Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit

Module 6 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing

In module 6, we will visit the Bible sites of where the Holy Spirit led followers of the Way from Asia and then through Europe during the early years of the church. So, let us start in the…

1 – Middle East

Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus Christ gave His disciples the Great Commission.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The question is, how did they do it? The chosen twelve disciples still had SIN issues. Simon Peter, the leader, said he would never abandon Jesus but he ended up denying Him three times. Except for one, ten of them abandoned Him and was not even there when He was crucified. And sadly, the one who betrayed Him, did not believe enough that he could still have been forgiven, if he did not commit suicide. Everyone of them (like all of us) could not fulfill the Great Commission by themselves. With Jesus in Heaven, what were they to do? Well, as promised, God sent help. For this, we go back to the…

Click LINK 1 – UPPER ROOM

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m making an assumption that you already know that you are inside the Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room. And if you went through Module 5a, you would also know that this place is located on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City walls, west of the City of David. I guess that I don’t have to remind you that the Upper Room was where Jesus held the Last Supper (John 13). As special as that was, this room was witness to an even more spectacular event. For true Christians all around, it was called Pentecost.

The Christian Pentecost

For the Jews, Pentecost is the Feast of Harvest which is mentioned in the five books of Moses. This feast came during the months of May and June. It was at this time, that the Chosen Twelve (including Judas’ replacement), Jesus’ mother and siblings, with a 100 or so other believers were gathered together in this room to pray. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)

This filling of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was different than the Spirit filling that occurred during the Old Testament. In the Old Testament it was mostly temporary. But Jesus said in John 14, that this time, the Holy Spirit will be with them (and yes, with us who believe) FOREVER (14:16).

What exactly happened here? Jesus said that they (& us) became born again (John 3:3-8). Everyone who were filled with the Spirit became NEW creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Being filled with the Holy Spirit meant change. What kind of change? And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability (Acts 2:4). Peter especially showed a great change and we will see this at our next site.

Click LINK 2 – JERUSALEM MODEL

You are looking at southern side of the Temple Mount of the Jerusalem Model. I chose this site as a probable location of where the Apostle Peter (newly Spirit filled) may have addressed for the very first time a large crowd about the Gospel of Christ. Meanwhile, let us go to to the actual site of the Temple Mount’s south wall.

Click LINK 2a – SOUTH WALL

You are standing before the south wall of the Temple Mount. Of course, this is not actual stone wall. The first century structure is really underground. But imagine that this street was the plaza before the southern entrance into the Temple complex.

Peter’s Sermon

In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit entered the disciples in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit made such a big noise, the people of the city heard it. Among the people were Jews from foreign lands that spoke the languages of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Rome, Cretans and Arabs (2:9-11).

When the Spirit-filled disciples came out of the upper room, the Jews from the different land heard the disciples speaking their languages. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “How is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?” (2:7) Many thought that they were drunk out of their minds.

Enter the Apostle Peter who boldly exposed the good news of Jesus Christ to them. The entire sermon can be read in Acts 2:14-36. Here is the amazing point, Peter never thought that he could ever give a sermon like this ever. He probably felt that he was inadequate especially since a few months back, he denied the Lord. But he did give the sermon and guess what, because of the Holy Spirit in him, about 4000 new believers were added to the church.

Let’s jump a few years ahead. The church in Jerusalem grew and grew and grew. To most, this was a good thing. But then the Holy Spirit never intended the church to be in just one place. After all, Jesus did tell His disciples that…

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

As the church grew, so did the persecution. Non-believers clashed with members of the Way (early Christians). Then, when the religious leaders came into play, it became deadly.

2 – Stephen, a Man of Grace

There was man named Stephen who was chosen by the Apostles to be one of seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 6, he was a man filled by the Holy Spirit with grace and power. He had performed great wonders and signs among the people. Some tried to debate with him, but they were unable to cope with his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking. So, they made up false accusations of blasphemy against him and turned him over to be tried before the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin. He testified before them with a summary oration of biblical history starting with Abraham leaving his home in Mesopotamia to the time when Solomon built the Temple for God. At first, some members of the Sanhedrin were loving what they were hearing until his defense of his faith in the Jesus being the Son of God whom they crucified enraged his Jewish audience. He was taken out of the city, through what tradition claim is the…

