One of the reasons why I’m spending so much time in the beginning of this section on the Lord Jesus Christ is because if you think about his place in history on the big scale, He came once and will come again. The reason He has to come again is because He was rejected the first time. So it’s crucial that when we think of the Gospels we think in terms of rejection. Christ was rejected, that’s why He was crucified. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. That’s the theme of the Gospels. As we said when we started, it doesn’t show anything about Christ; it shows something about the human race. It’s a conviction of sin. John said that this is the condemnation, that He has come into the world and that men loved darkness rather than light, and didn’t come to the light. So the very rejection of Christ is in fact an indictment of the human race. It doesn’t impugn the way God did it; it doesn’t question how He revealed Himself, but it simply says that Christ was rejected because men loved the works of darkness more than the light.
The other thing why we want to be clear on in the basis of the rejection is because issues haven’t changed today. Fundamentally the same issues exist. So it’s wrong to think of the Gospels as an ancient story that you have to work hard to make it apply today. That’s really not true. The Gospel issues are the same yesterday, today and forever. The whole rejection issue and God coming into the world and being rejected is timeless, it’s from Adam forward.
We’re looking at the fact that Christ is a challenge to the human race. The incarnation of God walking around on this planet was a challenge to the planet; it was a challenge to humanity. People were supposed to be ready when this happened. One of the theme verses that I’ve chosen in this section is Gal. 4:4, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son,” it doesn’t say that He just suddenly pulled it off. “In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son.” What we’re doing now is tracing what the fullness of time means. Really what we’re doing is expositing on the meaning of Gal. 4:4, what does it mean to say that history was ripe for that time?
We have had enough background in the Old Testament so we can proceed pretty rapidly with this, but we want to recall some elements of our background study. We want to recall the fact that as God worked down through history, after the flood because you have to go back to Noah in order to get the unity of the human race. That’s the point when there’s no Jew and there’s no Gentile. All people were saved. The beginning of civilization with Noah is an analogue to the beginning of the millennial kingdom with Christ, because just as civilization began with 100% believers, so the millennial kingdom begins with 100% believers. Just as with Noah it’s an utterly new age, so the millennial kingdom will be an utterly new age. Just as Noah begins to walk out on the planet, a planet that physically has been changed to the point where it would almost be unrecognizable as the same plant from what it looked like had we taken a satellite image of the planet earth prior to the flood versus a satellite image of the earth after the flood; we would say it’s two different planets. So it is that when the millennial kingdom comes, because of the great judgment of the Tribulation it will transform geologically and geographically and astrophysically the universe; it will be almost as though the planet of the millennial kingdom is different than the one we live in today. There are great changes in it.
Noah is an important figure because he started civilization. Civilization did not begin with the first ape that gave up bananas. Civilization began with one family of saved people who were under the judgment and salvation principles of God. Then we said that this civilization paganized, because it rejected God and became progressively paganized. God allowed that to happen. I want to take you through some of the verses that I cite in the text because it’s interesting to see how God and why God turned the human race over to itself.
Deut. 4:19 is one of those Old Testament verses that reveal how God set up history, and clearly reveals that when He called Abraham out into a counter culture that would be constantly a disruption, that’s why we called it the Disruptive Kingdom. Abraham and his lineage down through Israel would always have an impact on this paganized society. Until that fork in the road, there was no basis for missions. Once the fork in the road occurred, there’s where the first missions begin, because at that point the Word of God is restricted to a section of the human race, not the whole human race. God withdraws, as it were, His revelation. He brings it down to His elect agents. Once you have the revelation stream truncated and moved over to just a small group of people, then these people become missionaries. So even though we think of missions as something in the New Testament, actually the theoretical basis of missions starts with the call of Abraham. There’s a constant war going back and forth; between these you have a basic and a struggle that starts.
Deut. 4:19 is a surprisingly intense and strong verse about what God did to the paganized Noahic civilization. He says, don’t you “lest you lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them,” now notice this clause, “those which the LORD your God” that is Israel’s God, “has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” In other words, He’s allowed them to become idolatrous worshipers of nature.
I want to carry that theme forward because things haven’t changed. Turn to Isaiah 47:13, another one of these prophetic little comments. If you have a newer translation you’ll notice the comment that is made there. Isaiah is talking about the pagans who go to astrological seers, and he says “You are wearied with your many counsels, let now the astrologers, those who prophecy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you.” It’s interesting, if you look at the content of verse 13, think of the mental processes, the logical process, what does an astrologer do with the patterns of the stars? They make predictions based on correlations of the zodiac, to the movement of the stars, apparent movement to us. When they do this they’re making use of irregularity in nature.
So we have these natural laws. The irony is, whose laws are those? They’re the Creator’s laws. The Creator, in making those laws, does not make them so they force Him to do what the law says. God, as Creator of the law, has the freedom to modify the law. The law, all it is, it’s not really a law at all; the law is a regularity in the way God works. We’ve got something confused in our time with natural law. Everybody talks about natural law, the laws of nature, and we all kind of know what we’re trying to say. But we’d better be careful, because the expression, “laws of nature” or “natural law” can carry inside of it a very, very pagan idea, i.e., that these laws stand by themselves independently of God. And people like Hume and others have used this to say well then, if they stand by themselves there’s no exception to them, and if there’s no exception to them what happens to miracles? We have to be careful. God does not put Himself in a box with His own laws. God works this way sometimes, and these astrologers pick up this irregularity but you’ll notice what God says at the end of that verse. He says “stand up and save you from what will come upon you.” What’s coming upon them? We’ve gone through the Old Testament, what’s the event there? This is an application of the framework. Isaiah is writing when, before or after the exile. Before the exile, so let’s think about this.
You can read passages like this and come immediately to an understanding that someone without the Old Testament can’t. Remember the framework, here’s how to use it. Isaiah is writing as a prophet. When did most of these prophets write? They wrote in the time before the exile. Why did they do that? What was the role of the prophet? The prophet was a prosecuting attorney; he brought God’s case for violation of the covenant so that when the judgment came they would be interpreted properly. So when did they write? They wrote in this period. So if we read in Isaiah and we see this verse, “stand up and save you from what will come upon you,” he’s talking to the nation of Israel, and something is going to come up on them. What’s the next event? The exile.
So the exile was interference by God into history to chasten His own people, and it represents an unpredicted surprise effect. That’s what God is always doing; there are unpredictable surprise effects and He’s challenging the whole understructure of astrology and the whole understructure of natural law. He’s saying you people, because I worked in the last 100 times you’ve watched Me do it this way you think in the 101st time I’m going to do it the same way. Who are you telling Me how to run My universe. Nobody tells God, the laws don’t tell God how to run His universe. We infer the laws because we watch God work and the last hundred times this is the way He did it, but we can’t say therefore God is compelled on the 101st time to act that way. That’s his point.
What is it in essence if you think about His attributes, going back to the very basic things that we know about God? What does this verse say, “stand and save you,” it’s a challenge, let them save you from what’s coming upon you. In effect, what attribute of God do you see functioning here? His omnipotence is one; another one is His sovereignty. God is sovereign, God is omnipotent. So He plays off His character and His essence over against this sort of activity.
We see the same thing in Amos, another prophet, writing in the same historical time period. Just imagine what those people would do if they had 900 numbers, I bet some sharp Jewish business men would have gotten into business. Amos 5:26, this is a difficult one in the Hebrew to translate. If you go to different translations you’ll see it’s handled differently. This is a case, not where the text so much is different, this is really frankly hard because of the vocabulary and the way the Hebrew is. My translation says, “You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images,” pagan, “the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.” Think again of God the Creator/creature. Why does he add the last clause in that verse, “which you made for yourselves?” What is true of every pagan deity? They’re man made products. It’s interesting; the skeptics will often say to you as a Christian, oh God is just a figment of your imagination. All idols are figments of the imagination. In that they say truly. That God was the Creator, however, is not; we’re made in His image, He isn’t made in ours so it’s reverse.
But notice in verse 26 that the people in this period of time were going like crazy into astrology. What do you see after 3,000 years have elapsed since this passage, 2,500 -3,000 years? What are we doing today? Going to astrology. What’s changed? We have automobiles, they had chariots. We have astrology and they had astrology. The thought processes today are identical to the thought processes here. What are those thought processes? Once again, those thought processes lie at the root of the paganization of civilization. It’s not new. Homosexuality, astrology, sins of violence, these are not new; they are part and parcel of the stream of paganized civilization where Noah’s once great enterprise was sabotaged by sin. All of this to say that God let this happen.
Turn to Acts 14; we want to look at two of Paul’s evangelistic sermons to Gentiles, and if you look at the way he introduces himself and the gospel to a paganized society, you’ll see how he comes on. It’s not the sort of sales approach that he would get counsel to in certain church growth movements today. Notice Acts 14:16, “And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways.” Who permitted all the nations to go their own ways? God did. What is he talking about? The same thing Deut. 4:19 was, the same principle, God allowed the nations to paganized out in their own private versions of paganism, “to go their own ways.” Then Paul adds, he says in verse 17, “and yet He did not leave Himself without witness,” what does that mean? That means that all nations that are going their own ways, can they come before the final judgment seat of history and plead ignorance? No plea of ignorance here. Verse 17 must be balanced with verse 16, though God allows the civilization to paganized and self-destruct, it does not follow thereby that they’re held guiltless. They still continue to have the witness of God.
Paul recommends, in verse 15, he says we “preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these [vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them,”] …stupid, vain production-less things to the living God, notice the word “living,” it’s a sarcastic reference. What does it imply about their gods? They’re dead, they don’t act, there’s nothing historical, they don’t do anything.
Acts 17:30, again Paul is talking to a Gentile group of people, and again notice what he targets in his gospel presentation. He’s doing something that you’ll notice we’ve mentioned several times. Remember we talked about strategic envelopment, this is what the non-Christian likes to do on us, here we are, we’re a believer, and he says you people are just weak and you need God, blah blah blah. So what the unbeliever does, he strategically tries to encircle us with his world view, and explain our belief in terms of his psychology. And by explaining us in terms of his view, he thinks thereby that he has basically effectively neutralized our whole gospel presentation, because he’s explained it away, and he’s enveloped it. What we have to learn to do better is when we talk to them, the unbeliever, is that we in turn envelop them in our frame of reference.
That’s what Paul is doing here in Acts 17. He explains them in chapter 16, he says I know your background people, don’t come to me and tell me all kinds of reasons why you don’t believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here’s why you do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, because although in verse 26, “to live on all the face of the earth,” He’s “determined your appointed times and the boundaries of your habitation,  that you should seek God, if perhaps you might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.  For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’  Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver,” in other words, is he holding them responsible? [can’t understand phrase] Why shouldn’t He, because you’re made in God’s image, and the implication of that is “and you know it.” Because what does he do? He cites one of their poets. He says don’t tell me, don’t come up to me and tell me and tell me you don’t really know this. Do you see what he’s doing? He’s wiping out the last vestige of neutrality, the last vestige of I’m so ignorant I didn’t know that. Paul says no, you knew that. You have been made in the image of God.
Now verse 31, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent.” The implication of verse 30 is that before the gospel he didn’t do that, so the gospel is a new message to all mankind. What Paul is saying is again that God did not challenge this directly, this paganization. He let it go and let it go and let it go. That’s the background so when we come to see how the Lord Jesus Christ conducts His ministry we’ll understand why He does what He does.
Pages 4, 5, and 6 is just a review of what we’ve done, we’ve basically expounded two lines, we’ve said the Jewish people have been prepared for the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Gentile people have been prepared for the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to look at how the Gentiles and how the Jews were prepared. We’ve looked at the historical preparation of the pagan world. We’ve said that in the previous centuries… let’s make a diagram here, the Gentile and the Jew. The early Gentiles, from Noah until when did the Jews pour out back into the Gentile world? Go to the framework again; go back to the Old Testament, what was the event that poured the Jews back into the different societies of the world? What was the end of the nation Israel? The exile. See how profound the exile is, a very critical Old Testament event.
When the exile happened, and remember the date, 586 BC, what else happened in the world, within a century and a half? Seven world religions started. Unheard of in the history of the world. Religions don’t start like that. You suddenly have a cluster. Zorastrianism, the reform movement in Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, all those religions started within a hundred and fifty years of each other right there in the exile. Is that an accident, or are all those religions doing something? What was true of all those religions? What was new about Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, etc. that was not true before. What was true basically of all these religions is they are man-centered. Instead of worshiping nature and the gods, they now quite flagrantly and openly deal with questions of who man is and man’s right rules and wrong rules. Confucius said I don’t know what’s going on in heaven, but I’ll tell you how to live on earth. That is ultimately the emphasis. They’re all ethical religions.
So the Gentile world up between Noah and here there were stargazers, they were superstitious kind of people. After 586 BC, to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, in this period of time we have the ethical religions emphasizing man, we have philosophy beginning. I want to mention something about philosophy. We’re going to see when we get into the first event in Christ’s life, the birth of Jesus Christ, we’re going to have to have some tools to understand what happened at that virgin birth. Those tools are going to become to us, through the New Testament from the world of philosophy. Philosophy and the rise of philosophy was a precondition for understanding the complexity of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was an exercise, wrong, the philosophers basically got off on the wrong track, but they were, so to speak, building the tools that would be needed to construct, for example, the doctrine of the hypostatic union. That would never have been constructed in Old Testament times; people just weren’t prepared for that depth of doctrine, that depth of truth, that clarity of thinking. So this was a discipline. By the way, the sons of Japheth were the ones that did that. That’s the preparation of the Gentile world.
On page 6 there’s one other thing I want to show you about the preparation of the Gentile world. Look at the middle paragraph, I’ve got two quotes there and these are startling. The first time I found these I thought ooh, these are interesting, because what these quotes do is give us a feel for what was the talk on the street in the days of the Lord Jesus Christ. We’ve got to understand, part of understanding the New Testament is understanding what the street people were talking about, what was in the gossip circles, what was being discussed in the market place, what were the ideas that threatened, dominated or intrigued the people to whom the gospel was first preached?
I said “Since Jewish Old Testament Scripture continued to circulate throughout the Roman Empire, it’s Messianic hope,” remember what we said in the exile, the Scriptures broke out into the Gentile culture, the “Messianic hope not unexpectedly influenced Gentile pagan writers. For example, Tacitus, the Roman author, wrote,” look at this quote, remember the guy who is talking is a Roman, he’s a literate Roman, and he’s commenting from a Roman Gentile point of view, but look what he says: “The majority were deeply impressed” of his society, of his time, “with a persuasion that was contained in the ancient writings of the priests that it would come to pass that at that very time, that the East would renew its strength and they that should go forth from Judea should be rulers of the world.” I wonder where he got that from. People speculate.
The problem we’ve got in understanding some of these quote is the great library at Alexandria burned down; sadly the Christian church had a lot to do with that. But when that burned down, thousands of papyri, I mean, when you talk about a CD rom, it was like all the knowledge of the world was on a CD rom and some jerk came along and broke it. So all the great texts of Scripture were gone. If we could recover what went on in the library of Alexandria it would revolutionize our understanding of history, because we would have source material that was contemporaneous with the Bible. All of that is gone. It was just a demonic attack because it wiped out, in one fire; it wiped out all the collaborating evidences that existed. If we could read the books that were circulating in the times of Isaiah, at the times of Daniel, at the times of Jesus, imagine what you could learn from that. All we’ve got now is the Old Testament and New Testament; the source materials are lost.
But Tacitus had access to those, and he’s telling us that circulating in the Roman Empire at the time was a strong sense that something was going to happen in the East, and Judea was going to be involved in it. Isn’t that interesting? Does that perhaps give us, maybe better insight into why Herod acted the way he did when he heard that Jesus was born? Why did he immediately go into a political frenzy of genocide to get rid of that boy? This wasn’t just a man that had his screws loose. There was more to it than just a nut; there was an atmosphere that was feared.
Notice the next quote, Suetonius, another Roman writer, says: “A firm persuasion had long prevailed through all the East that it was fated for the empire of the world at that time to devolve on someone who should go forth from Judah. This prediction referred to a Roman emperor, as the event showed, but the Jews applying to themselves broke into rebellion,” speaking of a later rebellion happening. Notice that first sentence. What does that tell you about the men and women in the street? “A persuasion had long prevailed through all the East that it was fated for the empire of the world at that time,” which would have been the Roman Empire, “to devolve on someone who should go forth from Judah.” Does this give you a little insight as to why the priests were very alarmed about Jesus’ claim to be King? You see, Jesus was like a match, and He was walking around and everybody had spilled gas around. That’s why they were so… we’ve got to understand this response that Christ got, a panic response. I mean, bureaucrats went into a livid tizzy over this guy. They were afraid of the consequences of His Kingly claim. If you study these sources you realize this was the background of what was going on, a very volatile environment politically.
Now we want to see the preparation of the Jewish world. Let’s look at the Jewish side of the house. What I’ve got on page 7 is a summary of the inter Testament period, because on our chart we know that the Jews from Abraham to the exile, 596 BC, what did they learn in that period of time. Think about it, summarizing the whole Old Testament. Between the time of Abraham and the time of the exile, that means Moses, that means the Exodus, the conquest, the judges, Samuel, Kings, it means all the prophets. What were the two big lessons that surely they must have learned, or at least God intended that they learn it. What lesson did they learn in the book of Judges about the power of the people?
Today we hear about democracy, we’ve got to have democracy, and yet democracy doesn’t seem to work. My son came back from Paraguay and was telling about how the people loved it when they had a dictator that ran Paraguay, he kept crime down, he kept order, there was less brutality, less violence. Democracy is not working in Paraguay, people don’t like, get rid of it, go back to a dictator. Americans say oh, gee… Democracy only works under certain conditions. We forget that the foundation of a working democracy was what in this country? It came out of a Christian world view and restraint. If you don’t have that, you can’t export democracy, it’s like trying to export apples and wonder why they don’t reproduce themselves. You’ve got to plant the trees. You don’t export fruit and expect the fruit to reproduce itself, it needs the tree. Democracy needs a tree; democracy is a fruit, not a tree. We go around and spend millions, billions of dollars in the history of this country exporting fruit hoping it’s going to sprout or something. It doesn’t work.
