Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #8

Sunday, July 25, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Following Paul’s surviving the snakebite, his ministry amongst the Gentiles resumes: “[7] In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. [8] And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux [dysentery]: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. [9] So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: [10] Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.”

Paul heals the father of Publius, Melita’s most prominent Gentile, who suffers a fever and a bloody flux. Moreover, Paul performs healing miracles on other diseased Gentiles there. These are additional signs to Israel that God the Holy Spirit is working her miracles amongst Gentiles, further confirming the prophetic program has been temporarily set aside while the mystery program runs. As with the case of the people of Melita initially receiving Paul by showing him no little kindness, they, unlike unbelieving Israel, continue to bless him with material comforts.

The snakebite not harming Paul in no way sanctions us to go around handling snakes. It was a unique encounter, a dispensational miracle, for Doctor Luke to write about as one of the final summaries of Acts. Remember, Acts is the record of how the Lord was just in pausing the prophetic program and initiating our mystery program. Let us not be so denominationally-minded that we believe God will protect us from snakebites as He did Paul. To see it as a pattern for our ministry is to miss the significance entirely!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “What is the ‘bloody flux’ of Acts 28:8?

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #7

Saturday, July 24, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Doubtless, Satan is always determined to use whomever and whatever he can to undo God’s work. Since unbelieving Israel was in bondage to the Devil, they disliked Paul’s ministry and message reaching the Gentiles. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had once been a Christ-hater too; he was a strict observer of the Law of Moses, a self-righteous religious fanatic and teacher. Consequently, apostate Israel considered him a renegade or traitor. The very Jesus he had so passionately hated during early Acts (like them) was now the God-Man he had been faithfully serving in ministry for the last 30 years! Growing jealous of him, they retaliated by recurrently harming him and harassing his Gentile converts with false teaching (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15,22-28). With the Lord Jesus Christ personally absent from Earth, they proceeded to relentlessly attack Paul, His apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).

The miracle of Paul surviving the snakebite in today’s Scripture is not apocryphal folklore or fantasy. It illustrates most graphically how unbelieving Israel unsuccessfully sought to damage and even destroy Christ’s heavenly ministry, His spokesman of this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. As hard as sinful man tried, as much as Satan attempted, God ensured Paul would remain on Earth until he had finished his course. Instead of the viper harming Paul, Paul kills it! Verse 5 again: “And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.” Once more, here is apostate Israel, being cast off into judgment! Her fall occurring back in chapter 7, her diminishing now complete as Acts closes (chapter 28). With Paul’s provoking ministry ending in conjunction with Acts ending, the Dispensation of Grace continues alone….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #6

Friday, July 23, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

In Scripture, fire represents wrath. When fire drove the snake out to bite Paul, it parallels unbelieving Israel responding negatively to God’s judgment against them. Instead of converting to Christ under Paul’s ministry, they continued opposing the Lord’s will. Furthermore, they militantly resisted Paul’s apostleship—that Gospel of Grace being the very present truth that delayed Christ’s Second Coming wrath from falling on them!

Paul wrote during Acts: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath [Israel’s fall] is come upon them to the uttermost(1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Not only was national Israel content in being dead in her trespasses and sins—refusing to be God’s channel of salvation and blessing to the Gentiles—her extensive unbelief caused her to outright hate and persecute Paul because Christ had sent him to preach to the nations without her!

In today’s Scripture, Paul is preaching amongst pagan idolaters—the very people to which redeemed Israel would have ministered had they accepted their King decades prior. The heathen citizens of Melita are taking care of Paul, but the viper (Israel) strikes to kill! Gentiles are surprised. Undergoing that much destructive hostility for 30 years, Paul should have been long dead. The Gospel of Grace should have disappeared decades earlier. Yet, it has endured, and Paul has survived….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #5

Thursday, July 22, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

The LORD God dealt with the world through Israel from Genesis chapter 12 (Abraham) into the early Acts period. Whether the 20 centuries prior to Christ’s earthly ministry, or Matthew through John, or the opening of Acts, Israel overwhelmingly refused to believe God’s words to her. Her people did not want to be His kingdom of priests in the Earth: they declined their privilege to go to the Gentiles. Eventually, they killed their King (Jesus Christ) and remained in unbelief into Acts. Having blasphemed (spoken) against God the Son in Matthew through John, they were forgiven; however, they were not forgiven when they blasphemed (spoke) against God the Holy Ghost in Acts chapters 1–7 (cf. Matthew 12:31,32). In Acts 7:55,56, as they are about to stone Stephen to death, he sees Christ standing—no longer sitting—at the Father’s right hand. Second Coming wrath, which should have occurred here (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34-36), was delayed!

“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Romans 11:11-14). Israel stumbled at Calvary, but did not fall. She stumbled and fell in Acts chapter 7, and she diminished for the remainder of Acts. Paul’s ministry began in chapter 9, but Israel refused to believe his Gospel message too….

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks #3

Thursday, December 10, 2020

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13,14 KJV).

The fifth verse and the final verse of the classic Christmas carol paraphrase today’s Scripture.

“Thus spake the angel and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels, praising God, and thus
Addressed their joyful song:
‘All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from Heaven to men
Begin and never cease
Begin and never cease.’”

People who know nothing about the Bible carelessly complain that the God of the Old Testament was a “bigot.” They dislike that He dealt almost exclusively with Israel, having almost no dealings with Gentiles. Additionally, they whine that Jesus was a “racist” because He said that His earthly ministry was limited to Israel (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24). What fools and blasphemers!

When JEHOVAH promised Abraham that He would make of him a great nation, that nation was to be the channel of God’s salvation and blessing to reach all the world’s (Gentile) nations. “…[I]n thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Rebuking ignorant Nicodemus, Jesus said of Israel’s earthly kingdom: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus also said, “…[R]epentance and remission of sins should be preached in [my] name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). He told His apostles to baptize and teach all nations(Matthew 28:19). God was dealing with and converting Israel, that redeemed Israel go to all nations on His behalf when Jesus became their King!!! Read Zechariah 8:20-23 and Isaiah 60:1-3 (yet future).

Hence, the angels sang at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” God wanted everyone“good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (verse 10)—to have a relationship with Him in Israel’s kingdom. Of course, Israel’s kingdom is still future. Romans 11:11-13 says salvation is coming to us Gentiles without Israel, through Paul’s ministry and Paul’s Gospel (Christ’s finished crosswork).

NOTE: I want to say a special “Happy Birthday” to my Mom, who will no doubt read this. Thank you for being faithful to Father God in leading me to Jesus Christ and teaching me the Scriptures all those years ago! 🙂

Israel Blinded Thrice! #3

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9,10 KJV).

Friend, did you know this passage is applicable to three particular times in Israel’s history?

The Holy Spirit was poured out on Israel’s believing remnant in Acts chapter 2, bearing witness of Christ’s resurrection by performing miracles through the Little Flock. Yet, national Israel remained in unbelief, persecuting the Apostles and Prophets—Peter, John, Stephen, et cetera. Christ raises up a new Apostle, Paul, to begin the Dispensation of Grace and the Church the Body of Christ. Israel continues opposing God’s work through the rest of Acts.

With Acts closing, Paul quotes today’s Scripture in chapter 28: “[25] And when they [the Jews] agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, [26] Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: [27] For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

Read Romans 11:6-10,25-27 (cf. Isaiah 29:10). God again removes whatever spiritual light Israel had and willfully refused. Israel’s blindness will not be lifted until God gives her a sign, another miraculous demonstration intended to teach doctrine. Following the blinding of Israel in our dispensation, God will send Israel a sign, Christ’s Second Coming, as in Matthew 24:30: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” At Christ’s return, as per Romans 11:25-27, Israel is nationally enlightened and converted, and enters the Millennium!

Israel Blinded Thrice! #2

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9,10 KJV).

Friend, did you know this passage is applicable to three particular times in Israel’s history?

The Lord Jesus Christ conducted His earthly ministry for three years in Israel. Yet, they overwhelmingly rejected Him as Messiah-King. Consequently, He began to gradually withdraw from public ministry, dealing with just believers. He quotes today’s Scripture twice—Matthew 13:14-16 and John 12:37-41. Read from John: “[37] But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: [38] That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? [39] Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, [40] He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Again, God removes whatever spiritual light Israel had and willfully refused. She is blinded a second time (beginning with Jesus’ parables). That darkness will not be removed until God gives her a sign (another miraculous demonstration designed to teach doctrine). Following Israel’s blinding in Christ’s earthly ministry, God sends Israel the sign of Christ’s resurrection, as per Matthew 12:39,40: “[39] But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas [Jonah]: [40] For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

After Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit preached to Israel through the 12 Apostles (see Acts chapters 2–7). Israel is enlightened, having another chance to believe! Alas, she persists in unbelief again, still refusing to trust the Gospel of the Kingdom. God blinds her a third and final time….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Does Acts 7:6 have a mistake?

