Why Church Councils Condemned Restoration Teaching
The Achan Doctrine has troubled the Church at least as far back as the sixth century, when a Church Council first began to condemn those who believed in the restoration of all things. The doctrine of eternal torment of the sinners was certainly held by a small minority of Christians for the first few centuries. Nonetheless, this teaching began fairly early, mostly in the Latin branch of the Church. One Christian leader who apparently believed this was the stern and bitter Latin father, Terullian. In 203 A.D. he wrote the following:
"How I shall admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many kings. . . groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness, so many magistrates who persecuted the name of the Lord, liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing in raging fire." (de Spectaculis, 30)
Thank God most people who have been taught the doctrine of eternal torment would never say such things! Most are simply victims of Church theologians, who themselves are victims of a long succession of eternal tormentists. Such writings can only come from one who is "in the gall of bitterness" (Acts 8:23). According to Strong's Concordance, the word translated "gall" is actually the poppy plant. Wormwood is opium that comes from the poppy. Jesus refused to drink it even on the cross (Matt. 27:34), in order to teach us not to harbor bitterness in our hearts, no matter how trying our circumstances become. Bitterness drugs the mind and prevents us from putting on the mind of Christ. It prevents us from truly understanding the law of Jubilee, which is necessary to inherit the first resurrection.
The Roman government often persecuted the early Christians. Many were tortured, killed, and often fed to the lions for sport. Most of the early Church looked to Jesus' example in His lamb-like attitude toward their persecutors. However, some of them turned bitter. Tertullian, quoted earlier, gloried in the thought that someday God would torture his adversaries and give them what they deserved. He did not have the mind of Christ. He did not know the power of forgiveness and love. In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said in Matthew 5,
43 You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy." 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
When Jesus speaks of "sons," it is a Hebrew idiom. The Hebrew idiom in this case means that "sons" are those who imitate their fathers. Sons of Abraham are those who imitate his faith. The sons of the heavenly Father are those who do good to their enemies, even as God does by sending rain and sunshine upon both the righteous and the unrighteous. This is God's character trait in His genes, which He desires to pass down to His children.
Yes, of course, this means that the just will always be at a disadvantage in the world. Do not the wolves always have a natural advantage over the sheep? Someone wrote a poem, a take-off on the words of Jesus (above):
The rain? It raineth every day
Upon the just and unjust fella;
But more upon the just, because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella.
A little wry humor can often take the edge off our natural disadvantage. But the Achan Doctrine would scold God for His attitude toward His enemies. Those with the spirit of Achan would exult in the sinners' utter destruction or eternal torture.
This carnal attitude was foreign to the great Christians of the past who believed in the restoration of all things. Men like Gregory of Nyassa, the man described as "the man enchanted with Christ" (The Fathers of the Eastern Church, p. 169). His treatise on 1 Cor. 15:28 is magnificent. (See Appendix 3.) One only needs to read the writings of the early Church to see a tremendous difference in attitude between the restorationists and the champions of eternal torment who troubled them.
Wolves in the Church
It would be naive to claim that all who were restorationists were godly, while all eternal tormentists were scoundrels. Yet in reading Church history it is surprisingly easy to pick out the wolves among the sheep just by the testimony of their lives. Jesus said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16)," and it is true.
Both the sheep and the wolf leaders were, of course, highly intelligent, educated, and scholarly. But some were genuinely filled with the love of God toward others and manifested all the fruits of the Spirit in their character. A few of these were Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyassa, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. These all taught the restoration of all things.
On the other hand, there were also a few major Church leaders who were more akin to ravenous wolves, bitingly sarcastic and bitter, such as Tertullian (quoted above), whose poison pen dripped with bitter eloquence. Others were just as bad. The historians do not hesitate to list Jerome and Theophilus of Alexandria as other prime examples of such Church leaders.
Jerome tailored his doctrinal beliefs to conform to Rome's version of orthodoxy. His desire for recognition was the only thing that was said to exceed his scholarship. When confronted with the question of Arianism, instead of searching the Scriptures for truth, he simply wrote to the bishop of Rome, asking what position he should adopt. His attitude was much like a modern attorney today, whose job it is to defend a client regardless of his guilt or innocence. Jerome was one of the foremost scholars of his day, but he chose to use that scholarship like a lawyer paid to argue his client's case, not as an honest truth seeker.
