Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter Forty-seven: Acts One - Jesus Ascends to Heaven   Restitution of All Things
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New Testament Bible
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Chapter Forty-seven:

Acts One - Jesus Ascends to Heaven

                      THE NEW TESTAMENT

                         BIBLE STORY

                          Part Two

                      THE BOOK OF ACTS 
                             AND
                      RELATED EPISTLES

                         Chapter One

                             by

                         Keith Hunt


The following introduction to the book of Acts is taken from the
New KJV Personal Study Bible, published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
1990, 1995.

Quote:

     This book, tracing the origins of the Christian church, is
sometimes called "The Acts of the Holy Spirit" because of the
Spirit's activity throughout. If has also been called "The Gospel
of the Spirit." It may, with some justification, be termed "The
Acts of Peter and Paul" because of the prominence given to these
two leaders. The book is indispensable to our understanding of
Christian beginnings. It presents Rome as the guardian of law and
order, a situation which often worked to the advantage of Paul
and the gospel (16:38; 25:11). The sermons recorded indicate the
way the Good News was presented to Jews (2:14-39), to Gentiles
(13:5-47), and to a more sophisticated audience (17:16-31). The
gospel was first preached to Jews in the synagogue, then to
Gentiles (see 13:46: 19:9).

AUTHOR AND DATE

     The Book of Acts is the second of a two-volume set, both
addressed to Theophilus and written by one of Paul's associates
named Luke "the beloved physician" (Col.4:14). The first volume
is the Gospel of Luke. Evidence points to Philippi as Luke's
home. Some conjecture that he was the "man of Macedonia" who, in
a vision, sought help from Paul (16:9). The author of Acts was a
companion of Paul in many of his journeys, as implied by his use
of "we" (e.g., 16:1(1). He was also with Paul during his
imprisonment in Rome (see 2 Tim.4:11).
     The date is less easily determined. The author probably
concluded his account two years after Paul's imprisonment in
Rome, about A.D.63 (28:3(11.

BACKGROUND

     Luke's Gospel closed with emphasis on the ascension of the
risen Christ (21:50-53): Acts opens with special attention to
this important event in Christian history (1:1-11). The eleven
apostles, and many other believers, were joyous after witnessing
the Ascension. Yet they were at a loss to know what to do next,
other than selecting a successor to Judas. All this mingling of
hope and uncertainty vanished at Pentecost. 
     Henceforth, with courage and power, they gave witness to
their conviction that Jesus was alive. Their claim was confirmed
by undeniable miracles performed in His name (4:14). The witness
of these Christians brought consternation to persons responsible
for Jesus' death. Those who killed Him thought they had disposed
of Him. Now His authority and power were stirring Jerusalem more
than ever. There was intense opposition led by Saul of Tarsus and
the rulers in Jerusalem. Yet the gospel spread rapidly to Judea,
Samaria, and the entire Mediterranean world.

CONTENTS

     The entire Book of Acts is an expansion and fulfillment of
the promise in 1:8 - "you shall be witnesses ... in Jerusalem.
Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
     Following the Ascension in rapid succession are Pentecost
and the birth of the church, as distinct from a mere Jewish sect.
Thousands of Jews became believers. The Good News was taken to
the Samaritans and to the "God-fearers" (see 10:2; 11:19,20) in
Caesarea and Antioch. Paul's strategy focused on Gentile
evangelism (13:46). Then came the decision about circumcision
(15:1-29), the planting and nourishing of new communities of
believers, Paul's arrest, his trip to Rome, and his ministry
while in prison. Throughout the book, as reflected in the
sermons, there is emphasis on the activity of the Holy Spirit and
the power of Jesus' resurrection.

PURPOSE

     Luke 1:3,4 offer a clue to the author's purpose: to provide
"an orderly account ... that you may know the certainty of those
things in which you were instructed." Luke was a researcher and
chronicler of events for the benefit of his friend Theophilus and
for the general reader. His purpose was to inform and confirm the
faith of believers, as well as to win converts to what was first
called "the Way" (9:2).

