Acts is a book of history of the church during its establishment period, a record leading up to the end of the last days, though not inclusive of the final end of Judaism. As this book was written by Luke, we will use his gospel account as our primary reference to the gospel accounts, supplemented by the others.
Acts 1:1-5 Edit
1The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly immersed with water; but ye shall be immersed with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
After the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, Jesus proves His resurrection to many witnesses. He then alludes to something that John the immerser stated back in Luke 3:16. "I indeed immerse you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall immerse you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:"
John was not specific in who would be immersed with which, the Holy Ghost or fire. Since the Holy Ghost would only be given to those who obeyed the gospel (Acts 5:32), and fire has been firmly established as a symbol of divine judgment and destruction, then we know that no one John spoke to on the banks of the Jordan would receive both immersions. Jesus here provides specifics about who would be immersed with the Holy Ghost. The Apostles. He gives them a specific time and place, Jerusalem, no many days hence. He says nothing here of the fire part of John's message and it has no part in what would happen to the Apostles. More on this below.
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
At this point, without the Holy Spirit to guide them, the men who would become His Apostles still did not understand the nature of the kingdom. They still understood things in terms of a physical kingdom. Jesus' response alludes to the vengeance that would come, His return to bring judgment on the Jews, and the establishment of His kingdom.
In so doing, Jesus echoes his statement in Matthew 24:36: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." It is silly to teach that they never knew or would ever know when the event Jesus spoke of would happen. What Jesus is saying is that they aren't ready to know yet because it would come from the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth. We know from passages like 1 Thess. 5 and a number of others that the Christians knew full well when the time for the end of the Jewish system and the return of Christ was upon them. Until then, their job was not to worry about that judgment but to preach the gospel, first to the Jews then to all the world.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
This is one of those passages that speak of a literal return of Christ. The angel states explicitly that Jesus would return "in like manner as you have seen him go into Heaven". Jesus did not figuratively ascend into the sky and disappear into the clouds. He literally did so. So if He is to return in like manner, He will one day literally descend just as described in 1 Thess. 4:13f.
Acts 2 Edit
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
I reference this part only to point out what miracle was done to set up the next section. As an aside, though, I will point out that the miracle of speaking in tongues (languages) is about speaking in earthly languages that one has never studied before, not about some alleged Heavenly or angelic language.
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Peter directly references Joel 2 here. This is a very key passage because it explicitly defines what "the last days" would be identified by. These are the keys:
- The pouring out of God's Spirit upon all flesh, which then would enable:
- The descendants of the Jews in Joel's day to prophesy.
- Young men to see visions.
- Old men to dream dreams (akin to Joseph and Daniel's day).
- The servants of God will prophesy.
- Wonders in heaven (the sphere of government, metaphorical heaven).
- Wonders in earth (the land of Judea).
- These wonders would be blood (war), fire (judgment), vapor of smoke (destruction of cities - Isa. 34:10; Rev. 18:9, 18; 19:3).
- Sun darkened. (Matt. 24:29 - first part of Olivet Discourse relating to destruction of Jerusalem; Rev. 6:12).
- Moon turned to blood (Rev. 6:12).
- This would all happen before "the day of the Lord" (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; 34:8; Jer. 46:10; Lam. 2:22; Eze. 30:3; Joel 1:15; Amos 5:18; Zeph. 1-2; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5).
There can be no question that the last days Peter spoke of were of limited duration. The signs of the last days no longer apply and have not for more than 1900 years. The last days are not the last days of humanity, of God's creation, of the whole kosmos and time. The last days are the last days of Judaism. Any other interpretation is wholly ignorant of Biblical context of the phrase.
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be immersed every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the 'Lord' our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Peter warns the Jews assembled to repent and be immersed into Christ after speaking of the last days and identifying who Jesus was, the long looked for Messiah. He then tells them to save themselves from "this untoward (Grk. skolios - crooked, curved) generation". This should further seal the idea that what Peter spoke of related to that generation, just as Jesus had stated numerous times.
