Acts 3:19-21 Repent and be converted and He shall send Jesus
whom heaven must receive until the time of restoration
which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
Alfred Bryant makes an excellent point in his book Millenniarian Views: With Reasons for Receiving Them concerning the meaning of the phrase “restoration of all things” in Acts 3:21. The Greek word is apokatastasis and means restoration, although many are familiar with the KJV rendering of restitution. I will post a bit of what Bryant has to say on the term, and then some thoughts of my own.
The term restitution, apokatastasis, Bloomfield says, “properly signifies a restoration of anything to some former state,” and by implication for the better. Robinson, in his Greek lexicon, gives the same definition, and refers its use “to Messiah’s future reign or kingdom.” Webster, in his quart Dictionary, defines the word restitution to mean, among other things, “The act of recovering a former state, or posture;” and then referring to this passage in Acts, he says, “Restitution of all things, is, the putting the world in a holy and happy state.”
This is undoubtedly the meaning of the term, and hence it cannot refer, as some teach, to the exaltation of the righteous to heaven, or the consummation of all things at the last day, as commonly understood, for there is no restoration in any of these things, in the sense described, to a former and better state previously possessed. It could not be said of the Jews that they would be restored to their own land, if they had never before dwelt in it, nor of any man that he was restored to an office which he never before held.
Now, if this restitution of all things is spoken of by all God’s holy prophets since the world began, then certainly, without any doubt or speculation, we can, by searching the scriptures, learn what the apostle means.
As Bryant unfolds his thoughts, I believe we see one key difference between those that call themselves Historic Premillennialists and Dispensational Premillennialists. Those on the Historic side tend to see Christ’s coming as designed to restore the world as a whole, focusing on creation being set right. Dispensationalists tend to focus on Israel being restored. Certainly Historic Premillennialism includes the restoration of Israel, but only as a part of God’s plan to restore the entire earth. Dispensationalists agree that creation will be set aright, but Israel must be at the forefront of this plan.
One major issue I have with Dispensationalism is the idea that the physical nation of Israel will be saved outside of the work that Christ began in the church at His first coming. Historic Premillennialists set forth the idea that Israel will be saved and restored, but only through the church, something to which every dispensationalist I have interacted with objects. The questions that I have are: How can Christ’s work on the cross be undone (see Ephesians 2:12-17) which broke down the middle wall of partition between Israelite and Gentile? How can Israelites be saved outside of Messiah’s body? How is it that the early church was completely Israelite and at the second coming Israelites will be completely excluded from the church? It is this type of dichotomy that leaves dispensationalism unattractive to me.
I want to go back and focus on Peter’s statement in Acts 3:21, especially the phrase “by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” If we build our foundation upon God’s plan for the nation of Israel, we are starting too late. Peter himself, an Israelite and founding apostle in the church, stated that the message was proclaimed since the world began, that means we start in Genesis chapter 1. Dispensationalists too often begin in Genesis chapter 12 with the foundation for God’s plan for Israel. If we believe that the entire world is to be restored, then God’s plan for Israel is built upon God’s plan to restore all creation to its rightful state.
Consider the following. Man sinned and was banished from God’s presence in Eden. There was a cherubim with a flaming sword guarding the tree of life, preventing man from entering back into fellowship with the LORD. Adam, Eve, Abel, Seth, Enoch, and yes, even Noah could all go back and see the cherubim which prevented their return to paradise. Enoch walked with God who took Him. Took him where? To be with God of course, in His presence. This was proof in the midst of a sinful world that God can and will restore man to fellowship with Himself. The flood came from God which rendered some of the earth altered, yet some of the rivers remained the same, see Genesis 2:10-14. But where did the garden of Eden go? There is no trace of it or of the mysterious cherubim which guards it recorded after the flood.
In Genesis 12:1, when God called Abraham to “Get out from your country unto a land that I will show you”, we must view this against the backdrop of God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 to restore mankind back into fellowship with God here on earth in paradise. Abraham obeyed, not knowing where he was going. Why? In faith, Abraham was looking for a place where he could be in fellowship with God, back behind the veil, beyond the cherubim, with access to the tree of life. In essence, Abraham believed that God would either lead him back to paradise, or that God would bring paradise to wherever he would be. He looked for a place that was built and designed personally by God for man here on earth. Perhaps we could say along with the writer to the Hebrews that Abraham looked for a city whose builder and maker is God Himself, see Hebrews 11:8-10. The writer to the Hebrews came to this conclusion because he started at the beginning of the story as is evidenced by the previous verses in Hebrews 11. We must view God’s plan for Abraham’s life and God’s plan for the nation of Israel to be a part of His plan to restore all of creation to its rightful state.
Bryant also examines the term regeneration used in Matthew 19:28 in relation to God’s plan to restore the earth, which includes the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel. He examines several passages which speak of creation being restored including Isaiah 11:1-9, 33:22-24, 35:1-10, 41:18-20, 60:18-21, along with Psalm 72:11, 17 (although a couple of these references are incorrectly listed), 86:9, Daniel 7:27, Malachi 1:11, and a host of others, and that’s just in his second chapter (the first chapter is the introduction). I’m planning on reading this book again and trying to glean more from it the second time. I very rarely read a book twice, but this one is very good, even if I don’t agree with every detail. You can get it new at Alibris for less than $20. Check it out here.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman