Even though they acted in ignorance, the people must still repent (3:19-21). Bock says this text is “so important to the overall presentation of eschatology in Acts that each phrase needs careful attention” (Bock, 1:174). Why are these people 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. 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.

Water and FireThe 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” (E. Schweizer, TDNT 9:644). 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 καιρός. This word for time has the idea of“just the right time,” or an “appointed time.” Jesus used it in Acts 1 when he told the twelve it was not for them to know the “times and the seasons.”

A third result is that God will send the Christ. Peter claims that if the nation repents, then the messiah will return and establish the kingdom promised in the prophets. First, Peter claims that God appointed (προχειρίζω) Jesus as the Messiah. The verb is used three times in Acts, once to describe Jesus as the appointed Messiah and twice to describe Paul’s appointment as the light to the Gentiles. (In the Exod 4:13, the word refers to Moses’ appointment, Josh 3:12 to the appointment of 12 spies. In both cases God is the subject.)

What is more, the ones who repent will participate fully in that kingdom. A major aspect of the Messiah’s return (in virtually every view of the messiah) was a separation of “real” Israel from “false” Israel. Jesus also described the beginning of his kingdom as a separation (wheat from weeds, clean fish from unclean, even sheep from goats). Those who repent are a New Israel under the leadership of twelve representatives of the Messiah.

When Messiah comes, he will restore all things (verse 21), a term (ἀποκατάστασις) which is also unique in the New Testament, yet is a theologically packed term. The sense of here is that creation will be restored 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.