For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

The book of Acts is basically the history of the beginning of the Church; but what is not generally recognized is that it is also the record of God’s offer of the millennial kingdom to Israel after the death and resurrection of Christ.  The early chapters (1-7) are the record of His dealings exclusively with Israel.  They are assured that the death of Christ, foretold by the prophets, was necessary to make atonement for their sins, and for the sins of the whole world.  Faith in a crucified, but resurrected Christ would bring them the double blessing of remission of sin, and the enjoyment of the long-promised millennial kingdom, which would be followed by their enjoyment of eternal blessing when the millennial kingdom ends, and the present heavens and earth will be replaced with new ones as foretold in Re 21:1.

It is not until the martyrdom of Stephen in chapter seven that we find the first intimation of the sad truth that their unbelief had robbed them of blessing.  As in Ezekiel 9-11, where we find the Shekinah glory, with obvious reluctance, leaving the temple of this same unbelieving nation, moving first to the threshold of the door, and finally to the mountain, to be seen no more until that day still future when it will return to the millennial temple, so here in Acts we find the fulfillment of the type.  Israel’s stoning of Stephen was simply the declaration of their continued rejection of Christ, and the result is that in chapter eight we find Philip going to Samaria, to a people who were of mixed ancestry, part Jew, part Gentile.  It is God’s first reluctant step away from a people greatly beloved, but whose disobedience compels His departure.  It is, as it were, His removal to “the threshold of the door.”

Chapter nine records the conversion of Saul, the raising up of the man who was to be God’s messenger to the Gentiles, and in chapter ten we have the record of the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius.  Like the Shekinah glory long ago, God is moving to the outskirts of the city, reluctantly leaving His disobedient people, to offer to the Gentiles better blessings than those spurned by Israel.  It is pointed out, however, that the blessings offered the Church (composed mainly of Gentiles) are not of the same character as those offered Israel.  Israel was being offered an earthly kingdom with earthly blessings, which would be followed by eternal blessings, but the Church is offered spiritual blessings, to be enjoyed by faith here on earth, and then immediately following death or rapture, in heaven eternally.  There is to be no transitional earthly blessing equivalent to that yet to be enjoyed by a repentant Jewish remnant, the believing Israel that will go from the Tribulation into the Millennium, and then into the enjoyment of eternal blessing.

Failure to recognize the appointment of one order for believing Jews until AD 70 (when the millennial kingdom was still being offered to Israel), and another for believing Gentiles, has resulted in failure to distinguish between an order that was applicable only to those thirty-eight years from AD 32 till AD 70, and what is applicable to the whole Church since AD 70 without regard to national origins.

The apostolic period was one of transition.  Judaism was passing away, Christianity was coming into existence, but those years when the two existed side by side were unique.  The order that applied then, while the millennial kingdom was still being offered to Israel, was not the norm for the whole Church age, and the attempt to make it so has resulted in confusion.

To understand the reason for the two orders operating until AD 70 it is necessary to remember that God has a specific program for the blessing of Israel, and through them, the blessing of the whole earth.  That program was revealed to Daniel in the vision of the seventy weeks, Da 9:24-27; and without elaborating, we note that those weeks were sevens of years, the seventy sevens making a total of four hundred and ninety years (as with all prophetic time, years of three hundred and sixty days each).  They began, as specified (Da 9:25), by Artaxerxes’ signing the decree that ended the Babylonian captivity and authorized the rebuilding of Jerusalem, that decree being issued on what, by our reckoning, was March 14, 445 BC, and were divided into three parts, the first seven “weeks” (49 years) to end with the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  The next sixty-two weeks (434 years) were to conclude with the presentation of the Messiah (fulfilled on April 6, 32 AD, the day Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of the ass’s colt, Mt 21:1-9, in fulfillment of Zec 9:9).  The validity of the prophecy is established, not just by the general fact of its having being fulfilled, but by the fact that the fulfillment occurred on the exact date specified, for the time between March 14, 445 BC and April 6, 32 AD is 173,880 days, the exact number of days in the 483 years of 360 days each, represented by the 69 “weeks.”

The prophecy declares that after the completion of the 69 “weeks” Messiah was to be “cut off, but not for Himself,” Da 9:26.  This was fulfilled in His crucifixion just a few days after the multitude, ever fickle, had hailed Him as the long-promised Messiah.  After an interval of unspecified length - but which has lasted for almost two thousand  years - the final seventieth week (seven years) was to begin.  And as the seventy “weeks” were to begin with a Gentile monarch’s signing a decree in favor of Israel, so is the final “week” (seven years) to begin also by a Gentile monarch’s signing a decree in favor of Israel, Da 9:27.  This will be the covenant between Israel and the beast, the head of the ten kingdom coalition, the Roman empire revived following the rapture of the Church. 

