In Chains for the Hope of Israel
We’re in the New Testament finding The Common Thread throughout the Bible and we’re answering the question, “How does God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 bind the entire Bible together?” This week we learn how the Apostle Paul accomplished God’s plan to continue the “thread” to the Gentiles. Paul was called by God to be a missionary to the Gentiles but his heart was to see his brothers and sisters–the Jewish people–see that Jesus is the Messiah.
We’ll hear how Paul through God’s direction, made his way to Rome. Why would God send him there? You’ll have to listen and find out! And we’ll learn in Galatians 3 how Paul had Abraham and God’s promise to bless the world on his mind as he was writing to the church in Galatia.
If you’ve missed the previous episodes of this series, you can find them in our Archives.
Steve Conover: Why would the Apostle Paul, the great evangelist, at the end of his life and after three long missionary journeys, willingly put himself in prison? This is the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me as our host and teacher Chris Katulka. We're continuing our series called The Common Thread. So Chris, I'll ask you, why would Paul do this?
Chris Katulka: You might think some people would take a vacation after three long journeys, right there on the Mediterranean coast. But Paul didn't do that. Paul, instead, he purposefully stayed in prison to fulfill this mission that God gave to him to go to Rome. Paul, this entire time, had the promise that God made to Abraham on his mind.
Steve Conover: Thanks, Chris. We're looking forward to hearing more. But first, in the news, on February 21st Israel launched Beresheet into space. Beresheet is the first privately funded moon lander of its kind and the first moon lander from Israel. Only three other countries have landed on the moon, the United States, Russia, and just this year, China. If Beresheet makes it to the moon on April 11th, Israel will be the fourth country to make a successful lunar landing.
Chris Katulka: This is crazy to me, Steve, because when you think about it, we're talking Russia, the United States and China. These are huge countries with a lot of resources. All landed on the moon over the past 50, 60 years. And so now you have Israel, this tiny little country. We're talking 8 million people, the size of New Jersey, and they're on track to make a successful lunar landing. So that's number one. Number two, we shouldn't overlook the name of Israel's spacecraft, Beresheet, which in Hebrew means in the beginning, it's actually where we get the word Genesis from. It comes from Genesis 1:1 when it says that, "God, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." And I think this is a great reminder from the Israelis that as we develop technology to explore space and even land on the moon, it's God who created the heavens and the earth. So we'll be praying for Israel and their successful moon landing.
I hope I've been able to show you over the past few weeks, from the very beginning, way back in Genesis, when God made the original promise to Abraham in Genesis 12, that this promise matters to God and that God was using Abraham and his descendants to essentially become a conduit of blessing to all the nations of the earth. That through Abraham and the unfolding story of his descendants in the Old Testament, that God was working to redeem what was lost, and to resurrect what was seen as dead through this promise.
And last week, we looked at how the promise made to Abraham finds its “yes” in Christ as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "Jesus Christ is the one who fulfills and will fulfill the promise God made to Abraham. He is the descendant of Abraham who would bring blessing to all the families of the earth, and who was and is the hope for Israel's deliverance and redemption." When Jesus died, all of the disciples were extremely confused. They thought Jesus was the one who would finally save Israel and fulfill the promise God made to Abraham. Even for those disciples walking on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, the resurrected Lord Jesus is walking with them. They don't know it's him, but yet they're talking to Jesus about Jesus. And they're sad that he's died.
And it says this, "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel." Later, Jesus revealed himself to them. And even after the disciples, the 11 disciples had known that Jesus had resurrected, that he was alive. He was with them for 40 days. It says that as they were on the Mount of Olives, just before he ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father in Acts chapter one, the disciples actually look at Jesus and say, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" essentially, the disciples are saying to Jesus, "Are you now going to fulfill the promise that you made to Abraham?" And Jesus respectfully says to his disciples, "Not yet."
Now, before we continue, if you're just tuning into our common thread series and you're thinking to yourself, "What is Chris talking about here?" Well, we've been journeying through the Bible for the past few weeks discussing the promise that God made to Abraham and how it binds the whole Bible together from Genesis to Revelation. And if you're interested in catching up with our series, you can just go to FOIRadio.org to get past episodes. That's F-O-I Radio.org. Now, even after Jesus's resurrection and ascension, there is still a longing in the Jewish heart for God to fulfill what he promised to Abraham, just like what we saw last week. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, but the promise hasn't found its completion yet.
