Peter's Vision of the Gentile Age
You may notice from the passage that an accounting is kept of when everything took place. Peter arrived at the home on the third day from when he received the vision. here are some other notable triples from the account.
- There seem to be three different kinds of creatures in the sheet-like vessel
- Three men were sent by Cornelius.
- Three-fold commands given Peter during and then after the vision.: "Get up, kill and eat" / "get up, go downstairs, go with them"
- A three-fold description of Cornelius was given: "He is a righteous and god-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people."
- Three categories of people were awaiting Peter: Cornelius, his relatives, his close friends
- Many groupings of three may be seen in the architectural structure of the passage.
Some time ago, the Lord led me to became keenly aware of the association between the theme of resurrection and the number three. (see Resurrection and theThird Day) While investigating various occurrences of threes in the biblical text (see side bar), I was blessed with the realization that there was a remarkable cryptic resurrection scenario in the 10th chapter of Acts. This passage is extremely important, relating to us through the Apostle Peter's vision and a very detailed historical narrative the beginning of a transition away from the wholly "Jewish" or hebrew composition and character of the church.
What clued me in to the hidden resurrection scenario in Acts 10 was the "three times" the subject of the vision was repeated.
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
This vision of Peter's and the events that followed it are of the same kind as the convicting revelation Peter brought forth at the beginning of the Pentecost church age that is chronicled in Acts chapter 2. Both relate to us critical details of the commencement of, and to discerning students, prophesy critical details of the conclusion of this present era. The three times the "Clean Gentiles" are taken up in the vessel is a picture of the three harvests of the Gentiles. How blessed we are to be included in the Lord's marvelous plan of redemption! What grace has been poured forth upon the Jew and Gentile alike! What a privilege we have to be the recipients of such grace, to have these blessings flow out from the depths of the Lord's treasure chest of knowledge!
If you would, please read Acts 10 in its entirety before you continue.
Ready? Let's get right into it!
5 I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' 8 "I replied, 'Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' 9 "The voice spoke from heaven a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.' 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
Peter understood that the creatures he saw in the sheet represented the Gentiles and that God was making them clean. The way the Gentile church is represented in the vision is very odd, isn't it? How curious! Why these particular creatures and why in a sheet? And, too, we might ask why they were let down from heaven and then taken back up? And why three times??? My friend, there is nothing trivial or irrelevant in the bible.
These categories of creatures appear together just like they do here in another context in the Bible. They compare to the animal kingdom that was purged from the earth in the Noahic flood. Thus, the creatures seen in the sheet that represent the Gentiles are the very kinds who grieved the Lord that he had made them. These same categories appear in Romans 1:23, which you may want to investigate further for purposes of comparison after completing this study.
So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them.
Peter would have recognized the creatures he saw in the vision as the epitome of uncleanness. In striking contrast, the symbolism of the vessel in which they were seen is at the opposite end of the "cleanness" scale. They are, in fact, polar opposites!
Searching out the meaning of the thing like a large sheet and of its being let down from heaven by its four corners leads us into some other very exciting truths. The thing in which the animals were seen is the word "skeuos" in the Greek. According to Strong's, it means; "a vessel, implement, equipment or apparatus." Even a cursory glance at the other occurrences of this word uncovers a theme which begs to be imported into the context of Peter's vision in Acts 10, but, it seems necessary to first explore more fully the other lessons learned from this vessel to establish it as having been made for honor.
The Greek word for "sheet" in Peter's vision is "othone." According to Strong's, it is "a linen cloth, i.e. (espec.) a sail." this word is used only twice in the Bible, each time in the context of this vision given to Peter. Both the "linen cloth" and the "sail" meanings are very significant.
Each kind of cloth bears important symbolism in the Bible. There is much said in the law about what can be worn; when, how and by whom.
Linen cloth was used extensively in the tabernacle and required for the priestly service of the tabernacle. It symbolizes consecration and holiness, and an eternal spiritual and heavenly body given as a reward for righteous acts.
So the priest who is anointed and ordained to serve as priest in his father's place shall make atonement: he shall thus put on the linen garments, the holy garments,
In Revelation, the symbolism is given thusly.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Some very interesting allusion is made in the linen cloth being let down by its four corners. This makes reference to the four corners of the earth, from whence those from every nation have come into the church. This feature of the context points also to two symbols that must have been very familiar to Peter. One is the holy altar upon which sacrifice was offered UP to God.
1 Build an altar of acacia wood, three cubits high; it is to be square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. 2 Make a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are of one piece, and overlay the altar with bronze.
The tassels correspond with the horns. Continuing in the same rich vein, the other symbol speaks volumes! Consider the command given in Numbers 15.
Does the reference to the Exodus seem random? It's not! The Exodus is a prophetic type of The Bride Theft, the event which marks the conclusion of this age from whence the Bride is called.
38 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 40 then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.'
