“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 3:20-21).
The Scriptures clearly teach the purpose of Jesus' return, as well as the manner and time of his return. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even till the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 nas). Yet he also said, “If I go...I will come again” (John 14:3). Certainly Jesus has been with the Church throughout the Age, directing, comforting and cheering his saints by his spirit and by his Word. But he also promised a personal return.
Some think that Jesus' return referred to the descent of the holy Spirit at Pentecost. Others think he was speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem. But sixty years after Pentecost and twenty-six years after Jerusalem's destruction, Jesus promised the event as still future. “Behold, I come quickly,” to which the Apostle John responded, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:12, 20).
Conversion of the World in Millennium
Some expect an actual return of the Lord—but a long way off—supposing the Church must first convert the world. Others believe that each time a sinner converts, that is part of Christ's coming. Then, when the world is all converted, Jesus will have fully come.
However, many Scriptures indicate that at the time of our Lord’s second coming the world will be far from being converted to God. In Luke 21:27-35 Jesus, speaking of his return and coming Kingdom, says “take heed to yourselves lest...that day come upon you unawares, for as a snare shall it come on all them (not taking heed) that dwell on the face of the whole earth. In 2 Timothy 3:1-4 the Apostle Paul tells us, “In the last days...men shall be...lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Revelation 1:7 states that at Christ’s return, “All kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.”
Clearly the world is not converted when Christ returns. On the contrary, the Scriptures teach that Christ comes before the conversion of the world, for the purpose of converting the world! The Church is tested now in order to share with Jesus in blessing the world later in His promised Kingdom. “They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4;3:21).
Gospel Sent as a Witness to Nations
Those who expect the world to be converted first, cite Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” But a “witness” to the world does not guarantee a conversion of the world. The Bible reached “all nations” of the earth during the 1800s, but the world has not been converted. The Apostle James tells us (Acts 15:14) that the work of the present Age is the calling of a Church class, “a people for his name.” Afterward will come the conversion of the world in the next Age.
Another objection cites Psalm 110:1, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” as though Jesus is sitting on some material throne in the heavens waiting until all enemies are subdued for him. Yet verses 2 through 7 clearly show our Lord Jesus active in subduing his enemies. His place at the right hand of God symbolizes the authority God has given him to “subdue all things unto himself” (Phil 3:21). As a president or prime minister may have a “right-hand man” to act for him, so Jesus is at the “right hand” of God. He is “sitting on the right hand of power” at his coming (Matthew 26:64), and remains there during the Millennial Age―and forever.
Purpose of First and Second Advents
The first and second advents of Jesus are parts of one Plan. The purpose of the first advent was to provide a “ransom” to redeem the world (1 Timothy 2:6). The purpose of the second advent is to raise and restore the race redeemed by that ransom. The long interim between the two advents, in which Satan has been permitted to continue his rule, has been used to test and prove the elect “Bride” class. When this work is complete, Satan’s influence will be removed, and Jesus, with his bride, will offer life to all the families of the earth.
Once the ransom price had been paid, the restoring of the world could have commenced at once, as the Apostles at first expected (Acts 1:6). However, the reign of Christ has been separated from his sufferings by these twenty centuries in order to prepare his Church to reign with him in his Kingdom.
If God had not planned this special calling for his saints, then Jesus' first advent would not have taken place when it did, but would have come at the time decreed for the second advent. God planned 6,000 years for the permission of evil, and the seventh millennium for cleansing and restitution. The period between the ransom for all and the blessing of all has been just long enough for selecting “joint heirs” to reign with Christ in blessing the world.
Thus, when Jesus ascended to heaven, he left earth “until the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). Far from being converted when Jesus returns, the nations are “angry” (Revelation 11:18). This does not mean that God has failed at converting the world; it means God has not yet attempted to convert the world. When He does, during the Millennium, the world will indeed be converted. “My Word ... shall not return unto me void ... it shall accomplish that which I please” (Isaiah 55:11).
Some churches suppose that God will do nothing more than choose His Church—but calling the Church is only the first step in reclaiming the world. The Scriptures tell us that the Church will reign with Christ to bless all nations (Revelation 3:21; Daniel 7:27; Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:8,29).
Election and Free Grace
For centuries Christians were divided on the subjects of Election and Free Grace. In fact, both are taught in the Scriptures, therefore, they both must be true, but in no way can they be reconciled except by “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). With a proper understanding of God’s Plan of the Ages and its operation through time, we can reconcile these two doctrines. Election applies to the past and present Ages. Free Grace applies to the Millennium.
Election is not arbitrary or fatalistic. God's election, or selection, is based on fitness and adaptability for His purposes. Abraham was elected, or chosen, because he was a man of faith. God determined that through his line, “all the families of the earth” would be blessed (Genesis 12:2,3). This favor passed on to Isaac and to Jacob and then to the nation of Israel. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2).
