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The True Gospel According to Early Believers
RULE OF FAITH
SECOND CENTURY, AS RECORDED BY IRENAEUS:
". . .this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and
the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them; and in one Christ
Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the
Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation,
and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the
resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the
beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in
the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of
the whole human race. . ."
For the many Christians that may label me a "heretic" for teaching that God will save ALL mankind, it may come as a surprise that this is EXACTLY what the joyful, early Believers proclaimed and died for. Above is one of the earliest documents of our Faith from the Church Father- Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons. It was likely written around 170 AD which was a dangerous time for Christians. Here Irenaeus describes the True Faith given to him by God proclaiming that the WHOLE HUMAN RACE will be RAISED ANEW by Christ Jesus! Did this Believer who was persecuted for his faith not understand God's plan of salvation? Or perhaps are many of today's Christians ignorant to the Truth?
Today's believers must be honest and understand that the True Gospel has been tainted by carnal minds that came into the Church like wolves as was prophesied (Acts 20:29). During the first 400 years of Christendom, it was believed and taught by most of the Church Fathers that God will save ALL of mankind through Jesus Christ. Hell was NOT taught to be endless in duration, but a instrument of God to finally bring us to repentance and salvation. Remember that our God is a consuming Fire and that ALL will be salted with this Divine Fire. Jesus came to baptize (clean) us with Spirit and Fire. All that our Father does is for our GOOD. We must understand this like those first Believers did.
As history will show- when Constantine won Rome in 313 AD, he granted Christians the liberty to worship. Then Theodosius, the man who followed Constantine, made Christianity the STATE religion and it became "fashionable" to be a Christian. No longer was one persecuted for believing in Christ. Before this time, only those "called" to believe were accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only those born of God's Spirit could persevere the persecutions of that day. As it was though, many entered the Church SYSTEM, but never entered Christ- the True Church. The Gospel was never meant for those without the "ears to hear" it. Yet, countless numbers flooded into Christendom to be part of the movement and with them came all sorts of pagan beliefs. Some of these men gained power within Christendom and turned God's message of universal love into carnal judgment and wrath. Now Christians were no longer being persecuted, but rather, they were at times the administrators of heinous crimes of violence. Some Church leaders, in their unregenerate minds, created a god who reflected THEIR attitudes and heart- a god of endless wrath who lacked mercy. They also found it easier to control the morality of these carnally- minded flocks with the fear of endless hell. There was a conscious decision by some within Christendom to use FEAR to keep the masses in line AND to raise MONEY for the State Church system. This fact has been documented by history. The Dark Ages are called "dark" for an important reason!
Among some of the more influential men to do this was Augustine. He entered the Church system after the persecutions had stopped (386 AD). He was really the first Church leader who authorized the use of violence to "convert" so called pagans or heretics. Much could be said about this man, his background and his beliefs (which are contrary to even those who taught him about the Faith), but I would rather focus on the positive of what those before Augustine believed and died for. They carried a faith, hope and joy so strong that no matter what persecutions came their way, no man could take away their joy- a joy Augustine seemed void of.
One of the earliest Church Fathers of great influence was Origen who is believed to live from 185 AD to 251 AD when he died for his faith. His father, Leonides was also martyred in 201 AD. Both of these men died for a faith that they believed so strongly- it was the One True Faith in Christ. Origen was appointed head of the theological school in Alexandria at the age of 18. Origen carried the True Gospel that God is the Savior of ALL men, especially of those who believe (1 Tim 4:10). It should be noted that this school in Alexandria continued to teach Universal Salvation after Origen left as did other major schools of the day. He was considered a brilliant man full of compassion and understanding. Most of Origen's writings have been lost or destroyed, but enough still remains to show that this man called of God believed in Universal Salvation of mankind and the RESTORATION of ALL THINGS- (apokatastasis ton panton). He believed that God was to be ALL in ALL as is promised (1 COR 15:28). Here are few statements from this man of True Faith:
"We assert that the Word, who is the Wisdom of God, shall bring together all intelligent creatures, and convert them into his own perfection, through the instrumentality of their free will and of their own exertions. The Word is more powerful than all the diseases of the soul, and he applies his remedies to each one according to the pleasure of God--for the name of God is to be invoked by all, so that all shall serve him with one consent." Origen
Concerning the punishment and fire of God, Origen says this:
"When the soul has gathered together a multitude of evil works, and an abundance of sins against itself, at a suitable time all that assembly of evils boils up to punishment, and is set on fire to chastisement," ...."the evil has to be burned out by fire, how much more is it to be understood that God our Physician, desiring to remove the defects of our souls, should apply the punishment of fire." Origen
Origen believed that God used a spiritual fire to correct and to purify which is in total harmony with His Purpose in Christ. Origen understood that Christ must break His enemies and make them submissive, but this was also to restore them.
"The Son 'breaking in pieces His enemies' is for the sake of remoulding them." Origen
In 249 AD, Origen was arrested, tortured and died in 251 AD. While in prison, he was known by his constant theme, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." While some may label this man a heretic, most honest Christian writers consider him one the greatest Christian leaders ever. Here is what J.W. Hanson said about Origen:
This greatest of all Christian apologists and exegetes, and the first man in Christendom since Paul, was a distinctive Universalist. He could not have misunderstood or misrepresented the teachings of his Master. The language of the New Testament was his mother tongue. He derived the teachings of Christ from Christ himself in a direct line through his teacher Clement; and he placed the defense of Christianity on Universalistic grounds. When Celsus, in his "True Discourse," the first great assault on Christianity, objected to Christianity on the ground that it taught punishment by fire, Origen replied that the threatened fire possessed a disciplinary, purifying quality that will consume in the sinner whatever evil material it can find to consume. Hanson
Next, I would like to consider the man that helped lead Augustine into Christianity. Although Augustine was reluctant to enter Christendom, he finally declared that he had been "converted" under Ambrose in 386 AD. Interesting thing though, Augustine did not keep the faith of Ambrose, but blended many of his ingrained pagan beliefs into his understanding. Ambrose, on the other hand, held a similar view of punishment as that of Origen.
"There is unavoidable pain attending the removal of intruding sin. If this sin is not cured here, it is postponed to a future life. God's future judgment is the cure for the disease." "Our Lord both delivers man from evil and heals the inventor of evil himself." "God gave death, not as a penalty, but as a remedy....death was given as a remedy as the end of all evils." Ambrose (390 A.D.)
Ambrose believed that God would reconcile all things including "the inventor of evil." As we touched on earlier, Augustine did not hold these beliefs. He had a much darker picture of God and punishment. He believed in the "predestination of the wicked" in which God had already decided who was going to heaven and hell. Augustine believed that "Good" and "Evil" were to be separated from each other, but that death, sin, rebellion and EVIL were to never end- a perpetual dualism where the devil has gained a vast army of followers and God has claimed only a few "chosen" ones. Augustine even believed that "unbaptized babies" were to be sent to hell FOREVER with never a chance to accept Christ. Many Christians don't know that they blindly accept many of his and other wolves' deluded doctrines on hell. Even though Augustine had this grim picture of Christ's victory, he acknowledged that most Christians during his day DID BELIEVE in Universal Salvation and an end to punishment.
"The majority of believers compassionate the eternal punishment of the damned and believe that it will not take place." Augustine (395 A.D.)
Augustine was promoting something MOST Christians did not believe. Instead, he was leading a new movement toward hatred and darkness. His vision was one of fear, pain and endless banishment from God's love. And this is exactly how he treated many who opposed him. It would do many Christians well to look into this man's beliefs, works and doctrines BEFORE they blindly accept his teachings.
Here are several other quotes from prominent leaders within Christendom who believed and/or taught Universal Salvation. Most of these men lived before Augustine and were martyred for Christ.
"All men are Christ's, some by knowing Him, the others not yet." "He by the Father's will directs the salvation of all." Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D.)
"He saves ALL universally, but some are converted by punishment, others by voluntary submission." Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D.)
"We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer: to redeem, to rescue, to discipline, in his work, and so will he continue to operate after this life." "All men are his...for either the Lord does not care for all men...or he does care for all. For He is saviour; not of some, and of others not...and how is He saviour and Lord, if not the saviour and Lord of all? For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe both generally and particularly." Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D.)
"Mankind, being reclaimed from their sins..are to be subjected to Christ in the fullness of the dispensation instituted for the salvation of all." Didymus (380 A.D.)
"Everything shall be subdued to Christ, and they shall be subdued by a full knowledge of Him and by a remodeling" Gregory of Nyssa (330-384 A.D.)
"All punishments are means of purification, ordained by Divine Love to purge rational beings from moral evil and to restore them back to communion with God...God would not have permitted the experience of hell unless He had foreseen through redemption, that all rational beings would, in the end, attain to the same blessed fellowship with Himself." Gregory of Nyssa (330-384 A.D.)
"So in the restitution of all things, when the true physician, Jesus Christ, shall have come to heal the body of the whole church, every one shall receive his proper place".... "The fallen angel will begin to be that which he was created, and man, who has been expelled from Paradise, will be once more restored to the tilling of Paradise. These things, then, will take place universally." Jerome (370 A.D.)
The Lord descended to the place of torment and punishment in which was the rich man, in order to liberate the prisoners." "ALL God's enemies shall perish- not that they shall cease to exist, but that they shall cease to be enemies." Jerome (370 A.D.)
"The Lord, the Lover of men, torments us ONLY to cure us; that He may put a stop the course of our iniquity." Theodoret (423 A.D.)
This article has only shown a SMALL fraction of the historical evidence showing that the earliest believers, called by God, completely trusted in God saving the entire world. I have no doubt that this Great Truth will be seen by all in due time as they are drawn to God in Christ. This true and original Gospel will be resurrected as surely as our Savior Himself was! If any desire to read more of these men's accounts, I suggest a book by J.W. Hanson called, Universalism, The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years. It is where I found some of these quotes and offers much greater detail. It can be viewed or downloaded for free at this address: http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Prevailing.html
Another book I used as a source that is full of proof (hundreds of quotes) that universal salvation was taught by our Church Fathers is Christ Triumphant by Thomas Allin and is available from Concordant Publishing Concern. It can be ordered from their site: http://www.concordant.org
I hope that all truth-seekers will consider that vast amount of historical and Scriptural evidence supporting Universal Salvation. But more than this, I hope that God sends the Spirit of Truth into everyone's heart so that they may come to know God's higher glory and love planned in Jesus Christ. Then after God places this in your heart, I pray that you will grasp on with a trusting abandon while letting go of carnal traditions and vain imaginings of men that lead to death. Christ is the Light that lights EVERY man. May His Light be revealed in us and His glory shine!
His Peace and Understanding be with you,
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