CAN YOU EXPLAIN PETER AND THE 11’s MINISTRY FROM ACTS 7-15? WHERE DID ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK GO AFTER PAUL’S MINISTRY BEGAN?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Hi! Love this site! I hope you can help with this. Israel and her national program are set aside in Acts 7 and a new program (the Body of Christ begins with Paul in Acts 9). However, what about the ministry Peter and the 11 had between Acts 7 and say Acts 15 (the Jerusalem Council)? If the national program is set aside, where do the converts of Peter ‘go?’ Where do they ‘fit’ in the scheme of things? Additionally, it must be obvious that not all Israel (each individual) committed the unpardonable sin, or Peter and the others would have had no ministry at all. Thanks for your help!”
Hello, friend! I am glad you have found our ministry helpful. All praise and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ alone! Hopefully, here in this, our special-edition Bible Q&A article #250, clarity will be brought concerning these most enigmatic chapters of Acts. How sad it is that I have heard and read many “grace” preachers stumble through these passages, making grace believers more confused than those in denominational circles. Great care will be exercised here to make the truth as plain and simple as possible. We may only have “one shot” to reach people with these chapters, so let us do our very best to get it right the first time.
INTRODUCTION. SOME BRIEF OPENING REMARKS
Certainly, there were individuals not present in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 7. Thus, they had no idea of Israel’s commission of the unpardonable sin and her national fall before her God. Israel’s religious leaders had endorsed the stoning of Stephen (Acts 6:12-15; Acts 7:1; Acts 7:58 cf. Acts 26:5). As you pointed out, there were individual Jews not directly involved in this most blasphemous act against the Holy Ghost and His spokesman (Stephen). Evidently, for their benefit, and even for the benefit of the Little Flock, God made sure the transition period from Acts chapter 8 onward was gradual rather than sudden.
While Israel is fallen post-Acts-chapter-7, leaders of the Little Flock continue with their ministries with the divine revelation they had been given in the months and years prior. They have not yet spoken to Paul and been brought up-to-date (Acts chapter 15, the Jerusalem Council, is still over 10 years away). The Holy Spirit has not given them further instructions, so they are faithful with what info Jesus Christ had told them previously. Until Paul’s salvation and ministry become the main theme (chapter 9), we see throughout chapter 8 a gradual “tapering off” of Philip’s ministry, Peter and John’s ministry, and Philip’s ministry again. They drop off by the beginning of chapter 9 (Saul/Paul’s salvation), they return at the end of the chapter but are oblivious to Paul’s new ministry and new divine revelation. These leaders of the Little Flock continue to appear until the end of chapter 12, with Paul making a brief appearance in chapter 11. Chapters 13 and 14 are Paul’s first apostolic ministry. Leaders of the Little Flock do not appear again until Acts chapter 15, then briefly in chapter 21, before disappearing from Acts altogether.
So, indeed, there is a lot of “scene-switching” between Paul’s ministry and the 12’s ministry in Acts chapters 7 through 15. Characters can and do appear sporadically. It can get very technical, confusing, and overwhelming if we are not careful to separate them and present their ministries properly. You seem to be familiar with some of our studies, and that helps make this discussion easier. Still, I will re-teach some basic material for those unfamiliar with dispensational Bible study—and particularly this topic (the Acts 7-15 portion of the transitional period). We must remember that the time period about which you are inquiring is at the heart of the Acts transitional period, so there is not an immediate termination of Peter and the 11’s ministry to Israel and Israel-blessing Gentiles. There is no immediate ministry of Paul with everything about the mystery now fully revealed. Pauline revelation will continue until 2 Timothy, some years after Acts ended at chapter 28.
In this study, we will begin with Acts chapter 7 and go through to Acts chapter 15. Along the way, we will highlight the passages that involve Israel’s apostles and prophets. Moreover, we will make brief references to Paul where he appears in the Bible text. To make this enormous amount of material easier to comprehend, a table of verses with light commentary has been constructed and provided for your convenience. An accompanying diagram will be presented later to summarize. Ready? Here we go!
