Acts 1:8

ESV But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
NIV 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.'
NASB but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.'
CSB But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
NLT But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'
KJV 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 Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

What does Acts 1:8 mean?

This verse serves as a synopsis of the book of Acts. In chapter 2, the 120 or so (Acts 1:15) Jesus-followers will receive the Holy Spirit and be empowered by Him to perform signs and miracles. In chapters 2 through 7, more and more people in Jerusalem will come to know Jesus as their promised Messiah. That message will spread to Judea and Samaria in chapters 8 through 12. The rest of the book is mostly about Paul's work outside of the Jewish homeland, in modern-day Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece.

Jesus' work was to establish the means by which God's people could be saved through His death on the cross and His resurrection. The Holy Spirit's work is to spread the message that salvation is found in Jesus. As people accept Jesus, they join together in local groups—churches—which are part of the universal church of all believers. Jesus' work is finished (John 19:30); He must leave for the Holy Spirit to empower God's followers (Luke 24:49) and continue God's plan for the world (John 16:7–15). The Holy Spirit will come on Pentecost, about nine days later (Acts 2:1–4).

"Witness" is from the Greek root word martys. It means a legal or historical spectator who can swear to what he has seen, and Jesus does bestow that role to the apostles. Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus' transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16–18). Hundreds saw Jesus after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6). This more than fulfills the Mosaic requirement of two or more witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6). But martys is also the origin of the English word martyr. It is someone who embodies the example of Jesus by being willing to die for what they believe about Him. The apostles fulfilled Jesus' commission; all but John are recorded to have been martyred for their faith.

The disciples still think Jesus is there to establish an independent Israel and reign on King David's throne (Acts 1:6). This will happen in the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:1–6), but first, Jesus has a job for them. They will start by preaching in Jerusalem, quickly building up the first church to thousands (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7). When persecution becomes too great, the converts will spread into Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1–4).

This will fulfill Jesus' promise to the woman in Samaria (John 4:1–42). The Samaritans are a racial blend: partly Jews taken into exile by Assyria, and partly foreigners whom Assyria planted in the land. Jews revile Samaritans, due to their mix of races and of worship practices. Jesus promised one Samaritan woman that soon they will no longer worship false gods but "true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him" (John 4:23). The lost sheep will return to God's fold (Luke 15:4).

Included in this initial push outside of Jerusalem will be people with no Jewish blood at all. First, Philip will reach out to an Ethiopian government official who follows the Jewish God (Acts 8:26–40). Then Peter will witness the conversion of a household of Gentiles (Acts 10:34–48). Believers from Alexandria and Cyprus will go north to Syrian Antioch and reach the Gentiles there (Acts 11:19–21). When the church in Jerusalem comes to recognize God's offer of salvation is for all people (Acts 11:1–18, 22–26), the floodgates open, and Paul and Barnabas are freed to preach the gospel throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 13—28).

To the disciples, "the end of the earth" would mean the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. Paul did hope to go to Spain (Romans 15:24), although we're not told if he ever made it. Church tradition says some of the disciples evangelized parts far to the east. Today, of course, we know the gospel has reached the ends of the earth and farther—astronaut Edgar Mitchell took a tiny Bible printed on microfiche on the Apollo 14 mission to the moon.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: