My wife and I just saw an interesting movie, called Yesterday, and the main story line is that one day the world wakes up after a huge power outage and have forgotten the Beatles and their songs, except for one person, a struggling musician who remembered and then successfully wrote down and performed the music, causing the world to, once again, fall in love with the music of the Beatles. It was an fun, light hearted 2 hours spent with my wife on a date.
This caused me to think “what if, we Christians woke up tomorrow and all we had was a Bible, and had no record or memory of denominations or institutional religion. All we know is that we are either Jew or Gentile, that’s it, no other record of anything, no Sunday morning tv preachers, no door to door evangelists, no books interpreting what the scripture says, no Catholics, no Protestants. Just a Bible, and we were forced to figure out God’s plan based solely on what the Bible says. By taking denominations out of the equation and relying solely on God’s Word, I believe that Christianity would be much different today. Rather than looking at isolated verses and one preacher’s interpretation of that verse, we would be forced to examine the Bible like other books, reading it from front to back.
- We would better understand the Bible’s big picture and God’s plan for mankind.
- There are different periods detailed in the Bible, and God’s expectations of man are different based upon those time periods. Adam and Eve were to stay in the Garden of Eden, abiding by a few simple rules; unfortunately, by Eve’s bite of the apple, sin was introduced into the world. Sin then became so rampant that God virtually destroyed mankind through the Flood except for one faithful servant, Noah. After Noah, sin again became widespread and God scattered mankind, through the Tower of Babel period. Before this, mankind was one, one language, one speech. God struck at the one thing that kept mankind together, common language, when mankind began operating in opposition to God’s will. Genesis 11: 1-9. (Note: see Genesis 12:3)
- The next significant period described in the Bible was Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant, which reveals God’s sovereign purpose that was fulfilled through Abraham. The Abrahamic covenant was God’s plan and program for Israel (and later for all the earth), and provide for Israel through a King, Jesus Christ, the Messianic King on earth. This began the period of Israel and the circumcision.
- Next, Moses’ time brought on the law through the 10 commandments, the set of rules that govern Israel and the Jewish nation. For the sake of this discussion, keeping it at a very high level, Moses and the law and the writings of God’s prophets and their prophecies throughout the rest of the old testament laid the groundwork for the coming of Jesus Christ as Messiah, King of the Jews. The writings of these prophets through the end of the old testament all deal with the state of Israel and the coming of the Jewish messianic King.
- Why was almost all of the old testament dealing exclusively with the Jews? It was all part of God’s plan via the Abrahamic covenant, to first make the Jewish nation a kingdom of priests and then make Gentiles their flock. Unfortunately, the nation of Israel never made it to the level of being a kingdom of priests, at least during past and present times. Fortunately, they will, in the future, because God never lies and His Word is accurate and true, and His prophecy will be fulfilled. This was God’s plan for Israel as foresaw and predicted by the prophets, also known as the Prophecy program
- The “New” Testament—Awakening Christians, without any denominations or people to tell them what God’s Word contained in the Bible says, would examine Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 4 Gospels closely. The conclusion they would draw is that the 4 Gospels were written for the nation of Israel, detailing Jesus Christ’s time on earth, fulfilling that prophecy already written by the old testament prophets hundreds of years previously. Testament means covenant, and Jesus said in Matthew 26: 27-28 that the new covenant or (testament) is His blood, shed for the remission of sins. A few examples of why it is logical to draw the conclusion that Jesus earthly ministry as contained in the 4 gospels was to the Jews:
- Matthew 1: 1 Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. [David and Abraham, Jews]
- Matthew 10: 5 [Jesus speaking to his 12 Apostles] Do not go into the way of the Gentiles; see also Matt. 10:23
- 15:24 [to the Gentile woman] I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
- The 12 Apostles were all Jews, corresponding with to the 12 tribes of Israel. Matt: 19:28
- The 12 Apostles knew nothing of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the present day gospel for salvation. Luke 18: 34 But they understood none of these things [Death Burial and Resurrection] this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken. In Luke 9:6, Jesus directs the 12 to preach the gospel. However, that gospel that Jesus directed the 12 to preach must be different than preaching the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus because in Luke 18 they did not know or understand the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection. See also Matt. 16:21-22
- Peter in Acts 2, was filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which occurred after the death, burial and resurrection. During the time period of Acts 2, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a historical fact. Notably, at Pentecost, Peter did not preach the message of hope and love, a message that exhibited God’s grace based solely upon the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing in Peter’s sermon mentioned it, instead Peter directly blamed Israel (Acts 2:23), and when convicted hearers (who were all Jews) asked what they should do, Peter replied: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins… (Acts 2: 38)
- A fair reading of the 4 Gospels indicates that the message of Jesus and His 12 Apostles were sent for the nation of Israel, largely to fulfill prophecy and provide historical background. Jesus either told this Apostles to avoid the Gentiles entirely or to first go to the Jews, then Gentiles, which the 12 never could accomplish according to the Bible accounts.
Gentiles—If 4 gospels were written to Israel and not for us, now what? How does the death of Jesus at Calvary affect us? Paul and the mystery period.
- The Bible provides that Paul is the apostle for the Gentiles, not the 12. Romans 11:13 “I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles…” Acts 28:28 states that: Salvation is sent unto the Gentiles… Again, if it was sent through Paul for the first time to the Gentiles, it must be a different message.
- The Mystery. Col: 1:26-27 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations , but now has been revealed to his saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles. Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
- Paul is the Apostle through whom the mystery is revealed. This Mystery is the gospel of the grace of God, through Christ’s finished work, proclaimed through Paul: Acts 20:24 …the ministry which I have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD and THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD.”
