The Fathers on Universalism

Post by
Ambrose Andreano

The church fathers on universalism


Below are a list of patristic quotes related to the doctrine of universal restoration. To be clear: not all people listed are themselves explicit universalists, but rather the quotes will contain either references to the teaching, or an underdeveloped foundation (about the nature of God's relationship with man) upon which universalists have come to their conclusion.


Theophilus of Antioch
(AD 120 - 183)
"And God showed great kindness to man in this, that He did not suffer him to continue being in sin forever; but, as it were by a kind of banishment, cast him out of Paradise, in order that, having by punishment expiated within an appointed time the sin, and having been disciplined, he should afterward be recalled . Wherefore, also when man had been formed in this world, it is mystically written in Genesis as if he had been twice placed in Paradise; so that the one was fulfilled when he was placed there, and the second will be fulfilled after the resurrection and judgment. Nay, further just as a vessel, when on being fashioned it has some flaw, is remolded or remade, that it may become new and entire; so also it happens to man by death. For he is broken up by force, that in the resurrection he may be found whole, I mean spotless and righteous and immortal.And as to God's calling, and saying, Where are you, Adam? God did this, not as if ignorant of this; but, being long-suffering, He gave him an opportunity of repentance and confession."
-To Autolycus, 2.26.
Irenaeus of Lyons
(AD 130 - 200)
“Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some dare to assert, but because He pitied him and desired that he should not continue always a sinner, and that the sin which surrounded him should not be immortal, and the evil interminable and irremediable."
-Against Heresies 3.23.6.
Clement of Alexandria
(AD 150 - 215)
“The Lord is a propitiation not for our sins only but also for the whole world! Therefore He indeed saves all universally but some are converted by punishments, others by voluntary sub mission, thus obtaining the honor and dignity, that to Him 'every knee shall bow of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”
-Commentary on 1 John
"[St. Paul] teaches that the ultimate end is the restoration we hope for.”
-Stromata 2,22,134,4
“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.” He also said, “All men are Christ’s, some by knowing Him, the rest not yet. He is the Savior, not of some and the rest not. For how is He Savior and Lord, if not the Savior and Lord of all?” [Citation needed]
”He is in no respect whatever the ’cause of evil. For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe, both generally and particularly. It is then the function of the righteousness of salvation to improve everything as far as practicable. For even minor matters are arranged with a view to the salvation of that which is better, and for an abode suitable for people’s character. Now everything that is virtuous changes for the better; having as the proper cause of change the free choice of knowledge, which the soul has in its own power. But necessary corrections, through the goodness of the great overseeing Judge, both by the attendant angels, and by various acts of anticipative judgment, and by the perfect judgment, compel egregious sinners to repent.”
-Stromata VII 12.2-5.
“To Him is placed in subjection all the host of angels and gods; He, the paternal Word, exhibiting a the holy administration for Him who put [all] in subjection to Him. Wherefore also all men are His; some through knowledge, and others not yet so; and some as friends, some as faithful servants, some as servants merely" [...] either the Lord does not care for all men; and this is the case either because He is unable (which is not to be thought, for it would be a proof of weakness), or because He is unwilling, which is not the attribute of a good being. And He who for our sakes assumed flesh capable of suffering, is far from being luxuriously indolent. Or He does care for all, which is befitting for Him who has become Lord of all. For He is Saviour; not [the Saviour] of some, and of others not. But in proportion to the adaptation possessed by each, He has dispensed His beneficence both to Greeks and Barbarians, even to those of them that were predestinated, and in due time called, the faithful and elect. Nor can He who called all equally, and assigned special honours to those who have believed in a specially excellent way, ever envy any. Nor can He who is the Lord of all, and serves above all the will of the good and almighty Father, ever be hindered by another. But neither does envy touch the Lord, who without beginning was impassible; nor are the things of men such as to be envied by the Lord. But it is another, he whom passion hath touched, who envies. And it cannot be said that it is from ignorance that the Lord is not willing to save humanity, because He knows not how each one is to be cared for. For ignorance applies not to the God who, before the foundation of the world, was the counsellor of the Father. For He was the Wisdom “in which” the Sovereign God “delighted.” For the Son is the power of God, as being the Father’s most ancient Word before the production of all things, and His Wisdom. He is then properly called the Teacher of the beings formed by Him. Nor does He ever abandon care for men, by being drawn aside from pleasure, who, having assumed flesh, which by nature is susceptible of suffering, trained it to the condition of impassibility. And how is He Saviour and Lord, if not the Saviour and Lord of all? [...] God’s punishments are saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion, and choosing rather the repentance than the death of a sinner [...] But punishment does not avail to him who has sinned, to undo his sin, but that he may sin no more, and that no one else fall into the like. Therefore the good God corrects for these three causes: First, that he who is corrected may become better than his former self; then that those who are capable of being saved by examples may be driven back, being admonished; and thirdly, that he who is injured may not be readily despised, and be apt to receive injury. And there are two methods of correction—the instructive and the punitive, which we have called the disciplinary. It ought to be known, then, that those who fall into sin after baptism are those who are subjected to discipline; for the deeds done before are remitted, and those done after are purged.”
-Stromata VII.
Origen of Alexandria
(AD 185 - 254)
"But the remarks which might be made on this topic are neither to be made at all… [but] for the sake of those who are with difficulty restrained, even by fear of eternal punishment, from plunging into any degree of wickedness, and into the flood of evils which result from sin."
-Against Celsus 6:26
"There will be, then, an end and consummation of the world, when everyone shall be subjected to punishments on account of sins; this time, when he will render to each one what is deserved, is known to God alone. We think, indeed, that the goodness of God through Christ may recall his whole creation to one end, with even his enemies being overcome and subdued. For thus says holy Scripture, The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. And if what the prophetic language means here is less than clear to us, we may learn from the Apostle Paul, saying more openly that, For Christ must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. But if even that plain statement of the Apostle has not sufficiently informed us what is meant by enemies being placed under [his] feet, listen to him in what follows, For all things must be subjected to him. What then is this subjection by which all things must be made subject to Christ? I am of the opinion that it is the same subjection by which we also wish to be subject to him, by which the apostles, and all the saints who have followed Christ, were also subject to him. For the word subjection’, as to how we are subject to Christ, indicates the salvation, which is of Christ, of those who are subject; as David said, Shall not my soul be subject to God? For from him comes my salvation."
-On First Principles 1.6.1.
"But what John has said, namely that he is “the appeasement” or propitiation “for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the whole world,” [1 Jhn 2:2] appears to have introduced even greater mysteries for us. For he is making known that Jesus is the propitiator not only of believers and the faithful but also of the whole world; yet not first of the world and then of us, but first of us and only then of the whole world. For although the entire creation is awaiting the grace of the redeemer, [cf. Rom 8:9] nevertheless each one shall come to salvation in its own order. This, I think, is indicated as well in Leviticus when sacrifices of re-propitiation are commanded to be offered through the high priest." [cf. Lev 4:20]
-Commentary on Romans 3.8.13
"Nevertheless no matter how much a person may continue in sin, no matter how much he should hold out under the dominion and authority of death, I do not think that the kingdom of death is therefore of eternal duration in the same way as that of life and righteousness, especially when I hear from the Apostle that the last enemy, death, is going to be destroyed [cf. 1 Cor. 15:26]. And in fact, if the duration of the eternity of death is supposed to be the same as that of life, death will no longer be the contrary to life but its equal. For an eternal will not be contrary to an eternal, but identical. Now it is certain that death is contrary to life; therefore it is certain that if life is eternal, death cannot be eternal; whence also the resurrection of the dead necessarily takes place. For when the death of the soul, who is the last enemy, should be destroyed, likewise this common death, which, we have said to be like the shadow of the other one, shall necessarily be abolished. Logically, at that time room will be made for the resurrection of the dead, when the dominion of death has been destroyed equally with death."
-Commentary on Romans 5.7
"But he that despises the purification of the word of God and the doctrine of the Gospel only keeps himself for dreadful and penal purifications afterward ; that so the fire of hell may purge him in torments whom neither apostolical doctrine nor gospel preaching has cleansed , according to that which is written of being ' purified by fire . ' But how long this purification which is wrought out by penal fire shall endure , or for how many periods or ages it shall torment sinners , He only knows to whom all judgment is committed by the Father . ”
-Commentary on Romans 8.11
"But the words of God do not end with these: to uproot, demolish and destroy. For let what is bad be uprooted from me, the inferior demolished! If the superior was not planted before the others were uprooted, what does it matter to me? What does it matter to me if what is distinguished cannot be built up before these others? On account of this, first the words of God fulfill the need to uproot, demolish and destroy, then to build and to plant. In Scripture we always note that those acts which are “unpleasant-seeming,” as I will name them, are listed first, then those acts which seem gladdening are mentioned second. I will kill and I will make alive. He did not say, I will make alive and then I will kill. For it is impossible that what God has made to live would be taken away by himself or by someone else. But, I will kill and I will make alive. Whom will I kill? Paul the traitor, Paul the persecutor. And I will make alive so that he becomes Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ."
-Homilies on Jeremiah 1.16
"The end will be at the so-called apokatastasis, in that no one, then, will be left an enemy, if it is true that he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, while the last enemy will be radically eliminated: death.
-Commentary on John 1.16
"And all flesh will see God’s salvation" Once you were flesh. You who once were flesh-or rather, if I must say something more wonderful, who are still in the flesh-see "God's salvation." But what does Scripture mean when it says "all flesh?" That there is no flesh that is excepted so as not to see God’s salvation. I leave this to be understood by those who understand the mysteries of the scriptures, and can mine its veins.
-Homilies on Luke 22.5
Athanasius of Alexandria
(AD 296 - 393)
"Even among those who come third, in sum, in such a way as to redeem all human beings to salvation. To this intent He has prepared many mansions with the Father, so that although the dwelling-place is various in proportion to the advance in moral attainment, yet all of us are within the wall, and all of us enter within the same fence, the adversary being cast out, and all his host expelled thence.
-Festal Letter 10.4
"The totality of the peoples has entered so that every human be saved.”
-Festal Letter 27.24
"[Christ] wants the repentance and conversion of the human being rather in its death. In this way, evilness, all of it, will be burnt away from all humans.”
-Festal Letter 3.4-8
"During the reign of Christ [evildoers] will be cast into the fire of the world to come. Scripture calls ‘nations’ the iniquitous, because they do not live according to the law, but savagely, like pagans and barbarians. Of these people Scripture requires the exclusion, saying: ‘Go ruin’, and addressing them with a dreadful threat that these may revive, and those may correct themselves.”
-Exp. In Ps. PG 92
Didymus the Blind
(AD 313 - 398)
"When it is said that neither a legate nor an angel, but the Lord himself saved them, he saved them for no other reason than this: because he loved them and spared them. The phrase he spared them means that he spared his creatures, as we see in the passage written elsewhere: You spare all, O Lord the lover of souls, because they belong to you. For you do not hate what you have made. For this reason and for their salvation, the Father did not spare his own Son and handed him over to death, so that through his Son's death, after the destruction of the one who had the power of death (that is, the devil), he could redeem all who had been held by him in the chains of captivity. Hence it is added: He redeemed them and took them and raised them. For he took and raised those who had been saved and redeemed. He carried them to the heights on the wings of virtue through both knowledge and understanding of the truth. He dwells in them and with them, not for one or two days only, but for all the days of eternity. He bestows life upon them and is the author of salvation even to the consummation of the age. Enlightening their hearts for all the days of the age, he does not permit them to live in the darkness of ignorance and error. And this, I think, is the meaning of the passage: he raised them in all the days."
-On the Holy Spirit 209-211
Gregory Nazianzen
(AD 330 - 390)
"God will be “all in all” at the time of restoration […] God will be “all in all” when we are no longer what we are now, a multiplicity of impulses and emotions, with little or nothing of God in us, but are fully like God, with room for God and God alone. Paul himself guarantees us of this. What he predicates of “God” without further specification in this passage, he elsewhere assigns clearly to Christ. I quote, “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision, nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is “all in all.”
-Theological Orations
“These, if they will, may go our way, which indeed is Christ's: but if not, let them go their own way. In another place perhaps they shall be baptized with fire, that last baptism, which is not only very painful, but enduring also; which eats up, as if it were hay, all defiled matter, and consumes all vanity and vice."
-Theological Orations 39.19
"For I know a cleansing fire, which Christ came to send upon the earth, and he himself, anagogically speaking, is called fire. It destroys what is material and evil and he would kindle it quickly, for quickly would he do us good, since he even gives us coals of fire for our aid. I know also a fire which is not cleansing, but avenging; either that fire of Sodom which He pours down on all sinners, mingled with brimstone and storms, or that which is prepared for the Devil and his Angels or that which proceeds from the face of the Lord, and shall burn up his enemies round about; and one even more fearful still than these, the unquenchable fire which is ranged with the worm that dies not but is eternal for the wicked. For all these belong to the destroying power; though some may prefer even in this place to take a more merciful view of this fire, worthily of Him That chastises."
