Questions?


Will all people be saved?

In a word, yes and no. The scriptures are clear that it is God's sovereign intention that all will be saved, and come to an accurate knowledge of the truth. (I Timothy 2:4-6) And it is equally clear from the Bible that Satan, his angels, and a host of evil men, will in the end be destroyed in "Second Death". (Revelation 20:14-15) I believe that "orthodox" Christian teachers have missed a great blessing by explaining away the promised power and glory of God as respects the salvation of all people. But I am not a Universalist. I believe the truth is found, as so often is the case, in a middle road that avoids both extremes of Christian interpretation.

How we differ with "Universalism"

I consider myself a Christian brothers of all "Christian Universalists" -- those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and who acknowledge the Bible as God's word. Unitarian Universalists rarely see the Bible as the inerrant word of God, and often tend to embrace various New Age religions or humanistic creeds. While I am appreciative of their open-mindedness, I would tend to think of them as folks whose salvation awaits the coming age of grace, in which the entire world of mankind will acknowledge the Messiah as the savior of the world and the door of access to God.

Christian Universalists, who include a variety of sub-groups such as Universal Reconciliationists, etc., hold that all sin will be eradicated, and ultimately all people saved eternally. I agree that God has promised that it is his will that "all will be saved, and come to an accurate knowledge of the truth", but once they have an accurate knowledge of the truth, each individual will be free to choose whether to obey ... and only those who obey the "prophet like unto Moses" will live eternally. (See Acts 3:23) I apply that verse to the future age of grace, however -- actually the "little season" at the end of it -- not during the present era as my orthodox brethren do.

If Univeralists believe that Christ died to bring redemption, and is the only possible source of man's salvation, and that sin must be repented of and overcome in order to gain eternal life, then I agree with them on the essential basics of Christian doctrine, and consider them my brethren in Christ. I appreciate that Christian Universalists recognize more clearly than many of my more traditional Christian brethren that God is indeed love, and that many hindrances to faith and obedience have been permitted during past and present ages. I share the hope of Christian Universalists that an age of amazing grace will transform the world in ways that few people have ever dared to dream, into the golden age, eutopian society on earth that the Hebrew prophets spoke of so eloquently.

The points of disagreement would revolve around the number of ages of grace, and the question as to whether anyone will ultimately fail to choose the right, or lose their life. Paul in Romans and the writer of Hebrews in chapters 6 and 10 is clear that only one full opportunity for life will be granted. I think the scriptures teach that for most people, that opportunity will occur during Christ's millennial reign, and that those who prove incorrigible at the end of that time will be permitted to choose the destiny of destruction. No one who dies will die for Adam's sin or some other extraneous cause. (See Jeremiah 31:30) Those who die, will do so because they chose to disobey God's laws of love and justice.

Many Christian Universalists hold that even after the 2nd age of grace, there will be opportunities to gain eternal life -- indeed, that ultimately no one is truly free, truly responsible for the choice of life over death -- and that God will eventually open all eyes, even those of the devil himself. It is in that area that I must respectfully disagree. Satan will be destroyed, and all who follow him will likewise be annihilated. I cannot see any other way to read Revelation 20.

I welcome discussions of these matters and see absolutely no reason for the incessant persecution that Christian Universalists have had to suffer from their Christian brethren who do not acknowledge God's promises of the salvation of all.

Here's a chart that explains the basic points of difference between the 3 main Christian perspectives:

Doctrine

Trad Xtian

Xtian Universalist

Our view

Ages of grace

1

Multiple

2

Nature of "1st death"

Final - no possible change afterwards

Dispensational end of life - not final

Adamic - hereditary, all will be saved from it "in due time" -- either during Christian age or during Millennium

Nature of "2nd death"

Eternal torment

Dispensational end of life - not final

Final destiny of incorrigible of either age of grace - Annihilation. That is, eternal, unconscious death

Free will

Man always has it (Arminian)

Man never has it until God chooses him for salvation (Calvinist)

Man never has it, and salvation is God's choice for man

Man has limited free will under Adamic condemnation, but becomes truly free, and therefore responsible, when an individual is called by God for salvation through faith now, or else accepts the grace of Christ freely offered to all in the Millennium

 

Salvation

Comes to those who believe (Arminian)

God's choice for those who are "willing to believe" (Calvinist)

God's choice for those who "obtain Christ" (those whom God calls) to receive God's grace through God's gift of belief in all ages of grace

Comes to those whom God "calls" during the Xtian age, and to "whosoever will" of all the residue of men during the Millennium. Both groups must adhere to the requirements of God's love and justice in order to be granted eternal life

 

Our apologies for perhaps not expressing as precisely as some would prefer, those perspectives with which we disagree. We'll be happy to amend this comparison for those who care to help us state matters with greater precision.

 

Dialog and Critique

In a review of the Universalist book by Gulley and Mulholland, "If God is Love", I found this interesting critique by a more traditional-minded Christian brother, F B Robertson: (see the Amazon site for the the full article). I here quote from Brother Roberston and add my comments:

1st: If Everyone is going to be saved, then God is not Holy: God cannot be Holy and bring everyone to Him if everyone is following their own ways and their own ideas and their own thoughts. For you see, only a Holy God can examine and define what is right and what is wrong in this world, in fact, in this universe.

My answer: I believe the definition of "salvation" that is intended by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:4-6 and elsewhere is: the salvation from Adamic condemnation. All people will be saved from that hereditary blot ("wrath") against them. Christians in this age are saved from Adamic, hereditary condemnation through the process of justification by faith. This gives them the freedom to walk with God and talk with God in spite of their many failings. They look and often act just like any other sinner, but their sins have been set aside by God because of their faith and obedience to Christ (which of course is a gift and calling from God). They also experience the indwelling of God's spirit, which allows them to start over with a new, spiritual inner life, a "new man", which involves a transformation by the renewing of their minds, and to be "filled with all the fulness of God". Their sins of the spirit are still of immense concern to God, however, which is why God disciplines and chastens his spiritual sons, the Christians of this age. (Hebrews 12:7)

The future age of grace has a different mechanism. Like us, they receive a new start. But they are not headed for heaven, they are remaining on earth. And instead of remaining in a fallen body and being beset by 3 implacable enemies (the world, the flesh, and the Devil), the world of mankind have an entirely different and much easier experience. The actual bodies of people will be changed, as well as their surroundings. In their resurrection, everyone will receive a body that is "pleasing" to God (no doubt, unimpaired - see 1 Corinth 15:37-38). This is huge, because many of the sins of people in this world are directly traceable to defects in our human bodies as we inherit them from Adam. Just think "crack baby" if you have trouble with this concept.

In the Messianic age, a progressive opportunity to gain life will be provided to each redeemed individual through obedience. Jesus calls it a "resurrection by judgments." (Carefully study the meaning of the Greek words in John 5:28,29) As Revelation 22:12 puts it, they will be judged as their work "shall be." The tense of the verb in that verse is future, the mood indicative. And so King James, Darby, Young's Literal, and Webster's translation all render it "as their work shall be." That's why whosever will can in that age "take the water of life freely." If they are willing and obedient, they will experience step-by-step progress toward actual perfection.

The resurrected world of mankind, who certainly do not "deserve" life eternal any more than Christians in this age "deserve" it, will nevertheless experience the grace of God applied toward them, to help them learn what they need to learn in order to become pleasing to God, just as authentic Christians in this age experience that amazing Grace.

