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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Both Ends of the "Great Commission"

 Back in 2019 we examined one aspect of what some call "The Great Commission." In that study looked at the word translated "earth." We proposed that the word can be and is sometimes translated as "land," referring to Israel's promised land and kingdom.

That study can be reviewed here:  Uttermost Parts of the Planet?

In this brief study, we want to examine a Greek word used in the commission of Acts 1:8. As we do, we remember that this commission was given to the chosen apostles of the Lamb; those who were promised that one day they would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel in the earthly kingdom.

The setting (context) is the risen Lord Jesus concluding his 40-day teaching on the Kingdom to the future judges of the coming Kingdom in Jerusalem. The only detail the Savior left out was when the Kingdom would be restored to Israel (not to the "Church"). But, surely, the Kingdom will be restored.

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

-Acts 1:1-7 

We are not privy to what the risen Lord taught them for those 40 days. That is the Lord's prerogative. We have no need to know. This is what the Holy Spirit does preserve for us through Luke's account in the Acts:

  • The Lord gave specific commandments to the chosen apostles
  • They were not to depart Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit (w/gifts) fell
  • The Davidic Kingdom would be restored to Israel
  • The timing was under the Father's authority

We know from Acts 3 (post-Pentecost) that the main condition is the repentance of Israel.

Ye men of Israel... brethren... Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

The angel Gabriel reiterated the promises to the fathers (cp. Rom 15:8) in the prophets to Mary when she conceived.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

-Luke 1:32-33

We pause to remind ourselves it was Gabriel who reveled God's timeline to the prophet Daniel. That prophecy was interpreted for Daniel by Gabriel. In his explanation, he was very clear, "Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.” (Dan 8:17b).

We note, also, that Paul at his trial late in the Acts age, testified that he spoke "nothing" that was not spoken by Moses and the Prophets. He stated as late as Acts 28 that he was in chains for "the hope of Israel."

All these things concerning the earthly Kingdom concern Israel. The commission of Acts 1 is no different. Israel's hope and Kingdom is the context. In our previous study, linked above, pointing to that commission's scope we did not focus on one word. That word is the word BOTH. We want to see "both" in its connection to the "land" and the calling of Israel by the apostles to Israel.

We stopped in verse 7 of Acts 1 above, but now let's look at  the oft-quoted verse 8.

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

-Acts 1:8 (KJV)

but ye shall receive power at the coming of the Holy Spirit upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the end of the earth.'

-Acts 1:8 (Young's Literal Translation)

The KJV and YLT use "both" in their translation. Some modern versions do as well (ESV, NASB, etc.). Many other versions do not (NKJV, etc.). I believe one of the reasons for this is a bias on the part of the translators. So familiar with the assumed usage and application of this verse (assuming all the Bible is spoken to all people in all ages), they ignore its context and find "both" to be unimportant. The versions that do use "both" probably assume the dual nature of the word is limited to Jerusalem and Judea. We'll look at that in our next study on Acts 1:13. For now, we return to 1:8. 

The Greek word translated "both" is "τέ." As with many words, it can mean different things in different contexts. Luke uses it three times in Acts 1, here in verse 8, and also in verses 1 and 13. When used with a list of things, "both" should be considered. Now, I haven't looked up every use, but the few I hve from the gospel accounts and the Acts using this word, "both" is implied. That is, two things.

As just one example, the NKJV, which does not use "both" in verse 8 for "τέ," does use "both" for "τέ" in verse 1:

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach

Just out of curiosity, I checked 1:8 in the Reformed Bible of choice, the 1599 Geneva Bible.

But ye shall receive power of the holy Ghost, when he shall come on you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. -Acts 1:8


For those keeping score at home, Young's Literal Translation uses "both" in all three verses in Acts where where "τέ' is found.

I used an online translator, Koine Greek to English. This greatly helped me see more clearly the intent of Luke and the Holy Spirit in the commission to the apostles to the circumcision; a commission they obey throughout the Acts.

let the power of the Holy Spirit come upon you, and bear witness to me, both in Jerusalem, and in all of Judah, and in Samaria, and to the rest of the Earth.

Without being dogmatic, but in light of the immediate context of Acts 1 (the restoration of the Kingdom to and in Israel) and the calling of the twelve to go to Israel alone as the future judges of the twelve tribes, we can look at Acts 1:8 the following way.

The apostles to the circumcision, who carried the gospel to the circumcision (Galatians 2:7-8) were commissioned to take the gospel of the Kingdom to Judah ("Jerusalem and in all Judea") AND to Israel (Samaria and to the rest of the land/earth). "Both."

This would be to all 12 tribes. Two which made up Judah and the Ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. The Ten tribes are connected to the dispersion (although some from all 12 tribes were in the dispersion). So, we note, again, to whom both Peter and James directed their epistles.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greetings.

-James 1:1

To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father

-1 Peter 1:1-2a

We cannot insert a Gentile "church" into these epistles. James addresses those meeting in "synagogues" (James 2:2). Unfortunately, the King James version translates synagogue there as "assembly." This is the only time they translate it such. In every other case, it reads, "synagogue." Men imposing their theology on the Holy Spirit's inspiration. 

I'd like to refer to John Calvin's commentary on 1 Peter here. I choose Calvin not because he divides scripture as I do, but because even Calvin understood that the dispersion must mean Jews.

To the sojourners They who think that all the godly are thus called, because they are strangers in the world, and are advancing towards the celestial country, are much mistaken, and this mistake is evident from the word dispersion which immediately follows; for this can apply only to the Jews, not only because they were banished from their own country and scattered here and there, but also because they had been driven out of that land which had been promised to them by the Lord as a perpetual inheritance. He indeed afterwards calls all the faithful sojourners, because they are pilgrims on the earth; but the reason here is different. They were sojourners, because they had been dispersed, some in Pontus, some in Galatia, and some in Bithynia. It is nothing strange that he designed this Epistle more especially for the Jews, for he knew that he was appointed in a particular manner their apostle, as Paul teaches us in Galatians 2:8. In the countries he enumerates, he includes the whole of Asia Minor, from the Euxine to Cappadocia.


When we rightly divide the Acts and the Acts Age epistles, when we understand the calling and commission of the Lord's chosen apostles, we can start to see the differences between the earthly hope of Israel and the hope of the Body in the far above the heavens. We can see the difference between the physical Temple and physical Kingdom in the promised land and the spiritual temple and spiritual kingdom in heavenly places.

Pause and read that last sentence again. I named four things, but they represent only two hopes. This is how the Holy Spirit has preserved the commission of the Kingdom in Acts 1:8. Four places noted representing two places. 

We are going to again take up the use of "both" in our next study, but regardless, in light of the calling of Peter and the twelve, in light of the limitation of the Gospel of the Kingdom to Israel, and in light of the earthly hope of Israel in view, we can certainly see that the commission many take today for themselves should be limited to that group and to that calling under that hope in that age.

[Your city] is not "your Jerusalem." When the Lord speaks of Jerusalem, we need to read "Jerusalem."