That final seventieth “week” will be the seven years of the Tribulation, from which Israel will be delivered by the return of Christ to judge the nations, and establish His millennial kingdom.

Essential to a proper understanding of the book of Acts is the recognition of the fact that the apostolic era was a period of transition between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth “week.”  Had Israel as a nation accepted Christ, He would have been crucified by the Romans for setting Himself up in opposition to Caesar (the very charge, in fact, brought against Him by unbelieving Israel, see Lk 23:2 and Jn 19:12).  After an unspecified interval, the seventieth week would have begun during that era.  The Roman emperor would have signed the seven-year treaty with Israel, an act that would have begun the Tribulation era.  It would have been broken in the midst of the “week,” i.e., at the end of three and a half years, and the great Tribulation would have begun - the “time of Jacob’s trouble” from which Israel would have been delivered at the end of the final three and a half years by the return of Christ in power and glory to judge the nations and establish His millennial kingdom.  Israel’s rejection of Christ, however, has delayed the seventieth week for two thousand years, though today  everything points to the fact that it is now imminent.

It should be noted that the gospel preached by the Lord Himself was only to the nation of Israel, see Mt 10:5-7 and 15:24, and it was a call to repentance as the essential preparation for entering the millennial kingdom, that preparation fitting the believer to also enter the eternal kingdom at the end of the Millennium.  That same gospel was preached during the beginning of the apostolic age, but Israel’s continued rejection of the resurrected Christ caused God to postpone the offer of the kingdom.  They couldn’t have the kingdom without the King.

It will be that same gospel that will be preached again when the Tribulation begins, following the rapture of the Church.  It should be noted also that in the Tribulation the stage will be set again exactly as it was in the apostolic age.  An unbelieving Israel will be dwelling in Palestine, but under the dominion of Rome revived.

It is to be noted also that there was another thirty-eight year period in Israel’s history, which is clearly a foreshadowing of the thirty-eight years between AD 32 and AD 70.  It is recorded in Numbers 13 and 14.  Of the twelve spies sent to reconnoiter Canaan, only two brought back a good report, and encouraged the people to go in and take the land.  The other ten, however, brought back a false report which discouraged the people and resulted in their refusing to enter the promised land, with the result that God then turned them back to wander in the wilderness for another thirty-eight years during which the unbelieving generation died out, and a new generation grew up which did enter Canaan under Joshua.

That earlier unbelieving generation portrays the unbelieving generation of Christ’s day, which refused to believe, with the result that at the end of thirty-eight years they were cut off in AD 70, while a new generation (the believing remnant) went in and became the recipients of spiritual blessings better than the earthly blessing forfeited by the unbelief of the nation.  That remnant became the nucleus of the Church, and until AD 70 there were two streams of Christianity flowing side by side: one Jewish, the other gentile.  The Jewish believers continued to use the Levitical order, while a different order governed the lives of the Gentile believers during those thirty-eight years (see Ac 15:19-29 and Ac 21:19-26).  The Levitical order was used by the believing Jews because they were still being offered the millennial kingdom during which the Levitical order will govern the whole world.  As time passed, the Jewish stream was shrinking as it became apparent that the nation would not believe in Christ, while the Gentile stream became a great river.  With the dissolution of Jewish autonomy in AD 70, however, the Jewish order ceased, and the Gentile order then became the one for the whole Church.

A recognition of this is essential to a proper understanding of the book of Acts in general, and of the nature of the apostolic age in particular.  Universal worship in the Millennium, as in the OT age, will center in the temple, will be offered by Levitical priests, and will consist of literal animal sacrifices (see Ez 40-46).  This explains why, in the apostolic age, Jewish Christians continued to observe the Levitical ritual, e.g., Ac 3:1; 16:3; 18:21; 20:16; 21:20-26.  They were being offered the long-promised millennial kingdom in which the Jewish form of worship would be continued.

A question frequently posed is, Why, since Christ has already fulfilled the types of those Levitical sacrifices, should they be resumed in the Millennium?  The answer is that they will then be invested with a different character: they will be commemorative, not anticipative, as in the OT age.

With this brief background sketch by way of introduction, we will now begin our verse-by-verse study of the book of Acts.

[Acts 1]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough