Questions/Q&A

First, some questions for you from “15 Bombs That Sank My Theological Ship” followed by some questions by our readers.

1. If God will have all men to be saved, and if most men are lost, then how can God be supreme (I Timothy 2:3,4)?

2. If Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, did He die in vain for the lost (I John 2:2)?

3. If God is going to reconcile the universe through Christ, how can some be tormented forever (Colossians 1:20)?

4. How can God, in Christ, gather all things together as one while billions remain eternally estranged (Ephesians 1:10)?

5. If all die in Adam, and a few are made alive in Christ, how can grace much more abound than sin (Romans 5:20)?

6. If all men are condemned by one man’s offense, why are not all men justified by one man’s obedience (Romans 5:18)?

7. If all die in Adam, why shall not all be made alive in Christ (I Corinthians 15:22)?

8. How can every knee bow confessing Christ Lord, to God’s glory, unless reconciled (Philippians 2:10,11)?

9. If Christ only hath immortality, how can any of the dead be alive now (I Timothy 6:14-16; I Corinthians 15:53,54)?

10. If the wicked go to hell as soon as they die, why are they raised and judged later (Revelation 20:11-15)?

11. Since the lake of fire is the second death, what happens to the wicked when death is destroyed (I Corinthians 15:26)?

12. If “forever” means “eternity” what does “forever and ever” mean?

13. If God is love and has all power, will He not find away to save all, or will His love ultimately fail (I Timothy 4:9-11)?

14. If Christ is to reign “for ever and ever,” what does it mean that He will deliver up the kingdom to the Father (Revelation 11:15; I Corinthians 15:24)?

15. Will God ever actually become “All in all” (I Corinthians 15:28)?

 

If you have any questions that are on a topic not yet covered by posts on this site please feel free to share them here:

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Dwight April 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

As a Christian Universalist how do you view the manner in which God purifies one who, in their mortal existence, has rejected God’s grace through belief in His Son and His redemptive work?

admin April 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Hello Dwight,
Hope you had a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

Thank you for your question.

First it must be said that we all in our mortal existence have rejected God’s grace and redemptive work. We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But we are told we will “all remember and return to the Lord” (Psa 22) for God has desired and decreed it. Salvation for all is simply a matter of timing. God says we have all been reconciled and the reconciliation from our end is a process and unique journey for each one.

A Christian Universalist would say that God’s purpose and desire to save all is not limited to this present age. There are at least 5 different ages (eons) mentioned in Scripture and there are many references to an “order” and a “firstfruits” in which God will accomplish His purpose for His creation. We understand Scriptures to teach that God will work within these ages to accomplish His goal of “all things new” for His glory.

So what is the manner in which God purifies the sinner who has rejected Christ in this life? In much the same manner we have seen it take place in someone like David, Jonah, Saul/Paul or the “Prodigal Son” or our own testimonies of conversion. God has His ways to bring all “to their senses” in which we believers have experienced and witnessed. And no one would deny that His “severe mercy” is still all of grace from a heart of love. But just as our experience of purification in this life, no one will say it was worth it.

We are given the metaphor of fire in Scripture for judgment. A consuming and refining fire is how it is referred to in the Bible but many have rejected the symbol of fire and replaced it with very unbiblical metaphors of “an eternal grudge” or that “the doors of hell are locked on the inside” by unrepentant sinners who say for eternity, “MY will be done” (CS Lewis).

By doing this we have replaced God’s tool of redemptive purification with a view of an eternal existence of human anarchy and rebellion perpetuating sin, evil and death forever (dualism). The traditional view has God punishing sin through a cycling of infinitely more sin. This is absurd and incoherent behavior for a holy God who hates sin, evil and death and said He “came to destroy the works of the devil” and that “the last enemy to be destroyed is Death.”

We are told He will bring “every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”, that He will “reconcile all things to Himself’, and defeat Death and “be all in all”, making “all things new”. (Phil 2; Col 1; Eph 1: 1 Cor 15; Rev 21)

We can trust that God will be able to bring each person “in their time” to their senses just as He has done for us and for many of those whom we have heard their testimonies.

If you are interested you may read more about the Gospel and how it is worked out in our lives on this website: http://www.godslovewins.com/aboutus-thegospel.htm There are also additional materials for a Scriptural, historical and logical study of this topic.

Grace and peace to you!

Alex April 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Hi there,

I believe fully in Christian Universalism, a truth which God opened my eyes to when I couldn’t comprehend Hell and asked for something to give me hope.

I have a problem with the ages though and how long they are. For example, I now have the impression that people will be stuck in Hades until the age ends because that’s the way it is, even if that age is 1000 years. I always think of Jonah being stuck in the whale’s belly for 3 days in darkness. That was for his particular case, but it may not be appropriate to others.

If my neighbour dies, then they are stuck in Hades until the age expires i.e. Church age, regardless of what they have done. This seems unfair. Wouldn’t God assess each person individually and purify them accordingly? Hitler for example may need years, but a banker for instance who is selfish may need weeks or a few years to learn, not a 1000 years or however long the Biblical ages seem to suggest.

So basically, my question is why does an age seem to refer to thousands of years at a time for correction/chastening when an example like Jonah was only 3 days? Even people being blessed with grace have instant results of being changed or transformed.

I hope I made sense. 🙂

Alex April 11, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Thank you so much for your reply!

The Christmas Carol analogy is fantastic!

I’ve always been a worrier you know, thinking that when I’m undergoing my judgement, I’ll be missing out on spending time with loved ones in Heaven/Paradise/New Earth, whatever you believe comes first. It’s been a concern of mine that there’d be a party going on, but I can’t join in until the age expires.

I’ve heard an interpretation of the Church Age being 2000 years old, therefore anyone in Hades at the moment can’t come out until it expires, which in my heart felt so wrong. Would it make sense for someone who died in 1012 AD to still be stuck in Hades now? Not for me. God is so powerful he can bring anyone to him through whatever is necessary. He brought me out of the New Age just when I couldn’t handle it all and rejected Him.

Like your examples above in the Prodigal Son and Saul/Paul & Jonah, judgements should be along the lines of ‘punishment should fit the crime’. I’ve always pondered about the ‘day is like a thousand years’ part.

On Star Trek Deep Space Nine, an episode called ‘Hard Time’ was about a crew member imprisoned for 20 years as a punishment. However, it was a device creating illusion. He’d only been gone 2 hours. That’s how I like to envisage the purification process and the concept of time, like the examples you provided. To my loved ones in eternity, I’d have been gone for an hour, but to me, it would’ve felt like weeks, maybe years.

If only Jesus returned soon, then all of this pain and sorrow could be swallowed up once and for all!

admin April 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm

I think so much speculation is what causes fear as we try and fit God into our human box, trying to predict what He will do. I remember seeing The Chart at church back in the 60’s which laid out the “Plan of the Ages”. It was kind of spooky really but at times exciting to think we knew what God was up to. Boy, has that been shattered!

We need only to rest in the fact that God is good, He is just and His word will not return to Him void but accomplish all He intends. First that means He will not be mocked and that we will be accountable for our actions and if He must use a refining fire against our stubborn rebellion it will be good but we will not say that it was worth the sin.

But finally it means we will one day all be in alignment with His heart and be madly in love with our Creator, Savior, Redeemer and Bridegroom “in the fullness of time.” Hallelujah!

admin April 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Hi Alex! Great to have you here…and thanks for the question.

First I will have to say that it has been a long time since I have considered “dispensationalism” and all its particular ideas of how the ages will pan out so to speak. I believe there is a lot of room for freedom in how one interprets the future ie., eschatology. Many godly believers throughout history have held very different ideas and so I would not try and fit God’s intention to save all into a paradigm that is just one interpretation among many of how the future will unfold.

I would also say that just as you came to understand that God is good and will therefore restore all things you can rest assured that His goodness will uphold a just judgment for those who continue to rebel against Him. It will be measured perfectly.

Your reference to Jonah makes me think of how three days can feel like an eternity (as Jonah himself expressed) and that “a day is like a thousand years” to the Lord. Time is of no consequence to God. Don’t get hung up on a concept of time. If you remember in “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge woke up transformed but he was worried that he had missed Christmas day because of all the time he had spent with the spirits undergoing his “judgment.” He then realized that that was no problem for them being outside his human realm(!) Just a little analogy : )

But anyway, I think your point is well taken: that God can and will do whatever it takes as in the Prodigal Son and Saul/Paul, Jonah. It will be tailored perfectly to each and there is no need to place our human concept of time upon it.

“Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” Gen 18:25

Let me know if that is helpful or if you want me to clarify anything.

grace and peace to you!

brad April 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm

hi – I’m an older christian (lets just say in my 50’s :^)

I found your “what universalism is NOT” post very helpful, thank you.

Like you I am saved “by grace though faith” and like you I agree that to talk of salvation in terms of what is “deserved” is to miss the point :^)

I was wondering though, if some of the contentious issues are not tied to traditional church teachings that could probably use some examination …..

The scriptural link between “sin” and “death” is as clear as crystal all through both testaments. (I won’t post any links because I’m confident this assertion is incontrovertible :^)

What is not nearly as clear is the idea of what you might call “original immortality” in the same way we refer to “original sin”… that is – to say that everyone is “born with” these two attributes.

This creates a theological problem… everyone who has ever lived has an “immortal soul” (to coin a phrase :^) and God has to do something with them for all eternity…

He is, as it were, “stuck” with this horde of indestructable immortal “souls”….

My point would be that according to this belief, everyone (in practice) has “eternal life”… and we then have to reconcile this with Jesus (and other) clear teaching that he alone gives “eternal life”….

We also have to consider (again) that the New Testament is explicit that “death” is the problem, and jesus is the solution…

It seems to me that there’s room for a modified Universalism here, which is to say that if we are permitted to question/deny the concept of the “immortal soul” we then have the room to suggest that not “everyone” need be given eternal life…..

I realise this is uncomfortable, and might lean toward “the deserving” vs the “underserving” again!!!

I am a fan of “grace” so I don’t have any problem with having no “limit” on what God can do….