SECTION I. PETER AND THE ELEVEN’S MINISTRY FROM ACTS 7 TO ACTS 15
As previously noted, in Acts chapter 7, we find Israel’s national leadership—acting on the behalf of the unbelieving nation, nevertheless—at the culmination of her rejection of JEHOVAH God. For the past year, from Acts chapter 2 (Pentecost) to chapter 7, the Holy Spirit has borne witness to the nation Israel that Jesus was and is Christ, the Son of God, Israel’s King and Redeemer. How has Israel responded? We find thousands of Jews who trust in Jesus (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4), but, overwhelmingly, tens of thousands of Jews do not believe. The Jews have largely persecuted and imprisoned the 12 apostles, and now, they are beginning to harass Stephen (Acts 4:1-22; Acts 5:17:42; Acts 6:9-15).
With Stephen’s ministry, Israel yet again refuses to listen to their Gospel message of Jesus being Messiah! When Stephen, filled with the Holy Ghost, stands before these leaders of Israel and meticulously recounts their history of unbelief, how they are repeating the ways of their fathers of centuries past, they are convicted and they stone him to death near the close of chapter 7. Looking back on it all, we see that that is where Israel fell nationally and began to diminish (see Romans 11:11-14; cf. Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 13:6-9; Romans 11:28,31; 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16). But, for a time, Israel’s Little Flock continues preaching in accordance with the prophetic program as before—they now minister to Samaritans and to other Jews. Why? We will answer that shortly. For now, I will present a table that will succinctly outline Acts chapters 7 through 15.
THE TWELVE’S MINISTRY FROM ACTS 7 ONWARD (WITH ANNOTATIONS CONCERNING PAUL’S PRE-ACTS-16 MINISTRY)
*Asterisks and italics denote the activities of Israel’s 12 apostles and other members of the Little Flock.
|Acts 7:1-60*||*Stephen’s sermon highlighting Israel’s history of unbelief, Saul influential in Israel’s stoning Stephen to death|
|Acts 8:1-4*||Saul persecutes Israel’s Little Flock in Jerusalem, *Messianic Jews scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria, *12 apostles remain in Jerusalem, *other members of the Little Flock “preach the Word to none but unto the Jews only” (cf. Acts 11:19-21)|
|Acts 8:5-13*||*Philip preaches and performs miracles in the city of Samaria|
|Acts 8:14-25*||*Apostles at Jerusalem (cf. verse 1) send Peter and John to the city of Samaria, *Peter and John lay hands on these new believers and impart to them the Holy Ghost, *Simon the sorcerer is rebuked, *Peter and John return to Jerusalem, preach to villages of the Samaritans|
|Acts 8:26-39*||*God instructs Philip to preach to the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip does so|
|Acts 8:40*||*Philip preaches from the city of Azotus to Caesarea|
|Acts 9:1-25||Saul’s conversion outside of Damascus, Saul stays with Ananias (member of Little Flock) in the city, Saul preaches in synagogues there and then escapes unbelieving Jews’ plot to kill him|
|Acts 9:26-31||Saul comes to the Little Flock in Jerusalem, meets the apostles (cf. Galatians 1:18-19), escapes unbelieving Jews’ plot to kill him there, preaches in Caesarea and Tarsus, *Little Flock in Judaea and Galilee and Samaria has rest|
|Acts 9:32-43*||*Peter performs miracles in Lydda, Saron, and Joppa|
|Acts 10:1-48*||*The Lord commands Peter to minister to Gentile Roman centurion Cornelius and his Gentile friends in Caesarea, Peter does so|
|Acts 11:1-18*||*Peter returns to Jerusalem, recounts to Little Flock his ministry to Cornelius/Gentiles, *Peter initially castigated but later his work is commended|
|Acts 11:19-21*||*Little Flock scattered during Stephen’s death (cf. Acts 8:1-4) had traveled to Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch, “preached the Word to Jews only”|
|Acts 11:22-26*||*Little Flock in Jerusalem sends Barnabas to Antioch to investigate unique ministry operations, Barnabas finds Saul and recruits him to Antioch|
|Acts 11:27-28*||*Prophets from Jerusalem come to Antioch and foretell impending famine in Judaea|
|Acts 11:29-30||Barnabas and Saul send relief to the Little Flock in Judaea|
|Acts 12:1-19*||*King Herod kills John’s brother James the apostle and imprisons Peter, the angel of the Lord frees Peter|
|Acts 12:20-24||King Herod’s blasphemous acts and gruesome death|
