Apocatastasis comes from the Greek word ? (apokatástasis) which means reconstitution or restitution. Acts 3:21 speaks of apocatastasis of all things, and although this passage is usually not understood to teach universal salvation, the word apocatastasis is typically used to refer to the belief that everyone - including the damned in hell and the devil - will ultimately be saved.
While apocatastasis is derived from the Greek verb apokathistemi, which means "to restore", it first emerged as a doctrine in Zoroastrianism where it is the third time of creation. This period was referred to as wizarishn or the end of history--the time of separation and resolution when evil is destroyed and the world is restored to its original state. The idea of apocatastasis may have been derived from the ancient concept of cosmic cycle, which involves the notion of celestial bodies returning to their original positions after a period of time.
The entry in A Greek-English Lexicon (i.e. Liddell-Scott-Jones, with expansion of definitions and references), gives the following examples of usage:
According to Edward Moore, apokatastasis was first properly conceptualized in early Stoic thought, particularly by Chrysippus. The return (apokatastasis) of the planets and stars to their proper celestial signs, namely their original positions, would spark a conflagration of the universe (ekpyrosis). The original position was believed to consist of an alignment of celestial bodies with Cancer. Thereafter, from fire, rebirth would commence, and this cycle of alternate destruction and recreation was correlated with a divine Logos. Antapocatastasis is a counter-recurrence when the stars and planets align with Capricorn, which would mark destruction by a universal flood.
The Stoics identified Zeus with an alternately expanding and contracting fire constituting the universe. Its expansion was described as Zeus turning his thoughts outwards, resulting in the creation of the material cosmos, and its contraction, the apocatastasis, as Zeus returning to self-contemplation. Leibniz explored both Stoic and his understanding of Origen's philosophy in two essays written shortly before his death, Apokatastasis and Apokatastasis panton (1715).
The concept of "restore" or "return" in the Hebrew Bible is the common Hebrew verb , as used in Malachi 4:6, the only use of the verb form of apocatastasis in the Septuagint. This is used in the "restoring" of the fortunes of Job, and is also used in the sense of rescue or return of captives, and in the restoration of Jerusalem.
The word, apokatastasis, appears only once in the New Testament, in Acts 3:21. Peter healed a beggar with a disability and then addressed the astonished onlookers. His sermon set Jesus in the Jewish context, the fulfiller of the Abrahamic Covenant, and says:
 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;  And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:  Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.-- Acts 3:19-21 KJV
Grammatically, the relative pronoun "" ("of which", genitive plural), could refer either to "" ("of times") or to "" ("of all" or "of all things"), which means that it is either the times of which God spoke or the all things of which God spoke.
The usual view taken of Peter's use of the "apokatastasis of all the things about which God spoke" is that it refers to the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel and/or the Garden of Eden and not "all things that ever existed".
The verbal form of apokatastasis is found in the Septuagint Malachi 3:23LXX (i.e. Malachi 4:6), a prophecy of Elijah turning back the hearts of the children to their fathers; in Matthew 17:11 ("he will restore all things"), echoing Malachi, and in Hebrews 13:19 ("that I may be restored to you the sooner").
Nineteenth-century German theologian Jakob Eckermann interpreted "the 'apocatastasis of all things' to mean the universal emendation of religion by the doctrine of Christ, and the 'times of refreshing' to be the day of renewal, the times of the Messiah."
The significance of apocatastasis in early Christianity is today being re-evaluated. In particular it is now questioned whether Origen, often listed as the most notable advocate of universal salvation, did in fact teach or believe in such a doctrine.
Frederick W. Norris, in his article "Apokatastasis", The Westminster Handbook to Origen, 2004, states that the positions that Origen takes on the issue of universal salvation have often seemed to be contradictory. He then writes that Origen never decided to stress exclusive salvation or universal salvation, to the strict exclusion of either case, therefore concludes that Origen probably kept his view of salvation economically 'open' for a greater effectiveness.
The Alexandrian school adapted Platonic terminology and ideas to Christianity while explaining and differentiating the new faith from all the others. A form of apocatastasis was also attributed to Gregory of Nyssa and possibly the Ambrosiaster, attributed to Ambrose of Milan. Gregory of Nazianzus discussed it without reaching a decision.
Eventually, Origen started to be condemned throughout the early church in local councils, though not apocatastasis specifically. This changed definitively in the sixth century. A local Synod of Constantinople (543) condemned a form of apocatastasis as being Anathema, and the Anathema was formally submitted to the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (553). The term apocatastasis is mentioned in the 14th of the 15 anathemas against Origen of 553: "If anyone shall say ... that in this pretended apocatastasis, spirits only will continue to exist, as it was in the feigned pre-existence: let him be anathema."
The fifth ecumenical council in its sentence during the eighth session condemned "Origen" and his "impious writings"--likely a reference to the teachings ascribed to him by the 543 and 553 anathemas, because during the fifth session Origen's condemnation is described as "recent."
Konstantinovsky (2009) states that the uses of apocatastasis in Christian writings prior to the Synod of Constantinople (543) and the anathemas (553) pronounced against "Origenists" and Evagrius Ponticus were neutral and referred primarily to concepts similar to the general "restoration of all things spoken" (restitutio omnium quae locutus est Deus) of Peter in Acts 3:21 and not for example the universal reconciliation of all souls which had ever been.
The "official" nature of the anathemas was reiterated subsequently. The Second Council of Nicea explicitly affirmed in its sentence that the Second Council of Constantinople condemned Origen, as well as taught the existence of eternal damnation and explicitly rejected "the restoration of all things," which in Latin is a reference to apocatastasis.
More recently leading Patristic scholar Ilaria Ramelli has concluded that not only did Origen embrace the doctrine of Apocatastasis, but that it was central to all his theological and philosophical thought. She remarks, "In Origen's thought, the doctrine of apokatastasis is interwoven with his anthropology, eschatology, theology, philosophy of history, theodicy, and exegesis; for anyone who takes Origen's thought seriously and with a deep grasp of it, it is impossible to separate the apokatastasis theory from all the rest, so as to reject it but accept the rest."
There is a rebirth and an image of rebirth. It is certainly necessary to be born again through the image. Which one? Resurrection. The image must rise again through the image. The bridal chamber and the image must enter through the image into the truth: this is the restoration (apokatastasis). Not only must those who produce the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, do so, but have produced them for you. If one does not acquire them, the name ("Christian") will also be taken from him.
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - c. 215) generally uses the term apokatastasis to refer to the "restoration" of the "gnostic" Christians, rather than that of the universe or of all Christians, but with universal implications.
As indicated above, the position of Origen (186-284) is disputed, with works as recent as the New Westminster Dictionary of Church History presenting him as teaching that the apocatastasis would involve universal salvation.
In early Christian theological usage, apocatastasis meant the ultimate restoration of all things to their original state, which early exponents believed would still entail a purgatorial state. Both Origen and Gregory of Nyssa confidently taught that all creatures would be saved.
The word was still very flexible at that time, but in the mid-6th century, it became virtually a technical term, as it usually means today, to refer to a specifically Origenistic doctrine of universal salvation.
Maximus the Confessor outlined God's plan for "universal" salvation alongside warnings of everlasting punishment for the wicked. He divided apocatastasis into three restorations: of the virtuous individual, of nature, and of the sinful powers of the soul. While the last of these meant that even sinners will be restored to a clear knowledge of God, Maximus seems to have believed that they will not attain to the same communion with God as the righteous and thus will in a sense be eternally punished.
The Vulgate translation of apokatastasis, "in tempora restitutionis omnium quae locutus est Deus" (the restitution of all things of which God has spoken) was taken up by Luther to mean the day of the restitution of the creation, but in Luther's theology the day of restitution was also the day of resurrection and judgment, not the restitution of the wicked. In Luther's Bible he rendered the Greek apokatastasis with the German herwiedergebracht werde; "will be brought back." This sense continued to be used in Lutheran sermons.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries several histories published by Universalists, including Hosea Ballou (1829), Thomas Whittemore (1830), John Wesley Hanson (1899) and George T. Knight (1911), argued that belief in universal reconciliation was found in early Christianity and in the Reformation, and ascribed Universalist beliefs to Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and others.
In recent writing, apocatastasis is generally understood as involving some form of universal reconciliation, without necessarily attributing this understanding to Origen and other Fathers of the Church.
Apocatastasis became a theological term denoting the doctrine... that all men would be converted and admitted to everlasting happiness
Apokatastasis cannot denote the conversion of persons but only the reconstitution or establishment of things.
[apocatastasis], the idea that the whole of creation and all of humanity will ultimately be 'restored' to their original state of bliss.