Israel Blinded Thrice! #1

Monday, August 17, 2020

“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9,10 KJV).

Friend, did you know this passage is applicable to three particular times in Israel’s history?

The Prophet Isaiah’s ministry preceded the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities. For approximately 750 years, the Jews have ignored the Law of Moses by worshipping and serving idols. God’s prophets (messengers) have been repeatedly ignored. Since Israel has habitually broken the covenant, there are repercussions—a series of five judgments or chastisements predicted in Leviticus chapter 26.

JEHOVAH God orders Isaiah to preach to his fellow Jews. Since they have overwhelmingly ignored God’s Word up to this point, Isaiah’s message will be one to condemn them, to remove whatever spiritual light they have been given but obstinately refused. There is now a spiritual blinding of Israel (today’s Scripture). That blindness will not be lifted until God gives Israel a sign, a miraculous demonstration intended to teach doctrine.

Following the blinding of Israel in Isaiah’s day, God sends the nation a sign: that sign is the virgin conception of Jesus Christ 700 years later. Turn to Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” If you read the context, King Ahaz of Judah is like most Jews—in rank unbelief (verses 10-14). Israel will be released from her blindness once the sign of Christ’s conception is evident.

Israel was given the chance to believe God’s Word during Christ’s First Coming, His birth and earthly ministry (Matthew 1:18-25). However, in response to the spiritual light of Christ’s arrival (Matthew 4:12-17), Israel chose to remain in unbelief. While there was a believing remnant, as always, Israel nationally rejects the LORD Jesus. They refused to believe the Gospel of the Kingdom—that Jesus is Christ/Messiah/King. As with Isaiah, God responded by blinding them. Then, He gave them another sign so the blindness could be lifted and they could believe….

My Father’s Business #19

Thursday, January 23, 2020

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:49 KJV).

And, just what is the Lord Jesus’ Father’s “business?”

Dear friends, it will help us immensely in Bible study to notice these two profound antithetical concepts. First, Isaiah 60:1-3: “[1] Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. [2] For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. [3] And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” This is the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-3. God’s salvation and blessing to all the world is here coming through Israel’s rise to kingdom glory.

Now, read Romans 11:11-13: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:….” This is not the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-3. God’s salvation and blessing to all the world is here coming through Israel’s fall and temporary setting aside.

Here is one dispensational difference in the Bible that could not be more evident. Provided we are willing to let verses of Scripture speak for themselves, and not try to force a denominational view into them, the Bible will be such a huge blessing rather than a sizable burden. While Father God will indeed cause Israel to rise to kingdom glory one day, He has temporarily interrupted that prophetic program with our mystery program. Here is the introduction of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, the apostleship of Romans 11:13, and the Gospel of the Grace of God of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (cf. Acts 20:24). Although Father God’s program has changed, His overall purpose, however, remains the same. He will glorify His Son, both on Earth and in Heaven….

My Father’s Business #12

Thursday, January 16, 2020

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:49 KJV).

And, just what is the Lord Jesus’ Father’s “business?”

In “time past,” the nation Israel was spiritually advantaged. Given God’s Word (Romans 3:1,2), they were to then believe it, accept their King (Jesus), and ultimately teach the Gentiles in His kingdom. Alas, Israel refused Jesus, demanding His crucifixion on Calvary’s cross. Her religious leaders shouted, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15)! Christ died the death of the worst criminal—but then resurrected victoriously! He returned to His Father in the third heaven as a rejected exile. The Holy Spirit descended and empowered the 12 Apostles (Matthias being Judas Iscariot’s replacement) to preach and call Israel to repentance. Israel ardently declined to change her mind: even now, she would not have Jesus.

Unfortunately, Israel’s unbelief culminated with her stoning the Prophet Stephen in Acts chapter 7. Stephen’s sermon was her final chance to turn to JEHOVAH God in faith so she could do her “Father’s business.” Alas, she fell, losing her spiritual position before God. Leading Israel’s rebellion against Jesus Christ was a religious leader named Saul of Tarsus. As unbelieving Saul was en route to arrest fellow Jews for believing on Jesus as Messiah; the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ intercepted him in grace, mercy, and peace (Acts chapter 9). Saul, having now believed on Christ, is commissioned as the Apostle Paul. The Lord orders Paul to go to the Gentiles with a new Gospel message.

The Holy Spirit moved Paul to pen in Romans chapter 11: “[11] I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” Here is our “Father’s business….”

Our latest Bible Q&A: “When Paul says ‘there is no difference,’ is he referring to people outside the Body of Christ, or in it?