The idea of a restoration of the world had its origin in the preaching of the Old Testament prophets. Their faith in the unique position and mission of Israel as the chosen people of God inspired in them the conviction that the destruction of the nation would eventually be followed by a restoration under conditions that would insure the realization of the original divine purpose. When the restoration came and passed without fulfillment of this hope, the Messianic era was projected into the future. By the time of Jesus the conception became more or less spiritualized, and the anticipation of a new order in which the consequences of sin would no longer appear was a prominent feature of the Messianic conception. In the teaching of Jesus and the apostles such a restoration is taken for granted as a matter of course.
In Matthew 17:11 (compare Mark 9:12), the moral and spiritual regeneration preached by John the Baptist is described as a restoration and viewed as a fulfillment of Malachi 4:6. It is "to be observed, however, that the work of John could be characterized as restoration only in the sense of an inception of the regeneration that was to be completed by Jesus. In Matthew 19:28 Jesus speaks of a regeneration (palingenesia) of the world in terms that ascribe to the saints a state of special felicity. Perhaps the most pointed expression of the idea of restoration as a special event or crisis is found in the address of Peter (Acts 3:21), where the restoration is described as an apokatastasis panton, and is viewed as a fulfillment of prophecy.
In all the passages cited the restoration is assumed as a matter with which the hearers are familiar, and consequently its nature is not unfolded. The evidence is, therefore, too limited to justify any attempt to outline its special features. Under such circumstances there is grave danger of reading into the language of the Scriptures one's own conception of what the restoration is to embody. We are probably expressing the full warrant of the Scripture when we say that the reconstruction mentioned in these passages contemplates the restoration of man, under the reign of Christ, to a life in which the consequences of sin are no longer present, and that this reconstruction is to include in some measure a regeneration of both the physical and the spiritual world.
Whether the benefits of the restoration are to accrue to all men is also left undefined in the Scriptures. In the passages already cited only the disciples of Christ appear in the field of vision. Certain sayings of Jesus are sometimes regarded as favorable to the more inclusive view. In John 12:32 Jesus speaks of drawing all men to Himself, but here, as in John 3:14,15, it is to be observed that while Christ's sacrifice includes all men in its scope, its benefits will doubtless accrue to those only who respond willingly to His drawing power. The saying of Caiaphas (John 11:52) is irrelevant, for the phrase, "the children of God that are scattered abroad," probably refers only to the worthy Jews of the dispersion. Neither can the statements of Paul (Romans 11:32; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Ephesians 1:9,10; Colossians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11) be pressed in favor of the restorationist view. They affirm only that God's plan makes provision for the redemption of all, and that His saving will is universal. But men have wills of their own, and whether they share in the benefits of the salvation provided depends on their availing themselves of its privileges. The doctrine of the restoration of all can hardly be deduced from the New Testament.
See also PUNISHMENT, EVERLASTING.
Russell Benjamin Miller
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