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The Hope of the Church of the Acts 

still the Hope of Israel.


By Charles Welch


Part 2

The conclusions that we have so far reached with regard to the gospel, and the inclusion of the Gentile during the Acts, do not make a very great demand upon the believer whose position is what we may call `orthodox'. There are, however, other subjects so close to the heart of the redeemed that anyone suggesting that present traditional views with regard to them are unscriptural, must be prepared not only to meet strong opposition, but also to endure a good deal of misunderstanding and possibly abuse. Among these sensitive themes is that of the Hope of the Church. Many a believer who would be prepared to endorse all that has been put forward in the three opening studies, would nevertheless affirm with conviction that the hope of 1 Thessalonians 4 is the hope of the Church of the Mystery.

Now, if Paul taught `none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come', it follows that the hope set before us in Romans, Corinthians, Galatians and Thessalonians must be the hope of Israel, and further that, if this hope is also the hope of the Church revealed in Paul's Prison Epistles, then the word `mystery' loses its meaning, at least in so far as it can be applied to the hope of the Church. We shall be content to present to the judgment of the reader exactly what is written concerning the hope of the Church during the Acts administration, and we believe that he will find abundant evidence to prove that, as in the case of the gospel and the inclusion of the Gentile, this hope agrees with the testimony of Moses and the prophets, and cannot therefore be the hope of a company called under terms which were unrevealed until the apostle became the `prisoner of the Lord'.

While 1 Thessalonians 4 is the passage to which we naturally turn for a definite statement concerning the hope of the Church of the period, we will follow the rule adopted in the earlier studies and investigate first the Epistle to the Romans. In chapter 15 the apostle not only speaks of the inclusion of the Gentile, as we saw in our last study, but also associates the believing Gentile with the hope of Israel.

`And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and He that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost' (Rom. 15:12,13).

There can be no question here as to whether the Gentiles referred to are in the Church, for the presence of such words as, `all joy and peace in believing' and `the power of the Holy Ghost' is conclusive. We are dealing here with the hope of the believer, and therefore with the hope of the Church at that time.

We must first draw the reader's attention to the fact that the word `trust' here is elpizo in the original, and that the word `hope' is elpis. The noun and the verb are from the same root, and both demand the same English word. Also, before the word `hope' in verse 13 we have the definite article, and the two words should therefore be translated `that hope'. Putting in these corrections, we have:

`In Him shall the Gentiles hope. Now the God of that hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing'.

This hope of the believing Gentile is found in the Prophet Isaiah, and a reference to Isaiah 11 will reveal that it is millennial. We might have anticipated this by observing the clause `rise to reign over the Gentiles', a statement consistent with the hope of Israel and the earthly kingdom, but impossible of application to the Church of the Mystery. The hope here in Romans is, therefore, millennial, and, if Romans was written after 1 Thessalonians 4, then it is impossible that the hope of 1 Thessalonians 4 should be other than this same hope.

In dealing with 1 Thessalonians 4, it is of the utmost importance to remember that there arose a misunderstanding in the Church as to the apostle's teaching concerning the hope, and that he consequently wrote a second letter with the express purpose of correcting these errors. It is patent, we trust, to all our readers, whatever may be their views concerning the Coming of the Lord, that any interpretation of 1 Thessalonians that ignores the inspired corrective, 2 Thessalonians, must necessarily fail.

The Thessalonians had been led astray with regard to the Second Coming of Christ, both by teachers speaking under the influence of an evil spirit, and by a spurious epistle, and had come to believe that the Day of the Lord was at hand (2 Thess. 2:2). Instead of telling these anxious believers that their hope had nothing whatever to do with the Day of the Lord - which would have been the simplest solution, had it been true - the apostle occupies the bulk of this second epistle with a detailed account of that awful day, and also reminds them, when dealing with the great antichristian blasphemy of Revelation 13, that he had told them these things when he was with them (2 Thess. 2:5).

