Many well-meaning Christians make assumptions about God’s word that are not supported by scripture.  One of those assumptions is that what happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) is for the church today.  Let us review what scripture says about this event.  Pentecost was one of the many feasts of the Lord, God instructed Israel to keep.  Leviticus 23:2 Speak unto THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. (Leviticus 23:1-44)

According to Leviticus 23, the Feast was celebrated for seven consecutive weeks.  It began “the morning following the Sabbath day” of Passover.  Leviticus 23:10a,15-16 SPEAK UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, and say to them…. And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; SEVEN SABBATHS SHALL BE COMPLETE (49 days): Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number FIFTY DAYS; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

In Acts this feast day became known as “Pentecost” (“fiftieth”).  It was the second of the three great Jewish feasts, celebrated at Jerusalem yearly, the seventh week after the Passover in grateful recognition of the completed harvest. 

Luke records in Acts that Jews came to Jerusalem out of every nation to celebrate this feast day.  Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem JEWS, DEVOUT MEN, OUT OF EVERY NATION UNDER HEAVEN.

The Apostle Peter’s audience and message on that day was to Jews, not Gentiles.  Acts 2:14bYe men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: Acts 2:22a YE MEN OF ISRAEL hear these words… Acts 2:36 Therefore, let all THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL know assuredly…  Acts 3:12a And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, YE MEN OF ISRAEL, why marvel ye at this? Acts 3:13a The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, THE GOD OF OUR FATHERS…

The only Gentiles present at Pentecost were those who had become proselytes (Acts 2:10), ones who converted to Judaism.  Proselytes received circumcision and bound themselves to keep the whole Mosaic law and to comply with all the requirements of Judaism.  It was only then that Gentiles had access to the God of Israel.

Scripture tells us that when man continued to rebel against God (Genesis 1 – 11), he chose to birth a nation through the seed of Abraham.  This people would belong to God, separated from other nations.  Deuteronomy 14:2 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, ABOVE ALL THE NATIONS THAT ARE UPON THE EARTH.  Leviticus 20:26 And ye (Israel) shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and HAVE SEVERED (separated), YOU FROM OTHER PEOPLE, that ye should be mine. Deuteronomy 7:6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, ABOVE ALL PEOPLE THAT ARE UPON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

Could scripture be any clearer, telling us that God set Israel apart from the heathen nations?  Almost seven years after Pentecost, Peter still did not associate with Gentiles.  Acts 10:28 And he (Peter) said unto them (Gentiles), Ye know how that IT IS AN UNLAWFUL THING FOR A MAN THAT IS A JEW TO KEEP COMPANY, OR COME UNTO ONE OF ANOTHER NATION; but God hath shewed me that should not call any man common or unclean. (John 4:9; Galatians 2:12)

When the other apostles and brethren heard that Peter went unto Cornelius and his household, who were uncircumcised Gentiles, the brethren opposed him.   Acts 11:2-3 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, THEY THAT WERE OF THE CIRCUMCISION contended (oppose, strive with, dispute) with him, Saying, THOU WENTEST IN TO MEN UNCIRCUMCISED, AND DIDST EAT WITH THEM.

It WAS NOT Peter’s visit with Cornelius and his household that began the fellowship of Jews and Gentiles.   After this event, the followers of Jesus were still preaching to Jews only.  Acts 11:19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, PREACHING THE WORD TO NONE BUT UNTO THE JEWS ONLY.

As for the twelve apostles, they were following instructions that were given to them by Jesus.  Matthew 10:5-7 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, GO NOT INTO THE WAY OF THE GENTILES, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: BUT GO RATHER TO THE LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL.  And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 

God’s separation of the Jews and Gentiles cannot be denied.  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;

What is written to Israel, was for Israel.  The laws and covenant promises given to them separated Jews and Gentiles, and caused what scripture describes as a middle wall of partition.   Ephesians 2:13-15 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and HATH BROKEN DOWN THE MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION BETWEEN US; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for TO MAKE IN HIMSELF OF TWAIN ONE NEW MAN, SO MAKING PEACE;

This middle wall of partition continued until it was removed by God.  To say that what happened on this Jewish feast day is written to us, in the dispensation of grace, is not supported by scripture. 

