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Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn1998--Volume 11:21




Faith Community Church

The Woodlands, TX

John the Baptist had a clear, concise message to Israel: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt 3:2). Jesus had exactly the same message: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt 4:17). And the people responded. They came in droves from Jerusalem, Judea, and the regions around the Jordan River. But when the Pharisees and Sadducees appeared on the scene (Matt 3:7), John was not impressed: Brood of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance.

If we are going to understand the meaning of repentance for the nation of Israel, we must understand the setting of Johnís ministry, the meaning of the word ìwrath,î and the curse Jesus placed on the generation of Jews who put Him on the cross. Once we understand the national repentance of Israel, we can also unravel the relationship between water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After all, Augustine taught that the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs during water baptism. R. Shank,[1]and many others have hitchhiked on Augustineís baptismal wagon. Do the Scriptures teach that a person receives the Holy Spirit while he is under the water or while the water is being sprinkled/poured over him? If not, why not? Understanding the national repentance of Israel is significant for knowing when the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs. But letís discuss one thing at a time. What was the setting of Johnís ministry?

The Setting of Johnís Ministry

Israelís Covenant with Yahweh

In order to understand John the Baptistís, Jesus,í and Peterís national call for Israelís repentance, it is necessary to also understand the covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel. It began long before the covenants with Moses and Abraham. The Abrahamic Covenant was much different than the Mosaic Covenant. The latter was what M. Kline called the suzerainty-vassal treaty.[2] But M. Weinfeld identified the Abrahamic Covenant as a ìcovenant of grant.î In his words: ìTwo types of covenants occur in the Old Testament: the obligatory type reflected in the Covenant of God with Israel and the promissory type reflected in the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. In contrasting the two categories of covenants, Weinfeld comments:

Both preserve the same elements: historical introduction, border delineations, stipulations, witnesses, blessings and curses. Functionally, however, there is a vast difference between the two types of documents. While the ìtreatyî constitutes an obligation of the vassal to his master, the suzerain, the ìgrantî constitutes an obligation of the master to his servantÖWhat is more, while the grant is a reward for loyalty and good deeds already performed, the treaty is an inducement for future loyalty.[4]

L. W. King was one of the first (1912) to publish the plates and translation of royal grants given to faithful servants in his work Babylonian Boundary-Stones.[5] These boundary-stones (kudurrus) are dated from 1450 B.C. to 550 B.C., or the entire period of the Babylonian history during which boundary-stones were employed for the protection of private property. King comments:

The Kudurru-texts had their origin under the Kassite kings of the Third Babylonian Dynasty, and, while at first recording, or confirming, royal grants of land to important officials and servants of the king, their aim was undoubtedly to place the newly acquired rights of the owner under the protection of the gods. The series of curses, regularly appended to the legal record, was directed against any interference with the ownerís rights, which were also placed under the protection of the deities whose symbols were engraved on the blank spaces of the stone.[6]

These same royal grants were used in Israel from the time of Abraham right on through the time of David.[7] The land grants were invariably rewards for faithful service on the part of a vassal to his suzerain. It is worth commenting that a suzerain-vassal relationship was the basis for a grant. In other words, kings did not give grants to strangers, that is, someone with whom there was no covenant relationship. The relationship preceded the reward.[8] It is the reward aspect of the grants, along with the parallel terminology between the grants and the covenants with Abraham and David, which convince Weinfeld that these covenants are royal grants. Both Abraham and David loyally served their suzerain. Abraham is promised the land of Israel because he obeyed God (Gen 22:16, 18; 26:5), and David is promised a dynasty because he served God with truth, loyalty, and righteousness (1 Kgs 3:6; 9:4; 11:4, 6, 11, 35; 14:8; 15:3).[9]

The traditional premillennial distinction of ìconditional versus ìunconditionalî has muddied the waters.[10] As a matter of fact, the covenants of grant are conditional upon obedience, but are unconditional after their inauguration (at least for the initial recipient).[11] The suzerainty-vassal covenants are unconditional in their initiation but conditional after inauguration. The suzerain sovereignly initiated the covenant (as set forth in the historical prologues of these covenants), but any blessings that accrued came only upon the condition of the vassalís loyalty to the stipulations. The concept of  ìconditional versus unconditional is both an oversimplification and an inadequate distinction. A better contrast between the two types is ìmotivation for future obedience versus reward for past obedience.

Oftentimes the royal grants were incorporated with a suzerainty-vassal treaty, much as incentive clauses are included in a ìno-cut contract for a professional athlete. Hakeem Olajuwon has a no-cut contract with the Houston Rockets. He gets paid no matter how he performs. He will not be cut from the team. But he also has incentive clauses in his ìno-cutî contract. If he leads the league in blocked shots, rebounding, or other outstanding performances, he receives even more pay. The ìno-cut contractî is the suzerainty-vassal covenant, while the incentive clauses parallel the royal grants.

Here is the point. Once Abraham or David was given his grant, it could not be taken away. But since these grants included promises regarding future generations (seed), and since these grants were rewards based on the faithfulness of the initial recipient, how can the blessings (rewards) of the grant accrue to future generations if they are unfaithful? The answer is that they cannot. Isaac illustrates this principle in Genesis 26. Abraham has died. Now God appears to Isaac and challenges him to future obedience: Do not go to Egypt. God promises Isaac that He will confirm or establish the oath He swore to his father Abraham if only Isaac will be obedient to stay in the land. Isaac was faithful, so the promises of the grant continued to flow through him.

