Turning the world upside down

The effect of Paul’s second missionary journey was that an upheaval began to occur that started breaking apart the foundation of the Roman Empire. The Jewish leaders were concerned about Paul’s ministry because it was undermining their authority and the traditions they had established that were meant to keep the Jews dependent on the priests and Levites that controlled their religious system. While Paul was in Thessalonica preaching the gospel, it says in Acts 17:5-7, “the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.”

The accusation brought against Paul may have been an extreme exaggeration, but there was probably some truth to the statement that he was turning the world upside down. What was going on was very threatening to both the Jewish and Roman leaders because people were realizing they didn’t have to follow the examples they were being given. Paul told people there was another way to live their lives that would result in happiness, joy, and peace. In the background of what was happening was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies that had predicted the fall of the Roman Empire. Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:37-44) outlined God’s plan of salvation and revealed that a series of world kingdoms would be established on Earth and eventually be destroyed when Jesus came and established his eternal kingdom. Referring to the image that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, Daniel said, “And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixt with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all the kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:42-44).

Isaiah also talked about a time when the world would be turned upside down in reference to the judgment for universal sin (Isaiah 24). Many people may have been fearful of Paul’s message because they knew it was a sign that God’s judgment was coming and understood that there would be no way for them to escape eternal punishment for their sins except through belief in Jesus Christ. The bottom line was the Jews didn’t want to repent, they wanted things to continue as they had been for hundreds, even thousands of years. The special treatment they had received from God had caused the majority of the Jews’ hearts to become hardened beyond repair.

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