The History of Acts Part 3

Background to the Acts of the Apostles

  1. The author:
      1. Luke was not an eyewitness to the life of Christ (Luke 1:14), but he was a participant in many of the events of Acts (Acts 16: 10­ 17; 20:5­-21:18; 27:1­-28:16).
      2. Like Paul, he came on the scene after the life of Christ on earth.
      3. He was with Paul at Rome during the imprisonment with which Acts closes rather abruptly. Acts 28:30, ­31; cf. Colossians 4: 14; Philemon 24.
    1. When was Acts written?
      1. Acts closes abruptly with Paul under house arrest at Rome awaiting the outcome of his appeal to Caesar.
      2. The most reasonable explanation for the book’s leaving us in the dark as to the outcome of the appeal is that the case had not yet been decided when Luke wrote.
      3. Paul and his company arrived at Rome in the spring of A.D. 60 and stayed there “two whole years” before going to trial. Acts 28:30.
      4. Thus Acts may have been written sometime in or shortly after 62 A.D., just before Paul’s trial and initial release to go to Iberia/Spain where large numbers of Jews lived.
      5. Note: Tradition tells us that Paul undertook additional missionary labors following his release, perhaps in Spain; i.e. Iberia. Cf. Rom.15:24­-28.
    2. The title of this book: The Acts of the Apostles.
      1. The book certainly does not tell all the acts of all the apostles; it doesn’t even relate some of the acts of the other apostles.
      2. Some have suggested that a more descriptive title might be the Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Church Known as The Way; early Christians were not called Christians.

Additional Background to the Acts of the Apostles

  1. Luke was a physician (Col.4:14), and his medical background and interests seem to appear at times.
    1. He uses medical terms (“convulsed” (thrown down, ASV) and “examine” (look upon, ASV) in Luke 4:35 and 9:38.)
    2. In Jesus’ saying about the camel and the needle’s eye, Luke uses the technical term for a surgeon’s needle/awl eye (trumalia); Matthew and Mark use another word (trupēma) which refers to a needle of whatever variety. Luke 18:25; cf. Matt.19:24; Mark 10:25.
  • Saul did not merely have his sight restored, but “there fell from his eyes as it were scales”; he then “took food and was strengthened.” Acts 9:18­19.
    1. This eyesight restoration leads this author to believe his “thorn in the side” was not his eyesight
  1. Publius’ father “lay sick of fever and dysentery.” Acts 28:8.
  1. Why did Luke write?
    1. He saw the need to commit to writing an accurate account of the beginning and spread of Christianity. THE CHURCH. Luke 1: 1­4.
    2. It chronicles the triumph of the gospel over the hearts of men in a hostile world. Acts 2:47b; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30, ­31.

The Message of the Book of Acts

  1. Acts traces the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome.
    1. A simple outline of the book can be formulated on the basis of Jesus’ statement at Acts 1:8.
      1. In Jerusalem. Acts 1:1­8
      2. In Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:4­; 11:18.
  • In the uttermost parts of the world. Acts 11:19; ­28:31.
  1. As he was moved by the Holy Spirit, Luke showed how the purpose of God to save mankind was being worked out in human history.
  2. Its (gospel message) spread throughout the larger Roman Empire mainly through the efforts of Paul and the dispersed church of believers by the Sanhedrin and anti-Christian Rome.
    1. Paul always began his preaching in each city among its Jewish population in a local Synagogue. Acts 13:5,14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:1,10,17; 18:4; 19:8; 28:17.
    2. Rejection by the Jews led to preaching among the Gentiles. Acts 13:46. 

Major Themes and/or Issues in the Book of Acts

  1. The reliability of Luke as an historian.
    1. In the last century, critical thought, generally in Germany, held that Acts was a second century document from a third-­rate historian.
    2. Research in geography, archaeology, and history have so thoroughly vindicated Acts’ trustworthiness as a document from the first century that such criticisms now appear absurd.
  • Sir William Ramsay (1852 – 1916) was trained in and accepted the German critical theories until he began archaeological work in Asia Minor. He was forced to abandon the attitude he had learned toward Acts and eventually became one of the most ardent defenders of Luke’s reliability. Cf. Ramsay’s The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (1915).
  1. Acts reflects details that only a first­ century author who was personally familiar with them could have related. He had great insight from befriending Apostle Paul.
  2. Luke knew, for example, that . . .
    1. Cyprus, Achaia, and Asia were senatorial provinces governed by proconsuls. Acts 13:7; 18:12; 19:38.
    2. The chief magistrates of Thessalonica were called ”politarchs.” Acts 17:6,8.
    3. The leading men of Ephesus were “Asiarchs.” Acts 19:31.
    4. Laws and customs of the Roman world conformed to patterns that we have only recently been able to corroborate.
  3. Luke is now known to display a minute accuracy of detail which is unsurpassed in ancient literature.
  1. Some special features of Acts.
    1. The geography of the book involves three key cities.
      1. Jerusalem is the base for the church’s evangelistic activity among the Jews for the first 12 chapters with Apostle Peter.
      2. Antioch is the center of activity among the Gentiles in chapters 13­:21 with Apostle Paul.
      3. Rome is the city of Paul’s evangelistic enterprise as the book comes to a close.
    2. In terms of central personalities, Peter and Paul dominate respective halves of the book. Luke was a colleague of Paul and knew Peter by association.
      1. Peter, apostle to the circumcision [Jews and Israelis], is the central figure of the first 12 chapters.
      2. Paul, apostle to the uncircumcision [Greeks], is the principle of the remainder.
      3. Even the miracles they performed in confirmation of their apostleship are recorded in parallel: healing lame men (Acts 3:2; Acts 14:8), “miracles of harm” (Acts 5:1; Acts 13:6), healings through secondary means (Acts 5:15; Acts 19:12), casting out demons (Acts 5:16; Acts 16:18), confronting sorcerers (Acts 8:18; Acts13:6), and raising the dead (Acts 9:36; Acts 20:9).
  • The activity of the Holy Spirit is given great notice in Acts.
    1. The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost is in many ways the central event of the book. Acts 1:4­5; 2:1-­13.
    2. The message preached and the signs performed in its confirmation are all attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit.
  1. The early expansion of the church.
    1. In the earliest days of the church, the church was confined to Jerusalem.
    2. The persecution of Christians by the Jewish leadership following Stephen’s martyrdom led to evangelization in the areas of Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:1.
      1. Philip preached in Samaria. Acts 8:4-­25.
      2. He converted an Ethiopian seeking understanding. Acts 8:26-­39.
      3. He preached in the Gentile city of Caesarea. Acts 8:40.
  • The first recorded instance of Gentile conversion is Peter’s experience with Cornelius. Acts 10.
    1. This met with objections. Acts 11:1­3
    2. As a result, however, the right of Gentiles to hear the gospel was affirmed. Acts 11:4­-18.
  1. Near the time of Cornelius’ conversion (A.D. 40?), the gospel came to Antioch.
    1. Preaching was first to the Jews. Acts 11:19.
    2. An outreach was begun among the Gentiles. Acts 11:20­-21.
    3. Cornelius is the first recorded Greek conversion to The Way (Christianity)
  2. Antioch of Syria now becomes the center of activity in the book.
  1. The missionary tours of Paul.
    1. The church at Antioch was founded by fugitives from Saul’s persecution of Jewish converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. Acts 11:19.
      1. Many Gentiles were also converted in this city. Acts 11:20,­ 21.
      2. The brethren at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to investigate this unusual situation. Acts 11:22­, 24.
    2. Barnabas decided to seek the help of Saul now called Paul in building up the church at Antioch. Acts 11:25, ­26.
      1. He had shown confidence in Paul earlier, shortly after his conversion. Acts 9:26, ­27.
      2. Now he would bring him into a situation where the Lord’s providence was to give an opportunity for the greatest missionary efforts in all history other than possibly Billie Graham.
      3. Note: This is three years after Saul’s conversion. We do not know what was happening in his life during that time. Galatians 1: 15­-24.

 

 

Jeremiah Chapter 50

“In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the LORD their God. They will seek directions to Zion.” (ESV)

This passage found in the 4th verse of Jeremiah 50 makes it clear that Jeremiah is no longer speaking of the imminent future but a far distant yet eminent or prominent future. It is one that is a conclusive impact upon mankind and all of God’s creation. How do we know that? Jeremiah is speaking of a time when all twelve Tribes of Israel will once again come together; “the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together.”

This gives us a setting and time for the rest of this chapter. The desolation of Babylon, figuratively that might be a location or symbolic of another place God calls (like) Babylon; for a nation or group of people out of the north will come up against her. Both man and beast will flee away. This must be a massive intrusion or invasion if even beasts of the wild and domesticated will flee. End Time will exceed even the wildest of anyone’s imagination or perception if only God himself knows the time.

The Hebrew for “nation” (v4) means a race or a people; non-Jewish peoples; Gentiles.” It Macedoniais a bit of fascination to look at the word “north” in V3, for out of the north… The Hebrew here is Boreas…a north, north east wind. It is very close in spelling to the city the Apostle Paul visited in the New Testament; Berea. Today Boreas is a stronghold of ISIS and is called Aleppo. There is also a military outpost in another Berea near Macedonia, Greece. If we take Thayer or Strong for their translation(s), NNE would be the Boreas/ Aleppo. The map here shows, Berea, Greece/Macedonian would be NNW of Babylon.

Insight: this is from where the Bereans get their denominational name. According the the Wikipedia…In ancient times, the Bereans were the inabitants of the city of Berea, also known in the Bible as Beroea. [Acts 17:11]

Jeremiah 50:6 is something anyone who has followed this website has read many times before. There are a huge number of descendants of the twelve Tribes of ISRAEL who simply have forgotten or lost their DNA connection to their Hebrew roots. It read in 6b…They have forgotten their fold.” They do not connect the dots back to their original fold or roots of Israel. Even the one reading this article has a probably chance of being connected by DNA, like it or not.

Verse 50:7 needs a bit of explanation.

“All who found them (offspring of the lost tribes) have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the LORD, their habitation of righteousness, the LORD, the hope of their fathers.’

We are not guilty because…! Out of the bible we find the excuse the Muslims and most Arabs, past and present, use to justify pushing today’s Israel into the sea and eliminating them from the face of the earth. It is too obvious to look in the mirror and see that members of Israel are not the only ones who have “sinned against the Lord.” For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God [Romans 3:23].

Might the he-goat or ram of verse 8, Jeremiah 50, be a reference from which Daniel in the Book of Daniel; 8:21, he used the same terminology? Recall or learn that much of Daniel’s writing was inspired from what Jeremiah had written prior to their (Daniel’s) Babylonian captivity.

We do know from history that the Greeks (Alexander the Great) with their “forced captive military from conquered nations” invaded Babylon but only after it had already been conquered by the Medes and Persians 300 years earlier. We also know that the Medes and Persians amassed a significant and multi-national military that conquered Babylon killing King Belshazzar. He was the one who saw the writing on the wall and sought out Daniel to interpret it for him.

Babylon is in the southern part of Iraq today. Even though Saddam Hussain attempted to rebuild it, there is little there per population and much sand. However, we do not know bsbyolon todayor yet understand if the “Babylon” to which Jeremiah is referring is a symbolic area under God’s future judgement upon the return Of Jesus Christ as King of kings.

Jeremiah 50:15 can be explained by a photograph of today’s Babylon. Amazingly, there are actually funds and foundations established to try and bring Babylon back to its original greatness including the “hanging Gardens” and the Lion of Babylon monument of Nebuchadnezzar.  In 2016, WMF and the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage launched a conservation program at Ishtar Gate in Babylon.

[ISV] Raise a battle cry against her on every side. She has surrendered, her pillars have fallen, her walls are thrown down. For this is the vengeance of the LORD. Take vengeance on her; as she has done, do to her. Jeremiah 50:15

Jeremiah 15:16 support the fact that Babylon practiced deportation of conquered lands. This verse tells us at the time of Babylon’s prophesied destruction, the occupants of foreign lands should “turn their face toward the own people and flee back to the land of their origin. Recall in a previous study of the Book of Daniel, we learned that less than1% of the Judean captives, including Daniel, return to Judah or Jerusalem when release by Cyrus the Great. See illustration on next page.

Captive in 606 B.C.

Released in 536 B.C.

It was Daniel who approached the Mede-Persian conquering king and told him of the promise of the God of Heaven. Cyrus not only released those in Babylon, but his entire Kingdom. The Book of Esther proves that many Jews (Tribe of Judah) did not return. She became queen of King Xerxes (AKA: Ahasuerus)

Many times I have been asked who wrote the Book of Esther. There are two viable candidates; Mordecai and Nehemiah. In Esther 9:20 we find that Mordecai “wrote these things down.” However we also know the Nehemiah was a servant (and prophet of God; 486 B.C. to 464 B.C.)

Verse 18 and 19 tells us (actually reminds us) that God judged the Assyrians through the Babylonians and the Babylonians were judged through the Medes and Persians. God will again return and forgive the remnant of the Twelve Tribes to their Promised Lands. This has not yet happened even though we have a place called Israel today. The twelve tribes have not yet been recalled by the returning of Jesus Christ. Verse 20 says that there will be a remnant and God will “pardon” them.

judgement.jpgJeremiah 50:24 may hint of God’s judgement of the world by identifying this world as Babylon. You will all be judged because you challenged the Lord. V25: “…a work of the Lord GOD of the Heavenly Armies will be in the land…” Again in verse 29 God says “repay Babylon (the world?) for her deeds” against the Lord God. Why might this be the world and only symbolically identified as Babylon? In verse 33 both Israel and Judah are identified as those who have been oppressed. It was only the Judeans who were captive in the biblical Babylon. Then in verse 34 we read (ESV) that it is the world that will get rest.

Verse 37 states… “all the foreign troops that are in her midst.” Whose midst? Those within the territories of the Promised Lands. This could very well be a reference to the 200,000,000 man army discussed in Revelation 16:12. The [ESV] “drought in her waters” could also refer to the drying up of the Euphrates as it runs through Babylon also seen in Revelation 16:12. In verse 41 we read that this invading army included many kings from many nations in the north (antichrist?).

Verse 46…”certainly the world will tremble” in fear.

Rev. Dr. Jstark – January, 2018miniJim