What is the Time-frame of Acts 3:21?
By Jonathan Mitchell
"until times of a movement away from all things that have been firmly put down, set and established and until the periods of successive events which occur in passing moments, moving all mankind away from having been placed and positioned down as well as from the state or condition of all things that had been determined from an indefinite period of time (or: from a [particular] age)"
The answer to the question that this study investigates will be in accord with how each person that asks it understands such phrases as, "the time of the end," the "end of the age," or "the consummation or conjunction of the ages," or, "the eschaton." What Peter said in this verse, and the context of his impromptu sermon, will normally be interpreted as belonging one of these categories of eschatology. But let us consider his words and the situation when he and John came out of the temple area and into the portico, and then addressed the crowd of Jews that were reacting to the miracle of the healing of the lame man.
9. And so all the people saw [the man] continuously walking around and praising God.
10. Now they began to recognize him, and were fully perceiving that this man was the one customarily sitting for gifts of mercy (alms) at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple complex - and they were filled with wondered astonishment and ecstasy, being internally put out of their normal position of understanding things - upon the thing having stepped together with him (= at what had happened to him).
11. [conflated with D:] So as Peter and John proceeded going out, and with his continued going out with them, clinging (firmly holding fast) to Peter and John, the entire [crowd of] people - overawed and out of their wits - ran together to them at the portico (or: porch) normally called Solomon's Colonnade [note: built on a remnant of the ancient Temple].
12. Now Peter, upon seeing [this], gave a decided reply to the people: "Men! Israelites! (or: Men of Israel!) Why do you folks continue amazed with wonder upon this [occurrence; or: man]? Or, why do you continue staring and gazing intently at us - as if by our own power and ability or godliness (religiousness; devout conduct; piety) [we] had been making him to be walking around?
13. "The God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob - the God of our fathers - brought glory (a manifestation which calls forth praise) and a good reputation to His Servant (or: Boy) Jesus, Whom indeed you folks turned over (gave aside; [D adds: unto judgment]) and renounced (or: disown; denied) before Pilate's face - [he] having decided to be releasing that One!
The basis of Peter's explanation for the incident begins with a statement that Yahweh "brought glory and a good reputation" to Jesus - even though they (note plural pronoun: "you folks") had turned Him over and renounced Him before Pilate. We should observe here that Peter lays this action upon all the Israelites that were present - he is not just putting the blame on the Jewish leadership. All of the actions in the Christ Event will be seen to be corporate actions.
14. "But then you yourselves renounced (disowned; denied) the set-apart and fair Person (the holy and just One Who personified the Way pointed out; this consecrated and rightwised One), and instead you demanded for yourselves an adult man [who is] a murderer - to be at once graciously surrendered to you, as a favor.
Again, he emphasizes "you yourselves" as being the ones who "renounced, disowned and denied" the set-apart and fair Person. They had chosen a murderer to be released - someone who Peter here affirms to be guilty of sin, a breaker of the Law - as they disowned "the holy and just One Who personified the Way pointed out (i.e., God's justice and flawless observation of the Covenant)." They denied "this consecrated and rightwised One." So Peter is rehearsing current events - the context, so far, is only a couple months in their past. He has also laid out before them the guilt of their unjust act. There is blood on their hands.
15. "So you folks killed-off the Inaugurator of the Life (or: Life's Originator; this Author, Founder, Leader, Prince and Initiator of the Life) - Whom God raised up out from among the midst of dead folks, of which and of Whom we ourselves are witnesses, and continue being both evidence and testimony.
Here Peter does not lay the blame on the Romans, who were indeed the instrument (the beast upon which the Jerusalem leadership was riding - Rev. 17:3ff), but addressing these "men of Israel" he says,
"So YOU FOLKS killed-off the Inaugurator of the Life."
Notice that I translate the definite article that is in the Greek text.
He is "the (or: 'this' - giving the article its original demonstrative function) Author, Founder, Leader, Prince and Initiator of THE Life."
Peter is not pointing back to Genesis, but is speaking of "the Life of Christ," and "resurrection life" that Jesus brought to humanity. Jesus informed us in Jn. 10:10b,
"I Myself come so that they can progressively possess (would continuously have; could habitually hold) Life,"and in 10:28a,
"I Myself am continuously giving eonian life (age-enduring life; life having the qualities and characteristics of the Age [of Messiah]; a life from, of and for the ages) to and in them," and then in 11:25a, "I am the Resurrection (or: the standing back up again; the Arising) and the Life."
