Listen to audio:
“A ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5, 6). “Restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).
Students of the Bible have long recognized the importance of these two foundation truths. Indeed, Ransom and Restitution, along with the doctrine of the Resurrection of the dead, discussed elsewhere in this issue, are often spoken of as “The Three R’s.” They are as critical to an understanding of God’s Plan as those other “Three R’s”—Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic— are to a secular education.
There are actually only a few scriptures that use the word ransom, but what powerful scriptures they are! One of them is our first theme text above, 1 Timothy 2:5, 6. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
In modern usage, the word ransom has a somewhat negative connotation. It is usually associated with a payment of money extorted by kidnappers from anxious parents to secure the return of their kidnapped child. More recently, pirates along the coast of Africa have kidnapped crew members of merchant ships and demanded a ransom for their release. But in the Bible, the original Greek and Hebrew words translated into the English word “ransom” have a broader meaning. In this text, the Greek word is anti-lutron, which “means a corresponding price, or something of equal value.”
For what or whom was the perfect man Jesus a corresponding price, an equal value? The only other perfect man who ever lived was Adam. Father Adam forfeited his perfect life by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden. Adam not only forfeited his own life when he came under God’s just penalty, “dying thou shalt die,” he also forfeited the lasting lives of all his children — every man, woman, and child who has ever lived, including ourselves. Each of us was born imperfect, like Adam became, and we have been dying since the day we were born.
But, according to God’s plan, Jesus came to be the savior of the world by delivering all mankind out from under the penalty of death by voluntarily giving up his perfect life, an equal value, a ransom, for Adam and all his children. A confirmation that the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross was to provide the ransom is found in another scripture that includes the English word “ransom” (Hosea 13:14). “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.” The Hebrew word translated “ransom” is padah, and it means “to redeem by paying a price”. (Please see Exodus 34:20 for a similar usage of the same Hebrew word.) Notice here that mankind is redeemed or released from death by the payment of this price. Several other scriptures that teach this foundation truth of the ransom are Job 33:24, 25, Isaiah 35:9-10; 51:10; Jeremiah 31:11; Romans 5:12, 18, and 1 Corinthians 15:22.
Returning to our theme text of 1 Timothy 2:5, 6, now notice one more important feature of the doctrine of the Ransom. It says that Jesus gave himself a ransom for all. Notice the word “all.” Salvation from the penalty of death is not for just a few, but for all. Not just the few who actually live righteously. Not just those who attend church regularly. Even those who never heard of Jesus because they lived in lands where the name of Jesus was scarcely known, will be saved. Even those who lived before Jesus was born will be redeemed from the penalty of death. All will be resurrected in God’s Kingdom. What a beautiful foundation truth!
Proof that the ransom applies to all who ever lived is found in the two verses immediately preceding our text under consideration, 1Timothy 2:3, 4. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour; who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Think about that. God wills all to be saved—not just a few, or even a bare majority. He also wills to give everyone the opportunity to receive the benefits of the ransom. All will receive knowledge of the truth—the truth of the Ransom and all the other foundation truths described in this issue.
But now a question begs to be asked. When will the ransom become effective and all mankind be released from their graves and the penalty of death? When will all mankind “come unto the knowledge of the truth”? Our theme text answers that question with the words, “to be testified in due time.” The due time for the ransom to be testified, or put into effect for the benefit of all mankind, is in the “Times of Restitution of all things” referred to in our other theme scripture, Acts 3:21, “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
The word “restitution” conveys the thought of returning to someone something that was originally his or hers. In times past, courts of law would often order a convicted thief to “make restitution” to his victim. That meant to return the stolen property, or in some manner replace it, so that the victim was made whole and returned to the condition he was in before the crime was committed. A more modern word we could use to convey the same thought as restitution would be “restoration.” Notice again that powerful word “all.” It appears twice in Acts 3:21. This scripture declares that all things lost by mankind will be returned, or restored. What things? Everything the ransom paid for—the perfect, disease-free life that Adam lost by disobedience, as well as the privilege of living forever on a perfect earth, as exemplified in the Garden of Eden. Can you picture that? Everyone who has ever lived will be brought back to life on earth and given the opportunity to be rehabilitated from the sinful people they were, into upright, moral, righteous, perfect human beings. It is hard to visualize, but a gifted writer once put it this way:
“Close your eyes for a moment to the scenes of misery and woe, degradation and sorrow that yet prevail on account of sin, and picture before your mental vision the glory of the perfect earth. Not a stain of sin mars the harmony and peace of a perfect society; not a bitter thought, not an unkind look or word; love, welling up from every heart, meets a kindred response in every other heart, and benevolence marks every act. There sickness shall be no more; not an ache nor a pain, nor any evidence of decay—not even the fear of such things.
“Think of all the pictures of comparative health and beauty of human form and feature that you have ever seen, and know that perfect humanity will be of still surpassing loveliness. The inward purity and mental and moral perfection will stamp and glorify every radiant countenance. Such will earth’s society be; and weeping bereaved ones will have their tears all wiped away, when thus they realize the restitution work complete” (The Divine Plan of the Ages, page 191).
Just to convince anyone who might feel this promise is too good to be really true, we find the second use of that powerful word “all” in Acts 3:21. God spoke to us through all of His holy prophets about His determination to restore to mankind all that was lost in the Garden of Eden.
Here are just three examples of the restitution work promised by God’s holy prophets:
- Isaiah 35:5, 6—“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart [deer], and the tongue of the dumb shall sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break forth, and streams in the desert.”
- Habakkuk 2:14—“For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
- Micah 4:3, 4—“And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”
As a final example, from the New Testament we have one of those iconic scriptures that Bible Students treasure greatly and like to quote as the essence of God’s promise of the restitution of all things, Revelation 21:4. “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.”
Since God has promised the restitution of all things, by the mouth of all his holy prophets, then there can be no doubt that it will come to pass “in due time.” This is what we ask for when we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”
The scriptures describe God as having four primary character attributes: love, justice, wisdom, and power. In the ransom, we see an exercise of God’s love and justice. God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son to be mankind’s redeemer, or ransom, thus satisfying God’s just sentence of death upon Adam and all mankind, making it possible to release the human family from the penalty of death. In the doctrine of restitution we see an exercise of God’s power and wisdom. When God’s future kingdom on earth is fully established, His mighty power will awaken all mankind from their sleep of death in the grave. Then, God’s wisdom will be made manifest in His program of restitution to mankind of all that was lost when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden—perfect life on a perfect earth, forever. What glorious Foundation Truths!