanding the gradually unfolding understanding of the original twelve disciples.
On to Fact #13…
Fact #13: Paul’s gospel and its “by faith through grace, not by works lest any man should boast” instructions are for us today during what I call Paul’s Pause, while Jesus’ “earn it by repenting, behaving well, and obeying a bunch of rules including the Law of Moses” instructions were only for Israel in a previous stage in God’s plan, and do not apply to us today.
I already touched on this but it’s worth expounding upon just a bit more because it is so vitally important.
Although Jesus’ teachings contain many timeless truths and are based on the same moral foundation as Paul’s teachings, His primary instruction for Israelites at a previous stage in God’s plan was very different than Paul’s primary instruction for us today. The “earn a good spot in the kingdom with repentance a.k.a. good behavior” part of Jesus’ message does not apply to us today. Paul has told us that – just as Israel proved by failing to behave well enough – our works earn us nothing.
When Israel failed to heed the “earn it” “gospel of the possibly-soon-coming-if-you-meet-the-conditions kingdom” message under the Law of Moses preached by Jesus and the disciples both before and after His resurrection, God
HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON
on the plans to bring the kingdom of God to earth. He instituted
When Israel rejected Christ and His works-based “earn a spot in the kingdom and earn the right to see it come in this generation” message the second time (after His death and resurrection), God hit the “Pause” button on His plans for bringing the kingdom of God to earth (sending Jesus back to be Rambo Messiah). This event would now be delayed some 2,000+ years until what we modern Christians call the end times (the end of this age) and the beginning of the millennium (as described in Revelation 19:1-20:7).
Of course, we know that God planned to hit the “Pause” button at that exact time in history before history even began! I’ve already explained how God made sure Israel did not accept the “earn it” gospel of the kingdom so that the kingdom would not come back then, giving Him time to institute an additional stage in His educational plan for mankind that was vital for reaching His ultimate goal of becoming “all in all” (Rom. 11:7-10, 25, 32, 36, 1 Cor. 15:28).
After God ensured that Israel would reject the Messiah both before and after His resurrection, He then chose a guy named Saul to be the first person to understand and preach a brand new message containing full information about what the cross had accomplished and God’s ultimate plan for humanity. He chose Saul, and promptly changed his name from Saul to Paul (Acts 13:9).
If you study the name Paul, you find that it means “pause”! God is so cool like that!
During what I call “Paul’s Pause” or “The Kingdom Time-Gap”, the period of time we are in now (and will be in until the end of this age and the beginning of the millennium), God is giving the whole world, not just Israel, a chance to hear about Him. During this time the world will actually hear a much greater message that reveals God in a much more complete way than the message Israel heard 2,000 years ago. Some people, graciously chosen by God (Eph. 1:4), will understand and accept this great new message now, and be reconciled to God now. But what will the world do, on the whole? The same thing Israel did: reject God.
God is allowing most of mankind to repeatedly reject Him so that no man can boast at the white throne judgment (Eph. 2:8-9, Rev. 20:11-13). Even those who strive to live Godly in this age, we Christians, must admit that according to God’s Word, He chose us by His grace, we did not choose Him (Eph. 1:4, 2:8-9). Not even we who know more truth right now than anyone else can boast! In fact, God chose many of us because we were even more weak, foolish, and needy than others! He did this precisely so that no human would ever be able to boast before Him (1 Cor. 1:26-29)! If not even the “chosen ones” (chosen for early salvation from death and a special purpose, see 1 Cor. 15:20-28 and 1 Timothy 4:10) can boast, how could the rest of humanity ever boast?
In Paul’s gospel for us today, the faith God gives us (Eph. 1:4, 2:8-9) in Christ’s work on the cross allows us to consciously receive the free gift of permanent salvation from death at the rapture (earlier than the rest of mankind, who will only be saved from death at the consummation of God’s plan, see 1 Cor. 15:22-28). When we consciously receive this free gift that Christ has provided for us through the cross, at that moment we become the righteousness of God in Christ – our very identity becomes Christ’s identity – righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). In Paul’s gospel our repentance (attempts to do what is right rather than what is wrong) are an outgrowth and a grateful response to the justification and salvation from death that Christ has already accomplished for us all by Himself without any help from us (Rom. 3:23-24, 5:18).
On the other hand, in Jesus’ and the twelve disciples’ old “gospel of the kingdom” which included obedience to the Old Testament Law of Moses, if you were an Israelite living back then when Jesus was preaching, your repentance (works, doing what is right rather than what is wrong) would earn you a spot in the kingdom Lk. 18:18-20, Matt. 23:23). Of course, Israel on the whole failed to earn it – which was part of God’s plan all along so that Christ would be killed to pay the price for sin and God could save all of us all by Himself without any help from us…so that no man can boast and all of humanity can eventually see their utter failure to succeed apart from God and be humbled before Him, acknowledging that our Designer is smarter than we are, and His ways are best.
Fact #14: The modern Christian’s commission is not the twelve disciples’ old commission to keep preaching the (under-the-OT-Law-of-Moses, works-based) “gospel of the kingdom” or “gospel of the circumcision”, but rather to preach Paul’s (new, fully-informed) “gospel of reconciliation” or “gospel of the uncircumcision”, which includes full information about all the cross accomplished and God’s great plan for mankind.
The “great commission” (if I may redefine this man-made term) for modern Christians since the time of Paul’s preaching is outlined in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, where Paul says that God
“reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Putting various elements of Paul’s preaching together, our commission today could be stated more completely as such:
“God has already accomplished the justification of all mankind, reconciling all mankind to Himself in principle through the cross (Rom. 3:23-24, Rom. 5:18, 1 Cor. 5:18-19) and is in the process of reconciling all mankind to Himself in experiential reality (1 Cor. 15:20-28, Rom. 11:32, 1 Tim. 4:10, Col. 1:20, Eph. 1:10), so be reconciled to God now in experiential reality by believing in what He has accomplished for you and confessing (agreeing with the fact that) He is Lord (Rom. 10:9-10, Eph. 2:8-9, 2 Cor. 5:18-19), thus receiving eonian life (life in the next two ages when most of mankind will be dead) and immortality (early at the rapture rather than later at the consummation of the ages) as a free gift (Rom. 3:23-24, 1 Cor. 15:22-28)!”
