“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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.”
– Acts 1:1-3, New International Version
According to Luke 13, Luke addressed his gospel to most excellent Theophilus, which means lover of God. Like the gospel, Acts is addressed to Theophilus. Even in this verse, it is clear that Acts is the sequel to the gospel and continues the work there begun by Luke. There has been much speculation about the identity of Theolophilus. No doubt he was one of Luke’s personal friends who would positively influence the distribution of the book.
Jesus and the Spirit
In his gospel Luke wrote about the things that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven. Keep in mind that Luke closed his gospel (Luke 24:50-53) with a description of Jesus ascending from the vicinity of Bethany. Luke said that Jesus was taken up into heaven. Usually, though not always, Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 are said to describe the same event. Until Jesus publicly ascended, He continued His ministry on earth. Now, while He is in heaven, His work and teachings continue in and through the church.
Then, Luke writes, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. When did Jesus give the orders to His apostles The word after does not appear in the Greek text. Although He had given orders throughout His ministry, the sense here is that these were recent orders. Between His resurrection and His public ascension, Jesus had given orders to the apostles.
It is important to note that Jesus gave His orders by the Holy Spirit. During His entire earthly ministry, Jesus was empowered by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism and continued to rest upon throughout His ministry. Now, Luke assures us that during the days between His resurrection and His ascension, He ministered in the power of the Spirit.
As far as Luke’s writings are concerned, we find the orders given by Christ in Luke 24:45-49. The disciples of Jesus are witnesses. They will preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. Moreover, they were commanded to stay in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on High. The Holy Spirit would enable them to witness powerfully throughout the world. Thus, the ministry of Christ continues by the power of the Spirit working through the church.
The Kingdom of God
During the time between His resurrection and His public ascension, Jesus talked about the kingdom of God. This was not a new topic. At the very outset of His ministry, Jesus declared, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God,” (Luke 4:43). Moreover, “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God,” (Luke 8:1). Then, He sent His disciples “out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick,” (Luke 9:2).
The kingdom of God is a broad term. It is broad enough to include believing Israel as the chosen people of God. The kingdom of God also includes the Gentiles who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly, the kingdom of God includes the church. All the prophecies about the restoration and future of Israel, as well as future of the church, will be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
All the elements of time concerning the kingdom’s existence-past, present, and future-are included. The kingdom of God existed in the past, it came into existence in some new sense in the ministry of Christ, and will be consummated in the future.
The Holy Spirit and the Kingdom
As we study the Book of Acts, it becomes clear that the Holy Spirit provides the bridge between the present and the future of the kingdom of God. The power of the future Kingdom breaks in upon us through the Spirit. As a result, even now we witness and feel the powerful presence of the future.
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Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975.
Horton, Stanley M. The Book of Acts. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1981.
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Copyright © 2001 GMF.