The Final Restoration of All Things (Apokatastasis) in the Bible
We shall consider whether the Bible gives us to hope that there will be a final restoration of all things, in which all rational creatures will be saved, both angels and humans. Universalists maintain that we may hope that the scriptural passages concerning punishment are given as a corrective threat and that it shall finally become clear that the good God finally saves all. We shall see that God wants all to be saved and is able to save all.
The Bible is explicit that there will be a final restitution of all creatures, termed apokatastasis in Greek; consider the following scriptures.
There will be a “restitution of all things”:
“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:20-21)
It is “the mystery” of the will of God that all creatures be finally gathered in Christ, both angels and men. This gathering is certain because it is by divine predestination.
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:9-11)
Again; it is the Father’s pleasure that all should be finally reconciled to Him through the Son’s redemption, both angels and men; thus Christ shall be the firstborn of each and every creature:
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: … For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:15-16, 19-20)
Christ foretold that He would draw all things to Himself through the redemption:
“Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.” (St. John 12:31-32)
Hence the world is spoken of prophetically as reconciled with God through the redemption:
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 18-19)
The final restoration seems also to be hinted at obscurely in reference to the precursor Elias as a figure and herald of the final coming of Christ.
“And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” (St. Matthew 17:10-11)
“And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come? And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.” (St. Mark 9:11-12)
God Will have All to be Saved
The Bible teaches that it is the will of God that all people should be saved in the final restoration of all things.
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:3-6)
The reason why He has allowed sin is so that all might finally be saved:
“For God hath concluded them all in disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:32-33)
Again; it is His design that all should be saved:
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 St. Peter 3:8-9)
It is His will only to have mercy:
“But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (St. Matthew 9:13)
God makes it Possible for All to be Saved
Not only does God design that all are saved but He is able to effect that design.
It is God who makes it possible for each to be saved.
“When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26)
None may withstand the design of God that is to spare all.
“For thou canst shew thy great strength at all times when thou wilt; and who may withstand the power of thine arm? For the whole world before thee is as a little grain of the balance, yea, as a drop of the morning dew that falleth down upon the earth. But thou hast mercy upon all; for thou canst do all things, and winkest at the sins of men, because they should amend. For thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made: for never wouldest thou have made any thing, if thou hadst hated it. And how could any thing have endured, if it had not been thy will? or been preserved, if not called by thee? But thou sparest all: for they are thine, O Lord, thou lover of souls.” (Wisdom 11:21-26)
None can hinder God when He intends to save and rescue from the fire:
“At his commandment is done whatsoever pleaseth him; and none can hinder, when he will save… O Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever: for he hath delivered us from hell, and saved us from the hand of death, and delivered us out of the midst of the furnace and burning flame: even out of the midst of the fire hath he delivered us.” (Ecclesiasticus 39:18, 66)
Compare the following two texts: we are told that it is guaranteed that our prayers will be answered if we make them with the correct disposition of Faith, which is surely to pray for the salvation of all: and we are urged to pray for the salvation of all; so it is clearly possible for all to be saved.
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (St. Matthew 21:21-22)
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
Again; God is able to give all things necessary to salvation to those whom He wishes to show mercy:
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:3)
“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
Accordingly God is able to have mercy on whomsoever He wills to:
“And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” (Exodus 33:19)
“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:14-16)
Indeed, the Son is able to save whomsoever He wishes to:
“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” (St. John 5:21-22)
In fact saving grace appears to all:
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11)
All will be Saved
As God wishes all to be saved and He is able to save whomsoever He wishes, accordingly all will be saved.
Christ diligently seeks every last one of His sheep until He finds them all:
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? … Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?” (St. Luke 15:4,8)
It shall be so that even as all were condemned in Adam, all shall be made alive in Christ:
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
Again; consider, it is “much more” to be expected that all are saved, all being reconciled. As all men were condemned in Adam, “all men” will receive the free gift of justification and will “much more” reign in life.
“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned... (For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of justification shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall the many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:9-12, 19-21)
All shall be saved as salvation is effected through infallible predestination. As Christ died for us all, it is to be expected that He provide us all with all that is needed for salvation.
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? … For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:30-32, 38-39)
Hence God is the saviour of all men:
“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)
He is the saviour of the world:
“The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” (1 St. John 4:14)
“God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (St. John 3:17)
“Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (St. John 6:33)