Paul’s new gospel gives a new and different method for getting a spot in the kingdom than was given to Israel through Jesus’ and His disciples’ preaching – faith/grace rather than works. And Paul’s gospel has a greater/broader message than the old gospel preached to Israel – it’s not only about how to get a spot in the kingdom of God (the next two ages of life on earth, the millennium and the New Jerusalem age), but it is also about how God has already justified all humanity (made it as if humanity had never sinned) and reconciled all humanity and indeed every creature in the entire universe to Himself in principle through the cross and will eventually reconcile all humanity and every creature in the universe to Himself in experiential reality (Rom. 3:23-24, 5:18, 1 Cor. 15:20-28, Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:20, 1 Tim. 4:10, John 3:17, Phill. 2:10-11, etc.).
This is why I often use the term “the gospel of works” or “the gospel of trying to earn a spot in the possibly-soon-coming kingdom under the Old Testament Law of Moses” for the old gospel Jesus and the twelve disciples preached to Israel, while I use the term “the gospel of reconciliation” for Paul’s gospel. The old gospel preached to Israel was limited to trying to earn a spot in the kingdom through good behavior. Paul’s gospel includes a band new “how to get a spot in the kingdom” instruction that replaced the old instruction to Israel, removing the requirement to obey the Law of Moses and replacing the “earn it through repentance/baptism/obedience/outward behavior” (Lk. 18:18-20, Matt. 23:23, Lk. 24:44-49, Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 3:26, Acts 2:37-38) instruction. Paul’s new primary instruction is to simply accept by faith what Christ has already accomplished on the cross.
Paul’s new gospel also tells us that following this “by grace through faith, not by works” instruction doesn’t just get you a spot in the kingdom, it also does three other amazing things for you:
1) It permanently reconciles you to God in an experiential way (making the justification of all mankind in principle which Jesus accomplished on the cross as stated in Romans 5:18, Romans 3:23-24 and 1 Cor. 5:18-19 into an experiential reality in your life).
2) It makes you the righteousness of God in Christ. (Christ’s righteousness is imputed/transferred onto you so that even though you may not act perfectly all the time while you’re still in your mortal body, your core identity is no longer that of a sinner, but of a righteous person who is just as righteous as Christ, see 2 Cor. 5:21.)
3) It provides permanent salvation from death for you earlier than the rest of mankind (at the rapture instead of at the consummation of the ages, see 1 Cor. 15:22-28).
Paul’s gospel of reconciliation also goes beyond just “spots in the kingdom/next-two-ages-of-life-on-earth” to talk about the eventual permanent reconciliation to God and permanent salvation from death of all mankind, not just those in this age who are given the grace (Eph. 1:4, 2:8-9) to hear, understand, and have faith in what Christ did on the cross now, earlier than the rest of mankind (1 Cor. 15:20-28, Col. 1:20, 1 Tim. 4:10, Rom. 11:32-26, Eph. 1:10, Phill. 2:10-11). In other words, the justification of all mankind in principle accomplished by the cross as described in Romans 5:18, Romans 3:23-24, and 1 Corinthians 5:18-19 will become an experiential reality and ultimately result in permanent salvation from death not only for Christians (those who “get it” in this age), but also for the rest of mankind who will “get it” (understand it) at the white throne judgment and be “vivified” (the Greek word for getting an immortal/incorruptible body) at the consummation of God’s plan (after the New Jerusalem age), at which point death will be abolished (which can only mean that no one will be dead and no one will ever die again) – see 1 Corinthians 15:22-28.
Obviously (at least it should be obvious to you after reading what you’ve read so far in this chapter), these amazing aspects of Paul’s gospel were brand new information to the original disciples of Jesus because it was a “mystery that had been kept hidden for ages and generations” (Col. 1:26) and had never been heard in detail before on earth until Paul learned it directly from God (Gal. 1:11-12) and began to preach it.
In light of this amazing information contained in Paul’s gospel that was not part of the old gospel preached to Israel by Jesus and the original disciples, let’s redefine another term that is commonly used in modern Christianity – “making disciples”. What modern Christians call “making disciples” is somewhat different than what the disciples were doing when they “made disciples”. Shortly after His resurrection Jesus commanded His disciples to “make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Remember that Jesus had commanded them to obey the Law of Moses (Matt. 23:1-2)!
We modern Christians teach many of the same moral precepts (what is right and wrong at a basic level) as the disciples back then would have been teaching, but we certainly do not command anyone to obey the Law of Moses!
Jesus’ “go and make disciples of all nations” commission was works-based (“teaching them to do everything I commanded you”) and spoke of nations because it had a political, national-level aspect to it (indeed, in the millennium all nations will serve Christ and follow His rules politically), but it stalled out because the disciples couldn’t even get Israel to listen. They couldn’t even get one nation – the nation that was supposed to rule with Christ! – to do the right works or to obey the Law of Moses well enough!
On the other hand, our commission today as modern believers living under Paul’s new instructions is faith-based (“if you believe in your heart God raised Jesus from the dead and confess He is Lord you will be saved”), not works-based (Eph. 2:8-9), and is directed at reconciling individuals to Christ and forming them in His image in this age (Gal. 4:19) while also containing information about God’s grand plan for the ultimate salvation of all mankind (1 Cor. 15:22-28, Col. 1:20, etc.).
Our commission to preach Paul’s gospel and reconcile individuals to Christ will last during this age, and then at the beginning of the millennium we will pick up where the twelve disciples’ commission left off and we will make all the nations obey Christ’s rules (Rev. 19:15, 20:6).
