with Jeremy Westcott
To reconcile all things
…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. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Col 1:20-22).
Jesus has reconciled only a certain, select group of people, according to what most of us have believed, in order to present us blameless and beyond reproach. We have limited the scope of this reconciliation, thinking it could not possibly include everyone and everything. Inevitably, different groups have had different opinions about who is in and who is out.
Everyone and everything is included. Jesus reconciled all things to Himself. If Jesus did it already, no one needs to do anything more. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves holy and blameless and beyond reproach because He already did it. He died our death, dealt with our separation and brought us back into a restored relationship.
…namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world (Greek: kosmos) to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19).
God is not counting anyone’s sins against them. That is forgiveness. Psalm 103 tells us that as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. No matter how far you travel trying to find them, you never will.
Vine’s dictionary will tell you that kosmos means ‘the sum-total of human life in the ordered universe, considered apart from, and alienated from, and hostile to God, and of the earthly things which seduce from God.’ Even if you believe that, the kosmos is what ‘God so loved’ in John 3:16 and what ‘God was in Christ reconciling’ in 2 Cor 5:19. It has all been reconciled.
We have this word, that Jesus has reconciled everyone, but what have we done with it? Have we shared with people the good news of what God has done for them, or bad news, that they are not reconciled with, and still separated from, a God who doesn’t even like them?
The final judgment
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is age-enduring life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23).
Jesus died our death and now there is no longer any sin, and therefore no wages due. If no one’s sin is counted against them, based on the power of the cross, then all subsequent judgments must produce life and not death. As Francois Du Toit says in the Mirror Bible translation of 2 Cor 5:19, “the fallen state of mankind was deleted.” There is no double jeopardy in God’s kingdom: you cannot be tried for the same thing twice. No one can be judged again for what Jesus already died for. The cross is the final judgment. There is no future ‘judgment day’: it already happened at the cross and we have all been declared blamelessly innocent.
Sadly, we judge people all the time, based on their behaviour and what we consider to be right or wrong rather than looking at them in love through the eyes of Jesus. We do not necessarily condone everyone’s behaviour, but we need to be careful not to think that it excludes them from God’s love and reconciliation.
Pleased to reveal His Son in me
Paul recounts his encounter (as Saul) on the road to Damascus:
But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles… (Gal 1:15-16).
He does not say that God revealed His Son in the bright light that blinded him, but that “God was pleased to reveal His Son in me”. God had been at work in him all along; Jesus had been in Him all along; now God revealed that to him. God is not separated from people, even from someone like Saul who was implacably opposed to Him. He is at work in all people to reveal Himself as love and light – and through them to others.
For too long the good news has been presented something like this: “There is a big gulf between you on one side and God on the other. The cross bridges the gap and you can walk across that bridge and engage God.” The real good news is that there is no gulf. God is already at work in everybody, and our job is to help them see that (not to tell them that they are dirty, rotten sinners who deserve to suffer eternal conscious torment as their punishment in hell). There is no separation.
The fullness of God was in Christ
Let us not imagine that the incarnation separated Father, Son and Spirit; nor even the crucifixion. Scripture tells us that all the fullness of God’s being dwells bodily in Christ (Col 2:9) and that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). On the cross, Jesus felt the agony of fallen humanity when he quoted the opening line of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But every Jewish person who heard Him knew where the Psalm was going, with David crying triumphantly “He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him but has heard when he cried to him.” (Ps 22:24).
The restoration of all things is based on the victory of the cross over all things that would hinder our reconciliation and restoration to relationship.
All judgment and justice are based on the victory of the cross over sin, death and the grave; every hindrance or legal obstacle is overcome. Jesus holds the keys of death and of Hades (Rev 1:17) and He is using them to unlock the door, not lock it. That is totally contradictory to some of our belief systems. God has opened access to everyone. The gates of the New Jerusalem are never shut. Everyone is included, no one excluded.
…so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to age-enduring life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 5:21).
The power of the resurrection has defeated death (and it is what enables everything to be restored). The resurrection has overcome death and grace now reigns.
All will be made alive
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:21-22).
Take note of the ‘all’ in both parts of that last sentence. It seems that no one has much trouble with the first ‘all’ meaning ‘all’. The second ‘all’ is where the trouble begins, because if it is the same ‘all’ then much of our theology bites the dust. So we have made ‘in Christ’ conditional, in a way that we do not with ‘in Adam’: so that only those who are ‘in Christ’ will be made alive. And we have gone on to define what being ‘in Christ’ looks like, according to our various denominations and streams.
Both mentions of ‘all’ are the same ‘all’. Christ was the last Adam and the Adamic race ended with Him. From this side of the cross, no one is descended from Adam any more but from Christ. From that point on, all are ‘in Christ’ (though some do not know it and the ‘gospel’ we have preached has consistently told them that they aren’t). And Paul says that ‘in Christ’ all of us are going to be made alive.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:56).
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (Rom 8:2).
Those are very familiar scriptures and we read them as if they apply exclusively to ‘us’ (those we consider as being ‘in Christ’). But who is under the law, since the cross? No one, not even the Jewish people who were the ONLY ones under the law in the first place!
Everyone has victory over death and sin through the power of the cross.
…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity [literally, from before the times of the ages] but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1:9-10).
Death is abolished. It no longer has power over anyone. This was already decided ‘from before the times of the ages’ but has been ‘brought to light’ by the gospel.
More to come
God is not holding anything related to sin against the world and is restoring all things, first to original condition and then to His original intention. God is looking for all things to grow and mature from their original condition to fulfil their potential, His original intention. Original condition is just the start: there is more to come!
Recent posts by FreedomARC
Background for header meme by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.
The text, “Blamelessly innocent” is a reference to the Mirror Bible translation of Ephesians 1:3-4 by Francois Du Toit:
Let’s celebrate God! He lavished every blessing heaven has upon us in Christ! He associated us in Christ before the fall of the world! Jesus is God’s mind made up about us! He always knew in his love that he would present us again face-to-face before him in blameless innocence. God found us in Christ before he lost us in Adam!