|Acts 12:25||Barnabas and Saul return to Antioch from Jerusalem|
|Acts 13:1-52||Church in Antioch described, the Holy Ghost commissions Barnabas and Saul to go on their first apostolic journey, Saul/Paul’s first apostolic journey recorded|
|Acts 14:1-28||Paul’s first apostolic journey recorded, his return to Antioch|
|Acts 15:1-30*||*Jerusalem Council—James, Peter, and John meet with Barnabas and Paul (cf. Galatians 2:1-10)|
|Acts 15:30-41||Barnabas, Paul, and others return to Antioch before beginning Paul’s second apostolic journey|
|Galatians 2:11-16*||*Not long after the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council, Peter visits Paul’s converts in Antioch, *Paul rebukes Peter for being a stumblingblock to believing Gentiles in Antioch|
For simplicity’s sake, no further commentary will be provided on these passages. You just needed to see how there is an intermingling of ministries. This makes the book of Acts most confusing for ever so many, but if we give it great consideration, it is quite clear. This table allows us to digest the material because we have taken it in small chunks, yes? We will come back to this table. For now, we open a section that will highlight the ministry of the 12 after Acts chapter 15.
SECTION II. PETER AND THE ELEVEN’S MINISTRY POST-ACTS 15
Exactly where Israel’s Little Flock went after Acts chapter 15, the Bible does not provide much detail. However, we can go to Paul’s epistle to Galatia (see last entry in above table), as well as the Hebrew epistles, Hebrews through Revelation, for some insight.
After the Jerusalem Council (Acts chapter 15; Galatians 2:1-10), Galatians 2:11-16 says that Peter visited Paul’s Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria (see last item in above table). We see Paul briefly meeting James and other elders of the Jerusalem Church in Jerusalem in Acts 21:18, many years after Acts chapter 15. Where Peter and John and the rest of the apostles of Israel are at this time, we do not know. From thereon, all of the Little Flock’s members drop off the scene, never mentioned again in the Bible historically speaking.
The nine Hebrew epistles, Hebrews through Revelation, were written sometime during the latter part of the book of Acts. James wrote to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad” (James 1:1)—a plain reference to Acts 8:4 and Acts 11:19. Peter wrote his first epistle to “the strangers scattered throughout…” (1 Peter 1:1)—another reference to Acts 8:4 and Acts 11:19. That first epistle from Peter was from “the church that is at Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13). Evidently, a good number of Little Flock members had scattered to Babylon after the stoning of Stephen, and Peter was ministering to them in accordance with his promise in Galatians 2:9. Peter evidently visited Babylon sometime after Acts chapter 15.
We know that the Hebrew books of Hebrews (2:9), 1 John (2:2), and 2 Peter (3:9,15-16) were all written post-Acts 15 because they reflect Pauline influence and indicate Paul’s ministry to “all men” (cf. Galatians 2:9)—the doctrine Israel’s Little Flock learned from Paul at the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter 15. Since 1 John was written post-Acts 15, it would follow that 2 John and 3 John were written after Acts chapter 15 as well. First Peter, James, Jude, and Revelation were written sometime during late Acts, too. John wrote to believing Jews scattered throughout modern-day Turkey in the opening three chapters of the Revelation. These would be the Jews scattered in connection with Stephen’s death (cf. James 1:1 and 1 Peter 1:1).
The leaders of Israel’s Little Flock, as indicated by the books of Hebrews through Revelation, continued with the kingdom doctrine first revealed in the Old Testament, Four Gospels, and early Acts (1-7). They remained under the Law, as James teaches. They remained vigilant for the Antichrist, his deception, and the intense persecution that would be aimed at them (1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation). They waited for Jesus Christ’s Second Coming in wrath to judge their enemies (1 and 2 Peter). They were encouraged not to repeat the unbelief of their ancestors, that they enter Jesus’ earthly kingdom and enjoy the eternal salvation found in the New Covenant (book of Hebrews). With this settled, we can return to the “scene-switching” of Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry between Acts chapters 9-15.
SECTION III. WHEN THE TWELVE’S MINISTRY OVERLAPPED WITH PAUL’S MINISTRY IN ACTS
It is no secret that there is a lot of confusion about the book of Acts. For many centuries, it has been a battleground of bitter arguments. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion amongst dispensationalists. We have so-called “grace people” mixing the minds of so many. There should not be confusion, especially since we Pauline dispensationalists claim to have divine insight into Scripture! In light of your question, we can summarize the book of Acts using three simple points:
- Israel’s Little Flock (believing Israel led by the 12 apostles) had to be notified of the dispensational change ushered in by Paul’s ministry.
- Paul’s ministry had to not only be created, but also strengthened and brought to the forefront.
- Unbelieving Israel also had to be notified of the dispensational change as well as to be told of their (new) chance to be saved into the Church Body of Christ (rather than saved into the Little Flock and Israel’s prophetic program).
We will now look at these three points in greater detail.
- ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK (BELIEVING REMNANT LED BY THE 12 APOSTLES) HAD TO BE NOTIFIED OF THE DISPENSATIONAL CHANGE USHERED IN BY PAUL’S MINISTRY.
Hence, Israel’s Little Flock continued to minister post-Acts-chapter-7 with the Gospel message they had been given earlier. Paul was saved in Acts chapter 9; consequently, his ministry and Gospel message were unknown in Acts chapter 8. Until Paul’s ministry could be fully established and made known to all, Israel’s apostles continued to do what they had been instructed by Jesus Christ years earlier. When the dispensational change occurred in chapter 9, Israel’s Little Flock was unaware of it. The events of Acts chapter 8 happened immediately after chapter 7, so chapter 8 does not seem to cover too long of a time. I would estimate a few weeks at most. The Little Flock simply continued with their “great commission” of going to Jews and Samaritans throughout Jerusalem, Judaea (southern Israel), and Samaria (northern Israel)—see Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8. They did not know it yet, but God the Holy Spirit was preparing them to see their program’s breakdown and their nation’s diminishing.
By the time of Acts chapter 15, Israel’s Little Flock, led by her 12 apostles, “perceived” (understood) what had happened with the salvation and commission of Saul/Paul back in chapter 9 years earlier. They thus loosed themselves from their “Great Commission” and they handed over all unbelievers (lost Jews and lost Gentiles) to Paul and Barnabas (see Galatians 2:1-10).
- PAUL’S MINISTRY HAD TO NOT ONLY BE CREATED, BUT ALSO STRENGTHENED AND BROUGHT TO THE FOREFRONT.
Hence, the Apostle Paul did a lot of “Jewish” things during his Acts ministry—water baptisms, miracle healings, tongues, exorcisms, animal sacrifice in the Temple, taking a vow, shaving his head, physical circumcision of Timothy, and so on. It was all to show that Paul’s ministry was the perfect replacement for Peter’s. God the Holy Ghost Himself was validating Paul’s apostolic ministry (2 Corinthians 12:12; cf. Mark 16:19-20). With unbelieving Israel seeing her signs given over to and working among the Gentiles, the unbelieving Jews knew the God of their fathers was now working through the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 14:21-22). They would be enticed to behave like Paul’s Gentile converts, and thus save themselves from their nation’s apostasy. Once they would believe Paul’s Gospel—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for their sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—Paul’s “provoking ministry” would accomplish its purpose.
Remember, for some 2,000 years prior to Paul, God had been dealing predominately with the nation Israel. They were His covenant people. They had the Levitical priesthood, the Word of God (the Law of Moses, and the ministry/writings of the prophets), the promises of God, and they even had Christ’s earthly ministry (Romans 9:4-5; Ephesians 2:11-12). But, during the book of Acts, Paul was going around preaching that Israel had killed Messiah, that she was fallen, that she was accursed of God, that she no different from the Gentile nations of the world, and the Jews having no advantage over Gentiles before God. Understandably, this infuriated unbelieving Israel, that God would consider them no different from dirty, Gentile “dogs.” These lost Jews followed and harassed Paul throughout his ministry during Acts. In Romans chapters 9 through 11, we can see their objections to Paul’s preaching and we can note the Holy Spirit’s answers through Paul. Paul had various detractors in the Jewish religion. God needed to establish that ministry in the midst of all that opposition. The “Jewish” things Paul did provided that much-needed validation. Had the Holy Spirit not acted wisely here, it is quite certain that Christianity (Paul’s message and revelation) would have never survived to our present-day.