Observe that this was twice said to serve as a remembrance, to remind one of all the Lord's commands. This must surely have come to Peter's mind during the vision! The purpose for the reminder is for the one reminded to walk in holiness, being consecrated to God through obedience. What results, then, are righteous acts. This is what the linen itself signifies, so the emphasis on holiness and consecration is further amplified. Regarding this garment which is traditionally four-cornered, notice that the tassels are said to be there to look at. What will be seen is the blue cord - blue being the color of the sky and a widely recognized symbol of heaven. In the vision, Peter saw this remarkable vessel being let down from and being drawn back up into the - what? The sky - heaven!
When Peter saw in the vision that the unclean animals were in the vessel of linen cloth, the contrast between them could hardly have been more pronounced! The very idea of doing as he was instructed to do (rise, kill and eat) was obviously offensive, and by reason of the enormous contrast between the CLEAN and UNCLEAN, this vision must have made quite an impression upon Peter.
Now, the word translated as sheet (othone) has a connection to the Bride theft resurrection as well. It has another meaning in addition to that of linen cloth which indicates a possible use - as a sail. A sail catches the wind. (symbolic of spirit) Are your thoughts racing to Revelation 7? (Remember the blue cord in the tassel. On a windy day, wouldn't the tassels with the blue cord blow around and draw our attention?)
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
Compare Acts 10:11 closely.
He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet (linen cloth; sail) being let down to earth by its four corners.
Here are the next verses that follow in Revelation, where we now find a connection between a Gentile church age resurrection and the sealing of the 144k sons of Israel.
2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
When the vessel with the Gentile church is taken up into heaven the first time, it is a picture of the Bride Theft resurrection that corresponds to the sealing of the 144k. As the Lord has shown us, the sealing of the 144k triggers the Bride Theft because "their acceptance" means "life from the dead." The sealing of the 144k also triggers the release of the four winds of the earth, held back by the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth until, as we are told, that very occasion has passed. Imagine how these beings at what is called the four corners of the earth hold back the winds. It must be with something able to catch wind, like a sail! Things in the natural realm are patterned after the spiritual, my friend, so much of what you see in the world is fashioned after something spiritual. The resurrection pictured as the unclean animals / Gentiles in the device used to catch wind that is taken up from the earth by its four corners happens at the very same time wind that had been held back at the four corners of the earth is released. Coincidence? Hmmmmm.
Does it bother you to see the Gentile characterized as the un-cleanest of animals? It is true that when cleansed by the blood of the Lamb they become clean, but the church of dominant Gentile composition is still pictured as unclean animals that are cleansed. They do not become transformed into clean animals, but are unclean animals made clean. I'd like to offer some further relevant commentary about this church as I expound a bit upon other passages where those animals are mentioned symbolically in the Bible.
The four footed beasts or cattle symbolize fleshy carnal people descended from Adam. There is no good thing in the flesh. The reptiles, the wholly unclean creatures that creep across the ground point towards the devil as cursed and deceiving. The birds of the air are likewise symbolic.
Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.
The appearance of the birds in Peter's vision offers a striking commentary about the status of the church similar to what is revealed through the very enlightening parables of Matthew 13.
These parables in Matthew 13 are a remarkable set of teachings about the kingdom of heaven. The birds of the air first appear in the parable of the sower and the kinds of ground the seed is sown into. We are told outright that the birds represent the evil one. Compare the following verses.
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
Each of the parables are like riddles whose solution is found when you understand their relevant time periods and symbolism.
Consider another "birds of the air" parable in Matthew 13.
31 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."
The man of the parable who planted the smallest seed is The Sower, Y'shua. This mustard tree has birds of the air coming to perch in its branches. The symbolic meaning has already been established for us quite plainly, remember? The mustard tree is the church. The mustard seed's growth into a tree is inappropriate for an herb type plant which, if you study the mustard plant, proliferates in number without ever becoming tree-like. This is then a picture of a perverted and corrupted tree, ahem - church, somehow appearing as more than it should be, even though planted by the Lord himself. The church and the birds of the air are connected here and in Peter's vision - AND in the book of Daniel's fourth chapter's account of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Here is an excerpt of Nebuchadnezzar's description of a vision he had that was later interpreted through Daniel.
10 These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.
In verses 20-22, Daniel reveals that Nebuchadnezzar is the tree. Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon and, representing Babylon, is therefore a picture of the Babylon church, just as it is in Matthew 13 and in Acts 10. The generous Babylon tree whose "dominion extends to distant parts of the earth" (Daniel 4:22) and that has the birds-of-the-air / evil one's thieving demons nesting in its branches is clearly the mother Roman Catholic church with her daughter Protestantism. This is the whole lump which has been leavened (sin / hypocrisy) according to Matthew 13:33, which continues the Matthew 13 trend of revealing the nature of this church age.
He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
A woman is a popular symbol of a church. Dough is also a symbol of the church. (remember Shavuot - the two leavened loaves made from one lump - baked with fire?) And so we see that the church has been known to be as she is now from the beginning. It is all in the plan of the sovereign Lord. But yet, from out of her shall a remnant be saved with a greater salvation! Herein is the continuing great mercy of God. What an awesome plan!
And so, we see that the Lord had in mind the character of the church at the beginning, middle and end of its appointed age. And, in accordance with his promise, he is revealing all things in their appointed time!