“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:6–7 NRSV)
It remains commonplace that the apostles are still anticipating an earthly kingdom with an earthly king. However to read the text in this way misses some very important interpretive clues.
For example, Luke had just informed the reader that these men—those asking this question—had just spent forty days with Jesus who was “speaking to them about the kingdom of God.” Furthermore, Jesus does not correct their supposed misunderstanding, but only reminds them that such matters belong to God’s timing.
There are good reasons to understand the apostle’s as asking just the right question.
Luke is very clear in his “former treatise,” that is the Gospel of Luke that Jesus would “turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God and that this God remains the God of Israel (Luke 1:16. 68). When Jesus began his ministry, he appeared publicly to Israel (1:80). Luke leaves little doubt of God’s continued care for his people Israel.
When the family of Jesus encounters the prophet Simeon, who is “looking forward to the consolation of Israel (2:25), he predicts that Jesus will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (2:32). Furthermore, the prophet continues, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel (2:34).
Even after the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus himself promises his Apostles that “you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (22:30). After the resurrection, the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, sighed, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21).
Against this backdrop, the question “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” does not seems so far-fetched.
So did God restore the kingdom of Israel? How does Acts read on this?