Acts 8

Chapter eight introduces the key antagonist of the story. Luke mentioned that Saul was a co-conspirator at Stephen’s murder, albeit not a full participant. The most zealous of his peers (Galatians 1:14), Saul used Stephen’s “blasphemy” as the perfect catalyst to begin an outright war with these Jewish traitors, who blatantly worshiped a criminal instead of God. He made it his personal mission to “DESTROY THE CHURCH” by any means necessary (Acts 8:1-3).

Like the Tower of Babel, however, God used this as the catalyst to scatter the early Christians and spread the gospel. For the first time, Samaritans were presented with the truth, and they accepted it in multitudes (Acts 8:4-8). The miracles Philip performed convinced even a local magician, Simon, that this message was truly from God (Acts 8:9-13). Peter and John arrived from Jerusalem to confirm what was happening, which they saw when the Holy Spirit came on the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17). This impressed the magician who wanted that power as well, offering money to learn their “spell” (Acts 8:18-25). Some have questioned Simon’s salvation because of this, but Peter’s command that he should “REPENT OF THIS WICKEDNESS” and pray for forgiveness seems to indicate that his infant faith was genuine.

Luke recorded one more scenario of the gospel spreading beyond the Jewish people (Acts 8:26-40). Philip received a direct order through an angel to meet with a man on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza, whom he discovered to be an Ethiopian official. Philip caught up with him and got into his chariot, realizing that the man was reading from the prophet Isaiah without understanding it. Philip was able to start from that passage (Isaiah 53:7-8) and point him to Jesus. The Ethiopian believed, and Philip baptized him immediately. The Holy Spirit then “SNATCHED PHILIP AWAY” (the same verb used for the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17) and dropped him in Azotus, where he continued to preach the gospel.

There is a textual note to consider regarding Acts 8:37. Only a handful of Greek manuscripts include this verse, and most of them were copied during the tenth to twelfth centuries (AD 900-1100). Because of their late date and scarcity, it is best to see this verse as a later addition to Acts.

Zechariah 6

Chapter six closes Zechariah’s night with a final vision, this one of “four chariots emerging from between two mountains of bronze” (Zechariah 6:1-8). These chariots were driven by the four horsemen of his first vision (Zechariah 1:8-11). In the first vision they reported to Jehovah that they had settled peace on the earth at that time, probably in reference to Persia’s defeat of Babylon. In this vision they were returning to their jobs, walking the earth to do God’s will.

This chapter and section concludes with a final action Zechariah was to oversee at this time (Zechariah 6:9-15). From the Babylonian exiles, he was to choose four men (none of whom are named elsewhere in Scripture) to craft crowns (plural in Hebrew) for Joshua, the high priest. Astonishingly, this was a royal crown, not the high priest’s turban (mentioned in Zechariah 3:5), meaning that the high priest was also being crowned as king. Since Israel did not have a king during or after this time, and since the king and the high priest were distinct roles, this must be a prophetic illustration to be fulfilled in Messiah, who will serve as both priest and king in his kingdom. This is evident in three ways.

First, we have again the Messianic reference to the Branch of Isaiah 11. Second, in Zechariah 4:7-10 God had promised that Zerubbabel, not Joshua, would rebuild the Temple, yet this king-priest will build it. (This indicates that there would be yet another Temple built after Zerubbabel’s, something that history has proven to be true. 1 ) Third, after their “crowning” of Joshua, the four men were to take the crowns into the Temple “as a memorial,” showing that Joshua himself was not intended to serve as both high priest and king. Zechariah promised that, if they would “completely obey the voice of the LORD your God,” other exiles would come and help rebuild the Temple, “so that you may know that the LORD who rules over all has sent me to you.”

Notes:

  1. Modern Orthodox Jews believe that it will be the true Messiah who builds the Temple in Jerusalem. That is how they think they will finally know who he is. Unfortunately, Daniel 9:27 and later revelation indicate that Antichrist will probably help rebuild a Temple first, securing the loyalty of the Jews early in the Tribulation period, before he violates his covenant with them.

Zechariah 3

Introduction

The book of Zechariah bears the prophet’s name, which means “Jehovah will remember” or “Jehovah remembers.” The book is difficult to date as a whole, because only three of the prophecies are dated. These exceptions are in Zechariah 1:1 (“the eighth month of Darius’ second year,” 520 B.C.), Zechariah 1:7 (“the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month Shebat, in Darius’ second year”), and Zechariah 7:1 (“In King Darius’ fourth year, on the fourth day of Kislev, the ninth month,” 518 B.C.).

However, the book can be easily divided into two major sections, chapters 1-8 and 9-14, based on the content of the prophecies. The first section deals primarily with God’s messages to Judah as they worked to rebuild the Temple (similar to Haggai’s prophecies of the same time). The second section deals more with eschatological events, particularly the future Messianic kingdom. The reference to “that day” is found 17 times in chapters 9-14 but only once in the first section (Zechariah 3:10).

Because of this distinction, and due to the fact that Greece is mentioned by name as a considerable force (which it was not in the early sixth century), some scholars contend that the second section was written much later and appended to Zechariah. However, Archer points out that by 480 B.C. (only 40 years later), Greece was already pushing back against Persian expansion, which would have given the entire region pause. 1 A span of 40-50 years would not have been too long for Zechariah to minister in Judah, especially since he was considered to be a “young man” at the beginning (Zechariah 2:4), so it is a strong possibility that the sections were written at different times, albeit by the same man and for different purposes.

Much like the Revelation, Zechariah is full of odd visions and illustrations – horsemen, olive trees, a flying scroll – so it is notoriously difficult to interpret without a basic understanding of Israel’s past, present, and future from Zechariah’s standpoint. However, since most of the symbols are explained to some extent, a grasp of the historical context does resolve some of the confusion.

Chapter three records Zechariah’s fourth vision in one night. He “saw Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (Zechariah 3:1). There is significance to the fact that “the angel of the LORD” in Zechariah 3:1 is called “the LORD” in Zechariah 3:2, who yet refers to “the LORD” as a distinct person. This is an obvious reference to the deity of the pre-incarnate Christ (the Eternal Son of God), who is wholly God yet a distinct person from the Father.

Like Michael in Jude 9, the angel of the LORD did not rebuke Satan at this time, but left that in the hands of Jehovah (Zechariah 3:2), who considered Joshua as one saved from fire. In Zechariah’s vision Joshua was wearing dirty clothes, a symbol of the uncleanness of Israel and her priesthood (Zechariah 3:3-5; compare to Haggai 2:10-14). The clean clothes represent God’s forgiveness of sin, including the high priest’s turban, which Joshua received at Zechariah’s prompting (cf. Exodus 28:36-39).

Finally, the angel of the LORD commissioned Joshua, promising that he would stand and serve in the Temple, if he would continue to be faithful in his life and service to God (Zechariah 3:6-7). Joshua and his fellow priests would serve as pictures of the coming Servant-Branch (both references to the Messiah; Isaiah 11:1; 42:1). Zechariah 3:10 includes the first use of the eschatological phrase “in [or on] that day” in Zechariah, a common phrase to reference Messiah’s coming and kingdom. When that day comes, “the iniquity of this land” will be removed, peaceful fellowship will be restored, and Jehovah will act with omniscience over the world (symbolized by the “seven eyes,” explained in Zechariah 4:10). Even the stone itself probably refers to Messiah, “the cornerstone and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over” (1 Peter 2:7-8).

Notes:

  1. “As far as the situation in Zechariah’s own time was concerned, the defeats recently administered by the Greeks to Xerxes…in 480-479 would furnish ample cause to bring them to the attention of all the inhabitants of the Persian empire.” (Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Revised and Expanded [Chicago: Moody Press, 1994], 475.)