-Theological Orations 40.36
"[It is better] to be punished and cleansed now than to be handed over to the torment to come, which is a time of punishment not of cleansing ... for in Hades there is no confession or reformation for the dead. God has limited life and action to this world and scrutiny of it to the next."
-Theological Orations 16.7, cf. 40.6
"Condemnation that will never forgive [...] is evil, because it strangles by its severity."
-Theological Orations 39.18
"Novatus, you say, would not receive those who lapsed in the persecution. What do you mean by this? If they were unrepentant he was right; I too would refuse to receive those who either would not stoop at all or not sufficiently, and who would refuse to make their amendment counterbalance their sin; and when I do receive them, I will assign them their proper place; but if he refused those who wore themselves away with weeping, I will not imitate him. And why should Novatus's want of charity be a rule for me? He never punished covetousness, which is a second idolatry; but he condemned fornication as though he himself were not flesh and body. What say you? Are we convincing you by these words? Come and stand here on our side, that is, on the side of humanity. Let us magnify the Lord together. Let none of you, even though he has much confidence in himself, dare to say, Touch me not for I am pure, and who is so pure as I? Give us too a share in your brightness. But perhaps we are not convincing you? Then we will weep for you. Let these men then if they will, follow our way, which is Christ's way; but if they will not, let them go their own. Perhaps in it they will be baptized with Fire, in that last Baptism which is more painful and longer, which devours wood like grass, and consumes the stubble of every evil."
-Theological Orations 39.19
"We have [...] the Law, the Prophets and the very sufferings of Christ, through which we all—not merely one without the other—have been restored. We, who share in the same Adam and were deceived by the serpent and killed by sin, have been saved by the heavenly Adam [...]"
-Theological Orations 33.9
"[Partaking of the life to come will depend] on our good works in this life and universal restoration in the next.”
-Theological Orations 44.5
Basil of Caesarea
(AD 330 - 379)
"The peace given by the Lord extends to all eternity, since it knows neither limitations nor boundaries. For all the beings will submit to him, and all will recognize his power. And when God has come to be “all in all,” after those who created disorders with apostasies have been pacified, all will hymn to God in a symphony of peace."
-Elucidations of Isaiah 9.227
"Then he adds that his wrath does not yet go away, but his hand, raised, is still up there, because of those who in the people make others err and go astray themselves, that is, all the impious, the wicked, and those who say iniquitous things. The threat, however, in some way manifests the benefit: iniquity will burn like fire. For by the good Master, as a benefit toward human beings, it has been providentially arranged for the matter provided by iniquity to be doomed to disappearance. And—he says—it will be devoured by fire like dry darnel, and will be burnt out [...] if we put off sin by means of its acknowledgment, we shall transform it into dry darnel, worthy of being devoured by the purifying fire."
-Elucidations of Isaiah 10.544ab
“Perhaps, before the creation of the human being, a chance of repentance and conversion was left open for the devil, too, and his pride, although it was a more ancient illness, nevertheless could still be cured, if he had healed himself by means of repentance, and God could restore him to his original condition. However, after the creation of the world, the planting of the garden of Eden, the introduction of the human being in it, God’s commandment, the envy / hostility of the devil (to the human being) and the killing of the one who was held in honour, maybe the possibility itself of repentance was precluded to him.”
-Elucidations of Isaiah 14.280
Ambrose of Milan
(AD 340 - 397)
"Our Savior has appointed two kinds of resurrection in accordance with which John says in the Apocalypse, Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection, for such come to grace without the judgment. As for those who do not come to the first, but are reserved until the second resurrection, these shall be burnt until their appointed times, between the first and second resurrection; or if they should not have fulfilled them then, they shall remain still longer in punishment. "
-Commentary on Psalms 1.54.
