“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive [retain] until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21)
It has been our custom for many years to pay tribute at this time of year to Pastor Russell, That Wise and Faithful Servant, to commemorate his death on October 31, 1916. We believe his stewardship doctrine was a correct understanding of the Atonement, the central teaching of which is Restitution. It has been said that once Brother Russell received the Truth on this doctrine, he never delivered a public discourse in which Restitution did not have a prominent place. In keeping with this, we present this treatise.
In Acts 3:19-24 the Apostle Peter called to the attention of the Jews the promise that God had made to Abraham, saying, “And in thy seed shall all the nations [peoples] of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18) The word “restitution” in the text means restoration; or, as Rotherham states it, “the times of the due establishment of all things . . . But, indeed, all the prophets, – from Samuel and those following after, as many as have spoken, have even announced these days.” (Acts 3:19-24, Rotherham) The Apostle Peter here describes the refreshing times to come, as opposed to the present dry and dying condition of the human race – which he elsewhere likens to grass that withers and sears for lack of rain. (1 Pet. 1:24) He proceeds to stress that the Prophet Samuel and all who came after him had spoken of these refreshing times to come.
This was one of the first public speeches that came from any of the Apostles after Pentecost, and it is in fact just another way of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Often it is recorded of Jesus that He went about “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23; Matt. 9:35; Mark 1:14), which the Apostle Peter here declares to be the “times of restitution.”
It would seem that such an important and far-reaching doctrine as this should have prominent recognition wherever and whenever the Christian religion is preached. But what do we find? So far as we are concerned, we have never once heard Acts 3:19-24 even mentioned from the pulpits of Big Babylon, much less has any attempt been made to explain it. Since men usually preach the things they understand and love, we can but conclude that the silence on this part of Scripture is due to the lack of knowledge of those who should be declaring it.
All during the Gospel Age, since the death of the Apostles (or shortly thereafter), the doctrine of Restitution was completely lost, as represented by parable of the woman who had ten pieces of silver, lost one and sought diligently until she found it. She then called her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” (Luke 15:8-9) The woman in the parable is the Church, which lost sight of one cardinal doctrine of the Bible – Restitution – and it was not until the Harvest that this great Truth was with great rejoicing once more recognized. After the Harvest work had attracted a following, and the Pilgrims began to circulate, That Servant often urged them all to preach Restitution. That was especially emphasized with the Sunday speakers that were sent from the Bible House on weekends. It was indeed “Good Tidings of Great Joy” to all who received it with grateful hearts.
RESTORING THAT WHICH WAS LOST
Jesus said, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) After the transgression in the Garden of Eden four things were lost – things which man once had in his pristine purity. (1) He lost his intimate and friendly relationship with his Creator. (2) He lost his perfect home: “The Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man.” (Gen. 3:23-24) (3) He lost his original dominion over earth: “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:26) Noting this loss of dominion, the Apostle Paul said, “But now we see not yet all things put under him.” (Heb. 2:8) (4) He lost his life. Man was not created to die – he was created to live – and the Scripture is clear enough that he would have continued to “live forever” had he remained in his perfect Edenic home, from which he was driven out “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” (Gen. 3:22)
Just as four things were lost, there are four component parts to the Restitution, the restoration, as clearly set forth in Psa. 103:2-5: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:  Who forgiveth all thine iniquities;  Who healeth all thy diseases;  Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;  Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies . . . thy youth is renewed like the eagles.”
The first of these processes came without any effort on man’s part and generally with little or no knowledge that he is receiving this “benefit.” St. Paul says of us who presently believe, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) Thus, Christ made Himself an offering for sin for us before we knew anything about it being done. He “gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:6) In “due time” all men will recognize what we now know – that a propitiation for sins was provided by the Redeemer without men asking for it – Christ forgives all iniquities.
The same may be said for the second Restitution process, the healing all diseases. In the resurrection day it is self-evident that the disease which brought man to the grave must be cured before his awakening; otherwise, he would immediately die again. The natural and artificial causes that have caused death for centuries must be eliminated in all men before they are returned from the grave. This also will be accomplished without men asking for it.
