The doctrine of Universal Reconciliation: an exit
route, or a blind alley? / Reply Ernst Panzer 00, 2000-08-06
The doctrine of Universal Reconciliation is based
on a fundamental misconception. / Book Ernst Panzer 00, p. 151 ff
What will be reconciled by the cross: universe or
mankind? / Article Heinrich Langenberg 00 2002-02-02
As the name itself indicates, the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation is the belief
which holds that at the final end of things the entire creation - in heaven, on earth and under
the earth (Phil 2,10) - will bow the knee at the name of Jesus and be converted to God. The
consequence of this will be the salvation of all creatures, even including Satan, who will then be
subject to God.
Those who adhere to this interpretation refer to scriptural passages like the following, and point out in particular that if in these passages the word "all" occurs, then all must really be meant, so that no one, not even Satan himself, can be excepted from it.
All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him.
Ps 22,28 For the kingdom is the LORD'S And He rules over the nations.
22,29 All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, All those who go down to the dust
will bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep his soul alive. Ps 22,28-29;
That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
Isa 45,23 I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth
in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear
allegiance. 45,24 They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’
Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. Isa 45,23-24;
As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise.
Rom 14,11 For it is written, “as I live, says the LORD, every knee
shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise.” Rom 14,11;
For He has put all things in subjection under His feet.
1Cor 15,27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet.
But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put
all things in subjection to Him. 15,28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself
also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
Phil 2,9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on
Him the name which is above every name, 2,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of
those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Phil 2, 9-10;
(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)
The doctrine of Universal Reconciliation. In attempting to clarify this issue,
we are not concerned to prove that we are right, but rather to find out what is really true. I
think I have already given an indication of the truth through my clarification of the first
question (see Discourse 03: The fate of the damned: eternal torment or dissolution? -
insertion FH). To put it in a nutshell - this doctrine is completely foreign to the Bible.
The doctrine of Universal Reconciliation is an invention of pious human beings, it fails to
recognize the holiness of God and is generally put forward by workers for the Kingdom of God who
have grown weary and see that their effort no longer bears any fruit, but want to provide a
justification for the fruitlessness of their labors by means of this doctrine. This is my
(Ernst Panzer / http://www.philadelphia-verlag.com)
We must express our full agreement with these remarks by E. Panzer. We also find a
very convincing explanation later in his book:
(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)
As I see it, the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation is based on a fundamental
misconception. Certainly God wishes that help may be given to all human beings and that they
may all come to the knowledge of the truth. Certainly Jesus wrought salvation for all through
his suffering and death. But the fact remains that every individual human being must attain to
this salvation through his own completely free decision and by the exercise of his free will. He
cannot and should not be compelled to this, for love under compulsion would not be real love at
all. God may be almighty, but at this one point any compulsion and any use of constraint
would be a complete contradiction of the nature of God. Nor should we humans act as if we
felt we were called upon to save the honor of God by means of this doctrine. He can do that
himself. Our task is rather to bring about our salvation with fear and trembling, that is
to say, making use of all the means of grace that have been offered to us for this purpose.
+) At the request of E. Panzer his further exposition of the questions discussed here has been taken from his book “Prophetie und Enthüllung” [“Prophecy and Revelation”], published by the Philadelphia-Verlag [Philadelphia Press].
(Ernst Panzer / http://www.philadelphia-verlag.com)
There is nothing in terms of content that needs to be added to these words. He then
also writes, on page 154: “But that is the easy-going conclusion of the doctrine of Universal
Reconciliation: one knows one is going to get out of Hell eventually.”
Correct and to the point as this statement is, we yet have to set it over against the author’s view of eternal damnation - namely, that there is no such thing, but only an “annihilation” of the ungodly.
(See also Discourse 03: “The fate of the damned:
eternal torment or dissolution?”)
Could it be the case that the same conclusion is intruding here: “We will not be
tormented for ever, it will just be all over with us in an instant”. Could it be the case that
here too an unnecessary attempt is being made to save the honor of God?
In connection with the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation it also may be remarked here that this school of thought is becoming every more prevalent in the evangelical churches of German-speaking countries. And it is beyond doubt that liberal theology has penetrated wide areas of the official churches already - as is shown, not least, by the decision to confer a “blessing” on homosexual unions.
(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)
As it is the good pleasure of the will of God to grant the congregation the
position of a son through Christ Jesus (Eph 1,5), so it is also the good pleasure of the entire
fullness of God to dwell in Christ God's good pleasure is the inmost sanctity of the will of
God, and this is fulfilled by the plans for glory that God has made for Christ and the
congregation. The working out of these plans for glory, in terms of salvation history, is
illustrated by Paul in the following sentence: “... and through Him to reconcile all things to
Himself ...” (Col 1,20).
This verse is dependent on the one that precedes it, thus - It was God's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself. “This passage has been a trial to the commentators, and has been belabored by them in turn” (Devenant). Let us, in a spirit of simple faith, hold to the Word of God which cannot lie, even if it means having to throw away views that have the weight of long tradition. The Word of God has a liberating and heartening effect, if we register what it tells us in all its depth and let ourselves be directed by it. The doctrine of the Universal Reconciliation is not a mere human invention, but is genuinely Pauline, and can practically be seen as the crown of his christological preaching. It occupies a parallel position to the idea of all things of God being fulfilled in Christ, and is a consequence of the way all things have been created through him and for him (cf. verse 16). If all things have been created through him and for him, then it is necessary that the universe which has been disrupted by sin must be reconciled to him as well. The same universe is indicated in the “all things” of verse 16 - that is, all things in heaven and on earth. Here we must take note of the reversed sequence. Earth is mentioned before heaven, perhaps because the work of Universal Reconciliation has its starting point on earth. It is an ascending gradient, so to speak. Perhaps Paul wants to indicate that even that which is situated in heaven calls for atonement. In connection with the false doctrine that made an appearance in Colossae, there is a reproach intended here for those who hoped to achieve a higher form of sanctification by communicating with the angelic world. The precise way in which all things in heaven as well call for atonement is a question that is not further explained.
+) This extract has been taken from the article by H. Langenberg “Die Versöhnung des Alls in Christus hinein” [“The reconciliation of the universe in Christ”] on http://www.come2god.de/langenbergallversoehnung.htm.
(Heinrich Langenberg email@example.com)
To make things clearer, here is the scriptural passage the author refers to in the
New American Standard translation (1995).
For it was the Father's good pleasure to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself.
Col 1,16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on
earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things
have been created through Him and for Him. 1,17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold
together. 1,18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from
the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 1,19 For it was the
Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 1,20 and through Him to
reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him,
I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Col 1,16-20;
Here, first of all, we do not find in Col 1,16-20 any mention of “the universe”,
rather “all things” are referred to. The words of the passage are: “to reconcile all
things to Himself”. The Greek word “panta”, or “everything”, is to be found
throughout the New Testament - precisely in passages where “all things” are meant. As in the
passage immediately following, in Col 2,22, where Paul urges the Colossians not to submit to the
decrees of hypocritically holy persons in matters of food and drink:
All refer to things destined to perish with use.
Col 2,20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of
the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 2,21
“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”
2,22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 2,23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Col 2,20-23;
Here it is definitely not the “universe” that is “destined to perish with use”.
Or a little further on, in Col 3,8:
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
Col 3,8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath,
malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 3,9 Do not lie to one another, since you
laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 3,10 and have put on the new self who is being
renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. Col 3, 8-10;
And we find just the same “all” in Col 3,11; 3,17; 4,7; 4.9; and throughout the
And when it is written in the passage above, in Col 1,16-20, “to reconcile all things to Himself”, it is not the “universe” that is meant here as the recipient of reconciliation - galaxies, stars and planets do not need to be reconciled - but all human beings.
This is very clearly expressed by Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians as well:
As though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2Cor 5,18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to
Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of Atonement, 5,19 namely, that God was in
Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has
committed to us the word of Atonement.
5,20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an
appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
5,21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might
become the righteousness of God in Him. 2Cor 5,18-21;
We can see that Paul has written to the Corinthians as well of this offer of God to
humanity of reconciliation through the sacrifice of his Son. And in this passage we can now see very
clearly that the interpretation of “panta”, that is of “all” as meaning “the
universe”, is not the real weak point in the idea of Universal Reconciliation. This is only the
attempt, as it were, to give the “child” a name.
The actual mistake in the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation lies in the fact that it assumes that the reconciliation of human beings with God takes place automatically. Such an automatic process is not confirmed by the scriptures, and it is contradicted quite explicitly by Paul in 2Cor 5,20 above.
He writes here to the Corinthians that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation”. And then with great seriousness he admonishes them: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
And that is now the crucial point - which has already been referred to by Ernst Panzer above: the sacrifice which the Lord Jesus made for us human beings on the cross has manifested to us the grace of God, so that he does not count our trespasses against us. This then is a gift of God to sinful humanity. But just as a gift must first be accepted for the establishment of a connection between the giver and the receiver, so also this offer on God's part must first be accepted by every single human individual, so that it may be possible for this effect of reconciliation between humanity and God to be achieved.
But this offer on the part of God cannot be accepted by any one who does not at the same time accept the Son of God as his Lord and Savior, and so as his Deliverer - the Son of God whose sacrifice has been the unique means for this reconciliation of humanity with God.
The author then further opines in his article:
“Consequently it is an idle speculation how many will be involved in
the Universal Reconciliation, and whether perhaps Satan and his evil angels will also be saved. The
judgment of fire on Satan and his followers means the reconciliation of the universal system, just
as the rejection of the Jews is the reconciliation of the cosmos.”
And here we must most definitely dissent from his view. That Satan and his evil
angels will be saved without any action on their part is here not by any means a speculation, but
purely and simply the logical conclusion that follows from the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation
in which he believes. If there were really to be such a Universal Reconciliation, then truly the
whole creation would have to be reconciled with God. Without any exceptions!
And as we can see, this logical conclusion is actually confirmed by our author as well. According to his statements quoted above, it is “the judgment of fire on Satan and his followers” which brings about this reconciliation. This is comparable with the “purgatory” of the Catholic church, in which the sinners are also saved in the last resort not through the redeeming sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ but pretendedlythrough their own efforts - that is to say, by their enduring the torment of purgatorial fire.
According to the statements of Scripture, on the other hand, only one who accepts the grace of God in the sacrifice on the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole world, and who is therefore justified through the blood of Christ, can be saved.
Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Rom 5,8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we
were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 5,9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood,
we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
5,10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 5,11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the Atonement. Rom 5, 8-11;
That whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Jn 3,16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Jn 3,16;
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Rom 8,1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus. 8,2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the
law of sin and of death.
8,3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 8,4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Rom 8,1- 4;
(See also Discourse 30: “Why did Jesus have to
die on the cross?”)
It is not, then, our own acts, or any “endurance” of ours, which enable us to
obtain eternal life. The only possibility of salvation open to humanity in the whole universal
scheme of things - as we are already speaking of the “universe” - is the belief that Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, became man and performed the sacrifice that was pleasing to God for the
redemption of all our sins on the cross at Golgotha. That is our faith, and that is our deliverance.
One who does not see this, or is unwilling to see it - and there have been and are billions of
such people on earth - cannot be saved. He is lost, and the wrath of God abides on him.
He who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
Jn 3,36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who
does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Jn 3,36;
He who rejects Me, the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
Jn 12,46 I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who
believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 12,47 If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 12,48 He who
rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will
judge him at the last day. Jn 12,46-48;
As the Lord says here, it is the word that he has spoken that will judge these
people on the last day. This judgment on the last day is the Universal Judgment after the General
Resurrection of all human beings.
The day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
2Ptr 3,7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being
reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 2Pet 3, 7;
Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.
Mt 25,41 Then He will also say to those on His left, “Depart from
Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels”;
These accursed and ungodly ones will go into damnation. And as a proof that this
damnation is not some “place of purification” (purgatory) or an “admittedly long period, but
one that eventually comes to an end” (Universal Reconciliation), the Lord here - as in many
other passages of the New Testament - expressly speaks of “eternal” fire - a fire, then,
that is never-ending. As we read in the passage above as well, this eternal fire has been prepared
not just for the accursed and the ungodly, but also, and especially, for the devil and his angels.
(See also Chapter 13: “The Last Judgment.”)
Now all attempts to interpret this state of damnation as a temporally limited event
- some speak of a few thousand years - break down in view of a simple circumstance: at the
General Resurrection all human beings will rise to life with an immortal resurrected body. This
means all human beings who have ever lived. Not just Christian believers!
(See also Chapter 12: “The Resurrection.”)
The same assumption is indeed also made by the advocates of the doctrine of
Universal Reconciliation, who hold that after this same greatly extended period of damnation the
accursed and ungodly, and even Satan with his angels will be converted to God.
But in the following passage, Mt 25,46, the Lord tells us that after the Judgment the righteous will go away into eternal life and the ungodly into eternal punishment.
Mt 25,46 “These will go away into eternal punishment,
but the righteous into eternal life.” Mt 25,46;
If then the life of the righteous, according to this statement, will be eternal, the
damnation of the ungodly cannot be temporally limited, but must likewise be eternal. The more so,
seeing that here in the original text the same Greek word “aionios”=eternal is used in
both cases - as also, incidentally, the substantive “aionos”=eternity, for the
existence of God, as we can read in the following passage (Rev 4,9-11).
He who sits on the throne, lives forever and ever - into the ages (aionos) of the ages.
Rev 4,9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks
to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever (into the ages [aionos] of the
ages), 4,10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will
worship Him who lives forever and ever (into the ages of the ages), and will cast their crowns
before the throne, saying, 4,11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor
and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
Rev 4, 9-11;
One who cannot see the existence of God as temporally limited, and the eternal life
of the righteous as a temporary state, must then also see the damnation of the ungodly as eternal
and unending - and certainly not as an “admittedly long period, but one that eventually comes to
an end” - and so will rate the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation as that which in truth it
is: an attempt - similar to that of the Catholic church with its purgatory - to offer an exit
route, where God has prescribed none.