In yesterday’s Bible Study Fellowship, we returned to Matthew 9 and saw Jesus giving final instructions for how the believing remnant was to carry out their ministry, especially in the light of His physical departure from them. From the time Jesus left them to the time He will return, they were to minister by freely dispensing forgiveness and mercy, and in Mat. 9, Jesus shows them how to do both, preparing them for a practice run on ministering without Jesus being physically present with them (Mat. 10).
On the Cross, the Lord Jesus reduced the charge against fallen humanity from 1st degree murder, which would have called for immediate judgment and death, to manslaughter, which under the Law provided a means of escape, escape to the city of refuge that God the Holy Spirit created in the ministry of Peter and the 12. After the Cross everyone needed forgiveness. It wasn’t just Judas that betrayed Christ. Peter did too. The believing remnant’s main ministry was to dispense the forgiveness anywhere faith was present. This is what would carry the nation away from the vain religious system and to Christ at His return.
Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
In the difficult time between Jesus’ absence and return, the believing remnant, who were the first fruits of the Nation of Israel, needed to know that as they go through the great trials of the final installment of the 5th Course of Punishment, the Tribulation Period, God would provide them with a foretaste of Kingdom and New Covenant blessings. And this is seen clearly in their beautiful little communal prayer that they were to pray as the first fruits of the nation of Israel. God is going to use this believing remnant to display the glory of His Name. That is why God created the Nation of Israel in the first place way back at the Exodus: I have raised you (Moses) up, that I may show My power in you and that My Name may be declared in all the earth (EX. 3; 9:16). What happened only in part back then, will happen in Israel’s future Kingdom. In the Kingdom, God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Until then, they were to operate during this time of increasing tribulation by relying on God for their daily provisions. If they did, their Father would give them a foretaste of the Kingdom blessings by providing food. Until then, they were to operate by freely dispensing forgiveness anywhere faith was present (Mat. 9; Acts 2-3). If they did, their Father would give them a foretaste of Israel’s New Covenant blessing of national forgiveness of sins, supplying the believing remnant with peace and unity (Jn. 20:19-29). And until then, they were to pray that God would not lead them into trials but deliver them from evil. And if they did, their Father would give them a foretaste of the deliverance in accord with the Davidic Covenant.
Jesus identified Himself with national Israel in its hopeless predicament of NATIONAL sinfulness that has caused them to fall under the curses of the Law (Mat. 1-4). He of course had no sins of His own that needed to be forgiven. But identifying Himself with Israel, He identified Himself with her NATIONAL sins. Just as Daniel did in Dan. 9. As a matter of fact, He would be the One who would take all the nation’s sins upon Himself so that God can give NATIONAL forgiveness to the nation of Israel and use her to spread His Glory over the earth. Therefore, in His humanity He availed Himself of this prayer as well. He availed Himself of it when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Mat. 4:1-11), and He availed Himself of it in the Garden of Gethsemane during His great time of need there (Mat. 26:39). In both instances the Father’s will was accomplished on earth and the Father supplied Him with supernatural sustenance (Mat. 4:11; Lk. 22:43). He demonstrated this prayer in action when He and His people were fed by a supernatural foretaste of Kingdom blessings from their Father (Jn. 6:11). In freely dispensing forgiveness and mercy to all those of faith, Jesus and His people received from the Father a foretaste of the New Covenant blessing of national forgiveness of sins, uniting them in peace and righteousness as they endure to the end (Jn. 20:19-29).
The “Lord’s Prayer” is a perfect prayer for the members of the believing remnant in national Israel’s Prophetic Program. As they go through the final installment of the Curses of the Law, they will be strengthened with the provisions this prayer, making it possible for them to endure until the end when Christ returns, when He will bring the faithful into full participation in Israel’s national salvation. Jesus the King will use this faithful remnant to re-create the nation of Israel, making it the head of the nations, and then all nations of the earth will be blessed with Israel and through her Rise, fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant.
This is not a prayer that will work today for members of the Body of Christ in God’s Mystery Program. The Body of Christ is not under the same manifestation of Satan’s Policy of Evil as the believing remnant will be when they go through the Tribulation Period. The Body of Christ’s role is not to re-establish God’s Glory on earth, but His Glory in the heavenlies. Therefore, God is not giving physical and material blessings today, but He is giving ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly places today! And that is a perfect provision for what God has designed us to be and do in Christ.
Today we are not operating in accord with the Grace of the Abrahamic Covenant. We are operating in accord with the Riches of God’s Grace in Christ. Today, we are not looking for the 2nd Coming of Christ to the earth. We are looking for His appearance above where we will meet the Lord in the air and take us into the Heavenlies. Today, we are not looking for a seat in Israel’s earthly Kingdom. We have already been seated together with Christ in the Heavenlies! Today, we are not forgiving others to obtain the national forgiveness God gives to the Nation of Israel. Today, we forgive because we have already been forgiven according to the Riches of Christ’s Grace (Eph. 1)!
Yesterday we continued our study in Mat. 9. We used Matthew’s reference to Jesus telling the Pharisees that I will have mercy, and not sacrifice (Mat. 9:13 from Hos. 6:6). On our way to Hos. 6:6, we stopped to do a refresher on the Courses of Punishment (COP) that placed Israel under the Curses of the Law. Because I didn’t have this information in the notes, several of you asked if I could put it together in a summary. So, here are the major points that will make your study of the non-Pauline Scriptures much easier and more enjoyable:
With this little bit of information that I just summarized in one short page, we can now go to any Old Testament passage and its meaning will open up before us. We can leave God’s meaning in the text and enjoy it.
Without this little bit of information, we will throw away the meaning God put in the text and replace it with our own vain imaginations. Contrary to what Historical Christianity says, to throw away God’s meaning and replace it with our own isn’t spiritual, it is carnal. It is treating the Bible like a “christian” Ouija Board. It is nothing more than pagan superstition. National Israel’s prophets aren’t talking about anything that God is doing today in the Dispensation of Grace, in God’s Mystery Program with the Body of Christ.
Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that every conclusion we draw is going to be correct, but it does guarantee that we will at least be working with God’s things and thoughts rather than our own vain imaginations or the vain imaginations or man-made religious and theological systems. So let’s look at a test case from Hosea. To conserve space, we will need to use abbreviations:
One final piece of information before we continue. Hosea is a 4th COP prophet. God raised him up to declare the sinfulness of the nation in their rebellion against God, and that they were worthy of God’s further discipline beginning with the Northern Kingdom being carried off by the Assyrians and then the Southern Kingdom being carried off by the Babylonians, which began the 5th COP.
Now let’s jump into Hos. 5 and see how this little bit of information can open up the non-Pauline Scriptures for you.
|Hos. 5:1-4: The religious and political systems have brought the whole nation into ruin.||ProphetsDay|
|Hos. 5:5:a: The Northern Kingdom (Ephraim) will fall (to the Assyrians).||AC|
|Hos. 5:5b: The Southern Kingdom (Judah) will be threatened by the Assyrians and fall (to the Babylonians).||5COP1I|
|Hos. 5:6: They will return to the land of Israel from Babylon to seek the Lord||5COP2I|
|Hos. 5:6b: But the Lord goes back to His place and withdraws from them leaving silence.||5COP3I|
|Hos. 5:7-9: Hosea returns to the people of His day: the Northern Kingdom (Ephraim) has dealt treacherously with God and His children and will be devoured in a short time.||ProphetsDay -------> AC|
|Hos. 5:10: The Southern Kingdom will follow later and be carried off by the Babylonians.||5COP1I|
|Hos. 5:11-14: Both Ephraim and Judah will be torn out of the land and be carried away unto the Gentiles.||AC -------> 5COP1I|
|Hos. 5:15a: God will return to His place and leave all Israel in silence.||5COP2I -------> 5COP3I|
|Hos. 5:15b: God will remain silent until He breaks His silence through John the Baptist who calls on the nation to acknowledge their sins and repent.||5COO4I|
|OF COURSE, THE NATION OF ISRAEL REBELLED AGAINST GOD’S CALL TO REPENT AND REJECTED HER MESSIAH AND KING, THE LORD JESUS CHIRST. AND AT THAT POINT GOD DID SOMETHING HOSEA DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT. GOD PUT HIS PROPHETIC PROGRAM WITH NATIONAL ISRAEL ON HOLD AND BEGAN A NEW PREVIOUSLY UNREVEALED MYSTERY PROGRAM WITH THE BODY OF CHIRST THROUGH THE APOSTLESHIP OF PAUL.|
|Hos. 5:15c-6:1a: When God re-starts His Prophetic Program with Israel they will enter into the Tribulation Period of affliction. At this time they will acknowledge their sin, repent and return to the Lord.||5COP5I|
|Hos. 6:1b-3: At that time, God will heal and bind the nation of Israel, reviving them and raising them up from the dead to be His Own Nation and He will be with them.||KINGDOM|
You can see how easy and enjoyable reading and studying the non-Pauline scriptures become when you have this little bit of biblical information. It leaves God’s meaning in the text and stops us from inserting our own meanings into God’s Word. God meant what He said, and as we see Him faithfully working in Israel’s Prophetic Program we can count on the fact that He will be just as faithful with believers today in the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program, which results in strengthened patience, renewed comfort and enhanced hope.
Here is the Timeline Hosea and the other prophets saw in the non-Pauline Scriptures:
And here is the timeline of the whole Bible with the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program made known through the Apostleship of Paul in the Dispensation of Grace (Col. 1:25-28):
One of Satan’s most successful tactics for leading believers astray is to get them to confuse God’s Prophecy Program with His Mystery Program. My recommendation is to TUNE OUT all those so called prophecy teachers, which God is not doing today, and TUNE IN to those who teach the Mystery, which is what God is actually doing today. We should major in the Mystery and only minor in Prophecy. These verses or the verses of any other prophet cannot be applied to any other sinful country. They can only be applied to the Nation Israel. Israel was the only nation God gave the Law to and, therefore, she is the only nation that can fall under its curses. You CANNOT apply this passage to USA or Europe or anywhere else because of their sin. These judgments that God puts on Israel’s sinful cities are not being put on sinful non-Israeli cities today. Hurricanes and earthquakes and terrorist attacks are NOT God’s judgments on His enemies today.
Today, God is saving and blessing His enemies! Today God is NOT fulfilling these prophecies that the prophets had spoken about since the world began with regard to national Israel in any way, shape or form. Today God is fulfilling His Mystery Program, which had been kept secret since the world began with regard to the Body of Christ. Today, God has set aside national Israel and has placed individual Jews on the same level as the Gentiles so that He can dispense His mercy to all to save as many as possible through His Grace and Peace before He returns to destroy them in His wrath and judgment. (Rom. 11)
In yesterday’s Bible Study Fellowship, we wrapped up the important chapter of Mat. 9, important because right after this in Mat. 10 Jesus is going to send the 12 apostles out to minister on their own, without Him being present. Remember in Mat. 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus began calling out a believing remnant and taught them about their role in upcoming events that would lead through the rest of Christ’s earthly ministry, through the Tribulation Period and on into Israel’s Kingdom. Then, in Mat. 8-9, He showed them through miraculous signs and wonders what God would need to do with the nation as a whole to make her into the people He intended them to be: A kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6), a nation not reckoned among the other nations (Num. 23:9), the head of the nations not the tail (Deut. 28:12-13).
In Mat. 8, Matthew demonstrates for the religious leaders, disciples and the 12 what God will need to do to make Israel into the nation He created her to be. He will need to cleanse her of her leprosy, heal her of her sicknesses and restore her to His service. Then in Mat. 9 he expands upon this by demonstrating that God will also have to provide Israel with national forgiveness of sins and mercy along with cleansing, healing and resurrection. And when God finishes this prophetic work, Israel will be restored, the Lord Jesus Christ will sit on David’s Throne in Jerusalem, and His earthly Kingdom will be established. At that time all the nations of the earth will be blessed with Israel and through her Rise.
So, what is the 12’s and the believing remnant’s role in all this? In its rebellion against God and rejection of His Word, the Israel had fallen into sinful ruin. It was the believing remnant’s job to bring the paralyzed, unclean, dead nation to God for forgiveness of sins, mercy, cleansing, healing, resurrection and restoration. All of this reaches its complete and ultimate fulfillment when Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation Period to save His friends and destroy His enemies. At that time, the believing remnant will present the nation to Christ, and together they will look on the one they pierced, ask Him to treat them graciously and Christ will bring them into the Kingdom blessings.
Mat. 9 is one final forceful demonstration for the believing remnant that: Israel’s Messiah had arrived! Israel’s long-prophesied Kingdom was at hand. The Son of Man (Mat. 9:6; 10:23), Son of David (Mat. 9:27; 15:21-28), Israel’s Bridegroom (Mat. 9:15; Hos. 2:14) and Shepherd (Mat. 9:36; Ps. 23) had arrived! He was ready to begin the implementation of the New (national forgiveness of sins Mat. 9:6), Abrahamic (banqueting and rejoicing Mat. 9:10-15) and Davidic (Mercies of David Mat. 9:27) Covenants! And He didn’t come to mend the old but to replace the old with the new (Mat. 9:16-17). God was going to take the Nation and Kingdom away from the old unbelieving Vain Religious System and give it to the believing remnant, and it was the believing remnant’s great privilege to participate in this by bringing the nation to God for cleansing, healing, resurrection and restoration.
Yesterday we entered Mat. 10 and listened to Jesus instruct the 12 on what their ministry in His absence would look like. You could call this is a “practice run” for when Christ leaves them after His Death, Resurrection and Ascension, beginning in early Acts and continuing all the way through the Tribulation Period when they will be ministering in Christ’s absence until His return at the 2nd Coming.
This chapter has a cinematic, Cecil B. DeMille feel to it. Jesus begins by looking down at the 12 and the multitudes that were before Him at that time (Mat. 9:36-10:10). Then He shifts His look up a little into the near future where He sees the 12 carrying out their ministry in the neighboring cities (Mat. 10:11-15). Then He raises His eyes a little more, looking further into the future and sees them being increasingly exposed to Satan’s Policy of Evil in early Acts and on into the Tribulation Period. At that time, they will be brought before Israel’s vain religious leaders and Gentile rulers, which will drive a wedge between God’s believing remnant and Satan’s unbelieving Nation of Israel, a wedge that will penetrate all the way down into the most basic social unit of all, the family: “Brother will deliver up brother and the father will deliver up the child unto death, and they will be hated of all men for Christ’s Name sake.” But for those who steadfastly endured until the end of that 7 year Tribulation Period by remaining faithful to Christ and His people, would be saved from its persecutions by the 2nd Coming of Christ, who will deliver His friends, ushering them into the Kingdom, and destroy His enemies (Mat. 10:16-22).
Then Jesus lowers His gaze back to the 12 as He is about to send them on this “practice run” for what they will carry out in the cities of Israel in earnest after Christ leaves them in early Acts. But, of course, we know that the 12 never did this. They never went out to all the cities of Israel. In fact, they didn’t go beyond Jerusalem (Acts 8:1)! This is because first Jerusalem needed to be converted then the 12 would go out and convert the cities of Judea then the 12 would go out and convert the cities of Samaria and greater Israel, and then the restored Nation of Israel would go out to the cities of the whole world. But horror of horrors: Israel’s leaders in Jerusalem refused their King and Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, at the stoning of Stephen, which shut down God’s Prophetic Program with the Nation of Israel, and the ministry of Peter and the 12 came to a grinding halt. (Of course, we know through Paul that God simultaneously began a new previously unrevealed plan and purpose: God’s Mystery Program for the Body of Christ during the Dispensation of Grace for the Gentiles through the apostleship of Paul (Rom. 11)).
They were not to be surprised by increasing persecution, especially out in the Tribulation. For if suffering and persecution were good enough for the Master, it was good enough for His servants (Mat. 10:24-25). Then Jesus raises His eyes once again, looking out to the distant time of His 2nd Coming when all things would be revealed for what they truly are. Therefore, they were not to fear but to speak boldly, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. Their ministry would not only drive a wedge between believers and unbelievers unto death (as mentioned earlier in Mat. 10:17-22) but it will also drive a wedge between the faithful and unfaithful members of the believing remnant itself.
Remember, every true member of the “believing” remnant has already been personally justified unto eternal life before the tribunal of God in the Pauline sense. They believed God’s Good News to them (the Gospel of the Kingdom) and, just like what God did for Abraham, God counted their faith for righteousness—Personal Salvation from sin and spiritual death. But in God’s Prophetic Program members of the believing remnant could be justified (declared right or wrong) again before Christ at His 2nd Coming for participation in Israel’s National Salvation from persecution and life in the Kingdom. As we saw in the Book of James, the believing remnant will have a faithful element and an unfaithful element and these two elements will be driven apart by the increasing persecution, causing division within their assemblies that would penetrate all the way down to the basic family unit (although not unto death--Mat. 10:26-36 compare with 10:21). The faithful will receive the rewards of a faithful prophet and a righteous man, and they shall never lose it. For those of the believing remnant who remained faithful to the end, relying on God for everything, supporting one another as friends, they would be rewarded with entrance into the Kingdom and given privileged positions for life in the Kingdom (Mat. 10:37-42).
Of course, if we don’t “rightly-divide” the Bible, we will make a mess of this chapter. If we think that this is the way we today in the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program in the Dispensation of Grace are to carry out missionary service, well then, this chapter becomes sheer nonsense. We will have to spiritualize all God’s meaning out of the text and then fill it back in with our own vain imaginations. Let’s look at some of the plain statements in this passage and ask: Is this how missionary service occurs today?
|Missionary Work||Israel’s Prophetic Program||Body of Christ’s Mystery Program|
|What did they preach?||Gospel of the Kingdom (Mat. 9:35, 10:7)||Gospel of the Grace of God, Paul’s Gospel (Rom. 16:25)|
|What did they do?||Cast out demons, heal sick and raise the dead (Mat. 10:8)||These things have ceased. (1 Cor. 13)|
|Where did they go?||Only to the Jews of National Israel (Mat. 10:6)||Jews and Gentiles alike but especially the Gentiles. (Rom. 1:5; 11:13)|
|What did they take with them?||Basically nothing. (Mat. 10:9-10)||Plan ahead for financial and material provisions. (Rom. 15:22-33)|
In claiming that this passage applies to us today in the Body of Christ, Historic Christianity has had to throw away God’s meaning and fill it in with their own. When God says “House of Israel,” for instance, He doesn’t really mean the House of Israel, they say, but the Body of Christ. And when He says Jerusalem and the “cities of Israel,” He doesn’t really mean the cities of Israel, they say, but your hometown and the cities surrounding it. And when God says take nothing with you, not even bronze pennies, God doesn’t really mean that. They say it is just an exaggeration to encourage general dependence on God. And when He says to “cast our unclean spirits, heal ALL manner of sickness and disease and raise the dead” (Mat. 10:8), He doesn’t really mean it, they say. He is speaking figuratively for social and spiritual ills of society. We could go on and on.
What a bunch of nonsense. This is to throw away God’s meaning and then trivialize the Bible by filling it back in with our own vain imaginations. No, we must, to the best of our ability, use the tool of right division so that we can leave all God’s meaning in text and adjust our thinking to it, not the other way around. These are all things that God really means, and they will be completely and literally fulfilled in the future.
Based on the comments I have been hearing, it sounds like we are all enjoying our study of Israel’s Prophetic Program from the Gospel of Matthew. In Mat. 10, Jesus gives a cinematic foretaste of how Peter and the 12 (and the whole believing remnant) will minister during what was left of Israel’s Prophetic Program, especially that final 7 year period of Daniel’s Time Schedule, what we call the Tribulation Period.
But we must remember that before we got to Mat. 10, Jesus had been equipping them doctrinally and through miraculous signs and wonders (Mat. 1-9). The believing remnant will be perfectly equipped and empowered for faithfully going through the early Acts Period, on through the Tribulation Period and into the Kingdom. The believing remnant is the “first-fruits” of the restored Nation of Israel and as such they will receive a “fore-taste” of the Kingdom and New Covenant blessings. They will have access to all the promises Jesus gave to them in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7). The Law Jesus purified in the Sermon on the Mount will be engrafted into their hearts, and they will be given the Holy Spirit to cause them to do it. They will be “fore-dispensers” of the national forgiveness the whole nation will receive at Christ’s 2nd Coming. They will be accompanied with miraculous signs and wonders.
As a group, Jesus called on them to stay together, relying on God for everything (not the vain religious and political systems or the pleasures of the world), operating together on the friendship principle—if they were the friends of God, they must support and help God’s friends—and together enduring tribulation by watching and waiting for Jesus Christ to return with the Clouds of Heaven—the angelic armies and glory of the Father—when He will save His friends and destroy His enemies.
God has arranged for them to have a perfect provision for getting through the Time of Trouble. But of course, they need to access it by faith. If, however, because of deception or willful disobedience they didn’t, and instead compromised with the vain religious system and Satan’s policy of evil in the world at that time, Jesus explained in Mat. 10 that this will impact how they participate in Israel’s National Salvation.
So pop some popcorn, take a seat and let’s follow along in our Bibles as we watch the movie:
Scene One: Mat. 9:36-10: The camera zooms in close on the people with Jesus at that time, especially the 12 disciples, who were about to become the 12 apostles (sent out ones). Jesus is sending the 12 out to minister in His absence. This is a “practice run” for their ministry after His death, resurrection and departure via the ascension in early Acts that will extend to His return at the end of the Tribulation.
Scene Two: Mat. 10:11-15: The camera rises a little and looks out into the near future where we see the 12 ministering to the cities and households of Israel (ONLY ISRAEL! Mat. 10:6), marking them for judgment. Christ will hold these cities accountable at His 2nd Coming based on how they received His messengers. Those cities who receive the Gospel of the Kingdom and its messengers (thereby receiving their Master, the King of the Kingdom), the 12 will mark with their peace, and they will be blessed at Christ’s return. For those who didn’t, the 12 will mark them by removing their peace, shaking the dust of their feet, and they will be cursed at Christ’s return.
Scene Three: Mat. 10:16-31: The camera rises higher, zooming out, looking further into the future, giving a panoramic view that begins at the death of Christ on into the early Acts and on into the Tribulation Period and the Return of Christ. The 12’s ministry of marking the unbelieving element in Israel for a curse and the believing element in the nation for a blessing will drive a “wedge” between these two elements, producing friction that results in increasing levels of persecution for the believing remnant. The 12 needed to be aware of this—they were to be wise to the serpents, wise to Satan’s policy of evil against them, and harmless as doves relying on the DOVE: the Holy Spirit (Mat. 3:16).
Scene Four: Mat. 10:32-42: Now the camera comes back down to Jesus and the 12, who are present with Him in His earthly ministry. How the believing remnant headed up by the 12 carried out their “wedge” ministry would impact how they would participate in Israel’s National Salvation. Let me emphasize: How they carried out their ministry would NOT impact their participation in personal salvation from sin and spiritual death, justification unto eternal life WITHOUT WORKS before the Tribunal of God. NO! By very definition, the “believing” remnant is made up of those who had believed God’s Good News to them, the Gospel of the Kingdom, whereby (just like Abraham in Gen. 15:6) God counted their faith for righteousness WITHOUT WORKS. But now they can be justified again in Israel’s Prophetic Program. They will be declared right or wrong before Christ at His 2nd Coming (NOT the Tribunal of God!) for participation in Israel’s National Salvation of life in the Kingdom (NOT personal salvation unto eternal life!).
