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« Reply #30 on: April 28, 2008, 01:48:19 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter III.
THE TWO-FOLD ASPECT OF THE MYSTERY


GOD'S SECRET PURPOSE NOT REVEALED
UNTIL PAUL



It is important to notice that not until Paul do we read of God's "having made known unto us the mystery of His will."

It is this secret purpose, as well as the secret of the gospel, that he labels "my gospel," insisting that it was "kept secret since the world began" (Romans 16:25).

It is he who first proclaims "the hidden [mystery] which God ordained before the world unto our glory" (I Corinthians 2:7).  It is he, referring again to this secret purpose, who explains "How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery," insisting again that "in other ages [it] was not made known," that it was "unsearchable," i.e., not to be found in the Scriptures thus far written, and "from the beginning of the world . . . hid in God" (Ephesians 3:3-9).  It is he who speaks of:

"THE DISPENSATION OF GOD WHICH IS GIVEN TO ME FOR YOU, TO FULFIL [make full, complete] THE WORD OF GOD:

"EVEN THE MYSTERY WHICH HATH BEEN HID FROM AGES AND FROM GENERATIONS, BUT NOW IS MADE MANIFEST TO HIS SAINTS:

"TO WHOM GOD WOULD MAKE KNOWN WHAT IS THE RICHES OF THE GLORY OF THIS MYSTERY AMONG THE GENTILES; WHICH IS CHRIST IN YOU, [5] THE HOPE OF GLORY" (Colossians 1:25-27).
 

QUIZ


1.  What is the two-fold meaning of the word translated "mystery" in the Authorized Version?

2.  How could the term "mystery of the gospel" be translated in modern, every-day English?

3.  What is meant by this phrase?

4.  When was gospel first preached to sinners?

5.  In what great event do we find "the mystery of the gospel"?

6.  When and by whom was "the mystery of the gospel" first proclaimed?

7.  What did Satan hope to accomplish by the crucifixion of Christ?

8.  How did God over-rule him?

9.  What is the difference between predictions about the cross and "the preaching of the cross"?

10.  What Scripture indicates that the prophets themselves did not understand their predictions concerning the sufferings of Christ?

11.  What Scriptures indicate that Christ's own apostles, after preaching "the gospel" for some time, did not even know that He would die?

12.  How can you prove that Isaiah 53 does not speak of Christ dying for the sins of all men?

13.  What was the theme of John the Baptist's message?

14.  Did he offer the death of Christ for the remission of sins?

15.  How did the cross figure in Peter's Pentecostal message and what did he demand for the remission of sins?

16.  How did Philip use Isaiah 53 when preaching to the eunuch?

17.  Who first proclaimed, as a message, salvation by grace, through faith in the death of Christ?

18.  What is meant by "the mystery of God's will"?

19.  Explain how "the mystery of the gospel" and "the mystery of God's will" are related in the great revelation made to and through the Apostle Paul.

20.  Give three Scripture passages to prove that "the mystery" was first revealed to Paul.
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« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2008, 02:09:07 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter IV.
THE UNFOLDING OF THE MYSTERY


ISRAEL'S FORMER GLORY


The nation Israel, with all her shortcomings, was once the only bright spot in a dark world.  God had promised that through her, as Abraham's multiplied seed, the other nations should be blessed (Genesis 22:17,18 ).  Ruth, the Moabitess, and others like her, found shelter under the wings of God by coming to Israel (Ruth 2:12).

Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman:

"Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS" (John 4:22).

Paul, in Romans 3:1,2, asks the question: "What advantage then hath the Jew?" and answers:

"Much every way: CHIEFLY, BECAUSE THAT UNTO THEM WERE COMMITTED THE ORACLES OF GOD."

In Romans 9:4,5, he says:

". . . TO [ISRAEL] PERTAINETH THE ADOPTION, AND THE GLORY, AND THE COVENANTS, AND THE GIVING OF THE LAW, AND THE SERVICE OF GOD, AND THE PROMISES;

"WHOSE ARE THE FATHERS, AND OF WHOM, AS CONCERNING THE FLESH, CHRIST CAME . . ."
 

THE HEART OF ISRAEL'S RELIGION


This honor was not bestowed upon Israel, however, because she was better or more deserving than others.  Israel's own King David had written by inspiration:

"The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

"They are ALL gone aside, they are ALL together become filthy: THERE IS NONE THAT DOETH GOOD, NO, NOT ONE" (Psalms 14:2,3).

This is why, at the heart of Israel's religion, we find a blood sacrifice.  We know that "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4), but these sacrifices atoned [1] for sins until such time as Christ should come to "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26).

