When were the “times of restitution of all things” accomplished? Was it fulfilled in Joseph Smith’s day or Jesus Christ’s?
As the Book of Acts begins, Luke explains this rich historical account is a continuation of his former account – the Book of Luke. When we call it the “The Acts of the Apostles” it is a bit of a misnomer because it does not speak of all the Apostles and their acts. Even though the others are briefly mentioned, the Acts of the Apostles are really limited to the Acts of Peter and Paul, who in some ways represent the work of God among the Jews – through Peter – and then the Gentiles – through Paul. It is interesting that Luke was a Gentile. We don’t really know when he converted to the faith. In Luke 1:2 he intimates that he received his information from those who were “eye-witnesses and ministers of the word from the beginning.” The design of Luke’s Gospel was to describe the work and humanity of Christ until He ascended into heaven. And, then Acts was to serve as his sequel – written to show how after Jesus ascended – what happened with the Good News He gave His life for – and how it was delivered to a sinful world. The book teaches us what it looks like when people are touched by the Holy Spirit. Acts is a lynch pin that serves to connect the Old Testament – the Law – and the New Covenant – which is Grace – and the transition between the two.
Jesus, In Acts 1:3 “To whom he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible (absolute) proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Then Luke speaks of Jesus meeting with the Apostles in the upper room. Verse 4 “And, being assembled together with them, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” The promise of the Father Jesus is speaking of, were made in John 14:16, where He said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” Then Jesus tells them Acts1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Then these apostles – these special witnesses – watched Jesus as he was taken up into heaven. Then they all returned to Jerusalem and met in an upper room to pray along with women and Mary the mother of Jesus. And His four half-brothers were there.
Verse 15 “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty.)” What were they about to do at this point? They were going to choose another Apostle to fill the vacancy of Judas Iscariot. Peter now lays out the ground rules for their election, saying in Verses 21-22 “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us. Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” So, there are the qualifications for the next apostle whose job, Peter says at the end of Verse 22 was “to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” Who were these candidates? Is it possible that from the group of “seventy” who were called to preach and teach when Jesus was alive? When Peter says, “ordained” in the Greek it means “to appoint.” It has no connection to religious ritual – what is called ordination, or the laying on of hands. So, looking around at those who qualify according to what Peter set up as the standard, we read Verse 23 “And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.” We literally know nothing about either man. Then the group prayed, seeking the Lord’s guidance in this important decision. But rather than wait for that inspiration, we read in Verse 26 “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” They tossed rocks or threw sticks and trusted that God was in control of the results – Like we would today with dice or drawing straws or names out of a hat. In other words, by this process Matthias became the twelfth apostle. Nothing further is related to Matthias in the New Testament. Maybe Matthias was used but God knew that the next apostle would have to be Paul. And we know what Paul contributed to the early church.
Alright, we are about to about to study one of the most important chapters in all of scripture – Acts 2. Prior to these events happening, the resurrected Jesus had instructed the apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait there to be “empowered from on high.” So, here they are – 120 believers gathered together. Verses 1-4 “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” Gathered there in Jerusalem were all the faithful male Jews – by the millions. They would have come to offer sacrifice and to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest. We are about to read the first conversion of the true believers in the Body of Christ. All the sins of the world have been paid for by Christ Jesus. That work is finished. What we are reading about here is God sending His spirit to now fill or live in our hearts. Scripture refers to this Spirit as the Holy Spirit but also the Spirit of Christ. Whatever happened here in these first four verses was spiritual and is only expressed here in physical terms for our comprehension. Here we have the spiritual power coming down from heaven and resting upon the first believers in the New Church. And what will be the immediate result of this spiritual event? Verses 4-8 tells us “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” To these believing Jews this would be the greatest evidence of God being involved in what was happening. We have to remember that John the Baptist said that while he came to baptize with water, the Son of Man came to baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. This was that moment. Here at Pentecost we are witnessing the birth of a New Testament Church which physically contains members of the Body of Christ that lives on today. So overpowering was this experience that a crowd of more than 3,000 Jews gathered, while Peter stood and preached to them. In preaching he claimed Jesus as Lord, explained that they were witnesses of His miracles and His overcoming the grave. Calling them brethren he told them that they had put Jesus to death – but that death could not hold Him. He wrapped up in Verse 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Luke now tells us what the results of Peter’s words – through the power of the Holy Spirit – were on the crowd. Verses 37-38 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” At that moment- they realized their guilt before God and Christ’s innocence. In response to their anguish, they asked Peter and the Apostles “what should we do?” We too may have been “pricked in our heart” because we realized our sin and contribution to the suffering and death of the Messiah. But we would make a giant mistake in reading what Peter says to these men and then assign it to ourselves – as Gentiles – today. This is where context in our study of the Bible plays such an important role. What Peter says to his audience is not what Paul would say to us today. Remember these Jews were living under the Law and the Prophets. They understood “doing” as part of their religious life. And Peter, sent to them, had something they needed to do – repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Let’s see what happens when Paul the apostle called to the non-Jews – is asked the same question “what should I or we do?” In Acts 16:25-30 we read the story about Paul and Silas who were placed in jail. While they prayed there was a great earthquake and these men were miraculously freed. The keeper of the prison fell down before Paul and Silas saying, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul said in Verse 31 “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Did you notice a difference between Peter’s reply to the question and Paul’s? Peter said first, “Repent,” but Paul doesn’t even mention it. And second, Peter says, “Be baptized for the remission of sins,” but again Paul does not tie baptism to his response either. All Paul says is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you’ll be saved.” In all of his epistles, Paul never uses the word repent to believers. How are we to understand all of this?
