Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)
The day is coming when God will be “all in all.” It is the consummation, the culmination, the ultimate fulfillment of the gospel. God will not just be all in some, or some in all — he will be all in all. But before we talk about what that means, let’s take a moment to realize what it does not mean.
First, “all in all” does not mean that God will become his creation, or that the creation will become God. In another letter, Paul says, “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36). Everything that has been created comes from God, through God and for God. This does not mean, however, that everything is God or that God is everything. God remains God and the creation remains the creation. Creation reflects the glory and attributes of God, but it is always dependent upon God. Its existence is not inherent within itself but is purely a matter of God’s creative love and sustaining grace.
Second, “all in all” does not mean that we somehow lose our own identity in God. God has always existed as the divine community of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. None of the Three ever lose their own identity but each remains who he is, ever and always. Likewise, when God becomes all in us, we do not lose our identity. God remains who he is; we remain who we are.
So what does “all in all” mean? In 1 Corinthians 15, we see that there are some things that are to be destroyed: all dominion, authority and power — and death. This is not the destruction of persons, human or otherwise, but of the evil that influences kings and cultures and is behind all the oppressive structures that afflict humanity. Their power, even the power of death, was broken at the cross of Christ. They will not prevail against the purpose of God.
“All in all” means that everything will be in perfect alignment with God. What cannot be brought into line with him — dominion, authority, power and death — will be destroyed. But everything God has created will be reconciled to him. Notice the all-inclusive nature of what Paul says about Christ in his letter to the Jesus-followers at Colosse:
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:16-20)This is what the cross and the atonement is about: reconciliation. Everything that has been created by God, whether in heaven or on earth, is being turned back to God, brought into proper relationship with him through King Jesus the Messiah. This is God’s pleasure and purpose, and no dominion, authority or power, not even death itself, can stop it.
“All in all,” then, is about everything and everyone — all creation — being restored and brought into fellowship with God. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).