(This article was originally published under the title “Understanding Acts Three”, author unknown.)
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you. (Acts 3:19,20)
The third chapter of the book of Acts is exceedingly important. We need to have a clear understanding of it because it will affect our understanding of the whole of the New Testament.
If the believer will take time to examine the chapter carefully, he will find that there is a wonderful promise made there to the people of Israel. The time-setting of what is recorded there is about three years* after the Crucifixion (circa 32 AD). [Editor’s note – * Many others believe that the events of Acts 3 occurred much sooner than three years after the Crucifixion. I think it was within three months. The Day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with ‘power from on high’ was just 50+ days after the Crucifixion.]
Peter is addressing Israel, and tells them that although they had committed the terrible sin of crucifying their true Messiah, God is then and there extending a period of grace and is ready to forgive them if they will repent for having slain the Just One. He exhorts the nation with the promise that if they do repent, God would ‘send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you’, verse 20. In other words, what we today refer to as The Second Coming, would immediately take place.
Here then is the possibility of Christ’s Second Advent taking place at that time. We now know that it did not take place. It is a matter of history. But it could have taken place if Israel had obeyed Peter’s command, unless it be said by someone that God was only play-acting, that He didn’t really mean it. He knew, of course, that Israel would not repent, and ‘so, well, it was just one of those things’. But God does not trifle. He always says what He means and means what He says. And if we are teachable we shall believe that. Practically every Epistle written before the close of the book of Acts (circa 62 AD) stresses the fact of the Lord’s early return.
Some examples of this are:
- ‘… to wait for His Son from heaven…’ 1 Thessalonians 1:10
- ‘… we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord…’ 1 Thessalonians 4:15
- ‘… you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven…’ 2 Thessalonians 1:7
- ‘Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering unto Him…’ 2 Thessalonians 2:1
- ‘The night is far spent, the day is at hand.’ Romans 13:12
- ‘… come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…’ 1 Corinthians 1:7
- ‘… the time is short…’ 1 Corinthians 7:29
- ‘For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.’ Hebrews 10:37
- ‘… the coming of the Lord draweth nigh… the Judge standeth before the door.’ James 5:8,9
- ‘… the end of all things is at hand…’ 1 Peter 4:7
- ‘Little children, it is the last time…’ 1 John 2:18 (The Greek word here is more vivid than ‘last time’. It says, ‘last hour’.)
Please note that all the above references were penned before Paul’s fateful meeting with the Jews as recorded in Acts 28. The references given above are by no means exhaustive. There are others indicating that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent during the Acts period. But do we need any more? Perhaps we should add our Lord’s own words that, ‘This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.’ Matthew 24:34
So, the possibility of the Lord’s Second Corning extended right to the end of the book of Acts, but the last chapter of Acts clearly shows that it had to be postponed because of Israel’s failure to repent. See Acts 28:24,25.
If folks would only read and believe that third chapter of Acts, verses 19 and 20, they would have the key to the problems and conflicting arguments we hear regarding the Lord’s Second Coming.