We're still waiting, because when that promise finds its fullness, that's when all the families of the earth will be blessed. That's when Israel finds its ultimate purpose in the land that God promised them, and the descendants of Abraham, and them, and the descendant of Abraham, Jesus, the Messiah will take his throne in Jerusalem. Now, at the end of the book of Acts, after Paul's three missionary journeys, Paul makes his way to Jerusalem. And while he's in Jerusalem, the Jewish people in the temple see Paul, and they begin to accuse him of being a rabble rouser and they accuse him of bringing a Gentile into the temple, which he didn't.
They were trying to find any way to get rid of the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was being abused by the Roman guards, but when he told them that he was a Roman citizen, they immediately stopped. It was illegal to examine a Roman citizen by beating him or her. Roman laws clearly established the illegality of such an act. And any Roman officer would be guilty of a serious breach of law if he ever did this. So Paul is going to use his Roman citizenship to help him bring the message of the Gospel, which is good to bring a blessing to all the families of the earth. He's actually using his citizenship as leverage here as a Roman citizen.
And while Paul was sitting in jail, it says this in Acts 23:11, so now Paul is in jail and it says, "The following night, the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Have courage for just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.'" Now, Jesus literally stood next to Paul in jail and told him to have courage, told him not to be afraid, told him to be brave because Paul's mission now is to literally go to the center of the Gentile world. And I am pretty confident Paul probably thought this was the end of his life. The Jewish people were working to get to Paul, to have Paul in the open so that they could literally attack him. That's what the text was saying, to attack him and to kill him.
But yet Jesus visits Paul and says, "Your life isn't going to end here in Jerusalem." Jesus visits Paul to let him know that his mission isn't over. He's got to testify about Jesus in Rome. And Rome at that time was the capital of the civilized Gentile world. Think about this for a moment. A Jewish man, Paul, is bringing the message of the Jewish hope of the Jewish Messiah to the Gentile world. This meeting in acts 23:11 between Jesus and Paul will give Paul the confidence to endure prison and even a shipwreck because he knew Jesus was going to see this mission through. Paul would be the voice to bring Israel's hope to the world. Paul would be the voice to bring blessing to all the families of the earth, just as was promised back in Genesis, chapter 12 to Abraham.
But before Paul goes to Rome, he spends two years as a prisoner in Caesarea, in Israel. Now, after two years goes by, a new governor of Judea comes into power and his name is Festus. And Festus, let me tell you, he is perplexed about what to do with Paul, because Paul wants to appeal to Caesar. So Festus invites King Agrippa and Bernice to hear from Paul for advice on how to deal with Paul. So Paul speaks to Agrippa and to Bernice and tells them this, I love this. He says, "And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our 12 tribes hope to attain as they earnestly serve God day and night."
Do you hear what Paul is saying to Festus, to King Agrippa and to Bernice? These officials around Israel at this time? Do you hear what he's saying? I believe Paul is looking back through a series of promises, but chief of those promises is the one that God made to Abraham. And Paul is saying to Festus and to King Agrippa and to Bernice, "I am here speaking to you because of a promise that God made a long time ago." And I love what Paul says, he says, "This promise is one that the 12 tribes hope to attain." And that's true to this very day. The whole of Israel is longing and praying for God to fulfill the promise that he made to Abraham and Paul is giving them the Gospel, the good news, of how God will make sure that promise is realized.
And Festus and Agrippa both know this. They actually meet with one another after hearing from Paul, and they both know this one thing. Paul is innocent. They both know that he should be set free, but Paul, as a Roman citizen, decided to appeal to Caesar. Paul traded his freedom to get to Rome. Paul exchanged walking out of prison a free man to go bound on a ship to Caesar to make Christ known to the mouthpiece of the Gentile world. The entire book of Acts, the story of the birth and expansion of the church, ends with Paul in Rome as a prisoner. And while Paul is in prison, he calls together the Jewish leaders in Rome and he says the reason he is bound with chain is because of the hope of Israel.
