The Great Commission in Mat. 28
Was Never Spoken to the Church,
But Only to the Messianic
Believers of Israel.
By Jan Lilleby
Almost all Christian denominations have made the common mistake, in making the so-called ‘Great Commission’ their basis for preaching the Gospel to the world; Mat. 28:19, 20 is the specific text in which we find that commission.
However – my point here is NOT that we Christians should not go out with the Gospel. Of course we shall share the Gospel with the world and preach to them salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.
The point is that what Jesus commanded His disciples/Apostles to do, was never commanded us, the Church, - but He commanded that to the believing Israel and the Jews – whom at that time – had specific covenants with God and special promises to them, NOT concerning us Gentiles. The Church, as we know it, did not come forth before Paul revealed that ‘Mystery’ which God first revealed to him, 30 years after Jesus spoke what it says in Mat. 28. (Eph. 3:1-9). The Church, the One New Man, was a hidden secret within God Himself, until He chose to reveal it to Paul. That was when Paul sat in custody in Rome awaiting the Appeal Case before Emperor Nero in 62 AD.
Jesus explicitly told His listeners that He was sent ONLY to the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Mat. 15:24). The ‘Great Commission’ must be read in that context, or else we will remain in confusion.
We must also have in mind the blunt historical fact that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were NOT even written when Peter and the eleven preached to Israel in the early days of their ministry! I shall come back to this near the end of this article. They did not have the written material which we have, not at all.
Christianity in general lack understanding of the fact that God held a separation/segregation between Israel - and the Church, in which we find all nations included and sat on same spiritual level. But Israel, we see in Scripture that she had been separated from out of the nations, and made head of the nations (if they fully obeyed God). In the Church dispensation no one is put on higher level than the other, we are all equal in Christ, He had that ‘Wall of Partition’ torn down as Paul said in Eph. 2:14, 15.
But in Israel in the times of Jesus and the apostles, it was a kind of ‘Church’ if you like, but only in the sense what we find with Israel: He had several covenants with His people, and He had revealed Himself to them many times over. In the time of His apostles He offered Israel a NEW COVENANT, the very same which Jesus established by giving His life for them at the cross, see Heb. 9:15 which gives a concentrated word on that.
This NEW covenant was only offered to the believing Israel, of which Jesus had elected His apostles to administrate and preach. The covenant was never offered to ‘All the world freely’. Jesus spoke His commission in Mat. 28 and in Mark 16 only to His segregated Israel, and according to the will of God they were supposed to receive their Messiah King, Jesus of Nazareth, in faith and be baptized (Acts 2).
It was in this special context, separated from the nations, that Israel’s Messianic believers heard the ‘Great Commission’ spoken to them by Jesus Christ, quote from Ampld. Bible:
“Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the (very) close and consummation of the age.” (Mat. 28:19, 20).
I have mentioned it several times over the years, particularly in my books: The ‘Great Commission’ is lacking much in its translation, giving unwanted room for misunderstanding, - which we really could have avoided had we only had people in the committees who understood this separation between Israel and the nations better.
Below here, I took the liberty of clipping into the article a piece from my book “The Book of Acts – The Story of Israel’s Falling Away From God”. I recommend it to you, and it is free of charge. Choose Pdf or Word file, by emailing me. Here is an excerpt regarding the case of the ‘Great Commission’:
THE GREAT COMMISSION IS WRONGLY TRANSLATED
“From out of Peter and the events of Cornelius’ house in Acts 10, we know for sure that the translation of Mat. 28 is in failure – leaving the reader in uncertainty over what exactly the passage is all about.
Actually, Peter already at Pentecost Acts 2 spoke straight forward and openly displayed that the event was only for Israel…just check it out:
Peter addressing the audience exclusively by saying ‘People of Israel’ in various terms:
Acts 2:14 ‘You Jews and all you residents of…’
v. 22 ‘You men of Israel’
v. 36 ‘..let the whole house of Israel recognize..’
And a few weeks after Pentecost in Acts 3:12 ‘You men of Israel’
If we then continue with Peter at Cornelius’ house in Acts 10, and the following reactions of the other apostles in Judea and Jerusalem in Acts 11, it confirms again what I have already told you above:
“Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard with astonishment that the Gentiles also had received the Word of God.” Acts 11:1.
The apostles and the assembly at Jerusalem and those in Judea were shocked that the kingdom-gospel had been received by the Gentiles.
This just keep confirming what I wrote, that Mat. 28 and the Great Commission is translated in error, because it actually says that Jesus bade His apostles to, “..make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Verse 19. The promise to be with them to the ‘close and consummation of the age’ – verse 20, was not in the meaning of them going out into the entire global world, generation after generation, and Christ being with His servants each and every generation even so today, but rather He had in mind that the apostles were sent to have Israel repent so that He could return from heaven in their life time! Christianity has got it all wrong.
