An Interpretation of Acts 1:1-8

18 Feb

Someone on a forum asked a question about the interpretation of Acts 1:6-8 in regards to the kingdom of God from the “Gospel Millennial” position, also unfortunately known as “amillennialism”. This is my attempt to give an answer.

Dispensational theologians break up the passage. They see Jesus speaking of the kingdom of God in verse 3, and then, in their minds, he drops this subject until the disciples ask about it in verse 6. I don’t believe he changes the subject back and forth, rather, he’s dealing with the kingdom throughout the passage.

Remember that Jesus has addressed the kingdom much already. He spoke much of it throughout the Gospel records. He told Pilate very plainly, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Now, he spends 40 days speaking of it to his disciples. To make the assumption that his teaching is substantially different here from what he’s been teaching throughout his ministry would be eisegesis.

Further, why would he spend 40 days teaching on something that wouldn’t really matter a bit in the lives of the disciples? According to DT, the disciples will go through their lives, suffering for something that Jesus promised but they would never see. And if he really taught of a physical, earthly reign of 1,000.000 years, how could he have missed teaching them concerning the timing of it?

Rather, consider that the entire passage is dealing with the same truth. Go back to verses 1-2: “…all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands…” Verse 3 tells us more about what he was teaching – “the kingdom of God.” Then verse 4 continues the theme. They are instructed to wait for the promise of the Father. What is that promise? The very thing he’s been teaching for the last 40 days: the kingdom! His continued statement of John’s baptism with water compared with the baptism of the Holy Spirit coming soon is simply an extension of that teaching. He does not give them a day, just tells them to wait for the promise. The Spirit will empower them, making it very clear that God is working through the church. Note the groups on whom the Spirit comes throughout the book of Acts – Gentiles and Jews alike, demonstrating the broken wall of partition.

In verse 6, when the disciples ask the question of timing, they are continuing the conversation. Jesus has said, “Wait.” He is now preparing to ascend, and they are assuming that the fullness of the promise is at hand. Their wrong assumption is that of the centrality of physical, geographical Israel in the kingdom (Israel is central, but it is as described by Paul in Galatians 4 and Romans 9/11). Far from ignoring their question, Jesus answers it by showing the universality of the spread of the kingdom.

“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” In other words, “Wait!” Do exactly as you have been instructed, and let God work in his own time. The kingdom will be manifested, but its fulness and consummation are up to God (compare Daniel 2 and 1 Corinthians 15).

“But you will receive power” – The promise of the Father, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the manifestation of the kingdom that were addressed in 3-5

“When the Holy Spirit has come upon you” – This is, I believe, a clear reference to Isaiah 32. The first verse makes it plain that “a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice.” Now note verse 15, to which I believe Jesus refers: “Until the spirit is poured upon us from on high…” The reference is plain. Read also Isaiah 44:3 – “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” Much prophecy is fulfilled at Pentecost, not only Joel 2!

“And you will be my witnesses” – Could it be another Old Testament reference? It sure is! Read Isaiah 43. God speaks there of gathering his seed from the ends of the earth. From the north, south, east, and west, he will gather all of his elect. How will he accomplish this work? Verse 10 says, “You are my witnesses…”, and again in verse 12, “You are my witnesses, declares the Lord.”

“In Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” – Yet another reference to Isaiah here: in chapter 49, God speaks again of gathering Israel (his elect) to himself. in the end of verse 6 he says, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

And just in case you try to say that those passages in Isaiah cannot be used in that manner in this “dispensation”, take note of how Paul himself uses those very passages. In Acts 13:47, he defends turning to the Gentiles based on the Lord’s command in Isaiah 49:6, the very passage quoted above!

Peter seems to follow this interpretation in chapter 2 as he speaks of the fulfilled prophecy of Joel, as well as the fulfillment of the covenant with David in Christ. Finally, note one other passage in Acts that supports the understanding that this was the belief of the apostles themselves. We’re all familiar with the dispute and resolution of the questions of law in chapter 15. Note James’ words in verses 14-18:

“Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
“‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.'”

It just so happens that James is quoting from Amos 9:11-12, demonstrating that it is fulfilled exactly as God had promised!

Therefore, Jesus was not evading the question of the disciples. Rather, he answered it in a way that they clearly understood when the promise of the Father had come upon them.

I hope I have been clear. Even if you disagree, I trust you will see recognize the desire to carefully interpret Scripture.

Grace and Peace to you.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Bible Study


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *