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Paul in Athens: A Historical Message for Today (book excerpt)

“Consider the passage from the book of Acts 17:24–27 (KJV), where the apostle Paul uses prophecy (God’s predetermined plan . . . ) to witness to a group of Greek skeptics at a meeting of the Areopagus in Athens. Paul is clear that our God is the Creator of heaven and earth (Acts 17:24 KJV). From one man, Adam, He made all the nations of people; He predetermined that they should dwell over the whole earth,[1] the exact times in history when they should exist, and the exact places and boundaries where they should live (Acts 17:24–27 KJV). Affirming this profound truth, a modern commentator writes that God ‘planned the exact times when nations should emerge and decline . . . He also planned the specific area to be occupied by each nation.’[2] God did this so that people, during their respective lifetimes and in their particular geographical locations, would voluntarily seek and find Him; for life itself comes from Him (Acts 17:24–27 KJV). In other words, God established in the beginning the historical order of nations on the earth as a witness of His presence and plan. Because history is an important tool in understanding God’s plan . . ., this book is a study of the prewritten history of the four gentile empires revealed in Daniel chapters 2 and 7.

Inaugurated in 27 BC, shortly before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Roman Empire is the fourth and final gentile kingdom to rule in the earth before Christ returns (Daniel 2:34–35, 44–45 KJV) and the only one to rule during the church age. Thus, Christ appeared ‘in the end of the world’ to offer Himself for the sins of the world (Hebrews 9:26 KJV). Since the fourth kingdom, the Roman Empire, represents the end of humankind’s deteriorating governmental rule in the earth, Christ defeated sin at the beginning of the end of human rule in the world. The same Roman Empire — which existed at the birth of Jesus, tried to kill Him as a child, and ultimately crucified Him — will suffer His wrath when He returns (Daniel 2:34 KJV). In Athens, which was part of the Roman world of the first century, [is the birthplace of democracy and the ‘mother’ of Western civilization,] Paul concludes his appeal to the skeptics by lifting up Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31 KJV). Likewise, believers today should also be witnesses for Christ in the skeptical Roman world of the twenty-first century. Lift Him up (John 12:32 KJV)!”

[1]. Thus, in Genesis 11 (KJV), He scattered the people building the Tower of Babel.

[2]. NIV Study Bible, 1862, footnote 17:26, emphasis added.

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