The Acts of the Holy Spirit in the Early Church

Acts 1‑28  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Summary, Timeline and Events of the Early Church
(adapted from Miller's Church History and various sources)
The purpose of this quick reference timeline is to hopefully provide a better understanding of the relationships between the dates of the authorship of the different New Testament Books and the surrounding events of the time periods involved. Certain events, both with regard to the early Church and secular history, are presented to illustrate these connections. Each of the New Testament Books are given with respect to their time of authorship as well as in relation to the history of the Church as recorded in the Book of Acts. The Book is itself transitional, illustrating both the setting aside of the Jews in their rejection of Christ and recording the acts of the Holy Spirit acting in and through the apostolic Church. All dates are only approximate, with the exception of those of exact historical record given in brackets. The lower of the two dates up until the conversion of Saul, when appearing as 30/33 for example, is according to the adjusted time of Christ's birth having taken place in 4 BCE.
[45- 44 BC]
Julius Caesar, 1st Roman dictator and the beginning of the Roman Emperor Cult, being deified in 42 BC by the Roman Senate.
[40-4 BC]
Herod II: the "Great," king of the Jews.
[27 BC—14 AD]
Augustus Octavian Caesar: First "Official" Roman Emperor.
[4 BC—39 AD]
Herod Antipas: Tetrarch of Galilee & Perea, exiled to Gaul in 39 AD & his territories given to his brother in-law, Herod Agrippa I, by Emperor Caligula in AD 40.
[4 BC]
Birth of our Saviour, Jesus – Immanuel.
[14-37 AD]
Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar, emperor.
Christ's ascension & promise of the Holy Spirit being sent; choosing of Matthias to fill the role of Judas' apostleship.
Pentecost: formation of the Church by the descent of the Holy Spirit; Jews of every nation present in Jerusalem for the feast, hear the Gospel preached in the language of the nations they are from; 3000 souls added to the Church in one day, the Lord continuing to add as He will.
Peter & John go up to pray in the Temple, heal a man lame from birth outside the Temple gate, giving place for the Gospel to be preached to all within the Temple; rebuked by Temple authorities not to preach in the name of Jesus, apostles refuse and give God glory; great power given in witness of Christ's resurrection.
Direct discipline by the Holy Spirit within the assembly; Holy Spirit performs miracles thru the apostles; apostles arrested, but delivered from prison by the angel of the Lord and commanded to preach in the Temple; re-arrested, beaten and released, "rejoicing they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name" v. 41.
First dispute among Jerusalem assembly; Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, performs wonders and miracles before all, attacked by various Jewish factions and brought before the Council by force under false accusations.
Stephen's witness and martyrdom; young Saul an approving witness (v. 58).
Believers under great persecution at the hands of Saul are scattered abroad from Jerusalem—preaching the Word throughout Judea and Samaria; only the apostles remain at Jerusalem; Philip preaches and performs miracles throughout Samaria, many added to the Church; Simon the sorcerer's false profession for profit; Philip's preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch, treasurer to the Queen of Ethiopia.
Saul, intent in his persecution of believers of the "The Way" converted on the road to Damascus by the Lord's direct intervention, remains some time with the disciples at Damascus, goes to Arabia, then returns; boldly preaches the Gospel he once tried to destroy.
Caligula Gaius, Emperor; demands a statue of himself to be erected inside the Temple in Jerusalem but died before it could be done; known for his cruelty and decadence.
Saul flees Jews of Damascus' attempt to kill him and goes to Jerusalem, met with Peter (3 years after his conversion, Gal. 1:18: Paul's first Jerusalem visit); escapes to Caesarea then to Tarsus, after Grecians intend to kill him; ministers in Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21); all the assemblies have rest.
Peter's ministry throughout the quarters of Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa; Tabitha raised from the dead; Peter remains in Joppa.
Herod Agrippa I, bestowed the title of "King" by Caligula and given his brother in-law, Herod Antipas, territories, after Antipas was banished to Gaul.
Claudius I: Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero, emperor; appointed Herod Agrippa I, King over the entire Levant (originally meant all of the Mediterranean lands from Greece to Egypt, but biblically of the area then known as Palestine [modern Israel, Syria and Jordan] an increase making his territory to equal that of Herod the Great).
Cornelius' angelic vision to send men to Joppa after Peter; Peter's vision as to the acceptance of the Gentiles as clean in his call to witness to Cornelius; the Holy Spirit falls upon the Gentiles just as He had upon the disciples at Pentecost, directly bringing the Gentiles into the Church.
Peter's testimony to the "circumcision" in Jerusalem of his vision and the acceptance of the Gentiles; Barnabas' call to go as far as Antioch after report that the Grecians have received the Lord, then to Tarsus to seek Saul and bring him up to Antioch; disciples first called Christians at Antioch.
Famine relief; Paul's 2nd trip to Jerusalem.
Herod Agrippa I executes James the brother of John (Zebedee); seeks to kill Peter as well, seeing James' death pleased the Jews; Peter arrested, delivered by an angel of the Lord; escapes to another place; Herod Agrippa I struck dead by God in Caesarea for receiving praise for himself as a "god" (Acts 12:23).
