A few months ago I was having a conversation with a pastor of an Acts 2 dispensationalist church. Dispensationalists who are “Acts 2” are those that believe that the “salvation by faith alone” gospel started immediately following Christ’s death. Talking to Acts 2 dispensationalists sometimes gets a little humorous, especially when it is pointed out that immediately after Jesus’ resurrection that Jesus spends 40 days preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom:
Act 1:3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
After Christ rose from the dead, he spent 40 days with his disciples. The text explicitly tells the reader what the 40 days was spent doing: “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God”. When talking to the Acts 2 pastor, with a straight face he declared “Jesus was just describing what the kingdom of God would be like”. I asked: “You mean the physical features.” To which he said: “yes”.
In the world of Acts 2 dispensationalists Jesus decides to spend his last 40 days on Earth, not explaining to the apostles how to preach the gospel or the meaning of His death and resurrection (Acts 2 dispensationalists claim the apostles were confused about these things later in Acts). No, instead of clearing up the massive amount of strife and confusion about Jews and Gentiles and faith and works, Jesus instead taught about what the Kingdom of God would look like. Add to this that every apostle to whom Jesus was describing the Kingdom would be dead before they saw the Kingdom. Why on earth would Jesus focus his last 40 days on that topic? Did the apostles then decide not to share with the rest of humanity what Jesus’ most important 40 days were spent teaching?
In reality, Jesus was still promoting an imminent, physical Kingdom of God which would soon return to Earth and establish Israel has his priest nation. This was the focus of his entire ministry, and this is what the apostles were told to preach:
Luk 24:46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,
Luk 24:47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Mar 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mar 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”…
So Jesus tells his apostles, according to Mathew, Mark and Luke to preach Jesus’ commandments, to preach the gospel, and to preach repentance and remission of sins. Jesus did not ever teach “salvation by faith alone”, and each of these verses are spoken after Jesus has resurrected. Jesus explicitly tells the apostles to continue the gospel that he started; the gospel that states an imminent kingdom of God is soon to appear and some of the apostles will be alive to see it. In fact the disciples answer him in Acts stating:
Act 1:6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Act 1:7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
Act 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The first thing the apostles ask is when God would “restore the kingdom to Israel”. I guess this might make sense in a world in which Jesus spent 40 days describing the physical features of the Kingdom of God. The apostles might be thinking: “This sounds all pretty and nice, but can we talk about something that affects us in a new environment in which our leader has just be crucified and we are to take over the spread of a foundling church while navigating the politics of a Roman occupation of our land”. So the Acts 2 dispensationalists have me there.
It is clear that Jesus spent his last 40 days on earth (days after he rose from the dead), preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and telling his followers to do the same. It was only later, after the Jews rejected this plan that God turned to the gentiles with “salvation by faith alone” (Rom 9).