and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
So here’s the issue, “through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” does that therefore mean everyone eventually will be saved?
This is the doctrine of Christian Universalism which contends that an individual’s destiny is not fixed at death, and that ultimately everyone will be saved by Christ. How then does one avoid getting pulled into Universalism? Universalism links the “all things” in verse 16 to the “all things” in verse 20 but Paul does not actually say in verse 20 what happened to creation to require reconciliation.
Because of the sin of Adam creation suffered a devastating fall.
The perfect beauty of Eden was horribly marred. Disharmony was brought to bear on God’s handiwork. Alienation (between God and man, between man and man, and between man and nature) now characterised everything everywhere. The whole of creation suffered from what one can only describe as moral, spiritual, and physical marring.
This is Paul’s point in Romans 8:18-23 where he speaks of the whole of creation being subject to futility, but one day to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the children of God.
In other words, Adam’s sin had massive repercussions that required reconciliation. This much we can all understand. But how can it be that “all things” are embraced by this particular reference Paul uses to reconciliation in verse 20?
How can Paul say that wicked and unbelieving humans as well as wicked and rebellious demons (including Satan, no doubt) are in any sense “reconciled?”
The type of “reconciliation” Paul has in mind in verse 20 is not the kind of reconciliation experienced by two individuals who have fallen out, for instance, but rather suggests the idea of “bringing under one’s feet” and the bringing to nought of God’s enemies. God’s reconciliation of all things includes the triumph and victory over those who are and ever will be his enemies. It is “a final reckoning” a final reconciliation.
“however we may describe it in the various designations Scripture provides, is one from which all conflict, enmity, disharmony, warfare will be excluded; it will mean the final triumph of righteousness and peace, in a word, of reconciliation. The powers of darkness will be cast out and by the judgment executed made to ‘confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:11). Bowing the knee in compulsive submission, this will be the reconciliation as it bears upon them; it will constitute the ultimate unconditional surrender, the confessed defeat of age-long assault upon the kingdom of God. We can and must see in this grand climax of victory the fruit of the blood of Christ’s cross”
Thus the demonic hosts and unbelieving humanity may be spoken of as participating in the “reconciliation”, not in the sense that they are ultimately saved, but are no longer capable of disrupting the harmony and beauty of God’s creative handiwork. If you like, all things are now reconciled for ever.
Although all creation will ultimately bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11)
the elect will do it by God’s grace, whereas the non-elect will do it by command. Reconciliation can occur, therefore, without entailing the restoration of all to fellowship with God.
There is no conflict in the age to come. There will be no warfare to threaten the security of God’s people. There will be no corruption of nature or demonic temptation or opposition to the kingdom of God.
Paul used similar language in Ephesians 1:10 when he described God’s eternal purpose as the “summing up” or the “uniting” of “all things” in Christ, “things in heaven and things on earth”
His final purpose will have been achieved:
His grace and mercy will have been glorified by the salvation of his people.
His holiness and justice will have been glorified by the condemnation of his enemies.
The heavens and earth will have been restored under their divinely created and determined order, the universe placed once again under its head.
Therefore all things will be reconciled.