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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 4 - Acts 1:6-14 - The Last Interview Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


This is the last glimpse we get of Christ below; it is the end of his course on earth. These are his final words and instructions. They concern not only his disciples, but his church in all ages. They are for us.

I. The question of the disciples. It is concerning the kingdom, Israel's dominion, which had for many years been taken away and given to the Gentiles. They were not so carnal in their views as some think; and they take for granted that the Lord recognized their views as in the main scriptural. They ask about (1) a kingdom; (2) a kingdom for Israel; (3) a kingdom that had been lost; (4) a kingdom that was to be restored; (5) a kingdom that was to be restored by Messiah. Their question is as to the time of all this? When shall all this be? Shall it be now?

II. The reproof (verse 7). He refuses to answer the question. He does not reprove them for being carnal in their expectations, or wrong in their prophetic views, or in their longing for the kingdom. But he rebukes their over eagerness to know the time. That was to be hidden. It was the Father's own secret. Of that day and hour knoweth no man, not the angels, "nor the Son" (Mark 13:32). We must beware of being too minute in our inquiries as to the time; but we may and ought to study what has been revealed concerning the coming kingdom. We ought to desire it.

III. The promise (verse 8). He couples his reproof with a promise. So like himself! He cannot rebuke, but he must add a word of love. (1.) The Holy Ghost is to come. (2.) They are to receive power. (3.) They are to be Christ's witnesses from Jerusalem unto the ends of the earth. There was much to be done and suffered ere the kingdom was restored. Here we get a glimpse of the interval, and of the work to be carried on during it.

IV. The ascension. The event is a very marvelous one, but most briefly and simply told, without a word of exclamation or surprise. He was taken up! Or as the Psalm expresses it, "Thou hast ascended on high" (Psalm 68:18). As the resurrection is sometimes ascribed to the Father's power, and sometimes to His own, so with the ascension. Enoch was the first, Elijah the second, the Son of God the third who thus ascended. Why had not Christ the pre-eminence in this? Time is not of consequence. He was in reality the great ascender, the opener of the gates; and to His ascension they owed theirs. Because He rose, they rose. It was on the credit of His ascension that they received the right of ascending. A cloud received Him out of their sight;—most likely the shekinah-cloud, descending to form his chariot ("He maketh the clouds his chariot"). This happened while they beheld, or while they were gazing on him, so that there could be no mistake. They saw him on the ground, and then they saw him rise.

V. The vision of angels. They are here as elsewhere called men, but, as interpreted in other places (Genesis 18:1, 19:1; Luke 24:4; John 20:12), "angels." They were two, for they come as witnesses; they are in white apparel to shew what they are. They appeared while the disciples were looking steadfastly toward heaven, gazing up at the spot from which their Lord had disappeared, as if the Lord, when passing upward, had seen their longing, wistful eyes, and dispatched two of his glorious attendants with a message both to comfort and to direct.

VI. The expostulation (verse 2). The disciples seem to have remained gazing as if fixed to the mountain. They could not leave the spot, nor withdraw their eyes. It would almost seem as if even the vision of the angels had not drawn away their gaze, but that they continued gazing up still till the angels spoke. The angels use the words of recognition, "Men of Galilee." They speak as knowing the disciples. Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? What do you mean by this? What is the use of this? It was not for this that your Lord ascended. How often do we stand idly gazing or musing unprofitably! Hear the angels' expostulation.

VII. The promise (verse 2). This same Jesus, &c. He is not gone forever, nor has He forsaken the earth finally. He is to come again. He is to come the very same; not a different Christ, but the same. He is to come in the same way as He went. To the same spot too (Zechariah 14:4). The consolation here is not "you shall go to Him," but "He shall come to you;" not, "ye shall follow Him soon," but "He shall return to you." Such is the stress which Scripture lays on Christ's second coming. Not death, but His coming is the church's consolation.

VIII. The return home. They obey the angelic message, and withdraw their wistful eyes. They return to Jerusalem, no doubt comforting them selves with the thought of his return. How that journey would recall old scenes and words! They go back to the city that had crucified their Master; they go back not knowing exactly what to do; but content to wait till He should tell them. Henceforth there was a link between them and heaven such as they had never known before. They could understand, "Set your affection on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God."

IX. The occupation (verse 13, 14). They go to the upper room, where they had eaten their last passover and supper with the Lord. They found the other disciples there. What fellowship would theirs be! But still they knew not what to do. Prayer is their only resource. So they pray, they "continue with one accord in prayer and supplication." Thus they wait for His commands. Thus they gird themselves for their work. Thus they get themselves filled. Thus they trim their lamps. What an example for us! Let us watch and pray. Gazing up to heaven, or Olivet, will do nothing for us; but praying in the upper chamber will do everything.