Historians describe Theophilus of Alexandria as an "unprincipled man" having a "base mind" and not hesitating to make false accusations in order to further his political agenda. For many years Theophilus believed and taught that all men would be saved. This was, in fact, taught by all his predecessors in Alexandria from the beginning. But one day an issue came up where Theophilus wrote a treatise, agreeing with Origen that God was a Spirit and did not have a corporeal form. The "Scetic" monks of Egypt, who disagreed violently with this assertion, confronted him with it, and Theophilus out of fear suddenly proclaimed his agreement with the monks.
Later, a wealthy widow donated a large sum to Isidorus, the superintendent of the almshouse for the church in Alexandria-under the condition that Theophilus not be told about it. She was well aware of Theophilus' flagrant misuse of funds and wanted the money to be spent specifically on clothing for poor women, rather than lofty building projects. Theophilus heard of it, flew into a rage, and banished Isidorus by false accusations.
It happened that Isidorus was a great admirer of Origen. So to get even with Isidorus, Theophilus called together a synod of a few loyal bishops, condemned Origen as a heretic, and forbade anyone henceforth to read his works. When a group of 300 Nitrian monks refused to acquiesce in denouncing Origen, he then sent armed men to attack and kill them. Eighty of these monks, however, escaped, making their way to Constantinople, appealing to the bishop there, John Chrysostom, who, they knew, was a man of great integrity. John was horrified, and after hearing the case, he sided with the monks. However, Theophilus succeeded by outrageous accusations to depose John and send him into exile. He ultimately drove John to his death. These accusations were gleefully translated into Latin by Jerome, who, according to historian, Hans von Campenhausen, "lost all feeling of decency and veracity" (The Fathers of the Latin Church, p. 178.)
This controversy aroused suspicion against Origen in Rome also, particularly when a new Roman bishop was elected with the support of Jerome's friends. Origen was thus opposed by the new bishop and the West in general. And so Origen, a man of integrity, love, and kindness was slandered and cursed by the basest of men, wolves in sheep's clothing. And why? It was NOT for his teaching on the restoration of all things! It was because he believed that God was a spirit (John 4:24). Yet this later became the pretext by which the Church would denounce Origen and legitimize the doctrine of eternal torment for sinners.
The Achan Doctrine thus became the orthodox position of the Church. Even so, it would be another 150 years before there were enough bishops opposed to restoration teaching to condemn it by a formal Church Council.
Church Councils Condemn Origen
Origen was finally condemned in the Fifth General Council in 553 A.D., attended by only 148 bishops. Even so, nothing was specifically said about Origen's beliefs regarding the salvation of all men. It was left to the Emperor Justinian (527-565 AD) to condemn Origen's belief in the restoration of all things. He did so specifically in Anathema IX,
"If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema."
The Church Council itself spelled out fifteen Anathemas against Origen, but none of them condemned his teaching that all men would be saved. In fact, they also said nothing about Origen's belief that even demons would ultimately be restored. This is particularly striking, since the Emperor himself had done so, and the Church Council would certainly have been pressured to follow his lead. Ironically, the same Church Council, in Session 1, claimed to follow "in every way" the writings of the two Gregorys, who taught that all men would be saved:
"We further declare that we hold fast to the decrees of the four Councils, and in every way follow the holy Fathers, Athanasius, Hilary, Basil, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyassa, Ambrose, Theophilus, John (Chrysostom) of Constantinople, Cyril, Augustine, Proclus, Leo, and their writings on the true faith."
In Donald Attwater's book, Saints of the East, page xvii, he writes about these early Church leaders and their beliefs:
"Origen and Gregory of Nyassa and many others among the Eastern Fathers believed that He came to save all spiritual creatures, not men only. He did not shed His blood on earth at Jerusalem for sin alone; He offered Himself as a gift on the high altar of Heaven to save the angels and all the universe, of which this little corner of earth is the smallest part."
In Robert Payne's book, Fathers of the Eastern Church, pp. 145 and 146, he affirms with more clarity the things Gregory and others taught:
"So always, Gregory [of Nyassa] celebrates the grandeur and nobility of men, with such charity that he could bring himself to believe that even the Prince of Darkness would once more be restored to his seat beside the throne of God. For Gregory, as for Origen, there is universal salvation."
