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Restore the Kingdom to Israel

by David Johnson

Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program

 

     Thank you for listening to these Word of Life radio broadcasts as we continue to share the Word of God not just for information but as God makes transformation in the life of that one who repents, believes, and obeys the gospel. The title for the lesson is “Restore the Kingdom to Israel.”  Acts chapter 1 verses 6 through 8.

     Please listen to the Word of God. “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.”

     During the years of Jesus’ public ministry His disciples continually wondered and asked about His coming kingdom. They were anxious for it to begin, for they expected to have important roles in it. They expected their Messiah-King to be a political and military conqueror who would free Israel from the detested Roman overlords.

     Jesus’ disciples were very familiar with their Hebrew prophets’ prophecies about Messiah and Israel’s promised glorious kingdom to come.  As for example, according to Daniel chapter 7 verses 13 through 14 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” 

     The ”one like a son of man” is Messiah.  Jesus Christ Himself used similar words in Luke chapter 21 verse 27 to refer to Himself.  “The clouds of heaven” portray the ‘son of man’ as divine. Throughout the Bible clouds often represent divine majesty, and God’s awesome presence.  For example, God’s glory appeared in a cloud in Exodus chapter 19 verse 9 at the giving of the law at Sinai.

     During the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to His disciples it states in Acts chapter 1 verse 3 in part “He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”  Jesus’ ongoing teaching regarding the kingdom would have prompted this burning question in the minds of His Jewish disciples.

     Acts chapter 1 verse 6 “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” Obviously, the disciples knew of no reason why the earthly form of the kingdom couldn’t be set-up immediately, since to their minds Jesus’ messianic work signaled that the end of the age had arrived, and the golden age of Israel was near, at hand.

     It must be remembered that an intervening time between the two comings of Messiah was not explicitly revealed in the Old Testament. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were greatly distraught that Jesus had not “redeemed Israel” and therefore set up His messianic kingdom. Luke chapter 24 verse 21.

     Furthermore, the disciples would have been familiar with Ezekiel chapter 36 and Joel chapter 2 that connected the coming of the kingdom with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised. It is therefore understandable that they hoped the arrival of the glorious kingdom of Israel was at hand. Surely, it was for this kingdom they had hoped, since they first joined Jesus of Nazareth, the restoration of Israel’s national independence, and their positions of power in the kingdom, the Messianic kingdom.

     Jesus however, quickly brought His disciples’ priorities back to their proper place. Acts chapter 1 verses 7 through 8 “He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times of dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.’”

     The Old Testament prophecies reveal many things about the earthly and glorious reign of Messiah-King but not the precise time of its establishment. God the Father, by his own sovereign authority has determined all the aspects, including its timing, of the earthly kingdom of His Son.

     Notice significantly, that Jesus does not deny their expectation of a coming literal, political, physical kingdom involving the nation of Israel. Therefore, the strong implication is that the disciples’ understanding of the promised kingdom to Israel was correct, except for the time of its coming. If they were mistaken about such a crucial aspect in His kingdom teaching, His failure to correct them is mystifying at least and seemingly deceptive at worst.

     Many conclude, from Jesus’ response to this question from His disciples, that they simply had a false concept of the kingdom. Yet, it seems reasonable that if they had a mistaken view that this would have been the time, the appropriate for Jesus to correct it.

     Nevertheless, many Biblical scholars reject that any physical, political kingdom on this earth for Israel will ever come to pass. Consider, for example, William Barclay writes “Throughout his ministry Jesus labored under one great disadvantage. The center of his message was the kingdom of God. Mark chapter 1 verse 15; but he meant one thing by the kingdom and those who listened to him meant another.

     The Jews were always vividly conscious of being God’s chosen people. They took that to mean that they were destined for special privilege and for world-wide dominion. Thole course of their history proved that humanly speaking that could never be. Palestine was a little country not more than 120 miles long by 40 miles wide.  It had its days of independence, but it had become subject in turn to the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. So, the Jews began to look forward to a day when God would break directly into human history and establish that world sovereignty of which they dreamed. They conceived of the kingdom only in political terms.”

     Another Amillennial scholar, John R. W. Stott writes: “In the English language, of course, a ‘kingdom’ is usually a territorial sphere which can be located on a map, like the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, the Hindu kingdom of Nepal, the Buddhist kingdom of Thailand, or the United Kingdom of Great Britain. But the kingdom of God is not a territorial concept. It does not and cannot, figure on any map. Yet, this is what the apostles were still envisaging by confusing the kingdom of God, which is only spiritual, with the kingdom of Israel.

     It is important to remember that his promise that they would receive power was part of his reply to their question about the kingdom, Acts chapter 1 verse 8. For the exercise of power is inherent in the concept of a kingdom. But power in God’s kingdom is different from power in human kingdoms. The reference to the Holy Spirit defines its nature. The kingdom of God is his rule set up in the lives of his people by the Holy Spirit. It is spread by witnesses, not by soldiers, through a gospel of peace, not a declaration of war, and by the work of the Spirit, not by force of arms, political intrigue or revolutionary violence.”

     These commentaries give us some insight regarding the ongoing debate as to the very important subject of the kingdom of God, its form and regarding the nation of Israel in the future.  Let’s understand that being right about prophecy saves no one.  That would be earning salvation. Being right, in Christ Jesus, saves. That by grace thru saving faith.

     However, searching the scriptures for the more reasonable truths regarding prophecy is important in our ongoing sanctification. Correct doctrine does matter, including unfulfilled prophecy. It’s scripture and it’s content and context that points us to truths on any Biblical subject.

Jesus Christ Himself taught the coming of an earthly, literal kingdom with reference to Israel. Consider for example:

Likewise, Jesus speaking to His apostles consider:

In fact, this prophecy of Jesus, Luke chapter 22, verses 28 through 30 matches:

Jesus Christ according to scripture, not the opinions or commentaries of men, Jesus Christ will reign over Jacob, which means the house or nation of Israel, not the church, in another phase of the kingdom of the Son yet future.

     In the meantime, since the spiritual kingdom of the Son reigning in the hearts of His church must come first, Colossians chapter 1 verse 13, Jesus gave His disciples then and us His disciples today the present mandate.  Acts chapter 1 verse 8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my disciples or you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  God will take care of the future. Including future phases of God’s kingdom.

     It remains our commission today, as the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us to share the gospel, the good news of the living Jesus Christ to a dying world, and to be obedient as His witnesses.

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ in Sellersburg, IN.

 




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10