Perspectives on Restoration (3)
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying:
“What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2.5-9
The old template and the new
We recall that the Scriptures repeatedly set forth a pattern or template for the work of restoration. We saw how Noah, Joseph, Joshua, David, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Jesus provided examples and instruction for restoring God’s plan for goodness and glory. Each of these typified that great work of restoring the reconciled world which God has given to us.
If we wonder whether the writers of the New Testament understood this, and meant to include a restoration template in their teaching of the Gospel, we must give a resounding “Yes!” From the book of Acts through the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John, it is evident that the old template for restoration underlay their teaching about the implications of the Gospel for life in a fallen and broken world.
The church in Jerusalem set the pace for the rest of the Roman world in creating new communities where selfless sharing, caring for the poor, mutual edification, and sacrificial giving stood out so starkly that unbelievers saw this new “Way” as turning their world upside-down.
The apostles vigorously sought to support and further this project, calling the believers to whom they wrote to envision the coming Kingdom of God and to draw on its power for personal growth, ministry together, and the doing of “every good work” in loving God and their neighbors. They were called to serve Christ in their particular conditions and callings, using the gifts and wisdom of God to do all things for edification and God’s glory.
Paul’s comment that old things had passed away and all things were becoming new (2 Cor. 5.17) applied to the impact of the Gospel in the lives and mission fields of believers, where the old template of restoration, so carefully and consistently set forth throughout the Old Testament and the gospels, was beginning to be realized again.
Such a great salvation
The writer of Hebrews presents the most concise restatement of this restoration template (Heb. 2.5-9). He reminded his readers that they were the recipients of “so great a salvation” – an understanding that, according to many contemporary scholars and thinkers, seems to have escaped the notice of believers today, when we are, according to C. S. Lewis, “too easily satisfied” with a small and merely personal salvation.
The salvation that Jesus brings to His followers is so great that it spreads out into every aspect of our lives, enlightening the darkness; bringing new power for righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit; making us willing and able to do that which is pleasing to God; equipping us for every good work; leading us to glorify God in all our ways; and making everything that comes under our influence new and fresh and radiant with the resurrection life of Christ. The greatness of this salvation demands a great response and effort on our part. We must not be content merely to rest in the essentials of the Gospel; instead, desiring to become teachers for all those in our lives, the followers of Christ must press on to learn Him, to grow in grace, and to increase in our great salvation for greater newness, life, and glory (Heb. 5.12-6.12). We must “not become sluggish”, languishing in complacency and unconcerned about the needs of our fallen and broken world; instead, looking to all the great saints of Scripture, we must “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” – the promises of restoration and renewal in Jesus.
Not yet, but…
The writer of Hebrews says that this great salvation is the coming thing. As John had written that the light of the Gospel was driving back the darkness on every hand (1 Jn. 2.8), so the writer of Hebrews insisted that “the world to come” – of which he was speaking – was to be a world in which the great salvation of the Lord brought renewal and restoration to all that Christ has reconciled to the Father – every creature and everything in the fallen world.
The writer of Hebrews reached back to that Old Testament template for restoration, bringing forward David’s visionary restatement of the restoration template from Psalm 8, and insisting that this mandate remains. God has put the world Jesus reconciled under the feet of His people. He calls us to rule the world as His vice-regents, crowned with glory and honor, so that all the works of His hands may be refashioned and restored to bring honor and glory to Him. God Himself cares for us in this great endeavor, and He has given us His Word and Spirit to guide and empower us for the work of restoring the reconciled world.
The writer of Hebrews quickly adds that “now we do not yet see all things put under him” (Heb. 2.8). Of course not! The work was just beginning, and even though, by the time of this epistle, much impressive progress had been made, there was still much work to do. The same is true in our day. As many writers – Christian and non-Christian – have shown, the impact of the Gospel throughout the ages has shaped the course of world history. While the advance of Christ’s rule in the hands of sinful people has not always brought the blessing and goodness God intends – a point Bertrand Russell argued cogently in the middle of the last century – in the main, and overall, the presence of the Gospel throughout the world has resulted in more of God’s goodness, more of His mercy, more of His fruitfulness, and more of His truth to the sinful world than all other worldviews or philosophies or religions combined.
And while today we recognize there is still much to do, we understand that, by looking to Jesus – contemplating Him in all His work and glory, daily being renewed in Him, following His example, serving others in His Name, and proclaiming Him to the world – we can find the focus, faith, fortitude, and fruitfulness to do the work of restoring the reconciled world, beginning right where we are.
The world to come is the restored world of our great salvation, and each of us has a contribution to make. Look to Jesus. Consider Him. Take up the cross He calls you to bear; and seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness for a new world, reconciled to God and restored to His goodness, increasingly, if not entirely, until He comes.
1. What did we learn from Jesus and Old Testament saints about the work of restoration?
2. Why do we “not yet” see all things being restored to God’s glory and honor and goodness?
3. How can we be renewed each day in the work of restoring the reconciled world?
Next steps – Preparation: How can you improve your practice of “seeing” Jesus? What will you begin to do today to make that a more consistent part of your walk with the Lord?
T. M. Moore
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