The third process will operate somewhat differently. Redemption from destruction will require cooperation on the part of the recipient. “God our savior . . . will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:3-4) But this knowledge of the Truth will not be forced down the throats of the unwilling; they must show some desire for it and willingly cooperate in the educational process. That educational process will not only teach men the religious truth on the facts of life and death, it will also teach them the physical, mental, moral and religious philosophies of life which will enable them to live forever in perpetual youth. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” (Hos. 13:14) That power which now turns man to destruction, to the grave, will be stayed. Death will be deprived of its present power over all. Then will come to pass the prophecy: “Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth.” (Job 33:24-25)
The fourth process, the “crowning,” will also require the cooperation of the recipient, who will receive it with a clear understanding of its import. It is emphasized in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” (Matt. 25:34) In times past, when a prince inherited a kingdom from his father, he was seated on the throne and a crown placed upon his head. Figuratively speaking, this same procedure will be followed when the Restitution process is complete. Each one of the “sheep” will inherit a kingdom – perfect human life with its accompanying life rights – just as Adam had in Eden when he was given dominion over all things on earth. He was then in every sense a monarch over all he surveyed.
However, the Restitution processes cannot be completed fully until the causes that now send men to the grave have been eliminated. St. John states this very graphically: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men . . . And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)
The angel who gave those words to John evidently realized the disbelief with which the message would be received by the present sick and dying race, for he then emphasized it with these words: “Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:5)
The logical conclusion is that the Restitution processes will eliminate all crime, thievery, violence, moral depravity, and sickness. There will be no more need for locked doors; no more destructive armies; no more rigid police protection. “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isa. 2:4)
THEN COMETH THE END
St. Paul graphically confirms this outcome: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [Jesus] of them that slept. For since by man [Adam] came death, by [a] man [Jesus] came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die [all who were in Adam die; this would exclude Jesus, for He was never in Adam], even so [all who are] in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits [meaning the entire Christ Company, and not merely Jesus only]; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming [presence]. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and all power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:20-26)
“The end” is the end of the Little Season, when Christ will have ruled over the earth to the full elimination of Satan and his evil acts and death and the dying process. The “last enemy” is the dying process – all the mental, moral, physical and religious ills now prevalent in the human race. Then the conclusion of St. Paul will be realized: “That through death he [Jesus] might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Heb. 2:14)
The foregoing is vividly illustrated in what is perhaps the grandest type of the entire Old Testament: “And the Lord said unto Moses [type of Christ], Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians [Pharaoh and his hosts being typical of Satan and his henchmen] . . . and the sea returned to his strength . . . and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea . . . and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.” (Exod. 14:26-31) The destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea typically sets forth how Satan and all who are on his side will be forever destroyed. The “goats” of the parable in Matt. 25:31-46 will come to their complete annihilation, leaving the “sheep” as the unmolested and perfected rulers of all they survey – free from all the evils that Satan’s deceptions have inflicted upon the human race.
DOCTRINE OF RESTITUTION DISTORTED
That Servant gave a very clear and convincing presentation of the Times of Restitution; and his entire following was almost a solid unit in accepting it the way he taught it. But what do we find since his death? We find many who once seemed to understand the subject have now perverted it out of all recognition to the manner in which they had once accepted it. Chief among these are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who now have consigned Adam to annihilation, which is actually a denial of the Ransom – although they would not admit that.
Since Adam was the only perfect man on earth aside from Jesus Himself, and since the word Ransom itself means a corresponding price, an exact duplicate, Adam is actually the only one who could be ransomed. Therefore, St. Paul gives the philosophy: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22) When ransom was provided for Adam, that act became the inheritance for all of us – just as all of us inherited the death penalty for sin passed on him. The Witnesses now leave out a very large section of the human race in their presentation of Restitution. To all who understand the philosophy of the Ransom, it is an elementary conclusion that if Adam is not to be awakened, none of the rest of the world will be awakened.
They are now telling us that all living today who do not accept them will never be awakened, although they admit that Satan is still blinding the eyes of unbelievers. They are dividing the Sheep from the Goats now during this Time of Trouble when, more than ever, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” (2 Cor. 4:4) They tell us that those who will never be awakened will therefore never have the opportunity of Restitution when the Devil is bound, and nothing but truth will be taught.
The Prophet Isaiah tells us this: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. . . . And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isa. 35:5,8) The highway is the established New Covenant. It will not be a “narrow way” but instead a public roadway, open to all. The unclean who refuse to go up it will “be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23) Also Rev. 22:5 tells us, “And there shall be no night [error] there.”
