A Universalist’s Response to “Exposing Universalism” by James B. De Young
In the previous session we saw that the restoration of all, referred to in Acts 3:19-21, primarily speaks of the restoration of all people to God. De Young’s claim that it only refers to restoring creation to a pre-fall “condition” fails to capture God’s redemptive heart which is primarily focused upon restoring mankind to a relationship of oneness with Himself.
The theme of this session - reconciliation, is integrally related to what we have seen concerning God’s restoration of mankind unto Himself. In order to restore any relationship that has been broken there must first be a reconciliation on the part of both parties. Just as both husband and wife must be reconciled one to another before the relationship can be restored, so it is with our relationship with God.
God, however, took the initiative, sending His Son as a propitiatory sacrifice, thereby satisfying the justice of God for the sins of the whole world (1Jn 2:2). Because of His propitiatory sacrifice God can now be just and at the same time justify the ungodly who take refuge in Christ – our propitiatory Lamb who was sacrificed out of love for us (Rom 3:25-26; 4:5; 8:1; 1Cor 5:7).
As with any broken relationship, one party always initiates reconciliation before the other corresponds. While we were yet His enemies and dead in our trespasses and sins God reconciled us to Himself by the blood of the cross of Christ. As Paul says in Romans 5:10, when we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. Christ’s expiatory sacrifice of Himself 2,000 years ago on the cross made propitiation, satisfying God’s justice, not only for the sins of the elect of this age but also for the sins of the whole world (kosmos) or universe, including all in heaven, on earth and even under the earth (1Jn 2:2; Col 1:16,20; Phil 1:10-11).
Some, overlooking God’s holiness, deny the need for Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross for forgiveness of sins. In human interpersonal relationships reconciliation comes about when we simply forgive. Indeed, the Scriptures command it. However, even a human judge cannot simply forgive without satisfying justice.
What would we think of a Judge who pardoned his son for a crime based solely upon his love for him? Wouldn’t that be considered favoritism and a breach of justice? How much less could God, the just Judge of all creation, simply out of love allow injustices to go unpunished. However, God is not only a holy and just Judge but He is also a loving Father who loves us so much that in Christ He satisfied His own justice, taking our due punishment upon Himself, thereby giving Him the legal right to forgive the objects of His love.
However, it must be understood that, although Christ died for all and in time all will be made alive in Him, God can only justly justify and make alive those who come to Him through Jesus whom God has set forth as a propitiation (Rom 3:25). That is why, although justification, reconciliation and salvation were obtained for all upon the cross, one does not experience justification, reconciliation or salvation until they receive Christ, being born-again and thereby becoming a part of the new creation in Him.
Some point out that in the parable of the Father and the Prodigal Son the father’s acceptance was an unconditional embrace without any mention of satisfying justice. However, the fact that the father unconditionally embraces the repentant son doesn’t mean that our Father didn’t have to pay a great price to be able to be just and at the same time embrace the objects of His love. Jesus Himself, who gave us this parable, said that He had come to give Himself a ransom for all and that no one could come to the Father except through Him (Matt 20:28, cf. 1Tim 2:6; John 14:6).
While God made reconciliation once and for all 2,000 years ago by the blood of His cross, it is evident that most have not yet corresponded to that reconciliation, being reconciled to God in their hearts. That is why we are commissioned to proclaim Christ’s consummated substitutionary death, bringing reconciliation to the rest of the world who are presently lost and at enmity towards God:
“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the WORLD to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:18-21)
In Romans 5:10 Paul said that we were reconciled, past tense. When did that reconciliation take place? He says that it was by the death of His Son which places our moment of reconciliation 2,000 years ago at the cross, long before we became reconciled unto God in our hearts. Here Paul reveals that at that moment God was in Christ reconciling the whole world unto Himself. Some mistakenly assume that God’s reconciliation cannot be an accomplished fact, since some people are not yet actually reconciled and restored. De Young seems to question whether God’s reconciliation was accomplished once and for all at the cross. He says:
“If reconciliation for all is already accomplished in the death of Christ at the cross, why would he have to exhort people to become reconciled?” p.168
To me, this statement not only seems to minimize what Christ accomplished on the cross but also demonstrates a failure to understand the very nature of reconciliation. In a broken relationship both parties must take the appropriate action in order for the relationship to be restored. God reconciled us to Himself through His propitiatory sacrifice upon the cross. Now, the ministry of reconciliation which has been commended to us as ambassadors for Christ is to declare the good news: “God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself. Now therefore, be reconciled to God.”
