Universalism states that sooner or later all people will be saved. This position holds that the concepts of hell and punishment are inconsistent with a loving God. The older form of universalism, originating in the second century, taught that salvation would come after a temporary period of punishment. The newer form of universalism declares that all men are now saved, though all do not realize it. – Ron Rhodes (Christian Apologist and author of the “Reasoning With…” series of books)
Here Are Some Excerpts from Robb Bell that Suggest Universalism
“A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.”
“As soon as the door is opened to Muslims. Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth.”
“Not true. Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true…What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody. And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe.”
“People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways…Sometimes people use his name; other times they don’t…Some people have so much baggage with regard to the name “Jesus” that when they encounter the mystery present in all of creation–grace, peace, love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness–the last thing they are inclined to name it is ‘Jesus.'”
“What we see Jesus doing again and again–in the midst of constant reminders about the seriousness of following him living like him, and trusting him–is widening the scope and expanse of his saving work.” – Robb Bell in Love Wins.
The Bible and Universalism
1) Universalism teaches that sooner or later all people will be saved.
2) The verse at hand: “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Col. 1:20
3) There is no hope for reconciliation and peace with God apart from the blood of the cross of Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Romans 5:1-2)
Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [“This Jesus” from v. 11] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
4) Reconciliation is the finished work of God bringing men from the position and attitude of enmity to the position of attitude and amity by the work of Christ on the cross – propitiation (God-ward) and redemption (sin-ward) result in reconciliation (man-ward). – S. Lewis Johnson (see Romans 5:10-11)
Romans 5:10-11, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
5) Paul is not speaking about universal salvation here, but simply of the universal sovereignty of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18).
Matthew 28:18, And Jesus came and said to them, [His disciples] “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”
6) By virtue of the fact of His death and resurrection, Christ as the last Adam is Lord over all that was lost by the First Adam (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45-49).
1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have been born of the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
7) The Scriptures continually make a distinction between the saved and the lost (see Matt. 7:13-14; 25:41; Rev. 20:10-15; Luke 16:19-31; 2 Thess. 1:7-9)
Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Paul used similar language in Ephesians 1:10 when he described God’s eternal purpose as the “summing up” or the “uniting” of “all things” in Christ, “things in heaven and things on earth” (1:10). His final purpose will have been achieved:
1) God’s grace and mercy will have been glorified by the salvation of his people,
2) God’s holiness and justice will have been glorified by the condemnation of his enemies ,
3) and heaven and earth will have been restored under God’s created and determined order, the universe placed once again under His reign without the corruption of sin (Romans 8:19-23).
Romans 8:19-23, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
“However we may describe it in the various designations Scripture provides, is one from which all conflict, enmity, disharmony, warfare will be excluded; it will mean the final triumph of righteousness and peace, in a word, of reconciliation. The powers of darkness will be cast out and by the judgment executed made to ‘confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:11). Bowing the knee in compulsive submission, this will be the reconciliation as it bears upon them; it will constitute the ultimate unconditional surrender, the confessed defeat of age-long assault upon the kingdom of God. We can and must see in this grand climax of victory the fruit of the blood of Christ’s cross” (Dr. John Murray, “The Reconciliation,” Westminster Theological Journal, 9).
“Paul thinks cosmically, the whole world is out of proper adjustment since the fall. There are, in heaven, beings that are fallen beings, who are enemies of God and hostile to him, Satan and the evil angels, the demons. All of these intelligences in this universe, as well as the physical universe itself, are touched by the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. What a cosmic event the cross really was, touching not simply men, not simply the creation about us, but all of the intelligences of the universe. So reconciliation then refers, ultimately, to the bringing into proper harmony all of God’s creation.” – S. Lewis Johnson
We remember the words of Jesus when he said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13-14).”
What kind of a God would have such a narrow gate? The question implies a serious accusation; that God has not done enough to provide redemption for mankind. Let us examine the accusation from a hypothetical perspective. Let us suppose that there is a God who is altogether holy and righteous. Suppose that God freely creates mankind and gives to mankind the gift of life.
Suppose He sets His creatures in an ideal setting and gives them the freedom to participate in all of the glories of the created order with freedom. Suppose, however, that God imposes one small restriction upon them, warning them that if they violate that restriction, they will die. Would such a God have the right to impose such a restriction with the penalty of forfeiture of the gift of life if His authority is violated?
Suppose that for no just cause the ungrateful creatures disobeyed the restriction the moment God’s back was turned. Suppose when He discovered their violation instead of killing them, He redeemed them. Suppose the descendents of the first transgressors broadly and widely increased their disobedience and hostility toward their creator to the point that the whole world became rebellious to God, and each person in it, “did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25).
Suppose God still determined to redeem these people and freely gave special gifts to one nation of people in order that, through them, the whole world would be blessed. Suppose God delivered this people from poverty and enslavement to a ruthless Egyptian Pharoah. Suppose this privileged nation, as soon as it was liberated, rose up in further rebellion against their God and their liberator. Suppose they took His law and violated it consistently.
Suppose that God, still intent upon redemption, sent specially endowed messengers or prophets to plead with His people to return to Him. Suppose the people killed the divine messengers and mocked their message. Suppose the people then began to worship idols of stone and things fashioned by their own hands. Suppose these people invented religions that were contrary to the real God and worshiped creatures rather than the Creator.
Suppose in an ultimate act of redemption God Himself became incarnate in the person of His Son. Suppose this Son came into the world not to condemn the world, but to redeem the world. But suppose this Son of God were rejected, slandered, mocked, tortured, and murdered. Yet, suppose that God accepted the murder of His own Son as punishment for the sins of the very persons who murdered Him.
Suppose this God offered to His Son’s murderers total amnesty, complete forgiveness, transcendent peace that comes with the cleansing of all guilt, victory over death and an eternal life of complete felicity.
Suppose God gave these people as a free gift the promise of a future life that would be without pain, without sickness, without death, and without tears. Suppose that God said to these people, “There is one thing that I demand. I demand that you honor my only-begotten Son and that you worship and serve Him alone.” Suppose God did all of that, would you be willing to say to Him, “God, that’s not fair, you haven’t done enough”?
If man has in fact committed cosmic treason against God, what reason could we possibly have that God should provide any way of redemption? In light of the universal rebellion against God, the issue is not why is there only one way, but why is there any way at all? I know of no way of answering that question. (R.C. Sproul, Reason to Believe, pp. 41-43).
Guide For Community Group Discussion: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved?
May 1, 2011 – Colossians 1:20
1) Certain passages – John 12:32, Colossians 1:20, Philippians 2:11, and 1 Timothy 2:4 – are typically twisted out of context in support of universalism. Look each of these up and interpret them in their context (as well as in the light of other Scriptures) – how would you answer a Universalist based on these passages – one-by-one?
2) The Scriptures consistently categorize people into one of two classes (saved/unsaved, also called believers/unbelievers), and portray the final destiny of every person as being one of two realities (heaven or hell). Write a brief summary of these passages:
- Matthew 7:13-14; 13:30, 49
- Matthew 25:32, 41
- Luke 16:19-31
- 2 Thess. 1:7-9
3) What do the following passages have to say about Hell?
- Rev. 14:9-11; 20:11-15
- Matt. 5:21-22, 27-30
- Matt. 23:15, 33
- Matt. 25:41,46
4) Read Col. 1:13-23 and then the following passages. Why does the Bible teach that Jesus is the only way that God provided for us to be saved?
- John 14:6; Acts 4:12 & 16:31
- Romans 5:1-2
- Romans 10:9-13
- Hebrews 9:27-28
- 2 Cor. 5:10-21