Acts 1:6-8 – Restoring the Kingdom

Jesus on the Mount of OlivesWhile in Jerusalem, it appears that Jesus and the disciples gathered in their usual location on the Mount of Olives (1:6-8).  Some disciples asked if Jesus was going to “restore the kingdom to Israel” at this time.

This question is reminiscent of the Olivet Discourse in Luke 21:5-37 (cf., Mt 24-25).  In Luke 21 Jesus has offered a stinging critique of the Temple and its leadership and walked out of the Temple through the east gate to the Mount of Olives. While walking through the beautiful buildings and gate, Jesus predicts they will be destroyed.  At least some of the disciples ask at that time about the timing of this event – is Jesus about to restore the kingdom, perhaps judge the current corrupt priesthood and replace it with a pure priesthood. This is the same sort of question someone at Qumran might have asked, since they too thought the priesthood in Jerusalem was corrupt and would be replaced by a more pure priesthood (their sect!)

After the resurrection, it was only natural to think that Jesus would now enter the Temple in the power and glory of the resurrection and begin to reform the religion of Israel and begin the process of evangelizing the nations.

Again, this was a clear expectation of the Messiah’s activity.  Beginning with the people of God themselves, Messiah would either convert the enemies of Israel or destroy them (depending on their response or the attitude of the writer describing Messiah’s activities!) Very often these enemies were within the nation itself.  Individual groups identified the primary enemy of a pure Jewish faith as corrupt priests, people who did not fully keep the law, etc.

The verb that is translated “restore” in this context (ἀποκαθίστημι) is a key eschatological term.  It appears in Mal 4:6 (LXX 3:23) and LXX Daniel 4:26, and it anticipates Acts 3:21 where the related noun appears in an eschatological context. The hope of Israel was that the kingdom would be restored to them as the prophets had predicted (Isa 2:2-4; 49:6, Jer 16:15; 23:8; 31:27-34; Amos 9:11-15). In fact, Luke began his first book with the hope of the coming Messiah in the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:69-74) as well as the words of Simeon in the Temple (Luke 2:24-32).

Jesus reminds them it is not for them to known when the kingdom will be restored, but they are to be witnesses to the good news of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the earth. To some extent, the kingdom is about to begin in the Temple in a manner which is not unlike what many expected.  The Holy Spirit will fall upon people and they will speak the Word of God in power in the Temple itself.

What is unexpected is that the kingdom would be given to a group of Galileans rather than a faction within Judaism (Pharisees, Essenes, etc.) was not expected at all.  From the perspective of Second Temple Judaism as we understand it, these people would be the most unlikely group to be the witnesses of the Messiah to Israel and then the rest of the world!

But this “unlikely group” is another example (in Luke/Acts or the whole Bible) of God choosing to accomplish his goals through the most unlikely and weak things of this world. The restoration of the Kingdom begins with the preaching of two Galilean fishermen in the Temple courts, announcing the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Are there other elements of “restoration” in Acts 2-3 we ought to include here as well?

2 thoughts on “Acts 1:6-8 – Restoring the Kingdom

  1. I feel like a classic youth group message comes from 1 Timothy 4:12 where it says not to let anyone look down on you because you are young. I definitely have heard some sort of variation on that message a few times. Another verse that I have heard used as back up in this type of message comes from Acts 2:17. That is the verse where Luke says what Peter said while he was quoting from Joel. It says that when Jesus comes back and we move into the last days, He will pour out his Spirit on all flesh and it goes on to give specific examples of those different people. The verse lists off sons, daughters, young men, old men. At the time that this verse was written, women were still not seen as valuable in the church. They were silenced and taken advantage of. I do NOT want this to end up sounding like a feminist rant, but I think that this verse is significant because not only does it say that God is going to use ALL people, Jews and Gentiles, men and women. God has been planning to use women. If it was a shock that God would use Gentiles, then it would probably be an even bigger shock that God would use Gentile women. More than that, He is going to use young Gentile ‘daughters’. (I’m assuming that ‘daughters’ is talking about young women in specifics.) Overall, I think that this type of verse can be encouraging not only in youth group messages, but “big church” messages as well.

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  2. It seems oddly familiar to talk about clear expectations and restoration – as the Jews were, or are not the only ones with clear ideas about the Messiah’s return. But God does not seem to cater to our plans, as His always are, and always have been, far greater than our understanding.
    Of course, God’s use of unexpected sources stuck out to me as relating to our position as redeemed in His eyes. The Jews may never have expected the Messiah to come to the Gentiles as well, knowing that they were God’s chosen people. I think Luke is almost writing this as a reminder to the entire church: It is very unlikely God would have chosen us (any of us, even now) and yet He did. But this isn’t something to just accept and move on, this is our salvation – we should be praising God for the unexpected turns, because of His plan for redemption!
    I think the church today needs this reminder more than the early church did – and Luke writings are still a great reminder!

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