Chapter 22

After A Long Time

Having viewed the parable of the talents in a general way, we must now examine it more minutely. Some of the parables of our Lord are self-evident and others require His explanation. This one falls in the former class; hence with assurance we can approach it and extract from it the great lessons that it teaches. First, we will examine Peter's sermon in Acts 3, along with some Old Testament Scriptures.

The Blessings of the Holy Spirit

In the second recorded discourse by the Apostle Peter (Acts 3), he made the following declaration:

Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 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; whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old (vss. 19-21).

This passage will assist us in grasping the parable in hand. In order to understand the quotation, we must study its immediate context. The occasion of the sermon was Peter's supernatural healing of the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate. This miracle, together with the man's abounding joy, attracted great throngs to Solomon's Porch. Peter took advantage of the occasion and preached Christ to them. He declared that the God of Abraham had, by performing that miracle, glorified His servant Jesus whom they, the Jews, had delivered up and denied before the face of Pilate when the latter was determined to release Him. By their rejection of Jesus they killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this fact Peter declared that he and the apostles were witnesses.

In vs. 17 Peter affirmed that his audience had executed our Lord in ignorance, as the rulers also had done. In doing this they were simply carrying out the things which God through the mouth of the prophets had foretold would come to His Messiah. This exposition led up to the great appeal found in the verses quoted above.

"Repent": The Jews and their rulers had turned from the Christ and had denied Him, causing Him to be put to death; hence Peter called upon them to repent of this and all other sins and to turn again to the Christ whom they had just rejected. By genuine repentance and their turning to the Saviour, the apostle assured his auditors that their sins would be blotted out. To strengthen his exhortation, he insisted upon their repenting in order that there might come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord and that the Messiah might be sent back to them again.

"Seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord": Since this statement is given in addition to the promise of blotting out their sins, it is evident that it refers to something in addition to the forgiveness of trespasses. What did such language mean to Peter's audience? He spoke of soul-refreshing and of its coming from the presence of the Lord. This refreshing is, according to the language, in the presence of God; but upon their turning to the Messiah he promised that this special blessing would come from the presence of God down to them.

Some have understood by this peculiar expression that peace, joy and spiritual energizing is to be done by the indwelling Spirit in the heart of the believer. This explanation is not satisfying, for the spiritual uplift referred to comes to anyone when he has been regenerated and forgiven.

May not this special idiom be an echo of the Old Testament language? It is quite likely that such passages as Ezek. 34:25-31 and 36:22-31 were in the apostle's mind and formed or molded his phraseology on this occasion. A glance at chapter 34, vss. 25 and 26, shows that the prophet was speaking of the time when God will make a covenant of peace with the evil beasts and cause them to pass out of the land of Canaan. Israel then will dwell safely in her place, "And I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing." In the next verse the prediction occurs that the harvest of fruits and vegetables will be in abundance. The showers mentioned in this passage primarily refer to the restored rain in its seasons during the great Millennial kingdom, as is seen from a glance at the entire context.

The great evangelical prophet Isaiah, in 44:1-5, foretold the spiritual blessings that will come to Israel, but presented them under the figures of the rain and irrigation:

For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the watercourses (vss. 3, 4).

It is clear from these verses and the context that the water here foretold as being poured out upon Israel symbolizes the coming of the Holy Spirit in His reviving power. Other passages could be cited, but these suffice.

The showers mentioned by Peter will come from the presence of God. When the Holy Spirit comes into the life of the individual, his heart is refreshed as is the ground by the coming of the rain. In view of these facts, it seems most probable that the expression under consideration refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the nation of Israel when she turns to Him.

The Appointed One

"That he may send the Christ": Connected with the promise we are studying is the following one: "And that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus." Israel is called upon to turn to the Messiah and to accept Him in order that God may send the appointed one, from Heaven to them. This coming can be none other than what is usually termed the second coming of our Lord in glory at the end of the Tribulation period. This Messiah whom God will send when Israel turns is the one who has been appointed by the Lord for her. When she turns to Him, He will immediately return to her.

Jesus was the Messiah whom God appointed for Israel. She rejected this chosen One; hence she may not expect another deliverer because the Lord will not reject the Messiah whom she denied. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Hebrew Messiah by the decree of God. She may expect none other. This is the great truth of which Israel at the present time stands in need.

The nation, in the person of the rulers, rejected Him in ignorance. God does not force the will of any man; hence Jesus retired to Heaven and will there await the turning of the Jewish nation to Him.

This curious episode was foreshadowed by Moses in his relation to the children of Israel. He first presented himself to his brethren to deliver them. They, in ignorance of God's plan, rejected him; hence Moses retired from the scene and remained away for forty years--the period of trial. At the expiration of that time Israel, in her great distress, was ready to receive him and did so; then he delivered the nation from Egyptian bondage. Thus it will be with Israel and her rejected Messiah.

"Whom the heaven must receive": In vs. 21 Peter spoke of our Lord's absence in the following words:

"Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old." The heavens must receive Jesus until the times of the restoration of all things of which God spoke. What is the significance of the clause, "whom the heaven must receive?" This language seems to indicate obligation on the part of Heaven to receive Jesus during this period of His rejection. Is He not a welcome guest there? Does this statement seem to imply that He is not wanted? Not at all.

There lies back in Peter's mind the plan of God as outlined in the Old Testament and his language here reflects this purpose of the Almighty. Psalm 110 gives us the entire redemptive career of the Messiah. I would say, speaking dramatically, that when the scene opens in that psalm Messiah is in the midst of Jerusalem, whose inhabitants become hostile to Him. Therefore the Lord God in Heaven invites Him to leave Jerusalem and to ascend to His right hand, there to remain until He, God, puts Messiah's enemies under His feet. When this is done, He, upon returning to Jerusalem, will be welcomed enthusiastically by the descendants of those who rejected Him at His first coming.

Knowing therefore the entire outline of Messiah's career in relation to Israel and realizing that the plans were literally being fulfilled, Peter expressed the thought in the language of the clause under consideration. Therefore the phrase, "whom the heaven must receive," does not imply that Jesus was an unwelcome guest at the court of Heaven, but rather it reflects the absolute necessity of carrying out God's eternal plan and program of redemption.

The "restoration of all things": The Lord Jesus will remain in Heaven until the times of the restoration of all things of which God spoke by the prophets. Unfortunately this sentence is sometimes quoted as if it taught the doctrine of the final restoration of all things. Let the reader notice that this doctrine is not here set forth. Peter is far from saying that all things will be restored to the original order. His language should be construed to mean that only those things of which God spoke by the mouth of the holy prophets will be restored.

In order, therefore, to understand the significance of this language, one must investigate the messages of the prophets. In a word, what do they say? Do they tell us, for instance, that Satan and the fallen angels will be restored to God's favor and that this earth will be the paradise that it was before the fall? In vain will one search the Old Testament Scriptures for such teachings. On the other hand, he will see in such a passage as Ps. 8 that the original authority delegated to man will be restored to him eventually.

The prophets Isaiah (2:1-4; 11:1-12:6; 65:1-66:24) and Ezekiel (34:1-31; 36:1-28) gave us wonderful pictures of the kingdom age. The Lord will make good every word and restore all which He has promised.

Israel's Kingdom Restored

The promise of Micah 4:1-8: The fulfillment of the Old Testament predictions will be realized when Jesus leaves Heaven and returns to earth. Peter's language seems to echo the promise found in Micah 4:1-8. This vision is parallel to the one presented in Isa. 2:1-4 with the additional information appearing in vss. 6-8 of Micah's prophecy:

In that day, saith Jehovah, will I assemble that which is lame, and I will gather that which is driven away, and that which I have afflicted; and I will make that which was lame a remnant, and that which was cast far off a strong nation: and Jehovah will reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth even for ever. And thou, 0 tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, yea, the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.

This prophet promises that the former dominion shall be restored to the daughter of Zion when Jehovah reigns in Jerusalem. In view of this and many other predictions there is no wonder that the apostles at the time of the ascension asked Jesus, "Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" They well knew that Jehovah had in His Word promised to restore the kingdom to Israel. The beautiful thing about it is that they believed what God said.

Our Lord by His answer admitted that the kingdom will be restored to Israel: "And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority" (Acts 1:7). The times or seasons of what? Only one answer is possible--the times or the seasons of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Peter's statement in 3:21 likewise seems to echo this answer of our Lord found in Acts 1:7.

The apostle's language reflects, therefore, the redemptive career of the Messiah as set forth in the Old Testament Scriptures. In this sermon Peter called upon his audience to accept Jesus, from whom the nation had just turned away, in order that they might be forgiven, that there might come these seasons of refreshing from God's presence and that the Messiah might return and restore all things as foretold.

Since his language echoed the plan of God as outlined in the Old Testament, it is evident that this sermon was a stirring appeal to the entire nation to accept the Lord Jesus Christ in order that He might return and restore the things promised. This passage, therefore, is the clarion call of God to the Jewish nation to repent, to repudiate the national sin of rejecting the Messiah and to turn to Him so that God might carry out His prearranged program in the eternal plan of the ages.

According to the Old Testament program, Jesus, the One appointed for Israel, has returned to the right hand of the throne of God and will never come back until she hears and heeds this stirring appeal for a national turning to the rejected Messiah. Israel by her blindness is at the present day delaying the unfolding of God's plan. Never will Messiah return until the nation officially welcomes Him. Never will the nation welcome Him and plead for Him to return and fulfill these ancient promises so long as she thinks that He was an impostor. Never will she see the light relative to Him until those who have the truth of the Gospel present it to her in an intelligible manner from the standpoint of the Hebrew Scriptures.

In the final analysis we who have the truth concerning the Messiah and God's plan of the ages are, humanly speaking, holding up the procession, since God has taken us into His confidence and has called us to be co-workers with Him. We should bend our every effort in getting the truth of the Gospel to Israel, in order that she might see in Jesus of Nazareth her true Messiah and welcome His return.

The promise of Zech. 12:10-14: The reader should note that the seasons of refreshing come from the presence of God prior to the personal return of the Lord Jesus to the earth. This order of events seems to reflect the promise given in such passages as Zech. 12:10f. The season of refreshing coming from the presence of God probably is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, which event culminates in a mighty revival throughout the nation.

When He, the Spirit of conviction, comes upon Israel she will begin to pray as never before and will turn to the Lord Jesus whom she has pierced, and plead for His return. In response to her repentance and plaintive wail, He will rend the heavens, come down, establish His kingdom upon earth and restore all things which God spoke by the mouth of the holy prophets.

Back to the Parable

To the casual reader it may seem that I have gone far afield from an exposition of the parable of the talents by discussing the sermon in Acts 3. I had to do so in order to bring out clearly the thought presented by Jesus in His statement in Matt. 25:19a, "Now after a long time the lord of those servants cometh." This "long time" of our Lord's absence from earth was clearly revealed in the Old Testament and is substantiated by this illuminating sermon which we have examined.