The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Mystery according to Paul in Ephesians


Greetings all,

As I am trekking through the study of UR, I am now considering what the Apostle is teaching in the epistle to the Ephesian church.

In this epistle, the apostle speaks of a “mystery” that had in previous generations been concealed, but has been revealed to the Apostles, namely (3:6) that Gentiles are being made fellow heirs with Israel in the “body” (i.e., the church).

As I am considering the concept of UR, I am also interested in understanding the relationship of the apostle’s concept of “election” to UR. I am finding that by “election” the apostle is speaking specifically of those who are chosen to be saved in this life in contrast to those who perish in this life (this seems especially clear in Romans 8 through 11, but I digress). The elect (i.e., the chosen of Ephesians 1:4) include the apostles along with those chosen from Israel and is expanded to include the Gentiles who believe the gospel (1:13). Herein lies the mystery, that the apostle is expounding upon in this epistle.

In 1:9 the apostle teaches that this mystery was made known to “us” - who he explains in verse 12 are they who were the first to hope in Christ (in contrast to “you” verse 13, the Gentiles who believe the gospel preached to them). In chapter 3, he confirms again that it is the Apostles to whom the mystery was revealed.

It is this mystery in 1:9,10 that is “set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (ESV).

The question that I am now considering is the scope of the “all things” of 1:10. The mystery of 1:9,10 is expounded upon in 3:6, “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Here is where I am scratching my head. The proponents of UR utilize Eph 1:10 as evidence that it is the intention of God to reconcile all things to himself. Yet in the epistle, the mystery concerning “all things” is expounded in relationship to the gospel going out to the Gentiles.

Here is where I am looking for your help: Is there any other evidence in the present epistle, that supports the scope of “all things” of 1:10 being all inclusive, or are we deciding that the apostle meant all inclusive in this verse based on what he teaches in other epistles?

Thank you for your help.


Hi Dan,

I see Col 1 as being pretty much a parallel passage, where Paul elaborates more.

But sticking to Ephesians – is there any reason to think Paul doesn’t mean literally “all” things in heaven and earth?

I see the breaking of the division between Jew and Gentile as a promise to all men. The Jews were the chosen, the Gentiles the excluded. Now the mystery revealed is that Gentiles are included too – thus all men – and the evidence of that is that there are elect among the Gentiles – a firstfruits of the harvest.

I think this is fairly explicit, as to the intent and extent of the plan – to make all men see, even including the principalities and powers:

Eph 3:9ff And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

(One could of course say that they “see” as outsiders, what they are excluded from, and are not brought into fellowship in Christ. But I’d argue against that.)

To me, this seems pretty much inclusive:
Eph 4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.



The above is the reason why I am having a difficult time with this passage. The ECT proponent will indeed say that the “all men see[ing] the fellowship of the mystery” are seeing it as outsiders.

I agree. The passage in Colossians couldn’t be any clearer. The “all things” that were created in verse 16 are the same “all things” that are reconciled in verse 20.

The ECT proponent may have said that we are bringing this interpretation to the text rather than letting the text define what is meant by “all things.”

However, I just noticed right now, as I am typing this response that the KJV says in 3:9 “*And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”

I think my question is answered, as the apostle defines “all things” in 3:9 to include all things created. I totally missed that before. :slight_smile:

Thus returning to 1:10, the “all things” in that verse includes all things created per the context of 3:9.

Good point. The inclusion of the elect Gentiles in the church is a good example of what is to come in the fullness of time.

Thanks for your help. Had I noticed the “all things” created in 3:9 before, I probably wouldn’t have asked the question. :blush: :blush: :blush:*

Responding to a Calvinist

An another example of the “asking the teacher” principle. (A “law” I discovered in grade school) If you give up and head for the teacher’s desk to ask, the answer will come to you just as s/he is preparing to answer you. :wink:

Perhaps it’s also an example of “filters” getting in the way of seeing what’s truly there. We don’t see things because we “know” they are not, nor can they possibly be there. It’s a huge eye opener when you start to ask questions – when you examine a passage closely enough to see it in all its detail and beauty. The closer you look, the more you see. The thing, whatever it is, that now astonishes, was always there. Once you’ve noticed, it, there will be still more. There will always be more, and when we see it, we’ll always wonder how we ever missed it.


