The Coming Kingdom
3-27-19 Acts 15:14-21 Lesson 64
Good to see everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Acts, chapter 15 verse 14. Thanks to Jim for filling in for me last Sunday. I was ill, I’m feeling better though. We’ve been doing this teaching on the kingdom and we are in chapter 19 of the book I wrote, called The Coming Kingdom. And just when you thought that that book was too long then the author (myself) thinks of something I should have included but didn’t so now I’ve got to make the book even longer. It’s one of those things where it’s like why didn’t I include this. If I get a chance to do a revised and expanded edition I want to include this because I don’t know what I was thinking but Acts 2, as we’ve studied, is a big deal in the Kingdom Now debate. And what I didn’t include is Acts 15; that’s a big deal in the Kingdom Now debate.
And the reason we’re talking about this is we’ve been developing the idea that the kingdom has been offered, not cancelled but postponed. So we believe that we’re in the church age which is not the kingdom. And there are many, many people who believe that we are in the kingdom today and they develop a lot of their thinking, not just from the passages related to Christ’s first coming but also to things happening in the Book of Acts. So we spent some time in Acts 2, we’re finished with that; that was a big thing to deal with. And now we’re just going to spend this evening, as God allows it, in Acts 15.
I don’t know if you’ve studied Acts 15 lately but it’s a very pivotal chapter and it deals with the time period when the early church was heavily becoming dominated by Gentiles. So the first Gentile conversion in the church in Acts 10 was a man named Cornelius; prior to his conversion the whole church is Jewish. And then, as you can see from the map here, Paul beginning in Acts 13 and 14 from Syrian Antioch, which is the upper north of Israel, launches out on his first missionary journey into non-Jewish non-Israeli Gentile territory. And he goes through southern Galatia, the blue line is the outgoing trip and the red line is the return trip. And that’s a missionary journey that we call his first missionary journey. It’s recorded in Acts 12 and 14 and it took place about A.D. 48-49 and once Paul does that there’s a pattern that starts to set in where it’s the Jews that are primarily rejecting the gospel, and it’s the Gentiles that are getting saved like crazy.
In fact, let me show you this pattern, just go back to Acts 13 for a minute if you could, and I kind of have to do this to set the table for what’s happening in Acts 15 to understand it correctly. Acts 13:44, which is Paul’s first missionary journey. It says, “The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.” This is in Southern Galatia.  “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.”  Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.  For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’”  When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.  And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.”
So this is what’s happening in Southern Galatia and this is now what happens basically everywhere where Paul goes in the Book of Acts, it’s the Gentiles that are embracing it and the Jews that are rejecting it. So what’s happening is the church, which started off primarily as an offshoot of Judaism is not becoming an institution dominated by Gentiles. And so the question becomes as all of these Gentiles are now coming into the church is what do you do with these people? Do you make them submit to the Law of Moses to be a member of the church? The Jewish leadership probably thought that because that’s how it had been for 1500 years under the dispensation of the Law.
So if you are a Gentile in that prior dispensation and you wanted to follow Yahweh you had to become what’s called a proselyte where you submitted to the Mosaic Law and you went under the Mosaic Law. In fact, probably the most famous proselyte in the whole Old Testament is Ruth, who was not a Hebrew, she was a Moabite and basically she said to her mother-in-law, Naomi, your God will be what? My God, your people will be my people.
So now we’re in the age of the church and the Gentiles are the ones that are really interested in Christianity and the cause of Christ. You’ve got Gentiles coming into the church in droves and the Jewish leadership has got to figure out what do we do with all these Gentiles. Do they have to go under the Mosaic Law to join the church. And that’s what the whole meeting in Acts 15 is about, which is the first Jerusalem Council. Actually, as I’ll show you in a minute, it really isn’t the first Jerusalem Council, it’s the second Jerusalem Council. The first Jerusalem Council is in Acts 10 and 11 where Cornelius got saved and in Caesarea, and then they all rushed back to Jerusalem to have a pow-wow about it to figure out can a Gentile really get saved. And so Peter has to recount how this Gentile got saved. That’s Jerusalem Council number one.
And now that Paul has launched off into his first missionary journey and the Gentiles are getting saved like crazy, they’ve got to have a second Jerusalem Council meeting related to what do you do with all these Gentiles? Do they have to go under the Law of Moses to join the church or not? Is it going to be just like it was in the prior dispensation where we have proselytes, Gentile proselytes coming into the Mosaic Law or not. That’s really the issue here in Acts 15.
So what’s happening in Acts 15 in the discussion that takes place is not a justification issue, that issue has already been figured out with the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10, and the first council meeting in Acts 11. It’s not a sanctification issue either, that issue has already been handled in which book of the Bible? The very first epistle that Paul wrote… Galatians. So the issue here is not a justification issue, the issue here is not a sanctification issue, the issue here is an ecclesiology issue. And what’s happening with all of these decisions is the church is battling Pharisaism. Pharisaism is the idea that we’re going to take people and put them under the Law. We’re going to take Gentiles and put them under the Law. We’re going to take members of the church and put them under the Law.
So the first group of Pharisees are justification Pharisees who said you’ve got to believe in Christ but you’ll also got to submit to the Law of Moses to be justified before God. And that’s the crowd that Jesus is dealing with in the Gospels. And I think He settled that issue in Matthew 5:20 where He said, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness exceeds” what? “that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” So how do you get right with God? Is it faith plus Law? NO, it’s faith alone! And the issue was also resolved in the first Jerusalem Council in Acts 10 and 11 where a man named Cornelius, a Gentile, got saved by faith alone without the Law.
Then the second issue of the early church is dealing with is sanctification issues. Do you have to go under the Mosaic Law to grow as a Christian, to develop properly as a Christian? And a group of Pharisees had come into the church’s Paul had planted in Southern Galatia and they were trying to convince the church that they needed to do this. And so that’s why Paul, at the end of missionary journey number one writes the whole Book of Galatians. What’s the point of the Book of Galatians? That you grow as a Christian, you are progressively sanctified as a Christian the exact same way you were justified. How were you justified? By the Spirit alone and by faith alone! So how do you grow as a Christian? By the Spirit alone and by faith alone, and therefore it’s not necessary that you go under the Mosaic Law to grow as a New Testament Christian.
The key verse in the Book of Galatians, and I have to share this background with you or else you really won’t understand what’s happening in Acts 15. The key verse in the Book of Galatians is Galatians 3:3, which says, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” So how do you get justified as a New Testament believer? Faith alone without the Law. How do you grow as a New Testament Christian? Faith alone without the Mosaic Law. You’re under a new set of rules called the Law of Christ but not the Law of Moses.
So now we finally get to Acts 15 where the church is dealing with the third round of Pharisees who were saying all of these Gentiles that just got saved on Paul’s first missionary journey have to come under the Mosaic Law to be a member of the church. So it’s not a justification issue here in Acts 15; it’s not a sanctification issue in Acts 15, those have already been settled. It’s an ecclesiology issue. Do you follow me on this?
So the Jewish leadership probably thought to themselves it’s got to be like it’s always been, for 1500 years, we’ve always had Gentile proselytes and so many of them probably thought that’s how it’s going to be in the age of the church. So they have this huge pow-wow (if you will), in Jerusalem at the Jerusalem Council to solve this issue. Now how did they solve this issue? They got no vision from God to figure this out and it’s interesting in a book of audible voices from God and the Spirit told Philip to stand by the chariot, Acts 8. And Peter saw the vision of the sheet, Acts 10. By the time you get to Acts 15 there’s no voice from God, there’s no vision from God, and yet they’re confronted with this problem—what do we do with all of these Gentiles that want to come into the church? Do they have to go under the Law of Moses to come into the church or not?
How could the early church leadership figure this out if God wasn’t saying anything to them or giving them a vision? Well, they had to take existing Scripture and the only thing they had was Hebrew Bible, Old Testament is what we call it today, and they had to reason from the Scriptures that God had already revealed. And that’s how they reached their conclusion in Acts 15.
So how does this whole thing play out? Here’s kind of an outline if you will. In Acts 15:1-6 you see the necessity of Paull and Barnabas to travel to Jerusalem; they have to travel there to figure out this issue that I’ve been describing. And then when you get to Acts 15:7-21 you have the deliberations; I mean, what Luke is showing us is how the decision was made. First of all Peter speaks, verses 7-11, and I sort of get a kick out of Peter speaking because he makes the point there in verses 7-11 that why would we put these Gentiles under the Mosaic Law when us Jews, going back 1,500 years couldn’t keep the Law ourselves. I mean, look at our history, we’ve done a terrible job trying to keep the Law, why would we think the Gentiles would do any better.
