Monday, April 25, 2016

What if “All” Means All?

Basilica of St. Apollinaris in Classe

God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ is quite inclusive — all, everyone, the whole world, everything — not leaving out anyone or anything. All that has been lost because of man’s rebellion against God is in the process of being restored so that, in the end, everything will be made new and God will be all in all.

In the following catena of Scriptures, I take “all” as meaning all, understanding the all-inclusive nature of the language to be … well, all-inclusive.
  • Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:31-32)
  • Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. (Acts 3:20)
  • Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. (Romans 5:18)
  • For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)
  • 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 15:28)
  • All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
  • In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment — to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:7-10)
  • Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
  • 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 1:19-20)
  • The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
  • He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
  • He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)
Now, there are several important things to notice about this universal reconciliation and restoration: First, it does not happen apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s plan and purpose is to bring all things together into unity in and through Christ, reconciling all things in heaven and on earth to himself (see Ephesians 1:10 and Colossians 1:20).

Second, it does not happen apart from the cross. It is through the blood of the cross that God has made peace, making possible the reconciliation of all things in heaven and on earth (see Colossians 1:20).

Third, it does not happen apart from repentance, all who have turned away from God turning back to him (see 2 Peter 3:9).

Fourth, it does not happen apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Philippians 2:9-11, Paul tells us that every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord. The language of the knee bowing and the tongue confessing is not about what is coerced but, rather, what is offered freely and willingly.

The final restoration of all things does not happen apart from any of the above, but in the end, it does and will happen. For in the end, God will be not just all in some but, as Paul declares, “all in all.”

No doubt, the view I express here will raise many questions and objections by people who believe or have been taught that the Scriptures teach otherwise. That is quite understandable — before I came to believe that God’s “all” truly means all, I had many questions and objections about it myself. But as I continued to study the Scriptures and meditate on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, I came to see that those questions and objections have sound, biblical answers. I have written about many of these over the past year, under the theme, Last Things.