Ephesians 1:

Berean Literal Bible
9 having made known to us the mystery of His will according to His pleasure, which He purposed in Him
10 for the administration of the fullness of the times, to bring together all things in Christ—the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth—
11a in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance,

Does “in Christ…in Him” (v.10-11) indicate salvation.

The phrases “in Him”, “in Christ”, “in Whom”, “in the Beloved” occur repeatedly in Ephesians 1 (vs.1,3,4,6,7,10-13) not in reference to things but of beings, human beings, who are “in Him”. These verses also speak of what these human beings have obtained “in Him”, including “every spiritual blessing” (v.3), “grace” (v.6), “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of trespasses” (v.7), etc.

Does v.10 refer to the heavens & the earth at the time Paul wrote? Or to the time of the new heavens and earth? If the latter would heavens & earth exclude the lake of fire and those in it? Paul does not refer to a “new” heavens or earth. Neither does he say “the things that - will be - in the heavens and on earth”. Similarly he speaks of spiritually wicked beings presently “in the heavens” (Eph.6:12). Are they also to be headed up “in Christ”?

Is the “purpose” a divine determination that must occur? Or merely Love Omnipotent’s wish that may fail due to human free will?

Are these the words of an apostle who should be warning in clear language about an endless torture chamber for most of humanity if such were true?

Eph.3:8 To me, the very least of all saints, was given this grace: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
9 and to enlighten all what is the administration of the mystery having been hidden from the ages in God, the One having created all things,
10 so that now through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
11 according to the purpose of the ages, which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Who are these “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” to whom “through the church the manifold wisdom of God” is being made known? Paul uses the same terms here:

Eph.6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual hosts of evil in the heavens.

Does “all things…the things” in the heavens and “the things” upon the earth refer to created beings? Or inaminate objects? Or both? Eph.3:8 refers to all [things] created.

Regarding the word “things” (Eph.1:10):

There’s no “things” here:

And “things” are in italics here:

"We proceed to point out the sad plight into which
unbounded confidence in the present translations
betrayes its devotees. The assertion is made that there
is no way “logical, etymological or theological” to make
“things” mean “persons.” Yet the very versions which
he follows in a most servile manner expressly call a
person a thing. “Wherefore also the holy thing which
is begotten shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
If the Person of persons is called a thing, why should
not mere creatures be thus designated? Indeed, in sev
eral instances persons are specifically included in the
phrase “all things” (1 Cor. 3:21; 8:6; 12:19; Col. 1:20).
Hence, according to the present versions, it is both
logical and theological to speak of persons as “things.’’
Thus the assumption that “things” cannot mean persons
is refuted by the very versions on which it is founded.”

“Nor is this all. The word “things”—on the strength
of which the ultimate reconciliation of all creatures is
denied—is not in the original of Eph. 1:10, as it is not
in any of the foregoing passages. The original has the
pronoun with the definite article—the all—and what
the original has is a “loud-sounding” verdict against
which there is no appeal. Since the word “things” is
not in the original, arguments founded thereon are
purely imaginary, as the deductions derived therefrom
are fictitious. They are not entitled to consideration,
and should be dismissed as a piece of mental acrobatics.
But what is one to think of “professionals” who, in the
name of logic and theology, indulge in a demonstration
against “novices” without even examining God’s
inspired word, and build up a whole system of doctrine
upon a term which is not in Scripture. Controversial
methods rise no higher than countroversial motives.
Those following such questionable tactics may deceive
themselves into thinking that they are contending for
the truth, but actions speak louder than words, and those
who, pretending to establish truth, ostensibly ignore
and contemptuously push into the background the
source of truth—the inspired sacred original—testify
that their professed zeal for truth is in reality a mere
contention for theological folklore to which they have
committed themselves a priori.”

Unseachabe Riches [UR] magazine, Vol 5, p.343-4

“We will now remark, first, that the “dispensation of
the fulness of the seasons” precedes the consummation;
it lies within the span of the ages, not beyond them.”