Click LINK 3 – LION’S GATE

The Lions’ Gate, a.k.a. St Stephen’s Gate, is one of the Gates of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is associated with the ancient Sheep Gate. After the trial, Stephen was forcibly taken out and they began stoning him… 

They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)

More persecution hit the church which actually caused Jerusalem believers to leave the city to foreign lands bringing the Gospel with them which Jesus intended when He gave out the Great Commission. Among those that were scattered was…

3 – Philip the Evangelist

Philip the Evangelist was one of the seven deacons appointed to tend the believers of Jerusalem, thereby enabling the Apostles to freely conduct their missions. His energetic preaching, however, earned him the title of the Evangelist and the Holy Spirit led him to minister successfully in Samaria. So, let us go to what was once a…

Click LINK 4 – SAMARITAN CITY

You are standing on some ruins of a Samaritan city on top of Mt Gerizim. This archaeological excavation is part of the nearby Samaritan Museum, which is an Ethnographic Museum that explores and present the culture of the “Samaritans” people. The museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to Samaritans and their language. 

Philip began proclaiming Christ to the Samaritans. The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what was being said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed or limped on crutches were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city. (Acts 8:5-8) Among them was the conversion of the infamous magician named Simon Magus (vs9–13). Philip was so successful that when the apostles heard what he did, they sent Peter and John to pray for them that they would receive the Holy Spirit. When they began laying their hands on them, they were receiving the Holy Spirit. (vs14-17)

Then an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Get ready and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26)

So, let us go on a…

Click LINK 5 – ROAD TO GAZA

You are on one of many National Trails of Israel, west by south-west of Jerusalem. This is not exactly the actual site where the angel told Philip to go to, but it does parallel a modern highway that will take you to Gaza.

So, it was like on this dusty road that the Holy Spirit guided Philip the Evangelist to rendezvous with an Ethiopian official riding on a posh 4-wheeled chariot. Coaxed by the Spirit to get closer, Philip heard the official reading out loud a Messianic passage from Isaiah 53:7. Philip saw an opening to use the passage to share who Jesus Christ was to him. The official was so convinced that he asked Philip why he should not be baptized (by water) right there and then.

The work of the Holy Spirit is never done and even an Apostle need to learn from Him. Let’s go to a church at the coast. Let’s go to…

4 – Lesson for Peter

Click LINK 6 – JOPPA

Welcome to the inside of the St. Peter’s Church which is a Franciscan church in the historical part of Jaffa. Jaffa was once known as Joppa, a trading and fishing port where once the Prophet Jonah tried to run away from God by going to sea. About a block from the pier, the church was constructed on its present location because of the significance this city has to Christianity. It was in Jaffa that the Apostle Peter raised Tabitha, one of Jesus’ disciples, from the dead according to the Acts 9:36–42.

Zoom-in onto the painting behind the Altar. That painting depicts the lesson that Peter needed to learn. You see, the Holy Spirit had to break Peter away from choosing tradition to obeying the Lord. In a vision, a sheet of all sorts of animals were presented to him including non-kosher* ones. God then told him to kill and eat. But Peter refrained siting that he had never eaten anything unholy and unclean. Then a voice would say that, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” To make sure he got it, this test happened three times. (Acts 10:9-16)

Peter was perplexed in mind to what it all meant. But the Holy Spirit made it all clear.

[* Kosher means food satisfying the requirements of Jewish law]

So, let us go about 33 miles up the coast to…

Click LINK 7 – CAESAREA

You are virtually standing among the archaeological ruins of Caesarea which is an affluent town in north-central Israel. It inherited its name and much of its territory from the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima. It was built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE as a major Roman port and it served as an administrative center of the province of Judaea in the Roman Empire.

In Acts 10:1, we meet an unusual God-fearing Roman centurion named Cornelius. And he too received a vision to send for Peter. Four days later, Peter was knocking on his doors. After which, he confessed that he understood the lesson that the Holy Spirit was teaching him. Peter proceeded to share the Gospel to Cornelius and his entire household, but before he could lay his hands on them, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message (v44). 


When it came to the Gospel, the Lord uses even the most unusual people.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8,9]

Enter…

4 – The Apostle Paul

We first met Paul back in Acts 7. Of course, at that time, he was known as Saul of Tarsus, a young Pharisee on his way up the ladder into Jewish leadership. Saul was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He was there, not as a spectator, but as an honored participant (v58). That was when the great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and leading the attack was a very zealous Saul. He ravaged the church, entering house after house; and he dragged away men and women and put them in prison (Acts 8:1,3). It did not stop there. When he heard that members of the church escaped to as far as Damascus, he intended to chase them down and drag them back in shackles.

