Apokatastasis, “universal restoration” (Revelation 3:20-21)

Richard Rohr about the process of Divinization (Center for Action and Contemplation)

The human soul is being gradually readied so that actual espousal and partnership with the Divine are the final result. It’s all moving toward a final marriage between God and creation. Note that such salvation is a social and cosmic concept, and not just about isolated individuals “going to heaven.” The Church was meant to be the group that first brings this corporate salvation to conscious and visible possibility.

But how could such divine espousals really be God’s plan? Isn’t this just poetic exaggeration? If this is the agenda, why were most of us presented with an angry deity who needed to be placated and controlled? And why would God even want to “marry” God’s creation? If you think I am stretching it here, look for all the times Jesus uses a wedding banquet as his image for eternity, and how he loves to call himself “the bridegroom” (Mark 2:19-20). Why would he choose such metaphors? The very daring, seemingly impossible idea of union with God is still something we’re so afraid of that most of us won’t allow ourselves to think it, especially in garden variety religion.  Only God in you will allow you to imagine such a possibility, which is precisely “the Holy Spirit planted in your heart” (Romans 8:11 and throughout Paul).

The Eastern Fathers of the Church were not afraid of this belief, and called it the process of “divinization” (theosis). In fact, they saw it as the whole point of the Incarnation and the precise meaning of salvation. The much more practical and rational church in the West seldom used the word; it was just too daring for us, despite the rather direct teachings from Peter (1 Peter 1:4-5 and 2 Peter 1:4) and  John’s Gospel being quite clear about it: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:20-21). Jesus came to give us the courage to trust and allow our inherent union with God, and he modeled it for us in this world. Union is not merely a place we go to later—if we are good.

Paul makes use of the almost physical language of shared embodiment in his single most used phrase “en Christo.” Further Paul offers us the most beautiful teaching on the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), which takes the form of a meal so we can be reminded frequently of our core identity (1 Corinthians 11:17-26). As Augustine said, “We are what we eat! We are what we drink!” Thus I am quite Catholic and conservative in my belief in very “Real Presence” in the bread and wine, otherwise the Eucharist is just a child’s pretend tea party. Transformation must be real for persons, for creation, for all that lives and dies. This is summed up in the literal act and metaphor of humans digesting simple elements that grow from the earth. This is perfect and supreme Wholism.

At the end, what more fitting conclusion could the “Second Coming of Christ” be if not that humanity becomes “a beautiful bride all dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2), with Jesus the perfect stand-in for the Divine Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15, John 3:29)? Rather than denying evolution, Christians should have paved the way and offered a positive image for the end of the world. Instead we largely emphasized the threatening language of Armageddon and Apocalypse.

Divine union will be finally allowed and enjoyed, despite our human history of resistance and denial. When God wins, God wins! God knows how to do victory. God does not lose. The Day of YHWH will indeed be the Day of YHWH, or what Dame Julian called “The Great Deed” that would come at the end of history.Apokatastasis, or “universal restoration” (Revelation 3:20-21), has been promised to us as the real message of the Cosmic Christ, the Alpha and the Omega of all history (Revelation 1:4, 21:6, 22:13). It will be a win/win for God—and surely for humanity! [1] What else would a divine victory be? Surely not an admission that 99% of creation was futile and lost.

The clear goal and direction of the biblical revelation is toward a full mutual indwelling. The movement toward union began with God walking in the garden with naked Adam and Eve and “all the array” of creation” (Genesis 2:1); it continued through inspiration of prophets, teachers, and “secular” history throughout the Jewish Bible. The theme found its shocking climax in the realization that “the mystery is Christ within you, your hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). As John excitedly puts it, “You know him because he is with you and he is in you!” (John 14:17). The eternal mystery of incarnation will have finally met its mark, and “the marriage feast of the Lamb will begin” (Revelation 19:7-9). History is no longer meaningless and largely a failure, but has a promised and positive direction. This creates very healthy, happy, hopeful, and generative people; and we surely need some now. All I know for sure is that a good God creates and continues to create an ever good world.

Gateway to Silence:
“The physical structure of the universe is love.” —Teilhard de Chardin

References:
[1] For more on universal restoration, see David Burnfield, Patristic Universalism: An Alternative to the Traditional View of Divine Judgment (Universal Publishers: 2013). Christians deserve to know how many Fathers of the early Church, particularly in the East, understood cosmic salvation to be the whole point. This is just one more recent and well sourced example of a rediscovered theme in the Christian world.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, New Great Themes of Scripture (Franciscan Media: 1999), disc 1 (CD);
and Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 212.

https://cac.org/divinization-2016-03-04/

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