So what modern Christians commonly call “making disciples” is not the same thing the original twelve disciples were doing. To them, “making disciples of all nations” meant preparing the way for what we can now read described in Revelation 19:15 and 20:6 by getting everybody (starting with the nation of Israel) to obey a bunch of rules including the Law of Moses, while we modern Christians use the term for what should more properly be described as “reconciling individuals to Christ according to 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 and laboring to see Christ formed in each of these individuals according to Galatians 4:19”.
In the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s a big deal for us to continue using the term “making disciples” even if we mean something different by it than Jesus did 2,000 years ago when giving instructions to His original disciples, because what we mean by that term today – what we are actually doing today – is not what the disciples were doing 2,000 years ago (which we will not be assigned or have the power/ability to do until the millennium), but exactly what we should be doing according to Paul’s new gospel: reconciling individuals to Christ and laboring that Christ be formed in them.
In other words, the modern church is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing – we just don’t know it! We’re using a term that doesn’t refer to our commission now (“making disciples of nations”) incorrectly/inaccurately to refer to our commission now! But it doesn’t really matter what we call it because, bottom line, we’re doing exactly what God has empowered us to do: helping reconcile individuals to Christ in experiential reality by preaching what Christ accomplished on the cross, and laboring (through teaching of good Biblical information, moral principles and wisdom for living, etc.) that Christ may be formed in those individuals.
Using the correct terminology – “we are ambassadors of reconciliation who labor to see Christ formed in individuals” instead of “we are making disciples of all nations” – would relieve some significant frustration for many Christians though. Most modern Christians erroneously think “make disciples of all nations” is our commission today, thinking we’re supposed to be “getting everyone on earth to listen to us” – which the Bible makes clear will simply not happen in this age! No wonder we’re so frustrated! We’re trying to do something the Bible says is impossible (in this age)! Millions of well-meaning Christians are unnecessarily frustrated because they think they are supposed to be “winning the battle for Washington” and “winning the battle for souls”. Scripturally the nations will not serve Christ politically until the next age, and the idea of a “battle for souls” is not found anywhere in Scripture.
Forget about getting whole nations or the whole world to adhere to Christlike rules right now. Ain’t gonna happen in this age. That’s for the next age. God hit the PAUSE button on that plan when Israel didn’t listen to the disciples after Christ’s resurrection. The Bible makes it clear that God is allowing Satan to rule and to handpick the rulers of the nations in this age (2 Cor. 4:4, Lk. 4:5-6). In the next age, the millennium (Rev. 19:15, 20:6), when we (along with the twelve disciples and the rest of the nation of Israel – true bloodline descendants of Abraham) make disciples of all nations and make them obey Jesus’ commands, Satan’s rulership will be overthrown worldwide. But until then God is not concerned about getting whole nations or the whole world to listen, just certain individuals that He chooses (Eph. 1:4).
So you see that the church in this age is actually much more successful than most Christians think! We are doing exactly what we should be doing – reconciling individuals to God by faith and helping them to become more and more Christlike to prepare us to help Him rule in the next age (2 Cor. 5:18-19, Gal. 4:19, Rev. 20:6).
It’s interesting that we’re fabulously successful at doing exactly what God is empowering us to do (fulfill our true commission, helping individuals be reconciled to God by faith in what the cross accomplished, and training them to become more Christlike), while we’re absolute failures at doing what we erroneously think is our job, something God is not empowering us to do right now (fulfilling the original disciples old commission and our/Israel’s/the-original-disciples’ future commission for the millennium: getting everyone to listen to us, getting governments to rule by Christ’s rules and values, etc).
Let’s keep rolling – we’re almost done! You’ve got a pretty clear picture in your head of what I’m trying to get across with this chapter; I just want to make a couple more important points.
Fact #15: Paul spent his whole life fighting to keep his new grace/faith-based gospel from being mixed with the old OT-law-based, works-based gospel.
I’ve already talked about how many of Paul’s writings in Scripture (especially Galatians, for example) contain passionate attempts to keep the churches he ministered to from going backwards into the old gospel that required obedience to the Law of Moses. The classic example of this is the book of Galatians. I will not belabor the point here, I just wanted to remind you of it as a segue into the next Fact:
Fact #16: After Paul’s death, a faith/works mix crept in to the church, and although the Reformation sparked by Martin Luther restored the emphasis on faith rather than works, a subtle and confusing faith/works mix still lurks in the minds and preaching of Christianity because they don’t understand that Paul’s new fully-informed “gospel of reconciliation” or “gospel of the uncircumcision” replaced Jesus’ limited, temporary, works-based, under-the-OT-law “gospel of the possibly-soon-coming kingdom” or “gospel of the circumcision” which was designed only for Israel at a certain (2,000-years-ago) stage in God’s plan.
Christianity initially got mired in a faith/works swamp of misunderstanding due to the influence of Jewish believers who kept trying to say “you still gotta do stuff!” because they could not let go of the works-based Old Testament Law of Moses’ reliance on “doing stuff” (1 Cor. 1:23). As I just mentioned, we can tell from Paul’s New Testament writings such as the book of Galatians that he constantly had to fight off this mixing of his new gospel with the Jesus’ old gospel that required obedience to the Law of Moses. Paul succeeded somewhat in defending the separation of his new gospel from the old gospel under the Law, but the Jewish believers who tried to mix the two succeeded somewhat as well.
Then the rise of the Catholic Church made the confusion worse because it mixed paganism (which is all works-based, condemnation-based, and fear-based) with the true teachings of the Bible and Christianity.
To this day the difference between Paul’s gospel and Jesus’ gospel has remained lost for the most part (most modern Christians don’t understand it) because as time went by we forgot that Jesus’ preaching to Israel included obedience to the Law of Moses (Matt. 7:12, 23:2-3, 23; Luke 18:18, 20, etc.) and we lost perspective of how groundbreaking and radical Paul’s new gospel had been when he first began to preach it (Gal. 1-2, Eph 3:9, etc.). Because of this lost perspective, the church has continued to erroneously lump Paul’s preaching together with Christ’s into a faith/works mish-mash.
