There is no question that we are living in times of restoration. Never before was God so active as in the past century in restoring what needs to be restored. Both Israel and the Church have experienced extended periods of divine restoration. God is surely not at the end of this process, as the Word of God tells us the best is yet to come. These are truly exciting days to be alive.
A God of Restoration
Restoration is certainly a theme for the last days, but it also characterises God’s work throughout history.
Jesus’s ministry on earth was one of restoration. He restored the health and well-being of countless people in Israel. He desired to restore sinners and lepers back to society. Freedom was restored to the demon-possessed as they were set free by the power of his word. After his death on Calvary and then his resurrection, millions and millions of people from all tribes and tongues and nations have been restored to a relationship with their God and Creator. Families have been restored, broken marriages have been mended, many have experienced financial restoration, and even emotionally wounded people have experienced the restoring power of the Holy Spirit.
Peter encourages the Church with these words: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10 ESV).
So Peter sees for the suffering church a coming period of restoration, while Paul also admonishes the church in Corinth: “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration…” (2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV).
Restoration needs to be part of our personal agenda. God is a God of restoration and no matter how difficult our circumstances may be, we should never lose our trust that He wants to restore all things. Restoration is the essence of the cross of Calvary, where a powerful exchange took place from ‘minus’ to ‘plus’, so to speak. Think and pray about how you can bring the restoring power of the blood of Jesus to the people around you.
Aim for restoration!
Restoration of the Church
A powerful process of restoration can be seen in operation in the true Church today. It was triggered already centuries ago, when after the sad and dark era of the Middle Ages, God started to restore important truths to the Church through the Protestant Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries.
In this time, the Church rediscovered the authority of the Scriptures after believers had been discouraged for centuries from reading the Bible and rather were told to trust the priests and Christian sages for the correct interpretation. In fact for most a Bible did not even exist in their native language, as they were available only in Latin or other ancient tongues. A personal relationship with Christ became almost impossible, as the priests used the Church not as a vehicle to bring men to God but rather as one to financially exploit and control them.
With the Reformation, the Bible became available to ordinary believers in their own language. For instance, Martin Luther translated the word of God from Hebrew and Greek into an ordinary non-liturgical language – German. Its distribution received a significant boost when Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing presses in Europe. The newly translated Bible quickly became accessible to countless believers all across Germany.
Just a few years later, France received its first printed Bibles in French and the same took place in England when King James I commissioned an authorized English translation of the two Testaments just over 400 years ago.
In the following centuries, the word of God became widely available and biblical truths were restored to the Church. Righteousness by faith and not by works; the priesthood of all saints rather than the rule of a corrupt clergy; baptism of those who believe rather than of new-born babes – these are just a few of the theological discoveries that came out of the Reformation. Yet, these were not new doctrines but ancient truths of the Bible, which were restored to the Church.
The Puritans of the 16th and 17th centuries rediscovered God’s covenant faithfulness with the Jewish people and foresaw a restoration of Israel long before there was a political Zionist movement. The following centuries saw the restoration of the great missionary movements. From the 18th century onward, Moravian missionaries would leave for Greenland, William Carey to India, Hudson Taylor to China, and David Livingstone to Africa.
In the 20th century, the Church saw the restoration of the gifts of the Spirit, which impacted even the mainline churches through the Charismatic movement. Along with it came a rediscovery of the five-fold ministry. The list goes on…
That God wants to restore the Church even further is beyond doubt. The Apostle Paul declares: “… just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25–27).
The Word of God declares that at the return of Christ, the Church will be in a most glorious state – like a bride made ready for her bridegroom. This makes me believe that the most glorious spiritual condition of the Church is still ahead of us. What a great hope we have!
Restoration through the Church
It is a fact that without the transforming power of the Church, our Western societies would not be what they are today. Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM, documents in his book “Transformation” how the reformation of John Calvin and Martin Luther had a major impact in shaping European culture.
Luther and his preachers told people that whatever they do, they should do so to the glory of God. Whether you are a carpenter or a blacksmith, you can do the work of God by carrying out your work for His glory. He took sanctity out of the cathedrals and brought it into the homes and workbenches of the believers. Out of this emerged what became known in coming centuries as the German work ethic.
John Calvin challenged the rulers of Geneva over usury, as money lenders asked for interest rates of up to 60 percent. Calvin called for a fixed interest rate of no more than 4 percent, which was implemented and became the start of the Swiss banking system. Calvin also called for every believer to own a watch so they “should not waste God’s time”. His summons gave Switzerland its reputation for punctuality and built the foundation for its world-renowned watch industry.
