CONTINUING TO THE ENDS
Scripture: Acts 1: 1-11.
THEME: The Book of Acts continues the actions of Jesus through the Holy Spirit by the Apostles. Through Peter, John, James (the half brother of Jesus), and Paul, we see how the early church accomplished the Great Commission by spreading the message of the Gospel. They learn and execute their “geographic mission,” “ethnic mission,” and “time mission,” from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the “ends of the earth,” to Jews and the Gentiles, and from Pentecost until the promised physical return of the resurrected Messiah.
Today’s disciples are clearly intended to continue these missions.
I. Review of the Gospel of Luke and further teaching by Jesus.
Read Acts 1: 1-5.
A. Luke uses 5 elements to connect the Book of Acts to the Gospel.
1. Luke calls his Gospel a former account.
a. This label clearly ties Luke with Acts.
b. They are really two sections of ONE BOOK.
2. He continues the “dedication” to Theophilus (friend or beloved by God) from the Gospel. (Luke 1: 3b-4) “It seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
a. This continued dedication reinforces that Luke wrote Acts as a single story extending from his Gospel.
3. The link to the Gospel is further affirmed by the connection to John the Baptist, which is where/who begins the Gospel (Luke 1: 5-25).
4. There are overlapping accounts of the ascension in the last chapter of Luke (24) and this first chapter of Acts.
a. Some say Luke speaks of 2 different ascensions, but the two account are obviously meant to complement each other.
b. The Gospel “introduces” the ascension to complete the story of Jesus’ life on earth, and Acts starts with a fairly detailed account of the event to start the story of the church.
c. It will become clear as we read on that the Holy Spirit cannot come while Jesus is on the earth – so He must leave.
d. Jesus leaving is really part of the story of the Pentecost event.
5. Verse 2 directly refers back to the instructions of (Luke 24: 47, 49) “And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. . . I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
B. We get an account of what Jesus did during the 40 day period from Easter to Pentecost. It appears that Jesus was NOT with the Apostles continuously, but came to them from time to time.
1. These appearances happened at various places and times, including meals.
a. Verse 4: “while he was eating with them” is literally “taking salt together.”
2. Jesus continued His teaching during these appearances with an eye to the Apostles’ approaching mission.
a. He continues to instruct about the kingdom of God.
b. Their coming mission was the next phase of God’s work and takes place in fulfillment of Scripture about the Christ, as per (Luke 24: 46b-47): “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.”
c. “God’s kingdom” refers to God’s promised rule that comes with Jesus’ messianic program and activity.
d. The kingdom had already shown signs of arriving during Jesus’ ministry.
e. The resurrection allows the kingdom to be preached.
3. The phrase in V. 3 “gave many convincing proofs that he was alive” is in very strong declarative language.
4. Jesus’ appearances were convincing to those who had not expected a resurrection.
a. Jesus’ half-brothers are certainly in this group, for John tells us they did not believe on Him before the cross, and in Acts we quickly learn they are now disciples (Acts 1: 14).
b. They are also part of the confirmation and encouragement that Theophilus needs.
5. Jesus reminds them of the coming fulfillment of the Father’s promises (v. 4).
a. Some of the Apostles had heard John the Baptist predict these promises. (Luke 3: 16) “He [Jesus the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
b. All had heard Jesus speak of the promised coming of the Spirit (John 14: 16-17, 26) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. . . But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
6. This coming of the Holy Spirit will enable the Apostles to proceed with the preaching of the Kingdom and Jesus.
a. The mission could not happen without the gift of the Spirit.
b. Can you imagine the “mistake prone” Peter, the “sons of thunder” James and John, or the totally unknown Simon the Zealot all of a sudden becoming great preachers and prophecy interpreters and miracle performers – without the Holy Spirit???
7. The Spirit baptism was the sign that the Messiah had come and the new era of the church had begun. The bridge from the old era to the new is crossed when the Father gives the Spirit – Jesus’ ministry itself is the connection point.
a. Peter’s great sermon in Acts 2 uses the giving of the indwelling Spirit to believers to cleanse and empower them for the mission of ministry.
b. The coming of the Holy Spirit is another proof that Jesus is the Messiah.
C. (TRANSITION) As the Apostles return to Jerusalem, they can be assured that the suffering of Jesus did not end the story of the kingdom, but was a planned part of God’s program for the salvation/redemption of mankind. Jesus is raised alive, ready to bestow the blessing they need to carry out the mission He will give them. How He is able to do this is what the Ascension will show, as He prepares to tell them their mission.
II. Jesus specifies the mission of the Apostles, even of all believers, and then temporarily leaves them to return to heaven.
Read Acts 1: 6-11.
A. In explaining their mission, Jesus clarifies the calendar for the Apostles, who still need instruction about God’s plan.
1. The Apostles perceive this event (coming of the Holy Spirit) as an indication of the full arrival of the end times, which leads to their question about the restoration.
2. Jesus does not answer their question about the restoration of Israel.
3. Instead, He tells them it isn’t their business to know what time the Father has set for this event.
4. He does not deny that restoration will happen – just that the timing is not to be revealed. This reply reinforces what Jesus had told the 12 on the Mount of Olives before His crucifixion: (Matthew 24: 36) “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
5. Judaism of Christ’s time believed that the appearance of the Messiah and the restoration of the earthly kingdom to its status, territory, and power as in the times of King David was to be a “single event.”
a. This was a natural conclusion: after all, the Messiah was called the “Son of David,” so it was logical for Him to restore the kingdom to its glory days under His “father.”
6. As Jesus splits the coming of the Messiah and the restoration into two pieces, He makes room for the 2nd Coming (and the era of the church).
B. Jesus effectively tells His Apostles – and us – that WHEN the last act is to happen is relatively unimportant; the mission all of us are to be involved with is what we are to focus on and execute.
1. The Apostles are to remain in Jerusalem for 2 reasons:
a. Jerusalem is where they will receive power in and through the Holy Spirit.
b. Jerusalem is where they will start their witness proclamations.
2. Instead of worrying about when God will consummate the redemption program, they are to take to the world the news of salvation’s coming.
3. They start with Jerusalem, then the province of Judea, then branch out to Samaria, and keep going to the whole world.
a. This tells us that their mission has a geographic focus: the whole globe is to be witnessed to.
b. Jesus also gives them an “ethnic” focus: to witness in Samaria means they will have to interact with the hated “half-breed” Samaritans, and to witness to the world means they must interact with the despised Gentiles.
c. The Gospel of Jesus had no room originally for racism – nor does it today.
d. The church was slow about moving out from Jerusalem and its immediate environment, and God wound up having to send strong persecution in the form of the first martyrdom and Saul’s efforts “to destroy the church.”
C. It should be equally clear to us that we are called to continue the mission of the Apostles: Obviously they could not witness to all peoples or every spot on the globe, so every succeeding generation is likewise called to continue their mission.
1. We cannot bear physical witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, as only those who followed Him at that time can do.
2. But we can bear witness to the effect of Jesus ON OUR LIVES, indirectly bearing witness to the resurrection.
3. How can a dead god have such an effect on people?
a. How could a dead god free a person from a life devoted to sin: drugs, alcohol, crime, illicit and perverted sex, greed, hatred and every other destructive behavior?
b. The answer is: he couldn’t. So Jesus is not dead – therefore, He must be resurrected. Simple common sense logic will work.
c. But it only works for believers – not mere “hearers of the word.”
d. So we must be “doers of the word” to truly witness to the effect of faith in a risen Jesus has had in us.
D. After Jesus has given His final instructions and mission to us, He left the physical realm to return to our Father in heaven.
1. Jesus had completed HIS mission. He had done everything He and the Father had planned for Him do accomplish while in the flesh.
2. That doesn’t mean that Jesus “retired to heaven” – far from it. He is busier than ever:
a. (John 16: 7) “Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
b. (John 14: 12-14) “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
c. (Hebrews 2: 18) “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
d. (1 John 2: 1b) “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
e. (Hebrews 10: 12-13) “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.”
E. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the two angels who appeared at the side of the Apostles gently chide them, and then give them and us one of the greatest promises in Scripture.
1. When they tell the Apostles they ought not to be “looking intently up into the sky,” they are telling us that we are not to gaze into the heavens idly awaiting His return, but to engage in the task that Jesus has given us. There is now work to be done.
2. Then the angels give a very emphatic, repetitious promise: Jesus will physically return.
a. Taken up in a cloud, He will return in a cloud to render judgment. Clouds are often used in Scripture as a symbol of judgment.
b. Jesus’ return reassures us that God will complete the plan: He will return to work God’s will and complete the messianic task.
3. This paragraph deemphasizes an excessive “end times hope” that engages in date setting and anxiety over the timing of Jesus’ return, but it does assure us that the end WILL COME.
The church is called to engage in mission to the world, all places and all peoples, for all time, knowing that Jesus’ return is assured.
The Holy Spirit is sent to all believers to work through us in accomplishing that mission.
If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are required to be involved in this mission:
1. The style and manner in which we live is to be a witness to Jesus.
2. We are to spread the Gospel to all and to each and every person.
3. We are to train up believers to grow into disciples.
4. We are to believe God’s promises.
5. We are to follow obediently His commands and instructions.
6. We are to do this mission to the ends of the earth and the end of the age.
ARE YOU DOING THIS??
ARE YOU COMMITTED TO BE DOING THIS UNTO THE ENDS OF EARTH AND TIME???