The rewards of the world of mankind are not nearly so great -- conditional life on earth instead of immortal life in heaven -- but that is a result of the easier time they will experience. They will no longer have a Satanic and demonic realm of fallen spirits trying to deceive them. (Revelation 20:3 contrasted with 1 Peter 5:8) They will no longer have the inner motions of sin working against them (their "fallen flesh"). They will no longer have an evil and tempting world system (kosmos) allied against right action and right thinking. So the 3 great foes which Christians now must wrestle with, will no longer be there at all. (1 John 2:15-17) The whole world will be hearing one clear voice of instruction from God, the pure language of his Son, the Messiah. Judgment will be laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. Hail (hard truth) will sweep away the hiding places of lies. No one will be deceived. In this environment, it will be hard to act selfish and difficult to disobey, because disobedience will meet with immediate consequences. So the love of God as Brother Robinson describes it will indeed by arrayed against falsehood and immorality.

Then, too, the past sins of people will be a constant source of consternation, especially during the first few years of the resurrected lives of unjust people. They will need to acknowledge, and repent, of the many rebellions and deceits that they committed. This won't be easy, and will require what Jesus called a process of "shepherding the nations with a staff of iron." (Revelation 2:27) So we agree with the traditional view of the holiness of God, his insistence upon right thinking and right acting, and disagree with any Universalist notion that God ignores these principles.


2nd: If Everyone is going to be saved, then God does not love like these authors try to maintain: If God was saving everyone, then He does not have love within His being, for such a God who would save all no matter what the people did, such a God has no love. That then is contrary to the truth and foundation that is in our Holy Scriptures and within what great thinkers such as Martin Luther and C. S. Lewis has taught.

This is not a strong argument. Yes it's true, that the scriptural concept of Love includes hatred of evil, and a willingness to discipline those who are loved for their long-term good. God is love, and he is also a consuming fire as respects evil and sin. Totally harmonious concepts.

But God says his will (not his wish, but his purpose and his solemn intention) is to save everone, and bring them up to an "exact knowledge of the truth". (1 Tim. 2:3-4) So please spare us this reasoning which attempts to nullify clear statements of the word of God. He has chosen to tolerate sin for "a week" because allowing his human children to experience the consequences of rebellion and separation from God is the best possible way to insure that the maximum number possible can be taught to love and appreciate God and his goodness, and learn to live together in perfect harmony for the future. We wish all the great men of God such as Luther and Lewis understood some of these insights, but the fact they did not does not diminish their basic faith and salvation, nor does it argue against us and others moving on to deeper appreciation of how to harmonize the whole counsel of God.


3rd: If Everyone is going to be saved, then Jesus Christ is a liar: Why would Jesus Christ be a liar, because in all four Gospels and through the Holy Spirit's interaction with writers such as Paul, God clearly defines that it is through Jesus and only through Jesus that one and all can be saved. By coming to Jesus and Him alone, we will find the true road to Heaven.

Yes, it is true that salvation can only come through Jesus. However, the Bible tells us that through Jesus, all will be saved. (again, we must carefully define what they are saved from, and how. All will be saved from the hereditary "wrath" that came upon all the children of Adam. Only those who are willing and obedient will receive the gift of eternal life.) We agree with Acts 4:12, and we also agree with Luke 2:10-11.


4rd If Everyone is going to be saved, then the Cross was useless: Oh such writers as Philip Gulley speaks that the cross meant love, and that is true, but if everyone is going to be saved anyway, then the cross was not and is not important, or meaningful, or real.

Yes, I agree that the Cross is the means of salvation, and that if universalism is true, and God will simply forgive everyone without the process of substitutionary atonement, then the cross would be meaningless. However, the cross is what guarantees the universality of salvation from Adamic death. Jesus was the great substitute for Adam, he is even called the 2nd Adam, and he came to die as an exchange for Adam so that Adam and all who died in him can receive a new opportunity of "justification to life" through Christ. This is clearly taught in Romans 5:18-21. That's why Jesus said, "My flesh I give for the LIFE OF THE WORLD." John 6:51


5th If Everyone is going to be saved, then Jesus would not have given the Great Commission: The Great Commission found at the end of the Gospels after the resurrection speaks of God's commanding desire that we as Christians spread the true word and good news of God through Christ throughout the world. If all religions, if all no matter what are to be saved and brought into God's heaven, then it doesn't really matter what you believe about Jesus and about God and about the Holy Spirit.

