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Acts 3:20-21 (KJV) says,

"And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."

My question is, "What are the times of the 'restitution of all things'? Didn't Jesus Christ already come? What does this verse mean?

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2 Answers 2

The Greek text states,

ὃν δεῖ οὐρανὸν μὲν δέξασθαι ἄχρι χρόνων ἀποκαταστάσεως πάντων ὧν ἐλάλησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ στόματος πάντων, ἁγίων αὐτοῦ προφητῶν ἀπ᾽ αἰῶνος

which I translate as,

whom Heaven must receive until the times of the ἀποκατάστασις of all things, which God spoke by the mouth of all His holy prophets from the most ancient time.

I did not translate ἀποκατάστασις since it is the word in question. BDAG and Thayer both define it as "restoration." Lidell-Scott-Jones defines it as "restoration, re-establishment."

The pronoun "which" following "all things..." does not refer to Jesus Christ, but "the times of the restitution of all things," as indicated by the case and number of the relative pronoun ὧν in agreement with χρόνων ἀποκαταστάσεως πάντων.

Firstly, the noun πάντων can be either masculine or neuter in gender. It can refer to all people (i.e., everyone), or all things (i.e., people, the world, etc.).

Secondly, while the noun ἀποκατάστασις only occurs once in the NT (in Acts 3:210), it is related to the verb ἀποκαθίστημι which occurs eight times.1

This verb is used in reference to:

  • restoring the physical health and well-being of people (Matt. 12:13 cp. Mark 3:5, 8:25; Luke 6:10).
  • restoring or re-establishing the kingom of Israel (Acts 1:6).
  • restoring a man's presence to his brothers (Heb. 13:19)

But, more importantly, we should note that Jesus speaks of "the times of the restoration of all things" as having been spoken by the prophets from even the earliest of times. It is certainly true that the prophets spoke of the kingdom of Israel being re-established in the end of days,2 as well as the Messiah healing people.3 But, there's two scriptures in the NT that seem to shed more light on the usage of ἀποκατάστασις in Acts 3:21.

In Matt. 17:11 (cp. Mark 9:12), it is written,

And Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah shall come first and restore all things."

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἠλίας μὲν ἔρχεται πρῶτον καὶ ἀποκαταστήσει πάντα

This is the same thought we find in Acts 3:21.4 Here, we are told that Elijah would restore all things. If we examine the Tanakh, we'll find this idea in the Book of Malachi.

In Mal. 4:5-6, it is written,

Behold, I am sending you Eliyah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Yahveh, and he shall turn the heart of the fathers towards the children, and the heart of the children towards their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ לָכֶם אֵת אֵלִיָּה הַנָּבִיא לִפְנֵי בּוֹא יוֹם יְהוָה הַגָּדוֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא. וְהֵשִׁיב לֵב אָבוֹת עַל בָּנִים וְלֵב בָּנִים עַל אֲבוֹתָם פֶּן אָבוֹא וְהִכֵּיתִי אֶת הָאָרֶץ חֵרֶם (MT)

καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμῖν Ηλιαν τὸν Θεσβίτην πρὶν ἐλθεῖν ἡμέραν κυρίου τὴν μεγάλην καὶ ἐπιφανῆ ὃς ἀποκαταστήσει καρδίαν πατρὸς πρὸς υἱὸν καὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου πρὸς τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ μὴ ἔλθω καὶ πατάξω τὴν γῆν ἄρδην (LXX)

The Hebrew verb וְהֵשִׁיב is translated in the LXX by the Greek verb ἀποκαταστήσει. This is a conjugation of the verb ἀποκαθίστημι which we discussed earlier. So, it was Elijah in the person of John the Baptist who would "restore" or "turn" the hearts of the sons to the fathers and vice versa. But, the people of Israel killed John the Baptist, just as they killed Jesus. Perhaps, then, Jesus is saying that Heaven receives him until the Holy Spirit completes the work which John and Jesus commenced.

Some may assume that Jesus is referring to the physical restoration of the world. But, Heinrich Meyer notes,

Accordingly the explanation of the universal renewal of the world unto a glory such as preceded the fall (παλιγγενεσία, Matthew 19:28; comp. Romans 8:18 ff.; 2 Peter 3:13) is excluded, seeing that that restoration of all things (πάντων) coincides with the Parousia (in opposition to de Wette, as well as many older expositors, who think on the resurrection and the judgment).

The correct interpretation must start from Malachi 4:6 as the historical seat of the expression, and from Matthew 17:11, where Christ Himself, taking it from Malachi, has made it His own. Accordingly the ἀποκατάστασις πάντων can only be the restoration of all moral relations to their original normal condition. Christ’s reception in heaven—this is the idea of the apostle—continues until the moral corruption of the people of God is removed, and the thorough moral renovation, the ethical restitutio in integrum, of all their relations shall have ensued. Then only is the exalted Christ sent from heaven to the people, and then only does there come for the latter the ἀνάψυξις from the presence of God, Acts 3:20.

What an incitement neither to neglect nor to defer repentance and conversion as the means to this ἀποκατάστασις πάντων! The mode in which this moral restitution must take place is, according to Acts 3:22, beyond doubt,—namely, by rendering obedience in all points to what the Messiah has during His earthly ministry spoken.


Footnotes

1 Matt. 12:13, 17:11; Mark 3:5, 8:25, 9:12; Luke 6:10; Acts 1:6; Hbr. 13:19

2 Isa. 53:4

3 Dan. 7:22, 7:26-27

4 In Acts 3:21, we find the noun ἀποκαταστάσεως followed by the genitive πάντων, meaning "restoration of all things." In Matt. 17:11, we find the verb ἀποκαταστήσει followed by the accusative πάντα, meaning "shall restore all things." The difference is simply a result of using a noun + noun and a verb + noun to express the thought.

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@H3br3wHamm3r81-+1 for your answer, not that I agree with it, but for the preponderance of evidence you give to support it. It appears you identify with the 'Covenant Theology' position, in which "Israel" becomes the "Israel of God", and the restoration is no longer a 'restoration' of the promises of God to Isreal as a nation, but the 'restoration' of the church of Christ to God. Of course it must be 'amillenial', given that the 'restoration process' is occuring now, rather than during a future millenial reign. I will respond to your answer, but I would like to see how others respond. –  Tau Dec 30 '13 at 21:56
    
@H3br3wHamm3r81-Thank you for your contribution! I can tell you have spent many hours pondering these issues, and have carefully prepared a response that leaves very few loose ends. –  Tau Dec 30 '13 at 22:02
1  
@user2479: I wasn't delving into any sort of theology. I was going by the standard usage of the word within the context of other scriptures. You also don't need to respond to my answer. If you think my answer does the job of answering your question - whether you agree with it or not - you simply upvote it. If you think it's of low quality, then you would downvote it. But, I won't be engaging in a debate about the theology related to the answer itself; there's no point. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 30 '13 at 22:05
    
@H3br3wHamm3r81-I have been in the habit of reponding to answers of questions that I have posted, and I do appreciate when people take of their precious time to give a response. The subject is a theological debate, which I am sure you are well aware of, with widely divergent views, all based on interpretations of key passages. You have offered a particular view, based on the hermeneutical approaches you have exercised for quite some time. Others have their view, based on different hermeneutic approaches. –  Tau Dec 30 '13 at 22:23
2  
@user2479: And others are welcomed to express their view. Point being, however, that this is not a debate forum. As long as you understand that. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 30 '13 at 22:32

The "Times of Restitution" must be understood in context with Peter's speech, and not made a separate clause, confirming or denying God's status with Israel.

The Greek word for “Restitution"(Restoration)in Acts 3:21 is ἀποκαταστάσεως, which is a noun form and is related to the verb form apokathistáneis (ἀποκαθιστάνεις), which is “restore” in Acts 1:6. Both essentially refer to the anticipation of the restoration of the Kingdom. The word “restore” (ἀποκαθιστάνεις) means “to restore to the original condition” and was a technical term for the eschatological restoration of the right order through God to Israel.*

Cleon L. Rogers Jr, & C. L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic & Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament , 229; F. F. Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 112. This restoration is called “regeneration” is Mt. 19: 28 * This is referenced to the same word "restore" (apokathistaneis—verb form of restoration) which we find in Acts 1:6 (KJV)

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

To which Jesus replied:

7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

He did not refute the suggestion that He would "restore Israel", his disciples clearly understood from Peter's speech that the holy prophets from the beginning spoke of such a restoration. But it wasn't to be "until the times of the restitution (restoration) of all things" which Jesus said 'was not theirs to know'.

We can certainly conclude that it didn't happen during the lifetime of the disciples; as Jerusalem was sacked by Titus, and the inhabitants were scattered to the 4 corners of the earth. But that did not invalidate the prophecies of the holy prophets from the beginning, including Moses in Deut. 30:1-7 (KJV):

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;

3 That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 7 And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.

In our day and time, the "restitution of all things" is occuring. We have seen God 'rescue Israel' from the face of the entire earth, and once again they possess the land given to them and their forefathers.

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