In Acts 3:19-21 we read: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”
We learn from these verses that the restoration of all things has been in God’s plan since the beginning. We see from these scriptures that there are specific times of restoration that God has promised to humanity. Now in Christian history there have been several movements of restoration, but obviously none have “filled the bill” as the total restoration God has spoken of here. Note that God is mentioning the restoration of all things spoken of by his prophets and not the restoration of “all things” in general. The latter is a heresy that appears from time to time. According to this heresy some people believe that even the devil will be restored.
In the many restoration movements of history, some things have been restored, but certainly not “all things” spoken of by the prophets. We don’t have to look very far to see evidence of this fact. When something is restored it is put back in its original order. The Hebrew idea of restoration is generally expressed by the word shub, a word that has a strong idea of “returning” or even “coming home.” When God deals with the restoration of all things spoken of by the prophets, this implies that there are many areas of restoration. Let us look at some of them.
THE RESTORATION OF OUR WORLD AND UNIVERSE
We are living in a world severely damaged by sin and rebellion. The truly amazing and miraculous thing is that our damaged world and universe can still reflect the glory of God (Psa. 19:1-3). This sin and rebellion did not begin with man, but with Satan, and with certain angelic beings. We see this reflected by the fact that there was already a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden before man’s fall. There was also a beguiling serpent there. However, man quickly became ensnared in the web of evil, and fell from his delightful abode with God.
As a result of this intrusion of sin into God’s program, the cosmos was thrown into some degree of chaos. It is much like someone casting sand into a delicate machine. Since this intrusion, the universe has been creaking and groaning. The Bible tells us: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:22). We learn in another place that the creation is wearing out, and that the heavens will someday be folded up like an old garment and replaced (Heb. 1:10-12).
One author I read recently said that the earth will be “recycled.” This expresses the biblical idea very well. In the scripture we are told that the earth has been founded forever, and obviously will not pass away in the sense of being totally destroyed (Psa. 78:69; 104:5 & Ecc. 1:4). Yet, in another place we are told that the heavens will pass away and the earth with its works will be burned up (2 Pet. 3:10). Obviously the burning is a purging of the evil elements of this world as we see also in Malachi 4:1-3. After the burning, the righteous will tread on the ashes of the wicked.
Once this earth is purged, God will introduce his new heaven and earth. Peter tells us, “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). The renewing of the earth is probably in the same sense that we are renewed when we come to Christ. We are still the same physical persons, but we have undergone a radical transformation.
THE RESTORATION OF MAN
This brings us to the second area of restoration – the restoration of humankind. We humans are indeed broken and shattered by sin. In Psalm 8:4-8, we get the picture of what God originally intended for us. The Psalmist says, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (Psa. 8:5). The Psalmist goes on to describe how God gave man dominion over all his creation. The author of Hebrews commenting on these verses adds that God “‘put everything under his feet.’ In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him” (Heb. 2:8). With this last statement the author makes clear that man has not reached the goal that God intended.
The author of Hebrews quickly goes to the positive side and says, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). Adam was given dominion over God’s creation, but Adam lost that dominion through sin. In doing so, he condemned the race to sin and death. The Last Adam, Jesus or Yeshua, regained the dominion. The Apostle Paul tells us: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). Thus by believing in and receiving Yeshua, broken and defiled humans can receive their restoration. All that was lost in Adam’s fall can and will be restored in Yeshua. This includes fellowship with God forevermore and ruling for God and with Christ on this earth.
THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH
The disciples asked Jesus what they must have felt was an urgent question: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus refused to deal with the subject at that time. Too much history had to pass by before the days of restoration for Israel would be at hand. Nevertheless, since the tragic destruction of Israel and the Temple in AD 70, the Jewish people have cried for restoration. It is sad indeed that Israel as a nation had to undergo the same humiliation as Adam. Israel fell to the depths of degradation, but just as in Adam’s case, God has promised the restoration of both the land and the people.
In Isaiah 49:6, we learn that the restorer of Israel will also be a “light to the Gentiles.” God says to his Messiah, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Regarding Israel, we can rejoice that the times of national restoration seem to be upon us. The people have been re-gathered home from the nations of the world, the ancient cities have been rebuilt, and the land has been largely restored. However, there is much more to come.
The Lord who restores Israel has the dual job of restoring the church, lifting up a standard for it and bringing it home to Zion (Isa. 11:12). In the meantime the situation is dismal. We Christians have lost a whole way of life. We have virtually lost the biblical pattern and strayed from the paths of righteousness. We look in amazement at the earliest Church and wonder how it could have been so successful, but we forget that the earliest Christians were reflecting a milieu, a way of life, entirely different than ours. Theirs was a biblical and Old Testament pattern. They not only knew God’s commands, but their lives were dedicated to applying those commands to themselves. It was a part of the very fiber of their beings. In our day we have forgotten commandments. We do not realize that there are over a thousand of them even in our New Testament, and they largely go unheeded. The church has moved from its Judaic moorings and has become comfortable in a lawless Gentile world. Now after 2000 years the church has often come to reflect even the lawlessness of the world.
In past centuries God has sent times of refreshing upon the church according to his good promises through the prophets. Yet according to God’s Word we can look forward to a general restoration of all things as the end of this age approaches. It is encouraging today to see this restoration beginning even in small ways. It is encouraging to find some young people returning to the God whom their fathers and grandfathers discarded and disdained, even though these very fathers held to a form of Christianity. For the past several years in the US, hundreds of thousands of men have come together to reaffirm biblical principles in their lives and homes. Some young couples are seeking to raise children once more according to biblical patterns. Others are involved in the restoration of marriages, in counseling and putting broken lives back together, etc. I believe all this is a small sign of a move toward godliness.
Today we need our souls restored (Psa. 23:3); we need God to restore unto us the joy of our salvation (Psa. 51:12). We need to pray like the grief-stricken Jeremiah prayed long ago in Lamentations 5:21, “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old.”
– Jim Gerrish
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem (original publication date, 1996).