After Jesus taught the disciples for 40 days about the kingdom of God, the disciples had a question to ask Jesus. They said, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6)? In answer, Jesus Jesus rejected their right to know the Father’s timing “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).
Yet Jesus does not stop his answer there. He continues: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In so doing, Jesus evidently explains how he is restoring the kingdom to Israel.
After 40 days of learning about the kingdom of God from Jesus (Acts 1:3), the disciples understood the issue well. What they did not know was how to discern when the restoration would occur. They needed to wait for the Father to act. In other words, they must “wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) which means the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at which time “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5; cf. Acts 2:33).
As I will argue, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit signals the fulfillment of the father’s promise and the beginnings of the restoration of the kingdom. The Spirit, at one level, evinces the presence of the kingdom since he is the “Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7) and where Jesus is so is the kingdom (e.g., Luke 17:21).
The narratives in Luke and Acts provide more reasons why this is so.
The King’s Spirit and Kingdom in Luke and Acts
Luke authored both Luke and Acts. And so the Gospel of Luke and Acts share similar perspectives and theological positions. When it comes to the kingdom of God and its presence, Luke in his Gospel Book has already affirmed that where Jesus is so the kingdom is: “Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you’” (Luke 17:20–21).
The Pharisees ask a similar question that the disciples do: when will the kingdom come? Jesus answers in much the same way too: “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.” One cannot see it like the kingdoms of Herod of Caesar. It is neither “here” nor “there.” It is not a geographical locale. Instead, “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” How can it be among the pharisees? The answer is that the king (messiah) is in their midst. So then is the kingdom.
Luke 17:20–21 agrees with Acts 1:6–8. In both places, Jesus rejects the idea that the kingdom of God can be observed in expected ways and that one can discern the time and season of the kingdom’s presence or restoration. When the power of God appears, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9).
The narrative of Acts further confirms that the Holy Spirit’s bestowal signals the beginning of the restoration of the kingdom. After Jesus ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9–11), he sits down at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33). As Peter explains: “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33). After citing Psalm 110 in evidence that Christ sits down to reign after the ascension, Peter concludes: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
The sequence of Peter’s sermon matters. First, Jesus ascends to the right of God to reign. Second, he pours out the Holy Spirit. Third, on the basis of these things, God made Christ both “Lord” and “Christ” which means “King.” The formal recognition of what Jesus is, Lord and King, occurs after he ascends and bestows his Spirit, that is, “the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7).
In this way, Jesus begins to restore the kingdom of Israel just as he says: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). By citing Jerusalem and the southern (Judea) and northern (Samaria) kingdoms, Jesus shows that Jerusalem will again be the centre of the restoration of Israel, the rejoining of north and south. He thus follows the expectations set out in Ezekiel 37:14–17 in which the pouring out of the Spirit precedes the union of the kingdom.
By affirming that the Holy Spirit will also come “to the end of the earth,” Jesus also affirms the promise that God’s blessing will go to the nations from Jerusalem (E.g., Isa 2; 5; 12; 49; Gen 12, etc.). The blessing of Abraham is identified with the Holy Spirit being poured out as Paul elsewhere notes: “in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14).
Put simply, Jesus goes to heaven to sit at the right hand of God to reign through his Spirit, which Luke identifies as “the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7). The kingdom of the Holy Spirit begins in Jerusalem, spreads to all Israel, and then goes to the ends of the earth. Acts then shows the beginning of the kingdom’s progress. We then stand in continuity with this growth 2,000 years later as we wait for the fullness of the kingdom when Christ comes to judge the quick and the dead.
The Book of Acts opens and closes with the kingdom of God (1:3–8; 28: 30–31). The introduction and conclusion of the book of Acts then explain the content of the book. And in Acts, we see the acts of the Risen Lord in heaven reigning on earth through the Holy Spirit.
“Thy Kingdom Come”
What does Jesus mean when he prays “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? (Matt 6:9). Many early Christians, including Maximos the Confessor (580–662), argue that “kingdom” refers to the Holy Spirit. After all, to do God’s will as on earth as it is in heaven implies the Holy Spirit comes into us and transforms us.
However one wants to understand the kingdom in the Lord’s Prayer, I note this connection to show historical precedent for the kingdom’s relationship to the Holy Spirit. Maximos is not alone in his relating the Spirit to the Kingdom. And, as noted above, it follows the logic of Luke himself in both his Gospel Book and the Acts of the Apostles. I am not here trying to convince anyone of this interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer but to note an historical argument for the Holy Spirit’s identification with the kingdom of God.
Church and Kingdom
If Jesus reigns in heaven and on earth through the kingdom of his Spirit, then it makes sense to ask how the church, the body of Christ, relates to the idea of the kingdom of God. When Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18), it is obvious that he understands the church as the whole collection of disciples. Paul will later define the church as “the body of Christ,” the extended body of Christ spread abroad. In other words, the church as the body of Christ comprises all things baptized into one body by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13).
The Spirit then creates the church. Jesus builds his church by his Spirit. And as noted above, the bestowal of the Spirit signals the beginnings of the restoration—the kingdom itself. In the Acts of the Apostles, we saw that Christ restores the kingdom by affirming that the Holy Spirit would come to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Together these three places define the capital of Israel as well as the southern and northern kingdom. In the Old Testament, the promise of restoration included the uniting of these kingdoms.
Hence, the restoration of the northern and southern kingdom. In this case, this union of kingdoms by the Holy Spirit. That the Spirit also comes to “the end of the earth” further affirms the restoration of the kingdom since the Old Testament promises that from Jerusalem, the Messiah would reign over the earth. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he sat down on his throne. There, God made him “Lord and Messiah/King.” There, he reigns. And so he sends the Spirit from his throne to administer his reign (Acts 2:33).
Putting this together, the Spirit’s work is kingdom work. It is evident that this happens in and through the body of Christ, the church. Christ the king rules through his Spirit, “the Spirit of Jesus,” as the Gospel spreads from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. As the Gospel spreads, so does the Spirit and so does the kingdom. Even so, the fullness of the kingdom will only occur when Christ returns.
The kingdom then expands and grows. As Jesus explains:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matt 13:31–32).
 This restoration by the Spirit also explains why the eleven apostles needed to add a twelve to their number—to signify one apostle for each tribe of Israel. It was good to do so in accordance with Scripture (Pss 69 and 109) to better symbolize the beginnings of the restoration of Israel’s kingdom.