“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21, NKJV).[i]
There is much to understand from these three verses. We are going to focus on the last part, where it reads, “until the times of restoration of all things…” The word restoration means the act or process of returning something to its original condition. In widely accepted eschatology, the church is mostly convinced that God’s restorative plans for the world will not happen until Christ returns. And yet, this scripture clearly tells us that heaven must receive Christ until the (plurality of) times of restoration of all things, which therefore must include to some degree, the restoration of the church and Israel prior to the return of Christ.
Yes, we believe there is a dispensation of the fullness of times in which all things will be gathered together in Christ.[ii] However, times of restoration must take place first, as it is written, “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times” (Daniel 9:25). This leaves us with two outstanding questions. First, when will we see these times of restoration, and second, what exactly are we being restored to?
Before I answer these questions, let me provide a theological framework. We need to understand that these times of restoration are predestined, meaning they will happen in God’s timing (Kairos moments), and will happen with or without human intervention. In other words, these things will occur within our created human timeline, in accordance with God’s purposed time when He fulfills all things per the counsel of His will, and not ours.[iii]
There are many great examples throughout biblical history of God’s preeminence, meaning times when God revealed Himself within our natural universe. The most remarkable of course were the immaculate conception, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. And I believe we can expect that His return will be even more spectacular, with the Lord’s predestined prophetic events conceivably unfolding right before our eyes. These events directly correlate to God’s times of restoration spoken to all His holy prophets, and which we have quoted here from the book of Acts. Therefore, in summation, these times are already written for us so that we might receive them as a sign of His imminent return, for it is written, “Here am I and the children whom the Lord has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the Lord of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion” (Isaiah 8:18).
This verse in Isaiah is a clear reference to Christ, but is also a reference to the children of God (the church); a remnant called by the Lord from every tongue, tribe, people and nation, to be a witness of Christ—through signs and wonders—in every nation, especially the nation of Israel, for it is written, “Jews request a sign…” (1 Corinthians 1:22).[iv] This is one primary reason why the Apostle Paul was so passionate to communicate God’s desire for the gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy.[v]
Yeshua spoke these words to His disciples: “The works [i.e. signs] that I do he [we] will do also; and greater works than these he [we] will do…” (John 14:12). What specifically are these works? We are told, “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:5).
No, I am not speaking of gold dust of feathers falling from the sky, although I admit that would it would be cool to see such things. Yeshua was simply talking about the conviction of sin by the power of the Holy Spirit by preaching the gospel unto the salvation of Israel, for it is written, “The poor shall have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:5), “Therefore tongues [languages] are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers…” (1 Corinthians 14:22).
And yes, I am also speaking of other signs and wonders, including miraculous healings, deliverances, and raisings from the dead. All these so that we might demonstrate and share the love of God to those who are called to become the Lord’s inheritance, for it is written, “The Portion of Jacob is not like them, For He is the Maker of all things, And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance…” (Jeremiah 10:16).
We should now understand that the times of restoration, first and foremost pertain to the nation of Israel. It is no wonder, therefore, that Yeshua said, “Learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near” (Matthew 24:32). It is true that Yeshua also spoke of the many trees, but He specifically emphasized the fig tree—the biblical symbol for the nation of Israel. We should also understand that the restoration of Israel is directly linked to the church. These are our predestined good works that will not only provoke Israel to jealousy, but will ultimately lead to their times of restoration.[vi] Yes, the gentiles will participate in the restoration of Israel.[vii]
Throughout history, the restoration of Israel has come in waves; seasons that have spanned generations. However, I believe as we near the end of the age, we will see an increase in the frequency and intensity of these restorative signs because it is written, “until the times of restoration of all things.” The word until suggests that God’s restorative power will increase in the world until He has completely fulfilled all His prophetic words. Yeshua affirmed this when He said, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things” (Matthew 17:11), confirming once again that God’s restoration for the church and Israel will begin prior to His return.
Yes, it true that, “Darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But [it is also true that] the Lord will arise over you [Israel], And His glory will be seen upon you” (Isaiah 60:2). Light and darkness will cohabitate side-by-side in this world until Christ returns and abolishes all evil, for Yeshua Himself said, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:30).
We have already witnessed part of Israel’s physical restoration with its birth in 1948, and her continual increase in global political and economic influence to this very day.[viii] Israel ranks 35th by the International Monetary Fund with respect to its GDP and is considered to have one of the top ten most powerful militaries in the world.[ix] Germany’s Deutsche Bank recently announced the Israeli Shekel to be the world’s second strongest currency.[x] How is this possible? Israel is a small country, slightly larger than New Jersey, and with just over 8-million people. How can it rank so high on the world’s power spectrum? Evidently, the Lord is giving the nations a sign that He is pouring out on His people, times of restoration.
