Last week we saw Peter using the healing of a lame man as a vehicle in which to jump into the Gospel. And what a cool passage that was! I loved preaching it. And we got up to verse 18, but we only touched on the last two verses. So let me pick up at verse 17.
Concerning the crucifixion, Peter says, "Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers." He says, "you did it" and then he says, "also your rulers." We saw last week that the members of a covenantal unit are in some sense involved in the sins of that unit, whether it is a family, a church or a nation. These Israelis couldn't say, "Hey. I wasn't there. It was the leaders who did it." No. Peter blames them as well as the rulers who actually made the decision to crucify the Lord. Because of their covenantal relationship, they are implicated. And we saw that this has profound ramifications for how we ought to view such things as church membership. Discipline and identificational prayer- where you confess the sins of a nation like Ezra, Nehemiah, and lots others. I won't repeat what I said last week, but I didn't have time to comment on the phrase: "You did it in ignorance."
They were not ignorant of the fact that they had sinned against a righteous man. certainly the leaders weren't ignorant of that. I think Peter makes that clear earlier. But they were ignorant of how serious this crime really was. They were ignorant of the Scriptures which prophesied about Christ's first coming, and the absolute imperative of His crucifixion. We have the advantage of looking from hindsight, and seeing more clearly. But Peter says that they crucified their Messiah in ignorance; ignorance that He was their Messiah. They were so immersed in the Zionistic teachings of the Pharisees that they were looking for a political Messiah who would deal with their political and economic woes, not a Savior who would deal with their sins. And we too need to keep this mind when we are dealing with people who hold to bizzarr doctrines. And there are a lot of strange doctrines out there. Sometimes that is all that they have been taught. They don't know better. I was a dispensationalist as a 21 year old, and I held to those doctrines in ignorance. I was an Arminian for many years in ignorance. Nobody had ever mentioned anything different to me. As soon as I saw the Scriptures, they made sense to me. So that's one side of the equation. We should have a little bit of sympathy with other evangelicals if Peter was willing to have sympathy with these people after their horrendous crime.
But I want you to notice something interesting here. Despite the fact that they were ignorant, Peter still holds them accountable for what they did throughout this chapter. And that is a principle of life that we need to be aware of as well. Pleading ignorance of the speed limit laws might get you some sympathy, but it won't get you off the hook with the law. And pleading ignorance with God's Word, might get you some sympathy, but you will still find that you have to pay the bitter penalties of violating God's roadmap. The ignorance that I had in my twenties and thirties was understandable, but I am still bearing the consequences of that ignorance economically, educationally and even in terms of how far my own children have come. I know that my children have a head start on me. But the point is that ignorance never erases the consequences. Never. You can be ignorant of gravity, but you will still go splat on the pavement when you jump off a tall building. And you can be ignorant of theology and still go spiritually "splat" on the ground with horrendous consequences. Just as an example. I blame many of the evils in our nation on dispensationalists and pietists because they have ignorantly bailed out of society with their rapture theology and their escapist mentality. But what did Jesus say would happen to us when we fail to be salt in our culture? He said that we would be cast out to be trampled under foot of man. We're under the foot on humanism in America, not because we lack the numbers to make a difference, but because the American church lacks the right theology. There are consequences to our theology. I have known people who don't want to study the Word because then they think they will be responsible. Nonsense. That's a foolish notion. You are always responsible and will always bear the bitter fruit of your ignorance. And this is why I always say, "Study, study, study so that you can avoid some of the consequences of ignorantly violating God's blueprints that our generation has had to suffer."
And these Jews had no excuse for not knowing. Scripture had prophesied about Jesus so much that anyone who honestly studied the Scriptures could have come to the truth – or at least enough truth to avoid crucifying Jesus. Verse 18. "But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled." It's not like Christ's sufferings were an obscure doctrine in one isolated Old Testament verse. From Genesis 3:15 and on, the saints knew that animal sacrifices were simply pointing forward to a coming Messiah who would crush the head of the serpent, would conquer sin and death and would provide the salvation and life that the previous verses talked about. And God sovereignly fulfilled every detail of what was prophesied about His suffering.
Now, this does bring up a question of how God can hold people accountable for actions which God prophesied and which God fulfilled. Even though the crucifixion was a sin, God controlled every detail of it. I dealt with this question in much more detail when I commented on Acts 2:23. And if you are troubled over that doctrine, get the tape. But it is important to remember that Scripture never pits God's total sovereignty over all things against man's full responsibility for his own actions. Where hyper-Calvinism ditches man's responsibility, Arminianism ditches God's sovereignty. But true Calvinism, or Augustinianism or Paulinism or Biblicism or whatever you want to call this, holds to both God's predestination and control of all things, and man's responsibility. The two are stated together over and over again in the book of Acts and elsewhere in the Scripture.
