Acts 1:4

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; Acts 1:4

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Luke just noted that Christ presented Himself alive to the apostles through a forty-day period, “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” The idea of a kingdom is that of a particular place and/or group ruled by a king. There is nothing stated in Scripture to negate the same term applying to more than one thing at the same time.

For example, Paul speaks of the kingdom of God (as noted in the previous verse) in Acts. And yet, this was during a time when Rome ruled, where kings and kingdoms were in place and where Christians were subject to those earthly rulers, such as Herod in the land of Israel. The fact that there are various meanings to the word “kingdom” will become important in just a few verses. For now, Christ Jesus has spoken of the kingdom of God. That is now immediately followed by the words of verse 1:4, beginning with, “And being assembled together with them.”

Some translations say, “And eating together.” This is based on a variant spelling of the word. In one spelling, it signifies to “crowd,” or “throng.” In the other, it signifies “salt” (hence, eating salt, or dining together). Either translation is possible, because Luke’s words follow after those of his gospel. In Luke 24:43, it says that Jesus “ate in their presence.” In that same encounter, it then says –

“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:49

Only after that does He lead them out to Bethany. As the accounts state the same events, but without specificity, either word (assembled or ate) is possible. With that analyzed, it next says, “He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem.” This is perfectly in accord with the words of Luke 24:49. They were in Jerusalem, He appeared to them and spoke to them, and so on.

However, it is true that Matthew and John record Jesus as meeting with the disciples in Galilee. Therefore, various events occurred somewhere in between the events Luke records. Luke’s gospel, and these beginning verses of Acts, are directed to particular events leading from the resurrection to the ascension. This is their focus, and no contradiction between his words and those of the other gospels can be inferred.

The words to not depart from Jerusalem, then, are referring to the time after His ascension, not after the resurrection (as might be inferred from the end of the gospel narrative). As such, what is being stated now by Jesus is at the end of the forty-day period. In this, Luke continues by saying, “but to wait for the Promise of the Father.”

The word translated as “wait” is found only here in the Bible. It signifies to “remain all around.” It is a way of saying that they are to stay despite any obstacles that may be involved. In other words, there may be business back at home that needs to be attended to. Whatever would normally keep them from remaining was to be secondary to staying and waiting for what was promised to come.

Also, the word translated as “Promise” is defined by Vincent’s Word Studies as “Signifying a free promise, given without solicitation. This is the invariable sense of the word throughout the New Testament, and this and its kindred and compound words are the only words for promise in the New Testament.” Further, Walter Kaiser says of this word, “Almost every NT use of the word promise (epaggelia) points back to the OT.” It is a legal term that speaks of a promise which is officially sanctioned. This is the Promise, “‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me.’”

This is referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit as is repeatedly spoken of in John 14, 15, and 16. However, this may also be the words of the Promise recorded in Luke 24:49 (cited above) which occurred just after the resurrection. He may be restating that now, just prior to the ascension. Hence, the timeline should not be called into question when placed along with the events recorded in the other gospels.

Life application: Though there are difficulties in forming an exact timeline of the events recorded in the gospels and now in Acts, none of the accounts contradicts any other. Rather, inferences have to be made. But this is the same with any such record when various eyewitnesses are brought together.

Each gives his own perspective, and a chronology is then developed based on that. In the case of Luke’s words, it is possible, and even likely, that Jesus said the Promise was coming soon after His resurrection, and then He said it again, just prior to His ascension – reminding the disciples that they were to remain in Jerusalem.

The matter ahead was of such importance that they were not to be pulled away for any lesser reason. And Jesus has promised to return again for His church. We are not to be pulled away from our hope for any reason. Let us remain vigilant and not get our attention sidetracked by the things of this world. But let us hold fast to this great hope that we possess.

This thought is repeated again and again by Paul, by the author of Hebrews (probably Paul), and by Jesus. HOLD FAST! Good things are in store for those who do so.

Lord God, Your word asks us to hold fast to the name of Christ, to the things that we have been given in Christ, to our hope in Him, to the doctrine that has been laid before us in Your word, to our confession of faith, and so on. Help us to be responsible with the wonderful treasure we have been blessed with – the hope of glory. May we hold fast to it always. Amen.