Chronos and Kairos 

Times and Seasons

Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?—Acts 1:6


The last question the disciples asked Jesus before his departure was, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Our Lord replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7). Shortly thereafter, “while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (verses 9-11).

Jesus had parted from them on previous occasions in strange ways, for example in the upper room he simply vanished without a trace, without leaving through a door. These were clear manifestations to the disciples that the Lord Jesus they had known in the flesh was no longer a fleshly being, but a mighty spirit being who could materialize and dematerialize at will. “Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16). Christ was “put to death indeed in flesh … made alive in spirit” (1 Peter 3:18, Wilson Diaglott interlinear).

But this departure was different. His ascent upwards was a clear visual demonstration to the disciples that he was going away, not simply parting from the company for a few hours or days, but he was leaving them. Jesus could have simply said, “I am going away now” and vanished, but it would not have had the impact and made them understand so clearly as his being taken “up,” received into the clouds, a clear indication of his “ascent” to the Father which he had predicted to Mary in the Garden, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).

Literally, his ascent “up” had no physical meaning to returning to his Father. In the long ages of remote antiquity God had created the universe, employing the services of his “only begotten son” Jesus, the Logos. God did not inhabit the universe, nor does he, for he is on a spiritual plane far above the mundane, physical creation we see all about us. The awesome grandeur and magnitude displayed in our universe is only a small reflection of the glories of the spirit realm, “heaven,” which is the place of God. Jesus’ rising upward was not the first part of a lengthy journey through space, but merely a means of identifying the concept of his departure to his disciples.

In this respect it was like the resurrection of our Lord from death to life. The stone at the tomb was rolled away, not to permit Jesus’ exit from the tomb, for the stone could not restrain him any more than a locked door. The stone was removed to permit others to observe that he was gone. But even his missing body was merely a means to suggest to his disciples the reality of his resurrection. Christ was not raised with his old flesh, which “cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Even in the earthly resurrection, mankind will not be raised by reassembling old body parts around freshly exhumed skeletons.

Restoration of Israel

The answer of our Lord to the disciples’ question—when Israel would have its kingdom restored—might be summed up as “not yet, but at an undisclosed time in the future.” Jesus did not correct their general impression that Israel would be restored, and blessings flow out from them in a renewed kingdom, but merely indicated that the time for this was not then at hand. When he was taken up into the clouds and the angels standing by affirmed that he would return—in harmony with Jesus’ declaration “If I go … I will come again (John 14:3)—no doubt the disciples began to realize that the fulfillment of their longing would be later, at the return of Christ.

This appears to be the connection Peter made, reflected in his assurance to the crowds only a few days later, “heaven must receive [him] until the period of restoration” (Acts 3:21, nasb). That the process of restoring Israel has now begun, and has been proceeding for more than a century, implies the Lord has returned, unknown to the world, and is supervising the affairs of the Israelites again. They do not yet collectively recognize that Jesus is responsible for this regathering. As Joseph assisted his brothers, mixed with chastening, but was unknown to them until disclosed to them amid much weeping, so Jesus is now assisting Israel, mixed with chastening, and will be disclosed when he pours out “the spirit of grace and of supplication … and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son” (Zechariah 12:10).

Times and Seasons

Jesus’ reply to the disciples’ question used the phrase “times or seasons.” The Greek for this expression is chronos ee kairos. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says chronos is “a space of time … it sometimes refers to the date of an occurrence,” and kairos, “a fixed or definite period, a season,” with emphasis on the characteristics of the period. For example, summer and winter are seasons of the year with specific characteristics. We might clumsily paraphrase: “it is not for you to know the periods or dates intervening, nor the various seasons of activity, which the father intends and has under his own control.”

Now, of course, looking back over the age in light of fulfilled prophecy, we can see both the periods and dates, and various stages of the Gospel age, each with its work and result, as for example in the seven periods of the church outlined in Revelation. But to those expectant disciples, this information was closed. They simply grasped that “times and seasons” would pass before the return of Christ and the fulfillment of their hopes.

When Paul spoke of the return of Christ to the brethren at Thessalonica, he used the same expression as in Acts 1:7. “Of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you, for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1,2).

When Peter delivered his sermon on repentance in Acts 3, he used the same words, though not joined in a single convenient expression. One of the words is obscured in the King James version. Verse 19 refers to “times of refreshing,” but the word “times” is the Greek kairos, seasons. During these seasons the repentant ones will be refreshed, forgiven, and blessed. Verse 21 refers to the “times of restitution” (restoration). This word “times” is the Greek chronos. In this case it refers to the period introduced by the return of Christ rather than the periods leading to it.

Seven Parables of the Kingdom

Though the particulars were not understood by the disciples at the time, Jesus had actually given them some details about the Gospel age in his parables. Matthew 13 records seven parables each containing good individual lessons beneficial to the household of faith. Put together they form a pattern which also relates to the progress of affairs from the first advent until the introduction of the kingdom.

Those seven parables are of the Sower, Tares, Tree with Fowls, Leaven, Treasure in a Field, Pearl of Great Price, and Dragnet. This sequence parallels the sequence of seven stages of the Gospel age in Revelation: (1) First is the sowing of the good seed of the gospel. (2) Then, “while men slept”—representing the passing of the apostles, or a spirit of carelessness—tares came into the wheat field. In the message to Smyrna they are “them which say they are Jews [spiritual Israelites], and are not,” Revelation 2:9. (3) The tree represents Christendom which grew into a kingdom during the age, in which many foul spirits lodged. (4) Jezebel leavened the whole thoroughly during the dark ages; compare Revelation 2:20. (5) In the reformation the church was a treasure almost obscured in the field of tares, but sought out and claimed. (6) The truths of Scripture were restudied and surfaced afresh during the Protestant expansion. (7) The dragnet was pulled ashore and the work of distinguishing good and bad proceeds during the harvest.

When Jesus completed these parables he asked the disciples if they understood them. They said yes, but our Lord knew their understanding could only have been in part. He knew that fathoming the depths of lessons such as these would be the privilege of the saints all through the age, as one after another of the times and seasons passed, and more details concerning the progress of the age became apparent. “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matthew 13:52).

This continues to be a blessed opportunity today. When we delve into the “deep things of God,” the treasures of wisdom, truth, and beauty contained in the holy Scriptures, and see facets of light sparkling as from cut gems, it cannot do otherwise than increase our joys of faith. The humblest of the Lord’s people, in the most depressed and poverty-stricken conditions, can rejoice with the most prosperous of the Lord’s saints in these riches—if, as Jacob rather than Esau, they value the things of the spirit above all else. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). When such gems of truth come to light, even opposition only makes them more precious. This is part of the seal of the spirit which is open to every child of God.

Drawing the Net Ashore

The last of these seven parables, the parable of the Dragnet, reminds us of the last of seven miracles recorded in the gospel of John chapter 21. The disciples had been laboring all night on the sea of Galilee but had caught nothing. In the morning—picturing the morning of the seventh period of the church—a stranger appeared on the shore and urged them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. In all practical ways this appeared pointless, for if there were fish on one side there would be fish on the other only a few feet away. But there was little to lose for the effort and they followed the stranger’s advice.

To their amazement, the draught of fishes was enormous, by count 153 “great fishes” (verse 11), but remarkably the net did not break—unlike an earlier episode when the net burst (Luke 5:5,6). The apostle John instantly grasped the situation: “It is the Lord!” he exclaimed to Peter, who true to character threw himself into the water and swam ashore (John 21:7). John was the perceptive one, Peter the impetuous one, and these qualities which endeared them to their Lord were manifest on this occasion also.

This seventh miracle, like the seventh parable, represents the harvest during the presence of our Lord Jesus. On the shore he had prepared a fish on the fire, representing the feast of truth served during the harvest (Luke 12:37). The net, which did not break, represents the gospel call, which produces more during the harvest of the age than one might suppose, observing the bleakness of some of the earlier periods. The previous episode (Luke 5:5,6) represented the call during the Jewish harvest. That net, representing the older doctrines of the Law, did burst under the pressure, just as the old wineskins and old garment could not contain the stresses of the new doctrine of the gospel (Matthew 9:16,17).

On this occasion seven of the disciples were present: Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee (James and John), and “two other of his disciples” (John 21:2). Perhaps in this number seven we have an indication that the participants represent the saints during the seventh stage of the church.

The count of the fish is given as 153, and this is so odd a number, but recorded so precisely, many have long looked with interest for some meaning in this number. It is in fact the sum of all whole numbers from 1 through 17, and as such is merely another way of symbolically representing the number 17, the combination of 10 (earthly) with 7 (perfect). It was the age of Joseph when he was sold (Genesis 37:2). Joseph represented our Lord Jesus, the perfect one (7) who came to earth to redeem mankind (10). The number of fishes in the net relate to this number to show that they are the redeemed of the Gospel age.

Once again, the lesson shows us the work of harvest to be done following the return of Christ after the centuries of the Gospel age. That work has been proceeding since 1874. We have some years yet remaining in this work. Let us be about the task, and thus receive the approbation of our Master. We have already reached the “time” of the harvest, and but one “season,” the seventh stage of the church, remains to conclude before our collective journey is over.