Saturday, October 31, 2015

After the Lake of Fire

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
The three main views on the nature and function of hell each understand the “lake of fire” differently. All agree that anyone whose name is not found in the “book of life” is thrown into the lake, but the important question that separates them is, what comes next?
  • The Eternal Conscious Torment answer is that those who are cast into the lake of fire suffer eternal conscious torment.
  • The Annihilationist answer is that those who are cast into the lake of fire suffer for a time and are eventually destroyed.
  • The Restorationist answer is that those cast into the lake of fire suffer until they repent and call on the name of the Lord, and then, having done so, are reconciled to God through Christ.
One support used for ECT is Revelation 20:10, “The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” There is the “lake of fire” (or “burning sulfur”) and the words “torment” and “forever and ever” all neatly joined together.

But the book of Revelation is written in the apocalyptic genre, which is a very symbolic, stylistic and even hyperbolic, form of literature. The “lake of fire” is neither a literal lake nor a literal fire. The experience of torment is very real — the anguish of the soul — for those who oppose God. How long does it last? “Forever and ever,” English translations say, but the Greek words, tous aionas aionon, have to do with ages or eons. That may be a long time, although the length of an age in the Bible can vary considerably. But it is not the same as eternity or endlessness. If aionas actually meant “forever,” it would be unnecessary to add ton aionon, i.e., “and ever.” A literal rendering would be “to ages of ages,” but whether that indicates endlessness or eternity is a matter of interpretative opinion. (See also, Eternal Punishment, Eternal Destruction?)

The “lake of fire” comes up again in Revelation 21, which is about the new heaven and new earth, and the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven to earth, uniting them. It is the home of the faithful, who are called the victorious and who inherit the city. But in verse 8, we read of the wicked, who have no part in the city: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” That might seem to be the end of the matter — except that as we continue to read just a few verses later, an interesting development comes to light:
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Revelation 21:24-26)
Who are these nations? Earlier, they are shown being prophesied against (10:10-11), as the angry recipients of God's wrath (11:18), as drinking the “maddening wine” of Babylon the Great (14:8 and 18:3), as those whose cities collapsed in their war against God (16:19), as part of the waters upon which the Great Prostitute was seated (17:15), as led astray (18:23) and as struck down by the “sharp sword” coming out of the mouth of Christ (19:15). Yet, now they are seen walking by the light of the New Jerusalem. What has happened that accounts for this change?

And who are these kings of the earth? They, too, have been mentioned several times earlier in Revelation. They are chief among those who hid in caves and begged the mountains to fall on them, to hide them from the face of the Lord and the wrath of the Lamb (6:15-17). They are the ones who have “committed adultery” with the Great Prostitute, “intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries” (17:1-2). They “committed adultery” with her (18:3) and mourned over her destruction (18:9). Finally, they aligned with the “beast” and gathered their armies together to wage war against Christ and the saints, but they are defeated and dispatched, destroyed by the “sword” from the mouth of Christ.

These are not nice people, and we should not expect to see them again in Revelation, certainly not in the New Jerusalem — yet that is exactly what we find. They enter into the Holy City, bringing all their tribute with them to honor Christ. Again, what has happened that accounts for this change?

May I suggest that perhaps what has happened to them is the “lake of fire.” The nations and kings of the earth, as wicked as they were, would surely be cast there. But they are not destroyed or consumed by that experience — they are refined. Their anger and rebellion are burned away and they have turned to God and his Christ in repentance and faith. Elsewhere, we see that the judgment of God is for the purpose of correction, not retribution. So, too, the fire, brimstone and torment.

The nations and kings of the earth eventually returning to God in faith agrees with the purpose Paul attributes to God, that all things in heaven and on earth be reconciled to God through Christ (Colossians 1:19-20, Ephesians 1:10), that every knee bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:9-10) and that, in the end, God will be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Whatever the “lake of fire” is or how it functions in the apocalyptic imagery of the book of Revelation, it does not ultimately prevent the reconciliation of all things to God through Christ and his cross.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Divine Justice and Eternal Conscious Torment

The view that hell is eternal conscious torment creates several problems in regard to divine justice. One is that, in the ECT version of hell, justice is never fully or finally accomplished. Another is that it relies on an understanding of justice that does not derive from the Bible but from medieval feudalism. A third problem is that the justice of God revealed through Christ is restorative but ECT is not.

Justice is Never Fully or Finally Done in ECT Hell
Proponents of Eternal Conscious Torment have often explained that since God is infinite in nature, then offenses against him, though they may happen in a brief moment in time, are infinite in nature and therefore must be punished infinitely, or eternally. But if they must be punished endlessly then there is never a point at which justice will ever be accomplished. It will be eternally incomplete, for there will always be more punishment to be endured.