However, what exactly is Israel being restored to? Also, how does this affect God’s restoration of the broader ecclesia of the church? I have often heard people talk about the first-century church as a model of what the future might look like. Is that accurate? The early church was predominantly comprised of Jewish believers and lacked the diversity of all nations.[xi] The Lord had already made a promise to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations.[xii]
Also, the early church was far from perfect. Most of Paul’s epistles and the first three chapters in the Book of Revelation provide critique and corrective instruction to these early believers. Was this early church without spot or wrinkle? Was she the pure bride that Christ is returning for?[xiii] I do not believe so. Also, when in church history have the gentiles, in mass, every provoked Israel to jealousy? Never. Therefore, God’s predestined prophesies are yet to be fulfilled at an appointed time, and we are instructed to look for the signs fulfilling these prophesies.
Yeshua spoke of many things that will come at the end of the age—deception, wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. These are the negative signs, but there is one imminent and very positive sign that the church will undoubtedly recognize. It is written, “It shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).
There is more for us to experience before the return of Christ, and I believe the next great event in human history, beyond the continued physical restoration of Israel, will be God’s saving grace poured out on all humanity, including the Jewish people. This is what the disciples proclaimed as the great sign fulfilled in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Just like the days of old, it will all start with His church, and I am expecting from Jerusalem, for it is written, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).
The gentiles are not going to provoke Israel to jealousy by any arousal of their flesh or inner spirit man, but will provoke them to jealousy when the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit ever to fall on humanity descends upon the end-times church. Therefore, I believe that this end-times church will do greater things (in number, magnitude, size and influence) than even Yeshua did Himself.[xiv]
We know that the church, and for the most part the gentile church (comprised of all nations) is called to restore Israel—physically and also spiritually.[xv] Included in this restoration will be both Israel’s kingly and priestly lineages, for it is written, “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually” (Jeremiah 33:17-18). The kingly aspect pertains to the governmental authority and ruling of God’s Kingdom, and the priestly aspect pertains to the service of God in the Temple. Yet, we now are the Temple of the living God, so that we, as living Temples will also serve in God’s physical Temple to be constructed during the millennial Kingdom of God.[xvi]
In terms of Israel’s restoration, she is not just being restored to her former glory, “[for] The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:9). Israel, and for that part, the church itself is being restored to a condition that has never existed on the earth since the beginning of creation. It will be even greater than the Garden of Eden, as it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Remember that the word restoration means the act or process or returning something to its original condition. Original therefore would predate Abraham, “For [even] he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
While the Abrahamic root and Hebraic foundation remains intact through this restoration process, the final expression of what the millennial church will look like is yet to be revealed.[xvii] One thing I know for certain is this expression will now also include every tribe, tongue, people and nation, and we will be united as one people of God, for it is written, “Then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9).[xviii]
While God’s plan of restoration has begun with Israel, His ultimate plan is for the restoration of His entire creation, as the Lord promised, “I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages” (Isaiah 49:8). In other words, this is much bigger and greater than just Israel.
Furthermore, it will be Israel that will be at the very heart and center of God’s restorative plans. The church, the New Covenant priesthood of believers will be working together with Christ to restore God’s earthly Kingdom, the very heart and center of which is Jerusalem and the Jewish people—“Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).
Yes, the days are coming, and the times of restoration are even upon us when the Lord will fulfill His predestined promises to Israel, and therefore, all the peoples of the earth who are grafted into her—“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, but, The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them. For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers” (Jeremiah 16:14-15).
Even now we see God’s restorative plans at work, with Israel rising in prominence in the world. The church is soon to be transformed into the bride that is without spot or wrinkle, empowered with all signs, wonders and His living word to reap the greatest harvest of souls the world has ever seen. Therefore, let us rejoice in knowing that we are part of His predestined good works, to bring about His plans and times of restoration for Israel and all the nations.
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[ii] Ephesians 1:10.
[iii] Ephesians 1:11.
[iv] Revelation 5:9.
[v] Romans 10:19, 11:11.
[vi] Ephesians 2:10.
[vii] Isaiah 60:10.
[viii] Isaiah 66:8.
[ix] List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita. Wikipedia.
[x] Shekel emerges as world's second-strongest currency. Arutz Sheva, Israelnews.com.
[xi] Acts 15:17, Romans 9:24.
[xii] Genesis 17:4.
[xiii] Ephesians 5:27.
[xiv] John 1:50.
[xv] Isaiah 49:6, 60:10, Nahum 2:2.
[xvi] 2 Corinthians 6:16.
[xvii] Romans 11:18, 1 Corinthians 2:9.
[xviii] Isaiah 66:23.