Israel's blood sacrifices were meanwhile a confession of sin, a testimony to the fact that "the wages of sin is death" and an acknowledgment that were it not for God's grace she too would stand outside His favor.  Thus it is written:

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11).

"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; AND WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD IS NO REMISSION" (Hebrews 9:22).

These means of approach to God, while they indicated that Israel was no better than the Gentiles, gave them, at the same time, a distinct advantage over the Gentiles -- and a great responsibility toward them.

Israel was not to keep these blessings to herself, for God had said to Abraham: "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 22:18 ). [2]  They were to be the agents, not merely the objects of God's blessing.
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« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2008, 02:10:55 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter IV.
THE UNFOLDING OF THE MYSTERY


ISRAEL'S FAILURE


The Word and worship of God were committed to Israel that through her the Gentiles might find God.

When our Lord cast the money-changers out of the temple, He said:

"Is it not written. My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?" (Mark 11:17).

The Lord was, of course, referring to Isaiah 56:6,7, where we read:

"Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

"Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; FOR MINE HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED AN HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL PEOPLE."

Israel's covenant relationship with God and her God-given religion, of course, constituted a "middle wall of partition" between her and the ungodly Gentiles, but this did not mean that Israel was to leave the Gentiles in their ungodly state and keep them outside that wall.  The Abrahamic Covenant indicated otherwise and from the passage just quoted from Isaiah, it is clear that any Gentiles, willing to become proselytes to Judaism were to be welcomed to the temple, where a covenant people found access to God.

But did the people of Israel make this known among the nations?  They did not.  They would have left the Gentile world in darkness forever.  Indeed, the temple, meant to be a house of prayer for all nations, had become a center of villainy and fraud.  Hence our Lord was forced to add to His quotation from Isaiah, the words: "BUT YE HAVE MADE IT A DEN OF THIEVES."
 

THE THREE CALLS TO
REPENTANCE



It was after 1500 years of failure under the law, with the coming Messianic kingdom in view, that God issued to Israel her three greatest calls to repentance.

The first was by John the Baptist, of whom our Lord said, "There is not a greater prophet" (Luke 7:28 ).

John's ministry was to bring Israel back to God, and so make the way smooth for the coming King.  The cry was:

". . . Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.

"Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth" (Luke 3:4,5).

John labored earnestly to fulfill his mission.  His ministry reached into every department of Israel's national life.  He dealt with "the people," with the tax gatherers, with the soldiers (Luke 3:10-14).  He dared to send the proud Pharisees and Sadducees away, calling them a "generation of vipers," asking them: "Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" and saying: "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:7,8 ).  He even entered the court of King Herod, rebuking him for living with his brother's wife "and for all the evils which Herod had done" (Luke 3:19).
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« Reply #33 on: April 28, 2008, 02:12:41 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter IV.
THE UNFOLDING OF THE MYSTERY

But with all this Israel as a nation did not repent.  Indeed, the great reformer was "shut up in prison" (Luke 3:20) and finally beheaded (Matthew 14:10) by Israel's wicked and licentious king -- a crime which would hardly have been tolerated had there been a real reformation in the nation.

So, the way for our Lord was made anything but smooth.  He had to take up the cry where John had left off.  Nor was the response to our Lord's message any more satisfactory than the response to John's.  They despised Him, heckled Him, plotted against Him.  When He wrought mighty miracles among them they had the impudence to ask: "By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave Thee this authority?" (Matthew 21:23).

Finally they brought Him to trial on various false charges.  And, while under examination and trial, they subjected Him to the most cruel and inhuman treatment.  They mocked Him; they scourged Him: they spat in His face.  They pulled His beard and His hair; they blindfolded Him, buffetted Him and called upon Him to prophesy who had smitten Him.  They crowned Him with thorns; they put a purple robe upon Him and a reed (instead of a sceptre) in His hand, kneeling before Him in mockery.  Then, taking the reed from His hand, they smote Him on the head with it.

So intense was their hatred against the Son of God that when the Roman governor, Pilate, finding no fault in Him, would have chastised Him and released Him, "they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man . . ." (Luke 23:18 ).  "And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified" (Luke 23:23).

And thus Israel, rather than heeding Christ's call to repentance, actually persuaded Pilate to have Him nailed to a cross, where, writhing in pain, He suffered shame and disgrace for their sins.

All this, of course, had not taken God by surprise.  Indeed, He had predicted it.  The Spirit, through the prophets, had "testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should FOLLOW" (I Peter 1: 11).  Thus Israel's Messiah, while hanging on the cross, cried: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

And now the stage, it seemed, was being set for the glory to follow.  Fifty days after the resurrection the Holy Spirit was "poured out" upon the disciples and the signs of the "last days" began to appear (Acts 2).  Amid these miraculous signs Israel (of that day) was given her third and last opportunity to repent, with the offer of Christ's return and "the times of refreshing" if she did so.