Saul returns to Antioch from Jerusalem; Epistle of James believed to have been written about this time (45-50, James, the son of Alphaeus [son of Joseph; in other words, James the Lord's half brother]).
Saul and Barnabas called out by the Holy Spirit for their 1st missionary journey; Saul's name given to be Paul by the Holy Spirit under the authority of his ministry to be the apostle to the Gentiles; Cyprus, Antioch of Psidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe are visited, then in reverse back again to Antioch.
Claudius I expels Jews from Rome; (cf: 18:2).
Herod Agrippa II: Marcus Julius Agrippa (Acts 25:26) ascends over Herod Agrippa I's territories.
Some place the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew at this time.
Dissension arises regarding circumcision and the law due to false brethren coming from Judea, leading Paul and Barnabas to be sent to Jerusalem to seek input from the Apostles and brethren there; Paul's third visit to Jerusalem (cf: Gal. 2:1-10 "fourteen years later," after his first visit with Peter); Paul and Barnabas, with Judas and Silas, return to Antioch.
Paul's 2nd missionary journey: disagreement over John Mark between Paul and Barnabas cause them to part company; Paul and Silas depart with the blessing of the fellowship of the brethren (15:36-41); Luke joins the journey (16:10); Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth all visited; Paul and Silas spend a year and a half in Corinth (18:11); First Thessalonians written.
Second Thessalonians written; Paul sails to Ephesus.
Nero: Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus, emperor.
Paul's 4th Jerusalem visit; present at the feast; returns to Antioch.
Paul's 3rd missionary journey; Galatia, Phrygia, and on to Ephesus for two years and three months; disciples separated from the synagogue at this time; Galatians believed to be written (though some present it earlier, around 49-52, prior to 1st & 2nd Thessalonians, but after the Jerusalem council).
19:23; 20:1
First Corinthians written (Spring); Paul leaves to Macedonia after riot in Ephesus; Second Corinthians written (Autumn: 2nd Cor. 1:8; 2:13,14; 7:5; 9:1); Paul visits and winters in Corinth after first visiting Illyricum (Rom. 15:9; I Cor. 16:6).
Some place the authorship of The Gospel of Luke about this time; others have it from 58-63.
20; 21:1-4
Epistle to the Romans written (Spring: Rom. 15:25-28; 16:21-23; Acts 20:4); Paul leaves Corinth, passes through Macedonia, sails from Philippi to Troas, visits with elders at Miletus; Stops at Tyre and Caesarea.
Paul repeatedly warned by the Holy Spirit not to go to Jerusalem (cf: 20:22-23).
Paul's 5th Jerusalem visit, arriving before Pentecost; arrested in the Temple; brought before Ananias, sent to Caesarea by Lysias after plot against his life is revealed.
Paul's defense before Felix; imprisoned for two years at Caesarea.
Paul's defense before Festus, appeals to Caesar; preaches to Agrippa and Bernice and those of Caesarea (Autumn).
Sails for Rome (Winter); becomes shipwrecked on Malta.
Arrives in Rome in the Spring; lives in own hired house for two years, preaches to all who may come to visit; end of the Book of Acts.
James "the Just," the Lord's half brother, martyred in Jerusalem at the hand of the Jews; Paul writes the Epistles to Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians some time during the Spring; Philippians written some time during the Fall; both Luke's Gospel and the Book of Acts believed to be written about this time and prior to Paul's trial.
Paul is acquitted and released during the Spring; Hebrews is believed to be written at this time, prior to Paul going on his intended visit to Asia Minor and Greece (Phil. 2:24; 2 Tim. 4:17,20).
Paul visits Crete, leaves Titus there while encouraging Timothy to remain in Ephesus; 1st Timothy and Titus written at this time.
[July 64]
Nero blames the burning of Rome on Christians though testified by various authorities to have done it himself; persecutions against Christians arise throughout the empire.
Paul, intending to winter at Nicopolis (Tit. 3:12); Troas, Corinth and Miletum visited (2 Tim. 4:13-20); Paul arrested and sent to Rome; Luke remains with him; 2 Timothy written prior to his martyrdom in 67.
The Gospel According to Mark believed to have been written sometime within this time period.
1st & 2nd Peter believed to have been written then.
Paul and Peter both martyred in Rome; Paul beheaded, Peter crucified.
Vespasian: Titus Sabinus Flavius Vespasianus, emperor.
Jude possibly written.
Jewish uprising and siege of Jerusalem; destruction of Jerusalem and Temple by Roman general Titus (fulfillment of Mt. 23:37 & 24:2; Luke 19:43-44).
Titus: Titus Flavius Vespasianus, emperor.
Domitian: Titus Flavius Domitianus, emperor; deifies self, renews persecutions of Christians, and confiscates Christian property, forces exile; John the apostle banished to Patmos.
The Gospel of John and each of the Epistles of John believed written; the final book of the New Testament, Revelation, written.
Nerva: Marcus Cocceius, emperor; restores Christian property and rescinds their banishment; the apostle John returns from exile on the Isle of Patmos.
Trajan; Marcus Ulpius Trajianus, emperor.
Death of John the Apostle.