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It was the belief of many in the early Church that the devil and his angels would be "saved" in the end. They based this view on the biblical statements that all of creation would be "reconciled" to God, whether things in heaven or things in earth. This view is advocated today as well in many Universalist circles. But I want to make the record clear that this does not reflect my own view, and I want to explain my position in this web log.
First, for those who may not have read the earlier studies, this very idea may come as a shock, for who could possibly believe such a thing? Well, let me start by quoting from Church historians. In Donald Attwater's book, Saints of the East, page xvii, he writes,
"Origen and Gregory of Nyassa and many others among the Eastern Fathers believed that He came to SAVE all spiritual creatures, not men only. He did not shed His blood on earth at Jerusalem for sin alone; He offered Himself as a gift on the high altar of Heaven to SAVE the angels and all the universe, of which this little corner of earth is the smallest part."
A second historian is Robert Payne, whose book, Fathers of the Eastern Church, says on pages 145 and 146,
"So always, Gregory [of Nyassa] celebrates the grandeur and nobility of men, with such charity that he could bring himself to believe that even the Prince of Darkness would once more be RESTORED to his seat beside the throne of God. For Gregory, as for Origen, there is universal SALVATION."
In the year 399 A.D. those who objected to this teaching finally found their opportunity to put forth their case. Up to that time, no bishop or archbishop even attempted to rank this doctrine among the heresies, for it had been openly taught for centuries--at least as far back as Clement of Alexandria in the early second century. In his commentary on 1 John 2:2, Clement wrote:
"He, indeed, saves all; but some He saves converting them by punishments; others, however, who follow voluntarily He saves with dignity of honour; so that 'every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, of things on earth, and things under the earth'--that is, angels and men."
It is unfortunate that Clement and, it appears, all of the early Church leaders, made no distinction in their terminology between salvation and reconciliation. It is equally unfortunate that those who opposed the salvation of Satan manifested such anger, bitterness, self-interest, and greed, for their carnally-minded reactions ultimately buried the truth of the salvation of all mankind.
Paul says in Col. 1:16 that God created all things, whether they be in heaven or in earth or under the earth, visible, invisible, thrones, dominions, etc. Yes, God is the Creator, and He did so by His own sovereign will.
Paul then says in Col. 1:20 that He has RECONCILED all things by the blood of His cross. The "all things" of creation have also been "reconciled," and Paul also defines this for us: "having made PEACE." Essentially, reconciliation has to do with making PEACE and establishing harmony, as opposed to discord and opposition.
As for SALVATION, Paul also tells us in 1 Tim. 4:10 that He "is the Savior of all MEN, especially of believers." Likewise in 1 Tim. 2:4 he says that "He wills [Greek: thelo] all men to be saved." He says nothing about saving fallen angels or Satan.
As for JUSTIFICATION, Paul tells us in Rom. 5:16 that even as Adam brought condemnation to all men, so also did Jesus Christ bring justification to all men. He says nothing about justifying fallen angels or Satan.
As for PROPITIATION, John tells us in 1 John 2:2 that "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole WORLD." John was talking about people, the world of mankind, as distinct from us as believers. He does not tell us that Christ became the propitiation for fallen angels or Satan.
As for RESURRECTION, Paul makes it clear in 1 Cor. 15:22, 23 that "as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive, but each in his own order." The context shows that he is clearly talking about mankind. He says nothing about resurrecting fallen angels or Satan.
Each of these terms has a different meaning and application, and while they are often related and apply to the same groups of people, they are not precisely the same.
Salvation has to do with one's health and well-being, which has been compromised by the death sentence upon Adam and his descendants. Justification is a legal term and has to do with a court case and how to be declared innocent in view of one's past sins. Resurrection has to do with being raised from death to life, or from mortality to immortality.
Insofar as mankind is concerned, all of the above are applicable. But back in 1981, while I was speaking at a camp in Arizona, a friend posed a very good question to me: "Will bugs be saved?" His wife was horrified and embarrassed at the question, but it was really a very good question, because it raised a much larger issue.
The simple answer is: No, bugs will not be saved. Bugs will, however, be reconciled, because they are a part of God's creation. This does not mean that bugs will be justified, for we have no biblical teaching that any bug will appear before the judgment seat of Christ or before the Great White Throne. Nor will bugs be resurrected from the dead. I don't want to be narrow minded, but I cannot see how every mosquito and fly in history will be raised from the dead. The earth would then be thick with such creatures in the Kingdom.
Taking this further, the Bible never says that Satan will be saved, justified, or resurrected. It only says that the reconciliation will include things in heaven as well as on earth. Thus, even if Clement was correct in interpreting this to mean "angels and men," the outer limits of that statement refer only to reconciliation. But if bugs will be reconciled, but not saved, then why must we say that Satan and his angels will be saved? Frankly, I do not believe that Satan will be "saved."
Now for those who do not believe in a "personal" devil, but equate it with the carnal mind, this problem is not even relevant. We understand that the carnal mind will not be saved, but replaced with the mind of Christ, thus reconciling all things. When the mind of man is reconciled, there will be peace and harmony between God and man.
So what does it mean to be "reconciled"?? Paul chooses his words carefully by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. To reconcile creation means to bring creation into subjection to the rule of Christ, because all things [ta panta, "the all"] must be put under His feet (1 Cor. 15:27). Peace will then be restored, not because He rules by fear forcing all to worship Him, but because all will submit themselves by Love and by full agreement.
If we take Isaiah 11:6-9 literally, where "the wolf will dwell with the lamb," we can see in verse 9 that these animals will no longer be predatory or dangerous. There will be harmony among the animals as well as between man and animals. But there is no statement that animals which have lived and died in the past will be raised again to immortality. There will certainly be animals in theKingdom of God, because these were created for the enjoyment and benefit of mankind.
Furthermore, I see no particular reason why God would not permit a child of God to raise his pet dog from the dead in order to enhance life in the Kingdom. Resurrection on that limited scale is not denied in the Bible. Likewise, plant life will be reconciled, in that it will again be lush and disease-free. Pollution will be abolished, and the earth restored to its pristine state. This is all part of the reconciliation process, but has little or nothing to do with salvation, justification, and resurrection.
So whereas reconciliation applies to all creation, it cannot feasibly "save" every creature that ever lived, nor justify every rock and tree, nor resurrect every mosquito. Such a teaching would reduce the Scripture to an absurdity. Even the early Church qualified their statements to include only everyrational creature, but they drew the line in a different place from where I draw the line. Where they included Satan and his angels as part of the rational creation, I see no compelling reason to do so. I believe that God will treat angels differently.
In Matt. 25:41 Jesus spoke of "the aionian fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels." I believe that men are purified or purged in the fire, because God is a consuming fire. The fire consumes "the flesh," leaving only what is good. As for the devil and his angels, God is also a consuming fire to them. The question is whether there is anything good in the devil that is NOT consumed and which may remain in the end. I do not believe there is, and hence, it is my belief that the devil and his angels will be utterly consumed by God.
To consume is to eat or assimilate. God can "eat" in this sense without violating His character. For this reason, God told the disciples that if they drank any poison, it would not hurt them, and if a serpent bit them, it would do them no harm (Mark 16:18). Where did this ability come from? Obviously, from God Himself, because as a consuming fire, He too is able to consume "the flesh" along with Satan and his angels without violating His sanctity. All vice will simply be assimilated by the all-consuming fire of God.