Posted By Thomas Perez. January 21, 2012 at 4:21pm. Copyright 2012.
Many of you who have read my studies & notes fully realize that I’ am a ‘Reconciliationist.’ Some would call it ‘Universalism.’ Though both titles lead to the same conclusion, I feel that the title ‘Universalist’ can be a bit ms-leading. The term entails different concepts which all lead to the same conclusion – the Ultimate Reconciliation of all humanity.
Universal Reconciliation/Redemption – is a term which is often confused with the teaching of Universalism. Universal Reconciliation/Redemption as prophesied by the Hebrew prophets and confirmed by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah and as preached by the apostles and writers of the New Covenant (Testament) Scriptures, is that of, “Universal Redemption.” Men like John Wesley made much use of that term.
By “Universal Redemption” John Wesley meant that salvation was available to all mankind, but not that everyone would be saved. John Wesley wrote much on this subject because there was another teaching that was being taught which he greatly hated, the teaching of John Calvin who was perpetuating Augustine’s doctrine of election (a doctrine that most true Universalists would uphold to in ref to Christ calling out the Church, the elect, the chosen, and the evangel), to thus declare the salvation message in a dark world. God always had a chosen people set aside to declare His truth, whether that included the Hebrew nation or an individual prophet, a Christian believer, or even an outsider. Wesley’s “universal redemption” doctrine refuted Calvinism and Augustinianism. While John Wesley’s “universal redemption” doctrine is certainly more palatable than that of Calvin’s follower Beza, in ref to Beza’s “double predestination” doctrines, it still falls short of God’s plan of overall redemption.
The issue of Universal Salvation is often mis-interpreted in its ref to whether it is exclusive or not. In other words is there only one religion that leads to God or do several? Or, is the truth somewhere in between? Few issues are as controversial and important as this issue of which religion(s) leads a person to salvation . The purpose of this clarification is to define three key terms related to the issue of the Gospel. Issues such as: Pluralism, Inclusiveness, and Exclusiveness.
1. Pluralism – “All Major World Religions Lead to God and Salvation.”
Various forms of Pluralism exist. For our purposes, though, the Pluralism we are concerned with is “Religious” or “Philosophical” Pluralism. Religious Pluralism is the view that all major religions are equally valid and lead to God and salvation. Thus, no one religion is inherently better or superior to any other major world religion. With Religious Pluralism, all the major religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam are equal. For pluralists, there may be differences in rituals and beliefs among these groups, but on the most important issues, there is great similarity. Most religions, they claim, stress love for God and love for fellow human beings. They also point out that most religions have a form of the Golden Rule. Religious pluralists also point out that there are pious people in all the major religions. Religious Pluralism became increasingly popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. The leading proponent of Religious Pluralism in the last few decades has been John Hick and the Jesus Seminar Organizarion.
2. Inclusiveness – “One Religion Is Best But Salvation Is Possible In Other Religions.”
Inclusivism is the position that one religion is uniquely true but salvation is accessible to those outside of that faith. For example, a Christian inclusivist might say, “I am a Christian and I think Christianity is the most correct religion, but I also think there is saving truth in other religions like Islam and Hinduism. People of other faiths can be saved by Jesus even if they do not explicitly believe in Him.” Inclusivists do not go as far as pluralists in that inclusivists do not claim that all religions are equal. They do believe, though, that truth and salvation can be found in other religions. Some Christian inclusivists claim that the salvation of Jesus is unknowingly applied to adherents of other religions who live good, moral lives. Catholic and Inclusvist theologian, Karl Rahner, referred to such people as “anonymous Christians.”
The sixteenth century reformer Ulrich Zwingli held to a form of Inclusivism. In more recent years, Karl Rahner helped popularize this perspective. The Roman Catholic Church and several mainline Protestant denominations have also shifted toward Inclusiveness in recent decades. The Roman Catholic “Vatican II Council” of the 1960s explicitly declared that people of other religions could be saved. Evangelical theologian, Clark Pinnock, too, has espoused Inclusivism. Traditionally, religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism have been proponents of Inclusivism as well.
3. Exclusiveness – “Salvation Is Found In Only One Religion.”
Exclusiveness (or Particularism) is the view that there is only one way to God and salvation. Thus one religion is uniquely and supremely true and all other religions are false. Christianity is often viewed as an exclusive religion because of Jesus’ statement in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In addition to Christianity, the religions of Islam and Judaism have traditionally been considered to be exclusive religions. Those who hold to Exclusivism usually affirm that other religions possess elements of truth, but these religions do not teach ‘the truth’ that is able to save its followers. In fact, much of what is taught in other religions is viewed by exclusivists as false. Again, I must repeat that it should be noted that some groups within Judaism and Christianity have drifted away from Exclusivism in recent decades.
