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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Restitution

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1. The term.-The word ‘restitution’ is the Authorized Version rendering (Revised Version ‘restoration’) of the Gr. ἀποκατάστασις, which is found in the NT only in Acts 3:21, though the verb ἀποκαθίστημι, ‘restore,’ occurs several times (see especially Matthew 17:11, Acts 1:6). In the exegesis of Acts 3:21 two views have been taken of the relation of the phrase ἄχρι χρόνων ἀποκαταστάσεως πάντων (‘until the times of restitution of all things’) to the relative clause which follows, and these two views are reflected in the renderings of the Authorized Version and Revised Version respectively. According to the Authorized Version rendering the relative pronoun ὦν has πάντων for its antecedent, so that the restitution is a restitution only of those things of which the prophets had spoken. According to the Revised Version and the great majority of modern commentators the antecedent is χρόνων, so that it was the times of restoration of which the prophets spoke, and the restoration is a restoration of all things in some sense not defined in the context. The sense, however, is suggested by the passages to which the present one evidently refers. The prophet Malachi had foretold that Elijah should be sent as the Messiah’s forerunner (Malachi 4:5) and that he should effect a work of moral restoration (Malachi 4:6); and in the Septuagint this restoring work (Heb. הֵשִיב, English Version ‘turn’) of Elijah is expressed by the word ἀποκαταστήσει. On the ground of this saying the expectation of Elijah’s reappearance to herald the advent of the Messiah had become general among the Jews (Sirach 48:10-11; cf. Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] II. ii. [1885] 156), and when Jesus, after His transfiguration, forbade His disciples to tell any one of their vision of Moses and Elijah on the mount, they asked Him, ‘Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?’ (Matthew 17:10; cf. Mark 9:11). ‘Elijah indeed cometh,’ was His reply, ‘and shall restore all things’ (ἀποκαταστήσει πάντα, Matthew 17:11; cf. Mark 9:12); but He immediately made them understand that Elijah had come already in the person of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:12 f.).

The ‘restoration of all things’ of which St. Peter spoke was thus not a restoration in the large sense of a Universalist doctrine, but a moral and spiritual recovery of Israel such as Malachi had foretold and St. John proclaimed in preaching the baptism of repentance. That St. Peter at this stage of his career could not have entertained any idea of a universal restoration is proved by his later experiences at Caesarea (Acts 10). And if it is suggested that the phraseology of the verse is due to St. Luke, the writer of Acts, with his much wider outlook, it has to be considered that a close fidelity of the historian to his sources is suggested by St. Peter’s whole speech, embodying as it does a purely Jewish form of Christian expectation quite different from the later perspective of the Church after the door had been opened to the Gentiles and the national life of Judaism had been destroyed.

2. The idea.-A discussion of the NT doctrine of restitution or restoration, however, cannot be limited to an examination of the particular term. The idea of ‘restoration of all things’ is raised not only by this speech of Peter’s but by one or two of our Lord’s utterances, and above all by certain striking statements and declarations in the Pauline Epistles.

(1) The saying of Jesus in Matthew 17:10 (Mark 9:11) has been already referred to. But in Matthew 19:28 we find Him speaking of the ‘regeneration’ (παλινγενεσἰα), when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory. The word παλινγενεσία in this passage is practically synonymous with the ἀποκατάστασις of Acts 3:21 (cf. Jos. Ant. XI. iii. 8, 9, where the words are used interchangeably of the national restoration under Zerubbabel). Jesus is referring to that hope of a renovation of heaven and earth which formed part of the Jewish Messianic expectation (Enoch xlv. 4, 5; cf. 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1) and was based on Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22. No more here than in Revelation 21, where we have the Apocalyptist’s conception of the ἀποκατάστασις or παλινγενεσία, is there any suggestion of a universal restoration of sinful beings (see Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:11). The same thing must be said of John 12:32, which is sometimes adduced in the interests of a Universalist doctrine. The context (John 12:20 ff.) shows the point of the verse to be that the uplifting of Jesus on the Cross (cf. John 3:14 f.) would draw to Him Gentiles as well as Jews.

(2) It is in St. Paul’s writings, however, and especially in such passages as Romans 11:32, 1 Corinthians 15:22 ff., Philippians 2:10-11, Ephesians 1:9-10, Colossians 1:20, that support is chiefly sought for the idea of a universal restoration. But the argument of Romans 11 shows that in Romans 11:32, as in John 12:32, ‘all’ means Jew and Gentile alike. In 1 Corinthians 15:22, again, nothing more is asserted than a universal resurrection of the dead, and in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 what is in view is a subjugation of all forces that are hostile to the Divine Kingdom so that God may be all in all. And if we find that in Philippians 2:10-11 the adoration of the Exalted Jesus is represented as an act in which the whole creation participates, while in Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:20 Christ appears as summing up all things in Himself and reconciling all things unto Himself, these soaring utterances cannot be interpreted apart from St. Paul’s emphatic teaching that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and that destruction awaits the enemies of the Cross of Christ (Philippians 3:19). In the light of such texts it seems safe to conclude that the Apostle’s ‘universalism’ implies not a universal redemption of individuals, but a restoration of the disordered world to unity and harmony by an elimination of all discordant elements or a subdual of all hostile powers.

(3) Support for a restorationist doctrine is sometimes sought in those passages of the Pastoral Epistles where it is said that God ‘willeth that all men should be saved’ (1 Timothy 2:4), that He is ‘the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe’ (1 Timothy 4:10), that His grace ‘hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men’ (Titus 2:11). Yet it seeing hardly possible to affirm more here than that the Divine saving purpose brings salvation within the reach of all, while the realization of that purpose depends upon the attitude of the individual to the Divine grace. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15); but to obtain mercy men must ‘believe on him unto eternal life’ (1 Timothy 1:16). In the same Epistle we read that destruction (ὄλεθρος; cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:9) and perdition (ἀπώλεια; cf. Philippians 3:19) await those who walk in the way of their own lusts (1 Timothy 6:9).

Attractive as it is, the idea of universal restoration finds little support in a careful exegesis. Those who advocate it usually fall back upon conjectures suggested by the hidden possibilities of the future life or general considerations with regard to the grace of Christ and the Fatherly love of God. Even when a case has been made out for Universalism from the direct utterances of the NT, it has to be admitted that the materials for a case against it are abundantly present. To Martensen it seemed that on this subject the Scriptures set before us an unresolved antinomy corresponding to the antinomy between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. The Divine saving purpose is universal in its scope, but it is conditioned by human freedom. The one entitles us to cherish ‘the larger hope’; the other suggests that in the very nature of man there lies the possibility of final condemnation (Christian Dogmatics, Eng. translation , 1866, pp. 474-484).

Literature.-S. Cox, Salvator Mundi, 1877; F. W. Farrar, Eternal Hope, 1878; O. Riemann, Die Lehre von der Apokatastasis, 1889; S. D. F. Salmond, Christian Doctrine of Immortality, 1895, pp. 449 ff.; 642 ff.; articles ‘Restoration’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , ‘Apokatastasis’ in PRE [Note: RE Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche.] 3.

J. C. Lambert.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Restitution'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/r/restitution.html. 1906-1918.

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