The Mystery Of "The Few" vs. "The Many"

Rock of Offence Commentary




Note: Some of the comments and Biblical references may lead the reader to believe that our position is "unfriendly" toward Israel and the Jewish people. This perception comes from some of Christ's parables directed at a disobedient Israel. Our goal in this article is to discuss the Jewish roots of Christianity and to discover the reasons God extended his salvation to the Gentiles under grace. We forever want to be on the side that blesses Israel, understanding that God has not forsaken his ancient people. He is in the process of bringing national Israel back into the center of His purpose in the endtimes.



Introduction

Before we begin our discussion it is necessary to cover some background material. I've covered this material in previous articles. Yet, its importance is worth repetition. This information might be upsetting to some believers. It turned my spiritual world upside down a few years ago.

Anytime the subject of grace is taught someone usually comments, "Oh, isn't that where we have a "license to sin?" This is the common objection used against the message of God's unmerited favor found in the New Testament epistles of Saint Paul. Yet, Paul never taught that believers had a license to sin. In Romans 6:15 Paul writes, "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." Grace teaches that the believer "died with Christ" and is set free from sin. Just as sin no longer has dominion over a dead person, so it is with the believer in Christ. Under grace sin (past, present and future) is permanently removed. A believer may sin, but that sin is no longer charged to their account because he or she has already borne the punishment in the death of Jesus Christ on their behalf.

"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:6-14 KJV)

Millions of professing Christians are cheated out of this truth. The "death in Christ" is meant to set the believer free from the dominion of sin and its eternal consequences so that they can serve God without hindrance. Can a believer abuse God's grace? Yes, they can. Does this act cancel God's grace or the salvation it represents? No, it doesn't. Actually, Saint Paul teaches that when sin increases God's grace increases all the more (Romans 5:20). That sounds like license because it's so "open ended". God left it that way despite the efforts of some spiritual leaders to redefine grace back into a performance-based relationship with God. Yet, it's clear that if someone continually abuses the provisions of grace God himself will eventually correct that person. Continuing to sin using grace as an excuse is a dangerous practice, which is why Paul condemns it. Yet, the provision, "sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14) remains intact and is the source of our liberty in Christ.

Both God's grace and the Mosaic Law deal differently with sin and the subject of righteousness. A large portion of the Christian church is trying to live for Jesus Christ by keeping Old Testament Law or man-made religious law (Matt. 15:8-9). The two do not mix. These two ideologies clash in the New Testament and are the source of much hostility and controversy in the church. I felt it necessary to confront the subject of "license" before we continue since the topic of grace is part of our discussion.

One of the most difficult concepts that modern Christians confront is the difference between Law (legalism) and Grace (unmerited favor). I struggled with this issue before discovering an important truth that not only changed my life, but also the way I view the Scriptures. Much of the problem can be traced back to the days of Saint Augustine around 500 A.D. Some earlier roots extend all the way back to the ministry of Saint Paul. Augustine established the belief that the Kingdom of Israel was forever rejected because of disobedience from God's eternal purposes and replaced with the Christian Church of today. Over hundreds of years, this belief has been placed on a nearly equal level with Scripture. It grew and gained acceptance even among the early leaders of the Protestant Reformation period like John Wesley and Martin Luther. I've always admired Luther for his audacity in nailing his 95 theses to the cathedral door at Wittenburg and uncovering the Biblical truth of justification by faith in Christ alone (The Grace Gospel). Yet, in some of Luther's writings he reveals his contempt for and rejection of the nation of Israel from God's purposes. This belief energized an effort to take Scripture that applies only to the Jews and redirect it, making it binding upon all Christians today. I estimate that 9 out of 10 churches (regardless of denominational affiliation) continue this traditional belief. It's taught in nearly all seminaries and Bible schools. I personally sat under hundreds of hours of Bible instruction, yet not one teacher addressed this subject. In Saint Paul's day he warned Gentile believers not to "boast against the natural branches" (Rom. 11:18) that were temporarily broken off. Replacing Israel with the Church and redirecting Scripture to support the practice may prove to be the most damaging doctrinal error in church history.