- UNBELIEVING ISRAEL ALSO HAD TO BE NOTIFIED OF THE DISPENSATIONAL CHANGE AS WELL AS BE TOLD OF THEIR (NEW) CHANCE TO BE SAVED INTO THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST (RATHER THAN SAVED INTO THE LITTLE FLOCK AND ISRAEL’S PROPHETIC PROGRAM).
Hence, Paul visited the synagogues throughout the Roman Empire during the Acts period. What was he doing? Or, better yet, what was the Holy Spirit doing through Paul? He was announcing to unbelieving Israel that they needed to be saved by way of the new program that God had instituted through Paul’s apostleship and ministry. Three times, Paul said that he was “turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:28). It was a threefold message to unbelieving Israel—in Antioch of Pisidia/Asia, in Corinth/Greece/Europe, and in Rome/world capital—that she was fallen and now diminishing (Romans 11:11-14). She had lost her status with God and now she was no different from the idol-worshipping Gentiles. In God’s mind, a lost Jew and a lost Gentile were both “heathen” (Galatians 1:16). Paul’s Acts ministry is summarized in Romans chapters 9 through 11.
SECTION IV. DID ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK, OR THE 12 APOSTLES, EVER JOIN THE BODY OF CHRIST?
“Were the 12 in or out of the Body of Christ?” This is a question common amongst people who struggle with the Acts transitional period. People who understand—or, at least, claim to understand Pauline dispensationalism—have such a difficult time with answering the question. Beloved, we not struggle. God’s Word is so plain, but we have people trying to use the book of Acts to advance denominational views—even in so-called “grace” circles (I have met them, I have read their material, and my, what a MESS they have made the book of Acts!!!!!!!). They have made the Bible’s dispensational boundaries less clear. They even go so far as to argue that Paul preached Israel’s covenants during Acts, that Israel was not fallen until after Acts, that the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ, and so on. What nonsense! Again, I am referring to so-called “grace” people, not denominational people. People who claim to understand Paul’s special ministry—people who should know better—and yet they want to convince others and me that the 12 apostles joined the Body of Christ. The Bible does not support that notion at all. There are so many problems with their ridiculous postulations that I could write 50 counterpoints to refute them. (By the way, I did write those counterpoints, and a link to them is at the end of this article. That study is titled, “Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?”)
Friend, on the authority of Galatians 2:9, and dozens upon dozens of other verses, I say “NO,” the 12 apostles are not a part of the Body of Christ. “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” Had the 12 apostles been a part of the Body of Christ, they would have united ministries with Paul and Barnabas right here. Did they? (No.) They would have all started preaching Paul’s Gospel to all people (as Paul and Barnabas had already been doing). Did they? (No.) According to the Bible, it never happened. In some so-called “grace preachers’” minds it occurred, but nothing in the Bible says it did. I will believe the Bible; I will forget all the rest! You?
Since the 12 apostles declared that they would remain separate from Paul and Barnabas, they were obviously in two different bodies of believers and they conducted two separate ministries even after they convened in Acts chapter 15. You can believe whatever you like, my good friend, but I will believe the Bible before I will believe anyone. There was redeemed Israel, bound for Earth, and the Body of Christ, bound for Heaven. To combine redeemed Israel (led by 12 apostles) and the Body of Christ (led by Apostle Paul) would only confuse God’s intention in creating both groups. There are two groups because there are two realms of creation over which Jesus Christ is to rule (heaven and earth; Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16-20; Ephesians 1:9-11; Ephesians 3:15).
As we noted at the end of Section II, you can read Hebrews 2:9 (influenced by Pauline teaching; 1 Timothy 2:6-7), 2 Peter 3:15-16 (influenced by Pauline teaching), and 1 John 2:2 (influenced by Pauline teaching; 1 Timothy 2:6-7). Leaders of the church at Jerusalem, Israel’s believing remnant, the Little Flock, they wrote these epistles after they had met with Paul in Acts chapter 15. None of these books of Hebrews through Revelation ever make a single reference to the Church the Body of Christ. Had the 12 apostles joined the Body of Christ, I am quite sure the Holy Spirit would have revealed that truth to them and they would have written it in those last nine books of our Bible. Since they did not write about the Church the Body of Christ—call me crazy if you want—but I am going to take a wild guess and say the 12 (and the rest of Israel’s Little Flock) had absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing, NOTHING!, to do with the Church the Body of Christ. Again, you can believe whatever you like, friend, but never say it is “Bible” when you do not have a verse to stand on.
