Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 2 – The Earthy Origin of the Church
Lesson 168 – Witnessing to Jews
15 Mar 2001
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Let’s turn to Colossians 2:6 just to review a promise from the Word as we introduce the lesson, again going back to the faith-rest drill, looking to a promise of Scripture and then developing a rationale around that promise and then resting inn it. This really isn’t a promise so much as it’s a directive to utilize the faith-rest drill. It says “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” It’s instructive to note that if you’re not clear on the gospel as to how you receive Christ Jesus, then you cannot be clear in how to walk with Him. That’s a rather sobering thought because in our time we have the gospel itself being distorted in various ways, it’s sometimes looked upon as a psychological thing, inviting Jesus into your heart and your life will change, that sort of thing.
That’s not the gospel; the gospel is do you trust in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, period! When anything else is added to that, things get confused. We want to be clear on our gospel that we receive Christ Jesus by faith; not by faith and vowing to do something, it’s not doing this or doing that, it’s not participating in religious rituals and a hundred other things that usually get added into the gospel. The gospel is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” nothing else. When it comes in Colossians 2:6, “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” means walk by faith. In a nutshell it is a very potent verse that links sanctification with the gospel. It’s a handy one to think about.
I want to review where we’ve been; we can’t review enough the plan of God. I want to get a running start on where we are. We’ve looked at the great events of history and we’ve associated the great doctrinal truths with each one of those events. It’s really good to be able to state those major doctrines. Every one of those major doctrines is not some theologian’s hobby horse; these are just the main elements of the Christian faith. To have your imagination powered by memories of those historical events is very useful. When we are trying to define God, man and nature, and the difference between them, the two events to think about are Creation and the covenant, because in the Noahic Covenant God controls all history. God can’t make a promise that there won’t be a flood if He can’t control every geophysical force in the universe. Let’s review that again: if God promises that the geophysical environment of the earth will automatically be of a certain kind, and that’s what the promise of no more flooding is, then that must mean that He’s also saying that there can’t be any asteroid that’s going to come near the earth to build a gravity wave that’s going to take the oceans across the continents and that sort of thing. So implied in the Noahic covenant is total sovereign control throughout the geophysical universe. That’s why we go back to these events, here the creation event and the covenant event.
Then we looked on the flood as a picture of judgment/salvation and we’ll get into again it in this series. Then the fall is the introduction of evil. So that’s the Noahic Bible, that every member of the human race had, every people’s group had, and proceeded to suppress it, Rom. 1. Therefore God did something that has offended men ever since, and it’s this offense that in our day of political correctness is reaping a harvest of hatred against the gospel of Jesus Christ, because God, at the call of Abraham decided not to reveal Himself equally to all people groups and all cultures. That means immediately there’s no such thing as a democratic structure spiritually in history because there are not votes on God’s plan outside of those whom He has elected. God has chosen to play favorites in history. This terribly offends the modern democratic mind, terribly offends it.
Yet the whole tenor, from Genesis 12 on through the rest of the Bible, is that God plays favorites. Not that these people are more meritorious than anyone else, it’s just that He has the right to play favorites. Hey, it’s His story, not ours, if He wants to do it that way it’s His prerogative. He doesn’t ask for our opinion, doesn’t ask for a vote, doesn’t go to Congress, doesn’t go for an election, they never could count the vote if He did. With the call of Abraham we have election, justification and faith. It’s an excellent picture of election; it’s a picture of the fact that God can’t enter into a contract, remember that’s a contract, (I’m reviewing all this because it comes up in the New Testament), a holy God cannot enter into a contract with sinful men unless what happens? The other party has to be justified, has to be declared righteousness. That means that when the contract was installed in Abraham’s day there had to be justification. That’s the linkage. All this is linked together. The point was that the justification had to come about in such a way that it wasn’t meritoriously earned by Abraham, and that’s the issue of faith, “as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so also walk ye in Him.”
The Exodus, which we’ll talk about tonight, was the second great event in Biblical history that shows judgment/salvation, and beyond the flood it shows the importance of blood atonement in salvation. Another way to think about the Exodus, let your imagination float a little bit, it’s the only time where a people received freedom without armed force. This was the equivalent of a revolution and yet there was no army involved. Isn’t that remarkable! An entire nation was delivered from oppression without ever firing a shot. They had no army, “stand still and you will see the salvation of the Lord.” It was one of the great miracles of history that a revolutionary act occurred without the revolutionary violence of an army; there was violence, was God’s violence.
Mount Sinai, revelation, what does the King of Kings want His people, whom He redeemed, how does He want them to walk. If people could just grasp the fact that the Exodus occurs before Sinai it would solve a lot of problems in our evangelical circles because it clearly shows you that the lordship of Jehovah follows salvation, and is not included in the salvation in the sense of all the details. Obviously the Lord is God, but the point here is in the Exodus, He practically had to pry loose the people out of Egypt, they didn’t even want to leave Egypt. Think about the whole tenor there, that they were saved, literally dragged out of the country, kicking and screaming, fussing at Moses because the desert didn’t have pretty flowers in it and that’s the group that God saved.