The outpouring of the Holy Ghost on that day was in fulfillment of prophecy.  Peter preached that what was happening was in accordance to Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16-17).  Joel 2:27-28 And YE SHALL KNOW THAT I AM IN THE MIDST OF ISRAEL, and that I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND NONE ELSE: AND MY PEOPLE SHALL NEVER BE ASHAMED. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 

Though Gentiles pursued Jesus because of the miracles he performed, his response to a Gentile woman was that he was sent to Israel.  Matthew 15:22-24 And, behold, a woman (Gentile) of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him (Jesus), saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But HE ANSWERED HER NOT A WORD. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. BUT HE ANSWERED AND SAID, I AM NOT SENT BUT UNTO THE LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL.

But why was Jesus sent specifically to Israel?  Romans 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision (Jews - Genesis 17:11) for the truth of God, TO CONFIRM THE PROMISES MADE UNTO THE FATHERS:   In Jesus coming, his first priority was to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (Acts 3:13a).  There were promises of God written by the prophets that were made to Israel’s fathers that had to be established or settled.   

God promised Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3).  Acts 3:25-26 Ye (Israel) are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And IN THY SEED SHALL ALL THE KINDREDS OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED. UNTO YOU FIRST God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

God’s plan and purpose recorded in the laws and the prophets was that salvation would come to the Gentiles through Israel.  Isaiah 60:1-3 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And THE GENTILES SHALL COME TO THY LIGHT, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

Zechariah 8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even SHALL TAKE HOLD OF THE SKIRT OF HIM THAT IS A JEW, SAYING, WE WILL GO WITH YOU: FOR WE HAVE HEARD THAT GOD IS WITH YOU. 

John 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: FOR SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS.

But now, God has changed his program and Gentiles no longer have to go through Israel for salvation.  Stephen preached how the Jews had rejected God and created idols to worship, how they killed Jesus, and resisted the Holy Ghost (Acts 7).  Acts 7:51, 59 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. ... And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Knowing that it was through Israel that all the nations of the earth would be blessed, how would God deal with the Jews rejection of salvation and their promised Messiah?  He would reveal a secret that was hidden in God since the world began.  Romans 16:25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which WAS KEPT SECRET SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN.

Ephesians 3:8-9 Unto me (Paul), 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 (secret), WHICH FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD HATH BEEN HID IN GOD, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

This mystery that was hid in God from the beginning of the world is unknown to many ministers today, who do not rightly divide the word of truth.  A careful study of Paul’s epistles reveals this revelation given to Paul by God.  God interrupted the prophetic program to Israel and saved Saul of Tarsus to become the apostle to the Gentiles.  Acts 9:11, 14-16 And the Lord said unto him (Ananias), Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, ... And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But THE LORD SAID unto him, Go thy way: FOR HE IS A CHOSEN VESSEL UNTO ME, TO BEAR MY NAME BEFORE THE GENTILES, AND KINGS, AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

Unlike the twelve apostles who preached to Jews only, Paul’s ministry would include all men without distinction (Colossians 3:11) Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Saul had been a persecutor of the followers of Jesus (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2).  After his conversion, Saul, who also is called Paul (Acts 13:9), straightway preached Christ and was given the dispensation of the grace of God to become the apostle to the Gentiles.  Acts 9:20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

Ephesians 3:1-3a 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… Romans 11:13 For I (Paul) speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I AM THE APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES, I magnify mine office:  2 Timothy 1:11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

The Gentiles who were previously separated from God would now have access through Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 2:11-12 Wherefore remember, that YE BEING IN TIME PAST GENTILES in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being ALIENS FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL, and STRANGERS FROM THE COVENANTS OF PROMISE, having no hope, and without God in the world:

Paul would preach the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.  Ephesians 3:2-6 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 FELLOWHEIRS, AND OF THE SAME BODY, AND PARTAKERS OF HIS PROMISE IN CHRIST BY THE GOSPEL:

The laws and ordinances which were given specifically to Israel that caused division between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14) has been taken away and nailed to the cross.  Colossians 2:13-14 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; BLOTTING OUT THE HANDWRITING OF ORDINANCES THAT WAS AGAINST US, WHICH WAS CONTRARY TO US, AND TOOK IT OUT OF THE WAY, NAILING IT TO HIS CROSS;

The prophetic program to Israel has been temporarily set aside to reveal how God has now brought together both Jews and Gentiles to form the one new man, the church the body of Christ. 

Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for TO MAKE IN HIMSELF OF TWAIN ONE NEW MAN, so making peace;

The church today does not become spiritual Israel; nor do we replace Israel.  God has not cast away his people (Romans 11:1-2). The prophetic program with Israel will resume after the fullness of the Gentiles come in.  Romans 11:25-27 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.  And so ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED: AS IT IS WRITTEN, THERE SHALL COME OUT OF SION THE DELIVERER, AND SHALL TURN AWAY UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB: FOR THIS IS MY COVENANT UNTO THEM, WHEN I SHALL TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.

All the covenant promises God made to Israel will be fulfilled.  Numbers 23:19 GOD IS NOT A MAN, THAT HE SHOULD LIE; neither the son of man, that he should repent: HATH HE SAID, AND SHALL HE NOT DO IT? OR HATH HE SPOKEN, AND SHALL HE NOT MAKE IT GOOD?

Believers who refuse to rightly divide the scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15) so that they may come to an understanding of the unique ministry given to the Apostle Paul by God, will remain in darkness regarding God’s hidden plan to save humanity through the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.  All the promises God made to Israel, belong to Israel.  God has revealed a hidden plan that was not made known until he revealed it to the Apostle Paul. 

Today, believers go in scripture in hopes of receiving the Holy Ghost by trying to duplicate what happened on the day of Pentecost.  Acts 1:4-5 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but WAIT for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 

Before the Comforter or Holy Ghost could come, Jesus had to ascend back to the Father.   John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: FOR IF I (Jesus) GO NOT AWAY, THE COMFORTER WILL NOT COME unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  This outpouring of the Holy Ghost was a one-time event (Acts 2:17-18).   Now that the Holy Ghost had come, GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS TO ISRAEL was to repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and they would receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).

But these are not the instructions for believers in the dispensation of grace.  The Apostle Paul declares that we are saved if we believe Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures.  1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I DECLARE UNTO YOU The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also YE ARE SAVED, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES; AND THAT HE WAS BURIED, AND THAT HE ROSE AGAIN THE THIRD DAY ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES:

Our salvation is not based on what we do but what Christ has done on our behalf.  Titus 3:5-7 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That BEING JUSTIFIED BY HIS GRACE, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The moment we trust the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.  Ephesians 1:12-13 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also AFTER THAT YE BELIEVED, YE WERE SEALED WITH THAT HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE. Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  Believers do not have to tarry/wait or speak in tongues trying to duplicate what happened at Pentecost.  We simply trust the gospel of Jesus Christ and his finished work on our behalf. 

So why is it important to understand God’s instructions to Israel according to prophecy, and his instructions to the church the body of Christ according to mystery?  It is because we must distinguish between verses that apply to us today and verses that do not.  In order to understand this distinction, we must rightly divide the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Once believers began to see these distinctions, what is written in scripture becomes clear.  To ignore the unique ministry God gave to the Apostle Paul, will undoubtedly hinder the believers understanding of their identity in Christ.  When believers try to embrace the blessings and promises given to Israel, it will only deprive us of knowing what blessings we already have in Christ as a present possession.

Arnita Coles

June 3, 2023