The Reformation and Martin Luther’s brave actions in standing up to many of the ridiculous and unbiblical pagan teachings of the Catholic Church did help a lot because it got Christians to focus on “by faith through grace, not by works” (Eph. 2:8-9) more than on trying to earn salvation by doing many of the ridiculous things the Catholic Church was telling people to do (give money to improve your chances of salvation, walk up and down staircases on your knees to atone for your sins, etc.). However, because Christianity never really grasped and held on to the difference between Jesus’ and the original disciples’ works-based preaching to Israel and Paul’s preaching that replaced that old message, the body of Christ is still to this day operating in a confusing faith/works mish-mash.
This confusing doctrinal soup doesn’t taste that great – Christians constantly wonder how well they really have to behave to get a spot in the kingdom, deal with fear that they won’t behave well enough, and play condemnation ping-pong as they flip back and forth between Paul’s “just believe in what the cross accomplished” and Jesus’ “behave well enough to earn yourself a spot in the kingdom” instructions. But Christians just keep eating the only soup they’re fed because they simply don’t know any better. Hopefully this chapter has separated the cream of mushroom soup from the chicken noodle soup so you can enjoy (understand and learn what you’re supposed to learn from, and apply to your life what you are supposed to or are not supposed to from) each of them on their own.
To put it another way, modern Christians assume that they should automatically apply to their own lives every single thing Christ and His original disciples preached during Christ’s earthly ministry and after His resurrection before Paul came along…because they assume Christ preached and fully explained everything that Paul preached and explained. This is simply not true; Jesus’ message to Israel required obedience to the Law of Moses and was destined in God’s grand plan to be rejected by Israel and be replaced by Paul’s new, fully informed gospel of salvation by grace through faith. Once you see this simple distinction, it is exceedingly obvious that although we can learn from many of the timeless pearls of wisdom Jesus taught, we should not apply His and His disciples’ primary instruction to Israel (repent/behave and obey the Law of Moses to earn a spot in the kingdom) to ourselves, and instead should apply Paul’s primary instruction (put your faith in what Christ did on the cross, our works cannot earn us a spot in the kingdom) to ourselves.
But if you fail to see this distinction (as most of modern Christianity does), you will have a faith/works mish-mash in your mind, and despite Paul’s preaching that “it’s not by works”, you will constantly muddy the waters of your mind with Jesus’ preaching and thus you will be constantly wondering exactly how good you have to behave in order to make it into the kingdom. Paul’s gospel answers this burning question for us with absolute clarity – I will explain it so it is crystal clear in your mind in the next fact, Fact #17, and you will never play condemnation ping-pong again.
OK, we’ve arrived at the last two facts I want to share with you in this chapter. The puzzle pieces I’ve shared now fit together in your mind so that you can finally see a clear picture of how to understand Jesus’ and His disciples’ preaching to Israel, and how to understand Paul’s preaching to the whole world later – and the vital difference between the two. You are now ready for the punch lines – the main two points that all the other facts I’ve shared in this chapter have prepared you for.
I believe our next fact, Fact #17, will help you immensely in your walk with God, bringing you a level of peace in your relationship with Him that you could not have previously imagined.
Fact #17: Under Paul’s new gospel, good works cannot earn you a spot in the kingdom (life in the next two ages on earth), but dedicating yourself to bad works can cause you to lose your freely-received spot in it. (Gal. 5:13, 19-21)
Paul spends virtually the entire book of Galatians telling the Galatian Christians that they do not have to obey the Law of Moses and that they cannot earn their salvation through works and “doing stuff”. In chapter 5 verse 2 he even goes so far as to say that if you try to earn your salvation by works or by “doing stuff” (my phrase, he used circumcision in obedience to the Law of Moses as his example), “Christ will be of no benefit to you” (Paul’s exact words).
Then, in chapter 5 verses 19 through 21 Paul lists certain sins and warns the Galatian believers that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Understanding Paul’s teaching in Galatians and particularly chapter 5 verses 19 through 21 will help us clearly understand exactly what the role of works in salvation is, and what it is not.
The key terms in Paul’s warning in verse 21 are “practice” and “inherit the kingdom of God”. First lets talk about the term “practice”. To “practice” something means to dedicate yourself to something. Doctors practice medicine. I practiced the piano for many years (which is why I’m a pretty decent pianist). Paul is obviously not saying “If you mess up and sin sometimes you will miss out on the kingdom of God” – if that was his point, he would be contradicting everything he said in the rest of the book of Galatians (that you can’t earn a spot in the kingdom by doing stuff and obeying rules perfectly)! Instead, he’s saying, “Dedicating yourself to practicing certain sins can disqualify you from a spot in the kingdom of God.”
To illustrate what Paul is saying, imagine a benevolent billionaire giving a homeless man a gift of a billion dollars. The homeless man can never claim that he earned the billion dollars – that would be a ridiculous and false claim. However, the previously homeless man could squander the billion dollars by practicing and dedicating himself to foolhardy, unwise, and careless spending habits without regard for wise investments, and find himself homeless again. It’s the same with us Christians living under Paul’s gospel. We’re not saved by our works – we could never claim that we earned our spot in the kingdom. However, Paul says in Galatians 5:19-21 that if we dedicate ourselves to certain sins, we could lose our (freely received) spot in the kingdom.
Now lets talk about the phrase “the kingdom of God”. I’ve already explained how this term does not refer to hanging out in heaven for eternity, but to partaking in life on earth during the next two ages, the millennium and the New Jerusalem age. So Paul is not talking about “eternal salvation” or “eternal destiny” or “eternal damnation” or any such thing in Galatians 5:21. (Those terms are not found anywhere in Scripture – remember, anytime you see the word “eternal”, “everlasting”, “forever”, “never”, etc. in your English Bible it is a ridiculous mistranslation of either the Hebrew word “olam” or the Greek word “eon”, neither of which refer to endlessness or eternity.) So what you’d miss out on by practicing (dedicating yourself to) one or more of the sins Paul lists in Galatians 5:19-21 is life on earth in the next two ages (the millennium and the New Jerusalem age).
