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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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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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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
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    @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.
    – user862
    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
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    @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.
    – user862
    Dec 30 '13 at 22:32
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The things which God announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and turn, that your sins may be wiped away, so that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord and that He may send the Christ, who has been previously appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must indeed receive until the times of the restoration of all things, of which God spoke through the mouth of His holy prophets from of old...You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God covenanted with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ``And in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'' To you first, God, having raised up His Servant, has sent Him to bless you in turning each of you away from your wicked deeds. Ac 3.

[C]oncerning all the things that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day on which He was taken up, after He had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He chose; to whom also He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many irrefutable proofs, appearing to them through a period of forty days and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God...So the ones who came together asked Him, saying, Lord, are You at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel? But He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set by His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had said these things, while they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him away from their sight. And while they were looking intently into heaven as He went, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you beheld Him going into heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. Ac 1.

(He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Him...[T]he disciples asked Him, saying, Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? And He answered and said, Elijah indeed is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah has already come... Mt 17.)

For Christ did not enter into a holy place made by hands, a figure of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear now before the face of God for us; nor in order that He might offer Himself often, just as the high priest enters into the Holy of Holies year by year by the blood of other creatures; since then He would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world. But now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested for the putting away of sin through the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is reserved for men to die once, and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time to those who eagerly await Him, apart from sin, unto salvation. Heb 9.

(Zachariah...your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John...many of the sons of Israel he will turn to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the prudence of the righteous, to prepare for the Lord a people made ready. Lk 1.

[G]iven to the Gentiles, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will cause My two witnesses to prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth...These have the authority to shut heaven that no rain may fall during the days of their prophecy; and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood and to smite the earth with every plague as often as they desire. And when they have completed their testimony, the beast who comes up out of the abyss will make war with them and will overcome them and kill them. And their corpses will be on the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified...And after the three and a half days, the breath of life out of God entered into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those beholding them. And they heard a loud voice out of heaven saying to them, Come up here. And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. Rv 11.)

A day is coming for Jehovah when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city will be captured, and the houses plundered, and the women ravished; and half of the city will go forth into captivity, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then Jehovah will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights in a day of battle. And His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split at its middle toward the east and toward the west into a very great valley, so that half of the mountain will remove to the north and half of it to the south...And Jehovah my God will come, and all the saints with Him...And everyone left from all the nations that went forth against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts. Zech 14.

I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sits on it called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written which no one knows but Himself. And He is clothed with a garment dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven followed Him on white horses, dressed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth proceeds a sharp sword, that with it He might smite the nations; and He will shepherd them with an iron rod; and He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. And He has on His garment and on His thigh a name written, King Of KINGS And Lord Of LORDS...And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years and cast him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, that he might not deceive the nations any longer until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be loosed for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them...and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years...they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. Rv 19-20.

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