The Coming of Christ and the Restitution of All Things

The Coming of Christ and the

Restitution of All Things

 

Introduction 

Acts 3:19-26 is among the more difficult passages regarding Christ's second coming. Peter mentions the "times of refreshing" and the "restitution of all things" associated with the coming of the Lord. What do these phrases mean and when were they fulfilled? 

"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 

John the Baptist and the Restoration of all Things

The term rendered "restitution" in Acts 3:21 is from the Greek verb apokaqisthmi (apokathistemai), Strong's #600: to reconstitute (in health, home or organization): - restore (again). The verb occurs in Matt. 17:11 in connection with John the Baptist:

"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist."

Here we find that John was to "restore all things," terminology almost identical with Peter's. The phrase harks back to Malachi's prophecy that "Elijah" (John) would turn "the heart of the fathers to the children, and heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:6). It describes in poetic terms the spiritual reformation of the people, calling them to repentance and faith in Christ. The prophecy does not imply that all men would receive John's message, for clearly they did not, but rather killed him and the Jewish nation at length fell under the curse pronounced by Malachi. This is clearly seen in Matthew's account of John's preaching:

"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stone to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matt. 3:7-12

John warned his countrymen that the coming of Christ would entail a time of sifting the wheat from the chaff, gathering the righteous into the kingdom of heaven - we believe by martyrdom under Nero and the Jews (II Thess. 2:1; Rev. 14:9-16) - but the wicked and disobedient to everlasting destruction in the wars and calamities that overtook the Jews and Romans in A.D. 66-70 (Lk. 21:21-24; I Thess.5:1, 2; II Thess. 7-10; Rev. 11:1,2; 14:17-20). They were not to trust in their lineal descent from Abraham for salvation, but were warned that true repentance and faith alone make men acceptable.

Since Messiah was to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire, it is clear that not all received either John or Christ; else wise there would be nothing to burn up. Hence, "restoring all things" does not mean all men would receive either John or Christ, or that earth and the material creation would undergo wondrous regeneration as is sometimes supposed. Rather, it means only that John was to be a restorer of right paths for the people to walk in, so that they would be prepared to receive Christ when he appeared. In fact, this is precisely how Isaiah described the work of John:

"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." Isa. 40:3

From what we have leaned about John's work of "restoring all things" we may conclude similar things about the identical phrase as used by Peter.  When Peter said heaven must receive Christ until the times of the restitution of all things, it would thus seem that he points to the period during which the gospel message was fully revealed and announced; following which Jesus would come in wrath upon his enemies. This is confirmed by Jesus' Olivet Discourse, when he said that the gospel must first be preached in all the world, then the end would come (Matt. 24:14). And that the gospel was preached in the habitable earth within the apostles' life times, we have their own statements as proof (Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:5, 6). Indeed, Jesus said his generation would not pass away until he returned again in judgment upon Jerusalem and the Jews (Matt. 23:34-39; 24:29-34), and told his disciples there would not be time to preach in every city of Israel before he had come (Matt. 20:23). In Acts two, Peter set his own generation as the time in which Christ would return, saying "save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40). Peter's message in Acts 3:19-26, which we have been studying here, repeats the warning, evoking Moses:

"For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people." Acts 3:22, 23; cf. Deut. 18:15, 19

The "prophet" here, of course, is Christ. "Hearing that prophet" meant obeying the message of Christ by the mouth of his apostles. Since Moses' warning of destruction for those who failed to obey Christ was specifically addressed to the Jews, we are able to identify the terminus of the prophecy by the destruction of the Jewish state in A.D. 66-70. Therefore, the period leading up the "the restitution of all things" began with out-pouring of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles until the complete revelation of the New Testament. This brings us to the second occurrence of the term apokaqisthmi.

Restoring the Dominion to Israel

Just before Jesus' ascension, the disciples asked him "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" The word "restore" here is the same verb that occurs in Matt. 17:11, and which serves for the noun "restitution" in Acts 3:21. We believe restoring the kingdom to Israel refers to the glory days of Solomon, when he ruled over all the neighboring nations and Israel had world dominion.

"And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life." I Kng. 4:21

The glory and power of Solomon was typical of the dominion of Christ, who was to reign over earth's nations. It was this dominion the disciples had in mind when they asked Christ if he would then restore the kingdom (dominion) to Israel:

"Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel." Ps. 2:8, 9

Naturally, many supposed this would entail political and military dominion of national Israel over the Gentiles. However, Christ's kingdom was not of this world (Jn. 18:36). Christ would exercise his dominion from the right hand of God in heaven, not from earth:

"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies." Ps. 110:1, 2

Daniel prophesied of the dominion of the saints in earth, placing it at the coming of Christ following the persecution under Nero (the "little horn"):

"And I beheld, and the same horn made war against the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom…and the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." Dan. 7:21, 22, 27

Jesus placed the coming of his kingdom "in power" - the time when he put his enemies (the Jews and Romans) beneath his feet and established his dominion over earth - within the disciples' lifetimes:

"Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." Mk. 9:1; cf. Matt. 16:27, 28

Since this dominion would result from Christ's coming, and since he came in wrath upon the Jews and Romans in A.D. 66-70, restoring the kingdom/dominion to Israel naturally occurred at this same time. Restoring the kingdom/dominion therefore was consequent upon the restitution of all things; the one presupposes the other.