Although some have (for lack of a better word within the consensus of Exclusivism) drifted away , As for myself, I remain EXCLUSIVE in Christ, who is the true God and Eternal Life. Christ Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). For that is my chosen belief according to my conscience.
With That Said, Where Does That Leave Us In Ref to the Ultimate Reconciliation of All?
According to the received Canon (the Scriptures), there are hundreds of Scriptural citations that indicate the Ultimate Reconciliation of all. Yet the Scriptures is not without justice or divine retribution and chastisement. The difference between the two seemingly contradictional opposing views should be considered as a matter of interpretation and hermeneutics, not ‘one’ of a an absolute truth; but rather as a truth that will run its course parallel to each other.
Therefore, what is one to make of all this? Perhaps, we need to look at some outside resources, other than the Holy Scriptures. As one can look outside the Scriptures (secular sources, historical quotes, etc) in reference to the validity of Christ and His Gospels, one can also look at some of the rejected material deemed unworthy of Canonical acceptance as judged by the early Christian Church.
One should not be surprised to know that they are many books that were and are not considered worthy by the Church. Such issues were judged and discussed already in various universities, books, debates, and local churches. Therefore, the authenticity of such esoteric writings will not be discussed here. Moreover, to discuss ancient esoteric texts such as the ‘Pseudepigrapha’, some of the Dead Sea Scrolls , the Kabbalah, the Nag Hammadi, and other sources is to deviant from our topic (soteriology) and lose focus. While the established Church rejected such books; certain texts, quotations, and chapters, nevertheless, remain topics of discussion and debate today.
Why did the Church reject certain material? And furthermore, why would the Church reject certain books; especially books that make reference to universal reconciliation? While we know the traditional mainstream answer to the questions posed above, most of us know very little about the very books that we criticize and reject. Moreover, when we examine the similarities of Jude, II Peter, Enoch, and the Apocalypse of Peter, the evidence pertaining to universal reconciliation followed by punitive judgment is astonishingly apparent and similar. They are similar in most respects; for Jude himself quotes from Enoch (Jude 13-15). This can only mean that at some point, the Apostles themselves considered the writings of Enoch similar to their own doctrine. The questions set forth above cannot be discussed here, for it is far to extensive (it entails another study).
However, I do consider it necessary to make mention of three notable contenders for the purpose of this study; the APOCALYPSE OF PETER, and SECOND BOOK OF THE SIBYLLINE ORACLES, 190-240 and the BOOK OF ENOCH. We begin with the Apocalypse of Peter…The following is taken from the Apocalypse of Peter “The Apocryphal New Testament” M.R. James-Translation and Notes Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924:
‘Peter opened his mouth and said to me: Hearken, my son Clement, God created all things for his glory,’ and this proposition is dwelt upon. The glory of those who duly praise God is described in terms borrowed from the Apocalypse: ‘The Son at his coming will raise the dead…and will make my righteous ones shine seven times more than the sun, and will make their crowns shine like crystal and like the rainbow in the time of rain (crowns) which are perfumed with nard and cannot be contemplated (adorned) with rubies, with the color of emeralds shining brightly, with topazes, gems, and yellow pearls that shine like the stars of heaven, and like the rays of the sun, sparkling which cannot be gazed upon.’ Again, of the angels: ‘ Their faces shine more than the sun; their crowns are as the rainbow in the time of rain. (They are perfumed) with nard. Their eyes shine like the morning star. The beauty of their appearance cannot be expressed…Their raiment is not woven, but white as that of the fuller, according as I saw on the mountain where Moses and Elias were. Our Lord showed at the transfiguration the apparel of the last days, of the day of resurrection, unto Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee, and a bright cloud overshadowed us, and we heard the voice of the Father saying unto us: This is my Son whom I love and in whom I am well pleased: hear him. And being afraid we forget all the things of this life and of the flesh, and knew not what we said because of the greatness of the wonder of that day, and of the mountain whereon he showed us the second coming in the kingdom that passeth not away.’
Next: ‘ The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son.’ The destiny of sinners -their eternal doom – is more than Peter can endure: he appeals to Christ to have pity on them.