Worst case scenario, a man who dedicates himself to one or more of the sins listed by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 will die (become unconscious – Ecc. 9:5, 10), miss out on the rapture and life in the millennium, be temporarily resurrected into a mortal body to be judged at the white throne judgment where he will be taught/corrected personally by Christ and bow the knee in worship to Him (Rev. 20:5-6, 11-13, Phill. 2:10-11), after which he will die again (becoming unconscious again – Rev. 20:14, Ecc. 9:5, 10), miss out on the New Jerusalem age (Rev. 21-22) be resurrected into an incorruptible/immortal body (Greek “vivified”) at the consummation of the ages (1 Cor. 15:22-28 – at which point God will be “all in all” and death will be abolished, in other words no one who has ever lived will be dead anymore).
As you can see, the whole debate about whether you can “lose your salvation” is confused by the fact that Christians don’t understand what “salvation” is. Most Christians think being saved means being saved from hell and eternal damnation. In reality, we are saved from the wages of sin, which is death/unconsciousness (Rom. 6:23, Rom. 1:32, Ecc. 9:5, Ecc. 9:10, Ps. 6:5, Ps. 115:17, etc.). Those who believe in this age will be permanently saved from death early (at the rapture) and get “eonian life” – a spot in the kingdom of God, life in the next two ages on earth (Rom. 6:23, Rev. 20:6, Rev. 21-22). Those who don’t believe in this age will be permanently saved from death after those two ages of life on earth, at the consummation of God’s plan (1 Cor. 15:22-28).
The bottom line is, you can squander (lose) your free-gift (unearned in the first place) spot in the kingdom (your early salvation from death at the rapture) by dedicating yourself to sin (why else would Paul warn the Galatian believers about it?), but you can’t damn yourself to hell or even death for eternity because hell does not exist and everyone who doesn’t partake in the rapture will eventually learn to live correctly at the white throne judgment and later (at the consummation of God’s plan) get an immortal/incorruptible body and be one with God as death is abolished once and for all (1 Cor. 15:22-28).
This clears up the “Can you lose your salvation or not?” question once and for all. You can lose your freely-received (Rom. 6:23) early salvation (spot in the rapture and life in the next two ages of life on earth a.k.a. “the kingdom of God”) (Gal. 5:2, 19-21), but you cannot lose your ultimate salvation from death, because the ultimate salvation of mankind from the wages of sin (death) does not depend at all on the works of man, but on the work of God at the cross and His very identity as “the Savior of all men” (Rom. 5:18, 3:23-24, 1 Tim. 4:10, John 3:16-17 + 1 Cor. 15:22-28, Col. 1:20, Eph. 1:10, Phill. 2:10-11, Rom. 11:32).
You can see how this knowledge frees us to obey God primarily out of love for Him and wisdom/understanding, rather than primarily out of fear. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10), but what is the end of wisdom or the ultimate wisdom? The ultimate wisdom is doing things God’s way not just because we fear consequences (like an immature/ignorant child, see Rom. 1:14-32 for example), but because we love Him in return for His great love for us (1 Jn. 4:18-19), and because we understand that His designed way of living life works well (minimizes pain and causes peace and joy and blessing in the long run). This is a mature adult’s perspective on wise behavior. The knowledge that you can’t run from God forever (you’re either going to “get it” now or “get it” later at the white throne judgment) frees you to obey God primarily out of mature wisdom (“it just works because it’s the Designer’s design for life, besides the fact that I love the Designer and want to please Him”) rather than primarily out of fear.
Before I close this point I also want to take this chance to clear up James’ statements about “so you see it’s not by faith alone, but by works too” in James 2:14-26. Many Christians take these statements by James and throw them into the pot with their misinformed “Jesus and Paul combo soup”, causing even more confusion. But now that we know the difference between Jesus’ preaching to Israel and Paul’s later preaching to the whole world, we can understand James’ statements in the light of Paul’s gospel.
These statements in the book of James obviously do not refer to a return to the old way of earning a spot in the kingdom in the old gospel that required good behavior and obedience to the Law of Moses (Matt. 28:18-20, Matt. 23:23, Lk. 18:18-20, Lk. 24:44-49, Acts 2:37-38). Rather, they are simply another way of expressing what Paul said in Galatians 5:13, 19-21 and Romans 3:23-24 – that you can’t earn a spot in the kingdom (you can only get it by faith through grace as a free gift), but dedicating yourself to bad works (or its counterpart, having no good works whatsoever) can disqualify you because a person who does that obviously either has no faith or dead faith.
In other words, James is simply restating the fact that you can’t earn a spot in the kingdom by doing good works but you can throw away your free gift of a spot in the kingdom (the next two ages of life on earth) by dedicating yourself to certain evil lifestyles or having no visible positive fruit in your life. If you read James 1:19-26 you will see that it is basically a perfectly parallel passage to Galatians 5:13, 19-21. Paul said it one way in Galatians 5:13, 19-21: “If you practice – dedicate yourself to – certain sins, you are throwing away your spot in the kingdom.” James said it another way in James 1 and 2: “If you get a free gift of a billion dollars but live in a cardboard box on the street, you obviously are not using the billion dollars.” (These are my paraphrases of course, not direct quotations!)
The most seemingly difficult of James’ statements is James 2:24: “So you see that man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” But when you read the context around this statement, you realize what he’s really saying, and it becomes extremely clear that this statement does not at all contradict anything Paul said. Paul said that God has already justified mankind through the cross, not counting mankind’s sin against them (Rom. 5:18, Rom. 3:23-24, 2 Cor. 5:18-19), and there is no Scriptural statement that this will ever be reversed. All human beings are already justified in principle. However, not everybody will “be justified” in experiential reality at the same time. Some people will experience it now in this age, while some won’t “get it” until the white throne judgment (1 Cor. 15:22-28, Col. 1:20, Rom. 11:32-36, Phill. 2:11-12, 1 Tim. 4:10, etc.). Both Paul in Galatians 5:13, 29-21 and James in James 2:24 (actually all of chapters 1 and 2, verse 24 of chapter 2 is just the punch line) are saying that if you dedicate yourself to certain sins and/or have no positive Christlike fruit in your life, you are obviously not one of the people who is experiencing justification in experiential reality now.
