The Bible speaks of wonderful future times of comfort and joy. When will these times of refreshing be, and how can true believers experience them?
As the apostle Peter preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God, he told his audience, “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” (Acts 3:19-20, emphasis added).
Peter was addressing a crowd that represented an especially privileged nation that recently had the Messiah dwelling among them. While explaining how a lame man had been healed by the power of Jesus Christ, Peter told the people that they had rejected and murdered the One responsible for this miracle (verses 15-16). Even so, Peter acknowledged that they did this out of ignorance (verse 17).
Peter was showing his audience that the Messiah had come just as the prophets had indicated (verse 18). He urged them to repent so their sins could be “blotted out” and so God could send “times of refreshing” (verse 19). Peter later added that there was no hope of salvation except through the One they had crucified (Acts 4:12).
But what did he mean by “times of refreshing”? How were these times linked with repenting, being converted and having our sins blotted out?
Hoping for physical refreshing
The Greek word rendered “refreshing” denotes “any kind of refreshment, as rest, or deliverance from evils of any kind” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Acts 3:19). Refreshment can be likened to cool, pristine water on a hot day. When Peter made this statement to his listeners in Jerusalem, the people could quickly relate to his words.
A favorite idea among the Jews in Old Testament times was that when the awaited Messiah came, there would be times of physical rest and refreshing. “They anticipated the times of the gospel as a period when they would have rest from their enemies, a respite from the evils of oppression and war, and great national prosperity and peace” (ibid.).
This future fulfillment is well supported by the Scriptures. For example, the psalmist shows that in God’s Kingdom righteous judgment will bring joy (Psalm 96:10-13), and Isaiah describes a refreshed earth becoming like the Garden of Eden (Isaiah 51:3). Jeremiah portrays the time when Israel will “have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid” (Jeremiah 30:10). Joel envisions a fountain of life-giving water flowing from the house of God (Joel 3:18).
But along with this wonderful future prophecy, there appears to be a sense in which the refreshing comes now to those who repent.
Along with this wonderful future prophecy, there appears to be a sense in which the refreshing comes now to those who repent.Peter outlined the steps everyone must take to be blessed with “refreshing.” He said, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Of course, we must also take to heart all the words of Jesus Christ (verse 22).
The message of repentance and lasting change is just as important today as when Peter spoke of it.
Refreshment through repentance
Although there is often hardship involved in living God’s way of life, there is also refreshing in the sense of having peace of mind (John 16:33) when we repent of our sins, are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. This peace of mind is possible, even under difficult conditions, through the “comfort” of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:4; Acts 9:31).
An insightful example of repentance is found in King David’s humble prayer in which he asked for total forgiveness for his grievous sins. When he finally realized the terribleness of his sin in committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered to protect himself, he prayed, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2).
David sought the only solution that would bring him the inner peace and “refreshing” of being restored to God’s loving favor. David said, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).
God is always willing and able to erase or “blot out” the record of our sins, if we repent of them.
Blotting out our sins
God, who does not change, said, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). He also said, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12).
We all sin; but God has provided the only solution for us to be restored to a peaceful relationship with Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
God calls Himself “the fountain of living waters.” He is the source of spiritual “waters” that can cleanse us from sin (Jeremiah 2:13). This is the washing of regeneration (renewal) that comes from God’s Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6).
When we repent and our sins are forgiven by God, we can truly enjoy a refreshing peace of mind in contrast to the turmoil and confusion we endure before conversion. This is a promise from God that cements our relationship with Him. As Paul explained to the Philippians, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
The apostle John received a message from Jesus Christ to encourage Christians to make every effort to overcome the shortcomings of the self and to resist Satan and the evil pulls of this world. God promises overcomers that He will not remember their sins and will cause their names and their lives to endure forever. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (Revelation 3:5). See more about this in the article “The Book of Life.”
Future times of refreshing and restoration
God, who desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), is going to eventually give everyone an opportunity to become a member of His eternal family. People called in the future will have to take the same steps of repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit that Christians must now take in order to be refreshed through Christ and receive salvation.
This future time of refreshing will be a time of the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). Restoration (“restitution,” in the King James Version) means “‘to restore a thing to its former state or situation,’ as restoring a ‘strained’ or ‘dislocated’ limb to its former soundness” (Barnes’ Notes).
When Jesus Christ establishes His Kingdom on earth, peace and security, comfort and joy will be offered to the whole world (Isaiah 51:3, 11). (Read more about this wonderful time in our articles “What Is the Kingdom of God?” and “1,000 Years—the Millennium.”)
At that time, beginning at Jerusalem and gradually spreading across all the nations, a “fountain” will be opened, representing spiritual cleansing, the removing of sin and defilement from the people (Zechariah 13:1).
Sin has brought on mankind most of the sorrows, suffering and decay that the world sees today. This prophesied recovery from sin of the entire world will bring back the peace, order and beauty that God intended for humanity from the beginning (Romans 8:20; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1, 4).
What shall we do?
What is important for us to remember is that “times of refreshing” will come to each individual whose sins have been blotted out by the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 4:7-8). Those who ask God for a change of heart and who live by Christ’s teachings will be on the path to God’s gift of conversion.