Acts - Part II

The First Christians

"Then he opened their minds so
they could understand the Scriptures."

–Luke 24:45


The forty days

After the first Easter, Jesus appeared to many of his disciples over a period of forty days, offering ample proof that he was alive and speaking about the kingdom of God. Jesus had stated in Luke's gospel that his purpose was to restore God's kingdom over the entire world and he called for the Israelites to be part of the kingdom by following him. In the old testament, God's spirit dwelt in the temple among the Jews. The new temple would be quite different:

Acts 1:4-5 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."

This, of course, was prophesied:

Isaiah 32:14-15 14. The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, 15. till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.

AND

Ezekiel 36:24-28 24. " 'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

AND

Joel 2:28-29 28. "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit. They still didn't understand the kind of change that was coming; it's difficult to understand now. In verse eight, they ask Jesus if he is going to restore the kingdom to Israel. God's new kingdom will be multi-national and multi-ethnic. Just before Jesus returned to heaven, he said:

Acts 1:7-8 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."

Right after this, Jesus ascends to heaven. This imagery is depicted in Daniel in the vision of the four beasts:

Daniel 7:13-14 13. "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.



Replace the Missing Apostle

In the last part of Luke, it states that Jesus "opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures." At a gathering of believers (Acts says one hundred twenty were there,) Peter stands and quotes passages from two different Psalms: Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. Both are Psalms of David and seem to accurately address the vacancy left by Judas and the need to fill it. They select a couple of men that had been followers from the beginning and drew lots. The choice fell to Matthias, who then took Judas' place. Here are the passages Peter quoted:

Psalm 69:25 May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents.

Psalm 109:8 May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.

This seems like a small matter, but I thought it was interesting that Peter would "remember" the Psalm passages, let alone how they applied to the situation.



Wind and Fire

So we all know what happens at Pentecost. A Jewish tradition that takes place on the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath. It's called the Feast of Weeks in Deuteronomy (16:10), the Feast of the Harvest in Exodus (23:16), and the day of first-fruits in Numbers (28:26). It would have been a normal time for the Jews to gather together and eat like the Methodists do, but on this occasion, they were together in one place (probably the 120 mentioned in chapter one) and the sound of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the house. "They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."

God is taking up residence in his new temple. This, of course, has Old Testament precedence:

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

2Chronicles 7:1 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

These next two passages in Ezekiel and Haggai are prophetic, speaking of future events. Kinda like in Acts.

Ezekiel 43:5 Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

Haggai 2:7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord Almighty.

God is fulfilling his prophecy, but his new temple is not among his people, it is in his people. The Spirit is empowering the disciples to "witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." The disciples were talking in languages they had previously not known, so they could be understood by the nations they were about to travel to. Acts 2, verses five through twelve indicate there were Jews staying in Jerusalem "from every nation under heaven"." When they heard the sound of the arrival of the Spirit, they came together and were "Utterly amazed" at what they witnessed, or heard: Galileans speaking in their various languages.

Again, this was fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. God would unify Israel under Christ:

Isaiah 11:10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

Ezekiel 37:22-23 22. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.