Christian belief is not built on speculation or myth but on the sovereign acts and words of God incarnate in the time-space universe. The birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ are solidly rooted in history. The kingdom of God was the central topic of discussion between Christ and His apostles during the forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. The goal of history is not the Cross, but the crown—the time when King Jesus reveals Himself in all His majesty and reigns in glory (Isaiah 11:1-2; Daniel 7:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 15:24–28; Revelation 20:4–6).
At Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) the Holy Spirit was made available to all who believed in Jesus. We receive the Holy Spirit (are baptized with Him) when we receive Jesus Christ. The baptism of the Holy Spirit must be understood in the light of His total work in Christians:
(1) The Spirit marks the beginning of the Christian experience. We cannot belong to Christ without His Spirit (Romans 8:9); we cannot be united to Christ without His Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17); we cannot be adopted as His children without His Spirit (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6, 7); we cannot be in the body of Christ except by baptism in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
(2) The Spirit is the power of our new lives. He begins a lifelong process of change as we become more like Christ (Galatians 3:3; Philippians 1:6). When we receive Christ by faith, we begin an immediate personal relationship with God. The Holy Spirit works in us to help us become like Christ.
(3) The Spirit unites the Christian community in Christ (Ephesians 2:19-22). The Holy Spirit can be experienced by all, and He works through all (1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 4:4).
Now with this brief history lesson of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit behind us, let us take our Bible out and turn to the book of Acts 1: 6-8. Let us study carefully and meditate on God's Word as we read what our Lord and Savior had to say to His disciples just before He ascended back up into Heaven (Acts 1:9).
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1: 6-8)
Therefore: Christ’s statement that the Spirit was about to be given evidently triggered concern among the disciples about the establishment of the kingdom. Connecting the coming of the Spirit and the coming of the kingdom was consistent with Old Testament thought (Acts 3:21; Isaiah 32:15–20; 44:3–5; Ezekiel 39:28, 29; Joel 2:28–3:1; Zechariah 12:8–10).
at this time: expresses the anxiety of the apostles as they anticipated the kingdom rule that Christ had spoken of in the preceding days and weeks (Acts 1:3). The popular expectation and hope was that Christ would establish His kingdom immediately.
It is not for you to know: Jesus did not correct His disciples’ views concerning the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Instead He corrected their views concerning the timing of the event. This was the same erroneous thinking that He had sought to correct with His parable in Luke 19:11–27, the parable of the minas.
times or seasons: These words speak to the issue of timing differently. Times refers to chronology or the duration of time—“how long.” Seasons refers to the epochs or “events” that occur within time. The disciples were not to know how long it would be before Christ set up His kingdom, nor were they to know what events would transpire before the establishment of it. Peter points out that even the Old Testament prophets did not know the timing between the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (1 Peter 1:11). Instead of being concerned about the date of Christ’s return, the disciples’ job was to carry His message throughout the world.
you shall receive power: This does not refer to personal power for godly living, as demonstrated in the lives of Old Testament saints (See Abraham in Genesis 22; Joseph in Genesis 39; Moses in Exodus 14; Daniel in Daniel 6). This was power for a new task—namely, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
be witnesses: This is Christ’s command to His disciples to tell others about Him regardless of the consequences. Church tradition tells us that all but one of the eleven apostles who heard this promise became martyrs (John died in exile). God empowered His disciples to be faithful witnesses even when they faced the most vehement opposition. That same power for witnessing is available to us today. Our task is not to convince people, but to testify of the truth of the gospel.
During the years of Jesus' ministry on earth, the disciples continually wondered about His kingdom. When would it come? What would their role be? In the traditional view, the Messiah would be an earthy conqueror who would free Israel from Rome. But the kingdom Jesus spoke about was first of all a spiritual kingdom established in the hearts of lives of believers (Luke 17:21). God's presence and power dwell in believers in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Like other Jews, the disciples chafed under their Roman rulers. They wanted Jesus to free Israel from Roman power and then become their king. Jesus replied that God the Father sets the timetable for all events - worldwide, national, and personal. If you want changes that God isn't making immediately, don't become impatient. Instead, trust God's timetable.
Power from the Holy Spirit is not limited to strength beyond the ordinary - that power also involves courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability, and authority. The disciples would need all these gifts to fulfill their mission. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you can experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Jesus promised the disciples that they would receive power to witness after they received the Holy Spirit. Notice the progression; (1) they would receive the Holy Spirit, (2) He would give them power, and (3) they would witness with extraordinary results. Often we try to reverse the order and witness by our own power and authority. Witnessing is not showing what we can do for God. It is showing and telling what God has done for us.
Jesus had instructed His disciples to witness to people of all nations about Him (Matthew 28:19, 20). But they were told to wait first for the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). God has important work for you to do for Him, but you must do it by the power of the Holy Spirit. We often like to get on with the job, even if it means running ahead of God. But waiting is sometimes part of God's plan. Are you waiting and listening for God's complete instructions, or are you running ahead of His plans? We need God's timing and power to be truly effective.
In Acts 1:8 it describes a series of ever-widening circles. The gospel was to spread, geographically, from Jerusalem, into Judea and Samaria, and finally to the whole world. It would begin with the devout Jews in Jerusalem and Samaria, spread to the mixed race in Samaria, and finally be offered to the Gentiles in the uttermost part of the earth. God's gospel has not reached its final destination if someone in your family, your workplace, your school, or our community hasn't heard about Jesus Christ. Make sure that you are contributing in some way to the ever-widening circle of God's loving message.
After 40 days with His disciples (Acts 1:3), Jesus returned to heaven. It was important for the disciples to see Jesus taken up into heaven. Then they knew without a doubt that He was God and that His home was in heaven. The two men dressed in white were angels who proclaimed to the disciples that one day Jesus would return in the same way He went - bodily and visibly (Acts 1:10-11).
History is not haphazard or cyclical; it is moving toward a specific point - the return of Jesus to judge and rule over the earth. We should be ready for His sudden return (1 Thessalonians 5:2), not by standing around "looking into the sky," but by working hard to share the gospel so that others will be able to share in God's great blessings. Have you shared the gospel with someone today?
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.