Acts 3:21—Will all things be restored to God or just some things?

Problem: On the one hand, this verse speaks of the “restoration of all things,” which seems to imply that all will eventually be saved. On the other hand, the Scriptures declare that many will be lost (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 19:20–20:15). Will everyone eventually be saved?

Solution: God desires that all people be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). However, some are simply “not willing” to accept His grace (cf. Matt. 23:37). Since God is love (1 John 4:16) and humans are free, God cannot force them to freely love Him. Forced freedom is a contradiction in terms. Hence, God will allow the unrepentant to have it their way. Those who do not say to God, “Your will be done,” will eventually hear God declare to them, “your will be done.” Such is the nature of hell. Nowhere in the Bible does it hold out hope for those who refuse to accept God’s love. A loving God cannot force anyone to love Him. Forced love is a contradiction in terms. Love always works persuasively, but never coercively (see also comments on Col. 1:20).

What then does “the restoration of all things” mean? Peter is speaking here to the Jews and makes reference to the “restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). Peter said it is referring to the “covenant which God made with our [Jewish] fathers, saying to Abraham, `And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ ” (Acts 3:25). This Abrahamic covenant was unconditional and included the promises of possessing the land of Palestine “forever” (Gen. 13:15). It is to the future fulfillment of this Abrahamic covenant that Peter refers. It is the restoration of all things to Israel, not to the salvation of all people (see also comments on Rom. 11:26–27).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.