Chapter 7

The Hope of Israel—And The Gentiles

The Last Years of Paul

We come now to a phase of Paul's life, the importance of which cannot he over-estimated. His missionary journeys are over. He is now a prisoner, and, in a remarkable way, an unparalleled opportunity is; given him to bear witness to the leaders of the Jewish nation. Here we behold the perfect union of the Divine Will and the human consecration, for it was the great longing of the apostle to pour out his soul to his fellow Israelites. The epistle to the Romans was probably written about this time, and chapter 9 testifies to the passion of Paul.

It is in this section of Acts that we find some of the finest utterances ever made by Paul. By the very nature of things, by the solemnity of the occasions, the things he says will be of first importance. He is fully aware of the prophecies of the Lord Jesus concerning the coming doom of Jerusalem and apostate Israel. He seems to sense that the day is drawing near, and that his voice may be God's final message of mercy before judgement falls. We would like the reader to pause and ponder this fact, and to realise that THE GREAT UTTERANCES OF THE APOSTLE ARE ALL SET AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF THE NATION OF ISRAEL—A NATION FACING COMING DOOM.

What does he say to these people? Did he speak of any of those things which dispensationalists state are the great plan of Jehovah for earthly Israel? Did he speak of those things which are taught on page after page of "The Scofield Bible" as the glorious future heritage of this nation? WE WILL SEARCH HIS MESSAGES IN VAIN FOR THE SLIGHTEST SUGGESTION OF ANYTHING ALONG THESE LINES.

What he did preach is as clear as day. As we shall examine his statements we shall bear him declare that it is no new religion to which his life has been devoted, but the fullness of "the worship of the God of my fathers" ( 24:14 ); the theme of his ministry is "none other things than those which Moses and the prophets did say should come" ( 26:22 ); whilst the great Hope that fills his heart, and which he preaches to all men, is the very Hope that rings through the O.T. Covenants.

These two features, THE SILENCE and THE SPEECH of the apostle, CONSTITUTE AN OVERWHELMING PROOF OF THE CASE WE ARE PRESENTING. If there is to he a future earthly kingdom of unparalleled glory for Israel, then the complete silence of Paul during these years when he was bearing witness to the Jewish nation, is completely inexplicable. Arguments about his distinctive "Church" testimony are puerile and empty, for on our second point, he had a good deal to say about Israel and her Hope, and the inescapable conclusion from all he said is that the Covenants and promises are now being realised in the blessings of the Gospel of Christ.

We turn to the first statement.

Acts 24:14-15.

"Believing all things which are written in the Law of Moses and in the prophets; and have hope toward God, which they themselves allow, that there shall be A RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, BOTH OF THE JUST AND THE UNJUST."

The teaching of this statement is clear:—

  1. Paul's teaching was identical with that of the O.T., and found its consummation in "the resurrection of the dead". Note Paul makes no suggestion that the O.T. resurrection is any different from the "Church resurrection", either in point of time or its issue.
  2. It is to be A RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD ( not a series ), of both just and unjust. This statement destroys every theory of several resurrections of the dead. Both just and unjust are raised in the one resurrection. To attempt to explain Paul's statement as meaning "there shall be a resurrection of the just and a resurrection of the unjust" is desperation born of a groundless theory. His statement is clear. Let no man so try to make him say something else. Certain it is, that no dispensational preacher would ever preach in such terms. Though he be a "Church witness" how carefully will he weigh his words so that they "distinguish the dispensations". But Paul sets his eschatology out very simply and very plainly.

This statement of the resurrection would remind every Jew of Daniel's prophecy of the resurrection, "some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting contempt" ( Daniel 12:2 ). This speaks nothing of a millennial kingdom, but of the eternal state. This is the burden of Paul's language. 

Before King Agrippa

Acts 26.

Here is a record as thrilling and majestic as anything in the Acts. We consider verses 6 and 7:

"And now I stand and am judged for THE HOPE OF THE PROMISE MADE OF GOD UNTO OUR FATHERS, unto which promise, our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, HOPE TO COME; FOR WHICH HOPE'S SAKE, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews."

We feel the very writing of these words, with their unmistakable meaning, sets another unbreakable seal on our case. What is Paul on trial for? "THE HOPE OF THE PROMISE OF GOD MADE UNTO OUR FATHERS." But he was on trial for the Gospel of Christ! Exactly! And the only sane conclusion possible is that they were one and the same thing. Could any statement make it plainer, that in the resurrection of Messiah, and in His Gospel, the glorious promises made to Israel of old were now being realised? How can men close their eyes to this? If the Hope of the Promise was a resurrection that ushered in a golden age for earthly Israel, and Paul preached THAT, would he have been hounded to trial by the Jewish leaders? Of course not. But it was because Paul taught that these Covenant Promises were now being fulfilled through the resurrection of Jesus Messiah. Paul did not preach a different Hope from that promised in the O.T., but he DIFFERED COMPLETELY FROM THE JEWS IN HIS INTERPRETATION OF THE O.T. PROMISES. And the tragedy today is that we have thousands of so-called evangelical preachers who side with the apostate Jews. They look for the very same thing that Paul declares "blinded the minds" of his enemies ( 2 Corinthians 3 ).

The dispensationalist says that Israel's Hope is still future; THAT IS THE VERY ERROR PAUL OVERTHREW when he said to Agrippa, "unto which promise, our twelve tribes…HOPE TO COME." But he continues, "For which Hope's sake I am accused." The very Hope Israel cherished for some future date had already been realised ( in a grander way ) in Jesus Messiah. Hence Jewish hatred.

