The Appeal to the Emperor​

Acts 24:24-25:12

But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you.” At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him. But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned. Festus therefore, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul; and they were urging him, requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way). Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. “Therefore,” he said, “let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.” And after he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea; and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. And after he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove; while Paul said in his own defense, “I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.”

One way to keep the peace is to give in to the people, a little. As Rome’s representative ruler in the region, Felix did this with his subjects, not killing Paul but keeping him contained. This provided a little slice of serenity; a very little slice. It also appears that Felix likes having Paul around, hoping for a bribe, Felix sends for Paul often, listening to him speak about faith in Jesus Christ. The little reasons for Felix to keep Paul close, seem to be enough for Felix to keep Paul close, for about two years. Which is long enough for Felix to be out as the regional ruler and for Festus to be in. It proves to be no noticable change, but any change brings with it, uncertainty.

“But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come…” After the proverbial dust has settled and the high priest and the others have left, Felix and his Jewish, by birth, wife send for Paul and listen to him speak. Luke tells us specifically that on which Paul spoke; faith in Jesus, righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. The latter, no doubt, flow from the former. That is, Paul preached Jesus and then discussed righteousness, self-control and the judgement to come within the context of faith in Jesus. However, this still may cloud our vision concerning these things, especially the judgment to come. We have often heard things like, Jesus saved you, now be good. Or, Jesus is our example of self-control. But the Bible is clear, we cannot be righteous by ourselves and self-control is actually Spirit-control. We can’t be righteous or self-controlled by our own initiatives but by the working of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, I believe we misunderstand what Paul was saying to Felix about the judgement to come. We look at this small piece of text, and think that Paul is telling Felix to believe in Jesus, asking him into his heart, then telling him to be righteous and self controlled because one day, Jesus will judge everyone according to their deeds. But this is not only Biblically erroneous by not considering the greater context but also does not consider the current context.

“And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you.’ At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.” Notice first that Felix was frightened. Now notice that he put Paul off, but still hopes for a bribe. Does that sound like a frightened man? The Greek transliterated word for “frightened” is “emphobos.” Look at the word, it almost screams “emphatic-phobia.” It actually doesn’t, but it is great fear, or, being  terrified. How does Felix go from being terrified to putting Paul back into his cell to await a time to talk that never comes? Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions.

We automatically assume, because we presume, that Paul is speaking of the final judgement against all men. But I highly doubt that this is the case. Remember Luke’s overall aspiration to his audience and the genre; the acts of the apostles. Consider the historical and cultural context; Luke is writing to a first-century audience about first-century acts. It is a historical narrative but a very recent, to Luke’s audience, historical narrative. This in no way indicates that Paul can’t be speaking of a future judgement some 1,975 years, at least, hence but it should not make our minds automatically assume that Paul speaks of a far future fulfillment either. We see in Genesis 3 that God makes a promise to crush Satan’s head, in a historical narrative, with a far future fulfillment. Nevertheless, this fits in the context and aspiration of the Author. However, in today’s text, Luke gives us a great hint, because of his continuing context and aspiration to his audience. Luke is indicating the judgement of which Paul speaks based upon the content of his historical narrative and the aspirations to his audience.

Felix is the regional ruler of Judea, an absolute puppet king of Caesar to be sure, but nevertheless the head of government in Israel. Felix outlived the man who appointed him procurator, Claudius Caesar and now is under another, Nero. Felix would actually stand trial before Nero being accused of starting a sedition but ultimately escaped punishment. We can’t say the same for Paul, or Israel. Nevertheless, coupled with the context and an expository exegesis of examples, is Paul’s aspiration to Felix; faith in Jesus and the judgment to come. Notice; Felix was the ruler of the region of Israel and Jesus said; “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The judgement of Jesus on Judea is right around the corner to Paul and Felix. This is why Felix is frightened to his core but makes no attempt to speak with Paul about it any further at that time. Judgment is coming to the region of which Felix governs. This near judgement fits into the sublime string which is woven from the prophets, to the gospels and into Acts. We have simply cut the cords and added in  parenthetical phases and plans, of which, God has not.

The dogmatic dispensationalists dupe us in Daniel to believe that one of the greatest prophecies concerning the Messiah is actually the Antichrist. Additionally, they add a perpetually pervasive, parenthetical period within Daniel’s 70 weeks of years. In order to accomplish this dogmatic dispensationalist discourse, it requires the severing of sublime strings and that the cords of context be cut, because the sublime string specifically states that the Messiah would make a Covenant with them for half of the last seven years. We remember that, at first, the apostles were only to go to the lost sheep of Israel. We remember seeing the apostles in Jerusalem only, but after the stoning of Stephen, Philip went to Samaria and eventually, Peter went to the gentiles, after about three and a half years. Jesus came and died at exactly the right time, exactly as Daniel was told, why would we assume then that Jesus’ further work is cut off to make room for an Antichrist? The truth is that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, until he makes his enemies a footstool under his feet. It is imperative that we take a long view of Scripture and see the sublime string, without admixture or cord cutting. Jesus is the one who cut the cords; figuratively Zechariah did as well and the apostle Paul is about to do something similar. Simply stated; if the Bible does not say that there is a parenthetical period and plan, there is no parenthetical period and plan. Be careful little ears what you hear, unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Therefore, it is all but certain, based on the continuing context and sublime string, that Paul warns Felix about the judgment coming quickly to Jerusalem and Judea. Either way, Felix was going to lose his job, even more quickly than he anticipated.

“But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned. Festus therefore, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul; and they were urging him, requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way).” It’s the same old story but one of the main characters has changed. Felix is out and Festus is in, as procurator of the province of Judea. Felix, wanting to do the people of Judea a favor, left Paul in prison, therefore Festus inherited Paul as a prisoner. And since the people of Judea have a new procurator, they go to ask him to bring Paul to Jerusalem for a trial.

Far from being brain surgery, yet absolutely cunning in nature, because they are murderers like their father the devil, the leaders of Jerusalem bark up the new tree, who is in town. They can now ask the new ruler of the region to bring Paul to Jerusalem for a trial and murder him along the way. It is almost identical to their original plan only in reverse and we don’t read of an oath this time. Perhaps their hunger has changed their minds concerning making another oath. Nevertheless, they were patient and yet still filled with bloodlust. Two years have passed with Paul in prison and they still want to murder him. Let that sink in a while as you consider the dogmatic dispensationalist discourse that God will destroy 2/3rds of a far-future Israel. Two years in prison, out of sight but clearly not out of mind. They killed the Christ, they stoned Stephen, they cheered at the murder of James and seek to ambush Paul. Why would God slaughter a far-future generation and not their generation? Who scourged the prophets sent to them from city to city and synagogue to synagogue? Was it their generation or ours? After thinking about it pragmatically, read Daniel, Michah, Zechariah, Isaiah, Malachi and Matthew, putting aside preconceived notions and presuppositions, letting the Bible interpret the Bible, considering the context and sublime string. Finally, read Revelation; “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly [not, in a long time] take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near [not, far off].” Judgment against Jerusalem is coming quickly upon their generation. In other words, God does not hold our generation more responsible for the murder and scourging of his apostles and prophets than he did their generation. See the simplicity of the sublime string.

“Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. ‘Therefore,’ he said, ‘let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.’ And after he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea; and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. And after he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove; while Paul said in his own defense, ‘I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’ But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?’ But Paul said, ‘I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.’ Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, ‘You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.'”

Why were they so adamant about Paul being tried in Jerusalem that they barked up the new tree in town? Why did Paul appeal to Caesar? It’s sublimely simple–they wanted to kill Paul along the way and Paul wanted to go to Rome; this was a free voyage. Yet in the sublimely simple summary, there also exist certain subtleties. Paul knows that he will be going to Rome as a prisoner, guilty or innocent, appearances cloud perceptions. Even in ancient Rome, a prisoner awaiting his appeal, looks guilty. Paul is taking a huge chance by going to Nero in chains. Even the church in Rome may look at him as a prisoner and not a prophet. But Jesus has promised Paul that he would preach in Jerusalem, which he has, and also in Rome. Paul has just punched his ticket, albeit as an alleged enemy of the emperor. Rather than taking a chance in Jerusalem, Paul prefers to take a chance in Rome–this speaks volumes. Never again, will Paul, the Hebrew of Hebrews, ever set foot in the temple or Jerusalem again. I don’t blame him, the leaders of the people in Jerusalem want him dead and in about ten years time, the temple will topple and hundreds of thousands of people will die at the hands of each other, famine and Rome. Paul is taking a much safer path. Remember, he has warned Felix about this.

Notice Paul’s divorce from the Jewish people present, remembering that he was once a Pharisee, much like them: “‘I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’ But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?’ But Paul said, ‘I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.'” God manipulated Paul’s life, even forming him in his mother’s womb to be born a citizen of Rome, and yet, a Christian killing, Hebrew of Hebrews and a Law-loving Pharisee. When forced to choose allegiance to whose prisoner he would be, Paul chose Rome over Jerusalem. Notice; “If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die;” certainly we understand that Paul is willing to die, but not at the hands of the Jewish people and not in Jerusalem, any more. If Nero finds Paul guilty, which he very well could, and eventually does, Paul is willing to accept that. However, Paul emphatically explains, in no uncertain terms, “no one can hand me over to them, I appeal to Caesar!” Paul just divorced Jerusalem. He went, he tried to purify himself and they ceased him. He preached the gospel and its going to the gentiles and they have wanted to kill him ever since. Paul is finished with Jerusalem.

However this saga continues and once again, we are about to see Paul’s final defense in Israel. But before we do, we will see a re-telling of today’s text by none other than Festus himself. In it, and in Paul’s final defense in Israel, we will see that both Festus and Agrippa find it quite queer, that Paul has appealed to Caesar. We take the long view of Scripture and continue to consider the context and sublime string. Paul has plead with, and for, Israel, over and over again. But make no mistake, Paul is looking out on the horizon and knows that time is running out for Jerusalem. He also expects fruit to be found in Rome.

Jesus said; “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come. Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are with child and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Do you know why so many false christs came in the first century? They believed in Daniel’s 70 weeks of years, why don’t we? It’s all unfolding in the pages of Acts, not outside our windows or in the headlines.

 

 

 

 

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