The Kingdom restored again to Israel.
Two facts may be stated in sequence, but they may have no logical connexion For example, here are two facts: (1) I am writing, at my desk (2) The weather is dull. Now some may see a connection between my writing and “dull” weather, but there is no logical connection between the two statements. This is not the case with the two items we have enumerated. The question concerning the restoration again of the kingdom to Israel arose out of the forty days’ opening of the Scriptures, and this is not only indicated by the use of the word “therefore” in Acts 1:6, but necessitated by what is said in Luke 24:45: “Then OPENED He their understanding, that they might UNDERSTAND the scriptures.”
Even we, with all our confessed limitations, would feel that something was amiss, if after forty days’ exposition of the Scriptures, the first question our hearers put to us was completely wide of the mark. How then is it possible, in view of the specific statement of Luke 24:45, even to suggest that the question of Acts 1:6 originated in Jewish bias? There are some, having seen this, who refer the reader to verses 46 and 47 of Luke as though it were possible at that time to divorce the preaching of repentance and remission either from the gospel of the kingdom or from the person and work of Christ. Let us examine this question with some measure of reverent care: “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
The Lord had opened up the Scriptures “concerning” Himself and as a consequence, the apostles looked to Him as the Restorer of the kingdom. This we judge is not a matter in dispute, and so pass on to the remainder of the question. The question is entirely a matter of time “when”. The apostles did not and could not ask “Will the kingdom ever be restored again to Israel?” Neither did they envisage something entirely new. To them, “Israel” could only mean the 12 tribes so named. The kingdom up to that time had no ecclesiastical meaning, it could not by any possibility have meant “the church” as understood and revealed in the epistles. They assumed that a literal kingdom was to be “restored”. By no system of legitimate interpretation can these words “restore again” be made to refer to “The Church” as it is found in the epistles.
The substantive form of the word translated “restore again” is found in Acts 3:21-24, “The times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began . . . all the prophets . . . foretold of these days.” The Saviour Himself assured His hearers that “Elias truly shall first come, and RESTORE all things” (Matt. 17:11). It was therefore a legitimate question for the apostles to ask, for the prophets had “foretold these days”. “To restore again” either in English or Greek, precludes the idea of something entirely new, it always implies something which has been lost or lapsed in the past being brought back to a former state, as such a passage makes clear, “I will restore thy judges as at the first” (Isa 1:26).
When the chief butler said to Pharaoh, “Me he restored unto mine office” (Gen. 41:13), he most certainly did not mean that he had been given the place vacated by the baker. He became a butler again. Whatever the apostles intended by their question, one thing is certain, they referred to something that had lapsed and which they looked forward to being restored. That something they named “the kingdom” and it was to be restored to none else than to “Israel”. The angel Gabriel cannot be accused of bias, but at the annunciation he said of Christ: “The Lord God shall give Him the throne of His father David and He shall rein over the house of Jacob for ever,” (Luke 1:32,33). No spiritualizing of the names “David” or “Jacob” is permissible, neither can the words “throne” or “reign ” refer to anything else than a kingdom.
It is surely not necessary to quote from the Gospels and the Acts the many passages that speak of the Saviour as “King” and of the kingdom over which He came to reign. However true it may be that as the New Testament unfolds, the scope of the term, “kingdom” is seen to grow, no warrant can ever be found for making “Israel” and “Jacob” mean other than the Twelve Tribes.
If there is any one writer in the New Testament who might possibly be expected to spiritualize the references to the kingdom it is Paul in his capacity of Apostle to the Gentiles. Yet even after he had concluded one ministry, and was looking forward to his Prison ministry, he said: “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes instantly serving God day and night, hope to come (Acts 26:6,7).