Their “wedge” ministry and the persecution it produced would not only drive apart the believing from the unbelieving elements in Israel but would also drive apart the faithful from the unfaithful elements within the believing remnant itself. For those in the believing remnant who obeyed and did not fear, but kept on proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom from the housetops and confessing Jesus Christ before men; for those who continued to value their relationship with Christ above all other human relationships; for those who recognized that their suffering what the Master suffered is an honor and a cause for rejoicing (Mat. 5:11-12); for those who valued the things of God above even their own lives; and for those who received God’s people in the believing remnant and helped them: His prophets and His righteous ones, even meeting the basic needs of even the lowest disciple by giving them a glass of cold water (contrast with James 2:14-16) … If they do that, Jesus will confess them before the Father at His 2nd Coming, and give them rewards for privileged positions and roles in that Kingdom.
But for those who feared and compromised with Israel’s Vain Religious System, thereby stopped proclaiming Christ, perhaps even denying Him (like Peter did 3 times); for those who valued their human relationships more than their relationship with Christ; for those who preferred to suffer for sin’s sake rather than righteousness’s sake; and for those who sacrificed God’s things in order to preserve their own lives … If they do that, Jesus will deny them at His 2nd Coming before the Father, and they will lose the rewards of the Kingdom.
Of course, we saw in James 5:7-20 that it is not hopeless for those who are enticed to leave the believing remnant and compromise with the vain religious system because of persecution. There was a procedure for their return to the believing remnant and restoration through healing and the forgiveness of the sins they committed as member of that believing remnant (the true Nation of Israel). That’s what friends do. They do whatever they can to help their friends not fall into traps in the first place, and if they do fall into a trap, they help them get out. And they do this in good times and bad (Prov. 18:24).
If we don’t rightly divide the Scriptures, we will have to throw away most of what God says in Mat. 10 and replace it with whatever we want it to say. In order to make Mat. 10 apply to the Body of Christ in the Dispensation of Grace we will have to “spiritualize” God’s meaning out of the text and then “trivialize” it by adding back our own vain imaginations. Let’s look at a few examples:
It is clear that forcing Mat. 10 onto the Body of Christ in the Dispensation of Grace just doesn’t work. To try to do so dishonors God and rejects His Word. Instead, we must leave God’s words and meanings right in the text where they belong and correct our thinking by rightly dividing the Bible. These instructions apply perfectly to the remnant of believing Jews who will suffer extensive persecution under Satan’s Policy of Evil against them when God re-starts His Prophetic Program with Israel in that final 7 year Tribulation Period. This is a perfect and complete provision for that time, and it will lead them right into their long-prophesied Kingdom on earth where God will fulfill all the promises He ever made to them.
By looking at the 7 Churches (assemblies of the believing remnant of Jews in Asia during the Tribulation Period) in Revelation 1-3, we can see Jesus’ teaching in action.
Our little foray from Mat. 10 into Rev. 2-3 generated quite a lot of response and the overriding ideas behind the questions asked were 2-fold:
This is an extremely important thing to understand. Confusion about it brings in much defeat and despair. Most will acknowledge that Paul’s Epistles teach that believers are eternally secure and cannot lose their salvation. The Gospels, Revelation and other non-Pauline Scriptures, however, can be read in a way that seems to teach that believers are not eternally secure and can lose their salvation. Of course, theologians, who for the most part have thrown away Paul’s distinct apostleship, come up with all sorts of nonsense to try to harmonize these apparent contradictory teachings of Scriptures but that doesn’t solve the problem; it just hides it.
But when we approach this problem from the standpoint of Paul’s distinct apostleship, things clear up immediately. If I ask you what the most basic distinctions in the Bible are, I might receive a few different answers. Those associated most closely with Acts 2 Dispensationalism will probably answer that the most basic distinctions are between God’s Law and Grace and God’s peoples the Nation of Israel and the Body of Christ. Those who associate most closely with Mid-Acts Dispensationalism will likely say God’s Prophecy and Mystery Programs and God’s Earthly and Heavenly Purposes. Well, as important as these distinctions in God’s Word are, there is an even more fundamental and basic distinction that is preliminary to all of these.
That most fundamental distinction is this:
So, when we read Matthew and James we need to realize that they are not manifesting, revealing, making known, how an ungodly sinner on enemy status before God is justified before the Tribunal of God, justification unto eternal life by Faith Without Works. Paul explains that. Rather, they are manifesting how a Jew who believes the Gospel of the Kingdom (and is, therefore, already justified in the Pauline sense!) will be justified again at Christ’s 2nd Coming for participation in Israel’s National Salvation by Faith With Works. In Revelation, these Jewish believers heard the Gospel of the Kingdom and when they believed it, just like Abraham, their faith was counted for righteousness. Instantly and eternally they were Personally Saved, justified unto eternal life by FAITH WITHOUT WORKS. Once Personally Saved, God then placed them into the believing remnant of Israel where they could justified again by FAITH PLUS WORKS for participation in Israel’s National Salvation.
In other words, those believing Jews who remained faithful would be justified again, this time before Christ at His 2nd Coming, where they would receive rewards that would determine NOT whether they would participate in Personal Salvation unto eternal life, but how they would participate in Israel’s National Salvation unto Life in the Kingdom. Those true believers in Israel’s Prophetic Program who had been unfaithful to Christ, would not lose their participation Personal Salvation unto eternal life, but they would lose or have diminished roles for their participation in Israel’s National Salvation for Life in the Kingdom.
So when John talks about unfaithful believers being cast out or put to physical death or chastised in other ways, he is not saying they have lost their Personal Salvation. Rather he is saying that they will play diminished roles in Israel’s National Salvation in the Kingdom. Those who remain faithful will be given the rewards of the prophet and of the righteous (faithful) (Mat. 10:32-42). They will be appointed to rule the nations (Rev. 2:26), walk with Christ in the Kingdom (Rev. 3:4), banquet with Christ and sit with Him on His throne (Rev. 3:20-21) . They will be appointed to positions of honor in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12), and many, many other such privileges for Life in Israel’s long-prophesied Kingdom on earth. Those believing Jews who were unfaithful, however, while remaining full participants in Personal Salvation unto Eternal Life, they would have a diminished participation in Israel’s National Salvation, missing out on these opportunities and privileged roles in the Kingdom.
When it comes to how God justifies and saves ungodly sinners on enemy status before Him for Personal Salvation unto Eternal Life we must always go to Paul. There we read that this is always and absolutely based on FAITH WITHOUT WORKS, going all the way back to the Fall of Adam and Eve (Rom. 3:25). In Personal Salvation, God seeks out His enemies, preaches Good News to them through no cause of their own, and for those who believe God, their faith is counted for righteousness (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 3-4).
This brings up a good question. Why couldn’t God manifest His Righteousness in Saving His Enemies Because He Has No Friends before the distinct apostleship of Paul? Why couldn’t the Old Testament, or Jesus in His Earthly Ministry or His friends, Peter and the 12 after His death and resurrection have manifested it? Why did it have to be revealed by the Apostle Paul? First, since it is based on the Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Christ (to state the obvious) it could not, therefore, be manifested until after the Death and Resurrection of Christ. But there is a 2nd reason why it had to be Paul. God, in His infinite wisdom determined that this Righteousness of God in Saving His Enemies had to be manifested through an ENEMY OF HIS NOT A FRIEND OF HIS!. This ruled out Peter and the 12, Jesus’ friends. And it ruled in Saul/Paul, who was the chief persecutor of Christ, the 12 and the believing remnant of Jews. He was not just a persecutor. He was the leader of the persecutors of Christ and His people. He was the chief sinner and God’s worst enemy (1 Tim. 1:12-16). And God chose His enemy Saul, made him the Apostle Paul, and gave him the distinct apostleship of manifesting this Righteousness of God not just throughout the whole world but throughout the whole universe as well!
One of the highlights from yesterday’s message came from answering the question: Who Is John the Baptist? This is an important question because the Vain Religious System (VRS) in Jesus’ day insisted that Elijah needed to come before the Messiah came. John insisted that he was not Elijah (Jn. 1:21). Therefore, according to the counter-doctrine of the VRS, if John was not Elijah, then the messenger of Mal. 3, the forerunner of the Messiah, had not come either. And, if the forerunner of the Messiah had not come, then the Messiah could not come either. By conflating the 1st and 2nd Comings of Christ and by conflating the two messengers of Malachi 3 and 4, the VRS could not only do away with the necessity of John the Baptist’s ministry but with the necessity of Christ’s earthly ministry at His 1st Coming as well.
Let’s take a closer look at the argument. In Mal. 3:1 the LORD said: Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me. Then in Mal. 4:5 He said: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord. The VRS said that Elijah, in the latter reference, was the same person as the messenger in the former reference. This allowed them to do away with the possibility of two messengers, who would come before two separate Comings of the Lord. According to Mal. 4:5, Elijah will come before the dreadful and terrible Day of the Lord. This is a reference to the end times, the last half of the Tribulation Period, just before Christ’s 2nd Coming in Wrath and Judgment to restore all things. But in Christ’s 1st Coming, He did not come in avengement to restore all things for National Israel but to suffer all things, therefore, according to the VRS He could not be the true Messiah. And if Jesus is not the true Messiah, then John’s ministry to prepare the way for the Messiah could not be true either. With two swings of the blade, this counter-doctrine of the VRS tried to do away with the ministries of Jesus the Christ and of John the Baptist.
So, this is an extremely important question: Who is John the Baptist? Let’s put together the pieces of the puzzle from the Gospel accounts. As mentioned earlier, John, when asked by the VRS if he was Elijah, he said definitively and straightforwardly NO (Jn. 1:21)! Let’s say it again: John said he was not Elijah in fulfillment of Mal. 4:5.
But who does Jesus say he is? In Mark 9:11-13, the disciples, after coming down the mountain where they had just witnessed the transfiguration (where, by the way, they just saw Moses and ELIJAH! (Mk. 9:4-5)), some of the apostles asked Jesus about Elijah and his relationship to John the Baptist: Why do the scribes (the VRS) say that Elijah must come first? Jesus answered them: Indeed, Elijah comes first and restores all things. But Jesus goes on to explain that that was not what was happening at that time (His 1st Coming). All things were not now being restored. Rather The Son of Man that He must suffer many things, and be set at naught. According to Jesus’ answer, Elijah is to be God’s messenger just before the restoration of all things at Christ’s 2nd Coming, which accords perfectly with Mal. 4:5-6. So, whoever John was, he was not the Elijah of Mal. 4:5 because John hadn’t come before the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord when all things would be restored at Christ’s 2nd Coming. He came before the suffering of all things by the Son of Man (the Lord Jesus Christ) when He would be regarded as nothing at His 1st Coming!
But then, Jesus, says something surprising: But I say unto you, that Elijah is indeed come, and they (the VRS) have done unto him whatsoever they wished (they put him in jail and will kill him) as it is written of him. So, which is it? Has Elijah come or hasn’t he come? And what does this have to do with John and his ministry? To get another piece of the puzzle, we need to go to Mat. 17:10-13. Like Mark 9, this account is right after they witnessed the transfiguration on the mountain: Why do the scribes (the VRS) say that Elijah must come first? And Jesus answered: Elijah truly shall first come and restore all things, and that Elijah is come already, and they (the VRS) knew him not but have done unto him whatsoever they wished. Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them (the VRS). So far, both accounts say the same things, and then Matthew gives us an additional detail: And the disciples understood that He spoke unto them of John the Baptist.
