Acts 1:8 NIVBut 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.”
But you will receive power… – Literally, as it is translated in the margin, “You shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you.” This was said to them to console them. Though they could not know the times which God reserved in his own appointment, yet they should receive the promised Guide and Comforter. The word “power” here refers to the help or aid which the Holy Spirit would grant; the power of speaking with new tongues; of preaching the gospel with great effect; of enduring great trials, etc. See Mark 16:17-18. The apostles had impatiently asked him if he was then about to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus by this answer rebuked their impatience, taught them to repress their ill-timed passion; and assured them again of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
you will be my witnesses – For this purpose they were appointed; and to prepare them for this they had been with him for more that three years. They had seen his manner of life, his miracles, his meekness, his sufferings; they had listened to his instructions, and had conversed and eaten with him as a friend; they had seen him after he was risen, and were about to see him ascend to heaven; and they were thus qualified to bear witness to these things in all parts of the earth. Their number was so great that it could not be pretended that they were deceived; they had been so intimate with him and his plans that they were qualified to state what his doctrines and purposes were; and there was no motive but conviction of the truth that could induce them to make the sacrifices which they would be required to make in communicating these things to the world. In every respect, therefore, they were qualified to be impartial and competent witnesses.
The original word here is μάρτυρες martures, martyrs. From this word the name martyrs has been given to those who suffered in times of persecution. The reason why this name was given to them was that they bore witness to the life, instructions, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, even in the midst of persecution and death. It is commonly supposed that nearly all of the apostles bore witness as martyrs in this sense to the truths of the Christian religion, but of this there is not clear proof. (See Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 55, 56). Still the word here does not necessarily mean that they to whom this was addressed would be martyrs, or would be put to death in bearing witness to the Lord Jesus; but that they were everywhere to testify to what they knew of him. The fact that this was the design of their appointment, and that they actually bore such testimony, is abundantly confirmed in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 1:22; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39, Acts 10:42; Acts 22:15.
In Jerusalem – In the capital of the nation. See Acts 2:0. The great work of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost occurred there. Most of the disciples remained in Jerusalem until the persecution that arose about the death of Stephen, Acts 8:1, Acts 8:4. The apostles remained there until Herod put James to death. Compare Acts 8:1, with Acts 12:1-2. This was about eight years. During this time, however, Paul was called to the apostleship, and Peter had preached the gospel to Cornelius, Philip to the eunuch, etc.
And in Samaria – This was the middle portion of Palestine. See the notes at Matthew 2:22. This was fulfilled by the disciples. See Acts 8:1, “And they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria”; compare Acts 1:4-5, “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” See also Acts 1:14; Acts 9:31.
And to the ends of the earth – The word “earth,” or “land,” is sometimes taken to denote only the land of Palestine. But here there does not seem to be a necessity for limiting it thus. If Christ had intended that, he would have mentioned Galilee, as being the only remaining division of the country. But as he had expressly directed them to preach the gospel to all nations, the expression here is clearly to be considered as including the Gentile lands as well as the Jewish. The evidence that they did this is found in the subsequent parts of this book, and in the history of the church. It was in this way that Jesus replied to their question. Though he did not tell them the time when it was to be done, nor affirm that he would restore the kingdom to Israel, yet he gave them an answer that implied that the work should advance – should advance much further than the land of Israel; and that they would have much to do in promoting it. All the commands of God, and all his communications, are such as to call up our energy, and teach us that we have much to do. The uttermost parts of the earth have been given to the Savior (Psalms 2:8), and the church should not rest until he whose right it is shall come and reign, Ezekiel 21:27.