And my Lord answered me and said to me: ‘Hast thou understood that which I said unto thee before? It is permitted unto thee to know that concerning which thou askest: but thou must not tell that which thou hearest unto the sinners lest they transgress the more, and sin.’ Peter weeps many hours, and is at last consoled by an answer which, though exceedingly diffuse and vague does seem to promise ultimate pardon for all: ‘My Father will give unto them all the life, the glory, and the kingdom that passeth not away,’…’It is because of them that have believed in me that I am come. It is also because of them that have believed in me, that, at their word, I shall have pity on men.’ The doctrine that sinners will be saved at last by the prayers of the righteous is, rather obscurely, enunciated in the Second Book of the Sibylline Oracles (a paraphrase, in this part, of the Apocalypse), and in the (Coptic) Apocalypse of Elias.
Ultimately Peter orders Clement to hide this revelation in a box, that foolish men may not see it.
The passage in the Coptic Apocalypse of Elias is guarded and obscure in expression, but significant. It begins with a sentence which has a parallel in Peter.
The righteous will behold the sinners in their punishment, and those who have persecuted them and delivered them up. Then will the sinners on their part behold the place of the righteous and be partakers of grace. In that day will that for which the (righteous) shall often pray, be granted to them.
That is, as I take it, the salvation of sinners will be granted at the prayer of the righteous. Compare also the Epistle of the Apostles, 40: ‘the righteous are sorry for the sinners, and pray for them“ And I will hearken unto the prayer of the righteous which they make for them.”
I would add that the author of the Acts of Paul, who (in the Third Epistle to the Corinthians and elsewhere) betrays a knowledge of the Apocalypse of Peter, makes Falconilla, the deceased daughter of Tryphaena, speak of Thecla’s praying for her that she may be translated unto the place of the righteous (Thecla episode, 28). My impression is that the maker of the Ethiopic version (or of its Arabic parent, or of another ancestor) has designedly omitted or slurred over some clauses in the passage beginning: ‘Then will I give unto mine elect’, and that in his very diffuse and obscure appendix to the Apocalypse, he has tried to break the dangerous doctrine of the ultimate salvation of sinners gently to his readers. But when the Arabic version of the Apocalypse is before us in the promised edition of MM. Griveau and Grebaut, we shall have better means of deciding.
As of today, I do not know if this version has been translated yet – but when it is, it will be most glorious!
The passage in the Second Book of the Sibylline Oracles which seems to point to the ultimate salvation of all sinners will be found in the last lines of the translation given below.
Oracle 190, 200, 210, 214, 220, and 230 speaks of the various judgments concerning both; the righteous, and the unrighteous. It is similar to Peter’s Apocalypse , but less graphic in detail.
However, in Oracle 240…we come across a change of heart within the plans of God – note the last paragraph of this Oracle…
And then shall they cast them down in the darkness of night into Gehenna among the beasts of hell, many and frightful, where is darkness without measure. And when they have dealt out many torments unto all whose heart was evil, thereafter out of the great river shall a wheel of fire encompass them, because they devised wicked works. And then shall they lament apart every one from another in miserable fate, fathers and infant children, mothers and suckling’s weeping, nor shall they be sated with tears nor shall the voice of them that mourn piteously apart be heard (?); but far under dark and squalid Tartarus shall they cry in torment, and in no holy place shall they abide and expiate threefold every evil deed that they have done, burning in a great flame; and they shall gnash their teeth, all of them worn out with fierce thirst and hunger (al. force violence), and shall call death lovely and it shall flee from them: for no more shall death nor night give them rest, and oft-times shall they beseech in vain the Almighty God, and then shall he openly turn away his face from them. For he hath granted the limit of seven ages for repentance unto men that err, by the hand of a pure virgin.
But the residue which have cared for justice and good deeds, yea, and godliness and righteous thoughts, shall angels bear up and carry through the flaming river unto light, and life without care, where is the immortal path of the great God; and three fountains, of wine and honey and milk. And the earth, common to all, not parted out with walls or fences, shall then bring forth of her own accord much fruit, and life and wealth shall be common and undistributed. For there shall be no poor man, nor rich, nor tyrant, nor slave, none great nor small any longer, no kings, no princes; but all men shall be together in common. And no more shall any man say ‘ night is come ‘, nor ‘ the morrow ‘, nor ‘ it was yesterday.’ He maketh no more of days, nor of spring, nor winter, nor summer, nor autumn, neither marriage, nor death, nor selling, nor buying, nor set of sun, nor rising. For God shall make one long day.
And unto them, the godly, shall the almighty and immortal God grant another boon, when they shall ask it of him. He shall grant them to save men out of the fierce fire and the eternal gnashing of teeth: and this will he do, for he will gather them again out of the everlasting flame and remove them else whither, sending them for the sake of his people unto another life eternal and immortal, in the Elysian plain where are the long waves of the Acherusian lake exhaustless and deep bosomed.