OUTLINE OF ACTS

ONE. The gospel to the Jews: 1:1-9:43

A. Speaking the word with
boldness: 1:1-5:42 

1. Ascension: Judas replaced: 1:1-26 2. 
2. The Spirit's coming: 2:1-47 
3. The apostles' witness: 3:1-4:31 
4. Gamaliel's warning: 4:32-5:42 

B. The deacons: 6:1-8:40 

1. Hebrews versus Hellenists: 6:1, 2
2. Seven deacons chosen: 6:3-7 
3. Stephen, the first martyr: 6:8-7:60 
4. Philip, the evangelist: 8:1-10

C. Saul converted: 9:1-:31
D. Aeneas healed:9::32-35
E. Dorcas raised to life: 9:36-43

TWO. The gospel to God-fearers: 10:1-12:25
     
A. Cornelius converted: 10:1-48
B. Peter's defense: 11:1-18
C. Antioch evangelized: 11:19-30
D. Peter released from prison: 12:1-25

THREE. The gospel to the Gentiles: 13:1-21:16

A. First missionary journey: 13:1-14:28

1. Departure to Cyprus: 13:1-12
2. Mission in Antioch of Pisidia: 13:13-52 
3. In Iconium, Lystra, Derbe: 14:1-28

B. Conference in Jerusalem: 15:1-35 
C. Second missionary journey: 15:36-18:22 

1. Paul revisits young churches: 15:36-16:8
2. On to Macedonia: 16:9-17:14
3. Ministry in Athens: 17:15-34 
4. Church planting in Corinth: 18:1-22
 
D. Third missionary journey: 18:23-21:16 

1. Victory in Ephesus: 18:23-19:22 
2. Riot in Ephesus: 19:23-41 
3. Journey to Jerusalem: 20:1-21:16 

FOUR. The gospel from Jerusalem to Rome:  21:17-28:31

A. Paul on trial: 21:17-23:32 
B. Defense before Felix: 23:33-24:27
C. Defense before Festus: 25:1-21 
D. Defense before Agrippa: 25:22-26:32 
E. Voyage to Rome: 27:1-28:16 
F. Paul's prison witness in Rome: 28:17-31
                                                  
End Quote

     Luke links what he reported in his Gospel (that bears his
name) to what he is now going to report.
     He writes to a man named Theophilus, which name means
"friend of God."  He was probably a prominent Gentile believer,
who may have indeed assisted Luke in his research (see Luke
1:3,4). He is addressed as "most excellent" in Luke 1:3. The same
Greek title of respect is used for Felix (24:3) and Festus
(26:25) where it is translated "most noble." In this
introduction, as in the content of both the Gospel and Acts, Luke
envisions a wide audience including the entire Gentile world. 
(Taken from the commentary in the NKJV Personal Study Bible,
mentioned above).


     Luke tells us that Jesus had showed Himself alive after His
passion of death by MANY infallible proofs. He was again with His
disciples, but in resurrected glory form. He could appear to them
as flesh and bone - they could touch Him. He appeared to the
disciples as they gathered together in the evening of the first
day of the week after Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:19).
Then again, eight days later, when Thomas (who had for some
reason, not explained to us,  missed the appearing of Jesus to
the disciples eight days before) was there, congregated with the
other disciples; Jesus came and stood in the midst of them. John
tells us the doors were shut. This is a clear instructive note to
us, informing us that Jesus now had the power to walk through
walls....a kind of "beam me up" from Star Trek movies. As Jesus
told us in John 4:24, God is "Spirit" - that is He is made not of
matter, in His glorified form, but made of "spirit" - He and the
angels live in a different dimension from us - a spirit
dimension. They are made from spirit atoms shall we say. We are
atoms also when we get right down to it. But somehow those atoms
become physical as we know physical, then they become cells and
so we are physical cells. Those cells keep replenishing
themselves as we eat and drink, and we live, until for whatever
reason, those cells or part of those vital cells stop living, and
we die.
     With God, His cells are "spirit" - everlasting, they do not
ever die, they are eternal. But because God is the creator of
matter as we know it, He can IF He so chooses transform Himself
INTO physical matter of flesh and bone (no need for blood to keep
Him alive for He is already eternal). He is still eternally alive
even when in the physical form. Shall we say He has eternal
physical atoms, when in the physical form. 
     It's somewhat hard for our brains to understand all what
I've just stated, but one day, as the apostle Paul said, we shall
KNOW just as we are known.

