New Testament Types in Acts: Part 14
Dec 11, 2006
At the end of the eleventh chapter of Acts, Luke returns to the history of the apostle Paul. The story of Peter's great revelation in chapters 10 and 11 lay the foundation for Paul's ministry to the nations. In fact, its inclusion in this book would answer the natural objections to Paul's ministry to those who had long been considered to be "unclean."
And so we read that the Church in Antioch had great success among the Hellenist party, "the Grecians," who were not actually Greeks, but Hellenist Jews. Many of these believed the Gospel of Christ, and when this news reached Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent to Antioch to get the news firsthand. When he saw that it was true, he was led to travel south to Tarsus and fetch Saul and bring him to Antioch. They spent the next year in Antioch teaching and evangelizing.
During those days, prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch as well, among them Agabus, who prophesied of a great famine that would soon come in the days of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Claudius ruled from 41-54 A.D. This famine occurred in the summer of 47 A.D., so the prophecy must have been given the previous winter, earlier in the year or in late 46 A.D. at the earliest.
The spring of 46 A.D. was 13 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, and the autumn of 46 was most likely 13 years after Saul had been converted on the Damascus road. So Saul was now in his 14th year since his conversion when Agabus gave his prophecy.
A contribution was taken up for the saints in Jerusalem, and this was sent by the hand of Saul and Barnabas. When they returned, they were commissioned for Saul/Paul's first Missionary Journey. Galatians 2:1 tells us that this occurred "after 14 years," which was the Hebrew way of saying "in the 14th year" from Saul's conversion. This pinpoints his commissioning in 47 A.D., and this is important because 46-47 A.D. was precisely 490 years ("seventy weeks") after Nehemiah repaired the wall of Jerusalem in 445 B.C (Neh. 6:15). And another 40 Jubilees of time brings us to 2006-2007 A.D. I believe that we are now poised to see another great commission take place in the earth.
But Luke then tells of another event took place in Jerusalem that had occurred a few years earlier in 44 A.D. It was the martyrdom of James, the brother of John, one of the "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17) fathered by Zebedee. This James had just returned to Jerusalem from a mission trip to Spain and Sardinia, no doubt wanting to be in Jerusalem for the Passover. He had probably been ministering among the Jewish soldiers who had been conscripted and sent from Italy to Sardinia in 19 A.D., as recorded by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII, iii). So Acts 12:1, 2 says,
" (1) Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. (2) And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword."
Herod beheaded John. This was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great, who had killed the children of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth. Herod Agrippa had been made King of Judea in 41 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Claudius. He ruled only three years and died a rather horrible death in 44 A.D. from parasites shortly after executing James (Acts 12:23).
But an interesting story is recorded by Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century from the records available to him. In Eccl. Hist. Bk. II, ix, he tells about the man who had testified against James for teaching that Jesus was the Christ:
"It appears that the man who brought him [James] into court was so moved when he saw him testify that he confessed that he, too, was a Christian. So they were both taken away together, and on the way he asked James to forgive him. James thought for a moment; then he said, 'I wish you peace,' and kissed him. So both were beheaded at the same time."
" (3) And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread."
Herod intended to present Peter to the people, who would then clamour for his execution. Herod no doubt thought of this as a publicity ploy that would enhance his status with the anti-Christian parties. Peter was arrested between Passover and the Wave-sheaf offering ("Easter"), and Herod intended to have him executed immediately after the Wave-sheaf offering. But the Church prayed for him without ceasing (12:6), and the angel of the Lord came to him and released him from his chains.
He then walked to the home of Mary, the mother of John-Mark. They were astonished to see that their prayers were answered in such a dramatic way. Peter told them his story, and then instructed them to inform James the Just (12:17). This was James called "The Just," who was the head of the Jerusalem Church. He was the brother of Jesus and the author of the book of James. He would be martyred about 15-20 years later on the temple grounds for his witness of Jesus, an event so dramatic that Josephus himself records it in his books.
At any rate, the first James was executed, and then Peter was released alive. These two men again became types of the first and second doves/goats. Many have wondered why God allowed James to be martyred, yet showed Himself very capable of delivering Peter from death. The divine purpose was to show us another pattern of the two works of Christ.
Thus, James became a type of Christ in His first work, while Peter became a type of Christ in His second work, for he lived to preach the gospel. Then is recorded the judgment of God upon Herod Agrippa I,
" (21) And on an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. (22) And the people kept crying out, 'The voice of a god and not of a man!' (23) And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died."
Herod may have paid some people in the audience to glorify him as a god. At any rate, Herod is here a type of world system at the end of the age which is divinely judged for glorifying itself, rather than giving glory to God. The fact also that Herod was part of the Edomite dynasty of Jewish kings makes him a type of Edomite world ruler at the end of the age.
The lesson to be learned in this story in Acts 12 is that in this conflict between the Babylonian System and the Kingdom of God, there are some who are called to suffer martyrdom as types of Christ in His first work, and there are others who are called to be miraculously delivered as types of Christ in His second work.
Both groups are overcomers with different callings. I believe that we are now entering into the appointed time of the second work of Christ, in which we will see the Gospel of the Kingdom preached to all nations. While there may be some who are martyred in this time, I believe that the overall time frame indicates that most of those who carry on this great work will see miraculous deliverance, even as in the example of Peter.
It is no accident that Luke records the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas immediately after recording this chapter in early Church history. Nor is it accidental that this commissioning took place precisely 40 Jubilees ago, or 4 x 490 years. I believe this indicates the time when many people's callings will finally begin after many years of delay to the appointed time.
This is the final part of a series titled "New Testament Types in Acts." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones