Reconciling all things/the world unto himself?
God brings the new world into existence by sending his son into the old world to transform it or reconcile it. God has done his part by coming in the person of Jesus Christ who died for the whole world, and now we are asked to be reconciled to him through believing in him.
The Bible says in 2 Cor. 5:19 that God was in Christ “reconciling the world unto himself”. What does this mean? The meaning of this reconciliation is actually explained in the very same sentence. It means (in reference to “the world”) “not imputing their trespasses unto them” because he “hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation”.
2 Cor. 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Reconcile, from the Greek verb καταλλάσσω (katallassó, Strong’s 2644), also meaning change or exchange. It is used 6 times in the KJV. Blueletterbible provides the example of two parties reconcile when coming (“changing”) to the same position.
When did this reconciliation occur? It occurred when Jesus died on the cross – so past tense. Thanks to Jesus death on the cross, he provided the means for us to be totally cleansed from our sins. This offer was not provided to only a part of the world, but all of the world can benefit from Jesus sacrifice on the cross because he died for the whole world. God does not want anyone to perish … However, the requirement is faith and repentance, or else our sins will not be forgiven.
In the Old Testament we can read about the temporary Jewish animal sacrifice system but this was just a temporary law and a foreshadow of what was to come. In Lev. 16:20 we can read about the reconciliation that Aaron performed among the people of Israel by means of animal sin offerings, and particularly the scapegoat (a picture of Jesus Christ) who ran off into the wilderness with the sins of the people symbolically on its head. (Note about the atonement that Jesus Christ came to remove our sins rather than paying for our sins – but it is still possible to say that Jesus “paid a big price” since he gave up his life for our sake.) It is important to understand that 1) this type of sin offering and cleansing was temporary and needed to be repeated, 2) the people of Israel did not become cleansed from their sins with no participation of their own. The people were also required to REPENT from their sins, or else Aaron’s rituals would be to no avail. The same requirement also applies in the New Testament.
Lev. 16:9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: — 16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.— 20 And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:— 22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. — 34 And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.–
As far as Aaron was concerned, the “reconciliation” of the congregation and all the holy places was done just prior to letting the scapegoat run off. Despite of this reconciliation, the people of Israel was not “once cleansed always cleansed”, because if they continued to sin in the future they would yet again become unclean and in need of an animal sacrifice.
We get more details of what Paul meant in the very same chapter – 2 Cor 5.
2 Cor. 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. —15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.— 17 Therefore IF any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.— –20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Notice above that we labor in order to be accepted by God. Jesus died for all, but this does not mean that all are saved. Only that he made provision for all. “IF any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”, but what happens if a person is not in Christ? Right after v. 19 (about reconciliation) Paul requests his readers to “be ye reconciled to God”, indicating that we too must do our part while living on earth. In heaven all will be considered righteous and will therefore already be reconciled to God, so we have to get things right with God while living on earth. It is he who endures to the end who will be saved.
Here is another well-known verse about reconciliation:
Col. 1:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Reconcile, from the Greek verb ἀποκαταλλάσσω (apokatallassó, Strong’s 604), also meaning change from one state of feeling to another. Apart from Col 1:20-21, it is also used in Eph 2:16.
Above we can see meaning of reconciliation yet again, and this time in the first half of the sentence. It means “having made peace through the blood of his cross”, which is something that happened about 2000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross. This means that it has already happened. More information from the same chapter:
Col. 1:8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;—12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: — 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: — 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:23 IF ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; — 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
Above we can see that having the Spirit of God seems to be something rather essential for a saved person. In. v. 12 we can see that the Saints (with the Spirit) are promised to be partakers of the inheritance. Jesus died for the world and enabled all to be saved, but only the Saints are promised this wonderful inheritance. V. 14 tells us again that we have redemption “through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins”. In v. 21-22 we can yet again see that the reconciliation has already happened when it comes to the Corinthians. Jesus died for them to do his part (in the body of his flesh through death), and they have also done their part by repenting. Still, they are not once saved always saved, because already in the next verse we can read about a condition to remained saved. v. 23 says “IF ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel”. v. 28 tells us why Paul therefore continues to warn people, to be able to present them perfect in Christ Jesus.
More Bible verses
Below we can see in v. 10 that the reconciliation has already happened. Paul expects all those who are reconciled to also be saved through Jesus Christ and get eternal life, but he also mentions death and condemnation for others. He explains further that “many” will be justified and righteous, and he tells us in most of his letters that those are the Saints – those who believe in Christ and have repented for their sins. Jesus died for the world, but the wonderful promises of eternal life in the new Jerusalem are made for the Saints who have chosen to come to Christ for reconciliation.
Rom. 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. — 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. — 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) — 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
The topic below is Jews and gentiles, and the picture of branches being broken off the olive tree. For this reason we can read in. v. 15 that casting away of “them” (the Jews) might result in reconciling of the world, which does not mean that none of the Jews will be saved but all of the other people. Paul goes on to explain that branches can both be broken off and added back in again, and for this reason we should all take heed.
Rom. 11:14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; — 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
Jesus promises below that unless we are converted (repent for our sins) we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus does not open the door for others.
Matt.18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. — 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.— 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. — 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Every man has been given the light, so there is no excuse for not coming to God. John explains below who the sons (the children) of God are. They are the ones who have received Jesus and who believe in his name. Jesus died to take away the sins of the world, but only those who repent of their sins will be cleansed and forgiven. If they do, they are truly the sons of God and will therefore be able to enter into the new Jerusalem:
John 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.–– 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: — 29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. —
1 John 1:6 IF we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:7 But IF we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.— 9 IF we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
John explains that some people will not enter into the new Jerusalem, and those are the ones not written in the book of life. Only he that overcomes shall inherit all things, but not the sinners.
Rev. 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. — 26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
God does not give us only one single chance to live a holy life while living on earth, but if we mix sins with righteousness we are still walking in darkness and do not know the Lord.