Gregory of Nyssa
(AD 332 - 398)
"For it is needful that evil should some day be wholly and absolutely removed out of the circle of being [...] For in as much as it is not in the nature of evil to exist without the will, when every will comes to be in God, will not evil go on to absolute extinction, by reason of there being no receptacle of it left? [...] Therefore the Divine judgement does not as its chief object cause pain to those who have sinned, but works good alone by separating from evil, and drawing to a share in blessedness. But this severance of good from evil causes the pain (of the judgment). In other words, the penalty is the cure; it is merely the unavoidable pain attending the removal of the intruding element of sin.”
-On the Soul and Resurrection.
"If this (sin) be not cured here, its cure is postponed to a future life. As sure remedies for obstinate cases, so God announces His future judgment for the cure of the diseases of the soul, and that judgment uses threats to the lazy and vain [...] in order that, through fear, we may be trained to avoiding evil; but by those who are more intelligent, it (the judgment) is believed to be a medicine, a cure from God, who is bringing the creature, which he has formed, back to that state of grace which first existed.”
-Catechetical Orations, VIII.
“ Wherefore at the same time liberty of free will should be left to nature and yet the evil be purged away, the wisdom of God discovered, this plan to suffer man to do what he would, that having tasted the evil which he desired and learning by experience for what wretchedness he had bartered away the blessings he had, he might of his own will hasten back with desire to the first blessedness, either being purged in this life through prayer and discipline, or after his departure hence through the cleansing fire."
-Orationes pro Mortuis
“[…]after the evil of the [human] nature which is now mingled and united with it has been removed through long periods of time, when the restoration of those now lying dead in evil to the original state has come to pass, there will be a harmonious thanksgiving from all creation, even from those who needed no purification in the first place. The great mystery of the divine incarnation grants these and other such things. For through those things which were mingled with human nature – birth, rearing, growth, even to the extent of going through the experience of death – he accomplished all the aforementioned things, both freeing humanity from evil and healing even the originator of evil himself. For the purification of moral disease is the healing of illness, even if it is painful.”
-Catechetical Orations, 26.
“[God’s] end is one, and one only; it is this: when the complete whole of our race shall have been perfected from the first man to the last—some having at once in this life been cleansed from evil, others having afterwards in the necessary periods been healed by the Fire, others having in their life here been unconscious equally of good and of evil—to offer to every one of us participation in the blessings which are in Him, which, the Scripture tells us, ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,’ nor thought ever reached.”
-On the Soul and the Resurrection
"No being created by God will fall outside the Kingdom of God [...] No being will remain outside the number of the saved.”
-Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:28 (In Illud), 14, 21.
"I do not doubt that there will be one and the same race, made up by all, when all of us will constitute the one body of Christ, formed with one and the same stamp, when the image of God will shine forth in all to the same degree."
-The Dead Should Not Be Grieved (De mortuis non esse dolendum), 20.
Thanks to the union with one another, all will be joined in communion with the Good, in Jesus Christ Our Lord”
-Commentary on Song of Songs XV.
“When all that is evil has disappeared, “they will know”, says Scripture, “that God is the Lord of Jacob and of the ends of the earth.” Indeed, since there will be no evil left anywhere, the Lord will be the absolute sovereign of all the earth, after evil, which now reigns over most people, will have been wiped out.”
-Commentary on Psalm 59
“But the only-begotten Son of God himself resurrects the human being that is united to himself, by separating the soul from the body and then uniting them again. In this way, the common salvation of human nature is achieved. This is why he is also called the Initiator of Life. Indeed, the Only-Begotten God, by dying for us and rising again, has reconciled the universe to himself, ransoming by all means of his flesh and blood, as war prisoners, all of us who participate in him through a bond of blood.”
-Against Apollinarius, 154
“Again, [Paul] speaks of the subjection of all men to God, when we all, being united to one another by the faith, become one body of the Lord who is in all, as the subjection of the Son to the Father, when the adoration paid to the Son by all things with one accord, by things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, redounds to the glory of the Father; as Paul says elsewhere, “To Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” For when this takes places, the mighty wisdom of Paul affirms that the Son, who is in all, is subject to the Father by virtue of the subjection of those in whom He is.”
-Against Eunomius, Book II.
Jerome of Stridon
(AD 347 - 420)
"All of which nevertheless they allow should not now be openly told to those with whom fear yet acts as a motive, and who may be kept from sinning by the terror of punishment. But this question we ought to leave to the wisdom of God alone, whose judgments as well as mercies are by weight and measure, and who, well knows whom and how long, He ought to judge."
-Commentary on Isaiah 18.66.
