The Gospel of Restoration

Introduction

The hope of restoration.

Hope is a powerful force; it sustains us through days of darkness and gives us confidence through moments of doubt. When we talk about hope, we mean a feeling that something we want has a good chance of coming to pass. Hope is the confidence that future is going to be better.

Hope is central to the message of the gospel. Because of what God has done in Christ, we have great hope - not only for personal salvation, but for a better world. Not only will we be better, but the future of everything is heading towards a positive conclusion. Perhaps the most succinct statement of hope in the Bible is found in the statement of Jesus in Revelation 21:5: 'Behold, I am making all things new'.  God has embarked on a massive restoration project to create a future better than anything we can imagine.

That's why it's important to see the message of salvation in the context of the larger story. As Tim Keller notes, 'the Bible is about God's creating the world, the fall of man, God's re-entry into history to create a people for himself, and eventually about a new creation that emerges out of a marred and broken world through Christ'.  In a sense, restoration is the climax towards which God's story is moving. The link between the gospel and ultimate restoration is simple but profound: God will create a new world, but the only way humans can participate in that new world is through what Jesus has done by his life, death, burial and resurrection. In Christ, we have full access to all of God's blessings; outside of Christ, we have access to none of his blessings.

In this article I briefly look at three dimensions of restoration.

1. The Restoration of Hearts and Souls

He restores my soul. Psalm 23:4

The gospel not only calls out of sin, death, and guilt, it calls us to a new life. More than dealing with the legality of our spiritual problems, we enter into a new life in Christ. But when we show, we are 'damaged goods'.  That is, we show up in need of restoration.  Having been freed from our prison, we continue to bear the marks of having been slaves to sin. Although we are instantaneously forgiven and adopted into God's family, the journey towards soul health is a process: healing in our minds, in our hearts, in our emotions, in our perspectives and attitudes - this is the ongoing work of God. And this is exactly the promise of God to us.  Look at these beautiful promises:

He saves the crushed in spirit
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. 
Psalm 147:2-3

He saves the crushed in spirit
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted 
and saves the crushed in Spirit. Psalm 34:18

He restores our health
But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord,
‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’
“This is what the Lord says: “‘I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents

and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, 
and the palace will stand in its proper place. Jeremiah 30:17-18.

The Lord is a good shepherd; he restores our souls. Restoration comes as we cast our cares upon the Lord and open our lives to the healing work of the Holy Spirit. 

2. The Restoration of Relationships 

One of the consequences of sin is alienation - not only from God, but from each other. The gospel solves our alienation from God, but also with each other. The Genesis account tells the story of Cain and Abel; immediately following the rupturing of relationship with God by letting sin into God's good world, the very next chapter describes the calamitous consequences for relationships. The good news is that in Christ, relationships can be healed and restored.
Personal reconciliation
Paul wrote this to the Corinthians: Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13.11). The good news is that full restoration of broken relationships is possibleThe challenging news is that we have to strive for it. And we strive for it through owning our offences - confessing our faults, seeking forgiveness, and covering mistakes with great love.
Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation
We live at a time when the world is marked by great animosity and division along racial and ethnic lines. One only needs to be aware of the The Troubles in Northern Ireland to realise that alienation is not limited to different races. Alienation is a fruit of the fall; human sinfulness pushes us away from each other. And so, even though there are other types of conflict, racial and ethnic division is uniquely painful; it happens when differences create space where alienation tries to get a foothold. In the world of the New Testament, the biggest need for reconciliation facing the New Testament churches occurred along the dividing line of Jew and Gentile. In the midst of strongly held biases, Paul writes these words of assurance:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier,
the dividing wall of hostility ... His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of
the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the
cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
(Ephesians 2:14-16).

Jesus bore our alienation in his body that we might be united in Him. Our reconciliation with each other is built on the foundation of our reconciliation with God. The cross kills hostility - between God and people, and between people and people. In Christ, the dividing wall has been torn down, and we can be united in peace. A church built together of people formerly hostile to one another is a prophetic witness of the gospel's power to a society marked by division

3. The Restoration of the Earth

Behold, I am making all things new. Revelation 21.5

We face a delicate tension related to the physical home called Earth given to us by God as the setting for our lives. On the one hand, because the earth is the Lord's, we should take care of it as good stewards. This task of tending and caring for the earth was given to Adam by God and has never been rescinded. Too often in human history people have abused creation rather than cultivating it for human flourishing and welfare. But beyond how we treat it physically, we also face the reality that the earth has been subjected to futility through man's fall into sin. That is, human sin did not simply affect people in deep and profound ways we barely understand, it also impacted the earth. This is profound: a spiritual reality caused physical change; like people, the earth will not become all God intends without spiritual liberation. This is why we cannot recycle our way to the better earth God has for us. Don't misunderstand me: I'm all for personal responsibility in the exercise of our stewardship; I recycle, my house has solar panels, and I drive an electric car. Cutting carbon emissions may reduce the impact of climate change, but it won't accomplish the restoration the earth needs. God's solution is not simply a minor adjustment; he's going to re-create physical reality.

This would move from blog-length article to book-length treatise if I unpacked all the promises and their implications found in scripture about the future new earth. But for now, note these key verses:

The problem: corruption
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in
hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the
freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been
groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Romans 8:20-22

The solution: restoration
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, 
and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from 
God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne 
saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his
people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their 
eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, 
for the former things have passed away.”  And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am 
making all things new.” Revelation 21:1-5

The better world God is creating isn't simply a recycled earth, it's a new earth. Note that this future includes great personal benefit - He will wipe away every tearBut the wiping away of tears and the destruction of death come with an even greater benefit: God will dwell with them, and they will be his peopleThe ultimate blessing of new creation reality is God himself.

Conclusion

God's promise is that he will make all things new - not only a new earth, but a new you. That journey begins when believe the good news about Jesus and turn to follow him. That good news includes the hope of restoration - not only in eternity, but now. You can experience healing in your soul now. But even the most complete restoration we experience here pales in comparison to what awaits us. We have a good reason to be hopeful: God is going to do everything he has promised. And that's good news.