Why 13 apostles?



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  • Why 13 apostles?

    The correct biblical teaching of the kingdom, insofar as a sound and complete biblical theology is concerned, is the crucial doctrine of the Bible. Because of the resulting confusion about the church being the new Israel, and therefore the kingdom promised to them, any major discussion about the church has to involve to some degree a discussion of the kingdom.
    The revelation of the present church and the mystery of the catching away of the church (1 Cor. 15:51‑52; 1 Thess. 4:15‑17) explains Peter’s remarks about some things Paul had written as being “hard to understand” (2 Pet. 3:15‑16). It was the whole present age of which Peter was unaware before the Lord sent him to Cornelius and Paul explained his gospel to Peter and those in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-8).
    If the kingdom was known from the beginning, and the church was a mystery hidden from past ages and generations, then it is not possible that they are the same. Paul said:

    For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles–if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in a few words, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:1‑9).

    In the above it is said:

    1. This present dispensation of grace began when it was given to Paul (v. 2).

    2. By revelation a special knowledge of a mystery was revealed to Paul (vv. 3‑4).

    3. Paul’s knowledge was unknown in past ages, now revealed to the apostles (v. 5).

    4. The Gentiles are to be fellow heirs in the same body (v. 6).

    5. Paul was to preach to the Gentiles what had been hidden from the beginning of the ages (v. 9).

    Paul also tells the Colossian and Roman church the same as the Ephesians.

    I became a minister according to the stewardship (dispensation) from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God, the mystery which was kept secret since the world began (Col. 1:25‑26, clarification added).

    Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25, italics added).

    Paul directly states that it was “my knowledge,” “my gospel,” and this present dispensation that was a mystery; kept secret since the world began. In Eph. 3:5 he spoke of “his knowledge” which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men but now revealed to the holy apostles. It was revealed by the Holy Spirit to them when he said he: “went up by revelation,” and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles” (Gal. 2:2). The Ephesians letter was written in AD 61 and was years after Paul wrote to the Galatians that he had already been sent to Jerusalem to enlighten the other apostles.
    As Paul above makes it very clear that the church of today was a mystery, Peter in Acts 3:19-25 makes it equally clear that the kingdom of heaven (Israel) that he was offering was spoken of for centuries. He said: “...all the prophets from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.” In Acts 3:19 Peter spoke of the times of restoration that he was speaking of was spoken of since the world began.
    I believe that the two greatest heresies of the church from the beginning was the teaching (No. 1), that the church is the new spiritual Israel, and (No. 2), that the church was the realization of the kingdom that was promised to Israel. The third greatest mistake was and is, that the Lord spoke of and revealed the present church in the Memoirs, and especially so in the parables, and that the present church began on the Day of Pentecost. Those beliefs were in part the cause of the first two. For that reason, Peter’s remarks when he offered the kingdom in Acts 3:19-24 are extremely important to the understanding of many things.
    Almost all commentators believe Paul was speaking in Eph. 3:5 of the present church being revealed to the other apostles in the parables and especially so in Matt. 16:18; 18:17, and Rev. 2-3. But is it reasonable to think that God would send Paul on a special journey to Jerusalem (Gal. 2:2) to explain to the apostles a gospel they already knew about? Or even more ludicrous, would He send Paul to question those in Jerusalem about the credibility of what He Himself had revealed to Paul?
    If the church and Paul’s gospel was unknown to the other apostles before Paul, then it cannot reasonably be said that the present church age was spoken of in the parables or Memoirs. There is no point in quoting other Scriptures about Gentiles nations being saved and blessed in the kingdom; that was no mystery. If we ignore what Paul said, then we are only contradicting Scripture with Scripture. Either we believe him or we do not. Most of the present confusion is the result of ignoring or refusing to believe him, and in either case, is willful ignorance.
    One all defining, obvious, and undeniable truth is certain. If the present church was unknown before being revealed to, and founded by Paul, then it cannot possibly be the kingdom that was offered by the Lord and His disciples before or after the cross. Therefore, one of the greatest distinctions between the church and the kingdom rests upon Paul’s claim of being the first one to whom the present church was revealed, as well as many other Scriptures.
    Paul was “born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:8), to preach the message of salvation to the Gentiles. That should teach us that Paul was called for a special purpose. If there was a special purpose, it is fair to say he was given knowledge of a new program which could only be the present church, and that is precisely Paul’s claim. The solitary claim of the 12 was the offering of the kingdom that included salvation but was primarily about the restoration of David's kingdom. Nowhere did Paul ever preach the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
    By the very fact that Paul was given the honor of writing 14 of the 23 New Testament documents including The Epistle to the Hebrews is a sure indication that he had special knowledge of this present dispensation which the others did not have. In fact, Paul was the only apostle who wrote to the present Gentile church. The other apostles were ministers to the circumcision (Gal. 2:7-8). Indeed, with the exception of the book of Acts, almost all of what we know from the Scriptures about the present church is found in Paul’s epistles including the mystery of the rapture, which is inseparable from the mystery of the church.
    It is less than strange that nowhere is the rapture mentioned by anyone other than Paul. It is also noticeable that when Peter in Acts 2:16-21 spoke of the end times it was not of the rapture, but of the Day of the Lord and the beginning of the kingdom. In 2 Pet. 3:10-13 again, nothing is said about the rapture but the beginning of the eternal state on the new earth. The simple explanation is, Peter and the other 11 apostles and Israel’s hope’s has to do with the kingdom on earth. Whereas, our hope will be realized as a heavenly people whose citizenship is already in heaven (Phil. 3:20) and who will be taken there at the rapture.
    If the church was a mystery, then there had to be unknown things that would make it the mystery it was, and the rapture is one of those mysteries. Were the other apostles not capable of preaching the present gospel to the Gentiles, if indeed that was what they were preaching?
    It must be remembered, they were instructed to go to all the world with their message (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15, Lk. 24:47). If their message was the same as Paul’s, and started on the Day of Pentecost, then why did God call Paul in the first place? And why wait at least seven years, counting his three years in Arabia, before he began his early ministry to the Jews, and years later to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2, 46-47)?
    The prophets spoke of a time after the nation Israel is restored then through them the Gentile nations will be blessed through their exaltation in the kingdom. But Paul says that in this present dispensation of grace (Rom. 11:11-12) individual Gentiles from all nations are being blessed through the fall of Israel.

    In His grace


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