In chapter 3 Peter is a bit more pointed than in his Pentecost sermon. He says that the people who are hearing the sermon are guilty of killing the Messiah. There are men in the audience who for Barabbas rather than Jesus! Peter accusing the crowd and the Temple aristocracy of killing an innocent man who was vindicated by God by the resurrection and ascension.
It is also more pointed in its description of what will happen when they repent – the “times of refreshing” will come. It appears, then, that Peter is promising the soon-return of the Messiah after Israel repents. The phrase is unusual, only appearing here in the New Testament. In the LXX the word “refreshing” (ἀνάψυξις) only appears only in Exod 8:15 to describe a pause int he cycle of plagues on Egypt. It appears in the Apocalpse of Sedrach 16.3 as a description of heaven. There is no exact equivalent of the phrase in Acts 3 to describe the messianic age, despite Eduard Schweizer’s statement that the word refers to “messianic refreshment, the definitive age of salvation” (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 who were congregated in Solomon’s Portico that day. Referring to the coming kingdom as “times and seasons” is also common, especially using the Greek καιρός (kairos). This word for time has the idea of the right time, the appointed time. Jesus used it in Acts 1, telling the twelve it was not for them to know the “times and the seasons.” It is highly unlikely that anyone in the Jewish crowd would have missed these eschatological allusions, even if they did not agree with them!
If the people repent, Peter says 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.
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.
What we see therefore here in Acts is a clear statement that the Kingdom of God is about to begin. But there seems to be a condition – repent of the sin of killing the Messiah! Acts 4-8 will describe the response to this offer from the majority of the “men of Israel.” Despite large numbers of Jews accepting Jesus as Messiah and Savior, Israel as a nation continues to resist the Holy Spirit in the chapters which follow.
Acts 2 and 3 are therefore the foundation for the resistance to the Kingdom found in Acts 4-8. Are there other elements of this sermon which sound like they promise the dawning of the eschatological age?