Grace Church

Roanoke, Virginia

Dr. Jack L. Arnold

Lesson #3

ACTS

Ten Days Until Zero Hour

Acts 1:9-26

Most of us remember very vividly when the U. S. A. put the first man on the moon.  This was an exciting event.  Perhaps the most suspenseful part was not when Neil Armstrong put his foot on moon soil, but when the rocket was on the launching pad.  The excitement during the countdown was tremendous.  Would the rocket reach the moon?   Would it get off the ground?  Would the astronauts get back?  Then came the countdown, six, five, four, three, two, one - blast off!  Zero hour had arrived and history was in the making.

However, the most important events in all history have nothing to do with putting a man on the moon.  The most important events are the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  These events were essential if there was to be a Christian Church.  After Christ's ascension to the Father's right hand in heaven, the disciples were told to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost whereby believers in Jesus Christ would be baptized by the Holy Spirit, being put into union with Christ, forming His Body, the church.  This event was to take place on the Day of Pentecost.  This event at Pentecost changed the course of human history and today the church lives because the resurrected Christ has sent His Holy Spirit to the church.  Acts 1:9-26 tells us what happened during these ten days before the Holy Spirit came.  This was a spiritual countdown whereby each passing day would bring the followers of Christ one day closer to Pentecost and the forming of the church.  This spiritual countdown brought great suspense and anticipation.

WATCHING Acts 1:9-1

The Ascension (1:9):  “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received him out of their sight.”  --  Four times in Acts chapter one it says Christ “was taken up” (Acts 1:2, 9, 11, 22), so the ascension of Christ seems to be the key thought in this first chapter.  What an experience this must have been for the disciples.  As they were standing on the Mount of Olives, they saw Him suddenly lift and ascend into a cloud.  He disappeared and they would never see Him again in the flesh until He returns in His second advent (II Cor. 5:16).  As He rose supernaturally from their presence, a cloud, probably the Shekinah glory of the Old Testament, obscured Him as to suggest to them that while He was gone He was still there.  They were alone but they were not alone.  Christ would still be present with them through the work of the Holy Spirit.  Christ would now carry out His work on earth from heaven by means of the Holy Spirit working through men. 

The ascension tells us a resurrected, glorified man is in heaven at the right hand of the Father.  There is a man in glory, even Jesus Christ the Lord.  He is a representative man for true believers and because He is there Christians know they too shall be there one day themselves. 

The disciples stood looking and gazing at Christ as He moved into heaven.  They were awestruck and amazed with delight.  Men on earth were “goggle-eyed” over the ascension but what was happening in heaven at that moment?  What a homecoming it must have been as the God-Man took His place at the Father's right hand.  Never was there a coronation like that one.  What excitement must have taken place as millions and millions and millions of angels greeted the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified body.  This, was the first time that resurrected, glorified humanity had been seen in heaven, even though Elijah and Enoch had been taken up bodily into heaven.  The ascension was a glorious event for heaven.  Apparently every angel in the universe was there for this event but two, for two of these angels had to stay behind to deliver a message to the disciples.

It should be pointed out that space travel is nothing really new for the Bible-believing Christian.  In His ascension the Lord Jesus took off and did not need a launching pad, a space suit or a missile.  He supernaturally ascended.

The Second Advent (1:10, 11): “And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?  This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will cane in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’”

(1) The two men were probably angels but some have thought they might be Moses and Elijah because these two men are the great representatives of the Law and the Prophets.  It seems best, however, to take them as angels.

(2) Jesus Christ went into heaven in bodily form and He will return again to this earth in bodily form.  He went up personally, bodily and visibly and He will return the same way.  He will even come back to the same location from which He left, the Mount of Olives.

“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south” (Zech. 14: 4).

Notice carefully the last words mentioned about Christ as He bodily had anything to do with this earth, are, “This Jesus . . . will come.”  Jesus Christ will return and conquer all His enemies at the second advent.  He at that time will establish His kingdom on earth and the saints shall reign with Him.

(3) When Christ returns, He will remove the curse on nature.  Men today are looking for a solution to the ecological crisis which the world faces.  Man's environment is about to swallow up humanity.  How shall we solve these problems?  We won't!  They are going to get much worse.  The situation will get so bad that human life will hardly be able to exist on this planet.  Christ said that the Tribulation of the future would be so terrible that no flesh would be saved if it were not for the intervention of God.  Christ will intervene into history at His second advent, and then He will solve the ecology problem by removing the curse from the earth so that all nature will bloom and blossom again.

WAITING  Acts 1:12-14

For forty days, Christ had taught His disciples in His post-resurrection ministry.  He taught them about Himself in the Old Testament.  He instructed them about the fact that the earthly kingdom to Israel has been postponed and in this present age, from the Day of Pentecost to the second advent, and Christians are to be witnesses for Christ, for God is calling out the church in this age and will bring the earthly kingdom in His own good time.  The last thing Christ said while on this earth is, “Be witnesses.”  The basic program for the church is to be witnesses unto the whole world, for God is calling out a people, the church, for Himself through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit.  Christians are to spread the good news of Christ everywhere.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth!” (Acts 1:8).

However, immediately after the ascension of Christ, Christ told His disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Spirit.  “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49).  They were to wait for ten days and then the Spirit would come.

The Group (1:12, 13 ,14b):  (1) “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.”  --  According to Jewish law a person could only travel seven and one-half furlongs on the Sabbath.  This is two-thousand paces and equivalent to about one mile.  Jesus Christ ascended from the eastern side of Mount of Olives and this was about one mile from the Temple in Jerusalem. 

(2) “And when they had entered. they went up to the upper room, where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, the son of Alpheus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas, the son of James . . . along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

There was an “upper room” in almost all the homes in the city of Jerusalem, especially in the homes of the wealthy and prominent.  It was a large room used for religious gatherings (prayer and devotion), family gatherings and it was the place the dead were laid before burial for viewing (Acts 9:36, 37; 20:7, 8).  It may have been like our modern day basement or recreation room.  This particular upper room may have been in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark where Christ gathered with the disciples before His death to give the Upper Room Discourse.

Notice carefully the eleven disciples were present.  The “women” were probably Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Chuza and Susanna (Lk. 8:2, 3) and possibly others who ministered to Christ during his earthly ministry.  Who cooked Christ's meals?  Who washed His clothes?  Who ministered to His needs?  Obviously these women did because they devoted themselves to Christ.  “His brothers” are his half brothers who were rejecters of Christ until his death and resurrection (John 7:5).  Notice that “Mary, the mother of Jesus” is mentioned.  This is the very last time Mary is mentioned in the Bible.  She, like the rest, was waiting for the Day of Pentecost when she would be baptized by the Holy Spirit and put into the Body of Christ, the church.  Mary was blessed among women because she was the mother of Jesus but she was just a sinner like every other human being in need of a Savior.  “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:47).  Mary is not a co-redemptrist or one through whom men approach Christ as some believe.  In this context, we find Mary praying to God and not being prayed to.  Mary left a godly example for all womanhood but she is no mediator between God and man, for there is only one mediator, Jesus Christ.  “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5).  Mary has no place of superiority among women or men other than she was the instrument God chose to bear the humanity of His dear Son.

The Gap (1:14):  “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”  --  During the ten days, the followers of Christ were not partying or sleeping or re creating but they were praying.  They were preparing themselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Do not misunderstand.  Their prayers did not bring the Holy Spirit, for the coming of the Spirit was predicted in the Old Testament and the Spirit was to come as scheduled on the Day of Pentecost.  However, because they were in prayer, they were ready to receive the Holy Spirit when He came.  These disciples gave themselves to prayer even though they knew God had a plan and His Spirit would come right on schedule as He promised.  Furthermore, they had unity in prayer for they were of “one mind.”  There is nothing sweeter than unity in prayer among Christians.

