DID PAUL PREACH CHRIST’S MILLENNIAL REIGN IN THE ACTS PERIOD?
Many dispensationalists believe that Paul never preached the message of Christ as King of Israel in His millennial reign. They believe that the reason he did not preach that messages is because the church began during the Acts period and that the preaching of that message would have ended with the beginning of the church. But there are three Acts period passages which indicate that Paul had the kingdom message in mind when he wrote those passages. It is those passages that we will consider in this study.
“HOW MUCH MORE THEIR FULNESS”
“THE HOPE OF ISRAEL”
“THE KINGDOM OF GOD”
“HOW MUCH MORE THEIR FULNESS”
We read in Rom. 11:12, “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles,: how much more their fulness?”. There are three phrases in this verse, all of which require our careful attention, so we will consider them one at a time.
“If The Fall Of Them Be The Riches Of The World”
What does the phrase “if the fall of them be the riches of the world” mean? To begin, I believe we must first determine what it does not mean, and in order to do that we must determine what the good olive tree about which Paul wrote in verses 16-25 represents.
Consider verse 24 which reads, “….how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree“. The natural branches were Israelites. How do we know that the natural branches were Israelites? We read in verse 13 that Paul was speaking to Gentiles, “For I speak to you Gentiles….”. Then in verse 17 we read, “….and thou (Gentiles) being a wild olive tree….”. If the Gentiles were the “wild olive tree“, obviously Israel was the good olive tree. Therefore, this passage could not be more clear; the good olive tree represents Israel.
God would not graft Gentiles into the nation of Israel if Israel had been set aside. Because we read in this eleventh chapter of Romans that Gentiles were indeed being grafted into Israel, we must conclude that Israel was still enjoying the position of God’s chosen nation when Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans. (For further evidence that the good olive tree represents the nation of Israel please see the paper on this web-site on Romans 11.) Therefore, we must conclude that when Paul wrote “if the fall of them” he was not saying that Israel had been set aside as God’s chosen nation.
Having determined what the phrase “the fall of them” does not mean, let us consider the Greek word translated “fall” in the phrase, “the fall of them”. That Greek word is “paraptoma”. The word is used by the Holy Spirit 23 times and is translated “trespass(s)”, or “offence(s)”, or “fault(s)” or “sin(s)” in every occurrence except the two times it is used in Rom. 11, i.e. verse 11 in the phrase “through their fall“, and verse 12 in the phrase “the fall of them”. I believe we may conclude that the two times it is used in Rom. 11 should be translated in accordance with every other occurrence. So those two verses should read, “through their offence salvation is come unto the Gentiles” (vs. 11), and verse 12 should read, “if the offence of them be the riches of the world”.
What was the “offence” of Israel and what did that offence have to do with salvation coming to the world? Those questions are answered as we consider Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “when” in the phrase, “when the times of refreshing” reads, “when = in order that. Occurs 15 times in Acts and always expresses a purpose….”. So that phrase should read, “Repent…..in order that the times of refreshing shall come…..”. In other words, if Israel had repented the Lord Jesus Christ would have returned and established His millennial reign. But because most of Israel did not repent, Paul and his coworkers, continued to preach the gospel of salvation to the world. So, as long as Israel rejected their risen Messiah, Paul would go to the Gentiles in order to “provoke them (Israel) to jealousy” (Rom. 11:11).
But this phrase does not tell us that the message Paul preached to the world was the message of Christ as King of Israel . It tells us that his message to the Gentiles was the good news of salvation, i.e. Christ as Savior. Let us continue then with the next phrases of this verse.
“The Diminishing Of Them The Riches Of The Gentiles”
There are two questions we should consider. 1) What is the difference between “the riches of the world” of the previous phrase, and “the riches of the Gentiles” in the phrase now under consideration? 2) What did Paul mean by the phrase “the diminishing of them”?
1) What is the difference between “the riches of the world“, and “the riches of the Gentiles“? I believe that the difference is that the riches of the Gentiles concerns the riches of individuals as opposed to the world, per se.