Anyway – I just thought I’d make this comment here to see if you have any thoughts. If this is “off topic” it’s ok to reject altogether, but if you are willing to email me about this I would value your insights….

The older I get, the less “dogmatic” I have become, so I’m always willing to get someone else’s input!

regards
brad

admin April 13, 2012 at 2:41 am

Hi Brad,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. What you bring up is something I have run into from time to time within the topic of Christian universalism. I am with you in becoming “less dogmatic.” I do have one exception: when it is to lift up and defend both the love and power of God through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

I will have to say that at this point I am ambivalent about the topic of “soul mortality/immortality.” I have read good arguments on both sides and at this point cannot give you any solid insights on this one.

Perhaps our other admin, who is currently on a mission trip, may have some thoughts for you. I will let him know about your question.

I do think that we will generally keep to the above vision of defending the name and character of God as the Sovereign loving Lord of all creation because that is where most people need to begin. But I published your comment because of the gracious tone in which you presented your question. If other points are brought up I am fine with putting them out there if they are presented as humbly as you have done.

Perhaps we may find that the question of the soul’s mortality has more implications than we presently realize.

Grace and peace…

Alex April 13, 2012 at 9:29 am

Soul mortality is something which I’ve encountered during my New Age stint.

A lot of the above strikes similar with Hinduism and Buddhist beliefs and my counterpoint is this; what do we become if we don’t have our loved ones around us as well as being one in Christ?

Would you choose to have eternal life if not everyone was granted it? God knew all about us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139). This implies to me that we have a purpose, otherwise, His creation has proven useless and without genuine purpose, only temporary. The only thing on the scrapheap should be death and sin, which God will swallow up in light of making things anew.

I look at the final stage of reconciliation in Christ as the stage before the fall, when Adam and Eve walked in the Garden of Eden.
The ultimate form of paradise is the restoration of Eden, where sin is not present and God is with his creation.

Soul mortality also presents an atheistic form of Christianity which permits some souls never to experience life in the presence of God.

More importantly, Death would conquer as mortality would still exist.

The Bible is extremely heavy on the emphasis of family. The Parable of the Lost Sheep shows this. A man wouldn’t need all of those sheep. 100 is a lot to have. Yet when one sheep went missing, the man would still look for the lost sheep. Jesus questioned who wouldn’t go looking. He could have kept the 99 other sheep and moved on, saying they will still fulfill the purpose of grazing the land and providing meat. But no, Jesus says: Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

I’m just writing thoughts down as they come into my head so please forgive me if my answer doesn’t quite flow.

admin April 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I appreciate your thoughts on this Alex, especially someone who can identify specific things from being acquainted with New Age philosophy.

You said:
“Soul mortality also presents an atheistic form of Christianity which permits some souls never to experience life in the presence of God.”

When I said we could find ourselves wrong on this issue of soul mortality I failed to say that the one non-negotiable for me is the scope of redemption. I believe restoration and reconciliation through the blood of the cross will be applied to every person who ever lived. The aspect I am not knowledgable to speak on is the question of whether all will need to be resurrected from complete death (unconsciousness) as opposed to everyone’s souls going to a “holding place” until judgment and the “bodily resurrection.”

I like your point about family and how we are all inextricably and intrinsically linked; even strangers (apparently all of us by just 6 degrees!)

Alex April 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm

“The aspect I am not knowledgable to speak on is the question of whether all will need to be resurrected from complete death (unconsciousness) as opposed to everyone’s souls going to a “holding place” until judgment and the “bodily resurrection.””

That’s what’s been distressing me as I mentioned in my first post here. The idea of ‘soul sleep’ freaks me out as does the idea of being in a holding place until the final judgement.

In 2 Peter 2 4-5 is this passage:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[a] putting them in chains of darkness[b] to be held for judgment;

And in 2 Peter 2 9: 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

And Peter 3 18-20: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[a] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,

That was my concern with how long an age is because the spirits of Noah being there for thousands of years until Christ’s death irks me. I always hoped I’d die and then I’d get straight to my judgement, no holding place for thousands of years or soul sleep.

admin April 14, 2012 at 4:21 am

Something that might shed some light here is a book by Peter Hiett on the concept of time vs eternity called Eternity Now! It was highly praised by Philip Yancey. His original unedited version that includes his clear position of total reconciliation (which is more hidden in his published version) can be accessed free on his website. It is called Apocalypse Now.

http://www.tsdowntown.com/

Look under “theology” for free pdf

Update: I just got an email from Peter and he said that his Apocalypse book definitely offers a theology to understand the “intermediate state”, the concept of “soul sleep” and also “soul mortality”. He actually bases it on the physics and science that God has providentially set up in His universe. I have read Hiett’s Epiphany: the God Who Doesn’t Fail and feel he has some real insight into these things that are worthy of serious consideration. I am just starting his Apocalypse Now which addresses the issues we have been discussing here. I will be sharing excerpts from his books in future posts.

Alex April 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm

What do you make of Near Death Experiences?

There are some classic heavenly NDE’s, and then there are the fire and brimstone types which Christians and non-Christians seem to have.

Deception or a reflection of the person’s spiritual state? Perhaps God’s way of communicating? If it’s the latter, it doesn’t half scare the people reading them!

admin April 18, 2012 at 2:47 pm

NDE are interesting but I think a distraction. I agree with you that it hasn’t seemed to really “scare the hell” out of anyone.

With the massive attention “Heaven Is For Real” has gotten it is definitely something the church is using to try and bolster its authenticity. But I believe it will fall short of delivering any kind of lasting impression on the world. It is in the final analysis one person’s testimony to a crowd that cannot verify anything. (One book on a NDE of hell has been uncovered as a lie used for the “greater good” of scaring people into heaven).

I do not see anything in Scripture that says that NDE’s are what should encourage us, or on the other hand make us afraid or be used as evidence to the world that “heaven is for real.”

However, we are told that there IS something that proves to the world that Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross is real.

When Jesus gave us the bottom line as to what would get the world’s attention He said it would be: the unity of His Body:

20“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23)

Jesus said that “even if someone were to rise from the dead” people would still fail to believe. But here in John 17 Jesus says that when the world sees believers unified they will KNOW that God sent Jesus as the Savior of the world!

Right now what the world sees is a splintered Church, a dismembered Body, all saying different things and then fighting about it.

I believe the “greater works” that Jesus said WE will do is referring to this power of unity, love for the brethren. His miracles did not create a world revival but He prayed for and therefore guaranteed a future revival where, when we become one, the world will follow. (see post: http://www.christianuniversalism.com/2012/04/the-greatest-miracle/)

And this is one of the primary reasons we are vocal about our belief in Christian Universalism. We believe it is the only way to reconcile the opposing views within the Body of Christ. We see that the God who WANTS to save is the same God as the God who is ABLE to save (Arminians and Calvinists). Seeing God as one and not divided between His holiness and love will allow the Body to rest in His sovereign love and justice for all people. No longer will Christians feel they must police over the doctrine or behavior of others. But we will all have to embrace that we have been wrong about some things and embrace some new things our brothers and sisters in Christ have been trying to tell us all along!

We believe that love and humility through the unifying truth of Christian Universalism will be our strongest “apologetic” and our most powerful missional strategy, surpassing what any NDE will ever testify to.

Alex April 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I meant that some of the testimonies are scary and while some may be genuine, an awful lot of them seem to be confusing and violent.

I am aware of those like Bill Weise and Mary Baxter and seen some thorough debunkings on them. It’s those on near-death.com which are troubling.

Anyway, there’s a section in Scripture which I’m a bit confused on:

Phil 2:9-11 -Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Are those under the earth people which are being purified until everyone is reconciled?

There’s also this in Revelations 5:13 mentioning ‘under the earth’:
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

admin April 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Alex,
Again, NDE are not Scripture. We need to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ whether that is a dream or an experience. There are spiritual phenomenon that go on everyday that are quite troubling. But God says that “perfect love casts out all fear,”

Everything must be in subjection to His word that says God is love and that He is “making all things new.” It doesn’t appear reading near-death.com is helpful in focusing on God’s perfect love. Even the nature of God’s judgment is one of mercy or a “severe mercy” as even the fire of the Lord is ultimately a good thing.

I am reminded of Phil 4:8 to think on things that are lovely, true and of good report. Also Romans 12 says we are “not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good.”

Last week I just did some investigation of the term “under the earth” in relation to Phil 2 and the scholars surmise it means anything from demons to just part of the representation for the entire universe. I did not see any certain opinion that it meant people waiting for God to do something.

I believe that a lot of issues and unrest will burn away with a proper view of time (Chronos) in relation to eternity (Kairos). One is a journey while the other is a destination, that of experiencing Christ Himself. We have glimpses of Kairos time, eternity, even while in chronological time. Jesus said to know Him is eternal life, so we can begin at our destination right now!

But as far as how long people are “waiting” for redemption and all that I believe it is our human tracking of time that is the problem. This is why the analogy to Dickens’ treatment of time (and others as well that were mentioned) above is so illuminating.

This is something that Peter Hiett has unpacked for us very well and it is based on the reality God has scientifically built into His universe. I really can’t explain everything here but I encourage you to download his book on eternity and time entitled “Apocalypse Now” at the Sanctuary Downtown.

http://www.tsdowntown.com/

Look under theology for the free pdf book

Patrick April 30, 2012 at 9:34 am

Always wondered what Heb 10:26 and Heb 6:4-6 mean, please share with me

admin April 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

If you believe these are “proof texts” to prove eternal conscious torment then I would say that these are troublesome passages for all theologians from Arminians to Calvinists. Therefore to assume they confirm an eternal hell is unfounded. You will find a wide interpretation of these verses from a dispensationalist to a more Reformed view.

On the other hand if these verses are troubling you because they are hindering your faith to believe the Bible teaches ultimate reconciliation of all things then I would direct you to view the Story of God as a whole picture. The Gospel is a Story not a set of steps or hoops to jump through.

