Acts 3 Continued

17. “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.

Peter now reveals the one thing that in any way assuaged their guilt. They had done a terrible thing indeed in how they had treated the Lord Jesus, yet they had not done it knowingly, but rather in ignorance. The Lord Jesus Himself gave testimony to this, as Luke himself had recorded in Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” The reason for this was that any testimony regarding Jesus Christ as to Who and What He was had been stopped up until now. We can see this over and over again in the gospels, one example of which is in Matthew 16:20, just after Peter’s great declaration of his understanding of Who and What the Lord was. “Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.” So the people were ignorant of Who Jesus Christ was, and in this respect they committed their sin against Him in ignorance.

Now in the law, God had made a clear distinction between sins that were done willfully and sins that were done in ignorance. Yet this did not absolve those who sinned in ignorance of their guilt. Leviticus 5:17 declares, “If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity.” When they were made aware of their guilt, they were to atone for it as the law demanded. Thus, Peter is holding out hope to these people. They have sinned in ignorance. Now, they have been made aware of it, and thus need to do what they can to make this right in the sight of God.

18. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.

Though they acted in ignorance, God did not. He knew what He was doing the whole time, and all this worked out in accordance with His plan. This is demonstrated by the fact that all God’s prophets had showed before that Messiah should suffer. As Asaph declared in Psalm 76:10, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself.” Even so had the wrath of these men worked out for the praise of God. His Word had been fulfilled, and His plan had come to fruition.

19. 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,

In my series on “The Kingdom of God,” I set forth my conviction that the Bible teaches a lengthy period of God’s government prior to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and His thousand year reign on earth. In Isaiah 66:1, the LORD declares, “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool.” This is God’s truth on the matter, and it demonstrates that there is to be a time when the earth will be under the control of the LORD, and that that control will center in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ at this time will be ruling from the throne, not from the footstool.

Now some have used this passage to reject the idea that I have taught regarding a premillennial kingdom period. They do this by combining the statements, “Repent therefore” in this verse with “that He may send Jesus Christ” in the next verse. Once these two are connected, those who argue this come to the conclusion that if Israel at that time would have repented, that the Lord Jesus Christ would have immediately returned from heaven. They claim that this negates the possibility of any kingdom period prior to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet they ignore the fact that this also nullifies many other things that the Bible declares must take place before the parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ. This would, for one thing, negate the coming of the anti-Christ or the “man of sin.” It would eliminate any thought of the “great tribulation” that the Bible declares must take place before Jesus Christ will return. And it would cause Him to come back prior to Elijah, in spite of the clear statement of Scripture that “Elijah is coming first, and will restore all things.” (Matthew 17:11) This interpretation just does not match up with the clear revelations of God in Scripture. Some may take pride in declaring a simple faith in the simple statements of the Bible, yet I will take no such pride in using one passage to negate what is clearly stated in many other places. This is not how one should display a simple faith in God’s words.

So what is Peter declaring in this statement? Let us examine it closely. First of all, he calls upon them to repent. But this is a very bad translation, as this Greek word, metanoia, does not mean “repent.” It literally translates to “after-mind,” and it would be much more accurate to translate this word by “submit,” carrying with it the ideas of “yield” or “ease.” They were to bend their stubborn wills before God, and to accept His truth and acknowledge His plan and will to be right. To do this, they were to “be converted.” We have an idea of conversion today that simply does not fit with what the Spirit was talking about here. This word does not mean that these people were supposed to switch from one religion to another. Rather, it means that they were to “turn around.” At this point, they were stubbornly facing away from God. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that they had rejected their Messiah and had crucified Him. Now, they are to turn and face towards God, ready now to accept His truth and to follow whatever commands He might give them.

This they are to do, Peter declares, that their sins may be blotted out. Yet I do not believe that this statement means that these things are cause and effect. It is not submission, nor is it turning around toward God, that causes anyone’s sins to be blotted out. This can only be accomplished by the application of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Yet submitting and turning to God were the two things they needed to do to put themselves in a place where that blood of Christ could be applied to them. It would be like me saying, “I am going to the stadium to see the game.” Now these things are not cause and effect. I could go to the stadium, yet there are many places within it where I could not see the game. I could go to the stadium, yet if I did not have a ticket, I would be unlikely to see the game. And games are sometimes canceled, so the mere act of going to the stadium guarantees nothing. Yet the fact is that if I go to the stadium, I put myself in the place where seeing the game is very possible, and very likely. So though these are not cause and effect, there is a clear connection. What I mean when I say this is that I am going to the stadium with a view to seeing the game, or for the purpose of seeing the game. Just the act of going there does not guarantee this, however.

So, these people were to submit and turn to God, and this was with a view to their sins being blotted out. It was not the submitting or the turning that would accomplish this, but rather the shed blood of Christ applied to their sins through God’s grace. Yet submitting and turning to God was what would put them in the place for these things to be poured out upon them.

Now, Peter speaks of the times of refreshing. We could translate this, “In order that the seasons of refreshing will come from the face of the Lord.” This is what I believe refers to the premillennial kingdom of God. This is one of many names that the Bible uses for that great time period. One need only read through the prophets, and notice all the occurrences where they mention a time when Israel will rest in safety and in union with God, and when all the calamities that have happened to them will be reversed, to realize what Peter is talking about here. This will be the long-predicted day of Israel’s great blessing, as God has promised it to them in His coming kingdom. This day of blessing will take place once Israel’s sins, not just their individual sins, but also their sins as a nation, will be blotted out.

20. and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,

Now Peter speaks of the sending of Jesus Christ. The word here for “send” is aposteile, and speaks of a sending with authority or a commissioning. When Jesus Christ comes, He is sent with all authority from God. This was before proclaimed unto them. This is probably a reference to the message given in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.

Anyone who has been paying attention through these verses should have noticed that they are setting up an order of things to come. The order is:

1. Israel is to submit (repent.)
2. They are to be turned to God (converted.)
3. Their sins are to be blotted out.
4. The times of refreshing are to come from the face of the Lord.
5. The Lord will send Jesus Christ.

Many, as I said above, would like to leave number four out, and to have the Lord send Jesus Christ immediately upon Israel repenting and turning to God and having their sins blotted out. They would make out that this means that when the time comes for refreshing, that Jesus Christ will come back to cause this refreshing to happen. Yet this does not say the time of refreshing, but the times of refreshing. There are yet to be times of refreshing, and these must come and must be fulfilled before Jesus Christ will ever be sent to earth. This is confirmed by the following verse.

21. 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.

This verse assures us that the heaven must receive Jesus Christ until the times of restoration of all things. This explains why the Lord Jesus Christ does not appear to us or visit men on earth today. Heaven must receive Him until these times are an accomplished fact. Notice that it does not say that the heaven must receive Him until Israel submits and turns to God. Instead, it says it must receive Him until the times in which all things will be restored. This word “restoration” is the Greek word apokatastasis. It occurs only here. According to the Companion Bible, it means re-establishment from a state of ruin. What are these times it speaks of, and what ruined things are to be restored?

There are many things that yet need to be restored for all God’s promises to become true. For one thing, according to the record in Ezra 2:59-63, you had to be able to trace your lineage back to one of the twelve sons of Jacob, or you were not allowed to consider yourself an Israelite or act as a priest. Yet how many of those who are called “Jews” can trace their lineage back in this way today? Also, there must be a temple of God in Jerusalem, according to many prophecies of the future. Men scratch their heads as to how this could be without full-scale war breaking out between the Jews and the Muslims, who claim the temple site for their own. Then, there must be a line of kings descended from the man David. Yet who again could prove that he is of David’s family today? And there must be a line of Levitical priests, and a line of priests among them from the family of Zadok. Yet who among them can prove lineage in either the tribe of Levi or the family of Zadok today? Then, Israel must have their land, their rulers must be raised from the dead, and so forth. It is obvious that without the power of God, all things that He promised can never be restored. Yet they will be restored, and this will take place in the times of the restoration of all things. And these times take place while Jesus Christ is still in heaven. Thus it becomes clear that heaven does not just receive Him, but it also holds Him until that time.

These times of restoration have been spoken of by the mouth of all God’s set-apart prophets since the world began. Yet this last phrase, “since the world began,” is a rather fanciful translation, and does not match up to the Greek. In Greek, this is just “ap aionos,” which means “from (the) eon.” This eon is God’s great flow of revelation and of truth that He has accomplished by sending His Word to men through prophets. These words did not come from their own thoughts and ideas. Rather, these prophets’ words came from God’s great flow of truth to them. This is what is meant by “through (the) mouth of all the holy of-Him prophets from (the) eon.”

22. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.

Peter reminds them of these words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. Many in our day deny Moses’ authorship of Deuteronomy, but Peter does not question it. He knows that these were the words of Moses indeed. Moses spoke here of a Prophet like him whom the LORD their God would raise up for them from among their brethren. Now Peter affirms the truth of these words, as they had now been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. He was the Prophet like Moses Whom God had raised up. He came from among their brethren, the children of Israel. Him they were to hear, if they were to obey Moses. Now, they needed to start by hearing the truth about Him as it was spoken by Peter.

23. ‘And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’

Now Peter quotes from Deuteronomy 18:19. The words here are very strong, and insist that if they do not hear the Lord Jesus Christ, then they will be utterly exterminated from among the people. This explains for us the phrase in the Old Testament, “I will require it of him.” What God meant by this was utter destruction from among the people of Israel. This was a most severe penalty indeed!

This important verse proves untrue what is a popular conception about what was going on here in the early part of Acts. Many believe that in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost that God set aside the nation of Israel, and started a new work called “the church.” Those who believe this teach that from this point on, whenever an Israelite believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, he was removed altogether from Israel, and made part of this new and much more blessed company called “the church.”

Yet this verse makes it clear that this was not so. Far from being removed from Israel when they believed the truth regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, these people instead were guaranteed upon believing that they would not lose their place in Israel. It was upon rejecting the Lord Jesus, rather, that they would be utterly destroyed from among the people.

