Matt 27:51 God Redefines His Terms 3/8/2009 ßà
#1. A Covenant of Grace: OT Saints (Deut 9:4-5, 2Chron 6:18-20, Matt 27:51, Heb 9:8)
#2. The Second Sign: of Judgment Day (Matt 27:51-53, 1Cor 15:20,23,50, Gal 4:25-26)
#3. The Third Sign: Conversion of the Gentiles (Matt 27:54, John 17:3)
Please open your Bibles to the Gospel According to Mathew, Mat 27:51 (2X). We are continuing to explore the consequences of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Last week we saw that the death of Christ was the turning point in the history of the world, and it was also the turning point in God’s dealings with man. OT theology and OT mode of worship turned into NT theology and NT mode of worship. In God’s sight the death of Christ was the hinge on which the OT changed into the NT. And to let all mankind know of this change, God gave us the first sign: It was the rent veil. We read in Matt 27:
Mt 27:51-54 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
This was the sign that should have initiated an avalanche of consequences. If the theologians of those days would have been honest, they would have told the masses of people that beginning from that day God was not pleased with their temple worship, for the curtain in the temple was torn as with the finger of God, from the top to the bottom. Their God had escaped the confinement in the cubicle that was called the Holy of Holies, and thus their God was not pleased to dwell in the temple either. And why was this so? If they would have been honest, they would have connected the death of Christ with the tearing of the veil in the temple. Certainly, God was not pleased with them how they have mistreated the man Jesus, who claimed to be the Christ, the Messiah, which means He was the Anointed One who was promised from of Old. They have shamefully treated Him and delivered Him to Pilate to be crucified. But this they did because their theology led them to act in this manner. Their condemnation of the Lord Jesus was from the beginning of His ministry, when He healed people on the Sabbath. But now they could see that their zeal for keeping the Sabbath holy was not a righteous zeal that bore the approval of God. All this is what they should have discovered, if they would have been honest with themselves. But instead, the priests and the Levites repaired the torn veil in the temple, and they then continued to bring animal sacrifices in the temple, as if nothing has occurred. And so, what do we see? We see that God must introduce an enormous change. We see that God was obligated to make drastic changes in His dealings with man, for man had become incurably wicked. Although the true Gospel in principle did not change, for it always has been by grace and through Christ only, the people to whom God had entrusted the oracles of God, the people who should have known the Law of God as delivered by Moses, had in fact so corrupted the message of the Gospel that it had become a works gospel. It had become an abominable idolatry. The Covenant of grace had become a covenant of works. And Gods plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles had become a plan of salvation for Jews only. This was the situation at the time before the cross. And please note that this has again become the situation today. In most churches the Gospel of Grace alone has been replaced with a gospel of works. On the one hand they preach that Christ has done all He could, and now it is up to us to accept Him as our Lord and Savior. On the other hand they claim at the same time that God has another plan of salvation for the Jews, and very soon God will lead us into a glorious 1000 years where the church age will be replaced by a Jewish age, and the Jews will again be dominating the churches with their gospel. Can you see the parallel? Can you see that the Covenant of Grace has again been degraded into a covenant of works? Who understands the Covenant of grace today? And so, we see hat God again has to make a drastic change. Before the cross the change that God introduced was The First Judgment Day, April 3 in the year AD 33. Today, the change that God will introduce will be The Second Judgment Day. We do not know when that day will be upon us, but all the Biblical evidence is indicating that it is very near. What was the true Gospel that the Scribes and Pharisees should have been preaching before Christ came?
