Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Acts 3:19-21 and the "Times of Refreshing"

Given our abbreviated worship service down at the Cafe on Sunday, I didn't have time to elaborate on one of the more fascinating aspects of Peter's sermon, specifically the part of it in which Peter says that if Israel repents, then God's kingdom will come to earth. This raises all kinds of biblical-theological issues, but I believe that is what he is indeed promising for the following reasons:
  1. The use of the word "restore" (Gk. apokatasteseos) is related to the use of a form of the same word in Acts 1:6 (i.e., "Lord, is it at this time you are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?"). Both uses anticipate the restoration of Israel as a theocratic kingdom.
  2. Restoration and regeneration are frequently parallel concepts (Isa. 65:17; Matt. 19:28; Rom. 8:20-22).
  3. Grammatically, there are two different kinds of purpose clauses (i.e., "that" or "so that") in verse 19 and 20. The first one "so that your sins will be forgiven" is a near purpose. Then, if Israel as a whole would repent, the "times of refreshing" (i.e., the Kingdom) when God sends the Christ, would come. This is the more distant purpose (indicated by a different verb form and preposition).
  4. The sending of the Christ, or the Messiah, means the coming of the Kingdom, which was foretold by the OT prophets (v. 21, 24). The Church was not foreseen by the prophets (cf. Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-6), but the Messianic Age was frequently predicted.
Note: I did not come up with these reasons on my own. I relied on the "Acts" commentary by Stanley Toussaint in The Bible Knowledge Commentary to point them out to me. But I nevertheless believe Dr. Toussaint is correct.

If I understand this correctly, this means that, if Israel as a nation had repented of their sin and turned to Jesus, the Tribulation foretold by Daniel would have come relatively quickly afterward. Then, after 7 years, the Millennial Reign of Christ would have begun. Evidently, that was not God's purpose and plan, since here we are 2,000 years later. But it does raise some interesting questions to ponder:
  1. If the repentance of Israel will bring about the soon coming of the Kingdom, in what sense is the coming of Christ "imminent" (i.e., an event that could happen at any time)?
  2. Since Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of Messiah regarding his being the Servant of YHWH in Isaiah (plus many others!), why did the Jews not recognize Him as the Christ?
  3. Since God loves His people Israel, what purpose is He serving by setting Israel aside so that He might build the Church? (Hint: read Romans 9-11).

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