Then in the second half of this verse Peter continues the same context of the Christ Event, pointing to the resurrection of Jesus, saying,
"Whom God raised up out from among the midst of dead folks."
16. "Consequently, by the faith from (or: in the trust which has its source in; with the loyalty and reliability of) His Name, His Name at once made this person firm, solid and stable - whom you now continue watching and gazing at, and have seen so thus know - and the faith, trust, loyalty and faithfulness that [is] through and by means of Him both gave and gives to him the entire allotment of whole and complete soundness... in front of you all!
Peter now explains to the crowd that "His Name" had healed the man. It had happened "by the faith from His Name," or, "in the trust which has its source in His Name," and the healing came "with the loyalty and reliability of His Name." These different prepositional phrases represent the potential functions of the ablative-genitive case of the noun "faith/trust/etc." John was given further insight regarding His Name in the letter that he was to send the called-out community in Philadelphia, that through being joined to the Vine (Jn. 15:1ff), who IS The Overcomer (Jn. 16:33; cf 1 Cor. 15:54, 57), they would have written upon them, "My God's Name, and the name of the City of My God: 'The New Jerusalem' - the one habitually descending from out of the atmosphere (or: heaven), from God - and My new Name" (Rev. 3:12). Peter and John bore His Name, and all which that Name represents. We who also abide in the Vine also bear His Name. Selah.
All that had happened to the man (i.e., his healing) was "through and by means of [Christ]." The imparted "faith, trust, etc." had the effect of giving to him "the entire allotment of whole and complete soundness." This word is used only here in the NT. But a cognate is found in 1 Thes. 5:23 where Paul speaks of their, "whole allotment (= every part) - the spirit, the soul and the body." See also Jas. 1:4. These words are formed by adding the adjective "whole; entire" to the noun that means "an allotted share or possession." So Peter's choice of words in describing the man's gift of healing tells us something of what the Christ Event ushered-in. They were living in a sphere of having "the entire allotment," which in this case was manifested as "whole and complete soundness" of this man's body.
17. "And so now, brothers, I have seen and so know that you acted and committed [it] in accord with and down from ignorance (lack of knowledge) - even as also your rulers (chiefs; leaders) [did].
As Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:19b, that God is, "not accounting to them (not putting to their account; not logically considering for them; not reasoning in them) the results and effects of their falls to the side (their trespasses and offenses)," so here, Peter makes allowances for them, due to their "ignorance (lack of knowledge)."
18. "But what God fully announced-down in advance (or: before) through the mouth of the prophets (those who have light ahead of time and speak before people) - [the situations which] His Anointed One (or: Christ) was to experience and suffer - He thus, and in this way, fulfilled.
What they had done had actually acted-out what was foretold by the OT prophets concerning Israel's Messiah. It was a part of "the Way pointed out" - i.e., to lay one's life down for one's friend. And this is what Jesus did, for the whole world. Notice, again, that our context is still the Christ Event.
19. "Therefore, at once change your way of thinking (your frame of mind and point of view; [by customary use this implies: and return to Yahweh]), and turn around toward [the situation for] your failures (errors; times of missing the target; sins; deviations) to be anointed out and wiped forth from your midst, so that seasons of cooling again, as well as fitting situations and fertile moments of refreshing could, should and would come from [the] face of the Lord [= Yahweh or Christ],
With all this explained to them, Peter admonished them to "at once change [their] way of thinking and [their] frame of mind and [their] point of view." As noted in the verse, by its customary use for Israel, this also meant that they should turn to Yahweh for His mercy as displayed in the Christ Event, for as Paul informs us,
"For you see, God encloses, shuts up and locks all mankind (everyone; the entire lot of folks) into incompliance (disobedience; stubbornness; lack of being convinced), to the end that He could (or: would; should) mercy all mankind (may make everyone, the all, recipients of mercy)!" (Rom. 11:32).
Now Peter meant that these particular Israelites should do this right then and there. He goes on to instruct them to "turn around toward [the situation for] their failures (etc.) to be anointed out and wiped forth from [their] midst." What would they gain from this, beyond their times of missing the target being washed away? His purpose clause that immediately follows gives us the answer: "so that seasons of cooling again, as well as fitting situations and fertile moments of refreshing could, should and would come from [the] face of the Lord [= Yahweh or Christ]." That would be an immediate response to the change of thinking and their focusing on their needy situation. Now lest Peter be misconstrued as preaching a form of "works righteousness," recall what Paul said about the entrance of faith and trust, which are in fact Christ Himself, entering into people:
"the faithfulness (or: the trust and faith; confidence; loyalty) [comes or arises] from out of the midst of, or from within, hearing, yet the hearing [comes] through a gush-effect of Christ, even through the result of a flow which is Christ (or: through Christ's utterance; through something spoken concerning Christ; or: by means of a declaration which is anointed, or from Christ; through a word uttered which is Christ; [other MSS: God's speech])" (Rom. 10:17).
We should not miss the plural noun of which I have conflated three rendering: a) seasons; b) fitting situations; c) fertile moments. These offer us some of the nuances of the Greek 'kairos.' But just how long would these seasons be? How many fitting situations would Yahweh send? When are the fertile moments of His sheep? It would appear that they were in one of these at that very moment - but the plural noun indicates that there would be more of them. So our eschatology might just need to be a bit open-ended. Of course, one could argue that these seasons and situations for those particular men to whom Peter spoke these words might have been "fertile" only until A.D. 70, as they were being invited to enjoy the "cooling and refreshing" of the movement of God's Spirit upon and among them, as we see recorded in the rest of the book of Acts, as well as in the other NT letters. But for the rest of humanity in the centuries that have followed, we have records of "seasons of refreshing" throughout the history of the "church."
The metaphor, "[the] face of the Lord [= Yahweh or Christ]," speaks of His being present - and of their being in His presence. It is from His presence among and within us that these seasons, fitting situations and fertile moments "come."
20. "and that He would send forth in (or: to; for; with; by; among) you folks the One having been handpicked beforehand to be ready and at hand, Christ (= Messiah) Jesus,
Now this verse is a continuation of vs. 19 and is simply a further explanation of the "seasons, etc." of which he was referring, indicating that God, via His Spirit, would send the very Christ/Messiah to them whom they had just hung on a pole. Paul speaks to the same situation in 2 Cor. 3:16, "Yet whenever the time should be reached when it [= the heart] can (or: would; may; should; or: shall at some point) twist and turn upon, so as to face toward, [the] Lord [= Christ], 'the head-covering (veil) is progressively taken from around [the heart of Israel]'" - and then they will behold him, as 2 Cor. 3:18 describes. This verse was speaking about the 1st century context that Peter was at that time addressing.
21. "Whom indeed it continues necessary and binding for heaven to welcome, accept and embrace (or: for [the] atmosphere to grant access, admit, receive and take to itself) until times of a movement away from all things that have been firmly put down, set and established and until the periods of successive events which occur in passing moments, moving all mankind away from having been placed and positioned down as well as from the state or condition of all things that had been determined from an indefinite period of time (or: from a [particular] age) - of which things God spoke (or: speaks) through [the] mouth of His set-apart prophets (those sacred folks who spoke light ahead of time).
Observe that this verse is a continuation of vs. 20. The "Whom" refers to Jesus, the Messiah. But what are we to make of the first clause? First of all, we must keep in mind that the relationship of Jesus to the heavens has a subordinate modifier that begins with "until times" - plural. Furthermore, Peter does not use the same word here that he used in vs. 19 (seasons, etc.), but uses a term to indicate "time" - the Greek 'chronos.' Next, before unpacking this verse we should consider Peter's immediate reference to Israel's history and the prophecy that Moses gave concerning the Messiah that would come and would function as a Prophet; vs. 23 alludes to the fact that this Prophet would also rule Israel, and in connecting both vss. 22 and 23 to Christ, we should probably consider this as a reference to His enthronement. Recall that the resurrected Jesus told His disciples that,
"All authority (or: Every right and privilege from out of Being) is (or: was) given to Me within heaven and upon the earth (or: in sky and atmosphere, as well as on land)!" (Mat. 28:18).
Just what is Peter referring to by his use of the word, "heaven"? Does this clause mean the Jesus must be kept somewhere away from the earth until these "times" come about? Here we should be instructed by traditional Jewish perception of the temple being God's house, and thus, by extension the temple was an eschatological term for "heaven" (which comes all the way down to earth, as does the sky and atmosphere - as indicated in the parenthetical expansion, above). God's house, His temple, is now His body (1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16). Yahweh told Moses to build a tent (the tabernacle) so that He could dwell among Israel (Ex. 25:8; cf Deut. 23:14a). In the new creation, as described in Rev. 21:1ff, we learn in vs. 3 that, "Consider! God's tent (the Tabernacle of God) [is] with mankind (the humans), and He will continue living in a tent (dwell in a Tabernacle) with them, and they will continue being (will constantly exist being) His people, and God Himself will continue being with them." Now Paul instructs us that this situation already exists, for,
"since someone [is] within Christ (or: So that if anyone [is] in union with [the] Anointed One; or: And as since a Certain One [was] in Christ), [there is] a new creation (or: [it is] a framing and founding of a different kind; [he or she is] an act of creation having a fresh character and a new quality): the original things (the beginning [situations]; the archaic and primitive [arrangements]) passed by (or: went to the side). Consider! New things have come into existence (have been birthed; or: It has become new things; or: He has been birthed and now exists being ones of a different kind, character and quality)" (2 Cor. 5:17).
The resurrection of Christ inaugurated the new creation, and that new tent in which God dwells is termed by Paul as God's temple - the called out, covenant communities. It is binding for these communities "to welcome, accept and embrace, to grant access, admit, receive and take to itself" for Rev. 2:1b informs us that He is constantly walking around amidst the communities, and Rev. 3:20 describes a situation in Laodicea where He was seeking admittance to their group. Jesus told His disciples,
"You see, where there are two or three people that have been led and gathered together into My Name, I am there (in that place) within the midst of and among them" (Mat. 18:20).
Paul instructs us that,
"He jointly roused and raised (or: suddenly awakens and raises) [us] up, and caused [us] to sit (or: seats [us]; = enthroned [us]) together within the things situated upon [thus, above] the heavens within and in union with Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).
Many other examples could be given to demonstrate that Christ's presence is now here with and within us. But let us move on to the next word that has had much written about it and which most have put off into the future. It is the noun, 'apokatastaseos,' which is used only here in the NT. The verb form has a basic meaning: to set down or to place in correspondence to [something]. This word is qualified by the prepositional phrase 'panton,' and then further qualified by the remainder of the verse. Although the noun phrase has been translated "restitution of all things" (KJV), and the NRSV renders the phrase "universal restoration," a close analysis of the elements of the Greek word yields potentially different understandings of what Peter meant by using this phrase amid a context that has been speaking of his own time.
This noun is composed of apo-, kata-, and staseos. Apo signifies movement away from; kata has the basic meaning of down; staseos means a placing or a setting. Here are the renderings on offer:
a) a movement away from all things that have been firmly put down, set and established
b) moving all mankind away from having been placed and positioned down
c) moving all from the state or condition of all things that had been determined.
The first offer would refer to the firmly set down and established Law of the Mosaic Covenant: God was moving everything away from the Law of the old covenant. The second offer would refer to humanity's release from prison and resurrection from the dead. The third offer speaks to what was the human predicament that resulted from Adams disobedience. The movement was away from an existing situation. But this movement is not necessarily "back," as in restoration. The movement is into the new, which is the better (Heb. 7:19, 22; 8:6; 10:34; 11:35).
The form of the word "all" is both neuter and masculine, thus the rendering "all things" and "all mankind." Both reading work here. I have also offered an alternative to the rendering "until times": until the periods of successive events which occur in passing moments.
Taking all these renderings into consideration, the picture seems to be speaking of the Christ Event of the 1st century, rather than a future "universal restoration." This gloss of the NRSV, as well as the traditional "restoration of all things" (NASB), seems to inject a future time context that the Greek does not demand or even necessarily indicate. The plurality of "times" could well allude to the growth of the reign/kingdom in the figure of the Stone that "became a great mountain and filled the whole land/earth" (Dan. 2:35c).
Paul uses a similar noun which proclaims the same truth, but that is based on the word 'allos' (other), in 2 Cor. 5:19,
"God was existing within Christ (God was and continued being in union with [the] Anointed One) progressively and completely transforming [the] aggregate of humanity (or: world) to be other [than it is] (or: progressively bringing [the] ordered System into another level or state; repeatedly changing [the] universe to correspond with other [conditions; perceptions]; progressively altering [the] ordered arrangement of culture, religions, economy and government to be in line with another one; habitually and progressively changing [the] secular realm [of humanity] from enmity to friendship; reconciling [the] world [of mankind]) in Himself, to Himself, for Himself and by Himself, not accounting to them (not putting to their account; not logically considering for them; not reasoning in them) the results and effects of their falls to the side (their trespasses and offenses), even placing within us the Word (the Idea; the Reason; the message) of the corresponding transformation to otherness (or: the full alteration; the change from enmity to friendship; the conciliation)."
When Christ came, His ministry, death, resurrection and then the judgment of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 fulfilled all that had been written in the OT concerning Israel (Lu. 21:22). But His resurrection and enthronement began something new (2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5), and there are no definite indications (with the possible exception of 1 Cor. 15:24-28, depending upon how one interprets this apocalyptic language) that the new which Christ inaugurated and inhabits will ever end.
A parallel idea to this verse, and to this whole sermon, is described in Heb. 3:18-4:6 where the metaphor of Israel entering into the Promised Land is employed: moving from the wilderness wandering and desolation (which ended in the death of the unbelieving generation) into the Rest (Christ) flowing with milk and honey and vineyards (Christ, the Vine). In the book of Hebrews, they are exhorted not to return to the works of the Law, but to remain in the works of the Messiah and His better arrangement (or: covenant).
22. "Indeed, Moses said, '[The] Lord [= Yahweh] God will proceed raising up for (or: to; among) you folks a Prophet from out of the midst of your brothers, as (or: like) me. You people will continue listening to His [words] and hearing (= obeying) Him in regard to (or: in accordance with) all things - as much (or: as many) as He may be speaking to you folks!
23. 'So it will continue being [that] every soul (= person) which may (or: should; or: will) not listen to or hear (= obey) that Prophet will progress being completely brought to destruction (or: ruin and loss) from out of the midst of the People.' [Deut. 18:15-16]
24. "Now all the prophets also fully announced these days, from Samuel on, and as many as consecutively (in order according to succession) spoke. Here, again, following what is presented in vs. 21, we see that Peter is speaking of THESE DAYS, as being the things of which the prophets fully announced.
25. "You yourselves are the sons of the prophets and of that which was thoroughly set in order and arranged through the covenant, which God fully arranged (or: covenanted) to, and with a view toward, your fathers (= ancestors), progressively saying to Abraham, 'And so, within and in union with your Seed, all the families (or: kinship groups; clans; tribes) of the earth (or: land) shall proceed being blessed and will continue having words of goodness, ease and well-being spoken to and about them.' [Gen. 22:18; 26:4]
26. "To you folks first, God, in raising up His Servant, sent Him forth continually blessing you and repeatedly speaking words of goodness, ease and well-being within the [situation for] constantly and progressively turning each one away from your misery-gushed situation of worthless conditions, laborious works, painful relationships, malicious deeds (or: from these wicked plans as well as from the evil thoughts and dispositions of you people)."
In these last two verses, the context is Peter's time, but the quote of Gen. 22 and 26 speak of a durative future where God's blessings will continue, and now Peter reprises vs. 19, with a conclusion that describes their situation, conditions and activities ("misery-gushed" [a literal rendering], etc.). Note that he says that God "sent Him forth..." The entire passage speaks of the 1st century Christ Event, and specifically to the men to whom Peter was speaking.
PS: In a personal email, John Gavazzoni shared this insightful reflection on vs. 21 for our consideration:
"'The TIMES' suggests to me a succession of periods wherein God releases elements of the Christ event into the world by Christ's presence in the world within His body, the summoned gathering. I see a parallel truth there, since, at any given time short of the consummation of all things, the called-out/summoned gathering is only representative of that time when the whole body of humanity will existentially realize its identity as the body of Christ. There indeed was a very archetypal representative gathering between Pentecost and A. D. 70, but not the final body."
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