The book of Acts, like many other aspects of God’s Word, has been misunderstood and handled incorrectly almost since the end of the first century. In the book of Acts the Old Covenant has ended and the New Covenant begins. A New Covenant that although it begins in Acts chapter 2 is ultimately held in abeyance until the Administration of Grace concludes with the gathering together of the Body of Christ.
Acts presents us with the end of the transition from the Christ Administration and the beginning of the Revealing Administration which also is held in abeyance until the gathering together. Acts shares with us some of the history of the first century believers as they learn to walk in the accomplishments of Jesus Christ, accepting the grace of God. Acts sets the tone not only for the Revealing Administration but also shows us the transition into the Administration of Grace. In fact the council of Acts 15 could be called a preamble to the Pauline epistles which set the doctrine for the Administration of Grace.
2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. The Word is profitable in four ways; it is profitable for doctrine which is how to believe rightly, it is profitable for reproof which points out wrong believing so as to get us back to right believing, it is profitable for correction which is necessary when we have practiced wrong believing so long that it has now become our doctrine, and it is profitable for instruction in righteousness or instruction in right living. The book of Acts is not doctrine, reproof, or correction but it is instruction in righteousness.
The Greek word for instruction here, paideia, was used by the Greeks in reference to teaching and training a child. A paidagōgos was a tutor responsible for teaching the child how to become a good citizen. In Galatians paidagogos is used in reference to the Law of Moses.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster (paidagōgos) to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
The book of Acts gives instruction in right living to men and women that believe and walk with God in two different administrations.
Acts covers approximately 35 years, opening around the year 27 A.D. and closing around the year 62 A.D. Although the actual dates carry no biblical authority and are often disputed by Biblical scholars and historians, they can be helpful when considering the timing of events and the scope of the book of Acts.
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
In other teachings I have told you that it is always important to understand to whom a book or epistle is addressed. To whom is the book of Acts addressed?
Theophilus means Beloved of God or Dearly Beloved. Some biblical scholars teach that Theophilus was a Roman dignitary that had influence over the imprisonment of the Apostle Paul and therefore Acts was meant as a legal brief pleading Paul’s case. Others believe Theophilus was the High Priest of Israel, or at least close to the High Priest, and the book of Acts is a request for help to stop the persecution of the early church by the Jews.
Who is Theophilus?
He is the man to whom the book of Acts is addressed; whose name means Beloved of God or Dearly Beloved and that is all we know of him. I suppose if we needed to know more about Theophilus than God would have made that knowledge available.
Verse 2 makes a very interesting statement that is often overlooked but reveals an interesting truth we have failed to recognize in Christianity. It states, “the apostles whom he had chosen.”
Who are the apostles that Jesus had chosen?
And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.
This places Judas Iscariot alive and well on the day of the Ascension, forty days after Jesus was crucified. So how did teachers of the Bible come up with Judas hanging himself before Jesus died on the cross? Judas hanging himself before Jesus dies is a misunderstanding of Matthew 27:5 coupled with theologians forcing the gospels of Luke and John and the first chapter of Acts into their misunderstanding of Matthew 27.
This is what happens when tradition is more important than the words of God. Tradition gives Theophilus an occupation and kills Judas almost immediately upon his betrayal. Neither assumption is supported by scripture.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
After talking with two disciples on the road to Emmas, Jesus appears to eleven apostles in Jerusalem. It is commonly taught that Judas is the one who is missing because he is dead.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
Thomas was the missing apostle.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.
Judas is alive and with the other apostles on the day of the Ascension, forty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
The first part of the transition between the Christ Administration and the Revealing Administration is the forty days Christ has revealed himself to many people. The remaining ten days between the Ascension and the day of Pentecost are the second part of the transition into the Revealing Administration..
For forty days Judas got to see and hear Jesus teach the Word of God pertaining to Israel and the Kingdom of God. Judas was standing there when Jesus Christ taught them about receiving holy spirit in the gospel of John. As we will see later in this first chapter of Acts, Judas could have received holy spirit not many days hence on Pentecost. But Judas makes the decision, for an unknown reason, to take his own life by falling on a sword.
Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
Had Judas not decided to take his own life, “he had obtained part of this ministry”. Look at the forgiveness of God. God’s mercy and grace to Judas are amazing! No wonder Romans 2 declares that it is the goodness of God that leads man to repentance.
The problem between Judas hanging himself or falling on a sword comes about because of Matthew chapter 27.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
After his betrayal Judas repents, realizing Jesus is the innocent or righteous blood, and gets rid of the money. Then Matthew states that Judas “hanged himself”. Matthew is concerned neither with the time of Judas’ death nor with the method of his death. Since Matthew is the gospel that portrays Jesus as the King of Israel, Matthew is making a reference to King David who was also betrayed.
Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.
David had been betrayed by a friend, the account is in 2 Samuel.
2 Samuel 17:23
And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.
Ahithophel betrayed king David to Absalom and then took his own life by hanging. Ahithophel betrayed his king and his friend. E.W. Bullinger, in his Companion Bible, points out that the same Greek words used in the Septuagint for 2 Samuel 17 are also used in the gospel of John when Jesus is speaking of Judas.
I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
Jesus quotes part of Psalm 41 when speaking of Judas making a connection between his betrayal and the betrayal of David by Ahithophel. Notice the part of Psalm 41 that Jesus does not quote refers to his trust in his friend. David trusted Ahtihophel but Jesus did not trust Judas.
The gospel of Matthew gives us the fulfilling of Old Testament scriptures, ignoring timing and method of death while Acts gives us an accurate picture of the timing and method of death. As we continue in this first chapter of Acts we will see more information that God has given regarding the timing of the death of Judas. Yet we are still left with no exact reason why he made the decision to take his own life. We can speak of his grief or even the guilt he may have felt but these thoughts amount to no more than opinion. Honestly why he refused the grace and mercy of God is not as important as seeing God’s grace and mercy extended to Judas.
All through the time of transition when Jesus is revealing himself as God’s son in his resurrected body and teaching God’s Word, Judas is there. Neither God nor Jesus Christ accuse Judas or condemn him. Quite the opposite is true for all that the other apostles receive on the day of Pentecost is being offered to Judas also. Many have spoken of, and taught about, the condemnation of Judas but thankfully for Judas, one of those was not God.