[apocatastasis], "one particular Christian expression of a general theology of universalism... the belief that at the end of time all creatures--believers and sinners alike--would be restored in Christ.
The usual view taken of Peter's use of the apokatastasis of "all things" is that it refers to the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel and/or the Garden of Eden and not "all things that ever existed."
Apocatastasis. The Greek name (?) for the doctrine that ultimately all free moral creatures - angels, men, and devils - will share in the grace of salvation; cf. article "Universalism".
[T]heories of the apocatastasis usually involve the expectation that in the end all, including the devil, will be saved.
[Apocatastasis is] the idea that all things will be ultimately reconciled to God through Christ - including the damned in hell and even Satan and his demons.
1 Friedrich Preisigke, Sammelbuch griechischer Urkunden aus Aegypten;
7 P.Oxy., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri;
7 Polybius, Histories;
2 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews;
2 Diodorus Siculus, Library;
3 Stud.Pal., Studien zur Palaeographie und Papyruskunde;
1 Acts 3:21 New Testament;
1 PSI, Papiri greci e latini;
1 Diogenes Laërtius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers;
2 P.Cair.Masp., Papyrus grecs d'époque byzantine, Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire;
3 P.Ryl, Rylands Papyri;
1 P.Col., Columbia Papyri;
2 P.Flor., Papiri greco-egizii, Papiri Fiorentini;
3 Aretaeus of Cappadocia, The Extant Works of Aretaeus, The Cappadocian;
1 UPZ, Urkunden der Ptolemäerzeit (ältere Funde);
1 P.Ross.Georg., Papyri russischer und georgischer Sammlungen;
1 P.Cair.Isid., The Archive of Aurelius Isidorus in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and the University of Michigan;
1 P.Abinn., The Abinnaeus Archive: Papers of a Roman Officer in the Reign of Constantius II;
1 Pap.Choix, Choix de papyrus grecs: Essai de traitement automatique;
1 P.Athen.Xyla, P.Sta.Xyla: The Byzantine Papyri of the Greek Papyrological Society,;
1 O.Joach., Die Prinz-Joachim-Ostraka
Having initially accepted the idea of apocatastasis in the pre-Origen and primarily Stoic sense that this world and everything in it was bound to return again and again in endless cycles of repetition, Leibniz came to embrace Origen's wholly...
The relative pronoun (hon, of which) could refer back to "the seasons" of which God spoke (Bauernfeind 1980: 69) or to "all things" of which God spoke (so Conzelmann 1987: 29; Barrett 1994: 206, nearest referent).
Methodius, who wrote A.D. 300; Pamphilus and Eusebius, A.D. 310; Eustathius, A.D. 380; Epiphanius, A.D. 376 and 394; Theophilus, A.D. 400-404, and Jerome, A.D. 400; all give lists of Origen's errors, but none name his Universalism among them (Ibid., p. 78).
"At the fifth holy General Council held at Constantinople, Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, together with the speculations of Evagrius and Didymus concerning the pre-existence and restitution of all things, were all subjected to one common and Catholic anathema all the four Patriarchs being present and consistent thereto" (Ibid., p. 36).
Clement uses the term apokatastasis and its cognates generally to refer to the gnostic elect rather than to an eschatological restoration of the universe, or to a restoration of the faithful as a whole. Where he does mention or imply a restoration of the whole it is through the medium of the restoration of the gnostic. ...Hence, while some uses of apokatastasis appear to refer simply to the gnostic elect, by extension, they have universal implications.
Si autem Pater est futurus perpetuo, ergo semper manet pater, semper generat filios usque ad diem illum restitutionis omnium...
welcher mus den Himel einnemen bis auff die zeit da er wider bracht werde alles was Gott geredt hat durch den mund aller seiner heiligen Propheten von der Welt anmodernized as: "welcher muss den Himmel einnehmen bis auf die Zeit, da herwiedergebracht werde alles, was Gott geredet hat durch den Mund aller seiner heiligen Propheten von der Welt an".
Der Herr Matthesius hat drei Stunden vor seinem seligen Abschiede eine ganze Predigt von diesem Wort gethan. Gottlob, der jüngste Tag ist dies restitutionis omnium. Da wird uns der Herr Jesus Alles wieder an die Seite setzen,...
Denn ichs (=ich es) nicht halte mit denen, so da lehren, daß die Teufel auch werden endlich zur Seligkeit kommen
[Luther in a letter to Rechenberg] held out the hope of universal salvation.