During this time, when about 120 believers were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them. “Brothers,” He said, “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.”
(Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”)
Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’ So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus from the time He was baptized by John until the day He was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, You know every heart. Show us which of these men You have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.Acts 1:15-26
I received a number of questions from readers which matched the questions I came up with and I have added a couple of my own. You will have to guess which ones are mine.
- Is there any significance to the number of 120 people gathered in the Upper Room?
- What is the relationship between the “Field of Blood” Judas bought and the Potter’s Field?
- But didn’t Judas throw the money for betrayal into the temple, not buying a field?
- Are verses 18 and 19 part of Peters speech or not? If not where did they come from?
- Did Judas hang himself or did he fall and split open? Which story is correct? Isn’t there a problem with these two accounts?
- Why were two men nominated for the position? Why didn’t God just make it clear who was to be chosen, like the selection of David by Samuel?
- Why was the casting of lots the way to determine God’s will? Is that the pattern we should be following today?
- What is the point of this passage in Acts? Why is it included? Is there relevance for us today?
1. The Significance of One Hundred and Twenty
There are a number of alternatives to the significance and there are more beyond what I will share with you. When it comes to numbers in Scripture, many people find much significance by looking at the mathematical factors of the numbers involved. When that happens we can come up with anything to make the number say what we want it to say. You wouldn’t believe how some people have interpreted this number.
- Option One:- Some feel there is no significance in the number 120 because Luke has recorded for us that there were ABOUT 120 believers gathered in one place. Because the number is an approximation then we should not make much significance from it.
- Option Two:- The standard Bible Numeric interpretation is that the factors of 120 are 10 x 12, where 10 represents ordinal perfection and 12 represents the tribes of Israel and therefore Governmental order. Thus it was important for one more disciple to be added to The Eleven so that governmental order was restored. Especially so, as The Twelve were to be the prime witnesses and the backbone and Apostles of Christ’s entire ministry. Jesus chose twelve apostles as his inner circle of disciples to demonstrate that his mission was to shepherd all of Israel. The twelve Apostles represented the twelve tribes of Israel.
- Option Three:- This was the number which the Jews required to form a council in any city; and it is likely that in reference to this, the disciples had gathered together.Thus they formed a complete council for the important business of electing a person to replace Judas. 120was a number pretty famous among the Jews; the Sanhedrin of Ezra, called the men of the great synagogue, consisted of an “hundred and twenty elders”. Such a number was prerequisite for a Sanhedrin in any place. They established a Sanhedrin in every city in Israel, where there is an “hundred and twenty”. In a city where there was not a hundred and twenty, they placed three judges. There are 120 members in the modern day Israeli Knesset who govern Israel.
An Extension to the Ezraic Meaning of 120
When Ezra the prophet came back from Babylonian captivity, he determined that the only way he could keep the knowledge of God active for the Jews, was to have copies of the Scriptures. These copies would be sent to every synagogue in the world. In order to do this, he first had to collect all the inspired manuscripts. He then had to determine their accuracy against the originals and correct any mistakes. To aid him in this monumental task, Ezra decided to create what is known as the Great Synagogue (or Great Assembly). The Great Synagogue, with Ezra as the leader, was a group of 120 Jewish elders who led the effort to officially collect and edit the writings. Thus, there is a connection between 120 and the Word of God.
4. Option Four:- The number 120 can symbolize a divinely appointed time of waiting. After God saw how sinful and dedicated to evil man had become after the garden of Eden, he determined a one hundred and twenty year period would be given for repentance and then the flood waters would come (Genesis 6:1 – 3).
An Extension of the Waiting time for Repentance of Sin
- The number signifies the passing away of the age of the flesh and the beginning of the age of the Spirit.
- My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall beone hundred and twenty years(Gen 6:3)
- 120 were gathered in the upper room when to the Holy Spirit came upon them.
The 120 in the Upper Room are associated with the 120 priests who were with Solomon when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant symbolises God’s Presence (2 Chron 5:12). The 120 priests are dedicated to perform the rituals of the temple. As they leave the Holy of Holies they sing praises to the Lord accompanied by musical instruments and as they do, the cloud of the Presence of the Glory of God descends upon them. They can no longer minister in the Presence of God because of the weight of Kabod (the glory of the Presence) and the likelihood they will die in touching the Presence. (2 Chron 6:1:18). There were 120 priests leading the people in the temple in Solomon’s time, waiting for God to indwell the Holy of Holies. Likewise, there are 120 brethren praising God and waiting for the Promise of the Father in the Upper Room. In Solomon’s temple there are 120 priests worshipping with one voice. In the Upper Room 120 are praying with one voice in complete accord. The Presence of the Lord fills the Holy of Holies, so too The Holy Spirit of God rests on each of the 120 believers gathered in the Upper Room with tongues of fire. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, as promised, those present become the Temple of the Holy Spirit, members of the Body of Christ and priests to serve God for all humanity, Jews and Gentiles.
Have I developed the analogy enough for you? Have I given you enough options on the significance of the Number 120 to satisfy your curiosity? Now it is up to you to decide which is the interpretation for you or find a way to blend them all together.
Speaking of symbolism: Take Christ out of Christian & you’re left with Ian. Ian can’t help you.Ian Vail
Worship will get you through the toughest times in life because it shifts your focus from the problem to the problem solver.Ian Vail
The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible. The Word of God is like that!Ian Vail
The doorway into the true knowledge of God is the awareness that what you think you know is nothing compared to the reality of Him.Heriswita Riana