This warning by Paul and James is completely appropriate to give to Christians living under Paul’s gospel of faith and grace. Some action is required. It’s just that the action (your good works) does not and cannot earn you a spot in the kingdom, rather it’s a natural outworking of your faith, and if there is no corresponding action whatsoever or if there is obvious dedicated contrary action (dedication to certain sins as a lifestyle), you obviously either have no faith or your faith (that you once had) is dead. The main point Paul and James are trying to get across is the same: “Christians, don’t let your faith turn into dead faith and throw away your free gift of a spot in the next two ages of life on earth by having no Christlike fruit/actions in your life and/or dedicating yourself to a lifestyle of sin.”
A similar warning is found in the book of 1 John. (Keep in mind that John and James wrote their books/letters that are now in the Bible after Paul had taught them his new gospel, see Galatians 1-2.) I used to get scared out of my wits reading 1 John because he says things like “no one who sins knows Him (Christ)” and “no one who abides in Him sins” (1 Jn. 1:6). I (like every Christian) sinned sometimes, so I thought John was saying I had to be perfect in order to qualify as someone who knows Christ! I was missing the Greek verb tense James was using (erroneously assuming he was talking about sinning only once or once in a while), and I was missing the fact that he was talking about practicing (dedicating oneself to) sin (1 Jn. 3:4, 7-9). When you realize that all of 1 John is summed up by chapter 3 verse 10 (which I’ll quote in a moment), you realize that John is just saying the same thing as Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 and James in James 1 and 2.
James 3:10 says, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious (he’s talking about right now, in this age, see chapter 5 vs. 19): everyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”
There’s that key word “practice” again, along with another key word – “obvious”. Everyone, both Christians and non-Christians, messes up and sins from time to time, and no Christian is perfect and never sins (Rom. 7:18-25). It is certainly not “obvious” who is a Christian just by looking at who is not perfect – no human (except Christ) is perfect! You cannot determine who is a Christian and who is not just by saying, “Whoever never sins is a Christian but whoever sins at any time is not”. By that definition no one is a Christian (except Christ Himself)! But what is exceedingly obvious as a way to distinguish who is a Christian and who is not? What people dedicate themselves to (practice)! If you read the sins Paul lists in Galatians 5:19-21, it is easy to see that anyone who dedicates themselves to one or more of these sins is not living for Christ – that person is not a Christian, and it would be obvious to any true Christian. If such a person were to call himself a Christian, every true Christian would instantly see right through their claim and realize that they are not really living for Christ. What people dedicate themselves to (practice) is, just as John said, an obvious indicator of who is really a Christian.
So we see that Paul, James, and John all make the same point. Living for Christ and being a true Christian is not about being perfect, it is about what you believe (what Christ accomplished for you on the cross) which is born out by what you practice. The issue is not whether you sin sometimes (everyone does, see Rom. 7:18-25), it is what you dedicate yourself to – what you practice. My wife and I have a friend that is a doctor. Does she practice medicine 100% perfectly, all the time? No. But she’s in the office every day, practicing medicine! She’s not out in the street every day, practicing prostitution. She’s practicing medicine. The issue is not perfection, it is dedication. That’s the definition of the word “practice”. Are you in the Word and in church regularly, seeking to be more like Christ as the main goal of your life? Or are you in bars trying to pick up women you’re not married to so you can sleep with them? What you dedicate yourself to is the obvious indicator of whether you are a Christian or not. Perfection is not an issue, because no one is perfect. The issue is what you dedicate yourself to, what you constantly strive to achieve and be better at (whether you are perfect at it or not) – see Philippians 3:12.
I hope this frees you from the condemnation that unnecessarily plagues so many Christians. When we stop trying to apply Jesus’ “earn it through good behavior” instructions to Israel to ourselves, and focus on the true “New Testament” and “New Covenant” writings of Paul (and the other disciples after Paul taught them, see Gal. 1-2), we can finally get a clear picture of what God truly expects of us. He does not expect us to be perfect right now in this age, in our mortal bodies (Rom. 7:18-25), but to dedicate ourselves to (practice) the things of God rather than the sins Paul lists in Galatians 5:19-21.
And of course, I must reiterate that even if a person practices one or more of the sins listed by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21, that person will not go to hell or suffer tortuously in death or experience eternal punishment or any such ridiculous pagan notion. Such a person will simply miss out on life during (be dead and unconscious during) the kingdom of God, the next two ages of life on earth (the millennium and the New Jerusalem age. That person will be temporarily resurrected into a physical mortal body after the millennium to be judged by Christ (Rev. 20:5, 12-13) and will then die and become unconscious again during the New Jerusalem age (Rev. 20:14, 21:27, 22:15), after which they will be “vivified” and receive an immortal body at the consummation of God’s plan so that death can be abolished and God can be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:22-28, Col. 1:20, Phill. 2:10-11, Rom. 11:32-36, 1 Tim. 4:10, etc.)
(Keep in mind that Revelation 21:27 does not say people who do certain sins will “never” or “ever” go into the New Jerusalem, but that “under no circumstances will those who practice such sins enter into it”, or “there may not at all enter into it anyone who practices these things” – a true statement that does not contradict 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 in any way. By the time most of mankind gets their immortal/incorruptible bodies at the consummation of God’s plan, these people will have been corrected/judged/taught by Jesus Himself at the with throne, in essence becoming like Christians are now, humble Christ worshippers. 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 tells us that when the third vivification of most of mankind into immortal bodies occurs at the consummation of God’s plan, death will be abolished, which means sin must have been abolished too – Rom. 6:23 – due to Christ’s judgment of each individual at the white throne. So we know that the people who get vivified into incorruptible bodies at the third vivification will not be sinners and will not practice sin. Obviously, this is the only way God can be “all in all”.)
