Apokatastasis: the Salvation of All

The Scriptures are clear that the day will come when God will bring an end to the world as we know it, and in that day God will judge each and every person on earth.  There is no doubt that the notion of an impending Judgment Day is as clear in the New Testament as it is in the Old Testament.

And yet there are glimpses in the Bible that in the end, God will show Himself to be the ultimate power in the universe through His love which will triumph over all things, including death and evil itself.   Some have expressed this in terms which downplay notions of a physical and/or geographic heaven and hell and instead see everyone experiencing the same reality in the end – the omnipresence of God Himself.  For those who hate God this will be hell, but for those who love God it will be heaven; same experience of God for both, the difference will only be in how they experience God.  Others have speculated that the Love of God will be so powerful that in the end even the evil ones will be won over to God’s love.   This notion of everyone in the end being transformed and transfigured and thus saved by God’s love is called Apokatastasis.   It has been the theological opinion of some Christians, including some saints through history, but has never been embraced as official doctrine by the Church which has always acknowledged that the Scriptures speak of a judgment day which separates saints from sinners.

Apokatastasis however does have certain appeal for those who take literal certain of Christ’s teachings.  It has an appeal for those who believe God is love.   It is appealing to those who fervently pray, “Lord have mercy.”  It is appealing to those who know that if God’s justice demands that even one sinner is punished for sin, then it will demand that all sinners be punished; whereas, if God’s mercy can forgive even one sinner then there is a chance that even I can be forgiven by God.

So is it wrong to HOPE that all will be forgiven and saved by God in the end?  St. Paul held that the salvation of all is the very hope of God Himself:  “God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  Our Lord Jesus expressed His own thought that He will never turn away anyone that comes to Him:  “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).   And it is true that all  kinds of people of all kinds of persuasions and lifestyles come to Him – just think about the crowds who pressed around Him – not just disciples, but enemies, the curiosity seekers, self-justifiers, the self righteous, those wanting power, those wanting a miracle, those who only wanted to be healed, those needing forgiveness, the awed, the betrayer, the denier, the mockers, the sinners, the magi, the hopeless, the believers, the blind, children, women, outcasts, the poor, the hypocrites, the hated, the rich, the rulers, the beggars, the annoying, the judgmental, the teachers, the super Orthodox.

And the Lord Jesus Himself said:  “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”   (Luke 6:27-36).

Praying for and hoping for the salvation of all, is to embrace the entirety of the New Testament.  It is to hope for what God desires.   If we are to love our enemies and pray for them, is it wrong to believe or hope that in the end they too will be saved?  Or is that Apokatastasic belief the very thing which is proper to the children of the Most High, and the very way we can be merciful as God our Father is merciful?