So, we will g0 north, about 133 miles from Jerusalem to an even more ancient city of…

Click LINK 6 – DAMASCUS

Welcome to the House of Saint Ananias also called the Chapel of Saint Ananias. It is an ancient underground structure located in old Damascus, Syria. This site is said to be the remains of the home of Ananias. We’ll get to his identity in a sec, for now, please zoom-in on the three framed relief sculptures above the altar. These reliefs depict how the Spirit chose the most notorious person in early Christian history and converted him to become the most influential Apostle who wrote 14 out of the 27 books of the New Testaments. Let us start with the right one.

Relief 1 [Act 9:3-9]

On the road to Damascus, Saul was struck by a brilliant light, fell to the ground, heard a voice from heaven identified as the voice of Jesus asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” After receiving instructions, Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Relief 2 [Act 9:10-19]

Enter Ananias of Damascus, a believer who left Jerusalem to escape persecution. One day, the Lord told him to go to Saul and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight. Ananias was reluctant, for he knew Saul’s reputation. But the Lord revealed that Saul was to be a chosen instrument of His. So, Ananias came before Saul, regained his sight and was filled with the Spirit.

Relief 3 [Act 9:20-24]

Saul began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” He kept increasing in strength and confounding Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also closely watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.

Many years later, we find Saul (now Paul) in…

5 – Asia Minor (Turkey)

Click LINK 9 – ANTIOCH

Antioch was a Hellenistic city by the Orontes River. Its ruins lie near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey, to which the ancient city lends its name. Antioch was one of the largest cities in the first-century Roman world, accommodating a population between 100,000 and 300,000. The city was home to a wealthy and thriving Jewish community. The first mention of Antioch in the New Testament is in reference to Nicolas, a Gentile convert to Christianity who was one of seven Greek-speaking (Hellenist) leaders chosen to serve as deacons at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1–7).

The church at Antioch played a crucial role in the book of Acts. Here believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). With its mixture of Jews and Gentiles, the church at Antioch became fertile ground for the growth and spread of Christianity and a model congregation in the early days of the new Christian church. It was from here that Paul and other believers were sent on a mission by the Antioch church… inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course… to bring the Gospel to all of Asia Minor (Turkey).

Now there were prophets and teachers at Antioch, in the church that was there: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted, prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. [Acts 13:1-3]

Paul’s Journeys

Apostle Paul 1st, 2nd & 3rd Evangelical Missions

The Apostle Paul traveled over 10,000 miles proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His journeys on land and sea took him primarily through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. Paul walked the roads built by the Romans to facilitate their control over their Empire. In 2 Corinthians 11: 25-27, he described being shipwrecked; in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from his own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea; experienced toil in hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fasting, through cold and exposure.

I wish we could visit all the places that the Holy Spirit led the Apostle Paul to. One of these days, I’ll create a detailed itinerary tour specifically of his journey. For now, we can only visit 6 particular sites starting on the island of Cyprus at…

Click LINK 10 – SALAMIS, CYPRUS

Salamis was an ancient Greek city-state on the east coast of Cyprus, at the mouth of the river Pedieos, 6 km north of modern Famagusta. Nearby is…

Click LINK 10a – ST BARNABAS MONASTERY

St. Barnabas Monastery near Famagusta is dedicated to the patron saint of Cyprus, St. Barnabas. The church is now an icon museum housing a stunning collection of Cypriot artefacts dating back as far as the 7th Century BC which are kept in the monks’ old cells. Barnabas was Jewish and hailed from Salamis. He travelled to the Holy Land to study law and whilst he was there studying, he met Paul, the apostle, and was converted to Christianity. He was made the Archbishop of Salamis and when he returned from the Holy Land to Cyprus, he became a preacher, taught others about Jesus Christ.

According to the Acts 13:5-12, after landing at Salamis (eastern Cyprus) and proclaiming the Word of God in the synagogues, the prophets and teachers, Barnabas and Paul of Tarsus, traveled along the entire southern coast of the island of Cyprus until they reached…

Click LINK 10b – PAPHOS, CYPRUS

You are standing on the ruins of the archaeological site of Nea Paphos which is located in southwest Cyprus. Nea Paphos was founded on the sea near a natural harbor. It was here that Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor, was converted after Paul, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, confronted and rebuked the Sorcerer Elymas who was advising the Roman governor to not listen to Paul’s teaching. The Holy Spirit caused Elymas to be blind.