He gets them out in the desert and then He puts the fear of God in them, but that happens after their salvation. How did He put the fear of God in them? By talking loudly, so that two million people could hear Him speaking from the mountain. I think that would tend to be impressive. Then the conquest and settlement, and this is where we said “The Disruptive Kingdom” because from this point on in history, everywhere God acts He acts to disrupt pagan structures. There’s always going to be tension there. That’s why the Lord Jesus Christ warns us, don’t love even your own family more than Me because there’s going to be disruptions and He says your loyalty has to be to Me.
Then the rise and reign of David and all this is a good example of sanctification. That’s halfway through the Old Testament. Following that God warned the people, and next week we’ll do a deal with something that’s applied from this, the king’s discipline. After the king constructed the kingdom in the Old Testament, the rest of the Old Testament is devoted to the king’s rule, and the king’s rule is one of discipline. So if you’re offended politically by God playing favorites, this is the other side of the coin. Yeah, He plays favorites but He also holds His own people to a higher standard, and He runs His show with His authority and His righteousness and justice. We went through Solomon, we saw the kingdom was divided, the north and south; the kingdom’s in decline, the exile happened in 586 BC, that lasted seventy years and then we have this partial restoration prior to the Lord Jesus Christ coming.
We worked through the life of Christ and we dealt with the four great events in His life. Each one of these again shows a basic Bible doctrine. We color coded these; by the way, these are the colors from the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. What’s interesting is if you think about the modern flag of Israel, there are two of those four colors on the flag and two are missing; it’s remarkable that the very colors of the nation of Israel’s flag shows you something about the state of that nation today. Blue, the picture of heaven and white, the picture of righteousness, that’s the standard and isn’t it interesting that Israel knows nothing of the red which would be the blood atonement and the purple which is the sign of the King.
These four events, Christ’s birth, His life, His death and resurrection are the culmination of the Old Testament view to the Messiah. We have the birth of Christ which protects the idea of Creator/creature, the King as Creator/creature, the hypostatic union; Jesus Christ is both perfect God and perfect man, united without confusion in one person forever. These were not easy, if you remember we had a lot of Q&A discussions about kenosis, impeccability and infallibility and we’re going to come back to that because if we’re going to start talking in the New Testament about the life of Christ in the believer, now we’ve got a little problem because we’ve got to start working with this.
Then we dealt with the death of Christ, substitutionary blood atonement and His great finished work there; and the resurrection which is the ultimate destiny of the creation. Then we have taken up the first event on the origin of the Church and the prelude to that first event; the necessary act that precedes the origin of the Church was the ascension and session of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ goes to heaven and He sits at the Father’s right hand. This is a momentous time and it’s not emphasized, in my opinion, enough in our Bible-believing circles, because at this point, for the first time in history, a member of the human race is literally at the helm of the universe. It’s the first time it’s ever happened. And it means that in the hierarchy of rank the Lord Jesus Christ outranks all angels, good and bad. All the angels are now outranked by this member of the human race who successfully made it from the domain down here, because Psalm 8 says you created man “a little lower than the angels,” so Jesus Christ went from status lower than the angels to status higher than angels, and He did so because He perfectly obeyed the Father’s will. Because He perfectly obeyed the Father’s will, perfectly qualified for the cross, completed all of His assignments, He became the new Adam that reigns.
That’s the basis, and when Jesus Christ sat down at the Father’s right hand, He did something. That gets us to our second event that we’re working on, that is Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost could not happen until first the Lord Jesus Christ was seated at the Father’s right hand. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ who intercedes, asks the Father and the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That becomes the origin of the Church of Jesus Christ. There’s no Church in the Old Testament, this is where everything begins with the Church, on that day. What confuses people is that when you read the book of Acts it’s not obvious that the Church begins on the day of Pentecost. Peter evidently doesn’t know it’s happened. The apostles don’t know it’s happened, and only gradually by the time do you get to the end of the book of Acts that oh, yeah, something new has happened. This happened instantaneously on the day of Pentecost, the problem was it wasn’t realized. That’s where Acts gets very complicated. Acts is actually a very difficult book because it’s not a theological exposition; it’s an analysis of history from the standpoint of a mature believer in Jesus Christ, looking back at that history.
If you want to diagram Acts, here’s a way of looking at it. Take a long rectangle and draw a diagonal from one corner to the other. The theme that predominates in the first part of the book of Acts is the Kingdom; the theme that emerges as you go through the book of Acts is the Church. Heavy in the early chapters is always Kingdom, it’s Israel, the Church is there but it’s not even spoken of as some separate entity. But by the time you come to the end of Acts the Church has emerged, it’s become something separate from the nation Israel, and then comes the question, when did this all start? The answer is it all started at Pentecost but we didn’t really realize what had happened then. So Acts is a book of transition. What that means is every time you get an event, like Acts 2, there’s a mixture of things that are going on. This is why it is very demanding on an accurate exegesis of the text to retrieve the pieces, because the pieces are all mixed together.
That’s what we want to look at. On the notes on page 24 we’re looking at the “The Earthly Origin of the Church.” We’re going to spend some time on what was observed in Pentecost. In Acts 1 Luke records Jesus as presenting Himself alive, verse 3, for a period of forty days. Notice Pentecost is going to come in fifty days, so there’s ten more days left here. “He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forgot days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.  And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem,” we’re going to see how that little phrase, “not to leave Jerusalem” has led to a misinterpretation. Acts 2:1 basically shows the idea, “they were all together in one place.” They wouldn’t have been together in one place if in Acts 1:4 He hadn’t told them to stay in Jerusalem. There’s a reason the Lord had for gathering them in that “one place.”
