The Restoration Of All Mankind
(A RADICAL TRUTH - A RADIANT HOPE)
By Eddie Browne (2004 / Revised, 2009)
Eighteen months, hundreds of study hours, reams of pages, and millions of spent brain cells - that was the price I paid to discover with certainty that one day all of mankind, past, present, and future, would enjoy a restored existence with Father God. When you realize that my initial intention was to slay this hoary beast of heresy in defense of doctrinal orthodoxy, perhaps the power of this message and the scriptural authenticity it enjoys take on an even greater significance. This truth just wouldn’t die, no matter how many times I tried to skewer it with the “sword of the Spirit.” Just how radical is this truth? It is nothing less than the core of the Gospel message.
I tell folks that one can arrive at this message by either the front door of truth or the back door of truth. The back door approach demonstrates that the theological teaching of eternal torment in hell is utterly unscriptural, false, and devastatingly harmful in impact. The front door approach, on the other hand, is the more positive assertion of the biblical truth that all of mankind is not only already saved, but will ultimately experience the full benefits of having been restored to God in Christ. In keeping with my lot in life, I came in the back way, kicking, screaming, and fighting.
Like giving birth, the process through which I discovered this truth was filled with pain and struggling, but at the moment of realization I was left holding the most beautiful and precious gift imaginable. The majesty of uncovering this truth was well worth the obstacle course of searching I first needed to travel.
Because I had been trained to translate the biblical languages of Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek, I was not at the mercy of Bible versions, word studies, and other works which give the Bible student the end results of others’ translation work. I could bypass this dependency and investigate translation work on my own.
I was both surprised and appalled by what I found. The blatant translation errors I discovered, which I never had reason to suspect as such and thus had not previously investigated, sent seismic shock waves through my mind. That’s when I knew all was not well in Bible-land.
In this study, as in all the studies I undertake, I rely heavily upon a sound exegetical approach to Scripture. First and foremost, this means an honest, unbiased translation of the biblical texts and, secondly, the sound application of the principles of interpretation. Together with an open mind and a reliance upon the Holy Spirit, the practice of sound exegesis cuts through the layers of traditionalism and takes us to the place of truth.
A COMPLEX, COMPOUND WORD
In the Old Testament Hebrew, there is but one word that conveys the idea of “restoration.” In the New Testament Greek, however, there are three words that have been translated as such. One, “apodidomee,” which means “to give away, to give back,” conveys the idea of “restitution,” which is the repayment of what was lost or stolen. The second, “katartizo,” means “to complete, to make fresh.” But it is the third word upon which we will focus.
Most of us are familiar with the idea of compound words in English. These are words comprised of two or more other words, such as “doorway.” In New Testament Greek, compound words are comprised of a root word preceded by a preposition, which is somewhat similar to our idea of a noun with a prefix.
Normally, a Greek word will have just one preposition involved in a compound word. Perhaps in testimony to the high drama of our topic, the Greek word we will be studying has two prepositions preceding the root word. If nothing else, this word, both its verb form and its noun form, makes for a mouthful. Try these on for size: “apokatastasis” (the noun), and “apokathisteemi” (the verb).
Perhaps these sound like some type of inner ear infection, or maybe antihistamines to help dry up that stuffy head of yours, but I assure you that what they mean is extremely significant and deeply consequential. If you poke around in Bible commentaries and word studies, you will likely come across the standard definition for our English word “restore.” Typically, the definition given is something like: “To return to the original condition.”
Too often in the practice of Bible translation, a suitable English word is selected that equals or approximates the meaning of the foreign word being translated, and unfortunately, the truth of that old adage: “Something gets lost in the translation” tends to emerge. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the subsequent focus of any study frequently becomes centered upon an analysis of the English word; not the foreign word from which it came. The assumption is made that the English word has accurately and fully conveyed the meaning of the foreign word. When it comes to biblical translation, however, such an assumption is a misplaced assurance and the resulting thoughts, ideas, and conclusions which flow from this assurance are tainted.
Even more insidious is the practice of translating “theologically.” In this case, translation work is undertaken within the confines of a pre-determined theological view and the freedom does not exist to translate the biblical text “honestly.” Instead, the translation must conform - and thus, is made to conform - to the established theological view of the translation team. All of the Bible versions used by the Christian community are products of this tainted practice, and Christians remain unaware of their many inaccuracies.
The reason we are considering the importance both of honest translation in general and of the accurate definition of this word in particular at the very beginning of our study is because the correct understanding of its meaning is central and critical to the discussion that follows. “Apokatastasis” (or “apokathisteemi”) carries a much stronger force and meaning than simply “a return to the original condition,” and once you break forth from that limited view, you begin to capture the fuller essence of the work that yet awaits all of mankind.
Most words in any language have derived meanings. The further removed the meaning is from the root or primary meaning of the word, the more derived is its status. To secure the most accurate definition of a derived word, it is important to establish the root or primary meaning from which the word ultimately was derived. Oftentimes, the impact is seen in the small nuances of word meaning, but many times the impact is far greater.
Here is one of my favorite examples. The well-known text, Isaiah 40:31, reads as follows in the New King James Bible: “But THOSE WHO WAIT ON the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” The King James Version is virtually identical; the New International Version has “those who HOPE IN the Lord,” and the New American Standard Version has “WAIT ON” with a footnote in the margin stating, “or HOPE IN.”
So, it would appear that the four blessed results listed in the text will occur as believers either “wait on” or “hope in” the Lord. It would seem that whatever this act is that believers ought to practice is fairly important, considering the fruitful results. Isaiah 40:31 seems to be one of those verses which carries great encouragement and application for one’s life, and as we walk in its truth we ought to experience the fruit of its promises.
Simple, right? Well, “waiting” is not the same as “hoping.” They may overlap in their outworking, but they are two separate and distinct acts. So what do we do? Flip a coin, hoping (sic) we pick the right option while waiting (more sic) to see the result?
Well, here’s the kick in the pants: Neither is the correct translation. Perhaps now you’ll have to wait and hope I give you the correct one, right? (And yes, even more sic.)
The root meaning of the Hebrew word here is “to twist.” I have suggested to folks that perhaps dancing or “twisting” before the Lord is the key act in this text. (I have fondly referred to it as the Chubby Checker approach.) Dancing unto the Lord is an engaging act of worship. Why shouldn’t this be the correct translation?
The second level of meaning is “to braid.” It is the “twisting” of separate strands together to make one “braid” or “cord.” In fact, the noun is most commonly translated as “rope.” The third level of meaning is “to be strong.” This idea, of course, comes from the strength created through the process of braiding. The fourth level of meaning gives us “to endure.” “Endurance” is the concept of “strength” over a period of time.
You will notice that each level of word meaning is immediately derived from the level above it. By the time you get to word meanings that are several levels removed from the root or primary meaning, a fairly serious watering down in definition has occurred. As a result, if one desires to translate theologically (versus exegetically), one can simply search these levels until finding the word meaning that best fits a pre-determined viewpoint.
In our text above, it is not until one arrives at the fifth level of meaning - the great-great-grandchild level, if you will - that you get the idea of “to wait,” devoid of any sense of “to be strong,” and bearing none of the meaning “to twist.” After this would come the idea of “to hope.” While the connection “to hope” may have with “to wait” seems reasonable, neither shares a close, meaningful connection to the root meaning “to twist.”
The fifth and sixth levels of meaning, so derived as almost to be absent a connection and so watered down as to border on the frivolous, somehow end up as the top meanings assigned by the translation teams of the most widely accepted and used Bible versions today. See the importance of open, honest translation; of tracing word meanings back to their roots? There are any number of viable and very applicable meanings and actions that ought to have priority in Isaiah 40:31 over “to wait” and “to hope.”
Personally, I would translate the Hebrew so as to capture the idea of relational bonding. Plural people are being addressed here. Typically, readers tend to receive the words of this text as meant to be applied on an individual basis, minus the idea of a plural, corporate, interactive dynamic, but plural “twisting” or “braiding” easily speaks of relational bonding among folks. Paul’s teaching about the Christian community’s being the many-membered Body of Christ emphasizes the importance of relational bonding. Relational bonding in the Lord brings about exactly the type of benefits spoken of in Isaiah. So how about this or a similar rendering? “Those who build relationships in the Lord . . .” Now back to “apo-kata-stasis.” What precisely does this marvelous word mean?
The stem portion of the word is “stasis” (the noun), and “isteemi” (the verb). The verb means “to stand” or “to set” while the noun means a “standing” or a “position.” Derived meanings include “to establish” (“establishment”), “to appoint” (“appointment”), “to found” (“foundation”), and “to constitute” (“constitution”). There are other synonymous meanings which would be acceptable as well.
Probably the single best meaning for “stasis” would be “that which has been set.” So, whatever impact these curious prepositions will have, they will be brought to bear upon the meaning “that which has been set.”
Let’s see what happens if we place each preposition in front of “stasis.” By seeing how each preposition impacts our word individually, we will be better prepared to see them at work in tandem. (Miss Grammar from high school would be very proud of you.) Let’s start with “apo.” “Apostasis” - look familiar? (Hint, hint, “apostasy.”) “Apo” has a primary meaning of “away from.” It indicates movement in a direction away from a fixed or starting point. How far away is a secondary question; the primary key is the movement itself.
The English word “apostasy” is usually understood to mean “a departure from the truth.” The Greek noun “apostasia” (“apo” and “stasis”) means “defection” or “departure,” which is a movement away from that which is “static” or “set” or “established.” “Apostle” is normally understood to mean “a sent one.” Literally, an apostle is “a sent away one” - from “apo” and “stellein” (“to send”).
Now let’s look at “katastasis.” As a noun, “katastasis” does not appear in the New Testament Greek, but its variant, “katastema,” does, and its root meaning is “condition” or “position.” It is derived from the verb “kathisteemi,” which is the preposition “kata” and the verb “isteemi.” This compound verb has a primary meaning of “to place down,” which is precisely what one does with a bet.
The preposition “kata” can mean “down” or “against” when used with the Greek genitive case, or it can mean “in accordance with” when used with the Greek accusative case. When used in a compound word, it could carry any of these meanings.
Now let’s put the whole thing together: “apo - kata - stasis” (or “apo - kath - isteemi”). The approach to defining a compound word that involves more than one preposition is an inside-out one, since word proximity is very important in biblical Greek. That means we start with either “katastasis” (actually, “katastema” in this case) or the comparable verb form, “kathisteemi.”
“That which is set down” (or “established”) is the best meaning for “katastasis,” and is such to a greater degree than is the word “statis.” The “down” meaning of “kata” fortifies the definitiveness, if you will, of what has been established. Even if you selected “in accordance with” as the meaning for “kata,” you would still fortify the meaning by injecting the sense of “in agreement with.”
Now add the other preposition “apo” to the mix and you get a meaning that indicates “a movement away from that which has been firmly established” (as a position or condition).
On the other hand, if the word was “kath-apo-stasis,” you would then have a meaning such as “in agreement with that which moves away from that which has been established.” For example, if you were in agreement with an “apostate” view, this second word would be a fitting description of you.
So, “apo-kata-stasis” means “a movement away from that which has been firmly established,” and “apo-kath-isteemi” would be “to move away from that which has been firmly established.” Let’s contrast this meaning with the traditional one of “to return to the original condition.” While the traditional meaning speaks of a movement “toward” a condition or position, albeit a renewed, favorable one that is equal to that of the original one, the meaning we have concluded for our “restoration” word emphasizes a movement “away from” the established, existing condition or position.
The difference is by no means subtle or minimal; in fact, it is dramatic. When you are moving toward a destination, whatever condition or position “it” (the destination) happens to be is already in place. The parameters that define “it” are already established as you are moving toward “it.” So, if the condition or position you are moving toward is said to be equal to the condition or position you once enjoyed and somehow lost, which is the traditional view, then you have limited your “destination” to being the same condition or position previously enjoyed. You have put a cap in place so that the new “it” must be equal to what “it” once was.
