The Book of Acts (Part 3)

The Book of Acts (Chapter 1:12-21)  (Part 3)

The Apostles had seen the Lord Jesus ascend into heaven in a cloud. Later they would understand that they, like Him, would also be caught up in the clouds as He was to meet Him at His Coming and then accompany Him back to earth. Paul writes about this; “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

The harbinger

The rapture of the Lord Jesus at His ascension was the harbinger of the rapture to come for His followers. He ascended into the clouds and so will His followers also experience the same thing. In the original Greek language the phrase “to meet” has the idea of people going out of a city to welcome an important dignitary and then after gathering around him accompanying back into the city. This is what will happen to those who are resurrected and raptured. They will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and then return with Him to earth. They do not go into heaven for seven years (a 7 year tribulation period) and then come back. This is the dispensational pre-tribulation rapture theory of eschatology but not taught in Scripture. The Greek meaning of the word “to meet” does not convey the idea that the Church disappears into heaven for seven years as taught in Dispensational Eschatology and then returns to earth with Jesus.

The ‘Harpazo’

The hope of the believers was the return of the Lord to rapture (Harpazo) to snatch them away “in the twinkling of an eye” to then judge the nations and then to set up His Millennial Kingdom. These events will happen sequentially. So then the Ascension of the Lord Jesus was a prototype of the rapture. We also need to keep in mind that there were others caught up into heaven. This subject is dealt with on our website titled; “Types of the Rapture” but is not the subject of these studies in Acts. Now let’s look at the text.

(Vs. 12)  “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

When the Lord Jesus comes back we are told that His feet will again stand on the Mount of Olives and that the mountain will be split in two to create a valley by which the faithful Jewish believers can escape and be protected from the forces of Antichrist. We are told this in the prophet Zechariah. It will be like what happened when the Red sea parted so that the Israelites could walk across dry ground to escape the forces of Pharaoh (a type of the Antichrist). So then the Lord Jesus will not only come back to earth in the same way He went into heaven but His feet will again stand on the mount of Olives. Now let’s continue.

(Vs. 13-14)   “When they had entered the city, 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 Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 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.”

Today in Christendom there is a lot of talk about unity. Many think that it is okay if Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and evangelicals work and pray together for unity and for a return to spiritual values, morality, ethics and social justice. This sounds and looks good on the surface but is it scriptural? Is unity based on denominations trying to work together for a common cause or on something deeper? One recent Mega-Church Pastor R…W… known all over the world sees nothing wrong with working hand in hand with Islam in seeking world peace. He even has a peace plan in place. However, can light and darkness have fellowship together? Do Christ and Satan have anything at all in common?

Then you have “Chrislam” an attempt by Christian leaders including Evangelicals to join hands in signing a document with Muslim leaders to work together in toleration and unity for the benefit of mankind, a kind of belief system that finds its unity not in Biblical doctrine but in a humanistic centred, kind of sloppy sentimentalism that in reality throws Biblical truth out of the window. Islam itself says “God has no son, neither does He beget a son.” Scripture is clear when it says; “that which denies the Father and the Son is Antichrist.” How then can unity be based on a kind of quasi doctrine that says we must love and accept one another even though we disagree in what we believe?

Furthermore, there is much talk of Ecumenical Unity today as well as interfaith associations and dialogue, however, when you look at the fundamental doctrine of the Mass of Roman Catholicism and other doctrines they teach how can those who claim to be Biblically faithful join hands with a de-facto Christian religious system that teaches another way of salvation through the mass and the sacraments and that the Mass itself is a perpetual sacrifice of Jesus. This in itself does away with the teaching of Hebrews which clearly states that what Jesus did at the cross was a sacrifice made once and for all time and never to be repeated. Many Roman Catholics, and believe it or not, even professing Evangelicals, believe that the path to unity is in Ecumenism. Others believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the same God the Muslims call Allah. The point of all of this is to ask the question; “Is unity based on denominational and religious structures, tolerance of differing doctrines or on something deeper and truly Biblical?