And then verse 12 you have just sort of a brief reference of Paul and Barnabas’s speeches, the details really aren’t given, they just sort of corroborate what Peter said. And then a guy named James speaks, and that’s what we’re focused on here, because these are the verses that James uses that are ripped out of context to teach that we’re in the kingdom. And he quotes the Book of Amos, chapter 9, verses 11-12 and we’ll talk about that speech in just a minute. Now you know who James is, right? James is the half-brother of Jesus. James is the pastor of the Jerusalem church and James is the same guy who wrote the Book of James. So we’re dealing with that fellow. He was one of the first martyrs of the church age. I think tradition says they threw them off the walls, a high wall surrounding Jerusalem. So that’s the James that we’re dealing with here.
But to just to sort of round off Acts 15 I’ve been trying to get to verses 22-35, you have the resolution of the matter and what is the resolution? Do the Gentiles have to come under the Mosaic Law to join the church? Yes or no? The answer would be no; if the answer was yet we’d all be acting and thinking a lot differently today, wouldn’t we, in the year 2019. First of all we wouldn’t be meeting on Sunday, we’d be meeting on Saturday and all these other things. And so obviously the decision, do the Gentiles have to go under the Mosaic Law to join the church? The answer to that question would be no as the early church didn’t receive a direct word from God on this but they had to reason from existing Scripture.
So you have an Antioch delegation consisting of Paul, Barnabas and Silas, they’re sent from Jerusalem to Antioch where the church is growing like crazy, to announce the decision. You have in verses 23-29 the formal letter that was crafted explaining the Jerusalem Council’s ruling on this matter. And then you have in verses 30-35 the ministry in Antioch now just taking off because they are not under the Mosaic Law and God is doing a new work in and through them.
So that’s a little background on Acts chapter 15 and what we’re focused on is James’ speech in this council and exactly how he’s quoting Amos 9:11-12. So with that background in mind let’s take a look at Acts 15:14-21 and we’ll look at James speech.
James says  “Simeon” that would be Peter, “has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.  “With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,” and here’s where he begins to quote Amos 9:11-12, Amos was an 8th century B.C. prophet and because we don’t have a direct word from God on this he’s got to go back into existing Scripture and he’s got to reason from existing Scripture.  “‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN,” now you can see how Kingdom Now theologians use that, can’t you? They use that verbiage to say that Jesus, according to James, is reigning on David’s throne right now. That’s why I’m bringing up all this. “After these things I will return and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT,  SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’  SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO. “Therefore” James speaking, “it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles,  but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
So the ruling of the Jerusalem Council is the Jerusalem Gentiles did not have to go under the Law of Moses to join the church and in the process James quotes Amos 9:11-12, and those words “the restored tabernacle of David” now become key words that kingdom now theologians use over and over and over again to argue that James is saying that the Davidic Kingdom has started. That’s why they think James is quoting Amos 9; he’s not just saying the Gentiles can come into the church without submitting to the Law of Moses. He’s also saying that Jesus is now reigning on David’s throne now and we are in a spiritual phase of the kingdom. The question is are they using James’ words correctly; that’s why I’m bringing all this up.
Just to show you that I’m not making things up this is a quote, now it’s kind of an extended quote, I’ve got a few slides on it, it’s from a man named Kim Riddlebarger who is an amillennialist who argues very strongly that there is no future millennium nor future kingdom because we are in the kingdom now. He wrote a book back in 2003 called A Case For Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times. And notice how important James use of Amos 9 is to his kingdom now thinking.
Riddlebarger says, “In Acts 15, the church in Antioch appointed Paul and Barnabas to report to the Jerusalem council regarding the salvation of the Gentiles and to seek help in resolving the question that had been troubling the church as a result. Should Gentile converts be circumcised in order to be saved?” Now when he says that, as a side note, I think he missed the point of Acts 15. We already know that a Gentile can get saved, through whose conversion? Cornelius’s and the church already had a meeting about that in Acts 11, and so I think he’s misread Acts 15 which is not a justification issue but a ecclesiological issue. “Once in the city, Paul and Barnabas reported to the elders and apostles on all the things God was doing among the Gentiles (Acts 15: 4). When certain converted Pharisees declared that Gentiles must be circumcised and obey the law of Moses (v. 5), Peter refuted their arguments by pointing out that it was God who had given these Gentiles the Holy Spirit:”
“We believe” quoting Peter here, “it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are’ (v. 11).” Riddlebarger then says, “Then James, the leader of the church, spoke (vv. 13ff.):” He begins to quote James here who speaks up in Acts 15, “‘God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written,’ and James cited a passage from Amos 9:11–12: ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.” Riddlebarger loved that language because to Riddlebarger’s mind that means that we’re in the Davidic kingdom now. “Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ that have been known for ages.’”