It is clear, then, that the Fifth Church Council in 543 A.D. understood what they were condemning. However, they seem to have been rather selective in their condemnations, choosing to anathematize Origen and Theodore, but not Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyassa, or Gregory of Nazianzus. All of these early Church Councils (from 325 AD on) were primarily concerned with questions of the nature of God and of Christ, rather than the ultimate fate of the unbelieving sinners. If an average Christian today were to read the records of those Councils, it would often seem like endless hair-splitting of subjects that have no practical bearing on one's Christian life. Thus, while Origen and all of his writings were anathematized, the specific doctrines mentioned deal with lesser issues than the salvation of all men and all angels.
In Canon 1 of the Seventh Church Council in 692 AD, held in the city of Trullo, the Council upheld the decision of the Fifth Church Council (above) against Origen. Of this we read in Aristenus' notes on the Council in the book, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XIV, p. 361,
"The fifth [Council] was held in the time of Justinian the Great at Constantinople against the crazy Origen, Evagrius, and Didymus, who remodeled the Greek figments, and stupidly said that the same bodies they had joined with them would not rise again; and that Paradise was not subject to the appreciation of the sense, and that it was not from God, and that Adam was not formed in flesh, and that there would be an end of punishments, and a restitution of the devils to their pristine state, and other innumerable insane blasphemies."
Their main concern seems to be over the inclusion of demons or devils in the restoration of all things. It is unfortunate that no one-including Origen and the others-made a distinction between man and satanic beings in the final restoration. One may believe in the restoration of all men without going so far as to believe in the restoration of "devils" as well. These are really separate issues, but no one in those days seemed to really know the difference between reconciliation, resurrection, salvation, and justification.
Distinctions in Terminology
Justification is a legal term relevant to sinners. Sinners need justification before the law.
Reconciliation is a term that applies to enemies. Enemies need to be reconciled to each other.
Salvation is a broad term often translated "deliverance," and is generally needed by those who are in imminent danger. The word also carries the meaning of "health," or "well-being," and in this sense the danger is death from disease or condition of mortality.
Resurrection is something that the dead need.
While these terms are all generally related to each other, Paul uses the terms carefully-and so should we. One very good illustration of Paul's terminology is found in Romans 5:9 and 10, where we read,
9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 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.
Note that the blood of Jesus justifies us sinners, because His blood paid the price for our sin, thereby satisfying the demands of the law. As enemies, we are then reconciled to God through His death. Finally, we are "saved from the wrath of God" by His life. The wrath of God, i.e., judgment for sin, is ultimately the death penalty (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). We are saved from that penalty of sin by Jesus' resurrection to life. All of these concepts operate harmoniously in our lives, but they have different functions.
What About Satan?
Romans 5:18 speaks of the justification of "all MEN," yet says nothing of Satan being justified. The idea that Satan ever would be "justified" is foreign to the Scriptures. 1 John 2:2 says that the blood of Jesus is the propitiation (covering) for the sins of the whole world, but it is apparent that John was speaking of the habitable world of "all MEN," not of Satan or demonic beings. Hence, Jesus' blood is never applied to Satan.
1 Timothy 4:10 says God is the Savior of "all MEN," again saying nothing about angels or spiritual beings. As we showed earlier, salvation deals with those in danger of death, or "the wrath of God." Being justified by Jesus' blood, we are then saved by His resurrection life. Because salvation is based upon justification by His blood, we cannot say that Satan ever will be "saved" either.
Neither do the Scriptures tell us that Satan will be "resurrected."
It is only when we get into Colossians 1:16-20 that the apostle speaks of reconciling "ALL THINGS" that have been created, including things in earth and in heaven. We never find Paul telling us that the created universe will be "saved" or "justified." It is always "reconciled." Reconciliation always speaks of enemies, those who oppose each other as adversaries. The term "Satan" literally means Adversary, which is practically synonymous with "Enemy." And so, when Paul wrote about ta panta, "THE ALL" being reconciled to God, whether they were beings in heaven or in earth, it seems self-evident that he spoke of both heavenly beings and earthly beings. Satan and men are portrayed in the Bible as being adversarial to God until such time as we are reconciled to Him. For men, this includes justification. For Satan, it does not. Therefore, the reconciliation of all things in heaven takes a different path from reconciling all men on earth.
It was commonly believed in the early Church that Satan and his hosts were fallen angels who had originally been subject to God. Today, others are exploring different possibilities. Some say that Satan is merely a personification of man's fallen nature and the works of the flesh. Others say that Satan is indeed a separate spiritual entity, but that Satan was created to be God's adversary from the beginning.
1 John 3:8 says he sinned from the beginning, and John 8:44 says he was a murder from the beginning. We also know from Isaiah 45:7 that God creates evil. Isaiah 45 is the great chapter on the sovereignty of God, and this is part of the proof God gives, showing that evil is not out of God's control. God does, of course, use evil for good purpose, for we know that to us all things work together for good. Hence, we are to give thanks to God in ALL things (1 Thess. 5:18), not just for the "good" things.
Jude 6 speaks of angels who left their first estate. This is speaking of the situation in Genesis 6:1-4 leading up to the flood, not the fall of angels prior to the creation of Adam. The NASV renders Jude 6 as follows:
6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.
This refers to those who apparently intermarried with the daughters of men, producing giants in the earth, as we read in the account of Genesis 6.
Likewise, in Ezekiel 28 we have the most well-known passage that has been interpreted to mean that Satan was originally a good and powerful angel. Yet this passage is clearly speaking of "the leader of Tyre," who is specifically said to be a MAN.
2 Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your heart is lifted up, and you have said, I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the heart of the seas; yet you are a man [awdawm, "ADAM," or "man"] and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God-
From verse 12 and on, the prophet speaks about "the king of Tyre" in terms that seem to be referring to a situation in the garden of Eden. Verses 13-15 tell us,
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you.
Although it has been commonly believed for a long time that this passage is referring to Satan, it is actually a comparison between the king of Tyre and Adam himself in the garden of Eden. Adam was perfect in the day he was created. He walked with God on the holy mountain (kingdom) and among the "stones of fire." In other words, Adam had full access to the presence of God and all its glory.
God had also given Adam dominion over all the earth-hence, he was the "anointed cherub who covers." A cherub does not necessarily have to be an angelic being. Adam was a cherub in that pristine state prior to his fall. Though he was created with a physical body, that body was not subject to the limitations of the flesh prior to his fall. His body was much like Jesus' post-resurrection body. I believe Adam originally had the ability to move freely between heaven and earth, or between the spiritual dimension and the earthly.
Another point to consider is whether or not angels have a free will. The only way Satan could be a fallen angel is if he were an independent agent with a free will, having the ability to rebel against God. If Satan really did rebel against God in this manner, then we have to ask ourselves why he would create angels with the ability to sin, and then not make provision for their salvation, as he did for man. Of course, if the angelic rebellion took place without God's prior knowledge, then it brings into question the very power and sovereignty of God.
It seems to me that the fallen angel theory creates more serious problems than it solves. When we study the history of religious thought in ancient times, especially in the Greek-speaking world, it seems that the people spent much time trying to explain how a good God could create such a mess upon the earth. In trying to separate God from any and all responsibility for evil, it was necessary to give all evil or sinful beings a totally free will. While this seemed to justify God, it did so at the expense of His sovereignty.
The Greek philosophers believed that spirit was good and matter was evil. From this basic assumption, they decided that a good God could never create evil matter. So they postulated that an evil god, called the Demiurge, created matter. He was like the Satan of other religions. While this view succeeded in sparing God from any responsibility for evil in the world, they also deposed God as Creator. And in all this, they still did not solve the underlying problem, Who created the Demiurge?
Scripture clearly tells us that God created all things. John 1:1 and 2 identifies the Creator (Logos) with Jesus Christ, not with Satan or a fictitious Demiurge. If God created Satan, and Satan is evil, then God created evil. Even if God created Satan good, but gave him the freedom to fall, the divine law still would hold God responsible. This we will show in our next chapter.
And so, regardless of the antiquity of this belief in fallen angels, I do not think it is warranted. It seems to me to be a belief that was more apt to be accepted in a Greek culture, and the early Church leaders were unable to break free of their cultural mindset in this matter.
