Sunday, December 7, 2014

What is the Kingdom of God - beginning from Acts 1:6

What is the Kingdom of God?

This is one of the most important questions a Christian needs to come to grips with in his study of the word of God. It’s something in the main not grappled with by preachers in the Australian scene. Sydney preachers tend to focus on “the gospel” the good news of Jesus, but then fail to notice that the good news was in the context of the preaching of the KOG. For example, john the Baptist led the way with this message and so did Jesus after him.

Sadly some think the unifying theme of the Bible is salvation history. Yet the Kingdom of God is the one theme that can be said to cover revelation from Genesis to Revelation.

To grapple with this notion and indeed grapple is the operative word, one needs to deal with Acts 1:6.

One cannot pass over it as many preachers do even though sadly they claim to study and preach the word in context yet to considering context is actually something they are selective about. Other don’t ignore it but dismiss it by saying that the disciples were wrong in asking this question. But again though claiming to read the passage in context, one asks where in the passage it is dismissed as a wrong expectation?

Jesus was never short in correcting the disciples wrongly held ideas. Indeed over and over again on the Gospels he does just that with their concept of the Messiah. Mark 8:31-32 for example. He also did it with the religious leaders, and the Scribes and Pharisees by saying they had great zeal but were ignorant. “you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matt 22:9. Or when they went by their traditions instead of the Scriptures,  Matt 15:3. He confronted peoples wrong motives for following him Matt 8:18-22.  He corrects the Samaritan error with “Salvation is from the Jews”.

So what are we to make of Acts 1:6? Hermann Ridderbos and Bruce K. Waltke with conviction state that there is no future for Israel. indeed Waltke announces that there’s no clear passage of Scripture that teaches the restoration of national Israel. However this is exactly what the disciples question in Acts 1:6 claims.

It is truly amazing that someone of Calvin’s stature attributes their question to blindness.  However one must again ask “where in Acts 1 does Jesus say their question was wrong? Indeed all one can say is that Jesus said it was not for them to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority. Acts 1:7

The context of the disciples Question:

Acts 1 begins with the disciples spending 40 days in in-depth teaching with Jesus about the KOG. It is immediately after this that they ask Jesus the question regarding the KOG and Israel. 1:3. More importantly they ask their question after he’s told them to remain in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. 1:4-5. [ Further investigation required here - for this, the coming of the Holy Spirit, seems to raise the issue about the restoration of Israel. Certainly the book of Leviticus with its cycle of feasts is relevant here, thus The Passover with the sacrifice for sin, yet the feast of Pentecost infers the Holy spirit will be given to unite the people of Israel. Perhaps also ? are the passages in Jeremiah 24:7; 31:30-34, and Ezek 36 when Israel with receive a heart of flesh and the Holy Spirit is given where no man will need to teach his brother but all will know the truth … ] Still even without settling this issue for the moment, we can see the broader context is their having just been taught by Jesus regarding the KOG.

What then they ask is about whether Jesus is going to restore again the Kingdom to Israel. we need to take careful note of what they meant. Restore again implies there was a time when Israel was a kingdom. It’s not referring to “the spiritual reign of kingdom in people’s hearts” but their national physical kingdom of David and Solomon. Cf 2 Sa 7:16 and Psalm 89:3-4.

Jesus’ answer is pertinent. It’s “not for you to know the times and epochs the father has set.” Here many ignore again the words ”has set” which gives affirmation to God’s plan being carried out no matter what and no matter what the appearances suggest. Rather Jesus suggests that what is for them is the plan suggested in Acts 1:8 which is what we find filled out in the rest of the book of Acts. That commission is their agenda. On no plain reading can the words “it’s not for you to know” be understood as a rejection of the idea of a restoration of national Israel.

So here we have a big challenge for the preacher. To deal faithfully with what God says in His Word. To not pass over it or introduce assumptions that the text does not make and which go against the actual plain reading of the text in context.
You might say “But that unravels my understanding of the Kingdom of God as the spiritual reign of the Lord Jesus in people’s hearts.” Well then friend, go back to the Scriptures and investigate afresh the notion of the Kingdom of God.

In Christ