The Covenant of Conspiracy

Acts 23:12-22

And when it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. And there were more than forty who formed this plot. And they came to the chief priests and the elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. Now, therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place.” But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. And Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, “Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.” So he took him and led him to the dcommander and said, “Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to lead this young man to you since he has something to tell you.” And the commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately, “What is it that you have to report to me?” And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to the Council, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more thoroughly about him. So do not listen to them, for more than forty of them are lying in wait for him who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they slay him; and now they are ready and waiting for the promise from you.” Therefore the commander let the young man go, instructing him, “Tell no one that you have notified me of these things.”

They couldn’t keep a covenant to saves their lives, much less murder Paul. Not because they were not good murderers, assuredly they were just like their father the devil, but because Jesus was sick and tired of their corrupt covenants motivated by murderous minds. Last time we read; “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” And it is increasingly more applicable today. It was no coincidence that Paul’s nephew was within earshot of their conspiracy. Once again, Jesus manipulated history to further his purposes. But we will come back to this as we attempt to unlock the CAGED Scripture, which has been CAGED by our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Therefore we utilize a hermeneutical tool called the CAGED method, where; context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Unless  you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. If one reads Acts without remembering the promises of Jesus to this generation in Acts, one is missing out. The dogmatic dispensationalists argue that Jesus was speaking about the generation alive in 1948 in the Olivet Discourse, but Jesus was actually speaking about his generation and we start to see these things unfold in the book of Acts.

“And when it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. And there were more than forty who formed this plot.” I assume that these forty plus men all died from starvation since their plot was foiled. Yes, that’s sarcasm but consider the continuing context–covenant keepers these men are not. Don’t get me wrong, from the molecules in their marrow, deep down in their bones, they wanted Paul dead and were willing to do everything that they could to ensure the event happened. Even eliminating edibles and doing away with drinks, they vowed to kill Paul. It’s the same way they vowed to follow the Law of Moses. I know that you don’t believe me but take the long view and remember the continuing context.

“Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”

“And all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together; and taking hold of Paul, they dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. And while they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the ccommander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. And at once he took along some soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.”

“And they listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!'”

Context is king. We must see, we must understand that it was the religion in their minds that set them against God’s chosen apostle, hand picked by the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Creator of the universe who wrote their Law. Jesus approached Abraham, met with Moses, Dealt with David, informed Isaiah, explained to Ezekiel, divulged to Daniel and picked Paul. And now, those who claimed to be the children of God, create a covenant and make a vow to kill God’s chosen apostle, sent to them, just as they did to Jesus and just as Jesus predicted.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'”

Did you notice the prophesied summation of the book of Acts? “I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city.” But it doesn’t end there, does it? We have certainly seen Paul persecuted from city to city and now we see a plot to kill him. But Acts is much more than Paul. We saw the stoning of Stephen, the persecution of Peter and John, the murderer of James and the great excitement of the people on account of that. But amongst all of this death and destruction, we have seen the church being built. But remember, this is not the end of the story or the end of the age, yet.

I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.” The hardest thing for a person to do is admit when they are wrong. Especially when you have been taught by faithful, smart, God-fearing, loving shepherds. We can clearly perceive that the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes, where wrong to persecute Peter and Paul. We see that they didn’t practice what they preached. What we fail to see is that they couldn’t practice what they preached. No matter what, a better sacrifice then that of the blood of bulls and goats was needed. That is not the point. Jesus had to die and someone had to kill him. Regardless, the Pharisees and Sadducees are absolutely wicked and don’t repent of their killing of the Christ and actually attack his followers, even among their brethren. Jesus couldn’t be more clear and yet we miss it because our pastors miss it, because their professors missed it because they were taught wrong. It’s a chain of ignorance and misinformation that has to be broken. That generation killed the Christ, persecuted Peter and Paul, stoned Stephen and were joyful at James’ murder. Yet we think Jesus reserves judgment for a generation 2000 years later, to save some? That’s what we have been taught but it stems from ignorance. The Book of Acts is all about Jesus and the undoing of his Old Covenant, which is about to disappear, and the building of his New Covenant,  offered to and established by the Jewish people first.

Ignorance doesn’t mean that one is stupid. Notice the root of the word; ignore. Because the dogmatic dispensationalists have played a shell game of bait and switch with Matthew 24, we are simply ignorant of what Jesus promised. Dispensationalism only works when one puts the cart before the horse. That is, dispensationalism has to be presented first and then the Bible is interpreted. Admittedly, this does beg the question, how did dispensationalism come to be? The answer is exactly the same as it is with all of the man-made “doctrines” or “denominations.” We rip verses out of context and therefore must then change the obvious and intended meanings of the other verses that would contradict our beliefs. I don’t have to pick on the dogmatic dispensationalists solely, because everyone does it. The simple fact that we make arguments about eschatology under the banners of premillenial, amillenial and postmillenial prove that we don’t consider the full context of the Bible. We entitle our end-times beliefs based on a single chapter from a single book out of 66 books. We have hundreds of denominations and every one of them gets something, or everything, wrong based on verses or chapters; verses and chapters that were not in the original and never meant to stand alone. Thus, we have to take a long view and consider not only the context but also the genre, the author’s aspirations and examine examples. At present, in today’s text, wicked men hatch a wicked plot to kill the former Pharisee, Paul. But Paul’s nephew just happened to hear the conspiracy (sarcasm). Jesus told Paul he was going to Rome, therefore, Paul is going to Rome. I also love the overkill of Jesus–using Paul’s own nephew. It could have been any one of the Christians in town–except that they are conspicuously absent, but Jesus used Paul’s nephew to overhear the plot. And how stupid were the conspirators? Probably they weren’t, probably they were very lowkey but maybe not. Maybe they were recklessly loud in their conspiracy. Either way, Jesus is that good, having Paul’s own nephew within earshot of them. This wasn’t lucky or good timing, I assure you. God’s sovereign hand was all over this situation.

Let’s look at the plot, it’s quite ingenious in its simplicity–keep it simple stupid. Although, keep your voices down next time. “We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. Now, therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place.”

Honestly, it’s a simple plan and should have had great success. It’s a classic ambush under a believable ruse. Things had gotten out of hand the first time the council questioned Paul. But now, they came to an agreement and realized unanimously that they needed to question Paul further. It’s absolutely believable, and actually expected, that the council would want to question Paul further. Lying in wait, would be the forty or so, assassins under oath. Paul would have been easy prey if not for the Lord’s interference. What are the odds that Paul’s own nephew would have overheard the plot? The number is so astronomical that we can’t fathom it. Nevertheless, God manipulated all of the goings on so that Paul’s sister’s son was in earshot of the conspiracy.

“But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. And Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, ‘Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.’ So he took him and led him to the dcommander and said, ‘Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to lead this young man to you since he has something to tell you.’ And the commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately, ‘What is it that you have to report to me?’ And he said, ‘The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to the Council, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more thoroughly about him. So do not listen to them, for more than forty of them are lying in wait for him who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they slay him; and now they are ready and waiting for the promise from you.’”

How ironic is it that Paul’s Roman citizenship saved him from being killed by his brethren? Remember that the Romans began beating Paul until they found out that he was a Roman citizen. If this is not foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. Paul is treated equal as a Roman citizen–he is allowed to not only see his nephew but the nephew is allowed to testify to the commander. Yet those who call themselves the people of God, wage war against God’s chosen apostle. No matter the level of irony, we see God’s hand over the entire situation. They hatch the perfect plan but Jesus has a different plan. Believe it or not, in God’s plan, he used the dirty, uncircumcised, pagan Romans to execute his plan.

“Therefore the commander let the young man go, instructing him, ‘Tell no one that you have notified me of these things.'” Rome now knows of the plot of the Jews to kill another Jew who is also a Roman citizen. But we believe that Jesus has reserved wrath against this generation until our present generation. Not only is that not Biblical it also doesn’t make sense. Daniel’s 70 weeks is not only ripped out of context, an undetermined amount of time, that is at least 1900+ years, is added by pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers. In the sacred Scripture, there is no gap, it has to be added. We call this heresy. It sounds harsh but if I said that Jesus was actually never in the tomb because the second that he died he went to the underworld to preach to the demons now in chains, you would call me a heretic. That’s because Jesus had to be buried, even though Peter tells us that at some point, Jesus did preach during his death. Sola Scriptura. A gap in Daniel’s 70 weeks, actually a huge gap, has to be imposed on Scripture because it is not drawn out of Scripture. Notice that I entitled this missive, The Covenant of Conspiracy. But nowhere does Luke say that they made a Covenant, but rather an oath. I also don’t consider their oath to kill Paul a Covenant, but I was playing with words. Only Jesus makes true Covenants and it’s people who trample them. Notice also, the book of Matthew loudly exclaims that only Jesus could keep the first Covenant, and he did it on behalf of those upon whom the New Covenant comes–“to the Jew first.” We have not only twisted the Scripture by taking it out of context but by adding to it. Rome rescues Paul and eventually destroys Jerusalem because Jesus ordained it. Daniel 9 ends with words from Gabriel, God’s messenger; “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who mmakes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” This is not the Antichrist, the Antichrist does not make firm covenants.

John writes, but not in the book of Revelation, For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” Earlier John wrote; “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” The Antichrist is a denier of Jesus, simply put. He, or she, does not make firm covenants.

Yet we insert the Antichrist into Daniel 9 and Revelation 13, even though neither John nor Daniel ever write this. The beast in Revelation is Rome–bad government. Shockingly to us, because of what we have been taught, Daniel 9 is actually about the Messiah and his manipulation of Rome and Jerusalem; “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” We see this building in today’s text. Rome is in control of Jerusalem and Jesus is pulling the strings of Rome, even to the point where they protect Paul from his people, by words from Paul’s nephew. The plot and plan to murder Paul has been foiled.

 

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