De Young here manifests a common failure of many Traditionalists to distinguish between “already” and “not yet.” The full redemptive work was consummated at the cross and the victory sealed. However, Christ must reign until all have subjected themselves to Him and only then will God be all in all (1Cor 15:25-28). This “already” and “not yet” is illustrated for us by the writer of Hebrews:
“You have put all things  in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do NOT YET see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for EVERYONE.” (Heb 2:8-9)
Did Jesus taste death for everyone on the cross? Was He victorious? Should we doubt the universal scope of His victory on the cross simply because we do not yet see it fully carried out in time? Here, as in 1Corinthians 15, we see that Christ will reign until that which He accomplished upon the cross for everyone is fully realized by all becoming subject to Him, and then He will in turn subject Himself to the Father that God may be all in all (1Cor 15:22-28). De Young says:
“It is clear that everyone could not be reconciled to God if it is central to Paul’s ministry to exhort people to be reconciled to God.” p.211
As I understand it, he seems to be saying that if Christ actually reconciled all to God through His death, then Paul wouldn’t have been going around persuading people to be reconciled to God. But let’s apply this to Christ’s reign. Were all things subjected unto Him? Then why does He continue reigning until all become subjected to Him?
The reason is the same in both cases. Although God has made reconciliation for all and He is determined that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord, reconciliation, by its very nature must be willingly received by both parties in order to be experienced, and the subjection on the part of all, which Christ will bring about in the end, results in God being all in all which is not descriptive of a forced subjugation, contrary to what the Traditionalists would have us believe. On the contrary, He seeks the lost until the last lost sheep is safe in the fold, and He continues His reign until the last knee bows in humble adoration. Only then will God truly be all in all.
De Young argues that His enemies will not willingly submit unto Him since they will be his footstool (Heb 1:13). He understands that to mean that they will always remain hostile to Him, but in order to display His power He retains them in torments under His feet as a footstool. He says:
“If universalism is correct, who will serve as the footstool of his throne?” p.233
However, this assumes that one must be God’s enemy in order to serve as a footstool. That is not what we see in the Scriptures. The imagery of a footstool in the Bible often refers to the habitation of God. The ark of the covenant and the temple where He manifested Himself to the people are referred to as His footstool (1Chron 28:2; Ps 132:7). In Isaiah 60 He says that He will make His footstool glorious. (Isa 60:13) Moving into the New Testament, we see that we ourselves, who were once enemies in our minds by wicked works, are now His temple or His footstool (Col 1:21; 1Cor 3:16). The references to His enemies becoming His footstool speak of willful subjection – not forced subjugation. So, in answer to De Young’s question: “who will serve as the footstool of his throne?” the glorious answer is, “we will.” As those who were once enemies, we will fall at His feet and worship Him in humble adoration, overwhelmed by His glory and grace.
Perhaps one of the clearest and most unequivocal declarations concerning the universal reconciliation of all creation unto God through Christ’s death on the cross is found in the first chapter of Colossians:
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him… 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Col 1:16,20)
Here Paul does not spare detail in emphasizing that “all” means absolutely “all,” including all in heaven and on earth, whether visible or invisible - even including invisible thrones, dominions principalities and powers. All – absolutely all, was created by Christ and for Christ. But he doesn’t stop there. In verse 20 we see that the very same all, whether on earth or in heaven, was reconciled unto Himself at the cross.
There is no way that Traditionalists can limit the reconciliation described in this passage to only the elect or in a way which excludes many from the reconciliation accomplished by the blood of Christ on the cross 2,000 years ago. All they can do is deny that it means what it obviously does mean – that absolutely all creation was reconciled unto God at the cross.
De Young seems undecided as to what to do with this passage. At one point he suggests from Romans 8 that it only applies to “inanimate” creation, which would even exclude the animal kingdom.  However, it not only says in Romans 8 that “all creation” will be set free and restored, but also that creation groans and eagerly awaits the moment they will be delivered from bondage. Such characteristics are not attributable to inanimate objects. Also, this shows a misunderstanding of what reconciliation actually means. It is exclusively a relational term, referring to the restoration of broken relationships. Only fallen rational moral beings are in need of reconciliation with God.
At another point he suggests that it refers to the reconciliation of only the “non-human creation,” which would include the animal kingdom. He says:
“When Paul speaks of the whole creation being reconciled does he not explicitly define this as all non-human creation, since it was subjected to frustration or bondage because of human sin?” p.237
While this would explain why creation waits and groans, since animals are rational, emotional beings in contrast to inanimate objects which neither think nor feel, it still fails to explain how animals could be at enmity with God so as to require that Christ’s blood be shed for them in order to bring about their reconciliation and make peace where there once was enmity. “Reconciliation” is needed to restore moral rational beings who are at enmity with God and therefore need to be reconciled in order to restore communion with their Creator. The animal kingdom only benefits indirectly from the reconciliation of moral beings since they were unwillingly subjected to vanity on our account, and will be restored along with the rest of creation in the times of the restoration of all.
In yet another twist of logic De Young even argues that the reconciliation is universal but those who refuse to exercise faith will be reconciled by force. He says concerning Colossians 1:20:
“In 1:20 Paul includes in his words of ‘universal reconciliation’ not only those who believe the gospel (such as the Colossians, explained in vv.21-23) but also those who are reconciled by conquest and become the footstool of Jesus Christ’s future reign. They are conquered opponents who have refused to exercise faith.” p.210 (emphasis mine)
Once again, this demonstrates a total misunderstanding of what is meant by reconciliation. That may be subjugation, but it isn’t reconciliation, making peace by the blood of His cross by any stretch of the imagination. While it is true that only those who believe will benefit from His reconciliation, since reconciliation requires a positive response from both parties, God promises that eventually everyone will believe and confess Him as Lord – even those presently “under the earth” (Phil 2:10-11).
De Young at one point argues that only inanimate creation will be reconciled; then he expands that to include the animal kingdom, and finally he argues here that all will be reconciled, albeit some against their will. He here presents God’s enemies as “reconciled” while at the same time cursing Him in an eternal lake of fire which is referred to by him as God’s footstool. To me that greatly depreciates what Christ actually accomplished by His shed blood upon the cross for all.
Finally, towards the end of his book, De Young gets to the crux of the problem, revealing why they are unwilling to accept the plain obvious meaning of Colossians 2:20. He says:
“There cannot be universal reconciliation if some are permanently (v.9): ‘eternal destruction’) the objects of God’s retributive justice.” p.224
He is here referring to 2Thessalonians 1:9 which in the King James Version reads: “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” Why do Traditionalists typically deny or ignore the plain declarations of Scripture concerning the final salvation of all, and why do they have to divide God’s nature into love and mercy vs. hatred and wrath as if they were opposite poles, rather than viewing them all as manifestations of His love? Because they base their entire theology upon a few poorly translated verses which give the impression that hell is forever. While the duration and purpose of hell will be the subject of another session, this verse clearly doesn’t mean what they take it to mean.
In the first place, it says: “eonian destruction,” not “eternal destroying.” The morphology of the Greek word “destruction” (olethros) indicates that it is a noun which speaks of the result of an action rather than the action itself, just as our ending –ion does in English.  Even if the action should continue for ages, it must come to an end because the suffix -ion emphasizes the end result and not the process. However, as I will demonstrate in another session, the word translated “eternal” (aionios) does not mean “eternal” but rather it is a time-word referring to a long period of time, but time, nonetheless. Our English equivalent is eonian. An eon is a long time, but it is not forever - much less eternal, since eternity is timeless. Any literal translation will correct this misunderstanding, as we see with Youngs Literal Translation:
“who shall suffer justice (Gr. dike)--destruction age-during (aionios)--from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his strength.” (2Thess 1:9 YLT)
While more will be said about this later, we see that dike means “justice” rather than “punishment” and aionios means “age-during” rather than “eternal.” Traditionalists have mistranslated passages referring to judgment and hell and denied or ignored all the passages concerning universal reconciliation.
There are many other passages which clearly indicate a universal reconciliation which is inclusive of all rational creatures without even using the word “reconciliation” itself. Ephesians 1 speaks of a future dispensation, which according to Ephesians 2:7 will last for the coming ages, until the final “Age of ages” (lit. “tou aionos ton aiónon” Eph 3:21). In this coming dispensation, also known as the times of the restoration of all, all will be reunited in Christ:
“having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together (anakephalaiomai) in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him.” (Eph 1:9,10)
The phrase: “gather together in one” is a composite word made up of ana which normally means “again” and kephalaioo, and is best translated as “to reunite or unite again under one head,” since only this rendering retains the meaning or the prefix ana.  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon actually comments as to the meaning of the word in this context, saying:
“God is said…to bring together again for himself (note the middle) all things and beings (hitherto disunited by sin) into one combined state of fellowship in Christ.”  (emphasis mine)
The terms “gather together” or “bring together again” when referring to those formerly at enmity, as is the case with mankind towards God, is relational and inseparable from reconciliation. Therefore, this passage, just as Colossians 1:16-20, clearly speaks of a universal reconciliation. The mystery of His will which is being revealed here in Ephesians 1:9,10 is the final restoration of all when all creation will be eternally reunited in Christ and God will then be all in all (1Cor 15:28).
This is also what Paul declared in summary form in Romans 11:36: “For of (ek “out of”) Him and through (dia) Him and to (eis “into”) Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” As Colossians 1:16 says, everything and everyone was created by Him. Then in verse 20 it says that this same “all” was reconciled to (eis “into”) Him through the cross. In Ephesians 1:9,10 it says that all will be finally reunited in Him in the dispensation of the fullness of time. “For of Him and through Him and TO (eis “into”) Him are all things.” Paul couldn’t have made it any clearer.
The one scandalous truth revealed in these passages and especially in Colossians 1:16-20 is that even Satan and the fallen angels are included in the reconciliation accomplished at the cross. When Paul includes invisible thrones, dominions, principalities and powers in the reconciliation, he clearly means to include them as well, since there are no invisible thrones, dominions, principalities or powers in need of reconciliation apart from Satan and the fallen angels. Additionally, if they were excluded it could not be truthfully said that God will be all in all or that all which came out of Him will be reunited in Him.
The argument presented against a total reconciliation and restoration of all which would include even Satan and the fallen angels, is stated by De Young when he says:
“The Bible offers no atonement, no forgiveness, no hope, no reconciliation for the fallen angels and for Satan.” p.247 (emphasis mine)
In response to this, I would first point out that his denial that reconciliation is offered to Satan and the fallen angels is a blatant denial of what is clearly stated in Colossians 1:16-20. As to atonement and forgiveness, reconciliation is not possible without forgiveness and it isn’t possible for a holy God to forgive without atonement. So, reconciliation with God presupposes atonement and forgiveness. While reconciliation isn’t actually realized in experience until one repents and turns to God, God, in love, made legal provision for the reconciliation of all of creation and has sworn by Himself that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, including even those presently in rebellion in heaven and under the earth.
At this point Traditionalists will usually quote Hebrews 2:14-18. However, this passage focuses only upon what Christ did to rescue mankind from Satan’s power. It says that He took upon Himself a human body and died in order to deliver those who were being held in fear of death and to come to the aid of those tempted by Satan. Since the focus is upon man and not upon Satan and the fallen angels it neither denies nor affirms that His death will ultimately provide a way for the restoration of all of creation as well, including even Satan and fallen angels. But the other restoration passages, and particularly Colossians 1:16-20, are not at all ambiguous.
Man, created in God’s own image and likeness, is the primary motive and focus of both creation and restoration. But all the rest of creation participates in man’s restoration. Hell is both penal and correctional, but it is not eternal, since, as with any just penal system, its final goal and outcome is restoration. All the rest of creation awaits the manifestation of the sons of God at which time the times of the restoration of all or the dispensation of the fullness of the times commences (Rom 8:19-22). And this final dispensation consummates with all having been reunited in Christ and God being all in all before finally entering eternity.
The Early Greek-speaking Church Fathers understood this and plainly declared that the restoration of all, including Satan and the fallen angels, was the teaching of the Scriptures.
Clement of Alexandria (AD 150 to AD 215) said: “Therefore He indeed saves all universally; but some as converted by punishments, others by voluntary submission, thus obtaining the honor and dignity, that ‘to Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth,' that is angels, and men, and souls who departed this life before His coming into the world.” 
Origin, the successor of Clement, whose writings have been the most read of all the Church Fathers with the exception of Saint Augustine, said: “It is our conviction that the Word will prevail over all the intelligent creation.”  Commenting on Ephesians 1, Ambrose of Milan (AD 340 to AD 397), said: “This seemed well to God…to manifest in Christ His will… specifically that He would be merciful to all who had been lost, whether it be in heaven or on earth…. Every being, then, in the heavens and on the earth are being restored as they were created until they come to know Christ.” In his commentary on 1Corinthians 15:27 he says: “When every creature learns that Christ is his head, and that the head of Christ is the Father, then God will be all in all; that is to say that every creature will believe in the same way, and that of one voice every tongue of the things in heaven, on the earth and beneath the earth will confess that there is one God of whom are all things.” 
Gregory of Nyssa (AD 330 to AD 394) wrote: “Christ… not only delivers man from evil, but also heals the very inventor of evil.”  Jerome (AD 347 to AD 420) said: “The cross of Christ has benefited not only the earth but also heaven… and every creature has been purified by the blood of his Lord. Therefore in the restoration of all things, when the true physician, Jesus Christ, has come to heal the body of the whole church, every being…will receive his due place…What I am saying is, the fallen angels will become as they were created, and humanity which has been expelled from paradise, will be once again restored to the place of caring for paradise. These things, then, will take place on a universal level.”  “MOST persons regard the story of Jonah as teaching the ultimate forgiveness of all rational creatures, even the devil.”  “The apostate angels, and the prince of this world, and Lucifer, the morning star, though now ungovernable, licentiously wandering about, and plunging themselves into the depths of sin, shall in the end, embrace the happy dominion of Christ and his saints…. No rational creature before God will perish forever.” 
Even Augustine himself admitted that his opponents based their belief in the final restoration of all upon the Scriptures themselves. It is those who defend the Traditional doctrine of eternal torments who must ignore or negate the obvious meaning of multiple passages of Scripture in order to deny the promised restoration of all, prophesied since the beginning of time.
This subject is dealt with more fully in my book: “The Triumph of Mercy” which is an in-depth examination of the Scriptural, logical and historical evidences for the temporary nature of hell and the final restoration of all. Here I would just like to point out that what Traditionalists are left with upon denying all of the restoration passages is an eternal dualism in which evil and its resulting death, pain and tears never come to an end, contrary to the clear declarations of Scripture (Rev 21:4-5; Isa 25:8; 1Cor 15:22,26,28, etc.).
 Our English word “things” does not have an equivalent in Greek. Neither does the neuter form in Greek always indicate objects as in English. When the translators insert “things” in contexts that are evidently referring primarily to persons and not inanimate objects I take the liberty to cross it out in order to keep the focus where it belongs.
 “So how can the traditional, evangelical view respond? From Romans 8 it is clear that only the inanimate creation is awaiting deliverance from its unwilling subjection to bondage (Satan and his angels are excluded, since they willingly revolted against God and did so prior to humanity’s fall).” p.231
 Robertson, A. T.. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Kindle Location 2847). Kindle Edition.
 Other examples of composite words with ana prefixed where ana clearly means “again or re…” are as follows: anagennao, “to be born again”; anaginosko, lit. “to know again,” or “to read”; anagnosis, “(the act of) reading”;
anazao, “to live again”; anazopureo, to re-enkindle; anathallo, “to revive”; anakainoo, “to renew”; anamnesis, “to remember”; ananeoo, “to reform”; anastauroo, to recrucify, crucify again”; anapsuxis, “a recovery of breath, (figuratively) revival” anapsucho, “to relieve.”
 Thayer's Greek Lexicon: NT. 346
 Clement of Alexandria, Comentary of 1John Adumbrat. in Ep. I Johan., printed at the end of his Treatise, Quis dives salvetur, p.1009, Potter´s Edit.
 Origin, Against Selsum 8.72.
 Allin, Universalism Asserted, p. 133.
 Gregory of Nissa, Catechetical Oraciones, Cap. 26.
 Allin, Universalism Asserted, p. 134.
 Jerome. In Ps. xcii. 9.22
 Jerome. In Ps. xcii. 9.22