     So Jesus appeared to His disciples, and Thomas was there at
that time (see John 20:26). Thomas had doubted that Jesus was
again alive, as others had told him. So Jesus instructed him to
touch Him, to put his finger into the nail holes in His hands and
to put his hand into the hole in Jesus' side, where, as we saw in
the last chapters of the Gospels, a soldier had thrust a spear
into Jesus, that was the final slaying blow that killed the Son
of God on the cross.

     Thomas did as Jesus instructed and then with a wild
emotional cry, shouted out, "O my Lord, and my God" (John 20:21).

Yes, we need to note carefully that Jesus is not only LORD, but
also GOD!
     Now God is God, or the Father God is God, but here we see
that Jesus is God also. May seem a little confusing, but when you
understand that the New Testament especially, shows that the
Godhead is made up of TWO individual persons, one being the
one called "Father" - the one Jesus spoke to and spoke about,
during His ministry in the flesh, and the other being is Jesus
the Christ, who was raised from the dead to the God level of
existence and power, then what many think is a mystery is really
no mystery at all. 
     There are TWO God beings that make the ONE Godhead (remember
we read in the Gospels that Jesus said, "I and my Father are
ONE") and we know from the very first chapters of Genesis that
God can call TWO as ONE....a man and a woman God said, leave
their father and mother, they join together in marriage, and
become ONE. They remain as TWO individual beings, but become AS
ONE. They often have ONE name, we may know them as Mr. and Mrs.
Jones or Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Two individuals both having the same
name.
     
     So the Father is God and Jesus is God also (see John chapter
one). Sometimes in the New Testament the word "God" is used as a
proper name for the Father, and sometimes it is used as a name or
title for the Godhead, the context of the verses will tell
HOW it is being used. Sometimes the context will tells us it is
used for Jesus, just as John 20:28 tells us.
     Jesus is God, but NOT God the Father, God the Father is God,
but NOT Jesus.
     They are TWO individual separate spirit bodied beings. Two
that make ONE Godhead.
     The New Testament makes this VERY CLEAR, just read it for
what it is and says, and simply let it tell you this very basic
truth. The Godhead CAN be understood, it is not a mystery. 
     
     Jesus did MANY other signs in the presence of His disciples
that are not recorded for us, John said in verse 30 of chapter 20
of his Gospel. Enough signs are recorded for us that we may
BELIEVE that Jesus was and is the Christ, the Son of God, and
believing we might have eternal life through Him (verse 31).
Jesus told Thomas that they were BLESSED who would not physically
see Jesus but yet BELIEVE (John 20:29).
     When Jesus returns in glory, then all the thousands down
through the centuries who have believed but have never seen in
person the Christ, WILL SEE Him, and one day we shall SEE the
FATHER as promised in Revelation 22:1-5.

     John records more about Jesus appearing to His disciples in
John chapter 21. You may like to read this section again before
continuing in Acts. Jesus gave instruction that His disciples
should not depart from Jerusalem, but to wait there for the
promise of the Holy Spirit to be poured out on them with power
(Acts 1:4-5). He told them they would not have to wait very long.

IS THE KINGDOM TO COME?

     Acts 1:6 reads as if it was only on one occasion that the
disciples asked Jesus if it was at this time that the Kingdom
would be restored to Israel? But the Greek tense used means it
was a question asked more than once at different times (we can
think of it as not one continuous line but as a broken length of
line, stretching over a period of time). The disciples knew the
basics of many Old Testament prophecies that foretold of God's
Kingdom on earth and Israel as a leading nation under the
Messiah, to finally set the right example of living for all other
nations of the earth. They often wanted to know from Jesus, if
those prophecies would be fulfilled in their life time, during
that time in which they were living.  Obviously Jesus had never
told them that all would come to pass in their life time, so they
asked one more time this question, before He was taken up into
heaven.

