In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
In the opening words, Luke tells us several things. First, this is the second book in a series. Second, Luke writes this book to an individual, Theophilus. Third, the first book dealt with what Jesus began to do and teach. It suggests this book deals with what Jesus continued to do and teaching after His ascension. In other words, this book is not about the Apostles. This book is not about the early church. This book is about Jesus.
The next couple of thoughts Luke presents are vital. For forty days Christ instructed His disciples. During that time He proved His resurrection. Christ did not immediately ascend into heaven after his resurrection. He proved his resurrection with his presence.
He proved He was not a ghost, illusion, or dream. He had risen from the dead. The ascension completed Christ’s redemptive work. But before His ascension, He provided for our salvation. Christ provided for His church. He instructed His Apostles and His Apostles instruct us.
Luke tells us that Christ proved His resurrection in several ways. One way was by presenting Himself to them alive. He assured them of His resurrection. Without the resurrection, there is no Gospel. Without the resurrection, there is no redemption for our sins. Without the resurrection, we are all destined to hell.
Luke says “during forty days” because Jesus was not always visible during those forty days. But He appeared to them on various occasions.
Christ appeared to His disciples many times. He used many proofs it was Him. He was alive. If He had only appeared once there may have been some doubt. They may ask, “Did I really see what I think I saw? Was it really Him? Was it wish projection?” To combat these doubts, Christ not only appeared but proved He was alive in many ways.
We know from John’s gospel, Christ both cooked and ate (John 21:9-15a). Luke tells us in His first book Jesus broke bread and served it. (Luke 24:30)
Christ commanded them not to leave Jerusalem. They were to wait until they had received the promise from the Father. The Holy Spirit was a gift from the Father and the Son (John 14:1, 26; 15:26).
We are to work and rest at God’s pleasure. They were to receive the promise of the Father. We partake of God’s gifts through hope. This hope is not wishful thinking. This hope is not without a basis. We base this hope on God’s promise.
When Jesus started His ministry, John said he baptized with water. But the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminded His disciples of this. John’s baptism was one of repentance. (Mark 1:4) It pointed forward to the messianic baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16). Up until this point, there had been no baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus work was not yet complete.
But why bring John into it at all? John did not provide salvation. John did not claim to bring salvation. In fact, John stated he was unworthy to unlace Christ’s sandals. (John 1:26-27) There are several reasons. First, John was a big deal at that time. We do not realize today how popular John was. And as John said, he needed to decrease and Christ increase. (John 3:30). Second, the Apostles held John in high esteem. As such, their admiration might obscure God’s glory. Third, John’s baptism was not worthless. While it was only an external baptism, it confirmed God’s promise.
Our baptism with water by men, it is not worthless. Christ commanded it. And He baptizes us daily with the Spirit.
The disciples asked, Okay now will you restore the kingdom to Israel? They were thinking of an earthly kingdom. They had been with Jesus for three years. They had received instruction from Christ Himself for three years. He had just given them their final instructions. And yet they are still thinking of an earthly kingdom. It was not until their baptism with the Spirit that they were able to think of a heavenly kingdom.
We too think in terms of the physical. We think of the here and now. We think of what we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. We call that reality or being practical. In doing so, we miss true reality.
Christ’s Kingdom is so much greater. Israel was about to spread abroad. God was about to establish it throughout the world. And the disciples were looking backward. Lord, will you make it like it was? Israel was about to become so much greater than what it was. They wanted to go back to the good old days. You cannot return to the good old days. Rather we should look forward to what Christ is doing and will do. He is establishing His Kingdom.
But there was something even worse in their question. They inquired into what was God’s purview alone. They were not to know what God had planned. The future belongs to God and Him alone.
Christ replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” In the Scripture “times,” denote a long span. “Seasons” denotes a shorter span of time. Christ was saying you are not authorized to know. You are not authorized to know the general or specifics. You are not to know the future near or far. It was above their pay grade.
Many have abused this passage. They abuse it in opposite ways. The first is men will place everything in the hidden will of God. They claim we cannot know anything about God’s will. We are not to seek the answer to anything spiritual. Rather than studying they sin by not searching and knowing what God has revealed. Rather than knowing what God makes available they satisfy themselves with superstitions.
The second-way men sin is by setting this against other passages telling us to study and know the signs of the time. They predict the time and hour of Christ’s return. They do it in spite of a clear admonition from Christ when the disciples asked the question.
We would do well to remember Deuteronomy 29:29. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
After reminding the disciples the secret things belong to God, Christ calls them back to God’s promise. They would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Christ refocused them on what they were to do. They were to 1) Return to Jerusalem. 2) Wait to receive power from the Holy Spirit. 3) They were to be His witnesses. They were to start in Jerusalem then spreading out everywhere.
He corrects their understanding of the Kingdom of God. First, they must work before they could reap the fruit of the Kingdom. Second, Christ’s kingdom was not what they thought it was.
How different this is from the much of the preaching today. God will prosper you. God gives you what you pray for. If you have enough faith God will heal you. NO! God commands us to work. We are to be servants We are to be His witnesses.
Christ intended to force from His disciples’ minds the idea of a terrestrial kingdom. Christ establishes His Kingdom by preaching the gospel.
Third, Israel was greater than the biological descendants of Abraham. The disciples thought of Israel in term of genetics. Christ told them Israel included people from Samaria. Israel even included Gentiles This was nowhere in their mindset. To the disciples thinking Gentiles were unclean. They were oppressing Israel. They were the enemy. How could they be Israel?
After this one last instruction and correction, Christ ascended into heaven. He ascended as they watched. If Christ had vanished in secret they might have wondered where He went. He ascended to the right hand of the Father. (Romans 8:34, Colossians 3:1 Hebrews 1:3;8:1;10:12; 12:2, 1 Peter 3:22) From there Christ intercedes for us. (Hebrews 7:25)
There is no doubt Christ’s ascension added to their astonishment. Christ’s resurrection amazed them. Now, they saw Him lifted to the heavens. They stood there looking up wondering what was going to happen next. Something needed to bring them back. God needed to refocus them on their mission.
God sent two men or angels to jar them back. “Earth to Peter.” “Earth to John.” “Hey, guys snap out of it.”
The disciples were not to look to the heavens for Jesus. They wanted Jesus back. But Jesus gave them a job. They were to get to it.
The men told the disciples Jesus will come again. He will come the same way they saw Him go.
Christ tasked the disciples with a job. They were to make disciples. They were to teach what Christ taught them. They were to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19-20) After all, He has done for us, we show our love to Him by fulfilling His command. (John 14:15)