And here’s Riddlebarger commentary. ““James saw the prophecy” that’s the one in Amos 9, “as” what? What’s the next word there? “fulfilled, this is how these amillennialists think, it was actually fulfilled at that point in them. “James saw that the prophecy as fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection and exaltation and in the reconstitution of his disciples as the new” what? “the new Israel.” Now when you see that you know “Houston, we’ve got a problem” because the church is never called Israel, and Israel is never called the church. In fact, when you go through the Book of Acts, when the two existed together just prior to A.D. 70, you’ll see that each word, Israel and church is used about twenty times each and they’re never intermingled. Even the famous Galatians 6:16 passage that we’ve studied in this class does not teach that the church is the new Israel. [Galatians 6:16, “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”] So whenever someone calls the church the new Israel you know right off the bat that you’re dealing with a kingdom now theologian or a replacement theologian.
He goes on and he says, “The presence of both Jew and Gentile in the church was proof that the prophecy of Amos had been” what? “fulfilled.[ 15] David’s fallen tent had been rebuilt by Christ. In Amos’s prophecy, ‘after this’ indicated that the prophecy referred to what God would do for Israel after the exile. When James applied this prophecy to the church, was he spiritualizing an Old Testament text? “ I would say yes. “Or was James reading the Old Testament” watch this very carefully now, “through a Christ-centered lens typical of the greater light of the messianic age?” [Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 39-40.]
That is how Kingdom Now theology thinks; they think that the Christ event caused the apostles to take all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel and alter them. And we in this class have preached and taught very strongly against that perspective. We do not believe that the New Testament changes the Old Testament; haven’t we talked about that? The New Testament can add details, it can add clarity but it cannot alter what was originally set. The New Testament can never say ha-ha Israel, just fooling those prophecies don’t apply to you, they instead apply only to the church. And if anybody says that the New Testament changes the Old they’re following a bad method of interpretation and you know that you are in the presence of a kingdom now theologian who’s talking that way.
Riddlebarger, goes on and he says, “This question lies at the heart of the debate between amillenarians and dispensationalists.” Dispensationalists are who we are, and I agree with him, this question does lie at the heart of the debate between the two. We’re teaching that the kingdom is postponed; he’s teaching that the kingdom is now and he’s building his house on James’ use of the Book of Amos in Acts 15. And you know you’re in the presence of a kingdom now theologian when they can’t control themselves, they’ve got to attack the Scofield Reference Bible at some point, you know that terrible Bible that so many people love. They can’t even get through their spiel without some kind of dig at the Scofield Reference Bible. By the way, the Scofield Reference Bible is one my two favorite study Bibles. People ask me all the time, what study Bibles do you recommend; I recommend… first of all I tell people there’s no perfect study Bible because they’re manmade. But if I had my choice the one with the least problems is the Ryrie Study Bible and if that doesn’t meet your druthers then you might think about the Scofield Reference Bible.
“The famous notes of the Scofield Reference Bible (1909) say that from a dispensational perspective James’s speech is the most important in the New Testament. According to Scofield, James is describing what will happen after the church age concludes (‘after this’), i.e., in the millennium, when God will reestablish a Davidic rule over Israel. If this is true, when Paul and Barnabas sought guidance for a concern that was immediate to them (Should Gentile converts be circumcised?), James responded by pointing to a future millennium thousands of years distant.”
“Here is one instance in which dispensational presuppositions get in the way of the plain sense of the text. Scofield interprets the text literalistically, not literally. Dispensationalists are often forced to reinterpret any New Testament data that does not fit in their Old Testament–derived prophetic scheme. Dispensational presuppositions will not fit with much of the interpretation supplied to Old Testament data by New Testament authors. A thorough survey of both Old Testament and New Testament eschatological categories will demonstrate the dispensational hermeneutic to be untenable.” I’m almost finished with the Riddlebarger quote. And the reason I give you these long quotes is not to bore you to death but when you name names what people will say is oh, you misrepresented me. Well, it’s hard for me to misrepresent you when I’m quoting extensively your own words.
“More importantly, such a survey gives us the proper framework and external controls to interpret prophetic sections of Scripture correctly. The irony is that dispensationalists’ practice of interpreting all prophetic texts in a literalistic fashion amounts to a repudiation of the historic Protestant hermeneutic and the principle of the analogy of faith. If amillenarians adopt the New Testament writers’ interpretation of the Old Testament, are they not following the literal sense of Scripture, even if the New Testament writers universalize something that was limited to Israel in the Old Testament?”
“The dispensationalists’ literalistic reading of prophetic passages must not be confused with a literal reading. A literal reading—a reading that gets at the plain sense of the text—will allow the New Testament to” what? “interpret the Old.” That means to change it, in his mind. “It is amillenarians, not dispensationalists, who interpret prophecy literally in that they follow the literal sense of how the writers of the New Testament interpret Old Testament prophecy.” [Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 39-40]
There’s just an awful lot of gobblety-gook there. So what’s the BLT, Bottom Line Time? What he’s saying is James in Acts 15, by quoting Amos 9 in the midst of this ecclesiological discussion about what do we do with all these Gentiles that just got saved? Do they have to join the church? Do they have to go under the Law of Moses to join the church or not? James, quoting Amos 9, James is not just saying that the Gentiles don’t have to go under the Mosaic Law to join the church, but he’s also saying that James’ use of the language, the historic tabernacle of David means that James is taking Amos’ prophecy and changing it. It’s no longer governing Israel in the millennium, it’s taking place now in the church age, and we are the new Israel after all. And we’ll walk, Jesus is now reigning on David’s throne and we are now in the kingdom age. That’s why I’m bringing all this stuff up.
So with that introduction in mind which took half the class to do that, more than half, I want to give a really fast response to what Riddlebarger is doing here and how I think he is abusing the Acts 15 passage and I want to show you what James is really saying through his use of Amos 9 in Acts 15.
So what do we have, it looks like six points. Number one, Riddlebarger is presupposing that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament. That’s why he says the prophecy was fulfilled in Acts 15. That’s why he calls the church the new Israel. That’s why he says James applied it to the church. And that’s why he says we need to read the Old Testament through what? A Christ-centered lens, in other words, the New Testament does what to the Old Testament? Changes it. He calls this the analogy of faith and he says this is what New Testament writers do all the time.
You might be looking at this and saying this is the most boring talk I’ve ever heard but the reality of the situation is Christians all over the United States, all over the world, are sitting in churches that are teaching this kind of dogma to people without really ever explaining how they arrived at their amillennial position.
So number one, I think Riddlebarger’s presupposition is off base. I don’t think the New Testament ever changes the Old or ever reinterprets the Old or else God would be doing what in the Old Testament? He’d be lying! I mean, do we understand that for the New Testament to come along and cancel or rewrite Old Testament passages to teach kingdom now basically is to say that everything God said in the Old Testament was I really didn’t mean that, there was another meaning coming that you don’t know about, which to me is a very serious attack on the character of God because God cannot what? He cannot lie, Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man that He should lie.” [Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”]
Number two, my second response to what Riddlebarger is doing here is he’s building Kingdom Now theology from a chapter of the Bible that doesn’t even contain the word what? The word “kingdom” is not even here. Isn’t that kind of odd? I mean if Acts 15 is all about the establishment of the Davidic kingdom in spiritual form wouldn’t the word “kingdom” show up once in Acts 15? It’s used about eight times in Acts so why wouldn’t it show up here Acts 15? That’s, to me, a bit strange.
Number three, if Riddlebarger is saying that the Amos passage is fulfilled in Acts 15 isn’t that a little strange when you don’t find what word in Acts 15? The word “fulfilled” isn’t there. Now does Luke, in the Book of Acts use the word “fulfilled” when passages are being fulfilled. Yes he does. Acts 1:16 he records these words. “Brethren, the Scripture had to be” what? “fulfilled,” plēroō. You don’t find the word “fulfilled in Acts 15, you don’t find the word kingdom in Acts 15 and to get this idea that the kingdom is now present in Acts 15 requires a presupposition that the New Testament changes the Old Testament.
