The message that the apostles took to the world was one of great hope—the hope of a Savior; the hope of a Redeemer; the hope of a King who will establish the government of God on earth, one of truth and justice. This government will feature Christians bearing rule under Him, if they remain loyal and overcome.
However, it had just not unfolded the way that they had expected it would. As time went on, conditions became worse, and sometimes it was difficult for them to maintain their loyalty to Christ.
John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ
Despite spending three-and-a-half years of intense training with Jesus, the apostles retained the common Jewish concept of the establishment of God's Kingdom. Paraphrased, Jesus said, "God is working it out. You need to focus your attention on another area at this time."
The work of God was about to make a dramatic turn, occasioned by something that had never occurred before in the history of the earth. God would give His Spirit, visibly manifesting His power in many, and simultaneously launching His church and the preaching of the gospel! His Family was about to make its greatest numerical advancement to that time. It was a unique time in history. It has not happened in that manner since.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing the Bride
The apostles were curious and excited about this kind of thing, just as we are today, and their question was not even specifically about a certain day, because they were hopeful that the time had already arrived. Christ was every bit as general in His answer as they were with their question. Again, though, they are very clearly told they were not going to know. This statement coordinates with what Jesus said in the Olivet Prophecy (Matthew 24:36), but He expands the thought from day and hour to time and season, which are even more general. He told the apostles they were not even going to know the time or the season.
The word time here means "the duration of a period of time." An hour would be a very short duration. A day would be a bit longer, but the implication from the word "time" is of a period much more expansive than that.
The word "season" means a length of time characterized by certain events, like the Christmas Season. Even in our culture, the Christmas Season seems to extend now from Thanksgiving, (and even before Thanksgiving in some cases), all the way into January a week or so. So even the common usage here in the United States, a season would be somewhere between two and three months.
Jesus' response to them was more general than the day nor the hour. He also says something very pointed here: "It's not for you to know." What He was doing was counseling them to avoid probing into these things. He was in a sense saying, "It's a waste of time. You have more important things to do than to be thinking about this." In short, the disciples were not even to know the general period of time of the establishment of God's Kingdom.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Three)
The return of Jesus Christ was on their minds too. And like us, they would have liked to have seen the Kingdom established right away. They did not understand that they needed to be prepared for the Kingdom of God. They were not ready yet—they did not even have the Holy Spirit yet! Nor had they entirely put together all the elements of God's truth.
It is interesting that Jesus tells them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons," but it has been given to us in far greater measure. We know many things that they did not know. We know that we are very close to the end. We do not know the day, but we know that we are in the time and season, and if there was ever a people on the face of the earth in all the history of Christianity who needed to get prepared for something, it is we. We are not yet ready, and in God's mercy, He has given us time to prepare.
It was a good while before the disciples came to grips with the fact that the return of Jesus Christ would not occur in their lifetimes, a fact evident from what is written within the New Testament. The first thing they had to come to grips with was that they had a job to do before that time would come.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic
By stating this as He did, He was admonishing the apostles not to become fixated on the fulfillment of prophecies but to remain focused on preaching the gospel. For that end, He will give them power. He wanted them to concentrate on the job at hand. The Great Commission, though, is now not only global geographically, but in terms of time, it is also totally open-ended. Moreover, no God-given, intermediate goals are in sight. The church today must take its cue from the way Jesus Christ handled the situation with the first-century church.
What began at this critical time in history was that God's global re-educational institution—the church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)—was taking its first steps in teaching everyone worldwide how they should live. The church Jesus founded was beginning to preach the gospel from this starting point in both place and time, an activity that will eventually reach every person who has ever lived. In other words, beginning then, the church became the focal point of God's reeducation program.
Jesus was transitioning His work from what was merely an Old Covenant, Israelite, religious organization—of interest to relatively few outside Israel—to an educational organization that in terms of time will span thousands of years and become of intense interest to everybody. In directing the apostles in this way, Christ wanted His church to inaugurate this work yet keep it contained within the parameters He and the Father set as the church progressively developed at the speed it could handle effectively.
It may be helpful to remember that the earliest brethren in the church had to face their public responsibilities to Jesus without the help of what is now roughly one-third of the Bible—the New Testament. Scholars posit that the gospel of Mark was written first, followed by Matthew, Luke, and John. The earliest possible date even for Mark appears to be around AD 40, but some place it as late as AD 65.
In addition, it appears that I Thessalonians was the first of the epistles circulated within the church, but the apostle Paul did not write it until approximately AD 50. How many new converts even possessed their own copy of an Old Testament in their homes? Very few. There were no printing presses, no radio and television broadcasting, and no computers. To purchase a copy of the Old Testament would have cost a working man an entire year of wages! Was there a reference work similar to a Strong's Concordance of the Bible for somewhat more serious researching? Of course not.
Looking back in this way confirms that the early preaching of the gospel was a work of faith, highly dependent on the apostles' spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. What likely sustained the members' spirituality was the spoken word delivered to people who listened carefully and concentrated with great intensity. These “pioneers” were remarkable, spiritually-minded people.
The Jewish religious leadership perceived that the apostles lacked preparation for such a huge responsibility (Acts 4:13). This terminology does not mean that the apostles had received no education at all. The wording expresses that the Jews considered the apostles to be common men who lacked the educational advantages they would have received had they been prepared for such public evangelism in rabbinical schools. However, recall that Mark 3:13-14 establishes that Jesus chose and appointed those He specifically wanted as apostles so that they might be with Him (that is, to witness His teaching and activities), and He sent them out to preach. Undoubtedly, He was searching for budding characteristics that He could build upon. He prepared them well to carry out their responsibilities.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Acts 1:7:
1 Thessalonians 5:1
1 Thessalonians 5:2