Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Restore All Things
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 17:10-13

Matthew 17:10-13 is the second occasion Jesus declared John as Elijah. Again, He gives no indication that He expected yet another Elijah to appear. This is Jesus' commentary on Malachi 4:5-6. He is neither indicating there will be another Elijah to come, nor contradicting what He said earlier in Matthew 11. In verse 11, He speaks in a future sense because that is how Malachi 4:5-6 is written. He also did it to emphasize that the scribes had correctly interpreted the prophecy in terms of Elijah preceding the arrival of the Messiah.

Jesus begins the next sentence of His reply with "but," an adversative conjunction indicating disagreement. But means "on the contrary," "conversely," or "however," and it is used here to indicate an exception. Jesus makes it clear He did not agree with the scribes beyond the point that they had correctly taught Elijah must come first. He clarifies further by saying that the scribes did not recognize Elijah when he came and badly mistreated him. Matthew 17:13 clearly establishes that the disciples understood He meant that John was the Elijah of Malachi 4:5-6. In other words, Jesus is saying Malachi 4:5-6 has already occurred—the greatest of the Old Testament prophets already fulfilled it.

What about "restore all things"? Does it refer to doctrine? Not specifically. It is a very general statement. The Greek word means "to put back again," "to reorganize," "to set up," "to bring back," "to reclaim." It can refer to health, authority, or government—or, for that matter, to straightening out or bringing back true conceptions about the Messiah. What did the original Elijah do? He straightened out—restored—right conceptions about who God is because the Israelites had lost sight of Him.

Who says "restore all things?" Jesus does. This is mentioned in no other place in reference to John the Baptist or Elijah. The Bible's marginal references refer us to Luke 1:17 and Malachi 4:6 where nothing is said directly about either Elijah or John restoring all things. Remember, this is Jesus' commentary on what John did. Even as Elijah restored right conceptions about God in his day, John the Baptist restored right conceptions about the Messiah, God with us.

That is not all. John, the Elijah of Malachi 4:5-6, turned the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. Logic demands this refer to his preaching as having a positive impact upon family life. Turning hearts is a fruit, an effect, that happens alongside preparing a people to receive the Messiah.

Malachi 2:14-15 reveals that in Malachi's day the Jewish community was having serious marriage problems. Family problems were extant, and they continued among the Jews down to John's day.

Secondly, this cannot refer to "the Fathers" in terms of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because they were dead, and when they died, their thoughts perished. Their hearts cannot turn to the children. What John restored in anticipation of the Messiah's coming were right conceptions about Him, and his preaching of repentance led to right relationships within human families and within the Family of God.

What is lacking in the Bible by God's express design is a detailed review of all John preached. We know only that he was very effective in what he did. We do not know all that he restored, but we can understand that he restored everything necessary for the Messiah to be recognized and received. To take "restore all things" beyond the scope of what was prophesied to be the extent of John's ministry is getting into the area of fanciful interpretations because Jesus confirms both that John was the Elijah to come and that his ministry was great.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

Luke 1:17

Why does the angel refer to Malachi 4:6? He is expanding on John the Baptist's responsibility. Jesus summed it up in Matthew 17:11 by saying John would "restore all things." What does "all" refer to? It covers everything necessary to prepare a people for the arrival of the Messiah the first time.

This phrase "restore all things" appears no where else in any connection to the work of either Elijah or John the Baptist. In this phrase, however, Jesus gives us a clear understanding of the mission of John the Baptist. He has turned from considering Elijah to John the Baptist to make a connection between the two.

John restored all things necessary to the fulfilling of his mission, and his mission only, which was to prepare the way before the Messiah. His mission parallels Elijah's, which was to reveal the true God to people who had lost their way. Elijah was a light in his day, and John too was a light in his time, but he was not the Light. John clearly pointed to Jesus as the Messiah so that the people could repent, even as Elijah differentiated the true God from the Baals so the people at that time could repent.

Since Jesus' day, many have done similar restorative preaching, but not one of them was the Elijah of Malachi 4:5-6. If somebody in the future does a similar work, he will not be the Elijah either. Nobody ever will, because John the Baptist already filled that role. We have this on the authority of Jesus Christ, who clearly said that John the Baptist was Elijah, and they killed him (Matthew 17:12).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)

Acts 3:19-21

Consider the result of Satan's removal. Once the Deceiver is neutralized, refreshing and restitution can begin! Christ and the saints will immediately work to restore the earth to its beauty and productivity (Isaiah 35). God's perfect government and laws will be reinstituted, bringing peace and prosperity to all who submit to them (Isaiah 2:1-4). In a spirit of harmony, everyone will pitch in to rebuild the waste places and ruins caused by man's and Satan's sins (Isaiah 58:12; 61:4; Amos 9:14). This is the wonderful World Tomorrow that all of God's people have looked toward since the Garden of Eden! All that is good—very good (Genesis 1:31)—will be restored!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Holy Days: Atonement

Acts 3:19-21

Acts 3:19-21 never mentions the environment directly, but the implication of the earth being in need of repair, rest, and rehabilitation is definitely present. The time is coming when God will restore to the earth its beauty and productivity that man has selfishly stripped from it. Water will be purified, soil will get its rest and be revitalized, animal and plant populations will return to their natural rates and rhythms, and blighted and desert areas will be healed. Only when God's government rules and administers God's law will this restoration occur.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment

Acts 3:19-21

These verses tie several things together. II Timothy 1:9 says that God's purpose began before time. Could God plan His awesome purpose without an end result in view? Would He name His message of salvation after something that was going to happen in the middle, or would He name it after the goal toward which He was working?

Peter calls God's purpose "the restoration of all things," another descriptive phrase for the good news of the Kingdom of God. God will put the Kingdom of God on earth, governing through His law. These verses explain not only the end toward which God is moving, but also that God has been prophesying of this since the world began. God too is looking toward the goal.

God's purpose began before time, but He has revealed this purpose to mankind since at least the days of Enoch, who lived long before Noah. In Jude, Enoch is quoted as saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints" (Jude 14). We must take God's word at face value: From the beginning He has prophesied of the culmination of His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


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