I hope you’re seeing a pattern here because when we went through Acts 2, those were the same issues there as well, the exact same issues.
Which takes us to a fourth problem with what Riddlebarger is doing: What is the meaning of “after this.” Go back to Acts 15:14 and take a look at that for a minute. James is speaking of Peter, “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.” Now that verse is a beautiful statement of what God started to do in Acts and what He’s been doing for the last 2,000 years. He, in the church age, has been reaching out to Gentiles in unprecedented form and many, many Gentiles have been won to Christ and God in this age, although a few Jews do get saved, the people in dominant ascendency in the church today are not Jewish, although we praise the Lord for every Jewish conversion, but it’s primarily Gentiles and that’s exactly what James said was going to happen, God was going to take from among the Gentiles a people for His own name. I mean, you’re a part of it, I’m part of it as well.
With this word of the prophets agree, just as it is written after this, “ see that, “after this I will return and rebuild the tabernacle of David.” After what? After God has finished this great work of reaching out over two thousand years to Gentile people, the church age. After that program is over (and we’re in that program now) after that program is over THEN God will do what? Rebuild the tabernacle of David. See the chronology here. The tabernacle of David is not being built now; the tabernacle of David and the Davidic throne and the Davidic kingdom, all of those things, it’s specifically saying in this passage that they will come into existence “after these things.”
After what things? Back up to verse 14, after the Gentile age of the church is over. And so it’s sort of surprising to me that scholars of the capability of Kim Riddlebarger can’t even see the chronology in the passage. I mean to me it’s crystal clear but to me he is ignoring the chronology of the passage by making it sound like we’re in the Davidic kingdom now.
Thomas Ice writes, of this passage, “James explains how the decision of the council at Jerusalem was an outworking of God‘s purpose for this age. God‘s plan for history relates to the past ages with Israel and to Israel‘s role in the coming age (the Millennium), but the current Church Age” that’s today, “will center around the Gentiles. After the Church Age is concluded,” see the chronology here, “after the Church age is concluded then the Lord will return, and ‘rebuild the tabernacle of David’ [verse 16], i.e., the nation of Israel. This Old Testament reference is from Amos 9:11–12. During the Tribulation” that’s after the church has been removed, “the Lord will work to convert the nation of Israel to Himself, ending with the second coming and the millennial reign of Christ. God‘s plans for history will come to pass just as He ordained.” [Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, p. 1304.]
And I think Thomas Ice has the right order there. We’re not in the Davidic age, we’re in the Gentile age but one of these days this age will be over. After this completion then God is going to fulfill the tabernacle of David prophecy in Amos 9:11-12. [Amos 9:11, “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old;  That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,” declares the LORD who does this.”]
Beyond that how could Amos 9 be a prophecy about the church when the church in Old Testament times was a what? Ephesians 2:14-16 says the church is a mystery. Ephesians 3:3-6 the church is a mystery. Ephesians 3:9 the church is a mystery.
[Ephesians 2:14-16, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,  by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,  and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”
Ephesians 3:3-6, “that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.  By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,  which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;  to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,”
Ephesians 3:9, “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;”]
What’s a mystery? That which being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension could be made only known by divine revelation. A mystery is a truth hidden but now brought into the open. So you can read the Book of Amos, you can read the Old Testament all you want, you’re not going to find a single reference to the church in the Old Testament. Why not? Because the church is a mystery, it’s a brand new truth disclosed in New Testament times. And if that’s true how in the world can Amos be making a prophecy about the church age when he couldn’t even fathom what the concept was; the church hadn’t been revealed yet. Are you following me on this?
Romans 16:25-26 defines what a mystery is, that which is kept secret from long ages past but now is manifested by the Scriptures. [Romans 16:25-26, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;”]
Colossians 1:26 talks about what a mystery is. A mystery has been hidden from past ages and generations but now has been manifested. [Colossians 1:26, “that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints,’]
The mystery is that parenthesis, or that time period in between the end of the sixty-ninth week of Daniel but before the seventieth week starts, that gap. Have we not talked about this? That’s where we are, living in between those two increments of time and we’re part of this mystery, something that Amos didn’t know anything about. So how could Amos’ prophecies be fulfilled in the church age when the church by nature is a mystery?
Here’s another chart that we’ve used describing the mystery concept and the prophets couldn’t really see the valley that we call a mystery. The mystery is the period of time between the ankles in Daniel 2 and the feet of ten toes. If you want to know where we fit in Daniel 2 we’re living between the ankles and the toes, or maybe the ankles and the feet would be a better way of saying it, because there’s a gap of time there that’s undisclosed, isn’t there.
Is any of this ringing a bell, because we spent 63 weeks in Daniel so I’m hoping some of this resonated. This is why the Old Testament prophets couldn’t even make sense of their own prophecies. Peter says the prophets made careful searches and inquiries, not understanding the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. [I Peter 1:10-11, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,  seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”]
I mean, we can look back in the 21st century and we can see what prophecies relate to what things, which prophecies relate to the first coming, what prophecies relate to the second coming. The poor Old Testament prophets themselves, without the vantage point of history, not understanding the mystery had no such luxury and they themselves were confused by their own prophecies. Do you understand that, that you can understand Isaiah’s prophecies better than Isaiah himself? Remember at the end of the Book of Daniel what he wanted? He wanted understanding. Remember what he was told? Go your way, Daniel 12, many will go to and fro and knowledge will increase. [Daniel 12:4, “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”]
Daniel himself didn’t even understand his own prophecies. And yet here’s little old me in the year 2019 able to read Daniel and understand it better than Daniel himself, the author. We’re very privileged, don’t you think, based on the time period that we’re living in. So my point there is what he’s doing with Amos 9 can’t be accurate because he’s making Amos 9 a prophecy about the church, being fulfilled in the church when the church was something that Amos knew absolutely nothing about. It was a mystery.
So if all of this is true then why in the world would James use Amos 9 in Acts 15? Why did he do it? And here’s the reason he used it; he’s not saying the kingdom started, he’s not changing the meaning. He’s using it as a what? As an analogy. Why does he have to use it as an analogy? Because the church, in Acts 15 is at a crisis point, they’re trying to figure out what to do with all these Gentile converts. Do they have to go under the Law of Moses or not to join the church? That’s what they’re wrestling with. And Luke records the outcome of this because Luke is all about describing the birth and the growth of the church and this was a time in church history where the church just took a massive quantum leap forward ethnically. That’s why this is all recorded by Luke, for our edification!
And so why is James using Amos 9? He’s not saying we’re in the kingdom. He’s not saying Jesus is reigning on David’s throne. He’s using it as an analogy. Why does he have to reach back and use analogies? Because there’s no direct voice from God as there was in other times in the Book of Acts. And there’s no direct vision from God as there was in other times in the Book of Acts. So the only thing the church had was the existing Scriptures available to them. The New Testament hadn’t even been written yet. And so they’re using the only Scriptures that they had by way of analogy to resolve this ecclesiological crisis.
So basically what James’s point is this if you go back to Acts 15 for a minute and you look at verse 15, “With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,  ‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT,  SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD,” look at the middle of verse 17, “AND ALL THE” what? “GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’  SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.”
Why is James using Amos 9? He’s saying this, you know what, when the millennial kingdom is set up the Gentiles are going to be full citizens so why not make them full citizens when? NOW, in the age of the church All James is doing is reasoning from God’s plan in history. He’s not saying the Davidic kingdom has started; he’s not doing anything of this sort. The only thing he is saying is the Gentiles are going to be full participants in the Millennial kingdom so way of analogy what shall we be doing now? Let’s let the Gentiles become full citizens in the church also, without first making them submit to the law of Moses after they get saved. After they get saved and they want to come into the church let’s not do it like we did it for 1500 years under God’s command, where proselytized had to come under the Mosaic Law to walk with Yahweh. We’re in a new age no, we’re in a new dispensation now and if I am reading Amos 9 correctly the Gentiles are going to be full citizens in the future so by way of analogy let’s make them full citizens now. That’s a very BLT, Bottom Line Time explanation of what’s going on here in Acts 15 and James use of Amos 9.