When the Jehovah’s Witnesses say all present “unbelievers” in them will be annihilated in the approaching Armageddon, it is a far cry from the “good news” taught by That Servant, who had a message of hope for the groaning creation. And they claim That Servant as their founder! He is not the founder of their errors; he was the founder of The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, which the errorists took over after his death. Their teachings reveal that they do not understand, or will not accept, the meaning of “the gospel of the Kingdom,” as St. Paul so clearly states: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:8) Most of these “heathen” have never intelligently heard the name of Christ (nor have they heard of the Jehovah’s Witnesses).
According to the Witnesses, this annihilation in Armageddon will include the majority of the people living – quite a few of whom are honorable, benevolent and kind – their besetting sin being that they cannot accept the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their errors. They can no longer teach: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29) (Judgment is mistranslated damnation in the King James Version. Judgment is for all restitutionists. See Diaglott.)
Nor can they teach: “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15) For a number of years they put forth their “Jonadabs” as the Restitution class. They still retain much the same view, except that they now call their Jonadabs the Great Multitude of Rev. 7:9-17. All Bible logic is against such an interpretation, because the language and setting of Revelation 7 clearly depict a class on the spirit plane – “before the throne” – which is in Heaven. They have set aside That Servant’s interpretation of this text and substituted their own interpretation, which is error.
We continue to teach the Gospel of Christ, the Good Tidings to all mankind, the grand and glorious Restitution work of that blessed Kingdom, which will include all current unbelievers as well as current believers in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Another group, The Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement, also teaches a superior Restitution class that is being developed now – “Consecrated Epiphany Campers.” To refute this error we need only bear in mind that we are still in the Gospel Age, the Faith Age; and during this Age the merit of Jesus is only for Himself and His house – for all those who honestly accept Him as their Savior and walk a “narrow way.” During this Faith Age there is only one place where His merit can be obtained, and that is inside the Court of the antitypical Gospel-Age Tabernacle. The LHMM has their non-existent class outside the linen curtain of the Gospel-Age Tabernacle – outside the righteousness of Christ in this Faith Age.
Jesus said, “I am the way” (John 14:6) and there is only one manner in which that “way” can be obtained, and that is by taking the step from the Camp, through the antitypical Tabernacle Gate, and into the Court, whereby “justification by faith” has been obtainable all during the Faith Age. It is still the only way, because we are still in the Gospel (faith) Age. We would emphasize that a place in the typical Tabernacle represents a condition in this Faith Age antitype.
For those who have received Harvest Truth, there would seem to be little excuse for such distortions. According to the Prophet Malachi, one of the specific missions of Jesus at His Second Advent would be to “sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” (Mal. 3:3) The “silver” in this text represents the Truth and the Truth has shone with great brilliance during the Harvest period. While the Truth on Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the state of the dead, etc., were understood fairly well by some groups in Christendom before 1874, it remained for the Harvest Messenger to refine and elaborate upon every one of them with telling force. The word “purifier” in our text is from the Hebrew taher, one meaning of which is to make bright or to polish. Thus, at His Second Advent our Lord not only refines, purges the dross of error from the Truth, but He also brightens or polishes it.
Note that He “shall sit” as a refiner and polisher. At the time of the First Advent it was the custom for a speaker to sit, while the audience stood. In the Talmud the phrase to sit is almost synonymous with to teach. Jesus was indeed the teacher; but when He said the Scribes and Pharisees “sit in Moses’ seat” (Matt. 23:2), He meant they were setting themselves forth as the teachers of the people – just as Moses had done when he gave them the Law at Sinai. Jesus now sits on His throne, as does a king and as a judge sits on his bench, etc. Thus, He is the executive, the authority, the official opponent of error and developer of the Truth. This is true not only of religious truth, but also to a large degree of secular truth. Satan has done an excellent job of corrupting secular and religious truth over the centuries, and none but our all-powerful Divine Lord is capable of undoing the damage. He has come with the “golden crown” on His head as evidence that He has the power and the authority to eliminate the damage of the past. (Rev. 14:14)
To polish anything requires a cleansing agent to be applied with muscular strength. Since 1874 especially, this has been accomplished mainly through much controversy. The Truth comes out in controversy; those who object to controversy are actually objecting to one of the special missions of our Lord since 1874, and are imposing a deception on those who listen to them.
Our chief purpose in giving this explanation is to focus attention upon the “outer darkness” of those who once saw Restitution in its brilliance and clarity, but who have now sullied it so badly by their perversions (See Matt. 25:30 on the “unprofitable servant” with the Berean Comments). The evidence clearly points to something being woefully wrong in the hearts of such.