     Jesus finally told them that it was NOT for THEM to know the
seasons and times of those prophecies, which God had determined
to bring to fruition. They were to receive the Holy Spirit with
POWER and to be witnesses for Jesus, in the area of Jerusalem,
Judea, Samaria, and even unto the uttermost parts of the earth
(Acts 1:6-8)

     This does NOT mean that SOME in the last days will not know
the times and the seasons of God's prophecies. Some things were
just not to be understood by some of God's children in their day.
Daniel was told that some of the things he wrote about, under
inspiration of God's Spirit, and from direct contact with angels
sent to him, were sealed and closed up UNTIL the time of the end,
and at the time of the end some would understand (see Daniel
12:4, 8-10). The book of Revelation had not yet been written
when Jesus was about to ascend to heaven in front of His
disciples, and that book contains many end time prophecies, that
do tell us about the times and the seasons of God's restoration
of all things and the Kingdom of God to come on earth. 
     It was not for Jesus' disciples of 30 A.D. (the year Jesus
died and ascended to heaven) to understand those prophecies.

JESUS ASCENDS TO HEAVEN AND WILL
COME AGAIN IN LIKE MANNER

     At the time Jesus spoke those words and answered their often
asked question, while they were watching Him, He began to rise up
from the earth. They stood there in dumb silent amazement, as
Jesus moved up higher and higher from them. Then a cloud came and
He was engulfed in its fine white midst, and lifting up with Him,
He was soon out of their sight. They were transfixed with
wonderment, some with mouths open, some with a puzzled look on
their faces, all were astonished and wondering what the whole
scene could possibly mean. Was Jesus working another miracle to
prove again that He was the very resurrected Son of God? Would He
all of a sudden just appear in their midst and walk away with
them?
     As they were questioning what was happening, two angels, or
as Luke puts it, two men in white apparel, stood by them, and
then gave them the answer to their questioning minds.
     "Ye men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?
This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so
come in like manner, as you have seen Him go into heaven."

     The disciples now knew that Jesus was gone from them and
from earth. They knew He would not be back that day or the next
day. They knew He was gone until He should come again with clouds
in the glory of God, to establish the Kingdom and to restore
Israel. They did not know WHEN that would be....would it be in
their life time? They probably thought it would be, but they did
not know for sure. They knew Jesus wanted them to remain in
Jerusalem until empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:9-11).

THE DISCIPLES STAY IN JERUSALEM

     After Jesus had ascended into heaven from the mount called
Olivet which was about a Sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem,
they returned back into that city (Acts 1:12).
     A Sabbath day's journey was about two-thirds of a mile,
according to old Jewish history.  You can read the entire Old
Testament and you will never find "a Sabbath day's journey"
mentioned. It is not in the books of Moses (the first five books
of the Old Testament). It was never a law of the Lord, and should
never be thought of as a law coming from God. It was one of the
hundreds of Jewish laws and rules that was invented by the
Pharisees, to try and hedge around the Sabbath, so people in
their religious view would be observing the weekly Sabbath day
"holy" and "righteously." But as Mark 7 shows us, Jesus saw
through all these man-made commandments passed off as God's
righteousness. He threw them aside and told the Pharisees they
taught traditions that often nullified the true righteousness and
true commandments of God.

     This verse is a lesson in Bible reading. Here Luke just
reports a fact based on human customs of the day ... that the
mount of Olivet was about the distance from Jerusalem that a
"tradition" of the religious Pharisees deemed was "a Sabbath
day's journey" or the distance that the Pharisees taught was the
furthest a person should walk on the Sabbath day. Luke does not
enter it as a "law of God" - he simply uses a tradition
of the time to tell his readers the distance Olivet was from
Jerusalem. We need to be careful when reading the Bible, and
realize that sometimes things are said with no bearing as to
making it a law of God, or as trying to make it true sin or true
righteousness.

     The disciples came again to Jerusalem. They went into an
upper room, where we are told abode Peter, James, John, Andrew,
Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus,
and Simon the Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 
     We are told those mentioned "continued with one accord in
PRAYER and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of
Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:13-14).

