Christians

Colossians 1:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 and through him to reconcile[1] all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.

Universal Salvation, Christian Universalism, or simply Universalism is the doctrine that all sinful persons, who are alienated from God, because of God’s great divine love and mercy, will eventually be reconciled to God. There are a number of verses that are often mistakenly used by some to say that everyone will be saved in the end. Let us look at a few of them.

1 Corinthians 15:25, 28 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

The Good News Translations renders that last clause and prepositional phrase, “God will rule completely over all.” Origen of Alexandria (184-255 C.E.), was a Greek scholar and early Christian theologian, who reasoned that if God was eventually to “be all in all” or if “God will rule completely over all” he would need to reconcile all humans to himself eventually.

Philippians 2:10-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here the Universalist would argue that if “every knee should to bow” “and every tongue confess,” it must follow that every human that has lived up unto the time of Christ’s return will be reconciled to God in the end.

They would also point to,

Romans 5:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 So, then, as through one trespass there was condemnation to all men, so too through one act of righteousness there was justification of life to all men.

“One trespass”–“One act of righteousness”

“Condemnation”–“Justification”

“All men [in Adam]”–“All men [in Christ]”

It would seem at first that this text is a perfect balance, in that Adam’s one sinful act contributed to all of humanity inheriting sin and imperfection, and Christ one act as a ransom sacrifice would contribute to all of humanity receiving life. Before delving into a response for these verses, let us see what the Bible teaches. First, though, just know that, when we have a few Scriptures that appear to be in opposition to many Scriptures, we likely do not understand the Scriptures on one side of the equation correctly.

The Bible Teaches

 The Scriptures, which make all too clear that some will not be receiving salvation, are so abundant from Genesis to Revelation. Adam committed the most egregious sin of any human alive, as he, in essence, murdered billions of humans, by his rebellion. For this reason, Adam was told, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19) Revelation 21:8 says, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” There is not one verse in the Bible that speaks of redemption or a resurrection from “the second death.”

Matthew 25:46, UASV: “And these [unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment,[2] but the righteous into eternal life.” (Italics added.)

Matt. 7:13-14, UASV: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Italics added.)

2 Thess. 1:9, UASV: “These ones will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, from before the Lord[3] and from the glory of his strength,” (Italics added.)

Notice that Paul says, the punishment for the wicked is “eternal destruction.” Many times in talking with those that support the position of eternal torment in some hellfire, they will add a word to Matthew 25:46 in their paraphrase of the verse, ‘conscious eternal punishment.’ However, Jesus does not tell us what the eternal punishment is, just that it is a punishment and it is eternal.

Hebrews 2:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 Therefore, since the children share in blood and flesh, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he could destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (Italics added.)

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

Yes, Jesus’ ransom sacrifice will cause the destruction of Satan the Devil. The unrighteous, also known as the wicked within the Bible are “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” (Rom 9:22) Yes, “the years of the wicked are cut short.” (Pro 10:27) According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, olothreuo means “‘to destroy,’ especially in the sense of slaying, while “katargeo” means, “to reduce to inactivity.” In addition, apollumi signifies “to destroy utterly.”

The Universalist likes to stress one quality of God, taking it beyond its balanced limits, that is mercy. However, they ignore the other quality that mercy is balanced with, namely justice. God had clearly told Adam, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) The apostle Paul tells us, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) The prophet Ezekiel recorded God as saying, “the soul [person] who sins shall die.” (Eze. 18:4, 20) God is selective in his mercy/justice, as he said, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Ex 33:19) God has provided the ransom sacrifice of his Son (Matt 20:28), to cover over Adamic sin, not the willful unrepentant practicing of sin.–Matthew 12:31, 32; Mark 3:28-30; Hebrews 6:4; 10:26-27; 2 Peter 2:21; 1 John 5:16-17.

 Where did the Universalist go wrong? As they overplayed the mercy, while downplaying justice, they also overemphasize the God of love. (1 John 4:8) They are unable to wrap their mind around the God of love, who also possess the quality of justice, and even seeks vengeance on behalf of the righteous, which were treated wickedly.

What about Philippians 2:10-11, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” A day is coming when all of the wicked will receive their punishment of eternal destruction. Therefore, all who are alive on earth and in heaven will be submitting themselves to the sovereignty of God. Then, the verse will hold true, ‘every knee will bow,’ ‘and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.’ Thus, the knees and the tongues of the unrighteous, rebellious ones will no longer be in existence, as they will have been destroyed.

What about the argument of Romans 5:18 that Adam’s one sinful act contributed to all of humanity inheriting sin and imperfection, and Christ one act as a ransom sacrifice would contribute to all of humanity receiving life. As was stated earlier, when you have a couple verses that seem to be in conflict with many verses from Genesis to Revelation, it means that you are likely misunderstanding a couple of verses. The Scripters clearly show that only the righteous receive life. Adam was not forced to received eternal life; it was a gift from God, which was based upon his remaining faithful. Therefore, when he rejected that gift and was unfaithful, the gift of life was taken away. Thus, the same would hold true for Adam’s descendants as well.–Ezekiel 18:31-32.

