Did Jesus Correct the Disciples’ View of the Kingdom? -- By: John A. McLean

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 151:602 (Apr 1994)
Article: Did Jesus Correct the Disciples’ View of the Kingdom?
Author: John A. McLean


Did Jesus Correct the Disciples’ View of the Kingdom?

John A. McLean

[John A. McLean is president of Michigan Theological Seminary, Ann Arbor, Michigan.]

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, His 11 disciples asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6, NIV). He responded, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (v. 7, NIV). This brief answer (along with Jesus’ words in verse 8 about the coming of the Holy Spirit) did not reveal much about the kingdom.

This fact has led students to speculate on what Jesus meant in these verses. For example Neil suggests that a group larger than the 11 disciples was present, a group that therefore did not understand the true nature of the kingdom. He argues,

The question, implying the common expectation of a national triumph for the Jews over the Romans by the agency of the Messiah, could hardly have been asked by those who had so recently been enlightened. It could, however, have been asked by others who had not heard the Lord’s words on the subject, and who had now gathered together for this final scene before his Ascension.1

This explanation depends on at least two assumptions that cannot be proven and that in fact contradict the context of Acts 1. Acts 1:13 clearly shows that the group with Jesus included only the Eleven. Furthermore, since Jesus had appeared to them “over a period of forty days…speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (v. 3), His audience just before His ascension was not ignorant of His teaching of the kingdom of God. Harrison points out

that the disciples continued to expect the kingdom in spite of Jesus’ clear teachings that He was to suffer and die, and after the postresurrection appearances they would certainly have concluded that He would restore the kingdom.2

Neil’s second assumption is that the true nature of the kingdom of God had nothing to do with a common expectation of national interests by the Jews.3 However, he offers no evidence to demonstrate that the kingdom of God did not involve such national interests. Furthermore Jesus did not correct the disciples but only informed them that the timing of the kingdom...

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