From the resurrection of our Saviour to the day of Pentecost was exactly fifty days. The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth.” The “day of Pentecost” was a Jewish feast day, which God instituted in the congregation of Israel under the Levitical law.

The “fifty days” counted off between the “sheaf of the wave offering” and the “new meat (meal) offering,” as recorded in Leviticus 23:15-27, is a clear, scriptural picture of the “fifty days” between the offering of Christ on the cross (Matthew 27:33-50) and the “day of Pentecost” (Acts 2:1Acts 20:16, and I Corinthians 16:8). This explains why there had to be fifty days, no more and no less, between the resurrection and the day of Pentecost. Hence, the language of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come.”

All the recorded events of the first chapter of Acts took place during these fifty days between the resurrection and Pentecost. Forty of these days were taken up by the Lord in His ministry with the disciples whom He had chosen. He “showed 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: 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. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” After His ascension, the apostles waited exactly ten days for the fulfillment of this promise.

Before we go further into the events of this first chapter of Acts, let us very briefly review the contents of the “former treatise” spoken of in the first verse. The first four verses of the gospel according to Luke seem to make clear the fact that this former treatise is Luke’s gospel account. It includes “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach until the day in which He was taken up” (Acts 1:1-2). This, of course, covers His entire ministry from birth (Luke 2:11) until He was “carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51).

It is very significant that the same human instrument should be chosen to write concerning the works and teachings of our Lord as recorded in the gospel of Luke, and concerning the heavenly ministry of our Lord as recorded in the book of Acts. The two books are necessarily linked together by the Holy Spirit. Both books deal largely with the ministry of Christ in connection with Israel and the kingdom. We find no mention of the “church, which is His body” in either book. Where Luke leaves off in his gospel account, he begins in the book of Acts.

We know from Christ’s own testimony that His earthly ministry was directed to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). We know also that He sent forth His twelve “and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).

We also know that the earthly ministry of our Lord was devoted to “the kingdom of heaven.” He came forth in the days of John the Baptist “preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2). He also instructed His twelve disciples saying, ‘As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7).

This kingdom message of our Lord and of His disciples was rejected by the nation of Israel. In blindness, they crucified their King. In this, the nation of Israel blasphemed “the Son of Man.” This reminds us of the words of our Lord to His people Israel as recorded in Matthew 12:32—”And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world (age), neither in the world (age) to come.”

Israel spoke against the Son of Man, crying out with one voice, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” They did crucify Him, but while He was hanging on the cross, He prayed for them saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The Father heard the prayer of His Son and the blasphemy of Israel against “the Son of Man” was forgiven, even according to the words of Christ in Matthew 12:32. This act of forgiveness on the part of God meant another chance for the nation of Israel. This is why the risen Christ called about Him the very apostles “whom He had chosen” (Acts 1:2) and began speaking to them “things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

After the risen Lord had commanded His chosen apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the “promise of the Father,” or the baptism of the Holy Ghost, they asked of Him—”Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). This was a logical question for the apostles to ask. The hope of the kingdom was the only hope which God had made known to them. They had thought that Christ, during His earthly ministry, “should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24:21). These who had been “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” concerning His suffering before His entrance “into glory” (Luke 24:25-26) were now ready to join with the risen Christ in the establishment of His heavenly kingdom on the earth. They were ready to say “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

Even though the anxious apostles were ready for the kingdom to be set up by the risen Lord, the nation of Israel as a whole was not ready. They were still “stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.” They were still ready to do as their fathers had done—”resist the Holy Ghost” and persecute the prophets (Acts 7:51-52).

It was the plan of God that these few apostles and their few followers were to carry the kingdom message again to the nation of Israel and this they could not do without the baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Christ answered their question of verse 6 by saying, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. 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” (Acts 1:7-8).

Just as the Father had witnessed to the nation of Israel in the days of Samuel and said to this last judge of Israel, “they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them;” and just as the Son had witnessed to Israel and heard them say “Crucify Him, crucify Him;” so the Holy Spirit must make His appeal to the chosen nation. The book of Acts records the response on the part of national Israel to the appeal of the Holy Spirit for repentance.

