The story of the eunuch in Acts 8 can seem strange, somewhat random, or out of place unless seen through the lens of mid-Acts dispensational right division. Why is there an account of an Ethiopian eunuch?
If the church began in the early chapters of Acts in Jerusalem, then this chapter is viewed as the beginning of church outreach beyond Jerusalem. The story of the eunuch is merely an example of the missionary work of the disciples in the present dispensation. Hallelujah!
There are many problems with this, not the least of which is that the dispensation of grace had not yet been revealed (Eph 3:1-4). No one was preaching the gospel of the grace of God in early Acts.
Also, Acts 8 was not the overflow of a successful ministry in Jerusalem. Jerusalem had rejected the gospel of the kingdom and was chasing the believers out!
“And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” – Acts 8:1
Starting with the false premise that the church had already started, the events in Acts 8 are not seen as prophetic and their significance is missed. If the church had already started then prophecy has no more application in Acts 8 than in Ephesians 3.
However, when we recognize that early Acts is a continuation of God’s prophetic purpose for Israel (not the church), then we can search in prophecy for the importance of the Ethiopian eunuch. The search is surprising and helpful.
Two Ethiopian Eunuchs
It may be surprising to find out that Acts 8 is not the only record of an Ethiopian eunuch in the Bible.
In Jeremiah 38:7 there is another Ethiopian eunuch that helped the prophet Jeremiah and trusted the Lord when the rest of Israel (including the King) did not.
Jeremiah 39 speaks of God’s impending judgment upon the nation Israel for not heeding the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah. However, due to his trust in the Lord, the Ethiopian eunuch would be saved (Jeremiah 39:16-19).
“For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD.” – Jeremiah 39:19
Shortly after the events of Jeremiah 39, Israel fell into the hands of God’s judgment.
Prophetically, when God’s people rejected God and his messengers, the Ethiopian eunuch was a testimony to the nation’s faithlessness. He represented wild branches that would not be cut off with the rest of the nation in judgment.
Knowing that Israel had rejected God’s messengers in Acts 4-7 culminating with the stoning of Stephen and throwing others in prison, it makes perfect prophetic sense that there be an Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.
Acts 8 Rightly Divided
Acts 8 is not the story of the early church, it is the final testimony against Jerusalem that had rejected God in Christ and his messengers. Christ offered Jerusalem the kingdom in Acts chapters 1-3. Acts 4-7 was Jerusalem refusing the offer. As a testimony against the unbelieving Jews, an Ethiopian eunuch believes in the Messiah in Acts 8.
Anyone who has ears to hear knows what this means: Israel is fallen.
It is not coincidence that in the very next chapter the apostle Paul is saved and is given the dispensation of the grace of God. God’s grace to all can only be revealed after he had counted all (Jews and Gentiles) in unbelief.
“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” – Romans 11:32
God concluded the Gentiles under sin a long, long time ago. It was in Acts 8 that God counted Israel as uncircumcised in heart and ears, and concluded that they, too, were in unbelief with the Gentiles. This is the eunuch’s testimony.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
For a more detailed study on the chapters of early Acts see our verse by verse series here.