Everyone Being Reconciled To Everyone Else One Day – The Bible’s Overall Story Part 3

Every day we see and experience broken relationships. Sometimes they are so broken that parties end up killing each other. For example, just this morning I was reminded that in Australia alone each week two women are murdered by their partners―this week one was a pregnant mother.

In today’s post I want to look at one of the reasons why I believe eventually all broken relationships will be healed in the New Creation. We find this promise in the “The Christ Poem”1:

Colossians 1:15-20
“The Christ Poem” (Colossians 1:15-20, using HCSB, NLT, ESV, MOUNCE & N.T. Wright2)

I love how this passage shows the preeminence (the utmost importance) and centrality of Jesus in everything―past, present and future. And it does this using wonderfully interwoven parallels:
– Jesus is over everything (a) because everything (b & c) was created by Him.
– Jesus is before everything (d) because everything (e) is held together by Him.
– Jesus is preeminent in everything (f) because He is:

  • the beginning (or origin) of Creation
  • the head (or origin) of the Church
  • the firstborn from the dead (the beginning or origin of the New Creation)
  • the “telos” (purpose and destiny) of everything―everything (c) is created to Him, and everything (g) will be reconciled to Him.

(I think these dot points also show the Bible’s overall story)

Now as far as I can see, the scope of all of these “everything”s3 is identical and includes absolutely everything created4. In case there was any doubt, Paul twice reinforces the “everything” (b & h) with the “in heaven and on earth” phrase5, and makes sure we understand that the phrase includes everything visible and invisible, even thrones, dominions, rulers or authorities.

However, what does “reconcile everything to Him” mean? Thankfully, I think Paul explains it in the same sentence. It is “making peace”, and Jesus achieved6 this through His self-sacrifice, “His blood shed on the cross”. I think Paul gives examples of what this looks like, both before and after the poem:

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.Colossians 1:13-14
Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before HimColossians 1:21-22

Paul uses it similarly in Romans 5:10 (HCSB), explaining that amazingly the reconciliation was inaugurated (begun) while we still hated God:

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!

Not only is the relationship to God reconciled but relationships to everyone else:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jews and non-Jews] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.Ephesians 2:14-18 (NIV)

And this isn’t just a future hope or dream, it’s something God invites us to be involved with now:

Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (HCSB)

I find it immensely encouraging to know that each self-sacrificial peacemaking, small or big, takes us one step closer to seeing every relationship restored and reconciled―indeed reformed to what God always intended!7

I hope this brief overview will inspire you to at least look into this more. The best exposition of Colossians 1:15-20 I’ve ever read is in Robin Parry’s book8―you can read the pages here. It strongly influenced this post, however I also found Diane Castro’s blog post9 helpful, as well as Talbott’s discussion10.


1. Colossians 1:15-20
2. N.T. Wright, “Poetry and Theology in Colossians 1:15-20,” in idem, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) 99–119. Found on page 42 of The Evangelical Universalist.
3. Each time it’s the Greek word “pas”.
4. While not talking about creation, the extent of the image and fullness of God is similarly absolute, as Jesus is fully God.
5. Also used by Paul in Ephesians 1:10 and by Jesus in Matthew 28:18.
6. And achieves. I think it’s a “now and not yet” scenario. He has won but it’s not yet fully actualised.
7. I want to make it clear that sadly there are limits to how much some relationships can be healed in this age. For example, I’m NOT advocating women staying in, or returning to, domestic violence―violence is the opposite of the peace that God intended, and will achieve for all relationships in the age to come. If you are facing domestic violence please seek help via HumanServices.gov.au or WomensHealth.gov. For those interested in present and future reconciliation more generallly, I recommend reading Miroslav Volf’s profound material e.g. The Final Reconciliation: Reflections on a Social Dimension of the Eschatological Transition.
8. MacDonald, Gregory. The Evangelical Universalist, 2nd ed. (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012), 41-53.
9. Reconciliation: The Heart of God’s Grand Plan for Creation.
10. Talbott, Thomas. The Inescapable Love of God (1999, revised 2015), p63.

Everyone Repents & Rejoices: The Bible’s Overall Story Part 2

In The Bible’s Overall Story Part 1 I looked at the stages of the relationship between people and God. However, questions arose from it, “What about people who don’t repent and rejoice in this life?”. This is an important question because billions of people fall into this category, as far as I can tell.

I think there are good biblical reasons for believing that those who don’t repent and rejoice in this life will do so at some point in the next. In a future post I’ll explore how God might bring people freely to this position but in this post I’ll simply focus on what I think are His promises that He will.