On the other hand, if the meaning describes the movement as being away from the (undesired) existing, established condition or position, with the understanding that as you move further away from that which is established, the more desirable the new (restored) condition or position becomes, then you have placed no limitations whatsoever on just how much better the new, restored condition or position can or will be. In essence, the further removed from that which has been established, from that which is undesired, the better the level of restoration.
Let’s go one more step. Try viewing biblical restoration not as a work of “renewal,” which would be the making new of that which has aged, deteriorated, etc., but as a work of improvement to the highest possible level of wholeness. The purpose of the restoration work would be to produce the highest, most excellent version possible of that which is being restored.
So, when we later consider the man with the withered hand, we will see that the restoration of his hand involved not a return to its original condition, because in this particular case, the withered hand was most likely a congenital defect, but an improvement from a condition of being withered to the best possible version of what a human hand could be (good, strong musculature, healthy bones, healthy blood flow, excellent neural activity, fully functional, etc.).
Let’s apply this concept to a Biblical situation, that of the beloved and deeply tested Job. What was Job’s original condition, as indicated in Job chapter 1? He possessed a stellar reputation, had ten children (seven sons; three daughters), a large household of servants to care for his many animals as well as his family, and owned eleven thousand animals.
Then what happened? These were all taken from him as God allowed Job to be tested severely by the adversary. Ironically, you will note that he was still saddled with his nagging wife. (Please accept my humble apologies for that poignant observation.)
In chapter 42, we see the accounting of Job’s “restoration.” A reinstated - vindicated, if you will - reputation was received. While the size of the servant household is not mentioned, the account states that God blessed Job beyond what Job had before, and the larger number of possessions would require a larger household of servants to do the required work.
His restored - meaning “brand new” in this case - number of animals was twenty-two thousand; precisely double what it had been originally. And Job sired ten brand new children, also seven sons and three daughters as he had before. Though this number was not the double portion as with the animals, the tremendous beauty of the three new daughters is mentioned, while the misbehaving ways of the former children are absent. In this sense, his new children enjoyed both a spiritual and physical enhancement over the original ones.
Please note that restoration for Job was not “a return to the original condition.” What it was, instead, was placement into a condition that was further removed from the undesired but established condition of poverty and disrepute following all his losses than was the original condition.
Let me restate that. Job’s restored condition was further removed from - further “away from” - the undesired but established condition of poverty and disrepute than his original condition was removed from the (subsequent) undesired, established one of poverty and disrepute.
Or put yet another way, Job’s restored condition was a better version of itself than not only the established condition of poverty and disrepute, but also a better version of itself than was his original condition, even as good as that original condition happened to be.
Thus, the further removed from the undesired but established condition one gets, the more enhanced the new condition will be, the more “restored” it will be. There are no pre-set limitations placed on what the restored condition will be; although certain ceilings might practically exist in some cases.
Only man seems to place limitations on restoration. With God, however, anything and everything concerning the restoration process is possible. And when it comes to the ultimate restoration of all men, it is God Who will make such restoration come about. And if you insist on establishing the ultimate picture of restored man, I can live with that - he will be “like Christ.” This then is biblical restoration.
Our Greek noun, “apokatastasis,” is only used once in the New Testament. Normally I would present its analysis first, but since the text in which it is used is the single most potent passage in the entire Bible concerning the matter of restoration, I’ll save it for last.
On the other hand, our Greek verb, “apokathisteemi,” is used eight times in the New Testament in a variety of applications. Four of the passages discuss two separate occasions involving purely physical restoration. These texts are Matthew 12:13, Mark 3:5, and Luke 6:10, which relate Jesus’ healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, and Mark 8:25, which tells us of Jesus’ healing of the blind man.
Since the first three texts describe the same account, we’ll focus upon Matthew 12:13. Jesus has entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and in attendance there was a man whose right hand was “withered.” We’ll ignore the testing spirit of the religious leaders and their strong negative reaction following it - very tempting topics, indeed - and focus on the nature of the restoration that occurred. “Then he says to the man, ‘Extend your hand.’ And he extended, and it had been restored healthy as the other.”