God’s Justice is Not Feudal Justice
Of course, the idea that offenses against an infinite God require infinite or eternal punishment raises another problem. In the law God established in the Old Testament, punishment for an offense was based upon the offense itself and never upon the prestige of the person who was offended. Rich and poor were to be treated alike, regardless of the status of the offender or of the offended. There was no greater penalty for sinning against a rich man than there was for sinning against a poor man. To base punishment upon the status of the person who was offended, whether rich or poor, would not have been considered justice but injustice. The idea that punishment should be based on the status of the offended is a feudal idea, not a biblical one. So, too, the idea that offenses against an infinite God require infinite or eternal punishment is not a biblical one.

God’s Justice is Restorative, ECT is Not
A third problem is that the justice God has revealed in Jesus Christ is restorative, not retributive. But the Eternal Conscious Torment view of hell is the opposite: retributive, not restorative. Paul shows how God’s righteousness, which is the same thing as God’s justice, is addressed through Christ and his cross.
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
Christ did not come so that retribution might be satisfied, nor was the cross God’s retribution upon him, or on us. But Christ came for the purpose of redemption, to deliver all from the power of sin, so that all might be justified — reckoned fit for fellowship with God and his people. In the cross, God refrained from punishment and retribution so that there might be restoration. That is the righteousness and justice of God.

God’s Purpose in Christ: Reconciliation
God’s purpose revealed in Christ is to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to himself through him (Colossians 1:20), “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:10), so that God may be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

The ECT view, however, does not allow God’s purpose to ever be fulfilled, for the one who is being punished eternally is never finally reconciled to God and brought into unity with all things in heaven and on earth, and God will always be something less than all in all. But Paul affirms that in the end God will be “all in all.”

Eternal Conscious Torment, then, does not measure up to the justice of God but falls short in significant ways. The Annihilationist view also falls short because it supposes that, after an indeterminate season of suffering, the wicked will be utterly destroyed, and so never finally reconciled to God and restored to unity with creation.

The Restorationist view, which I believe is indicated by the Scriptures I have cited above (see Hell and the Restoration of All Things), seems to me the only view that adequately addresses God’s stated purpose. If God’s purpose is truly to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to himself through Christ, this does not mean that there is no hell or no judgment, or that there is no need for repentance and faith, but it suggests that the purpose of hell and judgment is not endless torment but to turn the soul back to God through faith in Christ.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Repentance: A New Orientation Toward God

The meaning of a word is not necessarily determined by its etymology but by how it is used. So, though metanoia, the Greek word translated as “repentance,” is a compound of meta (a prefix that is sometimes used to indicate change) and noiea (to consider, think, perceive or understand), its meaning is not discovered simply by “totaling up” or combining the meaning of those two words. It is discovered by how the new combination functions as a whole in particular contexts.

In the Bible, the meaning of the verb metanoeo or the noun metanioa does not flatten out to “think after” or “think again” or “have a change of mind,” as if it were nothing more than a mental transaction. It indicates a new orientation, a new disposition that results not only in a new way of thinking but a new way of living.

So, John the Baptist, who preached a “baptism of repentance,” said this: “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8). And Paul related to King Agrippa the testimony about how he preached at Jerusalem, throughout Judea and to the Gentiles “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 20:26).

Likewise, Apostle Peter said to Simon the Sorcerer, who tried to buy the power of God, “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). He did not mean, “Just change your mind about how wicked this is, but it is okay if you go ahead and perform it.” Rather, repentance would mean that the wickedness Simon had formerly intended to do, he would no longer do.

Preaching at Solomon’s colonnade, Peter said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Where the NIV has “turn to God,” the KJV and NKJV have “turn back” and the LEB has “be converted.” The Greek word is epistrepho. Simply and literally, it indicates a turning. In regard to human beings in relation to God, it functions in a way similar to metanoeo. Sometimes, as here in Acts 3:19, it is even directly associated with metanoeo. Even on its own, it is often about turning to God:
  • In Luke 1:16, the angel of the Lord said to Zechariah, concerning John the Baptist that “he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God”
  • In Acts 11:21, “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”
  • In Acts 14:15, where Paul evangelizes at Lystra, telling them to “turn from useless things to the living God.”
  • In Acts 26:18, where Paul recounts how King Jesus sent him to the Gentiles, “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God.”
  • In Acts 26:20, Paul “declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent [metanoeo], turn to God, and do works befitting repentance [metanoia].”
  • In 1 Thessalonians 1:9, about how the believers there “turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Notice that “turning to God” here resulted in a disposition to serve Him.
  • In James 5:19-20, to turn or turn back one who wanders from the truth (that is, from God).
  • In 1 Peter 2:25, where Peter, referencing Isaiah 53, says, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and overseer of your souls.”
All of these tell us something about how the New Testament uses the idea of repentance. It is not merely having a mental transaction or giving mental assent to a proposition about God. It is turning to God, away from idols, away from “useless things,” away from wicked works. More particularly, in the New Testament it is about turning to God through Jesus the Messiah. It is a turning that brings a new attitude, a new disposition, and a new intention that will be evidenced in how one lives.

