God created the world, a temple (see Heaven #4), as a place where deity and creatures could exist in harmonious love and shalom. That was the point. Humanity was created to care for and rule this temple on behalf of God. The trust God placed within humanity was betrayed and the temple, filled with divine presence, was defiled. God’s entire program through out the rest of the biblical narrative is the recovery and restoration of that which was lost. That is why we see those words so much at the heart of the biblical narrative like: reconcile, redeem, restore, recover, return, renew, regenerate, and resurrect. These words, all, point us to the work of God in reclaiming his handiwork from the Evil One.
Insight from a Restoration Father: David Lipscomb
The truth summarized in the previous paragraph was clearly grasped in previous generations among Restorationists. David Lipscomb writes with clarity and power on this theme. He says that the “leading aim and end of Christ’s mission” was to reclaim the Earth … not just human beings as God’s.
“The object of God’s dealing with man, and especially the mission of Christ to earth, was to rescue the world from the rule and dominion of the evil one, from the ruin into which it had fallen through sin, and to rehabilitate it with the dignity and the glory it had when it came from the hand of God; to restore man—spiritually, mentally, and physically—to the likeness of his Maker … to displace the barrenness and desolation of the earth with the verdue and beauty of Eden … to make this earth again a garden of God’s own planting …
The leading aim of and end of Christ’s mission on this earth was not to make man religious. He was religious before Jesus came. The specific object was not to make man moral or honest; this was a secondary and subsidiary concomitant and a means to the great end … The failure to appreciate the leading idea of Christ’s mission—leads to grievous mistakes … The one great purpose of Christ’s mission to earth and the establishment of his kingdom on earth and all of the provisions he has made and the forces he has put in operation to affect man’s course of life, were and are to rescue this world from the rule and dominion of the evil one, to deliver it from the ruin into which it had fallen through man’s sin, and to bring it back to its original and normal relations with God and the universe, that the will of God shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (David Lipscomb, “Ruin and Redemption of the World” in Salvation from Sin, pp. 114-115)
It is clear from previous posts that Polycarp, Clement of Rome, Augustine and Jonathan Edwards would have given a hearty “Amen” to what Lipscomb writes. Of course what Lipscomb writes was written before the war on the Nashville Bible School Tradition and the secularization of the faith by R. L. Whiteside, L.S. White and Foy E. Wallace Jr.
Lipscomb however understood not only the general flow of the biblical narrative but he grasped the significance of all those words in the biblical vocabulary of salvation. Lipscomb could point to such specific passages as Matthew 19. 28 and Acts 3.21.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, at the time of the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (NIV).
Most scholars agree that this is an eschatological passage and it seems fairly obvious from its context that this is the case. The point to be established from this text is what is meant by the “renewal of all things.” Various translations render the Greek as “regeneration” (NASB), “new world” (ESV), “in the world that is to be” (REB); and “new creation” (Anchor Bible), “regeneration of all things” (ASV).
It is important to note just what Jesus says for he ties directly into the “hope of
” in this text. He doe not say after the destruction of all things, or the abandonment of all things. This is not a minor semantic point. The very point of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection is to rescue the world and all that is within it from the “ruin” it has fallen. Israel
The Greek term, palingenesia, literally means “new genesis” or “coming back to life” (TDNT 1.686). The term is only used twice in the NT, here in Matthew and in Titus 3.5. Outside of the NT, the Jewish writer, Philo, uses the term three times in the exact same way that Matthew does of “everything” and Paul does of humanity. On the Life of Moses uses the term twice to describe the “new earth” that emerged after the destruction of the flood. And interestingly enough Philo uses the term in On the Creation of the World to describe restored creation after destruction by fire.
What Matthew reports Jesus saying here is that the world will be renewed, recreated, regenerated, or come back to life. W.F. Albright and C.S. Mann in their Anchor Bible commentary suggest that Jesus is promising the “new creation” to his disciples. “All things” the Lord says will be renewed … The Revised English Bible words it well,
“Truly, I tell you: in the world that is to be, when the Son of Man is seated on his glorious throne …” Perhaps even better is the Message, “In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously …”
What we have just said about Matthew 19.28 is in harmony with numerous passages in the Hebrew Bible and totally consistent with Colossians 1, Romans 8 and Revelation 21-22.
It is the language of those prophetic passages and Jesus’ words that lie in the background of Acts 3.21. Peter stood up before the crowd and said,
“[Jesus] must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (NIV).
Surely Peter recalled something of his Master’s lesson. Again it is helpful to read this text in various translations as they try to convey the meaning of the Greek into English. The
, REB, NAB and NRSV read “until the universal restoration.” The ESV reads “until the time for restoring all things …” Today’s English Version reads “until the time comes for all things to be made new.” The CEV reads “until God makes all things new” And the first English translation ever (though of Latin rather than Greek) that of John Wycliff reads “until the restitution of all things” … not a bad rendering. Eugene Peterson renders the text in The Message as “until everything is restored to order again just the way God said it would be.” NEB
The Greek term here is apokatastasis. The verb form of this word occurs 8x in the NT but the noun occurs only here in Acts 3. The word has a rich history, interestingly enough, in the LXX translation of prophetic texts that Peter says he is testifying too. It used for example by Jeremiah in 16.15; 23.8; 24.6 (LXX). Ezekiel uses the term in his poignant allegory of
in ch. 16.55 referring to being restored. The LXX uses the term in Daniel 4.33f and in 1 Maccabees 15.3. Israel
Thus when Peter chose this particular word there is already a rich history (and we have not explored all of it) to it. Link in his article on the term in the third volume of Dictionary of New Testament Theology he notes “The apokatastasis panton does not mean the conversion of all of mankind, but the restoration of all things and circumstances which the OT prophets proclaimed, i.e. the universal renewal of the earth” (p. 148).
Peter explicitly roots this universal renewal of all things in the hope of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus is remaining in heaven until God brings about what the Prophets said he would do. Peter did not invent the renewal of the world … it has a long history in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish literature of the time. Thus what Jesus said would happen in Matthew 19 and what Peter says will happen in Acts 3 is what Paul says will happen in Romans 8 and it is what we see happening in Revelation 21-22. All of these things are in accordance with the hope of
. The hope that Peter says lay at the heart of the prophetic message … God is restoring everything to order again. Israel
God has never given up on his dream for creation, if Jesus and Peter are to be believed. David Lipscomb seems to have been on target about the mission of Christ. The mission of Christ is to renew all of God’s creation to bring it back into the glory it had when he declared it to be very good. That place is the resurrected earth. That place is heaven. Thus we, as believers stand with the early Christians, when we long to see the Resurrected Lord, to live with his Resurrected Saints, on his renewed, restored and Resurrected Earth. A place where God will dwell with humanity … just as he did in
. I cannot wait. Eden