There are a number of important points in chapter three, I want to highlight only one of theme here. In the RCBC Evening Service we saw that Peter used the healing of the lame man to explain to the crowd that Jesus was the Messiah and that they were responsible for killing him. This is a bold suggestion, but it is more bold yet when Peter claims that the repentance of the nation will lead to the establishment of the kingdom of God.
Even though the people acted in ignorance, the they must still repent (3:19-21). Why are they to repent? Typically we think of repentance of personal sins, but in this context it appears that Peter has the sin of rejecting Jesus in mind. This is the sin which appears in the immediate context. The crowd was responsible for handing Jesus over to Pilate, they were the ones who refused to release him instead of Barabbas. Certainly personal sin needs to be confessed and repentance ought to occur, but that idea does not come from Acts 3, and perhaps not even in Acts 2. If these two chapters are parallel, then the “repent and be baptized” of 2:38 may very well refer to the sin of rejecting the Messiah as well.
The first result of this repentance is that their sins may be wiped out. The word here is “to blot out,” as in the wiping of tears in Rev 7:17, 21:4, or the blotting out of names from the book of life in Ps 68:29. The word was used for cleaning ink from a papyri sheet so that it could be used again, which in turn became a metaphor for obliterating something and leaving no trace. There are a number of Second Temple period texts which indicate that when the nation repents, God will forgive them and establish this kingdom. (T.Dan 6:4, T.Sim 6:2-7, T.Mos 10:1-10, 4 Ezra 4:39). In addition, there were at least some elements of Judaism in the first century which thought that the nation ought to repent and be baptized in order to see God’s messiah come and re-establish a kingdom for Israel. The Qumran community sounds many of these same themes.
The second result is that the “Times of Refreshing” will come. The phrase is unusual, only appearing here in the New Testament, and while the words appear elsewhere in the LXX, there is not exact equivalent phrase. The phrase has the idea of “messianic refreshment, the definitive age of salvation.” There are, however, a number of similar phrases in the literature of the Second Temple period which indicate that the language would have been well understood by the biblically minded Jews in Solomon’s Portico that day. See 4 Ezra 7:75, 91. 95; 11:46, 13:26-29, 2 Baruch 73-74; 1 Enoch 45:5, 51:4, 96:3. Referring to the coming kingdom as “times and seasons” is also common, especially using the Greek kaivro”. This word for time has the idea of the right time, the appointed time. Jesus used it in Acts one, telling the twelve it was not for them to know the “times and the seasons.”
A third result is that God will send the Christ, Jesus who will fulfill the words of the prophets. Peter claims here that if the nation repents, then the messiah will return and establish the kingdom promised in the prophets. What is more, the ones who repent will participate fully in that kingdom, since a major aspect of the Messiah’s return (in virtually every view of the messiah) was a separation of “real” Israel from “false” Israel. Just as Jesus described the beginning of his kingdom as a separation (wheat from weeds, clean fish from unclean, even sheep from goats.) When Christ returns, he will restore all things (verse 21), a term which is also unique in the New Testament, yet a theologically packed term. The word does not appear in the New Testament or the LXX, but seems to have the sense of restoring creation to its original state. This too is a major expectation of the Hebrew Bible as well as the Second Temple period, the kingdom would be a restoration of the world to Eden-like conditions.
So, which way will the nation go in the following chapters? Will they respond to the preaching of Peter and repent of the sin of killing the Messiah, or will they continue in their rejection of him and therefore be “cut off”?