The ones who heard Peter on this day were mainly citizens of Jerusalem. The proclamation on Pentecost took place during that Feast of Weeks that God had established for Israel, and that was one of the three times a year when the faithful in Israel were supposed to gather together to Jerusalem to worship. Now, however, the feast is over, and things in Jerusalem have returned to normal. Thus, most of those who were present and who would have been hearing Peter this time were Jerusalemites. Now it is true that the Israelites in general, and those in Jerusalem in particular, had rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet Peter had already revealed in verse 17 that God knew that they had committed this sin in ignorance. This was because the Lord Jesus Christ had never been preached to these people as their Messiah. Moreover, the Lord Jesus had prayed for those who rejected Him when He was hanging on the cross, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) I believe that God granted Him this request, and that those who crucified Him were forgiven of it.

Now, however, Christ has risen from the dead. Now, He has sent His disciples to proclaim to them the truth of Who and What He is. For these who have heard, then, there can no longer be any excuse of ignorance. Now, they are expected to believe. In fact, God was demanding that they believe and submit to the truth. If they did not, then they would be exterminated from among the people. If they did believe, then they would become a part of the “Israel of God,” as Paul calls it in Galatians 6:16. These were the only two choices they had.

So what Peter was setting forth here was not that these people should convert to a new religion and give up on their Israelite heritage. Instead, the Spirit was demanding through Peter that these believe in Jesus Christ, and only then could they maintain their Israelite heritage. God was not bringing these people out of Israel into some new company called the “church.” What God was doing here was working with Israel, and calling out those who were faithful to Him from among them. This is not God’s work that He is doing among us today.

24. Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.

All the prophets with one voice, from Samuel, the first great prophet after Moses,  and onward in order through the prophets, had agreed in declaring the coming of this One Who would be the Prophet like Moses, and Who would bring in that blessed condition of things that Peter had earlier called the “times of refreshing.” Moses was not alone in predicting these things. This had been the expectation of God’s people ever since. Now, those who heard were to recognize in Jesus Christ the fulfillment of the One Who would bring these promises to pass.

25. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’

God reminds these people that they are the sons of the prophets. We need to remember the Hebrew idea behind the word “son” here, or we will be mixed up about what this means. Their primary idea in “son” was one who represented the father. The prophets like Samuel, Elisha, Isaiah, and so forth had long since passed from the scene. Yet these people were the living representatives of their people. Now, God calls upon them as the representatives of His faithful prophets of the past. It is His will that they act like those faithful prophets, and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ even as He had demanded of them.

On top of this, these people were the living representatives of the people to whom God had made the covenant. Though they were not their fathers, and were not the ones with whom God had made this covenant directly, they were their living descendants, and so were the representative heirs to that covenant. God calls upon them then to act upon this as they should, and to submit to the Prophet He had raised up unto them, as faithful sons of the covenant should.

Then God reminds them of His promise to Abraham that all families of the earth were to be blessed through him. This was the Biblical concept of people. There were no “races,” just many different families of people, all descended from the man Adam. God had chosen one particular family, that of Israel, to be the one through whom all the others should be blessed. Now, these members of that family are reminded of that promise. By casting their lot with Jesus Christ, they can now become a part of that company of faithful Israelites through whom God will do this.

26. To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”

To these people in Jerusalem first of all God had raised up His Servant Jesus, and had sent Him to bless them. He would do this by turning every one of them who would respond to Him away from their iniquities. This shows once again that God was not calling people out of Israel to join with Gentiles in an entirely new company. Rather, it was to these people as Israelites that God had sent His message of truth first of all. They were still His chosen people. The nations were by no means equal, as Paul would later proclaim they are in Ephesians 3:6.

The word translated “Servant” here is paida, and can mean “Child” or “Servant,” though it is not necessarily limited to either one. It carries basically the idea of one who renders service. It is rare that Jesus is called God’s Child rather than God’s Son. Yet here I think it is used to emphasize that the Lord Jesus, though He was descended from among their brethren, was also descended from God.

The word for “sent” here is the Greek word apesteilen, which is derived from apostello, the verb form of the word “apostle.” The Lord Jesus Christ had been commissioned with God’s authority to bless them. “Bless” here is the Greek eulogounta, and is similar to our English word “eulogize.” It basically means to speak well of someone. God had commissioned His Child Jesus to speak well of those among His people who would submit to and believe in Him. Moreover, He would see to it that they would deserve His praise, since He Himself would turn every one of them away from his iniquities. When God speaks well of us, it is usually because He has created the good things in us of which He speaks well. Yet while this is so, this does not diminish the fact of His pleasure in His people. He speaks well of them because they have responded to the work He is doing in them. This is an honor indeed!

Thus, Peter closes out this address with a promise. If they will determine to hear the Prophet Whom God had sent to them, then He would speak well of them, and turn them away from their iniquities. What privileges would be theirs, if they would only believe and submit! We may not be part of Israel, nor look forward to the blessings that God was holding out to these people here. Yet we know that we too have many and wonderful privileges from God, and that He speaks well of us as well, if only we believe the truth He has given us regarding His Son. I pray that all my readers have responded to that message, so that Jesus Christ might be speaking well of us as well.