“ALL MEN TO BE SAVED” – SOME CONTRARY VIEWS
Like all other fundamental teachings of the Bible, the text stating that God “will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), has been given the extremes of erroneous interpretation. Some contend that if God will have all men to be saved, that is a guarantee of eternal life for every human being that has ever lived. Universalism goes even further, insisting that even the Devil and his angels will also eventually be saved, despite the clear statement of St. Paul to the contrary. (Heb. 2:14) Others contend that God would like to have all men saved, but He just can’t seem to accomplish it. All of these perversions are based upon a misunderstanding of the salvation process.
God will have all men to be saved. But saved from what, to what? St. Paul offers us the proper help: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) All of Adam’s progeny inherited the death sentence from him through no fault of their own. It is relief from that sentence from which God wishes all men to be saved. Often in human affairs we hear of a condemned man being “saved from execution” by official decree; but that does not mean that he will continue to live forever. It simply means that he is saved from the sentence passed upon him by the judicial process.
Much the same explanation may be given for the entire human race being saved; they will be saved from the sentence now hanging over them, and thenceforth will be given the privilege of regaining perfect life, as Adam had it, if they wish to take advantage of it. If they do, they will be classified as the “sheep” of the parable; if they do not, they will be classified as the “goats” of the parable, and will be sentenced to death once more – for their own transgression, not for one inherited from another.
This is well stated by the Prophet Jeremiah: “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:29-30) No longer will the iniquities of the fathers be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. (Exod. 20:5)
Some years back we corresponded with a preacher who insisted that St. Paul’s words mean that every man will eventually receive eternal life – although there is just nothing in the text to warrant such a conclusion. Man will be relieved from the present load upon his back, and given the opportunity, under favorable conditions, to free himself from its effects if he will take advantage of the opportunity. Nothing more than that; nothing less. The preacher argued that the “everlasting punishment” of Matt. 25:46 simply means “age-lasting” and that man will continue to receive one opportunity after another – for a full Age – until he eventually avails himself of eternal life. But the same Greek adjective aionios is used to describe both the reward of the righteous and the punishment of the unrighteous. This would force the logical conclusion that the life received by the sheep will also be limited to the Age. Note the footnote for verse 46 in the Emphatic Diaglott:
“The Common Version, and many modern ones, render kolasin aionioon, everlasting punishment, conveying the idea, as generally interpreted, of basinos, torment. Kolasin . . . is derived from kolazoo, which signifies [primarily] to cut off; as lopping off branches of trees, to prune . . . The righteous go to life, the wicked to the cutting off from life, or death.”
If we cut the limb from a tree, we know that limb will no longer continue to live; it withers and disintegrates – in much the same manner that Adam withered for 930 years, then disintegrated in the grave. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19)
“THE MEEK SHALL EAT AND BE SATISFIED”
At the birth of Jesus the angel declared, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10) St. John elaborated: “He is the propitiation for our sins [those who accept Him in this present Age]: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
As we look back with joy at the Savior’s birth and the subsequent atonement for all people, so the ancients looked forward to it. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56) A beautiful prophecy on the subject is presented in Psalm 72: “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth [times of refreshing]. In his days shall the righteous flourish [the sheep of the parable]; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth . . . Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him . . . daily shall he be praised . . . they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth . . . All nations shall call him blessed . . . Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.” Truly, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:10-11)
Biblical names are often significant of the character and accomplishments of the persons to whom they are given. Thus, Jesus is the Latin word for Joshua, or Jeshua, which means “Yahweh is salvation,” the name being very expressive of the work He would do. Thus, He not only delivers, or saves believers in this Age, but in the next Age He will deliver the world in general from the sentence now resting upon men. This He will accomplish by His Priestly, Mediatorial, Kingly, Legislative, Judicial, Prophetic and Paternal offices, by His good Word and works. He “forgiveth all thine iniquities.” (Psa. 103:3) He is indeed “mighty to save!” (Isa. 63:1)
Then will be realized the words: “The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever . . . all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations . . . A seed shall serve him . . . They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born.” (Psa. 22:26-31)
(Reprint of an article by Brother John J. Hoefle, with some modifications. Originally printed in No. 217, July 1, 1973.)
P.O. Box 2246, Kernersville, NC 27285-2246; firstname.lastname@example.org