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  • Is Jesus' answer (v. 7-8) irrelevant to the question of the disciples?

Text: Acts 1: 6 - 8 (ESV)

"So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But 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.”

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  • This text is quoted by some as a proof text for the restoration of literal Israel, which, frustratingly for them, has not been fulfilled in the modern state of Israel - it is not a kingdom, and David does not sit on the throne and it does recognize Messiah, etc.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 9:33

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Were disciples wrong to ask the question in v. 6, and is Jesus' answer a general reprehension of the question?
They were not wrong to ask the question. Jesus is just clarifying that he is not at liberty to tell them exactly when the kingdom will be fully restored. I don't understand restoration as reverting Israel to an earlier state but returning Israel to the proper relationship with God according to the promises. This allows for not just a simple restoration but even ( and most likely) a complete renovation consistent with those promises.

Is Jesus' answer (v. 7-8) irrelevant to the question of the disciples?
Verse 7-8 is relevant for it relates to the first stage of the kingdom of God being restored to Israel as is narratively detailed in Acts 2, the following chapter. The first stage thus involves the first fruit of the spirit:

...the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. -Romans 8:23

...Having the Spirit qualifies the recipients, as declared children of God, for the inheritance of the kingdom of glory.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. -Romans 8:16-17

While we are yet to inherit the kingdom of God we are indeed qualified members of it:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. -Colossians 1:13-14

The final stage of the restoration would take place along with our full "adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies," in the New Heaven and New Earth in the presence of the New Jerusalem with its 12 gates bearing the names of the 12 tribes as illustrated in Revelation 21:

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband...
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new...”
12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed

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The disciples had just asked a question about when Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). As can be seen in the actions of many in the Gospels, most people did not have the concept of a second coming of Jesus to establish God’s physical kingdom on earth. They (the disciples) thought that both the first advent of the Messiah and the establishment of the kingdom would happen at the same time.

Jesus didn’t directly answer their question but rather stated that the time was in the Father’s control. Jesus had previously said that not even He nor the angels knew the day and the hour of this event (Mark 13:32). So, in Jesus’ answer to His disciples, He spoke of knowing the time of His second coming as being beyond their control or ability to know.

Essentially the answer to the question asked would not have been of any help, because it would not have been able to be understood. So the answer given was one they needed to know at this time of his eminent departure.

He revealed that with the coming of the Holy Spirit, certain things would be put under the disciples’ power, and He proceeded to speak of them being His witnesses. The power to witness the Gospel to others has been delegated to the disciples (and us) and this is what they needed to hear.

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They were not wrong to ask the question, but they asked the wrong question.

Given the miracle of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, being instructed by him and being promised the Holy Spirit and power in a few day's time, they might have felt as high as kites, that their time had come to rule with Christ in his kingdom. After the crushing despondency of Christ's crucifixion, they now were elated, raring to go.

Their question, then, was reasonable from their point of view. It wasn't a stupid question. It deserved - and got - a truthful answer that helped redirect their thinking. However, it wasn't a straight, "No. I'm not restoring the kingdom at this time." Why not?

Because that would not have been the truth. Jesus was seconds away from being uplifted into heaven, bodily, to go back to the Father to sit at his right hand in glory as King of the Kingdom. Remember all his parables about a man going to a far country to receive a kingdom (before returning)? The disciples must have forgotten all about those. But Jesus WAS restoring the Kingdom, by that very act of leaving them to return to the Father. They wouldn't see what he did in heaven, of course. Nor did they know the time gap between their Lord receiving the Kingdom in heaven and returning to earth to execute justice on rebels against it.

That is why Jesus wisely answered them as he did, assuring them that they would get what they needed to do as he was now commanding them, if they waited some days in Jerusalem. Then they would be able to do the global work that lay ahead. That was to be their part in furthering the Kingdom - being Christ's witnesses.

The relevance of Jesus' answer was that he (effectively) told them, "No, I am not," from their point of view. Yet he did not actually say that because he was, at that time, restoring the Kingdom, just not in a way or in a place that they expected. Because he knew the vast time gap (from their point of view) till his return to deal with the earthly aspect of the Kingdom, he focused them om the work in hand - their role in supporting the Kingdom and helping to expand it, which they had to concentrate on.

That is why the book of the Revelation was given to an aged apostle John - to encourage the new Church to maintain hope in Christ suddenly returning while knowing that they would have to suffer before then. World events and unseen spiritual events would have to play out over time, eventually culminating in Christ appearing in great glory. Every century, every generation of Christians have that prophetic word to brace them for whatever stage of fulfilment works out in their age. Meantime, they get on with the work Jesus has given - witnessing to him and proclaiming the gospel of Christ faithfully. Astoundingly relevant, both then and during the near-two-thousand-years since!

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  • Great insight and love the way you described how they were probably feeling. +1
    – Sherrie
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 17:15

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