What do we read here in the texts we are looking at about the followers of Jesus in the upper room, in all about 120 believers? “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer.” They were of “one mind.” Their thinking was unified. They did not have any differences in their mindset regarding the things they has witnessed and heard from the Lord Jesus. They had unity of doctrine. After the Spirit of God had been poured out on the Day of Pentecost we read; “they were “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). The first thing mentioned is that they devoted or gave themselves over to the Apostle’s teaching and that their fellowship and corporate prayer and worship were based on apostolic doctrine.

Furthermore, when they were filled with the Spirit as a group for the second time we read what happened. “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:31-35). They were of “One heart and soul” in other words we see a true spiritual unity that resulted in social action and reform, a unity brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit.

True unity is based on all Biblical truth and not error. The Lord Jesus Himself said “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth;” (John 16:13). Furthermore when Jesus prayed for His followers He prayed; “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The Psalmist understood this when he wrote; “The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Psalm 119:160). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth and not error and He has given us the Word of God written through men. Notice the Psalmist when addressing the LORD says; “The sum of Your word is truth.” In other words he was confirming the truth that “All Scripture is inspired (Spirit-breathed) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17).

The Holy Spirit will never lead anyone into doctrinal error or into ecumenical unity. He is the Spirit of truth and not error! He has authored the whole of the Bible. Church leaders do not have the luxury of choosing the parts they want to accept while ignoring the parts they don’t like or disagree with. True unity is based on the truth of God’s Word and those who are really filled with the Spirit will devote themselves to the Apostles doctrine, namely the texts of scripture as we have received them in their entirety. In fact, those who are genuinely filled with the Spirit of God will freely confess to the LORD; “The sum (the whole) of Your word is truth!” A unity based on anything else will not work! Now let’s continue.

(Vs. 15-17)At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “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 share in this ministry.”

Peter was the spokesman for the fellowship. He was the predominant preaching Apostle among the fellowship of believers. The Apostle John was also accompanying Peter and together these two were the predominant leaders. Later, of course, in the book of Acts the focus fell upon the Apostle Paul’s ministry. At this time when the 120 were gathered together in the upper room waiting for the promised Holy Spirit to fall on them Paul was not even a saved man at this stage. Judas had been one of the disciples and had been associated with them and had been a partaker in the ministry and service that the Lord Jesus had called them to. He had worked miracles in the name and power of Jesus as the other Apostles had done, however, in the end he proved to be a traitor. His motive was money and I dare say power. Most probably he thought, like the other apostles did, that the Lord Jesus would establish the Kingdom of Israel again. When Judas saw that the Lord Jesus was going down another path he tried to force His hand to resist the Romans. When this failed to occur Judas in his unregenerate heart and mind decided to try to force the Lord Jesus to take action but it failed to do this. As a result of his misguided thinking and love for money in his disillusionment he took his own life.

In the last days there will be those in leadership and even claiming to be evangelical who will betray Bible believing Christians to the authorities. They may look like Bible believing leaders and speak like Bible believing leaders but sell their fellow believers out for money, for power and by embracing unbiblical doctrines. They claim to be very close to the Lord Jesus but in the end they are betraying Him. When we see Ecumenism and interfaith associations you see the betrayal. When we see well known leaders signing an unbiblical document under the auspices of “Chrislam” we see the betrayal. When we see psychology replacing the Bible we see the betrayal. When we see leaders promoting unbiblical doctrines and pseudo-spiritual movements such as the laughing revival, Pensacola, Lakeland Florida, the Immerging Church, Alpha and the Purpose driven agenda or the manifest sons of God doctrines we have the betrayal. When we see the money preachers of the faith prosperity movement teaching covetousness under the mask of health and wealth we see the betrayal. When we see Biblical men and women who stand on the Bible alone sidelined and marginalized by Church leaders because they are faithful to the Word of God you have the betrayal.

Those who will betray us as believers in the end will be very close to us as Judas was to the disciples. During His whole three and a half years in public ministry only the Lord Jesus knew from the beginning who it was that would betray Him. Somehow Judas’ real intentions were masked from the other disciples. As it was then so it is today. This is why the spiritual gift of discernment is desperately needed in the Body of the Messiah today! We are being betrayed and the great betrayal will come when the Apostasy happens!

