Acts 1:6 - "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?"
As Jesus was about to ascend to the Father, this was the last question the disciples asked Him. This clearly showed their expectations and hopes. They had heard the prophets' teachings about the Messiah - who would throw off the Gentile yoke and reestablish the Kingdom of David and bring the 1,000 years of peace.
The church age between the first and second comings of Christ was still a mystery to them. They had not looked for the suffering servant, the rejected and crucified Saviour, but a conquering victorious One to deliver Israel from the cruel yoke of the Romans. These expectations possibly were foremost in prompting the disciples to leave all to follow Him.
It was a shock that Jesus was accused of being a common criminal, and nailed to a cross to die a criminal's death. All their hopes were shattered, and they had all fled in fear. Although Jesus had foretold this suffering and taught them that He must suffer and die, and then rise again on the third day, they hadn't been able to take that in. It was beyond their understanding. They had not grasped the meaning of Calvary.
For those days that Jesus was dead, they were utterly confused and without hope. Then He arose and their hopes revived. Surely now He would set up the Kingdom. Those forty days He spent telling them many things about the Kingdom but not doing anything toward it.
Finally, at the very place foretold that the Messiah would come to set up the Kingdom upon the earth (Zechariah 14:4), Jesus had led the disciples: the Mount of Olives. This was the same place where Peter, James, and John had seen a vision of the glory of His Kingdom in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17). This was the right place - He must be ready now to set up the Kingdom. So, their question was - "Lord, wilt though at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6.)
The answer Jesus gives them lets them know that it is not the time - and further, that it is not for them to know exactly when it was to happen. He says: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power." (Acts 1:7.)
One thing must be made clear - Jesus only said that the time is not to be known. He did not deny that He was to set up the Kingdom of Israel as foretold by the prophets. Much speculation and confusion has occurred from not clearly understanding that the promises made to Israel were not transferred to the Church. Jesus gave them the promise of the Holy Spirit, Who would instruct and guide them on what was to be done in the Church Age or the interim, before He was to come again to set up the Kingdom.
Though they are not to know the time, Jesus had reassured them that the Kingdom would ultimately be set up - then He suddenly leaves them, and the Scripture says: "And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9.) All they could do in utter amazement and despair was to stand there in confused silence and look: they "looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up..." (Acts 1:10.)
Jesus is gone. What were they to do now, without Him? But while they were standing and gazing up into heaven, Jesus had sent two messengers. Jesus must have known what they were going through and then sent two angels with the first message from Heaven for them.
"Behold, two men stood by them in white apparel" (Acts 1:10.) They were not to be left in loneliness and despair. This first message from the Right Hand of God would assure them and confirm their hope.
The two men said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10,11.)
Our Lord's first message after leaving was His promise to come back in like manner. That when He returns, the promises of the Kingdom would be fulfilled.
The great lesson that Jesus teaches us about His coming is that we are not to know the time. Jesus will return one day, and that day could be today. Some have tried to teach that this or that or the other must happen first - then the Lord will return. Some say there must be one great last world-wide revival, some that the Temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt, or that Russia must do something against Israel, and so on.
Christ's coming is imminent, a powerful and comforting certainty. The early disciples expected His return in their day, so we have certainly as much, if not more, reason to expect Him today. This is our incentive for holy living, for service to others, and the sharing of our faith (the Gospel) with anyone.
In Luke 12:45,46 Jesus gives us warning:
"45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46 the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers."
Are there things that we would want to do before He comes? Are there things that we have done that we would want to make right?
John, in his first letter, shows us how this blessed hope should stir our lives to be lived for the Lord (I John 3:3).
"And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
Jesus pronounced a blessing upon the faithful servant in Luke 12:42-44 -
"42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath."
There was a story about a caretaker of a large estate in Italy. The estate was owned by an extremely wealthy man who owned many dwellings, and lived in another country. He seldom visited this estate. The caretaker kept the grounds beautifully, and everything was immaculate.
Someone visiting the area heard of this beautiful place and how it was kept though the owner hardly ever came. He went in amazement to speak to this man. He asked him how often the owner came. The man said that the owner had come twice in the past 10 years.
The visitor asked, "Why do you work so hard, every day, and keep everything so perfect when he may not come again for years?" The humble man said, "He may come today."
We are the stewards of everything the Lord has given to our care. We are the messengers to everyone we come in contact with. We serve Our Lord in faith that He is coming for us, that we may be with Him forever.
Jesus calls upon us today: "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." (Matthew 24:42.)
This article was written by my father T.O.D. Johnston, who was licensed to preach the Gospel by Paran Baptist Church on May 26, 1979. He has been a student of Scripture since 1972. View more lessons at his Bible Study Lessons page.