About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Universalism and Temple Imagery in Acts 1?

In Acts 1:9, Jesus is described as being ‘lifted up’ and covered by a cloud. If this reference to a cloud is an example of temple imagery, itself calling to mind the clouded divine presence in Israel’s holy of holies (Lev 16:2, 13), then what we have here in Acts is an account of Jesus ascending into God’s presence – that is, Jesus the high priest entering God’s presence to make atonement and to intercede on behalf of those whom he represents. Also, when the ‘two men’ (Acts 1:10) tell the apostles that Jesus ‘will come in the same way as [they] saw him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11), the complementing idea is that Jesus is the high priest emerging from the holy of holies having made atonement and now ready to pronounce that what was unclean is now made clean.

But if it is legitimate to read Acts 1:9-11 through the lens of the Levitical purification offering (Lev 4) and the Day of Atonement rites (Lev 16), is it also legitimate to suppose that given the concern in Acts for the universal proclamation of the gospel message, there must also be a sense in which Jesus is promised to return pronouncing that the whole world has been purified? If so, then I suggest that a hope for universal salvation underlies the whole evangelistic enterprise described throughout Acts.


  1. Ah another great lense! Can the whole Jewish/Gentile tension in Acts be seen as an argument about universalism then?

  2. It might be that Acts conceives of universal salvation in terms of both Jews and Gentiles will be saved rather than universalism as such. But who knows?!