At the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15, all the apostles and Church leaders met, along with Paul and Barnabas to decide how they should approach the Gentiles with the Gospel.
Most of the Jews wanted to require the Gentiles to be circumcised and submit to the Mosaic Law. Paul, among others was adamantly opposed to any requirement other than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is by grace we are saved through faith, not the Law.
There were also many Jews who did not think the Gentiles should even be a part of the Church. To them, the Church was for the Jews only, and it must function under the Mosaic Law.
James, the Lord’s half-brother, was head of the Jerusalem church and spoke as follows:
“When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
“‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ things known from long ago. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Acts 15:13-19 emphasis mine)
After James finished, it was decided that they would not require any Gentile to be circumcised, but only asked that they, “… abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality…” (Acts 15:29)
The key point here is that from the mouth of James, the Lord’s half-brother, it was recalled that God would call to Himself a body of Gentiles. Therefore, the Gentiles would be accepted into the Church. When the Church began at Pentecost it was 100% Jewish. Several years later, Gentiles are becoming a part of the Church, and were soon in the majority.
Notice in these verses above that God is choosing a people for His name from among the Gentiles, the Church, and after this He will turn back to Israel.
Let us make one thing very clear, the church did not replace Israel. Once the Church is complete, the Rapture will occur. God will then return to Israel (Daniel’s 70th week or Tribulation) to finish the remaining seven years they are owed from the 490 they were promised (Daniel 9).
So how close are we to God removing the Church from the earth at the Rapture and returning to Israel? When God is finished calling a people for Himself from among the Gentiles, Jesus will remove the Church from the earth. Then He will turn back to Israel for the final seven years.
Paul tells us, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” (Romans 11:25) So obviously, there is a certain number of Gentiles that will compose the Church, the body of Christ. Then the body is complete. When that number is reached, Jesus will return for His bride.
It stands to reason, that if we really want Jesus to return soon, then we should be witnessing to as many folks as possible, because when that final number is reached, the Lord returns. Obviously, that isn’t a very good reason to witness. We should witness because we honestly care for the person. We don’t want them to leave this world lost. We want them to enjoy the riches of being with the Lord for all eternity along with us.
Apparently, no one but God knows when “the full number of the Gentiles has come in,” so we should look at it as continuing opportunities to share the greatest news the world could ever hear.
We have the Good News of a free gift from God (no strings attached), bought and paid for by His only begotten Son. The gift of eternal life and adoption into the family of God is ours if we just realize we are sinners and need to be saved, and then call upon Jesus Christ through child-like faith to save our souls. It is in His death, burial and resurrection our faith resides, not any works of our own. Only through Him is the way to the Father.
As the body of Christ that is nearly complete (in my opinion), we also need to build each other up in the faith. We should pray for one another and encourage each other. Christians should never be fighting among themselves. Can you imagine the chaos if your hand wants to feed your stomach but your mouth won’t open because it’s pouting about something? That makes as much sense as Christians giving other Christians a hard time.
The Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to write about the body of Christ so that we might know that we are part of that body when we believe upon Jesus Christ. You can read about this in First Corinthians chapter twelve.
Also remember, that Jesus is the head of the body, not me and not you. Sometimes we forget that. In the meantime, we should nourish our body (the Church), encourage others to be a part of His body, and look for His soon return. I don’t know when that will be, but we do know it is imminent.
Pre-Rapture Commentary: http://grant-phillips.blogspot.com
Rapture Ready: http://www.raptureready.com/featured/phillips/phillips.html