[…] The disciples that asked this question of Jesus on the eve of the Ascension were either not present when He gave the prophecy from the Mount of Olives, or they had forgotten His words. Only days before, Jesus had taught the disciples that “the end” would be preceded by an unequaled tribulation signaled by the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel (Mt 24:15-16, 21). But first, the gospel must be preached to all nations before the end can come (Mt 24:14).
At the time the disciples asked the question of Acts 1:6, the mystery of Christ’s twofold coming to Israel had not been revealed (Acts 3:18-21; Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11-12). They didn’t know that the risen Jesus was about to ascend to the right hand of God and there remain until His return (Acts 3:21). Even on those occasions when the disciples had heard the Lord speak of ‘going away,’ it was never imagined that this would be by way of death and resurrection and subsequent ascension.
To understand the dilemma, we must remember that the great puzzle for first century Israel was how the messianic redemption could be accomplished BEFORE and apart from Israel’s national deliverance […]