Origin, one of the early church theologians was one of the strongest
advocates of the doctrine of apokatastasis.
This was the belief that the wicked suffer an internal anguish because
of their separation from God.
Its purpose was for purification, and the punishment would have an end
when all was restored.
This was in contrast to the more severe doctrine of eternal punishment.
Through the centuries, this apokatastisis ( or restoration of all
things ) has been the most popular theory of universal salvation.
2. Universal Opportunity:
This is the belief that every person is given the opportunity during
their lifetime to respond to God. All men whether they hear the gospel
of Jesus Christ or not will have the opportunity to respond to general
revelation, (Psalm 19, Romans 1). According to this view, those who are
saved through this general revelation are like the Athenians who
worshipped the unknown God, (Acts 17:23).
3. Universal Explicit Opportunity:
This is the belief that everyone will have an opportunity to hear and
respond to the gospel
either in this life or in the one to come.
4. Universal Atonement:
This is the belief that Jesus died to save all humankind.
None of these beliefs by themselves necessarily lead to absolute
However, all of these theories, when construed together with additional
assumptions can lead to a universal salvation.
5. Universal Reconciliation:
The death of Christ on the cross accomplished the reconciliation of all
humankind to God.
Separation between man and God is an illusion existing only in the mind
of man. Man needs to be told that he has been reconciled and saved. "
All things are of God who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus
Christ", (2 Corinthians 5:18).
A variation on this posits that the enmity is
not just on man's side, but was also on God's side, and the
reconciliation is two way. The cross, therefore deals with God's anger
toward man as well as man's enmity toward God. This is typically an
evangelical view of reconciliation, but is also adopted by some
6. Universal Pardon:
This view suggests that God will repent or relent on the threatened
eternal punishment, and in the end forgive. He will impute faith and
righteousness to all humankind.
The story of Jonah gives an example of God choosing to forgive even
though punishment was promised.
7. Universal Restoration:
Again, this is the view of Origen, and apparently much of the early
Generally, after a period of punishment, creation is restored to its
After purification and punishment man is restored to fellowship with
Most Universalists use a combination of these theories together with
assumptions to arrive at a Universal Salvation.
Others mix them all together to come up with a comprehensive Inclusive
and Universalist theology.
I tend to fit into the latter category. While primarily a believer in
Universal Restoration in the sense that punishment after death is
allowed for, I also believe in Universal Conversion. This
differentiates me from those who might believe in any purgatorial
function of punishment. Though accepting the role of punishment as
correction to bring the unbeliever to the place of submission, I tend
not to think of this punishment as a process of purification.
Restoration comes with faith in Christ and conversion.
With the Arminians and mild Calvinists I view the death of Christ as
for all humankind.
However, rather than seeing Christ's death as merely providing an
opportunity to accept Christ, I see the power of the resurrection as
effective in bringing all into subjection.
I believe in in a Universal Explicit Opportunity being presented to all
humankind to accept Christ. This allows for conversion after death.
This is an assumption that is accepted
as strongly suggested within scripture, even if not explicitly stated,
(1 Peter 3:19, 4:6).
That Universal Reconciliation is presented within scripture seems
undeniable. How I understand this reconciliation is not dogmatic.
Within the New Testament, I tend to see the alienation and enmity as
being primarily on the side of man, rather than on the side of God. Man
is the one who needs to be reconciled to God. However, I understand and
have regard for those who see the the cross as pacifying and
reconciling an angry God to man as well. This is reasonable. However,
while recognizing God's hatred of sin, I certainly do not see God as
being so bitter and angry, that he could consign anyone to unending
torments. Such a reconciliation of all things, provides the way
to Heaven for all to come in, opening the door for a Universal Pardon.
God having justified the ungodly in this way is attractive. Some
universalists see this pardon as unilaterally bestowed by God with or
without a response from man. This is an accomplished reality in the
mind of God. Despite the unconditional nature of this New Covenant, I
tend to see God as working a positive response within man as a
necessary part to the fulfillment of God's purposes.
As to the theory of Universal Opportunity for salvation,
through general revelation, I am less convinced, but attempt to keep an
open mind. Creation does testify of a creator. However, the scriptures
are clear that no one comes to God except through Christ. Nevertheless,
it does seem that the gentiles now have access to God by prayer through
the Christ Spirit whether they know Christ or not. (Ephesians 2:18,
Acts 10:1-4). The wall of partition is torn down.
All men live and move and have their being in Christ (Acts 17:23). He
is all, and in all, (Colossians 3:11). To know God is eternal life,
(John 17:3). Access to God is certainly one vital aspect of our
salvation. In what sense this access to God can be considered to be
salvation for the God fearing is ambiguous. However, What this does do
is allow for is a more inclusive attitude toward our fellow man. They
are certainly not excluded by God. Will not the Judge of all the earth
do right? Surely, we can do the same.
* "The Extent of Salvation" from Christian Theology by Millard J.
Erikson. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids House, 1985. Pages