#1. A Covenant of Grace: OT Saints (Deut 9:4-5, 2Chron 6:18-20, Matt 27:51, Heb 9:8)
Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Deuteronomy, Deut 9:4 (2X). The definition of grace is “unmerited favor”. Therefore a Covenant of grace means that it is a gift from God that is not merited by anything that we would DO, or by anything that we possess, such as a believing heart, or a grateful attitude, or any other quality for which we could be credited. Like the Covenant, salvation is a gift of grace; it is a gift of “unmerited favor”. And thus the sacrifices that were brought to the temple every day could not be to our credit, and could not atone for even one sin, for these are things that we DO. Why then would they bring animal sacrifices to God every day? They would do this because God had shown them by word and by deed that these are things by which He will be honored and glorified. When God had mercy on Adam and his wife, God clothed them with animal skins, for which God had to sacrifice at least two animals. When Cain and Abel offered sacrifices, it was written that the animal sacrifices of Abel were pleasing to God, for these were glorifying God. And when God dictated the Law to Israel by the hand of Moses, He stated that they should bring animal sacrifices to Him. By this monotheistic religion they would know that they were different from the heathen nations around them who were all polytheistic, meaning they were worshipping many gods. And God would use their nation mightily to accomplish His goals. But when they rejoiced in victories the nation of Israel would read in Deut 9:4-5,
De 9:4-5 Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Therefore, no one in the nation of Israel should be puffed up to think that they were worthy. Instead an attitude of humbleness should have been in all their religion and in all their doings. Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Second Chronicles, 2Chron 6:18 (2X). They should not have been so arrogant to think that they had their God locked up in a golden box, called the Ark of the Covenant, there in a cubicle that was called the Holy of Holies in the temple. They should have listened to the words that Solomon prayed to God at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. We read in 2Chron 6:18-20,
2Ch 6:18-20 But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built! Have respect therefore to the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee: That thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof thou hast said that thou wouldest put thy name there; to hearken unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth toward this place.
You see, God does not dwell in houses made by hands. It was only in the symbolic sense that God spoke to the prophets from between the two cherubim above the Ark. And thus, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was only symbolically there to indicate that the perfect way to God was not yet made manifest while the temple of bricks and mortar was still standing (Heb 9:8). And thus, when God tore the curtain from top to bottom, in Matt 27:51, it was God’s way of letting us know that the earthly temple has finished its purpose. And so, the special place where God put His name there, as Solomon prayed in 2Chron 6:20, would also no longer exist. This is what the Scribes and Pharisees should have taught the people, if they were honest. But they were not honest, for they even denied the resurrection of the Lord, even though their own temple guards told them of it. And so, what do we see? We see that God must interfere in the affairs of man, and God must reassign the true Gospel to another group of people who will propagate the true Gospel into all the world, to all who are made willing to hear by God the Holy Spirit. And thus, by this act God has let the world know that:
Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel According to John, John 1:12 (2X). When people pin their hopes on the nation of Israel today, or if they pin their hopes on a future glorious 1000 years under the banner of a Jewish age, they have put their trust on a rotten plank. When God tore the veil in the temple from the top to the bottom, God indicated thereby His disappointment with the affairs of the nation of the Jews, and God would again emphasize that salvation is by grace and not by national descent. John 1:12
Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Who are those that are received by God as sons of God? John 1:13 gives us the answer; and let me just focus on three words in this verse: “Not Of Blood”. In other words, they are not those who claim salvation as a birthright, not those who claim that they were born of the right bloodline, not those who claim that they are sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and therefore they are entitled to the inheritance promised to the patriarchs, but those who are born of God. And who are those that are born of God? The Lord Jesus answered this question in John 3:8. Please turn two pages to your right, to John 3:8 (2X). Who are those that are born of God? The Lord Jesus said in John 3:8,
Joh 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