So time wise we have the cross, the resurrection of Christ, we have forty days, and then He’s going to ascend. Then we’re going to have a ten day period and something is going to descend. All this is preparatory. He says in verses 5–6, “for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” In verse 2, two of the three baptisms that John the Baptist mentioned Jesus mentions. So let’s talk about John the Baptist just a moment.
John the Baptist had three baptisms. One was a water baptism, which he administered to Jewish people who were trusting in the Messiah - that Jesus Christ was the Messiah—and if they would trust and accept Jesus as the Messiah, John would then agree to water baptize them. This was probably offensive to Jewish people because traditionally the only people that ever got baptized were Gentiles coming into the Jewish community from outside of that community. Here, within the community of Judaism, you’re having somebody demand water baptism, but it’s a water baptism based on faith in Jesus Christ. The next baptism he talks about, the Messiah will come and He will baptize with the Spirit, and with fire. And he clarifies those two baptisms, which by the way are dry; there’s one wet baptism here and two dry. Those two baptisms he expounds with the illustration of harvesting on the farm, of shoveling grain and pushing it up in the air and he says He shall winnow it; He shall separate the wheat from the chaff and burn the chaff with fire.
John is obviously saying that Spirit baptism comes upon those who are saved; fire baptism is going to come upon those who reject Jesus Christ. Now we have the three baptisms. In Acts 1:5 Jesus says yes, John baptized with water, there’s the wet one, there’s the water baptism, and then He says you “will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” He talks about baptism number two and notice He does not talk about baptism number three. This is part of the strange structure that you get into in the New Testament. Once again, from the Old Testament perspective the First and Second Advents of Christ are like two mountains, one behind the other and there’s no clear estimation of what separates them. The First and Second Advents are coalesced in prophecy after prophecy.
What we find out is that the First and Second Advents actually are two different events, they’re two advents; it’s not clear they are two different advents in a lot of the prophecies. How do we find this out? Think about it. Why is Christ’s career split in half? The answer is because Israel rejected Messiah when He first came, so you have a rejection on the part of the custodian elect nation against the Messiah, which now precipitates this inter-advent period. Now what has to happen in the book of Acts is everybody has to readjust to this thing. That’s part of the difficulty in interpreting this book correctly, is now you’ve got this whole new inter-advent age and you’ve got Christ coming and then you’ve got Him coming again. You’ve got the baptism of the Spirit associated with this that’s just about ready to happen, and then you’ve got the baptism of fire which is His judgment when He comes again, so those two are pulled apart. Jesus is talking about baptism number one and baptism number two here; John did number one, I’m going to do number two He says.
Therefore that precipitates the next question that would have been on the mind of a loyal Jew, verse 6, “Lord, is it at this time [that] You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Why did the kingdom have to be restored? Go back in Old Testament history. We have the golden era of Solomon, then we have the exile, and we have a partial restoration. The Shekinah glory left the temple back here and at that point the theocratic kingdom was suspended. The disciples knew this, Jesus knew this, the Jewish community knew this, so the question in verse 6 would have been understood by a Biblically literate Jew. It was a very specific question, will You bring into existence historically once again the theocratic kingdom, and in particular the kingdom that the prophets promised? So you have all the Old Testament, including John the Baptist saying this, the Kingdom of God is near. Remember, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is here.”
We like to read that because we’re all Gentile pagans and Greeks, etc., we think oh that’s just spiritual. It wasn’t just spiritual. The Kingdom of God that those people were looking for was political. Yes, it was spiritual, but it was spiritual and physical and political and had revolutionary implications as far as the Roman Empire was concerned. That’s what they were looking for. But the problem is the Kingdom of God can’t come if you’re going to reject the King. The King is not going to bring in His kingdom if you don’t want the King. If you don’t want the King, you don’t want the Kingdom. That’s the problem, we want the blessing, we don’t want the Blessor and that’s the theology of the New Testament; negative volition toward the King, too bad guys, then you’re not going to get the Kingdom. You get the King, we’ll get the Kingdom; no King, no Kingdom. So the King becomes the issue in the Kingdom issue. It’s not a Kingdom issue ultimately, it’s a King issue. Is the nation going to accept Christ as King?
They rejected, and at this point the disciples are puzzled because here Jesus is talking about the baptism of the Spirit, which would have been associated with the Kingdom, because John the Baptist preached the baptism of the Spirit as something that would precede the coming of the Kingdom of God. If Jesus, in verse 5, promises that not many days hence the Spirit baptism will come, then the next question is, well then not many days hence the Kingdom must come.
At this point verse 7 is a monkey wrench, because this is the first time in history in the Bible where the Spirit baptism that has always been associated with the coming of the Kingdom is now apparently split off from the Kingdom itself. Here we go again, we’re talking apart things that looked like in the Old Testament they were together. “He [Jesus] said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;” and then He says  “but you shall receive…the Holy Spirit...and you shall be My witnesses,” etc. but He doesn’t really answer whether the Kingdom is going to come. We want to remember this because in Acts 2-3 the Kingdom issue comes up again. It comes up two more times. That’s the prelude for what we’re going to do now.