Peter was speaking to the House of Israel, who were under the covenantal Law of God. They had killed the promised Messiah and they needed to repent or change their minds about the Jesus Christ. The Gentiles on the other hand were not under the Law – just their conscience. So as Gentiles we do not first repent – we simply first believe. That is why Paul writes that we are saved by grace through faith and – not that we are saved by grace and repentance. As Gentiles we repent when we realize we have been saved by grace and our belief in Jesus. We want to turn our lives around and live for him. But we don’t need to be baptized to be forgiven. The jailer was baptized AFTER he was saved and forgiven as an outward expression of an inward faith. When Peter tells the Jews to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the remission of sins” – the word “for” in the Greek means “because.” Because you have received a remission of sins. And this is why people are baptized today – not for them to join a church – not to make them a member – especially not to wash away their sins. It’s because those who submit to baptism are publicly acknowledging they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ in their heart – which means they have and will repent or change their minds from former views by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It’s a way of being identified with Christ.
In Acts chapters 3, 4, and 5 we read about how the disciples of Jesus Christ are given power to perform miracles in His name. Not through any priesthood power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. But there is one passage the LDS use as proof text to for the future restoration of the gospel in the latter-days. Let’s read Acts 3:19-21 “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Peter has preached to them – Jesus. He has told them that they put Jesus to death in ignorance. He has directed them to repent, and to turn, that their sins may be blotted out. What does he mean by the rest of that passage? What does Peter mean by the period of time of refreshing and restitution of all things? Paul also spoke of this same time period by calling it in Ephesians 1:10 “the dispensation of the fulness of times.” Are Peter and Paul speaking of a period or dispensation of time to come, or was it something else? Something that would be applied to these men and their families? The LDS assign this dispensation to their prophet Joseph Smith – beginning in 1820. That’s what I taught on my LDS mission. To the LDS this final dispensation would usher in the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. But what Peter and Paul are speaking of is the ultimate completion of the former economy of the Old Covenant with it’s works/obedience/reward administration and the New Covenant of administration which is one of grace. Same God – different administration or economy. When did this fulness of times begin? Galatians 4:4 “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” The very presence of the Lord will initiate this times of refreshing. It will signify the utter end of all things old and the full integration of all things new. It has nothing to do with the restoration of the Gospel, the priesthood, and temple rituals. Peter says in Verse 22 “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” Who is this prophet? Not Joseph Smith. It was Jesus Christ. Peter ties the restoration of all things to the coming of Jesus and His work among the Nation of Israel and the world. Verse 24 “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of THESE DAYS.” What days? The days Peter and his audience were living in. Verse 25 “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” Christ has had the victory. The dispensation of the fulness of times started at His birth, and the old administration along with priesthood, temples, ordinances, genealogies were utterly wiped out with destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The restitution of all things continues out to this very day with Jesus as our High Priest, who entered the Holy of Holies making intercession for us. Speaking of Jesus, 1 Peter 3:22 “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” He has all power in heaven and in earth. He alone can save, and he alone can destroy. Nobody needs to fear who have put their trust in him, as He, making a restitution of all things spiritually, is in control. He is drawing all men and women to God.