25. For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Now Peter, still speaking by the inspiring power of the Holy Spirit, turns again to the Old Testament, this time quoting Psalm 16:8-11. On the surface, it might appear to the casual reader that David was speaking of himself and events in his own life when he wrote this portion. In fact, this is how it had traditionally been interpreted by the rabbis. Now, however, Peter reveals God’s intention behind this psalm, and tells us that this was actually spoken, not of David, but of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now here David describes the Lord during His earthly ministry. He enjoyed the continual presence of the LORD while He was here on earth, as He was indeed that same Yahweh of the Old Testament in human form. Because He was always before His face, He was not shaken or troubled by any of the difficulties He faced during His ministry. For us, too, our God is an ever-present help in trouble, though He may not be with us to the same extent as He was with the Lord Jesus, of course.
26. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
It was the Lord’s joy and rejoicing while He was on earth, that His Father was ever with Him. His tongue was glad to speak God’s truth because of this reality.
The word “rest” here makes it sound like David is speaking of the Lord’s death. Yet the word here is the word for “tabernacle,” in Greek kataskenoo. It is used three other times, in Matthew 13:32, Mark 4:32, and Luke 13:19, in all three of which it is translated as “perch” or “perched.” The word skenoo is from skene, which is where we get our English word “scene.” The idea of skene is the place where you live out your life. We even speak of situations as a “scene,” like when we say, “When did you come on the scene?” So, although it appears from the word “rest,” especially in the light of the next verse, like David was referring to death as “rest” here, when we examine the Greek word we realize that it actually does not mean to be dead in hope, but to be alive in hope. The Lord lived out His life in the hope, that is, the expectation of all that God had planned for Him and those He loved. His expectation was not in His death, but in all the wonderful things that would come afterwards.
27. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
Now, David moves on to speak of His death. The Lord was assured that God would not leave His soul in Hades. “Soul” here is used for the whole person, so “my soul” just means “me.”
Hades is, by the law of divine interchange, the same as the Old Testament Sheol. Thus we should look to the meaning of Sheol in the Hebrew Scriptures to discover what Hades is, not to the foolish superstitions and legends of the Greeks about Hades. If we would examine the meaning of Sheol, we would find that there is no English word that will exactly represent this word. Ultimately, it is a word that indicates a state of being, like “poverty” indicates the state of being poor, and “solitude” indicates the state of being alone. Sheol means the state of being dead. However, we must qualify this. States like poverty and solitude are transitory. One who is poor could become rich. One who is alone could later be found in the midst of a crowd. So it is with sheol. It indicates the state of being dead, but only as a transitory state, and thus only when resurrection and renewal to life is in view. Once the second death is enacted and all who do not deserve life in God’s sight are put to death with no hope of resurrection and passing out of the state of death, then they are no longer considered to be in sheol. So sheol, and hades too, might be defined as being the state of death with resurrection in view.
Now the Lord Jesus, as we know, entered the state of death after He died on the cross. However, God did not leave Him there. He raised Him from the dead, and now He lives for evermore. Now He has power over death, and never again will it have any power over Him.
Peter now goes on to tell us a second fact about the death of the Lord Jesus. God would not allow His Holy One to see corruption. We know that the Lord was dead and in the tomb for three days and three nights. In three days’ time, putrefaction would normally set in, and the body would start to see corruption. However, this was not the way it was with the Lord Jesus. I believe this is because He was sinless, and He had no death working in Him. Because of our corruption by sin and death, inherited within us from the forbidden fruit that Adam ate so long ago, we all have death working within us. Yet life, the gift of God, also works within us, and the two war against one another, as we well know. When we are young, life seems to usually win all the battles, and as time goes on our bodies generally get stronger, bigger, and better. Yet as the years wear on, this constant battle with death starts to leave its mark upon us, and our bodies show the scars of sin and death in things like wrinkles, gray hair, reducing strength, chronic illness, and so forth. Finally, one day, death will win at last, and the life principle that we received from God will pass from us. At that time, death continues to work in us, yet without life to counteract it, its poison acts most quickly. Before much time passes, the flesh starts to consume away, and the body to return to the dust from which it came. This is the fate of us all, and the end of all life on earth at this time.
