We are going to discuss, from a historical perspective, what was going on in the Book of Acts and the Epistles in relation to the Kingdom of God and why it was refused by Israel. From there we will look into where the Faith went and how we got to where we are today.
There is a passage in Isa 60.22 that the Rabbis before Yeshua said contained a contradiction. They said that the Kingdom was going to be offered if the people were worthy, if not it would come in its “due time” (Rabbi Alexandri, Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a). These rabbis believed that an offer was coming around the year 4000 from creation, which was the time Yeshua came (Talmud, Sanhedrin 96a, 97b).
We know that Yeshua did indeed come around the year 4000 from creation and sent John to announce his coming and the Kingdom in Matt 3.2. Yeshua himself announced it in Matt 4.17 and Mark 1.14-15. He proclaimed that the Kingdom was “here” all through his ministry (Mark 12.28,34; Luke 10.9-11; 11.20; 17.21).
The Talmidim were sent out to proclaim it (Matt 10.7). Due to unbelief, Yeshua said that the offer was taken away in Matt 21.43 and given to others. This was likened to those who would not dance for the flute players (Matt 11.16-19). To be taken away it had to be offered. The Talmidim (Apostles) asked Yeshua in Acts 1.3 if the Kingdom was going to be restored, now that Yeshua has resurrected. He tells them it is not for them to know.
Peters words in Acts 3.19-21 seems to indicate that the offer for the Kingdom was extended if Israel repented as a nation. If they did, Yeshua would return to restore the Kingdom. We know from the book of Acts that this offer went forth but was rejected again and in Acts 28.17-28 it seems that Paul told the people that this offer was over.
James, the Lord’s brother, was killed in 63 AD. He was very popular and many were joining the Nazarene sect (Acts 28.22). After James died, the movement ran out of momentum. We know from Paul’s “Olive Tree” metaphor that “wild branches”(believing non-Jews) would be grafted into the Olive tree along with the natural branches (believing Jews) and be one Olive Tree, one “new man” (Acts 28.28; Eph 2.15). The book of Acts will bring us up to about 7 years before the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.
There were many controversies during this time and the Basar was going out to the Jews and the non-Jews. The non-Jews were coming into the Faith without becoming Jews through circumcision. The Sadducees disputed the fact that Yeshua was the Messiah and his resurrection (Acts 23.1-9). There were issues about how the non-Jews were to “walk” in Torah, called Halacha. There were existing conflicts among the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Traditional Jews and the Hellenistic Jews. Then there were all the differences among the other sects.
Now, they all become believers and are thrown together in this new sect called “the Way” and you have quite the mixture. Then, you have the on-going conflict with the Romans and things are going to get nasty for the Jewish people and the believers. By 70 AD, Jerusalem will no longer be the center of worship and authority.
Rome comes upon Jerusalem, and the believers follow Yeshua’s warning in Matt 24.15-16 and Luke 21.24 and flee to Pella. Rome is now the absolute ruler in Israel and the Faith is fractured and people begin abandoning the Torah. There will be three Jewish revolts. We have the revolt in 70 AD, then there was the Alexandrian revolt in 116-119 and the final straw came in what was called the Bar Kochba revolt in 132-135 AD. Jews are proclaimed as “enemies of the State” and what will be called “Gentile Christianity” begins to get stronger.
The Roman government and this new religion want nothing to do with the Torah and the “Judaisms” that so permeated the land of Israel before 70 AD. The Epistles of Paul will be used against the Jews by misinterpretation, and Gentile Christianity becomes full of confusion because they no longer understand the Tanach (Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim) or the writings of Paul (2 Pet 3.15-17).
New festivals are instituted, new “priests” and theologies are developed with a Hellenistic, western mindset replacing the Hebraic, eastern mindset, to accommodate the influx of people from all the pagan religions, using dates, phrases and concepts they were familiar with to make them “feel at home.” Latin becomes the new language of Gentile Christianity but it falls far short in explaining the minute concepts that are found in Hebrew, the language of the Scriptures.
Gentile Christianity was outlawed in the empire up to about 312 AD because they were seen as a “new religion” and that was not allowed by Rome. Judaism and its practices was allowed by Julius Caesar, so that is why the Jews could have synagogues throughout the Empire and worship openly in the Temple.
Because of this persecution, Christian “church fathers” wrote that they were “the New Israel” and that they “replaced” the despised Judaism that had been rejected by God, so they should be allowed to practice this new faith without harm. At the same time they were being persecuted by Rome, they were hunting down “heretics” and killing them. This “heretic” group included what was left of the Nazarenes and the Ebionites and anyone who was Torah observant.
The Emperor Constantine comes along and he is a politician. He sees the empire being fractured with all these different beliefs and decides to consolidate them into one, universal (catholic) church which is the “true Israel.” Constantine was the “pontifex maximus” or high priest of Mithraism and never “accepted” Christianity until his deathbed, but he presided over the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The Nazarenes believed in Yeshua and were Torah observant and they were “gumming up” the works of Gentile Christianity.
So, from the first century to about 325 AD you have the great apologetic movement that railed against the Jews at every turn. The “church fathers” were called that by Constantine because they believed the same things he did about the Jews and Torah observance. Up till then, you had many coming out of paganism into this new faith called Christianity and they brought with them many pagan concepts.
All these voices were finally silenced by Constantine and he becomes the voice that unites them. Creeds and man-made dogmas were developed to make sure everyone was on the same page (see the Nicean Creed). If you agreed, you were in the church and if you didn’t, you were a heretic. The aftermath of all this can still be seen today and it persisted because people moved away from the faith once delivered to the saints. But, there has always been a remnant of believers throughout the ages that have believed the simple truths found in the Scriptures and have never been a part of replacement theology or have come out of it.
There is no way to do a complete study of all this, but hopefully this short introduction into the historical back-round of the Book of Acts and the Epistles will cause you to do an investigation into what happened. The good news is that when Messiah comes back, the truth will reign over the earth again and Yeshua himself will be here to keep us on the right path (Isa 2.2-4; Mic 4.1-2).