ACTS and the Book of REVELATION

Many do not connect ACTS with the Book of REVELATION. They should. The entire Book of ACTS leads right up to the great judgment described in Revelation and which occurred in AD 70. ◊ 

ActsRevelationWhat most people know about the Book of REVELATION is usually only based on what they have heard from the church pulpit or from other friends and family members.

Or from what they have read about Revelation. Perhaps they tried to read or study this last book of the Bible directly but got hopelessly confused and abandoned the effort.

All they think they know is that it is “revelations” about the end of the world, the end times, the so-called Apocalypse, or Armageddon. Or the rapture, the tribulation, the 1000 year reign, or Jesus’ second coming, or the spirit of Babylon.

And it usually comes with warnings about birth pangs, earthquakes, wars, and rumors of wars. And microchips (mark of the beast), CNN (global communications), and that the timing is near, so get ready because you don’t want to be left behind.

Who and What to Believe?
Many Christians believe all the above. Many do not. Even some non-Christians probably believe some of this because they’ve heard it talked about so much in books, media and from proselytizing Christians trying to save their souls.

Until my mid-30’s I believed all of the above. Not because I ever studied Revelation, or even the Bible, but because I had been told and taught all this by respected pastors and friends. And I read it in popular Christian books.

So is it all true?

A Summary Challenge
In a word, No. It’s not true. All of the above is part of an interpretative schema developed by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in London around 1830 and exported to the United States in the early 20th century. Darby is considered the father of modern Dispensationalism and Futurism.1

The Pre-tribulation rapture theology was popularized by Darby in the UK and Europe in the 1830s. This end times eschatology view was popularized in the United States by the integration of Dispensationalist commentary notes in the first publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 1900s which then was distributed throughout US theological seminaries and propagated by institutions like Dallas Theological Seminary and many more. Authors and pastors (John Hagee and many more) alike have been preaching this interpretative view of Revelation and end times, most notably, Hal Lindsey (The Late Great Planet Earth, published in 1970), and Tim Lahaye (Left Behind, book series published in 1995-2007).

Understand that these are not bad people. They are merely well-intended Christians perpetuating a dubious interpretation of Scripture that has permeated the American Christian landscape and culture.

And I bought every word of it – hook, line, and sinker. But not anymore.

So, What Does the Book of ACTS Have to Do With Revelation?
I believe the Book of ACTS can help clarify our beliefs and understanding of end times. It’s actually a very logical connection.

As we’ve seen so far from a chapter-by-chapter review, the first 12 chapters of the Book of ACTS cover the very real and historic burgeoning growth of the initial Christian church.

Starting within 2 months after the miraculous resurrection of Jesus witnessed by hundreds, over 3,000 Jewish people converted immediately to Christianity with the astonishing advent of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem in AD 33. (see Acts 2)

The first half of ACTS gives an account of the work of the re-energized Holy Spirit led disciples and new Jewish converts in the midst of staunch Jewish opposition (even Paul, the ultimate foe turned Christian). By chapter 12 the word and Spirit has now spread to the Gentiles (non-Jewish population) and is impacting the highest ranks of Jewish religious and political leadership.

These 12 chapters take us to around AD 44.

The second half of ACTS, chapters 13-28, as we will discover, cover the multiple missionary trips by the relentless Paul, the gifted Holy Spirit led apostle who articulates theology of Christianity (see Romans) and writes almost two-thirds of the instructive epistles or letters in the New Testament.

He and the other disciples and the growing body of converted Jews and Gentile Christians continue to expand the new faith throughout the Roman empire. The Book of ACTS ends with Paul still alive, but tradition notes him being beheaded outside Rome around AD 64.

Throughout the AD 60’s and Caesar Nero’s reign, Christianity has become a powerful movement impacting the Roman Empire. Cruel persecutions were occurring across the empire. There were ample warnings of a coming judgment against the Jewish generation that crucified Christ. Even Jesus gave warning to his disciples to flee and of what will happen to the glorious temple in Jerusalem (see Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21):

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15)

ACTS is the setup for what happened at the end of the decade. In the spring of AD 68, the Roman army conducted a siege against the doomed City of Jerusalem, not to destroy Christianity, but to squelch Jewish revolts against their oppressor, Rome.

“the great city, which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” (Revelation 11:8)

As noted by Jewish/Roman historian Flavius Josephus, after 42 months, in the fall of AD 70, the siege ends with an all-out assault on Jerusalem with huge 100 pound stones catapulted by the Roman army from a distance of over 2 furlongs or about 500 yards.2

In symbolic terms and with Old Testament imagery, the final punishment – the sign of His coming on the clouds – in judgment (like the stoning of a harlot according to the Law) comes down on Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish Age is over:

“From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.” – Revelation 16:21

Concluding Thoughts
Think of the Book of ACTS as the historical narrative of the last 40 years of the corrupted and disobedient Jewish nation who committed the ultimate rejection of God. They boldly killed/crucified the promised King (Jesus). They are promised to pay the ultimate punishment by Christ Himself.

This takes us right up to the writing of the Book of Revelation which was written prior to AD 70, most likely prior to AD 68 when Caesar Nero (666) was still alive and the temple was still erect (see Revelation 11:1-3).3

In this light, research the issues around the common Dispensationalist elements of end times eschatology that you most likely have accepted at face value, like I did. The conclusions are jarring, as it was for me. However, the implications were freeing as I recognize there is no escaping this present life apart from the free presence of the power of God through the Holy Spirit through me and my fellow believers in Christ.

Do you have a preconceived notion about end times that you can’t really explain?
_________________________
“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” – Revelation 1:7

1 John Nelson Darby, biography,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nelson_Darby.
2 The Jewish War, by Flavius Josephus, 5:1:1, cited in The Book of Revelation Made Easy, by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D, American Vision Inc., Georgia, 2019, p. 99.

3 Note: The debate around the date of the writing of the Book of Revelation is swinging toward the pre-AD 70 date vs. the AD 95 date commonly noted, due to the growing analysis and clear shortcomings in the citing by Irenaeus.



Categories: Church, Devotion, Discipleship, End Times, Evidence, Faith, Forgiveness, Israel, Jesus, Marketplace, Old Testament, Prayer, Prophecy, Purpose, Resurrection, Suffering, The Church, Theology

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1 reply

  1. I agree that the historical context in which John wrote the book of Revelations is very relevant to understanding the meaning of scripture. I have personally visited the Isle of Patmos, and stood inside the very cave where John spent several months writing the book of Revelations.
    When Jesus said “the gates of hell will not prevail against the church”, he was in Caesarea Phillipi, and likely standing in the general area of a cave that was commonly called “the gates of hell”. This cave was used for pagan worship rituals that were becoming popular. Thus, another way to read this scripture passage is that Jesus was talking about Christianity prevailing against paganism, and not about a literal “hell”.

    That said, Jesus also talked about the end of the world in Matt 24, and his return to earth, and listed several things that would be signs of the time (although no person knows the day or hour). Some notables on the list are that many shall be offended, many false prophets will rise and deceive many, and because of an abundance of iniquity, the love of many will wax cold.
    One can make a good argument that all of these things are beginning to happen. Importantly, Jesus said that false prophets would deceive even the very elect, meaning even serious Christians. Jesus even warned that the last days will be shortened because if not, no Christian would escape being ensnared by false Christs and other deceptions.
    This means that each of us has to be very careful what we hear and how we hear. By the way, even if there is no such thing as “the last days”, it is still nonetheless good theology to always “trust but verify” any word we hear as believers. We should remember the Bereans were commended for their noble character because they searched the Scriptures to test whether Paul’s preaching lined up with the word. This is the kind of discipline that we should be striving to develop.

    Like

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