But we do still not have a completely clear answer with regard to our question: Has Elijah come, or hasn’t he? And what does this have to do with John and his ministry? We find one more piece of the puzzle in Mat. 11:7-14. This time Jesus asks the multitudes about who they went out to see when they went out into the wilderness to see John. And at this time Jesus quotes Mal. 3:1, and He quotes it in reference to John the Baptist: Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee, unequivocally identifying John as that messenger who fulfills that prophecy. Jesus closes the discussion by saying: If you will receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come.
Based on these verses, the overall picture of John is beginning to be seen. Let’s summarize. First of all, John himself says categorically that he is not the Elijah of Mal. 4:5 (Jn. 1:21). Jesus said that while Elijah is to come before the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord at Christ’s 2nd Coming to restore all things in accord with Mal. 4:5, that is not what is happening at this time. At this time, Christ is suffering all things and will be regarded as nothing, and it is Elijah in the person of John the Baptist who comes before that in accord with Mal. 3:1.
So, how can this be? How does Elijah come in the person of John? To answer this question we need to put in place the final two pieces of the puzzle of who John is, and that will bring his ministry into full clarity. We find these pieces in Lk. 1:13-17 and Mat. 3:1-4. In Luke 1, the angel explains to Zacharias that his wife, Elizabeth, is pregnant, and that she will be giving birth to a son, whom he was to name John. The angel went on to say that through John’s ministry, many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. Elijah will do the same thing in the future when Christ returns to restore all things. Finally, the angel explains that John shall go before Him in the SPIRIT and POWER of Elijah. We can add to this Matthew 3:1-4 where we read that John also comes in the appearance, in dress and diet, of Elijah, calling on the Nation of Israel to repent just as Elijah did in the past when he called on Israel to repent and leave Baal worship and return to the Lord (1 Kgs. 18).
So the answer to our question is that John is Elijah in the sense that he comes in the spirit and power of Elijah, doing many of the same things Elijah did in the past and will do again in the future at Christ’s 2nd Coming. If anything, John is more like Elisha, the successor to Elijah, than to Elijah himself. Remember when Elijah was translated and removed from the earth, he left his mantle behind. Elisha took the mantle and received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and power (2 Kgs. 2:8-9). In fact, Elisha did two times the number of miracles that Elijah did. John is not Elijah anymore than Elisha was Elijah. He came in the spirit and the power of Elijah, calling the nation to repentance and to prepare the way for Christ at His 1st Coming as the Suffering Servant on behalf of His people the Israelites in accord with Is. 53.
Sunday we looked at Matthew 11 and saw how Christ counter-acts the deceitful teachings of the Vain Religious System of Israel in that day. Please find below the audio and video links along with an article about how the Vain Religious System works today against the Body of Christ in God’s Mystery Program. Newer members, who have arrived in the middle of our Bible studies, might find the below article might especially helpful because it gives an excellent overview of PAULINE GRACE/DISPENSATIONALISM. Please note that there is an informative chart at the bottom: Don’t Miss That!
In Matthew 11, we have been observing some of the ways Satan attacked Christ in His Earthly Ministry through the Vain Religious System (VRS) of the Nation of Israel, and we saw how it could negatively impact the members of the Believing Remnant, even John the Baptist himself. So, it might be worthwhile to take a moment to appreciate how Satan attacks Christ in His Heavenly Ministry today through the Vain Religious System (VRS) of Historic Christianity and see how it negatively impacts members of the Body of Christ.
One way to do this is by looking at the armor God gives to protect believers today in the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program from the attacks of Satan:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Eph. 6:10-20).
God and Paul instruct the Body of Christ to put on the whole armor of God so that believers might STAND STRONG against the deceptions of the devil and the present evil world system. The word “stand” is used progressively four times in this passage: That you all may be enabled to STAND (6:11): That you all might be enabled to WITHSTAND to STAND (6:13): Therefore, STAND (6:14)!
So, what is this armor that will make believers today in God’s Mystery Program for the Body of Christ STAND STRONG?
LET’S SUMMARIZE IN CHART FORM:
|THE NON-PAULINE SCRIPTURES
THE OLD TESTAMENT, GOSPELS, MINISTRY OF THE 12 AND HEBREWS-REVELATION:
|THE PAULINE SCRIPTURES
ROMANS THROUGH PHILEMON:
|God's Two Purposes||To Re-Establish His Glory on Earth||To Re-Establish His Glory in the Heavenlies|
|God's Two Programs||The Prophetic Program|
which had been revealed since the world began
|The Mystery Program|
which had been kept secret since the world began
|God's Two Peoples||Nation of Israel||Body of Christ|
|God's Two Manifestations of His Righteousness||The Righteousness of God in Saving His Friends and Destroying His Enemies.||The Righteousness of God in Saving His ENEMIES because He has no Friends.|
|God's Two Gospels||The Gospel of the Kingdom to His Friends||The Gospel of Grace and Peace to His Enemies.|
|God's Two Provisions of Salvation||Israel’s National Salvation of His Friends unto life in the Kingdom.||The Sinner’s Personal Salvation unto Eternal Life.|
Matthew 12 opens up with the Pharisees condemning Jesus for allowing His hungry followers to pick and eat grain and for healing a lame man on the Sabbath Day. They had taken God’s regulation about not working on the Sabbath (Ex. 31:12-17) and set up all kinds of man-made traditions defining what could or could not be done work on the Sabbath. But in focusing on the minutia of the external regulation, they completely missed God’s true intention for the Sabbath: REST AND MERCY.
The Sabbath was His sign between Creation, Israel and Himself. It was His guarantee that He intended to dwell in His Creation, and that He would do it through the Nation of Israel (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 31:17). God designed it to be a time of rest, refreshing, restoration, feasting, meeting together and rejoicing, delighting in the Lord, praising and worshipping God (Gen. 2:2; Ex. 31:17; Lev. 23:1-4). This will be ultimately fulfilled when God restores the nation of Israel in her earthly Kingdom, whereby God will make Israel the head of the nations and with Israel and through her RISE, He will bless the whole world, bringing Israel and the creation into His rest. That is what God intended the Sabbath to be used for. But Israel’s VRS, completely ignorant of this, instead used the Sabbath to burden the people with all kinds of man-made traditions, resulting not in the bringing of God’s people into rest, but into prolonged human suffering-- hunger and thirst and sickness—which is totally contrary to God and His will, His intentions for the Sabbath.
In Mat. 12:1-14, Jesus’ point in feeding the hungry and healing the sick on the Sabbath is to demonstrate the complete bankruptcy to His disciples of Israel’s VRS. The disciples had been taught from infancy that Israel’s religious system was the receptacle for God’s things, and that its religious leaders were the experts on the Scriptures and the Law. But Jesus shows that this is not true. The religious system in Israel was empty, bankrupt, VAIN, and His followers didn’t need to go back to it for God’s things. They needed to go to Christ for God’s things (Mat. 11:27). Jesus proves that the religious system that claimed to be the experts on the Scriptures, teachers of the Law, the receptacles of all God’s things and the source of God’s knowledge, in fact, didn’t know anything about God--His Person, His plan, His Purposes, His intentions, His will—NOTHING! They didn’t know the Scriptures (Mat. 12:2-4)! They didn’t know the Law (Mat. 12:5)!! They didn’t even know what one short little seven word verse from Hos. 6:6 meant: I will have mercy and not sacrifice (Mat. 12:7)!!! They read God’s external Sabbath commands but didn’t know God and His Will. Therefore, they regulated those commands out of a cold, harsh, hardened hearts, not caring if they prolonged or increased human suffering. If they had known anything about God, they would have realized that His intention for the Sabbath was rest and restoration, the alleviation of human suffering, and they would have instead regulated the Sabbath commands with MERCY from a softened and warmed heart of faith. If they had known anything about God, they would have realized that human need (Mat. 12:3-4) and sacrifices (Mat. 12:5) superseded the Sabbath commands. And, most important of all, they would have realized that MERCY supersedes them all (Mat. 12:7)!
The Hebrew word ‘hesed” usually translated as “mercy” in our English Bibles is God’s key word for Israel’s national salvation as promised in the Davidic Covenant. It refers to God’s STEADFAST LOVINGKINDNESS for Israel. Of this, Israel’s VRS was completely ignorant. If they had known about God and His dealings with Israel on the basis of steadfast lovingkindness, they would have regulated the commands of the Law with that mercy from hearts of faith. But instead they rejected God and His mercy. Just look at what is going on in Mat. 12. While Jesus was forming a holy convocation on the Sabbath--feeding the hungry, healing the sick, bringing rest and restoration, praising and worshipping God--the VRS of Israel was forming an UNholy convocation on the Sabbath, condemning Christ and His mercy, unconcerned about prolonging human suffering, and began plotting how they might put Christ to death (Mat. 12:14)! They can do that on the Sabbath but Jesus can’t feed the hungry and heal the sick on the Sabbath? What absurdity! No, the VRS was empty and bankrupt, worthless, designated unto destruction.
We must not think that Israel’s VRS is unique in its rebellion against God. All man-made religious systems and man-centered theological systems, including those with the word “Christian” before their names, are all examples of this same tendency of sinful flesh to rebel against God and His Word while trying to make it look like they are really serving Him and very spiritual. In Israel’s Prophetic Program the VRS was ignorant of God’s “Hesed,” His Mercy, His STEADFAST LOVINGKINDNESS as exemplified in the Davidic Covenant. The very thing they were supposed to use to regulate all that Israel did, they rejected in unbelief, leaving them vain, empty and bankrupt. The same has been true for the VRS of Historic Christianity today in God’s Mystery Program for the Body of Christ, which has been largely willfully and rebelliously ignorant of God’s “Charis,” His Grace, as exemplified in Paul’s Gospel, the Good News of Christ and His Cross, made known through the distinct apostleship of Paul. The very thing that they were supposed to use to regulate all that the Body of Christ does, they likewise have rejected in unbelief, leaving them vain, empty, bankrupt as well.
It is only by returning to the distinct and unique apostleship of Paul. and the Mystery Revelation God entrusted to him, that members of the Body of Christ can be established in God’s Truth for today to walk in a way that is well-pleasing to the Lord (Rom. 16:25).
We all understand that unlike the Pauline Scriptures, the non-Pauline Scriptures, including the Gospel of Matthew are not written to and about us, but they are for our learning. When we study the non-Pauline Scriptures, we learn that God is completely faithful in fulfilling all His promises to the Nation of Israel in His Prophetic Program, and this strengthens our patience, increases our comfort and enhances our hope (Rom. 15:4) because we can rest assured that since God is completely faithful to Israel He will be just as faithful in fulfilling all His promises to us today in the Body of Christ in accord with His Mystery Program as revealed in the Pauline Scriptures—Romans through Philemon.
One of the ways God is faithful to Israel is seen in Matthew 12 as Jesus begins to deliver the believing remnant from Israel’s Vain Religious System (VRS). Jesus exposes their utter bankruptcy and hypocrisy. They self-identified themselves as the experts of the Scriptures and teachers of the Law and claimed to be the receptacle and dispenser of God’s things. But Jesus dismantles this fallacy and demonstrates that they aren’t the receptacle and dispenser of God’s things, they don’t know the Scriptures, they don’t know the Law, and they don’t even know what one short little verse in Hosea 6:6 that reveals God’s underlying intentions, desires and will: I will have mercy not sacrifice. In short, they didn’t understand God or His Word.
If they had known anything about God, they would have known that God desires mercy more than sacrifice. And if that is true of sacrifice, it is also true of the Sabbath. The Hebrew word for mercy is “hesed” and a definition that tries to bring out its full meaning might be “steadfast lovingkindness.” That is God’s inner disposition, His underlying desire, His true intention in His dealings with Israel, “hesed.” God memorialized His “steadfast lovingkindness” in the Davidic Covenant, where He promised to enflesh Himself into the line of David in order to deliver Israel from all her enemies, beginning with His suffering and death on the Cross to provide redemption for His people. This goes far beyond anything the Law called for. This goes into the very heart of Israel’s LORD Himself where “hesed,” mercy, “steadfast lovingkindness” resides.
If Israel’s VRS had understood this fundamental truth about God, they would have realized that just as everything God did in leading His people was tempered with mercy, so too everything they did as His representatives should have been tempered with mercy as well, including the Law, the sacrificial system and the Sabbath (Mat. 12:1-8). But in rebelling against God and in rejecting His Word, they threw away God’s mercy in unbelief, and without that they also threw away the ability to understand the Scriptures. Instead of leading Israel to God, they led her to ruin. To fill this void, they replaced the merciful Word of God with their own merciless teachings, the traditions of men, the odious minutiae of their “oral law,” which put undue burdens on the people. Instead of leading the people to God in the spirit of the Law regulated by mercy, they drove the people away from God in the letter of the Law regulated by their own merciless and burdensome traditions.
Jesus illustrates this in Mat. 12 by feeding hungry people and restoring a man to wholeness on the Sabbath (Mat. 12:1-13). What the VRS lost is that when God gave the Sabbath, He didn’t intend for it to be a day used to prolong suffering, stop restoration and prevent people from doing the Lord’s work of praise and worship. God’s intention in giving the Sabbath was to give a day of rest that would be used to alleviate suffering and bring restoration. It was supposed to be a day for feasting and banqueting not hungering and thirsting, for serving, worshipping and praising God, not for serving the burdensome traditions of men.
In their ignorance of God’s Word and God’s ways, Jesus exposed the utter bankruptcy of Israel’s VRS, and this emptiness naturally turned to hypocrisy. They taught that you could restore a sheep from a pit on the Sabbath, but you couldn’t restore a human to wholeness on the Sabbath. Hypocrites! The bankrupt religious system‘s hypocrisy reaches its high point in that while they were condemning Jesus for doing the “work” of feeding and healing on the Sabbath, they didn’t condemn themselves for doing the work of forming a council and plotting His death on the Sabbath (Mat. 12:14). Bankrupt and double hypocrites!!
Jesus purpose in doing this was to show his disciples that they must not go to the VRS for the things of God. They must go to Him for the things of God. The VRS would not be able to bring them into the nation’s Sabbath rest and restoration in the Kingdom. He was the only One who could do that (Mat. 11:27-30).
So, what can we learn from Mat. 12 for today? One important thing to learn is that the Vain Religious System of historic Christianity is just as bankrupt and hypocritical as Israel’s was. The root problem in Israel’s VRS was that in their unbelief, they rejected the knowledge of God’s underlying regulating principle of “hesed,” mercy. Once they threw away God’s inner heart’s desire, intent and will, they could no longer rightly understand His Word, so they threw that away as well and replaced it with their own vain traditions of men (Mat. 15:9).
And that is exactly what the VRS of historic Christianity has done as well. They have thrown away God’s regulating principle for today in the Dispensation of Grace, His inner heart’s desire, intent and will. While Israel’s Prophetic Program’s regulating principle was “hesed” or mercy, today, in the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program it is “charis” or grace, Pauline Grace, as revealed through the distinct apostleship of Paul. For the most part, historic Christianity has rejected in unbelief Paul’s distinct apostleship and has, therefore, rejected Pauline Grace, which means they have thrown away God’s Will and His Word and, like Israel’s VRS, they have replaced them with their own foolish imaginations and traditions of men. They have spiritualized God’s meaning out of the Bible’s text, and then they trivialized it by filling it back in with whatever they wanted, driving historic Christianity away from God and into ruin, just like Israel’s VRS.
The only solution capable of reversing this predicament is to return to God’s truth for today as found in the Pauline Scriptures, Romans through Philemon. It is only there that we find God’s desire, intents and purpose for the Body of Christ in the Mystery Program. It is only through Pauline Grace that the Body of Christ is strengthened and established:
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Now to Him that is of power to establish you according to my (Paul’s) Gospel, and the Preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the Revelation of the Mystery, which had been kept secret since the world began …
One of the highlights from Matthew 12 was seeing that even for the Vain Religious System in Israel, who were in active rebellion against God and rejection of Christ, even to the point of plotting His death (Mat. 12:14), Jesus still did not leave them hopeless. He will turn away from them at this time, leaving them in their ignorance. One reason He does this is so that He can pray to the Father on the Cross: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Lk. 23:34). Through this prayer, Jesus, in effect, reduced the charge against His enemies from murder (from which the Law offered no recourse, only death) to manslaughter (from which the Law offered the recourse of protection in cities of refuge, where those who killed someone in ignorance could go to escape the death sentence).
In doing this, God will create a “city of refuge” in early Acts through the Ministry of the Holy Spirit and Peter and the 12 to give the unbelieving nation one more opportunity to receive Him. The Holy Spirit will confront them with the Bad News of the Death of Christ. They killed their Messiah but God has raised Him from the dead, and He is about ready to return in His wrath and judgment to destroy His enemies, beginning in the House of Israel! Peter pleads with them to rethink what they have done! Repent, receive the Lord Jesus and save yourselves from this evil generation (Acts 2:21-24, 40; 3:13-17). Ignorance would no longer be an excuse. While Jesus refused to give them another sign at that time in Mat. 12, He does point ahead to a sign He will give them in the future, and THEY HAD BETTER NOT REJECT THAT SIGN! It will be the greatest of all signs; the Sign of Jonah; the Death, Burial and RESSURECTION on the third day of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mat. 12:38-41).
With that sign and the Ministry of the Holy Spirit through Peter and the 12 in early Acts, to continue in their rejection of Christ would be to commit blasphemy against the Spirit, which is the one unforgivable sin in the Nation of Israel’s Prophetic Program (Mat. 12:31-32). It would be the culmination of their historical rebellion against the Triune Godhead. Apostate Israel had rebelled against God the Father in the Old Testament, God the Son in His earthly ministry in the Gospel Accounts, and, if they rejected God the Holy Spirit in early Acts, they will have completed their rebellion against the whole Triune Godhead. The third strike, and they would be out.
Of course, we know that they didn’t heed the Sign of Jonah nor did they receive the Ministry of the Holy Spirit, but continued in the rejection of Christ, which culminated in the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Stephen looked up and saw Christ standing on the right hand of God, standing in readiness to return in His Wrath and Judgment. The next thing that should have happened if God had continued to operate in accord with Israel’s Prophetic Program was for Christ to return to destroy His enemies, beginning in the House of Israel, BEGINNING WITH SAUL, the chief blasphemer against the Spirit and the leader of the rebellion against Christ and His people.
BUT THANKS BE TO GOD!! That is not what God did. Instead, God “paused” Israel’s Prophetic Program, set it aside temporarily and began a new previously unrevealed Plan, Purpose, Program and People. Instead of returning in His Wrath and Judgment to destroy His enemies, BEGINNING WITH SAUL, He returned in His GRACE AND PEACE, to SAVE His enemies, BEGINNING WITH SAUL, making him our Apostle Paul, and revealing to Him His new Mystery Program for the Body of Christ whereby He would re-establish His Glory in the Heavenlies, which had been kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3; 1 Tim. 1:15).
This proves that Paul’s Apostleship must be distinct from all others. If Paul was just continuing the same ministry as the prophets and Jesus in His earthly ministry and Peter and the 12, then Saul/Paul COULD NOT HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN FOR HIS BLASPHEMING AGAINST THE SPIRIT according to Mat. 12! He would have been destroyed. BUT THANKS BE TO GOD! What God couldn’t forgive in Israel’s Prophetic Program; He can forgive in the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program. Today He is saving His enemies by Grace through Faith, and there is no unpardonable sin in the Dispensation of Grace (Eph. 1:7).
We see something similar to this when the Apostle John and Jesus say the greatest love is that Christ died for His friends (Jn. 15:13). But that doesn’t mean that that is the greatest love of all. It is just the greatest love displayed in Israel’s Prophetic Program. God reveals through the Apostle Paul and the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program that there is an even greater love than this. And that is CHRIST DYING FOR HIS ENEMIES (Rom. 5:6-10)!!
Rom. 8 tells us that today, in the Dispensation of Grace, our service to God occurs in the context of suffering. He made us His ambassadors of reconciliation to a lost and sin-cursed world subject to sin and death. But God has not left us to our own resources. He has completely and perfectly equipped us to carry out this ministry, not just surviving it but thriving in it as more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37).
Some Pauline Prayer Vignettes:
Acts 27:14-44: Paul and the Storm. Luke gives us a short video clip of what happens to people today when they listen to God speaking through Paul. On the way to Rome, Paul boarded a ship that got taken in a severe storm at sea, tossing them about in hurricane-like winds that drove the ship into danger that was beyond their ability to control. In one last gasp, they threw everything overboard and fell into utter fear, panic and despair. Then Paul, in Thankful Prayer with God (Acts 27:22-25; 35), brings calm and peace into this dire situation. Paul exclaimed: Be of good cheer! Fear not! Stay on board! Eat a little something! And they listened to Paul: They were all of good cheer, and they took some food (Acts 27:36). Listening to God’s message through Paul, resulted in everyone on board landing safely, all 276 souls.
That is a picture of what God is doing today through the distinct apostleship of Paul with regard to the “ship” of the Body of Christ. No matter what the situation or circumstances, no matter the external appearances or our internal feelings, God speaks to us today through the Apostle Paul, and He tells us that He is going to land the Body of Christ safely on His shores. In Rom. 5, Paul lists some of the things that we have through Christ by faith. We have peace with God, we have been given complete access to the riches of His grace, and we are eternally secure participants in His Glory (Rom. 5:1-2; 8:30-39). So, what about the trials and tribulations of this life? When we undergo them does it mean God has withdrawn His blessings and love from us? Absolutely not! Paul goes on to explain that God’s love is not seen in our circumstances or feelings but is seen at the Cross, where Christ died for us. This assurance and security in Christ, this Love of God displayed at the Cross of Christ, this working of the Holy Spirit in and through us, empowers us to redeem the time that sin uses to bring anxiety, distress and despair, and use them instead for the Lord to bring peace, comfort and hope, in our daily lives, moment-by-moment (Rom. 5:3-11). Thankful Prayer in the light of God’s message to us through the Apostle Paul, is what facilitates all of this.
Let’s look at one time that Paul was imprisoned. It occurred in Philippi. He was thrown into a jail cell, and his feet were locked in the stocks. Paul and Silas had big problems, really big problems, hopeless problems from human viewpoint. But what were they doing at midnight? They were praying and singing praises to God: AND ALL THE PRISONERS HEARD THEM (Acts 16:25)! Into the midst of despair, God brought hope through Paul, and it effected on everyone around him as well. Then, there was an earthquake, and in the ensuing chaos Paul’s Praiseful Prayer came to full effect: Prisoners in the panic of the moment, who would have been inclined to escape (no doubt to their deaths!), instead stayed in their cells, and a guard, who was about to fall on his own sword, not only escaped physical death by not killing himself, but also escaped spiritual death before God, because having heard Paul’s Praising Prayers about the Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, he believed and was saved unto eternal life by grace through faith, which continued to spread into his whole family. Thankful Prayer and Praiseful Prayer not only brought calm and comfort others, but God’s Truth to others as well.
