God’s Unchangeable Purpose with Israel, part 4
A Message of good news to non-Israelites
The on-going premise of this relatively short series of essay-blogs is that the Bible was written to, for, by and about the family-nation of Israelites. This truth is also wonderful news for non-Israelites as well. We will continue to point out that although God chose one family, and He made the contracts with them, that the whole point of the contract (covenant) was that He was going to restore all creation, and thus through the descendants of Abraham, all the families, races and tribes of the earth would be blest. It is all a matter of timing.
Continuing with the on-going premise, let us take a sampling from the book of Acts. On the day of Pentecost, ten days after Jesus had ascended into the heavens, we find that the disciples have been filled with Holy Spirit and they were thus enabled to speak in other tongues. They begin preaching the good news (the gospel) in various languages to the multitudes gathered at Jerusalem, no doubt in celebration of the feast of Pentecost. Some of the multitude begin wondering:
Acts 2: 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
Notice the two different reactions among the listeners. Some were thrilled at what they realized was a work of God; others scoffing, concluded that the disciples were babbling drunkards.
So, what does Peter do? He stands up and speaks to the crowd on behalf of all the apostles. He rehearses some Israel history and in verse 22, Peter addresses all the families of the earth, right? No, it says “Ye men of Israel.” This answers one of the basic laws of biblical hermeneutics; i.e., who is being spoken to? Peter is speaking to Israel. Peter did not say: ye men of Ham, or ye men of Esau, or ye men of Togarmah.
So, although there were men of many geographic and ethnic backgrounds present on the day of Pentecost, Peter was speaking to those among them who had been given ears to hear; and that would have been primarily and almost exclusively Israelites at that time. They were the ones whom Jesus had foretold in John 10 would “hear His voice.” Why? Because they were the recipients of the New Covenant, the parties to the New Contract. Therefore, so far in the book of Acts, it is about Israelite apostles bringing the good news first to their fellow Israelites—ye men of Israel. As is repeated in verse 36.
Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Drop down to verse 39. This preaching by Peter convicts the consciences of many in the audience. They are Israelite sheep who would now hear His voice. How? Through the preaching of the disciples. Many are pricked in their hearts. It hurts them to the core because they realize that they have been complicit in murdering the very man, the son of God, who had been sent to redeem and save them. They are full of remorse and are now beside themselves with grief.
They have no idea what to do now. They realize they have committed the most heinous sin. And so, Peter tells them how they can become spiritually as white as snow by being baptized and having their sins washed away.
After a person comes to faith in Christ, he should be baptized for the very same reason as given here in Acts 2:38. This verse is very popular in some denominations and they seem to major in this area. While it is true that baptism is essential for a Christian believer, let us not ignore the next verse.
Acts 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Peter said that the promise is unto you (Israelites) and to your children and to all that are afar off. Who would that be? Who were “afar off?” In Romans 9, verse 3, Paul speaking, says:
Romans 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
No spiritualizing here, is there? Paul is talking about his relatives by blood relationship.
Romans 9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
All those things apply to Israel. That is a pivotal verse and we will be coming back to it from time to time. But now back to Acts 2. Peter told the assembled crowd on Pentecost that the promise was also meant for those who were “afar off.” Let’s now turn to the book of Daniel, chapter 9, and we will tie this together and identify who were “afar off.” In chapter 9, Daniel makes this great prayer of confession on behalf of all the people of Israel.
Daniel 9:7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.
Daniel knew that in his day, it had been over 150 years since the ten-tribed, northern house of Israel had been taken captive, and that they had long since begun spreading out across Asia Minor. Meanwhile, other branches of Israelites had gone up through the Caucasus Mountains and began pouring into Europe. Thus, from Daniel’s home in Babylon, multiplied millions of his fellow Israelites were indeed “afar off.”
About five centuries years later, Peter and the other apostles also knew that Israel had been dispersed. They realize that therefore many of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and people in Rome—Peter knew that many of them were Israelites. Peter and the other disciples knew the prophetic Scriptures. They had been personally tutored by the Messiah Himself for three and a half years. They knew where so-called “lost” Israel had gone.
Incidentally, let me stop and make a note about the word “lost.” We hear about the “lost” ten tribes of Israel. The word “lost” is really a misnomer because it comes from a Greek word which does not mean “lost” in the sense of “can’t find.” It means “lost” in the sense of “put away and punished.” That’s the meaning of the Greek word, apollumi, where it says “lost” in reference to Israel. The apostles were commanded by the Savior to go after the lost sheep of Israel, to be fishers of men.
Then, after the resurrection, this was expanded to all families, races, nations, etc. The disciples understood that the way to reach all nations was by recruiting their fellow Israelites—the ones who had been “put away and punished” to help them, because the Scriptures told them that was to be Israel’s job, Israel’s commission, a great commission.
Insofar as these facts of Israel’s migrations are concerned, I want to mention several books which will give you much more detail on this subject. First, is the late biblical archeologist Ray Capt’s book, Missing Links Discovered. This book is reference # (B-108) on our Online Order Form page; (Click on Master Order Form). It gives the archeological proof that the people who came through the Caucasus Mountains and through Asia Minor and into Europe were, in fact, the put away and punished Israelites. (Historically, they became known as “Caucasians.” Caucasians are a subset of the white race.)
There is also the classic book from over a century ago by Bishop J. H. Allen called Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright. You have heard me refer to “the birthright message.” That is just another shorthand way of referring to our heritage as God’s Israel people.
Also, Steven Collins has written a quartet of books dealing with Israel history from the beginning until now, and in reference to the context of today’s lectures, I would commend the second volume, which is entitled Israel’s Lost Empires (B-145) and the third, which is called Parthia (B-147). We noticed that Peter was talking to Israelites from Parthia in Acts 2, verse 8.
Moreover, Mr. Capt had also written six volumes—of about 150 pages each—which contain numerous essays on subjects related to this series of blogs. For example, in volume one, there is the chapter called “Judah’s Scepter.”
Volume two is loaded: It has “The Captivity of Israel,” “The Migrations of Israel,” “The Behistun Rock,” “Dan—the Pioneer of Israel” and more. Volume 3 has “Who Are the Scythians?” and a chapter on Joseph of Arimathea, whom we will discuss later in this series. Those are just a sampling. What an excellent series of books Ray has written! I would think every believer would be thrilled to have these in his library.
You will find all these books on the Master Order Form. To search our reference library and find the order form codes and prices you need in order to submit an order, you can search by author, or book title here;
Now, let’s move on in the book of Acts to chapter 13. We could spend many pages just on the book of Acts alone, but we are going to have to limit ourselves to a small sampling to show that while non-Israelite people were undoubtedly always mixed in and living among the Israel people, that it was the Israelites to whom the disciples were primarily telling the good news.
Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
I want to discuss the word “Niger” there because there are some who would point to that as proving that Simeon was of the black race. It proves nothing of the sort. I grant that the word “Niger” means “black.” It was Simeon’s surname, no doubt about that, just like my surname is Bruggeman.
But consider the fact that there was a great football player, a Hall-of-Famer, a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers, whose name was Reggie White. He was of the black race. He was also a strong believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he became a Christian minister. Unfortunately, he died at relatively young age a few years ago.
A couple decades ago, when I was a general contractor, we hired a project superintendent named Steve Black. He was a white man. Steve Black. Simeon Niger. Just because one of the prophets was named Simeon Niger, it does not prove anything about his race. It’s totally speculative to claim Simeon was a black man.
Now to those of you of other families or races other than Israelites who may be reading this, I want to go on record here that I deplore racism. I deplore hatred of one race or ethnic group by another. I do not believe in white supremacy or black supremacy or Oriental supremacy or any other kind of supremacy except the supremacy of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Jesus was/is God in the flesh. He lives today. He created the universe and as God, He is responsible for the creation of all people, no matter how they came to be born. Furthermore, since I believe and teach that God will ultimately save every human being that has ever lived, then it ought to be obvious that my theology is totally incompatible with racism or hatred or racial supremacy of any type.
At the same time, we recognize that God did, without question, choose various individuals and people groups throughout history to fulfill His great Plan. What we are demonstrating here is that when God chose Israel in the Old Testament to be a special people, He was (and is) still working with those same Israelite people in the New Testament. Because, through the work God had assigned them, God is in the process of blessing all the people of the earth!
(To be continued.)