“And He [God] 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 theme of “restitution of all things” when Jesus Christ returns at his second advent is woven throughout the Bible. This opportunity for “restitution” is guaranteed to all because Jesus gave himself as “a ransom for all” at his first advent (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus died for everyone, so everyone will benefit. All creation, now under the “bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21), will be delivered from the original death penalty on Adam. At his first advent, Jesus secured redemption. At his second advent, Jesus brings deliverance to all the willing.
An Individual Trial for Life
The Apostle Paul is most clear and emphatic on this subject. He says, “For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord [ruler, controller] both of the dead and living” (Romans 14:9). That is, the object of Jesus’ death was not merely to bless and rule over a few living followers in the Earth, but over all mankind—both the “quick [living] and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1)—including even the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).
As yet, comparatively few of the billions of mankind have entered into the blessings in Christ gained by acceptance of the “ransom for all” which Jesus died to provide. Why? Is God unwilling or unable to rescue the world from Adam’s condemnation? Not at all! God’s love and power and His purpose are unchangeable (Malachi 3:6). The “due time” in His Plan to release mankind from condemnation is during the “Times of Restitution” of Christ’s second advent.
The Bible has been translated into languages all over the world. This does not mean all have had a full opportunity for salvation. The fall suffered by disobedience in Eden has not injured all of Adam's children alike. Some come into the world more depraved than others. Some have an environment more negative than others. Thus some are more subject than others to Satan, the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). During the Millennium, everyone will have a full and complete opportunity for recovery.
Jesus’ ransom sacrifice does not give everlasting life or blessing to any man, nor does it excuse sin and automatically make sinners into saints for heaven! The ransom provides a release from the first condemnation and allows the opportunity for a second trial for life—an individual trial for every person. The first trial for life for mankind was in Eden. The second trial for life will be during the Kingdom established by Jesus Christ during his second advent. By then demonstrating obedience or disobedience, righteousness or sin, everlasting life will either be granted or lost. Every person who has ever lived may gain everlasting life if they use that opportunity properly.
This second trial will be complete and comprehensive. It will determine who would be “righteous” in a thousand trials—or who would be “filthy” under a thousand trials (Revelation 22:11). For 6000 years, the world has been gaining a knowledge of evil and its bitter consequences through experience. This will prove a great advantage for them when their opportunity for life comes during the Millennium. Then they will be able to readily appreciate the surpassing blessings of righteousness.
When Christ is in control, individuals will be rewarded for every step of obedience, and by this means they will grow towards perfection. No more favorable trial or conditions could be imagined! During that time, there will be every assistance given to learn righteousness and walk up “the highway of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8,9). All who are willing will gradually improve until they are clean, perfect, and obedient children of God.
Those who wilfully persist in sin, who deliberately prefer sin and evil, will be removed and experience a “second death” (Revelation 21:8). “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20)—and there will be no recovery from the second death.
The Church Now on Trial
Only a small number in this present Gospel Age choose to deny self, take up their cross and sacrifice with Jesus (Matthew 16:24; Romans 12:1). These are justified by faith through the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:1). God reckons to them all the blessings of restitution which will be provided for the world during the coming Age. Their imperfections and unavoidable weaknesses are covered by Christ’s “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 3:5). These constitute members of Christ’s Church class, and they are tried in advance of the world for a special purpose. They are to become coworkers with Christ in blessing the world during the Millennial Kingdom.
There is a vast difference between the “first resurrection” of the Church (Revelation 20:6) and the later resurrection of humanity. The Church’s resurrection will be instantaneous to “glory, and honor and immortality” (Romans 2:7). The trial of the Church class has been under the difficult conditions of “this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4) in which they have had to suffer for “righteousness sake” (Matthew 5:10). For the world in the second resurrection, rather than suffering for righteousness sake, they will prosper for every step toward righteousness. The willing and obedient will gradually have their mental and physical weaknesses removed as they grow toward perfection during the Kingdom. Everlasting life on earth will be their reward.
The Glimmer of Hope
The original penalty imposed on mankind was death. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Consequently, all Adam’s posterity experience more or less suffering—and all eventually die. The penalty of sin was to die without any privilege of returning to life. But just as soon as Adam and Eve both sinned and the penalty was pronounced, a hint was given of God’s free grace.
This glimmer of hope came from what God said to the serpent that was used by Satan to tempt Eve. God told the serpent that although his agencies would injure the posterity of mother Eve, her “seed” would fatally injure Satan. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The glimmer of hope continued when much later God promised Abraham that in his “seed” all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). This promise implied a resurrection—a restitution—for millions had already died, and for them to be blessed, they would have to be raised.
But how could such blessings come? Would God change his mind, and relent on the curse? Or would God arrange for the debt to be paid for mankind? Of course it is the latter, and Jesus is the one who paid the debt.
God actually demonstrated to Abraham, in a very realistic lesson, how the payment for sin would be made―with a life. Abraham was asked to sacrifice the heir of promise, his dear son Isaac, “whom thou lovest.” It was a sore test upon the faith of Abraham, but he was obedient. At the last moment, as he was about to slay Isaac, an Angel of the LORD intervened and provided instead a ram for the sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-18). In this way, because of his faith, Abraham received his son back from the dead “in a figure” (Hebrews 11:19). Thus God assured Abraham and all of us of His unrelenting justice, but also of His unsurpassed love. God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up [to death] for us all” (Romans 8:32).
Adam’s entire posterity was condemned when he sinned. Jesus, who had the potential for generating his own perfect race, instead died in Adam’s place as a corresponding price. Jesus was “cut off” in death before producing any descendants of his own (Isaiah 53:8). Thus, Jesus bought our whole human race with full authority to restore it.
The balancing of Justice is evident: Jesus died, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Nevertheless, each person must individually accept God’s divine favor—whether now, during the Gospel Age, or later, during the Kingdom. None are automatically “made righteous” because of Jesus’ sacrifice. All must ultimately turn their hearts to God and choose obedience. In the Kingdom, the vast majority of mankind will take the opportunity to be made righteous.
“As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18,19)
The same unswerving justice that once condemned man to death now stands pledged for the rescue of all. In the present age, we can confess our sins and accept the gift of redemption now. “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:33, 34). During this Gospel Age, only a few have accepted the Redeemer. During the Millennial Age, under the “New Covenant,” the remainder will have their eyes opened and be given the opportunity to accept Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The fact that no recovery from the Adamic loss is yet accomplished, though nearly 2,000 years have passed since Jesus died, is no argument against the restitution of mankind during the Millennial Kingdom. Before Adam sinned, God had planned for the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), although Jesus did not die until some four thousand years later, as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
As John the Apostle said of Jesus, “He is “the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins [the Church's]: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2). Soon the whole world will have its opportunity.
The followers of Christ, justified by faith, must step by step develop fruits of the spirit. Only then will they have an abundant “entrance” into the “everlasting Kingdom” (2 Peter 1:4-11). Christians must be “faithful unto death” to be given “a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Others, still more or less blinded by the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), will have a full chance to prove their worthiness or unworthiness for everlasting life, during the Kingdom—and all the dead of past ages, likewise.
Death—the Penalty for Sin
Sadly, some Christians seem to cherish a belief in eternal torture. What purpose would be served by our loving and just God to perpetuate a life in torment? Death―annihilation, the opposite of life―not torment, was the penalty for sin. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Those who have died do not—as some think—live in torment after death. The dead do not experience anything—they simply wait in the peaceful sleep of death, until the resurrection. The scriptures tell us “the dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
Jesus paid the penalty for sin, “a life for a life” (Deuteronomy 19:21), by dying—not by suffering “torment” in some fiery pit after his death. Christ “died for our sins” because death was the penalty. Jesus’ death as the ransom price for mankind is the very foundation of God’s Plan.
The serpent in the garden lied to Eve when he said “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Unfortunately, Satan's lie has prospered through the centuries, finding itself embedded in most world religions, even permeating Christianity. When a person dies, he or she is dead—they do not feel, breathe, think, eat, speak, see—they are dead (Psalms 146:4). To be “alive” to experience eternal torture or anything else would nullify God’s word, “Ye shall surely die.” Not until the resurrection of the dead do people experience anything after death.
Jesus is our redeemer from Adamic death. The ultimate punishment for willful sin will be “second death”—and as there will be no second redeemer, there will be no release from second death (Hebrews 10:26). But second death can apply only to those who have been released from Adamic death—either the saints of this age who have been redeemed, or the world redeemed during the Millennium.
Is Restitution Practical?
Fair question! When the billions of dead are raised to life again will Earth have room for them all? Is Earth a vast graveyard incapable of sustaining everyone in the resurrection? No, there is no problem here. God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth”—and God is wise enough to plan accordingly (Genesis 1:28, NAS).
The Population Reference Bureau estimates the total world population of human beings as about 107 billion, which it says goes back 10,000 years. The chronology of the Hebrew Old Testament added to the time since Christ’s first advent actually covers about 6,000 years of human history. The Scriptures also record a universal Flood which reduced the population to eight persons. But let us be extra liberal and more than double the proposed 107 billion to about 250 billion.
In the United States, in the state of Texas alone, 250 billion people would each have standing room of about 30 square feet! In South Africa, each would have an area 52.6 square feet, and in France, each resurrected person would have about 23.7 square feet. The entire rest of the world would then be available for expansion. No, room will not be a problem!
Could Earth support such a population? Yes. Even today farming technology would be able to feed this number. In addition, during the Millennium the “curse” on the Earth (Genesis 3:17,19) will be lifted. “The earth shall yield her increase” (Ezekiel 34:27; Revelation 22:2). “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose…in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (Isaiah 35:1, 6).While heaven will always be God’s throne, He said, “earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1)—and “I will make the place of my feet glorious” (Isaiah 60:13).
Restitution Versus Evolution
Some may ask, what good would restitution be to man's former original status if man is evolving into a better and better state by a process of “evolution”? The brilliant achievements in technology of modern times seem to indicate that man is increasing in intelligence. Would not a time of restitution be the reverse of a blessing to mankind?
By no means! Evolution, although it has gained wide acceptance, is only a theory that has never been proven. There is a growing movement within the scientific community itself that is challenging the theory of evolution and advancing instead “Intelligent Design” as an alternative. Evolution cannot be demonstrated by scientific means, nor can it be harmonized with the Bible's explanation of man's origin, fall and destiny. The Scriptures clearly state that man was created in God's image, fell into sin and death, and will be recovered to his original perfection through the Ransom (Genesis 1:27; Romans 5:10-21; Revelation 21:3, 4).
Present day technology is not the result of evolution or increased intelligence, but the natural outcome of an accumulation of knowledge. The invention of printing made possible the spread of information. The rise of free public education extended literacy to the masses, and now, the rapid exchange of knowledge through computers, the internet and other electronic media, have fed the rapid pace of technological growth.
Through the accumulation of knowledge, science has made great strides. Communication, healthcare, farming, transportation, and exploration have all improved remarkably; but these advances have been accompanied by problems as well. Pollution, nuclear waste, chemical toxins, weapons of mass destruction, two World Wars, the Holocaust, terrorism, and genocide have also been the fruits of the increase of knowledge. All efforts to solve these worldwide problems have met with little success.
Bible prophecy indicates that in the last days of this Age, knowledge would be increased, but the effect would be trouble. “And at that time shall Michael stand up...and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time…even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:1, 4). “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mathew 24:21).
A statue in the United Nations Garden showing a man bending a sword into a plowshare aptly exemplifies the prophecy of Isaiah 2:2-4, of the end of wars and the establishment peace on earth.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Only God can bring lasting peace. When His son Jesus, the “Prince of Peace,” establishes his kingdom, he will make “wars to cease unto the end of the earth ... Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalms 46:9,10).
Man First Needs a “New Heart”
The conflicts which close this age are based on selfishness. God permits man to experiment with technological innovations and, by this means, shows the world that the selfish human heart cannot handle the increased power obtained from knowledge. Technology will be useful in the Kingdom, but the first issue is cleansing and reconstructing the human heart. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 NAS). Love will replace the selfishness in man's heart.
The increase of knowledge also does not suggest that man is evolving into something better. God created man perfect, in His image, but man went his own way. “God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes,” (Ecclesiastes 7:29 NIV). Man has been learning by experience during the present permission of evil, and the last experiment seems to be with increased knowledge. The brilliant flashes of enlightenment are accompanied by thunderous calamities.
“His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.
The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD,
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declare his righteousness,
and all the people see his glory.”
The final effect will be for man's blessing. The people will be restored to original perfection, and live peacefully, cooperatively, each adding to the common wealth and pleasure of the whole. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
The wonderful blessings God intends are secure to everyone who has ever lived, because Jesus died for every person. The Resurrection during the “Times of Restitution” will bring to man the original perfection and every blessing he possessed in Eden. God’s mercy and love will then amaze and delight an appreciative world.