SECTION V. ACTS CHAPTER 7 THROUGH ACTS CHAPTER 28 DIAGRAMMED
[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
SECTION VI. CONCLUSION
The language of the Bible is that while Israel “fell” in Acts chapter 7 (cf. Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 13:6-9), she was “diminishing” until chapter 28 (Romans 11:11-14). For just over 30 years, God announced the dispensational change from Peter to Paul, Law to Grace, Israel to the Body of Christ, prophecy to mystery, Jew to Gentile. Between Acts chapters 9 and 15, God gradually solidified Paul’s ministry. With Peter’s testimony of Acts chapter 10 shared in Acts chapter 15 with all of Israel’s Little Flock leadership present, Paul’s Gentile ministry under grace could be permanently validated. Once that occurred, then Peter and the Little Flock could fade from Acts, leaving the final phase of the transition to come about and terminate with Paul’s final announcement of Acts 28:28—”Be it known therefore unto you [Jews], that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it.”
Over 15 years after learning some things from Paul, Peter, at the end of his life, admitted that he still could not understand everything associated with Paul’s ministry. Second Peter chapter 3: “ And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” For sake of brevity, we forgo further commentary here.
Friend, you asked, “If the national program is set aside, where do the converts of Peter ‘go?’ Where do they ‘fit’ in the scheme of things?” All the believing Jews saved outside of Paul’s ministry, they stayed members of the Little Flock until their deaths. They did not have to convert to the Body of Christ. They had an earthly hope and now had to wait for Christ’s Second Coming (which, they later learned, did not come about yet in order to extend our Dispensation of Grace). Once Paul’s ministry came to the forefront, and confirmed by the 12 apostles, Israel’s Little Flock was sealed off. Paul continued from Acts chapter 15 to the end of Acts (chapter 28), announcing to Israel that she was fallen and diminishing. This was to give lost Jews plenty of time to trust Paul’s Gospel and join in God’s program via the Church the Body of Christ.
Please permit me to repeat for sake of emphasis. Peter and the other members of the Little Flock stayed together until the ends of the earthly lives. They had no reason to migrate into Paul’s ministry and the Body of Christ. As indicated by the Hebrew epistles, Hebrews through Revelation, Israel’s Little Flock during Acts just continued to look for the seven years of Tribulation and Christ’s Second Coming. They continued practicing the Law system, they continued following Jesus’ instructions in Matthew through John, the doctrine in early Acts, and when it was written, they applied the information of Hebrews through Revelation. In the future, after our Dispensation of Grace ends with the Rapture, those Jewish epistles will start up Israel’s believing remnant once again. During that seven-year Tribulation, they will practice the Jewish doctrine that Peter and the 11 would have followed had the Tribulation come 2,000 years ago. When Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming, He will bring all believing Jews in Israel’s program—from Adam onward to the last believer killed in the Tribulation—into the earthly kingdom.
You also pointed out, “Additionally, it must be obvious that not all Israel (each individual) committed the unpardonable sin, or Peter and the others would have had no ministry at all.” That is correct. Not every individual Jew committed the unpardonable sin, but the vast majority did blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. Saul of Tarsus led the rebellion (1 Timothy 1:12-16). Israel’s corrupt and unbelieving leadership was influential in causing the common people to: (#1) reject God the Father speaking through John the Baptist (Herod beheaded him), (#2) reject God the Son Jesus Christ (at Calvary), and (#3) reject God the Holy Ghost (speaking through Israel’s Little Flock in early Acts via the 12 apostles). Peter and the 11 began to minister to individuals in Acts chapter 8 and onward. They were no longer ministering to Israel as a whole like they did in the first seven chapters of Acts. Once Peter and the 11 learned from Paul about his ministry, they, in Galatians 2:9 (cf. Acts 15), loosed themselves from their commission and stayed with “the circumcision” (the born-again Jews, the Little Flock). From Acts chapter 15 onward, Paul and Barnabas went to the “heathen” (lost Jews and lost Gentiles).