Dictionaries, Lexicons, Wordbooks
There are several dictionaries and lexicons of Greek words that understand metanoeo and metanoia, as more than merely a mental transaction, especially as used in the New Testament.
  • The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament recognizes metanoeo as more than a change of mind. It can also mean to “feel remorse, repent, be converted.” Likewise, the range of meaning of metanoia includes the idea of remorse, “repentance, turning about, conversion,” and can indicate a turning away from something as well as a turning toward something.
  • Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament says that metanoeo is more than merely a change of mind but “indicates a complete change of attitude, spiritual and moral, towards God.”
  • Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that in the New Testament, metanoeo always involves “a change for the better, an amendment,” and that, with the exception of Luke 17:3, it always involves “repentance from sin.”
  • Strong’s Greek Dictionary says that metanoeo is: “to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction).”
  • Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines metanoeo as, “1) to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent, 2) to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.”
  • Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words says that metanoeo refers exclusively to turning from one’s sin.”
  • Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says that both the noun and the verb (metanoia and metanoeo) “denote a radical, moral turn of the whole person from sin and to God.” He adds that, “In the New Testament, metanoeo essentially supersedes epistrepho as the word of choice to denote a turning form sin to God.” In other words, where epistrepho was used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew word shuv, metanoeo carries that meaning in the New Testament, and is used synonymously with epistrepho. “When metanoeo and epistrepho appear together in the New Testament, the former emphasizes the turn from sin and the latter emphasizes the turn to God.”
  • The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible lists “Repent, Repentance, Turn, Return” all under one heading and finds that the New Testament writers used metanoeo and metanoia in the same way shuv was used in the Old Testament (where it is usually translated as “turn”).
There are several translations that render metanoeo as more than just a mental transaction. For example, consider Mark 1:15, which is explicitly about the gospel: “Repent and believe the good news [i.e. the gospel].”
  • The Contemporary English Version has, “Turn back to God.”
  • The Bible in Basic English has, “Let your hearts be turned from sin.”
  • The Good News Bible has, “Turn away from your sins.”
  • J. B. Phillip’s New Testament in Modern English has, “Change your hearts and minds.”
  • The Message has, “Change your life.”
  • The New Century Version and The Expanded Bible have, “Change your hearts and lives.”
  • Now, of course, those are all dynamic translations, not word-for-word, but giving the thought conveyed by the word as found in context. But for a more literal rendering, consider Young’s Literal Translation, which has, “Reform ye.”
  • Wuest’s Expanded Translation of the New Testament, which strives to “bring out the richness, force and clarity of the Greek text,” has this: “Be having a change of mind regarding your former life.”
  • Also interesting is Franz Delitzsch’s Hebrew New Testament, which translates metanoeo with the Hebrew word shuv (or shub), a word used frequently in the Old Testament and generally translated as “turn” (for example, in Isaiah 55:7, about “turning” to the LORD, and in Isaiah 59:20, about “turning” from sin).
A New Orientation Toward God
In the Bible, metanoia is more than a mental transaction but has to do with a new disposition toward God. Through repentance and faith in Jesus the Messiah, we have a new orientation toward God, toward his kingdom and toward his ways that results not only in a new way of thinking but a new way of living: entrusting ourselves to Jesus and following him.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Vengeance, Jesus and the Gospel

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 NKJV)
“Vengeance is mine, I shall repay.” Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35, concerning God’s attitude toward those who turned away from him. But how shall we understand those words and Paul’s use of them? Is God a vindictive deity who cannot be satisfied until he has exacted retribution on those who have offended him? As we consider that question, let’s pick up just a little bit earlier in Paul’s letter:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:14-18)
Now ask yourself, who does that sound like? It sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it. He not only taught us to forgive but in the Sermon on the Mount he preached,
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45)
It is important that we approach the treatment of those who persecute us in the way Jesus would approach them, and we should never suppose that God ever approaches them in a way that Jesus would not. For Jesus, we are told in Hebrews 1:3, is the “exact representation” of God, the “express image of his person” (NKJV). Jesus did only what he saw the Father doing and said only what he heard the Father saying. He taught the disciples concerning himself, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” and “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:9-10). If you want to know what the Father is like, look at Jesus. If you want to know what the Father does, look at Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, then, Jesus was not just telling us how we ought to be, he was telling us how God is. In other words, God practices what Jesus preached.