Theodore of Mopsuestia
(AD 350 - 428)
"The wicked who have committed evil the whole period of their lives shall be punished till they learn that, by continuing in sin, they only continue in misery. And when, by this means, they shall have been brought to fear God, and to regard Him with good will, they shall obtain the enjoyment of His grace. For he never would have said, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing, unless we can be released from suffering after having suffered adequately for sin; nor would he have said, he shall be beaten with many stripes, and again, he shall be beaten with few stripes, unless the punishment to be endured for sin will have an end."
-Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis (1728) Tom. III.
Cyril of Alexandria
(AD 376-444)
"For having destroyed hell and opened the impassible gates for the departed spirits, he [Christ] left the devil there abandoned and lonely."
-Seventh Paschal Homily 2
"He showed the way to salvation not only to us, but also to the spirits in hell; having descended, he preached to those once disobedient, as Peter says. For it did not befit for love of man to be partial, but the manifestation of [this] gift should be extended to all nature…Having preached to the spirits in hell and having said “go forth” to the prisoners, and “show yourselves” to those in prison on the third day, he resurrected his temple and again opened to our nature the ascent to heaven, bringing himself to the Father as the beginning of humanity, pledging to those on earth the grace of communion in the spirit."
-Second Festal Letter 8.52-89
"Death unwilling to be defeated is defeated; corruption is transformed; unconquerable passion is destroyed. While hell, diseased with excessive insatiability and never satisfied with the dead, is taught, even if against its will, that which it could not learn previously. For it not only ceases to claim those who are still to fall [in the future], but also sets free those already captured, being subjected to splendid devastation by the power of our Savior….Having preached to the spirits in hell, once disobedient, he came out as conqueror by resurrecting his temple like a beginning of our hope and by showing to [our] nature the manner of the raising from the dead, and giving us along with it other blessings as well."
-Fifth Festal Letter I, 29-40
Maximus the Confessor
(AD 580 - 662)
Death is the last enemy to be destroyed” means whenever we, ourselves, submit the entire self-determining will to God, then the last enemy is also abolished. And it is called “death” since God is life, and that which is opposed to life is fittingly called death.
-Questions and Doubts 21
"This [image] may perhaps be the subjection of which Paul speaks when he describes the Son subjecting to the Father those who freely accept to be subjected to Him…on account of which, the last enemy, death, will be destroyed…henceforth [the will] has neither the inclination nor the ability to be carried elsewhere…it will become God by divinization…for in that state nothing will appear apart from God, nor will there be anything opposed to God that could entice our will to desire it, since all things intelligible and sensible will be enveloped in the ineffable manifestation and presence of God."
-Ambiguum 7.11-12
"The Godhead will really be all in all, embracing all and giving substance to all in itself, in that no being will have any movement separate from it and nobody will be deprived of its presence. Thanks to this presence, we will be, and will be called, gods and children, body and limbs, because we shall be restored to the perfection of God’s project."
"The “foundation” [in reference to a question about 1 Corinthians 3:12-15] is the faith of Christ. And one person builds as if it were gold upon it, that is, instruction in mystical theology; and, as if silver, the transparent life, and precious stones, pious thoughts; and wood, attachment to perceptible things; and hay, what feeds its own unreason; and straw, what works destruction. And in the case of those who have [engaged in] good deeds, the day of knowledge shows that it is by a fire, that is, by the spirit, that the revelation of these things has taken place. And in the case of sinners, the works are completely consumed while discernment renders conscience righteous and diminishes the sins through repentance and saves the human being; and he is responsible for the loss of time that has passed as a result of the neglect of the virtues. But also, in the future age, the works of sin give way to nothingness and nature saves its own powers by taking them through the fire of judgment."
-Questions and Doubts 159
"The third meaning [of apokatastasis] is used by Gregory especially in reference to the qualities of the soul that had been corrupted by sin and then are restored to their original state. Just as all nature will regain, at the expected time, its completeness in the flesh [at the resurrection], so also will the powers of the soul, by necessity, shed all imprints of evil clinging to them; and this after aeons have elapsed, after a long time of being driven about without rest [stasis]. And so in the end they reach God, who is without limitations. Thus they are restored to their original state through their knowledge [of God], but do not participate in [his] gifts. It also will appear that the Creator cannot be blamed for any sinfulness."
