In the introduction of the book of acts in chapter one, the Apostles asked Jesus: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6. He answered them very directly. He told them: “It was (is) not for them (you) to know the times or seasons that the father has fixed by his own authority”. “BUT”; and here we need to take account of this word BUT. The word “But” is a word of contrast or contradistinction, in other words Jesus said, it is not for you to know the times or seasons — .but you can know something very specific. And it is in the rest of his answer that we see what they could know. Jesus gives his disciples indicators as to how they would know that it was being restored.
“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.” Acts 1:8
Remember the disciple’s question: is it time for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. The indicators that they would see showing them that the kingdom was being restored to Israel were:
- 1. Ye shall receive power (the Holy Ghost coming upon them)
- 2. Ye shall bear witness to me both in:
- a. Jerusalem
- b. Judea
- 3. As well, ye shall bear witness to me in:
- a. Samaria
- b. The uttermost part of the Earth.
So, as we read through the book of Acts, we should be looking for these indicators which Christ said would come.
In Luke’s introduction to the book he summarized to Theophilus the last days of Christ on earth prior to his ascension and how he instructed his disciples.
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 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, 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. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:1-5
So, Luke is making the point that he is going to continue the treatise (the gospel of Luke) and go on to show what further things Jesus taught and did and how he instructed his apostles. It appears that the predominant topic of instruction of our Lord to his disciples was “The things pertaining the kingdom”. So it was a natural question for the disciples to ask — “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He also reminds them of the teaching of John the Baptist, and that he had said that Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit, and that this was about to be fulfilled “Not many days hence”. In fact he makes it abundantly clear that it would be while they were gathered and waiting in Jerusalem that this outpouring would occur.
This outpouring of the Holy Spirit that happened on the Day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem was, according to Peter that which the prophet Joel spoke about.
“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ye men of Israel, hear these words;” Acts 2:14-22
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.” Joel 2:32-3:2
So, Peter is saying that what the crowd in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were witnessing was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. Joel said: “in that day”, (the day when the Spirit is poured out, etc) God would be actively brining a return from captivity to Judah and Jerusalem, and will be bringing in the heritage of Israel that had been scattered among the nations.
This being the case we should note the group of people in the audience. These are described for us as “Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” Acts 2:5. They are further identified by the nations that they have come out of: “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians,” Acts 2:9-11 Israelites or devout men of God out of sixteen different nations. Sounds to me like more of Joel is being fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
All this took place in Jerusalem. So the apostles are now being witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem. In Acts chapter 3 we find Peter and John healing a lame man who sat at the gate of the temple (in Jerusalem). In healing him they also testified of Jesus
“And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” Acts 3;12-16
Peter is very bold in testifying openly of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Peter continues this boldness in chapter 4 when he is called along with John to account for this healing and the teaching in the name of Jesus. He again addresses Israel directly (remember Acts is a book about the restoration of Israel). He also again recounts the crucifixion and resurrection and how the leaders in Israel played a pivotal role in those evnets.
“And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.“ Acts 4:7-12
The disciples continued to testify of Jesus in Jerusalem all the way through chapter 7 and the stoning of Stephen. And then at the beginning of chapter 8 Saul of Tarsus gave them a reason to take the testimony of Jesus out of Jerusalem. The reason, was persecution.
“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Acts 8:1
Sauls persecution was an attempt by the enemies of God to destroy this infant church, but it served to fulfill the exact plan that Jesus gave his disciples in Acts 1:8. They had been content to testify of Jesus in Jerusalem, now because of the dispersion of this persecution they would begin to testify of Jesus in Judea and Samaria.
“Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” Acts 8:4-6
“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” Acts 8:5
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:” Acts 8:14
“And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” Acts 8:25
“But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” Acts 8:40
If you check a decent bible map at the back of your bible, you will find that Azotus and Caesarea are Samaritan cities. Here we have a clear declaration that they preached Christ in Judea and Samaria. This is a clear fulfillment of Acts 1:8. At this point we have 3 out of 4 in the fulfillment of that promise, Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. We only have the uttermost part of the earth left. There are many more examples of preaching and testifying of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. But let’s look forward a bit.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.“ Acts 11:19-21
Here is the first step outside of Israel proper. They have gone outside of the realms of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. This is the beginning of the testifying of Jesus to “the uttermost part of the earth”. Notice also that they targeted their message about Jesus to the Jews — they were still in the process of restoring the kingdom to Israel. Remember the question the disciples asked in chapter one?
In chapter 13 we see Barnabas and Paul on the island of Cyprus. The first place they went to was the synagogue of the Jews (verse 5). In Antioch of Pisidia they again were addressing the Jews (verses 25044) and the Jews began to scoff so Paul declared that they would turn their efforts with the gospel to the gentiles. In verse 48 we see the gentiles reaction was one of rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord. We can follow Paul and his companions on his journeys to Iconium, Lystra, Philippi, Galatia, Asia, Corinth, Bythnia, Troas, Samothrace, Neapolis, Macedonia, Thessalonika, Athens, Berea, Ephesus, all through the regions and districts of gentile lands, and yet they came across the scattered and needing to be regathered Jews everywhere they went.
We finally end up in Rome with Paul under house arrest waiting to be beheaded by Nero. At the very end we still find Paul appealing to the Jews in his midst. Faithful to the end to the purpose of regathering the nation of Israel back to God.
“And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” Acts 28:17
“For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” Acts 28:20
Here we see at the end of Paul’s life he is still speaking to Jews every chance he can and he is proclaiming to them the “Hope of Israel”, which is the regathering of Israel back to God.
“And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” Acts 28:23-31
Here we see at the close of the book, Luke is tying up these loose ends. Paul has arrived in Rome, (the uttermost part of the earth), he is still preaching to the Jews the restoration, and the Kingdom, and he is testifying of Jesus Christ.
This is clearly the fulfillment of that great commission that Jesus gave at the beginning of the book in Acts 1:8. The disciples had completed the task of testifying of Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth. As well, they had broadcast the message of the kingdom, just as the disciples had asked at the beginning of the book.
So while Jesus said it is not for them to know the times or the seasons, etc. It was for them to see the indicators, the gospel of the kingdom being preached widely and the call to Israel to be regathered and restored to God. All these things happened within the confines of the book of Acts, and all were complete in the first century.
A good friend and great preacher, Don Preston inspired me to write this article. His particular work that moved me in this direction is a series that he did on the book of Acts. You can purchase that series and other fantastic preaching audio, and books at this web site.
In this series Mr. Preston introduces a concept for the theme of the book of Acts that I had not heard anywhere else. I think he is right about his theory and I was moved to do this study based on Mr. Preston’s assertion of this theme of the book of Acts. The theme that Mr. Preston has put forth is that the book of Acts was written to record the restoration of the remnant of Israel to the promises that God gave them in the New Covenant.
In this article I have not presented anyof the particulars from that series of messages. This is something that I have studied as a result of having that new paradigm set in my mind by brother Don. Consider these thoughts, but be sure to go to Don Preston’s web site and become more acquainted with his writings and his preaching. Thanks Don!