In a world where so much has been lost, destroyed, forsaken, and forgotten, the human heart naturally longs for restoration. In today’s world, there is a longing for the restoration of truth, because truth has been obscured, hidden, and dismissed. There is a longing for restoration of civility, because we are being driven apart by violent, malevolent hordes, self-serving politicians, and vitriolic commentators. There is a longing for justice, because so many have been falsely accused while the guilty walk free. There is a longing for the restoration of marriage, because it has been redefined and abandoned. There is a longing for the restoration of peace, integrity, honesty, equity, and every institution that is good, because the world is governed by evil forces.
There are no stronger longings for restoration than those expressed in God’s Word. For forty years in the desert, Moses presided over a people who longed to be restored to their land. In the time of the Judges, the people longed to be restored to nationhood under a king. David longed to be restored to the fullness of worship where God dwells. Jeremiah and Ezekiel, among other prophets, wrote about the longing of God’s people for the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity. A land, a king, worship, and rescue – all of these are given when God restores our fellowship with Him in Christ.
The Ultimate Restoration: Fellowship with God
The more that is lost, the stronger the longing for restoration. Never was so much lost as when the human race was given over to sin. The fall of mankind (Gen. 3) resulted in our being alienated from God. The removal of that fellowship was the biggest loss in history. It is the loss behind every other loss.
So, we long for restoration of fellowship with God. There is even a whole season, Advent, devoted to our hearts’ longing to be restored to that fellowship. God gave us this longing, because it was in His heart from before the earth was formed to deliver it. He loves to restore. He is a restoring God who knows our needs.
God’s Means: Redemption
When we think of our greatest need, we usually think of redemption, because if we are not redeemed, we will die in our sins and be cast into hell. Sin brings death and judgment, so we must be purchased out of that judgment. We must be redeemed from the penalty that our sins deserve in order to avoid eternal judgment. In God’s beloved Son, and only in Him, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14, cf v. 20). If Jesus does not take our evil deeds upon Himself and die on a cross, we cannot be reconciled to God (Col. 1:21-22).
But God’s program for the world is far greater than individual redemption: it is the total restoration of all that was lost in the fall of mankind.
In other words, we are not only redeemed from something (judgment). We are also redeemed to something. Colossians 1 reminds us that we were ransomed out of the pit of darkness and destruction. But it goes beyond that. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13, italics mine). We had to be redeemed from sin so that we can be restored to fellowship with God. Restoration is the essence of redemption!
The limitless reach of God’s restoring work is breathtaking.
It is easy to think of redemption as the ultimate end, but restoration means that there is more to redemption than the promise of eternal life. The lives of the redeemed are restored to good purpose on earth. God’s restored people “bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-12). We are empowered to walk in obedience and live in harmony with others.
Restoration also makes it possible for us to train our affections – to love God and love others in this life (Matt. 22:37-39). After all, the believer is headed for a place where those affections have been perfected. So, we must see Jesus as glorious and desirable, and we must love the Church. Jesus is the one who redeems and restores us to fellowship with God and with the saints in light.
God loves to restore. He restored Job’s fortunes (Job 42), Naaman’s flesh from leprosy (2 Kings 5), Hezekiah’s life (Is. 38), David’s soul (Ps. 23) and the joy of his salvation (Ps. 51), and Nebuchadnezzar after he had become like a beast in the field (Dan. 4). He restores lands, borders, inheritances, temples, health, life, repentance, and the priesthood. Whatever He decides to restore, He restores. He even restores youth (Ps. 103)!
At the pinnacle of redemptive history, when God restores all things, He will gather us together (see Deut. 30:3) from every tribe and tongue and nation (Rev. 7:9-10). It is hard to believe there is something better than redemption. But there is, and it means a lot in these troubled times. God is going to restore society as it was meant to be – people living in unity of purpose, gladly submitting to the perfect will of God, who binds us together.
Behold, I am making all things new (Rev. 21:5).