In Acts 24-26, Luke described Paul’s defense before Governors Felix and Festus and King Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa I—who had “cruelly attacked some who belonged to the church, and he killed James, John’s brother, with the sword” (Acts 12:1). Paul positioned his ideas within the stream of the Old Testament. He argued that the idea of a general resurrection was commonly held by Jews and that Moses and the prophets predicted that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead.
(1) In Acts 24:15, Paul told Felix that he was on trial for proclaiming the resurrection of the just and the unjust—a belief common to all Jews. Israel’s prophets associated concepts of judgement and resurrection, underscoring the notion that in the day of the Lord humans will experience God’s verdict upon their lives. Isaiah described the day when God would vindicate His people, saying, “Your dead will live; their bodies will rise” (Isa 26:19). In Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Lord showed Ezekiel a valley of dry bones and told him to prophesy to the bones so that they would come alive. He told the prophet, “I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, My people, and lead you into the land of Israel” (Ezek 37:12). Daniel prophesied that at the day of judgement, some would be awakened to eternal life and some to eternal condemnation (Dan 12:2). Before Felix, Paul argued that his opponents accused him falsely. Paul said, “According to the Way, which they call a sect, so I worship my fathers’ God, believing all the things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets. And I have a hope in God, which these men themselves also accept, that there is going to be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous” (Acts 24:14-15).
(2) In Acts 26:22-23, Paul stated that Moses and the prophets predicted that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead. In Deut 18:15, Moses said that the Lord would raise up a prophet to speak personally to the people so that they would not have to endure God’s threatening presence as they had at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). But Israel rejected Jesus’ words just as they had rejected God’s word then (Matt 21:33-46//Luke 20:9-19). In Psalm 16, the psalmist proclaimed his confidence that God would not allow His Holy One to see decay but would raise Him and give Him pleasure in God’s presence forever (Ps 16:9-11). Isaiah prophesied that the Lord’s servant would suffer but afterward receive an inheritance (Isa 53:12). Paul told Agrippa that he was on trial for believing in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 26:8) and went on to specify that the risen Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Paul said that he preached only in accord with what the Old Testament said about the Messiah—proclaiming that the predictions of the Messiah’s suffering and death had been fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 26:22-23).