It is evident from the whole tenor of Scripture that a fundamental change in things was in view in the coming of Christ. We gather that from many portions of the word. Such a change in God's dealings with men is implied in the Lord's statement to Nicodemus. This teacher of Israel had just addressed Him in the words-" Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these things that Thou doest, except God be with him." To this the Lord replied, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3.2, 3). Under the dispensation of law no such demand was made by God. The kingdom of God which was established in Israel at Sinai associated with which was the house of God and its service, for a kingdom of priests implies both obedience and divine service, required no more than circumcision of all males and incorporation into the nation of Israel. The former was to take place on the eighth day for all males born in Israel (Genesis 17.12; Philippians 3.5), and when the boy was about twelve years old he was taken to the house of God to become a son of the covenant. It is thought that this was what took place in the case of the Lord when He was found in the temple at twelve years of age (Luke 2.41-51). The youths of Israel took upon themselves the same obligation of obedience to the terms of the covenant as did their fathers at Sinai. In the case of the stranger who wished to keep the passover (and of course all the other feasts of the LORD, which at the time of Exodus 12. were still unrevealed to Israel) he and all his males had to be circumcised and then he became as one born the land (though none of Israel had been born in the land as yet). There was one law for the homeborn and for the stranger; the same conditions applied to both (Exodus 12.48, 49).
These facts were well known to Nicodemus, but here was a new condition, associated with a new presentation of the kingdom of God. It was not simply that they could not enter the kingdom of God without being born anew, but they could not even see it without the new birth. The new birth would introduce them into a sphere of spiritual things into which it is impossible for the natural man to enter; to these things the natural man is both dead and blind. Here was a gulf over which the highly religious and educated Nicodemus could not pass, and he stood dumbfounded before the Divine Speaker saying, "How can these things be?" He was a specimen of many others of the Pharisees, but with this difference, he was an honest man prepared to investigate the phenomena of the wonders wrought in Jerusalem by this Stranger, and in this honesty lay his subsequent salvation.
Following on from the new birth came other truths, such as the unprofitableness of the flesh (John 6.63) the abrogation of the spiritual value of parentage and descent (Matthew 3 9) the uselessness of endless genealogies (1 Timothy 1.4), a change in the character of the house of God, from that which was material to that which is spiritual (1 Peter 2.5), and also from material sacrifices to spiritual. The once-for-all sacrifice of Christ rendered unnecessary the burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings and sin offerings of the law (Hebrews 10.5, 6; Psalm 40.6-8).There was a change too of the priesthood, from that of Aaron and his house to the Melchizedek priesthood of the Lord, and a change too of the law (Hebrews 7.12) Besides the covenant terms were changed from the Sinaitic to the New Covenant (Hebrews 8.7 - 13, 10. 15 - 18)
It was clearly against the Lord's teaching that things proper to the old dispensation should be amalgamated with the new, when He used the simile about taking a piece of a new garment and putting it upon an old and putting new wine into old wine skins (Luke 5 36. 33) The Judaizers referred to m the Galatian epistle and elsewhere in the New Testament were at the work of uniting the old and the new dispensations, and great disaster this wrought both then and now.
Paul refers to the first tabernacle in verses 6 and 8 of Hebrews 9, and of the first tabernacle he says, that it is a parable for the time present. According to this, he says, were offered both gifts and sacrifices, but these could not, as touching the conscience, make the worshipper perfect; whereas the worshipper in this dispensation has no more conscience of sins; he, as touching his conscience, has been made perfect by the sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10.3, 14).
In contrast to that time of carnal ordinances, that is, ordinances which had to do with the cleansing of the flesh, not carnal in a bad sense, as in 1 Corinthians 3.1-3, we in this dispensation are in a time of reformation. Reformation (Diorthosis, from Dia, through, Ortheo to make right) means correction, emendation. Even in the days of the law David saw the uselessness of offering animal sacrifices unless the necessary conditions of conscience and heart were present. In his sorrow the royal psalmist said,
"0 Lord, open Thou my lips;
And my mouth shall skew forth Thy praise.
For Thou delightest not in sacrifice; else would I give it:
Thou host no pleasure in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
A broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, Thou wilt not despise"
The sacrifices of the past availed only to the cleansing of the flesh, but the blood of Christ cleanses the conscience (Hebrews. 9.13, 14); such is one of the fundamental differences between the outward religious service of the past and the inward cleansing and service of the present.
Peter said, following the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the temple: "Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets which have been since the world began" (Acts 3.19-21).
Restoration (Apokatastasis) means the restoration of anything to its former state, reconstitution, or the introduction of a new and better era. Some have rushed hastily to the conclusion that what Peter said implied that had the people of Israel repented God would there and then have sent back Christ, the restitution of all things would have been right away and the Millennium begun. This hypothesis is like that other hypothesis, that had Israel repented at the preaching of John the Baptist and in the early days of the Lord's ministry, the Millennium would have begun then, but the wicked unbelief of Israel postponed the Millennium and brought about the present dispensation of grace, in which the eternal purpose of God in regard to the building of the Church which is Christ's Body is being realized (Ephesians 3.1-11 ; Matthew 16.13, 10).
Let us ask ourselves the 4uestion hypothetically as to what would have happened had the Jewish people repented at the preaching of Peter? Already the building of the Church which is Christ's Body had commenced. Three thousand or thereby, who were saved on the day of Pentecost with those who were believers in Christ prior to Pentecost, had been baptized in the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. This purpose would have had to have been amputated had Christ returned to set up His kingdom, and can we think of another hypothesis as to when it would have been recommenced and the work of the building of the Body completed? Then what of the Lord's commission to the eleven disciples in Matthew 28.18-20? If all Israel had repented, would not the Lord's word have had to be obeyed and all would have had to be baptized in water, as were the three thousand on the day of Pentecost?
It is quite unthinkable and contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture that the Lord could have set up His kingdom in the days of His flesh, or that the Millennium could have commenced in the early days of the Acts. The words of Peter relative to the return of the Lord are qualified by-" Whom the heaven must receive until the time of the restoration of all things."
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