A time line for the book of Acts
The book of Acts in the Bible describes the first 30 years of the church. It’s an historical narrative that was written by Luke who was a companion of Paul (Col. 4:10-14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 24). He wrote it to educate Christians about the early church.
The main point of Acts is that God’s witnesses spread the gospel message and established churches.
A time line of major events in Acts (concentrating on Acts 1-12) is given below. And it is followed by a summary of the book (also concentrating on Acts 1-12).
Jesus told Peter [stone], “on this rock [massive rock – Jesus; 1 Cor. 10:4] I will build my church, and the gates of Hades [hell, or the power of death] will not overcome it” (Mt. 16:18). The building of the foundation of the church is described in the book of Acts in the Bible as follows.
Jesus taught His disciples for 40 days after His resurrection. He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to witness about Jesus across the known world. After this He ascended back to heaven.
Because Judas Iscariot suicided, he was replaced as apostle by Matthias.
On the day of Pentecost (10 days after the ascension), the Holy Spirit miraculously came to live within the 120 Jewish followers of Jesus and they praised God in other languages. This drew a large crowd and Peter preached showing how Jesus was the promised Messiah. 3,000 people believed his message. This was the beginning of the church. They met regularly for teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.
Like Jesus, the apostles did healing miracles and Peter preached to the Jews. Thousands of them decided to follow Jesus. But the apostles were opposed and persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders. Two believers died because they lied to Peter.
The apostles appointed seven men to oversee the distribution of food to the poor. Stephen was stoned for his faith in Christ and the church was persecuted and scattered.
Philip was the first missionary in Judea and Samaria. The Pharisee Saul (whose Roman name was Paul, Acts 13:9) had a dramatic conversion and started preaching about Jesus instead of persecuting Christians.
Peter preached in Judea and Samaria. He was given a vision to show him that the gospel was going out to Gentiles as well as Jews. And when they decided to follow Jesus, the Gentile household of Cornelius received the Holy Spirit (like on the day of Pentecost). Later a meeting was held at Jerusalem to decide whether the Gentile believers had to keep the law of Moses like Jews. They agreed that it was God’s will that the church was for all nationalities and not just Jews.
James was put to death and Peter was imprisoned but was miraculously released.
Then Paul went on three missionary journeys to establish churches in what is now Turkey and Greece. After this he was imprisoned and transported to Rome. So the gospel travelled 4,000 km (2,500 miles) from Jerusalem to Rome. From the locked upper room to the palace of Caesar. This progress was both geographic and ethnic.
So Acts is about how God the Holy Spirit took the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, the capital of their world. It shows what God can do through individuals and churches who are fully committed to Him and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Written, March 2021
Also see: Building the church – Acts 1-12
Hello, My name is Douglas Collins,
I have been looking into the book of Acts timeline – I am especially interested in how long it was between the day of Pentecost and Peter preaching to Cornelius. Most commentators believe it was ten years. Some believe 5 or 6 years. Ten years is a long time for God not deal with the Gentiles in the time of Grace, in my opinion. How did God judge the Gentiles during the those ten years?
what is your opinion?
August 31, 2021 at 5:21 am
Thanks for the comment Douglas.
Most commentators seem to say that the gap between the day of Pentecost and Peter preaching to Cornelius was 7-10 years. I don’t know how this timing was derived. I used 7 years, although in the graph it looks more like 8 years.
You asked, “How did God judge the Gentiles during those ten years?” The same way He judged Gentiles elsewhere in the Old and New Testament.
In Romans 2, God judges all people according to the revelation they have (v.12). He revealed Himself to Gentiles in nature (Rom. 1:19-20) and put a capacity within them to identify truth. Everyone has an inner monitor (conscience) to assess what is right (v.15).
If a Gentile lives up to the revelation of God in creation, God will somehow send them the gospel. For example, Cornelius sought God: “he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10:2). Then God sent Peter to tell him how to be saved (Acts 11:14).
September 1, 2021 at 8:46 pm
Sorry that I have taken so long in getting back with you, but I have been doing more reading and studying on the subject.
First, can I offer some advice concerning your comment to me? You state:
“Most commentators seem to say that the gap between the day of Pentecost and Peter preaching to Cornelius was 37-40 years. I don’t know how this timing was derived. I used 37 years, although in the graph it looks more like 38 years.”
I think you might want to reword this paragraph. On your graph, you have the day of Pentecost at 30 A. D. and Cornelius at 37-38 A. D. That means there was only 7 – 8 years difference (according to your graph), but you wording sounds like it was 37 – 38 years difference.
As for how “this timing was derived.”, Most Historians believe that the Herod who lived when Jesus was born died around 4 B. C. Which means Jesus would have been born sometime before that. However, I have read an interesting article that suggests Herod may have died in 1 B. C. (Here is a link to the article if you wish to read it, https://thingspaulandluke.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/when-did-herod-die/ and a related article, https://thingspaulandluke.wordpress.com/2018/12/12/josephus-eclipse-showing-herods-death/).
Let’s say Jesus was born about 4 B. C., He was baptized at about the age of 30, He went into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, (for the sake of this discussion, let’s say that Jesus turned 30 while he was being tempted of the devil), after that he starting preaching. Add 30 years to 4 B. C. and you get 26 A. D. Jesus preached approximately 3 1/2 years and that puts you in the Spring of 30 A. D. (which is what you have in your graph).
Now if the Book of Acts is in basic chronological order, then the events in Chapter 11:26 – 30, either happened at approximately the same time Peter was preaching to Cornelius or it happened a year later. (Acts 11:26) Let’s say it happened one year later, during this time, Agabus prophecies that there is a great famine coming. Luke then tells us that this famine happened “in the days of Claudius Caesar” (Acts 11:28). Claudius became Caesar in 41 A. D. If Acts 11:28 is referring to Claudius coming to power, then it makes sense that Agabus prophesied before 41 A. D. – and Peter preaching to Cornelius took place at least a year before the prophecy.
In Summary, Peter probably preached to Cornelius in 37 – 38 A. D. ( as you have your graph), Agabus’ prophecy was in 40 A. D. and Claudius become Caesar in 41 A. D.
What do you think?
September 20, 2021 at 12:09 pm
I have corrected the errors in my comment (made “7-8 years” instead of “37-38 years”). I didn’t subtract the date of the Day of Pentecost, which I assumed to be AD 30.
I have also corrected an error in your comment (made “7-8 years” instead of “17-18 years”).
September 20, 2021 at 1:37 pm
Thank you very much for this outline. I’m presently studying for an exam and this was very helpful
September 19, 2021 at 4:06 am