When they were together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Isra’el?”
Acts 1:6 (CJB)
In verse 6 we see that the disciples still didn’t get this Kingdom-of-God thing, not even with God Himself (Jesus) personally teaching them about it (one more reason that the coming of the Holy Spirit that we see in chapter two was so necessary).
So the disciples ask Yeshua this question: “Lord, are you going to restore self-rule to Israel?”
You see all of Judaism was breathlessly waiting for a Deliverer, an anointed one, to come and not only rescue Israel from the hands of the Romans; but to also restore self-rule. That self-rule was to come in the form of a Davidic King. And the disciples well understood that Yeshua came from the royal line of David, so He was qualified for the position.
And, by the way, there were many lines that came from David through his many wives. But only the line that came through David’s son Solomon was considered as the royal line, meaning eligibility to sit on Israel’s throne as king.
So even though through all Yeshua had done and taught them the 11 still seemed to harbor the notion that in His now resurrected body, He would lead Israel in a successful military rebellion against Rome. This particular expectation of a Messiah was present in virtually all Jews, whether they lived in the Holy Land or in the Diaspora.
And since Christ had proven in every way that He was the Messiah, what would have been a more logical question that the one the disciples put forward to Him about Israel and self-rule?
The disciples didn’t get it that, at least for this time; Yeshua came only to die as a ransom for sin. Yeshua’s answer to their question is fascinating and important. He didn’t say “no”. He essentially said “later”.
He said to them, It is not for you to become acquainted with and know what time brings [the things and events of time and their definite periods] or fixed years and seasons (their critical niche in time), which the Father has appointed (fixed and reserved) by His own choice and authority and personal power.
But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.
Acts 1:7-8 (AMPC)
So Christ’s answer to the question ‘will Israel return to self-rule’ is yes Israel will. And by the way they had self-rule restored to them in May of 1948 and have been under self-rule ever since.
However that still isn’t the fulfillment of what Yeshua was speaking about; because Yeshua’s concern wasn’t merely the land of Israel having independence, and being led by a Jew; but rather that Israel would be the core of the Kingdom of God. And that event is still in the future, and it is what modern Christianity calls the Millennial Kingdom.
So while it is going to come as a surprise to many Believers, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that Israel and the Kingdom of God will one day be the same. And Jerusalem as capital of Israel will also be the capital of the worldwide Kingdom of God with Jesus Christ ruling on earth as king.
But Yeshua told them that they didn’t need to know when this would happen; in fact the Father is the only one who knows and is keeping it to Himself. So instead of receiving knowledge of when these events will happen (events they don’t yet fathom), they will (in a matter of days) receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.
His answer also completely blows away the Christian concept of Replacement Theology or that the Jews no longer have a right to the Holy Land; and instead it now belongs to the gentile Church.
Another important thing that happened here is most instructional for our day. Jesus refocused them from anxiously staring into the future and instead told them to concentrate on the now.
Whatever lies ahead in prophecy is important and we can count on it; but we should not live our lives in waiting mode. Or as with today among too many Believers, constantly thinking about the coming End Times while the days whiz by and mostly we just fret and worry about the terrible things we read about the End Times, instead of our being productive.
Christ says that He has told us what we need to know about the outcome of God’s plan of redemption; but the when is not for us to know. Rather as His devoted followers we are to get on with the business of doing God’s will, living holy lives, caring for Yeshua’s sheep, and doing whatever we can to bring the lost ones into the Kingdom.
Yeshua telling the disciples to be witnesses for Him in Jerusalem, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth tells us a couple of important things.
First it tells us that Jerusalem is the beginning point, like the epicenter of a massive earthquake, and the Gospel is to ripple outwards from there. It is to spread next to Samaria (a place the Jews, including the Believers, simply despised even though most Samarians had some Hebrew blood in their veins).
And then after Samaria, to every corner of the earth, meaning to the gentile world, but no doubt also to the Jewish Diaspora. In fact, I have no doubt that since to this point Yeshua was 100% about being the Jewish Messiah who came for the Jewish people, that when the disciples heard this instruction from Jesus their first thought was for their Jewish brothers of the Diaspora (representing more than 90% of all living Jews) who lived in far flung cities and towns throughout Northern Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Little did they understand just yet that gentiles were to be an important part of their work?
And that is why we’re going to see so much focus on Paul, the designated Apostle to the gentiles, in a few more blog posts.
But telling His disciples to be a witness for Him was said, and understood, within the common Jewish legal understanding of the term.
- A witness was part of the legal system’s process of justice.
- A witness was more than a casual observer to an event; rather a witness was important and carried real power and knew things.
- A witness in the Jewish legal system was often the accuser.
- A witness was believed in their testimony because if they weren’t truthful they could be prosecuted.
- Two witnesses whose testimony matched were typically sufficient for conviction.
- And if the conviction was for a capital offense, the witnesses also led the execution process.
Do you want to be a witness for Christ?
Then understand the seriousness of your office, and that only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can give you the necessary authority and power to function in that position.
We’ll continue in Acts chapter 1 in my next blog post.