In a time of widespread apostacy, Paul was very concerned about Timothy and his ministry. Paul’s churches claimed to be following Christ but had turned away from Paul’s teachings. Paul writes these sad words: All in Asia be turned away from me (2 Tim. 1:15)! Paul’s ministry was about over, he was sitting in a dark and damp Roman prison cell, awaiting his death sentence, his thoughts weren’t about himself but about Timothy, whose ministry would have to be carried on in Paul’s absence, and he would experience the full force of this evil world and Satan’s attacks on the Body of Christ. Night and day Paul prayed for Timothy, desiring to see him, remembering his tears, and each time he prayed, God generated within him the desire to do something that would strengthen Timothy for the difficult work ahead. Suddenly Paul must have thought: Maybe I could send him a letter!! And that’s exactly what he did. He wrote what we call 2 Timothy, which ended up not just edifying Timothy but all believers ever since.
Prayer is God’s tool for motivating us to serve others out of Agape Love. Prayer takes our thoughts off ourselves and places them on God and others. Prayer works effectually in taking the doctrine that is in us and applies it to the circumstances of life. Adverse circumstances provide open doors for serving others in love, powerfully dispensing the Fruit of the Spirit in the midst of human weakness: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, forgiveness, and many more. And when we are participating in that, God redeems the time unto Himself.
Thankful Prayer, Praising Prayer, Spiritual Prayer bring God’s calm and comfort, God’s Truth and God’s Strengthening Power into the difficulties of life, and what it provides is not just something for time but for all eternity.
When we study any of the non-Pauline Scriptures, including the Gospel of Matthew, we must be careful in trying to make “applications” to ourselves today. The underlying reason for doing this, we have been told, is that that’s the way we make God’s Word “practical,” as though if it weren’t “practical” or “applicable,” it would not be relevant or important. But there is a problem with this. Today, we are not participants in God’s Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel to re-establish His Glory on the Earth, as revealed in the NON-Pauline Scriptures. Today, we are participants in God’s Mystery Program for the Body of Christ to re-establish His Glory in the Heavenlies, as revealed in the Pauline Scriptures. If we confuse these two Plans, Purposes, Programs and Peoples of God, it will bring confusion that will nullify our Christian walk that is pleasing to God.
Each of these programs has different end goals, different motivations, different empowerments, different blessings, different instructions: In short, they are completely distinct systems, both divinely given and perfect in themselves, but distinct from each other. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Let’s explain this by putting together a chart based on the items listed in the paragraph above.
Old Testament, Gospel Accounts, Ministry of 12 and Hebrews-Revelation
|Salvation in View||Israel’s National Salvation:
Justification by Faith With Works
|Personal Salvation of Sinners:|
Justification by Faith WITHOUT Works
|The Righteousness of God Manifested||God’s Righteousness in Saving His Friends and Destroying His Enemies.||God’s Righteousness in Saving His Enemies because He Has No Friends.|
|Operating System||The Mosaic Law||Pauline Grace|
|Empowerment||The Holy Spirit to Produce Human Righteousness of the Law.||The Holy Spirit to bring us into the Righteousness of God Himself.|
|Provisions||To Equip Believers to Rule on the Earth.||To Equip Believers to Rule in the Heavenlies.|
|Love Basis||Command to Love Others AS or EQUAL TO YOURSELF.||Freely Gives Us the Love of God at the Cross of Christ (Agape Love), which beseeches us to Love Others ABOVE or MORE than Ourselves.|
We could list many more things, but I think you get the point. To take our example of forgiveness one step further, Eph. 4:32 says this for believers today: "Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Believers in Israel’s Prophetic Program, as recorded in the NON-Pauline Scriptures, were supposed to be kind and tender hearted and forgiving, weren’t they? Of course. So, isn’t that “applicable” to us today? No, because today our reason, motive and empowerment for being these things is completely different from theirs. Today we forgive, are tender hearted and kind, long-suffering and temperate, dispensers of grace and peace, not to receive blessings from God but because we have ALREADY RECEIVED ALL OF GOD’S BLESSINGS IN CHRIST! In other words, we don’t forgive others to gain God’s forgiveness as stated by the earthly Lord Jesus and Matthew. We forgive others because God has already forgiven us as stated by the Risen Lord Jesus and Paul!
The idea that we must be able to “apply” God’s Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel to ourselves today, in order to make it “practical” or “relevant,” otherwise it is not important or worth knowing, does not come from the Bible. It comes from a largely apostate historic Christianity that in rebellion against God and His Word has rejected Paul and His distinct apostleship. Unfortunately, much of even the believing element of historic Christianity has embraced this false and baseless preconceived notion about Bible Study. But we must not go to historic Christianity for our guidance in Bible Study! We must go to God and His spokesman for today, the Apostle Paul, and this is what they have to say:
These Parables reveal that there will be a period of time between Christ’s 1st Coming in humility and suffering and His 2nd Coming in Vengeance and Wrath, Power and Glory. They give the believing remnant of Israel, who will be ministering during this time (especially the Tribulation Period), instruction on the “manner of time” (1 Peter 1:11); what that time is going to look like. What it is going to characterized by.
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains that this time begins with and will be characterized by the dispensing Christ’s Instruction to bring understanding to all in the context of a wide variety of “prepared soils” (levels of understanding). Parable of the Sower: A TIME OF INSTRUCTION AND UNDERSTANDING that leads to faith and repentance. We have a foretaste of this with Peter’s preaching on Pentecost in early Acts.
Then, in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, Jesus explains that their ministry will NOT be characterized by a clear separation of wicked and good, righteous and unrighteous (as the prophets might have understood) but of the co-mingling of good and evil, the righteous and the unrighteous, who will not be separated until the very end by the angels at Christ’s 2nd Coming. Parable of the Wheat and the Tares: NOT A TIME FOR REVELATION AND JUDGMENT, but a time of patience and bearing until the end of the Tribulation Period. We have a foretaste of this with Judas Iscariot being numbered among the 12 in Jesus’ earthly ministry.
And in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Jesus explains that their ministry will occur when the Kingdom is characterized by gradual growth to Greatness, starting with something completely insignificant by the world’s standards and external appearances (a crucified King and a motely group of followers) but grows into something Great: The Tree of God’s Kingdom on Earth. The Parable of the Mustard Seed: A TIME OF GRADUAL GROWTH INTO GREATNESS. We have a foretaste of this in early Acts when Peter addressing the whole Nation of Israel—probably numbering about 2 plus million Jews were there from around the world for Pentecost—to receive their King and Messiah, but only a disappointing, measly, 3,000 Jews responded.
Of course, we know that Israel, in fact, rejected her King and Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, once-and-for-all in early Acts. God, instead of completing His Prophetic Program with the Nation of Israel for the earth, put it on “hold.” In today’s jargon we might say he took the remote control and “paused” Israel’s Prophetic Program. He stopped the earthly prophetic clock. This resulted in the believing remnant’s ministry stopping as well, and it won’t start again until after the Body of Christ has been removed from earth by the rapture, right where God left off back then. He interrupted Israel’s Prophetic Program in order to begin a new UNPROPHECIED Program, the Mystery Program, through the distinct apostleship of the Apostle Paul, whereby He is now creating a new people, the Body of Christ, to fulfill His purpose in the Heavenlies.
With this in mind, it is important to remember the following things as we study Matthew’s Parables in specific, and any non-Pauline Scriptures in general:
If you want the direct application of God’s Word to you as a believer in God’s Mystery Program for the Body of Christ, we don’t go to Matthew, we go to Paul. So, join us on Thursday nights where we will be learning from Paul’s Letter to the Romans!
We have now come far enough to begin to get an overall picture of the truths Jesus reveals to His disciples in these parables, what He calls the mysteries of the Kingdom, which God kept secret from the creation of the earth (Mat. 13:35). Jesus is revealing them at this time because this is the Believing Remnant that will begin to minister from the 1st Coming of Christ, through the Tribulation Period, on to His 2nd Coming and entrance into the long promised earthly Kingdom. He speaks in parables because it allows Him to hide these truths from those who have rejected Him, the wicked generation of Mat. 12, while at the same time making them known to His Own generation, the disciples, especially Peter and the 12, through His instruction that leads to understanding (Mat. 13:11-13).
Here is the way the general outline is shaping up so far in the first four parables based on headings that correlate with Mat. 10:25-31:
The Parable of the Sower reaches back to the beginning with John the Baptist’s and Jesus’s preaching ministries. While in Mat. 12 Jesus stops “sowing the word of the Kingdom” with wild abandon, we get another foretaste of it in the ministry of Peter and the 12 at Pentecost, and it will reach its fulfillment during the Tribulation Period. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares explains that during this time good and evil will co-exist until the very end when Christ returns with His angels in wrath, judgment and vengeance. So, this time period is kicked off with the re-start of preaching the Word of the Kingdom with wild abandon, which will produce children of the Kingdom, whom God will plant in the world in the presence of the children of Satan, and they will not be separated until Christ’s 2nd Coming.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed explains that there will be a gradual growth to greatness like the gradual growth to greatness that Israel experienced in Egypt and the Exodus Account. This Believing Remnant, minute and insignificant by worldly standards, will grow into something Great, a Great Nation and a Great Kingdom.
When the Israelites went into the land of Egypt, they numbered only 70 people, the smallest and least significant of all nations. Yet when God delivered them out of Egypt, they were a Great Nation, numbering in the millions, and His deliverance of them out of the hand of the enemy caused the collapse of the Egyptian Kingdom (Gen. 15:13). Likewise, the Believing Remnant will go into this period as the smallest and least significant of all nations and come out a Great Nation. It is of great interest that Jesus sent the 70 in Luke 10:1, and right before Pentecost there were only about 120 people with the Apostle Peter (Acts 1:15). While over 500 people witnessed the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:6), they must have been mostly “doubters” (Mat. 18:17) and did not associate with Peter and the 120 before Pentecost. No doubt, many of these “doubters” became believers (brethren) and joined with Peter and the 120 after Pentecost (Acts. 2:41).
What the Believing Remnant needed to understand is that just as God sent the 70 Israelites into the land of Egypt where they would grow into a Great Nation (Ex. 1:5-10), so too, God would send His small Believing Remnant into world to grow into a Great Nation, through which He would establish a Great Kingdom, under which all the friendly nations of the world will nest (Parable of the Mustard Seed). Just as God’s deliverance of Israel caused the collapse of the Egyptian Kingdom (Ex. 14-16), so too the Great Nation formed from the Believing Remnant during the Tribulation Period will be delivered by God at Christ’s 2nd Coming, causing Satan’s Kingdom on the earth to collapse (Parable of the Wheat and Tares)
Just as the ancient Israelites were warned about leaven (which typified the leaven of sin and false teaching of pagan Egypt—Ex. 13), so too the Believing Remnant needed to be warned about the hidden “leaven” (false teachings) of Satan and his Vain Religious System that would try to deceive them (Parable of the Hidden Leaven in the Wheat with Mat. 16:12). And just as the Israelites were God’s hidden “treasure” in Egypt (Ex. 19:5), so too the Believing Remnant will be God’s hidden “treasure” in the earth, preserved and protected by Him (Parable of the Hidden Treasure in the Earth).
What Jesus is revealing in the Parables is that in Israel’s Prophetic Program, between the time of His 1st and 2nd Coming, there will be another Exodus, a far Greater Exodus than the one from their ancient history, a final Exodus, an Exodus that will result in God’s deliverance of the Great Shrub of the Nation of Israel, making her the Great Tree of the long-prophesied Kingdom of God on earth, once-and-for-all, for all peoples. Unlike the first Exodus, this Exodus will fulfill and complete God’s Program for establishing His Glory on the earth through Israel. All Israel will be saved, all of Israel’s (and God’s) enemies will be destroyed and all remaining friendly nations will nest in her boughs (Ps. 104), and then the whole world will be blessed with Israel and through her rise in accord with the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:2-3).
Yesterday, in our Sunday Bible Fellowship, was the GRAND FINALE of our study of the Parables in Matthew 13.
We had some great questions after the message:
Question 1: What do I mean by saying the 2nd and 6th parables teach that this time between the 1st and 2nd Comings of Christ, will NOT be characterized by Revelation and Judgment? I am using the word “judgment” here in the sense of discernment. This is going to be a time when things are covered and hidden and NOT apparent and clear. This won’t be resolved until the great final revelation/judgment at Christ’s return when all things are uncovered and made known in accord with Mat. 10:26. Of course, the whole reason Israel and the world are going through this is because the whole world, including Israel, has rebelled against God and joined hands with Satan. In fact, Israel is specifically under the “judgment” of the 5th Course of Punishment. The Revelation/Judgment that the parables are speaking of, however, is the great final revelation/judgment that will uncover and reveal all things, completely destroying Satan’s world system on earth once-and-for-all, and replacing it, once-and-for-all, with God’s world system, the Kingdom, on earth through the believing remnant. At that time, the wheat will be separated from the tares, the good fish from the bad fish, ie., the righteous from the wicked.
Question 2: What does the “hiddenness” concept in the 4th and 5th parables entail? We know from prophecy that there will be special times, specific instances, of miraculous hiding of God’s people, especially during the last half of the Tribulation Period. That is not what these Parables are speaking about. These Parables are referring to the “manner of time,” what will characterize this whole time. They refer to “hiddenness” in a general sense. This will be a time when God plants His people in the earth among the children of Satan. Israel’s past Exodus is the type for this. The same way God generally hid His people in Egypt until they became a great people right under the noses of the Egyptians, so too, God is going to hide His people generally in the world during the Tribulation until they become a great people right under the noses of the Israel’s Vain Religious System, the Gentiles and Satan. The general hiddenness of these parables refers to being hidden in plain sight. The special hiding the prophets refer to is being hidden from plain sight—removal from earth, being taken out into the wilderness, mountains etc.
Now we have the overall picture of the truths Jesus reveals to His disciples in these parables, what He calls the mysteries of the Kingdom, which God kept secret from the creation of the earth (Mat. 13:35). Jesus is revealing this to this believing remnant in specific because because they are the ones who will begin to minister during the time between His 1st and 2nd Comings. That was not true for any previous believing remnants from Israel’s history. He speaks in parables because it allows Him to hide these truths from those who have rejected Him, the wicked generation of Mat. 12, while at the same time making them known to His Own generation, the disciples, especially Peter and the 12, through His instruction that leads to understanding (Mat. 13:11-13). The overall mystery aspect of this revelation in the parables is that this time is going to be the set-up for another Exodus, a greater Exodus from the one in Israel’s past, and it will be a final Exodus that will result in the destruction of Satan’s Kingdom on earth and its replacement with God’s Kingdom on earth. At that time, God will have fulfilled all His promises He made in His Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel.
Here is the complete outline:
Just as Matthew 12 flowed into the parables and their Exodus motifs of Mat. 13, so too Mat. 14-15 flows out of the parables and their Exodus motifs of Mat. 13, especially the first five parables. Let’s look at the historical events that followed the giving of the Parables and see if they suggest an Exodus motif and are reminiscent of some of the parables we read about in Mat. 13.
Through the Parables, Jesus explained to the disciples that during the time between His 1st and 2nd Coming, God will be carrying out a another great Exodus, a Final Exodus, an Exodus that will accomplish what the first Exodus in their ancient history didn’t accomplish. The past Exodus didn’t work because the Israelites, in rebellion against God, decided to throw away His Jehovah Grace that brought them to Himself on eagles wings, and instead they declared that they would bring themselves to God. They entered the Law System and spent most of the next 1500 years under the curses of the Law. This second, greater Exodus that Jesus is preparing His disciples for in the future, however, will succeed because at Christ’s 2nd Coming they will look on the one they pierced and ask Him to treat them graciously. They will finally give the right answer that they should have given way back at Sinai at the first Exodus. If they were going to be the people God intended them to be, God would have to carry them along on eagles wings and bring them to Himself. When they ask to be received graciously, He will deliver His people, the children of the Kingdom, from the “Egypt” of the world, and when He does that it simultaneously brings down the Kingdom of Satan, and He will replace it with His own Kingdom, the Kingdom of God and Heaven on Earth.
Mat. 15:21-28 gives us what many consider to be one of the most unusual stories in the Gospel accounts, the story of the Syrophoenician Woman. This story has led even conservative commentators to wonder about Christ’s “apparent” cold-heartedness and the disciple’s insensitivity and rudeness. But are Christ and His disciples really cold-hearted and rude? Or is it just historic Christianity’s commentators and teachers, who are ignorant of God’s plan for the Nation of Israel in His Prophetic Program? To answer this, let’s remember some basic background information.
So, with this little bit of background information, let’s look at the story of the Syrophoenician Woman once again and see that it is not a negative account that puts Jesus in a bad light. It is a beautiful account whereby the God of the universe leads a desperate Gentile woman into the place where she can receive blessing.
And behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. (Mat. 15:22).
The land of Tyre and Sidon is in the outskirts of the land God promised to Abraham. While it was predominantly Gentile at this time, it was next door to the Jews of Galilee. Being so close to the Jews of Galilee, this woman demonstrates a familiarity with Jewish teachings in general terms if not in specific. She had heard, no doubt, of Jesus’ renowned ministry of healing and the casting out of demons, which was exactly what her daughter needed. She remembered that the Jews had a hope that they would be saved by the coming of a Davidic King and Messiah in accord with the Davidic Covenant. So, she decided to approach Him on that basis, calling out: Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou SON OF DAVID.
Let’s pick up the story there:
But he (Jesus) answered her not a word (Mat. 15:23a).
Jesus was teaching the woman that in approaching on the basis of the Davidic Covenant He could not respond to her.
Then: His (Jesus’) disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us (Mat. 15:23b).
While the disciples rightly understood that Jesus could not respond to the Gentile woman based on Israel’s Davidic Covenant, they wrongly understood that the solution to this problem was to send her away from Jesus. Sending people away from Jesus has repeatedly been their automatic response in difficult situations (see another example of this at the Feeding of the 5,000 in Mat. 14:15-16). But what Jesus wanted to teach them is that the right answer to difficult situations is not sending people away from Him but bringing people to Him so that He could lead them into a place of blessing.
So, He says not a word, but He doesn’t leave her helpless. He is going to guide here, step-by-step, to another covenant through which He could respond and bless her, the Abrahamic Covenant.
Step #1: Jesus explains that based on her approach through the Davidic Covenant, He was only sent unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Mat. 15:24). Her appeal to Him based on the Davidic Covenant would not work because the Davidic Covenant had to do with Nation of Israel made up of Jews, but she was outside the Nation of Israel and a Gentile. That approach was a dead end street.
But His words get her thinking, and as she tries to gain a little time to figure things out while she worships Him and says: Lord, help me (Mat. 15:25). So, Jesus gives her some more help.
Step #2: He answered and said: It is not meet (proper, fitting) to take the children’s (Israel’s) bread and cast it to the dogs (the Gentiles) (Mat. 15:26). Jesus now helps her understand by using a household illustration. While there were many harsh words Jesus could have used for “dogs,” here He chose the homely Greek word kunarion, which refers to little dogs, puppies, household pets. This is a universal illustration. We all readily understand that it would not proper or fitting for a father to take food from the plates of his hungry children and throw it out to his dogs. Rather, the dogs needed to sit underneath the table of the family’s children and wait to receive any food that might fall there. Similarly, in God’s Prophetic Program with Israel, it is not proper or fitting for the Father to take blessings from the plates of His hungry and lost children of Israel and throw them out to the Gentiles. Rather, the Gentiles needed to assume their position underneath Israel’s table, and eagerly wait to receive any blessings that might fall there. In Israel’s Prophetic Program, first Israel would receive God’s blessings at the family table. Then out of the superabundance of God’s blessings for Israel, His blessings would drop down to the Gentiles seated underneath that table.
And she gets it! and responds: Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table (Mat. 15:27). Now, she rightly assumes her place underneath Israel’s table and eagerly awaits any blessings that might fall there. Jesus has successfully led her into the place of blessing. What He could not do based on the Davidic Covenant because she was a Gentile, He could do based on the Abrahamic Covenant, which provides the way of extending His blessings to the Gentiles.
Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour (Mat. 15:28).
Step #3: From that very hour, her daughter was made whole! While the woman learned the lesson that Jesus meant to teach her about her place in God’s Prophetic Program of blessings, did the disciples learn the lesson He meant to teach them? Had they learned that the answer to difficult situations is not sending people away from Jesus but bringing people to Him so that He could lead them into a place of blessing? That remains to be seen. Stay tuned!
When understood within God’s perfect Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel, this account of the Syrophoenician woman does not call into question Christ’s kindness and mercy and love. IT DISPLAYS HIS KINDNESS AND MERCY AND LOVE IN GREAT BIG NEON LIGHTS FOR ALL TO SEE. This is, in fact, one of the most beautiful stories in all the Gospel accounts.
IMPORTANT OBSERVATION ON APPLICATION
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring out the fact that the way of Gentile blessing described here in God’s Prophetic Program with National Israel is COMPLETELY OPPOSITE to the way of Gentile blessing today in God’s Mystery Program with the Body of Christ. Jesus in His earthly ministry operated according God’s Prophetic Program that provided blessings for the Gentiles THROUGH ISRAEL (and her covenants) AND HER RISE. Today, the Risen Christ has revealed to the Apostle Paul a new way of Gentile blessing that is APART FROM ISRAEL (and her covenants) AND THROUGH HER FALL!
Mat. 16 is another turning point in Jesus’ earthly ministry that kicks into high gear with Peter’s confession in Mat. 16:16-23: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus follows this confession up with: And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it, after which Jesus begins to explain His death and resurrection, which immediately causes Satan to go into action: Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You! But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Historic Christianity, in their attempt to throw away Paul’s distinct apostleship, has read the Church, the Body of Christ, into this passage even though it is nowhere in sight. This allows them to throw away God’s Apostle for today, Paul, and replace him with the Apostle Peter, which has successfully thrown all of Christianity into convulsions of confusion. While we will do more with this in the coming weeks, let’s get some background details clear.
SOME ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION POINTS:
This misuse of this passage (Mat. 16:16-18) hinges on the misuse of two key words:
The Rock is the Name of Jehovah (LORD), absolute God Himself without iniquity/sin. Through the Apostle Paul, God identified the “Rock” of Israel that Moses was singing about as being Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). This demonstrates that the Rock is NOT Peter! It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of Israel, the Son of Man, the Son of God the Davidic King, through which the Living God will establish His Kingdom on the earth by His Prophetic Program, using His Church of called out Jews in the believing remnant, the Church, the true Nation of Israel, exactly as Peter confessed: Jesus is the Christ, The Son of the Living God (Mat. 16:18)!
A secondary item of interest is that many Bible teachers think there is a play on words going on here. The word for Peter (rock) in the Greek is “petros,” which means a moveable rock. But when Jesus refers to the “rock” on which God is going to build the Church of Israel’s Prophetic Program (the called out believing remnant), he uses the Greek word “petra,” which means an immoveable rock. Peter is anything but an immoveable rock. In 3 short verses Peter will be carrying out the work of Satan (Mat. 16:23), and not long after he will deny the Lord 3 times (Mat. 26:69-75). Even later, Paul had to confront Peter to the face because he was to be blamed (Gal. 2:11). The point of all of this is not to disparage poor Peter. None of us would fair any better and probably a lot worse. The point is that God is NOT building His called out Church, the believing Nation of Israel, on fallible and moveable Peter or any other sinner. He is building it upon the Great God, the perfect One, the One of complete justice, truth and righteousness. In other words, The Lord Jesus Christ as described in Peter’s confession: Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Question: Why in our English versions is the “rock” not capitalized (Mat. 16:6)? The most straight forward answer is that in this sentence, “rock” technically refers to Peter’s confession about Christ, and would not therefore be capitalized (as a proper name would be).
