Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Pentecost and the Kingdom of God, and answering a few objections.

The scope of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Though we all claim that Jesus died for my/our sins, the scriptures give a different picture of Jesus’ ministry.

Mat 15:24: He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Jesus made this statement while a Canaanite (gentile) woman begged Him to heal her demon possessed daughter and the disciples pleaded for her sake (Mat 15:22, 23). He went to the extreme of terming the gentiles as dogs (Mat 15:26).

This is not an isolated scripture, cherry picked to prove my point. The same kind of sentiment is conveyed by Apostle Paul (author of the epistle to Hebrews):

Heb 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

In simpler terms, Jesus’ death was for the redemption of trespasses committed under the Old Covenant or the Law.


Gal 4:4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 
Gal 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Though the scriptures say that Jesus is the lamb that takes away the sins of the world and He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, the primary scope of Jesus’ earthly ministry was the redemption of true Israel. There was an impending danger of judgment awaiting the Jews then and that is the reason he was focused on them. This is the reason Jesus instructed disciples not to go anywhere near gentiles.

 Mat 10:5: … Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 
 Mat 10:6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (compare this with Mat 15:24)

Once the redemption of those under the Law is completed by His death, he gave the disciples the freedom to preach to the nations, as we see in Mat 28:19.

I think Jesus was alluding to the redemption of non-Israelites (to be accomplished after His death and resurrection) in these passages:

Joh 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (See also: Eph 2:13-16)

Joh 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

Does Mat 28:19 contradict Mat  Mat 10:5-6, 23?

Mat 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Mat 10:23: When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

As we have already seen, the scope of Jesus’ earthly ministry was to redeem those under the Law. Towards the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus was immensely displeased with the adamant attitude of Jews that He made it plain to them:

Mat 21:43: Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
Mat 23:38: See, your house is left to you desolate.

Jesus’ instruction in Mat 28:19 to preach gospel to the nations was pursuant to the taking away of the kingdom from Jews and giving it to gentiles. Nevertheless, this was not implemented until after the Pentecost. This is further is established by:

Act 1:4: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

Since they are not supposed to leave Jerusalem, there is no way they can finish going through the towns of Israel. Once they receive the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost, they are free to preach to anyone, anywhere.

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.

Please note the expressions "power" and "Holy Spirit". We will come back to these. (If I don't forget)

The Pentecost and the Kingdom of God.

Jesus did associate the coming of the Kingdom of God with the working of the Holy Spirit. Unless one can prove that the Holy Spirit is different from the Spirit of God, here is it:

Mat 12:28: But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

In fact, the disciples were given the power to cast out devils and heal the sick while they were sent out on their missionary journey.

Mat 10:8: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

But that power did not abide with them. There were situations where the disciples were not able to cast out the devils.

Mat 17:19: Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, why could not we cast him out?

Whereas, after they received the Holy Spirit, they had no such issues. Even the shadow of the apostles could heal the sick. (Acts 5:15) Whether it is a bit too far fetched or not, people thought that even the handkerchiefs and aprons touched by the apostles could heal the sick. (Acts 19:11, 12)

Many do ardently pray for the Kingdom of God to descend from heaven, like the sheet (containing all kinds of unclean animals and reptiles) a famished Peter saw in his vision while he was at Joppa (Acts 10). But, the scriptural definition of the Kingdom of God is different.

1Co 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

Rom 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost

On the Pentecost both Holy Spirit and power were bestowed upon disciples. And that is where the Kingdom of God was established once for all among men.

This gives rise to a few questions:
  1. What about 70 AD?
  2. Was it not Holy Spirit who came on the Pentecost?
  3. How about earthly Kingdom of God?

#1 What about 70 AD?

The commencement of the Kingdom is with the starting of the ministry of Jesus (Kingdom has come unto you - Mat 12:28). The establishment of the Kingdom was on the Pentecost.