So now we come to Romans 12:19, where Paul says, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Is this about a vindictive God who hates his enemies, curses those who curse him and repays them evil for evil or blow for blow? That would go against how Jesus says we should treat them, and what Paul said just a couple of verses earlier in Romans 12. It would also go against the very nature of God, for God is love (1 John 4:8), and love is not vindictive.

How should we understand this, then, in view of Jesus and the gospel? I believe the key is Paul’s admonition, “but rather give place to wrath,” by which he means that we should leave it to the wrath of God. This is not the first time Paul has mentioned the wrath of God in this letter. He expounded on it quite a bit, right up front, in the first chapter. I wrote about this several months back in a post called, How the Wrath of God is Revealed. The upshot is that the wrath of God is not something God does to the wicked, but something to which he gives them over: He gives them over to their own sinful desires, shameful lusts, depraved minds — and natural consequences thereof.

However, God gives them over not as a retribution but as a correction, so that they might repent and turn to God. This is a recurring pattern in the New Testament (see He Gave Them Over, That They Might Return). God is love, so how he deals with evil will manifest love both for the perpetrator as well as for the victim. Retribution, or vindictive punishment, helps neither victim nor perpetrator. But a punishment that has correction as its purpose ultimately benefits both because it ultimately results in reconciliation. So God gives the wicked over to their own dark selves until, like the prodigal son when he was off in an alien country, far away from his father, they “come to their senses” and are reconciled to God and his people.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Eternal Punishment, Eternal Destruction?

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:46)

These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (2 Thessalonians 1:9 NKJV)
In my last post, I talked about Hell and the Restoration of All Things and presented a view known as Universal Reconciliation or Christian Universalism. Though it was the dominant view for about the first 500 years in the Church in the East, it is largely overshadowed in the modern Western Church by the view of hell that has been called Eternal Conscious Torment. It is no surprise, then, that there is much pushback to Christian Universalism as well as misunderstandings about what it teaches. Before I address some of the objections, let me first clear up a common misunderstanding: The restoration of all things in heaven and on earth does not happen apart from Jesus, apart from the blood of the cross, or apart from turning to God through faith in Christ.

Now to the objections: There are a couple of passages in the New Testament that are used in an effort to disprove Christian Universalism. One speaks of “eternal punishment” and the other of “eternal destruction.” It is assumed from the English translations of the underlying Greek words that, since the punishment and destruction are described as “eternal,” ultimate reconciliation is thereby excluded.

In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus says this concerning the “goats” (the wicked) and the “sheep” (the righteous): “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). The words usually translated as “eternal punishment” are kolasin aionion. The words for “eternal life” are zoen aionion.

Let’s look at aionion first, since it is the common denominator. Though it is often translated as “eternal” or “everlasting,” it is not actually about eternity or everlastingness. The word comes from aion, which is about an “eon” (you can even hear “eon” in the pronunciation of aion). It is about an age or ages. The Bible knows of many ages — for example, Paul speaks of ages past (Romans 16:25 and Ephesians 3:9) and ages to come (Ephesians 2:7).

Of itself, aionion is not about eternity, or everlastingness or endlessness. As is true of all words, its meaning and how it is used depends upon the context. When used to speak of God, it can have the connotation of eternity, since God is without beginning or end and encompasses all ages. It can also indicate eternity when it is used of the immortal, incorruptible life God imparts to those who turn to him in faith. But in those instances, the meaning “eternal” derives not from the word aionion itself but from its object: God or the life of God that is imparted. In the Gospel of John particularly, zoen aionion is not about a quantity of life but about a quality: that it is the life that comes from God. In general, then, aionion is not about eternity but about an age, usually the age that is to come. In that sense, zoen aionion is about the (divine) life pertaining to the age to come.

Now let’s look at kolasis, the word that is translated as “punishment” in Matthew 25:46. It is from the word koladzo, which has to do with chastisement, or curtailment. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon gives the first meaning of koladzo as “to lop or prune, as trees and wings.” It began as a horticultural term. The purpose of pruning a vine or tree was not in order to exact retribution on the tree or to destroy it but, rather, that it might bear fruit. So the words koladzo and kolasis are used in the sense of chastisement or correction.

