Acts 1 and the Kingdom
The majority of commentators believe that Acts 1 proves one of two things:
1.) Jesus’ disciples were still anticipating the restoration of the nationalistic kingdom, and since Jesus did not reject that idea, this proves that that the Messianic kingdom is yet to be established.
2.) Related to the first point, it is claimed that in Acts 1 the disciples were confused about the nature of the kingdom, and that Jesus rebuked them for asking about the establishment of the kingdom.
It is my contention that Acts 1 dispels both views. Instead of showing that the disciples were confused, and instead of showing that the disciples were still desirous of the restoration of the national kingdom, and instead of showing that the kingdom had been postponed due to Jewish unbelief, Acts 1 proves that the establishment of the kingdom was truly imminent! And, this also shows that the kingdom was not to be nationalistic, but, the spiritual body of Christ. Be sure to read the first installment of this two part article, to get “up to speed.”
The Relationship Between Acts 1 and Acts 2
In Acts 2:33f, Peter affirms that Christ had received the promise of the Spirit. That promise was that Messiah would be raised to sit on the Davidic throne (v. 29f). Then, Peter said that Christ had ascended into the heavens, there to sit at the right hand of the Majesty on High. This statement is incredibly important, and supports our thesis that the kingdom was in fact nigh, more, it was coming into nascent reality that very day!
When Peter said that Jesus had been made “Lord and Christ,” and had ascended to the right hand of the Father, he cited Psalms 110:1. It is significant that Psalms 110 is cited, alluded to, and quoted more by the N. T. writers and speakers than any other O. T. prophecy! In all, scholars calculate that Psalms 110 is cited some 33 times in the N. T.. (See for instance David M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand, Psalms 110 in Early Christianity, (New York, Abingdon, 1973)15). The significance of this should not be lost on the modern reader. If the N. T. writers and speakers cite a particular prophecy that many times, perhaps we, as modern students, should ask ourselves why? What was it about that one OT prophecy that so impacted the inspired writers? More specifically, how does Peter’s affirmation that Psalms 110 was being fulfilled through Christ’s resurrection/ascension relate to the question of the postponement of the kingdom, and the imminence of the kingdom in Acts 1 and 2?
Dispensationalism In Light of Acts 1 and Acts 2
It is important to understand two critical tenets of Dispensationalism:
1.) They believe that due to Jewish unbelief, the Messianic kingdom offer was withdrawn, and the kingdom postponed. (Cf for instance Thomas Ice, End Times Controversy, (Eugene, Or. Harvest House, 2005 )85: “Because even after his resurrection, that nation rejected Him, it became impossible to establish the kingdom (cf. Acts 3:18-26).” We can safely ascribe this to Thomas Ice since the quotation is taken from the chapter bearing only his name, with no co-author). In other words, nothing that occurred on Pentecost had anything to do with the David kingdom promises.
2.) They do not believe that the church was foretold anywhere in the O.T by any prophet. Walvoord stated: “The present age (of the gathering of the church by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ) is a parenthesis or a time period not predicted by the Old Testament and therefore not fulfilling or advancing the program of events revealed in the Old Testament fore view. (John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1975)231).
With these things in mind consider now Acts 2 and its use of Psalms 110. What cannot be doubted is that Peter was saying that the Psalms was being fulfilled in Christ and his resurrection/ascension. Furthermore, it is admitted by virtually all millennialists that the events of Pentecost were in fulfillment of Psalms 110! Now, you just have to catch the power of this!
Let me state this succinctly to help us understand what is at stake here.
The events of Pentecost, based on the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father, were the fulfillment of Psalms 110:1f.
But, the events of Pentecost included the establishment of the church, the body of Christ.
Therefore, the establishment of the church was foretold by Psalms 110.
Now if, as cannot be denied, Christ’s ascension to the Father’s right hand was the fulfillment of Psalms 110, and if Christ’s session at the right hand was his establishment of the church, then this means a couple of things:
1.) It means that Psalms 110 foretold the establishment of the church. (Again, if Psalms 110 foretold what happened on Pentecost, then since Pentecost was the establishment of the church, this means that Psalms 110 foretold the establishment of the church.)
2.) If Pentecost was the fulfillment of Psalms 110, then this means that YHVH’s prophetic plan was right on schedule! Let me say this one more time: If Pentecost was the fulfillment of Psalms 110, and I currently know of no millennialists that denies this, then this is prima facie, irrefutable proof that there was not delay in God’s kingdom plans! Everything was right on schedule. Just like Galatians 4:4 said, God sent His Son at just the right time!
The implications of either, or both, of these indisputable points is fatal to the millennial view. Since the church, in the millennial paradigm, was supposedly an unforeseen, un-prophesied reality in the OT, then the fact that Psalms 110 foretold the church crumbles that pillar of dispensationalism.
The postponement theory is so critical to dispensationalism that Ice admits that without a gap between the 69th and 70th Week of Daniel 9, dispensationalism would not exist! (Thomas Ice, “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9” found at the website www.according2prophecy.org/seventy-weeks-pt1.html). Well, the fact that Peter affirmed- in no uncertain terms- that the events of Pentecost were the fulfillment of Psalms 110 shows, definitively, irrefutably, that what was happening was according to God’s plan. It was no suspension of the prophetic clock. You simply cannot admit and agree that the events of Pentecost were foretold by Psalms 110, and then affirm that what happened on Pentecost–the establishment of the church– had never been prophesied!
So, we have shows that Acts 1 is a reiteration of the promise of the Spirit iterated by John in Matthew 3. Yet, the promise in Matthew was in fact the promise of Joel, Ezekiel, etc. that in Israel’s last days, the Spirit would be poured out as an eschatological kingdom sign! Thus, when Jesus told the disciples, in response to their question about the restoration of the kingdom, to go into Jerusalem to await the out pouring of the Spirit promised by John in Matthew 3, he was, in the most powerful way possible, telling them that the kingdom was indeed very, very near! You cannot divorce the outpouring of the Spirit– in fulfillment of OT prophecy– from the establishment of the kingdom. Thus, there was no postponement, no failure, no “Plan B!” God’s plan was right on course.
Also, when Peter affirmed so clearly that Christ’s ascension to the right hand of the Father was the fulfillment of Psalms 110, there could not be a more definitive refutation of millennialism. While it was, indisputably, the establishment of the church taking place that day, Peter’s declaration that what was happening was the fulfillment of Joel, and Psalms 110, proves that the church was indeed foretold by the prophets, and it was predicted to occur at the very time that it did. Again, no postponement, no failure, no alteration of the plan! The fulfillment of Psalms 110 in Christ’s ascension and enthronement at the right hand forever falsifies and destroys the foundations of dispensationalism!
How true were the words of the prophet: “Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” (Psalms 2). Be sure to read my book, Seventy Weeks Are Determined…For the Resurrection, for a thorough refutation of the “Gap Theory” posited by Ice and Dispensationalism.
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All that one has to do is to examine the fact that YHWH would laugh at man’s attempt to thwart His plan. He would hold them in derision! He would say, “Yet have I set my King on My holy Hill of Zion!” That “YET” is incredibly powerful, and is echoed in Luke 10 as Jesus sent his disciples to preach, “The kingdom of heaven has drawn near.” He knew that the Jews would reject the message and invitation. And remember that this was early in his ministry before the kingdom offer was supposedly withdrawn. So, Jesus told his disciples: “But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’”
Catch the power of that nevertheless! It says that God well knew what was going to happen. It says that He knew the kingdom message was going to be rejected. YET, He told them to tell the Jews that in spite of their rejection, rebellion and unbelief, “Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you!” There could hardly be a more positive declaration that Jewish unbelief would not alter, postpone or defeat God’s kingdom plan.
What great comfort it is to know that man cannot thwart God’s plans. How wonderful it is to know that He did not fail, He did not alter His plan! He has given to man what He wanted, what He planned, what He prophesied, and it is called the body of Christ! Believers today need to stop looking past and beyond the body of Christ, anticipating something “better” and glorify Him as He intended all along: “Now unto Him be glory in the church, by Jesus Christ, throughout all ages, age without end, Amen!” (Ephesians 3:20f)!