To state it succinctly, you’re either going to “get it” (experience the justification Christ provided for you in reality) now in this age and get your immortality at the rapture (1 Cor. 15:22-28), or you’re going to “get it” at the white throne judgment and get your immortality at the consummation of God’s plan after the New Jerusalem age (1 Cor. 15:22-28).
Personally, I’d rather “get it” now and be alive during the millennium and the New Jerusalem age; I want to experience the kingdom of God. That’s plenty of incentive for me to dedicate myself to growing in God rather than dedicating myself to the sins Paul lists in Galatians 5:19-21.
I also want to make sure you understand that sin will eventually no longer be a part of any human being’s life. Jesus’ authoritative, “I’m-making-and-enforcing-the-rules” kingdom rulership that will be in effect during the millennium will no longer be necessary once the third vivification occurs, sin and death are abolished, and God becomes “all in all” as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22-28. That’s because the purpose of authority is to punish and curb evil (Rom. 13). Once there is no more evil to be punished or curbed, Jesus will not have to exert authority any more – His job will be done, He will have utterly defeated every enemy of God. At the consummation of God’s plan, sin will have been removed from the human race, making it possible for death to be abolished. Sin and death will no longer affect any human, every human will have been “vivified” into an incorruptible/immortal body, Satan’s negative influence will have been removed, and Jesus will hand the kingdom over to the Father (Rom. 6:23 + 1 Cor. 15:24-28).
Those who “get it” and experience their justification in reality now in this age are simply tapping into the understanding of how God designed life to be lived (in love rather than selfishness) earlier than everyone else will, and thus God can trust us with immortality earlier and can use us to be on His leadership team in the millennium and to rule the earth with Him during the millennium and the New Jerusalem age (Rev. 20:6). Why wouldn’t you want to “get it” now rather than later? The millennium and the New Jerusalem age sound like a lot of fun to me! And 1 Corinthians 2:9 says we can’t even imagine how much fun it will be to take part in those two ages that God has prepared for us!
All right, last but definitely not least, we’ve reached Fact #18. Using all the puzzle pieces we have put together so far as a backdrop, Fact #18 will prepare you to understand the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which I will explain in the next chapter.
Fact #18: The fact that Jesus’ primary message to Israel was all about giving them an opportunity to see the kingdom come to earth within their lifetimes gives us a huge key to understanding the point of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (as well as Jesus’ warnings to Israelites about the physical fire that will burn in Gehenna during the millennium).
Simply put, the setting of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (like the setting of all parables) was fictional (in the next chapter you will see how Jesus lifted this from the Pharisees’ pagan Talmud in order to mock their ridiculous pagan beliefs about a conscious afterlife), while the point of the parable (like the main point of Jesus’ preaching to Israel) was about the next age of life on earth (the kingdom of God, the millennium), not about “the afterlife” (a man-invented word referring to conscious death, a term and concept that is not found anywhere in Scripture).
In other words, most Christians mistakenly think the fictional pagan-Talmud-based setting of the parable is the point of the parable. Modern Christians are prone to make this error for four simple reasons.
First, modern Christians are for the most part completely unaware of the multiple Scriptures that plainly teach that death is unconscious (Ecc. 9:5, 10; Ps. 115:17, Ps. 6:5, etc.). The Scriptures I just listed (among many others) cannot possibly be true if Jesus was telling a literal story with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, and meant it to be a literal teaching about conscious death. If the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is a literal teaching about conscious death, then either the Scriptures I just listed (and many others) are lies, or Jesus is a liar/schizophrenic who contradicted the rest of Scripture and even some of His own statements with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The plain statements of Scripture I just listed are in the Bible, and they blatantly contradict the pagan doctrine of conscious death that makes it so easy for modern Christians to misinterpret the fictional setting of the parable as a literal teaching about “the afterlife” (an unbiblical term and unbiblical concept not found anywhere in accurately translated Scripture). But most Christians don’t ever think about the blatant Scriptural self-contradictions caused by incorrectly interpreting this parable as a literal teaching about the afterlife, because most Christians never hear any preaching about the Scriptures I listed above – they just ignore these plain statements in the Bible, acting as if they don’t exist.
Second, the pagan/Catholic inherited “conscious death and eternal punishment mindset” of most modern Christians matches up perfectly with the Pharisees’ pagan Talmudian ridiculous beliefs about the afterlife that Jesus was mocking (not teaching) with the parable. This makes it easy/natural for the typical modern Christian to ignore the fact that the setting of a parable is fictional by its very definition, and immediately (but incorrectly) assume that the setting of the parable is a literal teaching about conscious death.
The third reason modern Christians misinterpret the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is that, unlike Jesus’ audience 2,000 years ago (Israelites and Pharisees), most modern Christians are unaware that Jesus lifted the setting of the parable directly from the Pharisees’ pagan Talmud. Jesus’ Israelite audience would have been aware that the Old Testament Scriptures totally contradict the Talmud and the Talmud-based setting of the parable concerning what happens at death. (This is exactly why Jesus chose the setting for the parable from the Talmud while making the point that the Pharisees would not have a good spot in His kingdom, in order to scathingly mock the Pharisees’ embracing of pagan ideas and elevating their pagan Talmud above the Old Testament Scriptures.) But most modern Christians don’t know that the setting of the parable comes directly from the Talmud (as I will prove in the next chapter).
