Men Who Turned the World Upside Down

Acts 17:1–15

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." And they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds. And then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. Now those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. (17:1–15)

The world is not now as it was when God created it. The Fall of man, and God's resultant curse on the earth and its environment, toppled it from its spiritual axis. Fallen man is now trapped in an evil world system that is hostile to God. Ours is truly a world turned upside down.

The universe, however, will not remain that way forever. Ultimately, the Lord of glory will return (Rev. 19:11–21), take back the earth (Rev. 5), and establish His sovereign rule over all of it (Ps. 2:6–8). The curse will be lifted, and the earth will be restored to something of its original character. Finally, after the kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth, the whole universe will be uncreated (2 Pet. 3:10–13; Rev. 21:1–4).

That does not mean God is standing idly by until then. Throughout redemptive history He has sent His messengers to proclaim the light of His truth to the lost, sin-darkened world. Such people upset the system and disturb the comfort of sinners, thus incurring their wrath. They turn things right side up from God's perspective, but upside down from the world's.

Elijah ministered during the dark days of Ahab's reign. Ahab was an evil man, more so than any of his predecessors on Israel's throne (1 Kings 16:30). Even worse, he was married to Jezebel, the wicked daughter of the pagan king of Sidon. With her inciting him (1 Kings 21:25), he led the nation down the ruinous path to idolatry. Sent to confront Ahab's wickedness, Elijah prophesied that a devastating drought would strike Israel (1 Kings 17:1). He so upset Ahab's world that when the two finally met face-to-face the exasperated Ahab exclaimed, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" (1 Kings 18:17).