The apostles were to do the witnessing, but the Holy Ghost was to furnish the power. They were to be merely instruments in His hands, moving out in their ministry “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Just as Christ began His earthly ministry in Jerusalem and in Judaea and then let it extend even unto the Syrophenician woman of Matthew 15:21-28, so the Holy Spirit was to begin His ministry in Jerusalem and Judaea and extend it unto “men uncircumcised” in the house of Cornelius (Acts, chapters 10 and 11).

Just as Jesus of Nazareth was approved of God in the midst of Israel “by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him” (Acts 2:22), so the Holy Spirit was to manifest Himself through the apostles and them that believed by miracles and wonders and signs as they went forth during the Acts period under the commission given by the risen Christ (Mark 16:14-20).

As we travel through the entire book of Acts, we are going to see how the Holy Spirit ministered first to the Jew only, and later to both Jew and Gentile, but to the Jew first. We are going to see how the risen Christ is exalted by the Holy Spirit as “a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). All through the book He will hold up before national Israel the hope of the kingdom.

The Hope of Israel

The “kingdom of heaven,” or the literal heavenly rule of the risen Christ on this earth, is the “hope of Israel” spoken of by Paul in God’s last message to the people of that nation before He set them aside (Acts 28:20-28).

This hope was planted in the hearts of all Israelites who had “ears to hear” by the words of their prophets—”For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

The angel flashed this hope before the virgin Mary when he made known unto her that she was to be the mother of the promised child, Jesus—”And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name, JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).

When Mary and Joseph brought the child, Jesus, “to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord,” they found just and devout Simeon, Anna, a prophetess, and a little remnant of Israelites “waiting for the consolation of Israel”—”And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law, then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation: which Thou has prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary, His mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25-38).

The disciples, who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry, hoped that He would redeem their nation; but their hopes seemed to fade when He was crucified—”But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done” (Luke 24:21). The risen Christ opened the Word of God unto these disciples—”And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). He called their attention to the writings in the “law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms,” concerning Himself—”Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:45-49).

After assuring His disciples that the Holy Spirit was coming within a few days to endue them with “power from on high,” and to make them witnesses unto Himself, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth, “He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 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” (Acts 1:9-11).

The promise of these two messengers was that “this same Jesus” who had been taken up from them into heaven was to return unto them “in like manner” as they had seen Him go. He went away in “a body of flesh and bone” (Luke 24:39): He shall return in that same body. He went away in “a cloud” (Acts 1:9): He shall return “with clouds” (Revelvation 1:7). He showed Thomas His nail-scarred hands before He was taken up (John 20:24-28): the little remnant of Israel shall see the same scars when He returns at the close of the tribulation period (Zechariah 13:6).

Yes, He is coming back to rule and to reign on this earth—”It won’t be long, and it may be soon.”

His second coming, as promised throughout the book of Acts, is in connection with His revelation as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” The book of Acts doesn’t mention the coming of the Lord Jesus in the air to silently catch up “His body, the church” unto Himself in glory.

The gazing Galileans of Acts 1:11 must have been thrilled with the hope that their once crucified but now risen and ascended Saviour was going to return to them in like manner as they had seen Him depart. After the messengers had spoken unto them concerning His return, they paused on the brow of the Mount of Olives long enough to worship Him and then they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:52-53).

We see them in “an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. They all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:12-14).

We call attention to the fact that Mary, the mother of Jesus, took her place with the rest of His followers as they returned from the Mount of Olives to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. She did not take a place of interceding for the believers, but became identified with them in worship and expectancy, waiting for the Holy Spirit who was to send them forth as witnesses for their Saviour.

The hope of Israel is closely associated with the twelve apostles. Christ had said unto them, during His earthly ministry, “Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30).

There will be twelve thrones, consequently there must be twelve apostles to occupy these twelve thrones. Judas, of course, passed out of the picture after he had finished his work, as a devil, and one had to be appointed to take his place. The choice of Matthias is recorded in Acts 1:15-26.

We call special attention to the fact that Peter, the spokesman for the eleven, made it plain that they must choose a man who had “companied” with the eleven all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them “beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that He was taken up” (Acts 1:20-22). This new man, who was to be “numbered with the eleven apostles,” had to be familiar with the kingdom message from the days of John the Baptist unto the day in which Christ ascended. This was necessary because the twelve were to continue during the Acts period with the same kingdom message that had been borne so faithfully by John the Baptist and by Jesus Christ Himself. We also call attention to the fact that God did the choosing of this apostle (Acts 1:24).