What do “the times of refreshing” spoken about in Acts 3:19 refer to?
The “times of refreshing” that Peter speaks about in Acts 3:19 refers to the final installment in God’s program with Israel, during which God will deliver Israel from all of their oppressions and afflictions, and avenge His cause with them on this earth. That final installment in Israel’s program concludes with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to Israel, as Peter states in Acts 3:20-21, to usher in “the times of restitution of all things,” which includes the establishment of God’s kingdom on this earth, as the earth is then taken back from Satan’s usurped domination and restored to its original design and purpose.
“Refreshing” is the issue of relief after fatigue or suffering. It involves experiencing activities that relieve fatigue, and that invigorate and enliven, after having experienced afflictions, depression, grief, sorrow, hardship, and the like. And this is exactly what Israel’s history has been for the most part all along, and especially so since the time they became Satan’s “lawful captive” beginning with the Assyrian/Babylonian captivities. The prophets that God raised up at the time when Israel became Satan’s “lawful captive,” (like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.), have much to say about Israel’s sufferings as Satan’s captive.
However these prophets also have much to say about the final installment in God’s program with Israel during which the Lord will have ‘His day’ and will avenge His cause with Israel. During the Lord’s day Israel will experience activities from the Lord that will relieve their fatigue and deliver them from their afflictions, hardships, sorrows, and the like. (See, for example, Isaiah 25:1-26:11)
In connection with this, all of this prophesied relieve from their hardships and afflictions was declared by God to Israel to be “the refreshing,” just as is stated in Isaiah 28:12. In addition this “refreshing” was given a specified time at which it would be occurring in God’s program with Israel, and this was set forth to Israel on the time schedules that God gave to them regarding the outworking of the remainder of His program with them.
Now as the Gospel accounts relate, when God raised up John the Baptist to be the “voice crying in the wilderness” and the forerunner of Christ, He raised him up to begin to proclaim to Israel the “comfort” (Isaiah 40:1-11) that was near “at hand” for them. And it indeed was “at hand” for the time schedule was ticking down, so to speak, and that prophesied final installment in the program was drawing nigh. In connection with this, at John’s birth the Holy Ghost had his father prophesy what is set forth in Luke 1:67-75ff about the refreshing that was coming.
This good news of “the refreshing,” however, was not received by Israel, just as God foretold in Isaiah 28:11. Instead of receiving it, “they would not hear.” They rejected not only John the Baptist, but Christ as well, just as the Gospel accounts set forth. However God gave to Israel an extension of His mercy and forbearance following the rejection of Christ, (as was also prophesied about), and He gave “repentance to Israel” during the time described by the opening chapters of the book of Acts.
It is this further gracious opportunity for Israel to repent that Peter is operating under and is setting forth the details of in Acts 3. God’s program with Israel had by that time advanced on to the point “when the times of refreshing” were going to soon come “from the presence of the Lord.” Therefore if the people of Israel didn’t “repent” and “be converted, that (their) sins may be blotted out,” then “when the times of refreshing” came they would not experience the refreshing. Instead they would be counted among those of rebellious Israel, who as Peter goes on to describe in verses 22-23 would end up being “destroyed from among the people.”
Again, “the times of refreshing” is the final installment in God’s program with Israel during which the Lord will have ‘His day’ and refresh Israel by delivering them from all of their afflictions, hardships, sorrows, sufferings, and the like, and will avenge His cause with them on the earth.
Of course, “the times of refreshing” in God’s program with Israel, (as well as “the times of restitution of all things”), have yet to transpire because God has temporarily suspended His program and dealings with Israel. This God did when after concluding the extension of mercy and forbearance to Israel, instead of beginning the final installment to Israel’s program, He raised up Paul as a brand new apostle, just as is recorded in Acts 9. And as God has Paul teach us in his epistles, He has temporarily suspended His program with Israel and has brought in an unprophesied dispensation of His grace for us Gentiles in accordance with “the mystery of Christ.”
It is the dispensation of God’s grace to us Gentiles that is presently in effect. And for as long as it remains in effect, Israel’s “fulness” remains in abeyance, just as Romans 9-11 teaches. However when God concludes this present dispensation, He will then resume and fulfill His program and dealings with Israel. They will then have their prophesied “times of refreshing” followed by “the times of restitution of all things.”
– K.R. Blades