Acts 25 is like a tug of war. Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, a place Northwest of Jerusalem. The Jews insisted that Festus send Paul back to Jerusalem for trial, hoping to ambush and kill Paul on the way. Festus tried to please the Jews and asked Paul if he was willing to return to Jerusalem for trial, but Paul insisted on appealing to Caesar. So after Festus conferred with his council, he accepted Paul’s request.
Looking at it from here, Festus, as the Roman Governor of Judea, was a person who didn’t take sides, or we could say that he was a bit of a fence sitter. He tried to please the Jews, saying he was using a conciliatory approach to rule the land of Jerusalem. His treatment of King Agrippa’s argument about Paul and the Jews allowed us to see that he didn’t think their case was that important. He told King Agrippa that the dispute between Paul and the Jews was merely a matter of disagreement about their own religion and the fact that Paul declared that Jesus died and was resurrected. His heart was perplexed over this situation. He asked Paul if he was willing to go to Jerusalem for trial, but Paul wasn’t willing. So he planned to keep Paul. He said, “hold him until I can send him to Caesar” (Acts 25:21, NIV).
I didn’t pay attention to this sentence before. Festus had already planned to send Paul to Rome. But after King Agrippa interrogated Paul, he sighed, saying if Paul hadn’t appealed to Caesar, he could have been set free (Acts 26:32, NIV). Acts 27:24 records an angel of God standing beside Paul and telling him he would stand before Caesar. This may be why Paul stood trial before Caesar later, but the Bible doesn’t record the specific details of Paul and Caesar’s meeting. Instead, it just recorded the experience of Paul, Festus, and King Agrippa meeting each other. Caesar here is said to be Nero Caesar. But this is only according to historical legends. When Nero persecuted the church later, Paul was martyred.
With the Holy Spirit’s help, we noticed that God predestined Paul’s journey from Jerusalem to Rome to spread the gospel to Rome. As Acts 28 records, after Paul came to Rome, he rented a house there for two years, “to proclaim the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31, NIV). This shows that the gospel Paul spread in Rome had laid a good foundation for evangelizing Europe. Therefore, in the development of the kingdom of God and the spread of the gospel, it was crucial for Paul to arrive safely in Rome from Jerusalem.
Satan attempted to stop Paul from going to Rome. He incited the Jews to kill Paul in Jerusalem. But Paul’s nephew heard their plan and reported it to commander Lysias, and Paul was arrested. Then the Jews went to Governor Felix to complain, and Felix asked Paul to defend himself. Paul gave testimony to Felix, saying that he “keeps his conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16, NIV, and that he did not commit any wrongdoings. Later, Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” He ordered commander Lysias to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs” (Acts, 24:22-23, NIV).
Later, Felix and his Jewish wife listened to Paul, who continued to talk about Jesus Christ. “Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25, NIV). Felix was scared and sent Paul away. He was hoping that Paul would come to him later and give him some money. But the Bible doesn’t say whether Felix was saved or not. At least from the story here, Paul’s testimony to Governor Felix touched him a little, but Felix hadn’t decided whether to accept Jesus Christ. At the end of Chapter 24, it records that after two years, Festus took over Felix’s Governor position. He wanted to please the Jews, so he continued to imprison Paul.
Many people opposed Paul’s trip to Jerusalem. This included the prophet Agabus who prophesied that Paul would be bound in Jerusalem, but he did not prevent Paul from going. People in the modern prophetic movement believe that Agabus’ prediction was half accurate and half inaccurate because Agabus prophesied that Paul would be bound by the Jews in Jerusalem. But in the end, Paul was bound by the Romans. Paul teaches us in the Bible not to treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22, NIV). Paul has done this with Agabus’ prophecy. In the end, it turned out that Paul was right. Because it was recorded in Acts 23:11 (NIV), “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” This is the key sentence. It proved that Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem was encouraged by the Lord and that he would also testify in Rome as well.
This explains why Paul had to appeal to Caesar. God’s word prophesied and told him that he would go to Rome to testify about the Lord. The angel provided the direction he was to go in. Going to Rome was the will of God. But Satan tried his best to oppose the will of God by using the Jews in Jerusalem to attempt to kill Paul. After God defeated Satan’s schemes through Paul’s nephew and commander Lysias, Satan tried to use the Jews again to accuse Paul before Felix. But God used Paul to preach the gospel to Felix and his Jewish wife allowing Felix to hesitate and not agree with the Jew’s request.
After Festus took over Felix’s Governor’s position, he wanted to please the Jews in the beginning, so he kept Paul in prison. He also tried to persuade Paul to go to Jerusalem with him for trial. If Paul went to Jerusalem, he would definitely die. So Paul firmly refused and insisted on appealing to Caesar. After Festus had conferred with his council, he decided to send Paul to Caesar. The attitude of the council also affected Festus. Later, King Agrippa came and put Paul on trial. Paul gave Agrippa a good testimony. He talked about his experience where Jesus Christ appeared to him. Later, King Agrippa wavered from his position. Although he did not fully accept Jesus Christ, he was sympathetic towards Paul. In the end, he said that if Paul did not appeal to Caesar, Paul could have been set free.
Acts 27 describes Paul boarding a ship and encountering a storm on his way to Rome. At first, Paul advised the centurion not to continue sailing, but they didn’t listen. Later the soldiers planned to kill the prisoners when the storm continued to rage. But the centurion wanted to bring Paul safely through, so he kept the soldiers from doing it. In Acts 28, Paul was bitten by a snake, but God kept Paul safe again. Through God’s signs and wonders, it opened the door to evangelism, and the gospel was preached to the Jews and others in Rome.
From our description of Paul’s journey, we can see Satan’s actions – he tried to kill Paul or prevent him from going to Rome. God overcame Satan’s schemes and brought Paul to Rome safely.
The journey from Jerusalem to Rome was arduous for Paul. Jerusalem can be said to be the place where Paul was called since he was born and raised there. Although he met the Lord in Damascus, Paul also said that God had set him apart from his mother’s womb. Rome was the last place where Paul preached the gospel and was martyred (this is where Paul had completed his mission). It could be a difficult journey from our calling to completing the mission God gives us. Through your journey, you may encounter many obstacles like the Jews trying to kill Paul or a wavering dignitary like Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa. God may send people to protect you and strengthen your faith, like Paul’s nephew and the centurion.
Peter spoke hastily to those who received the temple tax by telling them that Jesus would pay taxes. Jesus gently rebuked him but told him to throw a line into the water, and the first fish he caught would have a silver coin in its mouth to pay the tax for Jesus and Peter. I like fishing, but at times I spend the whole day and catch nothing. Even if Peter were a master fisherman, it wouldn’t be easy to catch a fish with a coin in its mouth, but he caught one since the Lord declared it. The Bible doesn’t say how long it took him to catch this particular fish.
According to what Peter said in 2 Peter 1:19 (NIV): “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” Peter said, “No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21, NIV)
Jesus gave Peter God’s prophetic word when he told him to catch a fish with a coin in its mouth. Imagine Peter, who had fished for many nights without a catch receiving this word from the Lord. I’m sure it was difficult to accept, but knowing that all things are possible with God encouraged Peter and gave him confidence amid a depressing time. Peter was able to speak these words confidently because of his experience.
Similarly, Paul faced so many obstacles and a lot of people trying to kill him. But he still firmly believed that he could reach Rome safely and testify before Caesar. What is the reason behind this? The reason lies in Acts 23:11 (NIV), which says, “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome. “No matter how many challenges he would face, he knew that he would reach Rome safely because the Lord told him so. I’ve experienced God’s promise in my life during my wife’s ten years of infertility. In January 2016, I heard the Lord say that I would have a child that year. I returned to China in February and announced it to my family. Over time I experienced many people’s unbelief and opposition, but I firmly believed it would happen because God said it. Before my wife’s miraculous pregnancy in May, I experienced numerous attacks and ridicule from the enemy, but I persevered. Why? I stood on the word that the Lord gave me. By sharing my experience, I hope that the Lord will use it to comfort and bring hope to those who are facing difficulties and trying to hold on to God’s promises. Hudson Taylor was an English missionary, who as a young boy, saw visions of countless Chinese people going to hell. He accepted the call to preach the Gospel in China. Unfortunately, he contracted a life-threatening disease while in medical school. A doctor declared his case hopeless and told him to go home and prepare to die. Hudson told the doctor that he would not die because God wanted him to preach the Gospel in China. The doctor refused to believe him. After miraculously surviving this disease, the first thing Hudson did was to testify to this doctor. The doctor was surprised and prayed to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior. Hudson encountered a severe storm after boarding a ship to China. He firmly declared that nothing bad would happen because God wanted him to go to China.
On the evening of March 16, 2020, we prayed online with some members of our Bible Study group. We mainly spent time praying for China and the spread of the novel coronavirus. That night, I was taken up to heaven in the spirit, and I saw various spectacular scenes of China’s future revival. The activities of worshiping God in different parts of China could only be described by the phrase “in full swing.” In the end, I saw that the angels bound the opposing forces against God in China. God has enlightened me many times about China’s great revival through dreams. I was in this vision and dreamed for two hours, from two to four in the morning.
This experience, along with many other dreams, is God’s promised word to me in these difficult circumstances, especially in the coronavirus outbreak. These words from God are like a light shining in a dark place. I value them even though I’ve encountered unbelief and derogatory remarks. I believe these difficult times will eventually pass. After the cleansing work of God is completed, a great revival will be released. I prepared myself for this, and I hope to encourage many Christians to see a bright future and not focus on the negativity around them.
We are all like Paul. Our life is a process of walking from our call “Jerusalem” to the mission and end of our life, “Rome.” Our mission is to come to Rome (which represents the world) to testify about the Lord. On our way there, we will encounter danger and opposition like what Paul experienced. But if we hold on to the words God has promised to us, we will be able to persevere to the end.
We must also pay attention to prophetic words, just like paying attention to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
I hope that many fellow believers will see a bright future in the fog caused by the coronavirus.