Question: What is meant by the “the times of refreshing” and “the times of restitution of all things”?
Answer: “The times of refreshing” refers to the Millennium, when Jesus Christ will return to the earth. “The times of restitution of all things” refers to the Restoration of the Gospel.
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19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come (the Second Coming) from the presence of the Lord;
20 And he (the Father) shall send Jesus Christ, which (who) before was preached unto you: (JST adds “whom ye have crucified;”)
21 Whom the heaven must receive (who will dwell in heaven) until the times of restitution of all things (the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith and the fulfillment of all the signs of the times), which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
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President Gordon B. Hinckley:
Peter foresaw the whole grand panorama of the centuries when he declared with prophetic vision:
“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).
All of these and others pointed to this glorious season, this most wonderful season in all the annals of human history, when there should come a day of restitution of true doctrine and true practice. That glorious day dawned in the year 1820, when a boy, earnest and with faith, walked into a grove of trees and lifted his voice in prayer, seeking that wisdom which he felt he so much needed.
There came in response a glorious manifestation. God the Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared and spoke with him. The curtains which had been closed for much of two millennia were parted to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times. There followed the restoration of the holy priesthood, first the Aaronic, and then the Melchizedek, under the hands of those who had held it anciently. Another testament, speaking as a voice from the dust, came forth as a second witness to the reality and the divinity of the Son of God, the great Redeemer of the world.
Keys of divine authority were restored, including those keys which were necessary to bind together families for time and eternity in a covenant which death could not destroy. The stone was small in the beginning. It was hardly noticeable. But it has grown steadily and is rolling forth to fill the earth.
My brethren and sisters, do you realize what we have? Do you recognize our place in the great drama of human history? This is the focal point of all that has gone before. This is the season of restitution. These are the days of restoration. This is the time when men from over the earth come to the mountain of the Lord’s house to seek and learn of His ways and to walk in His paths. This is the summation of all of the centuries of time since the birth of Christ to this present and wonderful day.
The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Lo, Zion’s standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day, …
Majestic rises on the world.
The centuries have passed. The latter-day work of the Almighty, that of which the ancients spoke, that of which the prophets and apostles prophesied, is come. It is here. For some reason unknown to us, but in the wisdom of God, we have been privileged to come to earth in this glorious age. There has been a great flowering of science. There has been a veritable explosion of learning. This is the greatest of all ages of human endeavor and human accomplishment. And more importantly, it is the season when God has spoken, when His Beloved Son has appeared, when the divine priesthood has been restored, when we hold in our hand another testament of the Son of God. What a glorious and wonderful day this is.
God be thanked for His generous bestowal upon us. We thank Him for this wondrous gospel, whose power and authority reach even beyond the veil of death. Given what we have and what we know, we ought to be a better people than we are. We ought to be more Christlike, more forgiving, more helpful and considerate to all around us.
We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history. This is the last and final dispensation toward which all in the past has pointed. I bear testimony and witness of the reality and truth of these things. I pray that every one of us may sense the awesome wonder of it all as we look forward shortly to the passing of a century and the death of a millennium.
Let the old year go. Let the new year come. Let another century pass. Let a new one take its place. Say good-bye to a millennium. Greet the beginning of another thousand years.
And so we shall go forward on a continuing path of growth and progress and enlargement, touching for good the lives of people everywhere for as long as the earth shall last.
At some stage in all of this onward rolling, Jesus Christ will appear to reign in splendor upon the earth. No one knows when that will be. Not even the angels in heaven will know of the time of His return. But it will be a welcome day...
May God bless us with a sense of our place in history and, having been given that sense, with our need to stand tall and walk with resolution in a manner becoming the Saints of the Most High, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 103; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 9; Excerpts from General Conference, October 1999, “At the Summit of the Ages,” by Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church.