And based on the conviction that these people wanted to do that God-ordained sin, were responsible for it and freely entered into the sin (it was their sin, not God's), Peter says, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." The first word, "repent" means a change of mind and purpose. "Be converted," literally means to turn back or to turn around. Those two words show that both mind and action need to be reversed in true conversion. Repentance is not simply a mental change of mind. It involves confessing and forsaking our sins. And notice that this repentance precedes forgiveness of sin. "Repent therefore and be converted" [or turned], "that your sins may be blotted out…" Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." No prosperity and no refreshing to those who cover their sins. But confessing and forsaking them brings God's mercies. There is a common 19^th^ and 20^th^ century mistake that says that since we are justified by faith alone (which is true), that therefore repentance is not needed for a man to be saved (which is a false conclusion). These people say that a person can believe in Jesus and continue to live like the devil with absolutely no repentance, and he will still be saved. In fact, some of these blokes think that it is heresy to preach repentance. When you point out that Scripture calls people to repentance for the remission of sins hundreds of times, they say, "But that was just for the Jews." Gentiles don't need to repent. When you respond, "Well, if that's the case, why did Paul preach repentance to the Gentiles then? For example, Acts 26:20 says that he "declared …to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance." And their response is that that must have been optional for rewards, and had nothing to do with salvation. But Acts 11:18 says, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." Yes, it does have to do with salvation: it's repentance unto life. And they will respond, "Hey, that was just a church council that said that, and church councils can make mistakes." And you can keep responding with Scripture, and it becomes quickly apparent that they are not interested in what the Scriptures says because have an agenda. Their agenda may be that they are afraid to give up a system of theology, but frequently it is more sinister than that. I was in a church as a teenager where an older gentleman spoke out vociferously against my father's teaching on repentance. My father was a guest speaker there. And this old man insisted, "we are under grace, not under the law, and no repentance is necessary." I thought it was rather odd, but years later I discovered that he had been sexually abusing many children in the church. No wonder he liked this hyper-dispensational theology. Usually there is a personal reason why people resist the law or resist repentance. The Bible is so clear that you cannot have forgiveness of sin unless there is repentance. You cannot have salvation unless there is repentance. Peter is quite clear in this verse: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…" And this has puzzled many people. How can we be justified by faith alone if repentance is necessary? And the Reformers answered that objection by saying that even though we are justified by faith alone, it is not by a faith that is alone. A faith that is not connected to repentance and which does not produce good works is not a saving faith. Now keep in mind that our repentance doesn't justify us. All it does is turn from the world, the flesh and the devil. So? You've turned from it, but you still have to answer for past sins. Turning from your sin doesn't make your past sin go away. It is only faith that has the power to lay claim to Christ's righteousness and to cast our sins upon Him. But where you find one, you will find the other. Think of faith and repentance as two sides of the same coin. Faith and repentance can no more be separated than the two sides of a coin can be separated. You can distinguish them, but repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin of conversion. That's why faith alone is the active agent that receives Christ's righteousness, but it can't be exercised without repentance. You can't turn to God until you have turned from something. Does that help to resolve that in your minds?
I love the Greek word for the words "blotted out." It means that the sins are obliterated. It is a very strong word which means to be erased or destroyed. Once a person is converted, his sins, past, present and future will be wiped clean from his slate. In God's court room, a justified person no longer has sins that need to be answered for. They are taken away or blotted out. What a glorious promise. We don't live in fear all of our lives as to whether we will lose our salvation. A Christian can have absolute assurance of his salvation because his sins no longer appear on the blackboard. They are blotted out. They are washed away.
And the next three phrases show what flows from this call to repentance and forgiveness of sins. They are wonderful words that I would love to dive right into, but because of controversy that has raged, I need to give an overview of what they mean before I give application. Some people don't even believe that they applied to those first century Jews. They think that they will only apply in the future. Beginning at the second clause in verse 19: "So that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." When do the times of refreshing occur? What about the times of restoration of all things? Are they the same thing, or are they separated? Well, let me give you three views. And keep in mind that godly people hold to each of these. The practical ramifications are great, and we do need to distinguish these things.
Pre-mils say that it will be future to us, but one thousand years before the end of time. Here is the end of time on their chart, and here is the Second Coming on their Chart. They have the secret rapture here, then the seven year tribulation, then the visible second coming. Israel will see Christ coming in the clouds and will repent, and then will come the instant restoration of all things, and 1000 years of times of refreshing. There are some historic premils who don't see a secret rapture, but otherwise they hold the same thing.
Many amils also say that it will be at the Second Coming, but they rightly believe that the Second Coming is at the end of history. Unfortunately, they see the times of restoration of all things and times of refreshing as being in eternity, rather than as being in history. They too say that the restoration is instantaneous, but that the times of refreshing are not – they last for eternity. So they too believe that you have to wait till the second coming for these times of refreshing and times of restoration.
Let me give you one more chart on the overhead.
We post-mils agree with Premils that it will be in history, not eternity. I think the word "times" makes that quite clear. The Second Coming is at the end of time here, and we believe that the times of refreshing and the times of restoration of all things are a long period of time that lasts from the first coming to the Second Coming. Let me explain first why I do not believe the amil interpretation is adequate.
I actually have eight reasons why the amils are wrong in my notes here1, but I just want to focus on two right now. First reason, Notice that both verse 19 and verse 21 speaks of "times" (plural), not the time, or "a time," or even "time" (singular). Unfortunately the ESV has translated this as "time" singular, but if you look it up in the Greek, it is plural, just like times in verse 19 are plural. I don't know why they translated one plural and the other singular, other than being driven by a bad theology. But on the amil view, this restoration of all things in verse 21 will happen instantaneously (right over here at the end of the chart), not progressively. Yet of the 159 times that the words for "times" are used, none of them refer to one event, and none of them refer to non-history, or eternity. For example, 1 Thesalonians 5:1 says, "But concerning the times" (chronón) "and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you." Times and seasons are used in parallel and they refer to history, not to eternity. Acts 1:7 is the same. Jesus said, "It is not for you to know times" (chronous) "or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority." And with regard to the word kairoi used in verse 19, Luke 21:24 says, "Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times" (kairoi) "of the Gentiles are fulfilled." That's speaking of a long process of history. So the language that Peter uses is language that clearly refers to history, not to eternity. And secondly, you can't escape the force of that argument by saying that it will occur on the last moment of history at the Second coming, because that is time (singular), not times (plural). If you circle both words translated as "times," it will help you to sort out a lot in this passage.
Second, the times of refreshing in verse 19 aren't in the presence of the Lord (which you would expect if we were in heaven), but from the presence of the Lord. That word "from" seems to indicate that refreshing is being sent from heaven to earth, and that the refreshing takes place on the earth. So both verses (verses 19 and 21) seem to refer to history rather than eternity. There are other problems with the amil view (as I said earlier, eight problems altogether), but those two ought to be sufficient for you to see the deficiencies.
But there are deficiencies with the premil view as well. The premils agree that this glorious prediction has to occur in history rather than in eternity. The word "times" and the phrase "from the presence" almost mandate that. But Pre-mils believe that verse 19 occurs after the second Coming and only applies to the 1000 years of history, while verse 21 happens rather suddenly at the beginning of the 1000 years. And there is a certain plausibility to their interpretation. If verse 19 is talking about national repentance and national blessing (as they insist), then (they say) it is very significant that verse 20 speaks of Christ's coming. (By the way, not everybody agrees that it is Christ's Second Coming, but I think the Pre-Mils and amils are right on that. I don't buy Ken Gentry's explanation of it being a mystical coming to individuals, though it is a plausible one. So I'm going to grant the Pre-Mils that verse 20 is the Second Coming.) The problem is that they see all of those things as occurring at roughly the same time. Then in verse 21 they take Christ's being in heaven as being a waiting period. He doesn't do any restoring work while in heaven, but will only start to restore all things after His Coming. His being in heaven has no relationship to the restoration. He's just waiting till He's allowed to do it. I think on the surface there is a certain plausibility to their interpretation.
But let me explain where I believe the Pre-Mil interpretation fails at a number of points, including a couple that amils fail at that I haven't mentioned. First, there is a cause and effect order in verses 19-20 that is a quite different order than that given by premils (or amils for that matter). Each time the word "that" appears it shows a result of the previous clause. It's like a chain of cause and effect relationships, one coming after the other. Beginning at verse 19:
"Repent therefore and be converted" [result:] "that your sins may be blotted out" [result:] "so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" [result:] "and so that He may send Jesus Christ"
The first phrase gives the foundation of everything else. For the sake of argument, let's just grant that pre-mils are right and that this exclusively applies to the nation in the future and not to individuals in 30 AD. When you plug that information in, that would mean that Israel would have to repent before the Lord comes back, not after His coming. Can you see how that follows on this chart. Here is the order: repentance, sins blotted out, times of refreshing (notice the plural there: times of refreshing – so we are talking about a big period of history), then the Second Coming. But that is the exact opposite of their chart. Let me put up the premil chart again.