The fourth reason modern Christians have a difficult time understanding the true point of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (which Jesus made at the end of the parable), is that the point of the parable is the same point Jesus always made in His preaching to Israel: “Do good works including obeying the Law of Moses and you will earn yourself a spot in the possibly-soon-coming kingdom of God on earth”…and modern Christians don’t understand that this was the main message Jesus preached to Israel. For various reasons which I’ve explained in this book and in this chapter, modern Christians erroneously think the main point of Jesus’ preaching was about going to heaven and hanging out forever; they don’t realize Jesus’ preaching to Israel was actually about getting a spot in the next age of life on earth by obeying rules like the Law of Moses well enough. Thus modern Christians can’t see that the point Jesus was making to His Israelite audience with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man perfectly states His primary message to Israel about life in the next two ages on earth and matches up perfectly with all the other times He stated this primary message. Instead, modern Christians instantly latch onto the setting of the parable, which matches up with their pagan/Catholic-inherited belief system about conscious death, eternal punishment, etc., and mistake the fictional setting of the parable as being the point of the parable.
I will explain the parable of Lazarus and the rich man thoroughly in the next chapter. For now simply realize that it is difficult to understand the point Jesus was making with the parable until you realize that it’s the same point He made in virtually all His preaching to Israel – it was about how to have a good spot in the next age of life on earth; it was not about eternity or conscious death. The conscious death part (the fictional setting of the parable) was lifted directly out of the Pharisees’ pagan Talmud, as I will prove in the next chapter. It was not the point of the parable; it was a carefully chosen vehicle to make a point. Jesus chose a certain vehicle (a fictional story set in a pagan Talmudian vision of a conscious death afterlife) to make His point in order to mock the Pharisees, not teach the ridiculous pagan ideas about conscious death contained in their pagan Talmud (which they often put above the Old Testament Scriptures). In the next chapter I’ll also give you a modern day illustration to help you understand how every person in the Israelite audience when Jesus told the parable 2,000 years ago would have understood exactly what His point was.
In this chapter I have given you a lot of background information that will help you understand the mindset of the Israelites who were hearing Jesus preach, and help you understand what Jesus was actually preaching to them, so that you can now easily understand the point of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man the way the Israelites would have understood it back then, and the way Jesus intended it to be understood back then.
What you have learned in this chapter is also vital for understanding Jesus’ warnings about the physical fire that will burn in Gehenna in Jerusalem at the beginning of the millennium (Is. 66:20-24, Mark 9:45-48, Rev. 19:15, Mal. 4). Many Christians have a hard time understanding why Jesus would warn Israelites 2,000 years ago about a physical fire in Gehenna in Jerusalem that still has not yet begun to burn (it will be lighted at the beginning of the millennium, see the verses I just listed).
In this chapter I have explained to you exactly why Jesus would warn Israelites 2,000 years ago about a physical fire that would burn evil people at the beginning of the millennium – He was giving them a chance to see the kingdom of God come to earth (what we now call the millennium) within their lifetimes! (Again, see Matthew 24:35 accurately translated showing conditional verb tense and other similar statements by Jesus in the Gospels using the same verb tense.) So it made perfect sense for Him to warn them about the fire in Gehenna that will be His version of capital punishment for evil people when He takes over the world.
Conclusion: No More Condemnation Ping-Pong!
I had two goals for this chapter, and I hope I have accomplished both.
The first goal was to help you permanently escape what I call “condemnation ping-pong”. This brutal and tortuous form of mental, emotional, and spiritual ping-pong is played by flipping back and forth between Jesus’ “earn it” instructions to Israel and Paul’s “you can’t earn it, just accept what Christ did for you” instructions, trying to decide which one to believe and whether to feel condemned or not. Hopefully you now realize that condemnation ping-pong is only caused by throwing Jesus’ gospel to Israel in the same pot of doctrinal soup with Paul’s later, new gospel for the whole world. When you realize that Paul’s “accept what Christ did for you on the cross as a free gift by faith, not by works” instructions replaced Jesus’ previous, destined-to-fail “earn it” instructions to Israel, suddenly a light goes on in your brain:
Condemnation ping-pong is totally unnecessary!
Hallelujah! What a feeling of freedom!
My second goal for this chapter was to help you understand the logical reason why Jesus warned the Israelites about the physical fire that will burn in Gehenna in Jerusalem at the beginning of the millennium (they were being given a chance to see the millennium begin in that generation and thus it was logical to warn them about this) and to give you the background information needed to fully understand the point Jesus was making to the Israelites and the Pharisees when He told the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. In order to understand the point of the parable (and restore your focus onto the point of the parable rather than on the fictional pagan-Talmud-based setting of the parable) you need to realize that Jesus’ primary “gospel of the kingdom” message to Israel was not about going to heaven for eternity or “the afterlife” (an unscriptural term) or any such thing, but about giving Israel a chance to see the kingdom come to earth in their lifetimes.
Let us now carefully examine this parable whose meaning has been butchered so often and so badly by so many Christians who do not have the background information necessary to properly understand it. You now have the background information needed, so you will be able to understand it perfectly, just as Jesus’ Israelite audience 2,000 years ago would have understood it.
(Chapter 10 of Hell Is A Mistranslation then explains the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.)
My book Hell Is A Mistranslation contains:
* The 3 Greek words (and 1 primary Hebrew word) that are sometimes translated as “hell” in your English Bible – and how NONE of them mean “hell”!
* The other mega-important word that is often mistranslated in your English Bible, and how translating it accurately will TOTALLY change your perception of God’s plan for the world
* What really happens when you die – not according to religious tradition, but according to plain statements of Scripture and a thorough look at everything the Bible has to say about it
* 10 powerful Scriptures that are completely ignored by mainstream Christianity because they cannot possibly believe them and believe in hell at the same time
* God’s ultimate plan for humanity as revealed by the accurately-translated Bible
* How properly understanding God’s plan for mankind instantly solves the predestination dilemma while simultaneously removing all pride from believers
* John’s outline of the 5 ages of human history planned by God as revealed in the accurately-translated Bible – and WHY God is doing it this way
* WHY God created the world in this age to be subject to some natural disasters and the law of death (something has to die in order for something else to live) – as an eternal lesson for mankind
* The simple reason WHY God allows pain and suffering in this age, WHY He allows Satan to be “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), and how it’s nothing any parent couldn’t understand
Click on the book below to read it:
Kingdom of God Bible Study Copyright 2010 John Lilley
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