There came a point when salvation in Israel’s program was no longer available to lost Jews. From God’s viewpoint, Israel’s fall was in Acts chapter 7, but it took time for His human servants in Israel’s program to be brought up-to-date. Peter saw a hint of this dispensational change during the strange events of Acts chapter 10 (Cornelius). But, they were not fully informed of the dispensational change until Acts chapter 15. Israel’s Little Flock was secure, and they continued on in the Jewish kingdom doctrine, but the Little Flock was no longer open to new memberships once the Little Flock publically endorsed Paul’s ministry in chapter 15. Paul’s frequent visits to the synagogues to preach to the lost Jews was God’s way of saving some of these lost Jews from the apostasy that caused them to reject Jesus years earlier (see Romans 11:11-14). With Paul’s ministry now preeminent, these lost Jews (and lost Gentiles) would have to come to God apart from Israel’s rise to kingdom glory. They would have to come through Paul’s ministry. One final note, Romans chapter 10 is Paul’s rebuke of Israel for rejecting his ministry as they had done with Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry years earlier.
ADDENDUM. QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
I judged it best to include this question-and-answer section as an “appendix” of sorts. It will succinctly summarize the highlights of this article, and, at the same time, reproduce answers to questions people constantly ask about this Acts 7-28 range of passages. Discussing the topic from this “new” aspect will reinforce previous points. It may even emphasize points that the reader glossed over in (or forgot from) previous sections.
Question #1: “Were the 12 apostles and the others in the Little Flock ever part of the Body of Christ?”
Answer #1: “No, never. The 12 apostles and the Little Flock of Jewish believers remained separate and distinct from the Church the Body of Christ throughout. Had these two agencies mixed at any time, God would have no more earthly people (and that was the whole purpose of His earthly ministry). They would all be destined for the heavenly places. We know this not to be the case, for Jesus Christ must be exalted in eternity future in the heaven and the earth (Ephesians 1:8-10; Colossians 1:16-20). If you take the time to compare and contrast Peter and Paul’s ministries in Acts, and compare and contrast the Pauline epistles (Romans through Philemon) with the Hebrew epistles (Hebrews through Revelation), there is no way these servants of God are talking about the same body of information and the same group of believers. See our study linked at the end of this article, about comparing and contrasting Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry from 50 different angles.
We know that the nation Israel is separate and distinct from the Church the Body of Christ. The “Little Flock” is the Israel of God, and He will use them to establish His kingdom in the earth (Luke 12:31-32; Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 11:15; et al.). However, we the Church the Body of Christ are God’s heavenly people, and He will use us to reclaim heaven for His glory (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 2:6-7; et al.). This is why Israel and the Body of Christ cannot mix, never mixed, and will never mix. That is why the 12 apostles could not join the Body of Christ. They rather remained in the Little Flock. The 12 apostles will rule over Israel’s 12 tribes on the Earth in Israel’s kingdom (Matthew 19:27-28). In contrast, Paul says that the Body of Christ has an eternal destiny in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 2:6-7; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:16-20, et cetera). It is common for religions and denominations to do it, and even some so-called “Pauline dispensationalists,” but we must never, ever mix the 12 apostles and Israel with Paul and the Body of Christ. That will only generate unanswerable confusion and damage you spiritually. That is why Christendom is so divided. They have not divided the things in the Bible that God has divided, so they make a mess of the Bible.”
Question #2: “Did the 12 apostles preach Paul’s Gospel after Acts 15? If two different gospels were being preached at the same time, what would happen if the 12 came upon some Gentiles? What would they preach?”
Answer #2: “Certainly not, the 12 apostles did not preach Paul’s Gospel, either before or after Acts chapter 15. To say otherwise is to be not far removed from the absurd denominational idea constantly hurled at us, “There is only one Gospel in the Bible!” While Paul’s Gospel surely enlightened the 12 apostles when they met with him in Galatians chapter 2 (Acts chapter 15), the 12 apostles made a public declaration in Galatians chapter 2 that we need to be sure we notice.
