During the 1914-1918 World War I attended occasionally a prayer meeting held in the home of a lady and gentleman connected with the Pentecostal movement, in the city of Edinburgh. They were only mildly Pentecostal, and did not encourage any form of excesses. Let us call them Mr. and Mrs. H.
Their theological outlook was the gloomy prospect that the bulk of mankind would be lost eternally. So I longed to have a quiet and private talk with them. They conducted a mission for young men and women of a very earnest type. Happily, in the year 1917, I got the opportunity I sought, quite unexpectedly, and interviewed them one long afternoon, not far from my own home.
The lady had long looked down upon those she termed her "dispensational friends," and lost no chance of letting them know that. The husband was a very quiet and inoffensive man, whom everybody liked.
Very soon we joined battle concerning the fate of mankind, and the usual array of theological arrows originating in the King James A.V. Bible fell thick and fast around me. Argument followed argument and all I could do was to counter each blow by giving more correct translations than they gave me. Naturally, the Hebrew and Greek terms for age or eon received much attention. Why should the Hebrew word olam, when used of God, always signify eternity or eternal, but when used of man it meant the very opposite, something temporary?
My friends had not been aware of that before, and the argument produced some effect. But that alone was not enough. Various other texts were discussed, such as 1. Tim. 4:10, "We rely on a God Living, who is Saviour of all mankind, in a special manner (malista) of those having faith." That grand Greek word malista went home, so did the fact that God is Saviour specially of those now having faith (pistOn). Mr. and Mrs. H. had never looked upon that verse in such a manner. Now they began to observe new things.
Gradually it was left to me to take the "offensive," and I brought up Col. 1:20. It is far wiser to ask people whether they believe Col. 1:20, than to ask them whether they accept the teaching of Universal Reconciliation. So I asked them, Who are these beings "in heaven" who are to be reconciled? No answer. This was apparently another of those single verses which can so easily be slipped quietly over. My friends, came to see there were quite a number of facts and truths in the Scriptures concerning which they still had Very hazy views.
Hitherto, for about two hours, talk had been incessant, and very interesting to us all. But suddenly, why this strange silence from my friends? All at once the chief speaker, the lady, seemed to be very deep in thought, so deep in serious thought that I deemed it best to leave her just there to go on thinking. That would do no harm, but if I went on, it might spoil everything. So we parted, and I did not see my friends again for years, and indeed, almost forgot about the whole incident.
Seven years passed, and I had been going into the city sometimes on a Sunday evening, sampling various meetings carried on by different sects. On one occasion, I left a meeting along with a man, who might have been a shale miner, who had to travel homewards in the same 'bus as I. I had four miles to go, and he had about seven more. In the 'bus he fell to talking, in that strange and incoherent manner that such people sometimes adopt. I could make little of him. Then he referred to the awful doom that awaits most of the race. In reply I stated that God was going to reconcile the universe to Himself. Owing to the noise of the 'bus I had to repeat this more loudly. Then suddenly, someone sitting facing me almost shouted out, "Amen to that!" Here was a lady and her daughter travelling home about twenty-five miles from a meeting at which they had been. There was almost no time to ask how she knew about Col. 1:20 and where was that taught. I got her name and the name of a Mr. and Mrs. H. in whose home these things were taught. Then "Goodbye."
Calling next day on Mr. and Mrs. H. I found they were my old friends and carried on a mission which centred round the truth of Col. 1:20. I was asked to give, throughout the winter, an address each Thursday evening on scriptural proofs of God's plan for the future. Most of the fine company of young men and women had come to believe that God would never damn the majority of the race to everlasting hell or fire, from perceiving that God is Love. My task was to furnish collateral proofs from the Scriptures, so that they might be able to meet all sorts of objections raised by opponents.
Soon I was to discover that there were other bodies of God's people scattered throughout Scotland who acknowledged the fact of Col. 1:20, and at one Conference in the "Kingdom" of Fife, some hundreds of eager souls were intensely interested in an address dealing with the Problem of Evil, young people especially being greatly interested.
My own interest in the truth of Universal Reconciliation arose through perusal of the manuscript written by the Rev. Stanley Smith, famous missionary in China. This was and is still unanswerable.
This made such an impression upon me that I wrote a long thesis of my own, and sent it to Dr. Bullinger, Editor of "Things to Come," London, for his opinion. He replied in December, 1912, that he could not accept the salvation of the Devil, as that would make the word "destruction" in the Bible meaningless. Perhaps had he taken time he might have discovered that the Scriptures tell neither of the Devil's destruction nor his death.
Certain it is that the Adversary does not welcome the prospect of his own reconciliation to God, or the reconciliation of all to God. For if this doctrine suited him, would he not get his own followers to spread it far and wide?
Let us not, however, make Col. 1:20 our sole Gospel. There is a tendency in some quarters to do so, and to neglect the initial needs of the sinner and his lostness.
A.T. Last updated 11.4.2006