It is beyond our scope here to delve further into these different views. However, let us say that if Satan is a fallen angel, as the majority have believed since the days of the early Church, then the weight of evidence shifts slightly in support of the view that Satan will at some time be restored to his original place. On the other hand, if Satan was created to be God's adversary from the beginning, then once his purpose has been fulfilled, there is reason to believe he will be eradicated when his purpose has been fulfilled and when all things are reconciled. Clement of Alexandria in the second century A.D., who was Origen's teacher and head of the Church in Alexandria, wrote in his commentary on 1 John 2:2,
"He, indeed, saves all; but some He saves converting them by punishments; others, however, who follow voluntarily He saves with dignity of honour; so that 'every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, of things on earth, and things under the earth'-THAT IS, ANGELS AND MEN."
Clement followed the common belief that Satan and his hosts were "fallen angels." And so he argued that the only beings "in heaven" who needed reconciliation were the FALLEN angels, who were in an adversarial relationship with God. There is obviously no need to reconcile angels who never fell. But Clement goes beyond reconciliation by saying God "saves" them. I would dispute this terminology.
In his commentary, Clement quoted Paul's statement in Philippians 2:10 that "every knee should bow." He took this to mean that all men and all the fallen angels would bow to God, at which time God would save them all. However, in view of the fact that Paul never says elsewhere that fallen angels are "saved" or "justified," Clement's conclusion is really only an assumption. Paul was quoting from Isaiah 45:23, where God says,
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." 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 shall be put to shame. 25 In the LORD all the offspring of Israel will be justified, and will glory.
Notice that in the same passage all the seed of Israel is to be justified. It says nothing whereby we might justify Satan. When Paul quotes this passage in Philippians 2, he adds as his commentary, "of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth." I do not dispute Paul's inspired writings, of course. I merely point out that Paul focused his attention on every knee bowing, saying that this goes beyond the justification of all Israel (or even of all men). Paul included all angels and men in his statement, and this is consistent with Revelation 5:13, where every creature in both heaven and in earth are shown to be giving glory to God.
On the other hand, we must also ask ourselves the critical question: Does this also refer to every living creature that ever lived? Will every dog, lion, and mosquito also be resurrected to bow the knee to God at the end of all time? Obviously not, for God resurrects only mankind. In fact, Psalm 22:29 seems to indicate precisely the opposite, saying, "All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, even he who cannot keep his soul alive."
From the beginning, God said that Adam would surely die if he sinned. This was the judgment of God, and no one could escape his mortality, except through the prescribed Biblical path in Christ. Psalm 22:29 seems to indicate that death is God's way of forcing all men to bow before Him. They bow the knee in death. Death proves that all men are subject to God, no matter what they do and no matter what they believe about themselves. Death is the final trump card that ends the game of life.
Paul takes this theme and appears to reinterpret it to mean that all things in both heaven and earth will bow their knee in glorifying God. It does not appear to be about death, but about life and restoration. And yet, the Scriptures clearly teach us that the path to life is through death. True believers know that we are to die daily to self-will and be subject to God. Such death is bowing the knee to God and glorifying His name. Believers undergo this "second death" in their lifetime, while the rest must undergo the "second death" in a future age. But either way, death is the only path to life. The fire of God operates in our lives today as we submit to the law and judgment of God in the process of sanctification and purification.
So is Paul really reinterpreting Isaiah 45:23, or is he merely telling us that the end of this death process is life? All will indeed bow the knee, but the reconciliation of all things will not take place apart from judgment, or the fire of God. Death is the process by which life is dispensed to all creation. God will not simply say, "Well, boys will be boys," and then give life to all, regardless of the way they lived their lives on earth. He will give life only after all have bowed the knee and confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.
If this is the case, then what about angels or satanic hosts who are spiritual beings? This is the real question at hand. If Satan is purely an adversary and was possibly created as such from the beginning, then it follows that there is no good in Satan. Hence, when he is cast into the lake of fire, there is no spiritual gold in him to be purified. In this way he is unlike mankind. Man is to be purified as gold and silver in the furnace of affliction, but the resulting salvation comes only because there was some gold or silver in the lump of metal to begin with. All else is burned up, leaving that which is good. In the case of Satan, one would be hard pressed to prove that there is any good in him that would survive the fiery trial.
Here again, if Satan were a fallen angel, then one might have some basis for argument that there is something good in him that could be saved, for one would have to admit that Satan was originally good. So here is where we must discuss the meaning of reconciliation as it is used to describe "all things" in heaven and in earth.
The Limits of Reconciliation
There are many passages where Paul speaks of reconciling all things in both heaven and in earth. But where Paul appears to choose his words carefully, those after him in the early Church made no real distinction between reconciliation, salvation, and justification. It is apparent from Philippians 2 that all angels and men will indeed bow their knee to Jesus Christ, for this is something that enemies do when they have been fully defeated, subdued, or subjected to God. Every tongue must confess that He is Lord. But technically, this does not tell us precisely what Christ will do with them thereafter.
When Paul deals with the widest scope of the creation itself, he says it will be reconciled to God, implying that it is presently at enmity with God. That is, the creation is out of harmony with the nature and character of God. It is in a state of rebellion, or revolt. Not only would this include people, but land, sea, and air itself. Pollution and unhealthful living conditions are all out of step with the character of God. Ungodly men have claimed large portions of creation for their own purposes and have subjected it to unrighteous laws. But in the Tabernacles Age there will be an administrative change, and all things will begin to be subdued to the Kingdom of God and the law of Jesus Christ.
To reconcile creation, then, is to bring the creation itself into subjection to the laws of God. This includes inanimate objects, as well as animals, birds, and fish. This does NOT mean that animals, birds, fish, or rocks must be justified or even saved. God is going to reconcile them. Satan, demons, devils, etc. (no matter how one understands their nature) are also part of God's creation and will be reconciled, but nowhere are we told that Satan will be justified. Neither will Satan be saved.
Some years ago a man asked me the question: "Will bugs be saved?" His wife was horrified and embarrassed that he would ask such a silly question, but I treated it like a serious question. After all, if all things in heaven and earth will be reconciled to God, does this mean that every dog, elephant, and mosquito will be raised from the dead and saved? If one believes in the idea of transmigration of souls, commonly called "reincarnation," then one might extend salvation to dogs, which are at present, according to that view, just unfortunate souls in a lower state of spiritual evolution.
However, I do not hold this belief, nor do I believe that all dogs will be saved, even though I do believe that dogs will be reconciled as a part of creation. That is, when creation is reconciled to God, there will no longer be adversity between any of God's creatures. Isaiah 11:6-9 tells us,
6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. 7 Also the cow and the bear will graze; their young will lie down together; and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah paints for us a picture of the reconciliation of all creation. No doubt it is symbolic of people, but I believe it also has reference to actual animals living on earth in the ages to come, prior to the final Creation Jubilee. It appears that in the reconciliation God will change the diet of the predatory animals, so that lions "will eat straw like the ox." But this does not necessarily mean that all the lions of past millennia will be raised from the dead and receive salvation. The same would hold true with mosquitoes and flies, hopefully, or else the earth might be literally overrun with these pests.
If God is not bound to raise these dead pests from the dead in the reconciliation of all things, then I suggest that God will simply keep a certain number of animals, birds, and fish on the earth in the ages to come for the purpose of beautification and companionship. It is doubtful if He will retain every pest and noxious weed that currently grows, for these seem to be the result of Adam's sin and the curse upon the ground which came from it (Gen. 3:17). Likewise, pests and harmful bacteria currently are a major part of the diet of birds and fish. If their diets are changed like that of the ox and lion, then perhaps such harmful creatures may be eliminated altogether. To reverse the curse, then, would appear to mean the elimination of these harmful creatures, which came upon the earth after the fall of man. Hence, the reconciliation of creation would be to restore harmony to creation and reverse the effects of Adam's fall.
God is under no obligation to raise past animals from the dead, harmful or otherwise. There is no indication that dogs and cats, once dead, ever would be raised from the dead, although it may perhaps be conceivable that God would raise certain ones from the dead for the sake of happiness of their previous owners. We are really not told in the Bible, but God is a Creator and life-giver by nature. He delights to make His children happy. There is no reason to think that God would not or could not "resurrect" some animals from the dead, if He so chose to do so to beautify the earth and to make His children happy. But this still could not be regarded as justification or salvation as defined in the Bible. Even so, this is mere speculation and, perhaps, a bit of wishful thinking. The bottom line is that we do not know for sure what God will do, but we know that life will be happy and harmonious.