And just to show you that this is not my opinion alone this is the opinion of J. Dwight Pentecost, my professor who is commenting on this passage. “Afterward a question was raised concerning whether it was necessary for the Gentiles who had believed and had been brought into the church to abide by the precepts of the Mosaic Law. Judaizers insisted that in order to please God as believers and members of the kingdom of God, it was necessary for all men to live under the precepts of the Mosaic Law. This question was submitted to the apostles in Jerusalem, and Peter testified to the salvation of the Gentiles by faith in Jesus Christ apart from the Law (15:7–11)”
“His testimony is further corroborated by Barnabas and Paul (v. 12), and James who presided at this council hearing rendered the decision of the council. It was evident that God for the first time in dealing with men was dealing with Gentiles as Gentiles ‘taking from the Gentiles a people for Himself (v. 14). James found this in keeping with the prophetic program.” See that sentence there, “James found this in keeping with the prophetic program. In Amos 9:11–12 it was prophesied that after the period in which Israel was disciplined because of disobedience (vv. 1–10) and the Davidic throne left empty for a time, the Davidic throne would be restored and the Davidic kingdom would be instituted. When it is reinstituted, the kingdom will include not only the physical descendants of Abraham, but also a multitude of Gentiles as well. Therefore the restored Davidic kingdom under its rightful Davidic king would be composed of both Jews and Gentiles. In that kingdom Gentiles would not be made into Jews; instead they would be in the kingdom as Gentiles. This allowed James to conclude that if God had a program for Gentiles as Gentiles in the future Davidic kingdom established here on the earth, there was no reason to deny that God could include Gentiles as Gentiles in this present” age of the church. It’s just a simple analogy, is all James is doing here. Dwight Pentecost concludes, “Therefore the issue was settled—the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised and bring themselves under the Mosaic Law in order to participate in the present form of the kingdom.”
Now when Dr. Pentecost talks about a present form of the kingdom I have a difficulty with that; he believed in what’s called a mystery form of the kingdom and I don’t believe in that so that’s why his language is kind of different than mine and if you want to know where the two of us disagree with each other, he’s dead now, he’s with the Lord so now he agrees with me and Jesus perfectly. [Andy laughs] If you want to know why we disagree on some of the language then just go back and look at our studies on Matthew 13. But his point is still a valid one. “Rather, apart from the Mosaic Law, through faith in Jesus Christ they are equal participants with believing Jews in the present form of the kingdom of God” [J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, Page 279-80]
And this is the same view of the Scofield Reference Bible that [can’t understand word] is attacking. The Scofield Reference Bible has it right in the notes here. Commenting on Acts 15 it says, “…begins with the words ‘on that day.’ James introduced this quotation in such a way as to show what day Amos was talking about, namely, the time after the present world witness (Acts 1:8), when Christ will return. James showed that there will be Gentile believers at that time,” what time, the kingdom age, “as well as Jewish believers; hence he concluded” why did he have to conclude this way, no audible voice from God, no vision, he had to reason from the existing Scriptures that they had. “…he concluded that Gentiles are not required to become Jewish proselytes by circumcision.”
So I think that’s really what’s happening in Acts 15 and I think when people use it to say that the tabernacle of David has been restored today they’re completely abusing the passage. What are their six problems. They’re presuming that the New Testament reinterprets the Old Testament, which it does not. Number two, They’re doing this despite the fact that the word “kingdom” is missing in Acts 15. How could the kingdom be established in Acts 15 when the word isn’t even used. Number three, the word fulfilled isn’t even used. Number four, they’re ignoring the words “after this.” The Davidic Kingdom is restored after the Gentile work of the church is over. Number five, how could Amos 9 be a prophecy about the age of the church when the church at the time Amos wrote was a mystery. Which leads me to number six, then why in the world is James quoting Amos 9 in Acts 15? He’s just using the passage by way of analogy. So Dr. Pentecost has it right, the Scofield Reference Bible has it right, the Kingdom Now theologians I think have it wrong.
So next week when we’re together we’re going to finish up the passages from the Book of Acts, there’s a few loosely hanging passages that use the word “kingdom” in the Book of Acts, and after we’re finished with all of that then we’re going to be moving into passages from the Apostle Paul that support the idea that the church is the kingdom. So look at that, I got all that in and I finished even a minute early and actually I finished two minutes early because we started one minute late. So what do you think about that? So the Holy Spirit is really working tonight.
So we’ll let folks go, if they need to take off or collect their children or otherwise they’re tired from sitting for an hour after that heavy meal, and if other folks want to stick around for Q&A we can do that.