Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Quote of the Day (40)

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” The book of Acts begins with this question.

Jesus does not answer it directly. Instead, the Lord draws his disciples’ attention away from Israel’s earthly kingdom and redirects it to their mission promoting his spiritual kingdom in this present age. After this, he is taken up into glory.

Some read this to mean there will be no restoration to national prominence for the Jews. Others believe the restoration of the kingdom to Israel is fulfilled in the Church’s present ministry on earth.

David Gooding addresses both points as he speaks to the thought-flow of the passage:
“Suppose that Christ really meant to say that the kingdom was never going to be restored to Israel. See what that would do to the conversation:

Disciples: ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

Christ: ‘You cannot be told the time when that restoration will take place, because the Father has reserved all such matters to himself. And the kingdom is never going to be restored to Israel anyway.’

But that would make no sense. If the kingdom were never going to be restored, there would be no timing of it to be known by anyone, not even by the Father himself.

Let’s try again. Suppose our Lord intended to say ‘Yes, I am going to restore the kingdom to Israel, but not in the narrow sense you suppose. The promised restoration of the kingdom to Israel, rightly understood, refers to the setting up of my spiritual kingdom from Pentecost onward.’ See what that would do to the thought-flow of the passage:

Disciples: ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

Christ: ‘I cannot tell you when the restoration of the kingdom to Israel will take place, because the Father has reserved all such questions of timetable to himself. Actually, the restoration of the kingdom to Israel refers to the setting up of my spiritual kingdom here and now, and of course I can tell you when it will take place. It will happen in a few days’ time, at the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.’

That would make no sense either.”
— from True to the Faith (1988)
Understanding a writer’s thought-flow is critical to grasping his meaning. In this case, one conclusion we can reasonably draw from the words of Christ is that the kingdom of heaven manifests itself on earth in more than one way. It is not an either/or proposition.

This seems a more reasonable idea when we understand that the disciples effectively represented two distinct groups: Christians and Jews. As members of the remnant of Israel in their day, they had a legitimate concern for the earthly status of their nation. As founding members of the Body of Christ, they had task to perform at the direction of the Head of the Church in this present age.

Thus the Lord Jesus points them to their current responsibilities without in the least quashing the hope of Israel.

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