The Jews understood that because what happened in Judges? What’s the conclusion of the period of the judges? Did they have freedom? Had great freedom, right, no king, no central government, no heavy taxation, they were free to do whatever they wanted. What happened? Society wound up in anarchy. So what’s the lesson of the judges? What about the power of the people? What about human rights? It doesn’t produce a civilization. Human rights alone do not produce society. People are fallen. So the Jews learned in the judge’s period that the solution isn’t more power to the people. They had that in the book of Judges, and the conclusion in the book of Judges is… what was the next solution attempted? If it’s not power of the people we’re going to have power of centralized government to produce law and order. That’s what always happens.
That’s what happened in Russia, Russians are going to go back to a dictatorship, they always have, they always will. Democracy hasn’t worked, people are starving to death. People are being victimized. If the people have to choose between chaos with a democracy and order with a dictator, you know what they’re going to choose. What did Germany choose? The economic chaos in the 20’s and 30’s. My father worked with some of them who came to this country and they said their wives would go to the factories in 1927-1928 in Germany with wheel barrels. Do you know why? Because they paid them in marks and the women would take those wheel barrels down to the market and spend it before the money dropped in value the next day. They got tired of living this way, so if Hitler can bring in order, let’s go for Hitler. The American elections, Satan can get elected as long as the American economy gets going, and if the economy isn’t going Christ could never get elected, because that’s the thing that most people look at.
They learned that lesson, and in the king’s period they learned that the leaders can’t do it. So what happened at the conclusion of the exilic period, the New Covenant? What was the New Covenant? It said not all the people, but people with a new heart; and not any king but The King. So you see the negative lessons had a positive looking forward, it was preparing, preparing, preparing for the fullness of the time; they realized that there had to be a godly people who had to be transformed by the Spirit of the Lord and there had to be a leader who would dictate, who would be a strong leader, but he had to be a godly strong leader. That’s the Messiah. So that was the background.
Then we went into the exile and we had this partial restoration, so between 500 BC to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. Follow on page 7, a very interesting section of Jewish history; this is not in the Bible, this is extra-Biblical source material. “In the period directly preceding Jesus’ day, a great time of testing occurred during the Maccabean Wars,” what had happened was that the Greeks, remember the third kingdom of Daniel, the Greeks took over the eastern end of the Mediterranean. After the Greeks took over, who was the big guy, basically in his 20’s, that conquered the world? Alexander the Great; he got diseased and died and left it to his generals. They squabbled around and divided the ancient world up into these power spheres. In this area, the eastern Mediterranean, you had a group of guys, one of who was so Satanic that the Holy Spirit has said that this man is the forerunner of the antichrist. History will record his name as Antiochus Epiphanies, and what he did is in this section. Here he is, he’s one of the Seleucid’s, he’s a guy who comes in, by the way, he was a philanthropists so it shows you this guy is not walking around with a red suit and a pitchfork, he’s not walking around with 666 on his forehead. It turns out that he is very politically minded, he is considered by most of the world to be a one-world type person, he wants everybody to get together, he hates people that are always fussing at each other.
“In the period directly preceding Jesus’ day, a great time of testing occurred during the Maccabean Wars against the occupying forces of the Syrian-Greeks. The Jews sharply and bitterly resisted radical attempts to force them to amalgamate culturally with Hellenism.” Underline that section; that was the problem. The Jews did not want to amalgamate culturally with Hellenism. Antiochus could not figure this out. What did Antiochus want? He wanted all the cultures to blend together. You could have your cultural diversity but you have to have a unifying force and he would be the one who says what’s going to go. “When Antiochus IV (who was the prophetic ‘fore view’ of the Beast) demanded that unclean animals be sacrificed on Jewish altars,” see, he was going to show the Jews a lesson, he got tired of these Jews, these Jews were the only people who had the audacity to stubbornly, after all the propaganda, after all the suffering, they still held to their exclusivistic religion.
We have all experienced this socially. Haven’t you ever run across people who have told you, you Christians, it’s all right if you say that Jesus is fine for you, but why do you always have to insist that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and the only way. If you’d just relax that, then I could be your friend but you’re so disruptive by this claim that Christ is the way, the truth and the life; you’re a bigot by making that claim; that irritates people. It irritated Antiochus, so he decided he was going to show the Jews a lesson. So he “demanded that unclean animals be sacrificed on Jewish altars,” he was going to fix their wagon, the Scriptures were going to be destroyed because he figured out that these people were reading the Old Testament and that book was the source of the problem. So he’s going to destroy that, get rid of the Bible. Then he tried to grab Jewish boys before they were circumcised so they could never be circumcised. To add insult to injury, he would try to have outdoor athletic contests where they’d be totally naked, to show that they were not circumcised.
Right in the middle of all this, while this was going on, there was a priest by the name of Mattathiah who had a number of sons, “who lived in the town of Modine in Western Judea, [he] triggered a fierce war between the Jews and Antiochius IV. The exciting beginning of the war is reported by F. F. Bruce.” By the way, if you want to read this, it’s in I Maccabees, one of those apocryphal books, it’s a great section.
“‘In [Modine], as in other [towns], a pagan altar was set up, and the inhabitants were summoned to participate in a sacrifice thereat. The king’s officer, who was present to supervise and enforce participation, invited Mattathiah to offer sacrifice first…. But Mattahtiah loudly and contemptuously repudiated the suggestion, proclaiming that he and his family would maintain the ancestral covenant though all others should apostatize. Nor was this all, for when a more pliable citizen came up to the altar to offer sacrifice, Mattathiah ran forward and killed him and then killed the officer who stood by. The altar was then pulled down, and Mattathiah uttered his war cry: ‘Let everyone who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me.’” And they were off to the races. It was a blood mess of a war. The Jews finally won, great casualties on both sides and then after a few decades who came to replace the Greeks? The Romans. So here kingdom number three is replaced by Daniel’s fourth kingdom and the Romans come and they start their suppression of the people.
The people who remembered Mattathiah are people called Zealots. We will meet them in the Gospel narratives. One of the disciples that Christ calls out is a Zealot. Those guys were the guerilla fighters; they were the right-wing militia of their time. They were the guys that would assassinate Roman soldiers, that’s why the Roman soldiers had to have two or three of them walking around, because at night these guys would love to get a Roman soldier out on a dark road somewhere and kill him. They thought that was a great sport, because it was getting back at this oppression of their land. That’s the tradition behind that Zealot party that we will meet in the Gospels, and that gives you background because at certain places the Lord Jesus Christ has to control, because these are the guys that want Him to do what? What’s the Zealot? The Zealot has as his goal the overthrow of the Roman Empire. They want freedom and they want it now. Now if Jesus can help me get there, I’ll join Him. But you see the problem is, the agenda is whose, Jesus’ agenda or the Zealots’ agenda? See the problem, and that’s one of the things you’ll see in the Gospels. Jesus attracted, by His miracles, all kinds of people. The problem they had was that the people weren’t attracted to Jesus because of who and what Jesus was and God’s agenda, they were trying to, in a way, use Jesus for their own agenda.
We have the same thing today in the church. People love to hear the gospel as long as it makes them financially blessed, as long as they get health and wealth, because the agenda is still their own, but they see the gospel as a means to their own agenda. [blank spot] … the Lord’s agenda.
On page 8, I have another quote by a Jewish rabbi. This paragraph fills you in on what was happening inside the Jewish nation while Seutonias and Tacitus were telling you, a few pages ago, what was happening in Roman society outside the nation. If you think what we just read about Tacitus and Seutonias you realize that society, this whole Messiah thing coming out of the east, Judah, that was on the street. Now look what was going on inside Israel.
[Rabbi Abba Silver comments:] “Prior to the first century the Messianic interest was not excessive, although such great historical events as the conquest of Persia by Alexander, the rule of the Ptolemies and Seleucides, the persecutions under Antiochus, the revolt of the Maccabees, and the Roman aggression find their mystic-Messianic echo in the apocalyptic writings of the first two pre-Christian centuries…. The first century, however, especially the generation before the destruction,” what was the destruction from the Jewish point of view, what’s he talking about? Date? 70 AD, the destruction of the temple. “… especially the generation before the destruction, witnessed a remarkable outburst of Messianic emotionalism. This is to be attributed, as we shall see, not to an intensification of Roman persecution, but” look at this, here’s some Jewish thinking, it wasn’t due to the Roman persecution, but it was due “to the prevalent belief induced by the popular chronology of that day that the age was on the threshold of the Millennium.”
What I want you to see is that Jesus came into a stirring pot. He didn’t have to stir it any more than it was already stirred. “In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son.”
On page 9 we want to notice something about how Jesus presented His challenge, and then we’re going to get into the response next week. But I want to cover these next two pages. Look at Matt. 7 and we’re going to deal with a funny thing about the Lord Jesus that we probably, because we don’t look at it right, don’t see it most of the time when we read the New Testament, and sometimes you have to kind of have somebody outside tell you this so you’ll see it. What do you do with things like Matt. 7:6, it’s part of the Sermon on the Mount, and He says, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” The question is, who are the dogs and who are the pigs? They’re the Gentiles. Jesus is using this terminology here; it was well known in Jewish culture, the word “pig” and “dog” are emblems of pagans.
Let’s look further, turn to Matt. 10. I think Matthew picks up on this more than the other three Gospel writers, probably because he was a bureaucrat and he spots these guys. Notice Matt. 10:4, we just got through talking about the Maccabean revolt and the Zealots, see how Mathew, the Gospel writer, what was he? He was a tax collector, this guy worked with the bureaucracy, he knew the people on the street, he knew how to analyze these people, he has street sense. Look at what he says in verse 4, “Simon the Zealot,” he knew what that guy was, [Simon the and Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.] If you read Matthew’s Gospel you’ll see that of the four Gospel writers he will tend to point his finger at things, and you’ll get a feel for the little political forces and the little things that are going on.
But tonight we just want to look at Jesus’ words beginning in verse 5, when he says, “…Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Then look at Matt. 15:24, the famous story of the Gentile woman. It starts out in verse 22, “And behold, a Canaanite woman,” she’s not a Jewish lady, she’s a Gentile lady, “a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.’  But He did not answer a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.’” Come on, get rid of her.  But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’  But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’”  And He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’  But she said, ‘Yes Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.’  Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed at once.”
What is going on in this conversation? We’ve got to come to grips with something here. Here’s where a careless Bible teacher gets you in trouble, because they’re so anxious to come tearing into the Gospels, take out what seems nice, I mean, the Sermon on the Mount, great stuff in the Sermon on the Mount, ignoring the context. To whom was the Sermon on the Mount addressed? Was the Church existing when the Sermon on the Mount was preached? When did the Church start? Pentecost. Who were the recipients of the Sermon on the Mount? Gentiles? No, they were Jews. When Jesus prays the Lord’s Prayer, what is the Kingdom He’s praying for there? The Kingdom the Jews would have known. What was the Kingdom the Jews would have known? The Old Testament kingdom, the Messianic Kingdom, the Millennial Kingdom, praying that the Kingdom come, that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, that’s the Kingdom He’s talking about. He’s not talking about the Church. The Church benefits from all of this, I’m not trying to cut the Church out of the blessings, but it’s not as simple as you get it right off the front.
One of the things we have to come to grips with is the intense Jewishness of Jesus. He was not one of us; He was a Jew in His humanity. He was not a Gentile. He spoke in Jewish ways, He honored the Jewish authorities, and He insisted that it would be to the Jew first and then later to the Gentiles. Notice He didn’t reject the Gentiles. Here this woman breaks in upon Him, she demands, because she recognizes who He is, and He says you are a believer. But it seems that He has an agenda here, that right now what’s on Jesus’ mind is not the Gentiles. What is on Jesus’ mind through the Gospels is Israel and Israel alone. Look what He says, don’t throw this stuff to the dogs. The very same word He uses in the Sermon on the Mount, the dogs and the pigs.
Look at the quote on the bottom of page 9, this is a Jewish scholar, and he makes some very interesting points about the Lord Jesus. Sometimes it helps to get an outside perspective. “Jesus was born a Jew; he lived on the ancestral soil of Palestine, never once setting His foot on alien territory,” contrary to all the hoopla you get about He went visiting India, “he taught a small group of disciples, all of whom were as Jewish as He; the language He spoke dripped with Jewish tradition and lore; the little children He loved were Jewish children; the sinners He associated with
were Jewish sinners; He healed Jewish bodies, fed Jewish hunger, poured out wine at a Jewish wedding, and when He died He quoted a passage from the Hebrew book of Psalms…. Jesus was a Jew, and His Jewishness was solid to the core…. Jesus was born into a definite thought life which was Jewish; He shared the Jewish system of ideas; the only Bible He was familiar with the Hebrew Old Testament; His apocalyptic ideas were those of His won fellow Palestinians. No Jew was born and raised in the bosom of His people more completely than Jesus….”
He’s absolutely right, this is an absolute correct observation. What we have to do is say why? Why did this happen? This is going to be something that we need to understand when we read our New Testament. We are reading a Jewish history. That’s why we spent 2-3 years preparing to go into the New Testament. Think about that first event? How does that explain what Jesus is doing here? Let’s get clear in our mind what His agenda is. His agenda is to share Himself with Israel exclusively. He is to call Israel out to Himself. He is not calling Romans, He is not calling Greeks, He is calling Jews to Himself. He tells you this, we’ve just seen it. If Gentiles want it, fine, but they’re not the main thing here, it’s the Jews that are the main thing.
Then we notice historically, after He’s rejected by the Jews, then where do the blessings flow? Outward from the Jew to the rest of the world; blessings throughout the whole world. Does this ring a bell about the structure of the entire Old Testament? The call of Abraham, in that call of Abraham what was promise number three? He was given a covenant and the covenant said I’ll give you a land, and a seed, and you will be worldwide blessing. Israel, from its very start, was never intended to be a hot house and a green house for the Gospel. It was intended to be a green house in that that’s where the plant’s seeded, that’s where it is nourished; that was where the soil was cultivated to bring the plant to full maturity, but the plant was not intended to exist forever in the green house. The plant was intended to come outside of the green house and shade the entire world.
Has the method of God changed from the Old
Testament to the New Testament? That’s one of the things I want you to
see. The structure is the same. All of this is preparatory work to bless the
world. That’s the Old Testament; it’s
cultivating that plan, getting it all ready to fruit into the world system.
Jesus follows the same methodology. Who
does He go to first? Jews or
pagans? He goes to the Jews. Why? Because He’s in the green house, He’s
addressing the people of the green house, He’s addressing God’s special group,
the special called out ones, His called nation.
One quick application: in the epistle to the Romans there’s another passage that says if the casting off of the Jew led to the gospel going out into the world, what do you suppose will happen when the Jews accept the King, what then? That’s the same methodology, because we said the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in the future the Jews will repeat Isaiah 53, it’s written there in the text, someday their eyes will be opened, and they will suddenly realize that this One that was crucified and suffered was really Jesus, the Jewish carpenter. They’ll connect those two passages, and when they do that, that’s the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom on earth. Right now the Millennial Kingdom is pending, and it’s pending Israel. Israel was the source of salvation, individually through Jesus Christ and the blood atonement, and Israel will be the source of salvation to the world corporately, at large, as is made clear in Romans. Same methodology, nothing changes.
We’ll conclude by looking on page 10, Dr. George W. Peters who for many years taught missions at Dallas Theological Seminary, he’s a Russian, his real name is Petrosky or something like that, a very fascinating individual.
“Our Lord addressed Himself first to Israel in order to restore Jews to their place, purpose, and destiny. Israel was to have the opportunity to be made into a servant of the Lord in order to draw the world to the Lord…. It may seem at first that Christ failed in winning a hearing among His own people…. However, we must not interpret this as total failure. A substantial remnant came out of the rejection.” Watch this statement, watch these next three sentences. “The apostles, including Paul, were all Jews; the first Christian church was a Jewish Christian church in the city of Jerusalem….. The first missionaries to the nations were Jews…. Thus the Jews gave us the Bible, the gospel, the missionaries, and the first churches. Let us always keep this in mind.”
In the book of Revelation, during the Tribulation, who is it that evangelizes the world again? The 144,000 Jews. So they haven’t lost their purpose in history. They’re hanging around. They don’t realize it, but God has Israel hanging around because He’s not finished yet, there are a few more chapters in this great book.
Next week we’re going to deal with the response to the Lord Jesus Christ and I’ll hand out the response of the Gentiles.
Question asked: Clough replies: They’re getting rid of it now. Have you notice this? There’s been a very interesting change in dates. It used to be “BC” and “AD,” you know, 1763 year of our Lord, because the Christian was in control of the calendar out of Rome. And just to be sure that we don’t see Christianity as that exclusivist interfering thing that it is, we’re going to dilute that, and we’ll talk about the common era now. That’s what’s in schools, this is the dates. If I were a student on a test I would deliberately put AD 1763 on all my exams, just to see what would happen. That’s a fine point, but it’s the same slimy kind of stuff going on.
Question or statement: Clough replies: Well, maybe with Y2K they’ll come up with a new calendar. Leave it to Bill Gates and some of these.
Question asked: Clough replies: He was not a Christian. That’s interesting. What she pointed out was that historians who are real historians aren’t the slimy type, usually. The slimy type people are just people who really read secondary materials and a lot of times they have an animosity, particularly to Christian students. And it’s really not to the student personally, it’s because of their own unsettled heart, and they take it out viciously on any Christian students that are identified in the class. But that’s right, the common error in BCE is the alternate way of doing this, and you’ll see the pressure on. I think we have as much right to write the dates the way we want to write the dates. If people don’t like it we’ll say cultural diversity, you respect my view.
Next week we’ll finish up the presentation on challenge and response and that should clear us out so that we’ll be ready to get into the birth of Christ.