Bible Lands Unveiled Rome: To The Jew First
By Amir Tsarfati
Shalom from the City of Rome, the Eternal City; a city that was founded according to the myth of the Romans themselves. Founded in the eighth century by two twin brothers who were circled by a she-wolf, and they decided to start a city. Then when the time came one of them killed his brother and named the city after himself, and that is Romulus, and that is why the City of Rome is called that way.
Now the City of Rome exists, at least if we count it from the 8th century and on, and eighth century B.C., we're talking about 2,800 years of existence here in this place. It's interesting because we're going to talk today about the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Romans. And although Paul wrote a letter to a community of believers in Christ, behind me is probably the most iconic building in the entire country of Italy.
As you can see, we're talking about the Coliseum, a structure known as an amphitheater. This is a structure and entertainment facility that was used for bloody battles between gladiators and animals and wild beasts. And a lot of executions were also made in that particular place.
And this particular building, colosseum, originally was not even called Colosseum. It was called the Flavian Amphitheater. The Flavian Amphitheater; we're talking about the Flavian dynasty of Caesars started by Vespasian, the one who came into the Land of Israel and started the Roman assault on the rebellious a group of Jews at the year 68 A.D.
And then of course his son Titus is the one who finished the job, who leveled the temple in Jerusalem, and eventually brought all the spoils of war back to Rome. And we know that because he himself had it engraved in the inner parts of the victory arch that he erected right behind this structure.
This structure was inaugurated in the year 72 A.D. shortly after Titus Vespasian returned back to Rome. And we found in a very interesting thing; we found a little dedicatory stone that mentions originally who built that one, and we concluded from the pegs that were engraved into the stone holding metal letters that were there, We concluded that it was actually an inscription that Titus Vespasian wrote that this building was erected thanks to the spoils of war that he brought with him.
And, of course, that brings us to the war in Judea, the war where Jerusalem was defeated, and the Temple of the Jews was completely leveled to the ground. it's interesting because as I said, it wasn't called Coliseum. What is the source of the name Coliseum? It's actually going back to prior to the Flavian dynasty when Nero was still the Caesar. And Nero was a someone who was obviously in love with himself, and he had a statue in the size of the Statue of Liberty erected right in the area of where the Colosseum is standing today. And that was known as the Colossus of Nero.
Now where did he get that idea from? Colossus of Nero was actually something that was brought the idea was brought from the island of Rhodes where the people of Rhodes erected the Colossus of Rhodes and had the god of the sun, Sol standing there with his crown, literally the male version of the Statue of Liberty.
It's very interesting because Nero thought if they can have it, I can have it as well. And we're talking about more than a hundred foot tall statue that was such a big thing, that it was called the colossal one. And from that came the word colosseum. And the Colosseum is no longer called the Flavian Amphitheater. Now it's called Colosseum.
Now I needed to understand that Rome itself today is a city of nearly 2 million people. It's a city that is known as the third most visited city in the European Union and the 14th most toured city in the world. The city itself is in a territory of about 500 square miles, pretty big, and it's the capital of the region known in Italy as Lazio.
Rome itself was the birthplace of what we call Western civilization. In the ancient world, at least 2,000 years ago, to reach Rome was the dream of every Roman citizen such as the Apostle Paul. We know that more than once Paul expressed his desire to come to Rome, not to come to Rome because he wanted his name or his fame to go around. He wanted to come to Rome because he understood that teaching in Rome bears a great value.
Such as, for example, when I go all the way to the Philippines and I'm teaching there, there are about 10 million Filipinos that are spread all around the world in different countries. Speaking in the Philippines is strategic for me because I know that
people will take it from there and to the whole world. Such value was to the City of Rome. They say that, “All roads always lead to Rome.” And remember from Rome it goes all around.
So Paul had the desire to come. And Paul wrote the longest epistle, the longest letter to any church was to the Church of Rome. And in a very interesting manner, he wrote them before he ever even visited that place. He never been to Rome when he was writing the epistle.
And one has to ask himself, okay, so who founded the church in Rome? Unlike other places where we know that Paul himself laid the foundations and then somebody else continued, we know that it wasn't the case in Rome.
In fact Paul himself said in Romans 15:20-22, “I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundation. But as it is written:” -- in Isaiah 52:15 -- “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand. For this reason -- Paul says -- I also have been much hindered from coming to you.”
So Paul basically says, look I didn't start this church, so I kind of probably stayed behind because it was somebody else's work. Now you wonder, okay, who could it be that brought the message of Christ, the message not only of the death on the cross, but of the resurrection, which is the most important thing? Who brought it to Rome?
Well, that takes us all the way to the Book of Acts, Chapter 2, “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of rushing mighty wind.”
And then I go on and the Bible says in Verse 5, “That they were dwelling in Jerusalem, Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and they were confused because everyone heard them speak in his own language.”
And the Bible talks about the different people, where they came from, and how the Bible says, “The Parthians and the Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia,
Egypt, and the parts of Libya joining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes.”
Now we understand that the Romans who were in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost took the message and went all the way back to Rome. And that's how the Church of Rome basically started. Now we know from the Bible that Paul indeed made it to Rome.
We know that later on after the Epistle was written and already sent by -- and by the way, the Epistle to the Romans was written in Corinth, and that we know. Paul basically was in Rome twice, and twice he was under arrest, by the way, first of all, when he made it to Rome to stand before Caesar because of the case in Jerusalem.
Between the years 61 A.D - 63 A.D., he stayed in an apartment with a guard that was actually shackled to Paul, and the only time he was not shackled was either in the restrooms or at nighttime when he slept. But we know that Paul was here.
And we know that for two years he was here, and we know that he managed to preach the gospel and he managed during those two years to write the Epistle to the Ephesians, to the Colossians, to the Philippians, and even to Philemon. And we know that Paul basically was acquitted by the Roman Caesar and was free to go.
And the Bible tells us that he had a desire to go to Spain. And then eventually he returned to Rome, but this time between ‘64 and ‘67, he was once again under arrest. And when Nero burned Rome and blamed the Christians for it, great persecution aroused in in Rome against Christians. And both Peter and Paul found their death around that time, around that year.
During the second arrest, he wrote as we know the Second Epistle to Timothy. So now we have a book of Romans that was written while he was in Corinth to a church that Paul had never visited.
And it is quite amazing because normally when Paul wrote letters such as the Corinthians, he dealt with situational issues that were part of the life of the church. Somebody did something wrong; somebody said something wrong. Do this. Do that. Don't do this. Don't do that. He related to situations.
In the book of Romans, since he's never been here, since he knows not too many people here, he is actually writing the purest form of the gospel and of what I call the doctrine of our faith. So that's why the book of Romans is known as the Magna Carta of the gospel. It is known as the very letter that relates to every important issue in the life of a believer.
And it's quite interesting that in the very first chapter of that letter, Paul writes to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
From the moment, he started writing the doctrine of faith, from the moment he started communicating the heart of the gospel, he makes it very clear that even if it's all about faith in Christ and it has the power of God to salvation for everyone, there is order in which God is advancing in this world. And it is to the Jew first.
Now it's very interesting because think about it; why he would write of all things to the Romans such a thing as, “To the Jew first.” First of all, we know that if you read the Epistle, you understand that there is a good number of Jewish people that were part of that congregation. We know that for a fact.
But we know that Paul made it a habit everywhere he went across Asia Minor and in Italy and other places, he first went to the synagogue to preach to his brethren, to his countrymen, to the Jewish people. In fact, to the Jews in Antioch the Bible says in Acts 13, Verse 46, both Paul and Barnabas said, “It was necessary that the Word of God should be spoken to you first.”
You understand what I'm saying? What I'm saying is basically God loves everyone, and in the way God is advancing the Jew was first. And it's interesting because the Bible says in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me” – where? “First in Jerusalem, and then in all Judea and Samaria, and then to the end of the earth.”
So you see there is an ordained order that God had planned for the Word to come out. The Bible says that Jesus, when He talked to the Samaritan woman, says, “Salvation is of the Jews.” I mean she acknowledged that; He acknowledged that.
You know, we understand it; that the Word of God comes out of Jerusalem, not out of Rome. He's writing to the Romans, that it is to the Jews first. This is, I believe, one of the things that were so important to Paul to communicate that he couldn't wait, and he already communicated it in the first Chapter.