Now we’re going to move on to Acts 2. What we want to do in Acts 2 is observe. Tonight we’re on observation, next week we’re going to be on the interpretation that the New Testament gives to this event. But we want to look at the event carefully first and then we’ll worry about the interpretation. In Acts 2:1 it says, “And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” We have to watch this, the “all” is defined in Acts 1:15 to be 120 people, so now we know what “all” is. “All” equals 120. There is some question in the next few verses whether the actors that are here are actually the 120 or they are just the 11 apostles.
Verse 2, “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire,” as of fire, notice the Greek construction is quite clear, it’s not tongues of fire, it is tongues that had the appearance of fire, “distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
The question is what’s happened here? There are three miracles that occurred in these verses. Let’s list them. Miracle number one is this rushing wind. Notice it was “a noise like a wind,” but not a wind. If there had been a wind it might have blown the house down. But we have the sound and noise of a wind. One of the senses is hearing; notice the empirical evidence, hearing, sound, acoustics, there is a noise that happens here. Without going any further, without speculating, without talking about interpretation, we’ve covered this enough so that you ought to be able to think in the recesses of your mind, what is wind associated with in the Bible, in the Old Testament? The Hebrew word for wind is spirit. Wind and spirit are the same noun. So the Holy Spirit in the creation narrative does His thing; after the flood what happens? Right after the flood of Noah there was a mighty wind that blew. So wherever the Holy Spirit works, He is analogous to wind.
Remember the dialogue of Jesus with Nicodemus, and Nicodemus was asking well, how can these things be? And He says it’s like the wind, you can hear it and see it but you can’t really know where it’s going. Hearing is associated with a noise and the noise has a particular characteristic that it mimics, or is analogous to wind. It turns out that wind is analogous in the Scriptures to spirit. So this language has to be watched. Learn to read Scripture carefully. We can’t interpret unless we first observe. We want to observe the text. That’s miracle number one, we never saw this before, whether the noise was audible outside on the street we don’t know, but clearly all those that were in one place, it filled the whole house where they were sitting. By the way, that’s why in verse 2 and subsequent verses there is a debate whether “all” is 120 or whether it’s 11. We don’t have time to go into all the details of that one, but that’s one debate, how could you get 120 people in this room, and later on it’s like it’s a representation. That’s neither here nor there now.
The next miracle is in verse 3 where another phenomenon, this is sight, and they see something. Whatever this thing is, it appeared as “tongues as of fire” and the idea is…, you know, flame is just hot gas, and gas is air that’s moving, so again you see the association with air and wind, etc. Whatever this was, we might today instead of speaking of it as tongues as of fire, we might speak of it as glowing charges, electrical charges, static electrical charge. It appears to have some electrical fiery visibility to it. This is sight and it’s some sort of energy, it’s some sort or form of energy that’s visible, some radiative energy. Whatever it is the analogy is of hot gas, it moves around and distributes this jumping flame; it distributes itself and then it does a strange thing. Whether it’s 120 or 11 people here, whatever this energy form is, here are these guys sitting in this room and this energy comes on every one of them. And it wasn’t like it just cascaded through the room, it was aimed, the text says it came upon them, like it’s seeking them out. This is really a strange thing. So now we have a noise and we have sight energy.
The third miracle is Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” The word “tongues” means languages. This has caused a big debate in church circles over these languages. Even the Pentecostal people will have to agree that in this verse it’s talking about known human languages. This is not gobbledy-gook, this is not ecstasy. This is known human languages, as you can tell by the context because verse 5 says what went on. We’re going to look at the response in verses Acts 2:5–13 because this response tells us something else that’s interesting, and if we study this response we will understand passages like 1 Corinthians 14, so we want to pay attention to some details in this passage.
“Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven.” The word for “living” here could be dwelling, etc. We may or may not get time to go into why from every nation they were here, but one of the reasons was because this is the feast of Pentecost and these are Diaspora Jews. There are two kinds of Jews, there still are: the Diaspora Jew and the Palestinian Jew. Both groups are in this text. The Palestinian Jews are divided in the New Testament time into two groups, the Galileans and the Judeans. The Judeans looked upon themselves as upper class; the Galileans were low class, not that they personally of character were, it’s just that these people were the urban people, these people were the rural people and the rivalry was the same there as it always is. They had this rivalry. Of course, education predominated in Jerusalem, the Judeans thought they were better educated, they spoke a better Hebrew.
The Galileans had an accent, remember where that played a role? The girl, “Peter, I can tell you’re a Galilean,” she knew he was a Galilean because of the way he spoke. They had a kind of slang, a kind of dialect that was identifiable. So we have the Diaspora Jews and the Palestinian Jews, and what verse 5 is saying is the Diaspora Jews are now visiting Jerusalem because they had come there to visit for the holiday, Pentecost was a holiday.
Verse 6, “And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and marveled, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?” See they recognized them, apparently they looked different too, that the disciples weren’t really the guys that you normally see in Jerusalem; these are these guys up north, they’re the people from the mountains, Galileans. Now look at this, look at this construction, look what it’s saying, verse 8, “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language,” and how is the word “tongue” or “language” qualified in verse 8 to dogmatically assert that it’s known languages. It says “to which we were born,” our native dialect. So not only did they hear it in languages, it was the right local dialect.
These Diaspora Jews are sitting there listening to this and all of a sudden these people who they would consider uneducated, I mean you wouldn’t want to go to some place that you would think was just, you know, people weren’t that educated, think of Appalachia or some place, what would you think if you went into Appalachia and all of a sudden you heard people speaking classical English? Or German? Or Latin? It would kind of get your attention a little bit. That’s what’s going on here. Miracle number three, besides the audible, besides the visual, is the mental; they are understanding content in their own dialect. This is remarkable.
If that isn’t enough, in verses 9–11 we have eleven different regions of the world that these people came from, showing that the dialects were from areas that the Galilean Jews would never have gone to. Peter didn’t travel out in this area, Andrew didn’t, Matthew didn’t; these guys weren’t travelers. How would they be able to speak in all these dialects? Miracle number three. It says in verse 11, “…we hear them in our own languages speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” So it’s clear that something strange is happening here, something that is not mentioned earlier, apparently in the Old Testament; Peter is going to get up shortly and he’s going to explain this whole thing.
What happens is that in verses 12–13 people read that and say see, it wasn’t real human languages, it was just some ecstasy language, some heavenly language and the proof is in verses 12–13, “And they continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’  But others were mocking and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.’” Aha, but in verse 13, what is the subject of the verb “mocking.” “Others,” now what does “other” mean? If I say there’s a group here and there’s an “other” group, I don’t mean the same group, do I? So this is a second group, and it’s the second group of people who were mocking saying they’re full of sweet wine. I would suggest that the “others” were fellow Palestinians who were also there at Jerusalem. The people who were from foreign countries heard the message in their own language. The guys who were native to Jerusalem, the native Palestinian Jews, it wouldn’t have clicked with them. “Glub ba glu bleb blak. That’s all it sounds like to me. What’s the matter with these guys?”
You’re getting two different reports of the same miracle because you’ve got two different groups from two different backgrounds that are interpreting them two different ways. This is not an argument for the fact that these are some sort of an ecstatic language. It sounded like drunken mumbling because they couldn’t understand the language in the first place.
Now we want to say a few words about the Pentecost thing and we’re going to look in the notes, page 28, I want to introduce this calendar issue. This is sort of a neat little background to this Acts issue. Pentecost is part of Israel’s calendar. The calendar problem is one of those cases where people look at this, they don’t think about it, and they miss a great glorification fact for God. The only supernaturally designed calendar in the world was that of Israel. She had a supernaturally designed national anthem that portrayed not just her past history, like our national anthem that speaks of Fort McHenry, but their national anthem spoke of their future national history as well as their past national history. Their calendar did the same thing. Let’s break it down.
Page 28, I give you the Old Testament references, we don’t have time to go there tonight, but we want to at least show what the seven parts of the Old Testament Jewish calendar were like. We’ll group the first four and then we’ll group the last three. There are four events that happened in the spring calendar of the nation Israel. The first one was Passover, we all know that Passover looked at Exodus; it looked at a historic fact. Watch something; we’re going to make a list here. By writing it down carefully we’re going to discover something about the structure of this calendar. The next feast is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The problem is, what does the Feast of Unleavened Bread refer to? Unleavened Bread was part of the Passover, it was part of the fact that when they left Egypt [blank spot] …Egypt, and the new culture that God was to create in His counter-culture nation Israel, in this elect nation. Remember why? Disruptive kingdom. What was the purpose of Israel in history? To negate and overcome the paganization of the Noahic civilization. So this Feast of Unleavened bread spoke of a separation that God would create another counter-culture.
The third thing was the Day of Firstfruits. The Day of Firstfruits was when they took the first harvest and they would go out in the field and get this barley sheaf together and they would not harvest it or bake it cook it or anything else, they would just use the raw uncooked sheaf. And it appears that this Firstfruits was a thanksgiving to God because He had blessed them. After all, what drove the economy of the nation Israel? Agriculture. So this is the first blessing they’re getting as a nation, and they give thanks, this is the Firstfruits.
Then fifty days later comes Pentecost. Now the question is what is Pentecost? It is sometimes in the Bible also called first fruits so you have to be careful of the vocabulary; you get mixed up some times. The Day of Firstfruits commemorates the first part of the harvest. Pentecost is the end of the harvest, end of the spring cycle, and the issue at Pentecost was a loaf of bread. Think about what bread is? Bread is the harvest used, the harvest enjoyed, the harvest that blesses and is usable for man. What is significant about these last two feasts is that they cut right across paganism. Let’s take a little visit and go outside of Israel for a moment in the Old Testament to get a flavor for the contrast of this calendar.
