In this class, we will discuss Acts 17:1-10 and examine the time Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica and their interactions with the Jews in the synagogue.
[Darris McNeely] So, good morning, everyone, and welcome back to class, Book of Acts. We are in chapter 17 today of the Book of Acts. And I somewhat apologize to you in the class that we can't stop and ask questions or take your questions during the time. If you do have questions, hold them. If we have time at the end, we'll do it. If not, we'll just keep writing 'em down or remember them. We'll try to maybe catch up on Friday or on a Monday during another time, and handle some of the questions that might come up among you that we're not able to deal with here. Those of you watching online, if you've got questions either as you're watching this kind of this year or anytime in the future, email me, let me know, and we'll try to get an answer to you at that time.
Last class, we covered Paul's time in the city of Philippi, and the story that was there. We had three individuals that are told...their story is told in chapter 16 when Paul is there. Lydia, the seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, and then the demon-possessed girl from whom he cast a demon, and then the jailer whose household he baptized. And so, as a result of the riot that ensued from the charges brought against him, he and Silas were jailed, beaten, and then let go after they were released through a miraculous earthquake. And then the magistrates, basically, asked them to leave town because they had falsely... Well, not falsely. Well, yeah, it was falsely, but wrongly beaten them undeservedly so and violating Roman law.
One of the things about where we are right now in the Book of Acts, and I'll bring this map up on the screen that you're familiar with to look at it here, and we've crossed over into Europe and on Paul's second journey which covers roughly the period from 50 to 53 AD. This is a major development, I mentioned this last class, as Paul goes into Europe onto the European mainland here, the European Peninsula, just down here into the southern part next to Asia. But beyond that, Paul is really going into the heart of the Greco-Roman world. He of course, was raised in that world being in the city of Tarsus, and spending time in Jerusalem, but now he's moving westward expanding the preaching opportunities, but he's moving just deeper into what can be looked at as the heart of this Greco-Roman world. And remember this world as the world that begins in Babylon.
In the Book of Daniel, go back to our studies of Daniel, and what we learned there with the four empires that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about in his image in chapter 2, and then the four beasts that Daniel saw rise up out of the sea in Daniel 7. And what they teach us about the system that begins in Babylon and moves through Persia, Greece, and then Rome. And we are at this point, in at least the chronological story of that beast or bestial system, if you will, where Rome is now dominant, but it is what we call the Greco-Roman world with all of the paganism, all of the culture, all of the schools of philosophy, which we will get into here once we get Paul into the city of Athens, and a world that is very much relevant to our world today. But Paul's in the heart of it.
And I will also say that this ties into at least where we are in the class right now, as we're in the Book of Revelation. We're in chapter 13 of Revelation, where we have these two beasts that John sees rising up out of the sea again. And we understand those two beasts, one to be a political power, one to be a religious power, and a continuation in time of this system, again, that begins in Babylon and migrates through Persia, through the Greek world, the Roman world, with various revivals, coming down into the modern age. Revelation 13 puts us into the future, and really, kind of the present today, but future revealing of those two beings. And we'll probably, I'm thinking that in the approach to Revelation this year that we'll go from, I'll probably cover chapter 13 and then 17 and 18 together as a unit because they do go together and I think they might fit better in our understanding of the present world and what to look for in the continuation of this entire system.
The relevance here to where we are in Acts, is Paul, as I said, is moving deeper into it, and the encounters that he has, first in Philippi with not only the demonic world but the Roman governing system. He will continue to deal with it in Thessalonica, in Berea in this story. And then he will in Athens engage the real heart and core of some of the philosophical attitudes that form the basis, again, of this beast power that had its manifestation in the ancient world, but also has its manifestation in events that are unfolding around us in the present age with blatant Satanic worship, with the transgender issues that are just roiling our culture and, you know, increasing with frequency and relevance and unfortunate problems every single day.
And the roots of all of this are not just in the last few decades in Western society, they go back to this system that begins in Babylon and comes to a flower in a sense, in the Greco-Roman world, the paganism of that time, and the ideas and the people that Paul is engaging right at this part in the Book of Acts, in this swath that he's making from Philippi to Thessalonica, to Berea, down to Athens, and then he'll spend a year and a half in Corinth. Then he is going to go over to Ephesus in his third journey and spend three years there. So, in a sense, we're kind of in the heart of a lot of matters that are dealing with our world today and where we are. So, it helps our understanding of that.
So, with that as a bit of a background, let's look here in chapter 17 and begin to pick up the thread of the story. And I've got the map on the board here that shows where Paul is, he's gone to Philippi, and he is now moving down to this point right here that I'm going to have to get our cartographer to put in the city of Thessalonica right there where my pointer is. We don't have that in there. There's actually two points. There's two red dots right there that represent Amphipolis and Apollonia, in verse 1. Paul leaves Philippi.
Acts 17:1 And then it says, “When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica where there was a synagogue of the Jews.”
And so, that puts them right here, a port city, and still a city in Greece today. I've not been to that part of Greece and this part of Paul's journey. So, hopefully, someday I can fill in this particular area. There's not a lot of archeological evidence in Thessalonica from the first century. There's kind of a city square area, and there's a Roman amphitheater that remains of that. And, you know, kind of a few rocks. Some of you might be wondering, and those of you watching online, why I don't have a lot of slides of pictures of these areas. One reason is they're just...what we have today is a pile of rocks. And if you see one pile of rocks you've seen every pile of rocks throughout that part of the world. So, I haven't seen the need to put a pile of rocks from Philippi or a pile of rocks from Thessalonica up here necessarily to illustrate that. In these areas, there's not a lot that has been unearthed to show the world of that particular time.
So, Paul finds himself here in Thessalonica where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Now, remember, his custom is to seek out his own people. It is a ready-made audience, and there's a sizable Jewish population we know in this city, which was a capital city of the province of Macedonia, possibly as many as 200,000 people living there at that time. And being a port city, would've had a diverse grouping of people. Many Jews would've been there, settled in there from times past. And it may be that Paul looked upon this as a kind of a strategic center that he may have wanted to spend time in and operating around as a means and an area in which to preach the Gospel. A lot of people, a heavy Jewish presence. It could be that from here he may have thought that he would go north out of Thessalonica into what we call and look at as the Balkan Peninsula. So, you know, again, it's just imagining what might have been in Paul's mind here as he was here. But he takes probably two, at the most, probably three days to make this trip from Philippi down to Thessalonica. That's about 100 kilometers, and it wouldn't have taken more than three days at the outside for him to make that trip. And so, remember, Luke has been left in Philippi. So, it is Paul, and Silas, and Timothy who are together. So, there's three of them here at this point in time.
Acts 17:2-3 It tells us, “Paul, as his custom was, went into them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I preach to you is the Christ.’”
And so, in one verse we're given a very succinct explanation of what he preached, but not the full explanation. I'll point out later when we get into the charges that are brought to him here in the city. And so, we have a three-week period of time that is delineated here. And whatever time Paul's going to spend in the city is probably not going to be much more than three weeks because of a riot that's going to take place, and he'll have to leave. But at least three weeks, maybe into a fourth week he is here. But Luke does delineate a three-week period of time, ample time for him to get his message out.
Now, we're told that he explained and demonstrated that from the scriptures, this would be the Old Testament scriptures. Paul hasn't even written the New Testament yet. He's written Galatians, but it hasn't reached the level of canon, you know, and the prominence that it will yet be given. And so, it's the Old Testament scriptures, and from which he preached Christ. And so, he's doing what Jesus did. If you go back to Luke 24, and we'll pick up, just want to note what Jesus did in His post-resurrection appearance, one of them to the disciples. And this is the case of the disciples that He engaged on the road to Emmaus.
Luke 24:44-47 “He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the scriptures.” Now, this is what Jesus did with these disciples. And verse 44 tells us that He spoke to them about the things that must be fulfilled, “Which were written in the law of Moses and the prophets, and the Psalms concerning me.” And verse 46, He said to them, “It is written. Thus, it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
And of course, later in the first chapter of Acts, He's going to expand that from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the age. And he tells them, “You are witnesses of these things.” And so, this is what Jesus did of Himself in this post-resurrection appearance. So, when you come back to the Book of Acts, and you see what Paul did, he took the same scriptures, he reasoned with them explaining that Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and quoting many Old Testament scriptures to that effect. Many, many scriptures that prophesied in exact detail even down to the city in which He was born, Bethlehem, that indeed Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled those scriptures, and that He is the Christ as He is saying here.
And so, again, if you go back to our mission statement in the Church, United Church of God, we call this back to our attention. You walk by it twice a day when you come in the building, when you go out, on the wall there. Our mission statement in United is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. And I've always emphasized how important that twofold aspect of the Gospel is, and how it is defined in our mission statement, but it is defined from scripture. It's a scripture-based mission statement. And this passage here in Acts 17 gives us a kind of a fuller explanation of those two aspects while we've already been seeing them in the preaching, in the Book of Acts. And verse 3 here speaks to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the scriptures about His life, His death, and His resurrection, and what that means for salvation. And that is part of the Gospel, no question about it.
Now, we're going to see the Gospel of the kingdom of God was also something that was preached by the apostles, specifically by Paul. And right here in the city of Thessalonica, that's going to be brought out by what is the charge that will be laid down against Paul here. And we'll see that here in just a minute. So, hold that thought as we move on here to verse 4.
Acts 17:4 And it says, “And some of them,” some of these Jews in the synagogue, “were persuaded.” They saw it. They bought into it, they believed, and they were persuaded. “And a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.”
And so, there's success. He begins to gain an audience from the Jews and from a multitude of the devout Greeks. Now, this harkens back to this idea of the God-fearers that we noted all along. We talked about those back in chapter 13 when we were discussing the preaching of Paul in Antioch and Pisidia. And he addressed the people, the Jewish people, and the God-fearers in that synagogue. He does the same thing here and gains success.
And he mentions, “Not a few of the leading women.” You'd like to know a little bit more about that, what and who that would be? The success of the Gospel among women is something that Luke continually points to, not only in his Gospel, but also in the Book of Acts, and the works that they have, the importance that they play within the Church, and their readiness to respond to the Gospel. And it's a pattern that frankly continues into today. Religion is something that you wonder. I mean, we see... In my years of experience, I say, how many women have I seen, they are the ones who either first come into the Church within a family, or maybe the only ones within the family?
In my case, my mother came into the Church in the early '60s. My father never did. He was not really a religious man. And she being a God fearer of a modern type was persuaded regarding the Gospel and the truth, and came into the Church, and so many others. But that's not to exclude where men have been the first and sometimes the only as well. I don't know that I could statistically show whether more women or more men have done this, but you think back, and it's a grouping that at least within the context of the Greek world, Luke brings them out, and he has a connection and a love for not only women but also the dispossessed, disadvantaged of the world. And he focuses upon their stories in his writings as well. And they do play a very important role within the Church. And so, they represent this group then that are joined to Paul and Silas.
Now, we don't read here of what we're going to read later in the book of Ephesus, where Paul will spend enough time there that he will be expelled from the synagogue, and he will rent a hall, a room in the School of Tyrannus in Ephesus, and spend time in a sense conducting his own classes, probably Sabbath services as well, in a rented facility. But he doesn't seem to have the time to do that here. And so, the idea of those who joined with him, Paul and Silas, seem to be within the context of the synagogue. But I think you would have to understand that probably through the weeks, the intervening weeks of this three-week plus period, no doubt in other locations, more than likely in the open air agora, the common marketplace in a city like this, where they could have found space to have a meeting in some type of a public area. If not, even in the home of any of these individuals who would've opened their home.
Again, not explicitly mentioned, but you have to understand, I think, it's very plausible that this teaching was not just on the Sabbath, but continued on through the weeks. And as a result, Paul lays down a rather solid foundation for the Church here in Thessalonica. We've already seen where he laid down a foundation in a very short period of time in Philippi. We read about that Church in the Book of Philippians. We will have two letters written to the Church of Thessalonica, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. And they're written very early, fairly shortly it seems after this encounter in his first visit there. Thessalonians are among the earliest writings in Paul's epistles. And we'll talk more about that as we go along. So, let's look at verse 5 now.
Acts 17:5 “But the Jews who were not persuaded.” Ah, they didn't buy it. They wondered who are these interlopers, this renegade Pharisee, these deluded Nazarenes, as they may have been called? They weren't buying it. They were not persuaded. “They became envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar.”
They instigated a riot. Now, let's kind of break that down for a moment. The word here “envious,” we shouldn't just gloss over. These Jews did not like what was happening. People were being peeled off and away from not only Judaism, but more specifically to this synagogue in Thessalonica, the community that they had created. I mean, however many strong they were, they lacked numbers probably. And if the attendance and the support is beginning to be drawn away by these two men, then what's going on in the councils of the Jews within the synagogue? What's going on is envy. And so, where do you find envy listed? Where would you find that in some of Paul's writings? Anybody have any idea now? Yes. Yes.
[Man] Galatians 5.
[Darris McNeely] Galatians 5, the works of the flesh, which are juxtaposed against the works of the Spirit. And envy is a pretty deep problem. When you really kind of break it down and think about it, you don't even need to know the Greek word. But where envy exists, you've got problems in a group of people. Envy can lead to...it could be considered at times a synonym of jealousy, but it's a little different than that. Envy comes when we might not really appreciate a success for somebody else, somebody else's win, promotion, engagement, marriage, whatever it might be that we typically, if again, everything's working right, we are operating more on joy, we would share in somebody else's joy and let's say, the overall success and prosperity of their life. But if envy is dominating our life, we're not going to smile when they tell us something good has happened to them. We might just kind of gloss over that, and it might begin to eat away over a period of time.
These Jews here were envious of the Gospel, the truth changing people's lives, moving them away from even the wrong-headed ideas of Judaism as it was in the first century. And it led them to take, it says some of the evil men from the marketplace, the agora. The place where all the shops were, you know, the Louis Vuitton handbags and the Gucci handbag shops, and the Whole Foods market where you went to get everything, that was their agora, is their equivalent of our mall or open-air shopping area that we have in some of our cities today. But you had evil men from that marketplace who kind of lingered and loitered there on a regular daily basis, almost. They didn't have jobs, and they were there looking for day work in some cases.
And, you know, you still see this when you go to Africa, Asia, parts of the world where they're not quite developed. You will find on the corners of the streets and in front of certain shops and areas, early in the morning you will find men and sometimes women gathered there. They're waiting to be picked up for day work, what they call day laborers. They're looking for... They don't have regular employment. And this was happening at this time. The Jews were then able to pay some money to a group of evil men who had, for whatever reason, were not gainfully employed and were easily bought. That's their evil. They would be willing to do anything for money. And so, in a sense, it's called rent-a-mob. All right? I won't use some of the more current names for rent-a-mob, but you've seen them on television shows or, I mean, you know, or video clips ransacking some of our cities today, night after night after night in some places. Literally, in some cases bused in, rent-a-mob type situations still goes on. This is what they did. They rented some evil men from the marketplace, gathering a mob.
Acts 17:5 “They then began to move through the streets and set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason.”
Now, Jason is identified here only by name, but he is obviously a member who has been part of the synagogue. He's probably part of the devout Greeks. His name is Greek. And so, they attacked his house already, probably known, targeted as one who...a Greek who is taken up with these itinerant Jewish teachers. And so, they gather the city. Again, setting all the city in an uproar is a bit of an overstatement. Not every single person would've engaged in this, but it would've been a sizable crowd that attacked enough to upset the civil order. And what they wanted to do, they sought to bring them out to the people. And mob justice could have gotten out of hand very easily.
Acts 17:6 Tells us, “When they did not find them,” in other words, Paul and Silas were not found there, “they dragged Jason, they took him and some brethren to the rulers of the city.”
Now, these rulers of the city were a group, or a class of people that we know from inscriptions that have been found. Many of them in the actual area of Thessalonica, called politarchs. Politarchs. The politarchs were the municipal people who ran the city, in essence. They were elected for brief periods of time, and kind of like the Roman Councils, it was rotated through over a period of time. They were the chief magistrates, judges, who were in office. They could have been elected more than once, but there would've been a rotating basis. But their responsibility was to maintain civic order.
I've mentioned this before when it comes to the Roman world, the important thing about the Roman Empire, the Pax Romana, was order. Above all things, Rome, the Caesar, the Senate, wanted order throughout all of their empire. They did not like mobs taking over like this. They did not like mobs growing into larger insurrections, particularly any that would've been led by slaves. Hence the story of Spartacus and the slave uprising that took place in the late Republican period of Rome before there was an empire. And anything that got out of hand that the legions or the politarchs, the civil magistrates couldn't have taken care of, and upset the order, brought in the wrath of Rome. That's why they wanted Paul and Silas out of Thessalonica, and they didn't want their mistake of beating these Roman citizens without due process, they didn't want that investigated. They wanted it covered up. “Please leave.” And Paul wouldn't leave until they kind of gave a bit more of a formal apology to them.
And so, here again, there is this mob stirred up. Now, keep in mind that the Jews knew exactly what would happen, and they probably went under the cover of darkness to hire the rent-a-mob, these evil men. They knew where it would lead to, and that's what they wanted. They wanted it to be focused then eventually on Paul and Silas, and they wanted them gone. But now it spills up over into the city rulers. And notice what is said.
Acts 17:6 “They dragged Jason, some of the brethren to the rulers of the city.”
And it would've been in that area of the agora as well. The agora would've in most of these cities, was kind of a long, rectangular open-air plaza, double-storied in many cases, shops lining all of this and stalls in the middle. But in Philippi, we know for sure they've at least found this, at one end of the agora would've been a judgment area, or let's say the city hall, the place where business like this was taken care of. We're going to see this in Corinth again. And it's called a bema, or B-E-M-A. And it was a raised area here that was kind of a seat of judgment. And so, probably they bring this into this particular part of the city at this time when they're crying out at the latter part of verse 6.
Acts 17:6 “They bring the brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, ‘These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.’”
Now, that's a very important phrase. These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. It speaks to the power of the Gospel, number one, to turn the world upside down. Did it turn the whole world upside down in the first century? No. Again, as we go through Revelation, we know that event will not happen until Christ returns. And when Christ returns, the world truly will be turned upside down. The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign and rule forever and ever with the saints. But that's the message. That's what the message of the Kingdom of God entails. And this phrase tells us that Paul also preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Phase two of our aspect of our mission statement, the first being the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'll just put JC up here, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of the kingdom of God. We just read in the previous verse where he preached to them from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. And now by what the mob says in their accusation, we find that they are preaching a message that turns the world upside down. And let's read on here.
Acts 17:7 “Jason has harbored them.” In other words, that's why they went to his home looking for them there. So, they must have been staying there, is one conclusion that you would draw. “And these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar saying there is another king, Jesus.”
And so, verse 6 and 7 here, tell us that Paul preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. All right? Verses 6 and 7. But earlier in the chapter, in verse 3, he preached... We'll find that he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a very important passage in Acts to show us what was preached by Paul, and certainly all the other, you know, Peter and John, the other occasions here. But this is really one of a better place to show how, by crafting the mission statement that we've done in the United Church of God, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, we are centered right in scripture, and that's important. That's extremely important to focus us on what was done by the Church in the first century, to understand how then we are to be and act and what our mission is here at this particular time.
