Numbers in Acts - Peter & PaulVolume 4, Number 22
Created Date: June 5, 2017
Posted Date: June 5, 2017
Believe in Acts, Part 6 - Significant Numbers:
Continuing our study of the Greek word “Pisteuo,” normally translated “believe” in the New Testament (NT), found most frequently in the Gospel of John (100) and second most often in Acts (39). Why 39? We’ve studied the first 8 occurrences in Acts and found they reference Jews who believed the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by Christ’s 12 Apostles. That Gospel is encapsulated in Peter’s sermon to the Jews in the Temple: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”.
The word “restitution” is translated from the Greek “apokatastasis,” found in the New Testament (NT) only here in. It means reconstitution or restitution. The fact the Holy Spirit inspired Dr. Luke to use it here is significant because the number 1 denotes unity and primacy in the Bible.* Peter’s message to repent and be converted was an exhortation to believe the Gospel that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, ; 4:4 & 32; 5:14. The restitution of all things was foretold by the Old Testament prophets and it will be embodied in the Heavenly Kingdom on earth that Christ also spoke of during His earthly ministry. It is referenced by other NT writers, particularly by John in Revelation and will assuredly be established when The Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth after the Great Tribulation and all will be united under Him when he is preeminent in the restitution of all things. This was the hope or earnest expectation of the Jews who believed the Gospel Peter preached in Acts 3:19 - 21.
Acts primarily deals with the Gospel of the Kingdom for the Nation of Israel and sadly chronicles that nation’s rejection thereof. The good news is that Acts introduces the Apostle Paul who God ordained to proclaim the Gospel of His Grace, which had been God’s secret, never revealed until He did so to Paul,, . Thus, in Acts we find Paul consistently going to the Jewish synagogues first in the towns he visited. But even though some individual Jews did believe, Paul’s Gospel was consistently rejected by the Jewish leaders so on three separate occasions Paul proclaimed he was turning to the Gentiles with the Gospel, ; 18:6; 28:27 & 28. The number three in Scripture stands for that which is solid, real, substantial, complete and entire; it denotes Divine perfection, as with God The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. But it is not until his epistles that Paul reveals the full Gospel of God’s Grace, that is, the secret of this dispensation of Grace, which is for Jews and Gentiles alike - and it is only in Paul’s epistles where this is found.
As a demonstration of the transitional nature of the Book of Acts, we find the Apostle Peter prominent in the first chapters preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to Israel, Peter’s name appearing 58 times. The last he is mentioned is inwhere he informed the Jewish Council that it was by his preaching that the Gentiles heard the Word of the Gospel, believed and received the Holy Spirit, just like the Jews. Prior to that time, the idea of Gentiles being included was unheard of, unless they became proselytes to the Jewish religion. On the other hand, the Apostle Paul’s name appears 132 times in Acts, the first occasion being in , where he pronounced blindness for a season on the Jewish false prophet Barjesus. This incident itself is an allegory pointing to the blindness that befell the Nation of Israel to their Messiah, which has lasted almost 2000 years now while God has dealt with all mankind with the Gospel of His Grace for the Church, which is Christ’s Body.
It’s noteworthy that the first eight (8) occurrences of the word believe in Acts reference Jews who believed and were waiting for Christ’s Kingdom on earth. The number 8 in Scripture is the number for resurrection and regeneration, i.e., eight souls emerged from Noah’s ark, circumcision was performed on the eighth day, the first born was to be given to Jehovah on the eighth day, eight individuals (other than Christ and the Saints) are recorded as having been raised from the dead. Also, Christ arose from the dead on the first of the week, which was of necessity, the eighth day.
In today’s study we arrive at the 9th occasion of “believe” in Acts: “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.”. After the Lord Jesus Christ miraculously appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus and saved Him, , He appeared to Ananias, a Jew who was a believer in Jesus, in a vision and told him to go to Saul (later Paul) and minister to him. Ananias knew Saul had come to arrest believers like him and objected but The Lord told him He had chosen Saul to preach to Gentiles, Kings and the Children of Israel and he would shew Saul how great things he must suffer for His sake. Ananias went as instructed, Saul’s sight was restored and he was filled with the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him, .
After that, Saul went into Arabia for three years (again the number for divine perfection),and then returned to Damascus where he preached Christ as the Son of God in the Synagogues. The Jewish leadership, those who did not believe Jesus was their Messiah, went about to kill him and he escaped Damascus by being lowered over the city walls in a basket, . Therefore, at least three years had passed since Saul’s conversion and his return to Jerusalem and one would think that would have been ample time for word about his conversion and ministry in Damascus to reach the disciples in Jerusalem. But even though they all had been filled with the Holy Spirit, they did not believe Saul was a disciple, Acts 9:26, thus the 9th time “believe” appears in Acts.
The number nine (9) is significant in Scripture. It is the last of the digits and thus marks the end. It is the number of finality or judgment. And so we see in figure the finality of the prominence of the Kingdom message as proclaimed to Israel, introducing the Apostle Paul who, in his epistles, reveals the Gospel of the Grace of God for the Church, the Body of Christ. Scripture is clear that the Kingdom Gospel will be proclaimed again, after the Body of Christ is raptured and taken to heaven when all God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled, Romans 9 - 11.
Although not documented in Scripture, the number 40 is significant in the setting aside of Israel as God’s chosen Nation for a season, that season lasting almost 2000 years now. History indicates Israel existed for 40 years as a nation with Temple worship in Jerusalem from the time of Christ’s ascension into heaven until the destruction of Jerusalem. Most authorities estimate Jesus was born around 3 BC or a little before according to today’s calendar, which has been adjusted since then. Therefore, He would have ascended into heaven at about 30 A.D. and since the Roman Titus conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and dispersed the Jews in 70 A.D., that amounts to a 40-year period from when Christ ascended and Israel was set aside.
The number forty (40) in Scripture is associated with a period of probation, trial and chastisement. For example, forty days and 40 nights of rain caused Noah’s flood, which was chastisement for the sin and rejection of God by the old world. However, 40 primarily has to do with the probation, trial and chastisement of the Nation of Israel. There are many examples in Scripture of this, but a few will serve to demonstrate. Moses spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s court learning everything anyone at that time could know about government administration, military affairs, finance, etc. Then he spent another 40 years in the desert tending his father in law’s herds where he learned humility. With that background, he spent 40 years administering God’s law to Israel in the wilderness after receiving it on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses lived 120 years, which is 10, the number for ordinal perfection, (10 commandments, etc.) times 12, the number for government perfection (12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, etc.) Jesus was tried or tempted by Satan for 40 days in the wilderness, etc.
And whereas Israel existed as a Nation for 40 years from the time Christ ascended into heaven until they were driven out of Jerusalem, the word believe occurs 39 times in Acts, just one short of 40.
*many of the references to numbers are taken from E. W. Bullinger’s book “Number in Scripture.”