Luther, the Netherlands, and Apocatastasis

Martin Luther


While we in the Living Church of God believe that the overwhelming majority of human beings who ever lived will be saved, Martin Luther and his followers condemned those who held those ideas in the 16th century:

Apocatastasis… Luther, writing on Aug. 18, 1522, to Hans von Rechenberg, who had asked him if there was any salvation for those out of Christ at death, states that a belief in the ultimate salvation of all men, and even of the devil and his angels, was held among the sect of Free Spirits in the Netherlands, one of whom was then in Wittenberg. They based it on Ps. lxxvii. 9, 10 and on I Tim. ii. 4. He then proceeds to refute it. Again Luther warns against this belief when writing to the Christians in Antwerp in 1525 (cf. de Wette’s ed. of Luther’s letters, ii. 453 and iii. 62). The doctrine was held among the Anabaptists…another Anabaptist leader, Jacob Kautz (Cucius), in 1527 at Worms put as the fifth of seven articles he propounded for debate: “All that was lost in the first Adam is and will be found more richly restored in the Second Adam, Christ; yea, in Christ shall all men be quickened and blessed forever” (Zwingli, Opera, viii. 77; cf. S. M. Jackson, Selections from Zwingli, p. 148). (Schaff, Philip. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I: Aachen – Basilians, p. 211)

Thus, the idea that the Church of God long has taught that God would offer salvation to all is documented, not only in the pages of the Bible, but through some of the writings of its enemies. And, by using the Bible alone, there is no possible way that Martin Luther could repute it. The fact is that There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.

Now it was not just some in the Netherlands and Belgium that believed in God’s plan of salvation, many in Germany and Switzerland did as well:

Indeed, while perhaps not universally accepted by Anabaptists, it was held by so many of the party in Switzerland, Upper Germany, and Alsace that in Article xvii. of the Augsburg Confession are these words: ” They [the Lutherans] condemn the Anabaptists, who think that to condemned men and the devils shall be an end of torments.” (Ibid).

So, the response by the Lutherans was to condemn those with that belief.  Here is a little more information on what the Lutherans concluded.

Article XVII: Of Christ’s Return to Judgment … They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils. They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed. (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, pp. 37-95.)

While there may be some misunderstanding of their doctrines, nearly all the above doctrines are biblical, yet they were condemned by the early Lutherans.  Even many Protestants believe in at least some form of Millenarianism,even though Martin Luther and his associates condemned it.

Furthermore, Anabaptists were also denounced by other 16th century Protestant leaders such as Jacob Würben of Biel because they stated that they got certain doctrines from the Book of Revelation (Guggisberg HR.  Jabob Würben of Biel: A thoughtful admonisher against Ludwig Hätzer and the Anabaptists.  Mennonite Quarterly Review, VOl. XLVI, July 1972, pp. 239-255).

The teachings of the Book of Revelation were NOT popular with the early Protestant Reformers and were often condemned by them (for Martin Luther’s view of the Apocalypse, please see the article Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?).

More recent Protestant writings show a bias against salvation of the masses:

…most will be lost and not find salvation from sin (Price B. Romans Bible Commentary – Living By Faith Published by Brad Price, 2005, p. 96).

…most will not be saved (God’s Plan of Salvation. Manassas Church of Christ, ©Manassas Church of Christ  1997-2003. viewed 06/11/09).

The Bible says that most believe in God, but most will not be saved. (Andres GS. . Do you have an Opposition to being saved? Up Dated Wednesday, March 18, 2009. G. Steven Andres Copyright – 1999 to 2009. viewed 06/11/09).

The Bible, of course, does NOT teach that most will not be saved–there is NO scriture that states that. The Bible teaches that only a few are now called, but others will have their opportunity later (see Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).

God is love (1 John 4:8,16) and certainly has a plan of salvation that works well enough so that most will be saved.  And this is taught in the Bible.

Those interested in learning more should consider studying the following articles:

Hope of Salvation: How the Living Church of God differ from most Protestants How the Living Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background.
The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. Armstrong This article clearly shows some of the doctrinal differences between in the two. At this time of doctrinal variety and a tendency by many to accept certain aspects of Protestantism, the article should help clarify why the Living Church of God is NOT Protestant. Do you really know what the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther taught and should you follow his doctrinal example?
Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis Do you believe what the Bible actually teaches on this? Will all good things be restored? Does God’s plan of salvation take rebellion and spiritual blindness into account?
Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible? Though he is known for his public sola Scriptura teaching, did Martin Luther’s writings about the Bible suggest he felt that prima Luther was his ultimate authority? Statements from him changing and/or discounting 18 books of the Bible are included. Do you really want to know the truth?
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it. Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Do they lay out God’s plan of salvation? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.

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