IN ACTS 2 we find a record of Peter's sermon delivered on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus. This was a call to the Jews individually to accept their Messiah, whom they had rejected. The personal note is seen throughout this passage. In Acts 3, however, appears God's first call to Israel to repudiate her national sin and to accept the rejected Messiah in order that He might return and establish His millennial kingdom upon earth. The occasion of the delivery of this message is found in the first ten verses of the chapter, which I ask the reader to study. The discourse begins with verse 12 and runs to the end of the chapter, which the student should likewise study carefully before noting the chart above.
The heading of this study is, "God's Eight-Point Program in Relation to Israel and the World." There are eight moves indicated. Three of them are past. Five of them are still in the future.
At the bottom of the chart are six columns of equal width. At the top of each, one sees the words "Move 1, Move 2," etc. In order to clarify this language, let me give this little experience. As a child I frequently saw at the country store two men playing checkers. The game would be started by one who made a definite move. As a rule, the second man made his first move rather speedily; then the man who made the first move sometimes followed without hesitation. At other times he was rather slow. By this stage of the game, each, before he made his move, would think very carefully and would sometimes wait a long time--at least it appeared so to me, a small boy.
THE FIRST THREE MOVES
PETER in this sermon assumed the facts concerning the Lord's coming to earth, which are told in the four records of the gospel. In the first column, I quote John 3:16-18 which tells the purpose for which Christ came. God, therefore, made the first move in sending the Lord Jesus Christ to suffer and to die for man. Israel immediately responded by rejecting Him, having Him crucified (Acts 3:13-15). After three days, God made the third move by raising Him from the dead (vs. 15,16). The apostles were witnesses, together with many others, of the resurrection of Jesus. Three of these moves are therefore in the past.
THE PRESENT DISPENSATION
IN THE center of the chart one sees verses 17 and 18. In these Peter explained that the rulers of Israel in ignorance literally carried out the things which God foreshadowed would be done. It is clear from this statement that the cross was not an afterthought in the unfolding of God's plan. On the contrary, it was clearly revealed by the prophets, as was also the Christian Dispensation, together with the Tribulation and the Millennium. We have seen in various passages dealing with "Messiah's Redemptive Career" that the Christian Dispensation was clearly foretold by the prophets, though the church as an organization consisting of Jews and Gentiles regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit was not revealed to them. This disclosure was made to the apostles and finally to Paul (Eph. 3:1-13). The New Testament writers spoke of Christ's life, death, resurrection, and present session at the right hand of the throne of God as the fulfillment of Psalm 110:1,2 and parallel passages. See the discussion of this psalm. Thus the inspired New Testament writers recognized that the Christian Dispensation was foretold by the Old Testament prophets.
IN THE next column we see moves 4 and 5, which have never been made by Israel, but which will be made at the proper time. According to verse 19, the inspired Apostle called upon the Jewish people to repent and to turn again that their sins might be blotted out. Peter used the strongest word in the Greek language to indicate the change of their minds, thoughts, and purposes. Of course, he was thinking of their attitude toward Jesus. They had rejected Him as an imposter. Peter called upon them to change their idea and, of course, their attitude toward Him. Furthermore, they had turned away from Him and had called for a murderer to be delivered to them instead.
The Common Version has "be converted." This translation is due to a misunderstanding of the Latin text. The original Greek word used by Peter literally means "turn to." It occurs in Acts 9:35 which reads as follows, "And all that dwelt at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord." The context shows that Peter had cured a man who had been a cripple for eight years. This miracle caused the people to give heed to the message which was preached by Peter. They turned to the Lord as a result of the preaching and the miracle which confirmed the message. The word rendered "turned to" in this passage is the very one used by Peter in Acts 3:19. The same terms occurs in 11:21, "And a great number that believed turned unto the Lord." Without doubt, in these two passages it can mean nothing except receiving the Lord Jesus Christ personally as Lord and Saviour. It also appears in Acts 14:15 and 15:19, being followed, however, by the word, God; but the same general idea is dominant in both instances. Thus when Peter used it in the passage under consideration, he called upon those who had rejected Jesus to repent of that crime and to turn to Him from whom they had previously turned away. These facts show that Peter called upon Israel to repudiate the national sin and to accept Jesus Christ personally as Lord and Saviour. The language can mean nothing else.
This passage is in perfect harmony with the prediction made by Hosea (5:15), which foretold that Messiah, after having been rejected by His people, would return to His place and remain there till they acknowledge their offense and seek His face. Jesus announced the same thing to the authorities at Jerusalem on the last day of His public ministry (Matt. 23:37-39). Before the Lord Jesus will return to this earth at the end of the Tribulation, Israel will have to repudiate her national sin and turn to Him personally, accepting Him as Lord and Messiah.
Of course, the rapture will occur before the Tribulation. It pertains to the church, whereas Israel's repenting and accepting Christ relates to the second coming of Messiah at the end of the Tribulation. Let us not confuse these two events.
The Jewish race as a whole does not know that Jesus of Nazareth, whom their ancestors rejected, was and is their true Messiah. They are sincere in their rejection of Him, but sincerity is no substitute for doing the will of God. They, being ignorant of God's righteousness, did not submit to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:1,2).
The Jews must be given the facts relative to the Lord Jesus and His messiahship before they can genuinely be convicted of their sin and truly accept Him. No one can repent of a crime of which he is guilty, but of which he at the same time is unaware. He must first be shown his wrong, and then he can repent--if brought under conviction. The same thing is true of Israel. Peter, therefore, calls upon her to make moves 4 and 5 in this eight-point program of the Almighty. Since she does not know the facts, she cannot heed the exhortation. The believers in Christ are the ones who have the truth regarding Christ. We must, therefore, give it to Israel so that she can see the evidence and, being convicted by the Word and the Spirit, make her moves.
PETER called upon his hearers to repent and accept Jesus Christ personally, which moves will bring them to the blotting out of their sins, with this object in mind: "... that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus." According to this language, Israel must make her two moves--repenting of the national crime and accepting Jesus as Lord and Messiah--in order that God may make moves 6 and 7, which are the granting of seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord and the sending of Messiah, the one appointed for them, even Jesus. When she has made her two moves, and only after she has made them, will God make His two.
What is meant by the seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord? The answer is this: When the Jewish nation thus repents and accepts the Lord Jesus, God will send the Holy Spirit to them, who will bring a refreshing to their hearts by regenerating their souls. What the rain is to the dry earth and vegetation, these seasons of refreshing will be to the souls of those who repent of their crime and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Let it be remembered that Israel is not to be converted, as has been supposed in certain quarters, by looking personally upon the Lord Jesus Christ at His second coming. Hosea said that it would not be that way. Peter shows that the program is entirely different. God is waiting for her to make her two moves in order that He might make His two.
MESSIAH'S FINAL MOVE
WHEN Israel has made her two moves and God has immediately followed by making His two, Messiah, whom He sends, will make the eighth move as indicated in the last column on the chart. What He does will bring to fruition "the times of the restoration of all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old." These times of restoration can be none other than those of which the prophets spoke. When we look at their predictions, we see that they foretold a glorious day when Messiah shall come, shall lift the curse from the earth, shall establish His reign of righteousness over the nations, and shall be king over all the earth. Then shall be ushered in that marvelous period when the glory of God will encircle the earth as the waters cover the sea. These times, therefore, are the ones of which Peter spoke on this occasion.
We who are looking for our Lord's return should purify ourselves even as He is pure. In the meantime it is for us to be busy about our Father's business. The message must now be given to Israel. We do not know whether or not it has been given sufficiently to her in order to bring her to the point of making these two moves. While the Lord permits us to remain here, let us be diligent in giving out this message so that she may repent of her sin and turn to the Lord.