As we have seen in Part 1, the eschatological terms and concepts used are different than what most people are familiar with. Here is an example of this. In Acts 10.2 we learn that Cornelius was “devout” and a “God-fearer” which was a specific designation for a Gentile who followed the Torah as it applied. In Hebrew they were called “Yiray Shamayim” or “fearers of heaven.” In Greek the word is “phoubemenoi” and another term “sebemenoi” meant “devout or worshipper” and Cornelius was called both of these. These terms did not mean that they just “feared God” or were “devout” but there was a class of people in the first century synagogues called by these terms. They were non-Jews who attended the synagogues, ate kosher, kept the Sabbath and festivals and so on. For the most part, they were on their way to becoming Jews. They thought that this was required in order to enter the Malkut Shamayim (Kingdom of Heaven). Peter was sent to Cornelius and is saved and filled with the Ruach ha Kodesh just the Jews were in Acts 2, without being circumcised. God breaks down the “barriers” and now non-Jews are in the Kingdom of Heaven without becoming Jews (circumcised).
The non-Jews were now coming into the Kingdom and this became the “hottest issue” in the first century Jewish world. Non-Jews have been told they couldn’t enter the Kingdom of God unless they became Jews for so long that in time it became a fact. In Acts 11.1-18, Peter tells what happened with Cornelius to the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem, and how “the Ruach ha Kodesh fell upon them, just as upon us at the beginning” (Acts 11.15). After hearing what Peter had to say, they glorified God on how he has granted unto the non-Jew “repentance unto life” (Acts 11.18). But later, they began to think about it and they knew that the rest of the sects in the “Judaisms” of the day won’t like it. They thought that the non-Jews were idolaters, centered on sexual fertility and worship. Now, you must go out to them and teach all the concepts regarding the Messiah, God, repentance, the redemption and the Torah to them, knowing the non-Jews have no concept of these things. An “eastern mindset” (Hebraic) people teaching a “western mindset” (Greek/Roman) people about the things of God would not be easy.
So, who was sent to the non-Jews? Paul was groomed by the best teachers in Israel, and it was going to be an enormous task, and you had to be careful about what you taught because eastern and western concepts about God are different. These non-Jews needed to master these concepts or he would have created a “Frankenstein.” Rom 9.4-5 and Heb 6.1-2 lays out a “foundation” of what should be known and understood. John 4.22 says that “salvation is of the Jews.” So, the epistles must match what the Jews believed, not what people today say they believed back then. In other words, people in the “church” today have redefined what Paul and the believers in the first century believed. Catholics see them as like Catholics, Baptists like Baptists, Lutherans like Lutherans and “Spirit-filled” like “Spirit-filled.” An example of this can be found in James 5.14. It says that if anyone is sick, let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil. So, what happens is they go to “church” and come forward for prayer, and someone puts olive oil or some kind of oil on their forehead and then prays for them. In the Catholic Church, this is one of the sacraments called “Extreme Unction” and that is when a priest comes to you. However, what did they do when this was written. The word “anointing” means to “rub, cover or smear.” Oils were used for medicinal purposes and had medicine in the oils (Isa 1.6; Luke 10.34). Zodiates in his commentary on this verse in his Study Bible says that this verse does not refer to a religious act. This verse just means pray for him and “render the medicine.” You see, what many believe today does not “make it so” so we must go and find out the truth. The problem today is that people want to be told what to believe.
The Jewish people knew about salvation before Yeshua, they knew what they worshipped before Yeshua and they worshipped in truth and in Spirit before Yeshua. Col 2.16-17 says that they are not to let anyone judge them for keeping the Sabbath, festivals, food and drink because they all point to Messiah. As far as the Samaritans, archeologists have uncovered a replica of the Second Temple on Mt. Gerizim. Josephus recorded a story of Menashe (mentioned in Nehemiah), a high priest, who flouted Jewish law by marrying a non-Jew named Nikaso (against a Torah command). She was a Samaritan, a break-away sect hated by the Jews. They told him to either leave the Temple or leave your wife, so he decided to stay with his wife. According to Josephus (Antiquities, Book 11, Ch 8), Sanballat was Nikaso’s father and the leader of the Samaritans, promised to build Menashe an exact replica of the Temple and make him the high priest. That replica has been found under a Byzantine Church on Mt. Gerizim. The original Samaritans were Jewish and carried away, replaced by foreigners. Priests were sent from Assyria to teach these people the ways of the “God of the land” because lions and bears were attacking them. They began to mix the Torah with paganism and now they had a “Frankenstein” (a form of godliness). This is what happened to Christianity.
If you can’t explain Rom 9.4-5 or Heb 6.1-2, how can you understand the Scriptures? This even plays out in Hollywood movies. There was a very popular movie years ago called “Chariots of Fire” where a runner would not run in an Olympic race because it was “Sunday” and the “Sabbath” for Christians. A big deal was made about the fact of how he stood for his faith and so on. Now, in the movie, there was a Jewish guy who would run on Sunday. See the undertone there. When did it change from the seventh day as commanded by the Lord to the first day of the week? Officially, at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD where they said they were going to “wipe out all the traces of Judaism that still remained among the tenets and practices of Christianity.” When determining the calendar, most of Christianity held their “Passover” or “Easter” celebration on Passover. The Council now wanted to set the dates of their festivals by making a different procedure apart from the Jews. Constantine said that they should not follow in the footsteps of a people who are scorned of God, to “celebrate our holy festival together with them.” He did not want these “hated Jews” to be able to say that the Christians cannot celebrate and observe their festival unless they followed their calculations (Mesorah Publications, “History of the Jewish People, Vol II, p 183-184). Not understanding the Sabbath and the biblical festivals will confuse your eschatology.
The service and worship in the Temple was given by God (1 Chr 28.11-19; Rom 9.4). Every detail of it was given by God and they were not to deviate from it, teaching us that we should not deviate in what we do either. Moses was judged harshly for deviating on what God told him by striking the rock in Num 20.8. He struck the rock in Exo 17, but in Num 20.8 he was only to speak to the rock. The rock was a picture of the Messiah (1 Cor 10.4) and Messiah was struck on Passover at the cross, now we only need to speak to him to be saved, he does not need to be struck again. Moses ruined the picture that the Lord was trying to show and lost his entry into Canaan. If we messed up in first grade it will affect us the rest of our education. So, if we don’t have the right foundation and concepts, it will affect how we interpret and understand the smallest book we try to study in the Scriptures. Here is another example, found in John 7.2. It is the festival of Sukkot. Now, it was a practice to teach about the festival with Scriptures. The reading from the Prophets on the first day of Sukkot is Zech 12, and during the intermediate days of the festival, called Chol ha Moed, they read and taught Ezek 38 and 39. Why teach about the invasion of Gog and Magog? Because it was about an invasion coming and it was believed in the first century that in Tishri Gog/Magog would be defeated by Sukkot, and the redemption would come. Now go to John 7.14 and interpret. What was Yeshua teaching? He was teaching about the redemption using Ezek 38 and 39! Now, remember they had to teach all this to a people who didn’t even know or understand the Jewish people! After all this, maybe we can begin to appreciate the task they were up against in Acts 11.
In Part 3, we will pick up here and begin with a man named Marcion, who began to de-emphasize the Tanach and placed an over emphasis on the writings of Paul. This will be another example of how not having the proper foundation can lead us to be “unbalanced” in our interpretations.