Acts 24:24-25 - Felix Trembled

SCRIPTURE: Acts 24:24-25 And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

QUESTION: Felix was a wicked man out of covenant. The subject of the discussion had been the resurrection of the dead and concerned the faith in Christ. This practically rules out the possibility of the conversation being about the judgments of A.D. 70 as it was not part of the Gospel. What reason can be provided therefore, for Felix s trembling, other than his fear of the judgment seat of Christ?

ANSWER: Questions asked in this manner have to be approached carefully because they make an assertion which presumes the answer to the question. In this case, the question "practically rules" out the judgments of A.D. 70 as a valid explanation. This assumption needs to be examined.

Although Paul had twice mentioned the resurrection of the dead in relation to the role it played in the accusations against him, those references were made at the first audience with Felix (Acts 24:10-21). The audience in which "Felix trembled" occurred later after certain days (vs. 24), at which time the topics on which the apostle reasoned are stated to be righteousness, temperance and judgment to come in relation to the faith in Christ.

Although the subject of the resurrection at the first audience and future judgment at the second one could be related, they are nevertheless distinct, and it is not possible to know with certainty whether Paul, in discussing judgment to come, addressed the resurrection of the dead or the coming judgments on the Jewish nation or both.

There is no record that Felix trembled during the first audience when resurrection was specifically addressed. If the argument is to be made that Felix's trembling during the second audience was in response to his personal prospect of resurrection for judgment, additional assumptions need to bemade that are not stated in Scripture. These assumptions are:

We agree with the assessment that "Felix was a wicked man out of covenant." He would have been aware of the untimely end that King Herod had experienced as recorded earlier in the book of Acts when he was brought into judgment - not at the resurrection, but in the circumstances of this life (see Acts 12:21-23).

The judgment to come on the Jewish nation and the destruction of Jerusalem (Felix was governor of Judea) was prominent in the teaching of the Lord and the apostles. They had been constantly warning that generation of the coming judgments - days described as of such tribulation that should they not be shortened there should no flesh be saved (Matthew 24:22). Might not the vivid presentation of the sun darkened, moon failing, and the powers of the heavens shaken cause the governor of those heavens to tremble? We believe that it is probable that the events foretold related to the judgment which culminated in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 constituted the judgment to come. The "gospel of the Kingdom ... of salvation ... of peace ... of Christ" is not preached with threats; it is a joyous announcement constituting an invitation to life, For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).

The Christadelphian Advocate Committee

1 It is important to note what the apostle Paul stated about the resurrection of the dead in his first answer before Felix. In his first reference (24:15), he cites the resurrection in the context ofhope toward God, in conformity with "all things written in the law and in the prophets," that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and of the unjust. In his second reference (24:21), he indicates that the doctrine of the resurrection was the principal point of contention that had occurred in the council in Jerusalem. Significantly, he identified himself on that occasion with the Pharisees in relation to the resurrection of the dead (23:6). It is significant because according to some historical sources, the Pharisees believed that only the seed of Abraham would be raised from the dead (on account of the covenant made with Abraham). One source is Dean Henry Alford who wrote, "In one tenet above all others did the religion of Jesus Christ and the belief of the Pharisees coincide: that of the resurrection of the dead. That they looked for this resurrection by right of being the seed of Abraham and denied it to all others..." [The New Testament for English Readers, 1868]. Where do the law and the prophets teach that an evil man out of covenant like Felix would be raised from the dead for judgment? The law was cited by our Lord in his argument to confound the Sadducees and prove the resurrection, that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, those patriarchs to whom God had made covenant promises. This is the principal basis of resurrection revealed in the Word.

2 Some years ago, a former editor of The Advocate asked a brother who edits one of the magazines of the Central fellowship what he considered to be the strongest proof in Scripture of the responsibility question. To his surprise, the brother replied that it was the case of Felix's trembling. It is perhaps difficult for those who are persuaded of the truth of resurrectional responsibility for enlightened rejecters to see that the case of Felix does not provide any independent evidence in favour of the argument. It is only a convincing argument if one already is persuaded that the Scriptures teach resurrectional responsibility. There are too many things not stated that need to be assumed, to such an extent that the assumption becomes the argument, as the wording of the question under consideration demonstrates.

3 There was evidence that Felix was a licentious man. We don't know how he responded to Paul's testimony about temperance (self-control) but there is no certainty that it was only the topic of "judgment to come" that was responsible for his trembling. Who among us would desire to go to the judgment seat of Christ, having cut off brethren from fellowship based on the tenuous argument as to why Felix trembled? It is one thing to come to a particular conclusion about the meaning of the verse and another to insist all adopt it as a condition of fellowship.