A gracEmail subscriber asks what Peter meant when he said: “Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and so that he may send the Messiah appointed for you — that is, Jesus. This one heaven must receive until the time all things are restored, which God declared from times long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21 NET).
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Peter and John have just healed a lame man in the name of Jesus Messiah and the Jewish leaders have asked for an explanation. The ensuing conversation mentions three stages of God’s unfolding plan as foretold by the ancient prophets. Stage One involved Jesus’ rejection, suffering, death, resurrection and glorification — recent events as Peter spoke (Acts 3:13-15). In these events, God’s kingdom began breaking into earthly time and history. Physical healing and forgiveness of sins both are signs and blessings of the present kingdom of God, and both are given in Jesus’ name or by his authoritative position (4:12).
Stage Two occurs during the present period between Jesus’ return to the Father and his final appearance at the end of earthly history. This is the era of gospel announcement, of messianic blessings poured out on those who turn to Jesus. The Risen Jesus sends “times of refreshing” from his place at God’s right hand in heaven (3:20). This includes the presence of the Holy Spirit, spiritual renewal and fruitfulness of forgiven believers, fellowship with God, and inner joy despite external circumstances. All this the prophets also anticipated. We are experiencing this stage of prophetic fulfillment even now, as are saved people among all nations of the earth (3:25).
The third stage will occur when God sends Jesus back from heaven to complete the restoration of all things foretold by the prophets, in new heavens and a new earth (3:20-21). We think of prophetic visions of the end of wars and of universal peace, of a harmonious creation where the lamb sleeps safely beside the lion, of plentiful harvests, of the total healing of bodies and the end of death itself. All this will take place — as surely as Messiah has died and been raised again — when Jesus returns to close this earthly history and to usher in the completion of the Kingdom of God.