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Apocatastasis ( ) is a Greek word (ἀποκατάστασις) meaning either reconstitution or restitution or restoration to the original or primordial condition.



In Stoic philosophy, the cosmos is a physical expression of Zeus' perfect thoughts and apocatastasis is the contraction when Zeus returns to self-contemplation. This will occur when the stars and planets return to their original positions, believed to be an alignment with Cancer, and the universe will be consumed by fire (ekpyrosis). Antapocatastasis is a counter-example or a counter-occurrence when the stars and planets align with Capricorn and the universe will be destroyed by flood. When Zeus turns his thoughts outwards once more, the cosmos will be reborn or reconstituted under the guidance and sustenance of Logos, an emanation of Zeus.


In Gnostic writings, apocatastasis occurs when a soul, which is Divine Light trapped in evil matter, frees itself by attaining special knowledge or gnosis to rejoin the True God above all gods. Messengers of Light, of which Jesus Christ is an example, reveal the salvation that comes from finding the Kingdom of God within.The gnostic Gospel of Philip 180-350c contains the term itself and in other sayings expresses the idea that all comes from a common, eternal source: "Of what a nature is the resurrection! And the image must rise again through the image. The bridegroom and the image must enter through the image into the truth, which is the apocatastasis."


In Christianity, apocatastasis is the doctrine of the ultimate reconciliation of good and evil forces. Apocatastasis maintains that all mortal creatures angels, humans and devils will eventually come to a harmony in God's kingdom, the evil ones through repentance and rejection of evil.

The belief was first articulated by Clement of Alexandria (d. 215) and Origen of Alexandria (d. 254) and defended by Diodore of Tarsus. They adapted Platonic terminology and ideas to Christianity while explaining and differentiating the new faith from all the others. Proponents cited Biblical passage in 1 Corinthians 15:28 ("When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.") in support.

The view was also held by Gregory of Nyssa and possibly the Ambrosiaster, attributed to Ambrose of Milan. Gregory of Nazianzus discussed it without reaching a decision. Basil the Great (330-379), who opposed the doctrine, wrote that the majority of Christians believed it.

In 543, the Synod of Constantinople condemned Apocatastasis as being Anathema, and the Anathema was formally submitted to the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (553). Origen of Alexandria's other teachings about the possibility of glorified man falling again also played a role in that condemnation. The Anathema against apocatastasis, or more accurately, against the belief that hell is not eternal, was not ratified despite support from the Emperor, and it is absent from the Anathemas spoken against Origen at Constantinople II.

Apocatastasis almost disappeared from Christian thought despite some theologians such as Maximus the Confessor , Scotus Erigena , Amalric of Bena who continued to believe in the doctrine then generally considered heretical. The belief became more public during the Protestant Reformation when all Catholic doctrines and practices were called into question, most notably by the Anabaptist Hans Denck.

A form of this teaching was also taught by Herbert W. Armstrong and is a tenet of Armstrongism, teaching that God will raise the dead and later call everyone who was not called in this age and that nearly everyone will ultimately accept that calling.

A related belief is Universal reconciliation, which is the doctrine that all human beings will be saved from eternal damnation or annihilation in hell.

Apocatastatic themes in the Bible

Origen of Alexandria's extensive writings showed great familiarity with the body of literature that eventually became canonized at a council in Carthage in 387. The Bible, which contains multiple stories of apocatastatic fall from grace followed by redemption and restoration, formed the bedrock of his theology.

Latin Bible c.
These stories contain three key elements.
  1. The person or nation going through the cycle is fundamentally marked and changed by their experiences.
  2. There is a subtle current of inclusiveness that weave through these stories.
  3. The person or nation sometimes return to something glorious and mysterious. It is a homecoming but it's not a place that they have been before. These are seen in the Eschatological prophecies for Egypt and Assyria in Isaiah ( ), for Sodom in Ezekiel ( ) and for the entire world in Revelation ( ).

The word, apocatastasis, only appears once in the Bible in . Peter heals a handicapped beggar and then addresses the astonished onlookers. His sermon sets Jesus in the Jewish context, the fulfiller of the Abrahamic Covenant, and says, "He [Jesus] must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything (apocatastasis), as he promised long ago through his holy prophets."

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve fall into temptation and are then cursed and ejected from the Garden of Eden and from access to the Tree of Life.[48749] All of mankind live in exile, striving against God and against each other until the last book of the bible, Revelation, where a new heaven and a new earth and a New Jerusalem are revealed. The city is the new Eden with a river of life flowing through it. A tree of life stands on each side of the river and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. God will dwell with men there and He will call them His people. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes." [48750] The gates are always open. [48751]

Life of Jesus Christ

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [48752] The Second Person of the Trinity, the Logos or the Word, humbled himself and stepped into creation and was born a babe in Bethlehem. He grew up and revealed who God the Father is while teaching as an itinerant rabbi in Palestine. [48753] [48754] He was accused of sedition and blasphemy and was crucified; his death atoned for the sins of the world. He descended into hell where he proclaimed his triumph over sin and death. He rose again and ascended into heaven, taking all humanity with him to be seated with God in the heavenly realms so that he may show every person who believes in him the incomparable grace and kindness of his Father in the ages to come. [48755] [48756]

Nation of Israel

The story of Israel contains multiple stories of apocatastasis, with which believers in Apocatastasis offer as evidence that none can sin past redemption.