Eph. 3:1-6 summarizes the Mystery Program, the dispensation of God’s grace.
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.
It was God’s revealed purpose through prophecy to bless the whole world (including Gentiles) through the rise of Israel (Isa. 60:1-3) and this purpose will still be fulfilled in the future. But it was God’s hidden purpose (the mystery) to bless the world through the fall of Israel, and this is now being accomplished. (Rom. 11: 11, 12, 15)
Salvation through faith has been the constant throughout the Bible, starting in Genesis with Abel (Hebrews 11:4, Genesis 4:4,5) Noah (Hebrews 11:7) Abraham (Rom. 4:3, quoting Gen. 15: 5-6) And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness. Interestingly, nowhere does it ever say that any of the old testament saints or other Jews were saved based upon faith in the upcoming death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The law was given by God to the nation of Israel and He demanded perfect obedience and acceptance (Ex. 19:5-6; Rom. 10:5) God knew no man could keep the law perfectly but God knew that true believers would earnest seek to keep it and He would honor their faith, because God knew that Christ would pay the penalty for a broken law, but believers before Christ did not understand or grasp this subject. Always it was belief and faith that counted as righteousness in the eyes of God. For the Jews, faith was proven by certain works, like circumcision, water baptism, and animal sacrifices. For gentiles under the Mystery program as first given to Paul by our Lord Jesus Christ, faith was proven by belief alone.
Christian believers today will likely tell you that most of the old testament was written to the Jews and the New Testament i.e. Matthew Mark Luke and John and the books that follow, was written for the benefit of Gentiles. Really, if New Testament means when the Body of Christ and the Christian church started, then the New Testament starts at mid Acts and Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Everything from Matthew to Acts 9 was written to the Jews to fulfill prophecy as part of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. This is what the Bible says, unfortunately most denominations throughout the years have changed that clear Biblical message.
Good works is present under both the law and grace, the difference is that under the law, good works was a requirement for salvation, but in this dispensation of grace, God wants us to do good works after we are saved, not in order to be saved.
Jews are governed according to prophecy and salvation is obtained via faith shown through works, i.e. circumcision, water baptism, and animal sacrifice. Jesus is the Messiah and King on earth. (Earthly King)
Gentiles are governed according to the mystery and salvation is based solely upon faith and the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose from the grave on the 3rd day. Jesus is our Lord and Savior in heaven. (Heavenly Savior)
With the Bible, we don’t have to worry about God’s Word being inaccurate or misinterpreted, many people have been trying to disprove the Bible for 2000 years, and yet it remains as alive and relevant today as when it was first written. No one has disproven the truth contained in the Bible. Unfortunately, what we rely upon today are small sound bites, provided by evangelists and pastors, some well-intentioned, others intentionally promoting false doctrine, telling their church members what they want to hear and deemphasizing the need to read the Bible and not teaching it in the proper context. As a result, present Bible doctrine as taught by most churches today, has become distorted, moving further and further from the truth. The solution? Read and study your Bible, don’t rely solely upon anyone to tell you what the Bible says without verifying for yourself that what is being taught is Biblically accurate.
2 Tim: 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. If you rightly divide and understand that the Bible was written at different times to different people for different purposes, the Bible begins to make sense. There are no inconsistencies or contradictions as some people state. Remember that all the Bible was written for us, for our edification, but all the Bible was not written to us. A big portion of the Bible was written for the benefit of the nation of Israel, covering time past. After the nation of Israel collectively rejected God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, culminating in the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, God temporarily set the nation of Israel aside. Paul came onto the scene with the Mystery program, never known to mankind previously. This current time period is called the dispensation of grace, where because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, Gentile (or Jew individually) can obtain eternal salvation by believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible standing alone clearly shows that during this present dispensation of grace, nothing else is necessary for salvation, not water baptism, not circumcision, not tithing, not speaking in tongues or other signs, not keeping the sabbath day holy, nothing else. To add any “works” to the requirements for salvation would obliterate the work that Christ did on the cross. And, anyone who believes this grace message, is saved forever. Anything less would cheapen the work that our Lord and Savior did on the Cross. Anyone who calls this cheap salvation clearly does not understand the ramifications of the cross.
I am thankful that I can avail myself of this pathway to salvation, this current time period of grace. Before I finally got it, I was always confused, perpetually feeling guilty for not hitting the “standard”, feeling stupid and guilty because I did not read my Bible enough, wondering if I had done and was doing enough to be saved or maintain my salvation. Now I know I will spend my eternity with God and Jesus in Heaven. I am much more generous now with my time, talents and treasures because I now know that it is not a precursor to or requirement of salvation, but something I want to give freely after accepting the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.
What about the future of nation of Israel and the unfulfilled prophecies remaining in the Bible? At some unknown time, Jesus will return in the clouds and the body of Christ believers of the grace period will be raptured to Heaven. At this point the tribulation will begin as described in Revelation, Isaiah, and other books. This will culminate in Christ’s return to earth as King to begin His earthly reign and the ultimate defeat of Satan by casting him into the pit of fire for eternity.
The movie “Yesterday” ended with the star who had remembered the Beatle songs, confessing that he was a fraud and had not written any of the songs, rather they were written by Paul, John, George and Ringo, still unknown to the world. He ultimately gave up any money he might have received and got the girl, married and lived happily ever after. The age-old storyline that telling the truth and being true to yourself is what leads to happiness, not fame and fortune. Now, if we could only get our churches and pastors to take their blinders off, quit teaching doctrine not meant for us today such as the prosperity doctrine (i.e. the more faith you have the more wealth you will obtain) and be truthful to the unbelieving world about Bible doctrine.