All premils of every stripe believe that there will be seven years of tribulation, then the Second Coming, and only when the Jews see the Second Coming will they repent and find times of refreshing and find a restoration of things. It is the exact opposite of the order that is given here. So the first problem is that they reverse the order of the conversion of the Jews with the coming of Christ.
The second problem is that their chart puts the times of refreshing after the Second Coming, whereas the chain of cause-and-effect relationships in verses 19-20 puts it before the Second Coming, just like the Postmils do.
Now their response (and everybody's got a response, don't they?) is that verse 21 puts the times of restoration after the Second Coming, and therefore even if verse 19-20 seem to overthrow Premillennialism, it doesn't. So let's look at that verse. And I have to admit, verse 21 is a difficult verse. In fact, pre, post and amils find it difficult. And that's because the word "until" in the Greek could go in one of two directions. It could go in a post mil direction or it could go in a premil direction.
Let me read verse 21 first. It says, "Whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." The phrase "until the times" could be interpreted two different ways. And those two interpretations hinge on the force of the word "until." If you think the word "until" implies a cause and effect relationship between Christ's being in heaven and the restoration of all things (as I do – in other words, it's His being in heaven that causes the times of restoration) then you believe that the word "fulfilled" is implied (until the times are fulfilled). If you believe there is no cause and effect relationship between the two clauses – other than that one follows the other in time sequence and that Jesus is simply waiting, then you will fill in the words "have started" in the verse (until the times have started). Literal versions like the New King James leave that to you to interpret. But on this overhead you will see two ways that you could paraphrase this to bring out the force of the "until." And you will find translations that interpret it one way or the other.
"Whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things [are fulfilled]" or
"Whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things [has begun –" or "has arrived"]
As premillenialist Mr Wood words it, it could mean either "till these times be exhausted" or "till they arrive." Pre-mils and amils take it as "till the times arrive" or "till they start." And that's definitely a possibility. In fact, there are postmillennialists who take it that way, and even that interpretation is devastating to the premil view. Remember that both amils and premils see the restoration of all things as happening suddenly, in one day. So the word "times" is not given full force. But secondly, amil and postmils point out that even if it happens after the second Coming, premils have a problem because they don't believe that literally all things" are restored to the way they were before Adam and Eve sinned. Premils believe that there will be death and suffering after the Second Coming. They believe that there will continue to be sin, war, rebellion against Christ. They agree that there will still be enemies of Christ, residing primarily among Gog and Magog. On their instantaneous view, it wouldn't fit. They tend to restrict the restoration of all things to the fact that God will restore long life, health, set Christ on an earthly throne, bring peace and prosperity. And while those are great, they are not the all things that other passages connect to the biblical prophecy.
And the point is that you can't know which of the two possibilities are right until you know what is being restored.
Let me put the chart up again.
Premils think all things will be instantly restored right here, and not gradually restored over time (that's verse 21). But the 1000 years are the times in which verse 19's refreshing flows from the presence of the Lord. So verse 19 happens over a long period of time, verse 21 instantaneously. There is not a gradual fulfillment.
Similarly, amils think that all things will be instantly restored right here and not gradually restored over time, and that verse 19 will be for eternity.
Here's our chart. We agree with amils that the all things has to include some things that would occur on the last day of history, but we don't think it starts there. We think it ends there. So many Scriptures indicate that it starts at theresurrection and enthronement of Jesus. That was Peter's interpretationin Acts 2:34-35. HE quotes the Father as saying, "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool," and then proceeds to speak of Christ's restorative work by sending the Spirit. Ephesians 1:10 says, "that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times" [that's a phrase that refers to 30AD through to the end of time because Galatians says that Christ came in the fullness of time. And by the way, even amillenialist William Hendriksen is forced to agree the fullness of the times has to include the whole period from His resurrection to the end of time. He says, "in the present case [that's Ephesians 1:10] the reference is to the entire New Testament era, particularly to the period which began with Christ's resurrection and coronation. It will not end until the Lord, upon His glorious return, will have pronounced and executed judgment." Yet listen what Paul says happens in this time-span: "that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times"] "He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him." He says that happens in history, not in eternity. And then Paul goes on to indicate what things are gathered together in Christ and placed under His feet, and it includes individuals, principalities, powers, might and dominion. The point is that it includes what amils say will be restored after the Second Coming. It includes what premils say will be restored in history. And it includes a whole lot more, starting in the first century. To make a 2000 year gap between the repentance of these first century Jews and the times of refreshing makes no sense. It seems clear that their response to Peter's message results in their experiencing times of refreshing. 2Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." God begins the refreshing and restoration individually, and as more and more individuals become Christians, He expands the refreshing and restoration corporately and culturally. And when nations repent, expands the refreshing and restoration nationally. And 1 Corinthians 15 says that Jesus must continue to reign at the right hand of the Father until all enemies are put under His feet.
Let me read verses 25-27 of 1 Corinthians 15. It says, "For He must reign till He has put all things under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death" [which Paul later says happens at the Second Coming in the twinkling of an eye when death is swallowed up in victory. Well, if death is the last enemy to be destroyed, that means that every other enemy has to be destroyed before the Second Coming, right? He goes on:] "For ‘He has put all things under His feet.' But when He says, ‘all things are put under Him.' It is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted." There are no creaturely exceptions: So (back to Acts 3:21) it seems as if it is unwarranted to make Christ being in heaven unrelated to His restorative work. 1 Corinthians 15 makes His restorative work all flow from heaven, and He can't leave heaven until that work is done. Secondly, it seems unwarranted to make the "until" mean "until the beginning of the restoration" rather than "until the end of the restoration." Third, it seems unwarranted to exclude anything in this universe from the "all things" that Peter spoke about: "all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."
And here is a chart to summarize which issues each of the viewpoints has going for them, and which ones they fail on. Obviously, from my perspective, only Postmillennialism has a checkmark beside each of these 10 points.
Premil Amil Postmil
v. 19 - "times" 4 v. 21 - "times" v. 19 - "from the presence of the Lord" v. 19 – no gap repent & refreshment vv. 19-20 - The order of clauses v. 20 – "that" v. 21 – "all things" v. 22-23 connection v. 24 – "these days" v. 24 "all the prophets"
And all of this may seem like overkill to you. And maybe it was. But I don't want you to be robbed of the realization that Christ's refreshing work and restoring work has already begun. It's available for you now. The Christian's life should be a life of rich joy, and peace and comfort in the Gospel. We should be experiencing victory and restoration of life. He's not talking about perfection. In fact the very word for "refreshing" implies weak and dry spirits that need to be revivied or refreshed. And if He needs to bring refreshing over the course of multiplied "times," then there are problems over multiple times. If restoration occurs throughout the times, then it implies that the world, the flesh and the devil are doing a work of destruction during those times as well. But Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. He came to give us a world conquering faith and a world forsaking repentance. If you are not experiencing refreshment and restoration, don't doubt Christ's abundant provision. Question whether there are things you have yet to repent of, or whether you are exercising the flip of that coin: faith. The only conditions that verse 19 holds are 1) repent, 2) turn (which itself implies faith), 3) have your sins cleansed, 4) "so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." We are living in the times of refreshing. We don't have to wait till the Second Coming. And if you are feeling as dry as a desert, cry out to the Lord. Jesus said, "he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35) "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14). "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38).
Now that doesn't mean that you won't have troubles. But it means that God will refresh you in the midst of your troubles. Psalm 46 speaks of enormous troubles that can beset the Christian, where the earth is shaking, the mountains are being cast into the midst of the sea, the waves are roaring and are troubled. Yet in the midst of all that, this Messianic psalm says that God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. It says that there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God; that God is in the midst of her, so that she shall not be moved.
That may seem like promises too hard to believe. Yet they are given by the God who cannot lie. He has blessed you with that refreshment and with all that is needed for restoration – He has provided that in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in the Word, in the Church, in the Spirit and Spiritual gifts. Do not look to broken cisterns to supply your need of water. Look to the Lord. It doesn't mean that you won't have desert. It means that God will refresh you in the midst of the heat. Psalm 46 ends with these words:
Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalms 46:11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.
May He be your refuge. May He be your refresher. May He be the restorer of the years that the locust has eaten. He has come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly. Amen.
In addition to the two mentioned, I would also mention: 1) it makes the connection between Peter's first century call to repentance and the "times of refreshing" look forced, 2) it violates the sequence or chain of events linked with "that" in verses 19-20 (see below), 3) their interpretation of verse 21 makes it virtually impossible to find references in "all the prophets since the world began." In contrast, the postmil interpretation sees the gradual application from Christ's first coming to His Second, and fits every prophet's ministry. 4) their understanding that "until" in verse 21 means "until it starts" rather than "until it is fulfilled" violates the intpretation of Psalm 110 given elsewhere (see 1 Cor 15, etc, and see below). 5) It fails to adequately tie in the reference to "these days" in verse 24 with the preceding context. 6) It fails to show how verse 25 is an explanatory clause. ↩