The Creator’s Grand Design—Part 13

Times of Restitution

SHORTLY after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter and John visited the Temple in Jerusalem, where they came into contact with a man lame from his mother’s womb. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the Temple, he asked alms of them. Peter, fastening his eyes on him with John, said, “Look on us.” Then Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Then Peter took this man by the hand, “and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the Temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”—Acts 3:1-8

We read that “as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.” (vs. 11) It is not surprising that the people wondered, for here was a man whom they knew had been unable to walk from the time of his birth, but who was suddenly walking and leaping and praising God!

Peter observed the situation and said to the people: “Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.”—Acts 3:12-18

Thus Peter set squarely before his Jewish audience the fact that Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead, and that it was through faith in his name that the lame man had been given soundness of limb. Then Peter presented a marvelously comprehensive lesson from this incident of divine healing, a lesson which embraces the great objective in the Creator’s design for the redemption of mankind from sin and death, and the restoration of all the willing and obedient to perfect health and everlasting life.

Peter introduced this lesson by the expression, “Repent ye therefore.” No one can receive of God’s grace through Christ without repentance. In Peter’s Pentecostal sermon his listeners were “pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37), and asked what they could do. To these Peter said also they should repent; and, noting they were already in the attitude of repentance, he bid them to be baptized. But the audience which witnessed the healing of the lame man seemingly did not show this same attitude. The record does not say they were pricked in the heart, so Peter simply outlined to them their future prospects as subjects in the kingdom of Christ. He said, “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

Restitution means ‘restoration’, or as some translations state it, ‘reconstitution’. Something had been lost. One of the evidences of that loss was the condition of the lame man who through faith in Jesus had been restored to health; and Peter explained that following the second coming of Christ there would be times of restitution of all things. Jesus had healed a few of the sick in Israel during the short period of his ministry, and now Peter and John had restored another to health. But the people were not to suppose these blessings represented God’s total design for the sin-cursed and dying race, for later in his great plan there would be times of restitution of all things.

What was lost because of sin? The answer to this question is revealed in the Genesis account of the creation and fall of man. It was life that was lost through sin. The penalty, “Thou shalt surely die,” fell upon our first parents and their progeny in tragic reality. Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden to die. Their descendants have continued ever since to die. With the dying process came sickness and pain of every conceivable kind. Some have become blind, some deaf, some are not able to speak, others have been unable to walk. Millions have finished their miserable lives in institutions for the insane. Even the healthiest of humans grow old and die.

In the loss of life, man also lost his God-given dominion over the earth and the lower earthly creations. (Gen. 1:28) The Prophet David wrote: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and past crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.”—Ps. 8:3-8

The Apostle Paul quoted this prophecy in the second chapter of Hebrews, and then observed, “But now we see not yet all things put under him [man]. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (vss. 8-10) David asked, “What is man … that thou visitest him?” This visit is in the person of Jesus, who came at his first advent to redeem man from death. So Paul explained that while we do not yet see all things put under man, which was the Creator’s original design for him, we do see that Jesus has visited this earthly domain and has given his life that man might be released from the penalty of death which fell upon him in Eden.

The Second Visit

But, as the Scriptures reveal, it is the plan of God for Christ to visit the earth a second time, not to die again, but to rule, and through his rulership, to restore to man that which he provided through his death at his first advent. That is why Peter wrote concerning Christ, “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things.” This blessed hope for mankind is based upon the sure foundation of God’s promises—promises which have been ratified by the blood of Christ. Peter explained that the times of restitution had been spoken by the mouth of all God’s prophets since the world began.

Having made this sweeping statement concerning the restitution testimony of all God’s holy prophets, Peter quoted an example of these prophecies in Acts 3:22: “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.” This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 18:15. The implications of this prophecy are astounding, for the Lord instructed Moses to say unto the Israelites of that day, who were not pleasing to the Lord, that a prophet would be raised up to them from among their brethren (a later generation) and that they would be given an opportunity to hear and obey that prophet.

According to Peter’s inspired explanation, this prophecy to be fulfilled by Christ during the times of restitution of all things. This means that the Israelites of Moses’ day will have to be awakened from the sleep of death in order to have the opportunity of obeying this foretold prophet. It means, therefore, that their eternal destiny was not fixed at death, but that in God’s due time they will have an opportunity to participate in restitution blessings.

Peter explained further that in the times of restitution, those who do not “hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23) This reveals how different conditions will be then from what they are now or ever have been in the past. At no time in human history has anyone been able to escape death by believing and serving God. Believers and unbelievers, the righteous and the unrighteous, have succumbed alike to the ravages of death. But in the times of restitution only those who disbelieve and disobey will be destroyed from among the people. All others will continue to live, and, if they finally prove faithful, will enjoy perfect and everlasting human life.

The Covenant with Abraham

In telling his Jewish audience about the times of restitution foretold by all God’s prophets, Peter also said, “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” (vs. 25) God’s promise to Abraham was, as indicated by Peter, one of the assurances of the times of restitution.

God said to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18) The Apostle Paul refers to this promise and explains that Jesus is the seed referred to by God. (Gal. 3:8,16) Paul also explains that associated with Jesus as that promised seed will be his footstep followers, those who, during the present age, suffer and die with him. (Gal. 3:27-29) It was necessary that this larger seed be developed before the promised blessing of the people as a whole could flow out to them. This has been the work of the age in God’s plan which separates the first and the second visits of Jesus. There are evidences that this work is now nearly completed; therefore the blessing of all the families of the earth will soon commence.

As we have seen, that blessing will be a restoration to the life and dominion forfeited by Adam when he transgressed God’s law. As Peter explained, the times of restitution were foretold by all God’s prophets. In a marvelous prayer to Jehovah, Moses said, “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.” (Ps. 90:3) God turned man to destruction by pronouncing the sentence of death. He provided for his return from death through the redemptive work of Christ; and through Christ, during the times of restitution, God will say, “Return [from death], ye children of men.”

The Prophetess Hannah said, “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” (I Sam. 2:6) Again, it was the death sentence, inflicted on account of sin, that led to death; and it will be the grace of God through Christ that will result in mankind’s being made alive during the times of restitution. In this text it is the Hebrew word sheol that is translated ‘grave’. This is the Hebrew word in the Old Testament which is also translated ‘hell’. Thus we have the assurance that those who are in the Bible hell are to be released. (Rev. 20:13) This is an assurance that the future of humanity is not to be one of torment but of life and happiness, as the willing and obedient are restored to human perfection in an earthly paradise.

To Live Again

The Prophet Job expected to live again here on the earth. He wrote: “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait [in death], till my change [from death to life] come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” (Job 14:14,15) Man is the work of God’s hand. He was created in God’s image. Through the thousands of years since creation, that divine image has become greatly blurred, for through all this time man has been a falling creature. But in the times of restitution, because God has a desire unto the work of his hand, he will restore man to his original perfection, and the image of God will be reflected in him as it was in the beginning.

Tears Wiped Away

Tears have been a symbol of the sorrow and suffering experienced by mankind throughout the reign of sin and death; but in one of his prophecies of restitution, Isaiah wrote that God would “swallow up death in victory” and that “the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.” (Isa. 25:8) What a happy experience is waiting for the world during and after the times of restitution of all things!

Isaiah enlarged further upon this in another prophecy. There we read that blind eyes will be opened, and that deaf ears will be unstopped. “Then shall the lame man leap as an hart,” he wrote, “and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. … An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness.” (Isa. 35:5,6,8) This highway is the return road from death, and over it, symbolically speaking, the teeming millions of the Adamic race, guided and helped by the Lord, will make their way back to the perfection that was lost in Eden.

Writing further concerning this highway which will lead to holiness and perfection, Isaiah explained: “No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return [from death], … with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”—vss. 9,10

The principal lion abroad in the earth during the dark night of sin and death has been the Devil. The Apostle Peter referred to him as “a roaring lion” who is ever “seeking whom he may devour.” (I Pet. 5:8) But during the coming times of restitution, Satan will be bound (Rev. 20:2); and therefore this great lion of opposition to God and his laws of righteousness will not be able to deceive and interfere with those who are traveling over the symbolic highway on their way back to perfection of mind, heart, and body, and to everlasting life.

There are other lions and ravenous beasts which lurk about at the present time to hinder, frighten, and discourage those who would serve the Lord. There is the lion of strong drink, and the ravenous beast of adverse public opinion, and, of course, many others. The Scriptures assure us that in the times of restitution nothing will be permitted to “hurt nor destroy.”—Isa. 11:9

Isaiah wrote, “The ransomed of the Lord shall return.” Jesus gave himself “a ransom for all,” St. Paul explained. (I Tim. 2:3-6) This means that all mankind will return from death, and progress over the highway to perfection during that glorious period of restitution. They will return with joy and singing, for of that time we are assured that sorrow and crying shall pass away. (Rev. 21:4) This means that all the present causes for sorrow will be removed; and chief among these causes is death itself, which will be destroyed.

Concerning the times of restitution, Isaiah also wrote: “They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall make them long enjoy the work of their hands [Margin]. … And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain [kingdom], saith the Lord.”—Isa. 65:21-25

In this beautiful picture of peace and goodwill we are reminded that when man was created he was given dominion over the animals, and without doubt that dominion will be restored during the times of restitution of all things. This, too, will add to the joy and fullness of life which mankind will experience in that glorious new day of restoration when “the Sun of Righteousness” arises with “healing in his wings.”—Mal. 4:2; Matt. 13:43

In the Inward Parts

Through the Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord gave us another blessed assurance of restitution for mankind. The promise specifically names the Jewish people, but the Scriptures clearly show that all mankind will be included. We read: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”—Jer. 31:31-34

Through Moses, who served as mediator, God entered into a covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The Law of that covenant was written on tables of stone. The covenant promised life to the Israelites if they would be wholly obedient to its laws. But they did not obey, so they failed to gain life. In God’s promise of the New Covenant, he explains that its law will be put in their inward parts, and will be written in their hearts, rather than on tables of stone. This means a restoration to the fullness of the original image of God in which man was created. In other words, this is another of God’s promises of restitution.

The Lord assures us that when this covenant is fully made with the people all will know him; hence the dissemination of the truth concerning him will no longer be necessary. When we think of the confusion concerning God that is in the minds of the people today, how thankful we should be that it will not continue forever. A glad new day of enlightenment is in prospect for the sin-cursed and benighted world of mankind!

When the New Covenant is fully made, the whole world will be at peace with God and at peace with one another. Only those who refuse to accept the provision for reconciliation through Christ, which the Creator in his love has made for them, will fail to gain the available blessings of that time. Peter explained that these will be “destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23) Then will be fulfilled that wonderful picture painted for us in Revelation 5:13, which reads: “Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, … and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”

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