Thursday, May 7, 2015

How the Kingdom Comes

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)
Shortly before he ascended to heaven, the risen Lord Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem, where they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. This caused them to ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (There is a connection between this baptism and the kingdom — see The Kingdom of God and the Pouring of the Spirit.)

They were asking a question about timing but the answer they received was not what they were expecting. Jesus took it in a very different direction. The times and dates were set by God’s authority. In other words, it was none of the disciples’ business. God works his plans in his own time, and we don’t have to consult a calendar before we can trust him that all will be well.

So, it was not a Yes that Jesus gave them. But then, it was not a No, either. They were asking about the when of the kingdom, but the answer Jesus gave was about the how:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Yes, when King Jesus comes again, he will judge the nations by the gospel. That is the point of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25. The nations will be judged according to whether they have received or rejected “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,” that is, his disciples. But in the meantime, he sends his disciples out into the world to be his witnesses in all the world, to proclaim that Jesus is King and make disciples of all nations (see Matthew 28:18-20). All who believe the gospel of the King will be prepared for the return of the King.

This great commission Jesus gives his people is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Luke, who is the author of Acts, records these words of Jesus in his account of the Gospel:
This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:46-49)
This “power from on high” is the same as the “Spirit poured out on us from high,” that Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 32:15). The Holy Spirit “clothes” Jesus’ disciples with power to give witness concerning Messiah to all the nations. As we see throughout the book of Acts, this power is expressed through the boldness of their proclamation, as well as through the healings, miracles and exorcisms which demonstrate the reality of King Jesus the Messiah and the presence of his kingdom.