Gerry Beauchemin has written what he calls “Anchor Points to Peace” to guide your thoughts through passages which seem to contradict other clear passages that assure us that God is good and has only our ultimate good in mind and that, “His mercies never come to an end” and, “He is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

You can view his article here:

http://www.hopebeyondhell.net/anchor-points-to-peace-by-gerry-beauchemin/

Gerry Beauchemin April 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Patrick,
I have some initial thoughts I could share with you if you will email me at hopebeyondhell@yahoo.com

Alex May 16, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Hi all. It’s me again. Got a couple of queries which I’m struggling with.

1. The meaning of forever and ever is the eons of the eons or ages of the ages. Many articles concerning Universalism use Revelations 5:13 = And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever.

It’s also the same for the Lake of Fire. I’m confused about the use of forever and ever here. If everything is worshiping Him forever and ever, then why does it use the same Greek terminology as for the LOF?

My next query is about Scripture that refers to as the New Jerusalem and the Book of Life in Revelations 21 & 22. I’ve seen so much referred to the physical and spiritual aspect of it. I’m taking it as representing both. I can understand the spiritual aspect totally. How do you see the physical aspect of it playing out?

Finally:
and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:16-20)

I was told that since it doesn’t mention anything about under the earth or the LOF, then it doesn’t include them. Is that something to factor into this?

Forgive me for the endless questions once again. I hope that perhaps it will also help others if they come across similar problems.

admin May 20, 2012 at 3:39 am

Dear Alex,

Regarding your first question, please understand that this is a working draft. But I will submit it for now which is not to be copied and publicized at this time – please:

Is “forever and ever” in Revelation 14:11, 20:10 (regarding the “Lake of Fire”) an accurate translation? If “forever” is eternal, why add “ever”? Just to make sure? The Apostolic Bible literal interlinear translation of the Greek Old and New Testaments reads: “into the eons of the eons.” Young’s Literal Translation has: “to the ages of the ages.” I believe this phrase reads as it does for a reason, even if we do not understand it. To use the word “ages” which is a specific time word to mean timelessness seems odd. What might it mean? Perhaps if we compare it with other similar phrases we will find our answer. For example: “Song of songs” (Song of Sol. 1:1); “vanity of vanities” (Eccl. 12:8); “servant of servants” (Ge. 9:25); “God of gods” (Deut. 10:17); “prince of princes” (Dan. 8:25); “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5); “King of kings,” “Lord of lords”(1Tim. 6:15); and “holy of holies” (Ex 26:33NAS). These are all comparative superlatives. Why should this phrase be different? Perhaps it refers to the two culminating ages yet to come which are the superlative ages of all preceding ages in God’s plan of the ages. Is this too much of a stretch? To the contrary – the stretch is to not respect the clear typological link to these numerous other “X of X” superlatives.

Let us think about the “holy of holies” for a moment and what it signifies. (Ex 26:33; 2Chr 3-5). It was the most set-apart place of God’s dwelling. Hebrews 9:23-24 speaks of the copies of the things in the heavens being purified with blood. It would seem logical and consistent with Scriptural typology that the “eon (or eons) of eons” have a similar deep significance as well, and perhaps associated in a mysterious way to the holy of holies – a special time (instead of location) in God’s program for humanity that is especially consummating to Him. A “holy” (set apart) era that brings to completion what the blood of Christ was ultimately intended to accomplish – the salvation of the World? This view harmonizes with the Scriptural revelation as a whole, particularly the salvation of all promises.

But you might ask: “Are there any specific examples where “into the eons of the eons” is clearly not eternal?” Yes! Compare Rev. 11:15 with 1Cor. 15:25-28: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign [into the eons of the eons–AB]. “Then comes the end, when He [Christ] hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until¹ He has put all His enemies under His feet…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 (1 Cor. 15:25-28 NAS).” Christ reigns until¹… not for all eternity. There will come a time when He “hands over” His kingdom to His Father. This makes perfect sense. How can Christ “reign” over a kingdom where God is “all in all?” Will He rule over God?

Another example: The smoke of Babylon’s destruction ceased to rise long ago, did it not? In fact it was destroyed in one hour! (Rev 18:1-19; 19:3).

And will Christ’s servants continue to rule after Christ no longer reigns? (Rev 22:5). No on both counts!

And what about “day and night” existing with the lake of fire? This is a dimension existing only in time, not eternity.

Also, the lake of fire judgment is according to works (Rev. 20:12-15) – and since it a measured judgment, it cannot be eternal.

Here are five examples that indicate a limited time to our phrase.

Now, when the phrase in question relates to an infinite object or action – such as God Himself or His worship, then it can be understood as eternal, due to its association with what is eternal. “Usage always determines meaning” says Greek and Hebrew scholar, Dr. Michael Jones of Pensacola FL. Yet, consider this: Though God is called the “God of the ages,” He is still the God who transcends the ages. God “of the ages” may simply mean that He is “God active in the human drama in time.”

J.W. Hanson writes,

It is perfectly manifest to the commonest mind that if one age is limited, no number can be unlimited. Ages of ages is an intense expression of long duration, and if the word aión should be eternity, “eternities of eternities” ought to be the translation, an expression too absurd to require comment. If aión means eternity, any number of reduplications would weaken it. But while ages of ages is proper enough, eternity of eternities would be ridiculous. On this phraseology Sir Isaac Newton(69) says: “The ascending of the smoke of any burning thing forever and ever, is put for the continuation of a conquered people under the misery of perpetual subjection and slavery.” The thought of eternal duration was not in the mind of Jesus or his apostles in any of these texts, but long duration, to be determined by the subject.” Source of quote: http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html
See also “The Analytical Study of Words, by Louis Abbott.

