“Paul lived there two whole years in his own rented quarters and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete boldness and without restriction” (Acts 28:30-31 NET).
When we get to the end of a very exciting, enthralling book, we often want to know what happened next. This is what makes book series so popular.
I don’t know about you, but when I get to the end of the book of Acts, I want to know what happened next. Did Paul have to appear before Caesar? If he did, what happened? Was he set free? Did he travel further?
Gareth Reese, in his commentary on Acts (New Testament History: Acts, Joplin, MO: College Press, 1976), suggested that the Greek verb tense of Acts 28:30 implies that when Luke wrote this, a change had occurred in Paul’s situation. According to Roman records, if the accusers did not show up to press charges within two years, the prisoner was freed. Notice that Luke recorded that “Paul lived there two whole years…”
Also keep in mind what the angel told Paul during the storm at sea: “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you” (Acts 27:24). Put these two together and it would seem that Paul appeared before Nero, who was the Caesar at that time. As no Jewish accusers showed up, the case was dropped. Paul would have been a free man!
What did Paul do between being freed (approximately 63 AD) and his death (which seems to have been around 68 AD)? From the letters he wrote, this is what we can piece together.
If he was able to fulfill what he had been planning, we can assume he visited Philippi and Colossae (see Philippians 2:23-24 and Philemon 22). We know he visited Timothy as he travelled to Macedonia, and most assume this took place in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3). We know he left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:5). He visited Troas, Corinth and Miletus (2 Timothy 4:13, 20). He had planned to spend a winter in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12).
We know that he wanted to visit Spain (Romans 15:28). Scholars are divided as to whether this happened, with many thinking he was able to make this journey (and some even suggesting he traveled as far as Britain!) while others point out the difficulty in fitting a long journey in among the places we know he visited.
At the end of his second letter to Timothy we find Paul imprisoned. This was a more severe imprisonment than his earlier house arrest (see 2 Timothy 2:9). He writes about his conditions at the end of 2 Timothy and it would seem that he is awaiting execution: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV).
Christian tradition from the first century confirms this, that as a Roman citizen Paul was beheaded outside of Rome in the last year of Nero’s reign in the spring of 68 AD.
And now you know what is most likely to be the rest of the story!
Readings for next week
13 October – Hebrews 5-6
14 October – Hebrews 7-8
15 October – Hebrews 9
16 October – Hebrews 10
17 October – Hebrews 11