Another example of universal reconciliation is found within the writings of Enoch.
According to the book of Enoch; Enoch is taken into Heaven, a place where the righteous receive their reward according to their deeds. Similarly, Enoch is also taken to a terrible place, a place of judgment, sorrow, misery, and pain. When I read of Enoch’s account pertaining to what he saw, I think of many things; two in particular, the story of the rich man and Lazarus and how thrilled mainstream Christianity should be when reading of such awful consequences with regards to the unrighteous. Therefore, in most respects they should include it within the Canon, yet they didn’t. Why?
Perhaps the answer to that question lies in history, history that goes back to the 3rd and 4th centuries; when counsels, and bishops decided what is truly Canon/Biblical or inspired and what is of no use as seen according to the status quo of that time. One needs to only do the research in reference to what the Apostles, post Apostolic fathers, and Apostolic defenders of the faith, in general, believed and practiced. And upon doing so, we will discover that many of them disagreed as to what should be in or out of the Canon. Many of the Apostolic fathers disagreed with many books that we consider today as inspired. Such books included James, Revelation, Luke, and Mark. Some favored the Apocalypse of Peter over John’s apocalypse. While yet others favored the book of Enoch and some of the Oracles of Elias. Perhaps these books were rejected, certainly not because of the gloom and disdain that will fall upon evil men; but possibly because of the happy outcome of such individuals at the end of the age’s – for it is within these books that the idea of ultimate reconciliation can be found. Moreover, when we compare them with the received Canon, men that see, can see the same story – ultimate reconciliation, where God is all and in all!
Such happiness can be found in Enoch’s book called 1st Enoch. Seeing the bliss of the righteous and the misery of the sinner, God reveals two ages. One age is in reference to judgment of both the Elect and the Sinner, while the other age speaks of unlimited atonement – (as opposed to Calvin’s 3rd supposition, limited atonement) – and happiness for the sinner, whom God now calls – The Children of Goodness. They are called good as in His creation. They are deemed good, not of themselves, but of the mercies of God and His Christ…In other words God wills it and deems it so, thus calling the sinner good as He did once pertaining to all things He created. He purifies them. It is not salvation per se, as we know it, it is reconciliation – it is making things right – things not covered in the blood of Christ is now made whole through the fire, as one passing through. For this is their salvation, so to speak.
Allow me to quote another study of mine…
Similarly in Hab 2:14 we find, For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea”. Moreover, according to Zeph 3:8-9, “My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal. For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder.” Here, within this beautiful verse of Scripture we learn that God is both a Judge and a Purifier of men’s deeds.
This purification can only be accomplished through a Mediator – The Lord Jesus Christ (I Tim 2:5). For truly this is the Lords doing – it is His decision to gather nations, and His decision to purify them. Calvinists at this point would argue, “Nations, yes individual people, Nay. If this is the case, how do we account for the rendering of the word peoples and the phrase ‘shoulder to shoulder’ in this context?
Moreover, how does the Calvinist account for all people calling upon the name of the Lord, when the Scriptures reveal that in order to call upon the name of the Lord, one must receive the knowledge of the Lord – as promised by Habakkuk and St. Paul and thus call upon His name – (Rom 10:13). Also (and this is most vital), how can God give ALL men the ability to call upon the name of the Lord with purified lips AFTER he has poured out His indignation with all His burning anger and devour the earth with the fire of His zeal? According to some, aren’t the unrighteous cast out for all eternity BEFORE the new Heavens and Earth? If this be the case, how can they call upon the name of the Lord and serve Him AFTER the destruction of this present age, but lo, there they are!
There seems to be no way around the classic teaching of ultimate reconciliation. It indeed provides reasonable doubt pertaining to the status quo and at the same time triggers all to re-examine the Scriptures overall message of ultimate reconciliation. To call such a viewpoint heretical is to deny early accepted Christian truth and tradition. As mentioned before in another study, four out of six theological schools of thought from the 2nd to the 4th centuries; the belief of Universal Reconciliation was recognized as a popular school of thought. However, history would have it muzzled by the hand of the Caesar, now called the supreme Pontiff/Pope or Bishop. This brute muzzle, ushered in what is known in history as ‘the Dark Ages’.
Unfortunately, many within mainstream Christianity and certain Protestant groups are still enslaved within the perils of the dark ages, continually binding the Gospel’s message of the Ultimate Reconciliation for all.