Question two:

I prefer to not speculate on how the physical aspect (if there is one) of the New Jerusalem might play out.

Re. your last question:

This verse must be understood in light of all “restoration of all” passages, and as such most certainly must include those experiencing the LOF, which may be God Himself who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29 – See also Rev. 14:10 which shows that the LOF judgment is in the presence of the Lamb) who are in Heaven – for God is “everywhere” besides.
Yours is a mute point, but I understand why someone might bring that up.

I hope this helps.

Whit Hays May 22, 2014 at 8:53 am

Hello,

I know this is an old post, so I hope someone sees this comment. I am coming from an annihilationist perspective, and someone recently introduced me to universalism, and it’s very intriguing. Though, in the original series describing it a question I had was never answered. When we are told that death is a consequence for sin, and that those who are thrown into the lake of fire are recipients of the 2nd death, what does “death” mean in universalist terms? After a physical death will someone spiritually die (i.e., be cleansed/taught/reformed in hell) then be spiritually resurrected to be in Heaven eternally? Is death only physical? Any help reconciling universalism with the Gospels’ use of “death” would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much for your help,
Whit

Admin May 22, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Hi Whit, I’m going to share something pastor Peter Hiett wrote to me regarding annihilationism. Let me know if this helps.

Peter Hiett: Whatever the case, regarding the details of judgment etc. I’ve also come to realize that “annihilation,” doesn’t contradict UR, but in my mind, is an integral part of UR. We forget that we’re dealing with the Creator. He can annihilate and still make new. And actually he does that with all of us, “It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” What happened to Saul of Tarsus? He was annihilated. And he was made new. So then, in some sense, like Paul, we must all be annihilated and made new.

George Hunsinger (Princeton Professor) wrote the following regarding Barth’s theology of annihilation and UR: The wrath of God revealed from heaven (Rom. 1:18) is not split off from the rest of the divine life. It is a manifestation of God’s saving righteousness. It is actually intrinsic, states Barth, to “the judicial sentence by which those Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ are acquitted and justified. This sentence is itself annihilating in its action” (II/2, p. 487). Note that here Barth obviously accepts a form of annihilationism. Unlike Stott’s version, it foresees not an annihilation for the few or for the many, but for all. It is an annihilation in which the only possible hope for anyone is the faith given and received by grace. This annihilation excludes all humankind, Barth comments, “from any freedom or justification except those that come by faith. It judges human beings absolutely. It utterly abandons them. It burns them right down to faith, as it were, that there it may promise and give them as believers both freedom and justification” (II/2, p. 487, rev.). — George Hunsinger, Disruptive Grace, p. 246

Having said that, I can understand how Edward Fudge might argue that the soul is not “eternal,” however the breath of God, the Spirit, that turns dust into soul is eternal. “That Spirit” may “return to God,” like Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, but if that spirit was somehow once “my spirit” isn’t it in some sense always in some way me? Well there are all sorts of fascinating philosophical conundrums associated with that, but it seems to me that CI doesn’t do them justice.

My note: If “One died for all; therefore all died” then it is clear that we were all “annihilated” with Christ on the cross (See 2 Cor chapter 5). What remains is “to see” or a “renewing of our minds” to align with what was redeemed and revealed in Christ.

We have some notes on the subject of annihilationism at http://godslovewins.com/blog/what-about-annihilationism/

Kari May 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Okay. I’ve been reading, and you guys are all way over my head. Let me say that the idea of everyone being “saved” (or whatever you want to call it) regardless of “accepting” (whatever you have that to mean) is a new one to me.

I don’t find it offensive; on the contrary, it is more in keeping with the nature of my Jesus.

My question is this….. Is anyone reconciled to Jesus that simply flat out refuses to be?

Do we not have a choice to make? And if no, then why did God ever give Adam a choice to begin with? Why not leave the earth as Eden and avoid all of the in between?

Please don’t think I’m trying to be difficult, I just want to understand.

Admin May 30, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Welcome Kari, you have posed a great question that I believe stems from the way we have been conditioned to think and see things from our religious traditions.

If you have been reading the discussion here on this thread then yes, you might be confused. Some comments are a little off topic and even move into the realm of speculation which is not necessarily helpful. I recommend you check out the intro pages to Christian Universalism.

But in answer to your question – No, no one will be reconciled to God/Jesus by force. Empty worship is something God has explicitly said He hates so we know that when every knee bows and tongue confesses it will be sincere and heartfelt. God has told us that “All the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Lord” (Psa 22) with eyes and hearts wide open to who He truly is.

Why didn’t God skip over all this business of giving us choice etc.,? Well, I imagine it is not unlike a human romance where there is a drawing and a wooing and a revealing of unfailing love in the face of conflict and mystery resulting in a redemptive sacrifice that wins the heart of the Beloved.

