Acts of the Apostles
02 - Background & Acts 1:1-8
Acts of the Apostles: 02 - Background & Acts 1:1-8
In this class, we will continue to look at the background of the book Acts and help understand the cultural context and historical setting. This lecture discusses Acts 1:1-8 .
Darris McNeely: Well, good morning, everyone. Welcome back to Acts. In the last class, we started into the full discussion on the Book of Acts and covered quite a bit of the background material in preparation for going into the text. And there's a little bit more that I want to cover here today before we plunged full stream into the text of the Book of Acts by way of background to help us understand the setting, the cultural context, the historical setting for the Book of Acts. And also, keep this in mind, it is also for the entire New Testament, your study of the Gospels and the Epistles. So, this information is germane to all of that as well.
I do want to mention something briefly about what we call the Greco-Roman world. The Greco-Roman world is, kind of, a catch-all term for the Greek and Roman world that essentially was the setting for the Book of Acts and the New Testament writers and that world. Greco, obviously, I think everybody would know, comes from Greece, and Roman speaks for itself. And what you have here is a cultural term that describes what was the culture of the world of the setting of the New Testament. It was a world that was largely created by the culture from Greece and largely because of the one person, named Alexander the Great, whose conquering of the former Persian Empire and all of the lands that we are talking about with the Mediterranean world and Israel, Judea, in particular, pertains to that. Alexander the Great had a tremendous influence because he spread the Greek language, the Greek culture into all parts of the world that he conquered, which included the area of Palestine, where the setting for the Bible takes place, and created a culture that everybody wanted to be a part of. It was very popular.
When the Romans came along and they conquered what was then the Roman Empire or the Greek world, and all of this section of this map here shows the Roman world at the time of the writing of the New Testament. "The Roman World and Paul's Journey" is how it's labeled here. But these lighter areas occupy the area of the Roman Empire, not in total, there's a lot more up here, including the British Isles, but it gives you a view of it, at least on the Mediterranean scene. But the Romans adopted much of the Greek culture and influence. The Romans too wanted to be like the Greeks, so they adopted their architecture and their dress, and many of their gods and goddesses just, kind of, comingled altogether. But it created what we call this Greco-Roman world. And that's a term that you will need to understand, and especially when it comes to just understanding the Roman world.
So, the next concept that you need to understand is what happened when the Roman Empire conquered the lands adjacent to what they had and created what we call the Roman Empire. They set up something that then becomes known in history as the Pax Romana. Does anybody know what the Pax Romana stands for? Yes, sir.
Man: Is it Roman peace?
Darris: Roman peace or the peace of Rome? Pax is the word for peace, and it's the peace of Rome. And it was a peace that was hard won and it was a peace that we gather from the Book of Daniel was kind of a peace that was enforced by a rod of iron. Iron is the symbol of the Roman Empire, back in the Book of Daniel 2. We'll talk about that as we cover that later on in our study of Daniel. But the Roman peace was a hard peace. In other words, you did not buck Rome. And if you got out of line, the Roman legions were waiting there to subdue you or reconquer you and make you like it, because this is what they wanted. This was the order that they established upon the world.
In fact, it's important to realize that the order of life politically, socially, culturally, economically, and even religiously, was something that was very important in the Roman Empire to maintain that order. And they maintained an order for a very long period of time over a diverse area, a diversity of peoples, languages, and religions, and it was one of the wonders of the ancient world, unspoken in that sense. But it was a peace that they put upon the nations that they conquered. And we find, as the New Testament opens up and the story of the New Testament opens up, that the land of Israel and Palestine, a name that actually Rome gave to this region that was formerly the nation of Israel, and now basically the people of Judah, they are under the peace of Rome. They don't like it, but they have to live with it, as all the other nations and peoples and tribes had to as Rome conquered this area.
The Jews have nobody but themselves to blame for that because midway through the 1st century BC, the Jews actually invited Rome to come in and help them quell a civil war that they had started among themselves. The Jews couldn't live at peace among themselves. And there was a Roman general called Pompey, Pompey the Great. And they said, "Would you please come down here and be a policeman?" And he did. And it was like inviting the fox into the chicken coop. He liked what he found and he just stayed. Rome stayed and they annexed this area. The Jews didn't like it, but when you open the New Testament, that's what you find. And this is important, however, to understand then what Roman posed upon this world enabled the church to actually do its work and for the Gospel to be spread into these lands because Rome not only brought order, they built roads.
And roads are very important. We all travel our interstate highways today. We appreciate those when they're built, and they're well-maintained, rest stops and wide lanes, etc., and gets us quickly between cities. The road system that the Rome built from connecting all these major areas to Rome and among themselves was a marvelous network. Many of those roads still remain. They were that well constructed. They're not necessarily used today, but you can find them in various places and actually walk on them. And that's where Paul walked, that's where Peter walked, as they took the Gospel out. Communication, mail system, was all a part of this as well. So, Paul could write a letter and send it to the church at Ephesus from Rome and it would get there. There was a guarantee that it would get there, or other communication that people would have for business and other reasons. And so, the economic, political, cultural system was in a general peace that allowed for things to go on, and especially the work of the Church.
There's a scripture in Galatians 4 that we should note and turn to and read at this point that will help us to understand why this Pax Romana is important. Paul is writing to the Church in Galatia, and while Galatians is a very technical, doctrinal book, he makes a statement in Galatians 4:4 Galatians 4:4But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
American King James Version×.
Galatians 4:4 Galatians 4:4But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
American King James Version×"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law."
We're just going to focus on the idea of "the fullness of time when God sent forth His Son, born of a woman," which speaks to the birth of Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew and Mark's Gospel in detail, which you'll be studying as you go through the Gospels, and we know that story in general anyway. But Paul calls this “the fullness of time.” Now, what does that mean in connection to what we're talking about here? It means that Jesus was born during the Roman Empire period. He was not born during the Greek Empire period, nor the Persian Empire period, nor the time of the Babylonian period. And there's reasons for that. We will go into all of them today. But the culture, the civilization, and all that I've been explaining, had reached, in this part of the world, such a height and such a stability that this is when God had determined that the birth of His son would take place and the beginning of the church.
Now, keep in mind that, in a few days, we will be going through Daniel 2, and we will read about four empires, Rome...or Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. And through Daniel, God gives this predictive prophecy of the rise of four great empires. God knew in advance there would be a great empire like Rome, and that would be the timing of the sending, if you will, of the Word, who became flesh, and Jesus Christ. And it was not going to happen during any previous period. And this is what is meant here by the fullness of times. And so, when we then open the Book of Luke, for instance, and we find in Chapter 2 of Luke...and let me just go ahead and turn there since I've mentioned it, that there was a time of a census, and this was at the time of Christ's birth.
Luke 2:1 Luke 2:1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
American King James Version×It says, "It came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered."
Now, again, I won't go into all the other information that is here, but it was during the time of Caesar Augustus that Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem, the timing of her pregnancy and the birth, and they wound up in Bethlehem because of the timing of the census. Again, I'm not intending to go into all the details of that historical event other than to show you that it is the setting of this particular man named Augustus that we find the timing of Christ's birth. Now, this is an altar. This is a picture of what is called the "Altar of Augustan Peace." It's actually in Rome, if you ever go to Rome. I haven't seen this. I want to go back to Rome someday, hopefully, and see this. But it was an altar that was actually in Rome during the time the Apostle Paul would have been in Rome. Paul was in Rome beginning in the early '60s, he had 2 imprisonments. But this particular altar was dedicated in the year 9 B.C. 9 B.C., so before Christ was born, but it had been around for several decades by the time Paul goes there as a prisoner.
And it's dedicated as an altar of peace to the Roman goddess of peace because of the conditions that have been created in the empire, this Pax Romana, and they are attributed to primarily one man, and that is who is mentioned here in Luke 2, Caesar Augustus. And I'll probably put up Caesar here. If you'll note, I'm spelling better today. I've had enough coffee to be completely awake. Caesar Augustus. Caesar Augustus is the one who's mentioned here in Luke 2:1 Luke 2:1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
American King James Version×. He was the Caesar or the Roman Emperor at the time Jesus was born. That's why he's important and that's why you need to know this. At some point, I'll be giving you a handout listing the critical emperors of Rome that pertain to the New Testament story. You will be expected to know that, but I'll give you a handout about that at some point. But suffice it for now, just to note this, he is the founder of the Roman Empire. He's not the founder of Rome as a city, but of the Roman Empire. And he is a very important person in history and in the story of the Bible. That's why it's important and, again, why we should know something about this man.
This picture is dedicated to the peace that he established. And Augustus was very proud of that peace. Near the end of his life, he wrote out his epitaph, which was rather lengthy, and it was put on bronze tablets and sent to the major cities of the empire. There are very few remnants of those still extant. Some have been discovered in temples, and there is at least one I know of in a museum in Turkey that has this epitaph that he wrote of his own and what he did. Essentially, what he said was he created peace. He said, "I extended the borders of all the provinces of Rome, of the Roman people, which neighbored nations not subject to our rule." And then he says, "I restored peace with no unjust war waged against any nation." Now, every nation that he waged war against might argue with that statement, but Augustus at least wrote at the end of his life that, "I restored peace with no unjust war waged against my nation." This is a statue of that Roman emperor, Augustus.
Why did he restore peace? Because when he came to power, it was during a time of a great civil war that was tearing Rome apart and parts of Greece and way over here, even in Asia Minor. It came as a result of the assassination of his father, his adopted father, Julius Caesar, a name which you would know. And I'll put that on the board because everybody needs to know who Julius Caesar is. But Julius Caesar was assassinated because he claimed too much power. And he had adopted the man who would become Augustus. Augustus's name was Octavian, and upon Caesar's assassination, Julius Caesar's assassination, Octavian inherited his money, but he didn't inherit the throne or the power. He had to fight for that. And he fought famously against a man named Mark Anthony. That's another story. We'll talk more about that when we probably go to Daniel 11. But in time, Octavian won and he restored peace. And in doing so, he then became a Caesar, or an emperor, and he adopted the name Augustus, or it was given to him. Augustus was a religious title, and he was given that name by the Senate.
And he founds the Roman Empire late in the 1st century BC. Rome, for about 500 years, had been a republic. And then they began to disintegrate, tear themselves apart, civil war. And this battle then is fought after Caesar's assassination, Julius', and Augustus comes out on top. And so, when he says, "I restored peace," he's speaking about it from that time of civil war, and everybody was ready for that throughout the Roman Empire. They were tired of the fighting and the civil wars. And this creates the conditions that we read about here in Luke 2 as well as in Galatians 4:4 Galatians 4:4But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
American King James Version×, the fullness of times, a peace, a Pax Romana, a stability into which then Christ could be born. And now, in our part of the story, the timing of the beginning of the church.
There is one other thing that you should note about Augustus, and I'll touch on it here but we'll come back to it, especially when we get to Acts 13, and it is how Augustus was revered and he was worshiped as divine. It is at this time and actually with Julius Caesar, but now more prominently with Augustus, that the Romans developed this cult of the emperor, where the emperor, upon his death, is assumed to become divine. And when Caesar was killed and they burned his body and they had his funeral, Octavian made a comment about his spirit flying through the air. There was some phenomenon that actually took place at that time, and he, kind of, made that to relate to that he was being assumed into the heavens.
And what you begin to see with this, worshiping of the emperor, worshiping them as a savior and as a divine, is a very clever counterfeit that is being set up in advance of the true savior of the world, Jesus Christ, coming with His birth. The Roman world was already worshipping now the cult of the emperor. And they didn't worship them as divine necessarily while they were alive. It was when they died that they then assumed this divine status, then they built temples to them, and they offered sacrifices in those temples. When we get to Act 13, we're going to read a long sermon by Paul where he's in the city of Antioch in Pisidia where they had a huge temple to Augustus, and Paul's sermon attacks the idea of Augustus as a savior. This is why it's important that you understand all this background because, as we read the book of Acts, there are things that happen that that background allows you to understand why this took place, why this is said, in this case, why Paul chooses the attack or the attack that he does in his message. Augustus was looked upon as a savior.
This is a whole study in itself, and it's fascinating. You know, we have the month August because that's when Augustus was born. And what happened, there was a contest, near the end of his life, among the various cities of the empire. And over here in a particular place off the coast of Ephesus and Miletus, in the coast of Asia Minor in a city called Priene, the governor of the city decided, "What can we do to gain the favor of the emperor?" So, he said, "Oh, I've got an idea. Let's mark the beginning of the year with his birth date." And so, at least in that city, their official beginning of the year was on the date of Augustus's birth. And this is how they looked at him in the extent to which they went to curry favor or to worship him. It impacted the empire to a large degree.
So Augustus is the emperor under which Christ is born. And I'll go ahead and introduce a second emperor, his successor, a man by the name of Tiberius. And it's Tiberius who, upon Augustus's death, becomes the emperor. And it is Tiberius who is the Roman emperor when the Book of Acts opens in Chapter 1, That's why he's important. And so, he is the second emperor, the son of Augustus, Caesar Augustus. And when we opened the Book of Acts, he is now the emperor. This is a bit of a background. We will talk more and more about this because of the story and melding all of this from the Book of Daniel into the Book of Acts as we move through. And I will say that this cult of emperor worship that begins with Augustus is something that you again should note, because when we come to the Book of Revelation, it figures prominently in the message of the book of Revelation, particularly in the messages to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, but is also the background to the persecution that is described in Revelation, of which is a persecution that will come in the end time but is prefigured as a type by what was already taking place in the 1st century and impacting Christians in the church when John gets his revelation and writes that. And it all begins with what starts here with Augustus, when he is worshiped as divine and called the Divine Augustus and carried forth by every other Roman empire.
And so, this is what then the Jewish people and what is called Judaism, their culture, their religion, develops within. And we find, again, another part of the setting in the background to the Book of Acts. It is important to understand the people of the land as we go into the Book of Acts. Primarily, the people, they're Jews, they are the tribe of Judah with the tribe of Benjamin mixed into them. They are the remnant of the larger nation of Israel from the period of the monarchy. And they are the descendants of those Jews who return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity when Persia takes over Babylon. And under the Emperor Cyrus, a decree is issued...which is recorded in the Book of Nehemiah and Scripture, and you'll study that through the year, but he allows the Jews to return from Babylon over here back to Jerusalem, and that then begins to reestablish the presence of the Jews within the land. And over a period of several 100 years, coming down to the first century in the timing of the Gospels and Acts, we find now a Jewish nation that has developed religiously and culturally, but now is under the Roman yoke. And they are the remnant of the ancient nation of Israel. They are there in large part because they allow for the prophetic fulfillment of the birth of Christ.
The release of the Jews from Babylon to go back to Jerusalem by Cyrus the Great, the Persian king, is necessary to provide a people in the land that were the people of the covenant of Israel to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding Christ. And then the story, the setting for the Jews. That's why that is important. And that ties in even today. Because today, we find a Jewish state, called the State of Israel, in this land today of this political entity of the State of Israel. And that figures in even prominently into prophetic understanding that there is a Jewish presence in the land today. Again, we'll get into that through the Book of Daniel and understand that more. But the fact that there was at the time of Christ a Jewish presence there and that there is even today is important to the prophecies leading up to the first coming of Christ and the prophecies leading up to the second coming of Christ. And so, that's very, very important. Among the peoples of the land that we will encounter in the Book of Acts, there are, as you know from what you have already studied in scripture and understand, is that there are religious groupings of people, two of which are predominantly the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Those should not be uncertain, unknown names to us. They were two religious groupings of Jews within the land. And we will get into them very prominently in the third chapter of Acts and begin to understand the political workings of the Jewish state. That's important because that engineered the death of Jesus, His crucifixion, along with the Roman government. But the Jews wanted to rid themselves of Jesus.
And now, as the church begins, the church is coming out of this culture of Judaism. They're all Jews initially and they are then going to run headlong into the religious establishment, the same ones that killed Jesus. And so, we find Sadducees and the Pharisees. I'll talk more about the distinctions between them later when we get to them, rather than now. There were other religious groupings, sects, okay, for your information, that you will find there that are not mentioned in scripture. There's a group called the Essenes. And these are the people that we know about because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. You've probably heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were the scrolls of the Old Testament found in a community that had been founded by the Essenes down by the Dead Sea. There was another extremist group called the Zealots. These were the ones who were always causing trouble. They were Jewish but they were more militant. They wanted to seize control of the government, throw off the yoke of Rome, and they are the ones who engineer the rebellion that begins a war about the year 66 AD and culminates in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem. And so, these two are not mentioned in scripture, but we know about them from history. The two that are mentioned are the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and we will talk more about them as we go along.
And so, one other point I think I would like to make at this point is that when we talk about Pharisees and Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots, these were the political-religious groups or sects. But what you should understand is the average Jew of the time likely didn't belong to either one of them. It's kind of like today. People can align with a political party or a fraternal organization, but the bulk of people get on with their life. And at the time of the church, Jesus, and the beginning of the church here, the average Jewish family weren't concerned with all the arguments between religious groupings. They could well have been observant and going to the temple and going into the synagogues that dotted the land of Judea at the time, but they weren't caught up in all of the intricate political aspects of those groups. They were too busy just making a living, kind of like we are today. They had to get up, go out into the vineyards, go out into the fields, and produce a crop so that they had food to eat year-round. They had to take care of their children, their families, and deal with the everyday aspects of life.
And it is largely among people like that that we will find the beginnings of the disciples who grow into and become part of the church in the Book of Acts. We will come across a term called God-fearers. And this is a grouping of people who have a respect and a fear of God. They're not connected with the larger religious groups. And you will find that they include gentiles, non-Israelites, non-Jewish people, who are attracted to Judaism and its morality and the ethics that they learn from the Jews within the synagogue and even as they were allowed to be around a part of the temple structure. But it's from people like this. And we read about a...in the Book of Luke, when you look at the story of Jesus being brought into the temple, and Luke records two people, one of them named Simeon and the other named Anna, who come up and recognize Jesus as a baby, and they give testimony or witness to Him. Luke records that story in Luke 2. These are the genuine people who were looking for the Messiah, they were looking for the coming of God, and they were, kind of, looked down upon by the religious caste. And so, this is the people that we will encounter that become a part of the church's disciples, God-fearers later on. They're not recognized as great by history, but Jesus Himself walked among them, taught them, healed them, fed them, and from such came the beginnings of the church, and they were devoted to that.
And so, with that background, let's go ahead and turn back now to Acts 1, and let's begin to make our journey into the Book of Acts. We have already talked about Theophilus in the first lecture that we had, the first class. And likely a distinguished person of...he's called most excellent Theophilus in Luke's Gospel, like possibly a patron, but an individual who is addressed in the Book of Luke and the Acts, to whom the Book is dedicated. And he begins... Luke's intent is to then bring him along in the story of the church now and the subsequent acts of the disciples in the period after the resurrection and now the ascension of Christ.
