Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
“Who are You, Lord?” he said. (Acts 9:1-5)
Many Christians speak of a “Damascus road experience” where they go through a dramatic conversion to Christ, but the conversion from Saul to Paul was the original. Paul describes it in detail, in his legal defense before King Agrippa:
“I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“Then I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’
“And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and of what I will reveal to you. I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles. I now send you to them to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.’ (Acts 26:12-18)
Up until that point, the message of the Good News was primarily focused on the Jewish people. Paul was called to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. From Adam to the call of Abraham, all the people of the earth were Gentiles. Abraham was the first Hebrew. His grandson Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (Gen 32:24-26), had twelve sons. They became the heads of twelve tribes, known as the “Twelve Tribes of Israel.” The word “Gentiles” means “nations”- a term used by the Israelites to denote all foreign (non-Israelite) peoples.
The Lord used this dramatic close encounter in order to extend His invitation into the Kingdom of Heaven to all of the non-Jewish people. Every time Paul refers to himself as an apostle in his writings, he is reminding his audience of his God-given authority to the Gentiles. He is very conscious of his particular calling:
Nevertheless, I have written to remind you more boldly on some points because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest of God’s good news. My purpose is that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I have reason to boast in Christ Jesus regarding what pertains to God. For I would not dare say anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed… (Romans 15:15-18)
Paul’s message was of the grace of simply believing in Jesus as the Christ, in order to be saved. His ministry marked the transition from following the law of Moses (being a Jew) to just accepting the Good News:
For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— you have heard, haven’t you, about the administration of God’s grace that He gave to me for you? The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah. This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:1-6)
This transition was foretold by Jesus in His example of the king and the wedding banquet:
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Because the Jews rejected Him, the wedding invitation is extended to anyone and everyone, total strangers, both good and bad. This refers to the gospel being taken to the Gentiles.
The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the message of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to oppose what Paul was saying by insulting him.
Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: “It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first. But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles! For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
I have made you
a light for the Gentiles
to bring salvation
to the ends of the earth.”
When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the message of the Lord, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed. So the message of the Lord spread through the whole region.
The final harvest of the gentile nations at the Tribulation Rapture is perfectly described by John:
After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!
All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.
Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these people robed in white, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “Sir, you know.”
Then he told me:
These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.
They washed their robes and made them white
in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary.
The One seated on the throne will shelter[d] them:
They will no longer hunger;
they will no longer thirst;
the sun will no longer strike them,
nor will any heat.
For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne
will shepherd them;
He will guide them to springs of living waters,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
If you are not sure that you are saved, you can accept Christ into your life right now, by praying:
“Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you in to my life and heart to be my Lord and Savior.”