Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In the Meantime

Part 1 of Witnesses

Text: Acts 1:1-11



“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” (Acts 1:11). 


Living Between Two Great Events

The Acts of the Apostles is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. [1] Luke writes that his “first book” (i.e., the Gospel of Luke) was about what “Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). The Acts of the Apostles is about what Jesus continued to do and teach through the church.

We are living in the time between two great events: the ascension [2] and the second coming. You could say that we’re living in the meantime.


The One Thing We Must Not Do

In the meantime, there is one thing we must not do. What is the one thing we must not do? We must not do nothing. [3] After Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles were mildly rebuked by the two angels: “Why do you stand looking into heaven?” (v. 11).

 Jesus went up to heaven, and one day he’ll return; in the meantime, we have work to do. 


People Like Us

Though they lived in a different time and culture, the apostles and the other followers of Jesus were people like us. Like us, they struggled with fear and doubt.

The resurrection of Jesus was not something that was easy for them to believe. [4] This is why Jesus gave them “many proofs” (v. 3). [5] What kind of evidence would you need in order to believe in the resurrection? That’s the kind of evidence that they were given.


The Ascension and the Return

“As [the apostles] were looking on, [Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (v. 9). We shouldn’t downplay the significance of the ascension. Jesus is now “exalted at the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33; cf. Psalm 110:1). The apostle Paul writes, “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34; cf. Heb. 7:25).

The two angels said to the apostles, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (v. 11). Jesus will one day return bodily [6] and visibly. As we await the return of Jesus, we are to be doing the mission he gave us.


The Mission

After Jesus ascended to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to indwell his followers. [7] The Spirit would provide the necessary power for mission. Jesus said, “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” (v. 8). [8] The message of biblical Christianity is not “God loves me, period…” the message of biblical Christianity is “God loves me so that I might make him—his ways, his salvation, his glory, his greatness—known among all nations.” [9] We can be witnesses anywhere—on the other side of the world (e.g., as a missionary in China) or here in Halifax.

Many of us have probably heard the saying, “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” [10] There are some Christians who talk about the gospel too much and live the gospel too little. But most Christians wouldn’t fall into that category. And the truth is, people need to hear (or read) words in order to be saved. Justin Taylor has said, “The Good News can no more be communicated by deeds than can the nightly news.” [11]


Time Is Precious

We are often guilty of wasting time--even "killing" time. We would probably waste less time if we could see the time of our lives ticking down.

We are living in the time between two great events: the ascension and the second coming. Jesus went up to heaven, and one day he’ll return; in the meantime, we have are to be witnesses of what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need to live the gospel, and we need to share the gospel.


[1] Both books were written by Luke to a man named Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1).
[2] The Gospel of Luke ends with the ascension (24:50-53); Acts begins with it (1:6-11).
[3] Yes, I know this is a double negative. In other words, we must do something.
[4] Some of them even doubted right up until the time of Jesus’ ascension (Matt. 28:17).
[5] Jesus was with his followers for “forty days” (v. 3) between his resurrection and ascension. If the resurrection had happened on the date of this year’s Easter Sunday (March 27), then the ascension would have happened on May 6.
[6] Jesus did not cease to be human when he ascended. He will return as a man.
[7] This is why Jesus leaving his followers was not a bad thing. The risen Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to me [i.e., hold on to me], for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17).
[8] “The geographical scope of Acts 1:8 provides a rough outline of the entire book: Jerusalem (1-7), Judea and Samaria (8-12), the ends of the earth (13-28)” (J. B. Polhill, Acts, 86).
[9] David Platt, Radical, 70-71.
[10] This saying is commonly attributed to Francis of Assisi.
[11] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/mayweb-only/120-42.0.html?start=2