The disciples were in an anticipatory frame of mind, expecting the appearing of the kingdom of God. After all Jesus had risen from the dead and it had now been 40 full days, and he had been teaching them about the kingdom of God. The level of their expectation has risen to the point of asking Jesus if it was the right time for the kingdom (Acts 1:6). In fact Luke implies that there was a sense of urgency in their question, and that it was an on-going feature of the conversation, something like an undercurrent in their interaction with the risen Jesus, a sense that surely all of this meant the kingdom would soon appear (Larkin, Acts, IVP NTC, 40). Luke describes how the disciples had gathered around the risen Jesus and were asking him about the coming of the kingdom of God (imperfect) (Acts 1:6a). It seems that they were peppering him with questions about the kingdom of God and when it would appear, the essence of which was, in Luke’s words, is this the time for it to appear? It would be natural for them to think that such a decisive event as the resurrection portended the immediate appearing of the kingdom, especially since Jesus had been talking about the kingdom of God a lot when he met with them, since his resurrection (Acts 1:3). He had aroused their curiosity and even a desire to see it for themselves.

But, something provoked a more intense and prolonged questioning about the appearing of the kingdom. On a previous occasion, Jesus had told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). Indeed his instruction was that they should not leave Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ command not to depart from Jerusalem surprised them in some way, because of its intensity (preposition with infinitive). The overwhelming urgency of the command framed as a negative, don’t leave Jerusalem until… had the effect of provoking questions to arise in their minds concerning the ultimate appearing of the kingdom of God, which had been a chief topic of discussion in prior meetings. We can imagine the kinds of things they were asking btween the two appearnaces of Christ, the one in which he said to wait and the one in which they questioned him closely about when the kingdon of God would appear. Is it not going to come now, then? Does this mean there will be a delay in the appearing of the kingdom? When would it come, if not now? To them this seemed to be the right time. What time could possibly be better than now (cf. Luke 19:11)? How does waiting in Jerusalem fit with the coming of the kingdom of God and it s timing?

John Stott, referencing Calvin, says that there are as many problems in their question as there are words (Stott, 41)! To ask if the kingdom would be restored to limit the kingdom of God to political and territorial significance. Jesus had said before, the kingdom of God is “in” you, meaning among you (cf. Luke 17:20-21). It is first of all a spiritual reality bringing salvation and deliverance, redemption and peace with God. It is secondly in some sense a reality among God’s people who are in fellowship with one another, and expereincing the power of the Spirit. They asked if the kingdom would be restored to Isreal, which implies that the kingdom is nationally limited. But the word of God constantly affirms that God fully intended to include Gentiles in the offer of salvation (cf. Gen. 12:1-3; Psa. 18:43; 22:27; 45:17; 67:2, 4; 98:2; 102:15; Isa. 2:2; 11:10-12; 42:6; 49:6; 66:18-19; Jer. 4:2; Mic 4:2; Zech. 1:11; 8:22-23; 14:16; Mal. 1:11,14; 3:12; Matt. 12:18, 21; 24:14; 28:19; Luke 24:47; Rom. 4:17; 15:12; Gal. 3:8; Eph. 2:11-3:13; 1 Tim. 3:16; Rev. 21:24, 26). The plan of God was to encompass the world, which would eventually be filled with the glory and presence of God (cf. Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14). And to ask if the time is now, means that they were expecting an immediate fulfillment. To this Jesus offered a slight rebuke, that these were matters that resided in the hand of God (Acts 1:7). The times (‎χρόνους) and seasons (καιροὺς), the timing and critcal arrangement and sequences of events belong to inscrutable will and determined plan of God. It is not a matter for speculation and curiosity on earth! The fact is that they were about to witness the power of the kingdom of God break the barriers implied by their question, by offering salvation, not political deliverance, enlarging the scope to include Gentiles, and to introduce about a temporal tension in which the kingdom of God would be now, but not yet!

The later conversation had the effect of shifting their focus away from anticipation of the immediate coming of the kingdom of God to an expectation of receiving the Holy Spirit.
Ironically, the Old Testament prophesied that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit does in fact inaugurate the coming of the kingdom of God (TBST, The Message of Acts, Stott, 39). Indeed this is one of the key themes of Luke-Acts, that the coming of Christ, witnessed to by the breaking out of Spirit activity is indicative that the kingdom of God had been inaugurated with the arrival and Spirit anointing of Christ and ratified by Pentecost (Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke, 24-27). Jesus mildly rebuked their enthusiastic curiosity about the kingdom, by saying that the times and season set for the full realization of the kingdom of God belong to God. They were to wait for the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

For 10 days after the ascension of Jesus the disciples waited and prayed for something they didn’t understand and had never experienced before! They did not know when it would come, or what would happen when it did. They sat in obedience to Jesus without knowing the signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit. They anticipated something that Jesus had promised, and were prepared to wait indefinitely. They knew that the Spirit’s coming would make them witnesses, so they selected a replacement for Judas. This was not a time of discouragement or confusion. But it was a time of not knowing, and of of anticipation.

Jesus used three ideas to describe the impending experience of the Holy Spirit that they would encounter. They would be clothed (Luke 24:49) with power when the Spirit came. They would receive power when the Spirit came (Acts 1:8). The would be baptized in the Spirit, just as John the baptist baptized people in water (Acts 1:5).

Clothed with Power (Luke 24:49): Jesus emphatically told his disciples that he would send the promise of the Father to them. If the Holy Spirit was coming, it was because God had promised his coming in the Old Testament (cf. Ezek. 11:19; 18:31; 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29). The coming of the Spirit was associated with the eschatological appearing of the kingdom of God. Where the Spirit had been poured out the kingdom of God had come! It was part of a new way God would do business with his people, as a matter of transformation of the heart, and no longer through law (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; 2 Cor. 3:14; Heb. 8:6, 8, 10; 9:15; 10:16; 12:24). The picture is to be dressed with the Spirit, like one puts on clothes. It means to covered completely with the Spirit and presence of God, to the point that one is overwhelmingly wrapped up by God.

This clothing will come from above, the heights, from the throne room of God, the promise of God, which Jesus himself will see to it that they receive it. This gift of the Spirit came as a personal guarantee from Jesus. The promise was personal and emphatic, a divine guarantee! The Spirit was to be the power of heaven coming upon the disciples as they served God on earth. It was an experience of the kingdom of God in the here and now! The kingdom had come. It had been inaugurated by the coming of Christ himself, but had found a particularly universal expression in the outpouring of the Spirit on 120 waiting disciples!

Receive Power (Acts 1:8): The word receive is straightforward enough, mean to accept something, given by someone else. Jesus had promised that eh was going to send what God had promised. he promised that he would emphatically and personally see to it that they would be given the power that comes from the Holy Spirit’s presence. They were to wait and to receive. to be empowered required nothing more from them than to wait in obedience to his instruction and to accept the gift when God gave it!

It was a reception of power to make them effective witnesses to the resurrection of Christ and the gospel of salvation. Typical of grace, their role was to obey and receive. They did not have to earn it, grasp after it, cry out and beg. They were to wait and to receive.

Baptized With the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5): Jesus used the analogy of how John baptized people in water to explain how the disciples would receive power to become witnesses of his resurrection. They would be immersed in the Spirit of God. This was to be a spiritual experience that was prophesied by Joel, in which they would receive universally what only a few chosen and anointed saints in the Old Testament had received, the Anointing and infilling of the Spirit!

To be baptized in the Spirit meant to be soaked and totally submerged in God and his presence. with the result that they would be empowered to witness for God and do great exploits for him. Just as water baptism was a sign of a total and radical change, so the baptism of the Holy Spirit would become the sign of a radically new and different age in the economy of God, the age of the Spirit, in which God’s anointed servants carried out his will, and brought the power of his kingdom against the kingdom of darkness.

Leave a Reply

Blog Entries

January 2021
« Oct