One of the passages that I think most clearly shows the repentance and joyful response to God’s mercy is:

… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:10-11, NLT

“Every Knee Shall Bow” by J. Kirk Richards ©2008

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul seems to be expanding on God’s promise in Isaiah 45:

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.
For I am God, and there is no other.
By Myself I have sworn;
Truth has gone from My mouth,
a word that will not be revoked:
Every knee will bow to Me,
every tongue will swear allegiance.Isaiah 45:22-23, HCSB

… this acknowledgement of Christ is universal. Paul emphasizes that there are no exceptions by expanding the Old Testament text “every knee will bow” with the words “in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” This is going considerably further than the Isaiah text. In Isaiah only the living were in mind. All the survivors of the nations would bow, but the dead were dead. Not so here. Even those “under the earth,” that is to say, the dead, will bow. So the picture is of every single individual who has ever lived acknowledging the rule of Christ.Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, page 98

I think the bowing and declaring Jesus as Lord isn’t subjugation for a number of reasons:

First, we see that God has just called all the nations to turn to him and be saved, and it is in that context that the oath is taken. Second, the swearing of oaths in Yahweh’s name is something his own people do, not his defeated enemies. Third, those who confess Yahweh go on to say, “In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength,” which sounds like the cry of praise from God’s own people.Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, page 68

Elsewhere in Paul’s letters when he speaks of confessing Jesus as Lord it is always in a context of salvation. No one can say that “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). If someone confesses with their mouth and believes in the heart that Jesus is Lord, then they will be saved (Rom 10:9). There are no examples in Paul of an involuntary confession of Christ’s Lordship. The word translated as “confess” (exomologeomai) is a word almost always meaning “praise.” Throughout the LXX version of the Psalms it is used of the joyful and voluntary praise of God, and that is how it is used in the LXX source text of Isaiah 45:23. There is no good linguistic reason to think Paul was using it in any other way here.Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, page 100

I’d suggest that this positivity is one of the reasons the HCSB, ESV and NLT, all translate the action in Isaiah as “allegiance”.

It cannot mean mere outward, hypocritical and forced agreement…Henri Blocher1

Furthermore, Paul says the confession is “to the glory of God the Father” and we are told countless times that people faking it doesn’t achieve this―quite the opposite, God detests outward displays of “piety” and “praise” when hearts aren’t in it. For example,

[Jesus] answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:
These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.Mark 7:6, HCSB

In contrast, there’s a persistent theme of God desiring, deserving and receiving everyone’s wholehearted, joyful praise. For example:

Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them,Psalm 69:34, HCSB
All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.Psalm 86:9, ESV
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!Psalm 98:3-4, ESV
My mouth will declare Yahweh’s praise; let every living thing praise His holy name forever and ever.Psalm 145:21, HCSB
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!Psalm 150:6, ESV

I think that the Great Commandment is part of the “Truth [that] has gone from [God’s] mouth, a word that will not be revoked”, that ultimately it is a prophetic revelation of the holistic, truly glorifying, worship of God by everyone.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.Matthew 22:37, ESV


1. Blocher, Henri. Everlasting Punishment and the Problem of Evil. Edited by Nigel M. deS. Cameron (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992), p. 303. While we agree on the point quoted, I think he makes some puzzling theological moves so ends up with conclusions that I disagree with.

The Bible’s Overall Story – The Three Crosses – Part 1

My last post introduced what I think are the most common views that Christians have on Hell (broadly defined as the fate of those who aren’t saved in this life). This week I’m going to look at one of the reasons why I think Hell needs to be reformed, and that is because current notions of Hell don’t seem to fit well in the Bible’s overall story or metanarrative.

There are a lot of themes that could be included but I’ll walk us through a simple summary of the Bible that focuses on the relationship between God and people:
God creates everyone

We start with the perfect, eternal God who creates everyone.

For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Colossians 1:16, HCSB

Everyone rebels

Sadly, everyone deliberately puts themselves first at the expense of others. This unloving attitude is a core aspect of sin. Unchecked, I think we become increasingly proud and narcissistic, while pushing away the Source of life, growth, vitality, joy and hope. Furthermore, the attitude and behaviour is a rebellion against God and His desire for the way things should be (wholeheartedly enjoying and praising Him—together, forever!). The climax of this rebellion was executing Jesus on a Roman instrument of torture, a wooden cross.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3:23, NLT

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:8, HCSB

Everyone punished

I think sin/rebellion becomes self (and other) destructive—spiritually, mentally and physically. Our physical death seems to be a reflection (a consequence, a form of punishment1 ) of this spiritual deadness/broken relationship.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

Romans 5:12, NLT

People repent & believe

Jesus’ death on the cross thankfully changes things2, including demonstrating God’s forgiveness of our rebellion and drawing people to repent and believe in Him.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

1 John 3:16, NLT

Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:4, HCSB

People reconciled to God

This means people are reconciled to God3.

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!

Romans 5:10, HCSB

What happens to these people?

Although it would be nice to unpack each step a lot more, so far hopefully most Christians would be more or less in agreement. However, a major disagreement arises about the fate of people who don’t repent and believe in this life. Those people, according to many Christians, aren’t saved at this point, nor can they be saved at any later time.

Next week, in part two of this mini-series, I’ll try to make a case for why I think there is actually an amazing symmetry in Bible’s story, that the “people” in the last two steps of this flowchart are actually the “everyone” in the first three steps!


1. However, our current physical limitations, particularly death, should shatter our delusion that we are God and act as a limitation on the amount of evil (and self destruction) we can commit. In that sense, both are merciful and mean that the road to restoration is shorter.
2. Many books have been written on what happened on the cross and how we should understand the Atonement but Atonement Metaphors and Animated Explanation of Sacrifice and Atonement are helpful starting points.
3. We are also reconciled to each other – see Top 7 Bible Verses About Reconciliation.