Likewise, God appeared to Jacob in a dream. Jacob was going back to Haran to get a wife, the very place from which Abraham had come. God tells him that the promise given to his grandfather Abraham can only be fulfilled in Palestine. Thus in Gen 31:3 he tells Jacob to return. For the land blessings to flow through Jacob he had to be obedient to Godís command. This same principle of obedience in order to possess the land can be traced right on through the Palestinian Covenant to the ultimate remnant that will possess the borders of the land grant originally promised to Abraham. No generation of Jews has yet had the faith necessary to fully possess the land promised in the Palestinian Covenant (Deut 30:1-10). The promise to Abraham still holds; but God is waiting for a faithful generation to inherit the promise.

This same principle of faithfulness applies to the promise of ìseed.î This aspect of the grant given to Abraham will come to pass. The Davidic grant in 2 Samuel 7 picks up on the seed aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. For all David knew, Solomon would be the one to establish the Davidic throne forever. But Solomon was not capable of being the one to fulfill the everlasting nature of this grant. He was not found faithful (1 Kgs 11:11, 35). The royal grant given to David would await a faithful seed worthy of everlasting rule. This principle of a ìfaithful generationî required for the fulfillment of the future aspects of the royal grants is a crucial link in connecting Jesus with the fulfillment of both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. The rewards of the grants would not be realized by an unfaithful generation, or by an unfaithful ruler.

And so, just as Israel was looking for an ideal king to be their Messiah, Yahweh was looking for an ideal generation that would be faithful to the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant (the suzerainty-vassal covenant). Through such a generation He could fulfill the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He could fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant (the covenant of grant). But what happened to unfaithful generations?

An understanding of the grants may be helpful here as well. Unfaithfulness on the part of a vassal did not nullify the covenant relationship in a suzerainty-vassal covenant. The suzerain sovereignly initiated the relationship, and he maintained it as well. This is the argument of God throughout Hosea, as well as in Romans 9-11 and many other passages. The fidelity of the vassal did not determine the duration of the covenant. What, then, did a suzerain do to an unfaithful vassal? Customarily, he chose from among three different options: (1) he could invoke the curses of the covenant; [12] (2) he could declare holy war on the vassal; [13] and (3) he could draw up a new covenant.[14] Implicit in all three disciplinary options was the loss of any royal grants that may have been incorporated with the suzerainty-vassal treaty, like incentive clauses. If a grant (by definition) only went to faithful vassals, it is obvious that the unfaithful vassal was not a candidate for a grant. In other words, he lost his reward. The suzerainty-vassal treaty (or a new one) was still in effect, but the bonuses contained in the incentive clauses (covenants of grant) would not be given. Thus the danger lying before an unfaithful vassal was both temporal discipline (heavier taxes, stipulations, or even death) as well as loss of reward (royal grant).

Hopefully from this discussion of covenants it can be seen that when John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries, God was looking for a faithful generation. But if the Jewish generation living during the first century A.D. were going to be faithful, it had to repent. This call to repentance for them as a nation or generation of Jews was really no different than Godís call to them in prior centuries. And this leads us to a discussion of repentance in the OT.

Israelís Repentance in the OT

According to E. Würthwein, there is no OT equivalent for metanoeoÑ or metanoia.[15] That is why the term is so seldom found in the LXX (only fourteen times for the verb and always as a translation for n]j^m [16] instead of shuÑb). The LXX translation for shuÑb is epistrephoÑ, which we have already seen is a term to be distinguished from metanoeoÑ. Of the 1056 occurrences of shuÑb in the OT, Würthwein thinks 118 have a religious context.[17] R. Wilkin counts 203 covenantal uses when the verb, noun, and adjective are combined.[18] In only one passage (the Ninevites of Jonah 3:5-10) is the word used for anyone other than Israel. The vast majority of the uses are a call from the prophets for Israel to return to covenant loyalty. Yahweh and Israel have an intimate relationship. As Würthwein comments:

Hence Hos. can depict the relation between Yahweh and Israel in terms of a marriage in which the wife is unfaithful to her husband. Again, Is. can speak of sons who rebel, and Jer. can describe sin as forsaking Yahweh. All these expressions show that sin is simply turning away or apostasy from God. It is the more serious because Israel stands in a special relation to Yahweh.[19]

The point here should be obvious. The call to repentance in the OT, if there was such a call,[20] was to a nation already in covenant relationship with Yahweh. They were viewed as married or as the children of a loving Father (Jer 31:3, 9). The turning summoned by the prophets was a return to fellowship with a God with whom they already had a relationship. Failure to return to the Lord would bring temporal judgment. Deuteronomy 4:23-31 sets the stage:

Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God you will soon utterly perish from the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess; you will not prolong your days in it, but will be utterly destroyed But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn [shuÑb] to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them. (NKJV)

Note the features of this passage: 1) God's faithfulness to the covenant of the fathers (the Abrahamic Covenant, that is, the covenant of grant) despite the unfaithfulness of succeeding generations to the Mosaic Covenant, the suzerainty-vassal covenant; 2) the wrath of God which is described as a consuming fire; 3) the temporal nature of the judgment; 4) a judgment that would destroy physical lives and scatter the Jews among the nations; and 5) the compassion of the Lord in the latter days toward the generation which returns to Him and seeks Him with their whole heart.

It is interesting that the only uses of shuÑb in the Pentateuch which refer to Israelís (or anyone's) turning to the Lord are in the passage just cited and Deut 30:1-10 (the Palestinian Covenant),[21] where it is said that the Jews can return to Yahweh from being scattered among the nations if they do so with all their heart and soul. Thus, it can be concluded that the appeal to Israel to return to the Lord in the OT is an appeal to turn away from her infidelity to the Mosaic Covenant and to seek the Lord with her heart and soul. It is a call for fellowship, not relationship. Infidelity to the covenant evokes Godís temporal wrath, but not His eternal judgment. Though individuals in the nation may undergo eternal judgment for lack of faith, the nation as a whole will never face eternal judgment.

The Corruption in Judaism

Much has been made of the condition of Judaism during John's era. There had not been a legitimate High Priest over Israel since 143 B.C. Annas finished his role as High Priest in A.D. 15, but simony or nepotism prevailed, and five of his sons followed as high priests, in addition to his son-in-law, Caiaphas. The latter may have been High Priest during Johnís day, but his father-in-law Annas[22] was the power behind the office (as witnessed by the informal trial of Jesus by night before Annas, as well as in Acts 4:6). And Annas Bazaar has been well documented. Through corruption and graft the temple till was full of money taken from the temple tax (one shekel instead of the normal half shekel), the moneychangers with their 12 percent surcharge, and the sale of animals and birds for sacrifice. Truly the temple had become a den of thieves. The Copper Scroll lists 4,630 talents of gold[23] hidden around Israel to keep the Romans from getting it when Titus' army came through in A.D. 70. Many think this money came from the temple.[24] Whether it did or not, the record is clear that Judaism had been turned into a moneymaking scheme run by con artists. God had endured enough. Judgment was about to fall on that kind of corruption, just as it had in the past when the Assyrians, and then the Babylonians, were used by God to purge His people.

John was calling the people out of Judaism. He realized the system was too far gone to change it from the inside out. So rather than going into Jerusalem to attempt an influence, he went out into the wilderness and called the people out of Judaism. And out they came! But in order to effect their separation and disassociation from Judaism they needed to repent and be baptized in water.

If a Greek wanted to become a Jew, he needed to do three things: bring a sacrifice to Jerusalem, be circumcised if a male is in view, and be baptized in water. Through water baptism one gained a new identity. He disassociated from the old and reassociated with the new. To become a Jew one needed water baptism to disassociate with the Gentile ways and to reassociate and identify with the practices of Judaism. If one wished to renounce Judaism, he also needed to be water baptized. That is exactly what John was asking the people to do. Whether John had any exposure to Qumran is still debatable. But he did seem to share their distaste for the temple system in vogue during his day. The Essenes of Qumran disassociated themselves from the temple community. So did John and his followers. For John knew that the wrath of God was coming upon that generation of Jews. This leads us to a discussion of the meaning of ìwrathî in the NT.       

           Wrath in the NT

John queries the Pharisees and Sadducees: Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? The word for wrath is orgeÑ, a word used most frequently in Romans and Revelation. In neither of those books is there a clear reference to wrath that is eternal. Revelation 6:17 refers to the end of the tribulation period as the ìgreat day of His wrath.î Though the word is used six times, it always occurs in Revelation 6:19, chapters which describe the last seven years of Danielís program for Danielís people and his holy city, Jerusalem. If the term were meant to include or refer to eternity, we would expect to find it after Revelation 19 in connection with hell or the lake of fire or the Great White Throne Judgment. Not so.

In Romans the first occurrence of the word ìwrathî is in Rom 1:18. There the wrath of God is being revealed (apokalypteteai present tense) from heaven upon all the impiety and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. God's wrath is then revealed in His turning men over to the increasing control of their sinful natures (vv 24, 26, 28) until they cannot tell right from wrong (an adokimos mind). The salvation story of Romans (see 1:16) goes beyond justification to deliverance from the tyranny of the sin nature in oneís life (see 5:9-10). We were justified by Christís death; we shall be saved from wrath by His life. Just as He was our substitute in death, so He must be our substitute in life. By the one we are justified; by the other we are sanctified (progressively). The point is that Romans, which uses wrath more than any other NT book, does not use wrath of eternity;[25] it is used of Godís outpouring of His anger against manís sin in time.

So it goes in the rest of the NT.[26] Just one more example from Paul's letters should suffice to establish this point. Many writers recognize 1 Thess 1:10 and 5:9 as among the strongest of proofs of a pre-trib rapture. Both of these verses use wrath in reference to the tribulation period. Because they say that members of the universal church will be delivered from this wrath, and are not appointed to this time of wrath, many expositors see the rapture referenced in 1 Thess 4:13-18 as a promise to be removed before the tribulation period begins. In other words, once again ìwrathî is not a NT reference to eternity, but rather to something temporal.

The Cursed Generation

In this study it is being suggested that John the Baptistís use of wrath was consistent with the rest of NT usage. The wrath to come was something in time. This is not to say that those who rejected Christ will not suffer eternal condemnation (see Matt 23:33). But there was also a severe judgment in time. Jesus Himself defined the curse upon the generation that rejected Him in Matthew 23. In that passage He excoriated the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites over and over again. Like John the Baptist, He referred to them as a brood of vipers (v 33). Because they rejected not only Him but also other righteous prophets (v 34), there was to be a curse on the generation which rejected Him. That curse was unfolded in Matt 23:35-36. All the righteous blood from righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah came upon that generation. Jesus went on to leave some indication as to what that judgment would look like a few verses later when He told his disciples that not one stone of the temple area would be left standing upon another (Matt 24:2). That prophecy was fulfilled when Titus brought his Roman army against Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

This brings us to the matter of the length of a Jewish generation. If the wilderness wanderings are any indication, then a generation was considered to be forty years. Is it a coincidence that Jesus began His ministry in A.D. 30 and the judgment of Titus came upon them in A.D. 70? Forty years a Jewish generation? God gave the Jews of that generation forty years to separate from the corruption of Judaism if they wished to avoid the curse. When Titus came through, he killed 600,000 Jews all the blood from righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah.

Johnís Ministry

John the Baptist was calling people out of Judaism. If they would repent, be water baptized, and confess their sins, they would be back in fellowship with Yahweh. They would be walking in the light, ready-willing-and-able to recognize the Messiah when He came. It is not insignificant that John refers to Jesus as ìHe who is comingî (Matt 3:11). There is a great likelihood that John had more than Isaiah 40 on his mind when he saw himself as the one who prepared the way for the Lord. In the last book of the OT, Malachi speaks of the messenger who would prepare the way for the Lord (Mal 3:1). Here it says the Lord will come to His temple. Behold, He is coming, and who can endure the day of ìHis coming (v 2)? He will sit as a refiner; He will purge the sons of Levi (v 3). Of course, these verses refer to His second coming and the great and terrible day of the Lord (4:5). But John the Baptist probably was not oriented to two comings of the Messiah. He was preparing the way for what he must have thought would be the only coming. And from his perspective the day is coming, burning like an oven; and neither root nor branch would be left (4:1).

Thus when John the Baptist said, Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees (Matt 3:10), he envisioned the wrath of God already beginning in terms of the hardening of the hearts of the leaders of Israel. When Titus came with his army, the tree fell. But for forty years these people who were already in covenant relationship with Yahweh had an opportunity to remove themselves from the curse.

This opportunity to save themselves from this curse is exactly what Peter was offering the ìmen of Israelî at Pentecost. The entire company listening to him in Acts 2 were Jews who had come from around the Mediterranean world for Passover and stayed on through Pentecost. When they were convicted of having crucified a man who was both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), they asked what they should do. The answer Peter gives is an answer to the nation of Israel. He is calling the entire nation to repent, be baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In other words, it is the same call given by John the Baptist, only this time the Holy Spirit has been sent as promised by the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  But in order to receive the Spirit they needed to repent and be baptized in water.

Peterís Ministry

The connection between the curse given by Jesus and the call of Peter to the nation is made clear by verse forty. There it is written, ìAnd with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. He was not telling them how to be saved from hell or the lake of fire (though that would be included in the package for those coming to faith for the first time). He was specifically telling them how to avoid the curse, the impending judgment on that crooked generation.

Had the entire nation heeded the words of Peter at that point, presumably Jesus would have returned from heaven and set up His kingdom on earth to reign for a thousand years. But the entire nation had yet to hear, so Peter speaks again to the ìmen of Israelî in Acts 3. He again tells the story of Jesus and speaks of the guilt of the people and their leaders. Again he asks them to repent and turn (Acts 3:19 metanoeo + epistrepho. If they would do that, a number of things would happen: 1) their sins would be blotted out; 2) times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord; and 3) Jesus would be sent. The English text of Acts 3:19-20 (NKJV) says ìthat so that that, which makes it look as though there are three successive purpose/result clauses. Actually, there are two, the second one having two parts. So it could be argued that the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord would come from His return to the earth. In other words, once again the King and the Kingdom are being offered to the nation of Israel. If they would repent, the King would return to set up His Kingdom.

Peter goes on in this passage to speak of the judgment that would come upon those who rejected the Messiah (v 23). Then he refers back to the covenant relationship the people of Israel had through Abraham. This covenant was a guarantee of future blessing to the seed of Abraham. The relationship was firm. Fellowship was not. The men of Israel needed to do nothing to establish a relationship between the nation and God. Yahweh had done that with Abraham in Ur of the Chaldeans before he went to the land of Canaan. But the nation of Israel needed to repent in order to restore fellowship with God and to receive the blessing promised to that faithful generation which would receive the Messiah.

Water Baptism and the Holy Spirit

Water baptism is not mentioned in the Acts 3 message, but neither is the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note that reception of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in connection with five groups or individuals in Acts. In each case where there was an interval of time between the belief of the new Christians and the reception of the Spirit (Acts 2, 8, 9, 19), it was believers of Jewish lineage. The Samaritans of Acts 8 were half-Jews. The believers of Acts 19 had received John's baptism, so they were Jews. For each of these new believers water baptism was a requirement for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But when Gentile salvation was in view, water baptism was not required. Cornelius is the prototype of Gentile salvation in Acts. For the Gentiles remission of sins came from the point of their initial belief (Acts 10:43). But not only remission of sins, reception of the Holy Spirit was also part of Godís gracious dealing with any Gentile who would believe the good news. Repentance is not mentioned. In Acts 3:19 the men of Israel had to ìrepent and turnî for the times of refreshing to come. But for the Greeks the blessing came when they ìbelieved and turnedî to the Lord (Acts 11:21). When Cornelius and company believed the words being spoken to them, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those listening. Then they were baptized in water. Water baptism was not required of them to receive the Holy Spirit. Why? Because they were not Jews living in the generation which crucified Christ. They had no need to separate from Judaism.


How then does this understanding of wrath, regeneration, and water baptism impact the meaning of ìrepentanceî in relation to the nation of Israel? We are suggesting that John the Baptist, Jesus, and Peter had dual ministries. One was to call the nation of Israel back into fellowship with Yahweh. The covenant relationship had long since been established. The nation of Israel did not need a new relationship with God. But they were sorely lacking in fellowship. The sacrificial system of the Mosaic Covenant had been so corrupted that without a complete resolve to turn from this corruption (repentance) and the fruit that would go along with this repentance (the actual turning), a severe temporal judgment was going to fall.

This fiery, but temporal, indignation may well have been the warning of Heb 10:26ff (remember the fiery warning of Deut 4:23ff). For those Hebrew Christians to have believed in Christ, but to revert back to the corrupt sacrificial system of Jerusalem, would not enable them to avoid the curse. They had disassociated themselves once from Judaism, but to reassociate would bring upon them the plagues of the curse.

John the Baptist, Jesus, and Peter were all trying to persuade Israel to repentance and turning that would bring them back to a refreshing fellowship with God. The Pharisees and Sadducees were right. They were the physical seed of Abraham (Matt 3:9). As such they did have a covenant relationship. But until a faithful generation of Jews came along, the blessings of the grant covenants (Abrahamic and Davidic: land and kingdom) would not be realized. Instead they would experience the curses of the suzerainty-vassal treaty (the Mosaic Covenant). The only way to avoid it was a complete turn around.

But the ministry of John, Jesus, and Peter was more than calling the nation of Israel to repentance. John was the forerunner, the messenger sent to prepare the way of the Lord. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe (John 1:7). Jesus also wanted people to believe in Him and His gospel (Mark 1:15; John 6:29-47). So did Peter (Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 10:43). Though the nation was called to repentance, individuals in the nation were called to believe and repent.

Some of these Jews were probably OT believers in the sense that many Jews under the Old Covenant were people who had placed their faith in that which God had revealed to them, and their faith was reckoned to them for righteousness, just as Abrahamís was. The word used to describe the men who observed the filling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is eulabeÑs, an adjective used only three times in the NT, and all by Luke. In fact, the noun (eulabeia) and the verb (eulabeomai) are also used only by Luke and the writer to the Hebrews. In the other two uses of the adjective believers are clearly in view. In Acts 8:2 devout men carry off the body of Stephen for burial and mourn him. These are believers. And in Luke 2:25 it is Simeon who is described as just and ìdevout,î and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Surely this is what we might call an OT believer. It is very likely that many of the three thousand who heard Peterís sermon in Acts 2 fell into this same category. Nevertheless, all those who responded to his message needed to place their faith in Jesus (Acts 4:12).

It is highly unlikely that those who were looking for the Messiah and were already justified before God, like Simeon, would not recognize and believe in Him when He appeared on the scene. But both these people and those who had never exercised faith in what God had revealed under the Old Covenant had to place their faith in Godís highest revelation, His Son Jesus Christ.

Peter clearly lays the blame on the people and their leaders for the crucifixion of Jesus: Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers (Acts 3:17)óeven though it was an act of ignorance. Now as a nation they needed to repent and turn (Acts 3:19) in order to have fellowship with God. But the individuals within the nation needed to believe in order to have eternal life, for the Lord was adding to the church daily those who were to be saved (Acts 2:47). As Paul said to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, by Him everyone who believes is justified [emphasis added] from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:39). Hence, the nation needed to repent for fellowship. But the individuals within the nation needed to believe for relationship. And it can be inferred that all Jews who believed (whether their faith in Jesus was subsequent to earlier faith or was their initial experience of faith) also repented, were baptized in water, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. For Acts 2:41 identifies those who gladly received Peter's word as three thousand people who were baptized. Just three verses later (Acts 2:44) we are told that these are those who believed. The point of their belief was likely when their hearts had been pricked by Peterís message (Acts 2:37). It is at that point that they ask what they need to do in order to right this wrong. If they had not believed the message, there would be no point in asking what they should do to rectify matters. Hence, a strong argument can be made that these listeners at Pentecost first believed and then repented.

The same argument can be made for those listening in Acts 3. As he was making his appeal, Peter tells them to ìrepent and turn (Acts 3:19) in order to have their sins blotted out and the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. But the response of the people who heard this message is recorded in Acts 4:4 where it says, ìÖmany of those who heard the word believed [emphasis added]; and the number of men came to be about five thousand. Again, the likely order of events was believing, repenting, and turning (by being baptized and joining the new assembly of believers).

Thus it can be said that for the nation and the individuals within the nation of Israel, relationship preceded fellowship, and faith preceded repentance. The nation already had a relationship and needed fellowship. This was also true for some of the individuals within the nation. But whether or not certain individuals within the nation were already justified, the examples of Jewish repentance found in Acts were the result of faith, not the producer of it. Hence, for the Jews of that accursed generation, faith was the condition for justification, while repentance was the condition for sanctification; faith is for relationship, while repentance is for fellowship.

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Chamberlain, W. D. The Meaning of Repentance. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1943.

Clements, R. E. Abraham and David. Naperville, Ill.: Alec R. Allenson, Inc., 1967.

Craigie, P. C. The Book of Deuteronomy. The New International Commentary on the Old             Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Demarest, B. The Cross and Salvation. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997.

Driver, S. R. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy. Edinburgh: T. &         T. Clark, 1895.

Eichrodt, W. Theology of the Old Testament. 2 volumes. The Old Testament Library.             Translated by J. A. Baker. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1961.

Fensham, F. C. ìFather and Son as Terminology for Treaty and Covenant.î In  Near Eastern Studies in Honor of W. F. Albright, 121-35. Edited by K. Goedicke.   Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971.

________. Ordeal by Battle in the Ancient Near East and the Old Testament. In Fest     schrift for Eduardo Volterra.

Frankena, R. ìThe Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon and the Dating of Deuteronomy.î In             Oudtestamentische Studien. Edited by P. A. H. De Boer. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1965.

Güterbock, H. G. Siegel aus Bogasköy. Berlin: Im Selbstverlage des Herausgebers, 1940.

>Hillers, D. R. Treaty Curses and the Old Testament Prophets. Biblica at Orientalia 16.             Rome:             Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1964.

Hoffner, H. A., Jr. Propaganda and Political Justification in Hittite Historiography.           In Unity and Diversity, 49-64. Edited by Hans Goedicke and J. J. M. Roberts.             Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.

Hodges, Z. C. Absolutely Free! Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.

Keil, C. F. and Delitzsch, F. The Books of Samuel, 2 volumes. Translated by J. Martin,             Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 volumes. N.p.; reprint, Grand Rapids:             Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.

Kitchen, K. A. Ancient Orient and Old Testament. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press,             1966.

Kline, M. The Structure of Biblical Authority. Revised ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975.

Kline, M. Treaty of the Great King. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,             1963.

Korosec, V. Hethitische Staatsverträge: Ein Beitrag zu ihrer juristischen Wertung.             Leipzigerrechts wissenschaftliche Studien, 60. Leipzig: Verlag von Theodreicher,             1931.

Luther, M. What Luther Says. St. Louis: Concordia, 1959.

MacArthur, J. F. The Gospel According to Jesus. Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1988.

McCarthy, D. J. Old Testament Covenant: A Survey of Current Opinions. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1972.

__________. Treaty and Covenant: A Study in Form in the Ancient Oriental Documents and in the Old Testament. Analecta Biblica, 21. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963.

Noth, M. ìGod, King, and Nation in the Old Testament.î In The Laws in the Pentateuch and Other Studies, 145-78. Translated by D. R. Ap-Thomas. Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, Ltd., 1966.

Pentecost, J. D. Things to Come. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969.

Postgate, J. N. Neo-Assyrian Royal Grants and Decrees. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969.

Price, R. Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1966.

Pritchard, J. B., ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament. 3d ed., with supplement. Princeton University press, 1969.

Quell, G. ìkuvrioî, The Old Testament Name for God.î In Theological Dictionary of the       New Testament, 1984, edition.

Schaff, P. History of the Christian Church. 5th ed. Vol. 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity. N.p.: Charles Scribnerís Sons, 1910; reprint, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967.

Shank, R. Elect in the Son. Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers, 1970.

________. Life in the Son. Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers, 1961.

Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeonís Expository Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978.

Steinmetzer, F. X. Die babylonischen Kudurru (Grenzsteine) als Urkudnenform. Paderborn: Verlag von Ferdinand Schöningh, 1922.

Thompson, J. A. Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity Press, 1974.

Thompson, J. A. The Ancient Near Eastern Treaties and the Old Testament. London: The             Tyndale Press, 1964.

Tozer, A. W. I Call It Heresy! Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1974.

Weinfeld, M. Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School. Oxford: Clarendon Press,   1972.Wiseman, D. J. The Alalakh Tablets. London: The British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, 1953.

Woolf, B. L. Reformation Writings of Martin Luther. London: Lutterworth Press, 1952.

Wright, G. E. ìThe Lawsuit of God: A Form-Critical Study of Deuteronomy 32.î In Israel's Prophetic Heritage. Edited by B. W. Anderson and W. Harrelson. New     York: Harper and Row Publishing Co., 1962.


Allis, O. T. ìThy Throne, O God, is for Ever and Ever.î Princeton Theological Review 21 (1923): 237-39.

Ben-Barak, Z. ìMeribaal and the System of  Land Grants in Ancient Israel,î Biblica 62             (January 1981): 73-91.

Clines, D. J. A. ìThe Psalms and the King.î Theological Studentís Fellowship Bulletin             71 (Spring 1975):1-6.

Combrink, H. J. B. ìSome Thoughts on the Old Testament Citations in the Epistle to the             Hebrews. Neotestamentica 5 (1971): 22-36.

Cooke, G. ìThe Israelite King as Son of God.î Zeitschrift für die alttestamentiche        Wissenschaft 73 (161): 202-25.

Fensham, F. C. Common Trends in Curses of the Near Eastern Treaties and Kudurru Inscriptions compared with Maledictions of Amos and Isaiah. Zeitshcrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 75 (1963): 155-75.

________. Maledictions and Benediction in Ancient Near Eastern Vassal-Treaties             and the Old Testament. Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 74 (1962): 1-9.

Gordis, R. The Begotten Messiah in the Qumran Scrolls. Vetus Testamentum 7          (1957): 191-94.           

Gerstenberger, E. Covenant and Commandment. Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1965): 33-51.

Harner, P. B. ìExodus, Sinai, and Hittite Prologues.î Journal of Biblical Literature 85 (1966): 233-36.

Hill, A. E. The Ebal Ceremoney as Hebrew Land Grant? Journal of the Evangelical             Theological Society 31 (December 1988): 399-406.

Huffmon, H. B. The Treaty Background of Hebrew YADA. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 181 (1966): 31-37.

Jones, B. W. ìActs 13:33-37: A Pesher on II Samuel 7. Journal of Biblical Literature 87 (Spring 1987): 321-27.

Kaiser, W. C., Jr. The Old Promise and the New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 15 (1972): 11-23.

Katz, P. The Quotations from Deuteronomy in Hebrews. Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 49 (1958): 213-23.

Kaufman, S. A. The Structure of the Deuteronomic Law. MAARAV 1/2 (1978-79): 105-158.

Korosec, V. The Warfare of the HittitesóFrom the Legal Point of View. Iraq 25 (1963): 159-66.

Loewenstamm, S. E. The Divine Grants of Land to the Patriarchs. Journal of American Oriental Society 91.4 (1971): 509-10.

McCarthy, D. J. Covenant in the Old Testament: Present State of Inquiry. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 27 (1965): 217-41.

________. Notes on the Love of God in Deutronomy and the Father-Son Relationship Between Yahweh and Israel. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 27 (1965): 144-47.

________. Three Covenants in Genesis. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 26 (1964): 179-89.

Mendenhall, G. E. Ancient Oriental and Biblical Law. The Biblical Archaeologist 17 (May 1954): 50-76.

________. Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition. The Biblical Archaeologist 17 (September 1954): 50-76.

Muilenburg, J. The Form and Structure of the Covenantal Formulations. Essays In Honor of Miller Burrows, reprinted from Vetus Testamentum 13 (1963): 380-89.

Parunak, H. V. A Semantic Survey of n]j^m. Biblica 56 (1975): 512-32.

Thompson, J. A. Covenant Patterns in the Ancient Near East and Their Significance for Biblical Studies. The Reformed Theological Review 18.3 (October 1959): 65-75.

________. The Significance of the Near EasternTreaty Pattern. The Tyndale House             Bulletin (1963): 1-6.

Tucker, G. M. Covenant Forms and Contract Forms. Vetus Testamentum 15 (1965): 487-503.

Weinfeld, M. Berit-Covenant vs. Obligation. Biblica 56 (1975): 120-28.

________. Covenant Terminology in the Ancient Near East and Its Influence on the West. Journal of the American Oriental Society 93 (1973): 190-99.

________. DeuteronomyóThe Present State of Inquiry. Journal of Biblical Literature 86 (1967): 249-62.

________. The Covenant of Grant in the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East. Journal of the American Oriental Society 90 (1970): 184-203.

Wiseman, D. J. Abban and Alalah. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 12 (1958): 124-29.

________. The Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon. Iraq 20 (1958): 1-99 + 53             (plates).

Yadin, Y. A Midrash on 2 Sam. vii and Ps. 1-11 (4QFlorilegium). Israel Exploration Journal 9 (1959): 95-98.

Unpublished Materials

Merrill, E. H., interview by author, 15 March 1994, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Shank, R., interview by author, 7 April 1976, Conroe, Texas.

Weinfeld, M., interview by author, 24 February 1998, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

Wilkin, R. N. Repentance as a Condition for Salvation in the New Testament. Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985.

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[1]R. Shank, Elect in the Son (Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers, 1970) and Life in the Son (Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers, 1961), admitted in a personal interview with this author in 1976 that the Holy Spirit is received while the new believer is under the water. When challenged with the example of Cornelius in Acts 10, he said Cornelius was an exception. When further challenged by the example of the thief on the cross (though baptism of the Holy Spirit was not an issue before Pentecost), he credited the thief with the baptism of ìdesire.î The thief desired to get off the cross and get to the water, but since he could not, God credited him with righteousness because of his desire to be water baptized.

[2] M. Kline, Treaty of the Great King (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co., 1963), 9-10. More recent work has refined the outline offered by Kline with considerable benefit in the stipulations section (see S. A. Kaufman, ìThe Structure of Deuteronomic Law, Maarav 1 [April 1979]: 105-58), but the entire Book of Deuteronomy is generally recognized as one great suzerainty-vassal covenant.

[3]M. Weinfeld, The Covenant of Grant in the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East, Journal of the American Oriental Society 90 (April-June 1970): 184.

[4] Ibid., 185.

[5] L. W. King, Babylonian Boundary-Stones and Memorial-Tablets in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1912).

[6] Ibid., x.

[7] The case for royal grants in the history of Israel is made by A. E. Hill, The Ebal Ceremony as Hebrew Land Grant? Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31 (December 1988): 399-406, but Davidís specific use of them is documented by Z. Ben-Barak, ìMeribaal and the System of Land Grants in Ancient Israel, Biblica 62 (January 1981): 73-91. David may have become acquainted with the custom when he was given Ziklag by Achish, king of Gath, as a reward for his services as a military commander. But the story of Meribaal (2 Sam 9; 16:1-4; 19:17-31) shows that David practiced this custom of giving land as a reward for faithful service himself. There is also evidence from 1 Samuel 8:14 and 22:7 that the system of grants was in vogue during the time of David.

[8]The relationship with Abraham actually began in Ur of the Chaldeans, a fact often overlooked but made clear by Acts 7:2-3. When the text says, ìThe God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, the verbiage is technical jargon for establishing a covenant relationship. The Lord-Servant (Suzerain-Vassal) relationship was established in Ur. The stipulation was that Abraham leave Ur and go to a land this glorious God would reveal to him. Because Abraham was obedient to this stipulation, that is, because he was a faithful vassal, he was given the reward (Gen 15:1) of the covenant of grant, which was the land grant of Israel.

[9] Here are some of the terminology parallels which point to faithful service: 1) Kept the charge of my kingship (Ashurbanipal to his servant Bulta) parallels kept my charge, my commandments, my rules and my teachings (Gen 26:5); 2) Walked in perfection (Aru 15:13-17) parallels Walk before me and be perfect (Gen 17:1); 3) Stood before me in truth and walked with loyalty parallels ìwho walked before you in truth, loyalty, and uprightness of heartî(1 Kgs 3:6); 4) I am the KingÖwho returns kindness to the one who serves in obedience and to the one who guards the royal command (Aru 15:6-7; 16:6-7; 18:9-12) parallels the God who keeps His gracious promise to those who are loyal to Him and guard His commandments (Deut 7:9-12) and who keeps His gracious promise to your servants who serve you wholeheartedly (1 Kgs 8:23); 5) Land and house seem to be the primary gifts given by kings, which parallel the gifts given to Abraham (land) and David (house = dynasty); 6) Gives it to Adal-eni and his sons forever (PRU III 16.132:27-38) parallels for your descendants forever (Gen 13:15) and for your descendants after you throughout their generations (Gen 17:7-8); 7) On that day Abba-El gave the city parallels ìOn that day Yahweh concluded a covenant with Abraham. According to Weinfeld, ìon that day has legal implications; 8) The delineation of borders for land grants is a clear parallel; 9) Marriage/adoption terminology used as a judicial basis for the gift of land or dynasty is quite prevalent among the secular and biblical grants.

 By Abrahamic Covenant it should be pointed out that this author is referring to Genesis 15, not Genesis 12. In Gen 12:1-3 there is at least one stipulation regarding future obedience. Abraham had to go to the land. Any future reward for Abraham was contingent on his going to the land. This is what Acts 7:3 confirms. In fact, it is after he has gone to the land, built altars, and rescued his nephew (a parity obligation in the ancient treaties among co-vassals, according to D. J. McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant: A Study in Form in the Ancient Oriental Documents and in the Old Testament, Analecta Biblica, no. 21 [Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963], 24-25), and shown his allegiance to the true Suzerain versus the false (the king of Sodom) by paying tribute (a normal vassal obligation [ibid., 32]) to the Suzerainís representative (Melchizedek) and having a covenant meal with him (bread and wine [ibid., 172-73] that God says to Abraham, your reward shall be very great (emphasis added). The covenant of grant of Genesis is a reward for past faithfulness to the Suzerain.

[10] J. D. Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), 65-69.

[11] In a private interview with this author in Jerusalem (February 24, 1998) Weinfeld did say that it is his opinion that after the Exile the Jews began to look at the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants as conditioned upon their obedience to the Mosaic Covenant. It is too bad they did not understand it that way before the Assyrians and Babylonians were used to discipline them. In fact, it is hard to see how they could miss it after reading Deut 4:23ff. However, though the fulfillment of the blessings of the grant covenants was conditioned on the obedience of a faithful generation, the promise to the line itself was unconditional after the grant had been given. The only question was which generation would be that faithful generation.

[12]F. C. Fensham, Common Trends in Curses of Near Eastern Treaties and kudurru-Inscriptions Compared with Maledictions of Amos and Isaiah, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 75 (January 1963): 172.

[13] Ibid., 172-74.

[14]Exodus 34, for example.

[15] E. Würthwein, ìmetanoeoÑ, in TDNT, 1967 ed., 4:980.

[16]This verb, which meant to be sorry or to comfort oneself, occurs 108 times in the OT, but only three of these deal with the repentance of men over sins (Jer 8:6; 31:19; and Job 42:6). In its theological context it usually refers to the repentance of God (see H. V. Parunak, A Semantic Survey of n]j^m, Biblica 56 [1975]: 512-32). Jeremiah 8:6 concerns temporal discipline of Israel for her idolatry. Jeremiah 31:19 speaks of Israelís sorrow after she had returned to Yahweh. And Job 42:6 refers to temporal blessings received by Job after his repentance. None of these refers to any repentance prior to a covenant relationship or personal relationship (see R. N. Wilkin, Repentance as a Condition for Salvation in the New Testament [Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985], 17).

[17] Würthwein, 4:984.

[18]Wilkin, 13.

[19] Würthwein, 4:985.

[20]We must remember there is no Hebrew term that is equivalent to metanoew.

[21] See Pentecost, 95-99, for a more detailed analysis of this covenant. This passage reaffirms the ongoing nature of the grant covenant to the recipient and his offspring. The grant, whether it was a land grant as in the case of Abraham or a dynastic grant as in the case of David, was the permanent possession of the line. However, once again, in order to enjoy the full blessings of the grant, God was waiting for a faithful generation of Jews who would possess the land, and the Jews were waiting for a faithful king who would reign from Zion.

[22]He is even called High Priest after his tenure is over, perhaps in the same manner as we address a former President as President So-and-So, even though his tenure is past. In the Jewish mind the High Priest was in office for life, so Annas may have wielded the influence of the Torah over the nation in spite of any Roman appointment.

[23] Since a talent could be anywhere from 25-75 lbs., the weight of this gold would be anywhere from 58 to 174 tons.

[24]R. Price, Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1966), 280-82.

[25] The reference in Rom 2:5 may look like eternal judgment at first blush. But it also may be taken as 1 Thess 2:16 where the Jews who have rejected Christ and hindered the cause of the gospel are filling up the cup of sins until God judges. The certainty of this judgment is expressed by Paul through a proleptic aorist (ephthasen-will certainly come upon them) to the uttermost. This wrath again is most likely the same wrath mentioned in 1 Thess 1:10 and 5:9, but it does not preclude the outpouring of God's wrath on that generation of Jews who rejected Christ. They are a foreshaddowing of the wrath to come in the Triublation Period. Romans 2:5 may be a similar reference. The treasuring up in Rom 2:5 is similar in concept to the ìfill upî in 1 Thess 2:16. And the ìday of wrathî may well refer to the same wrath as we find in 1 Thessalonians (see also Zeph 1:14-18 for the day of Godís wrath and Rev 6:16-17 where the great day of His wrath has come), not to preclude a temporal judgment on the Jewish generation which rejected Christ. Most expositors agree that this section in Romans deals with the sins of the Jews. One problem with relegating Rom 2:5-10 to the Great White Throne is the reference to eternal life in v 7. No eternal life is given at the Great White Throne. It is unlikely that Paul is hopscotching back and forth across the Millennium with judgments. More likely that the judgment is the temporal wrath of the Tribulation Period immediately followed by the separation of the sheep and goats (Matt 16:27 and 25:31ff).

[26]John 3:36 is another verse which could easily be misunderstood for eternal judgment. But careful attention to the tenses reveals that both the eternal life mentioned and the wrath of God are present time experiences. The believer has eternal life right now, the moment he believes. It is not a gift given at some future judgment. So also the wrath. Like Rom 1:18 this wrath is in the present: ìthe wrath of God abides on him.î

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