The hope of Israel is in Paul's mind, which certainly goes back to the oath, to the promise that God made to Abraham. And Paul knew his mission in Rome. Jesus told him is that he must testify about the Messiah Jesus in Rome. Caesar must hear and know this, that there is a king who is higher than he. And when we return, we're going to look at the Book of Galatians, a letter that was written while Paul was in prison in Rome, and how Paul understood the significance of Christ in the promise that God made to Abraham. So please be sure to stick around.
Steve Conovor: At The Friends of Israel, we want to provide you with every available resource for understanding the depth of the culture and history of the nation of Israel.
Chris Katulka: And that's why we're pleased to offer the video, Israel: My Home. This DVD captures the spirit of the Jewish people as they turned adversity into opportunity. Beautifully filmed to capture the landscape of the holy land, this film is a new look at the state of Israel and the fulfillment of God's promise. One of the best ways to experience Israel is to see it yourself. But next to that is Israel: My Home. Whether you've been to Israel or not, I highly encourage anyone who desires to encounter the holy land to purchase this DVD.
Steve Conovor: If you love Israel, then you are sure to love this DVD. Don't delay. Visit FOIRadio.org and get your very own copy of Israel: My Home. Again, that's FOIRadio.org.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back, everyone. We're continuing our message on the Apostle Paul and Apostle to the Gentiles who never stopped administering to his Jewish brothers and sisters. And I think it's amazing that as you read through the book of Acts, how Paul prioritized visiting a synagogue before even went to the streets of whatever Gentile city he entered into. Why? Because he knew if anyone was going to understand Jesus's life, death and resurrection, and how Jesus is the hope of Israel, the one who would come and fulfill the promise made to Abraham, it was his Jewish brothers and sisters living throughout the Roman Empire.
And when we left off with Paul in the previous segment, before we took our break, Paul was in prison in Rome. And remember Paul put himself there. He didn't need to be in prison. The leading Roman officials living in Israel at that time who had the power to declare Paul innocent, said that he was, but Paul was on a mission from Jesus himself to go to Rome, to go to Caesar and to proclaim the good news of King Jesus, the king of kings. Now, while Paul was in prison, he writes the book of Galatians. And it's interesting because Paul says this in Galatians 3:6, "Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, so then understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham and the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying all the nations will be blessed in you. So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham, the believer."
One of the big issues in the early church were those Jewish believers in Jesus who insisted that Gentiles that were coming to faith were to essentially become Jewish first. They were called Judaizers. They insisted that Gentiles should first be circumcised and that they would need to follow the law. But see, Paul here is arguing from the basis of the promise God made to Abraham. See, all of this goes back to Abraham, that non-Jewish people, Gentiles, who come to faith in Christ, are not considered righteous by the law. They are considered righteous in the eyes of God by their faith alone in Jesus. That's why Paul says it was Abraham who was not circumcised. Remember, Abraham wasn't circumcised when God said that when he believed in him, it was credited to him as righteousness.
Circumcision and the law have nothing to do with God considering Abraham righteous. So Abraham was righteous in God's eyes by his faith alone in God's plan. Paul even says that Abraham's faith provided the way for God to justify deemed Gentiles righteous by faith alone. And Paul goes back to that amazing promise that God made to Abraham that touches every aspect of the Bible, to show that through faith alone in Christ, all of the nations, or all of the families of the earth will be blessed.
So what does that mean for you? Well, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a spiritual descendant of Abraham. You are connected to the unique family of faith that goes way back to Abraham. You are a part of the promise God made to Abraham through Christ Jesus, all because, think about this, Abraham stepped out in faith. But let me remind you of this too. This doesn't mean God is phasing out Israel or that the Jewish people don't matter anymore to God. Instead, it means that God's promise to Abraham, that was and is for the Jewish people, was designed from the very beginning to bring blessings to all of the families of the earth, and that God is still working in and through Israel and the Jewish people to make sure that oath, the promise, the covenant that God made to Abraham would one day find its realization in Jesus Christ. And folks, it's for this reason Paul willingly remains in chains because he knew the hope of Israel was the hope for the world.
