- The beginning of the book of Acts shows that this writing is a sequel to the first letter Luke wrote to Theophilus. The first letter described all that Jesus did and taught until the day He was taken up. Thus, the first narrative can be described as the Acts of Jesus while this narrative has been called the Acts of the Apostles.
- It is also well said that this book is also the acts of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:25-26 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The book of Acts describes the work of the Holy Spirit and all that He taught.
I. 40 Days With Jesus (1:3-5)
A. Many convincing proofs (1:3)
- Luke begins his narrative in verse three of the first chapter. After Jesus’ suffering, He presented Himself alive to the apostles by many convincing proofs. The language here is interesting because literally this would read “by many proofs proofs.” The Greek word occurs in repetition. These were “proving proofs” or “convincing proofs.” Whatever Jesus did, His actions were good enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that He had died and raised back to life. Some of these convincing proofs would be later recorded by John in his gospel.
- But we must stop for a moment and consider that the apostles were fully convinced of the resurrection of Jesus. We noted when we study the gospel of Mark that the resurrection was not something they had expected. They believed that Jesus had died and that the women were crazy for saying that He had risen. The resurrection was another proof given to show that Jesus was the Son of God.
B. Speaking about the kingdom of God (1:3)
- During these forty days, Jesus has spent His time teaching the apostles about the kingdom of God. It is interesting that while Jesus was on the earth, He seems to have spent most of His time preparing His disciples for His coming crucifixion. Now, Jesus is going to spend the few days He has left with His disciples preparing His disciples for the coming of the kingdom of God.
- Let us stop here for a moment and consider how it is completely impossible to believe those who teach that the kingdom of God has not come yet, even to this day. Remember that premillennialism, the heart of most denominational doctrine, says that when Jesus saw He was going to be rejected, He no longer preached the kingdom but instead established the church. If this is true, then why is Jesus spending these forty days teaching the apostles about the kingdom of God? Since these are the last few days that Jesus would be with His apostles, why would Jesus speak about things that supposedly would not happen for 2000 years or more?
- Further, if you recall, Jesus taught His disciples that would see the kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9:1). Jesus now tells His disciples that this was going to happen “not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). Jesus had taught that He would leave His disciples but would send to them another Helper who would guide them into all truth (John 14:16; 14:26; 16:7). When the Holy Spirit came, it would be with power. The kingdom was going to come shortly, which explains Jesus command to the apostles.
C. Jesus’ command (1:4-5)
- Jesus commanded the apostles to not leave Jerusalem. Luke records this command in His gospel, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). In Acts 1:4-5 as well as Luke 24, we see that the coming of the Holy Spirit was tied to the coming of the kingdom.
- Therefore, that which had been preached by John the Baptist and Jesus was about to take place “not many days from now.” Jesus’ words in verse 5 seem to come from the same message that John the Baptist preached in Mark 1:8, “I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The coming of the Holy Spirit was to be the sign of the kingdom of God coming with power. Peter will explain this point in Acts 2, which we will leave until then.
II. The Kingdom of God (1:6-8)
A. The disciples’ question (1:6)
- Once Jesus and His apostles come together, we see that the apostles have a question for Jesus. They ask, “Lord, at this time are You restoring the kingdom to Israel?” For the longest time it has been taught and I have believed that the apostles are asking for the physical establishment of the kingdom. On the surface, it is simple for us to assume the apostles are asking for a political kingdom to be established. But I no longer think this is the case.
- First, Jesus’ response suggests that the apostles’ question was not in error. If the apostles are asking for a physical, political kingdom, then Jesus simply perpetuated the error by telling them that they would receive power. If the apostles were asking the wrong question, Jesus surely would have corrected their misunderstanding, as He had done with their other false views. Jesus would have rebuked them as He had done with Peter or explored the request as He did with James and John who asked to sit at His right and left hands in the coming of the kingdom. Jesus validates the question by saying when the restoration would take place.
- Second, we have just read that Jesus has been teaching the apostles about the kingdom for the last 40 days. I don’t know that the apostles are that thick-headed that they cannot understand what Jesus has been clearly teaching them for more than a month. Let us not neglect to consider that Jesus has been preaching about the kingdom of God throughout His ministry also. Jesus had previously taught, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21).
- Third, the disciples’ question is not from left field. Jesus and John the Baptist had been preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:2). The disciples had reason to earnestly expect the coming of the kingdom.
- We get thrown off I believe because of the language of the question. The disciples ask if Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel. Because the disciples said “restore” and “Israel” leads us to think physically. But that is not necessarily so. Isaiah prophesied, “Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved one of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth'” (Isaiah 49:6). Here we see the prophecy of the Messiah bringing restoration to Israel. Jesus even used this language when teaching the disciples, “Elijah truly is coming first and will restore all things” (Matthew 17:11).
- We also know that the prophets repeatedly declared that the Messiah would establish a kingdom. Isaiah said, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, ever forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:7). Daniel also spoke of the kingdom being established, “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
- So instead of thinking that the apostles have in mind the wrong kind of kingdom, I would suggest that Jesus simply needs to correct them on when these things were going to happen. Let us notice Jesus response.
B. Jesus’ response (1:7-8)
- Jesus begins by saying that it is not for them to know the times or periods that the Father has set. Basically, Jesus says that the day and hour is not for them to know at this point yet. It is very similar language used to when the disciples asked about the timing of the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus responded that the day and the hour no one knew, but only the Father. This seems to be the same answer here.
- However, Jesus does tell the apostles what to look for to know that Israel has been restored. Here are the signs that they can know that the kingdom of God has been established. First, Jesus tells them that they would receive power. Something was going to happen that would be different from anything else they had ever had happen to them. They would have power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Again, this is a very unique experience that Jesus is promising will happen to the apostles.
- Once these things took place, the apostles would be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. This statement lays out the form of what we will see in the book of Acts. The apostles began their work teaching and preaching in Jerusalem. By chapter 8 we see the teaching of the disciples spreading through the regions of Judea and Samaria. Then, by chapter 12 we read that the apostles are going throughout all the world teaching and preaching.
- These were the signs that the restoration to Israel had come. When the apostles received power from the Holy Spirit coming upon them and when they went through the world testifying about Jesus. This is important for us to see because the religious world teaches that the restoration of Israel has not taken place. When we understand that the apostles were not misguided in their question, we learn when the restoration of Israel would come: when the Holy Spirit would come, which was not many days from then (1:5).
III. Jesus’ Ascension (1:9-11)
A. Taken in a cloud
- After teaching these words, Jesus is taken up from the apostles’ sight and a cloud received Him. I would imagine that we would have had the same reaction as the apostles if we had been there also. We would have been gazing up into heaven, likely with our mouths open, in awe of the sight that had just been witnessed.
- The ascension of Jesus is very important and is the fulfillment of prophecy. Daniel prophesied, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
- As Daniel prophesies, he shows what is happening on the other side of Jesus’ ascension. The apostles saw Jesus taken up into the clouds. Daniel fills in the rest of the story. Daniel sees the Son of Man coming in the clouds to the Ancient of Days. At that time, the Son of Man was given rule and glory. He was also given a kingdom that all should serve Him which would never pass away or be destroyed.
- This fits what Paul was trying to explain to us in Ephesians 1:20-21, “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” This glorification took place when Jesus ascended to the Father, who gave Him the kingdom, glory, and honor.
B. Return in the same fashion
- In the meanwhile, the apostles are gazing up to heaven, when suddenly two men clothed in white stood beside them. We must assume that these are two angels who appear to the apostles. They ask a funny question: why do you stand looking up into heaven? I know what my answer would have been: we have just seen an amazing event. We just saw Jesus lift off the earth and ascend into the clouds. One does not see that kind of thing happen.
- But the angels have more to say. Jesus, who had been taken up into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going. Jesus is going to return in the clouds just as He left in the clouds.
- It is this same description that Paul gave in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
- This is an amazing promise that we are left to consider. The Lord is going to return in the clouds in the same glory that He left. This is a blessed hope that every Christian has. As Paul continues, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Are you ready for the Lord’s return? The return of the Lord also is a signal for the day of judgment (2 Peter 3). With many convincing proofs we see that Jesus raised from the dead, ascended to the Father, and was given a kingdom that shall never be destroyed. Every knee will bow and every mouth will confess Jesus as Lord. Will you bow now before He returns? If we submit to the Lord now, we will be heirs in His kingdom. However, if we delay, we will suffer the consequences for being enemies of Him and His kingdom. Let us turn to the Lord today for He may return at any time. (HCSB)