Robert Jeffress - The Promise
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Whether sitting in an airport, waiting to board a delayed flight, or stuck in a traffic jam, waiting is the ultimate test of our patience. But some things like the fulfillment of God's promises are worth waiting for. Today we're going to talk about waiting on God to come through. My message is titled "The Promise" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
One day when Theodore Roosevelt was President, he was in a very critical meeting in his office in the newly constructed West Wing. There was a knock at the door. The door opened and a little boy stuck his head in and said to the president, "It's after 4 o'clock". Roosevelt looked at his watch and said, "By jove it is," and he stood up and excused himself from the important meeting explaining to those present that he had made a promise to his boy to play with him in the backyard. He said to those men, "It's a difficult thing for a boy to wait, that's why I never keep my boys waiting".
Well, waiting is not only difficult for boys it's difficult for all of us, isn't it? Especially when we're waiting on a promise from our heavenly Father. Two thousand years ago, Jesus told us that he's coming back to this earth one day, to right every wrong, to establish his kingdom, to reward the righteous, to punish the unrighteous. He made that promise 2000 years ago. He said, "Behold, I am coming quickly," and yet he hasn't come yet. And we wait, and we wait, and we wait. But don't forget this: with God, a promise delayed is not a promise denied. Jesus is coming back on that glorious day. That is a promise that has been made and will be kept by God himself.
And today in our study of Acts, we're going to look at that promise that is yet to be fulfilled and we're going to look at another promise that has already been fulfilled and what it means for you and me today. If you have your Bibles turn to Acts chapter 1. Last week we began our study of Acts with an overview of Acts and we saw that, really, Acts is the second volume in a two-volume set by Dr. Luke, a physician who traveled with the Apostle Paul. But Acts is about the founding of the church. We're to carry that message to everyone we can and our work is continuing. And that's what we're looking at in Acts. Now look at verse 3 of Acts 1, "To these," that is the disciples, "Jesus also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to the disciples over a period of 40 days and speaking of things concerning the kingdom of God".
After the Resurrection, Luke tells us that Jesus was alive for 40 days on Earth. He spent that time with his disciples. By the way, if you ever wonder what your existence is gonna be like in heaven, what your new body is going to be like in heaven, just look at Jesus, his body, his resurrection body, was the prototype, Colossians says, of the bodies we're gonna receive. So he spent time with his disciples doing what? He taught them things concerning the kingdom of God. This was a crash program for Jesus to teach everything these disciples needed to know to go spread the message. And so he taught them things concerning the kingdom of God.
What is the kingdom of God? Well, think about it. A king's kingdom refers to that piece of real estate that the king rules over. It's where what the king wants done gets done. A king's kingdom. Well, when we talk about God's kingdom, where does God have authority? What is his realm of authority? Now, in a theological sense, it's the whole universe, isn't it? He's sovereign overall but in a practical sense, there's one small corner of the universe where God's rule is not yet complete. There's one small corner of the universe where there is a rebellion going against the king of the universe and that place is called planet Earth. For God's own reasons, he's allowed this rebellion to continue but it won't continue forever. One day Jesus Christ is returning to rule over this earth and the perfect justice so many people crave today, they talk about the need for justice.
God loves justice and he's going to establish his justice one day when he returns. That's what the kingdom of God is about, it's where God rules. Jesus said in Matthew 13, "I wanna teach you about the mystery of the kingdom of God," and what is the mystery? The mystery is, while God's literal kingdom on Earth has been delayed, not denied but delayed, God is ruling in the hearts of individuals right now who choose to follow him. Right now you can be a part of the kingdom of God by trusting in Christ and submitting to God's will in every area of your life. You and I face this choice every day, whether we're going to submit to the King or not, whether it's gonna be his will or our will.
If we follow his will, his commands, we experience great blessings. You don't have to wait till you die to experience the blessing of God. By submitting yourself to his rule in your life, you experience the benefits of the kingdom. When you disobey him, you experience the consequences of rebellion against the King. The kingdom of God has gone underground, it's in the hearts of individual believers, but one day he is coming. Now look at verse 4, "Gathering them together, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which you heard of from me,' Jesus said". What is that promise they were to wait for? "For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now". He said, "Wait in Jerusalem, I've got a great promise that's about to be fulfilled: the baptism with the Holy Spirit".
Today we get baptized to show what has happened to us as Christians. The Bible says the moment you trust in Christ as Savior, you are baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. At this point, it was still future. They had to wait for the baptism. We'll see next week, it came on the day of Pentecost and since the day of Pentecost, every Christian, the moment he trusts in Christ, is baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. You don't have to pray for the baptism with the Spirit, you don't work for it, you don't ask for it, you can't baptize yourself with the Spirit, it is something Christ does for you. He immerses you with his Spirit and joins you together with the body of Christ.
Now, water baptism, over there, is a symbol of being baptized with the Spirit. We get baptized with water to show we are identifying as a Christian. Interesting fact, from this point on in the book of Acts, there is not one example anywhere of a follower of Christ who was not immersed in water, water baptized. No such thing as a Christian who has not been baptized. That is the command for every true follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Wait and you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit". Now, look at verse 6. They were going to anticipate that promise to be fulfilled. "So when they had come together," for the last time, "They were asking Jesus, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You're restoring the kingdom to Israel?'"
In spite of all those teaching from Jesus, they still didn't get it. Here is Jesus about to ascend into heaven and they said, "Lord, have you not forgotten something? You promised, you're gonna restore the kingdom, you're gonna get rid of this Roman rule that we've been suffering under. Is it at this time you're gonna restore the kingdom to Israel"? Now, had the disciples been completely in error about a literal kingdom, this would've been a good time for Jesus to correct their thinking. Instead, how does he answer their question about, "Is it time to restore the kingdom"?
Look at verse 7, "He said, 'It is not for you to know the times or the epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority'"; what he's saying is, "There is gonna be a kingdom, but you're not gonna know when it's coming, you don't know when I'm gonna return again. Remember, you're not on the planning committee, you're on the invitation committee. Leave the planning to me and my Father, we will tell you when the kingdom is coming". You know, we know this intellectually but still people violate this principle all the time. One way you can know you're listening to a false preacher or teacher is if they try to set a date for the end times. Anybody who does that is a false teacher.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, "No man knows the day or the hour". It's not for us to know the time but notice what Jesus said it is important for you to know. He said in verse 8, but here's what you need to know, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth". When the Holy Spirit comes in just a few days, he's empowering you not so you can go around feeling spiritual goosebumps. That's not why the Holy Spirit is here, it's not to make you feel good, warm, and fuzzy every time you worship. No, it's to equip you, empower you for your one assignment: "to go into the world and be my witnesses".
That word "witnesses," "martyres" in Greek, literally means "martyr". We get our word "martyr" from it. "You're gonna give your very life to do the one thing I've asked you to do". And notice where they were gonna be witnesses. "In Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria and then to the uttermost parts of the earth". That's the outline of the whole book of Acts. The gospel preached in Jerusalem. Then because of persecution they got moved out to Judea and Samaria. And then because of more persecution, they went out into the uttermost parts of the earth. And that's our assignment today, to take the gospel everywhere. That's what they needed to understand. It's not for you to know the timing, it's for you to understand the command.
Now we are about to see one of the greatest miracles of all time that you hear very little talked about, and that is Jesus's ascension into heaven. Look at verse 9, "After He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight". If you've been to the Mount of Olives like many of us have, you know what a sight it is to stand there and realize you're exactly where Jesus was and to think about what it must've been like for those disciples to see him slowly lifting up off the ground and going higher, and higher, and higher, and higher, until they watched him disappear into a cloud. Why was the ascension important? Let me just mention two reasons on your outline. First of all, Jesus's ascension was necessary so that he might return to the Father.
In John 16:28, he said, "I am leaving the world again and going to the Father". Jesus's rightful place is at the right hand of his father. You know what he's doing right now in heaven, why it's important for him to be at the right hand of the Father? For your benefit, for mine. Hebrew 7:25 says, "He lives right now to make intercession for us". "He is our advocate," 1 John 1 says, our lawyer in heaven. You say, "Well, why do we need a lawyer in heaven"? Because we have an accuser named Satan. And the Bible says, "He is before the throne of God, day and night, accusing you and me before the Father".
He's talking to the Father. He's saying, "Look at that guy, claims to be a Christian, look at what he's doing. Look at her, look at what she's thinking. They belong with me, God, in hell forever"! And Jesus interjects, he interrupts. He says, "You're right, Satan, they belong in hell, but I paid the price to free them forever. They're mine and you're not about to get your hands on 'em". That's what Jesus is doing, "He is our advocate," the Bible says. But secondly, Jesus's ascension was necessary for the coming of the Spirit. John 16:7 says, "I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you". We have something the disciples had not had up to this point and that is the full power of the Holy Spirit living in us. That's why the ascension was important.
Now look at verse 10. Here they are, get the picture, gazing into the sky, can't believe what they saw. It says in verse 10, "As they were gazing intently into the sky, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them". Angels. "And they said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?'" That was a general rebuke. It was kinda like John Wayne saying in "The Cowboys," "What are you doing? We're burning daylight". Remember that phrase? "We are burning day", you're burning daylight, you're wasting time. It's time to get back to what the Lord told you to do, you don't have much time to complete the assignment. But beyond the gentle rebuke, there is a promise.
These angels said, "This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way". Underline that. "In just the same way as you have watched him go into heaven". You know what that tells me? When Jesus comes back, he's coming back exactly the same way he left, visibly, everybody's going to see it. And more importantly, it's literally he's coming back, literally. Think about it. A literal Jesus in a literal body ascended from a literal Mount of Olives into a literal heaven. Heaven's not some state of mind any more than the Mount of Olives is a state of mind. They are both geographical realities. And that same literal Jesus who is in a literal heaven, is descending back to a literal earth, forever and ever and ever.
Zechariah 14:4, written 700 years before the birth of Christ, prophesied that "in that day the Messiah's feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west". When he comes back again, it's gonna be such a cataclysmic event. The whole mountain is going to be split in two. That's the literal coming of Jesus. Now, that's the promise that is temporary delayed. But here's the other promise that would be fulfilled in just a few days: the promise of the coming of the Spirit. Notice how the disciples waited for the promise. Look at verses 12 to 14. "After the ascension they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem. And when they had entered the city," verse 13, "They went up to the upper room where they were staying".
We don't know where this upper room is, we think we have an idea. It was a room big enough to accommodate 120 people. It may have been the place where Jesus had the last supper with his disciples before he was betrayed. There's a listing of who met in that upper room. You see the disciples, 11 of the 12, remember Judas had defected. Verse 14, "These all were with one mind continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, was with His brothers". They were praying, they were waiting, but they were also working. There were some unfinished business they had to take care of before the baptism with the Holy Spirit in the beginning of the church. They had a leadership position to fill. They had lost a disciple, Judas, who had killed himself after his betrayal.
Look at verse 15, "At this time, Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren and said, 'Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.'" So Peter said, "We're going to select another apostle". Peter gave two qualifications. First of all, whoever it is had to have been with Jesus from the beginning, from the beginning of those three years of ministry. And secondly, he had to be an eyewitness to the Resurrection. And so they took nominations from the floor. Who could meet these qualifications? Somebody nominated a man called Joseph who is known as Barsabbas. Another person nominated Mathias, we really don't know much about him. And so they all prayed that God would give them direction over their choice. And what did they do after they prayed? They rolled the dice.
Now, you probably didn't think rolling the dice is a biblical thing to do, but it was right here, they called it the casting of lots. You know what that was? They would take two stones and they would write the name of each nominee on one of the stones. They put it in an urn, they shook it and they rolled it, and the first stone out was God's choice. Now, Proverb tells us, "The lot is cast, but the Lord makes his choice". God worked through that process somehow but that's how they came up with Mathias. And now that they had their 12 apostles, they were ready to wait for the supernatural coming of the Holy Spirit of God in Acts 2.
As we close today, I wanna just share with you three practical applications from this passage that speak to each one of us here today. A truth about our life, about our responsibility, and our hope. First of all, the truth about our life. This passage reminds us that God is sovereign over our circumstances, our choices, and even our mistakes. Isn't that a comforting thought? He is really sovereign over all. Was the selection of Judas a mistake? Well, you could make that argument. I mean, after all, look at what he did, but it was all part of God's plan. You can look at your own mistakes. Are they something God willed? Well, probably not, but God is able to use your worst mistakes for his ultimate purpose.
When I think about that, I think about Moses in the Old Testament. Did God desire for Moses to kill that Egyptian soldier out of anger and bury him in the sand? No, that wasn't something God desired, but isn't it interesting that God used that and the 40 years Moses spent hiding in the wilderness as a result of that, he used that to train Moses to prepare him for his greatest life's work, the leading of the Exodus when he was 80 years of age? He used Moses's mistake for good. There's a second truth here that I find and that's about our responsibility. Our primary mission is to spread the gospel. Now, just think about this. Why has God left us here for these few years we have? This passage tells us, "For you shall be my," what? "Witnesses".
Do you realize that if you're a Christian your primary title is not mother, father, husband, wife, pastor, deacon? Your primary title is your job assignment: witness. We are to be a witness for Christ. That ought to be our thinking every morning when we wake up and when we go to bed at night, "How can I win more people to faith in Christ"? That's our mission. And then a word about our hope, that is, a promise delayed is not a promise denied. Jesus told his disciples to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, ten days later the Holy Spirit came just as he promised.
But Jesus made another promise to his disciples and to each of us. He said, "Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid: you believe in God, believe in Me, for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again to take you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also". For 2000 years, we've been waiting for that promise, for that promise of his coming. Remember, with God, a promise delayed is not a promise denied. One day Jesus Christ is coming back again. The same Jesus who was taken up shall return in the very same way. And in this broken world that we all have to live in right now, the promised return of Christ is not only our best hope, it's our only hope. "Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus, come quickly".