Monday, March 6, 2017

The Gospel of John Does Not Reveal This Present Age

Most fundamental preachers believe that this present dispensation began before Paul’s ministry, and there are some verses in the Gospel Records that they commonly use as proof texts to support their claim. They especially like to use the Gospel of John because they think it was written to Gentiles (it emphasizes “world”) and that it reveals the gospel of the grace of God (it emphasizes “believe”), but neither is the case. John emphasized the world because he wrote with an emphasis on the deity of Christ and because Christ will establish a worldwide kingdom. He emphasized believing because his book works in harmony with the other gospel records which emphasize repentance.

John plainly stated why he wrote the book: 

John 20:30-31 
[30] And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 
[31] But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Many think that the Gospel of John is written primarily to the Gentiles, but SIGNS are for the Jews (1 Cor. 1:22). The profession of faith required to enter the kingdom is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16-19; Jn. 1:49; 6:69; 11:27; Acts 8:35-37). That is NOT a sufficient profession to be saved in this age! Yes, we need to know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, but specifically that He died for our sins, was buried, and rose again for our justification (1 Cor. 15:1-4). 

Let’s consider the passages most often used in the Gospel of John to support the claim that this present dispensation began in the earthly ministry of Christ.

John 1:17 
[17] For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

This verse can’t mean that the dispensation of grace began with the earthly ministry of Christ, because that would contradict what Christ Himself said about His ministry (Matt. 5:17-20). This verse is not making a statement about when the dispensation of grace began. If John was saying that the dispensation of grace came by the earthly ministry of Christ, then he would also be saying that there was also a dispensation of truth that came by Christ. There was grace and truth before the incarnation, but when Christ came He manifested grace and truth more fully (vs.14-18). The reason for the contrast between Moses and Christ is to show the difference between the old and the new covenants. Besides, the Bible plainly says that Paul was given the dispensation of the grace of God for the Gentiles (Eph. 3:2).

John 1:29 
[29] The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

This verse is often misused to teach that John the Baptist preached the same gospel that we preach today. John the Baptist preached the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 3:1-6), not the gospel of the grace of God (Gal. 1:11-12). He warned about the “wrath to come” that would fall on those who rejected his message (Matt. 3:7-12). The LAMB will open the seven seals in the tribulation period when the day of His wrath comes (Rev. 6:1, 12-17). In opening the seven seals, He will be taking away the sin of the world in the sense of judgment. John the Baptist did not understand the suffering of Christ (Matt. 11:1-6). Even the twelve apostles did not understand the death of Christ until after His resurrection (Lk. 18:31-34). 

John 10:16 
[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.

If the plain words in Eph. 3 have any meaning (and of course they do, God says what He means and means what He says), we know Christ is not referring to the Body of Christ in this passage. Besides, since when is one fold with one shepherd the same thing as one body with one head? The sheep Christ is talking about in John 10 are said to be in His hand (vs.27-30). That is certainly a secure place to be, but it's even better to be His hand (1 Cor. 12:13)! I am not saying there aren't any spiritual applications in Jn. 10 for us. Christ also laid down His life for us (vs.14-18). Paul referred to the church as a flock (Acts 20:28). But the doctrinal interpretation is not about us. Christ did not say the "one fold" was a mystery. According to prophecy, the scattered sheep of Israel will be re-gathered and united as one in the kingdom. The kingdom of heaven will not be divided like Israel's kingdom was for most of its history (Ezek. 34:20-31; Ezek. 37:15-28). Because Christ came to CONFIRM the promises made to the Jewish fathers (Rom. 15:8), we know that what He said in John 10 was based on prophecy. There was only a remnant of Jews in the land during the earthly ministry of Christ. Most of them were scattered among the nations (Acts 2:5-11). Christ said that He was "not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24). If Christ had Gentiles in mind in Jn. 10:16, then He was talking about the nations that will enter the kingdom, not the Body of Christ (see the “sheep” nations in Matt. 25:31-46). There will be a distinction between Israel and the nations in the kingdom. Israel will reign over the Gentiles, but there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the one spiritual Body of Christ. The way most Bible teachers interpret Jn. 10:16 is a classic example of anticipating revelation. They take truth that Christ revealed from heaven through the apostle Paul and read in back into the earthly ministry of Christ. 

John 11:47-54
[47] Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 
[48] If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 
[49] And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 
[50] Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 
[51] And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 
[52] And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. 
[53] Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. 
[54] Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.

I see no problem with a man like Caiaphas prophesying in light of the fact God allowed Balaam (Num. 22-24) and King Saul (1 Sam. 19:18-24) to prophesy. He prophesied that Christ would die, but he certainly didn’t understand the true meaning and purpose of it. John takes that prophecy and applies it in a deeper sense (vs.51-52) in light of the knowledge he had when he wrote by inspiration. I think that “the children of God scattered abroad” refers to the believing remnant of the dispersion (Jam. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1) who were technically not of that nation (Acts 2:5, “of every nation under heaven”) but would be gathered back into the land at the second coming (Matt. 24:31). The twelve tribes of Israel will be gathered as ONE in the kingdom on the basis of the blood of the new covenant.

John 17:20-23
[20] Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 
[21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 
[22] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 
[23] I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

The kingdom church will be one in Christ. They will be filled with the Holy Ghost. They will dwell with God and God will be in them. In the eternal state the Lord will “gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10), but that will not remove the distinction between Israel, Gentiles, and the Body of Christ. How were we made members of the Body of Christ? By believing the word of the twelve apostles (Jn. 17:20-21)? No, it is by the word of THE apostle to the Gentiles (Eph. 3:6). Notice that sanctification is mentioned just before He prays that “that they all may be one” (17:14-19). Being sanctified, they are all made one in the Lord. This is connected with Heb. 2:11-12. The “church” in Heb. 2:12 is the “congregation” of Ps. 22:22-28. It is the prophesied kingdom church (Matt. 16:18). 

Why is that so many Bible teachers just refuse to acknowledge the distinct ministry that Christ gave Paul for us in this age? They accuse us of magnifying Paul as a man, but nothing could be further from the truth! Paul himself said that he was "less than the least of all the saints" (Eph. 3:8). But Christ gave him an "abundance of revelations" (2 Cor. 12:7) and the grace to make them known. We seek to follow Paul, even as he followed Christ, because that's what the BIBLE tells us to do (1 Cor. 11:1). 

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