Why Did God Have To Send Prophets to Paul Not To Go Jerusalem if Paul Truly Was In Prophetic Connection to Christ?
The events recorded in Acts 21 and 24 about the trip of Trophimus and Paul to Jerusalem provide us proof that Paul was not in prophetic communication with the true Risen Lord Jesus. This is proven because Paul defied two separate Holy Spirit messages from (1) a prophet Agabus and (2) from believers not to go to Jerusalem -- explained in Acts 21:4 and 21:10-11, as Luke describes them.
In Acts 21:4 (KJV), we read:
4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
The implication is so clear that pro-Paul commentators confess the only choice is to deny the literal meaning. Adam Clarke, the famous Methodist commentator said:
“Who said to Paul through the Spirit - We cannot understand this as a command from the Holy Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem, else Paul must have been highly criminal to have disobeyed it.
In Acts 21:10-11, Agabus gave a message to corroborate and explain why Paul should not go. As Frederick Watson in Inspiration (London: 1906) at 137 notes: “St. Paul did not follow the guidance of the true prophet Agabus [i.e., Acts 21:10-11], not to go up to Jerusalem, though other disciples speaking in the Spirit had said the same.”
But if Paul were truly listening to the true Jesus, how could Paul possibly have defied the Holy Spirit in this way?
Paul-admirers have no answer. They are befuddled: "I am not sure why Paul was so intent on going to Jerusalem, ignoring the warnings of the Holy Spirit and his friends." ("Agabus the Fallible Prophet?" March 29, 2011.)
We shall see precisely why God sent twice commands to Paul through others not to go to Jerusalem. Much was at stake for God-Yahweh. For on this trip, Paul's companion---Trophimus---defiled the Temple of Jerusalem.
These events prove Paul was never in connection with the true Jesus. For why did God have to speak through the prophet Agabus and other believers to try to persuade Paul to not go to Jerusalem? Wouldn’t the Christ of Paul’s ‘revelation’ have told Paul not to do so if that Christ was the true Christ? And if the true Christ spoke in agreement with His Father, as He must, then Paul certainly would not have gone to Jerusalem. Only a false Christ would keep quiet or encourage Paul to go ahead anyway.
Hence, the "Jesus" Paul thought he met on the wilderness way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-3)--when Jesus said already He would not appear after He departed them in any wildnerness location (Matt 24:24-27)--could not be the true Jesus we all know and love.
Background on Events
Ezekiel had said an uncircumcised Gentile in the Temple represents an abomination. (Ezekiel 44:9.) Jesus in Matthew 24:15 refers to Daniel’s prophecy of an abomination standing in the Temple as still in the future. Jesus says “this is the abomination” spoken by Daniel.
Did this later happen?
Yes. For an abomination of the Temple took place in 58 AD when an Ephesian named Trophimus—Paul’s travelling companion—defiled the Temple. See Acts 21:29, 24:6, 13, 18; 25:7-8. This happened after God spoke to companions of Paul to tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Paul went anyway, bringing Trophimus along.
Prophetic Messages To Others to Tell Paul Not To Go To Jerusalem
Luke records in Acts 21:4 (NLT) that: “We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem.”
Frederick Watson in Inspiration (London: 1906) at 137 similarly notes: “St. Paul did not follow the guidance of the true prophet Agabus [i.e., Acts 21:10-11], not to go up to Jerusalem, though other disciples speaking in the Spirit had said the same.” Paul-enthusiasts try put a good spin on this, making Paul look heroic: "Through the Holy Spirit, they warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:4) However, this did not deter them from traveling on." ("Prophet Agabus.")
But we must ask: why was God concerned? Paul had taught the Ephesians like Trophimus that God “has broken down the middle wall of partition” at the Temple—meaning the barrier to uncircumcised Gentiles entering, “having abolished in his flesh... the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances....” (Eph. 2:14-15.)
God knew Trophimus would rely upon Paul’s doctrine that the Wall was no longer a barrier. Thereby, God foresaw Trophimus would enter, causing an abomination similar to the one prophesied by Daniel.
Did Trophimus indeed violate the middle wall? Luke says the Jews “supposed” Paul was directly responsible for having brought Trophimus into the prohibited area of the Temple because they earlier saw Paul together with Trophimus in Jerusalem. (Acts 21:28-29.) Trophimus was indeed a close companion of Paul. (Acts 20:4; 2 Tim.4:20.) Yet, Paul said his accusers merely found him (Paul) purifying himself in the Temple. (Acts 24:18.) This was the only inadequacy Paul cited to the charge that he (Paul) was responsible for Trophimus’ profaning the Temple. See Acts 21:28 (Paul “brought Greeks also into the temple, and.... defiled this holy place.”)
Hence, Paul never denied Trophimus entered the Temple beyond the middle wall that no uncircumcised Gentile could pass. Paul simply provided an alibi for the time Trophimus’ violation happened, namely that Paul was at a ceremonial bath.
