IS “JERUSALEM” MY HOMETOWN?
by Shawn Brasseaux
In an effort to promote missions and evangelism, some sincere people have greatly abused Acts 1:8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Jerusalem is said to be our hometown, Judaea is allegedly the larger region around our hometown, Samaria is supposedly the rest of our nation, and “the uttermost part of the earth” is said to be the nations of the world. Acts 1:8 is said to be our pattern for soul winning—start in our hometown before moving outward to the world’s nations. We are convinced that Acts 1:8 has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with us witnessing in our hometown and then pursuing worldwide missions. Let us see what the Bible really says!
The fact of the matter is Jerusalem in the Bible means Jerusalem. Judaea means southern Israel. Samaria is northern Israel. These are literal places in the Middle East. They are not in North America, Europe, South America, Australia, et cetera. It is a very dishonest approach to Bible study to use Bible terms and attach new meanings to them or extra-biblical meanings to them. Denominations and cults are notorious for doing such things with God’s Word and we should not follow them in their error. We should not wrest or twist the Scriptures to make them support our belief or program. Again, denominations and cults are notorious for doing such things with God’s Word and we should not follow them in their error. We should use the Holy Bible to form our theological system; we should not force the Holy Bible to agree with our theological system.
Some may ask, “Was not Jerusalem the hometown of the apostles?” In Acts 1:11, the two angels asked those same apostles, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” The 11 apostles (Judas is dead) were from up north, from Galilee, not from southern Israel (the setting of Jerusalem). The only apostle who was from southern Israel was Judas Iscariot, and he had killed himself weeks earlier (Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:16-20). “Iscariot” means “man of Kerioth,” Kerioth being in southern Judaea (Joshua 15:25).
To say that “Jerusalem” really means something else (that is, our hometown), reminds me of the never-ending effort of the Roman Catholic Church to say that Saint Peter was indeed in Rome. Without Peter ever being in Rome, he could have never been “Bishop of Rome,” and the “Petrine” papacy would be utterly destroyed. They thus grab any verse in the Bible and twist it to make it fit their system. How so? When Peter mentioned “the church that is at Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13), Roman Catholic apologists go to great lengths to say that “Babylon” is “code-name” for “Rome.” If that be the case, then who is to say that “Peter” is not a codename for someone else other than Simon Peter? (After all, some “scholars” deny the Apostle Peter wrote either epistle commonly attributed to him!) How do we know it was the Apostle Peter who wrote that letter from codename “Babylon/Rome?” It could have been any Christian… and then 1 Peter 5:13 would utterly useless to prove Peter was in Rome. Using the scholars’ logic, Peter may have not been that individual who wrote the letter. Who is to say that “the whore of Babylon” (Revelation chapters 17 and 18) is not “codename” for “the whore of Rome?” (No Roman Catholic apologist has yet to claim that “Babylon” is Rome!)
See, dear friends, we get sillier and sillier when we “spiritualize” passages, when we say Bible terms mean something else than what their literal reading would have us believe. How do we determine anything sensible in the Bible if we are always looking for “codenames,” “symbolic names,” and so on? We need to leave the King James Bible text alone and just believe it.
Certainly, we should preach the Gospel of the Grace of God to every person we can, whether in our community or around the world. This is made abundantly clear in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. However, as dispensational Bible study makes so very clear, Acts 1:8 has nothing to do with us!