Most of us study the New Testament without discerning that there are two different administrations (groups) covered by its writings. We fail to realize that what's said to one administration does not automatically apply to the other. Yet, some of the blame can be placed on leaders who use the confusion as a mechanism of control over God's flock. Other well-meaning leaders teach the Scriptures using the methods they learned in seminary. Many of us, including myself, are guilty of this practice. We assume that everything in the New Testament is binding on Christians today--because it is recorded in the New Testament canon. Even within the teachings of Jesus Christ you must discern whether he's speaking to the Jews only or to all believers in general. And, yes there is a big difference in those positions--and we shall see why. Failure to "rightly divide" the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15), as Saint Paul commands, result in horrible forms of spiritual bondage and toxic church doctrines that have been adopted in some places as cherished traditions.

Jesus gives us our first clue as he describes his primary mission...

"And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me. But He answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." (Matt 15:22-28 KJV)

Jesus clearly limits his earthly ministry to the house of Israel. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record the ministry of Jesus Christ as Israel's Messiah. The principles that govern Christ's relationship to Israel as her Messiah is vastly different than those that govern Christ's relationship as "Lord" of the Church-age Christian under grace. The result of ignoring the difference in these relationships is false doctrine and a faulty spiritual foundation. It's a practice that is centuries old and is still alive and well today.

Earlier, Jesus gave a command to his disciples that restricts their spiritual authority to a certain group of people. This is important, yet ignored by most of us. We fail to realize that apostolic authority carries an important meaning in the New Testament Scriptures. Apostolic authority carries limitations that are defined by God. Notice that Jesus makes reference to two groups: First, the Gentiles that his disciples are to avoid--and Second, the house of Israel to whom the disciples are called to preach. According to the Lord's own words, the disciples, later to be apostles, had no authority to minister to Gentiles before Christ's resurrection. The only exception to this rule is found in Acts chapter 10 when God specifically called Peter to preach to the house of Cornelius--a Gentile. According to Scripture this was clearly a "unique mission" for a Jewish apostle. God had already called Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus (Acts chapter 9) for the task of taking the message of the gospel to the Gentiles.

"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." (Matt 10:5-8 KJV)

Despite these spiritual directives given by the Lord Jesus Christ modern theology teaches that the mostly Gentile Church (to which Jesus forbade his disciples to preach) is now substituted for the house of Israel. Again, people make this assumption because of Israel's disobedience, resulting in their rejection by God. While it is true that some teachings of Jesus are universal and apply to all believers some of Christ's teachings do not. Those of us who attempt to follow principles of Bible interpretation refer to this practice as "preserving context". Yet, in the case of the difference between Israel and the Church-age (or age of Grace) Christian, context is usually ignored.

The practice of "swapping" Israel (the Jews) with the predominately Gentile Church is called "replacement theology" and, as we said earlier its been practiced for over 1500 years. Today, at least five major Christian denominations have publically condemned Israel for defending herself against terrorism. Some of them strongly favor dividing the land of Israel into pieces to achieve peace in the region. Others shamefully side with the terrorists that want Israel to permanently disappear! The real crime committed by these Christian groups is willfully taking sides against the clearly stated desires of the God they claim to worship (read Joel 3:2). Instead of condemning Israel's enemies they openly accuse her as being the single biggest threat to world peace (read Genesis 12:1-3). These Christian denominations represent tens of millions of believers worldwide.

Recently, a prophetic event occurred that destroys the foundational principles of replacement theology. Israel was dispersed and Jerusalem was totally destroyed in 70 A.D. as prophesied by Jesus Christ (Mark 13:2, Luke 19:43-44 & 21:5-6). Yet, Israel was re-established as a nation in 1948 in fulfillment of Biblical endtime prophecy. Nowhere does the Bible say that God has permanently rejected Israel--as the proponents of replacement theology suggest. Instead, the Bible says just the opposite. God's Word teaches that the "Church Age" is limited. God has reserved a future time when Israel will take center stage again (Isaiah 14:1, Ezekiel 37:14, Ezekiel 39:28-29, Rom. 11:22-27). In 1948 we witnessed the start of the endtime countdown that will usher in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. While the New Testament Church remains on God's center stage...things are about to change!