Yet when we consider the Lord Jesus Christ, we must realize that it was not this way. The Lord, born of a virgin, was not affected by the sin and death principle passed down from Adam through the male seed to all who have lived since that time. As such, He did not have death working in Him, but only life. When He dismissed His life, then, and committed His spirit into the Father’s hands, though the life principle left His body, no death was working in Him to take over and start to break down His body. Since death was not in His body, He did not start to putrefy. Thus, though Lazarus may have stunk on the fourth day he was in the tomb, the Lord had seen no corruption three days after He had been interred. He indeed saw no corruption.
28. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’
David’s great prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus Christ ends with a declaration of His resurrection. God would make known to Him the ways of life by restoring His life to Him. Then, He would be made full of joy in the presence of the Father, as He would be alive to dwell with Him once again. This is a condensed version of the very same story we have in the gospels, only it was set forth in these few brief words by King David a thousand years before these things ever took place.
29. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
Peter calls David a “patriarch” here. This word is one we usually think of in regards to men like Abraham, who was the progenitor of the nation of Israel, or the twelve sons of Jacob, who were the progenitors of the twelve tribes. In this case, David is called a “patriarch” because he is the progenitor of the royal line, the first of the line of the God-appointed monarchy.
Peter was speaking to many different people in this address, and they would have held many different opinions about this passage. Some of them would have believed that this was speaking about the patriarch David himself, and not the coming Messiah. Peter is going to straighten that idea out by showing them that this passage could not apply to David. Some of them also would have adopted the common, Greek view of death, and so would not have thought of things like the Bible sets them forth. So Peter calls upon all these to allow him to speak to them now freely, and to give them God’s truth regarding the man David.
Peter tells them that David is both dead and buried, and his tomb was with them even to that very day in which Peter was speaking. David could not have said that he would not be left in Hades, for he had been left there for a thousand years. David could not have claimed that he would not see corruption, for his body had corrupted and wasted away long before Peter spoke these words. David at that time was still in the state of death, and awaiting resurrection, even as he is today. These words, then, could not have applied to him. Therefore, they must have applied to someone else. And Peter is now ready to tell them Who that is.
30. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,
Peter speaks of David as a prophet. Men, ever mindful of our human designations, are likely to step in here to protest that David was not a prophet, but rather was a psalmist. Such show that they do not know or understand God’s use of these words. A prophet does not merely apply to one who wrote one of the books in the section of the Bible we call the “prophets.” Nor was he one who spoke the future, which again is what many wrongfully define a prophet as being. No, a prophet was one who was given God’s words, God’s message, straight from Him by inspiration to pass on to others. Every author of a book of Scripture, then, must ultimately have been a prophet. It did not matter if he spoke of the past, the present, or the future in his writings. As long as what he was writing was the inspired word of God, then he was a prophet. So David most certainly was a prophet, as he set forth the word of God in what he wrote in the Psalms.
Not only was David a prophet, but he also knew, Peter reminds them, that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ, that is, the Messiah to sit on his throne. We can see this in places like II Samuel 7:16, where the LORD promised David,
16. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.
The Lord here spoke of David’s house and throne being established forever. David showed he understood that this spoke of the Messiah when he responded to the LORD in verse 19.
19. And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O Lord GOD; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come. Is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD?
I believe that this last sentence should be translated, “Is this the manner of the man, O Lord GOD?” In other words, David understood that the LORD was speaking to him, not just of the many human descendants he would have, but of THE man, the Messiah, who would be descended from David’s line. David understood this, and realized that of the fruit of his body Christ would be raised up to sit on his throne.
31. he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.
David foresaw this truth about the Lord Jesus Christ. But he foresaw more than this, for he spoke concerning His resurrection. It was Jesus Christ Whose soul, that is, His person, was not left in Hades, the state of death. He it was Whose flesh would not see corruption. By these words, then, the Holy Spirit through Peter masterfully and yet kindly refutes the teaching that these words applied to David, revealing that this could not be the case. They could not apply to one who was dead, buried, and whose tomb was still among them. But it did apply to the One Who now had risen from the dead.
32. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.
Peter makes this plain and yet revolutionary statement regarding the Lord Jesus. God had raised Him up, and he and those who stood there with him were all witnesses of this fact. With Peter were one hundred and twenty men, all of whom had seen the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. These people who were listening to him, then, could have questioned any one or any number of these, and have ascertained for themselves the reliability of their testimony. This was a unique opportunity these men had which, of course, we do not have today. We can only read the testimony of these men in the books they wrote, and that have been passed down to us. Yet we too thus can learn the truth from these witnesses.
33. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
The Lord speaking through Peter finally comes to the point of this address. He had shown in verse 16 why the guess of the scoffers was not correct, and this was not caused by drunkenness. Now, He emphatically declares what this was caused by, and what it meant.
The Lord Jesus had been exalted to the right hand of God. But there is no word for “hand” here. He was exalted to the right of God, and I believe this means that He was exalted to the place where He had the very right to sit and act as God Himself. Of course, only God could have the right to act as God, and the Lord Jesus Christ was God. Thus He, sitting on the rights of God, had received from His Father the promise of the Holy Spirit. The phrase here is “the Holy Spirit” in Greek, and so it refers to the Person of the Spirit, Who obeyed the command of the Lord Jesus sitting in His place as God. Thus, with the Spirit at His command, the Lord had poured out upon these one hundred and twenty men those things which they now saw and heard. This included the sound like a rushing, mighty wind, the sign of the tongues of fire, and the things spoken perfectly in their own language and dialect that they were now hearing. The explanation for all these things was that Jesus Christ was exalted to the place of God, and had therefore chosen to pour these things out upon these men.
34. “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand,
Peter again speaks boldly through the Spirit to set forth the truth to these people. He assures them that David did not ascend into the heavens. Yet he speaks of One Who did ascend into heaven, when he said these words in Psalm 110:1. Since David is not in the heavens, then, these words from Psalm 110 must speak of Someone Who is in the heavens. Peter assures us that this One is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many would like to get around this clear statement that David did not ascend into the heavens. They want to believe that men of faith, of which David certainly was one, ascend to heaven immediately upon death, or else that they ascended there with the Lord Jesus, Who cleaned out some place with two compartments to take them there when He Himself ascended. Yet this is long after David’s death, and after the Lord had ascended and supposedly cleaned out this place of two compartments, and yet Peter still assures us that David did not ascend into the heavens. Some argue that David simply appeared in heaven, and so did not ascend to get there. Yet the word for ascend here, anabaino, merely means “to go up.” Even if David appeared directly in heaven, he still would have gone up to get there. There is no way to back out of the truth here. David is not in heaven. Whatever the truth is about the fate of believing men once they have died, it must accord with the facts about David here. He has not gone up into the heavens.
35. Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
This reveals the factor that determines when the Lord Jesus is allowed to return from the heavens. He must remain there until His enemies are made His footstool. That which is under a person’s foot is in his power, and so this means that His enemies must be subject to Him before He will ever leave His place sitting on the rights of God in heaven. Notice this, for most people believe quite differently, and think that it is the Lord returning that makes His enemies His footstool. Yet this cannot be, since He cannot return until the great fact of His enemies being His footstool is accomplished. Thus it is not His return that makes His enemies His footstool. They must be made His footstool already before He ever leaves His place in the heavens.
36. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Peter now sums up his message by making a proclamation to those who were hearing him. He addresses this proclamation to the house of Israel, represented by those who were standing before him. Yet this message was to go out from here, and the result would be that all the house of Israel would know this. This was God’s will for the Acts period: that every single member of the house of Israel, wherever he might be and whoever he might be, would hear this truth regarding Jesus Christ.
Now during the time when Christ was on earth, such a proclamation was never made. The Lord Jesus was never set forth in such clear and official language to the people of Israel as their Messiah. In fact, when the disciples realized Who He was, He strictly forbade them to tell anyone what they had learned, as we see in Matthew 16:20, Mark 8:30, and Luke 9:21. This truth was not revealed to Israel, yet now, accompanied with the sad truth of their rejection of Him, it is set forth clearly and plainly to all of them.
God’s proclamation to them here was undeniable to any who were willing to hear. The things that the Lord Jesus had done while He was among them, coupled with the miraculous signs that were taking place, along with the evidence from the Old Testament that Peter had presented, and finally backed up by the unanimous testimony of those who stood before them as witnesses, all pointed to the unmistakable conclusion that this is exactly Who Jesus Christ is. The very One Whom they had crucified was their Lord, and the Messiah.
37. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
These men heard these words, and realized the truth of them. This was not just their own emotions or logic speaking, but was a knowledge given to them by God through this divinely inspired message. He had spoken through Peter’s message, and these men knew the truth of His words. The word for “cut to the heart” in Greek appears only here, and means that they were pierced through. God’s message had hit the mark, and found its intended response in the hearts of these men.
Such faithful men of Israel were well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, and thus would have been well aware of the punishment that should be theirs if they continued to reject the One Whom God had named both Lord and Christ. For example, they would have known the words that God spoke to Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18-19, when He said,
18. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.
Knowing the judgment of God then against anyone who did not respond to the One He would send, these men were cut to the heart. The attitude they displayed in the face of these undeniable facts is commendable. They asked of Peter, the one who was bringing them God’s message, what it was that they should do. This is always a good question to ask of God when we find ourselves convicted of not living for Him as we ought to do. Yet all too few, when coming under such conviction, ever ask of Him such a question. Far too many will respond to such conviction by eagerly starting to do what they imagine God wants of them, and never bother to look to His Word to find out what He actually tells them to do. These men had the right response, however, and now God through Peter would tell them what it was that He expected of them.
38. Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Peter’s command to these men in answer to their question was no doubt simple and plain to them, and yet to those who read it in our day it seems that a very wrong idea is what first comes to their minds. When they read that Peter told these men to repent, they immediately imagine that he wanted them to show a lot of sorrow and regret and tears for what they had done. This is the idea many have regarding the meaning of this word “repent.” Yet II Corinthians 7:10 declares, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Here, it is said that Godly sorrow produces repentance. How, then can Godly sorrow BE repentance? If repentance means “Godly sorrow,” then this verse says that Godly sorrow produces Godly sorrow, which is of course meaningless.
This word “repent” is the Greek word metanoesate, and is related to the word metanoia that we discussed in chapter 1 verse 5. The most basic form here would be metanoeo, and like in the case of metanoia, meta means “after,” and noeo (or noesate,) means “be minded.” What Peter was asking of them was to have the aftermind. That is, he wanted them to make up their mind right at that point that they would submit themselves to God. They were to make their hearts ready to believe whatever He would reveal to them about Jesus Christ, about His plans, and about themselves. Whatever His truth might be, and whatever it might require of them, they were to determine in their minds now to submit to it, so that no matter what came after, their minds would not be changed. This is the first thing that was required of them.
Secondly, Peter demands that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Men rush in with the idea here that this means that they were to have a water ceremony performed over them, during which some minister would say over them, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ.” This is how men imagine they are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ today. Yet as we discussed in considering Acts 1:5, “baptism” does not mean a water ceremony. This is a Greek word, baptismos, that has not been translated, but merely transliterated. If we would ask what this word meant in Greek, we would find that one single English word will not do to express all the truth there is in it. The basic idea is that of an identification, one that involves participation, and that results in a merger. Peter was demanding that these people publicly identify themselves with Jesus Christ, to the point that they will be considered as merged with Him and in full fellowship with those who follow and serve Him.
Now we know that during the lifetime of Jesus Christ, there were many who, though they believed that He was indeed the Messiah, were not willing to take the step of actually becoming His followers. This was because of the fear that they had regarding the religious leaders, who rejected Him and threatened dire consequences for anyone who professed belief in Him. We can read of these in John 12:42-43.
42. Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43. for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
So in time past, there were those among these men who had been secret believers, That is, that though they personally realized the truth about Who the Lord Jesus was, and thus hoped to reap the benefits of His Messiahship, they were not willing to pay the consequences that they knew would come from publicly pronouncing their belief.
Now Christ had demanded a far different attitude of His true followers during His ministry. In Matthew 10:32-33, he told His disciples, “32. “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” This was what Christ told them, and this was what God wanted.
During Christ’s earthly ministry, God had not challenged these “secret believers.” Yet now, such an attitude will be allowed no longer. If these men wish to cast in their lot with the Lord Jesus Christ, then they must be identified. No halfway measure will do. Now is the time for them to be publicly identified, and if they truly are submitted to God, then they will do so. This had nothing to do with Peter wanting them to go through a water ceremony. It had everything to do with God wanting them to identify themselves publicly with Jesus Christ.
First Peter makes two demands, and then he makes two promises based on those demands. First, Peter declares that this baptism will be “for the remission of sins.” Yet the word here is not “for,” but “into,” which in this case carries the idea of “with a view to.” They were to be identified with Jesus Christ, and this would be with a view to the remission of their sins. The Lord was not referring to some water ceremony, and telling them that this ceremony would be efficacious to remove their sins, as some claim in order to exalt the rituals they perform upon men. Water cannot wash away sins. Hebrews 9:22 tells us, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” This was true when Paul wrote it in Hebrews, and it was just as true when Peter was speaking to these men in Acts 2. It was the blood of Christ that would bring about the remission of the sins of these men. Yet that blood would only be applied if they were willing to publicly identify themselves with Him. When they did identify themselves, then it would be with a view to God applying Christ’s blood to them, and remitting their sins.
Then Peter makes his second promise, which is that when they do submit and are identified, they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Greek here, the phrase is tou hagio pneumatos, which translates to “the Holy Spirit.” With the definite article here, this means that they would receive a gift that is related to the Holy Spirit, that is, that they would receive the Holy Spirit’s gift. This gift, of course, was the gift of power that the Lord Jesus Christ had promised to all who believed in Mark 16:17-18. When they did these things that God demanded, they would receive the gifts that were to follow all who believed.
39. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
Peter now assures them that this promise of God is to them, to their children, and to all who are afar off. As far as who Peter meant by “you,” we can clearly establish that as the people to whom he is talking, as we read in verse 15, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem,” and in verse 22, where he addressed them as “Men of Israel.” So the ones he was talking to were Israelites, men of Judea and Israelites who were born in other places but who were then dwelling in Jerusalem. Of course, if that’s who these men were, then their children would be the same. The only question that remains, then, is who are those who are afar off? Most would like to make these the Gentiles, wishing to bring them into Peter’s declaration here. But I believe we can find the conclusive answer as to who they were in Daniel 9:7, which reads:
7. O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
Here, we have three groups listed, just like in Acts 2:39. One is the men of Judea, secondly is the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the third is all Israel, those near and those far off in all countries to which the Lord had driven them. These are the same three groups that we have in Acts 2:39, and all of them are Israelites. So Peter’s declaration tells us that this promise of God at that time was exclusively to those descended from the man Israel. His attitude in chapter 10 will confirm that this is what he believed.
The ones whom the message was to were those whom the Lord their God would call. He had a message for His people, and He would choose whom it would be given to. In large part, that was what He was accomplishing in the Acts period: sending the promise of salvation to every single Israelite, all whom He chose to call. Peter’s great declaration here did not just apply to this day of Pentecost and this situation with these men who were standing and listening to him. Rather, it was the set-up for the entire Acts period, and all that comes after is in harmony with it. In the chapters to come, we will see the word go out to all three of these groups of people, and they will hear of the promise made to them.
40. And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
Peter continues his discussion with these people, and testifies and exhorts them that they should be saved from this perverse generation. We should note carefully what Peter means here, and what he does not mean. It is generally believed that a generation is the group of people living on earth of a similar age at the same time. For example, we speak of our generation, and our parents’ generation, and our children’s generation. Yet there is no possible way that anyone can save himself from the generation in which he lives. You cannot be saved, and become several decades older or younger, and suddenly be in someone else’s generation. So this cannot be what Peter means here. What, then, is this generation that he is talking about?
To discover what Peter meant when he urged these people to save themselves from this perverse generation, we need to realize that the Biblical use of “generation” does not always match with our usual use of this word in English. Though we almost exclusively use this word to indicate all the people of similar age living on earth at one time, the Scriptures do not use this word that way in all occurrences. If we remember that the word “generation” is one of a family of words related to the verb “to generate,” then we will understand that more things can be generated, and therefore be a generation, than merely all the people of a certain age. Now there was in Israel a group of people who were not submissive to God. They were generated by the traditions and teachings of their fathers, by the prejudices of their culture, and by the sin and death which work in all men. Now, they were a generation that was not willing to believe in their Messiah when He came. This wicked generation was going to be judged by God. Yet these people if they would now believe in Christ and submit themselves to the truth could save themselves from that perverse generation that was going to suffer God’s wrath.
This wicked generation that they were to save themselves from is the same generation that Christ speaks of in Luke 11:49-51.
49. “Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ 50. that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, 51. from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.
All men of the same age living on earth at that time were not blamed for the blood of these martyrs. Rather, it was that generation of Christ-rejecting Jews, led by the religious leadership in Israel, who were going to bear this blame. Thus these men who listened to Peter at Pentecost, though they could not change the time at which they were born, could save themselves from that rebellious generation if they would only believe and submit. That is what Peter was calling on them to do.