Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Time Of Universal Restoration

I grew up thinking that the world was spiraling toward a fiery end.  Jesus would return, and when he did, this world would be destroyed and we would live with God in heaven for ever after.  My thinking has changed quite a bit since then.  First off, I've actually grown to care about this place.  Yes, life is one gigantic mess, but there's a lot of beauty here too.  God knew what he was doing when he made all this, and I don't want to see it destroyed.  Second, passages in the Bible started standing out to me in ways that they hadn't before, passages like I Cor. 15, II Cor. 5, and Romans 8, among others, which recontextualized Rev. 21 and 22, as well as II Peter 3.  These passages seemed to suggest that God was up to much, much more than getting my soul to heaven.  He seemed to actually care about everything he had made.  Slowly, over time, the rhetoric I heard growing up seemed less and less convincing, and less and less like good news.  If I could care about more than just myself, why couldn't God?

By the end of my graduate work, I had pretty much left behind my old views about the conclusion of the world as we know it and replaced them with what I found to be a much more Biblical view of God's final plan for his creation through Christ.  Then last year I finally read NT Wright's book Surprised by Hope, which I highly recommend, and yes, I realize I was a little late to hop on the bandwagon since it was published in 2008.  Anyway, I only felt more confident in what I was thinking after reading his book.

I say all that to say, I still get excited when I see new passages that seem to suggest God has big plans for his creation.  It's not uncommon for me, when I read such a passage, to think to myself, "How did I not see that before?"  I ran across one of those passages today in my reading.  In Acts chapter three, Peter is addressing a crowd of Jews that have gathered to celebrate with a man who had been healed.  In verse nineteen, Peter has this to say.

"Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through the holy prophets."

Universal restoration...getting souls to heaven doesn't even get a small mention in Peter's speech, and there is definately no mention of God blowing everything up.  God's work in creation is a restorative work, in humanity and in the world.  Universal restoration...when I read that I get excited.

Stopping point: Acts 3

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