     Who "the women" were Luke knows his readers knew, it was
common knowledge in Luke's day of writing the book of acts. We
today can only speculate. Mary the mother of Jesus was there as
well as Jesus' physical half brothers (we saw in the Gospels that
Mary and Joseph did have physical children between themselves
after Jesus had been born).
     By the day of Jesus' ascension into heaven His half brothers
had come to realize who HE really was - the Messiah - God in the
flesh, now made God in glory and power by a resurrection from the
dead.

     We notice here that all these people were together in an
upper room and continued in "prayer and supplication." This was
not a "bible study" with an opening and closing prayer. It was
what today is known as "a prayer meeting." Did they all take
turns in praying aloud? Did they all just pray quietly within
themselves? We are not told the details, but it was a time of
prayer. I guess so when you consider the events of the entire
40 day period Jesus had been with them, and the death and
resurrection just before those forty days. It was a very special
time, and prayer was indeed most fitting.

JUDAS ISCARIOT NEEDED TO BE REPLACED

     Peter at this time, while there was about 120 disciples
present, told them that Judas Iscariot's ministry needed to be
replaced with another man. You may recall that in the Gospels
Jesus had promised that each of the 12 disciples would in the
Kingdom of God on earth, rule over a tribe of Israel, each ruling
one tribe. So indeed another man needed to replace Judas
Iscariot, who had hanged himself after realizing what it all led
to when he took the Pharisees and Temple guards to Jesus in the
garden of Gethsemane, on the Passover night of the 14th of the
first month (called Nisan in the Jewish calendar).
     Peter knew also that it was prophesied in the Old Testament
that another should replace Judas Iscariot. For he told them that
it was written in the Psalms, "Let his habitation be desolate,
and let no man dwell therein" and "his office let another take"
(Ps. 69:25; Ps.109:8).
     
     Judas had betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, then full
of remorse had throw the silver back at the Scribes and
Pharisees. They then decided to buy a field with it to bury
strangers in, as it was "blood money" and in their self-righteous
attitude they were not about to put it into the temple treasury.
All this can be seen by reading Matthew 27, starting in verse 5.
Also the death of Judas is described in somewhat of a vivid
manner. The field that was bought with the 30 pieces of silver
became known as the "field of blood" (Acts 1:15-20).

     Peter said to the 120 or so disciples present at this time,
"Of the men who have been with us through Jesus' ministry,
starting from the baptism of John unto the day He was taken up
into heaven, which one will you choose and appoint to be with us
twelve for a witness of Jesus' resurrection?" (Acts 1:21-22).
     It was needful that a man was chosen who had seen and been
with Jesus, as a basic constant disciple for the whole of Jesus'
earthy ministry. We saw as we went through the Gospels the fact
that there were a number of other persons - both men and
women - who were part of Jesus' overall constant following,
besides the inner core group of THE twelve disciples.
     The group of 120 disciples chose two men, one called Joseph
Barsabas, and surnamed Justus, and another called Matthias. We
are not told how this choosing was done, so the method is not
important, and would so allow for a variety of ways to so
determine who would be the final two men.
     We are told that when it came to deciding THE one of the two
who would replace Judas Iscariot, it was by some type of "lots"
they gave forth. Again what these "lots" were in specifics we are
not told, which once more leaves it open for different ways it
could have been done. You will notice PRAYER was employed. The
"lot" fell to Matthias who them became one of the very 12
disciples, replacing Judas Iscariot.

     Should ALL decisions a "church" congregation (and this is
what we have here as put in modern language) is to make, be done
with a type of "lot"? No, not really. What we have here in this
account is a VERY SERIOUS and a very IMPORTANT disciple office
to fill. This is a once in a life time decision for a group of
God's children to decide upon. Hence only God could make the
FINAL decision and the choosing of a man to be part of the 12
disciples who would one day, rule over a tribe of Israel in the
Kingdom of God, when Jesus returns to rule the earth for a
thousand years (the time commonly called "the millennium") as
foretold in Revelation 20.
     Most "church decisions" will not be like this "once in a
life time" situation. If it ever is, then yes, it would be proper
that God must give the answer, through much prayer and some type
of "lot" as given in this example of deciding which man would
replace Judas Iscariot.

     Matthias was now numbered with the eleven apostles (Acts
1:24-26).


                      ..............................

March 2004


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