In verse 13 James speaks. This is James the ½ brother of Jesus (James the Apostle was already killed by Herod earlier in Acts 12:2). This is the same James speaking who wrote the Book of James. He was also called “James the Just,” and “James the Camel Knee,” because he was known to pray so much on his knees that his knees became deformed. Tradition tells us that later in his life he was to die by being thrown off the top of the temple.
In Acts 15:14-17 James is quoting from Amos 9, but notice in Acts 15:15 James says the “prophets” (plural), meaning other prophets agree. Amos was speaking to the Northern kingdom of Israel (10 northern tribes) just prior to 721 BC. Amos, Isaiah, Micah and Hosea were all contemporary books written to the 10 northern tribes. The book of Amos is a warning!
Amos 5:1-2 says, “…Israel has fallen; she will rise no more…” However, notice how in verse 3 it says a remnant will be saved (same as Isa. 1:9, 10:21-22). The prophecy promised that natural/fleshly Israel would not rise again, but God would bring out a remnant à this was the church (born again Jews/Gentiles). In Amos 9:7-10 God said He would destroy the northern “kingdom from the face of the earth.” But that He would not totally destroy the house of Jacob.
It is here at this point now in Amos 9:11 where James’ quote was being done right there in the 1st century when the Gentiles were being saved along with the believing Jews. The Bible is abundantly clear that the promises of Gentile salvation is always connected with the restoration of Israel. The Bible is just as clear that Gentiles do not get saved until God restores Israel. Many prophecies speak about these two related events:
- Isa. 52:8-10, “…when the Lord restores Zion…He has redeemed Jerusalem…that the ends of the earth (Gentiles) may see the salvation of our God.”
- Isa. 59:16 – 60:3, Israel is saved…then “nations (the Gentiles) will come to your light.” This is not referring to any physical kingdom restored, but is speaking of the eternal true fulfillment of the spiritual Kingdom. (See Isa. 60:14 following).
- Isa. 60:14, if you were an Old Covenant (OC) Hebrew you would view this as a physical thing of where the Gentiles would be bowing before you, and being dominated by the Jews. However, this is far from how the Lord Jesus quotes this verse in Rev. 3:9.
- Jesus uses this verse in Rev 3:9 to show that it is the church who are the true Israel, and that it is OC Israel who are persecuting the church, and Jesus said that it was OC Israel who would bow at the foot of the church.
True Israel –> the Old Testament prophesies given to Israel were spiritually fulfilled in the church (true Jew/Israel): Romans 2:25-29, 4:16, 9:6-8, 11, 10:12, 11:26; Galatians 3:16, 26, 28-29, 4:25-26; Philippians 3:2-3; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26; John 8:39-47; Hebrews 6:12.
Acts 15:17 makes it clear that the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David had to have been an event right there in the 1st century because it says that it had to be rebuilt “in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by His name.”
We know that the Gentiles were being saved right there, at that time, in the 1st century, but verse 17 said that first the Tabernacle of David had to be rebuilt in order to open this salvation to the Gentiles –> thus clearly this was a fulfilled verse at that time, which is why James is quoting it right there under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
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[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 12 Messianic Temple”]