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Restoring the Kingdom to Israel - Acts 1:1-11

[Acts 1:1-11] … 6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But 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.” 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight…


Restoring the Kingdom to Israel

Things are not done yet. The course is being run but isn’t yet finished. Jesus has lived the perfect life, died for our sins, is risen from the dead — and now, at the end of the Gospel and the beginning of the book of Acts, His ascension into heaven is about to happen and then happens.

Jesus ascends to the right hand of God the Father – to His place of all authority in heaven and on earth [Matthew 28:18], still fully Man and fully God. God the Father seats Jesus “at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” [Ephesians 1:15-23].

Just before Jesus ascends, the disciples ask Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He has conquered the greatest enemy, death, by His resurrection. Now, in His ascension, will He use His ultimate power and authority to advance their nation of Israel?

Jesus had taught clearly, “My kingdom is not of this world” [John 18:36], but His disciples still have their minds set on this world – on earthly Israel. “Will Israel topple the Romans?” “Will the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob finally prevail?”

Even after all they had seen and heard from Jesus, it was still stuck in their minds, at least to some degree, that their Messiah, their Christ, had come to make them the ultimate superpower in the world. Would it now happen?

When the disciples ask, “Will You now restore the kingdom to Israel?”, Jesus doesn’t say “No”, and He also doesn’t say “Yes”. He says it’s not for them to know the times or seasons, and then He directs their attention to the true restoring of the Kingdom: “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.”      

By His ascension, Jesus takes His throne to extend a kingdom greater and different than any other kingdom. Jesus will extend a heavenly kingdom, not through politics, power, or sword, but through the ministry of preaching and teaching His Word – the work of making disciples [Matthew 28:19-20].

In just a few days, the disciples’ minds will be transformed by the receiving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and from then forward there is no more talk at all from them about restoring or opposing any nation on earth. Instead, they go forth preaching the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus.

Now for us: Going back to their question in today’s reading, how does our mindset compare? Is our mind on earth or in heaven? Is our hope anchored in a nation, people, or city in this world or to a city and Kingdom to come? What is our Israel, our Jerusalem, our kingdom and nation?

If you listen to Christian radio very much – you may find some good preachers on there, or you may not – but what you will definitely find at times, it seems, is a strange focus on the earthly nation of Israel, as if our hope in Christ, or even the second-coming of Christ, is somehow tied to the politics of that region. This is very misguided thinking.

There is talk in the Bible about the promises and blessings of Israel. All of these promises, and the people of Israel’s role as a blessing to the world – this is all fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. The promise made to Abraham was that, through his son Isaac, his descendants would become a great nation, and that from that nation the Savior of the world – of every nation – would be born. [Galatians 3:16-29]

That promise has been fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. By His death, resurrection, and ascension, He has become the Savior of people from every nation, all in the same way – through faith Him.

Man’s relationship to God is not through any city or nation – not through the city of Rome, not through Jerusalem or Israel – and not through any special race of any sort – but only through one Man, Jesus Christ.

Jesus has said as much: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” [John 14:6]. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” [John 3:36]. It’s the same for every person.

And we read last week, from the mouth of Peter, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” [Acts 10:34-35]. And, “everyone who believes in Him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through His name” [Acts 10:43]. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” [Romans 10:13]. It’s the same for every person.

In the Church’s lifetime on earth, we’ve often set our minds too much on the earth. The most common opinion is that the kingdom of our ascended Lord Jesus is somehow tethered to the city of Rome – or to the success of the United States – or, as we’ve said, to Israel and Jerusalem.

But Scripture is abundantly clear: “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” [Hebrews 13:14] — “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” [Hebrews 12:22] – “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother” [Galatians 4:26] – “the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven” [Revelation 3:12].

Jesus did not give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to His disciples’ question, “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel”, because there is an Israel that He is restoring – the kingdom of those who trust in the Savior [Romans 4; Galatians 3].

Jesus ascended into heaven, yet also promised, just before ascending, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” [Matthew 28:20]. Jesus has ascended to His throne of kingship to reign over the hearts of all who call upon Him. He ascended to His throne and has set that throne upon your hearts.

The ascended Jesus is restoring an Israel for heaven. His might is the forgiveness of sins which He won for you by His death and resurrection. From His heavenly throne, He forgives you on earth, dwells in you, reigns over your hearts, and transforms your minds [Romans 12:12]. In this way He is restoring His Israel and His Kingdom is coming.

You are called, “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. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1 Peter 2:9-10]

The ascension of Jesus means you do have a Kingdom. The news about this Kingdom and the mission of this Kingdom are infinitely more important than the daily news cycle about the kingdom of this world. The Kingdom of heaven has been extended to you — And the Kingdom of heaven extends through you into this world so that others may also come to know their Savior.

As we remember Christ’s ascension, and always, may our minds be set less-and-less on the things of this world and more-and-more on those things pertaining to the Kingdom of heaven where Christ is seated at the right hand of God [Colossians 3:1-3]. Amen.

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