Acts 3:13-26 Edit
13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. 14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. 16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. 17 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. 23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. 24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. 25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
Peter again speaks of the death of Christ, and once again he speaks of the prophets to the Jews. He speaks of the ignorance of the Jewish people and their rulers (earth and heaven) of these prophecies, then makes some very interesting statements. The times of refreshing and the restitution of all things is a very powerful couple of phrases. It is no doubt that these, like 2 Pet. 3, have led to a very wrong understanding of what did happen and what is yet to come for us today because people do not use the whole context of the Bible. The times of refreshing or regeneration, the restitution of all things is exactly the same as what is recorded in Isa. 28; Matt. 19:28; Rom. 5, 2 Pet. 3; Rev. 21:5 and a number of passages that speak in similar terms. It is returning man to the right relationship with God that was lost with Adam's fall. Note that these are the times of refreshing and restitution of all things NOT the end of the kosmos! These aren't even close to the same type of concept. Furthermore, note that these times of regeneration would be when Christ would come, that God would send Jesus! What Peter is speaking of is not Jesus coming again to end the kosmos, but to renew the world. He is also not talking about the founding of the church, which happened in Acts 2. This is something yet future that he speaks of. The timing of these statements by Peter cannot be overemphasized and must not be underestimated.
Furthermore, as with 2 Peter 3, the Old Testamen prophets NEVER spoke even once of the literal end of the kosmos. So all this "as the prophets spoke of" cannot be about that. Moses spoke very precisely to the Jews about these things. God would raise up a prophet like him and he warns them that any soul that does not heed that prophet (Jesus), "shall be destroyed from among the people." This is a very specific phrase to use. The people is Israel and those who did not listen would no longer be part of Israel (because Israel would be the new Israel, the church). Finally, Peter again refers to what was transpiring, the healing of the lame man that started this conversation at the beginning of the chapter among other wonders, as "these days". Not "those days" as if they were afar off, but "these days". It is "this generation" as Jesus often used and said would not pass until all that He prophesied came to pass.
In Acts 4, the Sadducees bring Peter and John before the High Priest and the rulers, elders, and scribes of the Jews, basically all the leaders save Herod, the king. They asked them by what authority they were teaching and healing and Peter responds with the same message about Christ. At this point, the rulers are unwilling to punish them and let them go. Later, Peter recounts this to a gathering of Christians and in a prayer about what happened says:
25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? '26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. '27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
Peter here quotes David (Psa. 2:2) of "the kings of the earth" and the rulers who were gathered together against the Lord and against His anointed. Peter then identifies "the kings of the earth" as Herod and Pilate, the rulers over the land of Palestine. Once again, the symbol of "the earth" is associated with Palestine, with the people that live in that region, namely the people of Israel, the Jews. See also Matthew 17:25; Rev. 1:5; 6:15; 16:14; 17:2, 18; 18:3, 9; 19:19.
Without belaboring the point by quoting the chapter, the Apostles are again persecuted by the Jewish leaders, this time they are imprisoned and beaten. In every case it will be the Jews (not the Romans) that persecute the church.
Stephen comes on the scene and is able to successfully debate a number of sects of the Jewish wise men. He converts a number of them including a large group of the Levitical priests. He is then brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin Council where witnesses testify against him:
14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
What specifically Stephen is preaching is the same that Jesus said, that Herod's Temple would not have one stone left on the other and that it was Jesus who would destroy the Temple. It is, again, important to note that its the Jews harassing Stephen.
Acts is Stephen's response to the Jewish persecutors.
Acts 7:1-53 Edit
(suggest you read it)
It is not accident that Stephen starts with Abraham, focuses on Egypt and the persecution and subsequent freedom, wandering, and constant unfaithfulness afterward. The echoes of that time to the one Stephen now preached in. Significantly, Moses was a type of Christ and the Jews rejected him over and over again. They rejected him after he killed the Egyptian and then sought to keep them from fighting each other the next day. They rejected him when they were up against the Red Sea, at Sinai, over and over again in the wilderness wandering, spying out the promised land, through Korah's rebellion, and over and over again. Stephen was not blaspheming Moses or the law, he was showing the Jews that they had done that and were doing the same thing to Moses's antitype, Jesus.
Paul speaks much the same in 1 Cor. 10. The association to make here though is that the Jews of Stephen's day are just like Egypt in their persecution of the church. Just as the Jews persecute Stephen to death for what he says.
In Truth and Love.