Israel's Great Kingdom Commissions &
Our Great Commissions
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 10:5-7)
It is obvious by the Lord’s words to His twelve apostles, that when He first commissioned them their ministry was exclusively to Israel. As the Lord explicitly stated, they were NOT to go unto any Gentiles, and NOT even unto any Samaritans. But they were only to go to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And this restrictive commission was perfectly in line with what God was doing at this time, because His program and dealings were with His nation of Israel and the dispensation of Gentile grace in which we live today was not in effect. As the Gospels describe, the Lord had come as Israel’s covenanted Messiah to redeem and deliver His nation, and to establish in them the kingdom of heaven on this earth. (See, for example, Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 1:30-33; 67-75) In view of this, John the Baptist had previously begun to herald to Israel the comforting news concerning the kingdom of heaven being at hand, and declaring to them that what had been promised through the prophets so long ago was now ready to be fulfilled in them. (See, for example, Isa. 40:1-11; Luke 1:76-80; Matt. 11:7-15) Because God’s program with Israel was the issue at this time, the Lord Himself declared “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24) Hence, when the twelve apostles were first commissioned by the Lord, they were commissioned in accordance with God’s program and sent only to Israel.
Though it is clearly evident that God’s program and dealings with Israel is what is in effect during the Lord’s earthly ministry, many Christians think that this all changed immediately following the Lord’s resurrection from the dead. In view of Israel’s rejection of Christ, and also other issues like the events of the day of Pentecost, it is often assumed that God at that time suspended His program with Israel and brought in this present dispensation of Gentile grace. That this is not the case, but that God’s program and dealings with Israel continued on following the cross, is evident both by things the Lord said before His rejection and by the opening chapters of the book of Acts. [NOTE: See the author’s pamphlets entitled Repentance to Israel, The Kingdom Church, The Day of Pentecost, and others for a detailed examination of this matter.]
One of the things, however, which often contributes to Christians thinking that God’s program changed following the cross, is the issue of the alteration which the Lord makes to the apostles’ commission from Him. No longer does He commission them to go only to Israel. But now just before He returns to heaven the Lord’s commissioning of His apostles speaks of “all nations” and going to “every creature.” For example…
“Go ye therefore, and teach ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28:19-20)
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to EVERY CREATURE.” (Mark 16:15)
In view of this change to include “all nations” and “every creature”; and in view of the fact that one of the hallmark features of this present dispensation of grace is that now Jew and Gentile are on the same level and that “there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek”; the assumption is often made that these commissions are in accord with and describing this present dispensation. But though the Lord did alter His apostles’ commissioning to include “all nations,” a careful examination of His instructions in connection with it, and of what the prophets declared would take place in Israel’s last days, will show that these commissions are still part of God’s program with Israel. They are still kingdom commissions, and not commissions for and about this present dispensation of Gentile grace.
THE GENTILES IN ISRAEL’S PROGRAM
As the “gospel of the kingdom” was preached to Israel at this time, and as God’s program with His nation advanced on into its prophesied “last days,” the Gentiles were scheduled to become hearers of the good news about Israel’s soon-to-be-established kingdom. That this is so was clearly spelled out by the Lord in His doctrine to His disciples. For example, when the Lord taught the issues which were coming up as Israel’s program and time-schedule moved into its final stages, He prepared the disciples for being involved in preaching the gospel of the kingdom in all the world.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14)
In the “last days” of Israel’s program the gospel of the kingdom was no longer going to be exclusively to Israel. The nations were going to hear it and the opportunity to be blessed with Israel upon the establishment of the kingdom would be extended to them. But even though this would be the case, the nations would not be dealt with on par with Israel as if there was now no difference. Rather, the nations would have the gospel of the kingdom preached to them only after all Israel had first heard. Hence, the Lord’s additional instructions in the commissions pertaining to the order of preaching.
“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM.” (Luke 24:47)
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The ordered schedule for the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom was not something the Lord set forth simply for the sake of practicality. But rather, it was the order to be followed in view of the program — Israel first; then Samaria; and then finally the nations.
