Video of this message is also available on YouTube: A Question About the Future – Acts 1:6-8
The “kingdom” they were asking about (1:6) was the one Daniel predicted (2:44), and you know why they were asking. The Lord spent 3 years talking about it, then another 40 days (Acts 1:3), even teaching them to pray for it (Lu. 11:2). After all that instruction, they probably knew everything about the kingdom except when it would come.
Notice they didn’t ask if it was time for the Lord to create the kingdom for Israel. They asked if He would restore it to Israel. That word means to bring something back to a former state from a state of ruin, like the hand of the king in I Kings 13:1-6. They were talking about the kingdom that Israel had under David and Solomon, when Israel reached her zenith.
You may be thinking that restoring the kingdom is not the same as a hand, since that hand was restored to the same man who lost it, but the kingdom won’t be restored to the same men. But when Saul lost his kingdom, his son got accused of trying to get it back (II Sam.16:3). Israel’s kingdom never belonged to him, but he would have inherited it if his father hadn’t lost it. It was his kingdom only in the sense that he was the heir of the kingdom. But because he was the heir, it was legitimate to talk about restoring it to him. And the 12 were “heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5) so it was legitimate to talk about the Lord restoring it to them (Luke 12:32).
Many Bible commentators say the 12 were asking a dumb question, for they think the Lord never meant to establish a literal kingdom. They think He only meant to establish a kingdom in the hearts of men because He said “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). But He said that to unsaved Pharisees (v.20). The kingdom wasn’t in their hearts. The word “within” there means what it meant when the Lord said the Gentiles were “within” the people of Israel (De. 28:43). There the word meant in their midst. While the Lord was here, He was in the midst of the Pharisees, and the kingdom was vested in Him (Mark 11:10 cf. Luke 19:38).
Bible commentaries also point out that the Lord said His kingdom wasn’t of this world (John 18:36). But it was only not of this world at that time, for the Lord knew He had to go to heaven to get the kingdom (Lu.19:11-15). That’s why John 18:36 ends: “now is My kingdom not from hence.”
When the kingdom comes, it will have a literal earthly king (Jer. 23:5,6). A kingdom in men’s hearts can’t execute judgment and justice, or keep Israel safe, as those verses say. But a king ruling with a rod of iron can (Rev.19:15)!
The commentators mean well. They know the Lord left without establishing a kingdom, so they figure if that’s what He came to do, He failed! But they don’t recognize the mystery, that God interrupted Israel’s kingdom program, and that Israel will get her kingdom after the Lord’s Second Coming.
If the Lord didn’t mean to establish a literal kingdom, He should have told them so when they asked—but He didn’t. He just told them it wasn’t for them to know the times and the seasons (Acts 1:7). That refers to the removing of earth’s kings and the setting up of God’s kingdom (Dan.2:21).
The 12 apostles didn’t know the times or the seasons, but the Thessalonians knew them (I Thes. 5:1,2). That’s because they got saved after Israel rejected the kingdom and the mystery began, so they knew it wasn’t time for the kingdom.
The “power” the 12 received (Acts 1:8) was the power of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4) that enabled them to do miracles to confirm their preaching (Mark 16:20). This made them “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). That word means to testify what you’ve seen. The Lord’s miracles convinced John the Baptist that He was the Christ, so he could witness that (John 1:15). That made the Pharisees His enemies. The 12 witnessed His resurrection, so they testified that (Acts 2:32; 3:14,15; 4:33), making the Sadducees His enemies in Acts (Mt.22:33). But Paul testified the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24), making “enemies” out of those who don’t preach the cross (Phil.3:17-19).
The 12 were to start their witness in Jerusalem, for it was God’s plan to reach the world through Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3). The Jews weren’t willing to be God’s channel of blessing then, but they will be willing someday (Psalm 110:3).