Which is exactly what we see in Acts of the actions of Peter and the eleven; Peter did NOT misunderstand Jesus, - no, he had understood Him perfectly right. Israel was the people charged by God to repent and believe on Jesus.
Another matter into this issue, is that the multitude of visiting Jews in Jerusalem at the feast days/weeks and thus present at the event in Acts 2 and what took place at the day of Pentecost, came from Provinces and nations outside Israel, and they represented 13 – 14 different languages and dialects,
Acts 2:5-11 says, “Now there were then (at Pentecost) residing in Jerusalem Jews, devout and God-fearing men from every country under heaven (in the Empire, not globally). 6: And when this sound (of a tempest wind) was heard, the multitude came together and they were astonished and bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own particular language/dialect. 7: And they were beside themselves with amazement, saying, Are not all these who are talking Galileans? 8: Then how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own particular dialect to which we were born? 9: Parthians and Medes and Elamites and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and the province of Asia, 10: Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and the transient residents from Rome, both Jews and the proselytes, 11: Cretans and Arabians too – we all hear them speaking in our own native tongues the mighty works of God!”
It is among the majority of Bible scholars held for correct that it were those Jews from Rome, present at Pentecost, who formed the Messianic assembly there, to whom Paul wrote his epistle. Paul had never been there before, neither any of the other apostles. Likewise, there existed assemblies like that one in Rome, elsewhere in the Empire particularly in the western regions.
We find in Acts 16 that Paul was told by the Holy Spirit to avoid travelling to certain areas. One was the Bithynia region in the North-Eastern part of the Empire (Acts 16:7). But in the eastern regions there was need of God’s apostles to preach the Gospel to them, which was the calling and ministry of Paul. He reached mostly those Jews who had not been present in Jerusalem at Pentecost. At this stage in Bible history, we may very well consider Paul to have been the Lord’s ‘Follow-up’ so that the entire Jewry in the dispersion also could hear the Gospel.
Just consider this: Why was it that Christ and His Father had decided to send the Holy Spirit upon them in Jerusalem at that particular day? Why not earlier, or later on?
My answer is: Also the Lord knew of the visiting multitudes by thousands, coming from almost all the regions in the Empire to celebrate the feasts. There Christ could reach ‘All nations’ which had Jews among them. And these Jews represented 13-14 languages – thus it was convenient for the Lord to send His super-natural divine gift of speaking in tongues. The Greek texts imply that it could rather and better be translated - ‘from out of the nations’ and not ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matt. 28:19).
It was the event at Pentecost Jesus had in mind, when giving His Great Commission to the twelve. All nations, that are Jews from all nations - would be in Jerusalem at Pentecost. It never was meant that Peter and the others should go to foreign lands at all! It was the other way around; God had them come to the apostles. The result was that 3000 came to faith in Christ at Pentecost. And later on, another 2000 came to faith so that the assembly at Jerusalem had over 5000 members (Acts 4:4). It is also logically and even true, that more Jews came to faith over the years, as Pentecost was celebrated every year….of the 30 years reported in Acts! James, who then (58 AD) was the pastor in Jerusalem, Acts 21:20 seem to confirm this thought, greeting Paul at his arrival there:
“…you see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews…”.
Peter and Paul agreed early to go in their own personal calling, which to Peter was to go only to the Jews (circumcised) in Israel – but Paul was to go to the Gentiles, and they were already in the synagogues as proselytes (Gal. 2:7, 8).
Paul did not start his mission according to Matt. 28 and the Great Commission. He was told explicitly, as was Barnabas, by the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:2-4:
“Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. 3: Then after fasting and praying, they put their hands on them and sent them away. 4: So then, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from that port they sailed away to Cyprus.”
If we take a look at Peter again and the event in Cornelius’ house Acts 10, we can learn more about what shock the brethren suffered, and that the Gentiles receiving God’s Word and having fellowship with Jews was unheard of:
Acts 11:2, 3 – “So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party found fault with him 3: Saying, Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”
And Peter had to explain thoroughly the event and the reason he had done this.
Why did Peter had to be imposed the strong vision as he stayed with Simon at Joppa? It was repeated three times, since Peter answered back to the Lord refusing. Peter did not want to ‘eat unclean animals for food’ – an imagery the Lord used in this vision for Gentiles. So if it was correct that Gentiles were included already from ‘Day One’ at Pentecost in Acts 2, - like believers read into the Great Commission in Matt. 28 – why did the Lord have to persuade Peter into meeting with Gentiles?
But such was not the case, as I now have proven to you. The concept propagated by the Pentecostal movement of Pentecost in Acts 2 having regular Gentiles included, with speaking in tongues, is entirely false.
