So, when (the disciples) had come together, they were asking (Jesus), saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority(Acts1:6-7)
And so to Acts, and here is another short, relatively obscure piece of biblical narrative that is packed with theological implication – all of it vital to understanding God’s Plan of Loving Goodness set out in the Little Book of Providence (free PDF HERE)
There are three significant points, the two from verse 7 I will leave till the next post. In verse 6, Jesus’ closest disciples rightly understood that a part of God’s plan was to “restore the Kingdom to Israel”. This alludes to a key aspect of what I have been endeavouring to communicate, namely that the Kingdom of God (or in Matthew’s language “the Kingdom of Heaven”) that Christian disciples enter upon has nothing to do with who is going to heaven when they die but is the establishment of a new order on Earth run on heavenly principles. That Kingdom is being inaugurated in the present age but will not be fully established until Christ returns in glory. In terms of the disciples’ query Paul would later disclose that it had been determined that many Jewish hearts would be hardened to the gospel until the full complement of Gentiles elected to the Kingdom had been recruited (Rom11:25-26).
The disciples had also rightly understood that Old Testament prophecy indicated that God’s chosen race of Israel who had been tutored by the Law and perfected by a Messiah sent specifically to minister to them (Mt15:24; cf. Mt10:5-7) were the ones being prepared for royal service within God’s Kingdom. The Old Testament prophets had foretold that it would be the Jews who would lead the rest of the world into a knowledge of the Truth so that they might become citizens of the new, divinely ordered society: “ Many Gentiles “would come to Israel’s light and their kings to the brightness of her rising (Is60:3). At such a time “ten men from different nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you (Zech8:23). Such was the expectation but as Jesus had warned “the kingdom of God will be taken from you (Jews) and given to a “nation” bearing the fruits of it (Mt21:33-43NKJV). That “nation” would be the universal Church. As Paul would affirm, that was entirely new revelation “hidden in God” from the previous age (Col1:26-27). A universal church rather than the Jewish nation was to become the “royal priesthood of God” (1Pet2:9 cf. Ex19:6).
Once such a context for the Christian elect and the Jews as God’s chosen nation before them has been grasped it will be appreciated that such are not an exclusive remnant to be delivered from Hell as so many have believed, but God’s human agents of healing for the world. As for the age to come, Jesus’ faithful disciples shall as a corporate entity be married to the Lord of Glory. But as is typical of the human ceremony that prefigures it, a vast many more guests shall also be invited to the Wedding. Then, having praised God for His benevolence and His Son’s saving work on their behalf, those guests will rejoice to be citizens of the Kingdom prepared for all who have shown they are capable of loving God and their fellow man. That will have been evinced by the love and compassion they unwittingly had shown in their earthly life to Jesus as Son of Man, representing as He did, the neediest of their brethren (Mt25:37-40).
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