It was the Apostle Peter, chiefly, whom God used to call Israel to repentance at Pentecost.  To those who were convicted by His message and inquired what they should do, he answered:

"REPENT, AND BE BAPTIZED EVERY ONE OF YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, AND YE SHALL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST" (Acts 2:38 ).

A short while later, to the multitudes gathered at Solomon's porch, Peter cried:

"REPENT YE THEREFORE AND BE CONVERTED, THAT YOUR SINS MAY BE BLOTTED OUT, WHEN [THAT SO] THE TIMES OF REFRESHING SHALL [MAY] COME FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD;

"AND HE SHALL SEND JESUS CHRIST, WHICH BEFORE WAS PREACHED UNTO YOU" (Acts 3:19,20).

But still Israel (as a nation) refused to repent.  Instead, her rulers forbad the apostles to speak in Christ's name; threatening them, scourging them, imprisoning them.  Finally they could not refrain from shedding blood again and Stephen, a man "full of faith and power," was dragged out and stoned to death.

Thus Israel responded to God's three gracious calls to repentance by three brutal murders: those of John the Baptist, Christ and Stephen.  And mark well that their guilt increased with each successive murder.  In the case of John the Baptist they permitted it; in the case of Christ they demanded it; in the case of Stephen they committed it.  They had turned a deaf ear to the Father (through John), to the Son Himself, while on earth, and to the Holy Spirit (through the Pentecostal believers).  They had resisted the Father before Christ's coming; they despised Christ Himself while He was among them; they blasphemed the Holy Spirit after Christ was gone.  Now there was no excuse.  They had committed the unpardonable sin, of which the Lord had warned them (Matthew 12:31,32).
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« Reply #34 on: April 28, 2008, 02:14:20 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter IV.
THE UNFOLDING OF THE MYSTERY


ISRAEL JOINS THE WORLD'S
REBELLION



It must not be supposed that Israel's enmity against Christ spent itself in the murder of Stephen.  This was but the beginning of a prolonged and intense persecution of Christ and His followers:

"And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1).

Saul of Tarsus was the leader of this persecution:

"As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison" (Acts 8:3).

The Gentiles had long before rebelled against God at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:3,4), "even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (Romans 1:28 ).  For this God finally "gave them up" (Romans 1:24,26,28 ) and scattered them over the face of the earth (Genesis 11:9).  Now Israel had joined the rebellion and God would give them up and scatter them too.

It is sometimes supposed that the scattering of the Jerusalem disciples to Judaea and Samaria was in fulfillment of the "great commission," as recorded in Acts 1:8.  The very opposite, however, is the case.  These disciples had not left Jerusalem in response to any command of our Lord.  They had fled for their lives.  And the twelve apostles, the very ones our Lord had commanded to go from Jerusalem to all the world, stayed at Jerusalem!

It was natural, of course, for the believers at Jerusalem to flee when the fearful persecution broke out, but how shall we regard the conduct of the twelve apostles in staying there?

Were they delinquent in their duty to evangelize the world?  The Scriptures answer plainly that they were not.  The reason the twelve stayed at Jerusalem was because the kingdom, in which they were to have twelve thrones (Matthew 19:28 ), was to be established at Jerusalem, and blessing and salvation was to flow from there to the ends of the earth; hence their work there was not yet done.

Thus the continuance of the apostles at Jerusalem and the flight of the believing multitude indicated the same thing -- that Israel was not turning to Christ.  Looking back now we can see that this great persecution was "the secret crisis in Israel's history," as Sir Robert Anderson called it, and that the kingdom was not, for the time being, to be set up, unless it were by force.

But what about God's plan to send salvation and blessing to the world?  Must the nations now remain in darkness because of Israel's refusal to become the channel of blessing?

According to prophecy God's response to the world's rejection of Christ was to be the outpouring of His wrath.  He was to make Israel (and so the Gentiles) willing in the day of His power.  Israel, with the Gentiles had declared war on Him and His Anointed One; He would make a counter-declaration, as it is written:

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people [OF ISRAEL, see Acts 4:25-27] imagine a vain thing?

"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, saying,

"Let as break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
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« Reply #35 on: April 28, 2008, 02:16:19 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter IV.
THE UNFOLDING OF THE MYSTERY

"HE THAT SITTETH IN THE HEAVENS SHALL LAUGH: THE LORD SHALL HAVE THEM IN DERISION.

"THEN SHALL HE SPEAK UNTO THEM IN HIS WRATH, AND VEX THEM IN HIS SORE DISPLEASURE" (Psalms 2:1-5).

"THE LORD SAID UNTO MY LORD, SIT THOU AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE THINE ENEMIES THY FOOTSTOOL.

"THE LORD SHALL SEND THE ROD OF THY STRENGTH OUT OF ZION: RULE THOU IN THE MIDST OF THINE ENEMIES.

"THY PEOPLE SHALL BE WILLING IN THE DAY OF THY POWER . . ." (Psalms 110:1-3).

These words of David are the consistent testimony of Old Testament prophecy.  Was the judgment now to fall?

No, it was against the dark background of man's failure and sin that God was now to reveal the riches of His grace.
 

THE SECRET PURPOSE UNFOLDED


The first intimation of God's purpose concerning the dispensation of grace was the salvation of Saul, the chief of sinners, and the leader of Israel's -- yea, the world's -- rebellion against Christ (I Timothy 1:13-16).

To him the Lord revealed what He could not yet reveal to the other apostles when He gave them their great commission: i.e., that Israel would be set aside and salvation sent by grace to all directly through the crucified, risen, exalted Christ.

One of the first lessons Paul learned was that God was to conclude Israel, along with the Gentiles, in unbelief.  He, like the twelve, would have launched his ministry from Jerusalem but when, after His conversion, he returned there, the Lord appeared to him and said:

"Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: FOR THEY WILL NOT RECEIVE THY TESTIMONY CONCERNING ME" (Acts 22:18 ).

Compare this statement with Luke 24:47 and see what God was now doing.  He was concluding Israel in unbelief along with the Gentiles.  And why?  In order that He might offer salvation to all men by grace, solely and directly through the merits of Christ.

"FOR GOD HATH CONCLUDED [3] THEM ALL IN UNBELIEF, THAT HE MIGHT HAVE MERCY UPON ALL" (Romans 11:32).

Thus, through the fall of Israel, salvation was now to be preached to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11, 12,15).  With the raising up of Paul to replace the twelve as "the apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13), God began to bring Jewish religion to an end and to usher in the "reign" of grace. [4]

Here the reader should turn to the foregoing chart and note how God, having fully demonstrated that "there is no difference" between Jew and Gentile (Romans 3:22,23), now magnifies the cross and its power to save (Ephesians 1:7).

"FOR HE IS OUR PEACE, WHO HATH MADE BOTH ONE, AND HATH BROKEN DOWN THE MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION BETWEEN US;

"HAVING ABOLISHED IN HIS FLESH THE ENMITY . . .

". . . THAT HE MIGHT RECONCILE BOTH UNTO GOD IN ONE BODY BY THE CROSS, HAVING SLAIN THE ENMITY THEREBY" (Ephesians 2:14-16).
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« Reply #36 on: April 28, 2008, 02:17:54 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter IV.
THE UNFOLDING OF THE MYSTERY

Thus the middle wall of partition has been broken down (see chart) and Jewish and Gentile believers are reconciled to God in one body by the cross.  The cross, the finished work of Christ, is what God would have us proclaim to the world today (I Corinthians 1:18, II Corinthians 5:14-21, Galatians 6:14, Ephesians 1:7, etc.), for therein lies the secret of "His purpose and grace."

Mark well, however, that reconciliation postulates alienation; hence reconciliation could not be proclaimed until Israel had been cast away along with the Gentiles and the alienation of all from God had been fully demonstrated.  "The casting away of them" opened the way for "the reconciling of the world" (Romans 11:15).

The "dispensation of the grace of God," the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles to God in one body by the cross, is the great mystery which was hid in God until revealed to and through the Apostle Paul.

Paul was the natural representative of God's purpose concerning the body because he was himself a Hebrew and a Roman in one person (See Acts 26:16-18, New Tr.), an enemy reconciled to God and His Christ, the "pattern" whom God chose to "show forth all longsuffering" (I Timothy 1:16) and "one born out of [before the] due time" (I Corinthians 15:8 ) as both Jews and Gentiles are today.  All this will be discussed further in another lesson.

God's prophesied purpose to bless the nations through Israel will, of course, still be carried out, but while Israel remains in her unrepentant state God is blessing Jews and Gentiles through Christ, Abraham's Seed, in spite of the failure of Abraham's multiplied seed (Galatians 3:16,19,22, Ephesians 3:5,6).  This is in accordance with His "eternal purpose," and is a living demonstration of the fact that all blessing flows from Calvary; that even millennial blessing will flow from Christ, through Israel, to the Gentiles.

"O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).
 

