“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). We have often missed the importance of this text by passing off the question of the apostles as ignorance about the true nature of the kingdom. But I’m afraid we are the ones who have missed the message. In Acts 1:3, Jesus spent forty days with the apostles, “speaking about the kingdom of God.” It would be hard to believe they were still ignorant after Jesus’ death and resurrection and over a month of instruction specifically about the kingdom.
“Kingdom restoration” is the key theme of Acts (note 1:3 and 28:31, which bookends the message of the letter). Further, Jesus did not rebuke the apostles for their question. Instead, he spoke of the “time” restoration would be complete which was in the Father’s hand. Even more revealing is Peter’s statement in Acts 3:21 concerning Jesus, “…whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” Add one more point of context. After Jesus told the apostles that the time was fixed by the Father, he said,
“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.”
The message is, the time for complete restoration should not be the concern. Instead, the process of restoration is the gospel spread to the end of the earth. Restoring Israel has to do with peopling the world for Christ (Isaiah 54:1-3). Acts gives a model of Christians fulfilling the promise of restoring the kingdom to Israel.
Allow me to offering some quick conclusions from this text that will hopefully generate further study on your part:
- Kingdom and Messiah promises do not refer to a new kingdom in the sense that God did not have a kingdom in the Old Testament period or that God was not King. King Jesus solves the problem of the physical nation/kingdom/kings who were unable to be a kingdom of righteousness and holiness, honoring God throughout the world and fulfilling the Abrahamic promises. King Jesus is conquering the world and Satan, reversing the curses of the Garden and truly bringing all things in subjection to God (1 Cor. 15:21-27), things in heaven and things on earth (Eph. 1:10). Thus, “he reigns till all enemies are put under his feet” (Psalm 110). See also: Amos 9:11-15 [Acts 15:13-18].
- Restoration of the kingdom also refers to the restoration of the people. God cannot have people in his kingdom like those in the physical nation. His purpose was always to produce a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 [Exodus 19:5-6]). The physical nation failed this calling, but the restored Israel will not fail. See also Ezekiel 36:19-32.
- Kingdom restoration has not been completed, neither have all the Old Testament prophecies been fulfilled. For example, Hebrews 4:8-10 records, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” When God rested on the seventh day and later foretold the land promise, Canaan was only prefiguring the ultimate rest. Though we receive a rest of sorts in our release from the bondage of Satan (Matt. 11:28-30), we still await our ultimate rest: “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:50). God’s “picture-promises” even as far back as the beginning of Genesis are still in the process of being fulfilled, and some are not completed until “this mortal will have put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53).
- Kingdom restoration has to do with filling the world with the knowledge of the Lord (Isaiah 11:9). Kingdom people are so excited about the knowledge of God that they go everywhere inviting people to come and hear (Isaiah 2:2-3; Acts 8:3-4). The prophets are filled with pictures of the Messiah’s disciples working with and for their King in bringing the gospel message (Isaiah 49:1-9 [Acts 13:47; 2 Cor. 6:1-2]; Ezekiel 36:37-38; Zechariah 3:8-10; etc).
Kingdom restoration should be our motivation and our goal. Our work is far broader than simply a local church. We are kingdom people with a kingdom mission!