Peter James, John, the Apostle Paul and Jude in their letters specifically address the issue of those false apostles, prophets and teachers who secretly introduce destructive heresies and even participate in the Lord’s Supper pretending to be believers when in fact they are wolves and false shepherds who only feed themselves at the expense of the flock, a greedy, accursed and evil brood whose end is blackest darkness forever. It was Judas who guided the soldiers and religious leaders to take the Lord Jesus. Judas was one of the disciples own company and very close to them. They knew him well yet they didn’t know him at all!

In the Last Days this will happen in the Church. Many leaders and ministers will betray their people in the end. They will get with the government programme and compromise their loyalty to the Lord Jesus for the sake of their pension and their good standing in the community and to keep their congregations by giving them what they want to hear instead of giving them what they need to hear. This is already happening today, the betrayal by many of our leaders and ministers in wholesale lots is yet to come. Many of them will have been into signs, miracles and wonders big time! In a war the snipers always target the leaders because they know if they can knock them off then the army will not be able to function effectively in the field. Satan goes for the leaders. It was the same in the Old Testament as it was in the New Testament. It has been that way down through the history of the Church and it will be a chronic problem in the Last Days. Spiritual deception will be the name of the game! In His Olivet Discourse the Lord Jesus warned the faithful. He spoke about wars, diseases, famines and earthquakes once but spoke about spiritual deception four times. Virtually the first words out of His mouth was; “Let no one deceive you.”

(Vs. 18-22)(Now this man (Judas) acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines 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 one dwell in it’; and, ‘Let another man take his office.’ Therefore it is 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 must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

A new apostle had to be elected to replace Judas. He had to be one who had been accompanying the other eleven from the time that Jesus had moved among them and had been disciples of John the Baptist. He would have to be a witness to the resurrection first hand. These were the basic qualifications for a man to be given equal authority along with the other eleven Apostles. Now some suggest that the Apostle Paul was really the 12th Apostle, however, he was not a follower of John the Baptist, neither had he been with the apostles from the beginning of Jesus ministry. Also Paul had not been a first-hand witness to the resurrection of Jesus. However, after he had been appointed an Apostle by a direct revelation form the Lord Jesus he shared equal authority along with the other twelve. Like them Paul had been personally commissioned by the Lord Jesus to be an Apostle as well. Even though there were other Apostles around the twelve and Paul was unique. Several of them wrote scripture. There were other apostles around in the first century.

In the Last Days the Apostolic calling and empowerment will become a prominent ministry again in the faithful Body of the Messiah; however, they will not be like those who profess to be Apostles in the New Apostolic Movement. These men will be those who can really stand against demonic powers and heal the sick and work miracles. They will also be those who can rightly divide the Word of truth to others and move in the genuine gifts of the Spirit. They will be first and foremost men of the Word of God before anything else. They will be powerful advocates of the Resurrection of Jesus! They will also experience strong opposition and persecution at times both from within and from without the professing Christian Church. Satan will target them personally.

Their role will be foundational in that they will support the Body of the Messiah and not rule it from the top. They will also have doctrinal oversight but they will not go beyond what is written in the Word of God. Just as there were an abundance of spiritual gifts in the early Church so in the last days there will be an abundance of genuine spiritual gifts operating in the faithful Body of the Messiah, the Church of the Living God. However, there are those today who are claiming to be apostles but are not! So then let’s continue.

(Vs. 23-26)   “So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.”

In the Old Testament drawing lots was a way of discerning the will of the LORD. Here in the book of Acts we see those drawing lots to choose the one whom God had appointed for the Apostolic Ministry. They made it a matter of prayer and sought the LORD’s guidance. Praying and drawing lots was the Biblical thing to do as they understood the scriptures and in no way showed that they were not open to God’s leading in this matter. They expected God to answer them. In that situation it was the logical way for them to make the decision. The Holy Spirit was already indwelling each of them individually and they were all born again by the same Spirit, however, He had not been poured out upon them collectively as a united body of believers.

Once the Holy Spirit had been poured out they would then have a deeper insight into the will of God as they were led by the Holy Spirit personally and corporately as the Body of the Messiah. They were indwelt but not empowered for witnessing and service. They were waiting in the upper room, all with one mind, and were continually devoting themselves to prayer! As they prayed and waited upon God it was not very long after that they were anointed with the Spirit of God and with power from on High! After that the world would never be the same again!

Go to part 4