Restoring the Kingdom

The restoration of the kingdom to Israel is a cornerstone of biblical prophecy—both in the Old Testament and the New.

Artwork from the Torah Club Jesus, My Rabbi study, lesson "Ascension". (Image and art © First Fruits of Zion)

When Yeshua appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, they asked Him a question that must have been pressing on their minds for years:

Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)

Supersessionist pastors and Bible teachers commonly fault the disciples for the question they posed in Acts 1:6. “Even after all they had experienced, they still looked for a worldly, fleshly kingdom instead of a heavenly one!” the Sunday School teacher remarks. Had the disciples completely misunderstood the meaning of the kingdom?

On the contrary, they had finally come to understand that the kingdom comes subsequent to the suffering of Messiah. Now that He had completed the suffering, they reasonably asked Him, “Master, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

If He does not fulfill the prophecies about Messiah reigning over a literal, physical kingdom, which is administered from Jerusalem, He is not the Messiah promised by the Bible. The Messiah must take the throne of David. Rabbi Lichtenstein observes:

Now he sits on the throne of God his Father at his right hand (Revelation 3:21), but not on the throne of David. For the throne of David was in this world and not in heaven. But when he comes the second time, he will reign in Jerusalem, the beloved city, on the throne of his father David, and over the house of Yaakov he will reign forever, as the apostles said of him (Acts 1:6): “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Commentary on the New Testament)

The Master did not rebuke them for the question, nor did He correct them. He only replied, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7).

Yeshua did not deny that He would restore the kingdom to Israel; He only observed that the timing of that event remains hidden with God. Earlier, He had explained, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36).

Rabbinic literature explains that God has fixed a specific, appointed time at which He will bring the final redemption, but He has kept it concealed (Isaiah 63:4). The Talmud interprets Isaiah 60:22 to mean that God has appointed a set time for redemption: “I, the LORD, will hasten [the redemption] in its time.” If the nation repents, He will hasten the redemption, but if the nation does not repent, they must wait until the appointed time. In proclaiming the kingdom and the message of repentance, Yeshua attempted to “hasten” the redemption. If the nation had repented, they might have attained the kingdom and the revelation of the Messiah. Since the Messiah found them unworthy, the redemption will come later, “in its time.”

The sages also read Habakkuk 2:3 to mean that the Messiah will come at “an appointed time”:

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; He hastens toward the goal and He will not fail. Though He tarries, wait for Him; for He will certainly come, He will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3)

The “times and seasons” of the redemption “fixed” by the Father’s authority sounds like the Torah’s description of the biblical holy days as “the LORD’s appointed times.” Messianic believers who observe the biblical calendar realize how the holy days foreshadow the redemption and the work of Yeshua. The Sabbaths, new moons, and festivals “are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to the Messiah” (Colossians 2:17).

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