Acts 1:6 – “Will You Now Restore the Kingdom to Israel?”

In Acts 1:6, some disciples wonder if Jesus was now going to “restore the kingdom to Israel.” This question is reminiscent of the Olivet Discourse in Luke 21:5-37, where the disciples ask about the coming judgment on the Temple. When they asked “when will this happen” in Luke 21, Jesus’ answer implied that it would happen very soon, within a generation (Luke 21:32).

What prompts the question is Jesus’ command to remain in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit “not many days from now.” As Keener observes, talk of the Spirit’s outpouring was de facto eschatological in character” (Acts, 1:682). Many texts from the Hebrew Bible indicate that the eschatological age would be characterized by the Spirit of God on all his people (Joel 2:28-31, which Peter quotes in the next chapter, but also Isa 42:1, 44:3, 59:21). If the Spirit is coming, then the time of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel must be soon.

Return of the KingAfter the resurrection of Jesus, it was only natural for the disciples to think that Jesus would now enter the Temple in the power and glory of his resurrection and begin to reform the religion of Israel and begin the process of evangelizing the nations. This was a clear expectation of the Messiah’s activity. Beginning with the people of God, Messiah would either convert the enemies of Israel or destroy them. On a historical level, the question the disciples ask resonates with many other Jews living in the mid 30’s A.D.

The verb translated “restore” here (ἀποκαθίστημι) is a key eschatological term. It appears in Malachi 4:6 (LXX 3:23) and LXX Daniel 4:26, and it anticipates Acts 3:21 where the word 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, 49:6; Jer 16:15; 31:27-34).

Isaiah 2:2-4 In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

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).

The disciples expect Jesus to tell them that he is in fact about to restore the Kingdom and take his father David’s throne in Jerusalem. Much like the crowds in Luke 19:11, the disciples expect the Kingdom of God, as described by the prophets, to arrive at that moment.

Yet it is no surprise when Jesus reminds them it is not for them to known when the kingdom will be restored. The idea of an interim period between the present and the coming kingdom is well known in Second Temple Period Judaism. For example in 4 Ezra 4:33-37 the prophet asks “How long and when will these things be? Why are our years few and evil?” The answer in this late first century text is that “the time of threshing is delayed for the righteous—on account of the sins of those who dwell on earth.” The interim is to be used wisely. The new age will certainly dawn, but in the meantime the righteous will continue to labor. Many of Jesus’ parables have a similar theme (the Ten Virgins in Matt 25:1-14, for example).

As for the disciples, they are called 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. 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. These men are quite literally the most unlikely group of people to be commissioned with the task of announcing the Messiah to Israel and then the rest of the world!

5 thoughts on “Acts 1:6 – “Will You Now Restore the Kingdom to Israel?”

  1. The coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ will be an awesome thing. And the wild thing about it, prophecy is telling us that its a the door. Why do you think He is sitting at the right hand of God right now? Interceding for us and waiting for the Father to give the word to go get his bride. The Church Age is almost over with the signs giving us conformation of that. Next stop is the Rapture of the Church!

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  2. I find it more understandable having read this blog post and reflecting on what the disciples were expecting in Jesus’ last moments with them before ascending. Jesus charged them to stay in Jerusalem until the Promise of the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:4). Shortly after mentioning this the disciples ask if Jesus would be restoring the kingdom at this time to Israel (Acts 1:6). In response Jesus states it’s not for them to know the times or season which the Father has put in place (v7). Then Jesus says BUT when the Holy Spirit does come you will receive power and will be witnesses to Me throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

    Here’s what I find most interesting. In Luke 17:20, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, and Jesus stated that “the kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘see here! or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom is within you”. What did Jesus mean by that? How could the Kingdom of God be in them? I personally believe Jesus was hinting to the Holy Spirit being the Kingdom within. Jesus did not mean to directly say the kingdom was within the religious teachers, rather, the Holy Spirit would build the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Luke 17 goes on to describe the last days and additionally, how many will think they have figured out when Jesus is coming again, but in reality, they have no clue.

    Acts 1:4-8 has a similar setup in that Jesus commands them to stay in Jerusalem until they have received the promise of the Father, which is the Holy Spirit. The disciples being eager asked if it was indeed now that Jesus would restore the Davidic kingdom to Israel, and Jesus says that is not for you to know BUT you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes and then you will be witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth (v8).

    I do not think it a coincidence that there seems to be two parts when it comes to the kingdom of God coming. I think Jesus was implying we could expand the Kingdom of God due to the Holy Spirit’s power in us. Perhaps this is why he often stated in his ministry, “the kingdom of God is near” (Matt. 3:2, 4:17, 10:7, Mark 1:15, Luke 10:9). Why would Jesus send out the disciple to Israel’s lost sheep, to proclaim that the Kingdom is near? That’s fairly controversial to hear as a Jew! It would seem evident that the disciples did not quite understand what He meant by that, they thought in reference to Isaiah’s prophecy (2:2-4, 9:6-7). The Davidic kingdom has yet to come to this day and I do not find Jesus’ statements of the kingdom of God being near to mean when He comes back. There was depth and weight in those words that we should look deeper into.

    These are just my thoughts in comparing and contrasting Jesus response to the Pharisees and what Jesus said often to his own disciples. There will be a day, not just to restore the Kingdom to Israel but to have the Lord’s kingdom reign over all nations when He returns.

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  3. I think most people overlook Jesus time after the resurrection because the resurrection was so significant. His ministry continued after his death, and it needed to continue because many people were confused about what had happened to this messianic figure. Jesus ascension needed to happen in order for the Holy Spirit to take place on earth. Peter speaks about this during Pentecost in verse 35 saying “Then raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the spirit he had just received.”

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  4. I think many people tend to grow frustrated with the idea of Christ’s return. Not that He will return, but rather people want to know when. As verse 7 says, it is not for us (or the disciples) to know. People always try to figure out when Christ is coming back or when the world is going to end, and I think that leads people to focus on the wrong things. We need to be focused on Christ, serving Him, and serving others as well.
    The fact that people try to come up with elaborate codes and conspiracies saying when Christ is returning, I think, is rather disrespectful to God’s authority. I think was Christ was doing in this passage is setting up the inception of the church and allowing it to start to take hold. When the Holy Spirit comes down on them, they now have the power to go out and witness to others all throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria. This is something that today we can also recognize – that when we have the Holy Spirit, we now are able to go and evangelize to others who do not yet know Christ and the Gospel. So, while it was not yet the time to restore the Kingdom of Israel in Acts 1:6, we know that we are here to serve Christ and the church until it is time for Christ’s return. Trusting in God’s plan is key, even if we don’t know what/when it is.

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