“Restoration of All Things of Which God Spoke”
“The times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.”—Acts 3:21.
1. The restoration is to be of things of which who spoke, and why can we be glad on that account?
HOW glad we can be that the promised restoration was to be, not of the things of which human politicians and philosophers spoke, but of the “things of which God spoke”! Those things should therefore be good for all mankind. They should be certain of being restored. We ought to want those things to be restored, for, better than anyone else, our Creator knows what needs to be restored to us. But do we want those things?
2. How do we desire to answer that question, and so what questions come flooding into our minds?
2 We do not care to answer this question blindly, ignorantly. We are gifted with the right of free moral agency. We desire to know first what the things involved are, in order that we may make an intelligent, enlightened choice. What are all those things? How can we find out that God spoke of all of them? Who heard him speaking? When did he speak of them? And how? Questions like these come flooding into our minds. They deserve to be answered with the backing of a reliable authority. They can be.
3. Who raised this subject of restoration of all things, and when, where and why?
3 A man who figured prominently in the first century of our Common Era brought up this subject, and he did so in a city the name of which is mentioned much in the world news of today. That man has had many places on earth named after him. The man’s name was Peter, the son of John, of a city in the controversial Middle East. The place where he spoke was in the temple of the city of Jerusalem. Today that temple, constructed by famous King Herod the Great, does not stand at that location. It was destroyed in the year 70 of the first century, when the Roman armies destroyed the whole city of Jerusalem. At that location there is now a place of worship of a different religious belief. But back there when Peter, the son of John, spoke, it was yet thirty-seven years before that news-making event of the year 70 C.E. A great crowd of worshipers had gathered around Peter. What had happened through the agency of Peter raised questions in their minds. It was on that occasion that Peter uttered the meaningful phrase, “the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.”—Acts 3:21.
4, 5. (a) Why were those men not false prophets, and how has what they spoke been preserved? (b) Why is there hardly any excuse for us not to know today what those men spoke?
4 Ah, here we have answers to our questions. It was in “old time,” even before the time of Peter, that God spoke. It was by means of “his holy prophets” that he spoke of these vital things. No false prophets were they, but they were “holy prophets” of God. He spoke to them, and they, in turn, used their mouths to tell to others the things spoken by God. The voices of those holy prophets died down more than twenty-three centuries ago. Their voices were not preserved on phonograph records or on recording-machine tapes. The messages that God sent through the mouths of those holy prophets were recorded in writing. That writing, which took over a thousand years to complete, has been jealously safeguarded in the first thirty-nine books of the Authorized Version of the Holy Bible. Peter the son of John read those books. That is why he knew what he was talking about.
5 We also can know the things that God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets by reading those selfsame books. There is hardly any excuse for us not to know, for the Holy Bible is the most widely distributed book in the most languages on earth. This imperishable Book is our reliable authority for backing up what we say.
6. (a) Why did Peter accept those writings in the way that he did? (b) Where do we find what Peter wrote and what he said in the temple?
6 Years later Peter wrote a letter concerning those Holy Scriptures, addressing it to Bible readers. In it he wrote: “You know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:20, 21) Knowing this, Peter accepted what those spirit-borne men prophesied as being, not man’s word, but God’s word. We, although being of this twentieth century, should accept those inspired writings in the same way in which Peter did, for those writings stand unchanged today. What Peter there wrote and what he spoke in the temple of Jerusalem are preserved for us in the last twenty-seven books of the Holy Bible.
7. Of what did the crowd gathered around Peter and John want an explanation?
7 Why, though, did that crowd of worshipers gather around Peter and his companion, John the son of Zebedee? An excitement of curiosity! A crippled beggar at the temple had looked to Peter for a charitable money gift. Peter gave him something better. He said: “Silver and gold I do not possess, but what I do have is what I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” The beggar, lame from birth, was helped by Peter to get onto his feet and walk. Was this not enough to make any crowd gather? Yes. So the crowd wanted an explanation from Peter.
8. What had happened to that one named by Peter, so that Peter’s use of that name worked for the cripple?
8 Now let us remember that in early spring of that year 33 C.E. a murder had occurred in open daylight in public, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. It was the murder of that one whom Peter named, “Jesus Christ the Nazarene.” That meant Jesus the Messiah of the city of Nazareth. Roman soldiers were employed to nail him to a stake to die like a criminal, but his friends got permission to bury him nearby. But on the third day of his burial the sealed tomb was opened by an angel and was found to be empty. In proof that Jesus Christ was no guilty criminal, Almighty God raised him from the dead, to life, not in flesh again, but in spirit. Peter and John had seen the resurrected Jesus Christ appear a number of times thereafter by his materializing in flesh on certain occasions before many reliable eyewitnesses during forty days. On the fortieth day Peter and John and their companions saw this Jesus Christ ascend heavenward and disappear. Now Peter’s use of the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene worked for the cripple.
9. With what words did Peter disclaim any credit for the miracle, and also speak of fulfillment of prophecy?
9 Peter disclaimed any credit for this marvelous miracle. To the inquisitive crowd, Peter said: “The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our forefathers, has glorified his Servant, Jesus, whom you, for your part, delivered up and disowned before [Governor] Pilate’s face, when he had decided to release him. Yes, you disowned that holy and righteous one, and you asked for a man, a murderer, to be freely granted to you, whereas you killed the Chief Agent of life. But God raised him up from the dead, of which fact we are witnesses. Consequently his name, by our faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you behold and know, and the faith that is through him has given the man this complete soundness in the sight of all of you. And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers also did. But in this way God has fulfilled the things he announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.”—Acts 3:1-18.
10. Why was the murder of Jesus, although committed in ignorance, not excusable and without consequences for that Jewish crowd?
10 Even though it had been done in ignorance as far as that crowd was concerned, a crime had been committed. What was worse, it was committed upon God’s own Messiah or Christ. The fact that God had foretold by his prophets that his Messiah or Christ would suffer did not excuse the crowd. According to God’s Law as given to the Jews through the prophet Moses, even manslaughter committed unwittingly or unintentionally had to be made up for, in order that the land might not be polluted with innocent blood. (Num. 35:9-34) Those listening to Peter knew that. They knew that community responsibility for the murderous killing of Jesus Christ, the faithful Servant of God, rested upon them. What should they do to escape the consequences of this crime? How could their sins in this regard be blotted out? Likely this miracle-worker Peter knew. He did. So he told that crowd:
11. How could those Jews get their sins blotted out, and what was to follow this in due time?
11 “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven, indeed, must hold within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.”—Acts 3:19-21.
HOW TO GET SINS BLOTTED OUT
12. What pattern for having sins blotted out does this set for us today, and why?
12 Those words of Peter set the pattern for us today. We all have sins that need to be blotted out according to God’s loving arrangement, for we are all born sinners, by inheritance of sin from our first human parents, Adam and Eve. (Gen. 3:1-24; Rom. 5:12, 18, 19) We must remember that “the wages sin pays is death.” (Rom. 6:23) If we are anxious to gain life everlasting, in the favor of God, then it is necessary that we repent, that is, feel sorrow and regret for our sinfulness and imperfection and our sins against God’s law. If we really feel sorry and hate ourselves for being sinners against God, we will try to get out of that sinful state and to cease from sinning. How, though?
13. What in addition to repentance was necessary for those Jews, and what course did this call upon such Jews to take?
13 Peter said one must take action in harmony with one’s repentance. He added: “And turn around so as to get your sins blotted out.” Mere repentance will not get our sins blotted out. We have to “turn around” and go in the opposite direction from the course of sinning, making the effort to cease from it. For those Jews back there, that meant to stop resisting Jesus Christ and, rather, to start walking in his footsteps as the “Christ [or, Messiah] appointed for you, Jesus.” (Acts 3:19, 20) Those Jews were already dedicated to Jehovah as God by reason of their having been born into the covenant that Jehovah had made with their forefathers through Moses. So now they had to accept the one whom Jehovah had appointed as their Messiah or Christ and present themselves to Jehovah as believers in and followers of His Messiah. Some days earlier Peter told some three thousand repentant Jews that they needed to symbolize their repentance and conversion by being baptized in water in the name of Jesus as now being their accepted Messiah, the Son of God.—Acts 2:37-42.
14, 15. (a) What fine result comes to the forgiven one from having his sins blotted out? (b) As to whether the blotting out of sins comes from the water of baptism, what does John have to say?
14 What did Peter say would be the fine result of such turning around from the way of being contrary to God’s purpose and appointment and going in the way of his approval and will? This: “that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah.”