The nations, therefore, were scheduled to hear the gospel of the kingdom as Israel’s program entered its “last days” and final stage. And it is in accordance with this that the Lord’s commissions to His apostles at that time now included the nations as well as the Samaritans. But the program is clearly still Israel’s program, and the gospel being preached is clearly still the gospel of the kingdom. The commissions, therefore, are still kingdom commissions, and are not about or in accord with this present dispensation of Gentile grace.
In perfect accordance with the Lord’s teaching that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in all the world in Israel’s “last days,” is the testimony of the prophets regarding this very thing. For example,…
“Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.
For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.
Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.” (Jeremiah 31:10-12)
Again, the nations were scheduled to hear the word of the LORD concerning His redemption of His nation Israel and concerning His gathering of them to bless them and fulfill His plan and purpose with them on the earth. But they were not going to be hearing this in Jeremiah’s day, but in the day that the LORD redeemed and ransomed His nation. This, of course, He had done when He suffered on the cross for them. Hence, following His sufferings and in anticipation of entering into His glory; and with all power given unto Christ in heaven and in earth by Him having ransomed Israel from the hand of him that was stronger than he; the Lord now commissioned His apostles to preach that gospel of the kingdom even to the nations, in fulfillment of such scriptures as Jeremiah 31:10-12.
Therefore, the post-cross alteration which the Lord made to the apostles’ commission to include the nations in their preaching, should not be looked upon as indicating a change in programs at all. But rather, clearly it was the coming to pass of an expected and prophesied development which was going to occur as God’s program and dealings with Israel advanced on into its final stage. Again, the apostles’ kingdom commission was scheduled to include all the world as Israel’s program entered its “last days.” The Gentiles were scheduled to be blessed through Israel not only once the kingdom of heaven was established in them, but also in Israel’s “last days” just before the kingdom would be established. In accordance with this, therefore, the Lord altered their commission. And in accordance with the arrival of Israel’s “last days” the apostles began to conduct themselves, just as Acts 1-7 relates.
THE GENTILES TODAY
We Gentiles today, however, are not being dealt with by God in connection with Israel’s program. But rather, with the raising up of the apostle Paul as a brand new apostle, (as historically described in Acts 9), God declared the temporary suspension of His program and dealings with Israel, and the ushering in of a new and different dispensation — that is a separate and distinct dispensation of His grace to the Gentiles.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;” (Eph. 3:1-5)
Today God is dealing with us Gentiles alright, but not because His program with Israel now calls for it. And, therefore, not because Jeremiah 31:10-12 and Matthew 24:14 are being fulfilled, nor because the remnant of Israel is fulfilling their kingdom commissions. But rather God is dealing with us today because He is now accomplishing a secret purpose He has in Christ involving the Gentiles, which He before had kept “hid in Himself” but has now revealed when He raised up Paul as His new apostle. In view of this new dispensation and the outworking of the “mystery of Christ,” God has temporarily suspended His program and dealings with Israel and put the fulfillment of that program in abeyance, just as Paul teaches in Romans 9-11. Hence, the fulfillment of such passages as Matthew 24:14 and the Lord’s commissions in Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15ff; Luke 24:44-48; and Acts 1:8 cannot and will not take place until after this present “mystery” dispensation of Gentile grace is concluded and God resumes His program with Israel.
OUR GREAT COMMISSIONS
Though the Lord’s commissions to His circumcision apostles are clearly kingdom commissions and as such do not pertain to this dispensation of Gentile grace, (and, hence, are not our marching orders today), the commissions which the Lord gave to the apostle Paul of course do pertain to this dispensation. And so it is of Paul’s commissions from the Lord that we are to be followers. For they are for this dispensation. They are our great commissions.
Hence, instead of preaching the gospel of the kingdom we today are to bear witness to the gospel of the grace of God, and are to be proclaiming “the word of reconciliation” to Jew and Gentile alike with God now having made “both one,” just as Paul declares regarding his ministry.
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Corinthians 5:16-21)
Also instead of teaching the observing of the things in Israel’s program, we are to proclaim the “mystery of the gospel” and make men see what is the “fellowship of the mystery,” just as Paul also describes.
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:” (Ephesians 3:8-9)
These are our great commissions from the Lord in accordance with God’s present dispensation of Gentile grace.
– K.R. Blades