Will there be animals in the Kingdom of God during the time of the restoration of all things? Most certainly, for God created all things "very good" from the beginning, and there is no reason to think that God has changed His mind. But will those animals be immortal? It might be the case that the very docile lion whose diet is changed to straw might not be immortal, even though he is reconciled to God. However, it would seem to me that, ultimately, death would be abolished totally from the universe, in the sense that there will be no more death.
For man, this means all will be raised from the dead, never to die again. For the animals, it would appear that those chosen to live on the earth in the ages to come will remain alive and not die. Most likely they all will be vegetarian, and their digestive system will change considerably, no longer needing insects as part of the food chain. It is difficult to conceive the massive changes that would have to take place just in this regard, because of the delicate "balance of nature" that currently exists, but we know that this would not present much of a problem with a sovereign God.
In regard to plant life, it is also apparent that ferns and oak trees will not be resurrected, justified, or saved. The earth would be a barren place without plant life, so it is safe to assume that plant life will exist in the restoration of all things. It would appear that animals would eat plant life. So when death is abolished, this does not include plant life. Plants die when animals eat them. The restoration of all things will no doubt mean that plant life will be more lush, nutritious, and absolutely disease-free.
The concept of the restoration of all things means that the earth is not going to be destroyed, as so many today have been told. It was created for a purpose, and that purpose will be fulfilled. It was meant to house the Kingdom of God and be a kind of headquarters or beginning point for the Kingdom of God in the universe. The fire that is to come upon the earth will be the Holy Spirit's baptism that will cleanse the earth and bring all into harmony with the purposes of God. God will not fail in His purpose for creation. His word has gone forth, and it will not return to Him void.
How is Satan Reconciled?
Once we come to terms with the meaning of reconciliation, and see that it does not necessarily include resurrection, justification, or salvation, then we must ask ourselves if the early Church leaders went too far in their belief of universal salvation. Paul says of God in 1 Timothy 2:4 that "He desires [thelo, "wills"] all MEN to be saved," but he says nothing of dogs. Later in the same book, Paul tells Timothy in 4:10 that God"is the Savior of all MEN, especially of believers." 1 John 2:2 says that He "is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole WORLD." It is clear from these and many other statements that salvation is applicable to mankind and to the world of people. The term is never applied to animals, rocks and trees, or to Satan and fallen angels.
These are the Biblical tools by which you, the reader, may draw your own conclusion as to the fate of those other than mankind. Technically, the Bible is silent on this, but we suggest that if we define reconciliation beyond certain limits allowable by Scriptural context, we would be compelled to include dogs and mosquitoes in the plan of salvation, along with Satan and his hosts.
As for Satan or demons and devils, we do not believe that the kingdom of darkness and sin will forever co-exist with God and His Kingdom. In the end there will be nothing left that is not put in subjection to Christ. Either God will reconcile creation by ending their existence altogether, or He will reconcile them as a part of creation in whatever way He may see fit. History will not end with the universe divided between good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan, heaven and hell. This was the view of Persian Dualism, adopted by the Manichean sect in the third and fourth century A.D.
Unfortunately, the great Augustine had been a member of the Manichean sect for eight years prior to his conversion in 386 A.D. While he did renounce most of its beliefs, he never freed himself from the root belief that good and evil would co-exist in eternity, and that God would not truly reconcile all of creation to Himself. Thus, he saw history ending with all mankind separated into heaven or hell. Essentially, he rejected the truth stated plainly in Hebrews 2:8 and 9,
8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under His [Christ's] feet. For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to Him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him.
While one may argue the point one way or the other from a doctrinal position, we here in this book are concerned with the more practical and relevant question of whether all men or only a relatively small fraction of mankind shall be saved. We do not believe that evil must exist forever, for that is a doctrine of Persian Dualism, rather than of Christianity. At the end of time, one way or the other, the light of God's Kingdom will fill the entire universe, leaving no room for anything or anyone outside of God's dominion.