Now look back at Acts 1:2-4,
"Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, (that’s the Holy Spirit) which, saith he, ye have heard of me."
So you can see that the gospel of Luke ends with the promise of the Holy Spirit and the book of Acts begins with the promise of the Holy Spirit. This is important because the Lord Jesus ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and for the plan of God and the work that Jesus both began to do and to teach to continue, God must send the Holy Spirit. Notice that He didn’t end anything, He began. So for the work of Christ to continue, God’s people are going to need a power that they didn’t have. They were going to need a friend, a comforter, a teacher, a guide.
And make note of this also, that the end of the book of Acts isn’t the end of the work of Christ either. This book isn’t finished but it is the continuing work of Jesus Christ into and including the Church age. Not that we are adding to scripture, but it is the continuing story of the New Testament church as we preach the gospel of the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ until He comes for His saints.
The very last verse of the book of Acts says this,
"Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him." That doesn’t sound like an ending of a book. It sounds like dot, dot, dot. In other words what he is saying is there is another page to be turned and it has been turned and part of it is being turned tonight right here in our midst.
The Gospel of Luke starts out with the Lord Jesus in the days of Herod and ends with the Lord Jesus resurrected and ascending into heaven and then the book of Acts starts out as a bridge with the Lord Jesus and continues on again to the very end of the book of Acts with the very same Lord Jesus, so that the book of Acts in all practicality is an unfinished story and when the book of Acts ends its as if to say you need to turn another page to continue the adventure and say "what’s next." In some ways the book of Acts is volume one and we’re living in volume 21 and I happen to believe that we’re living in the last volume of the series, the 21st century.
Look again at Acts 1:3,
"To whom also he shewed himself (Jesus) alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:"
The first thing that Luke establishes is that the Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified, is now "alive!" Reminding Theophilus of the infallible proofs of that fact, including the fact that for 40 days He showed Himself alive. He uses the words "being seen" in this verse and the Greek for the word seen is Opthomalia from which we get the word for an eye Doctor of Optomologist or Optomitrist. The word literally means "eyeball." Doctors would use the word in those days as a figure of speech and Luke of course was a Doctor. The best way to express it today would be to say that for 40 days they "eyeballed" Him. They watched Him, they scrutinized Him, they touched Him, they talked to Him, they listened to Him. All of their senses were affected by Him. For over a month they were with Him and listened to Him as He preached and taught about the Kingdom of God.
In AD 62 when the book of Acts was written. Sixty years after the birth of the Lord Jesus was described in Luke chapter one, the living Christ is being written about in the book of Acts and again as a transitional book, we read in this great narrative how the infant New Testament church threw off the grave clothes of Judaism and put on the robe of Grace. One Bible commentator said that the book of Acts is the weaning time of Isaac, it is a transitional book in the plan of God. And whenever the plan of God is going forward, and this is a "huge" step forward, you can be sure that Satan is going to oppose it and that is seen all through the book of Acts. All through this book the enemies of God face them. One of the Gospel’s greatest enemies described in Acts chapter 17 came to this conclusion when they saw what God does in the book of Acts and what He does through His men. They said in observation, "they have turned the world upside down." "They have turned the world upside down." How can this small band of unlearned men turn the whole empire upside down?
Look at verse 4 again,
"And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me."
You know that waiting is sometimes the hardest thing in the world to do as a Christian. And notice that it said that they were waiting for the promise of the Father. What promise did the Father make and where did He make that promise?
Well, He promised the outpouring of His Spirit, He promised a new covenant with power of the Spirit of God Himself. This wasn’t true in the Old Testament. The Spirit of God would come up and indwell those who belong to Him. Where did the Father promise this? Joel chapter two, Isaiah 40, 44, Zechariah 4, plus the fact that Jesus mentioned the promise of the Father throughout the Gospels. So you see in a very real sense they weren’t just waiting for 40 days, they had been waiting for 40 centuries. The people of God had been waiting and waiting for centuries for this wonderful promise of God that goes way back from the Old Testament and here they are for over a month now and waiting in the most dangerous city in the world for them. They’re told to tarry. The literal word for when He said to wait in Jerusalem was to "stick around" in the Greek. They were told to literally "stick around" Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. They didn’t know when. Let me ask you a question.
Why Jerusalem? It was the most dangerous spot in the world for these men to be in. It was like telling a Jew whose leader was killed in Saudi Arabia for blasphemy, "stick around Mecca for a month or two." Or longer. Stick around where these rabid anti-Jewish people are waiting to kill any of this so-called leaders followers. Because there was a reason for this.
Why couldn’t they go back to Galilee and wait? Why Jerusalem? Jerusalem was the city of Jesus’ death, it was also the city of His resurrection. It was also the city that their fleeing cowardice and denials were seen before all men who thought, hey this Jesus is dead and buried and His flowers are all cowards and this uprising is all finished! Jerusalem was the city of prophecy. It would all begin here. But you say, what would begin here?
The 3,000 year old promise to Abraham. You say, what promise did God give to Abraham that was going to be fulfilled here? Turn to Galatians 3:13-14 which says,
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Way back in Abraham’s day the promise was of an individual baptism of the very Spirit of God. And remember, this was unheard of! That promise would begin in Acts chapter one and chapter two and spread to ALL believers, Gentiles and Jews alike, empowering them to live this new Christian life, this life of Grace and empowering them to take the Gospel to a lost and dying world. So that again, Jesus told His disciples to tarry, wait there in Jerusalem, don’t go anywhere yet. They had already had the great commission given to them, "go ye into all the world." They had already had that but He said I don’t want you to go anywhere yet.
Don’t try to start churches; don’t try to win sinners to Christ. You’ll mess it all up. It is an impossible task!
Why wait Lord? Why wait, because Satan is real, the enemies of the gospel are real, their hatred for believers is real, and temptation is very strong. These disciples, with the Lord Jesus being back in heaven, would need the Holy Spirit to remind that of what they had been taught, to guide them. To empower them. To comfort them and to help them.
A spiritual message requires a spiritual power. If you’ve ever witnessed to someone or gone soul winning, you cannot do these things in the power of the flesh. You might be able to get someone in a headlock and get them to repeat some prayer, but the truth is that the new birth will not occur in their heart unless the Holy Spirit of God is empowering you and convicting their heart of their need.
And so he tells them to tarry and wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. So let me ask you a question. If you’re one of Jesus’ disciples, what are you going to think about all this? Stay in this dangerous city and wait until something happens for which they, in all their imagination, couldn’t figure out what it was.
Forty days the resurrected Christ had been teaching what? What does it say? It says in the text, verse three of Acts one, "and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:"
By the way there is a difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God and we will study the differences in the weeks ahead. If He’s been teaching them things pertaining to the Kingdom of God which He also taught on the sermon on the mount, what do you think they’re thinking when He says, "you’re going to be endued with power from on high?"
Look again at verse three,
"To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:"
They are told to stay in Jerusalem, a baptism is going to occur, unlike that of John, because it will be spiritual and then He says this in verses four and five,
"And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."
Wow! Think about this. All of those pictures and symbols in the Old Testament of the Holy Spirit such as Aaron’s rod that budded, the oil that ran down his head, the candlestick in the tabernacle, Zechariah’s two olive trees, Ezekiel’s river, the baptism of John itself and all of these pictures and others are all about to be fulfilled and in their minds they were probably thinking, this is the beginning of Jesus’ kingdom on this earth.
Look at verse six,
"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?"
Whatever you do, do not miss this next part because if you miss this part in the book of Acts then there is so much that you will never quite understand in the rest of the book. What happens in this little question and answer exchange when they hear about the anointing and the power of the Holy Spirit, they said "hey, does that mean at this time, now you are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?"
And what happens in this question and answer exchange is extremely significant and extremely important as a moment in Bible History. They want to know if this is the time of the Spirit’s coming and therefore the Kingdom of Israel restored. Here’s what Jesus said unto them in verse seven. He said,
"And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
Now wait a minute. First of all understand this is not a rebuke for them asking the question about the Kingdom. It was a legitimate question. They already had faith in what Jesus had already said about the Kingdom. He taught them an awful lot about the Kingdom and what it would be like and who was going to sit on thrones and so forth. So He is not rebuking them for asking about the Kingdom and the timing of it but this is rather Jesus agreeing that there would be a literal Kingdom.
If there was not going to be a kingdom, Jesus would have told them, but that’s not what He said. What He said was very simple was the only answer that they needed to hear and a very powerful reminder that something new, something mysterious and hidden in the Old Testament is about to begin right here in the plan of God. Later in the Epistles we learn all about this mystery, but bear in mind folks these disciples don’t have any of that truth yet. In fact Paul hasn’t even been born again yet and he’s the one that God revealed many of these truths to in the Epistles.
So you see the Lord Jesus knowing many of them still don’t understand, simply tells them that the timing of the Father’s kingdom is already determined by the Father and they simply don’t need to know the season. If it’s not the time for the literal Kingdom to be restored, then what?
Put yourself in their place, they’re hiding, they’re not preaching yet openly. Jesus said tarry and wait in Jerusalem. Now what, no kingdom, are we going to be martyred in Jerusalem and that’s it. Is it just more waiting for the kingdom to be established? Are we supposed to be political now and try to change the world through politics? Or are we supposed to start businesses and change the world through economic power or maybe education or social programs? What is our specific calling now, what are we supposed to do?
Verse eight Jesus says,
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
See the words "witnesses unto me." That’s the key word here. We are not supposed to be talking about only social ills and social justices, it’s Him that we are to talk about. He is the program.
But wait, Eleven unlearned Galilean men have just been told that they are going to take the Gospel to the uttermost part of the earth. Without a literal, physical kingdom. Jesus is not even going to be here. He’s going to be in heaven at the right hand of the Father. There’s no restored Israel and the Savior is in heaven. We’re going to be witnesses for Him all the way to the uttermost parts of the world? That’s quite a claim! Think of how this must have sounded to them.
No wonder they needed the power of the Holy Spirit of God. No wonder they needed His presence. Remember Jesus said that He had to go away so that He could send the Comforter to them. Jesus physically, while on earth could only be in one place at a time. But He was telling them that if He leaves, He will send the Holy Spirit so that He would be everywhere they went. I will be with you everywhere even unto the ends of the earth. Now look at verse nine and ten,
"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
The two men said "Why stand ye gazing?" How long are you going to stand there and gaze into heaven? This was an amazing event in the History of the church. Jesus’ ascension into heaven bodily. The fact that He ascended on high and that He is mediating for us now.
But Jesus said it is not for you to know the times and the seasons, but He is coming back!
Look at verses 12 & 13,
"Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James."
Here they are. The group that is going to turn the world upside down. For sure their world has been turned right side up. And in that upper room, they know nothing the book of Acts describes in the chapters ahead. They know nothing about the thousands who are going to get saved on the day of Pentecost, they don’t know about the stoning of Stephen, nothing about Paul or his epistles, Paul is Saul at this point, none of the epistles have been written, they know nothing about the church in Corinth or the church in Ephesus or the church in Antioch, they know nothing about pastors or deacons or elders or missionaries or an offering or even the communion service as we know it today.
They only know that Jesus is alive, resurrected from the dead and ascended and that somehow, someway they are going to be empowered by the Spirit of the living God to tell the whole world of their Savior and they also know somewhere in the future "this same Jesus" is going to come back again the same way that they saw Him leave.
What lies ahead in the book of Acts with its twists and turns leads us all the way to this day and this place at New Durham Baptist Church. The baton has been passed to us and it doesn’t matter what the world, the flesh or the devil can do to us. He’s still doing a work in the world and the most important thing that’s going on in Hudson County is what’s going on in here tonight. We are doing a part of the program that Jesus started way back here as we read in the pages of Scripture. May we obey and trust God and do our part in His program to evangelize the world until He comes.