“Second, the headship of Christ is not over things, but
over intelligences. This is fully set forth in Paul’s epistles.
Corinthians presents him as “head of every man”
(1 Cor 11:8). Ephesians views Him as “Head of the
Church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22). Colossians
winds up this segment of truth by presenting Him as
“Head of every principality and power” (Col. 2:10).
Hence, the summing up of “the all” in heaven and on
earth in Christ as Head implies that mankind, the
church and principalities and powers will be in the
dispensation of the fulness of the seasons, swayed by
Christ as Head. Harmony is attained when “the all”—
in heaven and on earth—are reconciled to God (Col.l :20).
So long as a single creature remains unreconciled, har
mony is impossible. The dogma of endless torment
in the very nature of things precludes the establishment
of universal harmony. A universe with a vast cesspool
where moral and degraded beings writhe in the agonies
of ceaseless pain is far from being harmonized. To
apply the word harmony to such state of affairs is nothing
short of mockery. By some strange anomaly this writer
says that Christ “will restore things to their primal
unity.” This statement involves a strange incongruity
and contradiction of terms. We are assured that the
universe originally enjoyed the bliss of sinlessness. The
word “restore” implies that this pristine condition will
be re-established, that the universe will return to a
condition equal to the primal. There is no maintaining
this, however, in face of the dogma of the endlessness of
evil. If evil is permanent, restoration is impossible;
the most that can be hoped for is eventual segregation
of evil; and the universe is endlessly doomed to remain
in a state inferior to the primeval.” [UR Vol 5, p.344-5]

"What logical ground is there for changing "things** to “persons** in
Eph. 1:10 or Col. 1:20?”

“A reference to a concordance will give ample logical grounds for
making the word “things” include persons. When the apostle assures
the Corinthians that all things were theirs, what did he mean? Did he
include persons? Were Paul and Apollos and Cephas persons or things?
Even in the authorized vision, then, “things” is applied to persons. We
read “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the
Son of God.” (Lu. 1:35). Surely we must not degrade Him to a thing.
The word “thing” does not occur in the original of the passages in
question. It is simply the translator’s attempt to render the so-called
“neuter” gender of the word for “all.” Now this “gender” is simply an
indefinite form which may be applied to things or persons or to both at
the same time. The word for little child, for instance, is in the so-called
“neuter” gender, yet no one would argue from this that little children
were not persons, but things.”

"How did Paul’s readers in those days understand this expression?
In 1 Co. 15:27 we read: “He hath put all things under His feet. But
when He saith 'All things are put under Him/ it is manifest that He
is excepted which did put all things under Him.” We will not pause to
point out the emptiness and absurdity of putting all things under His feet*
Persons are surely included when the apostle is solicitous lest he should
be understood as including God Himself in the phrase. We have quoted
from the common version which refers to Him as “which.” When the
translation was made “which” was applied to persons as well as things
and the word “things” had no such exclusive use as the question involves.
To be above all things and to fill all things are very empty glories,
indeed, unless there is some reference to persons (Eph. 4:10).
How can “all things** be “made alive” or rather “preserved alive”
as the true reading is (1 Tim. 6:18)? How shall we understand the
exclusion of persons when all things are to be in subjection under His
feet (Heb. 2:8)? And how can all things (it is the same expression in
the original) speak (Rev. 5:13)?” [UR Vol 5, p.386]

8 To me, less than the least of all saints, was granted this grace: to bring the evangel of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, 9 and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret, which has been concealed from the eons in God, Who creates all, 10 that now may be made known to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, through the ecclesia, the multifarious wisdom of God, 11 in accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Eph.3, CLV)

9 making known to us the secret of His will (in accord with His delight, which He purposed in Him)" 10 to have an administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christ - both that in the heavens and that on the earth" 11 in Him in Whom our lot was cast also (Eph.1, CLV)

Eph.1:10 is not speaking about the present age, but a time when “all” of those in the heavens & on earth will be “in Christ”, i.e. saved. Clearly that hasn’t yet been fulfilled, but is stated to be His will & purpose:

9 making known to us the secret of His will (in accord with His delight, which He purposed in Him)" 10 to have an administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christ - both that in the heavens and that on the earth" 11 in Him in Whom our lot was cast also (Eph.1, CLV)

Eph.1:9…pleasure, good pleasure, kind intention…to force billions to be headed up in Christ against their will and tortured forever? That would be a kind intention?:

Berean Literal Bible
having made known to us the mystery of His will according to His pleasure, which He purposed in Him

New American Standard Bible
He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

King James Bible
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: