By Charles H. Welch
The Hebrew word translated ‘restore’ is shub, a word which we
find translated a few times ‘repent’. See article on REPENTANCE.
The passages of dispensational importance are:
The Greek word is apokathistemi, and as it occurs only eight times we
give the concordance:
Closely related to these references to the restoration of the kingdom, are the words restoration and refreshing that occur in Acts 3:
Acts 3:21 apokatastasis until the times of restoration of all
The subject subdivides under the following headings:
(1) John the Baptist and Elijah
The solution of the problem of John the Baptist and Elijah, contains a principle that is of great dispensational importance. When questioned, John said that he was not Elijah, yet Christ in answer to the disciples’ question said that he was. As there can be no contradiction between one part of inspired truth and another, there must be something beneath the surface that, when brought to light, will not only bring these two statements into line, but will also shed light on other apparent contradictions and provide us with a principle of interpretation.
The last of the prophets, Malachi, anticipated the dual ministry of the two forerunners of the Messiah, John the Baptist and Elijah. (The name Malachi means ‘My messenger’).
With these passages before us, we cannot avoid seeing that in Malachi 3:1, John the Baptist is in view, yet when we read on, we are conscious of the conflicting fact that verse 2 introduces a very different atmosphere from that of the four Gospels and John’s day. Let us notice the language:
This passage most surely speaks of the Second Coming of Christ, yet it is closely associated with John the Baptist. In Malachi 4:1,2 we read:
Here there is close association with another messenger and forerunner, namely, Elijah:
What, then, is the connection between these two personages and the two comings? Turning to the New Testament we shall find that the two messengers are intimately related. When the birth of John the Baptist was announced to his father Zacharias, the angel said of John, ‘Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:16,17). When John was asked by the priests and Levites, ‘Art thou Elijah?’ he said, ‘I am not’ (John 1:21).
The Lord, however, when He had vindicated John the Baptist, as we have already seen in Matthew 11, spoke of the kingdom of heaven suffering violence and opposition. Then alluding to John, He says, ‘And if ye will receive it, this is Elijah, which was for to come’ (Matt. 11:14). That this was a cryptic or parabolic utterance seems certain by the added words, ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear’ (verse 15).
When the Lord descended from the mount of Transfiguration, the disciples raised the question of Elijah’s coming:
Here is a plain answer, endorsing the belief that Elijah himself must come before the restoration of all things can take place. But the Lord then proceeds to bring the spirit of the passage to bear upon the time then present, continuing:
While there were, therefore, at the first coming of the Lord,
provisional arrangements sufficient to remove all idea that the non-repentance
of Israel was predestined, and for which they were without
responsibility, He Who knew all things in a manner we cannot even imagine,
knew that the Messiah would be rejected. John the Baptist was not Elijah,
but he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Except in a typical,
anticipatory fashion the kingdom was not set up. The great work of
redemption was accomplished, but the real coming and restoration of the
kingdom await the day of days toward which all the prophets point.
(2) Acts 1:6 and Its Validity
Those who teach that the church began at Pentecost, often question the validity of the appointment of Matthias, and teach that it was Jewish prejudice that prompted the question of Acts 1:6. But what are the facts? The Lord had spoken to the apostles about the baptism of the Spirit that they should receive ‘not many days hence’ (Acts 1:5), and the next verse records their question which we are considering:
It is essential to keep in mind that during a period of forty days, the apostles had received intense instruction as to the Old Testament passages that spoke of Christ and His kingdom. Among these, the following from Isaiah would make plain the connection between the outpouring of the Spirit, and the restoration of Israel:
A number of like passages would occur to any well-taught reader of the Old Testament, such as the apostles were, and until the reader is in possession of at least some of these passages, he cannot be competent to judge the matter of the rightness of the question in Acts 1:6. Coupled with this, let us remember that He Who opened up the Scriptures during those forty days, at the same time ‘opened their understanding’. In the face of such a comprehensive statement, is it possible to maintain that prejudice and ignorance prompted the question of Acts 1:6? Further light upon the hope of this Acts period is found in the verses that follow Acts 1:6, and to the consideration of this testimony we now address ourselves:
One of the most natural things to do, whenever the Second Coming of Christ is before the mind, is to conjecture whether it is possible to forecast the date of His advent. While this may be natural, it is unscriptural, and consequently wrong. The servant who concluded that the Lord’s coming was delayed, began to smite his fellowservants and to drink with the drunken. The salutary attitude in view of the Lord’s return is, surely, to carry out His injunction and ‘occupy’ till He comes, remembering that ‘Blessed is that servant, whom His Lord when He cometh shall find so doing’ (Matt. 24:46).
Every now and again some one will arise who forecasts the date of the Lord’s return, and some will always be found who will, as a consequence, dispose of their business, and wait the expected day. It strikes the outside observer as strange that in such circumstances a business should be sold: why should it not be given away? Of what use would the proceeds be in that day? Again, if the nature of one’s business should be such that, being assured of the nearness of the Lord’s return, one would leave it, surely that is sufficient reason for leaving it now, irrespective of ‘times and seasons’. The Lord’s own instruction to His servant in view of His coming is not ‘Give up your work’ but ‘Carry on’, ‘Occupy’.
There are a number of passages that warn the believer against attempting the computation of the date of the Second Coming:
The fact is, that since the setting aside of Israel in Acts 28, prophetic times are in abeyance, and we are living in a parenthetical period during which the prophetic clock has been stopped. The last recorded utterance of Christ on earth is in Acts 1: 7 and 8, where His words give assurance that, whatever the answer may be to their question concerning the time of Israel’s restoration, all was well, for all was in their Father’s hands. Their part was to witness faithfully, even though ‘Israel be not gathered’. Their enduement included a witness to ‘the end of the earth’. What the Lord did not say to the disciples in so many words is very vividly brought before the mind by the event that immediately followed:
Further questioning concerning the hope of Israel is thus referred to the Second Coming. The words, ‘shall so come in like manner’, would make the apostles realize, not only that the restoration of the kingdom to Israel would take place when Daniel 7 was fulfilled:
but that the angel’s statement also had Zechariah 14:4 in view:
(3) The Theme of Acts 3:19-26 is Closely Linked with Acts 1
(i) In both the ‘restoration’ is in view:
(ii) In both there is the possibility that Israel would not be restored immediately:
(iii) In both the Second Coming of the Lord is prominent:
(iv) In both there is the hint that the Gentile may be blessed as a result of Israel’s attitude:
That the Gentile, if not specifically mentioned here, is nevertheless in mind, may be seen by reference to Acts 13:
The more the opening chapters of the Acts are scrutinized, the less is warrant found for the introduction there of the Body. All is intimately bound up with the hope of Israel’s restoration. When we say ‘all’, we mean every item that is brought forward, such as the forty days’ exposition of the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 1:3); the association of the baptism of John with Pentecost (1:4,5); the extension of the witness to the ends of the earth (1:8), and the Coming of Christ to the Mount of Olives (1:11,12). All these have a bearing upon the restoration of Israel; not one can be made to speak of the church, without dislocation. With the return of the disciples to Jerusalem and their meeting together in prayer with the women, Mary, and the Lord’s brethren, the introduction to the Acts finishes, leaving the way open for the examination of the new story of Acts itself, which commences at 1:15.
In view of its prominence in the opening chapters of the Acts, and its close bearing upon many points of doctrine and practice found both in the Acts and in the epistles of the period, it will be of service if we give the matter of Israel’s restoration further consideration. The very use of the word ‘restore’, presupposes loss, forfeiture, cessation or lapse, and the history of Israel clearly shows that the covenants and promises that were made with them and the fathers were withdrawn, or postponed, because of the faithlessness of the people.
Three great causes of Israel’s rejection are indicated in the Scriptures, namely, (1) idolatry; (2) rejection of Christ; (3) antagonism to the preaching of the Gospel. Other intermediate causes will be found, but these are the most prominent. The message concerning restoration in Acts 3:21 flows out of the dispensational miracle of the healing of the lame man. Perhaps it is not quite right to single out the healing of the lame man and call it a ‘dispensational miracle’, for the miracles performed by the Lord and His apostles in almost every case foreshadow things to come, as for example, the judgment of blindness that fell upon Elymas (Acts 13:11). Nevertheless, while all miracles are called ‘the powers of the age to come’ (Heb. 6:5), this initial miracle of the Acts, in a special way follows on the day of Pentecost and illuminates its prophetic character.
We must first discover the general disposition of subject-matter, so
that we may realize what are the salient features of the narrative.
While each of these members has its own structure, we will not set out
the opening and closing sections in detail, as they are fairly obvious, and
the explanatory teaching is developed in the central members. If we will but
pay attention to the way in which this explanation has been written, a number
of items will fall naturally into place, and we shall be able to concentrate
on the dispensational foreshadowing which this miracle represents.
There is an insistence in this record on the fact that the Lord’s name, in the power of which the lame man was healed, is ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth’. The choice of this name out of the many borne by the Lord, is as inspired as any other part of Scripture, and has a definite bearing on the teaching of the passage. Most readers will know that the title never occurs in the epistles written to the church. Five times in the Acts we meet the title ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, but on the two occasions when it is used by Peter in connection with this miracle, it is ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth’. This is important, because it stresses the Messiahship of the rejected One, the acknowledgment of which is closely connected with the prophetic interpretation of the miracle. John, who was with Peter in the working of this miracle, has told us that Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross:
And he is careful to remind us, before the story of the crucifixion is ended, of the prophecy, ‘They shall look on Him Whom they pierced’ (John 19:37). When this takes place, Zechariah tells us that Israel’s restoration will follow; and this same Jesus of Nazareth, so long despised, shall once more stand upon the Mount of Olives and accomplish all the purposes of grace that are awaiting Israel’s repentance (Zech. 12 to 14).
The changed attitude towards ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ which brings about the healing of the nation is seen in Isaiah:
This is the Jewish estimate of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, but immediately following, the prophet reveals to us the surprise which will be expressed by Israel when they look upon Him Whom they have pierced:
This passage must be read aloud to be appreciated. The stress must be put upon the pronouns ‘He’ and ‘Our’. Israel rejected Jesus of Nazareth and esteemed Him stricken and smitten of God. But when at last they repent and believe, they will acknowledge that it was for their sins, not His own, that He died, and they will then gladly give Him the title which Peter uses in Acts three and four -- ‘Jesus the Messiah of Nazareth’ (Acts 3:6; 4:10).
Peter’s words in Acts 3:19-26 are a direct prophetic exposition of the meaning of this miracle. He urges repentance, with a view to the times of refreshing and restoration that will be brought in by the return of the Lord from heaven. This Coming of Christ, and the blessings that will flow from it, are in perfect harmony with the testimony of Moses and all the prophets (Acts 3:22-24), and with the covenant made with Abraham and his seed (3:25,26). It is impossible to read the church into this passage, especially when we read the concluding words:
The point of Peter’s explanation lies in the word translated ‘salvation’ (Acts 4:12). We read that the lame man had been more than forty years a cripple, which makes us think at once of Israel in their unbelief. The words ‘perfect soundness’ (Acts 3:16) refer back to Israel’s condition as described in Isaiah 1:6, where the LXX uses the same word, ‘no soundness’. The word ‘whole’ in Acts 4:9, ‘By what means he is made whole’, is sesostai, from sozo ‘to save’. The word ‘salvation’ in Acts 4:12 is he soteria, literally ‘the healing’, ‘Neither is there salvation in any other’.
This, then, is Peter’s explanation. The lame man who had been healed, and who was seen walking and leaping and praising God (Acts 3:8), was a picture of the millennial day when ‘the lame man shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing’ (Isa. 35:6). Bringing the healed man forward, Peter says, in effect:
Alas, Israel did not repent. The next outstanding typical miracle is that of a Jew stricken with blindness, while a Gentile believes (Acts 13). The type is fulfilled in Acts 28, when blindness falls upon the whole nation, and ‘the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles’ (28:28).
The restoration of the kingdom to Israel, is the key thought of the first section of the Acts, the Gentile coming in only when it began to be evident that the necessary repentance of Israel would not be forthcoming. Pentecost is bound up with this restoration, and is a pledge that one day it will come. (See articles entitled KINGDOM; PENTECOST; REMNANT, for further details).