We agree that the Great Commission was given to all Christians until Christ returns. And we agree that truth matters, and that other religions do not lead to God. But when the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) states that we are to make disciples of all nations -- that does not imply that the only hope of the world's conversion is the feeble efforts of Christians to win converts to the ways of faith. Indeed, Jesus predicted that when he returned, there would be little faith in the earth, and Paul predicted "savage times" at the end of the Christian era. When Christ returns, the world will be a rebellious shambles -- an entire Millennium of additional, amazing grace will be needed to teach and correct and redeem it.

6th If Everyone is going to be saved, then all the prophecies of the Old and New Testament are lies from God and the whole Bible in and of itself should just be thrown away: The prophecies of the Old and New Testament speaks that there will be a day that God shows it bright and clear that not only He is in control but that He sees the sins of the small to the great, the poor to the most wealthy.

Yes, there are prophecies of judgment against sin, and I have not gainsayed them. I embrace them. The final punishment of sin will be the lake of fire, which the Bible defines as "second death." In the end, even sins of omission will be judged with eternal death. (Matthew 25:31 ff) But I must also emphatically and lovingly embrace all the many prophecies of the Bible which talk about a restored earth, sinners redeemed, the blind being led by a way they knew not, all tears wiped away, all people enjoying a feast of fat things, etc. These are covered in our article, "God's Goals"

Thus the very nature of a god that is like the one worshiped and believed in by people such as Philip Gulley and James Mulholland is a very frightening nature. This god does not care what you do or how you do in this lifetime that you have been given. You can do whatever you want, whether it is for good or ill, because it does not matter. As such this god will treat you like "oh you are all loved by me" as these authors and many more like them say, but that is not true because this god really would not care a thing about you or what is right or wrong about your nature. Like I said, for this god, it does not matter. It is a meaningless consideration. Even more so, this god would not be holy, this god would just be there, like a person on your television screen, and just as two dimensional. This god cannot be holy because the very nature of holiness means that the god would see specifically measuring by himself what is good and what is bad. To this god, again, it does not mean a thing. Even more, the grace that this kind of god offers to one and all would be about as cheap as a man buying a wedding ring for his hopeful wife at a vending machine that charges 25 cents. In other words, the grace that this god that is said to be offered by the authors I have examined would be a hollow and pointless grace because it does not answer the questions of our hearts and the actions by us through life. This kind of grace is superficial and meaningless at the very least, at the very worst, it is a slap in the face toward all of us who have struggled in the race of life-those of us who have been raped, abused, those of us who have lost loved ones in school shootings and in robberies. This kind of grace the authors insist is the kind of grace that is really not grace at all, its just fluff from a pillow.

Yes, I agree that God is holy and he is sovereign. And that's why I believe him when he says it is his eternal purpose to bring the world of mankind to a place where it is one family, part in heaven and part on earth ... and that reconciliation is the goal of God in sending his son to die. (Ephesians 1:10-11, Colossians 1:20).

The last sentence of Bro Robertson's review is interesting: he says, "this kind of grace ... is not really grace at all..."

While I agree that a soft, mushy grace that condones and exonerates sinners would be a sham grace, so would the steely, harsh grace of the traditional Christian church. That grace says, "God loved you so much that he sent his only son....but hurry up and receive him quick before you die, or God will torment you forever." The unrealistic demands placed upon infants, and pagans, and victims of rape and abuse and yes, Christian hypocrisy, keep many, many, people from using their "window of opportunity" to seize the unclear, often incoherent door of access to "salvation" that is offered by traditional Christianity.

God is love. God is working all things after the counsel of his own will. And his word will stand. Jesus will gain the victory that he was sent to secure.