2) What did Paul mean by the phrase “the diminishing of them”? The “them” is obviously Israel. The Greek word translated “diminishing” is “heeteema” and is used only one other time, i.e. in I Cor. 6:7 where we read, “Now therefore, there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another”. In my opinion, “fault” is the better translation because, as shown above, both previous verses in Rom. 11 (i.e. verses. 11 and 12) speak of the “offence” of Israel. Certainly “fault” is a word that better fits the context than is the word “diminishing”. Also, whereas the word can be translated “fault” in Rom. 11:12, it cannot be translated “diminishing” in I Cor. 7:6. So in the interest of consistency, and adherence to the context, I believe we should translate the phrase in Rom. 11:12 as, “the fault of them”. So the fault of Israel is the riches of the Gentiles.
We are now ready to consider what Paul meant by the phrase, “the riches of the Gentiles”, i.e. individuals. We read in Rom. 11:19, “Thou wilt say then, ‘The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in'”. Paul explains in this passage that because of unbelief, some Israelites were cut off from the olive tree which represents the nation of Israel, and believing Gentiles were grafted into the good olive tree in their place. But we must not misunderstand the cutting off of some. It does not mean that they lost their salvation. How do we know that? We know that from the very simple fact that they were cut off because of their “unbelief” (vs. 20). If they were unbelievers, they were never saved. The question is then, in what way were these unbelieving Israelites cut off from Israel?
I believe that unbelieving Israelites were cut off from their nation so that they would not enjoy the dispensational blessings that were promised if they obeyed the Law of Moses. These promises are enumerated in Lev. 26. We read in that chapter of God telling Israel that if they obey His law He will bless them and if they disobey, He will punish them. Let us consider Lev. 26:4 which describes some of the blessings if Israel obeyed, “…I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit”. So these earthly blessings were promised to Israel if they obeyed the Mosaic Law. And if certain laws were disobeyed the one who disobeyed them was cut off from those blessings. We read, for example in Numbers 19:13, “That person (one who touches a dead body and does not purify himself) must be cut off from Israel“. In the next sentence we are told that his “uncleanness remains on him“. Obviously, he must remain alive if his uncleanness remains on him. And in Ex. 12:15 we read, “…. whoever eats anything with yeast in it…. must be cut off from Israel.” Other scriptures which speak of one being cut off from Israel if they disobeyed certain of the laws include Ex. 30:3, and 38, and Lev. 7:20. In short, I believe that Israelites were cut off from the dispensational blessings enumerated in Lev. 26 that God promised if Israel obeyed His law.
So in Romans 11, Paul explains that an unbelieving Israelite will be cut off from Israel and Her national blessings, and believing Gentiles would be grafted in to the nation in their place.
“How Much More Their Fulness”
To what does the phrase “how much more” refer? We learned that in the previous phrase, i.e. “the fault of them the riches of the Gentiles” referred to the riches of individual Gentiles as they were grafted into Israel’s dispensational blessings. So the phrase “how much more” must refer to something even better than that.
What is it that will make the situation so much better for the world? The answer to that question is in the word “fulness”. What does Paul mean by “the fulness” of Israel? If, as I believe, we must take the meaning from the context, we may conclude that the fulness is the opposite of the “offence” and the “fault” of Israel. The offence and fault of Israel was Her failure to repent so that Christ would return in order to establish His millennial reign (see Acts 3:19, quoted above). So the fulness of Israel would be the opposite. The fulness of Israel is Her repentance so that Christ will return and establish His millennial reign.
How is that better than preaching salvation to the Gentiles? It is better because when Christ will establish His millennial reign, He will rule the world in justice and there will be peace for 1,000 years. We read in Is. 2:4, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore“.
And there is yet further indications of “how much more” when the millennial reign is established. We read in Rom. 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him Whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things?'”
The term “the gospel of peace” is quoted from a passage in Isaiah. We read in Is. 52:7 the message that is quoted in Rom. 10 plus the following, “that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, ‘Thy God reigneth‘”. The phrase “thy God reigneth” tells us that this is a millennial prophecy. What is the gospel of peace that will be published during the millennium? This gospel will not be preached to Israel because Israel will have already “heard” and “believed” by the time of the millennium. That means therefore, that this gospel will be preached to the nations, that they might “call on Him in Whom they have not heard”.
In other words, Israel will, at long last, fulfill the position they were chosen to fulfill, i.e. they will be a nation of priests and be sent to all the nations of the world for 1,000 years to bring them to Christ..
In short, Paul’s point in Rom. 11:12 was that the best thing that could happen to the world, even better than the message of salvation preached to the Gentiles by the apostles, is Christ’s millennial reign during which time the entire nation of Israel will bring the message of salvation to all the peoples of the world for a period of 1,000 years. This proves that Paul did indeed have the millennium in mind when he wrote the epistle to the Romans.
“THE HOPE OF ISRAEL”
We read in Acts 28:20, “For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain”.
What did Paul mean by the phrase, “the hope of Israel”? I believe that most in the mid-Acts community would say that Paul was referring to Christ as Savior, i.e. that the hope of Israel was resurrection. But Christ came as Savior to the entire world (Jn. 3:16), not just to Israel. Let us continue this thought with a careful study of the context.
To whom was Paul speaking in this verse? Verse 17 tells us that Paul had called “the chief of the Jews” to speak to him. So he was speaking to them, i.e. the chief of the Jews. The chief of the Jews in Rome represented the Jews of the dispersion. Paul was not more interested in the salvation of these chief of the Jews than any other persons. But if they, as representatives of Israel in dispersion, would have accepted his message of Christ as King, that could have meant Christ’s return (see Acts 3:19 quoted in the section above).
My point is that the fact that Paul was in bonds for “the hope of Israel” and the fact that that was part of his statement to the chief men of Israel, i.e. the leaders of Israel in dispersion, leads me to believe that the phrase “the hope of Israel” refers to Christ as King of Israel rather than to Christ as Savior of the world
In other words, “the hope of Israel” refers to Christ as King in His millennial reign. This passage alone tells us that as late as Acts 28 the message of Christ as King was still very much in Paul’s mind. .
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
We read in Acts 28:23 that Paul “expounded and testified the kingdom of God”. Paul was speaking with the chief of the Jews. What was the message that Paul preached to these chief of the Jews about the kingdom of God?
Before we begin our study of the kingdom of God I would like to draw the reader’s attention to a principle that is, in my opinion, overlooked, to at least some degree, by most dispensationalists. That is the principle that some passages are not written, nor do they refer, to individuals as part of a nation or as members of a church, they are written to and/or refer to people as human beings apart from their dispensational standing. For example, we read in Rom. 6:8, “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him”. It is true, of course, that this verse is found in an epistle written during the Acts period and therefore written to those of the previous dispensation. It is also true that this verse is equally true of believers in the present dispensation. The reason it is equally true is because it is a truth for believers as human beings apart from their national origins, i.e. Israel or the nations.
My point is that we must consider more than just to whom, or in which dispensation a passage was written if we are to correctly understand what God has for us. We must also bear in mind that some passages are written to people as human beings totally apart from whether they are part of a nation or nations, or whether they are members of the church.
We are now ready to begin our study of the kingdom of God. As we begin that study I should point out that where Matthew uses the phrase “kingdom of Heaven”, the other Gospel writers use the phrase “kingdom of God”. While on earth, our Lord spoke in Aramaic. When Matthew translated the Aramaic into Greek he used the figure of speech, Metonymy of the subject. But when the other Gospel writers translated the Aramaic they translated the phrase literally. Dr. Bullinger writes in his Appendix number 114 in the Companion Bible, “Now heaven is frequently used by the Figure Metonymy (of the subject) for God Himself, Whose dwelling is there”. Examples of the use of this figure of speech are found several times in the Old Testament. Daniel 4:26 for example reads, “The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules”. It is clear that “Heaven” is put for God, Who rules. And in the New Testament we read in the parable of the prodigal son, “The son said to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. ..” (Luke 15:21). He sinned, not against a place, but against a Person, God.
