Acts Chapter 1:Jesus’ Ascension, Judas’ Falling, Matthias

Jan 4th, 2010 | By | Category: Acts, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Acts Chapter 1:Jesus’ Ascension, Judas’ Falling, Matthias

Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

Luke recorded the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke, and in both cases, he was writing for the Apostle Paul. The beginning of each writing mentions Theophilus. “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3). Presumably Theophilus was a Christian, having given his heart and life to the Lord. A wealthy man, he wanted to help in the ministry, and feeling that Luke was talented, he decided to support him financially and no doubt in various other ways too, such as providing writing materials.

The term “former treatise” refers to the Gospel of Luke. Luke said he recorded in the Gospel “all that Jesus began both to do and teach,” but the word “all” should be understood in a modified sense. To the best of his ability, Luke wrote “in order [sequence]” all that the Holy Spirit helped him to recollect personally and through Paul. Now Luke addressed the same individual, Theophilus, and acknowledged that he would write something in addition to the Gospel. He was saying in effect, “Now I would like to record the apostles’ experiences subsequent to our Lord’s ministry.” The Book of Acts covers a period of about 35 years.

Comment: It is appropriate that Theophilus was memorialized in both books.

Reply: Sometimes a book is dedicated to a close and/or helpful individual, for example, “To my beloved wife.” Luke was saying that without the assistance of Theophilus, he might not have gone ahead with the writing.

Acts 1:2 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:

Comment: Luke 24:51 (three verses from the end of the Gospel) harmonizes with this verse: “And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”

Reply: Luke’s Gospel covers events until the day Jesus ascended. He “was … carried up into heaven” and “was taken up” in a cloud, thus being separated from them (Acts 1:9). Both narratives use passive voice. Luke appended the last part of his Gospel to the beginning of the Book of Acts.

Acts 1:3 To whom also 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:

Jesus’ “passion” was his suffering and death on the Cross. After Jesus was resurrected, “he showed himself alive … by many infallible proofs”; that is, he was seen on and off for 40 days by multiple witnesses. Paul knew about Jesus’ life and background because he made special inquiry of Jesus’ half brothers and of two apostles, Peter and James.

Acts 1:4 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.

Verse 4 refers to the Pentecostal blessing. Before Jesus was taken up from the Mount of Olives, he instructed the apostles to wait in Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father,” that is, for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit descended on them ten days later. In other words, Jesus was with the apostles on and off for 40 days, and then they waited an additional ten days until Pentecost, the fiftieth day. It took patience to wait ten days in one location, and this was a test on the apostles.

Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

With these words of Jesus, the apostles knew they would have at least a two-day wait.

Comment: Imagine the excitement! After two days, they would not want to leave even to get food for fear they would miss whatever would happen.

Acts 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Whether they were eating together (see King James margin for verse 4) or at the mount, there was a little discussion, and the apostles asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

Comment: Jesus had already given his great prophecy of Matthew Chapter 24. The apostles’ question shows that they needed the Holy Spirit to understand the time feature.

Reply: They were probably somewhat numb with all that had happened. Indeed they had heard the sermon, so it had gone into their memory bank, but they would need the Holy Spirit of remembrance as a helper and an encouragement in his absence.

Acts 1:7 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.

Jesus gave this answer to the apostles’ question about restoring the Kingdom to Israel. We are reminded of Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Mark added the detail that even the Son did not know at the time: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32).

Comment: We are also reminded of the instruction to Daniel, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4).

Acts 1:8 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.

The Holy Spirit would empower them to be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem first, then in all Judea, next in Samaria, and finally in all the earth. Verse 8 shows not only the progression of the gospel message—starting at home base, as it were, then going to the surrounding area, proceeding on to the northern kingdom of Israel, and eventually going throughout the earth— but also the responsibility of the apostles.

Not until AD 36, which was 3 1/2 years later, did the gospel go to the Gentiles, starting with Cornelius. Based on the 70 weeks’ prophecy of Daniel, Jesus was cut off in the midst of the last week, leaving 3 1/2 years in which Israel’s most holy element would be anointed; that is, the most reverent and those most hungry for truth would be given a special unction of the Holy Spirit with gifts like the ones the apostles would shortly receive at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit would also enlighten the disciples as to the meaning of the 70 weeks’ prophecy of Daniel, among other things.

Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

We are reminded of Elijah’s being taken up in the whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1).

Comment: The wording “a cloud received him out of their sight” sounds as if a cloud was specially prepared for this occasion.

Acts 1:10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;

Acts 1:11 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.

Verses 10 and 11 remind us of the two angels at the tomb following Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:4). The similarity makes us wonder if these two beings, who looked like men in white apparel and were giving instruction, were the same two angels. They were saying in effect, “Why are you standing here gazing up into heaven? You have something to do. Jesus will come again in like manner as you have seen him go.”

Comment: The Harvest message helps us to realize what coming “in like manner” means. As the apostles, his followers, saw Jesus go, so sincere Christians with present truth, not the world, perceive his return at the Second Advent.

Reply: The emphasis is on the word “ye.” “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.” Jesus would come at the Second Advent in such a manner that only the brotherhood would be aware of his return.

Just as he privately took them to the Mount of Olives and instructed them personally—with only believers present—so it would be when he came again. Based on other Scriptures, we know he would not be seen literally.

Comment: Mark 16:14,19 tells that at least the eleven apostles (and perhaps a few others) were present. Also, the fact that Jesus went quietly up into heaven without commotion or show was a clue as to how he would return.

Reply: That is true. However, the main point here is that the apostles saw him go, not the world. It was a private audience. Those who saw Jesus ascend were a small number, and they were all specially chosen for the occasion. The implication is that Jesus would inform his followers when he returned at his Second Advent. Of course the disciples did not fully understand his words at this time.

The Apostle Paul gave Luke the information to record. With diligence and persistence, Paul sought accurate information about the Lord’s life from others who were present when he was not. There is a similarity to Jesus’ asking questions of the priests when he was a young boy only 12 years of age. His questions revealed the depth of his knowledge. Paul not only went into the wilderness for a while but also wanted to begin his ministry with as much understanding as possible—and then he went like a fireball.

In connection with the apostles’ ministry, it was very important for them to see Jesus ascend into heaven, for later they would be dispersed. For example, Mark traveled down to Egypt, and Thomas went toward India. Although they may have had companions, the apostles no longer went two by two with each other.

Acts 1:12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.

A “sabbath day’s journey” was about two miles. Travel could only be on foot and for this limited distance, which was reasonable for going to a synagogue or a house to observe a feast or the sabbath (see John 11:18).

Acts 1:13 And when they were come in, they went up into 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.

Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

The small number of brethren listed here would have fit in the “upper room,” which could have been the same room that was used to institute the Memorial. Those present were the eleven apostles; women; Mary, Jesus’ mother; and his brothers, Joses and Simon. One reason the women were there is that meals had to be served, and it was logical for Mary to be present because she was with John.

Earlier Joses and Simon did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, but now they believed. Various factors would have convinced them: the raising of Lazarus, Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and Jesus’ resurrection.

For the ten days of waiting, harmony and closeness and oneness of purpose in prayer characterized their association, for the brethren “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” This statement proves that Jesus’ two brothers had now accepted him and consecrated.

Acts 1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)

“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples.” Which “days”? Luke was writing this account many years later and describing conditions that existed during Jesus’ life and ministry and how he ascended on high in a cloud. Now he was referring to “those days,” that is, “at that time back there.” Acts 2:14 tells us that Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, so his standing up and speaking here in verse 15 had to be on the same day. (Surely Peter did not stand up and speak during the ten days that the disciples were praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit.) When the Holy Spirit came, the disciples were energized, and then Peter preached.

Comment: In this setting, Matthias was selected by lots, and surely the apostles did not do the selecting during the ten days they were praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit to come.

Reply: Luke was writing about something that had happened 30 or more years previous. He was saying, “Back there in those days, when these things occurred, Peter stood up and gave a sermon on the Day of Pentecost.” Earlier that same day, the disciples received the Holy Spirit.

Q: Could we say that verses 15 to 26 (the end of the chapter) were a parenthetical insert? The main narrative would then go from verse 14 to the first verse of Chapter 2.

A: Yes. Many writers and historians have used this technique.

Acts 1:16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

The Apostle Peter would have quoted Psalm 41:9, a prophecy that Judas would betray Jesus.

“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Judas acted as a “guide” in leading the apprehenders to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he identified Jesus with a kiss.

Comment: It is interesting that the same Greek word hetairos is translated “friend” only three times in the Gospels, and each time it is used in connection with either a Second Death class or Judas (Matt. 20:13; 22:12; 26:50).

Acts 1:17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

Judas “was numbered with us”; that is, he was one of the twelve apostles.

Comment: How sad it is that Judas threw away one of the twelve highest positions in the Kingdom—in fact, the highest position, for Paul took his place!

Acts 1:18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

Judas “purchased a field with the reward of iniquity”; that is, he returned the betrayal money, and the money was used to purchase a field that was called “potter’s field” because potters got their clay there (Matt. 27:10). Judas hung himself in that area. The branch probably broke, and “falling headlong” into the valley or field below, “he burst asunder in the midst” with the result that “all his bowels gushed out.” What a gruesome and notorious death—but fitting for the betrayer of Jesus! The horrible sight of his bowels gushing out vividly portrayed the Second Death fate of Judas.

Acts 1:19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

It was well known that Judas’s suicide had occurred there and that his bowels had gushed out.

Because of this awareness, the field was called “The field of blood.” In other words, later, after the returned money was used to purchase the field, the people associated the money, Judas, the betrayal, and the suicide.

Acts 1:20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take.

“Let his [Judas’s] habitation be desolate” is a quote from Psalm 69:25. The thought of “desolate” is that he would have no posterity and would go into Second Death. One who is raised from the tomb has a “habitation,” so Judas will not be raised. The multiple Scriptures about Judas, taken as a whole, clearly show he went into Second Death.

The actual Psalm 69:25 context discusses the Second Death element (plural), whereas here in the Book of Acts, Peter took the principle and applied it singularly to Judas. “Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents…. Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous” (Psa. 69:25,27,28).

Hebrews 10:27 says there awaits the Second Death class of the Gospel Age “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation,” yet many who go into Second Death have no fear because their conscience is so seared. Therefore, the context is stating the situation from the standpoint of the beholder. For example, we are horrified to read about Judas. The onlooker realizes the terrible thing that has happened, especially if he has known and associated with the Second Death person.

“His bishopric let another take.” Based on this text, the apostles felt justified in filling the vacancy left by Judas.

Acts 1:21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

Acts 1:22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

The eleven knew there should be twelve apostles, so they thought it would be appropriate for them to select the twelfth through prayer and lots. They reasoned that the twelfth had to be (1) a holy man, (2) one who had been on hand ever since John’s baptism of Jesus (and thus was familiar with Jesus), and (3) a witness of his resurrection. In other words, the one selected had to be on hand from the early days of Jesus’ ministry to the concluding days of his ministry.

Their reasoning sounded good, but the Lord’s reasoning was higher.

Acts 1:23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

Acts 1:24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen,

Acts 1:25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.

Acts 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Comment: The eleven thought the selection of Matthias by lots was the answer to prayer.

Reply: The apostles honestly thought this was the best way to proceed under the circumstances, but Matthias was their selection—they had cast the lots. The Lord did not reprimand them but simply ignored their choice.

The lot had to fall on one of the two, and it fell upon Matthias. This incident shows that the collective judgment of the brotherhood is not necessarily correct. Later, brethren laid their hands on Paul as if he were their representative and as if they were involved in his selection, but Paul was God’s choice through Jesus. Some brethren thought Paul should have certain constraints, but he was an apostle of Jesus Christ and not of men.

If we put ourselves in the place of Matthias, we can appreciate more fully his experience. A while after his selection, along came Paul saying that he was the twelfth apostle and that he had been appointed by God. This announcement could have been quite a trial for Matthias. We wonder if he was hurt by this experience.

(1991–1992 Study)

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