This verse has long fascinated me. I find the words “must” and “all” most
compelling. Could you elaborate and shed more light?
“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 3:21; KJV)
Your question is a very good one. As with Peter’s initial sermon on Pentecost, this passage also breaks the new, unexpected ground of the formerly unknown mystery of Messiah’s twice appearing to Israel.
In the rare instances where it might have been expected that Messiah would suffer before entering into His glory (Jn 1:29, 36; Lk 2:34-35; 24:26; 1Pet 1:11), this was typically conceived of something that would happen in the final tribulation, towards the very end, whereupon the slain Messiah would very shortly rise with the rest of the righteous dead, slay the Antichrist (compare Isa 11:4 in the Greek Septuagint with 2Thes 2:8) and begin His rod iron rule over the nations out of a cleansed and restored Jerusalem.
Though fully foretold in the mystery contained in the prophetic writings (Acts 26:22-23; Ro 16:25-26) no one had ever conceived that Messiah would come twice. Even where it might have been understood by the prophets and a rare few that Messiah must die before entering upon His rod iron reign over the nations, it was never imagined that His resurrection would not be at the ‘last day’, but in the midst of history, creating a new and unexpected interim between the advents. Before the Spirit’s revelation at Pentecost, this was NOT on anyone’s radar. This is why Paul would speak of the ‘mystery of Christ’ and the ‘mystery of the gospel’.
With the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost, it was now revealed (1Pet 1:11-12) that Jesus’ foretold death was to result in His ascension to God’s right hand, there to remain until His post-tribulational return. This is what Peter means by his use of the word, ‘must’. The heavens ‘must’ receive Jesus, which is to say He must continue to remain seated at God’s right hand, UNTIL His enemies are made His footstool at His return to destroy the Antichrist, raise the righteous dead, and Deliver captive Israel at the great day of the Lord (Dan 12:1-2). It is then, at that day, of which ‘ALL’ the prophets spoke, that Israel’s fortunes would be restored as at the first. It is then that ‘ALL’ the prophets expected all the covenants of promise to be most completely fulfilled in their regeneration and return, as a newly born, entirely Spirit filled nation. This is the day that ends the time of gentile dominion, with the judgment of the wicked and long awaited restoration of Israel. Until then, Jesus ‘must’ wait at God’s right hand ‘TILL’ His enemies are made His footstool.
This, of course, takes place with the Deliverer’s descent out of Zion (heavenly Zion) to the earthly Zion (Isa 59:17-21; Ro 11:25-29), as the beleaguered nation is spiritually born / raised “in one day” (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10), able now by the Spirit of revelation to ‘look upon’ their descending Messiah as the One whom the nation pierced (Ps 102:13; 110:3; Zech 12:10 with Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7).
Just to add this quick note not directly related: As Saul was profoundly impacted by the spectacle of Stephen’s martyrdom, his secure categories all shattered, just so, we may well infer that it will take the martyr witness of the end time remnant to prepare the Jewish heart world-wide for the lifting of the veil at Jesus’ return, we believe in remarkable analogy to Paul’s arrest on the road to Damascus. Here will be the difference in outcome between the Holocaust and Jacob’s trouble! It is where God will have brought the bride in final clarity of prophetic witness and the fullness of the stature of Jesus.
Her final witness will be as indelibly impressed on a restored Israel’s memory as Stephen’s martyrdom was to Paul. It is not only because the clock has struck, but because the body of Christ, as bearer of the precious seed, “the pillar and ground of truth”, will have been brought to its appointed completion. THIS is why Israel’s eyes will be opened “at the set time to favor Zion” (Ps 102:13). It is the vindication of God’s eschatological purpose that Israel be made jealous through a largely gentile bride, the “foolish nation” of prophecy.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”