 As we have likely noticed, all of these verses have the word “all” in them. However, “all” in Greek does not necessarily mean “all.” The Greek word behind “all” is pan, which comes in various forms. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus is a covering “for the sins of the whole world.”[4] Paul says at 1 Timothy 2:6 that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all [pantōn, all (ones)].” Romans 5:18 says, ‘Christ’s one act as a ransom sacrifice would contribute to all [pantas] of humanity receiving life.’ Titus 2:10 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all [pasin] men.” While this seems quite clear on the surface, it is not really so. What do we do with the other verses that say only redeemable humankind will receive salvation, that is, those that repent and turn around from their former course.–Acts 17:30, John 3:16, 1 John. 5:12.

Yes, not all is so black and white, once the interpreter looks beneath the surface. Many times the Greek word (panta) rendered “all” is often used in a hyperbolic sense. For example, at Luke 21:29, in speaking of a parable, it is said, “Look at the fig tree (suke), and all the trees. (panta ta dendra)” While the literal translation seems nonsensical, this is what pushes the reader to look deeper. The Good News Translation gives us the meaning in “Think of the fig tree and all the other trees.” “Other” is not in the Greek, but English translations add words to complete the sense in the English. Regardless, the “all” in many verses, including these, is being used hyperbolically.

At Acts 2:17, Peter at Pentecost speaks of the prophecy in the Old Testament book of Joel, saying, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all [pasan] flesh.” Was the Spirit poured out literally on all flesh at Pentecost? No, it was only 120 initially, and eventually a few thousand, out of tens of millions then alive. Repeatedly when the term “all” is used in the Greek New Testament, “all” is not literally meant as “all,” but rather hyperbolically to emphasize. It can have the sense of “all others,” “all sorts, “all kinds,” and so on. Keep in mind that God did pour his Spirit out on ‘sons and daughters, young men and old men, even on my male slaves and on my female slaves.’

Another example would be at Luke 11:42, which reads, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every [pan] herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.” It should be noted that both the mint and the rue are herbs. Thus, the GNT[5] renders it, “all the other herbs.” While this author accepts the literal translations as being closest to the Word of God in English,[6] they can infer that that the mint and rue are not herbs, while the dynamic equivalent translations clear it up.

Unbiblical Teaching

The universal salvation position that all humans will eventually be reconciled to God, receiving salvation, is unbiblical. God has given humanity free will, and as free moral persons, they have the ability to reject his sovereignty. Moreover, if universal salvation were true, it would be at odds with the very reason God allowed humanity to go on after the sin of Adam, as opposed to just starting over. Satan had challenged the sovereignty of God and the integrity of humans, saying that they would not remain faithful to God, if they faced adversity. If all, were to be saved anyway (including Satan), why would God have bothered to direct Satan’s attention to the integrity of Job, pointing out that humans can choose to be faithful in adverse times?

Universal salvation is a feel-good unbiblical doctrine that our imperfect flesh wants to be true, and Satan wants us to accept as true. It allows us to not be concerned about our actions or deeds, as one will receive salvation regardless. What they are doing is removing integrity and faithfulness from the equation. However, Like Adam, who betrayed God, Like Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Son of God, and all the rest, who have rejected God,

Jesus, in speaking to the Father about his disciples, said,

John 17:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of destruction,[7] so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

Hebrews 6:4-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away,[8] it is impossible to renew[9] them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to public shame.

The apostle Paul made it all too clear, as to the outcome of willful unrepentant sinners,

Hebrews 10:26-31 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the accurate knowledge[10] of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”[11] And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[12] 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

There have been many good-hearted self-declared Christians from the second to the twenty-first century, who have held to the unbiblical position of universal salvation. Again, this is not a biblical teaching. While it is true that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), it is just as true that he is a God of “justice” (Isa. 33:22; Ps 33:5; Job 37:23) As a God of love, he gives us free moral agents the choice between life and death, if we choose to live under his sovereignty, we receive eternal life. As a God of Justice, if we choose to reject his sovereignty, he rejects us, and we receive eternal destruction.

[1] Atonement, Reconciliation: (Heb. kāpar; Gr. katallage; katallasso) The sense in both the OT Hebrew and NT Greek Scriptures is that of making an amends (cleansing oneself from a sin or one’s sinful condition), i.e., falling short (be it intentional, ignorance, or negligence) and restoring a previously harmonious relationship with God. This would then allow the person to approach God and worship him in an approved condition regardless of his human imperfection. In the Hebrew Scriptures, different types of sacrifices were offered, especially on the annual Day of Atonement. This was to bring about reconciliation with God regardless of the sins of individuals and the whole nation. The sacrifices of the Hebrew OT pointed to the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This was the sacrifice once for all time that atoned for anyone who accepts Jesus and evidence faith in that sacrifice, which reconciles that one to God.– Lev. 5:10; 23:28; Eph. 2:16; Col 1:20, 22; Heb. 9:12.

COMING SOON

[2] That is eternal cutting off, from life. Lit., “lopping off; pruning.”

[3] Lit from before the face of the Lord

[4] This verses is included because it convey the same message, but it does not contain the Greek pan. Rather, it has holos, meaning “whole, complete, entirely.”

[5] Good News Translation (GNT)

[6] The literal translations are the best for both Bible reading and personal Bible study, and the ambiguity of this text would be cleared up for those who research.

[7] Or son of perdition

[8] Fall Away, Forsake, or Turn Away: (Gr. parapiptō) The sense of parapiptō is to fall away or forsake the truth.–Heb. 6:6.

[9] Renew, Restore, or Bring Back: (Gr. anakainizō) The sense of anakainizō is to cause change to a previous state, to start anew.–Heb. 6:6.

[10] Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.

[11] Quote from Deut. 32:35

[12] Quote from Deut. 32:36