"The Few"

As we study the New Testament we notice some statements made by Jesus seem to conflict with the teachings found in the epistles of Saint Paul. As we shall see there is no conflict when you understand what's going on. In reading the gospels of Matthew and Luke (Mostly in Matthew) we find continual references to "the few". Many of us who continue to ignore "context" in our Bible study use these teachings to imply that some Christians will be rejected by God because they failed to produce enough fruit--or didn't perform enough good works--or wasn't committed enough to spiritual service--and so on. Therefore, it sounds like the Bible is suggesting that only a "few" people meet the performance requirements to be saved. Jesus said...

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt 7:13-14 KJV)


Jesus makes other references to this select group of "the few" where he says "Many are called but few are chosen" in Matthew 20:16 and Matthew 22:14.

Who is Jesus speaking to? Is this a general truth for all believers or is it meant for a specific group? If we value what Jesus said about the limitations on his own messianic ministry to the house of Israel the answer to these questions are obvious. Most Bible students recognize that, unlike the other three gospel accounts the book of Matthew is directed almost entirely at the Jews (Israel). After a detailed study I've discovered that this teaching along with others in the book of Matthew was never intended to be binding upon the Church-age believer. Yet, the teachings are in the New Testament for our instruction. There's a huge difference in those two positions.

Earlier, I said that many of us fail to realize that the relationship between Israel and her Messiah (written in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is vastly different than the relationship between the Lord and his New Testament Church. The principles that govern salvation for the Jews are different than the ones that govern salvation for the Gentiles (The Church). In Galatians chapter 2, Saint Paul tells us that the gospel entrusted to Peter and the apostles of Israel (known as the circumcision) is different than the gospel that was entrusted to him for the Gentiles (the uncircumcision). When Jesus said that "narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it", he was speaking to Israel under the gospel to the circumcision (custodians of the Mosaic Law). He wasn't speaking to Gentiles (the Church), which is still a mystery yet to be revealed after Christ's death, burial and resurrection. Some will say, "Yes, but Jesus knew that we would be reading this in the future and meant it for us too." Again, this viewpoint is flawed because you can't mix doctrine meant for the circumcision (the Jews) with doctrine meant for the uncircumcision (the Gentiles). God treats each of these groups differently and assigns a different gospel for each.

As I've said in other articles, this is the same argument brought by the believing Pharisees in Acts chapter 15. Please note that these Pharisees are Jewish followers of Christ. They demanded (as some legalistic Christians do today) that Gentiles saved under the Gospel of Grace preached by Saint Paul need to also obey the Mosaic law entrusted to Israel (the Jews). The entire early church leadership made the decision that the Gentiles were exempt from keeping the Mosaic Law because they were under a different gospel--Grace. Even Peter, one of the chief apostles of Israel recognized this difference. They understood that God is treating the Gentiles in a unique way and that He ordained radically different principles to govern Paul's ministry. Today, Bible scholars refer to this as "The Pauline Revelation". The Gospel of Grace removes the works of the Mosaic Law from the requirements to obtain eternal life. Please read the entire 15th chapter of Acts with an open mind. It directly applies to Christians living today. It contains a "hidden key" that unlocks the mystery of grace provided to us by the blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, millions of Christians are cheated out of this truth. The pure message of the Gospel of Grace is not common in the modern church. Yet, many claim that they preach the Grace Gospel.

Although few can receive this teaching it represents the difference between living in the glorious liberty of Christ or living in fearful religious bondage that rules most churches in America today. I've seen this misappropriation of Scripture used for years as a cattle prod to goad Christians toward higher levels of commitment. Fear of God's rejection (losing salvation, subjection to some form of purgatory or being left behind in the rapture) is the most commonly used motivation tool by most religious organizations.

Saint Luke's Account Of "The Few"

Matthew is not the only one who records Christ's teaching about this special and exclusive group, "the few". Saint Luke also gives us information where Jesus commands his audience to "enter the straight gate" as in Matthew's account. Yet, Luke adds some extra insight into the future that applies to us today. Luke's account gives us a glimpse into a totally different group of people.

"Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last." (Luke 13:23-30 KJV)

Again, notice that Jesus reveals two groups in this parable. I believe it's obvious that the first group is the Jews--the ones who "will seek to enter in, and shall not be able". It's the same group that Jesus referred to in Matthew as "the few". Why do I believe this group is the Jews? When Jesus denies that he knows them, he tells us that they will say, "We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets". This only fits the Jews because Jesus restricted his earthly ministry to Israel--he taught in their streets!

Jesus then makes a remarkable statement: "When ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God".

The question to ask is...who is the "they" that Jesus speaks of? Notice that he uses "geographic" language in this parable. The "they" spoken of is a people outside Israel. It's a people from the "east, west, north and south". Bible terminology like this is generally used to describe Gentile nations. This is a non-Jewish group (an uncircumcised people) who will enter the kingdom of God and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Sound familiar?

Are there any other references to this mystery group?

Identifying "The Many"

We can now go back to the book of Matthew for more insight into the mystery of "the many".

"And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt 8:11-12 KJV)

Jesus speaks about these two groups again. "The many" that came from outside Israel and the children of the kingdom (disobedient Israel) that Jesus said would be cast out. Some in the modern church try to apply this act of "being cast out" to Church-age Christians who lack some pre-defined level of devotion or commitment. Yet, making this analogy is dishonoring the context of God's Word. The practice might be well intentioned, but it's misguided and spiritually disastrous for the truth of the gospel. Parables such as this angered the Jewish religious leaders of Christ's time (for obvious reasons) and contributed to their decision to crucify him.

In Christ's parable about the "Kings Wedding Feast", we gain even more insight into the identity of this mystery group of "the many".

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests." (Matt 22:2-10 KJV)

Saint Luke's account gives us a slightly different perspective.

"So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper." (Luke 14:21-24 KJV)

Notice that the king invited the honored subjects of his kingdom (Israel--the Jews) to come to the wedding feast of his son. Yet, they refused to come for various reasons. This rejection of the king's invitation caused him to make radical changes to his plans. Notice that the king (God the Father) is angry about this rejection. He (God) sent his armies to destroy their city--this happened in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem as Jesus later propheised. He ordered his servants to, gather another group from the highways--both good and bad--so that there would be guests at the wedding. Again, this group from the highway is a people outside of Judasim, or Israel. They are portrayed as the undesirable element of humanity. This perfectly describes the Gentiles, a cursed, rejected and unclean people according to Jewish Law.


Important Note: God sent Peter on a special mission to Cornelius' house (a Gentile) in Acts chapter 10. Beforehand, God gave him a vision of a great sheet containing some animals that Peter called "unclean". He sternly warned Peter, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common (unclean)'. This is a direct reference to the Gentiles because the Scripture plainly says so. God was informing Peter that a change had taken place and that He had "clensed" the Gentiles. God needed to convince Peter that it was alright to visit the house of Cornelius, even though it violated Jewish Law! This is another big clue that the 12 apostles were practicing the Jewish gospel, which includes obedience to the Law. Otherwise, this visit to the house of Cornelius wouldn't be a big issue. Yet, it was a big issue to Peter and the rest of the Jewish believers. God gave Peter this mission, yet his brethren still persecuted him because he broke the Law.


Notice in Matthew's account of the "King's Wedding Feast" that this "new" group was "both good and bad", meaning that their conduct and manner of life is not a factor in the king's decision to include them at the wedding. The king's decision is based entirely on unmerited favor! It is also clear that the king's favor toward these undesirable people is motivated by his anger toward those who were originally called (disobedient Israel), yet rejected his invitation. This "unmerited favor" is the core principle that governs the Grace Gospel found in Saint Paul's epistles. Another example where God "changes his plans" occurs in Acts 13:14-48. Saint Paul (God's apostle of grace) and Barnabas come under attack by some Jews who were "contradicting and blaspheming" his gospel message (rejecting the Fathers invitation to the marriage)...

"Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." (KJV)

Paul's experience gives us a clear picture of these two groups: Jews (Israel) and Gentiles. This should remove any doubt about whether these are the same two groups in the parables of Jesus.

At the time Jesus taught these parables the inclusion of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God is a mystery. It is a future event and some Jewish believers didn't like the change. They reasoned within themselves, "Why would God invite unclean people into a covenant that is exclusively Jewish and in violation of our Law?" In Acts chapter 9 God called Saul (later known as Paul) as the "apostle to the Gentiles". Paul was a Pharisee, highly trained in all aspects of Jewish Law. The revelation that God gave to Paul (the Pauline Revelation) and the revolutionary gospel (the Gospel of Grace) entrusted to him would define God's new purpose and plan for all mankind. God's salvation is no longer just "Jewish". It's no longer exclusively just for "the circumcision" as chronicled in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These facts caused Saint Paul to be one of the most persecuted leaders in the New Testament. I've found that preaching a pure Grace Gospel message today brings the same persecution from the church.

The revelation Jesus gave to Saint Paul represented a totally new way of salvation. It wasn't the same message that the twelve apostles preached to Israel. It was a new and unique gospel designed specifically to bring in "the many" so that our Father's house would be full at the wedding of his Son.

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)" (Heb. 10:19-23 KJV)

These parables of Jesus provide prophetic insight into the Church Age in which we now live. The age of Jewish Law, which extended into the New Testament canon, restricted salvation to "the few". Jesus and his disciples ministered "the gospel" under the Mosaic Law, which is why salvation principles are conditional and exclusive in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--and the epistles of the Jewish apostles. Yet, Jesus introduces us to a future mystery group, "the many" that enter His kingdom a "new way" by grace. The age of grace is a unique dispensation of God with different rules that many religious people reject even today.

Some of us fail to realize that until the ministry of Saint Paul, the early church was entirely made up of Jewish believers. It was a "No Gentiles allowed" organization. John the Baptist's baptism was to prepare Jews for the coming of their Messiah--it never included Gentiles. Yet, some today wrongly apply John's baptism to the New Testament Church. God did not invite Gentiles into His salvation plan until Acts chapter 10 at the house of Cornelius. After this event everything changed. When Jesus is rejected as the Messiah and executed, God initiated his plan to phase out Israel and started to phase in the Gentiles (His Church). Again, In 70 A.D. the Roman Empire under Titus destroyed Jerusalem, burned the Jewish temple, murdered hundreds of thousands of Jewish people and dispersed the rest into captivity. Jesus prophesied this would happen some 37 years earlier. When this event occurred Israel and its Law-based salvation is not just "phased out", but entirely disappears except for a small remnant. Keep in mind that the Mosaic Law cannot be "lawfully" practiced without the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Yet, the removal of Israel (the natural branches discussed in Romans chapter 11) is not permanent. The "Church Age" (or age of grace) we now live in is temporary. Again, God promised that in the last days he is bringing Israel back to the center of his plans once again. In Genesis chapter 15 God makes a blood covenant with Abraham that guarantees Israel's reappearance in the Promised Land. A blood covenant is the most irrevocable and binding agreement two people can make. This is why Israel is certain to be at the center of God's agenda once again. It cannot fail. Yet, many in the modern church deny this fact. In 1948 the covenant promise came to pass and Israel became a nation once again against impossible odds. For nearly 1900 years national Israel disappears from the earth. The prophetic Scriptures suggest that its reappearance mark the beginning of a countdown to the Second Coming of Christ--a promise He is about to keep. Signs of the times indicate that the Church Age, or the "time of the Gentiles" is about to close. The Biblical timeline for this event has run out.

"The Many" Under Grace

Paul's epistles contain God's new principles for operating in His Kingdom. Most Christians today take the salvation principles taught under Jewish Law and mix them together with the new principles of grace that Jesus taught through Saint Paul. Again, most churches are guilty of this practice in one form or another. The result is doctrines and teachings that suggest you are displeasing to God if you don't attend church services often enough, pray enough, read the Bible enough, witness enough...and so on. Yet, there is nothing wrong with those things. When you trace everything back to its source these teachings originate with the Mosaic Law or man-made religious laws that makes God's favor dependent upon your performance rather than faith alone. I am deeply concerned with the unintended consequences of this almost universal tradition. Yet, it's been going on for over 1500 years. In extreme cases, it will cost some people their eternal salvation because they embraced a Law-based gospel--thinking their good works will please God enough to allow them into heaven. If more Christians would realize the difference between Paul's grace-based gospel and the Jewish Law-based gospel the spiritual tyranny found in many movements, sects and church organizations would be eliminated. Yet, precious few see the difference because almost nobody teaches it.

Let's look at some core principles of Saint Paul's gospel. The reason the kingdom of God is filled with "the many" is found in these new principles of grace. Instead of salvation being conditional upon obedience to certain religious rules and performing works related to the Mosaic Law, God makes his salvation dependent only upon our faith in Jesus Christ's blood and completed work at the cross. Unlike the Jewish Law-based gospel, grace provides God's salvation with no dependency on works or personal merits whatsoever. As a result, God declares his salvation "a free gift". There are gifts and then there are free gifts. God goes out of his way to make sure we (those of us in the Church Age) understand that his salvation is a free gift. This means if you try to earn it you can't have it. The Grace Gospel in the New Testament declares that salvation is a free gift (Eph. 2:8-9), righteousness is a free gift (Rom. 5:17) and justification is freely given (Rom. 3:24). This is Christ's inheritance to the Gentiles! It was given to make Israel jealous (Rom. 11:11), which is why it's free to us. I see it as "God selling the farm". Because of Israel's disobedience and rejection of their Messiah, He freely includes the Gentiles (the many) in His wedding! Under grace obedience is understood as trusting only in Christ's finished work and shed blood. Disobedience is understood as trusting in good works, performance, commitment, devotion or church attendance or affiliation as something required to gain God's favor. Many Christians believe their dependency on good works represent obedience to God when it actually demonstrates disobedience to the new "law of faith" under the Grace Gospel.

"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." ( Rom. 3:27-28 KJV)


"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5:17-21 KJV)

Endtime Events And "The Many"

Much of the Christian church teach the legalistic Jewish salvation model without knowing it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the discussion of endtime events (Bible eschatology) and the Second Coming of Christ. Dangerous teachings and fear generating doctrines abound. They result from the common practice of mixing the Mosaic Law and grace. Believers are told that only a small group of especially devoted and committed followers are "chosen" to participate as "The Bride of Christ" when Jesus calls them away at His coming at the end of the age. The rejected Christians who didn't do enough works or aren't devoted enough are left to suffer and die under the tyranny of the anti-Christ during the Tribulation period. We fail to understand that Christ's return for his Church is the completion of our salvation freely paid by the blood of Christ (it's not a reward for Christian service). This confusion causes many Christians to move in fear, feverishly performing works that make them "worthy" to be one of the chosen few. I greatly fear for those who torment God's people with this kind of false teaching, no matter how well meaning they are. These folks may be shocked to discover that it is they who are left behind by failing to obey Christ's law of faith.

Recently, I read the comments of one prominent endtime teacher who said, "At the time of the Rapture, if you are separated from sin, Jesus will receive you unto Himself". This teacher, who I highly respect, used 2 Corinthains 6:14-18 as his proof text. Yet, to apply this Scripture to the rapture is a mistake. I agree with his comment to the extent that it is good for any Christian to separate themselves from sin. Saint Paul told Timothy, "...Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." Yet, to apply this undefined requirement to be "separated from sin" as a condition to be included in the rapture is a horrible violation of Scriptural context. When you consider the many different sins that exist in the categories of "commission and omission," no Christian--even the most dedicated and devoted--is without some kind of sin. I'm sorry, but if you think you're living a sinless life you're deceived.

You may ask, "what is the reason for your objection?" Making the statement that only those who are "separated from sin" will be taken in the rapture forces believers into a state of paranoia about any sin they may commit. If taken seriously, it removes our ability to "know" that we're qualified for the rapture--and worse, it casts doubt on whether or not we're truly saved. This kind of fear is the foundation for all forms of religious control excercised by spiritual leaders. It is always used in one form or another in Christian sects and cults--and unfortunately, in the Church. This is the kind of spiritual bondage Paul warned the Galatians about. It is the result of confusing the Jewish gospel with the Grace Gospel. It is the result of mixing doctrine meant solely for the Jews under the Mosaic Law with doctine uniquely designed for the Gentiles. Again, under grace Paul taught, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." (Rom 7:4) Paul tells us that it is the Law that gives sin its power of judgment and condemnation over our lives. Therefore, if we are dead to the law--sin has no power to condemn us. This means that God will never use your sin to condemn or punish you. If you read Romans chapters 6 & 7 without a religious predisposition, you will understand Paul's remarkable comment at the beginning of Romans chapter 8...

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."

By understanding that the Jewish gospel is "conditional" upon keeping the commandments of the Mosaic Law (Matt. 19:16-17), we can avoid the traps of certain popular false teaching about endtime events. This warning by Christ is another example...

"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:36 KJV)

Jesus made this statement during the reign of the Mosaic Law. It was correct for the group it was spoken to. Under the Jewish salvation gospel a person's "worthiness" is directly related to performance, the works of the Law and quality of life. As a result, parts of the modern church wrongly teach Christians that their worthiness or righteousness is the result of the works they do and the way they live. They misapply the gospel for the circumcision (the Jews) onto Church-age Christians under grace. They have plenty of "New Testament" Scripture to prove their position since they draw heavily from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the epistles of the Jewish apostles. For the longest time I failed to see the contradiction in this practice. On the topic of "God's wrath" that falls during the Tribulation period, endtime teachers that believe the Jewish salvation model is binding upon Church-age believers unleash unimaginable fear upon their audience. Remember that fear is the driving force behind the Law--while joy and peace are primary characteristics of grace. We are told that unless we meet a certain unspecified performance and obedience "benchmark" (in order to be "worthy"), the Lord will reject us from "the Bride of Christ" and leave us behind to be "purified" by the outpouring of God's wrath. Yet, none of these folks are able to specifically define this "benchmark" so that we can all obey it! This kind of legalistic thinking is rampant in endtime prophecy circles. If that isn't bad enough there are some prophets, speaking in the name of God, giving messages based on this same flawed belief and practice. And, yes, Scripture teaches that the prophetic ministry is still valid today. Yet, many modern prophets do not operate under the authority of the Grace Gospel. They deliver a false and misleading message that their listeners think is from God.

In order to defend a performance-based "worthiness" Christ's messages to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation is almost always used. Yet, once again proper Bible interpretation principles concerning context demand that we ask some questions. Who is the Book of Revelation written by? Who is it written to? What is the Book of Revelation?

Saint John, a Jewish apostle, wrote "The Revelation of Jesus Christ". This fact should also answer the question of who the book was written to...churches under the gospel to the circumcision (the Jewish gospel). According to the words of the Lord Jesus himself, John's apostolic authority only extended to the circumcision (the Jews)--not to Gentiles. This answers the question as to why the Lord uses "Jewish gospel language" to both praise and rebuke these seven churches. As we discovered earlier, the gospel to the circumcision is Law-based, which is why repentance and certain works were demanded of some churches in order to be acceptable, or escape the coming Tribulation period.

The Book of Revelation is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" as given to John. We use it as the most descriptive record of endtime events that occur during the Tribulation period--and its conclusion at the Second Coming of Christ. It's accuracy and detail has no equal in the New Testament canon. Yet, most of us fail to realize that there are two "Revelations" of Jesus Christ. Saint John was given one for the Jewish churches and Saint Paul was given the other for the Gentiles. Notice Saint Paul's words...

"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." ( Gal. 1:11-12 KJV)


"It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." ( 2 Cor. 12:1-4 KJV)

If you notice, John was caught up to heaven with the words, "Come up here" in Revelation 4:1. After that, God showed him things that, "must take place". Paul, on the other hand, was "caught up to the third heaven" and heard "unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter". These two apostles represent two groups, or administrations in the New Testament. Each received a "Revelation of Jesus Christ". Yet, these two revelations are not the same. This discovery, once again, shows how God treats the circumcision (the Jews) differently from the uncircumcision (the Gentiles). In John's revelation the churches are under a Law-based gospel that is conditional upon performing certain works. For example, in Rev. 3:15-19 Jesus admonishes the church of the Laodiceans, "I know your works, that you are neither cold or hot...be zealous and repent." To the church of Ephesus in Rev. 2:5 Jesus said, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." In one case the message is clear...fail to do the works and you will be left behind during the Tribulation period.

Under Paul's revelation, God's grace (being dead to the law through the body of Christ) excludes works and personal merit from the requirements to obtain salvation. In Paul's writings to the Gentiles (the uncircumcision) we get a totally different picture of the endtimes and the conditions for escaping the coming "wrath of God" at the rapture.

"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Cor. 15:51-53 KJV)

In the Book of Revelation, Saint John's account warns that from the churches of the circumcision some will not escape the Tribulation period (they're not removed in the rapture) because of their works. Again, this agrees perfectly with the Jewish gospel model, which is conditional upon obedience to the Law. Yet, in Saint Paul's account to the Gentile churches under grace he writes, "we shall all be changed". In contrast to John's revelation, no special performance conditions are given by Paul as qualifications for the Gentiles to be changed and raptured. Under grace the blood of Christ is the only source of the believer's righteousness.

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor 5:21 KJV)

You will not find this promise anywhere in the Jewish gospel. It is exclusively for believers under the authority of grace. It teaches an imputed righteousness based on Christ's work, while the Jewish gospel teaches a righteousness by works.

Our salvation rests entirely on Christ's finished work and never on us. That means all who believe in Christ are changed (translated) and are removed from the earth before the "Wrath to Come". Again, under grace spiritual performance (works) are excluded from the requirements for salvation--and the translation and rapture represent the completion of our salvation--paid for by Jesus Christ. It is entirely based on our faith in Christ and the "unmerited" favor of God. Most believers are in confusion and fear about their destiny in the endtimes from failing to "rightly divide" these two revelations and the two different groups for which they are meant.

Conclusion

Saint Paul's constant burden is to communicate this "new and living way" where, for the first time in Biblical history God invites the Gentiles into His salvation. We cannot imagine the hostility, division and controversy this caused in the culture of the exclusively Jewish early church. In Romans chapter 11 Paul tells us that the Gentiles (wild branches) are "grafted" into the olive tree, which represents the covenants and blessings of Israel. Saint Paul gives the Gentiles some revolutionary and exciting news that confirms this divine action...

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Gal 3:13-14 KJV)

Up until this time the "blessings of Abraham" exclusively belonged to the Jews. The truth taught by Paul from Galatians 3:13-14 had no place in the Jewish gospel taught in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Yet, God changed the rules right in the middle of what we understand to be the New Testament. The epistles of Saint Paul contain the new rules that govern the Grace Gospel. Few of us discern this change when we read our Bibles. It represents a serious failure to respect Scriptural "context" and carries serious unintended consequences. Don't let anyone cheat you. God has not called us to the "few are chosen" group under the Jewish gospel. You don't meet the qualifications to be in that group. He's called you to the "many are made righteous" and the "all shall be changed" group paid freely and exclusively by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The Gentiles are now grafted into God's olive tree. It's a new and living way by faith in Christ alone.

For more insight on the controversy surronding God's Grace click on the link below. Some of this information is repetitive.

Do You Believe The Right Gospel?










Copyright © 2005 Rock of Offence
Most recent revision February 2005