QUIZ


1.  Show from Scripture what chief advantage Israel had over the Gentiles in Old Testament times.

2.  Name five other advantages Israel had over the Gentiles.

3.  What responsibility did these advantages impose upon Israel in her relation to the Gentiles?

4.  By what was Israel constantly reminded that she was no better than the Gentiles?

5.  For whom was the temple intended as a house of prayer?

6.  What had the temple become by the time Christ appeared on earth?

7.  With what brutal murders did Israel respond to her three greatest calls to repentance?

8.  Explain how Israel's guilt increased progressively with these three murders.

9.  How did Israel then wage actual war against God and His Anointed One?

10.  Who led Israel in this war?

11.  How, according to Scripture, was God to respond?

12.  Did the judgment fall immediately?

13.  Give Scripture to show with what great stroke God first indicated His purpose to usher in the dispensation of grace.

14.  What did the risen Lord reveal to Saul about Israel when he first returned to Jerusalem after his conversion?

15.  What did God now do to Israel to open the way for "the reconciling of the world"?

16.  What happened to the middle wall of partition?

17.  What relationship do those who are reconciled to God now hold toward each other?

18.  Explain how Paul is the natural representative of the church of today.

19.  In what sense is God blessing the Gentiles through Abraham's seed even now?

20.  What about God's prophesied purpose to bless the world through Abraham's multiplied seed (Genesis 22:17, 18 )?
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« Reply #37 on: April 28, 2008, 02:34:27 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter V.
THE LAST DAYS


THE GOAL OF PROPHECY


The Old Testament Scriptures have a great deal to say about the "last" or "latter" days.  The phrase looks forward in a general way to the coming of Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom (Genesis 49:1, Numbers 24:14, Deuteronomy 4:30, Isaiah 2:2, Daniel 2:28, 10:14, Hosea 3:5, Micah 4:1).  Several similar phrases are used in connection with the same events, such as: "last time," "latter time," "the days come," "His days," "those days."

The coming of Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom in the last days is the goal of prophecy.  Indeed, even the New Testament Scriptures view Messiah's coming and kingdom as the great climax of the prophetic program (Mark 1:15, Luke 1:68-75, Acts 3:21-24, I Peter 1:11).
 

PETER AND THE LAST DAYS


When Peter stood up nineteen centuries ago and declared that the last days had come (Acts 2:16,17) he showed that he was totally ignorant of God's plan to usher in a dispensation of grace before the return of Christ.

We must not suppose, however, that this ignorance was due to some human failing in Peter himself, for on the day of Pentecost the followers of Christ "were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:4).

Moreover, what he said was Scripturally correct.  In the light of all that had so far been revealed, these were the last days.  The prophets had said nothing about the dispensation of grace or the body of Christ.  There had as yet been no hint of any interruption of the prophetic program.

In Joel's prophecy concerning the last days, Pentecost is followed by the great tribulation and the return of Christ.  Indeed, the prophets had "testified beforehand" only "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (I Peter 1:11).  Now that the sufferings were over, it seemed as though the glory would soon follow, for no one could deny that the signs of "the day of the Lord" had begun to appear. [1]

So Peter was not ignorant of the revealed program of God concerning the day in which he lived.  Taught by the Lord (Acts 1:3) and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4), he had an intelligent understanding of just where he stood in the divine plan.  Hence the dynamic power of his message.

The apostles had expected the Holy Spirit to be "poured out" before the great tribulation and the return of Christ, and our Lord had promised them in commissioning them that they would then be supernaturally empowered to speak with other tongues (Mark 16:17).  Thus when the Spirit came and they began to speak in other languages Peter knew exactly what was happening and, pointing to Joel's prophecy, said without qualification: "THIS IS THAT."

"These are not drunken, as ye suppose - - But THIS IS THAT which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in THE LAST DAYS, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit . . . and . . . show wonders . . . and signs . . . before that great and notable day of the Lord come" (Acts 2:15-20).

All this is clear if we simply remember not to anticipate revelation; if we remember that God's purpose concerning this present dispensation was then still a "mystery." As far as God's revealed plan was concerned, the last days--the days so long foretold -- had begun.  Israel's long-promised Messiah had appeared, had died and risen again, had ascended to the Father's right hand and had sent the Holy Spirit to guide and empower His own.  The next number on the prophetic program was the tribulation period with the judgment of the nations and Messiah's return, and the signs of these things were already beginning to appear.
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« Reply #38 on: April 28, 2008, 02:36:22 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter V.
THE LAST DAYS


THE PROPHETIC PROGRAM
INTERRUPTED



It is important to notice, however, that not all the signs of "the day of the Lord" appeared at Pentecost.  There were the "signs in the earth beneath" but not the "wonders in the heaven above."  There were the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the tongues and visions and prophesying, but not the "blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke," nor as yet was "the sun turned into darkness and the moon into blood" (See Acts 2:17-20).  Furthermore, the signs which did appear soon passed away again (I Corinthians 13:8 ) as the prophetic program made way for the unfolding of "the mystery," God's secret, eternal purpose.

Just before our Lord's ascension the apostles had asked: "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).  Our Lord, of course, had known that Israel would reject the offer of the kingdom, but He could not tell the eleven this for they could not then have put much heart into their appeal to Israel and Israel, in turn, might have had some excuse for further rejecting Christ.  Thus our Lord declined to answer their question and said:

"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 ).

The house of Israel, then, received a bona fide offer of the return of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom as Peter cried:

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when [that so] the times of refreshing shall [may] come from the presence of the Lord:

"And He shall [may] send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you" (Acts 3:19,20).

This, of course, was an appeal to the nation.  It did not mean that if that one audience had repented Christ would immediately have returned to bring in the kingdom, for we know that several prophesied events would first have had to be fulfilled.

But the question may be asked: If the prophetic program had run its course and a repentant Israel had finally been brought to Messiah's feet, how would God have brought in the dispensation of grace?  The answer is simply that He knew that they would not repent and that this was a factor in His plans to usher in the dispensation of grace.

The fact which concerned the people of Israel at that time was that a bona fide proposition was being made to them that if they repented the kingdom would be ushered in and Christ would return to occupy the throne of David.  God was holding Israel accountable for her acceptance or rejection of Christ and His kingdom.  As we know, the apostate nation did not repent but joined the Gentiles in their rebellion against God and could not have complained had the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy continued and God's wrath been poured out upon them.  Indeed, those who did repent were filled with the Holy Spirit in preparation for the ordeal through which they were expected, as a result of Israel's rebellion, to pass.
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« Reply #39 on: April 28, 2008, 02:37:46 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter V.
THE LAST DAYS

Thus the world was ripe for the wrath of God more than 1900 years ago and if the prophetic program had not been graciously interrupted, the judgment would have fallen then.

"BUT WHERE SIN ABOUNDED, GRACE DID MUCH MORE ABOUND" (Romans 5:20).

It was to Paul, that other apostle, that God first made known "the mystery [secret] of His will" (Ephesians 1:9), "His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (II Timothy 1:9).

In Ephesians 3:1-3 the apostle says:

"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

"If ye have heard of THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD which is given me to you-ward:

"How that BY REVELATION HE MADE KNOWN UNTO ME THE MYSTERY . . ."

Paul, like the twelve, would have launched his ministry from Jerusalem, but to him our Lord revealed what He could not tell the eleven before His ascension.  In Acts 22:17,18 we have Paul's own account of the incident:

"When I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;

"And saw Him [Christ] saying unto me, MAKE HASTE, AND GET THEE QUICKLY OUT OF JERUSALEM: FOR THEY WILL NOT RECEIVE THY TESTIMONY CONCERNING ME."

At that time Paul, supposing that his reputation as a former persecutor of Christ would have induced the Jews to listen to him and doubtless feeling too that he owed them an explanation of his conduct, began arguing the point with the Lord.  But the Lord replied simply:

"DEPART: FOR I WILL SEND THEE FAR HENCE UNTO THE GENTILES" (Verse 21).

This whole passage in Acts is most significant.  Why did our Lord insist that the twelve begin their ministry at Jerusalem, yet refuse to allow Paul to begin there?  Because Paul's ministry was to constitute an interruption of the commission and program of the twelve.  The Lord said to Paul, in effect: "They did not listen to the twelve; neither will they listen to you, so leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles." Thus God concluded Israel in unbelief, along with the Gentiles.  It is significant that after the raising up of Paul we find no further offer of the kingdom to Israel.2 God had done this, however, "that He might have mercy upon all" (Romans 11:32).

"O THE DEPTH OF THE RICHES BOTH OF THE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD! HOW UNSEARCHABLE ARE HIS JUDGMENTS, AND HIS WAYS PAST FINDING OUT!" (Romans 11:33).

And so an interruption of the prophetic program was begun in order that God, through Paul, might offer to all men everywhere salvation by grace, solely through the merits of the crucified, risen Christ.

"And that He might reconcile BOTH [Jews and Gentiles] unto God in ONE BODY by the cross . . ." (Ephesians 2:16).

During this interruption or parenthesis, then, while the establishment of Christ's kingdom is held in abeyance, God is forming the body of Christ from Jews and Gentiles reconciled to Himself by the cross (Cf. I Corinthians 12:13, II Corinthians 5:14-21).
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« Reply #40 on: April 28, 2008, 02:39:26 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter V.
THE LAST DAYS

The Bible student should always remember that the formation of this "one body" is not the subject of prophecy, but of the mystery first revealed through Paul.  Nor is it the fulfillment of any covenant promise.  It is the product of pure grace, through the redeeming work of Christ.  This is why the unadulterated preaching of "the gospel of the grace of God" has always been the special object of Satan's wrath.  In this connection Paul writes to Timothy:

"Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

"WHO HATH SAVED US, AND CALLED US WITH AN HOLY CALLING, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS, BUT ACCORDING TO HIS OWN PURPOSE AND GRACE, WHICH WAS GIVEN US IN CHRIST JESUS BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN" (II Timothy 1:8,9).
 