Now, let us go to…

Click LINK 11 – ANTIOCH PISIDIA

Welcome to the ruins of Antioch of Pisidia which was a city in the Turkish Lakes Region. This ancient city was at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolian regions, and formerly on the border of Pisidia and Phrygia, hence also known as Antiochia in Phrygia. The site lies approximately 1 km northeast of Yalvaç, the modern town of Isparta Province, Turkey.

Paul the Apostle and Barnabas, as recounted in Acts 14, visited Antioch of Pisidia in the course of Paul’s first missionary journey, and Paul’s sermon in the Jewish synagogue there caused a great stir among the citizens and the ensuing conflict with the Jews led to Paul being stoned and then their expulsion from the city. They returned later and appointed elders for the Christian community there. Paul also visited the region in both his second and his third journeys. Paul’s “persecutions and sufferings” at Antioch are spoken of in 2 Timothy 3:11.

During Paul’s second mission in Acts 16, the Holy Spirit, strangely enough, actually blocked him from preaching the Gospel in the northern regions of Asia Minor (Turkey). Instead, he and his companions were (more or less) herded toward the west coast. (By the way, it was here in verse 7 that the Spirit of Jesus was used in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.)

Let us go to our next site at…

Click LINK 12 – TROAS

You are virtually standing amongst the ruins of Alexandria Troas. This is the site of an ancient Greek city situated on the Aegean Sea near the northern tip of Turkey’s western coast, the area known historically as Troad, a little south of Tenedos (modern Bozcaada, Turkey). It was here that Paul understood why the Holy Spirit was blocking his way to bring the Gospel north.

Click LINK 12a – TROAS SHORELINE

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and pleading with him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, they immediately sought to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called them to preach the Gospel to them. (Acts 16:9,10)

6 – Macedonia/Greece

So, from Troas, they ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the following day to Neapolis, Macedonia; and from there to…

Click LINK 13 – PHILIPPI

You are looking at a 360 aerial view of the ancient amphi-theatre of Philippi. These ruins were once a major Greek city northwest of the nearby island, Thasos. Its original name was Crenides but was renamed after Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC. The present municipality, Filippoi, is located near these ruins and is part of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace in Kavala, Greece. It was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.

The New Testament records a visit to this city by the Apostle Paul during his second missionary journey (likely in AD 49 or 50). On the basis of the book of Acts and the letter to the Philippians, early Christians concluded that Paul had founded their community. Accompanied by Silas, by Timothy and possibly by Luke (the author of Acts), Paul is believed to have preached for the first time on European soil in Philippi. One story stuck out for me…

Conversion in Jail [Acts 16:16-34]

During their time here, a slave woman who had a spirit of divination would hound Paul day after day. Annoyed, Paul commanded (by the authority of Christ’s name) that the evil spirit come out of her which it did. Then Paul got trouble from the master of the slave woman. Apparently, the woman’s fortune-telling ability once brought much profit to the master. Without the spirit meant no more profit. They were brought before the magistrate, convicted, beaten with rods and thrown into prison with their feet fastened into the stocks.

That night, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. The jailer thought that all the prisoners had escaped and was about to kill himself when Paul called out that they were all still there. This act of Christian behavior and faith eventually led the jailer and his household to saved.

The Holy Spirit led Paul down the Greek peninsula through Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea until they reached the center of Greek culture & philosophy, the great city of…

Click LINK 14 – ATHENS

Welcome to Mars Hill, best known as the Areopagus. It is a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. (Look east – That’s the Acropolis up there on the mountain.) Mars Hill was sometimes used as an open air council or court of justice.

According to Acts 17, while he was waiting for his companions, Silas and Timothy to arrive, Paul was distressed to see Athens full of idols. According to a commentator, Paul’s soul was troubled and his heart was grieved, …he was exasperated and provoked to the last degree… he had a burning fire in his bones, and was weary with forbearing, and could not stay; his zeal wanted vent… and he gave it [by John Gill].  So, Paul went to the synagogue and the Agora (market) on a number of occasions to preach about the Resurrection of Jesus. Some Greeks then took him to a meeting at the Areopagus, the high court in Athens, to explain himself. 

Click LINK 14a – SERMON ON THE ROCK

Imagine Paul standing on this rock surrounded by a people who considered themselves as philosophers & stoics. Wise men in their own sight. Paul knew that the Athenians needed to be made to see that what they believed lacked a true foundation before they would accept his teaching. So, he started with something that they were familiar with. He started with one of their altars that had this inscription, ‘TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.’ He used what they didn’t know about this unknown god to introduce GOD.

Paul conveyed to them that the unknown God was not Zeus or some other deity, but the true God, Jesus Christ, who created all things and every man. The sermon ended with the mention of the resurrection of the dead. Some scoffed but a lot more wanted to hear more. and many believed. [Acts 17:22-34]

7 – Paul’s 3rd Mission

The church grew and Paul went amongst them again during his 3rd mission. And one of the places that he visited was…

Click LINK 15 – EPHESUS

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city located about 2 miles southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC by Ionian Greek colonists, when the western coastal region of Turkey was under Greek influence. During the Classical Greek era, it was one of twelve cities that were members of the Ionian League. The city was famous in its day for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC). The city came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.

Acts 19 – It was here that Paul found some disciples of John the Baptist. Paul asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They answered that they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit and also that their baptism was the baptism of repentance. So, Paul completed their education by sharing the full Gospel to them, which they accepted willingly. So, when he laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 

Since, we are here in Ephesus, we might as well visit one other site that is a favorite of many pilgrims.

8 – Apostle John & Mary, Mother of Jesus

According to tradition, Ephesus also became the final home of the Apostle John and the mother of Jesus. If you recall at the crucifixion, Jesus had handed the welfare of His mother, Mary, onto the hands of John. Jesus did this because He knew that His brothers as well as the Apostles (except John, of course) would eventually be martyred. So, the Holy Spirit (I assume) inspired John & Mary to leave Judea and migrate to Ephesus which already had an established church.

So, they had to have lived somewhere and… guess what I found???

Click LINK 16 – MARY’S HOUSE

The House of Mary is a Catholic shrine located on Mt. Koressos in the vicinity of Ephesus, about 4 miles from Selçuk in Turkey. Catholic pilgrims visit the house based on the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken to this stone house by the Apostle John and lived there for the remainder of her earthly life.

By the way, the Gospel of John may have been written here… well, not exactly in this place, but close.

8 – Journey to Rome

Let us leave the vicinity of Greece and Turkey… and go across the Mediterranean Sea about 750 miles to the island of…

Click LINK 17 – MALTA

Welcome to eastern side of Malta. Malta is a tiny nation made up of 3 islands. It is located about 60 miles south of Sicily and is about 160 miles from the boot tip of Italy. What are we doing here? Well, for now, I want you to be a tourist and explore this side of the island. Meanwhile, allow me to quickly summarize how the Holy Spirit led Paul to here.

At the tail end of Paul’s third mission, he called to himself the elders of the church in Ephesus and said this…

And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that chains and afflictions await me.  [Acts 20:22,23]

So, Paul went back to Jerusalem knowing full well what to expect. And sure enough, while completing a Jewish purification rite, he was seized by the Jews that opposed his teaching to the Gentiles. They wanted to put him to death but the Romans intervened. The Jews were persistent and tried to get custody of him several time. But by the Lord’s grace, Paul’s Roman citizenship kept him away from their clutches. From Acts 22-26, he was tried before his own people, before 2 Roman governors and a Herodian king. Each time, his defense was the Gospel of Christ. Though his testimony won over the hearts of the judges, they could not resolve his case mainly because he, as a Roman citizen, demanded to be brought before the Roman emperor. So, off to Rome he went… and by ship.

Now, like every sea going adventure, they were bound to hit a storm… and so, they did. With their keel broken and leaks throughout the hull, Paul’s crippled ship limped into what today is called…

Click LINK 17a – ST PAUL’S BAY

You are virtually standing in-front of the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck. I am not making this up. This little place is a Roman Catholic parish church in Valletta, on the western side of Malta. It is one of Valletta’s oldest churches. The Apostle Paul is considered the spiritual father of the Maltese. His shipwreck on Malta reads like an adventure story in Acts 27:14-44.

Now, the Holy Spirit has a funny and even strange way of giving us an opportunity for the Gospel. How?

When Paul, the crew and passengers landed on the beach, the Maltese showed them extraordinary kindness, for they kindled a fire and took them all in because of the rain that had started and because of the cold. As Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. Now they were expecting that he was going to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.

[Acts 28:1-6]

Click LINK 17b – RABAT

You are standing in-front of the Basilica of St Paul in Rabat, about 5 miles from the bay where they shipwrecked. Annexed to this church is the smaller chapel of St Publius. Publius was an island leader whose father was afflicted with a recurring fever and dysentery. Paul, who was guest, prayed over him and healed him. The word of the healing got out and the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and being cured. [Acts 28:7-9]

Under that chapel is…

Click LINK 17c – THE GROTTO

Sorry that it is a little dark down here. This underground grotto is the place where, according to tradition, Paul lived and preached during his three months stay in Malta in 60 A.D. Then Paul took ship for…

9 – Rome

Rome is the capital city of Italy. According to Wikipedia, Rome’s history spans 28 centuries. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it a major human settlement for almost three millennia and one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe.

The Roman Forum are the remains of those buildings that during most of Ancient Rome’s time represented the political, legal, religious and economic centre of the city. Image & footnote from Wikipedia.

Click LINK 17 – PAUL’S TOMB

Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls, is one of Rome’s four major papal basilicas. The basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over the burial place of Saint Paul, where it was said that, after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial, called a cella memoriae

The Bible did not record the death of Paul. But in his last epistle addressed to Timothy, he knew his time was close.

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 course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved 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]

But let’s go back a little. When Paul entered Rome, he was allowed to stay by himself, but always with a soldier guarding him. Essentially, he was still under arrest. Now, Paul called together the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he explained to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. For the people who listened, some were persuaded while others did not believe. So, as those who did not believe were leaving, Paul called after them with this prophetical warning…

“The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,

‘Go and say to this people: When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.” [Acts 28:25-28]

The final verses of the book of Acts spoke of the Apostle Paul spending the next two years, welcoming all who visited him including members of the elite Roman Praetorian guards, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him. According to tradition, Paul never got to go before the emperor. When Emperor Nero increased persecution against the church in Rome, he ordered Paul’s execution.

Now, about 3 miles from Paul’s Tomb is one more site to visit.

Click LINK 18 – PETER’S TOMB

You are standing on the Piazza San Pietro or St. Peter’s Square located in the center of the Vatican City. Before you is the majestic St. Peter’s Basilica which was built in the Renaissance style.

Catholic tradition holds that Peter, after a ministry of thirty-four years, travelled to Rome and met his martyrdom there along with Paul on 13 October 64 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. His execution was one of the many martyrdoms of Christians following the Great Fire of Rome. According to Jerome, Peter was crucified head downwards, by his own request because he considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. The crucifixion took place near an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the Circus of Nero. The obelisk now stands in St. Peter’s Square and is revered as a “witness” to Peter’s death.

9 – Apostle John & Revelations

Before we end this module, we have one last stop. Let’s go to…

Click LINK 19 – PATMOS

Patmos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It was the location of where the Apostle John was sent when he was arrested in Ephesus during the height of the persecution of Christianity. The white building is the Monastery of St. John. It located approximately halfway up the mountain, along the road between the villages of Chóra and Skala. Within the monastery is a memorialized grotto called the…

Click LINK 19a – CAVE of the APOCALYPSE

This grotto marks the spot where the Spirit of Christ gave distinct visions of the future to the Apostle John. From those visions, he wrote the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation – also called the Apocalypse of JohnRevelation to John or Revelation of Jesus Christ – is the final book of the New Testament and consequently is also the final book of the Christian Bible. Its title is derived from the first word of the Koine Greek text: apokalypsis, meaning “unveiling” or “revelation”. 

The book of Revelation provides the clearest biblical portrait of the events of the tribulation, dealing with the specifics of that terrible time (chapters 4–18). The tribulation will be a time of judgment, a time when those left on the earth after the rapture will suffer deeply for their nonbelief. John pictured this judgment as a series of twenty-one events—inaugurated by the breaking of seven seals, the blowing of seven trumpets, and the pouring out of seven bowls. This grand judgment on the sinfulness of humanity shows the seriousness with which God views sin—payment will be exacted from those not covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. [www.insight.org]

Revelation is not all bad news. Chapters 19–22 portrays Christ’s future triumph over the forces of evil and His re-creation of the world for the redeemed. Ultimately, the book—and the world—end in a final victory for truth and goodness and beauty. As Christians, we look forward to this and joyously shout…

HALLELUIA!