15 Certainly it would be most refreshing for them to have their sins blotted out, and no longer have the condemnation of sin nor a guilty conscience before him, especially after having been in opposition to the Messiah or Christ of Jehovah. The blotting out of their sins resulted not from the water in which they were baptized, but from the shed blood of Jesus Christ as a perfect human sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Just as Peter’s companion, John the son of Zebedee, wrote later on concerning our walking with God, saying: “If we are walking in the light as he himself is in the light, we do have a sharing with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Thus God no longer looks on us as sinners, and the peaceful relation with God that results from this mercy on God’s part brings us tremendous refreshment indeed.
16. What did Peter mean by saying that those “seasons of refreshing” come “from the person of Jehovah,” and in that regard what does history show regarding the Jews since 70 C.E.?
16 Since these “seasons of refreshing” are said to “come from the person of Jehovah,” it means that his face is turned toward us with favor. He is giving us his favorable attention. His goodwill is toward us, during the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.” We have become his “men of goodwill.” (Isa. 61:1, 2; Luke 2:14) In the days of the Christian apostle Peter it was urgent upon those Jews to gain Jehovah’s goodwill after the murder of His Messiah at Jerusalem, inasmuch as the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the breaking up of the Jewish nation in the land of Judah was getting very close. The sad history of the Jewish people after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. proves that the dispersed Jewish people have not been enjoying ‘seasons of refreshing from the person of Jehovah [literally, from the face of Jehovah].’
17. In this same regard what must be said about Christendom, and what does Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. indicate for her?
17 Also, as we examine the history of the religious organization of Christendom since its establishment in the fourth century, we are obliged to admit that Christendom has not been enjoying the ‘seasons of refreshing from the person of Jehovah’ during the more than sixteen centuries of her existence until now. All through her history she has been torn by inside religious disputes and wars, sectarian divisions and disunity and ever-worsening religious confusion. The destruction of Jerusalem back in the year 70 C.E. was a type foreshadowing the destruction of Christendom at the hands of worldly, secular enemies in the near future. Jehovah’s face of favor is turned away from Christendom, and he will no more protect her against the approaching destruction than he protected Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E.
18. What counsel is it therefore urgent upon all people to follow now, and who have already done so and with what result?
18 This is why it is now urgent upon the people, Jew and Gentile alike, to do what the apostle Peter advised, “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out [or, forgiven].” This is what the Christian witnesses of Jehovah have done, and all the evidence proves that they are, in a spiritual sense, enjoying abundantly the ‘seasons of refreshing from the person of Jehovah.’ By the presenting of themselves to Him in a full dedication through his Messiah, Jesus, they have become his “men of goodwill.” As a reward for this they are enjoying what the angels said in the hearing of the shepherds at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, “upon earth peace among men of goodwill.” They do not want to be destroyed with unpeaceful Christendom nor with all the rest of the world empire of false religion in the near future. They feel great “refreshing” because of being relieved of any community share in the sins of Christendom and of that religious world empire, Babylon the Great.—Rev. 18:2-5.
A SECOND SENDING OF MESSIAH AND WHY
19. How do Christendom and the natural Jews differ as to Messiah’s coming, and for it to result in “refreshing” what does Christendom need to do?
19 Christendom claims to be waiting for the return of Jesus Christ, and she expects to experience “seasons of refreshing” as a result of his return. But for this to be so, Christendom would have to do what Peter told the sin-guilty Jews to do, “Repent, therefore, and turn around [or, be converted] so as to get your sins blotted out.” Such times of refreshing follow such a course, just as Peter went on to show, saying: “That seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven, indeed, must hold within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:19-21) The natural, circumcised Jews that do not believe that the Messiah came nineteen centuries ago look for him to come for the first time in the future. But Peter and John and the other Christianized Jews looked for the Messiah to return or to come a second time and for a different purpose. Peter and John had seen him ascend back to heaven.
20. Why was the return of the Messiah a necessity, and why had God sent him the first time?
20 Peter and John remembered Jesus’ words to the Jews: “What, therefore, if you should behold the Son of man ascending to where he was before?” On his resurrection day he appeared to Mary of the city of Magdala and said: “I have not yet ascended to the Father. But be on your way to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’” (John 6:62; 20:17) He ascended back to heaven on the fortieth day after his resurrection from the dead. But to fulfill all the prophecies concerning the Messiah, he had to come again. So the apostle Peter, after speaking of “seasons of refreshing” from the person of Jehovah, went on to say: “And that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” The first time that Jehovah sent his Son to earth, it was that he might die as a ransom sacrifice for all mankind. Hence Peter said to the crowd of Jews around him: “In this way God has fulfilled the things he announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.”—Acts 3:18.
21. What other things did Jehovah’s prophets foretell about the Messiah, as indicated by Peter in his letter, and why does Jehovah send him the second time?
21 Other things announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets of Jehovah told of his coming glory in the Messianic kingdom. In his first letter to Christian believers the apostle Peter wrote concerning those prophets, saying: “They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these.” (1 Pet. 1:10, 11) Peter remembered the words of Jesus Christ in his prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, saying: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne.” (Matt. 25:31) His sufferings in the flesh on earth, as foretold for him through the prophets, would then be forever past. When Jehovah sends him to earth the second time, it is that he might reign in heavenly glory to fulfill all the other prophecies concerning the kingdom of Messiah.
22. As to when this fulfilling of Kingdom prophecies would be, what do Psalm 110:1, 2 and Hebrews 10:12, 13 indicate?
22 Now just when would that be? King David of Jerusalem, who was a royal ancestor of Jesus Christ, said prophetically concerning his ascension to heaven: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’ The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’” (Ps. 110:1, 2) In comment on this prophetic psalm Hebrews 10:12, 13 says concerning Jesus Christ and his perfect human sacrifice: “This man offered one sacrifice for sins perpetually and sat down at the right hand of God, from then on awaiting until his enemies should be placed as a stool for his feet.” This prophecy meant that the glorified Jesus Christ in heaven at God’s right hand would be victorious over all persons on earth who would oppose his reigning over all mankind as Jehovah’s Messiah.
23. So what vital question does each one do well to ask himself, and why?
23 Each one of us does well, therefore, to ask himself the vital question, ‘Am I an enemy of Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom by Jesus Christ?’ Christendom is! Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, is! So are the political nations that make up the world organization for international peace and security, the United Nations. All such enemies are to be subdued, crushed! According to Bible prophecy and world conditions, this is near!
24. Until what “times” was heaven to hold the Messiah Jesus within itself, and so now what is the key question for us?
24 Why are we convinced of that world disaster as being near? For the reason that the apostle Peter prophesied that this ascended Jesus Christ “heaven, indeed, must hold within itself until the times of restoration of all thingsa of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:21) The key question here is, What are those “all things” until the times of the restoration of which the heaven must hold within itself the ascended Messiah Jesus, who is seated at Jehovah’s right hand waiting for his enemies to be made his footstool?
25. Briefly, what are those “all things,” and what questions does this brief answer raise up?
25 Those “all things” are the Messianic kingdom and its interests at the earth. Is this a surprising answer to the question? Is anyone of us inclined to ask, How could this be so, when, back in the apostle Peter’s day, that Messianic kingdom of Jehovah was yet to come? Since that kingdom of the Messiah had not been established and been lost, how could it be restored?
26. Concerning the restoration of what had Peter and fellow apostles asked Jesus before he ascended, and what was his reply?
26 The apostle Peter, however, knew what he was talking about. He knew how that kingdom could be restored. He was one of the apostles who asked the resurrected Messiah Jesus just before he ascended to heaven: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” To this question the resurrected Messiah Jesus replied: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction; but you will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” After saying that, and as he was blessing them, he was taken up from his disciples on the Mount of Olives into heaven.—Acts 1:6-11; Luke 24:5-53.
a Jesus Christ used a similar expression, in Matthew 17:11, when he said: “Elijah, indeed, is coming and will restore all things.” This statement had reference to Malachi 4:5, 6. But then Jesus went on to make an application of this prophecy about Elijah to John the Baptist. (Matt. 17:12, 13) John the Baptist also served as the forerunner of Jesus Christ, and for that reason he proclaimed: “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 3:1, 2) But as to modern times, after World War I and since the year 1919 a work like that of Elijah has been carried on by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. By them a witness to Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom has been given since that time until now such as has never before been given world wide in all previous human history.—Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10.
Since 1919 C.E. these Christian witnesses of Jehovah discern a spiritual fulfillment toward them of the words of Isaiah 1:25-27: “And I will turn back my hand upon you, and I shall smelt away your scummy dross as with lye, and I will remove all your waste products. And I will bring back again judges for you as at the first, and counselors for you as at the start. After this you will be called City of Righteousness, Faithful Town. With justice Zion herself will be redeemed, and those returning of her, with righteousness.”
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Peter’s healing of a man lame from birth set the stage for his words about the “restoration of all things of which God spoke”
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Each one ought to ask himself: Am I really a loyal supporter of God’s Messianic kingdom by Jesus Christ? If so, how do I prove it?