Paul follows the above with his memorable challenge to the King. "Why should it be thought a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead?" The sequence of thought is clear. The great Hope of the O.T. is the Hope of the Christian in the N.T., and both are to be fully realised at the resurrection of the dead. ( it seems that Paul referred here, not so much to the resurrection of the Lord, but to the resurrection of mankind. ) This inevitably leads to the conclusion that the manifestation of the Kingdom and the eternal age are one.

One other verse in Acts 26 merits notice, verse 22.

"I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than Moses and the prophets did say should come, that Christ should suffer and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the Gentiles."

Reader, listen to this voice of the chained apostle. In one sentence he summarises the whole of his ministry. It was this—the exposition of the O.T. Scriptures, and the contention that they received their fulfilment in the Gospel blessings that flowed from the resurrection of Jesus Messiah. NEVER ONCE DID HE HINT THAT THEY WERE TO HAVE ANOTHER FULFILMENT IN A FUTURE AGE IN AN EARTHLY ISRAEL-DOMINATED KINGDOM. We contend that this is an insuperable difficulty in the way of pre-millennial theories. Dispensationalists are fond of "significant omissions". Nothing could be more significant than this. Let any futurist preacher expound O.T. prophecy ( as Paul was constantly doing ), and we are soon deluged with portrayals of Israel's alleged coming glory. "The Kingdom", "The Remnant", "The Monarchy", "The Rod of Iron", "Israel-Evangelism", and all the dispensational stock-in-trade are scattered with lavish bounty. But when Paul expounded these Scriptures, SUCH LANGUAGE WAS NEVER ON HIS LIPS. On the contrary, be affirmed that "the sure Mercies of David" and "the promise made of God unto the fathers., had been fulfilled in Gospel realities. Dispensationalist evade by saying Paul was not concerned with the Kingdom, but with the Church. What rubbish! Two things silence this cavil. First, the fact already listed—that all these statements of Paul were made against the background of the Jewish nation, AND DEALT SPECIFICALLY WITH THEIR GREAT HOPE. Secondly, are not these same dispensationalists jealous for the same Church that Paul was devoted to? Yet how loud are they in their eulogies of "the Kingdom". Why wasn't Paul the same? We need not voice the answer.

The Final Witness

Acts 28.

We now come to the tender and moving scenes of Paul's final preached ministry. Antioch, Jerusalem, Caesarea and all the other scenes of witness are gone forever, and he is now in Rome, the prisoner of the Lord, for the Gentiles ( Ephesians 3:1 ). The outward man is perishing, but the flame of spiritual passion burns brightly as ever. His first approach, after fellowship with the brethren, was to the Jewish leaders. And at Rome, we find exactly the same message preached as at Antioch and Jerusalem. Three statements call for consideration.

  1. "FOR THE HOPE OF ISRAEL I AM BOUND WITH THIS CHAIN" ( verse 20 ). It might seem wearisome to reiterate what we have already said so many times. But the same truth keeps coming before us as we pursue our way through the Acts. Here it is again. The apostle was bound for the Gospel; but he says he was bound "for the Hope of Israel". Well, what is the problem? Obviously, they are one and the same thing. The only Hope Paul knew for Israel, was the Hope found in the Gospel—the same Hope he preached to the Gentiles. IF PRE-MILLENNIALISTS HAVE SOMETHING DIFFERENT FOR ISRAEL FROM THAT WHICH THE GENTILES HAVE RECEIVED, GOD HASN'T.
  2. "He expounded and testified the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the Law of Moses and out of the prophets" ( verse 23 ).

    Three items are listed here:—
      1. 1) The Kingdom;
      2. 2) Jesus;
      3. The Law and the Prophets.

According to Paul, these three are all embraced in one. The only Kingdom Paul knew was the one described in the O.T.; and that Kingdom was not an earthly one but a present Kingdom established by the death and resurrection of Jesus. This Scripture is similar to Acts 20:24, 25, where Paul declares his ministry to be "the Gospel of the Grace of God…preaching the Kingdom of God." The dispensational distinction between the Gospel of Grace and the Gospel of the Kingdom was unknown to Paul—and every other preacher before 1830.

3.  "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles" ( verse 28 ).

The Jews again reject the message of the Kingdom, so Paul pronounces the judgement, and declares that salvation is now offered to the Gentiles. So the message the Jews rejected was "this salvation of God". We have already noted the same phrase in Acts 13:26. The words of the Lord are further demonstrated, "the Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."

So the sum total of Paul's message to these Jews was that the promised Kingdom of the O.T., with its King in Zion, its Land of Peace, its Sure Mercies, its endless glory is now realised in the Salvation of God with Jesus Messiah on Zion's Hill, the Heavenly Canaan, the true Home of His People, the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Ghost their present heritage, and the glory of the everlasting city their secured portion.

Having finished this ministry to the Jews, Paul now holds "open house" for all who will listen. The record finishes on a superb note: "Preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ" ( verse 31 ).

To summarise his teaching, we note the following:—

      1. The Kingdom of God, the Gospel of the Grace of God, and "the things concerning the Lord Jesus" are all one. 
      2. This Kingdom is the one taught in Moses and the Prophets, therefore it is not a future one for earthly Israel, but a present one through the Gospel. 
      3. The message of this Kingdom is "the salvation of God". 
      4. It is in this Kingdom that "the Hope of Israel" is realised. 

The proclamation of this Hope to the Gentiles shows plainly that the only hope of Jew and Gentile is the Gospel.