There is not as clear a picture of the rest of the story (in Acts 28) as in the previous chapter. But this should not be surprising. Remember, most of the study up to now is history. Matching Scriptures which contain metaphors with facts already past, is much easier than matching Scriptures to events not yet having occurred. But to show that my overall rationale is sound, let me present a few highlights, drawing from those verses with messages beneath the surface which reflect well-known, prophetic meanings---some historical, some futuristic.
By now, you should be well-acquainted with the Law of Double Reference---i.e., that certain
Scriptures have both obvious meanings plus allegorical inferences within the same text. Thus, to
save time and space, from here on I shall limit my discussion mainly to the metaphoric, believing
the obvious is fairly self-explanatory. Since the picture begins to fade out in Acts 28 [just as is the
case in John 12 following John 11], I shall touch only on a few thoughts. For easier identification,
the key areas of interest will appear in bold print:
"And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita (Malta)."
"And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received
us, every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold."
Acts 28: 1 & 2.
Recapping how the last chapter closed, the Church had splintered, leaving believers in a myriad of situations: some in denominational congregations; some in para-Church ministries; some in missionary work; some in small-group fellowships; some alone, etc. But despite the physical separation, there has been [and is] a powerful bond of unity holding us together [in spirit]: that bonding being Christ and the faith He taught. This dispersion was pictured by all the ship's company on Paul's voyage swimming or floating on broken pieces to the island.
In verse (1) above, "when they were escaped" to "the island" is a rather odd way of saying a
group of people had reached land safely, unless, of course, you want to convey something in
addition to merely giving a description of a certain shipwreck. But when the metaphor is
seen---salvation of the whole Church---, then this phrase is quite appropriate, for it clearly
pictures the Rapture of the Church. In chapter 5, we learned that the English rendering "escaped
the sea" was from a single Greek word (the theomatic number being 276) which literally means
"to be saved". Those "to be saved" are the Church, my friends. So, with all these facts in mind,
we can see the real reason for Luke's manner of speaking, as he later recalled the ship's company
reaching the island. The language had to be such that it would include these deeper truths so
relevant to our day.
WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE RAPTURED CHURCH?
Many books have been written on this topic. Once again I can recommend my own, THE TWO
WITNESSES. Let me here give you a general idea of what awaits the Church at the end of this
The Bible teaches that the Church will rise to meet the Lord when the "last trump" of God sounds. (See 1 Thes. 4:16&17 and 1 Cor. 15:51&52.) This will occur mid-way into the final Tribulation. (Most prophetic authors teach this will occur at the beginning of the Tribulation. I disagree, and my reasons are fully covered in TTW.) The purpose of the Rapture is to remove the Church from the earth at the peak of Satan's control of the world's governing systems [economically, militarily and politically]; i.e., when anti-Christ will have reached his highest measure of authority and influence upon mankind.
But just because the Church is raptured, time and activities do not cease on earth. We will have reached the end of an age, not the end of the world. The 144,000 set-aside Israelites [12,000 from each tribe of Israel] will continue to evangelize the earth during the last 3/1/2 years of the final Tribulation, the Church having accomplished their final part of the Great Commission in the first half of the Tribulation. Souls will still be saved, but during far-more-difficult circumstances than is now the case.
The Church --- both the dead and the alive, those God will have redeemed from the earth during the Christian era---will be removed from the problems of this world, and will never again face difficulties in natural flesh. Oh, we will be back here again, for sure, but living then in entirely different kinds of bodies. But, we will first go to Paradise, pictured in our study by the island.
The Bible is relatively quiet about the details of Paradise. Jesus spoke of it to one of the thieves crucified alongside Him, saying he would be with Him that day in Paradise. (Luke 23:43; see also 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7.) I believe raptured-Christians will begin receiving their rewards in Paradise. I don't know exactly what this entails. And I think it's safe to say no one else knows either. Scripture doesn't tell us all about these facts, only that we will receive rewards. This is pictured in verse (2) by the phrase "showed us no little kindness", and in verse (10) by "honored us with many honors". What an understatement! Imagine it. We'll be sitting in Paradise, beginning our eternal existence in the presence of the Lord, with Him [and perhaps angels] doling out gifts and God-knows-what-all to us, His Bride. Hallelujah!
Notice how the passage alludes to the Tribulation, from which the Church will have escaped. The
people on the island "received us, every one, because of the present rain, and because of the
cold." When the Church is raptured, all hell will be breaking loose on earth, Satan and his demons
"raining" down every kind of evil that they can think of. Concomitant to this, fallen man will be
listening to these lying devils and many will join in on the evil schemes against God and the
Church, producing within the Church a great "cold" [the apostasy] which, near the end, will have
engulfed the world. But when this "rain" and "cold" against the saints will have reached the
maximum, God will in essence say, "IT IS ENOUGH. COME UNTO ME!" And, in response,
the Church will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord and go with Him into the "warmth"
of Paradise to be with Him forever.
