The Acts of the Apostles was written by a man named Luke (who was also the author of the Gospel of Luke). It is widely believed that Luke was a medical doctor and a travel companion of the Apostle Paul. Luke wrote this account of the early church to a gentile believer named Theophilus around the year 63 A.D. He wrote it to document the activities and works of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles (namely Peter and Paul) after the ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father. Luke paints a vivid picture of the Genesis of the Christian Church and the workings of the Holy Spirit through believers.
“During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.”
In the opening chapter of Acts Luke establishes from the get-go the validity, reality, and the importance of resurrection of Jesus Christ. He writes about how Jesus appeared to the Disciples on numerous occasions thus giving proof or evidence that He was and is alive. There are multiple resurrection accounts found in the Bible and Harry shared many of them with you last week. Harry also noted that the resurrection is the central point of the Gospel message; without the resurrection Christianity is empty, void, and false.
1 Corinthians 15:14
The Apostle Paul affirms, “And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.”
The Bible tells us that Jesus walked the earth for forty days after his resurrection and appeared to the disciples and others telling them about the Kingdom of God. Luke tells of one specific encounter with Jesus and the disciples in Acts 1:6 – 7 where he brings up the topic of the Kingdom of God. But before we go there I would like to tell you a story about a man named Harold Camping.
In an NPR article published on May 24, 2011 titled “Following Harold Camping, Facing a Prediction” Barbara Bradley Hagerty writes…
On Sunday morning, when Harold Camping awoke to clocks ticking, clouds moving, a world still existing, his response was one of bewilderment. At least, that's what he told photographer Brandon Tauszik.
The Oakland-based photographer has been shadowing Camping and his congregation for the past few weeks, before and immediately after Camping's predicted May 21 "rapture." Tauszik, who considers himself Christian, says he was fascinated by the people responsible for the billboards and flyers that warned of End Times.
Tauszik attended church services with them and found the congregation to be not a group of radicals, but "families, middle-class... normal people," he says, who thought they had an answer.
Camping, 89, is an engineer and founder of Family Radio, a Christian radio network. The self-taught Bible teacher convinced many of his listeners that the end was near as well. Many people quit their jobs and left their families, and some gave away their money to the cause.
When the day came and went without an earthquake of rapture, Camping recovered quite quickly. On Monday, he said in a broadcast that there was a spiritual judgment in heaven on Saturday — one we could not see — and that the world would be destroyed on Oct. 21. He added that he's not going to discuss judgment day anymore.
"I mean, Camping is 89," Tauszik says. "I don't know how much, at that age, you have left in you to do this whole media spectacle again. His attitude Sunday was very defeated."
Camping said he will not return the money that believers gave to the cause, noting, "We're not at the end. Why would we return it?"
I tell you this story about Camping because he brings up a question that many people throughout history have ask, contemplated, and in Camping’s case predicted… When will the Second Coming of Christ occur?
Acts 1:4 - 6
This is a question that has been asked for millennia. Even as early as the first century we see the disciples of Jesus asking a similar question, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” And in a gentle and loving rebuke He responds, “The (time and dates) are not for you to know”. In other words he gives them a nunya response “It’s nunya business.” There is a little reprimand in his response because Jesus knew what they were asking, and they still were not getting the big picture. However, it is believed the disciples were asking a threefold question.
Vs 8: He says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus was saying, “Let’s not focus on when the Kingdom will come, let’s focus on how the Kingdom will come.” His words were both prophetic and a command. They were prophetic in the sense that the disciples were called and commissioned to be Christ’s witnesses to all the world. But in the same manner this was a command because Jesus was instructing them in what they needed to do to expand the kingdom. Their witness was beginning in Jerusalem, then it would expand like ripples in a pond… From Judea to Samaria and then to the rest of the world. He was commissioning the disciples to be agents of the Gospel message to the known world. BUT they were not to be hasty, they were to wait until the Holy Spirit came and empowers them before they go out. This is important to note because without being empowering of the Holy Spirit this mission would fail.
The empowering of the Holy Spirit is essential to the believer when especially sharing the Gospel. It is imperative for us to understand that in order to bring the Gospel to the world believers must be in tune with, empowered by and guided by the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are to seize every opportunity to share the Gospel, but we also need to sensitive to the fact that it is the Holy Spirit working through us not us who brings change and transformation. Conviction, call to repentance, and salvation is God’s job, and He is very good at it. We need to trust that when we share Christ’s love that God will work through us, and we will be sensitive to know that not every situation is the right time to share the Gospel. Sometimes we need to WAIT for the Spirit to move and proceed when He tells us to move. In this way Jesus tells the disciples to wait a little bit longer and when they have received the Spirit then they will be empowered to go to all the nations.
Vs 9 – 11: Luke records that after he had spoken these words, “He was taken up before their eyes, and a cloud hid him for their sight.” The disciples were looking intently up in the sky as Jesus ascends and two men appeared to them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking to the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heave, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
It is believed these two men were angels or maybe possibly Moses and the Prophet Elijah. It does not matter who they were as much as what they said. They questioned why the Apostles were gazing up at the sky? The Apostles were not to be star gazers. They were not able to bring Jesus back by gazing up to the sky. He was gone, they must let him go; He will return in his own good time and in the same way. Until then, they had work to do.
This is true for us today. Jesus is coming back some day! This is great news! He will return to establish the Kingdom of God. However, we do not know the day, the time, hour, or the year. Only God knows these details. So, in preparation for Jesus’ return we must take his command to share the good news seriously and allow the Spirit to empower us and go out to spread the Gospel.
We are told in Revelation 1:7, “Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him— even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen!” The return of Christ in inevitable. It will happen. It will be a public event; it will not be private like his ascension. His return will establish and usher in the new reign and rule of the Kingdom of God. As Christians we anticipate this day! But until then we must not waste our time gazing at the sky or shielding ourselves from the world while we wait for something to happen. We have work to do. This work is not for our salvation it is for the sake of Gospel to a world who desperately needs hope and Good News of a Savior who loves them so much, he died for them, rose again, ascended to the Father, and will return one day to establish His new Kingdom. This is Jesus’ mandate for us. So, let us commit today to be witnesses for His Kingdom.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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