-Questions and Doubts 13
"[human nature will be bestowed] participation [not just knowledge] in absolutely eternal life, restoration of the human nature, which will return to harmony with itself in apatheia, [and] destruction of the law of sin."
-On the Lord’s Prayer 1.82
"And this [God’s creation of the universe] is because it is for the sake of Christ–that is, for the whole mystery of Christ–that all the ages and the beings existing within those ages received their beginning and end in Christ. For the union of the limit of the age and the limitlessness, of measure and immeasurability, of finitude and infinity, of Creator and creation, and of rest and motion, was conceived before the ages. This union has been manifested in Christ at the end of time, and through itself bestows fulfillment of God’s foreknowledge, so that creatures in motion by nature might find rest around that which is absolutely immovable by essence, departing completely from their movement toward themselves and each other, so that they might acquire by experience, an active knowledge of him in whom they were made worthy to find their stability, a knowledge which is unalterable and always the same, and which bestows upon them the enjoyment of the One they have come to know."
-Questions and Doubts 60.4
"[Christ’s crucifixion] effects the utter abolition of all unnatural qualities and movements that have added themselves to our natures owing to the disobedience, and restores all the original natural qualities and movements. In this apokatastasis, not even one of the logoi of creatures will be found falsified."
-Questions and Doubts
"[God] deigned to vary the modes of His presence so that the good things He planted in beings might ripen to full maturity, until all the ages will have reached their appointed limit. At that point He will gather together the fruits of His own sowing – unmixed with tares, and having not so much as even a trace of dust from any chaff – and the whole reason for the movement of things in motion will reach its completion.
-Ambiguum 46.4
"Christ destroyed our worse element, that is, the law of sin that comes from transgression…He saved the human beings who were kept prisoners by sin, paying in himself the price of our ransom, and even had them participate in divine power….He realized the complete salvation of all humanity, making his own all that our humanity is….He wanted to make me lord of the devil, who, by means of deception, lorded it over all like a tyrant….[T]hrough passible flesh he deifies the whole humanity, which had become earth by effect of corruption,….with a view to the perfect submission by which he will bring us to the Father after saving us and making us like himself by grace….This is the mystery of our salvation. "
-Ambiguum 4
"They [the prophets] researched and investigated that other time, by which I mean the age or aeon according to which divinization will be present in actuality to all, transforming all human beings into the divine likeness…”
-Questions and Doubts
"[On honorable silence universalism passages] It would have been possible to give this theme a more mystical and sublime interpretation. But because, as you know, the deeper secrets of the divine doctrines must not be committed to writing [notice that Origen says the same thing above], let the above be enough to satisfy those who seek a more detailed understanding of this question. When God grants us to come together again, we shall inquire assiduously into the apostolic mind regarding this question."
-Questions and Doubts 21.8
“We can for the moment refrain from commenting on these numbers, and God granting us the opportunity, undertake at some later time a detailed study of their hidden meaning [...] [God placed humanity] in the ranks of the heavenly powers thereby filling the void in each heavenly number by the salvation of humanity […] [Christ brought about] on his own the salvation of all."
-Ambiguum 31
Isaac of Nineveh
(AD 613 - 700)
"I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is sharper than any torment that can be. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of love works in two ways: it torments those who have played the fool, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability."
-Ascetical Homilies, I.28, p. 266.
"The entire purpose of our Lord’s death was not to redeem us from sins, or for any other reason, but solely in order that the world might become aware of the love which God has for creation. Had all this astounding affair taken place solely for the purpose of the forgiveness of sin, it would have been sufficient to redeem us by some other means."
-Chapters on Knowledge IV.28
"Sin, hell and death do not at all exist with God, for they are events, not persons [quoting Evagrius]. There will be a time when sin will not exist. Gehenna is the fruit of sin; it had a beginning in time, but its end is not known."
