Adapted from article written by Dr. Roger Aubrey
In explaining what the Bible means by the term 'restoration' it is important to focus attention on Peter's declaration concerning the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ in Acts 3:21: "He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets." Contrary to the thinking of many Christians, Jesus is not going to return at any moment and snatch the defeated church away from this world. He must remain in heaven until the restoration of all things, which includes a restored church, healthy and vibrant, united in faith and purpose. It will be a church which has made herself ready as a bride prepares for her bridegroom.
There are two important aspects to Restoration:
1. The recovery of what has been lost. The Greek word for restoration is apokatastasis; it occurs just once in the New Testament, in the passage mentioned above. In its secular use it meant the repair of a public way, the return of hostages, the restoring of property to its rightful owner, or the re-constitution of social order. It also refers to the recovery of a former condition for people in many facets of life. So part of the restoration that must take place before Jesus Christ returns is to set things back into their original order.
2. Compensation more than at first. In the Old Testament we find a detailed principle of restitution the adding of one fifth to the full restitution (Numbers 5:5-7). In the case of stolen items double the original value had to be returned (Exodus 22:4,7,9). Natural restoration involved a twenty or one hundred percent compensation in addition to restitution. Therefore restoration is not only recovering what has been lost but also includes the vital element of compensation adding what was not there in the first place. Restoration affects all things; it is the action of God to accomplish his purpose of bringing everything back into total harmony with himself, and his moving everything in heaven and earth forward to the fullness of his original intention for them. This is encapsulated in passages such as Ephesians 1:9-10 and Ephesians 3:10-11. By restoration we do not mean God intends us to go backwards trying to return the church to some nostalgic, ideal original condition which is supposed to have existed in the early church; rather we seek to advance to the fullness of God's original intention for the earth and for humanity created in his image.
The New Testament reveals that even the first century church was riddled with schism, legalism and licentious living, and was infiltrated by the empty philosophies of the day. We have no desire for the future to be a repeat of such a past. Nevertheless, implicit in the New Testament are strong moral and spiritual principles that are the necessary life foundations of every authentic Christian community. It is these elements that we seek to recover as part of the process of advancing the church to its fullness and maturity. In a nutshell, restoration involves recovering what has been lost, but more than that, to go on to the place that the church has never yet been. This advancement will culminate in the glorious return of Jesus Christ himself!