If we were to stroll a village in Canaan prior to the conquest and we were strolling through in the time of the spring harvest, what do you suppose we would see? The fertility cults. They’d go out there and they’d copulate in the middle of the field like dogs. What were they doing? Because in their minds fertility of that field was part and parcel of the fertility of the human body, the fertility of the animals, the fertility of the ground, it was all one cosmos; remember we said Continuity of Being. It was a mechanism that could be manipulated by ritual. So they would have these orgies out in the fields. We think of it more as sort of a pornographic thing but in their minds it was far deeper than just pornography; in their eyes it was that you are stimulating the fertility forces in nature. See it’s like a mechanism more than it’s a personal relationship with the deity who created us and to whom we give thanks.
So these last two events in the spring cycle forced the Jew to change his whole line about economic blessing in his life, and to go back and thank the fact that it’s not your devices, it’s not your gimmicks, it’s not your business plans, it’s not your devices and schemes that bring about prosperity. It is God that brings about the prosperity and it is to Him that we must give thanks. That’s the lesson paganism never learned, never did learn and still hasn’t learned.
So here we go: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost. In the fall cycle they had three things, they had this Trumpets thing, then they had Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and then they had the Feast of Tabernacles. This coincided with the fall agriculture. The Trumpets, which occurs around our Labor Day, would be an announcement of the fall cycle beginning. See, there’s a break between the spring and fall cycle. Then there would be the Yom Kippur and the Day of Atonement, and at this Day of Atonement there would be confession of sin, and the emphasis was on cleanliness, restoration, confessing of sin, looking to God to forgive my sin and to redeem myself from sin. Then they would go seven days living in these tabernacles, and if you go out, at least when I was in Israel, you can go out in the Negev area on Tabernacles, and you can still see some tabernacles, they build them out there. It’s like they camp out in these things.
What’s the significance of all this. Let’s go through the significance. We already know Passover. Passover remembers a historic act in the past, the Exodus. Unleavened Bread represents the rupture between the pagan background and the redeemed sanctified existence of Israel. Firstfruits and Pentecost represent their harvest and their blessings. Trumpets, we’re not really sure about. Yom Kippur points to some sort of atonement for sin. Tabernacles points to some concept of a rest, that we have this harvest complete. All the blessings are in, and now we take time to rest.
What we notice, if you turn to page 29 is that event number one, here’s the real weird thing that happened in history and it’s so spooky that you can’t look at this without saying God reigns. On what day was Jesus Christ crucified? Exactly to the day? The Passover. Remember when I dealt with the death of Christ there was a little problem there because He ate the Passover before and that because there was two calendars running side by side, we went through that. But the idea is Jesus didn’t die eight days before Passover, He didn’t die thirty-five days after Passover, He didn’t die in the fall, He didn’t die in the winter, He died in the spring and He not only died in the spring but He died on exactly the day that the Jews left Egypt. He died on the cross on exactly the day that they put blood on the doors in Egypt.
How come that was timed so perfectly? Think of the centuries, we’re talking 1,400 years between the Exodus, over 1,400 years, fourteen centuries plus between this day when they separated from Egypt and this day when the Messiah paid for the sins of the world. Why is it that the calendar is conservative with time? The Jewish calendar has a mystery about it. It’s like it’s a clock and it ticks away, and every year it shows again the structure of history. To this day every Jewish family is celebrating Passover on the day that the Messiah they don’t believe in died for their sin.
Then we come to Unleavened Bread, and it’s interesting that Unleavened Bread is picked up in the New Testament. I quote 1 Corinthians 5:6–8 in the notes, page 29, if you turn there you’ll see how Paul uses this. Clearly Paul has the calendar on his mind and he sees a fulfillment of that feast of Unleavened Bread. This is a passage that you just wouldn’t catch unless you had the background we just gave. Verse 6, “Your boasting” Corinthians “is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” There’s the calendar, “Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the feast,” what feast? The Unleavened Bread. “…not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Now we learn something else, that leaven and this whole unleavened bread thing is a picture of something, in particular it’s a picture of the new life in Jesus Christ, the utter separation from the life of the flesh to the life of Christ.
Another thing: on what day did Jesus Christ rise from the dead? Exactly—the Day of Firstfruits, three days later. How did that happen? Was there a deal cooked up between Pilate and the priests? They had no control over the resurrection. There is only one person that had control of the resurrection, or two, God the Father and God the Son. And isn’t it striking that they chose to pull off the resurrection in synchronization with the Jewish calendar? Does that tell us something about the importance of the Jewish calendar? I think so.
Now we move to the fourth one in the spring series, which is Pentecost. What happened exactly on the day of Pentecost? The Holy Spirit comes. He doesn’t come on Pentecost because of the disciples sat there and tarried and agonized for the Holy Spirit to come. What Jesus said was stay in Jerusalem. And that’s what He meant, I want you all here, you just hang out for a while, something’s going to happen. And something did happen, to the very day of that Jewish calendar.
Notice something that we’ve noticed about the structure here. The rest of the New Testament knows nothing about the fulfillment of the fall cycle, not a thing… not a thing! What does this suggest? This is the same bifurcation that’s going on between the First Advent and the Second Advent. The fall calendar is yet to be fulfilled. Something is going to happen in the future, it’s going to fulfill the Feast of Trumpets here; we don’t know what it is. Yom Kippur, do you know what one of the Scriptures the Jews quote, or used to, I don’t know whether they do nor or not, but one of the Old Testament Scriptures in Yom Kippur that’s used? Isaiah 53. What is Isaiah 53 talking about? The sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So this might hint that in the future the nation Israel will come together, it will be in the fall, and it will be exactly on the day of Yom Kippur that they will recognize, oh, Jesus is our Messiah, we screwed up, He really was the Messiah after all.
