Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt?” (Mark 9:11-12)
These words reveal one of the most exciting aspects of the gospel: the restoration of all things. John the Baptist did fulfill, during his lifetime, the ministry of Elijah in the hearts of the people longing for a Redeemer.1 The people who regarded John as a prophet were prepared for the first advent, the first coming of Messiah.
If the words of Messiah in Mark 9:11-12 are to have any meaning, then Jesus was prophesying of some future time and not of the ministry of John the Baptist that immediately preceded His. Otherwise, “all things” would have already been restored and His words were meaningless when spoken. Jesus was speaking of the second advent (His return) when He said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things.”
At that time, many people will once again be prepared for His coming. Then all that was fallen and lost in Israel of old will be restored. The Church of the New Covenant was to fulfill, or bring about, all these things for the natural descendants of Abraham in the first century,2 but they too fell away. Overcome by the cares and worries of this life, they stopped loving as their Savior loved, stopped living together and sharing all things in common. They no longer had the Spirit of love in their midst.
Therefore, the restoration of all things includes the promises of the gospel made to all who would follow Him, beginning with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Following Him has a cost: obeying Him. Acts 5:32 says this is the prerequisite to receiving the Holy Spirit. Eternal life is promised to those who do obey Him. Nothing is promised to those who don’t, who don’t forsake all they have for His sake and the gospel’s sake:
Yahshua said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
How well each of these words stood out to His apostles… with the hundredfold return on what is given up, came persecutions and eternal life! What is given up, houses, brothers, and sisters, mothers and children — in a word, family — is regained in the Community of the Redeemed. This was seen in Acts 2 and 4 in the Bible, and continues to be seen wherever this gospel is preached. It is the new family of those not only willing, but who do the will of God:
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)
What is the Will of God for my Life?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about one’s relationship with God. By asking it people make it obvious that they are not a part of His new family. “Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother” — is My family. Those who do the will of God abide forever.3
For those who believe in Him trust Him, and those who trust Him obey Him, and those who obey Him are those who love Him. And He and the Father love them in return:
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:21,23)
The first-century church was a community established on the Rock our Master spoke of in Matthew 7:21-24 and Luke 6:46-49. This solid rock is obedience to His commands, as Mark 3:31-35 and John 14:21,23 speak of. The Community of the Redeemed is the new family of God. It too is an essential part of the restoration of all things. Like any family, this new family lives together! All who have taken up their cross and followed Him live together.4 Like His own disciples did, they follow Him together, and Acts 2:44 is no longer merely an historical account. No longer is it in the past tense, for once again, in the restoration of all things, “all who believe are together and share all things in common.”5
And like any new family formed by a covenant, they live separate and apart from their old families, no longer under their authority.6 Before this new Israel could begin then (at Pentecost), or before it can be entered into now, the “many other words” have to be made clear, so that all who are cut to the heart can realize what they must do.
The multitudes at Pentecost asked the same question as the rich young ruler did in Mark 10, “What must I do to be saved?” and as the fruit of the Community in Jerusalem shows in Acts 2 and 4, they received the same answer from the apostles that he received from the Son of God.
This was their exodus from the old, fallen Israel, to the new Israel of God, just as their forefathers had been called to cross the line many years ago to stand with Moses — when all the rest were worshipping the golden calf.7 The choice and the consequences are just as stark today, and like then, the influence of family and friends who are not immersed into Messiah by baptism into His Body must be cut off.
After the rich young ruler walked away sad, the disciples asked this question of the Savior in Luke 18:26-27, “Who then can be saved?”
To understand the answer is a crucial part of the restoration of all things, for it restores the gospel from the depths to which it has fallen — far short of the glory of God. So, it is true: that which is impossible with men is possible with God. He is the Giver of eternal life. But if the rich can only be saved with great difficulty, then who can be saved “more readily”? The poor perhaps? The answer is that salvation for rich or poor is always the gift of God, not on the merits of any. Salvation is a free gift, but who does the Giver give it to?
Some boldly proclaim, “To whoever asks!” But the gospel accounts say, “Not so!” They tell, rather, of many who believed in Him in vain, for He did not entrust Himself to them.8 Their “belief” in Him was in vain because for it did cause them to receive what they sought, which was the Holy Spirit and eternal life. The gospel tells who He gives eternal life to. He gives it to those who obey Him.9 Having heard these words many times, Peter confidently told the Sanhedrin:
We are witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. (Acts 5:32, NKJV)
The word obey in this verse means to hearken — to listen and respond to an imperative — especially as to one in authority.
If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. (John 14:21)
He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:24)
The word keep means to hold fast, maintain, watch, preserve, and observe. So for the one who claims to know Him, an essential part of the restoration of all things is what the word love means. All believers say, “I love Jesus,” and “He knows my heart,” and “My outward actions (or conformity to the world) don’t matter, for Jesus only looks at the heart.”
He does know your heart. He sees whether you love Him enough to obey Him. If you don’t, the word of His Father, which He loved, teaches that you hate Him. The Ten Commandments themselves teach that the Father will show mercy “to those who love Him and keep His commandments,” but to those “who hate Him” and break His commandments, just the opposite. This is another essential aspect of the restoration of all things — to understand what hate means.
Love and hate are not primarily feelings; they are the direction of one’s will towards or away from the object of one’s love or hatred. To not obey the good news, no matter what the preacher says, will cause a great and eternal surprise when He returns.
In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)
Obey here is a Greek word meaning to hearken, be obedient to, to hear under (as a subordinate hears his commander). In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul was only repeating what John the Baptist said:
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)
“Does not believe” means to disbelieve willfully and perversely, to be disobedient, obey not, remain unbelieving. This is what one does when hearing the requirements of the gospel in the many other words, as the three thousand did at Pentecost, and instead of “gladly receiving” it as they did, one “walks away sad” as the rich young ruler did in Mark 10. Other translations, like the New American Standard, simply render this Greek word as “disobey.” These are the “cowardly and unbelieving” of Revelation 21:8. They did not “overcome so as to inherit all these things” as Revelation 21:7 says. The obstacles they did not overcome were whatever kept them from obeying the gospel and so drinking the water of life. The Son of God made it very clear in John 7:37-39, that the water of life was the Holy Spirit.
There is a promise in Mark 10:29-30 essential to the gospel, the hundredfold return on what is given up for His sake and the gospel’s sake. The cause precedes the effect, which those who use this verse to uphold a “prosperity gospel” do not understand. There is something on our part (the cause) that sets in motion the hundredfold return on His part (the effect). It is obedience to His voice, beginning with the words He spoke concerning His gospel of the Kingdom of God. Those who believe He is the Son of God sent to save them from their sins by dying for them on the cross and rising on the third day do something because of that belief. They obey Him. They obey Him to the extent they give up all their own possessions, since He said they could not be His disciples unless they did.10
Those who do not give up everything do not believe in Him as the New Covenant Scriptures say and so cannot receive the effect of His coming, which is salvation. Those who believe obey. This cause-effect relationship between obedience to the gospel and receiving its promises establishes and indeed makes possible the Community of the Redeemed. In it there are no rich or poor and no one is in need.11 This fulfillment of the Old Covenant prophecy for Israel is essential to fulfilling all of the Law and the Prophets.12
What would be the effect of those who receive His word receiving a hundredfold back for all that they gave up? It would establish the Kingdom of God on earth as a witness before all the nations. And to maintain this witness until the end will cause another effect — the return of the Son of God and the end of this present, evil age.13
There is an undeniable witness in each person’s conscience who has passed out of death and into eternal life. Eternal life is, after all, the effect so many seek in believing in Him. It is the “because” of why they say the sinner’s prayer. And so they claim the Savior’s words for themselves:
Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
But mere mental belief is not the cause that produces the effect of salvation. It is much more real than that. The witness that people have believed, been forgiven, and passed from death into life is this: they love their fellow believers, sharing all they have with them:
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:14-18)
This kind of love can only be shown in the communities where the Holy Spirit makes His home. It takes a community to love like this. Apart from this daily, self-sacrificing kind of love, people may as well chant John 5:24 for all the good it will do them. Where God is, there love is. Real, practical, everyday, down-to-earth kind of love — the kind of love He pours out in the hearts of those who believe in Him.14 Come and see that the restoration of all things has begun!