God knows He is the best and only real thing we could ever possess but even in knowing the outcome He is giving us the freedom to explore and exhaust all the alternatives to Himself. That is the only way to put the alternatives (sin) to death forever.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ in his life and in his death on the cross is the truest revelation of our Father. This is the only cup He could drink to make us see His heart: the laying down of His life for us in our trespasses and sins “while we were still enemies”! Just like the most epic stories we love so much that take our breath away.

We can chat more about this but I must close for now. I am thankful that a merciful Jesus resonates with you.

Phillip

Kari June 1, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Okay. So everyone will eventually say yes to Jesus. And it will be their choice.
That much I get and it makes perfect sense to me. To me, so many people are seemingly saying “no” to Jesus because they are either totally ignorant of Him or have had Him misrepresented to them.

If you make an unqualified decision, it really isn’t a decision at all.
So do you believe that everyone will say yes to Jesus? Will anyone say no, and if so, what happens to them?

Admin June 2, 2014 at 4:23 am

Yes Kari, I fully agree with you. Many people are simply rejecting a God/Jesus that does not exist. We know that to be true by the simple fact that people are not attracted to the Church the way people were attracted to Jesus. That means that we are not preaching the same message that Jesus did.

Again, the Scriptures tell us that every knee will bow and every tongue is going to confess “that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the FATHER” in Philippians chapter two. It affirms as well that, “ALL the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Lord.” So yes, there is coming a Day when all will see and essentially say “yes” to Jesus. Although we are told it will be much more than just an assent to His Lordship. It will be an unveiling of mankind’s true identity as “in Christ” resulting in a universal love affair with our Creator. 1 Corinthians 15 says that He will be “all in all” or as some translations have it, “everything to everyone.”

There are those who in this life and perhaps in ages to come who say “no” to their true identity revealed in Jesus. This is essentially going against the grain of the universe. It is going against the very way we were made and intended to live in fellowship with God and with one another (sin). While this is not safe nor comfortable to go against the passion of God (God’s “orge” or wrath) it will always in the end be good. There is nothing in God’s “wrath” that His love does not support. God is ONE, not two. And, God IS love.

So while there will occur a temporary state of saying “no” to Jesus, Scripture promises that eventually everyone will, like the Prodigal Son, “come to their senses” and return to their Father after they undergo the experience of hunger in the “pig sty” for a season.

Brian November 18, 2015 at 1:11 am

Can you explain the latter part of 1 Peter 2:9 “Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation and keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment”.

Phillip December 1, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Thanks for your question Brian. You may be long gone and never see this reply unless you subscribed to the comments. We have been having a spam issue and comments are getting buried. I apologize for this.

But here is a beginning of an answer. First, I believe we need to look at Scripture through the lens of God’s overall Story. Ask: Is it a Story of victory and restoration or is it one of defeat and ultimate retribution/retaliation? Which one is in line with God’s promises and character as love? Which would give Him the most glory as a Father and Creator? Second, Jesus made it clear that He was the lens for which we are to interpret the Scripture. He said that despite your thousands of years of “Bible study” in the OT “no one knows the Father except the Son.”

In light of the overarching picture we can also examine the particulars. If you study the meaning of the words with a simple online interlinear Bible you will discover that the words that we assumed implied retributive justice actually denote a restorative justice. Take a look at the word for punishment in Strongs:

Strong’s definition of punishment is restorative:

1. properly, to lop, prune, as trees, wings.

2. to check, curb, restrain.

3. to chastise, correct, punish: so in the N. T.; passive 2 Peter 2:9,

If you were dealing with your child’s behavior which meaning would you want to convey? That you were “pruning” them for growth and correcting their path or that you were “paying them back” for their wrongdoing (“an eye for an eye”)? I assume that your discipline would be restorative in nature. Would God operate with any less compassion? See our article on what is true Biblical justice.

Phillip December 1, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Brian, I would also recommend reading Gerry Beauchemin’s free book “Hope Beyond Hell.” You will find the answers to many particular Scriptures that may have questions about. Also the book, “The Inescapable Love of God ” by Tom Talbott will give you both a big picture and shed more light on the particulars. It also covers the areas of the doctrine of hell historically and philosophically.
The links for both books are on our resources page.

Grace and peace to you…
Phillip

Bob C. June 21, 2016 at 2:46 pm

John 1:3-21 clearly states in Jesus’ own words that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life…whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in Him is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” How does this reconcile with universalism?
Thank You

Phillip June 27, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Hi Bob,
There are a myriad of verses in which we could isolate and quote back and forth ad infinitum. Many of them are already mentioned on this site. For instance, I could quote back to you and ask how you might reconcile “every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” in tandem with the Scriptures on how God explicitly says He hates insincere praise (as would any real father). But I think if you continue reading here you will discover we need to ask ourselves ultimately which lens we are reading through: one of restorative mercy and justice or one of retributive justice. Whichever lens you are conditioned to interpret though will determine how you ultimately see the Story of God. If you interrupt any story and choose a few lines here and there you could easily miss the overarching conclusion and point!

Therefore in relation to John 3 for instance you can read it to mean that anyone who doesn’t “believe in Jesus” will be eternally condemned and go to hell when they die OR you can read it as saying that if you don’t repent (literally “change your mind”) of your old paradigm of thinking and believe what your Father thinks of you, loved and forgiven and justified as demonstrated on the cross, then you remain in a state of condemnation (“condemnation remains on you”). And this is a self-condemnation for later on Jesus tells us that “I judge no one” and Paul states that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (which Paul explicitly says “One died for all; therefore all died”)!

I recommend that you “keep reading” both the Scriptures, for they will bear this out if you don’t stop and cherrypick, and also keep reading here on this site! (See also our sister site godslovewins.com) A helpful book for you to read, if indeed you are open to discern* the truth about this, is Hope Beyond Hell. The link is on our resources page. It is free PDF. Also Peter Hiett’s book is in a free PDF form as well.

*The process of discernment is being at least willing to be wrong otherwise there is no point.

Always more grace and peace…
Phillip

AJ August 9, 2016 at 7:33 am

Could you point me to the thread of a discussion on this site (or elsewhere) that shares the universalist viewpoint of John 10:26 -27?

Phillip August 9, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Thank you AJ for stopping by and for your question. I have no way to know if you are inquiring with an open mind in order to learn or in a state of certainty in order to argue your point. I hope it is the former : )

John 10:26-27: Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

First I will give a few observations and then deal with the text itself. There are many isolated verses/passages that will leave both the traditionalist and the Christian Universalist in a quandary. Philippians 2 says that “EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the FATHER.” The traditionalists cannot satisfactorily explain this verse. Therefore understanding the Bible’s overall message (ie., where it is headed) must transcend exegesis of individual passages. I believe it consists of asking ourselves at least three things:

1. What is the overall Story of God? Where is it headed and what are the ultimate promises we are given about the plot and end of the Story?
2. What is the nature and character of God based on: Is it upon a love that is just or a law of retributive justice?
3. What are we told is the Biblical means of interpretation: A proper understanding of Greek and Hebrew and the pre-determinded lens of our particular denomination…or Jesus Himself?

Jesus tells us that His character is the source of accurate interpretation:

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to Me!” Jn 5:39
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” Luke 24:37
“You have heard it said…but I say…” Matt 5

Jesus said to the Pharisees that despite their thousands of years of Bible study that “No one knows the Father except the Son…” (Matt 11:27) Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life and no one comes to the Father except by Him.

We are told Jesus is “the exact representation of the Father.” Therefore, Jesus’ words of “Father, forgive them…” is the lens of interpretation we have been given. Jesus’ loving compassion on the cross is the context for interpreting all the other things Jesus said! When Jesus said Father forgive “them” who was He referring to? It included all mankind…all His sheep!

In looking at this particular passage in light of the above I believe we ought to consider the following:
1. We are told the Shepherd has sheep of His flock but also promises to bring in the sheep of the “other” flock: “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10: 15,16; also see John 17). This means that His sheep that hear His voice were those who were listening as “the firstfruits” of those who would come later (James 1:18; Rom 8:23).

2. Reflecting on the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 we must ask ourselves whether we have ever helped the poor, naked, hungry and imprisoned. If you have, then you are a sheep…this is good! But, then again have you ever NOT helped the poor, naked, hungry or imprisoned? If you haven’t, then you are a GOAT! Hmm… this is bad, I mean really bad, for then anyone who acts like a goat is in danger of the “everlasting punishment”! You can see the problem with using this passage to determine who is in and who is out or who is included or excluded from belonging to God. There must be more going on here in this passage! Which brings me to the third point:
3. Goats were also considered clean animals acceptable for sacrifice. The significance of this connection is stark if we understand that there were no chapter divisions in the original. In Matthew chapter 25 we see the seamless transition from the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats into chapter 26 where Jesus speaks of the Passover where both sheep and goats were offered for sacrifice. One world made up of Sheep and Goats (or perhaps one humanity made up of “Sheep-Goats”) redeemed by the Good Shepherd, the Savior of the World.

There has always been a metanarrative of possibility that shines forth from out of the human story of impossibility. In the conversation between God and man, the Bible, we see over and over the powerful and glorious truth of this:

“And he said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.'” Luke 18:27

“That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, ‘I have made you the father of many nations.’ This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.” Rom 4:17

Scripture is full of this theme of “the last word and the word after that” which is always resurrection LIFE! Remember also the Valley of Dry Bones or the restoration of Sodom (Ez 16) or the Lord’s adoption of Egypt and Assyria as His Beloved! (Isa 19).

Please continue reading in the Scriptures looking for the overall theme of life and resurrection in Jesus “who is the savior of all mankind, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10)

Grace and peace,
Phillip

Stephen Campana August 16, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Although I’m a Universalist, I never understood the 12th point: If forever is eternity, what does forever and ever mean? In English we say forever and ever even though we know forever means eternity. We add the “ever” for emphasis.

Phillip August 17, 2016 at 3:36 am

For AJ… regarding the “Shepherd and His Sheep,” here is an interesting discussion thread entitled “The Good Shepherd Carrying a Goat” with an image from the ancient catacombs. Check it out:

http://evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=3816

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