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Jesus Has Left The Building

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In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach  2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.  3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Reading the text:  thoughts and reflections

This is kind of the “rest of the story” from the gospels because it takes over where they ended and described the birth of the church.  Jesus had kind of a 40 day post-graduate study time with his disciples and then issued his last command on earth:  wait.  I wonder how difficult it was for these disciples.  Certainly there must have been yearnings to return to their former professions and just get on with life.  What was the Holy Spirit going to do any way really?  What does it mean to be a witness?  Why is the Holy Spirit necessary for this?  These are perhaps just a few of the things that may have been going through their minds…mine as well.

Waiting can be the most trying virtue, especially without really knowing what to expect.  Seems there should be better things to do than wait around all the time but that is precisely what the Lord commanded in order that they would received what he’d promised them.  They did and he did.  Their desire and trust in the Lord was more compelling than the same to return to their old professions and former ways of life.  Do we have the same at MMCC?  Are we tired of waiting?  Do we not desire and trust in the Lord and really receive the power of the Holy Spirit?  Are we content that we have done all we can to be witnesses to our own “Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria”?  I’m not so sure.  There’s a good part of our “Jerusalem” that doesn’t know about our Lord or us.  I am saddened that it appears there’s not much interest in these people and the potential of them being eternally lost.

If this is so, then we shouldn’t waste our time nor God’s by praying for the power of the Holy Spirit.  God won’t waste His resources.  If in deed we have received the Holy Spirit when we became believers of Christ then why have we denied or hindered this gracious power?  There isn’t much use in asking to use this power for the sake of the kingdom if we have no intention to use it.  So it rests dormant Sunday after Sunday, weeks, months, years….How long will God’s patience hold out and could we ever accept the fact that God doesn’t want Mt. Miguel Covenant Church for His purposes and if He so desires wipe it clean from the face of the earth. 

Yet I have hope that He doesn’t want to that…at least not yet.  It would seem illogical of God or at least inconsistent that He would send me here only watch Him destroy MMCC.  Still, I have to be willing to accept this as well.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  My desire is that our church be a God dwelling, honoring, and empowering place for the sake of the kingdom.  I am not so sure it has been in the last few years and the deadness of spirit today seems to attest to this.  Personally, I believe we owe God our apologies and should repent and ask his forgiveness for all of the heinous mistakes that have been made and start our slate clean again.  I pray now:  Lord, forgive us of our sins against you by not obeying your commands to love one another…to forgive one another as you forgave us.  Restore your glory and passion to your church.  May we live from this point on as disciples of Christ full of the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to our community, city, state,…the world.  Move our hearts and our hands to move the universe.

As I write this, I am fearful of the words I might say and how I might say them.  Part of me frustrated and angry, impatient.  More me feels compelled that now is the time to deliver the prophetic message to plead with the Lord to restore the church by prayer.  I don’t if others feel the way I do.  I face the risk of really painting a doom and gloom scenario…where’s the Good News?  People could turn against me.  Yet it is a risk I must take.  How can I be true to my call if I abandon what the Lord has placed on my heart?  Lord, tomorrow will take more wisdom and spirit than I have ever needed since coming to MMCC.  May the message be one of love but also one of plea and sacrifice.  I would rather you cast aside this church if it is not glorifying you and your spirit will not be with us.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Scholarship helps

ascension of Christ, the, the risen Jesus’ departure into heaven after his final appearance to his disciples. It is described only in Acts 1:2-11, although there may be a different and shorter version in Luke 24:50-51 and allusions to it elsewhere in the nt (e.g., John 6:62; 20:17; Eph. 4:8-10). In the setting of Acts, the ascension is preparatory to the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost (2:1-4). The forty-day interval (1:3) is probably symbolic, as this number is frequently used to denote indefinite periods of time. The setting for the ascension has traditionally been regarded as the Mount of Olives. For possible ot precedents, note the ‘translation’ of Enoch (Gen. 5:24) and the ‘assumption’ of Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-14); in the intertestamental period, similar stories appeared regarding other ancient figures. See also Elijah; Enoch; Holy Spirit, The; Olives, Mount of; Pentecost; Resurrection.      J.M.E.

ASCENSION. The story of the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ is told in Acts 1:4-11. In Lk. 24:51 the words ‘and was carried up into heaven’ are less well attested, as is also the description in Mk. 16:19. There is no alternative suggestion in the NT of any other termination to the post-resurrection appearances, and the fact of the ascension is always assumed in the frequent references to Christ at the right hand of God, and to his return from heaven. It would be unreasonable to suppose that Luke would be grossly mistaken or inventive about such an important fact so long as any of the apostles were alive to note what he had written. For other allusions to the ascension see Jn. 6:62; Acts 2:33-34; 3:21; Eph. 4:8-10; 1 Thes. 1:10; Heb. 4:14; 9:24; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 5:6.

Objections are made to the story on the ground that it rests upon out-dated ideas of heaven as a place above our heads. Such objections are beside the point for the following reasons:

1. The act of ascension could have been an acted parable for the sake of the disciples who held this idea of heaven. Jesus thus indicated decisively that the period of post-resurrection appearances was now over, and that his return to heaven would inaugurate the era of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church. Such acted symbolism is perfectly natural.

2. The terms ‘heaven’ and ‘the right hand of the Father’ have some necessary meaning in relation to this earth, and this meaning can best be expressed with reference to ‘above’. Thus Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven when he prayed (Jn. 17:1; cf. 1 Tim. 2:8), and taught us to pray, ‘Our Father who art in heaven . . . Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.‘ In one sense heaven is away from this earth, whatever may be its nature in terms of a different dimension. In passing from the earthly space-time to the heavenly state, Jesus was observed to move away from the earth, just as at his second coming he will be observed to move towards the earth. This doctrine of bodily absence is balanced in the NT by the doctrine of spiritual presence. (*Spirit, Holy.) Thus the Lord’s Supper is in memory of One who is bodily absent ‘until he comes’ (1 Cor. 11:26), yet, as at all Christian gatherings, the risen Lord is spiritually present (Mt. 18:20).

The concept of God above on the throne has special reference to the difference between God and man, and to the approach to him by the sinner, whose sin bars access to the King. Thus we may see the purpose of the ascension as follows:

1. ‘I go to prepare a place for you’ (Jn. 14:2).

2. Jesus Christ is seated, a sign that his atoning work is complete and final. Those who believe that as Priest he continues to offer himself to the Father, say that one must not mix together the two metaphors of king and priest. Yet this is precisely what is done in Heb. 10:11-14 to show the finality of Christ’s offering.

3. He intercedes for his people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), though nowhere in the NT is he said to be offering himself in heaven. The Greek word for intercede, entynchano, has the thought of looking after someone’s interests.

4. He is waiting until his enemies are subdued, and will return as the final act in the establishment of the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:24-26).

Bibliography. W. Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord, 1891; H. B. Swete, The Ascended Christ, 1910; C. S. Lewis, Miracles, ch. 16, 1947; M. L. Loane, Our Risen Lord, ch. 9, 1965.     j.s.w.

1.   the introduction (1:1-5).

1:1-2. In the first two verses of this book Luke looked back to his Gospel. Theophilus may have been Luke’s patron who financed the writing of Luke and Acts. At any rate he was a believer in Christ. These two books would confirm and instruct Theophilus, as well as the church of Christ, in the faith (cf. Luke 1:1-4).

The verb began indicates that Acts continues the account of the ministry and teaching Christ began on earth. He is still working and teaching through His people today.

The reference to the Lord’s Ascension in Acts 1:2 looks back to Luke 24:51.

Two commandments were given by the Lord before He returned to heaven: (1) the apostolic band was to remain in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4; cf. Luke 24:49); (2) they were to go into the world as witnesses (Acts 1:8; cf. Luke 10:4; 24:47). These instructions may have seemed contradictory but they were to be obeyed sequentially.

1:3. The Lord’s post-resurrection appearances attested the reality of the Resurrection. Christ gave many convincing proofs of this. The word “proofs” (tekmeriois) occurs only here in the New Testament and looks at demonstrable evidence in contrast with evidence provided by witnesses. In other words, the Resurrection was proven by touch, sight, and feel (cf. Luke 24:39-40; 1 John 1:1).

For 40 days after His resurrection the Lord appeared to the apostles and discussed the kingdom of God with them. What is meant by this term? God has always ruled over the world and especially in Israel (Dan. 2:47; 4:3, 25-26, 32, 34-37; 5:21; 6:25-27; Pss. 5:2; 84:3; 89:6-18; 103; etc.). However, a time is coming, commonly called the Millennium, when God will burst into human history in a spectacular way to establish His rule on earth. This is what is meant by the term “kingdom of God” (cf. comments on Matt. 3:2; 13:10-16). Though this topic was the subject of much of the Lord’s teaching and preaching before the Cross, He saw fit to discuss it further during His 40 days of post-resurrection ministry.

1:4. The promised gift from the Father, also anticipated in Luke 24:49, was quite obviously the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:5; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7).