In other words, by our human reasoning we cannot figure out who God will save, for He will save according to His good pleasure. And thus, descendancy will not play a role in God’s decision who to save. We should realize that this was always God’s mode of operation. For example, when Abraham armed His 318 trained servants to go after the four mighty kings of the East, in Gen 14, we can see that God’s grace was with them, for God gave them the victory. And thus we see here that these servants were Gentiles who were converted to worship the same God whom Abraham worshipped. When the children of Israel walked away from their slavery in Egypt, they were joined by a mixed multitude of Gentiles who also desired to be freed from their bondage to Egypt. When the queen of Sheba visited Solomon, she and many of her company became saved. When Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, who were all Gentiles, a large fraction of the city became saved, because God wanted to save them. We can bring up many more examples, such as Naaman the Syrian, and the widow of Zarephath who ministered to Elijah. And so, we see that it was always God’s mode of operation to save many throughout the world, not only from the nation of Israel. In fact, we can also conclude from the OT Scriptures that throughout the OT time only a small fraction of the nations of Israel and Judah became saved. And as long as John 1:13 is in the Bible, the entire Premillennial scheme is bound to fall apart. But God has something else in its place, which is equally exciting. After the cross God redefines the terms for Jews and Gentiles. Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 2:28 (2X). The descendants of Jacob are proud of the fact that they have been circumcised. But God says in Rom 2:25, “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” This tells us that in the eyes of God all the Jews are uncircum-cised, for all mankind are breakers of the law. There is not one excepted. Secondly, God tells us that He has redefined the terms for who may be called a Jew. We read in Rom 2:28-29,
Ro 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
And thus, it means that the honorable name “Jew” belongs only to those who have been saved by Jesus Christ, for they alone have been circumcised in their heart. But now we can make sense out of the difficult verse in Rev 2:9. Please turn in your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 2:9 (2X). The Lord is addressing the Church at Smyrna who is being persecuted by the Jewish segment of that city, and the Lord is comforting them, for they have been a faithful church. We read in Rev 2:9,
Re 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
In other words, they who claim to be Jews are no longer Jews in the eyes of God, but they are of the synagogue of Satan. The reason is, they are no longer believers, but they have become unbelievers, for they are rejecting that salvation comes with faith in Christ. Please turn again to the Gospel According to Matthew, Matt 27:51 (2X).
#2. The Second Sign: of Judgment Day (Matt 27:51-53, 1Cor 15:20,23,50, Gal 4:25-26)
We saw the first sign when Christ died; it was the rent veil in the temple. But what was the second sign?
Mt 27:51-53 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
What do we see here? Many graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints who have died were resurrected. However, this did not occur immediately when the Lord Jesus died, but it did occur after the Lord’s resurrection on Sunday morning. Why did God wait till after the resurrection of Jesus? We must remember that Christ is called “the Firstfruits of them that slept”. There are two verses in 1Cor 15 which speak of this fact. The first one is 1Cor 15:20, and the second one is 1Cor 15:23.
1Co 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
1Co 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
These people came out of their graves. With what bodies did they come out? Did they in Jerusalem recognize them? But verse 53 says that they went into the holy city. Where is that holy city? Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 4:25 (2X). After God tore the veil in the temple, the temple was no longer the dwelling place of God. Jerusalem was no longer a holy city, for it had become a city of idolaters. In fact, after the cross God speaks in a very condemning way of the Jerusalem of bricks and mortar located in the land there East of the Mediterranean. We read in Gal 4:25-26,
Ga 4:25-26 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Verse 25 says: Jerusalem which now is, is in bondage with her children. In other words, the nation of Israel whose capital is Jerusalem, the city of bricks and mortar, are still in bondage to sin and Satan, for they have rejected Christ, but there is no salvation other than the salvation through Jesus Christ. But verse 25 speaks of another Jerusalem. It is the Jerusalem which is above, the heavenly Jerusalem, which later in Rev 21 comes out of heaven as the Bride of Christ. This is the holy city of which we presently are citizens of. This is the holy city spoken of in Matt 27:53. Please turn again to the Gospel of Matthew, Matt 27:53 (2X). After Christ rose from the grave the saints were resurrected, and showed themselves in the heavenly Jerusalem. And therefore the bodies with which they arose must have been their glorified bodies, for this earthly “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1Cor 15:50). And so, what do we see here in Matt 27:51-53? The temple on earth was changed to a more beautiful temple on earth consisting of the bodies of the saints who together are forming the temple of God. There was a great earthquake, so great that he rocks split, and the bodies of the saints arose with glorified bodies, like in the rapture on the Last Day. Can you see the similarities with the judgment on the Last Day? At that time the earthly spiritual temple shall also be replaced with a more glorious dwelling place of God, a NH&NE. There will be a great earthquake, for we read in Rev 6:12 when the Lamb had opened the sixth seal there was a great earthquake. And then there was the rapture of the saints, like in the rapture of the Last Day. In addition, the deviations from the true Gospel in the churches are remarkably similar in the period before Christ’s first coming and in the period that we are now witnessing. What was God’s message in all these events? God was indicating hereby that the complete atonement of Christ was the First Judgment Day, and when we have come to the end of time we are going to experience the Second Judgment Day. On the First Judgment Day all the sins of all the elect of God have been judged, and have been paid in full by Christ. And notice that for the saints who still needed to be born all these sins were still future sins. Was Christ aware of all the sins that He passed by? Of course He was aware of these, for Christ is God. But in passing them by He in fact has already condemned those whose sins they were. And so we see that the First Judgment Day was in fact a complete judgment of all mankind, and it proves to us that the Atonement Christ made on the cross was a Limited Atonement. It was limited to those whom the Father had given Him. This day, April 3 I the year AD 33 was the only day in the history of mankind that a number of sins were paid in full, and were guaranteed to be forgiven. There is no other day in the history of the world that a righteous and sinless man could atone for other men as the Lamb of God. But God has not yet cast all the unsaved into Hell because all their sins, which He already passed by, still had to be committed. The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. And so we see that the sovereignty and the omniscience of God could be in effect without making God the author of any sin. Let us now continue in Matt 27:54 (2X).
#3. The Third Sign: Conversion of the Gentiles (Matt 27:54, John 17:3)
Matt 27:54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
Has it ever occurred that people became saved because they witnessed some miraculous events? Absolutely never. Here again, the centurion, and they that were with him were not turned into believers because they saw the signs and the miracles, but because God the Holy Spirit gave them a little bit of insight into all the things that were surrounding the death of Christ. This verse does not state that the centurion immediately believed. His faith may have come a few days later, when he was made aware of the curtain in the temple having been torn from the top to the bottom, and of the resurrection of Christ, and of the things the disciples of the Lord spoke. We must remember that the centurion witnessed all the gracious words Christ spoke, and that the other thief on the cross also witnessed all this and remained unsaved. And so, we must conclude that it was God the Holy Spirit who gave him faith, because it pleased the Father to give this man also to Christ, who would therefore also atone for His sins. This was the first person to become saved after the death of Christ. God chose for this occasion a Gentile; someone who knew nothing of the works gospel of the scribes and Pharisees, but who came to a state of personally knowing who Christ was. And herein we see the truth of Christ’s statement in John 17:3,
Joh 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Knowing Christ is salvation. Knowing God and knowing Christ is all that we need to know. And how do we get to know Christ? The Father will draw us to Israel. No, not OT Israel, for OT Israel remains for the most part in unbelief. But the Father will draw us to NT Israel.
Please turn in your Bibles to chapter 2 of this Gospel of Matthew, Matt 2:15 (2X). Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus had to flee to Egypt, because wicked king Herod tried to kill Jesus. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee into Egypt. Then we read in Matt 2:15,
Mt 2:15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Where in the prophets do we find this saying? The closest utterance is found in Hos 11:1, which says
Ho 11:1, When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
In other words, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son”, and in Hos 11:1 this son is not the nation of Israel, but He is the Lord Jesus who is called “Israel”. Therefore we must assign an additional meaning to the name Israel, especially a NT meaning, for the Lord Jesus Christ is also called Israel. Moreover, all those who are in Christ can then also be called Israel, for we came out of this Israel.
Now we can make sense out of the statement we find in Rom 9:6, where we read, ”For they are not all Israel which are of Israel.” Please turn now to the Gospel of John, John 6:44 (2X). In this chapter of John 6 we find at least four times the same statement that all who are to be saved will be given by the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ, for He will atone for their sins. We read in John 6:44,
Joh 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
So then, the Father will draw us to the Lord Jesus, who is also called Israel. Let us remember this NT meaning of the name Israel, for we will make use of it in future studies. What have we seen so far? We have seen that God has drawn new concepts for the names: Jew, and Israel, and Jerusalem, and the temple, and the holy city. And God had to do that, for the people to whom He first entrusted the oracles of God were not worthy to be called sons of God. AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.