Articles

Why does Acts 28(29) matter?

Introduction

The writings of the author CH Welch have been and continue to be a tremendous influence on those who look for dispensational truth. One of his great and influential contributions is the doctrine concerning the "dispensational boundary of Acts 28".  Over the years I have also relished the consequences of this doctrine because it brings light and explanative power to the teaching of God's word rightly divided. Let me be clear -- this doctrine basically says that Acts 28:23-31 is a dispensational landmark containing a boundary. On one side is the hope of Israel and on the other, the revelation of the mystery and the commencement of a new age with Israel divorced and lo-ammi.

Refinement

As I have discussed in other blogs, articles, and studies -- it has become clear to me that the context of Acts 28 demands a slightly different conclusion. To see this it is useful to reframe the timeline in terms of the wedding invitations sent in Matt.22:1-13. The major divisions then become clear -- the date AD 70 fits the beginning of the invitation to guests because this is when the city was burned Matt. 22:7, those who were bidden (those who were called) were not worthy Matt. 22:8. If we fit Acts 28 into this framework the following result below is the consequence. Please see the exposition on John's gospel for additional information, the series on Acts (soon to be created) and the Acts 29 topic here on rightdivision.com.

 

 

Acts 28

The move from Jew to the gentile is not with a new message but with the same. The Jews rejected the salvation of God --  Paul says the same message ("it") will be sent to the Gentiles -- the only difference is that "they will hear it" -- their ears will be open unlike those of the Jews. What must be done to get something different is to read the Kingdom of God as proclaimed by PAul later (such as Col.4:11) into this earlier event. 

All this means that "The Mystery" must come later. The subject of the "kingdom of God" contextually is the same and the 2 years Paul remains in his own hired house receiving all that came to him was accompanied with that same message of the kingdom as discussed in verse 23. We look therefore for a later time for when the mystery to be revealed and hence Acts 29.

Consequences

There are many consequences to the appreciation of a dispensational landmark such as that taught by CH Welch and others but there are additional results, explanations, and expositions when we come to understand more precisely where the boundary falls. Fortunately, we can retain nearly all of the formerly held results and in some cases refine them. So what are some uniquely Acts 28(29)  results if we allow for the adjusted timeline?

The first item I would like to look at is the placement of the mystery (TM) somewhere after the end of Acts 28:31 and before AD 70 and therefore entirely within the second calling to Israel to come to the wedding (see picture above).  

 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. (Matt. 22:4-7 KJV)

That is, when the mystery was revealed to PAul the prisoner, the second calling to Israel was still active though closing, all things were ready but they were making "light" of the invitation. We should expect therefore that signs and wonders would be present and that the second advent be a possibility and even close at hand since the Lord's parable included three phases and the third was about to begin. The other feature that we should consider is that a number of Acts believers who had known only the hope of Israel as presented by Paul and other apostles with miraculous signed gifts accompanying needed an adjustment. Upon hearing the prison ministry of PAul they had to contend with a new adoption and associated inheritance in the super heavens. What would make them consider the apostle's gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ if with this new and hitherto unheard hope and message of the mystery there was no empowerment of the Holy Spirit? We should not be surprised then to see the following in PAuls latter ministry and specifically his instruction to those given the responsibility to "adjust" the saints:

  1. The need to adjust the saints (this is mainly a refinement of interpretation from the usual Acts 28 view)
    • 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
       12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
       13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
       (Eph. 4:11-13 KJV)
    • Notice that those given as gifts included apostles and prophets -- these were by their nature supernaturally endowed.
    • The word "perfecting" is the greek καταρτισμὸν which means "adjustment"
    • "Till we all come in the unity of the faith" -- unity would be needed in the face of a new revelation that would contradict old hopes and practices.
  2. The presence of supernatural holy spirit-driven miraculous signs, (this is a new interpretation and fits the new view).
    • KJV 2 Timothy 1:6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

      TBT 2 Timothy 1:6 δι᾽ ἣν αἰτίαν ἀναμιμνήσκω σε ἀναζωπυρεῖν τὸ χάρισμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, ὅ ἐστιν ἐν σοὶ διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν μου.

    • In this case, Timothy who was charged (commanded) to war good warfare by the prophecies that went before (1 Tim. 1:18), was also commanded to stir up the gift of God which was transferred to him supernaturally by the apostle Paul. 

    • This would enable him to be strong and without fear enabling him to minister the good  deposit by the Holy Spirit 

    • Timothy would need to teach the mystery and all that Paul had brought to him (the good deposit) by means of the Holy Spirit:

      •  2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:2 KJV)

  3. The possibility of the second coming present, (this also is a new interpretation and fits the new view).
    • This is seen in the text below -- also written to Timothy and near the end of Paul's prison ministry and time on this earth.
    • KJV 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

      TBT 2 Timothy 4:1 Διαμαρτύρομαι οὖν ἐγὼ ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, τοῦ μέλλοντος κρίνειν ζῶντας καὶ νεκροὺς κατὰ τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν βασιλείαν αὐτοῦ,

    • The Greek text could be translated as "... who is about to judge the living ones and the dead ones at his appearance and at his kingdom." 

    • This makes sense when we acknowledge that the mystery was delivered before Israel was lo-ammi and the Lord's return was contingent on Israel's repentance. 

    • This marks AD 70 -- the destruction of the temple to be the major dispensational change.

Conclusion

The above is a beginning and more light is likely to come as we follow the scriptures putting all tradition aside and re-examining Paul's epistles in the light of the great and trustworthy principle of right division.

We will be putting the microscope to the book of Acts soon in a series of studies with the hope that we can pin down the events of Acts with the dates of secular history..