CLAIM: In his public teaching, Peter spoke about “the time for restoring all the things” (Acts 3:21 ESV). Universalists argue that Peter believed that all people will be saved in the end (“…restoring all the things…”). Does this imply that all people will be saved in the end? If not, what does Peter mean by “restoring all the things”?
RESPONSE: This verse does not support universalism. In verse 23, Peter states, “It will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” This obviously doesn’t fit with universalism.
“All things” that were predicted by the prophets will be fulfilled. But this begs the question: What was predicted by the OT prophets? Often, the prophets repeatedly predicted judgment—not forgiveness—for those who resist God’s forgiveness. The prophets Peter mentions in this verse (“God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time”) repeatedly write about the judgment of the unrighteous.
The restoration of all things, does not mean the salvation of all people. As verse 25 stipulates: “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” Clearly, Peter is referring to the Abrahamic Covenant. When we read the prophets, we see that they all refer to the restoration of the land—not necessarily the people (Isa. 11:9-10; 66:19-20; Hag. 2:6-7).
Finally, other passages in the NT make it clear that not everyone will be saved in the end (Rev. 20:11-15; Mt. 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 1:9; Mt. 26:24). While God desires that all men would be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), some will sadly refuse his gracious offer of forgiveness (cf. Matt. 23:37).