This election had many privileges, but it also had responsibilities. Israel was delivered from Egypt, they were protected from their enemies, miracles were done on their behalf, and they were given a Law from heaven. They were also punished with droughts and famines and captivity by their enemies when they were disobedient. When Jesus came, the blessing of the Gospel was exclusively theirs at first (Matthew 15:24).
Because of their rejection of the blessings offered them, they were cast off from God’s favor and the Gospel went out to the Gentiles. Still, the message has not gone out equally to all the nations of the earth. Though the Gospel is free to all who hear, some parts of the world seem to have been more favored than others. Now during the ending of this Age, the Gospel is reaching truth hungry people everywhere.
In the next age it will be different. God's Grace will be offered freely to everyone. Every man, woman and child on earth will be called to everlasting life. Even the dead of past ages will be raised to hear that call. “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth” (John 5:28, 29;.Isaiah 35:10).The promise God made in Eden, that the seed of the woman would “bruise” (crush) the head of the serpent, will be fulfilled by Christ and his Church. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20, Genesis 3:15). Now people groan, waiting for a better day, but they do not realize what they seek. Paul explains, “The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:22, 19 nas).
When the Church, the chaste bride class, has been fully developed and completed, she will be exalted with Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7; 21:9). Then, as the second Adam and Eve, Jesus and his Bride, through the holy Spirit will offer life worldwide. “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
Justification by Faith in Jesus
The Population Reference Bureau estimates well over 100 billion human beings have lived on this earth. Only about a third of today's population even claims to be Christian—and even fewer in past centuries. This means that the vast majority have died without faith in Jesus. Are they forever lost? Every thinking Christian yearns for a reasonable answer to this question consistent with God's just and loving character. There are various opinions:
PREDESTINATION: Most are not elected to be saved; they go to a hell of torture forever.
IGNORANCE: Without believing in Jesus, a good person may go to heaven forever.
ATHEISM: There is no afterlife; no one will ever live again.
Many kind-hearted Christians seem to believe that even those who die in ignorance will somehow be saved. For if God is loving, how could so many be lost? Yet the Scriptures clearly link salvation to belief:
● “By grace are ye saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
● “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
● “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
● “There is none other name...whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
●”How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14).
So knowledge and acceptance of Christ are necessary to achieve everlasting salvation, and this is what God's Plan offers. Because Jesus died for Adam and all his race, the world will be raised to life during the Millennium, and then come to a knowledge of Christ (1 Timothy 2:4). Then by reformation and obedience to God, they can achieve everlasting life.
Conscience Not Sufficient to Save
Some may argue that the light of conscience may save those ignorant of Christ. This idea is based on Paul's comment that the Gentiles “are a law unto themselves” (Romans 2:14). Paul's point, however, is that the Gentiles are condemned by conscience, not justified by it. People often transgress even the light of their own consciences (Romans 3:19; 7:18,19).
Even Israel, which had a written Law, was condemned by it rather than justified by it. “By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in his [God's] sight” (Romans 3:20). If an Israelite kept “the whole law and yet offended in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).
Paul shows us that the only release possible from sin and death is by the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. Experience had “proved both Jews and Gentiles...are all under sin. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one...they are all gone out of the way” (Romans 3:9-12). Thus the scriptures close every door of hope save one, showing that none may secure eternal life by meritorious work and ignorance is equally useless.
If ignorance were a ground for salvation, then why spend money and labor on missionary work? Surely it would be more charitable to leave the people in ignorance if that is an acceptable path to salvation! No, ignorance does not bring salvation. Those who seek salvation now must come to Christ.
As for vast majority of the world both living and dead, their time will be in the Millennium. Then all will learn of God and the sacrifice Jesus made for them. By accepting their Redeemer, and walking up the “way of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8), they can then gain everlasting life.
Individuals Not Predestined
Calvinism teaches that each person is already predestined—either to salvation or to be lost. Can this possibly be true? The Scriptures tell us that the Gospel is “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). Certainly this is not a message of bad news and unavoidable condemnation for billions of people. Did the Apostles preach the Gospel in vain, unaware that their efforts could change nothing? Are those who died as infants and everyone else not predestined to life lost forever? No, God has a better way.
The Bible does not teach there are now several ways of salvation—one by faith in Jesus, one by ignorance, one by predestination. There is only one way of salvation: Faith in the death of Jesus for our sins. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me” (John 14:6 nas).
The Gospel really is good news. It really is for “ALL people” (Luke 2:10). Christ died for all. (1 Timothy 2:5,6; Hebrews 2:9; Romans 5:18) The benefits of his death come to the world in two Ages of redemption—the present Gospel Age for the calling of a Church, the elect “Bride of Christ,” then the Millennial Age for the restoration of all the remainder of mankind. During that Age, the entire world will learn of God and of His Son Jesus who died for them. Those who become obedient will live forever.
A Ransom for All
Anyone with a spark of love or pity in his heart would be concerned for the eternal destiny of the billions of their fellowmen. God is the very essence of love (1 John 4:8). Would not He be even more deeply concerned? Would He not plan for their welfare? He would—and He has.
God loved the world enough to give His own Son for them (John 3:16). This argues forcefully that He would make sure everyone learned of this in a convincing way; so they would be able to believe and accept what He has done for them. This will be accomplished in the Kingdom of Christ. Satan will be bound, the dead will be raised, and the Truth will become worldwide (Habakkuk 2:14).
John 1:9 says, Jesus “was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Was that an exaggeration? Paul said Jesus gave himself “a ransom for ALL” (1 Timothy 2:5,6). Did he overstate himself? The angel told the shepherds he had “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL people” (Luke 2:10). Was this an exaggeration?
No, these glorious promises are all “yea, and ... Amen,” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). He died “for every man,” and every woman, and every child (Hebrews 2:9). When this age closes, the world will see how wonderful God's morning of joy will be (Psalms 30:5).
The “ransom” (“corresponding price,” Young’s Concordance) is the price Jesus gave—his own human life. Jesus accepted the penalty of death imposed upon Adam (Romans 5:18,19). As a result, Adam and all Adam's children can be freed from the penalty. God's Plan for applying that release for the world is during the Millennium. Then through Jesus Christ, God will establish a just government, remove the deceptive influence of Satan (Revelation 20:3) and train the world in righteousness.
Then “all” will have the opportunity—and responsibility—to appreciate the “ransom for all.” Everyone may receive everlasting life as God offered it to Adam and Eve in the beginning. Obedience will again be the test which all who attain life at the close of the Millennium must pass (Revelation 20:7-9).
First Real Opportunity
When a person dies, “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Ecclesiastes 11:3 also says, “The place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.” In the resurrection, a person comes back as he was when he died. Then God will lead him to knowledge and understanding in righteousness. God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
The anointed Church is the “first fruits” of redemption. When all the members of the Church class have been raised to glory, then the Kingdom of Christ will be established. The rest of the world will then be raised. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ [Head and body] the first fruits; after that those who are Christ's [by right of purchase by his own precious blood] at His coming [presence]” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23 nas).
Through his disobedience, father Adam lost for himself and for all his children yet unborn, life, blessing, and fellowship with God. Since Eden, none have been able to escape the experience of evil and its consequences. When Adam’s children arise from their graves they will, for the first time, experience the goodness of God. In the Kingdom, Satan will be bound and no hindrance will be there to impede their growth in righteousness. Every step of progress will be rewarded. The characters they have sown in this life will make it easier for some, harder for others, but ALL will have their first full chance to obey perfectly and live forever!
All Saved, but Two Salvations
God's salvation for ALL does not conflict with freedom of the will and liberty of choice. All will be saved from condemnation—either now or during the next Age. “God...is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Timothy 4:10).
Those saved now from Adamic condemnation through faith justification are called to a heavenly salvation. They need to overcome the world, the flesh and Satan, and “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). “If we suffer [with Christ], we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
Salvation will be offered to the rest of the world during Christ's Kingdom. Their success will depend upon complying with the laws of Christ's Kingdom. The speed of their progress will depend on two things: (1) The handicaps of character from one's previous life, and (2) Their degree of love for the King, his laws and righteousness. Many who were noble unbelievers will make rapid progress.
In both the Christian Age and the Millennial Age, any enlightened who “draw back” will be in danger of “destruction” (Hebrews 10:38, 39 nas). With all the benefits of the Kingdom, those who refuse to reform “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is [represents] the second death” (Revelation 21:8). “Fire” is a symbol of destruction.
Thus the “ransom for all” applies to every human being. All are condemned in the first Adam, (1 Corinthians 15:45,47) but all who accept the second Adam, Jesus, receive life. “By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation ... by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Romans 5:18).
The prophet Jeremiah said, “In those days, they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge, but every one [who dies] shall die for his own iniquity” (Jeremiah 31:29,30). Adam ate the “sour grape” of sin and brought misery upon all his children. In the Restitution Kingdom Day, Adam's children will no longer die for Adam’s sin. Each person will be responsible for his own eternal destiny.
The “Resurrection” of Israel
“The times of restitution” were “spoken by the mouth of all the holy Prophets.” The restoration of Israel is part of that testimony (Acts 1:6). Ezekiel 37 contains the famous vision of “a valley of dry bones,” representing the hopes of Israel. First, the bones were gathered out of their “graves,” secondly, tendons and flesh were added, and finally the breath of life came into them. This vision represents the restoration of Israel as a nation which we see being fulfilled in our day—never to be “pulled up” again (Amos 9:15).
The Apostle Paul said Israel would be cast away until the elect Bride is complete. “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness [full number] of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:25, 26). When the Bride class is complete, God “will give [Israel] an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:5-7; 31:28; 32:40-42; 33:6-16).
Many of the prophecies and promises of future blessing apply to Israel alone, but Israel was also a type [symbolical]. Israel's priesthood was typical of the body of Christ, the “Royal Priesthood,” with its “better sacrifices” and real atonement (1 Peter 2:9; Hebrews 9:23; Leviticus 16:6, 24; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 5:11). Israel itself was sometimes symbolic of the world.
The Restoration of the Sodomites
Surely, if we find the restitution of the Sodomites clearly taught in the Bible (Ezekiel 16:48 -63), we may feel satisfied that “restitution” will apply to everyone (Acts 3:19-21). They were not a righteous people, but neither was Israel, nor were we before being justified by faith (Romans 3:10; 5:1). The sin of Sodom was so great that God rained down fire from heaven and destroyed them because of their gross wickedness (Genesis 19:24; Luke 17:29).
Still, Jesus said Sodom was not as responsible as the Jews of Capernaum (Matthew 11:23). “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for thee [Capernaum]” (Matthew 11:24). Neither had full knowledge, yet Capernaum sinned against more light than Sodom. Nevertheless, both will come back during the thousand-year Millennial Kingdom, the “day of judgment” (2 Peter 3:7,8).
Sodom—a Daughter to Israel
The Prophet Ezekiel spoke of the Kingdom as an opportunity for both Israel and Sodom. Ezekiel lamented the abominations of Samaria (capital of northern Israel), and compared her abominations with those of “Sodom your sister” (Ezekiel 16:48-63 NAS). Sisters in sin! But the prophecy ends with hope for both of them. They have been prisoners in their graves, but God will release them. He will “restore their captivity ... [and] return [them] to their former state” (verses 53, 55 NAS). Amazingly, Ezekiel concludes by saying “I will establish an everlasting covenant with you [Judah] ... and I will give them [Sodom and Samaria] to you as daughters” (verses 60, 61 NAS).
That “everlasting covenant” is God's “new covenant” with a better mediator than Moses! “The days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). This promise is guaranteed by Great Jehovah—”I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 16:62 NAS).
“The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob,” and “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26-29 NAS). Through Israel the blessings will flow out to the world (Zechariah 8:23). Then the “ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6) will extend to everyone. It will bring “Liberty to [all] the captives” (Isaiah 61:1). Everyone—Sodom, Samaria, Judah, and all the Gentiles—will have an opportunity for everlasting life.
Inhabitants of Earth to Learn Righteousness
Thus, our privilege as Christians is to announce Christ will open the graves and set at “liberty the captives.” The peoples of earth will be restored to “their former estate”—a restitution! Then will be the time “when judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9). Just as we as Christians have experienced the mercy of God forgiving our sins—we rejoice in the prospect of the whole world benefiting by the New Covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Yes, Israel is “beloved for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Yes, Jews, Sodomites and all mankind will be amazed when they find out how much “God so loved the WORLD”!
Many will be amazed that God's plan is so broad. Throughout history the Jews supposed the promises of God were reserved for them. Today, some Christians think the promises of God are reserved only for them. In fact, God has blessings for the entire world through the Church and Israel. As we approach the time for ALL to be blessed, let us rejoice at the prospect.
Election of a Few—to Bless The Many With Grace!
How glorious is God's Plan! The Election of a few—the Church—will bring God's infinite Grace to the many. Calvinism teaches predestination using as a basis “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). Thus they wrongly conclude God has doomed the vast majority to an eternity of torture. God does has omniscience, but two essential qualities of His greatness are overlooked—His love and justice. The God we love is just and merciful. “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face” (Psalm 89:14).
Free Grace (Armenianism), presents God as a being full of loving and benevolent designs for his creatures, but one lacking in ability and foreknowledge. Was God surprised when Satan used the serpent to tempt Eve to sin with Adam? Is God disappointed that so few have heard the Gospel, and even fewer faithfully follow His Son? Is Satan the winner? No, God was not surprised, and God is not disappointed. What God planned will certainly succeed. God provided the solution to man's fall before it even happened. Jesus was “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
All who died because of Adam's sin will live again! “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
The doctrines of Election and Free Grace can be harmonized beautifully only by understanding the timing of God's Plan of the Ages. Jesus provided the “Ransom” at his first advent. The Church is now being completed. The next step will accomplish the purpose of his second advent—the restoration of all things (Acts 3:19-21).
The world is waiting for the completion of Jesus' Church. “The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19 NAS). As Christians, we hail every evidence of Jesus' return because it shall truly bring “great joy...to all people” (Luke 2:10).