The relief Christ would bring to his persecuted church at his coming brings us to the next phrase in Peter's sermon, the "times of refreshing."

Times of Refreshing

 Peter told the Jews "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" (Acts 3:19). This does not mean that justification from sin was held in abeyance or that atonement somehow was incomplete until the second coming. The New Testament is unanimous that the atonement was complete and justification from sins a present reality from and after the cross (Rom. 5:1, 11; 8:1, 30; I Cor. 6:11; II Cor. 5:17, 18). Rather, the righteous were justified by obedience to the gospel upon repentance and baptism (Col. 2:13, 14; Eph. 2:1, 6), so that at Christ's coming they might find grace rather than the wrath appointed for their unbelieving countrymen. "Times of refreshing" points to the relief from the persecution of their enemies the saints found at Christ's providential appearing:

"Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." I Thess. 1:6-10; cf. Acts 3:26

This is the meaning of Jesus' statement in the Olivet Discourse, saying the saints' "redemption" was near at hand:

"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake…And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."  Lk. 21:12, 28

Redemption here does not mean from sin, for Jesus purchased our redemption at the cross. Rather redemption here has the meaning of being saved from tribulation and persecution, when Christ came in vengeance upon his enemies. Compare Zechariah's statements:

"As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us."  Lk. 1:70, 71

Zechariah mentions the word in the mouth of the prophets since the world began, just like Peter. Both are describing the same events. The salvation mentioned by Zechariah here had nothing to do with sin, but salvation from the saints' oppressors (Jews and Romans). The "times of refreshing" would follow Christ's coming to put his enemies beneath his feet, and therefore answers the basic imagery of the "new heavens and new earth" where the saints have dominion and reign with Christ:

"And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the Lord shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies." Isa. 66:14; cf. 66:22

From what we have surveyed thus far, we may sum up Peter's sermon in Acts 3:19-26 thus:

  • The "times of the restitution of all things" describes the period following the full revelation, recordation, and promulgation of the gospel.
  • Once the gospel had been fully revealed and proclaimed, Christ would come in wrath upon the Jews and nations of the Roman Empire.
  • Christ's coming against the persecutors of the church would bring "times of refreshing" to the beleaguered saints.

Let us now compare Acts 3:19-26 with similar passages and see if this is not correct and help make the whole lesson clear.

Peter's Sermon on Pentecost

We have been studying Peter's second gospel message following Christ's ascension.  We now turn to his first gospel sermon, given on Pentecost.

Just before his ascension, Jesus told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high: "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:5). The apostles were immersed (baptized) with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost ("it filled all the house where they were sitting" immersing them Acts 2:1, 2), When this miracle was known to the multitude of strangers and foreigners visiting Jerusalem for the feast, they came together and were astonished that each heard the apostles speaking to them in their native tongues. (The nations God had divided at the tower of Babel, he thus began uniting in Christ.) Peter explained that the miracle the multitude witnessed was evidence they were living in the last days:

"But this is that spoken by the prophet Joel; 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Acts 2:14-21

Joel's prophecy was expressly tied to the destruction of Jerusalem and the cataclysmic judgments that overtook the Roman world in A.D. 66-70.

"Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand." Joel 2:1

The prophet Malachi said that God would send "Elijah" (John the Baptist) before the day of the Lord:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." Mal. 4:5, 6

Thus, two signs that the time of the end was fast overtaking the Jewish nation were now fulfilled - John the Baptist and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. The remaining signs of "blood, fire, and vapor of smoke and the darkening of the sun and moon turning to blood" describe the civil disturbances that preceded the nation's end. First, however, the Spirit would accomplish its work of leading the apostles into all truth (Jn. 16:13; 20:22), "restoring all things." This is implied by the visions and dreams the Spirit would give, and the miracle of speaking in tongues.  Hence, first there would be revelation; then would follow consummation. Those who obeyed the gospel would be saved (Acts 2:21); those did not, would be destroyed. Thus, we find the same pattern and message here as in Peter's second sermon (Acts 3:19-26):

  • Christ's ascension to heaven, where he was to remain until the full revelation and proclamation of the gospel,
  • Followed by his coming in wrath, and
  • The salvation of those who obeyed him.

Next, let's turn to Hebrews chapter nine.

The Time of Reformation and the Coming of Christ

The book of Hebrews is devoted to the theme of the obsolete nature of the Old Testament ritual, which was replaced by the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ. Believing Jews were under pressure and persecution to forsake Christ and return to the law. The writer warns his readers against this, saying it is equal to crucifying Christ anew (Heb. 10:26-29). In building his case to abide faithful to the gospel, the writer evokes the two tents of the Tabernacle: the first tabernacle, or "Holy Place," he says answers to the Old Testament, which stood in carnal ordinances "imposed until the time of reformation." The second tabernacle, or "Holy of Holies," answers the New Testament. Under the Old Testament, the worshipper was legally excluded from God's presence, because the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins. But under the New Testament, the worshipper, justified from sin by the sacrifice of Christ, is brought into the legal and covenantal presence of God.

"But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and diverse washings, and carnal ordinances , imposed on them until the time of reformation." Heb. 9:7-10

The "time of reformation" began at the cross. The priestly office and blood sacrifices of the old law were shadows, pointing to the work of Jesus upon the cross.  Shadows end where the body begins.  The body (substance of our redemption) is of Christ (Col. 2:17; Heb. 10:1). The atonement was complete when Christ entered heaven; he therefore sat down at the right hand of God, showing his work had been fulfilled (Heb. 10:11, 12). The Spirit was sent in Jesus' absence to lead the apostles into all truth by the revelation of the gospel. When the Spirit's work was done, Christ would return to save his people from their persecutors:

"So Christ was offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Heb. 9:27

The context of this coming to save his people is made clear in chapter ten:

"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.  Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Heb. 10;36-38

The saints needed patience precisely because they were under mounting pressure and persecution. However, the soon coming of Christ would bring times of refreshing when Jesus put his enemies beneath his feet.

This brief survey of Hebrews shows that it, too, mirrors the pattern and message of Peter's second gospel sermon:

  • Christ had gone into heaven as our High Priest where he sat down at God's right hand, having accomplished our redemption;
  • The time of reformation describes the work of the Spirit revealing the gospel of our salvation, beginning at Pentecost (Acts 2).
  • At the conclusion of the Spirit's work, Christ would return in wrath upon the Jews, saving his beleaguered saints.

A last passage and then we conclude.

I Cor. 13 and that which is "Perfect"

"For we know in part and prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly ; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." I Cor. 13:10-13

This passage describes the temporary nature of the prophetic spirit and miraculous gifts. The age of the prophetic Spirit and miraculous gifts dawned with the patriarchs, climbed under Moses and the law, reached its zenith in Christ and the apostles, and set by the time the canon of the New Testament was perfect or complete. The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. Under Moses, mankind was in the childhood and adolescence of its salvation; man saw God's redemptive purpose mirrored in a glass darkly. Although the law pointed to the work of Christ upon the cross, Moses put a "veil" upon his face, concealing the gospel beneath the types and shadows (II Cor. 3:12, 13). Not coincidentally, during the period of the law, the worshipper was banished, excluded from the presence of God without veil of the tabernacle while the guilt of sin remained. However, the veils separating man from God and concealing the mystery of the gospel are both taken away in Christ. Just as Moses removed his veil when he entered into the Most Holy Place, we all with "open," unveiled face have now been legally and covenantally admitted into the presence of God within the veil (Holy of Holies) (II Cor. 3:18; Heb. 10:19, 20). Even so, when Paul wrote, the mystery was still as yet being revealed. Hence, the prophetic Spirit and gifts remained, and Paul could say they still saw God's redemptive purpose in Christ through a glass darkly.

When we consider that when I Corinthians was written, very few other New Testament books and epistles existed, we can better appreciate what Paul meant. When Paul wrote I Corinthians, probably only Matthew, Mark, and Luke (?) among the gospels existed; and among the epistles only Galatians, Ephesians, and I & II Thessalonians existed, and perhaps also I Timothy and Titus. Acts, Romans, Philippians, Colossians, II Timothy, Philemon, Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, I, II

& III John, Jude and Revelation did not exist. When that which is complete or perfect was come, Paul says he would then see "face to face" and "know even as I

am also known" (I Cor. 13:12). A man is "known" (recognized) by his face and appearance. Once the Spirit's work of revelation was accomplished, the types and shadows of the law would be perfectly understood and the veil upon Moses' face thus stripped away, allowing men to behold the mystery of the gospel "face to face."

The point we want to come away with from this is that the "restitution (reconstitution) of all things" and the "time of reformation" have the same thing in view as "that which is perfect;" viz., the full revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. John "restored all things" by preaching repentance and baptism, establishing the right way for the people to walk in. The Spirit reformed and reconstituted all things by the preaching of the apostles and revelation of the mystery of the gospel. According to Peter's sermon in Acts 3:19-26, once this was accomplished, Christ would return in wrath, bringing times of refreshing to the saints.

 

Acts 2

 

Acts 3

 

Hebrews 9

 

I Cor. 13

Latter Days

 

Outpouring of the Holy Ghost

 

Day of the Lord (Acts 2:20)

 

All that call upon the Lord shall be saved

 

"All the prophets…foretold these days" v. 24

Times of the Restitution of all things

 

Coming of Christ (Acts 3:21)

 

Times of Refreshing

 

 

 

Time of Reformation

 

Coming of Christ (Heb. 9:28)

 

Will save those that look for him

 

"Now we see through a glass darkly"

 

That which is perfect/complete

 

 



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