-Discourse I.26
"In love did He bring the world into existence; in love does He guide it during this its temporal existence; in love is He going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of Him who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised. And since in the New World the Creator's love rules over all rational nature, the wonder at His mysteries that will be revealed then will captivate to itself the intellect of rational beings whom He has created so that they might have delight in Him, whether they be evil or whether they be just. With this design did He bring them into existence, even though they, among themselves have made, after their coming into being, this distinction between the just and the wicked. Even though this is so, nevertheless in the Creator's design there is none, from among all who were created and who have come into being that is, every rational nature who is to the front or to the back of God's love. Rather, God has a single equal love which covers the whole extent of rational creation, all things whether visible or invisible: there is no first place or last place with Him in this love for any single one of them, as I have said [...] The Creator and His love did not change because they underwent change after He had brought them into being, nor does His purpose which exists eternally. And if it were otherwise, He would be subject to change just as created beings are a shocking idea [...] But we know that everyone is agreed on this, that there is no change, or any earlier and later intentions, with the Creator: there is no hatred or resentment in His nature, no greater or lesser place in His love, no before or after in His knowledge. For if it is believed by everyone that the creation came into existence as a result of the Creator's goodness and love, then we know that this original cause does not ever diminish or change in the Creator's nature as a result of the disordered course of creation."
-The Second Part, Chapter 38
"I am of the opinion that He is going to manifest some wonderful outcome, a matter of immense and ineffable compassion on the part of the glorious Creator, with respect to the ordering of this difficult matter of Gehenna's torment: out of it the wealth of His love and power and wisdom will become known all the more and so will the insistent might of the waves of His goodness. It is not the way of the compassionate Maker to create rational beings in order to deliver them over mercilessly to unending affliction in punishment for things of which He knew even before they were fashioned, being aware how they would turn out when He created them and whom nonetheless He created. All the more since the fore-planning of evil and the taking of vengeance are characteristics of the passions of created beings, and do not belong to the Creator. For all this characterizes people who do not know, or who are unaware of, what they are doing or thinking when something has happened with us human beings, for as a result of some matter that has occurred unexpectedly to them they are incited by the vehemence of anger to take vengeance. Such action does not belong to the Creator who, even before the cycle of the depiction of creation had been portrayed, knew of all that was before and all that was after in connection with the actions and intentions of rational beings."
-The Second Part, Chapter 39.6
"Accordingly we say that, even in the matter of the afflictions and sentence of Gehenna, there is some hidden mystery, whereby the wise Maker has taken as a starting point for its future outcome the wickedness of our actions and willfulness, using it as a way of bringing to perfection His dispensation wherein lies the teaching which makes wise, and the advantage beyond description, hidden from both angels and human beings, hidden too from those who are being chastised, whether they be demons or human beings, hidden for as long as the ordained period of time holds sway."
-The Second Part, Chapter 39.20
"Knowing them and all their conduct, the flow of His grace did not dry up from them: not even after they started living amid many evil deeds did He withhold His care for them, even for a moment. If someone says that He has put up with them here on earth in order that His patience may be known with the idea that He would punish them there mercilessly, such a person thinks in an unspeakably blasphemous way about God, due to his infantile way of thinking: he is removing from God His kindness, goodness and compassion, all the things because of which He truly bears with sinners and wicked men. Such a person is attributing to God enslavement to passion, supposing that He has not consented to their being chastised here, seeing that He has prepared them for a much greater misfortune, in exchange for a shortlived patience. Not only does such a person fail to attribute something praiseworthy to God, but he also calumniates Him."
-The Second Part, Chapter 39.2
That we should further say or think that the matter is not full of love and mingled with compassion would be an opinion full of blasphemy and insult to our Lord God. By saying that He will even hand us over to burning for the sake of sufferings, torment and all sorts of ills, we are attributing to the divine Nature an enmity towards the very rational beings which He created through grace; the same is true if we say that He acts or thinks with spite and with a vengeful purpose, as though He was avenging Himself [...] Among all His actions there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and the end of His dealings with us."
-The Second Part, Chapter 39.22
"Rather, everyone has a single place in His purpose in the ranking of love, corresponding to the form He beheld in them before He created them and all the rest of created things, that is, at the time before the eternal purpose for the delineation of the world was put into effect. ... God has a single ranking of complete and impassible love towards everyone, and He has a single caring concern for those who have fallen, just as much as for those who have not fallen [...] And it is clear that He does not abandon them the moment they fall, and that demons will not remain in their demonic state, and sinners will not remain in their sins; rather, He is going to bring them to a single equal state of completion in relationship to His own Being in a state in which the holy angels are now, in perfection of love and a passionless mind [...] No part belonging to any single one of (all) rational beings will be lost, as far as God is concerned, in the preparation of that supernal Kingdom which is prepared for all worlds."
-The Second Part, Chapter 40.3-4, 7

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