by George E. Goldman
The concept of restoration is not new. The theme is a familiar one, but it is proper to be constantly reminded of its Biblical basis. The theme of restoration is contained in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is a valid principle because it is taught throughout God’s Word. The restoration of man is an all-important, Biblical subject.
The Restoration Principle from the Days of Adam and Eve
Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve needed no restoration. They were living in harmony with God’s will. They were in a “covenant relationship” with God. Yes, the very first couple on earth had a two-sided agreement with God. Human obedience was part of that agreement. Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and to multiply; they were to have dominion over all the earth; they were to tend the garden; Adam was to name the animals; and both of them were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 1–2).
Adam and Eve were not earning their right to exist by obeying this covenant, nor were they earning their salvation. Obedience was simply their part of the covenant relationship with God. If they had kept this covenant, then they would have lived forever and every human being today would be in the same covenant relationship with God. There would be no need for restoration.
The Biblical principle of restoration is as old as the first sin. When Adam and Eve broke that covenant, restoration was needed. All of mankind has since felt the need for restoration. Adam and Eve experienced a spiritual separation from God, a broken covenant, and an estrangement from each other. How often they must have blamed each other for their condition! How often they must have longed for restoration! Today, 100 percent of us have the same experiences. Everyone of us feels a need for communing with God and a restoration to a proper relationship with Him.
However, God did not leave Adam and Eve without hope. He graciously (though cryptically) announced the restoration in Gen. 3:15 (the first prophecy in the Bible). The woman’s seed collectively designates the people of God (those who accept the restoration), and the serpent’s seed collectively represents the children of the Devil (those who reject the restoration). So, thus it is clear that the restoration began with the very first sin, and, the good news of it was revealed at the very beginning of the human race.
The Restoration Principle from the Days of Abel, Enoch, and Noah
From Adam and Eve there came a line of believers in the restoration principle. Abel was the first such true worshiper of God (Heb. 11:4). Enoch and Noah were also members of this group. They are spoken of as “preaching” to their generation.
It was of these also that Enoch foretold this, saying: “Six generations after Adam, Enoch prophesied about these men: ‘Look! The Lord God comes with 10,000 of His holy angels. He will judge everyone and condemn all people who don’t want God, for all their ungodly deeds that they did and for all the harsh things that these ungodly sinners said against Him.’ ” (Jude 1:14-15, International English Bible (IEB)).
If He did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly (2 Pet. 2:5).
God manifested His blessings upon both of them by translating Enoch and preserving Noah.
No Restoration Principle Was Needed in Noah’s Covenant
Following the flood, in Gen. 9:9-17, a covenant was made with Noah and the whole human race. This covenant includes every single person — the seed of the woman as well as the seed of the snake. This covenant restored man’s dominion over the earth. It dealt with the preservation, propagation, and protection of all mankind. The covenant is simply this: God will never again curse the earth with a universal flood or a universal holocaust (Gen. 8:22).
This agreement is one-sided. God initiated it and He will keep all the conditions of it. Mankind does not have to do anything to keep the flood waters from covering the whole earth again. No ecological measures are needed. God has set the rainbow in the sky as a reminder of His unilateral covenant. Thus, the restoration principle is not needed in this case.
The Restoration Principle from the Days of Abraham
All who are familiar with the Bible know of God’s bilateral agreement (covenant) with Abraham. This bilateral covenant holds a very prominent and unique position in all of human history. In fact, the rest of the Old Testament story centers around this agreement (Gen. 12:1-3). The covenant God that made with Abraham is hard to over-emphasize. It is mentioned several more times in Genesis (Gen. 13:14-17; Gen. 15; Gen. 17; Gen. 18; Gen. 21:12; Gen. 22:16-18). New Testament writers frequently refer to it (i.e., Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8,16) as well.
This covenant with Abraham would restore what man had lost in the Garden of Eden. The sign of this covenant was physical circumcision. Physical circumcision was proof of man’s need for restoration. Man was not in a covenant relationship with God and he needed to be. In the New Testament, there is a spiritual circumcision, that is a circumcision “not made with hands,” which is also symbolic of man’s need for restoration (Col. 2:11-13). Christians can be part of God’s covenant with Abraham without going through physical circumcision (Rom. 4:9-12). But a spiritual circumcision is still required. Faith and obedience are evidence of man’s continual need for restoration.
The Restoration Principle from the Days of Moses
The restoration principle can also be seen in the Mosaic covenant. This covenant was to bring before man even more clearly his need for restoration because of his sinfulness. The Ten Commandments, the priesthood, the tabernacle, and the sacrificial system were all part of the covenant which pointed to man’s inability to live righteously. Paul writes of these days, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). Yet, because of great restoration leaders like Moses and Joshua, Israel remained faithful to the covenant up through the time of Joshua (Judg. 2:7,10). The judges of Israel were the restorationists of their generations.
The Restoration Principle from the Days of Israel’s Kings
In the days of King David, God again pointed out the need of restoration in His covenant with David:
“I will not break My covenant. I will not change what I have said. By My holiness, I have sworn once for all—I will never lie to David. His family will continue forever. And, his kingdom will endure before Me like the sun. It will last forever, like the moon—that faithful witness in the sky.” (IEB, Ps. 89:34-37).
God has followed a pattern for His restoration:
(1) from the seed of woman (Gen. 3:15);
(2) from the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3); and
(3) from the seed of David.
This pattern has sought to restore man to his pristine state. The Restorer (the Messiah) was to come not only from the woman (Gal. 4:4); not only from the Jews (John 4:22); but from the loins of David (Rom. 1:3f). So, as one travels through the Old Testament, the path of the restoration becomes narrower and narrower until finally the particular family is designated.
After the days of David, the nation of Israel degenerated into idolatry. But still the principle of restoration can be seen. The evil king Ahaz had taken the vessels of the House of God and cut them in pieces. He had closed the doors of the House of God and established altars in every corner of Jerusalem and in every city in Judah. He provoked the Lord God to anger more than all the kings who were before him (2 Chr. 28:1-2,22-25). He was one of the most apostate kings in Judah. In addition to his worship of Baal , he offered his children to Moloch, the god of the Ammonites, in the valley of Hinnom. Ahaz worshiped the stars and the heavenly bodies which the Assyrians and Babylonians worshiped (2 Kings 23:11f). Yet, it was to this wicked king that God announced the birth of Jesus (Isa. 7:14), the Redeemer and Restorer of all things (Acts 3:21)!
In Ahaz’ son, Hezekiah, there is the clear principle of restoration. He reversed the evil policies of his father Ahaz. As a young man of only 25 years of age, Hezekiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3). In the first year of his reign, he promptly re-opened the House of the Lord:
“Hezekiah said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Consecrate yourselves for serving God now! And, make the temple of Yahweh holy. He is the God of your ancestors. Remove from the Sanctuary the things that make it impure. Our fathers were unfaithful to God. They did evil in the sight of Yahweh, our God. They abandoned Him. They stopped worshiping at the place where Yahweh’s Name once dwelled. They rejected Him. They also shut the doors of the porch of the temple. They put out the fire of the lamps. They stopped the burning of incense and the offering of whole burnt-offerings to the God of Israel at the Sanctuary. So, Yahweh became very angry with the people of Judah and Jerusalem. And He punished them. Other people are scared and shocked by what Yahweh did to Judah and Jerusalem. They insult the people of Judah. You know these things are true.” (IEB, 2 Chr. 29:5-8).
He then summoned all Israel to Jerusalem for a service of praise and restored the Feast of the Passover. Some of the Israelites came without the proper sanctification and Hezekiah prayed for them. Such a Passover had not been kept since the days of Solomon. He destroyed the pillars and altars of idolatry. He sanctified again the vessels of God and restored them to their rightful service. He destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses had made because it too had become an idol. The Israelites had burned incense to it, but Hezekiah scornfully called it “a thing of brass” (2 Kings 18:4). Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:6). Hezekiah believed that progress could only be made by going backward, by returning to God’s original plan. He wanted to go back to the source, which in his day was the Mosaic Law. God blessed Hezekiah by adding 15 years to his life and by saving the city of Jerusalem from the Assyrians.
However, at Hezekiah’s death, Israel soon rejected his efforts of restoration. Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, is credited with the longest reign of any Judean king. But his reign stands for 55 years of forgetfulness and disloyalty toward God. Manasseh rebuilt the high places. He re-erected the altars to Baal. Astrology, divination, and occultism were officially sanctioned. The Asherah (the “wives” of Baal) were placed in the temple itself. The voices of protest were silenced by death (2 Kings 21:6). According to Jewish tradition, the prophet Isaiah was martyred by Manasseh.
But the fires of the restoration were slow to die. As Manasseh’s son, Josiah, was growing to manhood, he began to reject his father’s idolatrous practices. By the age of 16, he was earnestly taking God into account. His life and work are yet another of the remarkable illustrations of restoration in the Old Testament. His attempted restoration marked the last attempt to restore apostate Judah before the Babylonian captivity (2 Chr. 34:1-5). In the 18th year of his reign, in the process of repairing the Lord’s house, Hilkiah, the priest, found a copy of the Law of Moses. Shaphan, the scribe, then read the copy to the young king. And when Josiah heard it, he ripped his clothes and gave this command:
“Go and ask Yahweh about the words in the Book that has been found. Ask for my sake and on behalf of all the people and for all of Judah. Yahweh’s anger is burning against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this Book. They did not do all the things written for us to do!” (IEB, 2 Kings 22:13).
Then the priests who were dedicated to idol worship were removed from office. The altar at Bethel, which had stood for over 300 years as a public high place, was destroyed (2 Kings 23:15-20; cf. 1 Kings 13:2). Wizards and those who dealt with familiar spirits were put away. Josiah truly restored the practices which God had commanded but which Israel had neglected:
“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.” (2 Kings 23:25).
During the times of the Judean kings and afterward during the Babylonian exile, the Old Testament prophets attempted to restore Israel. Ezekiel envisioned an ideal restoration (Ezek. 40–48). While the temple in Jerusalem was lying in ruins, Ezekiel took his people on a guided tour of an ideal temple, its environs, and the land of Palestine. Extraordinary precautions were taken to prevent any future defilement of the land or the people of God.
After the 70 years of exile, Ezra and Nehemiah began the restoration anew. Upon returning from Babylonian captivity, they caused a restoration movement by quitting the practice of things which the Law prohibited and by beginning to do the things which the Law commanded.
The restoration is a grand concept in the Bible. It is an effort to restore the original and the best. Sometimes the best progress can be made by going backward. Christians need to look back at “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). I believe in the restoration. I don’t believe in monuments or men. If we build monuments, we will die in them. If we believe in men, we will be disappointed. A restorationist is never to be satisfied. He is to refuse to rest upon the achievements of his brethren. He is encouraged to go back to the original source. The restoration theme is a valid one because it was taught throughout the Old Testament and it became the theme of Christ and his apostles.
“Stand at the intersection, and look. Ask where the old path is. Ask where the right road is,
and walk on it. If you do, then you will find rest for yourselves. But you have said: ‘We will not walk on the right path!” (Jer. 6:16).
“Your people will rebuild the old cities that are now in ruins. You will rebuild the foundations of those ancient cities. You will be known for repairing the broken places. You will be known for rebuilding the roads and the houses.” (Isa. 58:12).
Then, as Christians advocating a true restoration, we can look forward to the “times of refreshing” which will come from the Lord “whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” (Acts 3:19-21). The International English Bible translates this whole passage this way: “So, change your hearts! Come back to God, so that He may wipe out your sins. Then the Lord will give you times of spiritual rest. He will send you the predicted Messiah—Jesus. But Jesus must stay in heaven until the time when all things will be made whole again. God told about these things long ago when He spoke through His holy prophets.”
Jividen, Jimmy. “The Validity of the Restoration Principle,” Firm Foundation, July 29, 1975.
Medbury, Charles S. From the Throne of Saul to Bethlehem. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1911; Restoration Reprint Library, Joplin: College Press, n.d.
Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speaks. New York: Harper and Row, 1960.