Part 2 - The Beginning and The End of ‘The Times of The Gentiles’
It was to Peter and his associates that the Lord Jesus committed a message of “the gospel of the kingdom,” a ‘spiritual program’ for Israel.
1. “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19.
2. “Go ye [Israel’s Apostles] therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them [the kingdom believers] in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:19 and 20.
3. “But ye [Israel’s Apostles and disciples] shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you [at Pentecost]: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and [then] unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8.
4. “But contrariwise, when they [Peter James and John] saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me [Paul], as the gospel of the circumcision [for Israel] was unto Peter: (For He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision [Israel], the same was mighty in me [Paul], toward the Gentiles.” Galatians 2:7-8.
5. “Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” “. . . Now therefore are we all here present before God to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” Acts 10:20 and 33.
6. “And when James, Peter and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me [Paul], they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [Paul and company] should go unto the heathen [Gentiles] and they [The Messianic believers of Israel] unto the circumcision [unbelieving Israel only].” Galatians 2:9.
By way of comparison, study these verses concerning Paul’s ministry:
1. “That I [Paul] Should Be The Minister of Jesus Christ To The Gentiles, Ministering The Gospel Of God That The [Offering] Up Of The Gentiles Might Be Acceptable, Being Sanctified By The Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:16.
2. “And It Came To Pass That When I Was Come Again To Jerusalem, Even When I Prayed In The Temple, I Was In A Trance.” “And He Said Unto Me, Depart; For I Will Send Thee [Paul] Far Hence Unto The Gentiles.” Acts 22:17 And 21.
3. “For I [Paul] Speak To You Gentiles Inasmuch As I Am The Apostle Of The Gentiles, I Magnify Mine Office:” Romans 11:13.
4. “Who Gave Himself A Ransom For All. To Be Testified In Due Time. Whereunto I [Paul] Am Ordained A Preacher, And An Apostle, (I Speak The Truth In Christ And Lie Not;) A Teacher Of The Gentiles In Faith And Verity:” I Timothy 2:6-7.
5. “. . . The Gospel Which Ye Have Heard, And Which Was (Preached To Every Creature Which Is Under Heaven Whereof I Paul Am Made A Minister.” Colossians 1:23.
6. “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 [Paul] The Mystery; (As I Wrote Afore In Few Words).” Ephesians 3:1 to 3.
The keys of “the kingdom of [from] heaven” were given to Peter with whom eleven other men were associated. In Acts 2:14 we are told that eleven other men stood up with Peter. Why twelve men? Only eleven were present when the so-called “great commission” was given, Matthew 28:16. But the number had to be increased to twelve before the keys of the kingdom could be used. Therefore, Matthias took the place of Judas. Acts 1:26. Twelve apostles for Israel—twelve tribes. The Twelve remained at Jerusalem. Acts 8:1. They agreed to go to the circumcision Galatians 2:9. “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of ISRAEL, till the Son of man be come. Matthew 10:23 (KJV) The twelve men were to “go over the cities of Israel,”but they never will until Christ returns.
It is believed that Peter used a key to let Cornelius and his household into the kingdom of heaven. At that time there were still twelve apostles in the original group. After that the number was reduced to eleven, for James was killed. Acts 12:1-2. Then the record of the spiritual activities of the twelve in the Book of Acts ceases.
The Twelve do have a future ministry with the twelve tribes during the Millennial kingdom: “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That you which have followed me in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel:” Matthew 19:28.
After that, the only mention of any of the twelve apostles in the Book of Acts is when they had dealings with Paul. Paul is the chief human actor in the last sixteen chapters of Acts. He wrote thirteen Epistles which have been called Gentile Epistles. In these thirteen Epistles and in the Book of Acts Paul used the first-person pronouns, me and I, more than one thousand times.
Thus, Paul wrote:
I Corinthians 3:10: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me [Paul], as a wise masterbuilder, I [Paul] have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereupon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”
I Timothy 2:16: “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in [Paul] me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting:”
Colossians 1:24 and 25: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the Church, Whereof I am made a minister . . .”
I Corinthians 11:1: “Be ye followers of me [Paul] even as [in the same way] I also am of Christ.”
