Over the past several years, I have been asked more frequently if I am a Believer in The Restitution Of All Things
TROAT, I call it.
I know…the what of all what?
In addition, several people - even while attending a national House Church conference last year – either asked me if I had read, or literally handed me a copy of, a book entitled, “Hope Beyond Hell.” Frankly, it’s a fascinating read that I believe ALL Christians - including ministers who may disagree with its message – should read. Trust me, folks in your congregation WILL read it and ask you about it. You should become familiar with its message. It’s being offered at NO COST on the website.
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, “RESTITUTION” is defined as “an act of restoring or a condition of being restored: a restoration of something to its rightful owner.”
In other words, those who have embraced TROAT as a Biblical concept seem to believe that everyone will be saved eventually, in this life or on the world to come.
The line of thinking is that we ALL came from God and will return to Him, based on Romans 11:36 (AMP), “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. [For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.] To Him be glory forever! Amen (so be it).”
Is that too weird for you? How’d I miss that verse? It was for me, too, even though I have been teaching for years that our existence in these earth suits we call our skin is not “IT” for us.
When did mankind ever start believing he was separated from God? Ever wonder about that? How could anyone ever be separated from the One who is Omnipresence itself...? Was this a human concept -based upon our own shame and fear - that made us think we were separated from the very One whose life is IN us?
Colossians 1:21-22 reminds us, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight…”
Have you noticed that all of the teachings of Jesus and the other New Testament writers focused on this life, and not on life after death? It's life “before” death that Jesus focuses on. When we think He's talking about Heaven, He's really talking about life under this New and Better Covenant, something He referred to as the “Kingdom of Heaven/God.”
TROAT teaching claims that Jesus was, and is, well-able to seek and to save that which was lost, even preaching to those who are already dead. I wondered about that myself which caused me to break down some verses that orthodox theology has been skirting for centuries. Take a look:
John 5:25, "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."
1 Peter 3:19 "in which also He went and preached the Gospel to the spirits now in prison.”
1 Peter 4:6 "For the Gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God."
The believers in TROAT contend that the judgment and punishment of God are remedial, corrective, cleansing and purgative and will last long enough to accomplish that purpose. In other words, it’s that “turn up the flame until the dross floats to the top, revealing pure gold or silver” mindset, one that most Christians already seem to embrace. (Speaking of flames, the Greek word for “fire” is “pur” as in purify, purgatory, and has nothing to do with burning to cinders. Just a thought.)
Right here, I can’t help but envison a bare-chested pagan in a grass skirt, bone through his nose, terror in his eyes, fearing that he somehow “made the volcano god mad.” Now the god will destroy my crops! What did I do to separate myself from him? Is an “act of God” forthccoming? Am I to be punished?
The Jews of long ago lived alongside such pagan thought. It rubbed off!
One proponent of TROAT is Richard Wayne Garganta who said, “If this teaching is studied with an open mind it is my belief that, even if one chooses not to accept it, they will have to admit that this teaching certainly has a strong scriptural and historical basis and, for those reasons, should not be considered heretical.”
Personally, I believe that all men need to be saved and the only way to salvation is through the sacrifical blood of Jesus Christ. In order to be saved, every man must repent and acknowledge this truth which is Christ Himself, the One who said, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the Life.” Their encounter is with HIM, not with a repeated prayer, a ritual, church membership, but the surrender of a life to His ownership. I do NOT believe that we are free to sin our way into Heaven nor should we teach that anyone can live any way they please without experiencing judgment. God is not mocked; we will reap as we sow. There WILL be consequences. We DO live a seedtime-to-harvest existence.
Will that opportunity to “accept Christ” disappear the moment a heart ceases to beat? TROAT affiliates don’t appear to believe so.
With a TROAT mindset, it’s logical to ask if even Adolf Hitler will be saved? I must admit, these days, I find that to be a strange question considering we don’t seem to have any problem believing that Adam and Eve were saved – the ones responsible for every depraved and deviant human being who ever lived - including Hitler, don’t you agree? Why do we always attempt to humanize God by seeing things through the prism of our own emotions, concepts and experiences?
Are you still with me? Are we tracking? Does this discussion resonate with you, deep down, or does the very possibility of its truth make your heart race?
Can you wrap your mind around the concept of our interconnectedness? This TROAT concept contends that, since there IS only One Body of Christ, the very Spirit of God IS our source of life – one Spirit, connecting us with God – manifested into ALL humanity. Gosh, I was taught and have believed that way for decades as I went from Cathoicism to the Church of Christ, Charismatic to Baptist to Simple Church. Those with whom I fellowshipped seemed to believe likewise.
We were raised – programmed - to believe in the sovereignty of man's will. This common line of thinking is nothing short of humanism, if you ask me, a former New Ager. Generally, we give little credence to the sovereignty of God's will. It appears too few of us in The Church really seem to believe in the existence of that which we espouse.
Not unlike our treatment of a literal place called “Hell,” for example. We give the topic a great deal of lip service, rarely asking questions such as:
“Why isn’t the word “hell” in the original language of the New Testament and can’t be found in the Old Testament either?”
“Why, if we REALLY believed in the traditional concept of a fiery Hell that burns forever, do we continue to have children of whom, odds are, some might wind up there?” (Gosh, if we REALLY believed in the endless torment of Hell, we might even see abortion as an act of mercy! I’m just sayin’…)
There are MANY more “Hell-related questions most Christians dare not ask out loud. Yet we persist on teaching or instilling fear into people by way of something many don’t really believe in.
So, what’s this all about? Let’s insist upon an answer, folks.
But I digress.
As I studied this subject of TROAT, like anybody else, I needed some proof texts. Here was the first one to pique my interest. There are many more:
Luke 3:6 (AMP), “And all mankind shall see (behold and understand and at last acknowledge) the salvation of God (the deliverance from eternal death decreed by God).”
That sounds like God’s sovereign will to me, regardless of me thinking I’m a free moral agent.
ATTACK OF THE SHACK
After reading William P. Young’s best-seller, “The Shack” – a book he wrote as a Christmas present for his kids but was unable to afford to print until AFTER December 25th - the following verse took on a new meaning for multitudes (nearly 14 MILLION have bought the book; my wife bought many copies and gave them away). Second Corinthians 5:19-21, "And He gave us the ministry of reconciliation and here is what we are to tell everyone: God was in Christ reconciling and restoring the world to Himself by not counting their trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the word of reconciliation and restoration of the divine favor of God. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ and God is making His appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be a sin offering on our behalf so that, in Christ, we might become the righteousness of God."
Many who would NEVER have considered themselves “soul-winners” in the traditional evangelical sense DID recommend The Shack to others.
William P. Young “gets it.”
Many who read the book “got it,” too.
Others discouraged the reading of the book.
SOME VERSES I ONCE STRUGGLED WITH…
1) It always bothered me that Jesus told the Pharisees, “The Kingdom of God is within you,” Luke 17:21. Didn’t He realize He was addressing His future conspirators?
2) In addition, it bothered me that Paul addresses a bunch of pagans in this way: “He has made of one blood, all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” Acts 17:26.
In Acts 17:28, he said, “ in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'
What do YOU think about what Paul said here? Think, people, think!
3) In Malachi 2:10, we read: “Have we not all one Father? Hasn’t God created us?”
As a Workplace Chaplain, I have often stated at the Bible Studies consisting of denominationally “mixed” groups, “We all have the same Father.” That comment is ALWAYS met with enthusiastic agreement.
4) By using three words – above, through and in (Greek: epi, dia, en) - Paul expressed the universal scope and power of God in all our lives.
In Ephesians 3:14-15, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
Ephesians 4:6, “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
Are you getting this? God appears, ultimately, to have His way with His family. Have you ever studied this out before? It is NOT common Sunday morning fare for most denominations, that’s for sure. We must have skipped this stuff in Bible College. Yet, for those who claim to be followers of “The Word” – believing everything including the maps – the question begging to be answered is, “Does that include this TROAT stuff, too?”
Do ALL souls belong to God? His inspired Word seems to tell us God is the God of the spirits of ALL men – and the spirits of ALL men ultimately return to Him.
Several verses seem to state that as fact:
1) Ezekiel 18:4: “Behold, all souls are mine says the Lord. As the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine.”
2) Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us, "then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."
3) Finally, the Lord is referred to as“…the God of the spirits of ALL flesh...” in Numbers 27:16 and 16:22.
There are two kinds of people who might respond to this message:
1) Those who will recoil at the very thought of this outside-the-box thinking, or label TROAT as “universalism” or “New Age” so they can catergorize it in their minds, perhaps even engaging in proof-text pugilism. WARNING: I do NOT wish to debate anyone on this issue and will not even read anything that smacks of that type of response. Neither of us need the aggravation. So, don’t waste your time (or mine). I am already CERTAIN that TROAT will hit a nerve with some Christians who are certain to manifest in negative ways.
2) Others will find themselves saying that they had always wondered about the same things but didn’t know who to ask. Others may have been unceremoniously asked to leave a church because of such “heresy” and you need healing and friendship. Some may wish to know more about this subject. If that desribes you, just ask.