What Acts 1:8 Really Means

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea...Acts 1:8 Sometimes an interpretation that's popular in Christian culture hijacks the intended meaning of a text. Take Acts 1:8. Do a web search on it and almost all the hits will say something like "Where is your Jerusalem? Where is your Samaria?" - as if the main point of the verse if that every church down through the centuries has to become "Jerusalem" and repeat the steps that the first church took. If all we’re thinking about when we read Acts 1:8 is “Where is our Jerusalem?” we’re subjectivizing objective truth (It’s all about us, isn’t it!), and missing something really, really huge that Jesus is doing.

So what’s the huge thing Jesus is doing? He’s using a multi-dimensional approach to prophecy that the apostles would have recognized from the Old Testament. Israel’s prophets often gave both a short-term and long-term prediction. If the short-term prediction fizzled, no need to wait around the for the long-term prediction; the guy was a false prophet. But if the short-term prediction happened, the rest was guaranteed.

Jesus is doing the same thing in Acts 1:8. The disciples need some serious encouragement. In a few minutes the Lord will leave, and they’ll have to go back to the city that’s famous for killing prophets (Matthew 23:37). What final words will Jesus leave with them? This is not the time for a missions strategy pep talk about reaching “your Jerusalem and your Samaria.” It’s time for the most audacious short-term and long-term predictions that a prophet ever gave.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Holy Spirit is the key to everything that follows. Do you really think the scaredy-cat apostles are going to turn Jerusalem upside down without the boldness of the Spirit? Or reach across that impossible chasm to the hated Samaritans without the love of the Spirit? Or make God famous to the ends of the earth without the endurance of the Spirit? The Holy Spirit of God is the only engine that can power this stunning drive to the very last people group. And He’s the only One who can keep it all from flying apart.

If this new thing called “the church” is going to take over the world with the Gospel, the Holy Spirit isn’t going to do the same thing He did in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament it was “Come and see.” “Come, Naaman. Come, Queen of Sheba. Come to Israel where god’s Spirit-filled priests are ministering in God’s temple.” But Jesus inaugurated the new age of Holy Spirit power. It’s no longer “Come and see,” but “Go and tell.” Every city becomes the holy city; every people becomes the chosen people; every church and every believer become the holy temple.

What if this first prediction had fizzled? End of story. Game over. Jesus is a false prophet. But it didn’t fizzle – It exploded. The Sprit came in power! Check it off the list.

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea.” Hear this prediction through the ears of the apostles, and you’ll see how impossible it sounds. Humanly speaking, the mission to reach Jerusalem should have ended with eleven more crosses on Golgotha. Yet here was the risen Lord telling them that they wouldn’t get snuffed out. They would successfully make Jesus famous in Jerusalem and Judea.

Well, did it happen? I need to know. Because if it didn’t, I’m checking out. I’m not waiting around. I’ll go and find a savior I can trust. But it did happen, and it happened in a big way. Three thousand people in one day. Five thousand more a little while later. Glory! Check it off the list. Two down, two to go.

Let the Gospel blow you away with its audacious promises. – JD Crowley

Used by permission of Church Works Media. For the complete “Gospel Meditations for Missions” devotional, please visit Church Works Media at: churchworksmedia.com