Team building

Paul’s second missionary journey, which took place approximately A.D. 49-52, encompassed a much larger territory than his first expedition did. The initial purpose of Paul’s trip was to visit the believers in every city that he and Barnabas had previously preached the gospel in (Acts 15:36), but a conflict between Paul and Barnabas caused the two to go their separate ways. Luke’s description of the incident suggests that the leadership role had become an issue, and at that point, Paul was unwilling to follow Barnabas’ direction. Luke stated, “And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

The break up of Paul and Barnabas’ ministry partnership may have seemed like a problem at first, but it actually led to a much better outcome in the end. Because Mark was left behind, he joined up with Peter and eventually wrote the second book of the New Testament titled “The Gospel According to S. Mark.” It is likely that most, if not all of Mark’s factual data came directly from Peter who was a member of Jesus’ inner circle of friends, as well as, the primary leader of the church located in Jerusalem. Paul’s selection of Silas to travel with him may have been the reason why his second trip was much more aggressive than his first, covering approximately twice the amount of territory than his first missionary journey did (Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, p. 1588). When Paul and Silas arrived in Lystra, they were joined by Timothy, “the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts:16:1-2).

The fourth person to join Paul’s missionary team was the author of the book of Acts, Luke. The transition in the language from they to we suggests that Luke joined Paul’s team in Troas. It says in Acts 16:8-10, “And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” Timothy and Luke were key members of Paul’s missionary team that stayed with him throughout the rest of his life. The final book Paul wrote, 2 Timothy was addressed to “my dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2) indicating Paul and Timothy developed a very close personal relationship. In that book, which was written while Paul was in prison waiting to be executed, Paul said, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11), suggesting Luke was not only Paul’s partner in ministry, but a faithful companion until his death.

The mark

In his divine judgment of the city of Jerusalem, God demonstrated his ability to exercise self-control, in spite of fierce emotions that caused him to destroy everything, including his holy temple. Before he undertook the action to kill everyone within the city walls, God ordered a mark to be placed on the forehead of every person who shared his disgust with the situation. Calling forth the seven guardian angels that protected his people, God gave instructions to set apart those who were faithful to him. It says in Ezekiel 9:4, “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”

The seventh angel, who was clothed in linen, carried a writer’s inkhorn with which he was to place the mark (Ezekiel 9:2). Although it is not specified exactly what type of mark was made, the Hebrew word translated mark in Ezekiel 9:4, tav or taw, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, specifies a signature. The signature may have only been represented by an X, but the implication was that the mark was a sign of ownership that was imprinted on the forehead. A similar marking is found in the book of Revelation where it says of the Antichrist, “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive the mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16-17).

God’s judgment of Jerusalem was in many ways the foreshadowing of God’s final judgment of everyone on earth. It says in Revelation 3:12, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” It is possible that the mark placed on the foreheads of those in Jerusalem at the time of the city’s destruction was linked to Christ and was the equivalent of receiving salvation. The remarkable thing about receiving the mark was the only¬† requirement was to sign or groan, as if in despair (Ezekiel 9:4).

Ezekiel’s visions of God allowed him to see beforehand the outcome of God’s judgment of Jerusalem. In spite of his lenient excusal of anyone that cried out in despair, it appeared that none would survive. After the order was given to slay everyone that did not have the mark, Ezekiel exclaimed, “And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD, wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?” (Ezekiel 9:8). God’s reply to Ezekiel’s question suggested there were none who believed and were willing to cry out to him for help. “Then he said unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not” (Ezekiel 9:9).