1:5. Indeed John had predicted a Spirit baptism by the Lord Jesus. The greatness of Christ was seen in the fact that John identified people with himself by water baptism; Christ Jesus would join His followers to Himself by the Holy Spirit. The word baptized, which normally means “dipped or immersed,” here has the idea of “uniting with” (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-2). The Lord made the same prediction of Spirit baptism that John made (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; cf. Acts 11:16).

2.   the internment at jerusalem (1:6-26).

a.     The Ascension (1:6-11).

 

1:6. The disciples’ question, Lord are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? is most illuminating.

The sentence is introduced by the connective so (men oun), which associates the thought of verse 6 with verse 5. In the disciples’ minds the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the coming of the promised kingdom were closely associated. And well they should be, because the Old Testament frequently joined the two (cf. Isa. 32:15-20; 44:3-5; Ezek. 39:28-29; Joel 2:28-3:1; Zech. 12:8-10). When Christ told the disciples of the soon-coming Spirit baptism, they immediately concluded that the restoration of Israel’s kingdom was near in time (cf. comments on “restore” in Acts 3:21).

1:7. Some conclude from the Lord’s response that the apostles had a false concept of the kingdom. But this is wrong. Christ did not accuse them of this. If the followers of the Lord Jesus had an incorrect view, this would have been the time for Him to correct it. The fact is, Christ taught the coming of an earthly, literal kingdom (cf. Matt. 19:28; Luke 19:11-27; 22:28-30). Acts 1:3 states that the Lord instructed the disciples about the kingdom; He certainly gave them the right impression as to its character and future coming. What Jesus discussed here (v. 7) was the time of the coming of the kingdom. The Greek word for times (chronous) basically describes duration of times, and the word for dates (kairous) refers to both length of times and kinds of times (as in, e.g., “hard times”). The disciples were not . . . to know either the times or the critical periods the Father had set by His . . . authority. Later, further revelation would be made concerning these (cf. 1 Thes. 5:1).

1:8. This verse contrasts (alla, but) with verse 7. Instead of knowing the times or dates, the apostles were to be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. This they were to do after they had been supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The meaning of the clause you will be My witnesses is subject to question. Is this a command, or is it a simple statement of fact? Grammatically the words may be taken either way, but because of 10:42 (cf. 4:20) it is clearly an imperative in the future tense.

Probably “the ends (sing., ­end¯ in the Gr. text) of the earth” looks to Rome, the proud center of world civilization in the Apostolic Age, a significant distance from Jerusalem (more than 1,400 miles, as the crow flies).

1:9-11. These verses describe the Lord’s Ascension but they also anticipate His return. He will come back in a cloud, bodily, in view of people (Rev. 1:7), and to the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4)—the same way the apostles saw Him go.

The Ascension of Christ marked the conclusion of His ministry on earth in His bodily presence. It also exalted Him to the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33-36; 5:30-31; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 12:2). At the same time the Ascension meant that the continuing work of Christ on earth was now placed in the hands of His disciples (Acts 1:1-2, 8).

It was imperative that the Ascension occur so that the promised Comforter could come (cf. John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Acts 2:33-36). The Holy Spirit would empower the disciples as they ministered the gospel and waited for the kingdom.

1:1-26 Between Easter and Pentecost

1:1-8 Jesus’ Story Continued

From the outset, Acts is connected with the third Gospel, Luke’s “first volume” that gives a comprehensive account of Jesus’ deeds and words until he was “taken up,” or ascended into heaven (Luke 24:51). Their common addressee is Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4), otherwise unmentioned in the nt.

Whereas Luke 24 confines Christ’s appearances to a single day (Easter Sunday), this period is now extended to “forty days” (Acts 1:3). His activity included “many proofs,” presumably signs and wonders, various appearances to the apostles, and instructions (v. 3), which are summarized in Luke 24:44-49. The continuation of the kingdom of God is anticipated in the Gospel (Luke 22:16, 18, esp. vv. 28-30). Precisely what the kingdom signified remained unclear, as the apostles’ question (Acts 1:6) shows.

During a meal (v. 4), Jesus enjoins the apostles to remain in Jerusalem, echoing his earlier instruction that their prophetic witness to him would begin from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). John the Baptist had anticipated that his form of baptism would be superseded by a more impressive form of immersion administered by the Messiah in which persons would be suffused with God’s Spirit (Acts 1:5) and confronted with the fire of God’s judgment (Luke 3:16).

