The Hope of Israel in Acts 28

Paul is a prisoner in Rome when he calls influential Jews together to him. He then explained his situation to them. He says he was bound by chain, “for the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20, NKJV).

Acts 28:17-20: “And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So, when they had come together, he said to them: ‘Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason, therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.’”

Paul refers to the hope of Israel. What was that hope? Many Jews believed it to be the hope that the glory of the nation would be restored. Many believed Messiah would sit on an earthly throne and that they would enjoy a return of the glory and power of the kingdom Solomon oversaw. However, Paul was not referring to that at all. He was referring to the promise of resurrection and eternal life which would come through Messiah, which in truth had already come through Messiah. The hope of Israel is seen in her history.

The writer of Hebrews wrote of faith and of both those who accomplished great things by faith and those who suffered greatly for their faith. He wrote of their hope of reward, and such a reward is glimpsed in Hebrews 11:5-6: “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” 

Enoch was the seventh from Adam (Jude 14), and Moses twice wrote that “Enoch walked with God” (Gen. 5:22, 24). Jude wrote of how Enoch had prophesied judgment against the ungodly before the flood (Jude 14-16) and then applied those prophetic words against the false teachers of the first century. The writer of Hebrews wrote of how God translated Enoch from this realm to the heavenly realm without allowing him to die. The hope of Israel, eternal life with God, was unfolding in Israel’s history.

Abraham recognized this hope. The writer of Hebrews wrote of his great faith in Hebrews 11:8-10: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

Abraham was waiting for a heavenly city. He was looking to a city that would be built by God. His hope was not political, economic, or earthly. His hope was spiritual, a treasure laid up in heaven, and eternal in nature. His hope was indeed, “the hope of Israel,” that same hope Paul alluded to in his discussion with the Jewish leaders he had invited together in Rome. However, the hope Paul spoke of is the hope of spiritual Israel, of those who come to God in faith. Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, one who had been reborn to the hope of spiritual Israel in Christ, and he mourned that all Jews had not believed and entered the kingdom of God.

Romans 9:3-8: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but ‘in Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”

Jesus was a stumbling block for many in Israel. Their false belief that Messiah would restore an earthly kingdom kept most from accepting that Jesus was their Messiah. His death on the cross persuaded them that He was an imposter, and His resurrection was a lie to them. God foresaw their failure. Romans 9:32-33: “Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’”

We who believe in Jesus and submit to His will are spiritual Israel. Our hope is resurrection to eternal life, a life lived with God in a city not made with hands. This is the hope of Israel that Paul spoke of in Acts 28.