Paul’s Journey to Rome Copy

The Return to Jerusalem (19:21-21:14)

This section of the book of Acts ends while Paul is in Ephesus, and concludes in the midst of what is traditionally known as the third missionary journey. That is because while Paul is still in his final missionary journey, Paul’s focused has shifted. He is now heading to Rome. But the road to Rome will go through Jerusalem (19:21).

Paul finishes his third missionary journey with a whirlwind tour through Macedonia and Greece, and then back to Miletus where he meets with the elders from the church in Ephesus. He gives them a long farewell address (20:17-35), and then they all weep and hug Paul knowing that they would never see Paul again (20:38).

Most of the Ephesian elders probably thought that Paul’s journey to Jerusalem would result in his execution. All the Christians who met with Paul as he headed towards Jerusalem clearly expected that Paul would be killed when he arrived. In Tyre, the disciples told Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem (21:4). In Caesarea, Agabus the prophet tells Paul he will be bound in Jerusalem (21:11), and the Caesarean believers beg Paul not to go to Jerusalem (21:12).

But Paul’s purpose was to go to Jerusalem, for the Spirit had told him that the road to Rome would go through Jerusalem (19:21). Was the Spirit being contradictory, telling Agabus and the Christians in Tyre one thing, while telling Paul another? If we look closely at Agabus’ prophecy, it was not a prohibition but a merely a declaration of what was to come. Furthermore, the church in Tyre was in the Spirit, but it doesn’t mean that the message was from the Spirit.

Paul would go to Jerusalem because he knew that he would be arrested, after which he would appeal to Caesar, as was his right as a Roman citizen, thus providing him with a trip to Rome with all expenses paid by the Roman empire. The gospel would reach the remotest parts of the earth by first heading back to the center of it all.