Shortly thereafter what do you suppose is going to answer to the Tabernacle rest? The beginning of the Millennial Kingdom and the reign of Christ. He’s going to come, when He said as He said in the gospels, I will not come into this city again until you say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” And when will they do that? Yom Kippur, they will say “Blessed is He that comes,” we now understand that Jesus Christ, after all, was the Messiah and boom, there it is, because Israel still acts as the controller of history, she still acts as God’s time clock in history, and she still is the one who alone can bring peace to the world. What is preventing peace in the world is Israel’s refusal to accept Jesus Christ. Proof of it is once she realizes who Jesus is, the millennium comes very rapidly, very quickly and world peace is established. That’s as far as the calendar goes, next week we’ll deal more with the interpretation of this Pentecost phenomenon.
Question asked: Clough replies: Years ago Bill Bright of Campus Crusade put together The Four Spiritual Laws and I differ with some clarity, because I was led to the Lord through those, but it was because the Holy Spirit overrode some of the sloppiness in them. But in behalf of Bill I would say that there are four basic truths that compose the gospel. The question is, “What is the gospel?” The first truth that has got to click with a non-Christian is who the God of the Bible is. If that’s not clear you can sit and yak-yak forever and never get anywhere because if we don’t understand that God is sovereign, He is the Creator, He is the holy one, He is not going to compromise His holiness, that has got to be clear, and that’s why there’s Biblical stories, hundreds and hundreds of illustrations.
I think it’s interesting if you see how Paul preached the gospel in Acts 14 and 17 where he was talking to a pagan group you notice in there what he did. He quoted Exodus 20:11, God created the heavens and the earth and all things that are in them. People today in evangelical circles get all kinds of ants about this, oh well, we don’t want to bring up creation, and all the rest of it because that gets us off on a side tangent. I’m sorry, but if you don’t bring it up you don’t have the Creator/creature distinction established. Yea, you run a risk of oh gosh now we’ve got to talk about evolution… but maybe not. Maybe the person, because it’s person variable, they may still have a residue of the Christian belief system floating around somewhere in their soul so that the Creator/creature distinction is sort of intuitive to them and you won’t have to fight that battle. I’m afraid those people are few and far between today. God is looked upon as a process, or He’s some sort of cartoon character, old man in the sky thing.
I think of the four things I’m going to say, the first one is the hardest, because that’s where the grease hits. People will say oh, I believe in God. Well, tell me about it. And I think that it behooves us in conversation to ask the other person, ask the non-Christian, if you believe in God explain Him, because when you ask the question it’s not threatening to them. You’re not trying to (quote) “cram” something down their throat; you’re just trying to find out something. What you’re really trying to do is get them to think, turn on this thing, find the “on” switch, because we’ve got to talk. So the first major thing is that God is our Creator, it is to Him that we are ultimately responsible, and it is He that lays the standards of right and wrong. It is His standards of justice, not man’s standard of justice. So, that all has to be clarified.
The next thing that has to be clarified is that we fall short of that glory. Romans 3:2, we fall short of the glory of God, some more than others maybe, but the point is, it doesn’t make any difference because we’re all in the same boat. If that’s done properly, that gets rid of the problem – oh, you’re some self-righteous religious person. No, I deserve hell just like anybody else. And if the guy’s giving you a hard time say I deserve hell like you do. Say it like that, that’ll get their attention. But you say it so that it doesn’t come off like you’re some self-righteous person. Put yourself on the same level. That has to be clarified, that we have sinned; it’s not that we have an existential vacuum in our heart, which we do, but that’s not what condemns us. What condemns us is we have sinned and we have gone our own way, and we’re stubborn about it, we’re arrogant, and we want the last and final say. So that’s got to be clarified.
The third thing is that the only way that the sinner can come to a holy God is for the holy God to come down to me and give me a way of escape. It’s got to be from the God side down, not from the human side up. That gets rid of all this human merit business. It’s got to be God calls to you and God calls to me through the atonement of Jesus Christ, period.
Because if that isn’t clear, then you’re going to have something like Islam believes, yea, we believe in the God of the Bible, we believe man is a sinner, but we believe that Allah kind of forgives you if the balances are right. Then you’ve God arbitrarily forgiving sin. Where does this come from? How can God arbitrarily forgive sin without compromising His righteousness?
That’s the beauty of the Cross; there is no compromise of God’s righteousness, because He exercised it in His Son. It’s substitutionary, but then again, maybe you have to discuss the picture of the lamb in the Old Testament so that they… gosh, that’s slaughter house religion. That’s right, it is, it’s slaughter house religion. Well that’s offensive. That’s right, it is offensive, it must have been very offensive to sit there and watch a little animal get its throat slit and bleed all over the floor because you sinned. Look what you did to the animal there, that was a great accomplishment, and to have to sit there and watch it.
So the third thing that formulates the four points of the gospel is the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We haven’t talked about church, haven’t talked about baptism, haven’t talked about your good works and all the rest of it, and the fact is that that is a free gift. Salvation is “a gift, not of works lest any man should boast.” You can use an analogy of a gift, somebody offers you a gift and you try to pay for it, how do you feel about that? Well I don’t know, I’d be insulted if somebody tried to give me money for it. That’s right. How do you think God feels? God gives us, offers us a gift of the death of His Son and we turn around and say Oh God, would you accept a few little … let me give you a tip along with it. That’s what human merit looks like. So the third thing is you have got to replace every … slap the wrist as many times as it reaches for the cookie jar, to get rid of the idea that I’ve got human merit because my dad was a Christian, my mom was a godly prayer lady, or I was born in America or all the other excuses that are given. My great-grandparents were part of the First XYZ Church, Aunt Tilda was, so I’m in it too, and that’s my claim on Heaven. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
A question to raise, and it’s been raised by soul-winners over the centuries and I think it’s a good question, if you were to die tonight, are you sure that you’d be admitted to Heaven? Are you sure of that? Well, not really, I hope so. Well then you’re definitely not clear on the gospel. That’s a good telltale question to ask. If they can’t give you a yes to that question, then they’ve got a problem. They may be saved, but probably not if they can’t answer that question clearly to you. So if you die tonight would you go to Heaven? Do you know that? On what basis? There’s three or four ways of asking a question.
The fourth point is that this can be accepted by faith in Christ alone, and nothing else. Faith alone in Christ alone, period. That doesn’t mean baptism and it doesn’t mean joining a church, it doesn’t mean doing this or doing that, it doesn’t mean vowing to God, it doesn’t mean promising God something. It doesn’t even mean inviting Christ into your heart, that’s Revelation 3:20 and that’s not talking about salvation, that’s the verse I was led to the Lord on, but the Holy Spirit overrode the sloppiness in that presentation. People get saved that way but that’s not an excuse to be sloppy. The gospel message is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” That’s the only object of the faith, no merit, no church attendance, no vows to God, no something else, if you save me God I’ll be a good boy the rest of my life. No, you can’t vow to be a good boy the rest of your life, you’re a clod. You have to trust the Lord, period and He’s the good boy, not you.
Someone says something: Clough says: Exactly, because if you believe that Jesus is just a man or He’s an honorable person or He’s a great guy, that doesn’t show that you recognize His whole purpose for coming to this planet. His whole purpose was to come as the Lamb of God that did what to the sins of the World? The Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world. And if you can’t see that about the Lord Jesus Christ, then you still haven’t seen Him right. That’s what He came to do, that’s His job, and it’s not honoring Jesus the yak-yak, oh, I think He’s a great guy and all the rest of it. Can you imagine somebody saying that to Jesus? Put yourself in His position for a moment, I mean, He took upon Himself on the cross, and this person thinks you’re a great person. Doesn’t that sound trivial? So you have to make sure that people understand the basis for salvation. It is the finished work of Christ alone, it is by faith in Him alone, and all the rest of this stuff gets smeary.
One of the things we are facing today is we went through some Reformed Theology and one of the things that they try to say is well, maybe you’re not sure that you’re the elect and you can’t tell whether you really got saving faith or not. Well if I can’t tell I’ve got saving faith, then I can’t tell I’m going to go to Heaven, and I can’t tell whether God’s pleased with me so that I can trust Him to overcome all these messes that I’ve got in my life. So I’ve got to have the assurance at the front end, not at the tail end. That’s the battle we face today is to get a clear gospel presentation.
One of the things I went to was a pastor’s conference but the point is that there were some wonderful pastors there and what I found fascinating about this church, they had one of the most clear gospel tracts I’ve ever seen. It’s about a 26-page gospel tract and I’ve already given it to the elders here to see if we can get it on our table. [Note: You can contact Bible Framework Ministries and request a copy.] But the guy spent five or six years writing this tract, he tested it and tested it, do you get the point, etc. He had to put cartoons in there to get the point across. And finally at the end he had to clarify what repentance was, because the word repentance has come to mean, or came to mean in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, repent of your sins.
You often hear that, repent of your sins. Yeah, there’s a sense involved in that, but actually repentance for your sins really probably doesn’t happen until after you’re born again and you being to sin and you really realize the ugliness of it. But when you’re first saved you’re kind of like a drunk walking out of the bar, you aren’t really too aware of things. What the repentance that Paul is talking about in Acts 17, if you watch, it isn’t about repenting from your sins; it’s repenting for your concept of God. It gets back to that first thing, the first of the four. What does he say, Turn from these vanities to what? To the living God who created the heavens and the earth. So in context that repentance means change your whole way of thinking. It gets back to that concept I’ve used about the interior decorator, you ask an interior decorator to show up to your house and he comes in with a bulldozer and tears the whole house down and rebuilds it. That’s the concept of repentance that the Bible has.
So this guy tries that and he’s got a neat dedication, John Walvoord said it’s one of the finest tracts going today. It’s something has to be clarified and I’m telling you it’s going to become increasingly more difficult to preach and to share the gospel today. It’s hard enough in religious circles but it’s even worse in a lot of the sloppy New Age stuff that’s coming in, the eastern goo, where everybody talks about God and it’s not our God. It’s very difficult to work with.
Our times up, next week we’ll work more on the language issue and the gift of tongues.