Peter went up - The small room in the second story, or on the roof of the house, was the usual place for retirement and prayer. See the notes on Matthew 6:6; Matthew 9:2. Even when there was no room constructed on the roof, the roof was a common resort for retirement and prayer. Around the edge a battlement or parapet was commonly made, within which a person could be quite retired from public view. “At Jaffa, the ancient Joppa,” says Prof. Hackett (lllustrations of Scripture, p. 81), “where Peter was residing at the time of his vision on the house-top, I observed houses furnished with a wall around the roof, within which a person could sit or kneel without any exposure to the view of others, whether on the adjacent houses or in the streets. At Jerusalem I entered the house of a Jew early one morning, and found a member of the family, sitting secluded and alone on one of the lower roofs, engaged in reading the Scriptures and offering his prayers.”
Dr. Thomson (Land and the Book, vol. i. p. 52) says of these roofs, “When surrounded with battlements, and shaded by vines trained over them, they afford a very agreeable retreat, even at the sixth hour of the day - the time when Peter was favored with that singular vision, by which the kingdom of heaven was thrown open to the Gentile world.”
About the sixth hour - About twelve o‘clock (at noon). The Jews had two stated seasons of prayer, morning and evening. But it is evident that the more pious of the Jews frequently added a third season of devotion, probably at noon. Thus, David says Psalm 55:17, “Evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud.” Thus, Daniel “kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed,” Daniel 6:10, Daniel 6:13. It was also customary in the early Christian church to offer prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours (Clem. Alex. as quoted by Doddridge). Christians will, however, have not merely stated seasons for prayer, but they will seize upon moments of leisure, and when their feelings strongly incline them to it, to pray.
On the morrow, as they went on their journey - From Joppa to Caesarea was about twelve or fifteen leagues; the messengers could not have left the house of Cornelius till about two hours before sunset; therefore, they must have traveled a part of the night, in order to arrive at Joppa the next day, towards noon. - Calmet. Cornelius sent two of his household servants, by way of respect to Peter; probably the soldier was intended for their defense, as the roads in Judea were by no means safe.
Peter went up upon the house-top to pray - It has often been remarked that the houses in Judea were builded with flat roofs, on which people walked, conversed, meditated, prayed, etc. The house-top was the place of retirement; and thither Peter went for the purpose of praying to God. In Bengal, some of the rich Hindoos have a room on the top of the house, in which they perform worship daily.
The angel, after his interview with Cornelius, went to Peter, in Joppa. At the time, Peter was praying upon the housetop of his lodging, and we read that he “became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance.” It was not for physical food alone that Peter hungered. As from the housetop he viewed the city of Joppa and the surrounding country he hungered for the salvation of his countrymen. He had an intense desire to point out to them from the Scriptures the prophecies relating to the sufferings and death of Christ. AA 135.1
In the vision Peter “saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.” AA 135.2
This vision conveyed to Peter both reproof and instruction. It revealed to him the purpose of God—that by the death of Christ the Gentiles should be made fellow heirs with the Jews to the blessings of salvation. As yet none of the disciples had preached the gospel to the Gentiles. In their minds the middle wall of partition, broken down by the death of Christ, still existed, and their labors had been confined to the Jews, for they had looked upon the Gentiles as excluded from the blessings of the gospel. Now the Lord was seeking to teach Peter the world-wide extent of the divine plan. AA 135.3Read in context »
The seventy weeks, or 490 years, especially allotted to the Jews, ended, as we have seen, in A.D. 34. At that time, through the action of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the nation sealed its rejection of the gospel by the martyrdom of Stephen and the persecution of the followers of Christ. Then the message of salvation, no longer restricted to the chosen people, was given to the world. The disciples, forced by persecution to flee from Jerusalem, “went everywhere preaching the word.” “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” Peter, divinely guided, opened the gospel to the centurion of Caesarea, the God-fearing Cornelius; and the ardent Paul, won to the faith of Christ, was commissioned to carry the glad tidings “far hence unto the Gentiles.” Acts 8:4, 5; 22:21. GC 328.1
Thus far every specification of the prophecies is strikingly fulfilled, and the beginning of the seventy weeks is fixed beyond question at 457 B.C., and their expiration in A.D. 34. From this data there is no difficulty in finding the termination of the 2300 days. The seventy weeks—490 days—having been cut off from the 2300, there were 1810 days remaining. After the end of 490 days, the 1810 days were still to be fulfilled. From A.D. 34, 1810 years extend to 1844. Consequently the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 terminate in 1844. At the expiration of this great prophetic period, upon the testimony of the angel of God, “the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” Thus the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary—which was almost universally believed to take place at the second advent—was definitely pointed out. GC 328.2
Miller and his associates at first believed that the 2300 days would terminate in the spring of 1844, whereas the prophecy points to the autumn of that year. (See Appendix.) The misapprehension of this point brought disappointment and perplexity to those who had fixed upon the earlier date as the time of the Lord's coming. But this did not in the least affect the strength of the argument showing that the 2300 days terminated in the year 1844, and that the great event represented by the cleansing of the sanctuary must then take place. GC 328.3Read in context »
Peter related the plain interpretation of these words, which was given him almost immediately in his summons to go to the centurion and instruct him in the faith of Christ. This message showed that God was no respecter of persons, but accepted and acknowledged all who feared Him. Peter told of his astonishment when, in speaking the words of truth to those assembled at the home of Cornelius, he witnessed the Holy Spirit taking possession of his hearers, Gentiles as well as Jews. The same light and glory that was reflected upon the circumcised Jews shone also upon the faces of the uncircumcised Gentiles. This was God's warning that Peter was not to regard one as inferior to the other, for the blood of Christ could cleanse from all uncleanness. AA 193.1
Once before, Peter had reasoned with his brethren concerning the conversion of Cornelius and his friends, and his fellowship with them. As he on that occasion related how the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles he declared, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” Acts 11:17. Now, with equal fervor and force, he said: “God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” This yoke was not the law of Ten Commandments, as some who oppose the binding claims of the law assert; Peter here referred to the law of ceremonies, which was made null and void by the crucifixion of Christ. AA 193.2
Peter's address brought the assembly to a point where they could listen with patience to Paul and Barnabas, who related their experience in working for the Gentiles. “All the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” AA 194.1Read in context »
Paul had prided himself upon his Pharisaical strictness; but after the revelation of Christ to him on the road to Damascus the mission of the Saviour and his own work in the conversion of the Gentiles were plain to his mind, and he fully comprehended the difference between a living faith and a dead formalism. Paul still claimed to be one of the children of Abraham, and kept the Ten Commandments in letter and in spirit as faithfully as he had ever done before his conversion to Christianity. But he knew that the typical ceremonies must soon altogether cease, since that which they had shadowed forth had come to pass, and the light of the gospel was shedding its glory upon the Jewish religion, giving a new significance to its ancient rites. SR 306.1
The question thus brought under the consideration of the council seemed to present insurmountable difficulties, viewed in whatever light. But the Holy Ghost had, in reality, already settled this problem, upon the decision of which depended the prosperity, and even the existence, of the Christian church. Grace, wisdom, and sanctified judgment were given to the apostles to decide the vexed question. SR 306.2Read in context »