John the Baptist preached “the kingdom is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). John told the Jewish leaders that the Messiah was coming. With the Messiah would be two events: (1) the baptism of the Holy Spirit, God’s phrase that represented the arrival of the kingdom of God, restoration of God’s covenant with Israel, and blessings to the people; (2) the baptism of fire, God’s phrase that represented judgment. As we will notice later in Acts 2, Peter preached the same message of judgment to Israel if they would not repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Remember these points as we now look at Acts 1.
In the first three verses of Acts 1 we see that Jesus taught the apostles for 40 days about the kingdom of God. In verse 4, Jesus commanded the apostles to wait for “the promise of the Father.” What is the promise of the Father? The next sentence explains: “‘This,’ He said, ‘is what you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’” Jesus said the promise of the Father is the same as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus quoted the very teaching of John the Baptist that we studied in Matthew 3. Jesus simply added that this event would take place “not many days from now.” Therefore the promise of the restoration of the kingdom of God, the restoration of God’s covenant with Israel, and the restoration of God’s blessings would take place “not many days from now.” This is why the apostles ask, “At this time are You restoring the kingdom to Israel?” The apostles are not asking the wrong question, as we may have charged. Jesus had taught the apostles for 40 days about the kingdom of God. The apostles asked the appropriate question: are you restoring the kingdom, the covenant, and the blessings of God now as promised by the prophets?
To prove that the apostles asked the right question, note that Jesus accepted their inquiry. Jesus never had a problem upbraiding the apostles for their lack of spiritual insight. But Jesus does not rebuke the apostles for questioning of restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Rather, Jesus said that it was not for the apostles to know the exact day and time when the restoration would take place. However, this kingdom restoration would begin when the apostles “received the Holy Spirit with power.” This leads us to Acts 2 and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, which we will look at in the next post.