The disciples were probably disappointed in His answer. It is somewhat of a disappointment even to us that God is purposely withholding the time of the Kingdom's establishment, of the second coming of Jesus Christ. He has a good reason for doing so. In His wisdom, He can see He can produce far more that is better and good in us if we do not know when Christ will return.
For starters, we would relax in a way that is not good if we knew when Christ is going to return. Not knowing gives us a much greater opportunity to use faith in trusting God.
Jesus' answer to them can seem somewhat enigmatic. However, even though He tells them, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons," which discouraged them, He continued with something that is very encouraging. He tells them that they would receive the Holy Spirit and power that would enable them to endure what faced them and complete their divine mission, which was of the highest priority at that time.
This principle still applies to us. We do not know when Christ will come. We do not know when God will establish His Kingdom, nor how much trouble we may have to experience before then. But He is saying to us just what He said to them: "You will be given power that will enable you to endure, overcome, and grow during the time I want you to serve Me." He has not left us alone. He has not left us without the resources to do what we have to do.
It is nice to know what was on the disciples' minds on this significant occasion. It is good to keep the same, important thought at the forefront of our minds too. In the model prayer—called the "Lord's Prayer"—Jesus says near the beginning, "Your kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). It is a top priority that we ask God for that to occur.
The return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God was probably a far more compelling drive in their minds than ours because of their visible and audible firsthand, face-to-face relationship with Christ. The Kingdom of God held a major role in the Good News that He preached every day in their presence.
It was likely a while before they realized and came to grips with the fact that they had to revise their top priority. Christ told them that their new top priority was to preach the gospel. The preaching of the gospel must come first, then the Kingdom.
Did their hope wane because their foremost goal was delayed? Did the establishment of God's Kingdom seem ever more distant as time went on? Did they lose faith because they perceived it would not come in their lifetimes? We need to ask ourselves such questions.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Trumpets Is a Day of Hope
"You shall receive power" - This occurred, as recorded in Acts 2. That power arrived like the sound of wind, a mighty, rushing wind, a great gust of air. Connect this with Genesis 2:7, where God breathed air into Adam. In that act, God was giving the man a spirit. When God gave His Holy Spirit to men, He duplicated it on a majestic scale, and the Spirit came to mankind like the sound of wind or air moving. Mankind, then, is given power, the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 62:11 says, "Power belongs to God." The context deals with a person going through trials. We have a natural tendency to turn in every direction for help, to reach out to other people, to think up solutions, to grasp for the power to solve our problem, but the psalmist informs us that God is the source of salvation. In Him resides the power to save in a right and good way.
Jeremiah 32:17 reads that "God creates by His power," and John 4:24 says that "God is a spirit." Putting these together, God is a creating spirit of the greatest power. When He creates, things of positive function and awesome beauty emerge. What a difference between man and God! By comparison, man in God's image creates destruction; almost everything man makes seems to produce negative results. But when God creates, God creates functional beauty.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power
Despite spending three-and-a-half years of intense training with Jesus, the apostles retained the common Jewish concept of the establishment of God's Kingdom. Paraphrased, Jesus said, "God is working it out. You need to focus your attention on another area at this time."
The work of God was about to make a dramatic turn, occasioned by something that had never occurred before in the history of the earth. God would give His Spirit, visibly manifesting His power in many, and simultaneously launching His church and the preaching of the gospel! His Family was about to make its greatest numerical advancement to that time. It was a unique time in history. It has not happened in that manner since.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing the Bride
The return of Jesus Christ was on their minds too. And like us, they would have liked to have seen the Kingdom established right away. They did not understand that they needed to be prepared for the Kingdom of God. They were not ready yet—they did not even have the Holy Spirit yet! Nor had they entirely put together all the elements of God's truth.
It is interesting that Jesus tells them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons," but it has been given to us in far greater measure. We know many things that they did not know. We know that we are very close to the end. We do not know the day, but we know that we are in the time and season, and if there was ever a people on the face of the earth in all the history of Christianity who needed to get prepared for something, it is we. We are not yet ready, and in God's mercy, He has given us time to prepare.
It was a good while before the disciples came to grips with the fact that the return of Jesus Christ would not occur in their lifetimes, a fact evident from what is written within the New Testament. The first thing they had to come to grips with was that they had a job to do before that time would come.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic
By stating this as He did, He was admonishing the apostles not to become fixated on the fulfillment of prophecies but to remain focused on preaching the gospel. For that end, He will give them power. He wanted them to concentrate on the job at hand. The Great Commission, though, is now not only global geographically, but in terms of time, it is also totally open-ended. Moreover, no God-given, intermediate goals are in sight. The church today must take its cue from the way Jesus Christ handled the situation with the first-century church.
What began at this critical time in history was that God's global re-educational institution—the church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)—was taking its first steps in teaching everyone worldwide how they should live. The church Jesus founded was beginning to preach the gospel from this starting point in both place and time, an activity that will eventually reach every person who has ever lived. In other words, beginning then, the church became the focal point of God's reeducation program.
Jesus was transitioning His work from what was merely an Old Covenant, Israelite, religious organization—of interest to relatively few outside Israel—to an educational organization that in terms of time will span thousands of years and become of intense interest to everybody. In directing the apostles in this way, Christ wanted His church to inaugurate this work yet keep it contained within the parameters He and the Father set as the church progressively developed at the speed it could handle effectively.
It may be helpful to remember that the earliest brethren in the church had to face their public responsibilities to Jesus without the help of what is now roughly one-third of the Bible—the New Testament. Scholars posit that the gospel of Mark was written first, followed by Matthew, Luke, and John. The earliest possible date even for Mark appears to be around AD 40, but some place it as late as AD 65.
In addition, it appears that I Thessalonians was the first of the epistles circulated within the church, but the apostle Paul did not write it until approximately AD 50. How many new converts even possessed their own copy of an Old Testament in their homes? Very few. There were no printing presses, no radio and television broadcasting, and no computers. To purchase a copy of the Old Testament would have cost a working man an entire year of wages! Was there a reference work similar to a Strong's Concordance of the Bible for somewhat more serious researching? Of course not.
Looking back in this way confirms that the early preaching of the gospel was a work of faith, highly dependent on the apostles' spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. What likely sustained the members' spirituality was the spoken word delivered to people who listened carefully and concentrated with great intensity. These “pioneers” were remarkable, spiritually-minded people.
The Jewish religious leadership perceived that the apostles lacked preparation for such a huge responsibility (Acts 4:13). This terminology does not mean that the apostles had received no education at all. The wording expresses that the Jews considered the apostles to be common men who lacked the educational advantages they would have received had they been prepared for such public evangelism in rabbinical schools. However, recall that Mark 3:13-14 establishes that Jesus chose and appointed those He specifically wanted as apostles so that they might be with Him (that is, to witness His teaching and activities), and He sent them out to preach. Undoubtedly, He was searching for budding characteristics that He could build upon. He prepared them well to carry out their responsibilities.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)
This verse provides the underlying reason for the visible manifestations of power shown in Acts 2:1-6. The resurrected Christ tells the apostles, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Mein Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
As in II Timothy 1:6-7, God's Spirit is linked with power—the effective capacity for God to work through a person. But this also shows what God intends when He gives the power of His Spirit: That person is to be a witness of Jesus Christ and ultimately of our Spiritual Father. This capability is not just for the apostles. We may not receive this power in the same dramatic way, and we may not be used in an apostolic role, but everyone who has received God's Spirit has the capacity to be a witness of God.
The Spirit of God, which is the same Spirit motivating Jesus Christ, imparts spiritual knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. It impels us toward holiness. It is a Spirit of power, love, and sound-mindedness. It is the essence of God's mind and enables the outworking of His will. God gives a measure of His own remarkable Spirit to incline His children to think the same way as He thinks and to live as He lives.
The more that we yield to, and make use of, God's Spirit, the more He gives. As we seek God's direction and instruction, and are careful not to quench or grieve the Spirit of our holy God (Ephesians 4:30), His character image takes shape in us. And as we grow in His image, we become witnesses of Him—our lives become testimonies of the goodness of God, the mind of God, the love of God, the holiness of God, the stability of God, and so much more. God gives us the essence of His mind so that we can reflect His glory to the world, through becoming just like Him.
David C. Grabbe
What Is the Holy Spirit?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Acts 1:8:
1 Thessalonians 5:1