Restoration projects generally seek to conform the present to the past. But this is not God’s restoration ideal. God’s restoration project is the realization of the future.
I understand this is a fairly significant twist to an old and comfortable idea. Many of us have lovingly embraced the idea of returning to the past in order to restore the church to its pristine condition. We thought conforming to past patterns was the way to faithfully implement God’s intent for the present.
And this may be, in some sense, true…but only if we have first immersed ourselves in the future God imagines for the creation.
The story of God has a telos, a goal. It is a concrete goal; it is located within the creation rather than in some celestial heaven with Caspar the Ghost bodies. The new creation is the world imagined by Scripture. It is the fullness of the kingdom of God filling the earth with the glory of God.
The Hebrew prophets imagine this future where nations will learn war no more and everyone will live in prosperity and without fear (Micah 4:1-4). Jesus lived this future as his ministry reversed the curse through healing diseases, defeating demons and raising the dead (Mark 5). Paul envisioned this future when he counseled the congregations to accept one another and live within the kingdom of God without concern for the distinctions rooted in the old, even broken, creation (Romans 14). Scripture bears witness to God’s intended future for the creation and narrates how that future, at times, broke into human history, and broke in climatically in the ministry of Jesus.
We look to the past to see where the future has already broken through. We look to Scripture to see the future world God imagines.
This kind of restoration does not reduplicate the past but seeks to realize the future in the present. But how is this a restoration? It restores the creation to God’s original intent.
I don’t mean that we seek to restore the original creation. That would be to return to square one. Revelation 22 is not a restoration of the garden but its transformation into a city.
Instead it restores the trajectory embedded in God’s original creative act. Redemption brings the creation back on line; it realigns the creation with God’s original telos. It restores the goal of God by actualizing it in the present.
Restoration is a reclamation project; it reclaims God’s dynamic agenda for the creation.
The ministry of the church is a restoration ministry; it seeks to restore the future.