What happened to Paul after Acts? On the surface, it appears that Luke left Theophilus (Acts 1:1) and other readers hanging by not fully concluding Paul’s life story in Acts 28.
“Then he [Paul] stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30-31)
But if we realize that Acts was most likely written by Luke in AD 62-63, Paul was still alive. By combining church tradition from writings of church fathers in the first, second, and third centuries (Clement of Rome AD 100, Eusebius AD 300, etc..) along with certain events mentioned by Paul in letters to Titus and Timothy, we can design a reasonable outline of the remainder of Paul’s life.
– After two years in Rome under house arrest, Paul finally stood trial before Nero and was acquitted. Freed in AD 62, Paul embarked on his fourth missionary journey. It had long been his desire to reach Spain (Romans 15:23-29). Following his visit to Spain by way of Philippi, Paul’s travels can be traced through the details of his final letters (Titus and Second Timothy).
– In Paul’s absence from Rome (AD 63-67), the climate for Christians changed dramatically. The tolerance exhibited by Roman officials throughout the Acts narrative was eliminated and severe persecution, instigated by Emperor Nero himself, had broken out against Roman Christians beginning in AD 64.
– In late AD 67 or early AD 68, Paul returned to Rome where he was arrested again, along with Peter, and subjected to harsh imprisonment, an impulsive trial, and was unjustly convicted.
– In early AD 68, according to Eusebius, Paul was beheaded outside of Rome on the Ostian Way. Eusebius further documents that “Peter suffered martyrdom at the same time . . . he was crucified with his head downward, having requested to suffer this way.”
Paul’s journey with Jesus began on the road to Damascus and finished in Rome. He was faithful in (vs. 31) “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.” From prison in Rome after his final arrest, Paul wrote a final farewell to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
Paul finished well! So did Peter, James, Philip, Lydia, Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos Timothy, Titus, and many other faithful witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria and on to the ends of the earth.
It doesn’t matter how you start; it’s how you finish that matters.
What will our narrative say about the continuing story of Jesus’ ministry on Earth? Like Jesus’ first Disciples, let’s turn our world upside down (Acts 17:6). Like Peter and Paul and so many other faithful followers of Jesus, let’s finish well as we wait for Christ’s return when we’ll see him face to face.
Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.