Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Was Acts 7 "Three Strikes & You're Out" for Israel?

As you know, many feel that this was a cut off point for the nation of Israel because they rejected Stephen's message and soon after Paul was converted, and Peter opened the door to the Gentiles. Some imagined three strikes and Israel was out theory is promoted and the vision of Stephen is somehow a confirmation of this.

The three strikes and you're out is a Mid Acts invention.  Yes, Israel killed the prophets; but Christ still came according to the prophets; so the first strike didn't stop God from His purposes.  Yes, Israel crucified their Lord; but that isn't a strike, since the Lord prayed for their forgiveness and the cutting off of Messiah was according to the prophets.  SO, we don't have any strikes yet.   Stephen was a martyr, but he prayed "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge," so that isn't a strike either.   Then Paul said "all day long the Lord was holding out his hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people," so obviously the Lord didn't hold any strikes against Israel at Roms.10:29-11:3.
Here are some facts which expose this theory as being out of context and thus, out of line with Scripture.
First up, the Lord had given strict instructions as to how the ministry was to unfold here;
Act 1:6  When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
Act 1:7  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
Act 1:8  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 begins with the restoration of the kingdom in view and the witness is in Jerusalem (where they were to wait), Judea, then Samaria and further out. The martyrdom of Stephen saw the conclusion of the witness in Jerusalem, the next area of witness was about to commence, not national dismissal of Israel.
BTW, there is no historical evidence that it was 1 year from the crucifixion to Acts 7, and the idea that another year was added is based upon the false premise that Israel would have been cut off at the cross which was never the case, only Messiah was to be cut off, and not for Himself. Passover was the beginning of Israel's deliverance, not the end of them.
Stephen's address tells us precisely the state of affairs in the divine scheme of things, and when we allow Scripture to point the way forward for us, we are always going to be on the right track. Stephen is addressing the leaders of Israel and he begins with the call of Abraham and the bondage and great Exodus deliverance of Israel; their first Passover. Joseph is then featured as one who was rejected, sold for silver, cast into a pit BUT despite Israel's faithlessness, it was through the rejected Joseph that deliverance came. Joseph was recognized THE SECOND TIME. There is nothing in the story of Joseph which indicates and casting off of Israel, only the faithfulness of God in the face of Israel's unfaithfulness.
Next character in the story is Moses who thought his brethren would understand that God had sent him to deliver them, but they understood not. Moses was 40 and returned the second time at 80 years of age. BTW, the Acts period runs nearly 40 years but the fact is, Moses was rejected the first time, but this did not mean God had turned away from Jacob. Nothing in Joseph or Moses can possibly be interpreted as the casting off of Israel, on the contrary, two brothers of Israel, 2who had been rejected, and wickedly so, were the means of Israel's salvation, not the bringing in of anything new and completely different. In verse 34, God said that He had seen the affliction of HIS PEOPLE, and Moses was sent back and this Moses Israel refused as a ruler and judge, was the one sent to be a ruler and judge. Stephen immediately reminds Israel's leaders that Moses warned them of the One coming like him. Like him, Christ would be like Moses, rejected, scorned as the other prophets foretold, but this does not mean Israel would be cast off simply because the message of Jesus of Nazareth was rejected.
When we overlay our own ideas on the types and plain words of Scripture, we are confusing the entire setting.
Stephen's message then turns to the faithless Israel, who even rejected Moses despite the incredible and mighty signs and wonders done before their eyes, but again, God never cast them aside, He gave them over to the idolatrous ways, but they remained His people and Solomon built the Temple. Solomon is a picture of Christ in glory, not the church which is His Body brought in because Israel were stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.
What did Stephen see as they fell upon him? He saw the glory of God first. Which God? The God of Israel's fathers.
Stephen then prayed, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. Israel sinned which was their historical propensity, but they were not cast aside here. Let us turn to our Apostle Paul, not even converted at this time, so years later he wrote this in Romans;
Rom 3:1  What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
Rom 3:2  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
Rom 3:3  For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
Rom 3:4  God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
Paul is telling us plainly, what if some of them did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith (fullness) of God without effect? IN other words, just because Israel is faithless does not mean God is faithless. He had made promises to Israel's fathers and God will keep them as Stephen's address proves.
How spurious is it that so many today want to quote Roms.3:4 pointing to others of different beliefs that they are liars, when the use of Ps.51:4 by Paul is in the context of God's faithfulness to Israel despite their rejection of Him. Here is Psalm 54, can anyone see a new calling in the repentant prayer of King David who pleads for God to do His good pleasure in ZION and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem?
Psa 51:14  Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
Psa 51:15  O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
Psa 51:16  For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
Psa 51:17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Psa 51:18  Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Psa 51:19  Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Later in Romans, Paul writes this;
Rom 11:26  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
Rom 11:27  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Rom 11:28  As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
Rom 11:29  For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
The gifts and calling (singular) is without change of mind.
Prior to this, Paul had written that God was holding forth His hands to a disobedient (disbelieving) and gainsaying people (plural, that is the nation, not individuals) – further evidence that the nation had not been cast aside anytime previously; Roms.10:21-11:5.    A reading of 1Kings 19:10-18 will also show the national rebellion but the faithfulness of God who had preserved to Himself a remnant as was the case during Acts. We are not a remnant according to the election of grace, 11:5 and 9:24-29.

Returning to Roms.3, we are not to read any change of dispensation in the word vengeance of verse 5. Vengeance is that which Moses spoke about which was to be meted out upon the Lord's return, Roms.12:19, Deut.32:35, 43, Roms.15:10.
Messiah was not cut off at the 69th week. He was cut off at the 62nd as the angel spoke to Daniel in chapter 9. Rome does not produce the anti-Messiah as Daniel 8:8-10 proves. Alexander, the great he goat never conquered Rome and the anti-Messiah comes from one of the four divisions of Alexander's kingdom. For the 69th week, see the Tract, What happened to Israel? Lo-Ammi, at the bottom of this page
Stephen's address at Acts 7 is all about God's faithfulness to Israel despite the rejection of the deliverers sent to them. This says nothing of God casting them aside, rather on the contrary, it proves that no matter how much Israel remained stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, that God would complete His work upon the earth.
As in the past, Israel faithless, stiff-necked, but God continued on with His purposes because of His faithfulness. Here are some OT passages to show the Acts period setting in type.
Num 23:19  God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Num 23:20  Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
Num 23:21  He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.

Deu 7:7  The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
Deu 7:8  But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deu 9:4  Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.
Deu 9:5  Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Deu 9:6  Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.

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