“For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross– whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:19-20 HCSB).
The famous author C. S. Lewis once made the following observation: “…if you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones…” (1) We can illustrate the importance behind this warning with a closer examination of the passage quoted above.
For instance, its possible to associate the phrase “reconcile everything to Himself” with the concept of Universalism or the belief that everyone will find salvation. However, the context of this passage (and the New Testament as a whole) does not permit us to adopt that view. (2) Instead, it is better to understand this passage to mean that Jesus will ultimately exercise full authority over all creation, including those who are now opposed or indifferent to Him.
For instance, those who have received Christ have already been accepted and reconciled to God in salvation. Those who reject Christ will be reconciled to Him in subjection and subordination. This would also include those spiritual thrones, principalities, and powers that are now in rebellion against Him. With this in mind, we can say that all hostilities have ceased for those who are in Christ; all hostilities will cease for those who are not.
Three commentators add the following insights regarding this reconciliation through Christ…
“This passage does not teach universalism (all will be saved) but instead points forward to Messiah’s quelling all rebellion, bringing lasting peace to the universe. The ‘reconciliation’ here entails a pacification of evil powers (as 2:15 makes clear).” (3)
“This phrase shows the significance of Christ’s work on the Cross. It does not mean that all people will be saved, since many passages clearly say that unbelievers will suffer eternal separation from God (Matt. 25:46). The work of Christ will overthrow the damage effected by the Fall and change all of creation from a position of enmity to a relationship of peace and friendship (Rom. 8:20–23; 2 Cor. 5:18–20).” (4)
“The reconciliation of which Paul speaks is that of a cosmic nature having to do with ‘all things’ (v. 20). The assumption is that the cosmos has been disrupted since its orderly creation and needs to be reconciled with its Creator.” (5)
(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity Book IV – Beyond Personality: Or First Steps In The Doctrine Of The Trinity 1. Making And Begetting pg. 65
(3) Parker III, J. A. (2007). The Incarnation: Could God Become Man Without Ceasing to Be God? In T. Cabal, C. O. Brand, E. R. Clendenen, P. Copan, & J. P. Moreland (Eds.), The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1782). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
(4) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1563). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
(5) McRay, J. (1995). Colossians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1054). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.