Now what was the precise condition of the man’s hand originally; namely, as it was prior to restoration? It was “withered.” “Withered” means “dried up.” The Greek term means “withered“, “paralyzed.” The life flow within the hand was essentially destroyed. As a result, the hand had no useful function. Since it is beyond the scope of this study to review the manner of the miracle, we’ll simply say that the man did what Jesus told him to do. Obviously, the restoration occurred immediately prior to the man’s physical response, otherwise he would have been unable to extend the hand.
The hand was restored “healthy” as the other. The Greek word translated “healthy” finds its root meaning in the verb “to grow.” In other words, physical health is best described as “being able to grow.” When we consider that existing cells die and are replaced by new cells continuously within the body, then we can understand to what this “growing” refers. The bottom line is that the flow of physical life within the hand, in addition to the instantaneous wellness of the hand, was part and parcel of the restoration.
Not only was the hand made to be as fully functional as it could be - like the other hand - it was also made to be reproductive. In this way, the continual process of health (growth) was returned to the once dead hand. It was now as far removed from the withered state as a physical hand could be. Death was replaced by life, and it was accomplished in the face of extremely strong opposition.
The account in Mark 8:22-26 of the blind man’s healing gives us an even better indication of God’s commitment to restoration. A blind man was brought to Jesus for the purpose of being “touched” by Him. Jesus first leads the man outside the city because He wanted the healing to be kept confidential. He then proceeds to spit on the man’s eyes, and follows that by putting His hands upon the man. Jesus then asks the man if he can see anything, indicating His desire to have the man’s sight fully restored.
We in the Christian community tend to get so wrapped up in the mechanics of healing that we lose sight of the larger picture. Our tendency would be to read this account of Jesus and respond by running out and establishing the First Church of Spit-Healing. Jesus simply did what the Father instructed Him to do; no more and no less. His interest was in seeing the Father get all the credit as well as this man’s visual restoration made complete.
After Jesus performs this step, the man can only see partially; he saw men “as trees walking.” Let’s stop here for a moment. If Jesus did nothing else, the man still would have experienced a strong measure of restoration. Was his eyesight twenty-twenty? No. Was it significantly removed from its original state of blindness? Yes.
But Jesus does not stop there. After receiving the man’s feedback, and no doubt seeing further activity on the part of the Father, Jesus laid His hands on the man’s eyes, making the man look up in the process, and the man’s eyesight was restored from partial vision to seeing every man “clearly.” The emphasis to be seen in this act? Jesus does not stop the act of restoration until it has fully completed its purpose.
The second type of restoration is somewhat enigmatic. In Matthew 17 and Mark 9 we have the accounts of Christ’s transfiguration on the mount. As Peter, James, and John were descending the mount with Jesus, He told them to say nothing concerning what they had seen until after He had risen from the dead. As a side note, although we are not privy to the words themselves, the topic of conversation at the transfiguration was Jesus’ impending death. It would seem that His comment about resurrection, which had confused the disciples, was linked to something that had been said on the mount.
Evidently, the appearance of Elijah sparked the minds of the disciples. It was generally taught that Elijah the prophet would precede the coming of the Messiah (see Malachi chapters 1 and 4). Was this appearance of Elijah linked to that coming? And so they ask Jesus about it. Jesus reaffirms that Elijah comes - will come in Matthew 17 - and restores - will restore - “all things.”
Before I go out on the proverbial limb, let’s note a couple things. First, there is no Old Testament text that actually says Elijah will “restore all things.” Malachi 4:6 states that Elijah will “turn” the hearts of the fathers to the sons, and vice-versa. The Hebrew verb here for “turn” is “shoob,” the same word as used in Job to speak of restoration. The concept of Elijah “restoring all things,” however, was a teaching of the scribes that Jesus seems to reaffirm.
Secondly, Jesus goes on to equate John the Baptist with being Elijah, even though in the Matthew 17 passage restoration is also spoken of as occurring in the future tense, thereby indicating a two-fold fulfillment of the single prophecy.
Luke 1:16-17 prophesies that John the Baptist indeed would come in the spirit of Elijah and “turn” many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. In this case, the Greek word for “turn” literally means “to twist around.” Like the Hebrew word, “shoob,” it conveys the idea of “reversing direction.” Similar to our favorite restoration word, the meaning emphasizes movement away from the negative and toward that which is “healthy” or “sound” or “complete.”
What precisely is being restored, though? There are only two possibilities. All Bible versions translate the Greek word “panta” as “all things,” but there is a second possibility. “Panta” can also mean “each (every) man.” In neither text are we given the article along with “panta.” If we were, the article would specify whether it was the neuter plural, “all things,” or the masculine singular, “each (every) man.” It gets better.
“Panta” is an adjective. The noun for either “things” or “man” is not present here; in fact, no noun is present here. It is a common occurrence in biblical Greek for the adjective to substitute for the noun because in almost all situations all the information one needs concerning gender, number, and case is found in the endings attached to the adjective. Notice I said in almost all situations. Sometimes the ending could mean more than one possibility. That is the situation here. Thus, the noun being substituted for could be either “things” or “man.” (Isn’t this fun?)
Jesus clearly links John to the “turning” ministry of Elijah, but John didn’t “restore all things.” The physical world was the same after he was gone as it was prior to his arriving, and the Jewish religious community did not undergo a radical upheaval in its ceremonies or practices.
John did what had been prophesied of him; he “turned” many to the Lord. This “turning” is the initial step in the process of restoration. It is the beginning of movement in a direction away from the existing established negative condition and toward the best version of what a person can be. In short, repentance is the first step in the restoration of a human being. It is quite literally the “turning point.”
John only dealt with people’s hearts. He did not reform the law or religious ceremonies; he did nothing that could be perceived as restoring any “thing,” let alone “all things.” Likewise, when the future Elijah comes and unfolds the second wave of this prophecy from Malachi, he will be dealing with people; not “things.” Even in Malachi, the only stated action has to do with the hearts of people; not “things.”
I conclude, therefore, that the best translation for this Elijah ministry would be the “restoration of each man.” Because this is not the all-inclusive plural of the Greek word, “pas,” but the singular, it is fair to limit the number of those who are impacted. Thus, to say that “each man” will be restored by Elijah could mean “each man” that John impacts with his ministry, each man that repents. Keep in mind, this “Elijah” ministry, past and future, only touches a finite number of people, and should not be confused with the discussion to come concerning Acts 3:21.
Thus, this second type of restoration would best be described as the initial step of restoration in each man; namely, repentance, and is a reversal in direction away from the negative, undesired, existing condition and moving toward that which is a better version of man.
The third type of restoration we find in scripture is that of the kingdom. In Acts 1:6, we find the risen Christ with the disciples just prior to His ascension. His resurrection has proven that He is the Messiah, and the disciples now expect the earthly Messianic kingdom to be ushered in.
But Jesus hits them with “Plan B.” They were not expecting a “Plan B” and so they ask Him, “Lord, are you in this time restoring the kingdom to Israel?” His answer is pretty much, “That’s on a need to know basis, and you don’t need to know. Instead, you need to do Plan B.”
Since our concern is the nature of restoration, what can we learn about restoration from this particular discussion? The disciples understood two things. One, they understood that at one time, Israel was an autonomous theocracy. Whether under the human rule of Moses, Joshua, judges or kings, it was always acknowledged, even if not practiced at times, that God was in charge. For centuries, however, Israel had been under the rule of various foreign powers.
So, it was the expectation of Israel that when Messiah came, He would set up an autonomous theocratic rule centered in the heart of Israel, Jerusalem. Again, since our focus is upon the concept of restoration and the use of this particular word, what do we find here?
First, Israel never expected a “return to the original condition.” Regardless of any particular period in the life of Israel, there was always human oversight; under God, of course, but human oversight nonetheless. Second, it was understood that the Messianic kingdom would be a pure theocracy. “God with us” would rule in their midst. There would be no more human oversight.
Thus, the restoration here is once again a movement away from the existing negative condition; namely, foreign rule, and toward the absolutely highest governmental system possible. This restoration would take Israel from the worst possible scenario to the best: the rule of God in their midst.
Again, the importance here is the concept of restoration as it was understood by the people who used the term. And for them, governmental restoration would be nothing less than the most ideal model possible. Therefore, the restoration spoken of here is essentially perfection in that Messiah would be the One ruling. Messianic rule is about as far removed as one could possibly fathom from what Israel’s status was at the time of Jesus.
The fourth restoration addressed in the New Testament is relational in nature. In Hebrews 13:19, Paul makes a somewhat puzzling comment. After certain instructions to the Christian community, he says, “But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.” (King James Bible.)
Something was hindering Paul’s earliest return to this church. We are not told what, nor is it clear how the actions of the church would hasten Paul’s restoration to them. Of all the texts in this study, this verse comes the closest to the idea of “a return to what was originally.” But remember, there are certain spheres of restoration which have a “ceiling” to the level of restoration that can occur.
We have seen that in the realm of physical healing, the “ceiling” was complete physical health of the damaged body part. This “ceiling” would apply within the sphere of relationship as well. The existing negative condition Paul was facing in this regard was his absence from this particular group of believers. The furthest he could be removed “away from” the existing negative condition; namely, his absence from them, would be his presence with them. Thus, the definition we have settled upon is still very much in force here.
Each and every occasion we have studied thus far fits within the meaning of “restoration” as we have defined it above. Restoration is not simply “a return to the original condition” - unless, of course, the original condition represents the best possible version of itself - but a movement away from the existing, negative condition or position toward the best possible condition or position.
Remember as well that biblical restoration could entail either the changing of that existing negative condition or position into a better (best) version of itself, or the complete replacement of what exists with a better (best) version of itself, as we have seen with Job.
Drawing upon the discussion thus far, we now turn our attention to a most critical and controversial passage, Acts 3:21. Peter and John are in the temple, surrounded by a crowd of people as a result of the miraculous healing of a lame man. Peter is now preaching to the crowd. We pick up with Peter’s words as found in verse 19 through the beginning of verse 21. Translation is mine.
Verses 19-21a: “Repent therefore and turn back in order for your sins to be removed, in order that seasons of revival should come from the presence of the Lord and He should send the Christ Who has been chosen for you, Jesus, Whom heaven had to take until . . .”
Repentance, revival, and restoration are the crux of Peter’s message in this passage. The first two are highlighted in the words above. Of note, the people’s repentance would pave the way for future designated times - seasons - of revival. Like birth pangs that announce the coming of the baby, these appointed times of revival would come “away from the presence of the Lord” - i.e., they would be initiated in heaven and sent forth to refresh the people of God - and they would eventually give way to the onset of ultimate restoration.
The other noteworthy point is that heaven HAD to take Jesus. The “must-ness” of the language emphasizes this point. And Jesus would need to be kept by heaven until a very specific point in time in the outworking of God’s plan for the ages. The word “until” introduces when that point will be.
Verse 21: “. . . Whom heaven had to take until the time periods of the restoration of all men of which God spoke through the mouth of the holy ones from the age of His prophets.” As you can see, my translation differs from the popular versions. I’ll simply say that I stand by my translation for the reasons I cite below.
The point in time at which heaven will release Jesus will mark the onset of a series of multiple “time periods.” The Greek word here is “chronos” and refers to “an extended period of time.” The length of the time period can vary; it is undefined. In this way, it is precisely like the Greek word “aion” which is translated as “age” or “aeon,” a period of limited but undefined duration of time. (Sadly, the Bible versions translate this word as “ever” or “forever,” a most grievously “dishonest” and misleading translational mistake.)
“Chronos” differs from the Greek “kairos,” which is translated above as “season,” in that “kairos” is a specifically appointed time. The Father had (has) already set the appointed time when heaven would (will) release Jesus. Depending upon your theological view, that event has either already occurred or is yet to occur, and that specific, appointed time either has already ushered in or will usher in multiple time periods of undefined length - ages - which are characterized by one over-arching activity: the restoration of all mankind.
Please note that virtually all Bible versions translate this text as “the restoration (or restitution) of ALL THINGS.” Remember our earlier discussion concerning “panta” and the Elijah ministry? Well, we have the same issue again in this text. Once again no article or noun accompanies the adjective. The specific word is “pantown.” “Pantown” is plural in number and is in the genitive case, the Greek case that includes the idea of possession or “pertaining to.” However, all three genders - masculine, feminine, and neuter - share this same spelling of the word. So what gives?
There is no reason, per se, that the popular Bible versions should translate “pantown” as “of all things.” Based on a simple language argument, it could just as easily be “of all women” or “of all men.” When translated as “of all men,” it is generally understood to include all of humanity; all of mankind.
So why did I select “of all men” (“of all mankind”)? It’s because I thoroughly studied the Biblical usage and patterns by Luke regarding “pantown.” Luke authored both the Gospel that bears his name, as well as the Book of Acts. This means that his unique style, which would include his choice of words, their frequency, and how they are used, would bear certain characteristics.
The adjective “pas” (singular, “each”; plural, “all”) is used very frequently in the New Testament, including in Luke’s Gospel and Acts. A review of this usage shows that the overwhelming majority of the time that Luke uses the word “pantown,” the meaning is clearly the male gender; not the neuter gender, and thus its preference in Acts 3:21.
Some prefer to state that it does not matter whether it is “of all things” or “of all men” since in the plural “all things” means “everything that exists,” which would include all people. While I agree with this thought, and while Paul’s text below speaks of “all things” (the neuter definite article is used in this case), I stand by the evidence that in Acts 3:21 Luke is referring specifically to the restoration of all mankind.
Will other events be occurring as well during “the times of restoration“? Yes, of course. In fact, each age tends to have at least one unique aspect that separates it from other ages, but the single characteristic that unites all of these ages is the ongoing process of all of mankind being restored to Father God. I Corinthians 15:27-28 gives us an insight into the culmination of this process of restoration. It will be when all of existence becomes humbly aligned with Christ.
At this point, Christ will hand a fully restored mankind, a mankind that will finally and completely be “like Christ,” over to the Father. As awesome as this event will be, what follows next is nothing short of mind-blowing in its magnificence. The reason Christ will do this is “in order that the Divine Nature should be existing as all things within each person.” (Translation mine.) This then is the ultimate objective and result of God’s process of restoring all mankind.
Now let’s plug in our previous discussion concerning restoration. What is the overall, existing, negative and undesired condition of mankind that is in need of restoration? Because of sin, man has been a mortal being. He has been absent the life of God in his spiritual, soulful, and physical being. He has been dying and living apart from God.
What then would exemplify the restorative movement “away from” this existing, negative condition? In a word: “God-life” (Greek, “zoe”). The infusion of the life of God into every aspect of man’s being is the ideal version of restoration for each and every person. Keep in mind that restoration can either be the complete “makeover” of what exists, or the replacement of what exists with a “restored” version. Or, as in the case of man, it can be an apparent combination of both.
The whys and wherefores concerning the outworking of the restoration of all mankind, as important as they may be, are secondary issues. They are the details, so to speak. It is enough at this point to be renewed in the scriptural truth that this is God’s ultimate plan for all of mankind.
If this is a new concept for you, it ought to give you a fresh and loftier view of our Father God. It ought to show you, once and for all, what His heart toward all of mankind really is. And it ought to bring you great comfort to know that the Good Shepherd will not stop seeking until that very last sheep is found.
Above all else, this concept is extremely applicable into the daily lives of all people. Your opinion of people as well as how you approach and treat people are influenced by your view of their ultimate destiny, even if it is done subconsciously. Once appropriated into your heart and mind, this concept WILL change how you view people.
This truth is also very relevant to me personally. Even as I was writing this last segment of the original draft, I received a phone call. My brother had just passed away after a long bout with cancer. Trust me, this teaching was deeply comforting to me at that moment. I dedicate this study to my brother, Jackie. I will miss him very, very much.
(Jackie B. - 3/30/51 - 4/02/04)