Just as it was through Paul’s Gospel that God laid the foundation rock of the Preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Revelation of the Mystery for the Body of Christ (Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 3:10), so too, through Peter’s Gospel of the Kingdom/Peter’s Confession God laid the foundation rock of the Preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Revelation of Prophecy for the Nation of Israel.
We have spent some time here because it is a veritable compendium of the errors and lies of historic Christianity. Let’s list a few of them:
When studying the Transfiguration in Mat. 17, it is important to remember that it doesn’t just drop out of the clear blue sky from nowhere. Rather, it flows out of Mat. 16 and flows into chapters 17 and really to final chapters of Matthew. The Transfiguration account climaxes with the command Hear ye Him (LISTEN TO HIM)--Jesus. This is important because Jesus just told them something in Mat. 16 that Peter and the 12 hadn’t listened to: From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day (Mat. 16:21). But the disciples hadn’t listened. But they needed to listen because Jesus was explaining the way forward for them and their ministry. In choosing God and His Christ, they had already denied self. In following Him, they had already taken up their cross, their role in God’s plan and purpose for Israel. They have already chosen the life only He can provide rather than the life of this world (Mat. 16:24-27). They had already participated in the work of God. And what is that work? That ye believe on Him whom He has sent (Jn. 6:28-29). As members of the believing remnant they were already God’s own people, justified unto eternal life (in the Pauline sense) and eternally secure, and Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd promised not lose even one of His sheep (Jn. 10:27-29).
Unfortunately those who have understood at least a little Pauline Truth and have recognized his distinct teaching about the Body of Christ’s future removal from earth via the Rapture event prior to the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord or the Tribulation Period. Unfortunately, instead of using this information to advance sound Bible study through the Word rightly-divided, they used it to try to scare people into getting saved. It just became a tool of evangelism. I still remember being forced to sit through the movie Thief In The Night as a little kid and being horrified by it, and I was a believer! It still haunts me to this day and in no good way. Later, that was followed up with the Left Behind movies. The idea behind this teaching is that if they can scare the living daylights out of you, you will turn to Christ for salvation. Personally, I am very skeptical of such an approach to evangelism. If the Love of God at the Cross of Christ isn’t enough to bring a sinner into salvation, I very much doubt that manipulating them with fear will be able to do it either.
But here is the real problem. What is ignored in such one-sided presentations of the Tribulation Period, whereby we take it out of the context of God’s Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel and use it for something else, what we lose, is the main biblical truth that God has FAITHFULLY provided for His people, the believing remnant going through the Tribulation Period, with a complete and perfect provision that began back in Israel’s ancient history and will be brought to ultimate fulfillment as they are preserved, protected and delivered through and out of the Tribulation and are ushered into their long promised earthly Kingdom at Christ’s 2nd Coming. Jesus’s words at the end of Mat. 16 are surely warnings to the apostate unbelieving generation (Mk. 8:38), but just as surely, they are words of comfort and encouragement to the believing remnant. The whole Triune God’s is working on their behalf:
Therefore, going through the Tribulation, They shall find rest for their souls because His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mat. 11:29b-30). As the Greater Exodus, God will bear them on eagles’ wings, and bring them to Himself (Ex. 19:4). We see a small foretaste of how this will work in early Acts. There around Pentecost, you see thousands of people added to the believing remnant, yet they all immediately lived FAITHFULLY before God and others, continuing STEADFASTLY in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking bread and in prayers (Acts 2:41-42). They were all of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and GREAT GRACE was upon ALL! Neither was there any that lacked … (Acts4:32-34). Such is God’s all-sufficient provision for His people. Based on the account, only two people, Ananias and Sapphira, were unfaithful, and after repeated and persistent rebellion against God, they were put to physical death (not spiritual death) and will be rewarded accordingly in the Kingdom. The point is that God will empower the vast majority of the believing remnant to live faithfully for full enjoyment of life in the Kingdom. In other words, the exception proves the rule.
If you want to see God at work in the Tribulation Period on behalf of the believing remnant, read Ps. 23.
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
In this amazing Transfiguration account, Jesus gives encouraging presentation of the glory that all those who follow Him will participate in in the Kingdom. This Transfiguration event occurred about a week after Jesus gave them the instructions that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of His own people, die an ignominious death on the Cross, and be raised again on the third day. But Peter and the 12 didn’t listen. Instead, they rebuked the Lord and told Him this will never be so. Jesus responded to Peter: Get thee behind me Satan (Mat. 16:21-23). They needed to listen to Jesus!
And that is the point of the Transfiguration account. It concludes with the words of God the Father from the cloud: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well, pleased: LISTEN TO HIM (Mat. 17:5)!! To encourage them to do this, Jesus gives them this transfiguration account.
And this sets up the suspense for the rest of the Gospel of Matthew: Will Peter and the 12 listen to Him? Or won’t they?
First, let’s review the 8 Parables from Matthew 13. Remember the Parables give information about the time gap between the 1st and 2nd Comings of Christ. They show what “manner of time,” what this time will be characterized by. This is important for the 12 and the whole believing remnant to understand because they will carry out their ministry during this time.
The other thing to remember is that the 8 Parables are given in pairs. The 1st (the Sower) and 8th (the Scribe) Parables go together and show the disciples that they need to rely solely on Jesus for their instruction and understanding so that they can be fruitful sowers of the Word of the Kingdom, proclaiming it to the world, and successful scribes of the Word of the Kingdom, recording it in the Scriptures, tying together the old and the new, for that future generation in the Tribulation Period (Mat. 13:3-8, 18-23 with 13:52).
The 2nd (the Wheat and the Tares) and the 7th (the Drag-net) Parables likewise go together and show the disciples that they need to appreciate that during this time the wicked and the just, the children of God and His Kingdom and the children of the Satan and his kingdom, are going to co-exist, co-mingle. The two will not be separated until the very end when Christ returns to reveal and judge all things (Mat. 10:25-26).
The 3rd (The Grain of Mustard Seed and the Great Tree— the Kingdom) and the 6th (The Great Pearl) Parables show the disciples that they need to appreciate that during this time they must not operate by external appearances but by faith. By external appearances they will be the least and most insignificant of all things. By the world’s standard a crucified King and His motely group of followers are not worthy of notice and should be gotten rid of. But in God’s sight, by faith, they are the greatest and most important things to Him, and He will grow the believing remnant and their King into the greatest of all Kingdoms, the great Pearl of His eye.
The 4th (The Hidden Leaven) and the 5th (The Hidden Treasure) Parables show the disciples that during this time they needed to appreciate that while Satan would be hiding his false teaching amongst them, especially in the Vain Religious and Political Systems (VRS) they were not to fear because God would be hiding them, His Treasure, in the world, protecting and preserving them. This is similar to what He did in the Exodus account when He hid Jacob’s family (70 people) in Egypt (Ex. 1:5-10) where it grew to become a great nation, and then He delivered it, which simultaneously caused the downfall of Egypt’s Kingdom as well. Likewise, He will hide the believing remnant in the world during the Tribulation Period where they will grow into the greatest of all peoples, and He will deliver them, simultaneously causing the downfall of Satan’s Kingdom.
One final point to remember: The first four Parables—Sower, Wheat and Tares, Mustard Seed and Leaven--began occurring in the days of Jesus’s earthly ministry itself (as we will see in the following examples). They will continue into the Tribulation Period, although with increasing intensity. The final four Parables—Treasure, Pearl, Drag-net and Scribe--will begin in earnest during the Tribulation Period.
Ok, with this in mind let’s look at how Jesus continues to elucidate, interpret and explain these Parables from Mat. 13 in the chapters that follow.
Mat. 15:1-17: This passage is too long to insert in full here, but using your Bibles and a few key verses, let’s see if we can find references to our Parables.
|15:1||Arrival of Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem to confront Jesus.||Parable of the Wheat and Tares|
|15:1-9||With their false teachings, they try to trap Jesus and His disciples. Jesus identifies them as a hypocritical, Vain Religious System.||Parable of the Leaven|
|Understand what Jesus says …
The disciples don’t understand …
|Parable of the Sower|
|15:12||Disciples worried about offending the VRS. They were still listening to the VRS rather than to Jesus.||Parable of the Leaven
Parable of the Sower
|15:13-14||The VRS will be uprooted and cast away but NOT now. Jesus says let them alone.||Parable of the Wheat and Tares|
Let’s look at one more example:
|17:19-20||Disciples couldn’t cast out a devil because of unbelief—they weren’t receiving Jesus’s teaching.||Parable of the Sower|
|17:20||If their faith was as a grain of mustard seed they could move mountains.||Parable of the Mustard Seed|
|17:22||Judas, a child of Satan, co-mingles with Christ’s disciples in the very 12 itself.||Parable of the Wheat and Tares|
|17:23||The religious and political system will put Jesus to death.||Parable of the Wheat and Tares|
We could go on all day like this. Try your own hand at this in other passages from Mat. 14-19.
In these two Parables, Jesus reveals God faithfully working to bring about Israel’s National Salvation, ushering the Believing Remnant into the long-prophesied earthly Kingdom and restoring the nation through them.
To facilitate the re-creation of the Nation of Israel through the Believing Remnant, God graciously and compassionately and mercifully forgives, drains away, all of Israel’s national debts/sin against Him, relieving the people of that insurmountable weight that held them down so that they could forgive one another’s debts and get on with the business of re-building the nation. We read about this in the Parable of Unlimited Forgiveness (Mat. 18). But God doesn’t leave the nation emptied out. He graciously and compassionately and mercifully fills Israel up again with His unlimited national blessings (Covenantal blessings—Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants, Kingdom blessings) so that the members of the Believing Remnant would have all the resources they need for God to re-build the nation through them. We read about this in the Parable of the Laborers (Mat. 20). God gave the Believing Remnant a foretaste of these blessings in early Acts, will give a much larger foretaste of them in the future Tribulation Period, and they will reach their complete fulfillment in the Kingdom.
Last Sunday we began our journey into the final week of the Lord Jesus’s earthly ministry, and it begins with three Prophetic Sign Acts that are followed with three Parables of Transfer. Jesus enters Jerusalem partially fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah except for one large omission. There was no REJOICING (Zech. 9:9—Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion … Behold thy King … lowly riding upon a donkey). Instead, it was an entry of mourning. Israel’s leaders in Jerusalem continued to reject Him and the people remain ignorant of who He is (Mat. 21:1-14). Their sayings of Hosanna to the Son of David and a prophet from Galilee will soon become cries of Crucify Him, Crucify Him (Lk. 23:21). Because of unbelief, the nation was running on “life support,” and Jesus was entering the city to remove that life support. Because of the overall nation’s rebellion against God and rejection of His King and Messiah, God could no longer use the nation of that day. So, He would need to create a new nation through the Believing Remnant. In order to do this, Jesus does two additional sign acts:
Jesus follows these 3 Sign Acts with three parables, TRANSFER Parables, which explain, now that the old nation has been pronounced dead, how God is going to transfer all His blessings to His Own People, His Own Generation, the Believing Remnant of Israel, and would make them into His Own fruitful nation of Israel that He could use, therefore, giving them the Kingdom:
In this way, God and Matthew explains what happened to the unfruitful Israel of that day while giving us a glimpse of the fruitful Israel that He will plant in the land when Christ returns, and He establishes His Righteous Kingdom on earth, once-and-for-all, reigning in the Temple in Jerusalem in Greater Israel!