Steve Conovor: Israel on the verge of becoming a state, a teenaged Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the holy land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry, continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the Life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: A few weeks ago, I was desiring to visit the religious school near my home to witness about the Lord. It is impossible to get in there, almost as impossible is getting over the iron curtain. But nothing can stop the will of God. Here in Israel, the law states the schools must be watched each day by at least one parent of one of the students in that school. Recently, one of my coworkers told me, "Tomorrow, I must watch in the school. I want you to take my place. It is a very religious school near you. I've already spoken with the teacher about you taking my place. They will do everything within their power to bring you back to our father's traditions."
I was so happy the Lord had answered my quiet prayers. For him, all things are possible. When I arrived at the school the next morning, the director asked me, "Have you passed a psychiatric test?"I was very surprised and responded, "Why?" He replied, "Because a normal man would not believe in a man and make him a god." I told him, "You are the director of this school, but you need a special psychiatrist?" "How can you say that?" he demanded, "I am the director here, but who are you?" "I am proud of whom I am in my Savior and I am happy in Him." I replied. "How did you come to have this happiness?" "Through his Spirit." I answered, "And this I received when I read the Bible and Jesus came into my heart."
"How do you know all of this?" The director asked. I told him, "It's all written in the Bible." "Let us speak earnestly with each other." He said, "Tell me something about yourself." I began. "You see, I was in the Warsaw ghetto." As soon as he heard that, he said, "You have come at just the right time. God must've sent you to us today. Today we are discussing the Holocaust and you can give us a good picture of what happened there." And so even though I never dreamed it was possible, I found myself in a classroom of this very religious school.
They attentively listened as I talked about the Holocaust, but soon came the time when I had to say the truth about how the Lord preserved me from all of these dangers. After this came many questions. The teachers asked how I could accept Jesus when Gentiles were responsible for the Holocaust. "You're right." I told them, "But they were not true Christians. If they had been true Christians, not one hair from a Jewish head would've fallen. I believe in the Lord, not man made doctrines, idols, pictures, as many Gentiles believe." "You do not believe in idols and pictures?" she asked. "Oh no, I believe in a living God."
"Then how can you believe in Jesus whom you say died?" I explained, "He's not dead. He lives. The prophets wrote that he would die and resurrect. You can read about the resurrection in Psalm 22." The director then asked, "Why do you speak from our Bible and not from the Gentile Bible?" I told him, "Our only book is the Holy Bible, the Old and New Testaments." I gave my testimony and witness to the class and teachers for about an hour, and then for another hour or more they ask many questions, which I was pleased to answer. This was for me, a very happy day. It was like an impossible dream, like going behind an iron curtain to proclaim the truth about the living, loving, soon returning Savior. His word is alive and powerful, even in a religious Jewish school in Israel.
Steve Conover: Thanks for joining us for the program today. Chris, in your message, you mentioned that in the book of Acts, Paul was in chains for the hope of Israel, but he's known as the apostle to the Gentiles. So what's going on there?
Chris Katulka: Again, I think earlier I mentioned how important it is to understand that Paul took steps to make sure that as he was going into the Gentile world, the first place he would go was the synagogue. Because if there was any group of people that would understand the gospel of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, it's the Jewish people. And he also knew this, that their acceptance of Jesus would be the most important part of fulfilling the promise that God made to Abraham. Israel's salvation in Jesus remains still, I believe, the hinge to God, welcoming us into the kingdom that he's prepared for us. Israel still remains a very important part and Paul knew that.
Steve Conover: Thank you, Chris. Join us again next week as we continue our series called The Common Thread. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry, communicating Biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
Israel, My Home DVD
This DVD captures the spirit of the Jewish people as they turned adversity into opportunity. Beautifully filmed to capture the landscapes of the Holy Land, this film is a new look at the state of Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promise. One of the best ways to experience Israel is to see it yourself. But next to that is Israel My Home. Whether you’ve been to Israel or not, we highly encourage anyone who desires to encounter the holy land to purchase this DVD.
Apples of Gold: He is not Dead; He Lives!
Zvi prayed and asked God to open the doors for him to somehow allow him to be a part of a religious school. One day his neighbor asked him to take his place in guarding the school. This was something the parents took turns doing throughout the school year. Zvi was excited to see how God answered his prayers. Not only did God allow him to make contacts, listen to what happened as he spoke to the headmaster.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.