Mar 302007
 

Universalism is the doctrine that eventually, all humanity will be saved and united with God. Since I've argued elsewhere that the infinite punishment of an everlasting hell is incompatible with the love, justice and mercy of God, it follows that eventually, all punishment must end, and all humanity united with God. While I find this doctrine obvious simply by what I know of God's love, as I've studied it, I find it has amazingly strong support even from a literal interpretation of the Bible. I'd like to present several scriptures which I don't believe can be properly understood or explained except by a universalist interpretation.

"and through him [Jesus] to reconcile ALL THINGS to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of his cross. You, being in past times alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works, yet now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and blameless before him" (Colossians 1:20-22 WEB)

Can anyone suppose that a soul tormented in hell is "reconciled" unto God? According to this verse, ALL THINGS will be reconciled, and presented holy and without blemish to God. No exceptions are mentioned. In fact, it was verses such as this one which led the early Church father Origen to speculate that eventually even Satan would be reconciled to God. But I'll be satisfied for this writing to concentrate on humanity. At the least, it's very hard to see how all things can be reconciled to God while a significant portion of humanity are suffering in hell, eternally separated from his presence. Here's another scripture

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ ALL will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christs, at his coming. Then the end comes, when he will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For, He put all things in subjection under his feet.[1] But when he says, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted who subjected all things to him. When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all.
(1 Corinthians 15:22-28 WEB)

This one is quite shocking also. ALL will be made alive by Christ. The same "ALL" who die in Adam, which is to say, all humanity.  This does not refer only to the resurrection, where death will be abolished, for it says that death is the LAST enemy that will be abolished. All other enemies will be in subjection and (per the scripture before) reconciliation to Christ BEFORE the resurrection. And then God will be "all in all". God will be FULLY united, through and through, with all humanity – a difficult thing to reconcile with the idea of millions screaming in hell.
Origen put it this way: So then, when the end has been restored to the beginning, and the termination of things compared with their commencement, that condition of things will be re-established in which rational nature was placed, when it had no need to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; so that when all feeling of wickedness has been removed, and the individual has been purified and cleansed, He who alone is the one good God becomes to him "all," and that not in the case of a few individuals, or of a considerable number, but He Himself is "all in all." And when death shall no longer anywhere exist, nor the sting of death, nor any evil at all, then verily God will be "all in all" –Origen, De Prinicipiis, 3.6.3.

I quote the next one from Youngs Literal, because there is an important nuance in the Greek that Young's captures.

"So, then, as through one offence to all men it is to condemnation, so also through one declaration of `Righteous' it is to ALL men to justification of life; for as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners: so also through the obedience of the one, shall the many be constituted righteous. "
(Romans 5:18-19 YLT)
Who will are condemned because of Adam? Absolutely everyone. Who will be made righteous in Christ? The same group – absolutely everyone. Who became sinners because of Adam? "the many". Some Bibles simply translated it "many" – but it actually implies "THE many". Which many? The group specified before – ALL mankind. In any event, the many who became sinners in Adam are the same many who are constituted righteous – that is, absolutely everyone.

Next, in Romans 11…

"For God has shut up all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on ALL."  (Romans 11:32 WEB)

Paul has used several examples to show that even disobedience doesn't disqualify us from the mercy of God. ALL will be shown the same mercy, and Paul concludes with this profound scripture:

"For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen."  (Romans 11:36 WEB)

Everything came from God (of). Everything is sustained by God (through) AND…. everything will RETURN TO God (to). There will be no eternal separation.

But isn't it an absolute requirement that everyone confess the name of Jesus to be saved? That is the position of some. They would point to this scripture:

"that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. " (Romans 10:9 WEB)

You'll notice it doesn't say "ONLY if you confess…" simply that this is one route. But even if we want to say it is an absolute requirement… it's clear from scripture that absolutely everyone will meet that requirement!

"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that EVERY TONGUE should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. " (Philippians 2:10-11 WEB)

Even those who are dead ( "under" the earth ) will ALL (EVERY tongue) confess that Jesus is Lord – and at that point, will obviously believe with certainty that God raised him from the dead, and hence will be saved! But wait, you exclaim. Isn't it too late to confess Jesus after one is dead? Says who? There is no such limitation in the text of Romans 10:9. Certainly it takes more courage to confess Jesus in the here-and-now. But does God save by courage, or by grace? Is there some "merit" in confessing before death? Does God save by merit, or by grace? There is nothing in scripture to forbid the idea of that the dead may confess and receive salvation.

"For it is evident that God will in truth be all in all when there shall be no evil in existence, when every created being is at harmony with iteself and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; when every creature shall have been made one body". –Gregory of Nyssa, 335-390

"We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer to redeem, to rescue, to discipline in his work, and so will he continue to operate after this life" –Clement of Alexandria

There is much, much more to say on this topic. Perhaps a 30 part series would work 😉

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