The Disciples’ Hope After the Resurrection
After the resurrection, the disciples asked Jesus saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Even at this point, the disciples did not yet comprehend the nature of His kingdom. They thought Jesus “should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24:21), from the oppression of their enemies the Romans. In General, the Jews were filled with Messianic hope. In the Psalms of Solomon an apocryphal book written shortly before the Christian Era, there is a repeated expression given to the idea of an earthly kingdom. Here is an example:
“Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David, at the time in the which Thou seest, O God, that he may reign over Israel Thy servant. And gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers, and that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample (her) down to destruction…. And he shall purge Jerusalem, making it holy as of old: so that nations shall come from the ends of the earth to see his glory, bringing as gifts her sons who had fainted, and to see the glory of the Lord, wherewith God hath glorified her” (The Psalms of Solomon 17:23–35; cited in R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2, pp. 649, 650).
Such expressions may very well have spurred the disciples to think that the time had come for forming the promised kingdom, which led them to ask the above question.
The Nature of God’s Kingdom
Jesus had not promised the kind of restoration that the disciples were hoping for. Instead, He came “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” (Luke 4:19). And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:6,7). Christ did not give them a direct answer but He directed them to the work that laid ahead. Jesus referred to the climactic events that would take place at the end of time (Matthew 24:3). It is as if He said, “It is not for you to know the date, or the exact way in which the kingdom will be established.”
Even Jesus Himself as an incarnate man didn’t know the day nor the hour of His coming (Matthew 24:36). Thus, Jesus’ answer was a gentle rebuke to people (1) who are not yet ready to accept all truth (John 16:12), but (2) who know enough to fulfill the Lord’s commission (Matthew 28:19, 20), and (3) who will be led by signs and by the Spirit (Matthew 24:32, 33; Mark 16:17, 18; John 16:13).
Instead, Jesus promised His disciples a supernatural “power,” to all those upon whom the Holy Spirit will descend (Luke 1:35; 24:49). This power is for witnessing: for it gives (1) power in the personal life, (2) power to proclaim the gospel, (3) power to lead people to God. Through the empowered disciples, Jesus would spread the work He began on earth, and even “greater works” than those would be done (John 14:12). And this Spirit-given witness was to be a distinctive sign of the Christian church.
A New Understanding
Only after Pentecost, the disciples found a different redemption than the one they were hoping for (Acts 2:37–39). The ascension and the Pentecostal experiences which followed, gave them the right understanding; and they finally comprehended the spiritual nature of their Master’s kingdom. They realized that they would be His “witnesses.”
The apostles knew Christ to be the Messiah of prophecy and the Redeemer of mankind. Therefore, they can testify of His promise to come back. As witnesses, the disciples were the first link between the crucified, risen, and ascended Master and the world. And through their preaching, all might have faith (John 1:12). John writes, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (1 John 1:3).
Today, believers in Christ are, likewise, called to give their personal testimony to the works and teachings of Jesus, so that God may save the world through His Son (John 3:16). They will tell of the effectiveness of the gospel in their own lives (Luke 8:39). For this is the most convincing testimony ever.
In His service,