By the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and massacre of 1.1 million Jews at the hands of Roman army it was evidenced that God has rejected them completely as His Kingdom. (your house is left to you desolate - Mat 23:38). Though I don't have the historical evidences at this point of time, it is common knowledge that not even a single Christian was killed in the siege of Jerusalem. This clearly showed that those who rejected Christ were rejected by God.

The period between the commencement of Jesus' ministry and 70 AD can be called as a transition period. Most of the scriptures were written to the followers of Christ (both Jewish proselytes and gentiles who accepted Christ) who lived during that period. There are warnings about the then impending judgment and being saved from judgment and wrath of God. We may come across many "Already, but not yet" kind of statements in the New Testament and it takes a lot of discernment to isolate and understand them.

#2 Was it not Holy Spirit who came on the Pentecost?

The answer depends on your understanding of the Holy Spirit and who was supposed to come. The "Comforter" passage in John 14 means various things to various groups.
  • There are quite a lot of people who believe that it is talking about the founder of their religion.
  • There are Christians who hinge their theology on usages like "another Comforter" and "he" (third person singular) to mention the Holy Spirit.

The 'he' question.

The argument that Jesus (or any of the authors of the New Testament) used 'he' (Greek word denoted by G846 in Strong's Lexicon) to refer to the Holy Spirit is not a very strong one to establish a doctrine. Jesus addressed himself as 'he' and 'him' (in third person) several times.

Joh 3:15 That whosoever believeth in himG846 should not perish, but have eternal life.
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in himG846 should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through himG846 might be saved.
Joh 3:18 He that believeth on himG846 is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

'I am he'

Mr. Theologian is at his office, and his phone rings. He picks up the phone:

the Caller: 'May I speak to Mr. Theologian?'
Mr. Theologian: 'It's me'.
the Caller: 'May I speak to Mr. Theologian?'
Mr. Theologian: 'It's I'.
the Caller: 'Is it: it's me or it's I?'
Mr. Theologian: 'Okay, it's Mr. Theologian speaking'.

Though Mr. Theologian is not very sure whether the correct usage is 'it's me' or 'it's I', he is pretty sure that whenever Jesus said: 'I am he' (Joh 8:24, 28; 9:9; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8), Jesus was implying that He Himself was Jehovah of the Old Testament. (Ex 3:14)

Joh 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins.

If this theory is true, then Apostle Peter also could be equated to Jehovah, because, he also uses the same expression (using exactly the same Greek words):

Act 10:21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am [he] whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?

Such flimsy theological constructs will stand only till such time someone with an inquisitive mind would expose them.

(BTW: the grammatically correct usage is: 'it's I', though many use 'it's me')

Who was supposed to come? Son? Father & Son? Or a third person?

Though Jesus told His disciples: "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Mat 28:20) it is evident that He was not with them, because he ascended to heaven.

Joh 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

Though many teach that Jesus did not leave anywhere, the above scripture makes it plain that only if Jesus goes away, the Comforter would come.

Jesus explains the process of being with them in John 14.

Joh 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  => So, another comforter had to come to the disciples.

Joh 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. => Here, Jesus had to come to the disciples.

Joh 14:23 ... If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and WE (Father and Jesus) will come unto him, and make our abode with him. => Now, both Jesus and His Father had to come to the disciples.

Take your pick: Who had to come?

The Comforter is also called as 'the Spirit of Truth':

Joh 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ.

Rom 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Jesus is the TRUTH:

Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

∴ the Spirit of Truth is the Spirit of Christ.

In fact, the Greek word, G3875 in Strong's  translated as the Comforter (in Joh 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7)  is rendered as advocate in:

1Jn 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

[Weymouth New Testament Translation (WNT) renders the word as Advocate everywhere.]

G3875 παράκλητος (paraklētos, par-ak'-lay-tos) An intercessor, consoler: - advocate, comforter.

It is Jesus who intercedes for us with God:

Rom 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us

#3 How about earthly, physical Kingdom of God?

This question is unscriptural and born out of carnality and ignorance. Jesus has clearly said:

Luk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you

Joh 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

If there be found any omissions in this post, kindly let me know.

In Christ,

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