Only Israel was commanded to keep the Pentecostal ‘Feast of The Weeks’ – one among a number of feasts to keep according to Mosaic Law. The fiftieth day after the feast of the ‘Unleavened Bread’, as I already mentioned above. And, as just mentioned above, the feasts were held every year throughout Acts.
We Gentiles were actually shut out of any feasts and ordinances, like Paul wrote in Eph. 2:12. Only as proselytes could we have admission into spiritual and social fellowship with Jews.
The translation of Matt. 28 and the Great Commission is wrong. It was given only for the Messianic believers under the leadership of the apostles. The mission was to offer the Kingdom of God on earth to Israel, so that by their acceptance Jesus could return from heaven and establish His kingdom. Christ would never ever want to invite the whole wide world into this earthly kingdom, for it was only promised to Israel (Dan. 2:44).
Remember the Lord’s own word of His mission, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” – Matt. 15:24. And to his disciples He commanded: “Do not go out on the road to the Gentiles, go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.’
Mark 16:20 gives us a look in the rearview mirror – as the apostles had fulfilled their mission,
“And they went out and preached everywhere (in Israel), while the Lord kept working with them and confirming the message by the attesting signs and miracles that closely accompanied. Amen.”
And all these things we are served in detail in Acts 1-12 chapters. We do not find any ‘World-Wide Mission’ in the Acts regarding Peter and the eleven.
But Paul, as he went out in the Empire to the synagogues and the Jews with their proselytes, he was given by God to perform ‘the signs of an apostle’ (2 Cor. 12:12). He preached the same message as Peter, only outside of the land…and put stronger emphasis on welcoming proselytes in the assemblies (Rom. 11).”
The logics, in that the commission was given only to the Messianic believers of Israel, lays in the fact that Israel was offered the prophesied and promised Kingdom of God on earth (The Millennial Kingdom) with Jesus as King in Jerusalem at His coming. His coming was offered as imminent in the times of the apostles. So, consequently, Peter and the eleven could NOT go into the entire global world ‘All nations’ – including the Gentiles – and offer them the Kingdom in Israel! God has never promised to give away a millennial kingdom to the entire world. The prophets of God only spoke of it as a kingdom for Israel, and Dan. 2:44 are exemplary in that regard:
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people; but it shall break and crush and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
This prophesied kingdom in Dan. 2:44 are the same as we in Christianity called “The Millennial Kingdom”. It shall stand for one thousand years. Thus that prophesy does not speak of literary eternal time that never ends, and that fact we have to be very exactly and prudent to keep in mind.
Rev. 20:4 confirms this, saying among other things,
“…and they lived again (were resurrected) and ruled with Christ a thousand years.”
The martyrs who had been killed by Anti-Christ during the Great Tribulation were resurrected at the Lords coming from heaven.
The main reason for my pointing out these things regarding correct understanding of the Great Commission, of among other issues, is that we should not confuse and mixing together Biblical promises but hold them separate between the Church and Israel. We cannot take over promises originally given the Messianic Jesus-believers in the times of the apostles, and apply these on the Church, the One New Man, which was revealed to Paul thirty years after, and in which the gospel now suddenly included ALL people on earth regardless of Israel.
In the time of the apostles the gospel was preached to Jews and their proselytes, and presented as a national Jewish Gospel, promising a kingdom on earth to Israel at the return of Christ. But since Paul had the ‘Mystery’ in Eph. 1-3 revealed to him, there was no longer any preaching of the millennial kingdom, but only the international Gospel in which the hope of salvation now is heaven up above where Christ is at His Father’s side. (Greek: Epiouranos).
During the preaching of the earthly kingdom gospel to Israel, it was “Jews first, then Greek” (Rom. 1:16). But from the time that Paul came forth with the new free international grace Gospel, it is ALL nations and peoples are made equal in faith in Christ. (Eph. 2:14, 15). This free grace Gospel can be found ONLY in Ephesians and Colossians, no other epistles. Big difference!
THE REAL COMMISSION TO THE CHURCH
Can we find a so-called ‘Great Commission’ to the Church in the New Testament which is valid for us today, since we now know that the one in Mat. 28 and Mark 16 only were given to the Jewish Messianic believers in the times of Jesus and the twelve apostles?
Yes, we do find such an order, however not spoken by Jesus directly, but He used His apostle Paul to come forth with this – he was the apostle to the Gentiles. And I shall come back to this shortly.
As long as Israel still remained Gods chosen people on earth, before any other nations, only the words of Jesus in Mat. 28 and Mark 16 were valid and was an order to His apostles to preach the Kingdom-Gospel, promising a Kingdom which Jesus should rule from Jerusalem. Already in Gabriel’s words greeting Virgin Mary, Jesus was declared to become king of Israel, eventually. And the preaching of this Kingdom is found reported in the Book of Acts, a 30 years history of how the apostles went about in their ministry for Jesus. Had Israel repented and believed on Jesus – the whole nation – then He would have come back from heaven in their life time. His coming was regarded as imminent throughout Acts.
I have already mentioned this above, but it needs to be repeated.
Peter was given the mission, together with his fellow apostles – to preach to Israel exclusively, so exclusively that we find only one single exception from this, in Acts 10 and the incident of his calling to go to Cornelius’ house. The believers there became proselytes in the apostolic assembly. It was no free grace Gospel yet, only Kingdom-Gospel. For Peter it was a One-Off. He never went regularly to Gentiles.
Eventually Paul was called by Christ to go outside of Israel, into the Provinces, mainly the Eastern parts of the Empire where the news of Jesus the Messiah had not yet reached. Paul was told to go to Gentiles (proselytes), kings and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15). Peter and Paul agreed to minister differently from one another: Peter preached to the circumcised (Jews), and Paul preached to both circumcised (Jews) AND proselytes/uncircumcised. Gal. 2:7, 8.
As a minor side-remark, my mention of the ‘Great Commission’ in Mat. 28 above as being a bad translation work, is not just taken out of thin air! The committees have had at least two choices for how to translate from Greek/Hebrew. In their choice thereof they went translating so that one could easily misunderstand the words – letting us readers believe that Peter was commanded to go into ALL THE GLOBAL WORLD, and made this inheritable for each following generations in history up until our time. The committees have never, as a whole, understood properly the events in Acts, and that it was ONLY the preaching of the earthly Kingdom to Israel in the 30 years reported there. In all the time of Acts, Israel was still sat above the nations, and there was no room for any new free grace Gospel – such as we now have from Paul. The translators should rather try to check better how it really was with Israel in the times of the apostles!
It had to go wrong, as they lacked knowledge about certain historical facts found inside the Jewish ordinances and traditions, law and commandments.
In original Biblical-Greek language it is so, that the words in Mat. 28:19, 20 to ‘make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…’ can be translated to ‘make disciples from out of all nations..’. Ask any scholar who has a full degree in Biblical-Greek. Thereby we are into a direct understanding of the situation found in Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem 32 AD. Where Peter and the eleven had before them a multitude of Jewish people from OUT OF all nations, Acts 2:5. Jerusalem was due to Pentecost overpopulated with people from all the Roman Empire, including Jews coming all the way from Rome!
It was this multitude of different Jewish people (13-14 different languages and dialects) the twelve apostles, headed by Peter, whould give the Gospel of the Kingdom on earth and Jesus Messiah as their coming King. And they did. Peter had this in mind, 8 years later preaching in Cornelius’ house, saying,
“You know the contents of the message He sent to Israel, announcing the Gospel of peace by Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of all…” Acts 10:36.
But after several years, Paul in his ministry to Israel and proselytes, trying to convert the children of Israel in the Diaspora, he finally ends up in Rome in chains and custody, in 60-62 AD. After two years in Rome awaiting the Appeal Court of Nero, and AFTER God gave up Israel and abandoned her as a nation, we find that Paul was given the revelation of the ‘Mystery’ – a free international grace Gospel for ALL peoples, and from that time on the law of Moses has been abolished (Eph. 2:14, 15). All believers now equal in the faith in Christ. No longer ‘Jews first, then Greek’. The Wall of Partition was torn down.
Luke does not explain in any given details when ending his writing of Acts, that, from now on Israel is to be regarded as fallen from God. He just stopped writing his Jewish history book, without saying that from here on Israel is to be regarded as fallen away from God. He preferred to end the book by showing Paul still pounding on the Jewish door in Rome trying to convince them of Jesus as the Messiah.
But Paul, already from his arrival in Rome in 60 AD – quoted Isa. 6 to the leaders (from the eleven synagogues in Rome) – that those who refused to believe Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, they are indeed spiritually blind, deaf and void of understanding. These are words of doom and damnation – found in Acts 28:25-28. Particularly verse 27 is formed as an ultimatum, ..and turn to Me and be converted, that I may heal them. Israel as a nation – God using the leaders in Rome as a last resort – would NOT repent and believe on Jesus Christ, thus the nation at this final call ended up falling from God. Paul’s judgmental word was followed up by the following stern statement, verse 28 -
So let it be understood by you then that the salvation of God HAS BEEN SENT TO THE GENTILES, and they will listen!
As the Book of Acts ends, in Biblical time-line, the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians takes over, written in 62 AD.
The summary of Paul’s new Gospel doctrine in these two church epistles makes out a so-called ‘Great Commission’ for the Church; an order to go to the world, with the Gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ. Only, under this new order to mission in the world, it was spoken/written not by Jesus, but by His only apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. His Gospel is to the entire world and there is no earthly Kingdom offered to the believers, but heaven up above (Greek: Epiouranos).
At this stage in Bible History, notice: No ‘Great Commission’ found in Matthew/Mark had been written, or taught to others. People in Christianity had NO KNOWLEDGE of such a word. But fact is (I shall come back to this at the end of this article) that all the Christians during the late part of Paul’s ministry, had already gotten the doctrine of the INTERNATIONAL free Grace Gospel for the entire world! Paul was the leader for all Christians, for sure. And I can guarantee that Paul NEVER quoted any letters of doctrine written by the others (regarding Kingdom-Doctrine and the New Covenant) to the assemblies in his care. He taught ONLY the new free Grace Gospel, starting in 62 AD by his writing of Ephesians and Colossians.
Eph. 3:1-9 must be regarded as a news-bulletin propagating/declaring the new free Grace Gospel to all people – and no promises given to Israel are ever mentioned. From here on, Jews and Gentiles are equal in the faith in Jesus Christ,
“For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus the Christ for the sake and on behalf of you Gentiles – 2: Assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was entrusted to me for your benefit, 3: that the mystery was made known to me and I was allowed to comprehend it by direct revelation, as I already briefly wrote you. 4: When you read this you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. 5: This mystery was never disclosed to human beings in past generations as it has NOW BEEN REVEALED to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6: That the Gentiles are NOW TO BE FELLOW HEIRS, members of the same body and joint partakers in the same divine promise in Christ through the glad tidings (Gospel). 7: Of this I was made a minister according to the gift of GOD’S FREE GRACE which was bestowed on me by the exercise of His power. 8: To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was granted and graciously entrusted: to proclaim to the Gentiles the unending riches of Christ. 9: Also to ENLIGHTEN ALL MEN and make plain to them what is the plan of the mystery kept hidden through the ages and concealed UNTIL NOW in God Who created all things by Christ Jesus.”
So, we find that the main task for the Church is to enlighten ALL men…by preaching the free Grace Gospel to ALL the world.
Paul expressed the core of this Gospel quite elegantly and concise, Eph. 2:8, 9,
For it is by free grace that you are saved, through faith. And this is not of yourselves, but it is the gift of God. Not because of works, lest any man should boast.
Early in this article I mention that such things as miracles, signs and wonders, like those promised in Mark 16 etc. – have no place in the Church dispensation. Those things were promised only to the Messianic believers during Acts period, as they preached to Israel. Peter and the eleven inside Israel, and Paul and his co-workers, they went outside in the diaspora.
Thinking that Jesus promised us miracles/signs/wonders, has been a collateral damage out of the misunderstanding that the ‘Great Commission’ in Mat. 28 and Mark 16 were spoken to the Church dispensation!
In the real-life ‘Great Commission’ given the Church, through Paul’s ministry, we find no such promises. No signs, no wonders, no miracles. It all ended as Israel fell away from God in Acts 28 – as I just quoted above.
What Peter, James and John taught in the early years was only for Israel and some proselytes – we Gentiles were shut out (Eph. 2:12).
The Church dispensation started in 62 AD as Paul wrote the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians. It is that simple, and it is that true.
But – I like to make this clear to everyone – Christian believers in the various denominations, like Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc. are of course to be considered as saved persons in Christ. We are all saved by grace alone, no works are claimed (for instance, substantial knowledge in the Bible), we do not have to be ‘experts’ or professors in Theology to be saved. Faith in Christ is enough. But still, I believe (and so did Paul!) that as Christians we should go for Bible knowledge and better understanding of Scripture, not just settle for a minimum, right? We need to get the Bible rightly divided so that we can better know what is written to us, the Church, the Body of Christ.
THE LOGISTIC OVERVIEW OF THE GREAT COMMISSION
Sometimes it can be rather difficult to let go of certain issues in the Bible. One of those is the issue of the ‘Great Commission’.
It just occurred to me that it would perhaps be easier to get a grip on it if we could study the logistical side of the topic. You will be surprised how clear things will get, when you get an understanding of the many delicate details that had to come together in order to have things happening like it did.
It will really glue it together and become clear to us, so that we understand how God simply piloted all the events told in the New Testament.
Thus, I have to start this round by asking some leading questions,
1: Why did God make things so, that the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples in the ‘Upper Room’ in Jerusalem, on that exact particular day of the year (!) when the city was packed with thousands of visiting Jews from most parts of the civilized world?
2: As a counter-weight to that: Why did not God have the Holy Spirit fall upon them, after that the Pentecostal feast was over and everything gotten back to normality with calm order? So that it all could happen in orderly controlled manner?
3: Was it just this singular day of Pentecost, seen in Acts 2 – were there not more such feasts in the following years, according to the Mosaic Law?
More questions could be asked, but this I think will do.
You will recall what I wrote above, of the matter of Biblical-Greek texts, in which we find that the word from Mat. 28 on ..go you therefore out and make disciples of all the nations, rather should have been translated …and make disciples of people from out of all nations.
Let us study this fact in a logistical perspective.
There can be no doubt whatsoever, that Jesus Christ knew - a hundred percent certain – what would take place in that day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Thousands of Jews from around the entire Roman Empire came to Israel and Jerusalem, where they according to Mosaic Law should participate in the feast, the fiftieth day after the days of the Unleavened Bread, the Passover. Pentecost was the ‘end station’ of those feast days.
Jesus was going to give His disciples a marvelous ‘Flying start’ as we say nowadays. Instead of having the disciples chasing around in the Empire, to preach the good news, He made this fabulous move: He made it so that the Jews came to them, Jews from out of ALL the nations. Christianity has always thought it was that the twelve were commanded to go out into the entire global world to preach, but God would only have them to preach to Israel, the Jews.
And as we study this, the more it seems that the day of Pentecost was MADE for just this occasion. God knew this already as He spoke His ordinances to the Hebrews in the wilderness in the days of Moses. God made a special feast day in which He would be sure that an overwhelming multitude of Jews from all the nations into which they had been scattered, would meet up at that day in Jerusalem.
Thus we can read straight into the fulfillment of it, as in Acts 2:5,
Now there were then residing in Jerusalem Jews, devout and God-fearing men from every country under heaven.
This shoots right into the very nerve of that Greek text translation, having a full hundred percent hit right in the ‘Bullseye’; people from out of the nations.
Fact was that Jesus had His apostles preach to Israel and offering the promised Kingdom of God on earth, the millennial Kingdom. So they could not go into the Gentile nations trying to offer them this Kingdom on earth. It was a Kingdom for the Jews, for Israel. Before God could send down His Messiah Jesus, He had to have ALL of Israel repent and believing on Jesus and taking the water rite (Acts 2:38).
I cannot emphasize enough how important it was to have the disciples present in Jerusalem for the feast to come, and Jesus said to them therefore, Acts 1:4,
….He commanded them NOT TO LEAVE Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised. Of which you have heard Me speak. (See verse 8)
It is also important here, that Jerusalem should be the point of ‘Kick-Off’ for their ministry to Israel, but in verse 8 we find also all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. HOWEVER: To the ends of the earth should have been translated ‘out into the entire land of Israel’. The Greek ‘Cosmos’ is a general word and can mean ‘a place’ or ‘a district’ or a ‘nation’, etc. So, knowing that the Kingdom of God on earth was to be inside of Israel, Jesus could not have told them to go out into the entire global world. You understand this now, right?
To remain at a certain city at the exact right time was essential in this case. Jesus therefore insisted strictly the importance of that. They simply HAD TO STAY IN JERUSALEM for things to go the right way concerning the mission to Israel as a nation for God. It was an important logistical detail.
The ‘Great Commission’ as in Mat. 28 and Mark 16 was depending on the disciples being present in Jerusalem on THAT particular day. The command was directed to hit that one particular day. But still, we are aware of the continuation of their mission after Pentecost, of which Acts report to us in details. We learn that later on, Christ had Paul called out and sent as an apostle to the Jews in the dispersion outside of Israel – Jews that probably had not been present on Pentecost, mainly those from the eastern parts of the Empire.
Paul went along with Barnabas on his first journey 11-12 years after Pentecost in Acts 2. See Acts 13:1-4 – and how the Holy Spirit sent them out, and they arrived first at Cyprus.
Notice: At this stage in Bible history, there were still no historic writings like the four gospels. Paul did not go out on mission after first having read Mat. 28:19, 20 or Mark 16. He was sent by an order coming from the Holy Spirit! (More of this below, as I end this article).
This tells us something: The command given to Peter and the eleven was NOT given out for every possible believer to learn or obey. It remained a calling ONLY for the twelve apostles.
Same with Paul: He did not go about trying to have every possible believer follow the command that came from the Holy Spirit when they were at Antioch.
None of the apostles in the Bible went around quoting the ‘Great Commission’ as if it was to be obeyed by every possible believer!
Then let us see my point 2 above, why could not God have the Holy Spirit fall on the disciples in a calmer orderly manner – and not in a crowded chaotic multitude? Why not when things were more normalized?
My answer to that is simple: God did that for them! The Holy Spirit fell upon them, but now it was no huge multitude and the busy overpopulated city at Pentecost. Probably 2 or 3 years had passed, and there was no feast day mentioned in Acts 4:31 – but after that Peter and John had been released from prison their believers gathered for prayer. And with one voice they prayed that God would keep an eye on their persecutors and also to give the flock power to go on with healings, miracles and signs in the name of Jesus. We then read verse 31,
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the Word of God with freedom and boldness and courage.
Already since the first event on Pentecost in Acts 2, Jews from all over the world had been made aware of Jesus Messiah, His death and resurrection, and great healings and signs followed the ministries of the apostles. Three thousand Jews took to the faith and was baptized (the baptisms must have taken days to work out) Acts 2:41.
Not long after this, another multitude of two thousand believers were added and baptized, Acts 4:4. The day of Pentecost was like a spiritual bomb-explosion…the wave hit thousands in just a short time.
So, let us now go to my point 3 above: How was it with future Pentecost feast days?
We easily understand that since the believers in Jerusalem assembly counted more than 5000 believers, and probably increasing still (?) - Eventual visitors every Pentecost would be reminded of Jesus Messiah by the preaching of the apostles. Luke who wrote Acts did not report of events at Pentecost every year in Jerusalem – but for a few occasions.
This brings us to Paul as he was on a boat journey, trying to get to Jerusalem to make the Pentecost feast day, Acts 20:16,
For Paul had determined to sail on past Ephesus, lest he might have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening on so that he might reach Jerusalem, if at all possible, by the day of Pentecost.
Paul was Jewish, so he would like to keep the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. He skipped Ephesus in favor of Jerusalem in that matter. At this time it was not yet revealed to him that there would soon be a new free Grace Gospel, for all people. He only knew of the present message, which was Jews offered a New Covenant in Christ and the Kingdom of God on earth to be established at Christ’s coming if Israel first repented. It was still ‘Jews first, then Greek’.
Having arrived Jerusalem, we find Paul in company of Jacob and the Elders, and learning the status of the assembly. It was around 58 AD – 25-26 years after Pentecost in Acts 2, - Acts 21:20,
…and they said to Paul, You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and all of them are enthusiastic upholders of the Mosaic Law.
There are scholars holding that it might have been somewhere around 40-50 000 believers in Jerusalem and Judea at that time. They had increased to ten times as many as right after Pentecost in Acts 2. But many years had passed, and still they were working to have the entire population repent to Jesus, so He could return from heaven as promised.
So by these three points I made above, regarding a logistic view on things, we learn how God guided and piloted the events so that the message of Jesus Messiah and a soon coming Kingdom in Israel at His coming could be made known to Israel, both those inside Israel’s land and to those outside in the dispersion. Paul became a specialist on those outside, didn’t he?
This all confirms to us, by the collective logistics, that there was no preaching of any ‘Free Grace Gospel’ in an international setting to neither Jews nor Gentiles in this time period. The ‘Great Commission’ had only to do with the prophesies of a coming millennial Kingdom in Israel – and Jesus as King. By the apostles in that time, it was preached only a national Jewish Gospel, that of the Kingdom of God on earth, and it was Jews first, then Gentile.
But God had arranged for them that fabulous ‘Flying start’ as we read in Acts 2.
PAUL HAD TAUGHT ALL OF CHRISTIANITY THE
FREE GRACE GOSPEL BEFORE ANY OF
THE FOUR GOSPELS AND ACTS WAS WRITTEN
I thought it could be convenient to round off this article by reminding us of the extremely important ministry of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.
As you just read, he had already taught the entire Christianity the new free Grace Gospel, the Gospel we still have today and by which we all are saved by faith.
But can you imagine what a solid blunder it is, that most of our pastors and evangelists (worldwide) uses the historical writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to make spiritual points whenever they preach on salvation and issues of faith doctrine? They don’t seem to recall that those gospels have nothing to do with our Free International Grace Gospel, taught by Paul BEFORE the four writings had ever been issued. I already ‘leaked’ above that I should come to this near the end of this article.
What are they thinking of???
It is high time we get back to Paul, as he was the ONLY apostle and chief teacher to us Gentiles. There is no question about it.
The problem is that most preachers are using the four gospels as if they are faith-doctrine for the Church! What a blunder. The writings on the life of Jesus on earth and how the Lord worked and elected His disciples, etc., has got zero to do with anything concerning the Church which is His Body, the One New Man. These gospel texts where NEVER USED OR QUOTED by the first Christians, including the apostles. But all of a sudden…hundreds of years later down history – all preachers keep quoting these texts as if their lives depended upon it!
Paul never quoted any of the four gospels, neither did Peter, or John, or James. Do you get this?
So the grassroots-folks, the man in the street, in the times of the apostles as told in Acts, had no knowledge of any of this. The texts did NOT exist until decades later.
Peter could actually have used an excellent opportunity to remind his listeners of what Jesus said to him and his eleven companions, going into mission, when he spoke to the people gathered in Cornelius’ house, Acts 10:36, 37. He could have quoted from recalling Jesus’ words make disciples of people from out of the nations – Mat. 28:19. But he did not. Instead we find Peter saying,
You know the contents of the message which He sent to Israel, announcing the good news (gospel) of peace by Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of all – The same message which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee after the baptism preached by John.
Peter did not point to any particular text, like for instance the ‘Great Commission’ – with exact word for word quotation. He simply pointed to the fact that the audience had already heard of this gospel message. Yes – I am very aware of that it would not be convenient to quote from Mat. 28:19 had it even existed, because it was this audience who was being the object for mission.