In 1 Thessalonians 4 he comforts the believer by referring to the descent of the Lord from heaven; and in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 he comforts him with the prospect of `rest' at the `revelation of the Lord Jesus'. The descent `from heaven' and the revelation `from heaven' are the same in the original, ap ouranon being used in both passages. In 1 Thessalonians 4, the descent `from heaven' is associated with the `voice of the Archangel', and, as we shall prove presently, with the Lord's `holy angels' (1 Thess. 3:13). In 2 Thessalonians 1 this is repeated with added details: `With His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance'.

In Daniel 12:1 we read that, when Michael the `Archangel' stands up: `There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time'. There can be only one such time of trouble, and Daniel 12:1 must therefore synchroniZe with the event spoken of in Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7: 14.

If it be objected that this makes the hope before the Church of the Thessalonians identical with the hope of Israel, we would reply that this is not an objection, but actually the truth of the matter. The hope of Israel was the only hope in view in Acts 1:6 and the hope of Israel was still in view in Acts 28:20. We have seen that the Church at Rome was taught to abound in this very hope, and we also find that all that is written concerning the hope in 1 and 2 Thessalonians links it to this same hope of Israel. Michael, according to Daniel 12, `stands for the people of Israel'; and the coming of the Lord `with all His saints' is a fulfillment of Zechariah 14:5. The `saints' here are angels, as a comparison of Deuteronomy 33:2 and Psalm 68:17 will show.

The only other mention of the Archangel in the New Testament is in Jude 9, and Jude speaks of the days immediately preceding the dreadful Day of the Lord.

The whole of the prophetic passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 is taken up with the teaching concerning the Beast and the False Prophet. If the hope of the Thessalonian Church was the blessed hope of the Mystery, why should the apostle spend so much time describing a period that has nothing to do with this hope?

It may be necessary to say a word here on 2 Thessalonians 1:10. The translation `When He shall have come' is to be preferred to the A.V. rendering, but there is no warrant for teaching from this that the hope of the Church will have been fulfilled before `He shall have come'. The context points the other way, and there is no possibility of this meaning in other passages where the same tense is used.

`When the lord of the vineyard shall have come'. This leads on to what He will then do (Matt. 21:40).

`When ye shall have done all those things' - say, `We are unprofitable servants' (Luke 17:10).

`Of him shad the Son of Man be ashamed when He shall have come' (Mark 8:38). ,

`When He (the Messiah) shall have come (then, and not before), He will tell us all things' (John 4:25).

'This is My covenant unto them, when I shall have taken away their sins' (Rom. 11:27).

`When He shall have delivered up the Kingdom ... when He shall have put down all rule ... (then, and not before), God shall be all in all' (1 Cor. 15:24-28).

So, when He shall have come, in that day, to be glorified in His saints, then, in that same coming, He will take vengeance and punish with aionion destruction those who know not God and obey not His gospel. It is not possible to appeal to this passage as evidence of a hope entertained by these saints before `that day' when He shall have come.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, the apostle speaks of the `order' that will govern the resurrection, and it may at first sight be felt that here is a distinct revelation - something more than can be found in Moses and the prophets. While it is true that the actual words of 1 Thessalonians 4 are not found in the Law or the Prophets, they are but a legitimate expansion of what the Old Testament revealed, and if this is so, Paul's claim is not invalidated.

Take for example the passage in Daniel 12 that appears to have colored the language of 1 Thessalonians 4 with reference to the Archangel. Daniel speaks of two companies, one living in the time of trouble and delivered out of it, the other sleeping in the dust of the earth and awakened. Daniel knew that he himself would `rest' and would `stand in his lot at the end of the days' (Dan. 12:13), but he neither affirms nor denies the precedence either of the living or of the dead. Paul, however, does affirm that these two companies go `together', and we understand, therefore, that this is implicit in Daniel, though explicit only in Paul. This does not mean, however, that Paul is saying something more than the Law and the Prophets allowed. It was all within the framework of the Old Testament and was by no means a secret `hid' in God. 

The apostle makes very full use of the wilderness wanderings of Israel, and his conclusion at the end of Hebrews 11 to the effect that `they without us' should not be perfected, could easily be substantiated from the story of Caleb and Joshua. These two men qualified for entry into Canaan at the time of the spies, but they had to wait the full period of the wilderness wandering, and finally entered the land `together' with the rest of the people.