Now, what they were doing by preaching that there's going to be a coming kingdom, that this Jesus whom you killed, was killed, He was resurrected, and He is going to come again, and He is going to establish a kingdom upon this earth. And the language that is used here when they say that they're acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar saying there is another king. That word “king” is a Greek word “basileus.” And it means exactly that, it means king. And in the Roman world, who was King? Caesar. Caesar was king. And as Tom Petty's song says, "It's good to be king." And it was good if you were the Caesar. It was bad if you were on the bottom of the heap. But by Paul preaching that there's going to be coming another Caesar. And remember back in Acts 13 at Antioch and Pisidia, that's what he challenged, where that temple of Augustus was that we talked about at that time. And Paul was saying that the true savior is Jesus, not a dead Caesar. The true savior was Jesus Christ. And now here, you know, the focus is on the fact that Christ is going to come as king of kings, Lord of Lords, basileus. That message is treasonous in the Roman Empire. It could have caused Paul and Silas at this point, to have their heads cut off. It will lead to that with Paul, but this is not the time. God had much more yet for them to do, and yet it could have gone to that. And so, this is really what is being said.
Acts 17:8 Tells us, “They troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things.”
Again, the whole order of the city would've been upset, and it would've brought in the wrath of Rome to restore order. The troops would've come marching in. And in our time, that's tantamount to calling out the National Guard if conditions in a city get too rough. We don't do that anymore, though. You haven't seen that in the last couple of years. They don't call out. The police have retreated in some of our cities like Portland, Minneapolis, and other places in recent years where rioting took over whole sections of the city and destroyed whole downtowns, even the local police force have been marauded and they have pulled back. But there was a time when they would have fought back. And I know, you know, you can look at the scenes of some of that from another era, and they're not very pleasant because of the social issues that were being done at the time. But where things used to get out of hand, you know, the police couldn't handle it, the National Guard would come in. And again, not my intent to get into the issues of the social matters of the '60s or the 1970s, but just illustrating that, you know, a martial force is there for many purposes much of which to enforce the laws and to keep civic order and discipline, even today. And that's what is happening here at this particular time.
Acts 17:8-9 And so, “They troubled the crowd and the rulers when they heard these things, and when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.”
So, Jason had to put down, in a sense, what we call today a bond for Paul, out of his own money, it seems. Maybe they took up a collection among the other members, but they had to post bond and a promise that Paul would leave and he would not come back, and this wouldn't happen again. And they let them go.
Acts 17:10 then tells us, “The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea.”
And so they had to leave at night, a rather ignominious way. Now, in the remaining time we have for this particular session, let's not leave Thessalonica until we at least note how this kind of plays out from some of the comments that Paul makes in the letter of 1 Thessalonians and even 2 Thessalonians, and what we can gain from there.
First of all, let's look at this matter of the riot, and I want you to turn over to 1 Thessalonians 2 to kind of get a correlation here of Paul, later, when he writes back to the Church. We have no record of Paul ever going back to the Church, and it appears that Timothy is left here. But in 1 Thessalonians 2, and if we go down to verse 14, Paul has addressed a bit of his method here for what happened in their midst.
1 Thessalonians 2:14 “For you, brethren, became imitators of the Churches of God, which are in Judea, in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans.”
Now, here he draws a connection. What have we learned happened to the Judeans? Remember, Judea is where Jerusalem's located. Just the earlier chapters of Acts, what do we know happened in Jerusalem among the Churches of God there? We know that they had persecution. Stephen was martyred in Jerusalem, and Saul was rampaging, dragging people before the magistrates before he was converted, struck down on the road to Damascus.
And so, the Churches of God in Judea suffered the same things from their countrymen, as now he says the Thessalonians did from their own countrymen, right? Now, think about that. What happened in Jerusalem? Well, some died, Stephen, being the most prominent. James too, and unnamed disciples.
1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 He goes on, And just as it happened in Jerusalem in Judea, this has happened or was instigated by the Jews there and also here in Thessalonica. And so, the question then is, did some of these people in Thessalonica die or become martyrs? Well, while he may not explicitly say, he certainly has a very strong illusion to it. In 1 Thessalonians 4, and looking at verse 13, as he begins this section talking about the resurrection.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 He says, “I do not want you to be ignorant brethren concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”
In other words, they've died. How did they die? Was it just by natural causes or did some suffer by what he seems to be saying back in 2:14-16, that they suffered some of the same afflictions that the people in Judea did. Well, that's very likely that they did deal with that at that particular time. And so, this riot was not only strong to at least expel Paul, but very likely continued on, the unrest, at least or the targeted persecution of the Jews no doubt continued on. And so, that's how you kind of read some from the epistles dealing with some of these Churches, to the actual account we have in Acts to connect some dots together to get a little bit more understanding of what was taking place here. Now, I want to make another comment here on what is happening as we look at this stirring up of antagonism against Paul and Silas in Acts being hauled before the Roman magistrates those that are acting for Rome. Again, in 1 Thessalonians 2, I want you to look at verse 17.
1 Thessalonians 2:17 He says, “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.”
He's referring to that night that they had to leave quickly after bond was posted, when the mob came to Jason's house. He said, "We were taken away for a short time." Now, in Paul's mind he probably hoped to get back there and that it would be a short time, but we have no record of him going back. Maybe he did after one of his...released from his first imprisonment. Some speculate about that.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 But he said that, “We are eager to see your face with great desire. Therefore,” he said in verse 18, “we wanted to come to you, even I, Paul, time and again, but Satan hindered us.”
Now, that's a very strong statement that Paul makes here in 1 Thessalonians 2:18. “Satan hindered us.” What does he mean by that? How did Satan hinder him? We've read earlier in acts where the spirit forbade Paul to go into certain areas. What's he mean here by Satan hindered us? This is taking us about as high as you can go. This is more than just a group of evil men in a mob. This is more than just a Roman magistrate. This is Paul saying, “Satan did this. Satan did...he hindered us.” Now, Paul is moving, as I said at the beginning, he's moving deeper into the heart of the beast. As he moves into this area of Greece, the Greco-Roman world, the culture, the philosophy, the Roman government, he's encountering it everywhere he goes now. And it is not just Greece or Rome, it is the beast. It is the beast. And what does that mean? Well, hold your place here in 1 Thessalonians, and let's go back to Revelation 13. I've referenced that already. We'll be back into that on our next revelation class. In Revelation 13:4, this first beast that John sees. And we talked about verse 3, last class, in Revelation class, but in verse 4.
Revelations 13:4 It says, “They worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast.” Here John is being told that this beast has its authority, and this beast here is the political power of Rome and another future resurrection. But he says they worship the dragon, that's Satan. The dragon is the symbol of Satan in Revelation. “And they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who's like the beast? Who's able to make war with him?’”
And so here, Paul or John is given, you know, the total understanding that I think Paul is alluding to back in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, where he said, “Satan hindered us.” It is Satan behind this power of Rome that he is encountering now more direct, even though the Jews stirred up the problem. Now, Christ had that same encounter because it was Rome who ultimately crucified him. But he's moving deeper into this at this time, and he's wrestling with it.
In 1 Corinthians 15, when you look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, he makes a comment here in verse 32.
1 Corinthians 15:32 Where Paul says, “In the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus. What advantage is it to me if the dead do not rise? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
He throws in this comment, “I wrestled with beasts at Ephesus.” We have no record in Acts or even his letters to the Ephesians of him wrestling with beasts, if it's a lion or whatever it might have been. There's no record of that. But he did wrestle with men and the government of the beast. And we'll see him when he comes to Ephesus in chapter 18, that he encounters a mob that wants to tear him apart in the amphitheater. Is that what he's talking about here in 1 Corinthians 15:32? Many scholars think that that's what he's talking about. It's an illusion to the men, the power of the beast, exercised through the government, the Politarchs. In the case of Ephesus, the Asiarchs that we'll talk about there.
And so, Paul knows what's happening here, and he's been moved by God to call it for what it is. And this is where we find him then with this story at the city of Thessalonica. So, he goes away by night to Berea, and in our next class, we'll pick up the story of Paul here with the group of disciples in the city of Berea, and a very interesting story there. So, we'll see you next class period.