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A careful consideration of what Peter affirms shows that he believed the parousia was at hand.
If “the restoration of all things” was related to the work of the Immerser–and this cannot be denied–then the imminence of the consummation is firmed established. John, as Elijah, was the herald and sign of the Day of the Lord and he warned his audience of the “wrath that is about to come (Matthew 3:7); “the axe is already laid at the root” (3:10); “his winnowing fan is in his hand” (3:12). John was to do the work of restoration before the Day of the Lord and he taught that the Day was imminent.
Peter spoke of the need for the “restoration of all things” consummating in the coming of the Lord and said the prophecies of that restoration “foretold these days” (Acts 3:24). Peter’s “these days” were his generation. John had begun the work of restoration and expected the consummation very soon. How is it possible to extrapolate that end into the far distant future? Peter’s affirmation that the restoration was foretold to occur in his days demands an imminent consummation.
On the day of Pentecost just a few days prior to Acts 3 Peter preached a sermon greatly similar to that under consideration. At the close of that sermon he urged his audience “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). As Bales says “They were to save themselves from the sharing in the guilt and doom of that generation.” Here was the promise and threat of the “great and terrible day of the Lord” that John had warned was imminent. It would come in Peter’s generation, in the fall of Jerusalem (cf. Bales 67).
This fits the context of Acts 3 perfectly. Peter urges his audience to repent to allow for the “times of refreshing” at the parousia. On the other hand, he warns them that Moses had predicted that failure to obey the Christ would result in being “utterly destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:23). Eusebius says of this verse: “The Jews, because they rejected the prophet, and did not hearken to His holy words, have suffered extreme ruin according to the prediction.”
Finally, the correspondence between Acts 3 and 1 Peter confirms the imminence of the parousia and fulfillment of the Old Covenant prophets. In Acts 3 Peter was anticipating the coming of salvation (the times of refreshing, v. 21); in 1 Peter he was looking for salvation (1 Peter 1:7-10). In Acts the salvation would occur at the parousia (3:21); in Peter it would be at the parousia (1:5-7). In Acts Peter said the hope of coming salvation would be the fulfillment of what the Old Covenant prophets foretold (3:21, 24); in Peter the apostle was expecting the fulfillment of the Old Covenant prophets (1:10-12). In Acts what had once been far off–that prophesied by the prophets–was now at hand; the prophets “foretold these days” (3:24). In Peter we are told of the prophets “unto whom it was revealed that not themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which have now been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you” (1 Peter 1:12).
Peter further tells us that the salvation of which the prophets spoke was “ready to be revealed” (1 Peter 1:5) in his days. He tells us that Jesus was “ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). He says in unmitigated terms “the end of all things has drawn near” (1 Peter 4:7); and “the time has come for the judgment to begin” (1 Peter 4:17).
In v. 17 Peter uses what is known as the anaphoric article. Simply stated, this means that a writer or speaker has introduced a subject. Later, as he continues to discuss that subject, he uses the definite article to refer directly back to it. What this means is that in v. 5 Peter affirmed that Christ was ready to judge the living and the dead. This is nothing but the resurrection. Then, in v. 17 he said that the time had come for “the judgment” which is the jment of v. 5– the resurrection of the dead! This is an irrefutable, clear cut affirmation that the time for the resurrection– the restoration of all things– had come.
Unless it can be shown that Peter, in Acts and Peter, was anticipating the fulfillment of different prophecies of different kinds of salvation at two different comings of the Lord, then the undeniable imminence of 1 Peter places Acts 3 within the same context of imminence
Acts 3 is an extremely important text for understanding Biblical eschatology. It identifies the nature and framework for eschatology. Peter’s eschatological expectation was inextricably linked with the fulfillment of the promises to Old Covenant Israel. The parousia would occur at the consummation of Israel’s aeon, not the end of the New Covenant Age.
Peter’s affirmation of the absolute necessity for the fulfillment of the prophetic hopes before the parousia shows the Old Covenant would remain valid until the parousia. This is confirmed by the comparison of Matthew 5:17-18. If the work of the restoration of all things and the parousia has not taken place the Old Covenant remains valid today.
The imminence element of Acts 3 cannot be ignored. What had long before been foretold by the prophets was now being realized in Peter’s generation. Comparison with other passages reveals an overwhelming sense of imminent expectation.
Acts 3 is a challenging text for all futurist eschatological views. If it remains unfulfilled the Old Covenant remains valid today. Israel has not received her salvation. And if this is the case salvation for the nations still awaits fulfillment. Praise God that He kept His promises to Israel and as a result salvation is now available to all of every nation. Be sure to get a copy of my The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for even more discussion of acts 3 and the Restoration of all things.