If Christians cannot see the difference between “the gospel of the circumcision [Israel]”committed
to Peter, and “the gospel of the uncircumcision [Gentiles]” committed unto Paul, certainly they cannot know
the difference between “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” committed unto Peter, andcommitted unto Paul.
What a great difference between “the gospel of the circumcision [Israel]” and “the dispensation of the Mystery”! In order that we might recognize this great difference, we must always keep in mind that “the gospel of the circumcision [for Israel]” was given to Peter after the resurrection of Christ. All the message of Peter on the day of Pentecost was to devout Jews from every nation under heaven, fulfilling Joel’s and David’s prophecies. He preached in the third chapter of Acts concerning days prophesied by ‘all of Israel’s prophets.’ Acts 3:21, 24.
All of this is so different from THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY concerning the Gentiles, about which all of Israel’s prophets were both silent and ignorant. Why did the Lord instruct (Peter to continue with the gospel of the circumcision on and after the day of Pentecost? It was because He had not yet cast away His circumcised nation Israel.
After Saul’s name was changed to “Paul,” Christ committed unto him “the ministry of reconciliation.” II Corinthians 5:18 to 20. This was after Israel ‘fell’ and was set aside.
Romans 11:15: “For if the casting away of them [Israel] be the reconciling of the world [all humanity…”
As long as “the gospel of the circumcision [Israel]” was proclaimed, the Lord’s messengers went back to the
Abrahamic Covenant and the Covenant of Circumcision. Acts 7:8. When Israel fell and was set aside and the Lord committed to Paul “the dispensation of the grace of God” and the ministry of reconciliation, then, for the first time, reference is made going back to Adam, a fallen Gentile. Note Romans 5:11-12:
“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation (atonement) Wherefore as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
The Lord never committed the “dispensation of the grace of God” to Peter for Gentiles when He gave him the kingdom keys, nor when He gave the Eleven the so-called ‘great commission.’ Nor at any other time. Note in Colossians 1:23 that Paul had the responsibility for preaching the grace gospel to every creature under heaven. So far as we are concerned, in II Corinthians 5:18 to 20 and Ephesians 3:1 to 11, we find a commission for grace church that is far greater than Jesus’ commission to “the Twelve” Matthew 28:19-20 or Mark 16:14-18.
The “gospel of the kingdom,” which is not “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), will be proclaimed after the present “dispensation of the grace of God” has been ended. This dispensation of grace will end. After that “the times of the Gentiles” will be fulfilled. The dispensation of the grace of God did not begin on the day of Pentecost, or with the salvation of Cornelius, or with anything that the Twelve preached or did. It began with the casting away of Israel (Rom. 11:15), when that nation committed the unpardonable sin. The beginning of the end of national Israel was Stephen’s message in Jerusalem and Paul’s message in Acts 13:46:
“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you [Israel]: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to ‘the Gentiles.’”
Acts 18:6: “And when they [Israel] opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he [Paul] shook his raiment and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads: I am clean: from henceforth I [Paul] will go unto the Gentiles.”
Then came the end of religion, the end of circumcision, the proclamation of the gospel of the uncircumcision, and the beginning of the times of the Gentiles spiritually, the “dispensation of the grace of God” for the Gentiles. Then followed the revelation of “the dispensation of the Mystery.”
Note Ephesians 3:9: “And to make all men see what is the dispensation [fellowship] of the Mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ.”
Then note the glorious Divine Truth in Ephesians 1:23 and Ephesians 4:13:
“[the church] Which Is His Body, The Fulness of Him That Filleth All In All.”
“Till We All Come In The Unity Of The Faith, And Of The Knowledge Of The Son Of God, Unto A Perfect Man, Unto The Measure Of The Stature Of The Fulness Of Christ.”
We would emphasize the word “FULNESS.” The Body of Christ is the fulness of Christ. Here we have the very heart of the Mystery. This Divine Truth is different from the Truth revealed to the sons of men in other ages.
Adapted from Pastor J.C. O’Hair - http://www.doctrine.org/ohair/BEGINNING%20AND%20THE%20END,%20THE.pdf