Leningrad Codex Carpet: Star of David inscribed with biblical verses extolling God
*Abraham is chosen out of all the people of Urmarker and promised a Land and a Nation. His grandson, Jacob (aka Israel) has 12 sons and they end up in Egypt, courtesy of one of the sons, Joseph. Centuries later, they are a numerous people but enslaved by the Egpytians. They are delivered by God with many signs and wonders. At Mount Sinaimarker, they receive the Law and at Mount Sinai, they make a golden calf and worship it. God declares He will destroy them and restart with Moses but Moses, in the footsteps of Abraham who prayed for Sodom, intercedes for them. At the point of entry into the Promised Land, they refuse to trust God and enter. They wander in a circle in the desert and return to the same point 40 years later. The new generation under Joshua enters the Promised Land.

*The people fall into multiple cycles of apostasy and idolatry, experience oppression from their enemies, and then repent for turning away from God. Each time they cry out to God, He raises up a Judge or Deliverer for the nation. The Judges are as varied as the situations: man, woman, hero, coward, saint, sinner, citizen, alien.

*The nation becomes a monarchy but the 4th king causes a civil war that splits the nation in two. Eventually, they are expelled from the Promised Land and taken as captives to Assyria or Babylon. But God promises to be with them and to bring them back. He also promises to put a new heart in them so that they will not backslide again. A remnant returns about seventy years later to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

Interwoven into these stories are horrific wrath and judgment. Quite frequently, anger is followed by mercy because of God's love for His people. "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" Isaiah 49:15 The Septuagint ends with an expectation of a Son of David, who is both priest and king, who will re-establish the kingdom and inaugurate a golden age.

City of Sodom

See main article: Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sodom was depicted as a very wicked place. When the holy presence of the Lord appeared in the center of the city in the form of three angels, the people decide to dominate and know Him in unholy ways and to make what is incomprehensibly pure fallen like them. The city is judged and destroyed by burning sulphur from the Lord. [48757] Jesus later said that if the signs being performed in Capernaum were done in Sodom, they would have repented, showing that God knew what would have brought the city to repentance. [48758] Ezekiel, in an Eschatological prophecy, said that God will restore Sodom and Samaria just as He will restore Jerusalem because He has made atonement for them. He calls these three cities sisters: Sodom, a wicked and completely destroyed place; Samaria, a center of apostasy and syncretism; and Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish nation and His dwelling place. [48759]

Egypt and Assyria

Egypt, a nation south of Israel and Assyria, a nation north of Israel, are two of Israel's greatest enemies. She was enslaved by one and conquered by the other. The Bible contains various judgments and maledictions against both. But in an Eschatological vision, Isaiah sees "a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together" and it is Israel's God that they will worship. "In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork and Israel my inheritance." [48760]

Paul's letter to the Romans

Paul of Tarsus by Bernardo Daddi c.
Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles but he had a great burden for his fellow Jew and would often preach at the local synagogue until he was thrown out. Then he would go preach to the Gentiles. His fellow Jews' rejection of Jesus caused him severe anguish which he expressed in this letter by saying that he wished he could be cursed and cut off if it would save his brothers. Then he recollects God declaring to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." Paul recognizes that the very distinctives of the nation: the Law, the Covenants, the long history with God, the Messianic prophecies, have made it more difficult for her to accept Jesus Christ as God and that salvation is by grace alone through faith in him. And that salvation is available to the entire world apart from the Law. He likened them to branches that were broken off an olive tree so that branches from a wild olive can be grafted on. Paul then rather suddenly and inexplicably states with absolute certainty that all Jews will be saved and he draws his letter to a close with a triumphal song praising the "depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!". [48761]

Parable of the prodigal son

Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son
The prodigal son liquidated his share of the family business and spent it on wild living in a distant country until he was reduced to keeping pigs for someone else. While he was desolate and starving, he realized he could go home and beg for a position as a hired hand in his father's house. As he was approaching his home, his father saw him and ran to kiss and embrace him. He said to his father that he was no longer worthy to be called his son but his father demonstrated he was still his father's son by placing the best robe on his shoulders, a signet ring on his finger and sandals on his feet and calling his people to celebrate the safe return of his lost son. [48762]


The kings of the earth are depicted as in league with the Whore of Babylon drunk on the maddening wine of her adulteries. [48763] They weep and mourn when she is finally thrown into the Lake of Fire. [48764] Then they gather on the plains of Megiddo with the Beast to fight the "King of kings and Lord of lords" and the armies of heaven in the final battle, Armageddon. They are defeated and the Beast and his False Prophet are thrown into the Lake of Fire. Those who followed them are slain with "the sword that came out of the mouth" of the Word of God which is probably symbolic of the Gospel or Truth. [48765] But in the last scene in New Jerusalem, where the gates are ever open, where the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations, the kings of the earth are expected to enter, bringing their splendour with them. [48766]

See also


  1. Strong's Greek Lexicon retrieved September 22, 2006
  2. Catholic Encyclopedia, Apocatastasis retrieved September 22, 2006
  3. Moore, Edward. "Origen of Alexandria and Apocatastasis: some notes on the development of a noble notion." Quodlibet: online journal of Christian Theology and Philosophy. Vol 5. Num. 1. January, 2003.
  4. Origen of Alexandria (185-254). The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved September 20, 2006.
  5. Catholic Encyclopedia, Gnosticism retrieved September 22, 2006
  6. The Gnostic Worldview: A Brief Summary of Gnosticism retrieved September 22, 2006
  7. Gnosticism and the Gnostic Jesus by Douglas Groothius, retrieved September 23, 2006
  8. Ludlow,, Morweena; Universal Salvation: Eschotology in the thought..., pg. 37
  9. Catholic Encyclopedia, Clement of Alexandria retrieved September 22, 2006
  10. Catholic Encyclopedia, Origin of Alexandria retrieved September 22, 2006
  11. The Bible: God's Inspired, Inerrant Word retrieved September 23, 2006

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