In this final chapter of ACTS, Paul doesn’t miss the opportunity to explain the kingdom of God and the evolution of it from the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and now Jesus. Once again, then as now, some buy in and some do not. ◊
The last chapter of Acts is chapter 28. The author, Luke, does not tie up all the loose ends into a nice bow, nor is there a sequel such as The Adventures of Paul and the Early Christian Church.
The book ends with Paul living under house arrest now in Rome, able to preach “the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered.” (Acts 28:21)
The year is approximately AD 62. It is commonly believed that from this vantage point Paul wrote his New Testament letters (or Books) of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
We do know that Paul would be dead within 5 years.
The Island of Malta
Recall in ACTS 27 that Paul and 276 passengers survive a harrowing shipwreck. All escape and land on the island of Malta as seen in ACTS 28. There’s an interesting event with a deadly snakebite that has no effect on Paul to the amazement of the islanders:
Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. (Acts 28:1-6)
As further evidence of God’s favor on Paul, he is then invited by the chief official of the island to stay at his estate where he lives with his sick father. Paul prays over the sick man and heals him. Over the next 3 months Paul heals many from around the island who come to be cured:
There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed. (Acts 28:7-10)
Paul Finally in Rome
Paul then finally makes it to Rome and is greeted by Christian friends and supporters. He is allowed to live by himself, but under the watch of a guard.
After three months we put out to sea…. And so we came to Rome. The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. (Acts 28:11-16)
Paul does not waste time to contact the local Jewish leaders and gather support for his case. They are open to hearing his views:
Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” Acts 28:17-22)
Paul Preaches in Rome
Paul gathers quite a crowd on the day of his meeting with the Jewish leaders in Rome. He doesn’t miss the opportunity to explain the kingdom of God and the evolution of it from the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and now Jesus. Some buy in; some do not. Paul finishes with a strong word of admonition for those with still hardened hearts:
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement:
“The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet [Isaiah 6:9, 10]:
“‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:23-29)
As can be imagined, some of the Jews were not happy with that word, yet Paul was able to stay under guard in Rome for the next 2 years with continued freedom to preach boldly:
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:30-31)
It is generally understood that Paul was in Rome under house arrest from AD 60-62. There’s a reasonable assumption that his case was heard and he was released under a young Nero (age 25). Caesar Nero turned against Christians only after the Great Fire in Rome in AD 64. There was no mass persecution of Christians by Rome prior to that event.
A strong case can be made that Luke, Paul’s traveling companion, wrote the Book of ACTS sometime between AD 62 and late AD 63. Any later date would have Luke certainly mentioning Paul’s death, the Great Fire and beginning of Christian persecution, the Jewish revolt against Rome in mid-AD 66, three-and-a-half years before the great Roman siege against the City of Jerusalem, and finally the total destruction of that city and the Holy Temple in AD 70, as prophesied as a warning to local Jews by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24.
All of this points to the writing of all of the New Testament within 40 years of the resurrection of Christ and the advent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, while the acts of the apostles were relatively freshly experienced.
Do you now understand the historical context of the Book of ACTS?
“Let is be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” – Acts 28:28