At perhaps another gathering (Acts 1:6),the apostles ask when Christ would “restore the kingdom to Israel.” His response (v. 7) exposes their misunderstanding. Entering God’s kingdom is not a matter of knowing when to mark the calendar but of awaiting and receiving God’s promised Spirit. The geographical scheme (v. 8) provides the organizing framework for the rest of the narrative (see Introduction).

1:9-12 Ascension

Christ’s ascension has already been anticipated (Luke 9:51; Acts 1:2) but now is amplified in greater detail. Compared with the rest of the nt, Luke attaches greater significance to it as a separate event (cf. Mark 16:19; John 3:13; 6:62; 20:17; Eph. 4:8-10; 1 Tim. 3:16). In Luke 24:51, one textual tradition records Christ’s ascension on Easter Sunday, whereas here it occurs forty days later (Acts 1:3). By placing the ascension on the Mount of Olives (v. 12), Luke continues his pattern of locating the post-Easter appearances in close proximity to Jerusalem (Luke 24:13, 28, 33, 47, 50, 52).

Luke’s portrait is slightly reminiscent of Elijah’s ascension (2 Kings 2:11), though closer to the extrabiblical tradition depicting the end of Moses’ life as a disappearance into a cloud (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 4.326). His promised return in similar fashion (Acts 1:11) recalls Jesus’ own earlier prediction of the Son of man’s return (Luke 21:27; cf. Dan. 7:13-14).

The ascension occurs in the company of the apostles (Acts 1:2, 9), who thereby become eyewitnesses (cf. 1:22). In keeping with ot criteria for certified testimony (Deut. 19:15), Luke typically provides two witnesses who interpret the event’s significance (Luke 24:4). Their “white robes” probably attest their extraordinary status (cf. Luke 24:4; John 20:12). By emphasizing the manner rather than the time of Jesus’ return, Luke redirects the church’s attention away from end-time speculation (Acts 1:7).

1:1–5
Preparing to Go

In a two-volume work it was customary to recapitulate the theme or the end of the first volume in the beginning of the second. Thus Luke 24:36–53 is recapitulated in Acts 1:1–14, repeating many points in greater detail. Historians had freedom to arrange materials in their own words and to paraphrase, and readers would have regarded different wording in two volumes of the same work as variation for the sake of readability, not as an accidental oversight.

1:1.  This is not an uncommon way to begin a second volume. “Began” may indicate that Acts continues a report of Jesus’ works through the church, but it is common Lukan style and may simply reflect a Semitic or Koine (the common Greek dialect) figure of speech. Theophilus seems to be the patron, or sponsor, of the work, to whom Luke formally dedicates it (as was the custom; see comment on Lk 1:3–4).

1:2–3.  Sample evidences were reported in Luke 24, and the forty days here allows for the Galilean ministry reported in the other Gospels. Greeks also wanted eyewitnesses to document the epiphanies (or appearances) of their gods or goddesses, but those appearances were not clearly physical or sustained over such a long period of personal contact.

1:4.  “Gathering together” (NASB) is literally “took salt together,” an idiom for table fellowship. This act was the ultimate sign of physicality (in many Jewish traditions, angels could not genuinely eat human food) and intimacy (see comment on Lk 5:29–32).

1:5.  The Holy Spirit was associated both with purification (thus “baptism”) and wisdom or prophecy in segments of ancient Judaism. But the emphasis was usually on the ability to prophesy (speak for God under his inspiration), and Luke emphasizes this aspect of the Spirit almost to the exclusion of others.

1:6–11
Coming and Going

1:6.  This question was the most natural one for the disciples to ask Jesus. He had been talking about the kingdom (1:3), and the references to the outpouring of the Spirit in the Old Testament were all in the context of Israel’s restoration (Is 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 36:25–28; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28–3:1).

1:7.  See Matthew 24:36. Jewish apocalyptic writers often saw history as divided into epochs determined by God, yet they sometimes used their calculations of the epochs to predict that they were near the end. Jesus says that the Father has determined the time but not revealed it.

1:8.  Although the time of Israel’s restoration might be unknown, the end-time mission given to Israel, to be Spirit-anointed witnesses (Is 42:1, 4, 6; 43:10–12; 44:3, 8), is being given now. The disciples are thus to serve as the prophetic remnant within Israel. (When Israel had disobeyed God, he had always kept a remnant; see comment on Rom 11:1–5.)

Different ancient texts referred to different places by the phrase “ends of the earth.” Writers commonly meant Ethiopia (8:27), but in Acts the short-term strategic goal is Rome (the Psalms of Solomon 8:15 uses “ends of the earth” thus), to make an urgent impact on the empire. From a long-range perspective, however, all peoples are meant (Ps 67:1, 7; Is 45:22; 49:6; 52:10; so Acts 13:47).

1:9–11.  In Greek stories, various heroes ascended to heaven, usually by dying and becoming gods (like Heracles on his funeral pyre). For Luke, however, the ascension is only a confirmation of Jesus’ status at the resurrection, a coronation of the king who was both human and divine all along. Jewish accounts of Elijah (from the Old Testament) and others (from later traditions) taken up to heaven show that Jewish readers would understand the ascension, but again, the difference is between the exaltation of a pious man and the exaltation of the Lord, to faith in whom they are to summon humanity. Angels ascended and descended, but Luke’s contemporaries did not regard these angelic movements as special events. (Judaism also spoke figuratively of divine Wisdom ascending or descending but never in a narrative context, because Wisdom was a personification, not a historical character.)

Moses had passed on his work to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, and rabbis and philosophers to their disciples. This model of succession created occasional “succession narratives” that described the passing on of a teacher’s call. Jesus’ ascension immediately after the commission of 1:8 leaves believers as his successors, responsible for the job of world evangelization, until his return in the same glorified body (1:11).

I believe our nation desperately needs revival. I also believe that the sovereignty of God means that only God can bring revival, in His time, in His way, and using His divinely ordained means. We can and surely should pray for revival, but let us never think that if we but pray hard enough God will produce a revival for us. He will bring revival in His own good time and in His own good way. We should pray for revival because, I believe, this is biblical, but not because we suppose that our prayers will produce the results we desire. Prayer should leave the matter in God’s hands and not presume He has put the matter entirely in ours. This does not mean we should be inactive, not doing anything at all. It does mean that when we actively seek a revival we wait for God’s good timing, and we look for God to work in ways that we would not have predicted. We don’t presume God will bring revival just as we have planned it or prayed for it. Prayer is the acknowledgment of our dependence on God. God is not waiting for us to be faithful or obedient enough. If He did, nothing would ever happen. (Author unknown)

"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."
--Karl Barth

<quote>:  Dallas Willard (excerpt from The Divine Conspiracy)

Ask. The first thing we should do is emphatically and repeatedly express to Jesus our desire to see him more fully as he really is. Remember, the rule of the kingdom is to ask. We ask to see him, not just as he is represented in the Gospels, but also as he has lived and lives through history and now, and in his reality as the one who literally holds the universe in existence. He will certainly be aware of our request, just as you would be aware of anyone expressing his or her desires to you in your house.

Sermon Development

Theological significance

Application

What is the main point?

Sermon outline

Introduction

<illustration>:  Elvis has left the building

Body

Postgraduate work

“convincing proofs” – tangible evidence, not just witnesses.

The last command of Jesus

Wait for the H.S.àwitnesses (mavrture"): “martyrs”

We schedule this interruption

Apostles could have returned to their old professions / promise worth waiting for

Our plea not provocation / our devotion not duty / our love not obligation

I believe our nation desperately needs revival. I also believe that the sovereignty of God means that only God can bring revival, in His time, in His way, and using His divinely ordained means. We can and surely should pray for revival, but let us never think that if we but pray hard enough God will produce a revival for us. He will bring revival in His own good time and in His own good way. We should pray for revival because, I believe, this is biblical, but not because we suppose that our prayers will produce the results we desire. Prayer should leave the matter in God’s hands and not presume He has put the matter entirely in ours. This does not mean we should be inactive, not doing anything at all. It does mean that when we actively seek a revival we wait for God’s good timing, and we look for God to work in ways that we would not have predicted. We don’t presume God will bring revival just as we have planned it or prayed for it. Prayer is the acknowledgment of our dependence on God. God is not waiting for us to be faithful or obedient enough. If He did, nothing would ever happen. (Author unknown)

Schedule:  sanctuary to remain open for prayer beginning Tue. / all programs from Tue. morning to Sun. morning are cancelled / fast if you are called to do so / come pray with a friend / pray for God’s will for our church / radical change needs radical power / if we are indeed called to be witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth, let us start here in our own “Jerusalem” /

Conclusion

Jesus had to leave / kept promise though / H.S. not for talking about but for action / urgency, if it were not, then why would we need God’s power? / let the church become a club / or better: tear it down and build a swimming pool, surely our community needs that more / …pray this never be so…our own “Jerusalem” needs the Lord, needs his witnesses, needs Mt. Miguel Covenant Church for worship, teaching, and fellowship to prepare them to reach the ends of the earth.

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