Monthly Archives: November 2015

4. Angels – Good Angels

This week the church Life group which my wife and I attend began a study of “4. Angels” in the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. Five of the ten who have attended this fall were present. My wife, Leonora, opened with singing and prayer; we discussed the material on good angels that I’d given out the previous week (see below); Ray Noble took prayer requests and led us in prayer; and we closed with lunch.

4. Angels – Good Angels

Angels, from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!
(James Montgomery (1771-1854)

This verse of the familiar Christmas carol “Angels From the Realms of Glory” is drawn from Luke’s account of angels announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds watching over their sheep at night (Luke 2:8-14) and illustrates one activity of angels, bringing God’s messages to people.

The Nature of Angels

Angels are spiritual beings created by God to serve as attendants and messengers for Him. Since they are spirits (Hebrews 1:14), they don’t have physical bodies (Luke 24:39). Therefore they can’t be seen by us unless they take on a bodily form so that we can see them or God gives us a special ability to see them (see Numbers 22:31 and 2 Kings 6:17).

Like humans, angels are personal beings who can be interacted with and moral creatures who can be characterized as good or evil. They have superhuman knowledge but are not omniscient, both being suggested or indicated by Jesus in Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour [the day of his return] no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (ESV; all Bible passages quoted are from the ESV). Similarly they have superhuman power but are not omnipotent, both being illustrated in the account of Satan’s testing of Job in Job 1-2. Their travelling from one place to another, as in Daniel 10:12-14, shows that they are not omnipresent.

The Bible refers to three other types of heavenly beings—cherubim, seraphim, and “living creatures.” Cherubim are referred to in several places between Genesis 3:24 and Hebrews 9:5; seraphim in Isaiah 6:2-7; and “living creatures” in Ezekiel 1: 5-25 and Revelation 4:6-5:14. It is uncertain whether they are special types of angels or are heavenly beings distinct from angels. In Ezekiel 10:15, 20-22 the “living creatures” of Ezekiel 1 seem to be identified as cherubim and so they may not be distinct from them.

The Bible indicates that there are an amazingly large number of angels; for example, Revelation 5:11 describes them as numbering “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.” The Bible also indicates that there is rank and order among them, Michael’s being called an archangel in Jude 9. The only angel besides Michael who is given a name in the Bible is Gabriel, who carried messages from God to Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21) and to Zechariah and Mary (Luke 1:19, 26-27). Some speculate that he is also an archangel.

Some passages in the Old Testament refer to “the angel of the Lord” in a way that suggests that he is God Himself in human form. For example, “Then the angel of God said to me in a dream, ‘Jacob…I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me’” (Genesis 31:11, 13) and “The angel of the LORD appeared to him [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush…and he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’” (Exodus 3:2, 6). However there are also passages where God and the angel of the Lord are distinguished. For example, God speaks to the angel of the Lord in 2 Samuel 24:16 and the angel of the Lord speaks to God in Zechariah 1:12. The three main theories of who the angel of the Lord is are: (1) an angel with a special commission, (2) God Himself temporarily visible in human form, and (3) Jesus Christ, making a preincarnate appearance.

The Work of Angels

In his popular systematic theology textbook Millard J. Erickson describes these five activities of angels:
1. They continually praise and glorify God.
2. The reveal and communicate God’s message to humans.
3. They minister to believers.
4. They execute judgment on the enemies of God.
5. They will be involved in the second coming.
(Christian Theology, Third Edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013, pages 413-15)

Some people think that each person or at least each believer has an individual guardian angel. Support for this idea is found in Matthew 18:10, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones [children or believers]. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is heaven,” and Acts 12:15, “She [the servant girl who answered the door and recognized Peter’s voice after he was freed from prison by an angel] kept insisting that it was so [that Peter was at the gate], and they kept saying, ‘It is his angel!’” However the “little ones” angels could be angels assigned to watch over them as a group, and the reply to the servant girl just points to a belief of those gathered in the house. Thus the evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that each person or each believer has a guardian angel.

Our Relationship to Angels

The Touched by an Angel series shows angels serving God by ministering to us in our daily lives. The Bible indicates the same thing in such passages as Psalms 91:11-12, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone,” and Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” We should be aware of and thankful to God for angels’ participating in our daily lives.

However the Bible also gives these cautions regarding our relationship to angels:
– Beware of receiving false doctrine from angels. Paul warns the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
– Do not worship, pray to, or seek angels. God is the only one whom we should worship or pray to.

[END OF PRESENTATION]

We had a good discussion of the above presentation and of other aspects of what the Bible tells us about good angels. Its breadth is demonstrated by the fact that two things noted in “Our Relationship to Angels” were referred to even before we reached that part of the presentation. Leonora referred to Touched by an Angel and Ray referred to the prohibition on worshiping or praying to angels. Coincidentally earlier in the day I’d read an article on the Internet which noted the same prohibition, Biblical Boundaries Exist When Working with Angels.

Before closing I asked the group to consider before our study of evil angels “4. Angels” in the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, which I’d given them a copy of, and the benefits or uses of studying the doctrine of angels.

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Paul in Caesarea – 1. Paul Before Felix

Paul ended his third missionary journey by going to Jerusalem to bring an offering to the church there from the churches he’d founded on his missionary journeys. Some Jews from Asia who’d earlier seen him in the city with a Gentile saw him in the temple and, thinking he’d taken the Gentile into the temple, stirred up a crowd against him. He was rescued by Roman soldiers stationed at the Fortress of Antonia adjacent to the temple area.

The next day the tribune commanding the soldiers brought Paul before the Jewish Sanhedrin so that he could find out why they were angry with him and decide what to do with him. A dispute arose among the Jews that threatened Paul’s safety and the tribune returned him to the barracks. Then, hearing of a plot by some fanatic Jews to assassinate Paul, the tribune sent Paul under military escort to Caesarea, where the governor (Felix) had his headquarters.

In this post I’ll describe Paul’s appearance before Felix as it is narrated in Acts 24. I’ll divide my account into three parts: the Jews’ accusation, Paul’s defence, and Felix’s response.

The Jews’ Accusation

Five days after Paul’s arrival in Caesarea–or, in light of Paul’s reference to twelve days in verse 11, after his arrest in the temple–the high priest, some elders from the Sanhedrin, and a spokesman arrived to present the Jews’ case against Paul. The seriousness with which they took the case is shown by the high priest’s (Ananias) making the trip and their bringing a spokesman (Tertullus), probably a Hellenistic Jew familiar with both Judaism and the procedures of a Roman court.

Tertullus began his presentation with flattery in order to gain the goodwill of Felix: “Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude (Acts 24:2-3, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). His description of Felix bears little resemblance to the truth, Tacitus (an early Roman historian) saying that “indulging in every kind of barbarity and lust,[Felix] exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave” (The Histories, V,9).

Tertullus then made the following accusations against Paul, the first two general and the third specific:
1. That he “[is] a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world” (Acts 24:6). This accusation implied treason against the emperor. Although Paul didn’t rebut it directly here, he did in a later hearing, saying, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense (25:8).
2. That he “is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:6). This accusation identified Paul as the leader of a new and thus illegal religion. It assumed that Felix knew something about Jesus and the movement inspired by him, a correct assumption because further on Luke describes Felix as having “a rather accurate knowledge of the Way” (24:22).
3. That “[h]e even tried to profane the temple”(24:7). This was the accusation that had originally stirred up a crowd against Paul, except that Tertullus just accused Paul of trying to profane the temple but the original accusation was that he had actually profaned it by bringing a Gentile, Trophimus, into it (21:28).

The other Jews affirmed that the accusations were true, and Tertullus appealed to Felix to examine Paul regarding them.

Paul’s Defence

Invited by Felix to respond, Paul began by complimenting the governor as Tertullus had, but more briefly and honestly than Tertullus had, “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense” (24:10). He implied that Felix’s governing Judea for several years would enable him to assess the accusations against Paul and Paul’s response to them.

Then, although not having been informed of the accusations before Tertullus made them, Paul replied to each of them in turn:
1. He replied to the first accusation by observing that he’d been in Jerusalem for no more than twelve days, which provided little opportunity for him to cause trouble, and that during that time his accusers “did not find [him] disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city” (24:12).
2. He replied to the second accusation by admitting that he followed “the Way,” which his accusers called a sect, but claimed that in following it he “worship[ped] the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust” (24:14). Thus he affirmed that he was a faithful Jew.
He went on to observe that because of his having a hope of the resurrection, he “always [took] pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (24:16). That Paul considered this important is shown by his having made a similar claim before the Sanhedrin (”I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day,” 23:1). In his commentary on Acts, Ajith Fernando argues persuasively that today’s church needs to be blameless before the world in the same way, concluding, “The church, then, must rediscover the priority of holiness and look for the ways prescribed in the Scriptures to release the dynamic of the Holy Spirit who enables Christians to live holy lives. This is why Christianity is so unique. Other religions also teach us to be good, but Christianity gives us the power to become good” (The NIV Application Commentary: Acts, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998, pages 585).
3. He replied to the third accusation by explaining that after being away from Jerusalem for several years he’d come to it “to bring alms to my nation” (referring to the gift he’d brought to the church in Jerusalem from the churches which he’d founded) and “to present offerings,” and that while he was doing so his accusers had “found [him] purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult” (24:18). He went on to comment on the absence of the Jews from Asia who’d charged him with bringing a Gentile into the temple,” claiming correctly that “they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me” (24:19).

Paul closed his defence by observing that the Sanhedrin had found no wrongdoing in him when he’d appeared before it except “this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day’” (24:21). The resurrection’s being a doctrinal matter over which the Sanhedrin itself was divided, Paul implied that he should not be on trial.

Felix’s Response

“Having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way,” Felix put off Paul’s accusers, telling them, “When Lysias the tribune comes down I will decide your case” (24:22). We don’t know how Felix obtained his special knowledge of the Christian movement or if he ever sent for Lysias for information additional to what Lysias had given in the letter he’d sent Felix when he sent Paul to him (see 23:26-30). Felix then gave orders that Paul be kept in custody but, probably because he was a Roman citizen and hadn’t been proved guilty of any crime, given some liberty and allowed to have his friends attend to his needs.

After some days Felix and his wife, Drusilla, had Paul appear before them and speak about his faith in Christ Jesus. Drusilla was Jewish and, according to one text, had asked to see Paul and hear him speak. However as Paul talked about “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment,” Felix became alarmed and told him, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you” (24:25). In his commentary on Acts, French L. Arrington explains how Paul’s message was just what Felix needed to hear: “Righteousness requires that everyone be treated justly, but Felix had been a tyrannical, unjust ruler. He had not practiced self-control, for his marriage to Drusilla was the result of his enticing her away from her former husband….Along with all the unrepentant, Felix would stand under divine condemnation in the future judgment…” (The Acts of the Apostles, Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrikson Publishers, 1998, page 238). Apparently, although Felix had the power of life and death over him, Paul didn’t pull any punches with him but proclaimed the Gospel to him boldly.

“At the same time [Felix] thought that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him” (24:26). Roman law prohibited officials from taking bribes, but they still did it. When Paul had defended himself before Felix he’d told of his bringing “alms to my nation” (24:18), and Felix may have thought that he’d be able to get money from the friends who visited him and offer Felix a bribe for his release. However Paul didn’t do so, choosing to trust in God instead. This continued for two years, after which Felix was replaced as governor.

3. The Resurrection of Christ

Earlier this week the Life group which my wife and I attend studied “3. The Resurrection of Christ” of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador (PAONL):

Christ did truly rise from the dead and take again His body, with flesh, bones and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith He ascended into Heaven, and there sits until His second coming.

I told the group that, noticing that unlike most of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the PAONL this Truth is not in the Statement of Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God, I’d asked Pastor Roy King (in person) and Pastor Burton Janes (by e-mail) how it came to be in our Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths. They said that when Bethesda Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland Inc. (now the PAONL) adopted the Statement of Fundamental Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) in 1929, “3. The Resurrection of Christ” was part of it. I asked the group what was so important about the resurrection of Christ that the PAOC (followed by the PAONL) would make it a separate truth in its Statement of Fundamental Truths. We had a good discussion of the question in which some of the points were made that I’d been planning to make in my presentation.

After the discussion of the question I made my presentation, commenting on the importance, proofs, nature, and significance of the resurrection of Christ.

The Importance of the Resurrection of Christ

The importance of the resurrection of Christ is indicated by the number of predictions that Jesus made of it in the Gospels and by the prominent place given to it in the messages recorded in the book of Acts. It stands out from other resurrections in that it was a permanent rather than a temporary restoration to life, Jesus’ rising from the dead not to just this life and destined to die again but forever to the right hand of God. In 1 Corinthians 15:14 Paul even claims, “[I]f Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

Proofs of the Resurrection of Christ

The Empty Tomb
The four Gospels agree that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb after his crucifixion and that three days later the tomb was empty. The Gospel of John even records Peter and John’s seeing the linen cloths which had been around Jesus’ body and the face cloth which had been on his head lying folded up separately (20:6-7).

The Post-resurrection Appearances of Jesus
This is a possible arrangement of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, Acts, and 1 Corinthians excluding his appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus.

  1. To Mary Magdalene outside the tomb (or 2; Mark 16:9; John 20:14-17)
  2. To some female disciples on the way from the tomb (or 1; Matthew 28:9-10)
  3. To two disciples on the road to Emmaus (or 4; Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-32)
  4. To Peter (or 3; Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  5. To the Eleven without Thomas in the upper room (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23)
  6. To them with Thomas in the upper room (Mark 16:14; John 20:24-29; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  7. To seven disciples fishing (John 21:1-23)
  8. To the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18)
  9. To more than five hundred brothers (1 Corinthians 15:6)
  10. To James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  11. To the apostles at his ascension (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:3-9; 1 Corinthians 15:7)

The Christian Church
When the women told the disciples that they had met Jesus alive, “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). Yet shortly afterwards they risked imprisonment and even death for preaching Jesus and the resurrection. Only seeing the risen Christ could have brought about this transformation. And only the ongoing influence of the risen Christ can account for the Church’s continued existence.

The Absence of Satisfactory Alternatives
Many attempts have been made to explain away the empty tomb and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, including:

  • Jesus fainted on the cross, was buried, and in the coolness of the tomb revived.
  • The disciples stole Jesus’ body from the tomb and then declared that he had risen.
  • The disciples just saw Jesus in hallucinations or subjective visions.
  • The resurrection story was derived from pagan myths of gods dying and rising again.

However, there are problems with each of these explanations. (The group suggested problems with the explanations.)

The Nature of Jesus’ Resurrection Body

When Jesus first appeared to the Eleven, they thought that he was a spirit. He demonstrated that he had a physical rather than a spiritual body by inviting them to look at and touch him and by asking for and eating food (Luke 24:36-43). When they told the missing Thomas that they’d seen Jesus, he said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” In Jesus’ next appearance to the Eleven (John 20:26-29), he told Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand, and place it in my side,” indicating that he had the same body as he’d had before his resurrection. Bible scholars disagree on whether Jesus’ being able to appear and disappear suddenly (Luke 24:31,36) and to enter a room although the door was shut (John 20:19,26) mean that his body was spiritual as well as physical.

Significance of the Resurrection

  • It affirmed that Christ Jesus is who he claimed to be–the Son of God. “[he] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).
  • It ensures our salvation. “[he] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
  • It made Christ Jesus our intercessor. “Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
  • It assures us of power for life and service. ”that I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).
  • It assures us of our future resurrection and immortality. ”knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:14; here “us” refers to Paul).
  • It guarantees that there will be a day of judgment. “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
  • It calls for us to obey God in this life. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58; here “therefore” means “because of the resurrection”).
  • It calls for us to stop yielding to sin in this life. “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:9-13).

Paul in Jerusalem – 3. Paul Before the Sanhedrin and Transferred to Caesarea

My last post in this series of articles on the life of Paul concerned his being mobbed by a crowd at the temple because they thought he had brought Gentiles into the temple, his being rescued by Roman soldiers and, with the permission of the commander of the soldiers, his speaking to the crowd. He told them of his conversion and call, ending with, “Then the Lord [Jesus] said to me, ‘Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles’” (Acts 22:21, ESV; all Biblical quotations are in the ESV). In this post I’ll describe the crowd’s reaction to Paul’s speech, his appearing before the Sanhedrin, a plot to kill Paul, and his being transferred to Caesarea, as they are recorded in Acts 22:22-23:35.

The Crowd’s Reaction to Paul’s Speech

On hearing Paul say, “Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles,” the crowd broke out into anger again, upset at his implying that God’s blessings were for the Gentiles as well as for Israel. They shouted, ”Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live,” and threw off their cloaks and flung dust in the air. Fearing for the safety of his prisoner, the tribune commanding the soldiers ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks in the Fortress of Antonia, which was connected to the northern end of the temple area.

In the barracks the tribune directed that Paul be flogged with a scourge, a whip of leather thongs studded with pieces of bone or metal and fastened to a wooden handle, and interrogated on why the Jews were angry with him. The soldiers strapped Paul’s wrists together and fastened the strap high on a pole so that he could be stretched out to be flogged. Realizing what was about to happen, Paul asked the centurion in charge of the operation, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” Its being against Roman law to flog a Roman citizen, the centurion immediately went to the tribune and warned him that Paul was a Roman citizen.

The tribune came to Paul and asked if he were a Roman citizen. When Paul told him that he was, the tribune said, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum,” suggesting that Paul looked too battered and undignified to been able to buy Roman citizenship. Paul calmly replied, “But I am a citizen by birth.” We don’t know how Paul’s father or an earlier ancestor had received Roman citizenship, but perhaps he been rewarded with it for giving valuable services to the Romans (the three ways of obtaining Roman citizenship were buying it for a large amount of money, being born into a family of Roman citizens, and being rewarded with it for rendering some special service to the Romans). Alarmed at his having been about to commit a serious illegality against a Roman citizen, the tribune had Paul’s straps unbound.

Although Paul had told those urging him not to go to Jerusalem, ”I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:3), when he was actually about to be flogged he appealed to his Roman citizenship. This indicates that although we should be ready to suffer for our faith, we can appeal to the law for our protection, especially when we are attacked in a way that breaks the law. It also suggests that we should speak up for others who are treated illegally or unfairly.

Paul Before the Sanhedrin

The next day, needing to know what the Jews were accusing Paul of so that he could decide what to do with him, the tribune ordered the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish court, to assemble and brought Paul before them. Paul opened his defense by proclaiming, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”

When Paul said this, the high priest, Ananias, who was known for his use of violence (and his avarice), ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Indignantly Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall [a wall whitewashed to hide its crumbling condition]! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”

Those standing near Paul said to him, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul answered, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'” Paul’s words have been explained in many ways, including: that because of having visited Jerusalem only sporadically over the past twenty years he didn’t recognize the high priest; that because of his poor eyesight he couldn’t see that the one who had commanded that he be struck was the high priest; and that he was using sarcasm—a true high priest wouldn’t give such an order.

Then, aware that he wasn’t going to get a fair trial before Ananias and knowing that some of those before whom he was appearing were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, Paul declared, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” Sadducees rejected the resurrection of the dead (and of angels and spirits), but Pharisees accepted it although they hadn’t accepted the resurrection of Jesus. Immediately a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Some of the teachers of the Law who were Pharisees stood up and argued, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” The dispute became so violent that the tribune became frightened for Paul’s safety and ordered his soldiers to take him from them by force and return him to the barracks.

Although Paul had made his declaration in order to divide the Sanhedrin, his making it indicates the importance he placed on the resurrection, an importance which he’d expressed earlier in a letter to the Corinthians,”If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). In my next post at Open Theism, I’ll consider the significance of the resurrection of Christ.

Undoubtedly Paul was despondent as he waited in his cell in the fortress for what would happen to him next. However the following night the Lord came to Paul and told him, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” Thus, although he was still a prisoner and surrounded by enemies, Paul was assured that he was safe.

A Plot to Kill Paul

Having failed in their earlier attempt to kill Paul, more than forty fanatic Jews took an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed him. They asked the chief priests and elders to request the tribune to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin for further questioning, their planning to ambush and kill him on his way to it. Somehow the son of Paul’s sister learned about the plot. He visited Paul in the barracks and told him about the plot, and Paul arranged for him to tell the tribune what he had discovered.

Paul Transferred to Caesarea

Not wanting to risk having a Roman citizen assassinated while in his custody, the tribune sent Paul off by night, guarded by 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen, to Caesarea, where the governor (Felix) had his headquarters in the palace which Herod the Great had built for himself. When the party reached Antipatris, a military post about halfway between Jerusalem and Caesarea, next morning, the foot soldiers returned, leaving the cavalry to escort Paul the rest of the way to Caesarea. They also brought a letter from the tribune explaining the circumstances to the governor.

On reading the letter, the governor asked Paul which province he came from and, on Paul’s telling him that he was from Cilicia, decided to keep Paul in his headquarters in Caesarea. He told Paul that he would give him a hearing when his accusers arrived, the tribune having said in his letter that he’d ordered Paul’s accusers to present their case against him to the governor.

In my next article in this series of articles on the life of Paul, I’ll describe and comment on his appearance before the governor.