What Does Acts 1 Teach Us About the Rapture?
Acts 1:9-11 is very interesting in terms of prophecy and the rapture:
“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way as you have seen him go into heaven.’”
Underline those words, “will come back in the same way as you have seen him go into heaven.” They knew that He was coming back. He would return to earth. So what Paul was telling them had to be different from His second coming, if you want.
It also had to be different from what they knew in the Old Testament about resurrection. Well, let’s look at Daniel 12:2. Did they know about resurrection? Sure they did: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel knew about the resurrection. So what Paul was saying, that wasn’t the resurrection; that was an old truth. Paul says, “I’ve got something new for you.”
Abraham knew about the resurrection. You say, “How did Abraham know about the resurrection?” Hebrews 11:17-19. This goes back to when Abraham offered up Isaac on the altar. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’”
Now, think about this. If the seed, the promised one, is going to come through his son Isaac, then why was Abraham going over and killing his son? Can you figure that one out? Here’s how Abraham had it figured out: “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead,”—a resurrection; so Abraham believed in the resurrection—“and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”
Job also knew about resurrection. Take a look at Job 19:25-27. You’ve heard this at funerals: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh will I see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
So, Daniel, Abraham, and Job knew about the resurrection. Jesus said He was coming back in Acts 1. Those men knew about the second coming. So, when Paul says, “I’m giving you a new truth,” it couldn’t be the resurrection, because they knew that; and it couldn’t be the second coming, they knew that. So it’s got to be the rapture.
One other thing in Acts 1. Let’s get the context, okay, starting at verse 1: “In my former book, Theophilus,” that’s the Gospel of Luke, “I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to he apostles he had chosen.” So he’s talking to the apostles. “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”
Ten different appearances of Jesus are recorded in the Bible, and of course, over 500 people at one of those occasions, and “many convincing proofs” were given: “He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 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.’” And then he goes on, talking about the Holy Spirit, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Now, look at what they asked Him in verse 6. Jesus has just resurrected from the dead. He’s appeared to them over a 40-day period of time, reassuring them, “It’s me, boys! I’m the one. Check out my body, okay?” What’s the question that they asked Him before He goes to heaven? What’s burning on their hearts? Look at verse 6: “Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’”
What’s going on here? Jesus threw the disciples a curve ball. What were the Jews expecting the Messiah to do when He showed up? He was going to destroy all of Israel’s enemies. At that time it would have been the Roman Empire. He would have rebuked all the heathen nations. He would have thrown out the crooked religious leaders in Israel. He would have set up His earthly kingdom and He would have ruled on David’s throne throughout the earth from Jerusalem.
They thought He was the Messiah. Matthew 23, they thought Jesus had just got done denouncing Israel’s Jewish leaders in no uncertain terms. I mean, He just said, “Your house is left to you!” And they thought, “Boy, He’s right on schedule. He’s the Messiah. He’s now starting to clean up the religious leaders. He’s denounced them. He’s talking about the temple. And, the fact is, we’re right on schedule. It’s going to happen, maybe tomorrow, maybe next Thursday. It’s coming.” See?
So that’s why you go into chapter 24 and all of a sudden they say, “Jesus, is it this day or when is it coming now?” And in Matthew 24 is basically Jesus’ answer, which is one of the longest answers in the Bible, “Guys, not yet.” That’s Matthew 24. “And when it does come, here’s how you’ll recognize it,” talking about when He’s going to come back and establish that earthly kingdom. But they still didn’t really grasp it. And even here, when He’s just about ready to go back to heaven, what did they say? “Jesus, is it now? Are you going to set up the kingdom now?”
Now, there is a whole segment of the Church that says Israel is finished; that God’s promises have been transferred from Israel over to the Church and God has no future program for Israel. The boys didn’t seem to know that, because they were still expecting Jesus to set up the kingdom, to fulfill the promises that He gave to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and down to David and all the way through the prophets. They were still expecting that to happen.
And if Jesus really wasn’t going to have a plan with Israel and He wasn’t going to come back and establish an earthly kingdom, this would have been a great time for Him to say, “You mean you still haven’t gotten it yet? I mean, how many times do I have to say this? I’m finished with Israel, forget that!” He didn’t say that. They were still expecting it. And notice what Jesus said in Acts 1:7: “He said unto them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
Not yet. Not that there’s no program, it’s just not yet, and it’s not for you to know when I’m going to do that.
Ed. Note: This article is excerpted from a sermon given by Dr. Ankerberg, and has been slightly modified for publication.