Followers of William Branham point to Acts 3:21 as a New Testament passage that proves that a Gentile prophet will come prior to the second coming of Christ.
William Branham never comments on this passage
It is difficult to see how one can use this passage to justify putting William Branham forth as a prophet when he never uses it himself. He was quick to use a number of scriptures to point to himself but never used this one.
- Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren.
- Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.
- Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and so that he may send the Messiah appointed for you—that is, Jesus. This one heaven must receive until the time all things are restored, which God declared from times long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.
What does the passage mean?
No reference to a Gentile prophet
There is no reference in this verse to a Gentile prophet, or to any prophet, for that matter. It talks about
Peter is simply saying that Christ must remain in heaven, not in retirement, but ruling the church and the world until the time comes (lit., “times”; the plural may be intended to convey the idea that it is still a long way off; cf. v. 20) for God to restore all things. There is an important sense in which the renewal of all things has already begun with the coming of Jesus—or even earlier, with the coming of John the Baptist (cf. Mal. 4:5.; Matt. 11:14; 17:11). But the thought here is of the consummation of the kingdom on Jesus’ return. This had been announced by God long ago through his holy prophets (compare v. 18; Isa. 34:4; 51:6; 65:17).
The restitution or restoration of all things
Jesus has been received into the divine presence, and will remain there until the consummation of all that the prophets, from earliest days, have foretold. But the word meaning “consummation” or “establishment” may also, in appropriate contexts, bear the sense “restoration” or “restitution.”
If a reference to the “restoration of all things” were to be recognized here, we should be reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:12, “Elijah does come first to restore all things” (not found in Luke’s account of the transfiguration).
If the meaning “restoration” were the only one possible here, one could adduce Paul’s picture of a renovated creation coinciding with the investiture of the sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8:18–23). But the meaning “establishment” or “fulfillment” is equally well attested, and makes good sense in the present context, in reference to the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy, culminating in the establishment of God’s order on earth.
If Jesus must remain in heaven until this consummation, this is in line with Paul’s exposition of Ps. 110:1: Christ must reign (at the right hand of God) until all hostile powers are overthrown.
The doctrine of the "session" of Christ
Peter declares that Jesus ‘must remain in heaven’ until the time for fulfilment of the prophesied restoration of all things. This is the doctrine of the ‘session’ of Christ—he sits at the right hand of God (Ps. 8:5–6; Heb. 2:6–10; cf. Ps. 110:1; Col. 3:1)—a teaching that became increasingly prominent in the apostolic ministry (Acts 5:30–31; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:19–23; compare 1 Cor. 15:25–28; Phil. 2:9–11).
Peter does not elaborate on the details of the heavenly ministry of Christ at this point. We know, however, that he is our constant advocate with the Father (1 John 1:5–2:1), and that he continues, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to nurture lively faith in his followers, such that we are spiritually raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:4–6). And he exercises ‘all authority’ as the Mediator-King, who is ‘head over everything for the church, which is his body’ (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20–21).
What does the restoration refer to?
Clearly the phrases in Acts 3:20–21 and 26 refer to variety of events which span Luke’s and (Peter’s) past, present, and future. For example, in v. 20 and 21 we hear about the future sending of Jesus and the fact that he must remain in heaven until “the restoration of all.” In v. 26 we hear about the past resurrection of Jesus.
The cause and effect relationship between what is mentioned in v. 19 (repentance) and what is said in v. 20 (times of refreshing) should be compared to v. 26, which speaks of “blessing you in the turning of each from your wickedness.” The “you” in each case is Jews, who, as Acts 1:6 has already said, are looking for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. In v. 20 the “Lord” seems to mean God who will send Christ again, and Christ’s second coming is seen as in some sense dependent on Israel’s repentance (compare Rom. 11:12, 15, 26).
The emphasis in v. 21 should be placed on the word πας (all). Christ will not come back until the restoration of “all.” In view of the use the cognate term in 1:6, it is hard not to see in this a reference to the restoration of all Israel, not some sort of generic universal restoration of “everything” or all persons.
Alternatively, it is possible (but less probable) that the meaning is that Christ will return after the “establishment” or “fulfillment” of all (the Scriptures spoke of). The context is against this last translation, for the focus here is on the appeal to repent, which shows that the restoration in mind is likely of Jewish persons to their proper relationship to God through Christ.
Finally, it is important to note that the word "first" (v. 26) suggests the wider mission to Gentiles which will be chronicled later in Acts. God sent Jesus to his own people first to bless them by turning them from their sins and back to a right relationship with God.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Acts 3:19-22 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009).
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Ac 3:19–22 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
- Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible, Ac 3:19–22 (Biblical Studies Press, 2006).
- David J. Williams, Acts, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, 71-72 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011).
- F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 84-85 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988).
- Gordon J. Keddie, You Are My Witnesses: The Message of the Acts of the Apostles, Welwyn Commentary Series, 58 (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2000).
- Ben Witherington, III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 187 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998).