Greece, a Land of the Bible

MUCH of what is known today as Greece is referred to in the Bible as Macedonia. Today Macedonia is a province of Greece. The Apostle Paul and his companions were laboring in the vineyard of the Lord in Asia Minor when Paul was directed by a vision from the Lord to cross the sea from there to the first port of Macedonia, and to Neapolis, and he went on from there to Philippi, which at the time was a Roman colony.

Paul and Silas, together with Timothy and Luke, arrived in Philippi near the weekend and on the Sabbath day went out of the city to a place near a river where a prayer meeting was being held. There they started to speak to some women who had gathered. We read in Acts 16:14, “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” Here is a statement of some of the details involved in establishing the first Christian church in Europe, a privilege and an honor which the Lord bestowed upon Paul and his associates.

While Paul and Silas were well entertained by Lydia, being made more than welcome in her home and being free to use it as a meeting place for the newly developing brethren in Christ, they soon encountered persecution, were beaten with many stripes, thrust into prison, and put in chains. There in a dungeon in which they were incarcerated they prayed and sang praises unto God, and the prisoners heard them. Then suddenly an earthquake took place so that the foundation of the prison was shaken. The result was that the prison keeper and all his household accepted Christ and were baptized. Years later Paul was in prison in Rome and wrote to the brethren in Philippi with fullness of love and compassion. He said in the opening verses of this loving letter, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”

From Philippi Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica, preaching the Gospel of Christ in the synagogue of the Jews. From Thessalonica they went on to Berea, and Paul called the people he met there in the synagogue “noble Bereans” because they “received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”—Acts 17:11

Paul left Timothy and Silas in Thessalonica, and with some of his companions went on to Athens, the city of philosophers, the city “of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks.” We read that Paul’s spirit “was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” (Acts 17:16) It is said that in Athens there were three thousand gods. In the market place there were many altars to different gods and goddesses, among them an altar to THE UNKNOWN GOD. The Athenians, as well as the strangers who visited Athens, the Scriptures tell us, “spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.”—Acts 17:21

Paul spoke in the synagogue to the Jews and devout persons, and “in the market daily.” (Acts 17:17) There, that is, in the market place, the Epicurians and the Stoicks came to engage Paul in conversation, the result being to bring him to the greatest tribunal of all time, the Areopagus. These were judges—five hundred of them—judging murderers and preachers of strange gods. They had convicted Socrates about five hundred years before this for the same thing.

Areopagus means “rock hill of Ares (Mars).” There the gods tried Mars for some crime he committed, such as teaching the immortality of the soul or, as some others say, for murdering a favorite of the gods; but he was acquitted on account of a tie vote. There, in the opinion of many, Paul delivered the most eloquent sermon of all time, except the Beatitudes.

“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”—Acts 17:22,23

Then Paul proceeded to explain that God, who created the heaven and the earth, does not dwell in manmade temples, pointing to the market place and to the acropolis whereon was built the temple of Parthenon, which was the Doric Temple dedicated to the virgins and to Athena-Minerva, who it was claimed was the virgin Athena.

In closing his discourse Paul said, “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them.”—Acts 17:30-33

They never called Paul again. The resurrection of the dead was too much for them to believe. In all their philosophy the subject of the resurrection of the dead was never considered. But some men and women believed with Paul, and among them one judge by the name of Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.

From Athens Paul went to Corinth and there found a couple, Aquila and his wife Priscilla, tentmakers. Paul preached in the synagogue, and the chief ruler of the synagogue believed and all his house. Paul stayed in Corinth one year and six months, and a church group was founded there. Two excellent letters were written by Paul to the brethren he reached in Corinth. Thus we see that Paul visited five cities in Greece—Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth.

The Judgment Day

In his sermon on Mars’ hill Paul not only affirmed the resurrection of Jesus Christ but also gave a brief outline of a great truth of the Bible concerning the world’s coming judgment day. He spoke of a long period in which the world had worshiped false gods and then added, The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”—Acts 17:30,31

With the first coming of Christ and his death and resurrection, there came a turning point in the plan of God. Prior to this time God made no special effort to call attention to a great plan of salvation, because the provision for that salvation had not been made, i.e., the death of Jesus as the world’s Redeemer. But now all true followers of Jesus are commissioned to proclaim that through him salvation from death is available upon the basis of faith. The first step in the approach to this state of grace is repentance. When Paul said that God now “commandeth all men every where to repent,” it does not mean that all men every where have now even heard this message of repentance in a true and understandable manner.

Paul contrasts the ignorance of the people during the past, at which God “winked,” with the message of repentance, indicating that in order for any to repent they have to be enlightened. The only means of enlightenment is through the Gospel of Christ proclaimed in a true and understandable manner. To this Paul adds, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.” The thought here is that in the judgment day the people will indeed be enlightened, and their judgment, or trial, will be based upon the manner in which they respond to the enlightenment which will be guaranteed to them at that time. In a picture of the judgment day given to us in the 20th chapter of Revelation, we are told that the books shall be opened. These books represent an understanding of God’s plan and will for his people. We are informed, also, that the people will then be judged upon the basis of the things written in the books.—Rev. 20:12

In order for the people to be judged in that future day of judgment, which as the Scriptures indicate will be a thousand years in length, it will be necessary for them to be resurrected to life through a resurrection of the dead. And in verse 13 of Revelation 20 we read, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” This is a reference to the works of the people which will be committed after the books of understanding are opened and they are able to make a correct decision whether or not they want to serve the Lord or to continue in their willful, sinful ways.

Paul explains further in his sermon on Mars’ hill that God has given assurance of this future blessed time of opportunity to escape from sin and death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is indeed an assurance, because a dead Christ would not be in a position to raise the dead and to conduct a thousand-year judgment work on their behalf. The Scriptures explain further concerning the judgment day that the faithful followers of Jesus during the present time—those who have been faithful in following him even unto death—will have the privilege of sharing with him in this future work of judgment, and this indeed is a blessed hope for all true Christians. Yes, there is a blessed time coming for the whole family of mankind, a time when the dead will be restored to life and all will have an opportunity to accept Jesus, to obey the laws of his kingdom and live forever.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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