PAUL AND THE LAST DAYS


Paul, like Peter, has much to say about "last days," but since his message concerns mainly this present dispensation of the mystery, and not the prophetic program, he generally has reference to the last days of the dispensation of grace, after which the prophetic program will again be resumed.

With all that was revealed to Paul about the dispensation of grace, there was one thing he never learned about it, namely, how long it was to continue.  This still remains a mystery.  No man knows how long it will last.  God has not promised that it will continue for any specific length of time.  There are no "times and seasons" for the body of Christ, nor any "signs of the times." The apostle mentions only trends toward the close of the age; trends which, in fact, had their beginning in his own day.

Paul himself had no idea that the day of grace would be extended until the present time for, writing to Timothy some nineteen hundred years ago concerning the "last days," he instructed him (Timothy) how to conduct himself under the circumstances (I Timothy 4:1-7, II Timothy 3:1-17).  Paul must have expected the dispensation to close very shortly, for to the unsaved of his day (as well as of ours) he wrote:

"We then as workers together with [God], beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.

". . . behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:1,2).

And to the saved of his day (as well as of ours) he wrote:

"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

"REDEEMING [BUYING UP] THE TIME, BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE EVIL" (Ephesians 5:15,16).

Now that God has delayed His judgment of the world for some nineteen centuries let us beware of presumption, for every moment of delay is a moment of pure grace and at any moment this dispensation of grace may suddenly be brought to a close.  We cannot promise the lost one more hour in which to be saved, but must cry with more urgency than Paul: "NOW is the time!" [3] and must ourselves buy up every opportunity to rescue the perishing, since the days are evil and the time probably very short.


PAUL AND THE LORD'S RETURN


Peter's ministry in early Acts, of course, had the Lord's return to earth in view; His return to reign in Jerusalem over Israel and the nations.

Paul also has much to say about the Lord's return, but again there is a difference.  To Paul it was revealed that the dispensation of grace would be brought to a close by the coming of Christ to catch away the members of His body, before the outpouring of His wrath and His return to earth to reign. [4]

That this was part of the "mystery" concerning the body, which had been revealed to him by the glorified Lord, is clear from his own words:

"FOR THIS WE SAY UNTO YOU BY THE WORD OF THE LORD, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep.
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« Reply #41 on: April 28, 2008, 02:41:28 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter V.
THE LAST DAYS

"For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

"Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (I Thessalonians 4:15-18 ).

"BEHOLD, I SHOW 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" (I Corinthians 15:51-52).

Note again, from these passages, that Paul could not have expected the dispensation of grace to last for many years, for he says: "WE shall not all sleep" and "WE which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [those risen] to meet the Lord in the air." Moreover, he consistently instructs believers from his day on to be waiting and looking for the Lord to come and take them to heaven (Philippians 3:20, I Thessalonians 1:10, Titus 2:13).

Space does not permit a thorough study of this wonderful subject in this volume, but let us say here that God's grace and longsuffering in prolonging the present dispensation and delaying the world's judgment for nineteen hundred years should fill our hearts with wonder and gratitude, while at the same time the "blessed hope" of His coming for us should keep us continually watching and waiting, for He may come before the reader has finished reading this volume.
 

PETER AND THE MYSTERY


We have seen that Peter was not wrong when he declared at Pentecost that the last days had begun.  They had indeed begun, but God had a secret purpose to give the world a period of grace before putting down the world's rebellion and sending Christ to reign.

But the interruption of the kingdom program by the dispensation of grace sheds light on some of Peter's last recorded words too.  Writing in his second epistle concerning the delay in Christ's return to earth and the ushering in of the day of the Lord, he says:

"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that ONE DAY IS WITH THE LORD AS A THOUSAND YEARS, AND A THOUSAND YEARS AS ONE DAY" (II Peter 3:8 ).

Notice, this is not our feeble explanation now of the delay in Christ's return.  This statement was made at the beginning of this time of waiting; at the dawn of the age of grace, and it indicates clearly that Peter then recognized that an interruption in the program had taken place.  But let us go on with his statement:

"The Lord is NOT SLACK concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; BUT IS LONGSUFFERING to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

So the delay should not be counted slackness or laxness on the Lord's part, but longsuffering.  And now see verse 15:

"And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is SALVATION . . ."

