Acts 1:4-9 “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
The disciples must have experienced a sense of wonder and awe during the forty days following Jesus’ resurrection. Each of the eleven post-resurrection appearances of Jesus strengthened their faith and excitement for the impending arrival of the Kingdom that Jesus promised.
They eagerly anticipated when this would happen and when Israel would be freed from Roman rule. They believed that it would be soon, just as they did before Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, their timetable did not align with God’s. Jesus informed them that only the Father had the authority to determine the dates and times, and that they were not meant to know.
The fact that we do not know God’s timetable allows us to live with the expectation that Jesus could return at any moment, even as you read this blog. If we had precise knowledge of Jesus’ return, we would not need to rely on faith. We might be tempted to delay repentance until the last minute and miss out on the incredible adventure of sharing life with Him on earth, as well as in Heaven forever. Our timetable often differs from God’s. We frequently rush while God remains patient, much like the disciples who wanted immediate results.
Why does God wait? Many years later, one of the disciples who had been present at Christ’s ascension would provide an answer. Peter wrote this:
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord isn’t being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent.”
Isn’t it reassuring that Jesus did not establish His kingdom on earth in the past? Aren’t you glad that Jesus patiently waited, giving you time to repent and turn to Him? God always has a purpose in His timing. His timing is flawless. He is never late or early; He is always precisely on time.
Galatians 4:4 “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son…”
Instead of idly waiting for His return, Jesus instructed His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until the Father sent them the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, Who would empower them to be His witnesses. After His bodily resurrection, Jesus ascended into a glorious cloud while they watched until He disappeared from sight. In that moment of wonder and awe, two men in white robes appeared and asked why they were staring into heaven. They informed the disciples that Jesus had ascended to heaven but would return in the same manner that they saw Him go. (Acts 1:11)
I can only imagine the thoughts running through the minds of the disciples as they walked back to Jerusalem after this encounter with Christ. It must have been a truly profound experience. What were they to do now? Exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do. They were to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
At the time, they did not know how long they would have to wait. We now know that the promise was fulfilled ten days later on the day of Pentecost. Until then, their task was to wait and pray. We do not know God’s timing for us. However, like the disciples, we have been given a commission to fulfill. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are witnesses for Him today.