Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

The Hope of Israel

Acts 28:17-31

by Brian Evans, M.A., B.A., Th.D., M.Div.


Last time we noted what an accomplishment it was for Paul to arrive in the City of Rome. When I say accomplishment, I don’t mean that it was something great that Paul did because there was no way he could have ever arrived in Rome apart from the plan and power of God. We noted also how amazed Luke was that he records twice in just a couple of verses that they arrived in Rome.
What is so significant about Rome?
If you remember back when we began the Book of Acts, I said that Acts follows the Great Commission. What I mean is that the Book begin in Jerusalem then extends to Judea and then Samaria and then to the uttermost parts of the world. Rome represents the uttermost parts of the world.
Geographically, it of course is not the farthest place away from Jerusalem but what it is, is the farthest place from Jerusalem that had a significant population of Jews. We’ll see today, the Apostle’s last dialogue with his Jewish kinsmen in the Book of Acts.

Many theologians find it problematic that Luke ends the Book in a way that may seem abrupt but we must again remember the purpose of the Book. Luke’s goal is to trace the expanse of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Since Rome represents that far away place then we can understand why it should end here in this city.

I.   Jesus Christ is the Hope of Israel.

  Acts 28:17-21
17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.

We should note that the Apostle wastes no time in calling his kinsmen to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is no doubt in keeping with Paul’s consistent evangelistic strategy…

Romans 1:16-17
16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

Next, Paul begins telling the facts behind his arrest and incarceration. His desire is not so much to clear his name but to show that many Jews have reacted poorly when shown the realities concerning the Old Testament and their traditions. They were set in their ways and refused to see the truth. By doing this, he is challenging these Jews in Rome assembled before him not to jump to conclusions before they consider the facts.

The reason he is in prison is not because he is a murderer, like those in Malts assumed nor was he guilty of any crime. So, his point in sharing his story is that he did not want the Jewish leadership to jump to wrong conclusions about his imprisonment nor about the Gospel. For them, both were hard prejudices to overcome.

I’m in prison, but I have done no wrong…
Jesus is the promised Messiah, even though it may not look like it.
This message is titled, The Hope of Israel, because that is what Paul declares to be the reason he is behind bars. What is the hope of Israel?
Better stated, Who is the Hope of Israel? To answer this question, we simply turn to the Book of Jeremiah and there in two places this title is used.

Jeremiah 14:8
8 O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?

In this verse, Israel likens God to a traveler or a stranger in the land. In other words, their access to God is fleeting, He will not listen or heal their land do to their sin.

Jeremiah 17:13
13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.

Again, it is easy to see Who Jeremiah is referring to when he uses the title LORD. God is the Hope of Israel, He is her Savior and/or her Judge.
Then Paul explains to us and to the Jews in whom they should hope. It is also clear in the context that his continual message is the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. So, he tells everyone present that day that they must believe and place their trust in Jesus the Messiah.

Acts 24:15
15 "And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust."

Acts 26:6-8
6 "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:
7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?"

Once the Apostle explains the events surrounding his imprisonment, the Jews in Rome respond and tell him, they’ve not heard any of the bad reports he has brought up. They have, however, heard many bad reports about Christians.

Acts 28:22
  22 "But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against."

They desire to hear what Paul has to say. He is given an opportunity to explain the theology of Christianity and how Christ is the fulfillment of all the Jews had been waiting for.

II.   Jesus Reveals The Kingdom of God

Acts 28:23-27
  23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
  24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
  25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
  26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
  27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

What Luke reports is that Paul expounded the Scriptures of the OT trying to persuade them that Jesus is the Messiah.
Paul and Luke connect the Kingdom of God and the Gospel very closely, almost to the point of being the same thing. Notice in other verses what is said concerning the Kingdom of God…

Acts 19:8-10
8 "And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.
9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.
10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks."

Acts 20:24-25
24 "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more."

We can see the connection that is made between the two.
Likewise when John the Baptist and Jesus preached the Kingdom of God, they were calling people to repent and believe that Jesus is the One sent from God…the Messiah.
Upon hearing Paul’s message that the promised Messiah in the OT is Jesus Himself, he was met with opposition. Some understood and agreed and others disagreed with the Apostle’s interpretation of OT prophecy. Notice, then what Paul announces: The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

We must not overlook the fact that Paul attributes the writing of Isaiah as being of Holy Spirit origin. In other words, God authored what Isaiah wrote. The same can be said of all the Bible. Men wrote it but God is the originator or author of it.
Here is what God tells those who choose not to believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of OT and is the Hope of Israel, being her Messiah:

Acts 28:26-27
  26 "Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
  27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them."

These are words of judgment. The Jews who rejected Paul’s OT interpretation and failed to believe that Jesus is the Messiah are, with these words, experiencing the judgment of God. Here, judgment is pronounced on the unbelievers.
Notice also what Paul does with this Isaiah passage. We remember this as coming from Isaiah 6…the prophet’s commission. God was sending Isaiah to pronounce judgment upon unrepentant Israel.
These Jews would have got the point. Just as Israel refused to hear and obey God so too these Jews in Rome refuse to hear and obey God.
We also should note that Jesus also applied the Isaiah 6 text to the Pharisees in His day.

Luke 8:9-10
9 "And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand."

In Jesus’ time, the Jews had seen miracle after miracle, and still did not believe. Here, in Paul’s case, he had taught them very completely from the Scriptures and still they did not believe.
Here is the result…

III.   Jesus is Preached to the Gentiles

Acts 28:28
  28 "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."

So, the Book of Acts ends with the Apostles words, Because you rejected the Hope of Israel, I will now take it to the Gentiles. He adds, that Gentiles will listen and the Hope of Israel will become the Hope of the Gentiles.
Here is an important point. God is longsuffering. He had time and time again offered salvation to Israel and time and time again they rejected the truth for a lie. God is now offering the Gospel to Gentiles and we must be extremely careful because we too can ignore the good news like Israel did. Do not assume that the Gospel will always be there for you to accept on your terms. When it is offered we must run to Christ and never harden our hearts to the message of the cross.

Romans 11:17-24
17 "And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?"

Notice how Luke ends the Book…

Acts 28:30-31
  30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
  31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him."

The Book of Acts is not a biography on Paul. It is a report of the Gospel and how it advanced from Jerusalem to Judea, and to Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world. The message of the cross and of salvation has reached the Jews living in Rome, the uttermost part of the world. Paul was in prison but the Gospel was not…
In fact while Paul was in prison (literally, house arrest) he was free to receive visitors and to write. Because of his Roman imprisonment we are blessed to have:

Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and 2 Timothy. God works in mysterious ways.

2 Timothy 4:18
18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Brian Evans, M.A., B.A., Th.D., M.Div. grew up in Southern Ohio. He is a graduate of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pastoral Ministry, a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Biblical Counseling and has an (M.Div. from Whitefield Theological Seminary. Brian has entered the ThD. program at Whitefield Theological Seminary pursuing a doctoral degree in biblical counseling. Brian is the Theologically Reformed and Gospel Centered Pastor overseer of Grace Community Church.

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