And it's very interesting because not only great and blessing -- greetings and blessings are to come to the Jew first. The Bible says in Romans 2, “Eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immorality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Everyone will either be punished or be blessed, whether they do evil or do -- they do good. it's just that in the way, in the order in which He does things, the Jew is first, when it comes to receiving the Word of God, when it comes to the receiving the blessing, and also when it comes to being punished.
Often time people ask me, “What does it take? What is it like? What is it like to be the chosen people?” I said, “You suffer first. I mean there is a lot of blessings, but also there is one thing you can learn in the scriptures: is that Israel was severely judged and punished for their lack of faith, and that is something that the Gentiles can learn from instead of having to go through and experience it themselves.”
The Bible says in Galatians Chapter 3, Verses 27 to 28, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you're all one in Christ Jesus.” Now does it mean that we're no longer male or female?
No, that means that God loves people the same way, whether they're male or female, whether they're slaves or masters, whether they are Greek or Jews. That He loves them the same.
The fact that He said, “To the Jew first.” doesn't mean it that's to the Greek, no. It doesn't mean that He loves him less.
In fact, I always say there is a great difference between a Jew and a Gentile apart from Christ, but once they believe, the Bible says there is no more, there is no more wall between the two, that wall of separation is gone.
So why is it that Paul is giving the Jewish people – and isn't it interesting? I could have given you this message in Jerusalem, yet I'm here in Rome. The Colosseum is behind me.
It's because to the Romans, Paul is communicating the pure truth. That it is important not to dismiss the Jews once and for all because they, obviously, rejected, the Bible says. Why is Paul giving the Jews such an important role in his epistle to the Romans?
It's because it's part of the doctrine. And that Epistle is so important because it's the pure doctrine, that one must understand it is as important to support Israel and to communicate the gospel to the Jews, and to love the people of God and never to hurt them nor to harm them. It is as important as all the other foundations and all the other principles of faith.
And by the way, it is as important to communicate the gospel to them than all the rest of the thing is you should do as a believer. “To the Jew first.” It's very interesting; he first said that, “The gospel has the power of salvation to the Jew first.”
Then he said, “Whether cursing or blessing, to the Jew first.” And then he said, “Can the law save the Jew,” in the third Chapter.
Then he says, “There is an advantage of the Jew because he received the Oracles of God, the Word of God.”
Then he communicated in Chapter 9, The great sorrow that he has for Israel, his brethren, for they tried to establish their own righteousness.
And then he says that the heart of Paul for the Jews is that they will be saved. Then he exposes that the heart of Paul for the Jewish people is that they might be saved.
Remember, Paul is a Jew. Paul is nothing but a Jew who saw the -- who understood that it's not about religion. It's about relationship with God. Paul is the one who had those scales fallen, Paul is the one who had his eyes opened.
Paul is the one who never ever said, “I crossed the lines. I'm no longer a Jew.” Paul always says, “I'm an Israelite. I am a Benjamite. I'm a son of Israel. I am a Jew.” And he stressed this out as much as he could, that we must never give up on the Jewish people when it comes to the gospel because God wants them to be saved.
In fact, in the in the book of Romans, in Chapter 11, the Bible says, “That God never casted away His people whom He foreknew.” In fact, Paul goes on and says, “If their fall was such riches to the Gentiles, how much more their acceptance is going to be?” If not, what life from the dead? He didn't talk about that's it already gone.
He talked about temporary blindness, “Blindness in part has happened to Israel,” he says. And then eventually says, “Then all Israel will be saved.”
And by the way, there's another little thing that many, many people tend to forget that Paul wrote in the book of Romans to the Gentiles. He actually wrote something in Chapter 15, and he said now in Verse 25, “Now I'm going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those for Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution to the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.”
And then he says, “It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors,” he said. He said, “For if the Gentiles have been partakers of the Jewish spiritual things, their duty is now also to minister to the Jews in material things.”
You see? That it. It goes beyond spiritual things. It was even in material thing, Paul says to the people, “To the Jewish people who shared with you the gospel, not only spiritual, even material things.”
Guys, he made it very clear. The Jewish people are the people of God. God never, never gave up on them. Christianity is not replacing Israel. Christianity is actually to share the good news with Israel, and we see with all of this the satanic infiltration into the doctrine of the church.
You know, think about it. It says, “To the Jew first.” And then two major deceptions are normally rising when people look at it.
First of all, I know a lot of Gentiles that are saying, “So being Gentile is not enough, isn't it? I mean, I'm a poor Gentile. Do I need to become a Jew?” And that's the deception. You know, Gentiles don't need to become Jews. You know, we, the Jews, don't need Gentiles to become Jews. Let's make it very clear.
The Bible says in Ephesians 2, Verse 19, “Now, therefore, you -- Gentiles -- are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” It's beautiful!
“You who once had no hope now have hope. You who once were strangers are now members of the family. You who were the wild branches of the olive tree are now been grafted in.” So he's saying that.
And then in Ephesians Chapter 2, in Verses 11 and 12 says, “Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh -- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands -- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
So we know that Gentiles should not feel insecure or less worthy when it comes to their status before God.
But the second deception is exactly the opposite. God has cast away His people; the church is the new Israel; the church has replaced Israel.
The book of Romans Chapter 11 says, “That if some of the branches were broken off, and you being a wild olive tree were grafted in among them and with them became partakers of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.”
In other words, God is basically saying, guys, I gladly accepted you; that you did not replace the people of Israel whom I foreknew. And remember, they were there first.
And then in Romans 11:25-26 it says, “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion.”
You see? Those people that think we have replaced Israel are wise in their own opinion. They are ignorant.
He says, “Blindness in part, yes, has happened to Israel, but it is until the fullness of the Gentiles will come in and then all Israel is going to be saved.”
So we see that this is the heart of God, the heart of God is not to dismiss the people of Israel, but the heart of God is to eventually make them come back to Him.
Hosea 5:15 says, “I will return again to My place.” In other words, He left His dwelling place. He came to the world. “I will return again to My place until they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek my face; and in their affliction, they will earnestly seek Me.”
In other words, we know that unfortunately the rejection of Christ would bring so much affliction, and then they will earnestly seek Him. And what is it the Bible says when somebody earnestly seek the Lord? That He will find him. That He is indeed close to all those.
The Bible says in Romans 11, “Concerning the gospel they are may be enemies for your sake, but concerning the election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” And then he says this: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
I'm telling it to the City of Rome where the Vatican is, where the mother church of more than 1.3 billion people around the world are, and for the most part, they believe in the replacement theology; I'm telling them all the Word of God says that God is not giving up on Israel. In fact, “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
God never changed His mind on Israel. God never turned His back to Israel. God never said, “Okay, the church is the new Israel.” This is deception from the pit of hell. Why? Because it is such an important pillar of the doctrine of the Word of God, and therefore, the enemy is spreading all of these things now.
So people ask me, “Amir, so why is it that God chose Israel to begin with?” And I always say, “God wanted a flagship nation that was an example to the world, not of
how they behaved, but of how He behaves, and through Israel, whether good things and blessing, or bad things and cursing, He managed to manifest Himself and manifest His nature and manifest His is character to the people.”
We can basically learn by observing the twists and turns of this love story between God and Israel and the kind of character that we are following. We can see His faithfulness. We can see these standards. We can see His compassionate love and mercy, as well as His jealousy and wrath when He is rejected for others.
So my suggestion today for all of you as we conclude this message, from the heart of Western Europe, from the place where I believe, by the way, that an antichrist is gonna rise from, from the place where the greatest persecutor of Israel will arise; I'm telling you the doctrine, the Word of God is saying, “To the Jew first.”
And by the way, you need to learn to not only accept it, but enjoy it. You know, if you remember, Peter was kind of not so comfortable with what he heard, that God that Jesus has for John.
And then, and Jesus said to Peter, “What it is for you? If I want to say or promise one thing to him, it is nothing to you.”
The promises of God for Israel will never diminish His love for the Gentiles. But once you accept that which He has for them, you learn to understand His character.
And by the way, and I will conclude with this one, if God changed His mind on Israel, what can be your assurance that He will not change His mind on you? In fact, the election of God and the faithfulness of God towards Israel are the insurance policy to the whole world that God is a God that is keeping His covenant. God is a God that is faithful to His word and promises, amen.