The Indian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi documents in his book “The Legacy of William Carey” how that great English missionary transformed India in a way that is still felt to this day.
It is widely recognized today that without the revival of the Wesley brothers, England would have experienced a massive social revolution similar to the French revolution, with its horrible human toll. Many more examples could be mentioned of the transforming power of the Gospel over society.
Today we see a similar development taking place in Africa, where the growing church of Nigeria is impacting that nation in a significant way. We have witnessed this as well in the Ivory Coast, where high-ranking politicians have a pastoral council helping them to make godly decisions for their nation.
There is no area that can be exclude from the transforming power of the Kingdom of God, even today.
Restoration for Israel
The most widely covered restorative theme in the Bible relates to Israel. God declares through the prophet Jeremiah: “… I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:14, ESV).
Nearly every Hebrew prophet foresaw a time when God would restore the fortunes of the Jewish people following a long period of exile, destitution and suppression. Indeed, they would return from the all countries where God had scattered them (Jeremiah 32:37). He would plant them back in the land of their fathers (Jeremiah 24:6). They would rebuild the ancient cities (Isaiah 61:4). They would turn the desert into a blossoming garden (Isaiah 51:3). God would increase them in numbers (Ezekiel 37:26). And most importantly, God would restore His people not only physically but also spiritually (Ezekiel 36:24ff).
In the second half of the 19th century, the Jewish people entered into a period of divine favour and restoration as Jews mainly from Europe began longing to “return to Zion”. As a result, the first Jewish settlements were established in Ottoman-ruled Palestine.
In the ensuing decades, many more Jews would come until in 1948 the State of Israel was established. This reminded many of the question posed by Isaiah long ago: “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?” (Isaiah 66:8 ESV).
In May 1948, the resounding answer was “Yes!” The German theologian Karl Barth later proclaimed: “Now we can read it in the newspapers: God keeps His promises.”
Today, close to half of the world’s Jewish population is residing in Israel, compared to only 0.5% in 1889. They have turned the State of Israel into a hub of technology and innovation. Israel’s ancient cities are not only rebuilt, but they are larger and more beautiful than ever before.
But this process of restoration has not ended yet, as many of the promises of God for Israel are still outstanding. The Hebrew prophets foresaw that God will one day pour out His Spirit of grace and supplication upon His people and they would look upon him whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10). A people which Moses and the prophets described as rebellious and with an uncircumcised heart, will receive a new heart of flesh and will be filled by the Spirit of God (Jeremiah 31:31). This is exactly what the Psalmist declares: “…the set time to favor Zion has come.” It is the time of restoration.
Restoration in troublesome times
Recently, somebody told me: “Jürgen, you have a far too optimistic outlook on our world, as the Bible speaks clearly about great judgments, apostasies and tribulations to come.” The truth is the Bible speaks about both. It speaks about the judgment of the nations (Joel 3), but also about the outpouring of His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-32). And both will take place before the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
It is true that the word of God does speak about the great falling away and apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4), but it also talks about God preparing an end-time church without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:25-27). It speaks about five foolish virgins with empty vessels but also about five wise virgins with vessels filled with oil (Matthew 25:1-13).
The question is, therefore, not so much which eschatology you hold to, but more about on which side do you want to be?
It would indeed be foolish to ignore the difficult times which the word of God foresees ahead. Looking on our world today, one cannot help seeing the dark signs on the horizon. But in the midst of all the chaos, God is doing a marvelous work. The Church is increasing every year in staggering numbers. Israel is back in its land and thriving as a successful nation.
This is what Isaiah foresaw: “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:2)
He calls upon us and upon Israel to arise and let our lights shine in a world that is covered increasingly with darkness.
In the years ahead, the gulf between light and darkness will increase. Grey areas will become either black or white. Luke-warmness will not be tolerated anymore. We are called to make up our mind to be either hot or cold.
We purposefully chose “Restoration” as the theme for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles as we believe that there is great hope for both Israel and the Church. There is still great hope of restoration for you, your family, your city, and your nation.
As God is restoring Israel, He is calling upon the Church to have an active part in it. This is why we help with Aliyah and why we support Holocaust survivors. But this is also why we bring Jews and Arabs together to declare to them the great and glorious future God has for this region. It is the time of restoration. Join with us to fulfill that calling.
Make a purposeful decision today to expect, hope and work for restoration. As a child of God, your personal agenda needs to be an agenda of restoration. Think of what you can do in the sphere where God has placed you to bring restoration to the people and situations around you.
Aim for restoration!