I don't know if your Bible has this, mine does, the Acts of the Apostles... Just note that this is, of course, not...the title of the book is not scripture itself. It's put there by translators and much, much earlier. I always like to point out the fact that the Book of Acts is more than the story of the Acts of the Apostles. I would rather say that it's the Acts of the Disciples, which includes the apostles, but also includes many others that we will read about who were not apostles. And that, I think, brings it down to a level that we can relate to and should relate to in our understanding of the Book of Acts and its application to us in the church today. And so, at least put it in your notes. You don't have to scratch through the title of your Bible if you don't want to. But at least let's consider and understand that we are talking about the Acts of the Apostles.
Let's begin then with verse 4. We covered things down through verse 3 previously. We've come to the ending of 40 days, a 40-day period after Christ's resurrection.
Acts 1:4-5 Acts 1:4-5  And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me.
 For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
American King James Version×Tells us, "Being assembled together with them, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which he said, you have heard from me. For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
And so they were to remain in Jerusalem. There was going to be a 10-day period now from this point, where we will read about His final ascension to heaven, and the day of Pentecost, which we'll read about in Chapter 2 where the church really begins and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with the miracle of the fire and the tongues and the languages that we will see there. And he tells them to stay in Jerusalem, to wait for the promise of the Father, which is referring to the Spirit.
Now, when you go back to Jesus's last words with them on the night that He was arrested and then later crucified the next day, Jesus went through a very long discourse that John records in Chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16 of the Gospel of John. And several times in there, He refers to the coming of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would be given. And He makes one final reference to that here, and He does so in connection with the baptism of John. John baptized with water. Christ went to John the Baptist for baptism. But He says, "You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
He's making a distinction between the work of John the Baptist and the work that the church is now going to do. And we will find in the Book of Acts that there will be an encounter with one person named Apollos, who was a disciple of John, and a group of disciples in the city of Ephesus who were baptized with the baptism of John. And in the case of the disciples in Ephesus, they were baptized a second time by Paul because they did not have the Holy Spirit. And it's very clear that then they received it. They speak in tongues and they receive the Holy Spirit. And we will cover all of that in detail as we go along here. So, Jesus is making a distinction here in verse 5 in this instruction that what they will do is going to involve in a baptism with the Holy Spirit and what is necessary in order for that gift to be received, to be done on their part. And we will get into that in Chapter 2 in Peter's sermon.
Acts 1:6 Acts 1:6When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
American King James Version×It says, "Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'"
This was the great hope. This was the great promise of all of the prophets, a restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Keep in mind that the kingdom of Israel had fallen because of the sins of the people. That story is told in Kings and Chronicles, and you will go through that in detail as well. But there were promises through the prophets, many of them, that there would be a restoration. And this is what the masses of people that follow Jesus and His ministry look for as well.
And now these disciples who have now endured with Jesus through His ministry, through His death after, His resurrection, now at the end of this 40-day period. He's down to about 120 people at this point. But they, too, are still looking and expecting for the restoring of the kingdom to Israel and those prophecies that would involve David and all. And yet that is not the time. Back in Luke 19, Jesus gave a parable to show that there's going to be a time-lapse and people were looking for it. There was going to be a time-lapse. And He says the same thing here. Look at verse 7.
Acts 1:7 Acts 1:7And he said to them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power.
American King James Version×He said, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His authority."
Jesus defers this to the Father. That is up to the Father when that will happen, and that will happen at the return of Christ, at what is called His second coming. We'll study that particular doctrine in detail as well. But the timing of that, Jesus says, is in the hands of the Father, and it is not for us to know the times or the seasons, which brings us to the conclusion, which is very obvious from this, that it is futile to try to figure out when Jesus is going to return.
If there's one Achilles heel of anybody who studies prophecy today, it is that particular point, as people have tried to study the scriptures, read the times in which they live, and have made predictions. And this has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years. I mean, it was going on shortly even within the next century after the timing of the Book of Acts. There were prophets who rose up that were predicting the restoring of the kingdom, but it didn't happen then. When the turn of the first millennium in 1000 AD, people thought that might be the time of Christ's coming. It didn't happen then. We've come into our time and so many predictions have been made as well. So, bottom line, conclusion, we want to stay away from that. That's...just read clearly what Jesus says here, and that that is left to the Father.
Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
American King James Version×He says, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Now, Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
American King James Version×is a very important scripture. I'm going to skip a slide here and go to this one, which you have on your handout, which shows the travels of the apostles within the land. But it does delineate most of these regions here with an arrow, kind of, pointing to the last one that Jesus references in verse 8. And verse 8 is very important because He's telling them... And keep in mind, at this point, it's 11 of the disciples that He called and worked with for 3.5 years. Judas is dead and they haven't replaced him at this point, plus His mother, Mary, His brothers, and many others, up to 120 of them. And He's saying, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come."
This is a “dunamis”. This is a literal power that comes with the gift of God's Holy Spirit, but that is given to the disciples to do something, and it is to be "witnesses to me beginning in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Jesus kind of lays down here a...kind of, like throwing a rock into a still pond and seeing the circles build out from it as the impact of that rock and that still water creates a small wave. The work of the church begins in Jerusalem. And that's what He says here, "You're going to be a witness of me first in Jerusalem." As we go through Acts, we'll see that. The Church begins in Jerusalem and they stay there for some time, all of them, it seems. But then Jesus says, "You're going to go to Samaria." Now, look at your map. Where's Samaria? Pull your map over. Look at Samaria. Where is it? It's to the north. Samaria is both a region and a city in what was the northern part of the older nation of Israel. In fact, Samaria was the capital of the spinoff nation of Israel, the 10-tribe nation at the time of Jeroboam. But it gives its name to the entire region.
And so, "You're going to go to Jerusalem and to Judea." If you look where Judea is, Judea is the southern region here that encompasses Jerusalem. Think of it as kind of like one big county we would have in the United States, both of these, and you, kind of, begin to understand at least the frame of reference there. But the church begins in Jerusalem, the work extends out to Judea. We're going to find a man named Philip goes up to Samaria and preaches the gospel. And the church begins to grow and develop. Disciples are found in all of this region around Jerusalem, down toward the Mediterranean coast, and to the north. We'll see that with Peter in his travels in the early chapters of Acts as well. And then when we come to the time of the Apostle Paul, when he's introduced to the story, we will see him begin to take the Gospel beyond the regions of Judea, Jerusalem, and Samaria, to what is encompassed by the phrase, "the ends of the earth." "The ends of the earth."
And then it goes into the gentile world. Paul is going to begin to travel in what is Asia Minor. Today, this is Turkey, the nation of Turkey. And his travels will take him into Greece. Ultimately, we'll see him go by as a prisoner to Italy, to the seat of Rome. What is the ends of the earth? That's an interesting phrase. As historians look at this, it could have several applications, depending on what a particular classical writer was writing about. The ends of the earth could be Rome. The ends of the earth could be further out off this map to the area of Gibraltar, the very end of the Mediterranean Sea, where it opens up into the Atlantic Ocean at the very tip of modern Spain. The Straits of Gibraltar were also considered the ends of the earth.
Conversely, the ends of the earth, depending upon, again, what the writer was talking about, would have been over here in the area of India. And of course, all that was known at that time as well, and it could have even applied down into the continent of Africa. And so, the phrase "the ends of the earth" can mean multiple directions in multiple locations. As far as the Book of Acts is concerned, the story will end in Rome. And yet, we only know the story of Peter and what happens in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then where Paul goes. But there are other disciples that are not...their travels are not mentioned in Acts. We can glean a lot from the secular history about that as they took the Gospel into other parts of the world. But suffice it to say, what Jesus said that they would do, they did.
And so, this is a pretty good place to end at this point, just through verse 8, and we only covered a few verses. I thought we might get through the rest of Chapter 1 today, but this is how it goes with the Book of Acts, a lot to talk about and a lot to cover. And we'll pick it up in the next class beginning in verse 9. So, stay tuned for that. Those of you that are watching online, that's where we will start, and glad you're with us.