This ends our tour of Module 6. Thank you for joining me in  Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit.



GOSPEL part 1

DOES JESUS KNOW YOU?

As a Filipino, I live in a country that is mostly Roman Catholic. I myself is still ‘technically’ a catholic except that I am more Bible based in my practices. One time, I was told a joke about ‘how many Catholics would enter Heaven’. I never got the punchline, because I bluntly shocked the teller of the joke that in all probability very few might ever enter the kingdom of heaven. You can well imagine that at that time, my revelation was less than receptive and I was not given a chance to explain. In retrospect, I should have been gentler in my approach. So, in this blog, I hope to explain clearly in what I was trying to disclose and then impart to you Good News.

First thing first, the basis of my disclosure came from the words of Jesus himself in his Sermon on the Mouth. He said…

v21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
v22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’
v23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’… ” 

Matthew 7

When the teller of the joke asked me ‘how many Catholics would enter Heaven?’, this particular passage was forefront in my mind. At that matter, it is always forefront in my mind. Why? The seriousness of it is the reason why I think about it all the time especially when I am among people; strangers, friends and family alike. I mean, who would want to hear Jesus say, ‘I never knew you’?

When Jesus spoke these words, he was in the conclusive end of his sermon. These three verses is a ‘nutshell’ picture of the end of times. In the book of Revelation, John the Apostle described the final event of the end time with the returning of Jesus to the Earth… not anymore as our Savior… but as Judge! He came to judge ‘the dead, great and small, standing before the throne…’ (Rev 20:12) then they were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.’ (Rev 20:14)

2nd-death-w

I can understand the evil being thrown into Hell, but then, how could Jesus cast those…

– that prophesied in his name…
– drove out demons in his name…
– performed many miracles in his name…
– and those that called him, ‘Lord Lord’…

…into Hell?

The answer can be found within the same passage. Those that can enter the kingdom of heaven are the ones who do the will of my Father’.

Let’s look closer at those who stood before Jesus the Judge in verse 22 of Matthew 7 and see how they did not live up to His will.

‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’

These people were just denied entry and were pleading for ‘justice’. Their arguments was that they deserved to go into heaven because of the ‘good’ things they did in Jesus’ name.

How could this be against God’s will?

As a catholic, I was taught to always do good works with the belief that this would save me from Hell. But as I read the Bible, I learned that this was contrary to God’s will which says that…

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

This verse as well as more in Scripture indicate that good works whether done in his name or not, were never meant as a way to enter into heaven. This is fundamental.

But, of course, I have gotten into trouble with people whenever I try to impart with this part of the message. Some have accused me, even in tears, that I have devalued their works of good intentions and have branded them as ‘evil’. I admit that I have hesitated to approach teaching people with the bad news aspects of the gospel; fearing that I would be branded as being negative all the time.

Let me say that the message is not yet complete. The gospel which means “good news” is still to come.

Remember! Jesus is giving us a peak into an ‘end time’ event. Rule of thumb – when the Lord provides a prophecy like this, He is giving you an opportunity to seriously check where you are and ask yourselves…

Does Jesus know you?

Some have asked on how could Jesus not know who they were? Is he not God and all knowing? Of course, He is! So, how can he say, “I never knew you”?

Again, let’s take a closer look at Revelation 20:12.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. [Rev 20:12]

Two books were opened. One book clearly cites all the deeds and all the secrets that mankind hated to bring to light. The other is the book of life. In that book is a list of names of those who will enter the kingdom of heaven… that is, eternal life. I believe when Jesus says “I never knew you” is because your name was not in the book of life. So, I again ask…

Does Jesus know you?

Is your NAME in the Book of Life?

I apologize for being so blunt again. I must ask this of you because I care. I must risk alienation so that you will be aware. You see, Jesus ended his Sermon on the Mount with these words as a way of splashing ice cold water on your face to WAKE YOU UP!

Now, I must ask…

Do you want your name to be in the book of life?

I invite you to wait for my next GOSPEL post. Meanwhile, below are three verses that I challenge you to observe, analyze and then meditate about it on your own. It is eye opening.

1 Corinthians 15:2-4
By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Roman 3:28
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.