The Restoration of All Things
By Fred O. Blakely
“Repent ye therefore and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the Presence of the Lord; and that He may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of His holy Prophets that have been from of old" (Acts 3:19-21, ASV).
Restoration, or restitution, was required of men by the Mosaic Law in cases where something was taken by one person from another. Exodus 22:1-15 sets forth these exactions, under which as much as a fivefold payment was imposed (cf. II Sam. 12:5-6; Lu. 19:8).
In our text, Peter speaks of things which God has promised "from of old" to restore, or the "restitution of all things" (KJV) which He is to make. We take this to refer primarily to the things of which God has deprived His creation in consequence of man's sin. Because of "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24), the Father is at liberty—nay, He is obligated—to make this restitution, and will certainly do so in His appointed time. Thus, will God Himself be governed by the law which He laid down for man, though He has wrongfully taken nothing from anyone.
The Primary Allusion. The primary reference of the Apostle undoubtedly is to the restoration of "the whole creation" to its uncursed state before the inception of sin. This, of course, includes man, as well as all of the impersonal creation, such as the heavens and earth, and the animal and vegetable life thereof.
All were made "subject to vanity," it will be recalled, because of Adam's sin (Rom. 8:20; cf. Gen. 3:14-19). God took away their pristine glory, so to speak, because of what man had done in rebelling against Him. Just so, in the great "restitution of all things” God will restore that of which He stripped His creation. As we have said, it is both lawful and obligatory for Him to do this, since His beloved Son has paid the penalty assessed by God in consequence of man's sin, and so redeemed both man and the cursed creation from it.
In point of legality, the creation, it thus appears, has already been freed from "the bondage of corruption" levied against it (Rom. 8:21). It but remains for God to work out the accomplishments which He appointed for Himself between the redemption and its full implementation at the second coming of Christ. That done, the last trump will sound, Christ will descend from heaven, and the grand restoration long foretold and anticipated will take place "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (I Cor. 15:51-52).
The Prophets' Pronouncements. "Since the world began," says Peter, God has "spoken" of these things by "the mouth of His holy Prophets" (KJV). The restoration, then, is clearly a part of His "eternal purpose" m the Son (Eph. 3:8-11; cf. ch. 1:9-10), and is as unthwartable as the rest of that purpose.
By implication, God Himself appears as the first Prophet of the coming restitution. His Word of condemnation and apprisal to the Serpent may be so taken, since He foretold the destined bruising of the Serpent's head by the Seed of women, who is Christ. To those instructed in the divine kingdom, that bruising, or destruction, would involve the remedy for all that the evil one had brought upon his victims by the deception.
Isaiah is especially plain and emphatic as he speaks of the corning jubilee. "The former troubles.' will be “forgotten”, he declares. "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth [‘wherein dwelleth righteousness,’ Peter adds (II Pet. 3:13)]: and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind. "I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy," he goes on to say (Isa. 64:14-19). "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads," the Prophet foretells in another place: "They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (ch. 35:10).
In chapter 25:6-9, Isaiah sings of the "feast of fat things" which God is to make in Mount Zion. "He will destroy the covering cast over all people," will "swallow up death in victory" [cf. I Cor. 15:54-55; II Cor. 5:4], "wipe away tears from off all faces" [Rev. 21:4], and take away "the rebuke of His people" from "off all the earth."
Inclusion of the impersonal creation in this great restoration is set forth in Isaiah 11:1-9 (as it also is in Rom. 8:18-25). "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." See also Job 5:21-23; Hos. 2:18; Hab. 2:14; Rev. 21:1-7; Rev. 22:1-7.
The Involvement of Israel. Especially out text of Acts 3:19-21 is rendered by the American Standard and Revised Standard versions, the restoration of fleshly line to the active favor of God seems to also be connected with the coming event. Since Christ was "appointed" for Israel, to bless them in "turning away" every one of them from their iniquities (v. 26), and since that eventuality is embraced in God's "covenant with them" (Rom. 11:27), the nation's regrafting into its ''own olive tree," from which it was severed by God because of unbelief, is assured (Rom. 11:24). Inasmuch as God blinded them and cut them off, (not without adequate cause), He will, thus, make restitution by grafting them again into the tree or commonwealth from which He severed them.
Peter's call for Israel to "repent and turn again," in order for their sins to be forgiven, appears to make that occurrence a condition for the coming of the "seasons of refreshing," and Jesus' return from heaven, where He must remain until the turning takes place. They are to acknowledge their Messiah in order that these things may transpire. As the angel was restrained from destroying Sodom until Lot got out of it, so it seems the Lord's return will be held up until "all Israel" gets sheltered from the wrath to come by receiving Him (Gen. 19:22; Rom. 11:26-27). God sent the Son to, among other things, "bring Jacob again to Him," and to "restore the preserved of Israel" (Isa. 49:1-9), and He evidently will not send Him from heaven to consummate the redemptive process until this end has been accomplished. Thus the Prophets, in anticipation of the Messianic age, spoke of the turning again of Israel's captivity (Jer. 30:3.4 9, 18; Ezek. 39:25-29: Amos 9:9-15), and of the nation's gathering together under the coming One's reign (Isa. 11:10-13). Among the first of such foretelling was that of Jacob in his famous prediction concerning Shiloh, or Christ. "Unto Him shall the gathering of the people [Israel] be" (Gen. 49:10). See also Ezek. 34:23-24: 37:24-28; Mic. 2:12-13.
The General Application. As we contemplate "the times of restitution of all things," a broad general application of what is to transpire emerges. Undoubtedly, it will be the occasion for righting all the wrongs of all the long centuries of man's "inhumanity to man." Since God is the Head of the universe, infractions of moral order must be called into account, properly judged and punished, and full restitution made to the defrauded parties. The Scriptures declare that God has "appointed a day" in which the universal and eternal assize will take place, under the authority of Jesus Christ, "the righteous Judge" (Acts 17:31; cf. Gen. 18:25; II Tim. 4:8). Then, we may be sure, every case will be fairly adjudicated, and full restoration made where there has been loss, especially in the line of devotion to God.
Cain and Abel will be in court that day. And the latter will be abundantly repaid for his faith and consequent martyrdom. The babies at Bethlehem, whose lives were taken instead of that of Jesus, with their parents who suffered so severely in the brutal massacre, will also appear and be generously recompensed. The holy Prophets and Apostles, together with all saints who have sacrificed for Christ, will be duly rewarded. The good name of those dishonored by slanderous falsehoods, or whose pure motives have been impugned, will get back what was lost. Oh, what a day that will be—"the times of restitution of all things!" "The sufferings of this present time," as endured for Christ, will be amply rewarded with a measure and glory to which they are wholly incomparable (Rom. 8:18).
In this sure prospect, let us labor and patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. Every wrong shall then be righted, every deprivation for His sake restored a hundredfold, and the long, cruel record of earthly abuses set straight and made right. This is the heritage of those who are on the Lord's side, and what a blessed and efficacious incentive it is to diligence and endurance!