Where did Peter get all this? How did he know about the dispensation of grace? Go on with verse 15:

"EVEN AS OUR BELOVED BROTHER PAUL ALSO ACCORDING TO THE WISDOM GIVEN UNTO HIM HATH WRITTEN UNTO YOU."
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« Reply #42 on: April 28, 2008, 02:43:18 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter V.
THE LAST DAYS

This was written more than 30 years after Pentecost and by that time Peter had learned from Paul about the dispensation of grace.

Thus Peter and Paul did not work at cross purposes or preach contradictory messages.  God simply gave Paul a further revelation of truth.

It was sometime after that Paul had been sent out with "the gospel of the grace of God," that he went to Jerusalem "by revelation" and communicated to Peter and the others "that gospel which [he preached] among the Gentiles" (Galatians 2:2).  Peter and the rest "saw" and "perceived" that a new revelation had been committed to him and, far from disagreeing, "gave to [Paul] and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship" (Galatians 2:7-9).

Thus while the last days of prophecy had indeed begun at Pentecost Peter, in his last epistle indicates a delay in Christ's return to judge and reign and acknowledges this as truth revealed through Paul (II Peter 3:3-16).

Finally, both Peter and Paul teach that the delay is all of grace, with no assurance as to how long the dispensation of God's longsuffering will be extended (II Corinthians 5:20-6:2, II Peter 3:8 ).

What an effect all this should have upon our conduct and service for Christ!  We are living, so to speak, in the tense days between man's declaration of war on God and God's counter-declaration (Psalms 2:1-5); a few days of grace, as it were, in which the ambassadors of Christ are authorized to offer reconciliation to any individuals who will receive Him as Savior and Lord.  The next number on the divine program is the shout with which He will recall His ambassadors and declare war on those who have spurned His grace.
 

QUIZ



1.  What, in a general way, does the term "last days" refer to in Old Testament Scripture?

2.  Was Peter right or wrong when he said at Pentecost that the "last days" had come?

3.  Explain why.

4.  From what famous prophecy did Peter quote in his Pentecostal address?

5.  Did all the signs of that prophecy appear at Pentecost?

6.  Of what was Peter ignorant when he said the "last days" had come?

7.  What has happened to the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy?

8.  Why did not the Lord tell His apostles when the kingdom would be restored to Israel?

9.  When, according to Old Testament prophecy, would the world have been ripe for judgment?

10.  Where did the twelve begin their ministry under the "great commission"?

11.  Why?

12.  Where did Paul hope to launch his ministry for Christ?

13.  Where did the Lord send him instead, and why?

14.  Between what two great prophetic periods does the dispensation of grace come?

15.  What is the company of God's people in this dispensation called?

16.  To what "last days" does Paul refer in his epistles?

17.  Why are there no specific signs of Christ's return for the believers of this dispensation?

18.  Give two Scriptures to prove that Paul did not expect the dispensation of grace to continue for 1900 years.

19.  Give one Scripture each to show how Paul exhorted (a) the lost and (b) the saved, in this connection.

20.  Where, in Peter's writings, does he confirm what Paul has to say about the dispensation of grace?
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« Reply #43 on: April 28, 2008, 04:36:41 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter V.
THE LAST DAYS

Append to Chapter 5 - Chart 5-1 Reproduced in Text:

God's own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began - 2 Timothy 1:9.

Hid from ages and from generations - Colossians 1:26.

Kept secret since the world began - Romans 16:25.

Adam - 4000 B.C., Noah - 2400 B.C., Abraham - 2000 B.C., Moses - 1500 B.C., Daniel - 600 B.C.

CHRIST, The Cross, and Pentecost - 33 A.D. - SEE NEXT:

THE LAST DAYS - Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:16-21.

The LAST DAYS prior to the Dispensation of the Kingdom were interrupted when Israel rejected JESUS CHRIST as King and Messiah. We are currently living in this INTERRUPTION OF PROPHETIC TIME not known to men of previous ages: THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE - "THE MYSTERY" - A Time when THE BODY OF CHRIST IS FORMED. This INTERRUPTION OF PROPHETIC TIME will end with the BEGINNING OF THE TRIBULATION PERIOD.

THE TRIBULATION PERIOD - unknown time yet to come - MAYBE SOON. This period of time will be 7 YEARS and end with the SECOND COMING OF CHRIST.

THE RULE AND REIGN OF CHRIST - immediately following the TRIBULATION PERIOD - unknown time yet to come - MAYBE SOON.
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« Reply #44 on: April 28, 2008, 05:47:35 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter V.
THE LAST DAYS

Append to Chapter 5 - Chart 5-2 Below:


You should be able to easily enlarge this chart with just about any graphics program.

   
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