In the New Testament the phrase “kingdom of God” is used in two different ways. It is used 1) of Christ’s reign over the nation of Israel, i.e. the kingdom of Heaven. And it is used 2) of Christ’s reign over individual believers as human beings, apart from their dispensational standing. Let us look at a few of the scriptures which speak of the two ways in which the phrase “kingdom of God” is used.
1) It is used of Christ’s reign over the nation of Israel.
As we compare Matthew 4:17 with Mark 1:15 we shall see that both Gospel writers recorded the same event. But where Matthew used the phrase “kingdom of Heaven” Mark used the phrase “kingdom of God”.
Matthew 4:17 reads, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘repent: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Mark 1:15 reads, “…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel”. Matthew translated the words of Christ figuratively as the “kingdom of Heaven”, but Mark translated the same discourse given at the same time as the “kingdom of God”, i.e. literally. Obviously, in this passage, the kingdom of God is used in the same sense as is the kingdom of Heaven, i.e. Christ’s millennial reign over the nation, as opposed to individuals.
But how can we account for that difference? That is to say, why does the Holy Spirit, at times, use different terms for the same thing? The answer to that question lies in the fact that each Gospel writer presented Christ in a different office. The paper on The Kingdom of Heaven presents the Scriptural evidence that Matthew presented Christ as the King of Israel, Mark as the Servant of God, Luke as the Son of Man and John as God. Christ in His office of Servant, or of Son of man or of God does not, primarily, have any impact on the millennial reign over Israel. Christ in His office of King of Israel, does, of course, impact the millennial reign over Israel. And that is why Matthew uses the term “kingdom of Heaven”, and Mark and Luke do not use that term, but use instead the term “kingdom of God”.
Other passages in which the term “kingdom of God” is used in the same sense as Matthew’s phrase “kingdom of Heaven” are, a comparison of Matthew 13:11 with Luke 8:10, Matt. 5:3 with Luke 6:20 and Matthew 13 :31 with Luke 13: 18-19.
Now we come to the second way in which the term “kingdom of God” is used.
2) The phrase “Kingdom of God” is also used of God’s reign, not of a nation, but over individual believers apart from their dispensational standing.
In John 3:3 for example, it is clear that what was intended was that only believers as human beings (as opposed to a nation) can see the kingdom of God. “….unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. The phrase is used in the same way in John 3:5, “…unless a man is born of spirit and water, he cannot see the kingdom of God”. These verses obviously have to do with individual salvation unto eternal life. Salvation is an individual matter of faith, not a national matter of blessings. Therefore, when we read of the kingdom of God in relation to salvation, we are reading of a reign over individuals as human beings, not a reign over a nation. (Some believe that Jn. 3 is a passage about the rebirth of the nation of Israel. I believe that the paper on this web-site on being born again will prove from Scripture that this passage is not about the nation of Israel, it is about individuals as human beings apart from their dispensational standing.)
(A more complete study on the two aspects of the kingdom of God may be found in the paper on this web-site which is a study of the terms of God’s kingdoms. This study also discusses the assumption that Paul preached the same message of the kingdom of God in Acts 28:23 as he did in Acts 28:31)
We are now ready to determine what the message was that Paul preached to the leaders of the dispersion of Israel in regard to the kingdom of God. May I remind the reader that in this same conversation Paul told those leaders that he was bound for “the hope of Israel” which, as the section above suggested, was the return of Christ so that He might reign as the King of Israel in His millennial reign.
And as stated in the section above, Paul was not more interested in the salvation of these chief of the Jews than any other. But if they would have accepted his message of Christ as King, that would have meant Christ’s return. So that is another reason for my belief that in this context (Acts 28:23) the term “kingdom of God” is used in reference to the millennial reign.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: email@example.com