The Apostle Peter made one of the most wonderfully inspiring statements in the Bible shortly after commencing his ministry early in the Ephesian era of the Church.
Looking out at the crowd of Israelites gathered around himself and the Apostle John, all just having witnessed the dramatic healing of a lame beggar, Peter cried out, “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” (Acts 3:19-21). In verse 19, that word refreshing comes from the Greek anapsuxis, which refers to a refreshing revival, or newness of life!
The offer is still current! And it will remain so, for all humankind to hear it—ultimately!
It will remain so until the last person born of woman hears that message and makes a conscious choice to either accept it or reject it.
Taken in its full context, including verses 21 through 26 of Acts 3, Peter’s cry to those people was in actuality a precise summary of the gospel message, and it referred to actions required of us in order to gain salvation:
Receive absolute forgiveness of sin.
Be renewed, refreshed in the Spirit of God.
Let the Word of God—the risen Christ—live in you.
Heed the words of the prophets.
Joyfully anticipate Christ’s return.
In a member and co-worker letter dated Oct. 29, 1976, Herbert W. Armstrong referred to Peter’s declarative statement in the following terms: “There is no more central, pivotal passage in the Bible than this.”
Why did Mr. Armstrong place such emphasis on it? Because it reveals the very beginning point of the fulfillment of man’s incredible human potential!
As Mr. Armstrong described it in a sermon given on Dec. 17, 1983, “Restitution means ‘restoring to a former condition, a former state or condition’; ‘restoring what had been taken away.’ … So now I ask you, what is Christ coming to restore that had been taken away? What had been taken away was the government of God. The government of God! And, if you know the whole Bible, that’s the whole story of the Bible. That’s the whole purpose. Everything!”
Thus God’s very purpose for creating us cannot even begin until we personally yield to the Father, through Jesus Christ, and permit Him to begin this restitution in our lives.
On the grander scale, the very plan of God for all mankind cannot go forward till Christ returns, with the saints of God—the converted firstfruits who have stayed the course—and then begins the “restitution of all things” on Earth, eventually to reach beyond this globe into the entire universe!
It therefore behooves us all, as the firstfruits of God’s Family, to deepen our understanding of this “central, pivotal passage” in our Bibles, so we may more diligently fulfill God’s purpose in our daily lives. Mr. Armstrong emphasized the special importance of this process of personal salvation to us thus: “Brethren, the world doesn’t understand the awe-inspiring things God is preparing for us. The time is our generation. The one thing above all else in God’s mind right now is restoring His government to this Earth” (co-worker letter, Sept. 29, 1976).
Let us then briefly study the Apostle Peter’s powerful statement and refresh ourselves in the knowledge of the whole process of our personal salvation. In so doing, we shall be refreshed in understanding just how God is going about His great task of “restoring His government to this Earth.”
John the Baptist prepared the way for the brief ministry of Jesus Christ in human form. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2).
That is the same message the Apostle Peter declared on the day God raised up the first era of His Church, saying, “Repent, and be baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]” (Acts 2:38).
But, repent of what?
No one explained it better than Mr. Armstrong. He answered that very question in his book The Incredible Human Potential: “Repent [of] sin. And what is sin? ‘Sin is the transgression of the law’ (1 John 3:4). What law? The law that the carnal mind, hostile to God, is not subject to—the law of God (Romans 8:7). Again, we read of ‘the Holy [Spirit], whom God hath given to them that obey him’ (Acts 5:32).”
Mr. Armstrong then went on to expound on just what is real repentance, and how it is granted. “Yet no one can, of himself, say: ‘Oh now, I see—I must repent. All right, I hereby repent.’ One does not just decide casually, as a matter of routine, to repent. Why?
“Jesus Christ said that none can come to Him, except the Spirit of the Father draw him (John 6:44, 65). God grants repentance (Romans 2:4). God calls one, and convicts the mind and conscience by His Spirit, working on the mind externally. Usually a real struggle goes on within. The person has been shaken to know he has done wrong—that he is wrong—he has sinned—he is a sinner! He is brought to real repentance, not only for what he has done, but for what he now sees that he is. It is not easy. The self never wants to die. To repent is to make an unconditional surrender to God—to obey His law!”
Repentance is the first step to conversion. Mr. Armstrong often described conversion as turning around 180 degrees from our natural disposition to rebel against God’s government, and turning to a position of total and willing acceptance of His government over our lives.
Mr. Armstrong explained that there are two basic conditions necessary for us to receive the Holy Spirit, the power that enables us to overcome sin and engage in the lifelong process of real conversion, growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
“These are the two conditions to receiving God’s gift of the Holy Spirit: repentance and faith. Being baptized is the outward manifestation of the inner faith in Christ. Repentance is not merely being sorry for something one has done—or even many such sins. It is a real repentance of what one is and has been—of his whole past attitude and life apart from God. It is a total change of mind and heart and direction of life. It is a change to a new way of life. It is a turning from the self-centered way of vanity, selfishness, greed, hostility to authority, envy, jealousy and unconcern for the good and welfare of others to the God-centered way of obedience, submission to authority, love toward God more than love of self and of love and concern for other humans equal to self-concern” (ibid).
In the same section of The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong expounded on the meaning of conversion: “The two above-mentioned conditions to becoming a Christian—repentance and faith—we ourselves must perform. But these do not make us Christians—do not convert us. It is what God does—giving His Holy Spirit by His grace as His free gift—that converts us. Our repentance and faith do not earn the receiving of God’s Spirit. God does not give us His Spirit because we repent and believe. He gives His Spirit because He wants to give it. He wants us to have His Spirit as His gift before we repent. He merely requires repentance and faith as conditions.”
It’s that Holy Spirit, typed by the sweet breath of life, that so greatly refreshes us, unlocking our minds to see the truth in the light of the Word of God!
Times of Refreshing
Having fulfilled the prerequisites to becoming a begotten son of God, our incredible human potential is unlocked. We have open access to the Creator of humankind, that we might commune with Him for the rest of our lives, as long as we remain obedient to Him. This access to the Eternal is enabled by God’s Holy Spirit actually entering into our very being! This is that Comforter that Jesus Christ promised to all whom God would call to repentance. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The Greek word comforter means intercessor, consoler or advocate.
The Holy Spirit unlocks our mind to receive revelation of knowledge from the God-plane level, spiritual knowledge, the very knowledge of God’s plan and purpose for all things! “[T]he Comforter which is the Holy [Spirit], whom the Father will send in my name, [it] shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (verse 26).
Then there’s a great added bonus to receiving God’s Holy Spirit. “[W]hen [it], the Spirit of truth, is come, [it] will guide you into all truth: for [it] shall not speak of [itself]; but whatsoever [it] shall hear, that shall [it] speak: and [it] will shew you things to come ” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit opens our mind to the future! It gives us the power to relate today’s events to the prophecies of God and to understand their inevitable outcome in advance of that happening! What great comfort comes from that!
This is what the Apostle Peter was teaching would be the wonderfully consoling result of repentance and conversion to the way of life that the Father promises us if we will only come under His loving and merciful government. It brings great times of refreshing and renewal! Willing submission to God’s government enables us to weather all storms by the power of His Holy Spirit until we come to that wonderful new beginning, “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
Heed the Prophets
The burning question is, where is that government today?
God’s government is a government of restitution, reconciliation and restoration. Where do we see that uniquely in place and operating today? In His one true Church, remnant in form, yet vital in the power of the Holy Spirit and the faith of Jesus Christ!
God’s Work on Earth is a work of prophecy, providing a vital witness, an unerring proof of the power of the Comforter in action, showing things that “must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1). The Key of David television program and the Philadelphia Trumpet magazine and website offer daily proof of where the Spirit of prophecy is actively working today.
But, the Spirit requires a prophet to work within, through whom God declares His prophecies. The presence of new revelation on the world scene today is the greatest singular proof of just where God is conducting His Work in this very day and age. No person whose mind has been opened by the power of the Spirit of God, and who has not limited or quenched that Spirit by rebelling against God’s government, can deny the revelation of that prophet.
Read our free booklet Who Is “That Prophet”? If you comprehend it, then you have proven where God is working today preparing for Jesus Christ’s soon-coming return! You will have proven where God’s government operates, very actively, at this very moment in the history of mankind!
If you really understand the biblical truth revealed in the pages of that booklet, you will be looking forward to and joyfully anticipating the return of Jesus Christ to begin “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
Then, every day of your life, you will be motivated by a desire to submit to God’s government. In so doing, you will be striving to reach your peak capacity in doing your part to speed the coming of that glorious day, the time of the coming of the Kingdom of God to this Earth, when the whole world will experience “the times of refreshing” that “shall come from the presence of the Lord”!