The Bible says in Galatians 2:9: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” James, Peter, and John agreed to stay with their message to the Little Flock—that is, the Jews saved previously under the ministry of the 12 (and going all the way back to John the Baptist’s ministry). The term “circumcision” here means more than just “Jews.” It means Jews who had the inward circumcision, the true Israelites, the born-again ones with eternal life, in contrast with the unbelieving Jews who had an outward circumcision but not one in the heart (Romans 2:28-29). “Heathen” would be every person outside of the body of born-again Jews—unbelieving, unsaved, lost Jews were considered just as “heathen” as Gentiles. These “heathen” were Paul’s mission field.
If we are going to go by the Bible, Galatians 2:9 tells us that James, Peter, and John confined their ministries to the Little Flock from Acts chapter 15 onward. These men, filled with the Holy Spirit, formally endorsed Paul and Barnabas to go to everyone else—that is, to “heathen,” unsaved Jews and unsaved Gentiles. Simply put, anyone outside of the Little Flock, from Acts chapter 15 onward, they were exclusively the responsibility of Paul and Barnabas. If the 12 apostles met Gentiles from Acts chapter 15 onward, they stayed true to their agreement made earlier in Galatians 2:9. (Again, remember Galatians chapter 2 and Acts chapter 15 are the same Jerusalem Council.) As per their declaration, the 12 would have referred unbelieving Jews and unbelieving Gentiles to Paul’s ministry, epistles, and message. Salvation into the Little Flock was no longer possible for lost Jews; they had to join the Body of Christ. Had the 12 not operated this way, they would have been liars in Galatians 2:9. That one verse will clear up a lot of confusion about the transition period if you let it. From Acts chapter 15 onward, never did the 12 or the Little Flock ever preach a Gospel message to the Gentiles (they had in previous chapters—Cornelius, of chapter 10, the primary example). The 12 promised not to do so in Galatians 2:9. Again, anyone outside of the Little Flock was referred to Paul’s ministry and Paul’s epistles for enlightenment (2 Peter 3:15-16).
After Acts chapter 15 (Galatians 2:9), the Little Flock was sealed off from new membership. The 12 and their followers continued to wait for the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ—following the doctrine in Genesis through Malachi, Matthew through John, early Acts (1-7), as well as Hebrews through Revelation. This includes all converts from John the Baptist’s ministry, all converts from Christ’s earthly ministry, and all converts from the ministry of the 12 in early Acts. The Little Flock certainly never joined the Body of Christ, for they were still worshipping at the Temple and keeping the Mosaic Law as late as Acts 21:20-25. If they were members of the Body of Christ, they would have had no business keeping the Law and Paul should have forbade them from doing so. Paul never corrected these Jewish believers for their legalistic position. James, when writing to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad” (James 1:1), constantly affirmed legalistic works. There is no way for any sensible person to make James’ audience members of the Body of Christ.
Question #3: “If Israel fell in Acts chapter 7, how could believers still be added to the Little Flock?”
Answer #3: “There is the idea among some grace people that no one could be added to the Little Flock after the stoning of Stephen in Acts chapter 7. I have heard and read it taught, particularly on social media. The Bible does not support this. If new believers were not added to the Little flock after Acts chapter 7, and Paul says something new began with him in chapter 9 (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15-16), then we are forced to conclude there must be three groups of believers in the book of Acts. There would be: (#1) the Little Flock, (#2) the Church the Body of Christ, and (#3) the “misfit” group of believers in chapter 8. The Bible does not teach this. Please see the answer to the previous question. Actually, the dispensationalists struggling here do so because the “Acts 28 theological system” has clouded their judgment. The “Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theological System” has surreptitiously and slowly infiltrated the Grace Movement during the last half-century. A very complex and confusing system, it has been extremely problematic in my life and ministry. Many people have contacted me to express that it has been very detrimental to their Christian life as well. I refer you to our massive project that exposes that system as heresy. Please see the link at the end of this article for the “Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theology” disclosure.
Another misconception is that Paul continued Israel’s program during the book of Acts. We must understand that provoking ministry of Paul to Israel if we are to understand the rest of the book of Acts. You may see our other study, “Can you please explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?,” also linked at the end of this article.”
And, with that, we say, “Finis!” 🙂