Prayer is always essential to the life of the people of God.  Without prayer, we will never see the Sovereign God work in our lives.  Just as the disciples needed time for self-examination and preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit, we today, after the Spirit has come, need time for self-examination and preparation for the mighty working of the Spirit in us.

There is no way we can duplicate this tarrying experience of the disciples today.  They were commanded to wait for the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  You and I do not live in the period between the ascension and Pentecost.  We today do not wait for the Holy Spirit because He came two thousand years ago.  We cannot tarry for the Holy Spirit and hope to reproduce a modern day Pentecost.  Pentecost cannot and will not be repeated.

WANDERING FROM THE WILL OF GOD  Acts 1:15-26

The Right Scriptural Base (1:15-20):  (1) “And at this time Peter stood in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, . . .“  --  We cannot be sure whether this event took place in the upper room or in the Temple.  We do know the disciples were told to do nothing but wait, and in this context we find Peter, speaking as a representative for the disciples, telling of the need to replace Judas Iscariot with another apostle.  Peter and the other apostles clearly understood there had to be twelve apostles for the kingdom reign and for the foundation of the church.

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’” (Matt. 19:28).

“And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14).

“Having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Eph. 2:20).

It is my personal opinion that the selection of Matthias was out of the direct will of God.  Many Bible scholars would disagree with me, and, where there is disagreement, I do hope there is love.

(2) “’Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.  For he was counted among us, and received his portion in this ministry.’ (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.  And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood).  ‘For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no man dwell in it;’ and ‘His office let another man take.’”  --  Peter and the disciples studied the Old Testament and concluded that it taught that Judas should be replaced by another apostle to make the number twelve.  They quoted from Psalms 69:25 and Psalms 109:8 to prove that Judas was to be replaced.  Their biblical understanding was absolutely correct, but their method of picking a twelfth apostle was wrong.

As was characteristic of Peter, he became tired of waiting, and, with his impetuous personality, he called an election, thinking it was absolutely necessary to have a twelfth apostle right then.  Peter and the others got antsy and could not wait.  God said wait and they said “vote“.  Their impatience got them into a lot of hot water as we shall learn.

The Wrong Conclusion (1:21-26):  (1) “It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us -- beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us -- one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.”  --  I think Peter and the disciples set forth their own plan.  Since they had no revelation from God about the twelfth apostle, they were forced to use carnal means for the appointment.  Instead of waiting for Christ's choice, they set up a slate of candidates and cast lots to see who would win.

The qualifications to be an apostle were:  1) He had to be a witness of the Lord's earthly ministry and resurrection, assuming the disciples made up the right rules (Acts 1:21, 22);  2) He had to be directly called and commissioned to the office by Christ Himself (Lk. 6:13; Jn. 20:21); and 3) He performed miracles to substantiate the office that Christ gave him (II Cor. 12:12; Acts 5:12).

(2) “And they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was called Justus), and Matthias”  --  The apostles appointed two men.  They did not wait for the Lord to appoint or ordain one but they suggested only two.  This actually limited the choice of the Lord to two when there may have been someone else out of the 120, or perhaps God had someone else in mind, completely unknown to the disciples.

It is my personal conviction that the twelfth apostle was the Apostle Paul and not Matthias.  All through his writing, Paul has to defend his right to be an apostle and states that over and over that God chose him.

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1).

“Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God . . .” (1 Cor. 1:1).

“Paul, an apostle (not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)” (Gal. 1:1).

Paul met the qualifications for an apostle:  l) He did see the resurrected Christ.  “Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (I Cor. 15:7, 8).  2) He was appointed to the office by Christ (Gal. 1:1) and 3) He performed miracles.

It is interesting to note that after this mention of Matthias, we never hear of him again in scripture.  Why?  Because he was not God's choice but man’s choice.  Notice it says that Matthias was “numbered with the eleven apostles.”  Why eleven and not twelve?  This may be the Holy Spirit's way of subtly saying that Matthias, while a good man, was not God's choice for the twelfth apostle.

(3) “And they prayed and said, ‘Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show us which one of these two Thou hast chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’” --  Notice the disciples prayed after they had made the appointments and not before, and they asked the Lord to show which one He wanted.  How could they be sure that God's chosen one was either of these two?  What did they do wrong?  They made up their minds first and then asked God to endorse their choice.  They were sincere but sincerely wrong.

The eleven disciples were just human and even though they had been in prayer for days, they broke Christ's command to wait and began to take matters into their own hands.  They took a carnal approach to a right biblical conclusion and tried to force their will on God's will.  The result was grief for the Apostle Paul and strife within the church.  Paul had to suffer all his life because of this mistake by the eleven apostles.

Human mistakes and forcing our will on God's will always hurts us, others and brings some kind of division among Christians.  Impatience can only be rewarded by grief.  Obedience in exercising patience is always rewarded with blessing,

(4) “And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven.”  --  The way the disciples decided to choose the right apostle was to cast lots.  Now we are not told specifically what this act was.  Some have thought it was like drawing straws or pulling a name out of the hat or flipping a coin.  The procedure used was to put the names of the two men on pieces of wood or rock and then also other blank pieces were put into an urn or jar.  The jar was shaken and the first name to flip out of the jar was the right choice.

Casting lots was an Old Testament practice (Lev. 16:8 cf. Prov. 16:33), but it seems very risky to make such an important choice as the appointing of an apostle by the casting of lots.  It is questionable that God honored the choice of Matthias and it seems as though the election was a matter of chance rather than of divine guidance.  Whatever, with the coming of the Holy Spirit and New Testament revelation, there is no need for casting of lots to determine the will of God.

WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE BY JUDAS  Acts 1:16-19

Contradiction About Judas' Death.  Some liberals have stated that the scriptures have a contradiction about the death of Judas.  Acts 1:18 says, “Falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out,” and in Matthew 27:5 it says that Judas “went out and hanged himself.”  Is this a contradiction?  I think not.  Peter in Acts 1:18 is simply giving further information about the death of Judas.  Let's try and reenact the scene.  John says Judas “had the money box“; that is, he was treasurer of the group.  John also tells us that Judas was a thief, and he kept stealing money out of the common treasury (John 12:6).  What for?  Apparently Judas had accepted the idea that was current among the Jews that when Messiah would come He would overthrow the Roman government and establish a kingdom of power and glory with Israel at the head.  Judas was feathering his nest in anticipation of this event.  He was probably buying a plot of ground with the stolen money.  Perhaps he realized that Jesus was approaching a crisis and he realized he was thirty pieces of silver short from purchasing the land.  So he made arrangements with the high priest to betray the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver as it was predicted he would do in the Old Testament.  But when he did the dastardly deed and led the soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane and kissed Jesus to betray Him, he apparently realized what he had done and felt great remorse and agony of conscience.  He took the money back to the high priest and threw it at his feet saying, “Behold, I have betrayed innocent blood.”  Then he went out and hanged himself.  Hanging there, on the very ground that he had hoped to buy for his home, his body bloated and swelled until the rope broke or came untied and he fell headlong to the ground and his bowels gushed out.  Then the priest knowing that this was blood money, refused to put it in the treasury.  The priests had a custom to purchase a small plot of land for people to be buried on if they could not afford it or were strangers.  The priests then took the thirty pieces of silver and bought the land for Judas that he might be buried on it.  The priests apparently bought the land from a potter which fulfills Zechariah's prophecy that the land would be bought from a potter (Zech. 11:12, 13).  However, because this land was the scene of the suicide of Judas, a place marked by the blood of a guilty man, they called it “The Field of Blood“.

Characteristics of Judas.  (1) Judas Iscariot was a very interesting person and we can learn much by studying him.  Judas was “counted among” the disciples “and received his portion in this ministry” (Acts 1:17).  He was one of the original twelve and was given the position of treasurer among them (John 12:6).  Judas had an insatiable desire for money and the power and prestige which money brings.  He was obsessed with the love of money, so much so, that he became a thief (John 12:6).  Judas first and foremost was an opportunist, for he was always looking out for himself.  His philosophy was “money talks” and “everyone has his price“.  Judas obviously wanted the treasurer's position because he knew if he could control the purse strings, he could control everything.  He was money mad but he concealed it very well.  Outwardly, Judas looked like a good man with a concern for the poor.  When Mary was anointing Jesus' feet, it was Judas who said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to poor people” (John 12:5)?

(2) Judas did not get his apostleship by accident.  In fact, nothing he did in life was by accident.  Judas was chosen by Christ and Christ knew he was a devil.  “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’” (John 6:70).  Even the betrayal of Christ by Judas was somehow in the plan of God and accomplished according to predictive scripture.  “While I was with then, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).  Everything about Judas's life was planned but he still did all of his evil acts by choice and was held accountable for everything he did do.

“The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed!  It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24).

“For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man through whom He is betrayed!“ (Lk. 22:22).

Judas was so wicked, so despicable, so corrupt that it was better that he should have never been born (Matt. 26:24).  All of the life of Judas was in the plan of God but he was still responsible for every act he did and God judged him for his voluntary acts.  There is obviously a mystery here between the sovereign purposes of God and man's responsibility which we will never solve with our finite minds!

(3) Judas had the respect of all of the apostles.  He was loved and had such an external, outward religiosity that he fooled even the other eleven.  They had no idea he was a thief and an apostate.  He fooled everyone but Christ because Christ knew what was in his heart.  Judas may have been the natural leader in the group and not Peter.  He was probably a fine, outstanding man, suave and handsome.  Outwardly he stood for morality, honesty, goodness and generosity but in his heart he was corrupt and a hater of Christ.

Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse use to say, “If you are going to look for Satan, be sure you look in the pulpit!”

(4) Judas was not a saved man.  He was never saved.  While Judas “turned aside” from his ministry and apostleship, he was not truly regenerated from above (Acts 1:25).  Judas never in all the Gospels called Jesus “Lord“.  When the eleven apostles thought they may be guilty of the betrayal of Christ, they all replied, “Is it I, Lord!”  When Judas was confronted by Christ, he said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi” (Matt. 26:25)?  Judas did not want Christ to rule and reign over his life and his heart was never submitted to the Lord.  Even after Judas had felt remorse about squealing on Christ, the Bible says, “He repented himself” (Matt. 27:3).  The word “repent“ means “remorse” or “regret“.  Judas did not have a true change of mind but was only sorry he was caught.  His heart was never changed about Christ.  He never wanted Christ to rule his life.  He hated the idea of being in submission to the Lord Jesus, and the consequence was that he went “to his own place” (Acts 1: 25).  The context would tell us “his own place” was the land he was buying out of the stolen money, but there may be a double meaning here.  Judas, a son of the night, went into a place of outer darkness.  Judas' place was in hell for he was the “son of perdition“.  Judas sold the Lord Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver and paid a heavy price for that act - he was cast into outer darkness where there is screaming and gnashing of teeth.

CONCLUSION

The lesson from Judas is that we can be close to the Lord and yet be far from Him in spirit. We can know about Christ and even serve Him to some degree and still not be in submission to Him.  Judas could well be a preacher, an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher or a “good churchman.”  The message of Judas is for those who profess Christ, but they are to look into their hearts to see why they are following Him and if they have really placed themselves under Christ's Lordship.  If one out of the original twelve was a devil, then what must the percentage be today of those who profess to be followers of Christ?  Perhaps one in twelve people who profess Christ within the sound of my voice is a devil.  Examine your heart, professing Christian, and make. sure Christ is your Lord as well as your Savior lest you end up like Judas.

Judas sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver.  I know people who are selling Him for less than that.  Some sell Christ for worldly pleasure.  Some sell Him for the price of fleshly lusts and carnal indulgences.  Others sell Him for money, prestige, power, fame or whatever.  What are you selling Christ for, unsaved man?  At whatever price, it is a bad bargain!  Judas forfeited eternal life because of his rebellion and so will you.  You shall perish if you do not yield to Christ as Lord and Savior!