Even if Peter and the eleven had heard the words in Mat. 28:19, 20 spoken directly to them, face-to-face, still he did not quote those words or commandment. It is held for true that the apostles did not write any diaries for themselves, to keep in mind every word that Jesus spoke to them. They had it all in their minds and remembrance. Jesus used forty days to teach them to go with the Kingdom-Gospel to Israel. They were very well drilled in this important task.
Regarding Peter and the eleven, they really went out and made disciples of them. We have read of this above – five thousand disciples already early on. But we can never find anything in the New Testament of the apostles making them heir-disciples. The disciples never could go on and become apostles, so they could keep up the work down through the future generations.
The apostles looked upon themselves as the only ones to fulfill the task laid upon them by the Lord. They were sent to Israel. Peter and the eleven should only preach to the circumcised, but Paul should deal with both circumcised and uncircumcised (Gal. 2).
One day in near future the apostles would have fulfilled their task – I shall come to this shortly.
It is impossible that the ‘Great Commission’ was given so it could be inherited through the generations to come, up until our days and on. This truth we cannot overlook. But Paul’s writings – the epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians – they are given to go to all eventual generations as long as the Church dispensation exists.
The gospel of Matthew is held by most theologians and historians to have been written around 80 AD, and Mark shortly thereafter. Luke and Acts were written around 62 AD at the earliest, but some thinks it was written around 73 AD, after the destruction of Israel. The info is from a Norwegian lexicon called Store Norske Leksikon, and from Zondervan Academic. No gospels were published by names, they were all published anonymously.
As it is totally proven that none of the evangelists, apostles and elders in Christianity up to the destruction of Israel, went around using the same Bible texts as we do, this matter turns very awkward and embarrassing. It is very clear to us that we cannot go quoting texts like …these signs shall follow those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in tongues, they will pick up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will get well. Mark 16:17, 18.
It was promises that Jesus only gave to His Jewish Messianic believers as He sent them to preach to Israel. It never had anything to do with us in the Church dispensation.
I am a Norwegian, and regarding the message of Jesus in written texts, the first were found on Iceland in 997 AD. This is the earliest date we have for any mention of Jesus here up in the north, in Scandinavia.
Our Viking King, Olav the Holy (Olav den Hellige) he had people converted by force, as he had learned from Catholicism – he reigned from 1015 until 1028 AD. People were forced to leave the faith in Tor and Odin (Nordic idols) and to take baptism under the threat of the sword. Quite the manner of Gospel preaching, right?
When speaking of mission, how often can you hear pastors or missionaries quote and read Paul’s teaching in Eph. 3:8, 9 to inspire candidates to go out into mission – that is, the real mission given to the Church?
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was granted and graciously entrusted: to proclaim to the Gentiles the unending riches of Christ. Also to enlighten all men and make plain to them what is the plan of the mystery kept hidden through the ages and concealed until now in God Who created all things by Christ Jesus. Written 62 AD.
Peter was not sent to enlighten ALL MEN – but only to the circumcised, the Jews inside Israel. But Paul was given the revelation of the free international Grace Gospel for ALL people.
The Christians in the Roman Empire in Paul’s days were taught by him and his co-workers, and had been learning the Grace Gospel like we find in Ephesians and Colossians epistles. No believers in Paul’s time had ever heard anything of writings like the four gospels, - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Paul’s fresh Gospel given him by direct revelation from Christ, was already dominant in Christianity from 62 AD and on. Possibly Luke’s gospel came out around 73 AD, but this cannot be made all certain.
It is sad that pastors and evangelists in our time start in the wrong end of things – basing their teaching upon texts that never were used by any of the apostles! Historical gospels, and not even faith-doctrine. We have to come to Paul to get faith-doctrine valid for the Church of our time. The four gospels were written AFTER the train had left the station!
We are wise to remember the dominant apostolic position God had given to Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, 2 Cor. 11:23,
Are they servants of Christ? I am talking as one beside himself, I am more, with far more extensive and abundant labors, with far more imprisonments, beaten with countless stripes, and frequently at the point of death. Paul listing up horrible scenery of suffering he had to endure in ministry for Christ.
I sincerely hope that our pastors and evangelists will alter their faulty use of texts that do not concern the Church. Learn to keep Kingdom-teaching away from your pulpits, and stay only with Paul’s free Grace Gospel whenever using scripture to preach on salvation.
Paul quit entirely offering the Kingdom of God on earth to Israel, in the same instance as God considered Israel as a fallen nation, as we learn from Acts 28:27 – Israel would NOT repent.
Paul went over to preach only the free Grace Gospel, and ended abruptly the Kingdom-teaching – and he wrote his declaration of this in Eph. 3:1-9.