Bible prophecy foretells the times of restoration of all things. What will be restored to its former state? When will this longed-for renewal occur?
The apostle Peter spoke of the coming “times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). The word restoration implies “a return … to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition, or the restitution of something taken away or lost” (Dictionary.com). Just what is this prediction about?
Peter was speaking of a future time when things would be restored to their original state. The apostle explained that God had spoken this prophecy “by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” and that Jesus would remain in heaven until it was time for this event to unfold. Christ’s return and the times of restoration are thus linked together, and many Bible passages point to these events happening in various stages, right here on earth.
The Day of the Lord must come first
Numerous Bible verses describe the coming Day of the Lord as a prerequisite to the first phase of the “restoration of all things.”
God warns that a dreadful time of punishment will come upon the inhabitants of the earth because of disobedience to God’s laws (Isaiah 13:11; Malachi 4:1-3; Joel 2:11; Revelation 6:15-17). This short, agonizing period will climax with Christ’s return to earth in great glory, to be witnessed by the whole earth (Matthew 24:29-30).
Then, as people humble themselves and repent of their sins, an era of global peace will begin. As God told the ancient Israelites, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
The first phase
Once Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom on earth, the times of restoration can begin. The Bible often uses terms like “in those days” and “in those days, and at that time” to introduce explanations of what will occur during the reign of Christ on earth for 1,000 years and beyond (Joel 2:29; 3:1; Jeremiah 33:15).
The “restoration of all things” includes changes to the earth, the way it is governed and the relationship God will have with humanity. Regarding this last change, God desires to have a close relationship with all humans similar to what He had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they sinned. Genesis 3:22-24 shows that their sin led God to banish them and the rest of humanity from the tree of life, which symbolized the opportunity to receive eternal life.
The first group of humans to experience a fully restored relationship with God will receive eternal life at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:22-23, 51-52).
Describing this wonderful event, Paul wrote, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the [entire physical] creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption [decay and destruction] into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-22).
In addition to the saints of this first resurrection being changed to spirit to meet Jesus Christ at His return (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) and rule with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6), Satan’s kingdom will be banished. The current ruler of the world will be “cast out” of his position and “bound for a thousand years” (John 12:31; Revelation 20:1-3).
A new thing
Because of all the good God has in store for humanity, He will tell them to “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18, New International Version).
Here God calls His restoration “a new thing” because it will be new for those experiencing it, and the relationship He will have with humanity will exceed the one He had with Adam and Eve. Though offered the opportunity to have the close relationship with God that their Creator desired, Adam and Eve foolishly decided to make their own decisions apart from God. They turned their backs on the relationship that would have provided them peace and eternal life.
Recovery from sin
The coming “restoration of all things” will include the recovery of all who will repent of their sins.
To accomplish this, God promises to pour out His Holy Spirit not on just a few, but on all who will call on Him and seek His mercy (Joel 2:28-29). “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (verse 32).
Long ago God promised the people of Israel that He would make a new covenant with them in which His laws would be written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-33). But this new covenant, which represents having a peaceful, reconciled relationship with God, is not limited to Israelites. Eventually, as Psalm 22:27 notes, “all the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all families of the nations shall worship before You.” For further study, see the article “Times of Refreshing.”
Lands and cities will be restored
One of the key components of restoration during the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (a period of time also called the Millennium) will be a massive rehabilitation of the land and its cities. Once the sins of Israel are forgiven, God will cause this nation’s land to be restored to beauty like the Garden of Eden.
“On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. … So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited’” (Ezekiel 36:33, 35).
Israelites will marvel at the abundance and the beautification that God will bring to “the house of Judah and the house of Israel” (Zechariah 8:6, 11-13). This principle illustrates how God will work with and bless first the descendants of the ancient Israelites and then all mankind (Romans 1:16; 2:9-10).
A time of healing and long life
The Millennium will be a time of learning God’s ways. God’s government will be centered at Jerusalem and will gradually span across the globe as both spiritual and physical blindness are removed (Isaiah 11:9; 60:1-3; Micah 4:2-3; John 12:40). “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isaiah 35:5-6).
During this marvelous time God will bless people with long lives, affording them the opportunity to know their grandchildren and have sufficient time to learn and live God’s way of life (Zechariah 8:4-5).
God’s Sabbaths will be restored
At the end of the creation week, God blessed, made holy and rested on the seventh day of the week (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:11). The same weekly Sabbath that was ordained at the beginning will be observed as a day of rest and worship for all peoples.
After the Millennium
When the thousand-year reign of Christ comes to an end, “the rest of the dead” (Revelation 20:5)—those who had previously lived and died not understanding God’s way of life—will have an opportunity to be reconciled to God. These people will be given an opportunity to learn God’s laws, repent of their sins, receive God’s Holy Spirit and eventually be granted eternal life (Joel 2:28).
God’s desire is for everyone to repent, to be reconciled to Him and to become part of His family forever. This period of time after the Millennium is often referred to as the second resurrection or the time of the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11). For further study on this subject, see the article “Second Resurrection.”
New heavens and a new earth
God announced through the prophet Isaiah: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).
Hundreds of years later, Peter spoke of this coming event. After warning us to watch our personal conduct and to practice godliness in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ, Peter spoke of the coming “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13). This is yet another time of restoration.
The Greek word Peter used for “new” in verse 13 is kainos, which refers to a state of freshness, as in renewal. The earth will thus be made “new,” or renewed or restored, by God. The heavens will likewise be made “new” by the same process.
Finally, because there will be no more sin, “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things [will] have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).This future renewal of the current heaven and earth is described in Psalm 102:25-26 as if they were like an old garment being replaced with a new one. This will be the time when New Jerusalem comes down from heaven (Revelation 21:1-2). For more on this exciting subject, please read “New Heavens and New Earth.”
All curses will be removed
When Adam and Eve rejected God’s instructions in the Garden of Eden, they lost access to the tree of life. They and all humanity, which followed their example of rejecting God, would temporarily be subjected to a curse on the earth, bringing a life of toil and the dying process. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God said, “Cursed is the ground for your sake. … Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:17-18; also see Romans 5:12).
God will eventually remove every curse on man saying, “There shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3).
Finally, because there will be no more sin, “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things [will] have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Paul explains that after the resurrection of all who have ever lived, the final curse and enemy of God’s creation—death itself—will come to an end (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54). God the Father will then make the earth His home as well. As a voice from heaven announces in conjunction with the arrival of the new heaven and new earth, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).
The tree of life will again be offered
When Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden because of disobedience, they lost access to the tree of life, which represented eternal life. Adam and Eve’s descendants—all humanity—likewise lost access to this tree because of their sins.
Part of the restoration, as Jesus Christ explained, is that this same tree of life will be made available again: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
And speaking of those who would dwell in New Jerusalem, John wrote, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). See more detail in the article “The Tree of Life.”
An awesome future
Christ’s glorious and triumphant return begins the majestic story of restoring all things. In the first phase, those who overcome in this age will be the first to obtain eternal life.
Then, as Satan is banished for a thousand years, God will begin pouring out His Spirit in abundance to all who repent of their sins. All nations will be taught that God’s way works. When God’s laws are kept, peace, joy, prosperity and longevity will follow.
Then a great multitude of people will be raised from the dead and offered eternal life for the very first time.
After that, new heavens and a new earth will come into being. Every curse will be forever removed, and evil will be eradicated from God’s entire creation. God will make His home with mankind on the earth, and the tree of life will be made available again.
Speaking of this time, Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new. … It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 21:5-6).
God has revealed His wonderful plan to those faithful believers who anticipate the coming “times of restoration of all things.” You, too, can be a part of this awesome future if you repent of your sins and live a life of obedience to God. To learn more about this process, see the articles in the section Change.