Verses 3 - 6.
"And when Paul had gathered a bunch of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper and fastened on his hand."
"And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet justice alloweth not to live."
"And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm."
"However, they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly; but after
they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and
said that he was a god."
I believe there is a mini-story here within the framework of our larger adventure. [Again, I must emphasize that in order to see the prophetic implications within these passages, one needs to have a firm grasp of prophecy relative to the last days. Let me share a few thoughts from THE TWO WITNESSES in order for the reader to see the parallelism in the above four verses.]
We've already touched on this before but it bears repeating again. In the last days, Satan will have established much control in the earth with regards to the political, economic and military systems. This is being done even as I write, with the old Roman Empire being restructured through an organization today known as the European Economic Community. This whole system will eventually be headed by a personal individual, Scripturally revealed as that "man of sin", the "beast", or more often known as the "anti-Christ". The anti-Christ will have a forerunner and spiritual partner the Bible calls the False Prophet. This is the religious leg of the overall system. You see, Satan wants to be worshipped too, and therefore, has a mock system [i.e., mocking God's true Church] set up to accomplish this goal. The anti-Christ, often referred to in Revelation as the "beast", will have his hey-day. But Scripture clearly defines his boundaries and tells us that his ultimate destiny, along with the False Prophet, is hell.
I've only recently noticed that this whole scenario is pictured in a small, nutshell-form in verses 3 -
6 above. Here are the characters: Paul symbolizes Jesus. The "viper" is Satan. The "venomous
beast" is the anti-Christ. That the beast fastened on the hand of Paul is indicative of Satan's
attempt to destroy Jesus and the Church. But, in the end, we know that Satan, the anti-Christ and
the False Prophet will all end up in hell. And the "barbarians" [unbelievers] who "looked a great
while" and "saw no harm come to him [Paul]", "changed their minds" [i.e., repented] saying even
that "he was a god". This refers, metaphorically, to the Gospel and the way of salvation. Paul
shaking the beast into the fire, recalls what Jesus did to the serpent (Satan) at Calvary. Satan
thought he had won when Jesus was crucified, but the fact is, that was the blow which sealed
Satan's eventual defeat and doom. The "barbarians" who come to believe in Jesusperhaps alluding
to those on earth during the Tribulation after the Church has been taken to Paradiseafter they
have "looked a great while", realize that Jesus is, in fact, God.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER SEVEN
The images from God's darkroom become increasingly difficult to see throughout the remainder
of this chapter. This is because it moves further and further away from the present day, perhaps
even into the Millennium. But, just so the reader can have food for thought, in closing, I thought
I would simply quote the rest of the chapter, highlighting those key names, words, and phrases
which I believe have God-given, allegorical implications. In time, I think we will understand
exactly who, and what, these passages refer to, metaphorically.
Verses 7 - 31.
"In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us, and lodged us three days courteously."
"And it came to pass that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux; to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him."
"So when this was done, others also in the island, who had diseases, came and were healed;"
"Who also honored us with many honors; and when we were departed, they placed on board such things as were necessary."
"And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux."
"And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days."
"And from there we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium; and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli,"
"Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days; and so we went toward Rome."
"And from there, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as The Forum of Appius and The Three Taverns; whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage."
"And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him."
"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,"
"Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me."
"But when the Jews spoke against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had anything to accuse my nation of."
"For this cause, therefore, have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."
"And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spoke any harm of thee."
"But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against."
"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."
"And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not."
"And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after Paul had spoken one word, Well spoke the Holy Spirit by Isaiah, the prophet, unto our fathers,"
"Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive;"
"For the heart of this people is become obtuse, and their ears 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 hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them."
"Be it known, therefore, unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."
"And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had great disputing among themselves."
"And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,"
"Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus
Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him."
End of chapter 28.
I look forward to the time when I can get a clearer picture of what I believe is implied in Luke's final remarks about the Acts of the apostles. I'm confident that there are nuggets of wisdom waiting to be discovered here. It's only a matter of time and God's sovereign design, election, call and anointing, before the 'images' will come forth. I could comment on several of them now, but have decided to leave it to the reader to ponder these Scriptures using the "tools of analysis" I have tried to share with you. Perhaps another book will come from one of you in the future on the rest of the story.
If not before, I'll see you in Paradise, fellow and sister believers.