However, there is a Greek word that is used for punishment as retribution or retaliation for evil, and that is the word timoria. Clement of Alexandria (circa AD 150-215), one of the early Church Fathers who taught universal reconciliation, demonstrates the difference in one of his miscellaneous writings:
For there are partial corrections which are called chastisements [kolasis], which many of us who have been in transgression incur by falling away from the Lord’s people. But as children are chastised by their teacher, or their father, so are we by Providence. But God does not punish [timoria] for punishment [timoria] is retaliation for evil. He chastises, however, for good to those who are chastised collectively and individually. (Stromata, Book 7, Chapter 16)
Timoria is not the word Jesus used in Matthew 25:46 (or one that is found anywhere else in the New Testament, for that matter). The word Jesus used is kolasis. So kolasin aionion, in Matthew 25:46, is not about endless retribution exacted upon the “goats” but about chastisement of the “goats” in the age to come. How long will this chastisement last? There is no reason to suppose that it must last longer than is needed for correction.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Paul speaks of olethron aionion, which is not about endless or eternal destruction but about destruction in the age to come. Olethros, the word for “destruction,” does not necessarily indicate finality. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, for example, Paul speaks of a man who committed adultery with his father’s wife: “Hand this man over to Satan for the destruction [olethron] of the flesh,” Paul instructs them, “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” The purpose was not that the man would be ultimately destroyed but that he would be saved on the day of the Lord.

Neither Matthew 25:46 nor 2 Thessalonians 1:9 disprove Christian Universalism or preclude the final reconciliation of all things in heaven and on earth through Jesus Christ. Indeed, as I showed in my last post, Paul affirms elsewhere in several places that the ultimate reconciliation of all things is God’s plan and purpose in Christ.

For more on this, see Dr. Marvin R. Vincent’s notes on Olethron Aionion, from his Word Studies in the New Testament.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hell and the Restoration of All Things

Historically, there have been three main views in the Church concerning hell. All three of them express a belief in hell and claim scriptural support, but they each understand the function and purpose of hell differently. The Church has never held a unified position on the matter, nor were any of these views addressed in the early and ecumenical creeds of the Church. Briefly, these views are:
  • Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT). Common in modern Western theology, this is the view that the “fire” of hell, whether understood literally or symbolically, is the endless torment of the wicked.
  • Annihilationism (also known as Conditionalism). In this view, the wicked are tormented for a time before they are finally destroyed. The “fire” of hell is a fire that consumes completely.
  • Restorationism (also known as Universal Reconciliation). The restorative view understands hell as a fire that refines so that there may ultimately be restoration.
All three views are represented to some extent among the early Church fathers, but the Restorative view prevailed in the eastern portion of the Church for about the first 500 years. It was the view held by some very influential Fathers of the Church, such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory Nazianzen (and his brother Basil), Gregory of Nyssa, Theodore Mopsuestia and Eusebius (Bishop of Caesarea and early historian of the Church). There were six major schools or centers of Christian theology back then. Of them, one taught hell as endless punishment and another taught Annihilationism. Four of them taught Restorationism.

The Restorationist view was taken quite seriously by some of the heavy hitters among the Church Fathers. But there were also many lesser known Church Fathers who taught Restorationism, including Didymus the Blind (appointed by Athanasius to the Catechetical school of Alexandria, where he served for 60 years), Diodorus of Tarsus, Marcellus of Ancyra, Ambrose of Milan, Ambrosiaster, Serapion (colleague of Athanasius), Macarius Magnes, Marius Victorinus, John Cassian, Theodoret the Blessed and others.

Up until recent years, I held to ECT, which is the view that Fundamentalists and many evangelicals have traditionally grown up with. But now I have noticed some things in Scripture that have persuaded me differently, and I cannot go back and unnotice them. I have no dogmatic position to offer on the matter; I can only report on what I have seen and what I have been persuaded towards. What I have begun to see is the universal nature of the language Paul in particular uses when he speaks of what God had done or is doing through Jesus Christ. What if “all” really does mean all?
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 [Christ] 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. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

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 1:9-10)

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)
There are also other Scriptures and several biblically-based arguments that can be offered in support of Restorationism. But, of course, seeing that ECT is still a very prominent view in the Church today, there are also several objections that have been raised against the Restorationist view, and I will be addressing these in future posts. For now, though, I will add this important provision: The restoration of all things in heaven and on earth does not happen apart from Jesus, apart from the blood of the cross, or apart from turning to God through faith in Christ.