Bible geography

Paul’s Three-Fold Announcement

Friday, May 20, 2016

Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46 KJV).

Israel has been warned—there are two more admonitions to come!

Anyone who has seriously studied the book of Acts is familiar with the three-fold announcement the Apostle Paul made to the nation Israel. Today’s Scripture was the first. Acts 18:6 is the second: “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Acts 28:28 is the last: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”

While there are some very asinine teachings associated with this three-fold announcement, we push such denominational biases aside to look at the verses themselves. Consult a good Bible atlas (there may be one in the back on your Bible) and notice where Acts 13:46, Acts 18:6, and Acts 28:28 were spoken. The first was uttered in Antioch of Pisidia, Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). The second was spoken in Corinth, Achaia (modern-day southern Greece). The last was uttered in Rome, Italy (the world’s capital at that time). In other words, Paul traveled westward making this proclamation. We in the Western world should be thankful. The Gospel of Grace, instead of spreading eastward (the Far East), came our way first!

Although it is common to view the book of Acts as “the record of the birth of the Church” (a faulty phrase found commonly in “Christian” thinking), a more appropriate summary is “God’s justice exhibited in setting Israel aside.” The more Paul preached from Acts chapter 9 through chapter 28, the more unbelieving Jews followed him, argued with him, and even physically abused him. By the end of Acts, the transitional period was over. Israel had “diminished” (Romans 11:12); the Holy Spirit through Paul would warn her no more. He had already gone to the Gentiles, and, unlike national Israel, how the Gentiles so joyfully received Him!

The Mount of Olives

Sunday, February 19, 2012

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey” (Acts 1:9-12 KJV).

The Bible makes 13 references to the Mount of Olives (or Mount Olivet). We read, for instance, that David wept while ascending Olivet (2 Samuel 15:30). Several times during His earthly ministry Jesus Christ stood near Olivet (Matthew 21:1; Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29,37). As today’s Scripture indicates, He ascended into heaven from Olivet. Furthermore, according to today’s Scripture, Olivet holds an even grander purpose.

Jesus gave His great “end times discourse” while sitting on Olivet (Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3). After teaching in the temple, Jesus slept one night on Olivet (Luke 21:37; John 8:1). Shortly after the “Last Supper,” Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Luke 22:39).

Olivet is actually three peaks, and today’s Scripture says that they are a “sabbath day’s journey from Jerusalem” (about 0.56 mile/0.9 km to the east). In Jesus’ day, the Mount of Olives was famous for its olive trees (today, the olive groves are gone because Roman general Titus destroyed them when he overran Jerusalem in A.D. 70).

In today’s Scripture, the men in white apparel (angels) tell the apostles that Jesus will “come in like manner” as they saw him go into heaven. How? According to Zechariah 14:4, the first place where Jesus’ literal feet will stand at His Second Coming is Olivet, the last place He stood on earth before He ascended into heaven 2,000 years ago!

Olivet is still awaiting that glorious day when the King of kings and Lord of lords returns!