The Gospels & Acts: Turning from the Jews to the Gentiles
You see, God wanted the Jewish apostles to authentically seek the salvation and restoration of the Jews just like Jesus Christ did, and in one sense (God in the Ways of Man) God was still authentically and genuinely seeking it at least until Acts 7 and at most until Acts 28. Indeed, had not the Jews utterly rejected their Messiah then the work of God among the Gentiles wouldn’t even exist, but this doesn’t change the fact that God in Christ genuinely strove for their full restoration.
Christ’s Genuine Attempt to Restore the Jews of the 1st Century (God in the Ways of Man)
A real, whole-hearted, and genuine striving process wherein Christ was looking for fruit prior to the divine repentances which led to a general reprobation of the Jews. – Lk. 13:6-9, Mk. 11:12-21 – Mal. 3:1, Isa. 5:1-7 [Ps. 81:10-16]
The eventual reprobation of the Jews was evidently against the will of Christ in that it was an emotionally painful and genuinely traumatic experience for Him to go through. – Lk. 19:41-44, 13:34-35
The genuine expectations of God were unmet to the infuriation of just wrath. – Lk. 20:9-18, Matt. 21:33-36 [Isa. 63:8, Jer. 36:3, 7, Ezek. 12:3, Zeph. 3:5-7] “But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” – Lk. 23:28
Even though God acknowledges by way of foreknowledge and predestination the Gentile Church Age (God in the Ways of God), it was hereby (through the aforementioned) made manifest within time. Remember, there are two simultaneous genuine wills of God in operation at all times. Therefore, the Gentile Church Age, which now is, was an after-thought that came into existence (the result of a repentance in the heart of God) because the Jews disobeyed God and steadfastly rejected their Messiah upon the pleading of the apostles. My reader, the Book of Acts concludes the story begun in the ministry of Christ portrayed in the Gospels. Quite explicitly, an entire Book has been dedicated to account of this mystery! In fact, the entirety of the Book of Acts is an outworking of the apostles living the record of Christ’s answer to their original question in Acts 1:6.
“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” – Acts 1:7-8
According to Acts 5 & 6, the work of God grew among a small remnant of Jewish Christians as the Jews at large were being evangelized and retaliating in a growing persecution of Christianity. The Jews had been stubbornly resistant theretofore and the appeals of God through the apostles were merciful and promising. By Acts 7 in the event of Stephen’s martyrdom, however, things are different. A final appeal is made to the Jews, but it is apparently different than former appeals. Stephen’s sermon was an inspired repudiation of the Jews that boldly declared a change of mind in the heart of God who did, thereunto, seek their evangelization and restoration. According to the formula set forth in Acts 1:8, Jerusalem and Judea were hereby effectually evangelized; for, hereafter there are no more such like appeals of mercy to the Jews, as the former (Rom. 11), while the focus of the Book of Acts pans away from the Jews and unto the Samaritans, and then to the Gentiles in the uttermost parts of the earth. To seal their fate and show forth their general unworthiness of eternal life as a people, the Jews gnashed their teeth in the face of divine rebukes proceeding from Stephen’s lips. Ah, what a sting it must have been to their God-hating affections!
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” – Acts 7:51-54
Stephen’s closing words in this stifling sermon just prior to his martyrdom couldn’t have made the point any clearer. In addition to this, and I repeat, not a single appeal of restoration mercy is made to the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea from Acts 7 onward. Coincidence? No. Accordingly, as foretold in Acts 1:8, God turned from the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea and began to move upon the Samaritans. Therefore, in Acts 8 the Samaritans are being evangelized with a remnant being saved. In Acts 9, the apostle to the Gentiles is being converted (Gal. 2:7-9). In Acts 10, the Gentiles are officially brought into the Kingdom via the Latter Rain falling upon them “as at the beginning” when it fell upon the Jews at Pentecost. In Acts 11, Peter vindicates his ministry to the Gentiles; and seeing that the Jews were generally forsaken by God (“the casting away of them” – Rom. 11:15, “blindness in part is happened to Israel” – Rom. 11:25) in that they rejected their Messiah, the Jew / Gentile Believers needed a new name: Christian. Hallelujah!
In Acts 12, James the son of Zebedee is killed, and Peter is arrested, and upon Peter’s miraculous escape from prison he is almost nonexistent in the remainder of the Book. Why? Well, in Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas begin their ministry among the Gentiles – a punctual moment in the Book of Acts. Moreover, when Paul endeavored to bring in the vintage of the Jews who sojourned in Gentile Cities, he wasn’t attempting a restoration of the Jews via the Kingdom being restored to Israel as was hoped for at the first (Rom. 11). I repeat, the entire focus of the Book of Acts pans away from the Jews unto the Gentiles, away from Peter unto Paul, hence from this point onward – and culminating in Acts 28:25-28 – one last word is delivered to the Jews: a word that is indisputably clear and unquestionably conclusive of God’s mind toward the Jews from then until the termination of the Gentile Church Age! With only three lines left before the abrupt end of the Book of Acts, it was written,
“And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” – Acts 28:25-28 [Isa. 6:9-10]
In other words, the Book of Acts is a Midnight Cry for the Jews of the 1st century! Can you tell? Upon the delivery of this final word to the Jews, recorded in Acts 28:25-28, the historical account of Acts abruptly comes to an end. This manner of ending (or lack thereof!) is a loud announcement declaring that the work of God among the Gentiles is just beginning! And, fearfully, the work of God among the Jews is just ending! In respect to the Jews, genuine expectations of God were unmet to the infuriation of just wrath in the heart of God. Dreadfully, God will answer the Jews blood for blood. It is commonly accepted that the closing word of Acts 28 took place around 63 A.D., which is just 7 years from the 70 A.D. judgment of God upon the Jews at Jerusalem!
Fearfully, this calamity was pointedly foretold by Christ in Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 13:31-35, Matthew 24:1-51, Mark 13:1-36, & Luke 21:5-38. Illustriously demonstrating how God would exact vengeance upon the Jews for rejecting and crucifying the Lord of Glory, Christ prophesied! Even as His cross-burdened body was being led to the hill of Calvary with a great company of people following after him weeping and lamenting, Jesus turned unto the Jews and prophesied, saying: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in which they will say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck…” (Lk. 23:28-29). Ah, my reader! What awful reflections would this word inspire in the minds of suffering Jews when the woeful day came in which they would be judged! And, so that there would be no mistake about it (“Doth he not speak parables?” – Ezek. 20:49), the exact scenario of destruction and distress, the woefulness of motherhood (“woe unto them that are with child…!” – Matt. 24:19), and the urgency by which they will be made to flee Jerusalem is conveyed in the formerly cited passages.
All of this is because of the Jews and for the Jews as a recompense for their bloodthirsty misconduct. Jerusalem, which was promised to be an Eternal City and a refuge of salvation, was hereby brought to desolation! For, Jesus Christ came to the Jews, on behalf of the Jews, and for the Jews (“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” – John 1:11, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” – Matt. 15:24, “…thou shalt call His Name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” – Matt. 1:21, Rom. 11:26), and by them He was disgraced and rejected! Nevertheless, what the Jews wouldn’t tolerate or hear, the Gentiles would embrace! In speaking to the Jews, Paul said, “Be it known therefore unto you that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28)! Can you believe it?
This is the emphatic stopping point of the unfinished Book of Acts – the punctual moment of closure for all Jews, and, the introduction of a new era for the Gentiles which is 2,000 years and counting! Oh, that the Book would be finished! Oh, that it would be written in a Book! Remember, the prophetic pronouncement of the apostle Paul, in Acts 28:25-28, was made after he spent a lifetime of being persecuted and hunted by the bloodthirsty and self-righteous Jews from every place, even as he was going about evangelizing the Gentiles! Hence, in just 7 years from this word Jerusalem would be wasted, the Temple would be destroyed, and the Jews would be scattered for the 2nd time in redemptive history, the 1st being the Assyrian & Babylonian Captivities in around 595 B.C.