It is not our custom to quote the writings of others in confirmation of our teaching; we prefer to stand or fall by the Book itself. In this case, however, some readers may be interested to see the last words of  Dr. E.W.  Bullinger on the dispensational place of 1 and 2 Thessalonians and their teaching concerning the hope of the Church. Speaking of the fact that in all our versions the Epistles to the Thessalonians came last he says:

`It must be evident to us all at the outset that, as long as Jehovah's promise to "send Jesus Christ" was not withdrawn, while it was still open to Israel to see the fulfillment of "all that the prophets have spoken" on the one condition (of repentance) laid down, while the imminence of the Lord's speedy coming was everywhere the testimony of "them that heard Him", whether spoken or written, the waiting for God's Son from heaven, and deliverance from the wrath to come would necessarily be the central point of all testimony during the Dispensation of the Acts.

The Pauline Epistles cannot be exempt from this conclusion (our italics). If any one is disposed to hold that the promise made in Acts 3 was withdrawn at any time before Acts 28, it is incumbent on them to point out where such an epoch-making event is recorded. But this, cannot be done. There is not a tittle of evidence that can be produced.  Indeed, the very first epistle written by Paul (I Thess. 1:10) emphasizes this, and the second letter cannot even be understood apart from it'.

These words of Dr. Bullinger's were published in 1911-13 in `Things to Came', and in 1913 it will be remembered he fell asleep. Readers who know only the Doctor's `Church Epistles' should note carefully his own correction of his a earlier views.
In the same series, after having quoted 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Dr. Bullinger writes:

`Paul was here confirming what the Lord had said in Matthew 24. "This great trumpet" is the "trump of God" in 1 Thessalonians 4, and the gathering is the gathering of "them that are alive and remain". This is the work assigned to the angels'.

We will not multiply quotations, but must give the following, because of its bearing upon our own position.

`We quite understand, and fully sympathize with those who, like ourselves, have spoken or written on 1 Thessalonians 4 as being the great charter of our hope of the Lord's coming. But we ought thankfully to relinquish it when we find we have a better hope (our italics), which we can enjoy all the more because we need not reproach ourselves with having robbed Israel of their hope, which is only postponed, and will yet have a wondrous and literal fulfillment for them' (Foundations of Dispensational Truth, Dr. E.W. Bullinger).

We trust that sufficient has been set before the reader to lead to the conviction that the hope before the Church of the Acts was in entire harmony with what `the prophets and Moses dad say should come'.

No. 5

                       The Gifts of the Spirit, and the Abrahamic Promise.

The present study was originally suggested by a correspondent who, among other things remarked, `Surely the Charismata cannot come under this heading'. This is certainly an important point, and if it can be shown that the endowment with supernatural gifts, which was the peculiar privilege of the early Church, is unrelated to the testimony of Moses and the prophets, or goes beyond anything they have said, then it will be necessary for us to reconsider our position.

We begin our investigation, where spiritual gifts first make their appearance, namely, in Acts 2. The day of Pentecost having fully come, and the number of the twelve having been completed, a most wonderful thing happened:

`They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues; as the Spirit gave them utterance' (Acts 2:4).

The assembled multitude were `confounded' and `amazed ... saying one to another, What meaneth this?' Others ' mocked and said, `These men are full of new wine' (Acts 2:6-13). It is evident from the reaction of the multitude that something extraordinary had happened, but the fact that these
Jews, who were `devout men', did not recognize the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy when they saw it, is no proof that the prophets and Moses did not say that these things should come. The nation rejected their Messiah, in spite of the fulfillment of prophecy and type.

Most of our difficulties in connection with this matter vanish when we consider Peter's inspired answer in verses 14-40, and particularly in verse 16:

`This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel' (Acts 2:16). 

If we turn to chapter 2 of this prophecy, we shall find in verses 28-32 the complete testimony to this great event. It is true that the seven wonders in heaven and earth have not yet taken place, but this is explained by Israel's failure to repent. All that we are at the moment attempting, however, is to prove that the `gifts' of the early Church were promised before in the Holy Scriptures.

Peter not only refers to Joel, but later in his explanation to the testimony of David:

` .. David ... being a prophet ... seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ ... therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost,
He hath shed forth this,
which ye now see and hear' (Acts 2:29-33).

It is evident from the above references that Peter would have been surprised to hear any one deny, or even question the fact that the gifts bestowed on the Day of Pentecost were  spoken of by the prophets of the Old Testament. The term `Moses and the prophets' and the term `the law and the
prophets' are synonymous, yet we should be unscriptural to draw a hard and fast line, and limit the term `law' to Moses. In John 10:34, quoting Psalm 82:6, the Lord says, `Is it not written in your law?' And in 1 Corinthians 14:21, the prophet Isaiah is quoted as `the law', with reference to the spiritual gifts of the early Church. `Moses and the prophets' in its common usage simply stands for the Old Testament Scriptures.

`In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I  speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear Me, saith
the Lord' (1 Cor. 14:21).

On the Day of Pentecost, the gifts were received
by Jews only. It is pure imagination to believe that on that day both Jews and Gentiles, then and there, were baptized into one body. One reading of Acts 2, with this tradition of the elders in mind, is enough to dispel such an interpretation for ever. That Peter himself held no such belief is made abundantly clear in Acts 10:

`While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost' (Acts 10:44-45).

There were two converging reasons for the abundance of gifts that were poured out upon the early church. The first of these is given in Galatians 3:

`Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us ... that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ;
that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith' (Gal. 3:13,14).

Here it is made clear that the promise to Abraham, which we have already seen includes the gospel as preached in Romans, and was, as Galatians 3:8 testifies, `foreseen' by the Scriptures, includes also `the Spirit'. It may perhaps be objected that this reference to `the Spirit' does not include `spiritual gifts' but just gospel grace. The same chapter in Galatians, however, contains a complete proof that `spiritual gifts' are in view:

Received ye the spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? ... He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and
worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed...' (Gal. 3:2-6).

It is clear, therefore, that the spirit given through the faith that is reckoned for righteousness, is also the spirit associated with `working miracles', and that being so, our case is proved.

The other line of teaching associated with spiritual gifts is that found in 1 Corinthians 14:21. Those addressed in 1 Corinthians 10 & 11 were by nature `Jews' - for it obviously could not be written of Gentiles that `add our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea' (1 Cor. 10:1). To those who have `ears to hear' this fact and its bearing upon the only reference to the Lord's Supper in Paul's writings (in 1 Cor. 11) will speak with no uncertain sound.

In 1 Corinthians 12, however, the apostle turns from the Jewish section of the Church and addresses the Gentiles:

`Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles' (1 Cor. 12:1,2).

To those who believe that `all Scripture is given by inspiration of God' these things will be the end of the argument.

1 Corinthians 12 to 14 deals with these spiritual gifts from various angles. We are not at the moment concerned with the nature of these gifts, their variety, permanence or cessation, but we are concerned with the reason why Isaiah 28 should have been quoted. This quotation from Isaiah is rather similar 'to the passage in Deuteronomy 32:

`I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation' (Deut. 32:21).

This passage is quoted or referred to in Romans 10:19; 11:11 and 11:14. After having stressed the blessing of the Gentile, the apostle uses the illustration of the olive tree. The Gentile believer is likened to a wild olive graffed in contrary to nature, partaking in both the root and the fatness of the olive tree. The apostle magnifies his office as the apostle of the Gentiles `if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them' (Rom. 11:14).

We learn from these passages that one of the reasons for the abundance of spiritual gifts that characterized the Gentile churches, was that Israel might, if it were possible, be awakened to see their prerogatives passing to the uncircumcision, and so be provoked to jealousy, and repent and be saved. This, however, was not to be. Israel were not provoked; they passed out into their present blindness, and the gifts ceased.

There can be no doubt after considering the testimony of these Scriptures that the gifts enjoyed by the early Church were well within the sphere of those things `which the prophets and Moses did say should come'.

                       Part Three