What else can explain Trophimus’ action? Paul also taught that uncircumcision was now nothing in God’s sight. (1 Cor 7:19.) And Paul further taught “God does not live (katoikei) in Temples made by human hands.” (Acts 17:24.)
So an uncircumcised Ephesian like Trophimus listening to Paul easily could assume it was safe to enter beyond the middle-wall at the Temple. In fact he could believe it was now even his right in Christ to do so.
However, Jesus taught the Temple in Jerusalem was the House where the LORD God dwelled. See Matt 23:21 (“swears by the Temple and the one who dwells (katikounti) in it”); Lk 2:49 (“my father’s house”) / Lk 19:45-46.
Jesus even taught that Daniel’s prophecy of an abomination standing in the Temple was in the future. (Matt 24:15-16.) But Paul taught that God does not “live” in such a temple made from human hands. (Acts 17:24.) And Paul told uncircumcisd Ephesians that the warning sign to them at the middle wall was now no longer a barrier to entry to them. See, Eph. 2:14-15.
God's Purpose of Sending Prophets to Paul
This is evidently why God, to deflect Paul’s journey, told true believers to tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:4.)
Despite such inspired warnings, Paul went anyway. (Acts 21:15; 21:24.). The abomination by Trophimus happened on that trip by Paul to Jerusalem.
This event has significant repercussions on our tracking whether Jesus warned us about Paul. For this story reveals very telling evidence that proves Paul never met Christ on the "way" to Damascus. For if Paul truly did so, then why did God have to speak through Agabus and other believers to try to persuade Paul to not go to Jerusalem? Wouldn’t the Christ of Paul’s ‘revelation’ have told Paul not to do so? And that would have sealed the issue for the true God of Heaven? Only a false Christ would keep quiet or tell Paul to go anyway. But the true Christ would have said the same thing to Paul as the prophets twice sent to Paul, and the true Christ thus would have prevented the abomination. Hence, Paul could not possibly have known the true Christ.
Thus, the ‘other Christ’ whom Paul assumed was Jesus kept silent or told Paul to go to Jerusalem. That ‘other Christ’ let the Trophimus-Paul journey continue to Jerusalem, with disastrous results—the abomination that desolates stood in the Temple. And hence, we know Luke recorded these prophecies of God to Agabus and others were true, and Paul could not have truly been in prophetic communication with the true Jesus, or otherwise, Paul would not have gone.
For detailed information on the importance of Paul's influence in Trophimus defiling the Temple, see our article "Trophimus."
Other Paul-fans admit their puzzlement:
Reviewing the passages from Acts 19:21 through Acts 21:10, it seems clear that it was Paul and not the Holy Spirit that had determined that he would go to Jerusalem before starting his next ministry journey in Rome.... However, I am not sure why Paul was so intent on going to Jerusalem, ignoring the warnings of the Holy Spirit and his friends. ("Agabus the Fallible Prophet?" March 29, 2011.)
Why didn't God go further and reveal Paul as a false prophet to the believers who warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem? God would not tell them Paul was a false prophet because God's purpose in allowing false prophets is to test believers to see whether they love Him with their whole heart, mind and soul, for they should (a) recognize anyone who disobeys prophetic messages others know are given him through them is not following God; or (b) not follow anyone who teaches you against following the Law -- the proof one is a false prophet -- which Paul certainly did teach. See Deuteronomy 13:1 – 5.
Whitewash Attempts in Major Commentators
Presupposing Paul cannot violate the Holy Spirit's command, Barnes recognizes the dilemma which the literal text involves. So he re-reads the passage to be about "if" you go Paul, be warned of dangers, rather than how it literally reads as a flat prohibition:
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible
“Who said to Paul through the Spirit - We cannot understand this as a command from the Holy Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem, else Paul must have been highly criminal to have disobeyed it. Through the Spirit, must either refer to their own great earnestness to dissuade him from taking a journey which they plainly saw would be injurious to him - and so Bp. Pearce understands this place; or, if it refer to the Holy Spirit, it must mean that if he regarded his personal safety he must not, at this time, go up to Jerusalem. The Spirit foretold Paul’s persecutions, but does not appear to have forbidden his journey; and Paul was persuaded that, in acting as he was about to do, whatever personal risk he ran, he should bring more glory to God, by going to Jerusalem, than by tarrying at Tyre or elsewhere. The purport of this Divine communication was, “If thou go up to Jerusalem the Jews will persecute thee; and thou wilt be imprisoned, etc.”
John Gill is the same, re-reading the passage that it must mean something else because Paul would never violate the Holy Spirit:
John Gill’s Commentary
“who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem; not that the Spirit of God in these persons contradicted his own impulse in the apostle, by which he was moved to go to Jerusalem, see Act_20:22. The sense is, that these disciples, by the spirit of prophecy, knew that if the apostle went to Jerusalem, many evil things would befall him; wherefore of their own spirit, and out of love to him, they advise him not to go.”
However, Luke was more likely willing to show the good and the bad of Paul.