What is Christian Universalism?

To study or learn about Christian Universalism, or what we prefer to call Ultimate Restoration, you need not look any further than the Body of Christ itself. It is not a foreign teaching or something smuggled in from outside the walls of orthodoxy. It astonishingly comes from within the Church where we find all the beautiful facets of the perfect Story of the complete work of Christ on the cross.

By our definition Christian Universalism is the belief that Christ’s life, death and resurrection applied to every man, woman and child that ever lived and guaranteed the redemption and restoration of the entire created order.  Jesus is believed to be “the exact representation of the Father in bodily form” and is embraced as the absolute way, truth and life for all mankind.  All things are from Him, through Him and back to Him. Indeed “In Him we live and move and have our being.”   We are assured that “Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” We believe that “All the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Lord” (Psa 22)

Christian Universalism is the Story that is heard when we consider the voices of all our Christian brethren together. It says God is both all-loving and all-powerful at the same time. It denies the god who is willing but not able (Arminianism) as well as the god who is able but not willing (Calvinism) and embraces a “Gospel Third Way.”

Christian Universalism lays its foundation upon the Trinitarian view of God. We do not define man from the viewpoint of the fall but from that which was before time when mankind was birthed out of the love relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit who included us…before the foundation of the world! (Jn 1, Jn 17) Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is God’s promise through the power of his Spirit to redeem and restore mankind in His own image (fulfilling the Godhead’s original dream for humanity when they declared: “Let US make man in our image”).

That means we were found in Christ before we were lost in Adam! (Eph 1)

Christian Universalism is not a world view of “all roads lead to God” or one in which it doesn’t matter what you believe since “all will be saved.”  It is distinctly Christian because its sole foundation is upon the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It resonates through the redemptive Story of God summarized within the historical creeds.

We believe, “The dogma is the drama” (Dorothy Sayers).  In other words, Christian Universalism is based on real historical events that reveal the greatest Story of love, romance, adventure and glory ever conceived. Every great epic story written by man turns on its redemptive themes making it the Story beneath every story.  It is why we love and are drawn to epic tales such as “The Lord of the Rings,” “Cinderella,” “Braveheart,” and “Titanic.”

But most importantly it is the reality of the historical events that saves us not an assent to a list of doctrines or principles.  Unlike other religious paradigms where the “enlightenment” or salvation lie in attaining a path or following the “5 steps,” true Christianity teaches we are saved by the historical events of the Story themselves!   These were happenings that took place on our behalf by God through and in Christ and without our permission!  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ inherently altered the universe reversing the curse of Adam beginning the process of making “all things new.”   This is why we believe that the Gospel is GOOD NEWS.  It is good because it is all about a cosmic rescue by a loving Creator and it is news because it is an announcement based on unalterable events that took place in history. We believe Christian Universalism is recovering the objective nature of the Gospel, revealing it once again as both good and as news.

You may ask, what about all the conditional passages in the Bible threatening judgment and consequences for our sinful choices and unbelief? Christian Universalism does not deny God’s “rectifying justice” for those who choose to take the circuitous route to the Kingdom.  There are warnings a-plenty of the serious ramifications for refusing to see the reality of your life in Christ that leads to a process of death and disintegration. Something that is “news” implies that an event has taken place, a change which requires a response.  For the Good News to be operative in your life you must deny the old order of things (repent=metanoia or “change of mind”) and embrace God’s new paradigm (free grace). But whether you believe it or not does not change the fact that it is true. God is not a Being who reacts. He doesn’t react to your sin nor to your faith but instead He is the great initiator of first your creation and then your redemption. The Gospel doesn’t come demanding faith but supplying faith (Eph 2:8,9; Gal 2:20).
However, that does not deny the enormous importance of our decision to repent from “hades” (“not to see”) and enter into His truth and light. People have a choice to embrace the Kingdom of God through Christ while on this earth.  This is the stage, the arena where we choose whether to self-create our own reality or see ourselves as we really are: image-bearers of God redeemed in Christ! (Eph 1) Many people will not see the truth in this age. But God says that will never trump God’s primary purpose for His creation which is to “reconcile all things to Himself by the blood of His cross” in order that one day He might be all in all.  So while consequences for going against the grain of the universe (Love Himself) are sure, we are never without hope.  We are to “be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.”  That is not just a personal hope but one which we are to offer to all mankind.

We believe it has been this claiming of hope for only ourselves that has alienated the world.  We are named ‘The Body of Christ’ for a reason! His Body is the means to fulfill His desire which we are told is for “no one to perish and for all to come to repentance.”

“And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  Eph 1:22-23

We are also called the “elect”:  This implies an office and a job.  Genesis 12:3 says our election is for the purpose of being a blessing to ALL the nations on the planet.  We are told we are Priests. Priests are mediators between God and man.  Jesus our Great High Priest has given us “the ministry of reconciliation.”  We pray that the Church will find its identity once again as Priests and Reconcilers for the world!

Christian Universalists believe that when Jesus said He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” and to “destroy the works of the devil,” He did.  And when Jesus said “It is finished,” on behalf of all mankind we believe He actually meant it.

{ 116 comments… read them below or add one }

austin July 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm

So what exactly happens to those who die in rebellion to God? How are they then reconciled to a holy God once they have made their freewill choose to reject Him?

You don’t seem to really answer these questions straight up. The Bible does answer these questions plainly.

How do you understand that the term “body of Christ” to include the whole world? What in the context of Scripture supports that view?

admin July 26, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Thank you for your question Austin. I will try and answer briefly. First my answer is dependent upon whether you are of the “predestination/election” camp or that of the “free-will” of man persuasion. The two theological camps defend an eternal hell for completely opposite reasons(!) That should give us first pause. I assume you are coming from that of a free-will position based on your question. We have addressed this in detail on this blog and on our other site.

Just as Abraham and then Israel, the “Body of Christ” is revealed to the world not as an exclusive club of privileged members but as an entity that will demonstrate the first fruits of God’s mission on earth–to make all things new as He redeems His image and likeness in us!

Paul says in Ephesians 1:23: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

I find it sad how many Christians perceive the “plain” teaching of Scripture to be that of most of humanity suffering endless torment even in light of such Scriptures as:

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and return to the Lord…” (Psa 22)

“EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” (Phil 2)

“It is finished.”

“Behold, I am making all things new.”

So I think it is God who has not chosen to answer all our questions “straight up” on how it is he is going to finally “make all things new” as “every knee bows to the glory of God the Father” and He becomes “all in all.”

I would encourage you to focus on your amazing identity in Christ. You are His image and likeness revealed and redeemed in Christ! That is what is most important to tell the world–that they have value beyond measure as they have been created and then redeemed (RE-created) in Christ. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself…therefore be reconciled!”

We have been given every reason to believe that His word will not return to Him empty and void! (Isa 55:11)

Grace and peace…

Chris M. December 16, 2013 at 5:42 am

Hi. I think I loved your article, if I understood you correctly. I think you are saying, “All people everywhere have already been saved, but they have to claim or accept it.” You are not saying “all people go to heaven automatically”.
In other words a person who dies without Jesus as their Savior, sadly, does not go to heaven, but it is not because God rejected them, it is because they rejected God (by rejecting Jesus).
In other words when Scripture says that Jesus died for all sins (numerous passages), He forgave all sins, everywhere, for all time, for all people. The work was done. There is no more condemning sin, save one – rejection of the cure – Jesus.
In other words (metaphorically speaking if I may), sin is a deadly, spirit-killing virus caught in a physical world that God cannot allow into heaven (it happened once and infected 1/3 of the angles). There is a cure for this virus called Jesus and it is available to all but it has to be taken while in the physical world. The hand of God (the Holy Spirit) is holding out the cure to every man everywhere, all he/she has to do is take the medicine (accept Jesus as their Savior) and the virus is removed from their soul and they can enter into heaven.
The church’s job, the Body of Christ’s job, is to tell everyone everywhere to take the medicine. It has already been paid for. Therefore, it is not their petty little sins per-se, ie: lust, lying, cheating, etc that condemn their soul, while not good, Jesus covered these on the cross. Is is dying without being cleansed that keeps them out of heaven.
Sorry this is so convoluted. Your article sounds like what I always thought a real saving faith was all about so I am not sure what anyone’s problem would be with it or why you have broken it out as a separate movement called “Christian Universalism”.
Also, I love your statement, “the Gospel doesn’t come demanding faith, it comes supplying faith”. I know that was true for me.
Thank you and God bless.

Phillip December 16, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Hello Chris,
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I found your presentation of the gospel very encouraging as it represents a growing number of believers who are declaring what is called the Doctrine of Inclusion. It is taught by trinitarian teachers such as Dr. C. Baxter Kruger, John Crowder, Grace Communion International and many others. It reflects the teaching of some early Church theologians (Athanasius) as well as a number of 20th century theologians (Karl Barth and the Torrance brothers). Moving from a gospel that only becomes true when you believe it to the inclusive gospel you described above is a tremendous advance in our understanding of salvation.

However, once this beautiful gospel is embraced in the heart there are a few things our minds must grapple with and rectify. If it is indeed a melding of the Calvinist view (God supplies the faith) and the Arminian view (God included all humanity in His death/resurrection/ascension) then we have no alternative than to believe this Gospel has universal application.

Once you believe all are included you must conclude all will be saved. Many grace teachers are pointing this out–some in protest and some by proclamation. It is simply the only outcome: “If one died for all; therefore all died.” (2 Cor 5:14) “If we died with Him we will also be raised with Him.” (Rom 6:8)

We deal with a few of the grace teachers as it relates to this Doctrine of Inclusion here.

We are indeed ONE Body, as Christ has said. I believe it was His perfect wisdom that created us interdependent. We desperately need each other in the corporate global Body of Christ in order to possess one complete and coherent Gospel. We cannot live with a god who is able to save all but can’t (Arminian) nor a god who is able to save all but refuses to do so (Calvinist). The true God who loves all, has included all, and is able to make all things new and cause every knee to bow and tongue to confess is the one we are drawn to and desire to worship. That is the God of the corporate Body of Christ!

So in answer to your question, being an Inclusionist as you described yourself has really only one logical conclusion: Christian Universalism.

Mrs. Osborne March 5, 2014 at 9:36 am

I have read through this site and again am left with a “what are they actually saying” fuzziness. Point blank yes or no answer please. Yes or no..do you believe that if people do not believe in Christ and die that they go to hell but some how eventually make it to heaven once they meet with the heat???? Lets keep it untangled and simple.

Jonathan March 6, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Mrs. Osborne,
I understand your questions and frustration and the desire for a black and white answer but I encourage you to continue to wrestle with the texts that clearly teach that Christ is a successful Savior and work from there.

It is unfortunate that you speak of the souls you deem lost and being tortured forever as those who “meet with the heat.” I find this a glib and trite way to speak of your fellow human beings whom God has commanded us to love and have compassion upon. Even God says that “He is not willing that any should perish.”

Hell is not ultimately a location but a condition. Hades means literally “not to see.” We need to be saved from the condition of sin and death not just a location somewhere else when we die. Many Christians have more fear of a place called hell than they do of the sin that brings death and destruction to so many areas of their lives today, right now.

We must reject the doctrine of an eternal hell as separation from God as it denies the fact that God tells us He is never apart from His creation. Acts 17 says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” It is impossible for any one of His image-bearers to be separated from Him because we have our origin in Him. The difference lies in how we choose to see. Peter says we are “alienated in our minds.” It is the darkness (Hades) that shrouds the truth of the success of the cross and our redemption, “blinding the unbeliever” says Paul (2 Cor 4:4).

I will refer you for further study to this link regarding the nature of heaven and hell:

http://godslovewins.com/blog/andre-rabe/so-what-is-heaven-and-hell/

Will there be some kind of after death experience designed to bring us, who choose not to believe what Christ has redeemed and revealed, to our senses? God says that sin has its own built-in system through its natural consequences to bring us out of the “far country” back to our Father’s house (Rom 1). We must leave it at that. It is not safe to be in the hands of the living God while in rebellion but it’s good (as CS Lewis penned). It is indeed a “severe mercy” but it is never without hope.

Scripture says that “All the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Lord…” (Psa 22) How will God accomplish this? We are not told the details but the same could be said for the traditional view of hell/heaven/future judgment: there is NO consensus as to the way it will all come about. So you can take your pick: you can continue to be unsure how God will keep souls alive while He tortures them forever, keeping it “just and fair” as the unbelievers presumably face the same fate of eternal separation (while considering that there can be no degrees of total despair and darkness!) While at the same time answering the questions of what happens to the heathen who have never heard/children/age of accountability etc., …OR you can remain unsure how it is that God is going to “make ALL things new” as He “reconciles all things to Himself” (Rev 21:5; Col 1). We have chosen the latter.

As you can see the traditional view of hell provides no clear cut answer to the details either: Are only those who put their conscious faith in Christ before they die God’s true children? Yes or no? What about babies and small children who die without faith in Christ? Or those who have never heard? Is there another way God saves them other than personal faith in Christ?

Christian Universalists trust that God’s very nature is love which means He is fully just and will take care of the details as Isaiah has said: “He will not rest until justice is reigning upon the earth” (Isa 42:4). In the end all will proclaim the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living as “EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the FATHER.” (Phil 2:5-8).

When you are talking about the just treatment of every person who ever lived and considering the unique circumstances of each precious soul there is no “simple” answer.

May His grace and peace abound to you…

Bill Scudder April 4, 2014 at 7:12 am

I believe the scriptures teach that God sovereignly gave man a free will to reject Christ. And that punishment in hell is the result but I believe that their is degrees of punishment just as there are degrees of rewards in heaven. A good person that dies an unbeliever would not get anywhere the punishment of say a Hitler.

Admin April 4, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Bill, I understand your point but again you cannot say that God is not able to bring “all the earth to remember and return to the Lord’ (Psa 22) and cause “every knee to bow and tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord” and search for the one lost sheep until He finds it. Especially since God has told us that He would(!)

Separation from God is first of all impossible. That is a pagan dualistic notion. But for those who believe in the idea of “eternal separation from God” it would by nature have to be absolute–there are no “degrees” of hopelessness, darkness and “eternal death.” Total separation from the Source of all love, life, light, peace, comfort and joy would have only one degree of experience and that would be black despair. It would be impossible to assign just punishment within an “eternal separation from God” paradigm–which is why the Biblical view of justice points us to a restorative hell.

I hope you will take the time to explore the site for more understanding of Christian Universalism…

Grace and peace,
Phillip

Bill Scudder April 6, 2014 at 2:02 pm

There has been spreading, in this country, and in other lands also, the idea of universal salvation; and, mark you, wherever that doctrine spreads, vice must and will spread as the natural and inevitable consequence. When men are taught to believe in ultimate universal salvation, their immediate and legitimate inference is, “Then we may live as we like, and all will come right in the end;” and they will live as they like, but all will not come right in the end! C.H. Spurgeon.

Though I consider universalism to be a false belief, I cannot automatically pronounce condemnation upon a person who acknowledges the essentials of the Christian faith and also affirms universal salvation. I don’t because I don’t see the scriptures doing it. Would I consider someone who holds to both the essentials and universalism to be inconsistent and confused? Absolutely! Should they repent? Yes! Does it mean he is unsaved? I can’t say it does.

Admin April 9, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Bill, I appreciate that you have graciously restrained from passing judgment on the state of the souls who believe that God is going to literally “make all things new” and “reconcile all things to Himself” (Rev 21:5; Col 1:19). Those who do then must also dismiss the likes of respected early church fathers such as Origen and Gregory of Nyssa.

If believers respond to an unconditional gospel of love and grace with “live as we like” (“antinomianism”) that means that their relationship with God was held together by nothing more than a mere legal transaction. It was not a personal devotion to God valuing His person. It was a commitment to a judge out of fear and not to the Father or the Beloved. That kind of response is simply a symptom that one is relying on the Law guarded by an infinitely large stick to create devotion rather than upon the “love of God that constrains us” or “the grace of God that teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness.” (Rom 5; Titus 2)

I believe your response is due to misunderstandings regarding the nature of Christian Universalism. In order to understand how passionate and devoted followers of Christ can and do believe that this is what Scripture teaches I encourage you to read further on this site and our sister site godslovewins.com.

grace and peace…

Phillip

Gerry April 9, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Also it needs to be pointed out that as far as “confused and inconsistent goes” right now the Church is divided between two diametrically opposed views of God and salvation. They can’t even worship together and often can be heard calling one another heretics. While the Arminian camp defends the God who died for all mankind and desires all to be saved but is unable to draw them to Himself, the Calvinist camp promotes their God who is able to save all but simply has not willed to do so because of the “mystery “of His plan of election. So while the former defends an eternal hell in order to preserve man’s fee-will the latter defends eternal hell in order to preserve God’s free will! These are two different deities. Thank God that they are simply facets of the same God who is both willing and able to save all!

Bill Scudder April 10, 2014 at 4:15 am

Thanks Phillip for your reply but being a passionate and devoted followers does not make it right.

Admin April 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

You are absolutely right but Jesus did say “by their fruits you will know them.” While I have met some fabulous Christians who were Calvinists and awesome folks who were Arminian in their beliefs, statistically the Church is not having a significant impact upon our society. However, the early church was increasing at a 40% growth rate per decade! (Church historian Rodney Stark) This was happening within a theological framework where the majority believed in the ultimate restoration of mankind.

Right now the Church maintains the same (or some have reported higher) divorce rate as the general public and Dr. Bruce Wacope has noted that mental illness is higher among the Christian population. The Church is supposed to be salt and light but our impact has been almost nil. And again our abject disunity attests to our confused state and removes our credibility. These are things that indicate that the ideas we have maintained as the gospel have been having the opposite effect from what we expect or desire–our marriages are failing, we are unbalanced, unhappy and “divorced” from one another as Christians. This is not good fruit. (Again, this is speaking statistically not anecdotally.)

Martin Luther knew that the stem of the problem is always with the underlying ideas, the doctrine. He uncovered the warped view of God as one who could be appeased through indulgences/confessions/penances. But one of the adages of the Reformation was “Reformed and Always Reforming.” We believe that Luther et al., were in process which means we have a responsibility to continue to grapple with who God is and how His nature is revealed through the incarnation of Christ. History reveals that the Church can get so off course that one man can feel like he is against the whole system. It is very reminiscent of the Jews who studied the Scriptures diligently searching for truth, not knowing it was about Christ all along. They were so convinced they were right that they crucified Him.

Human logic, common sense and experience show us that using fear never produces love in return. If God wants fearful subjects then I guess the threat of an eternal hell of torment would be the ticket. But we are told He is in the process of “bringing many sons to glory” and searching for the 1 leaving the 99 and calling us all home to celebrate our sonship with our Father. We know instinctively that if we want a child to grow up normal and well-adjusted he/she needs to be nurtured in an atmosphere of unconditional love and commitment ie., they will never be left nor forsaken.

“There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out all fear.”

Phillip

Anonymous April 11, 2014 at 4:33 am

Many religions have fruits but that does not man they are Christians. For instance, Jehovah’s and Roman Catholics have fruits. And yes there is a great falling away of the church, but this is predicted in the scriptures. When I got saved it was not because I feared hell as you implied but I heard the Gospel preached and the Holy Spirit drew me unto belief in Christ for my salvation. I will persevere to the end by Christ will never leave me as He promised. But he sovereignly gave me a free will to receive Him. Universalism is a very dangerous doctrine.

Bill Scudder April 11, 2014 at 10:32 am

to admin:

So, you are saying that those that reject Christ before they do will be forced by God to accept Christ.

Admin April 11, 2014 at 9:20 pm

I’m saying that the love, beauty and glory of God will ultimately cause “every knee to bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” when “all the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Lord” “…reconciling all things to Himself” making “all things new” until He becomes “all in all” and “everything to everyone.” (Phil 2; Psa 22; Col 1; Rev 21; 1 Cor 15)

If you are concerned about violating man’s free will then explain what is happening when every knee bows and every tongue confesses. Is it “by force” against man’s will? …an act of sheer outward obeisance? or is this willingly, in glad surrender and sincere worship?

Admin April 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Jesus did not say “by fruit you will know them” but by their type of fruit you will know them. All religions have fruit but it is the kind of fruit that gives them away for what they really are. They bear the fruit of a religious mindset: striving to attain salvation and trying to earn both God’s and man’s approval. Religion teaches a god who is distant and who needs to be appeased by our sacrifices of good deeds and offerings. This mindset is found in every religion including among Christians.

So how did you come to Christ? Which is it, the Holy Spirit that “drew you unto belief” or the “free-will He sovereignly gave you”?

Bill Scudder April 12, 2014 at 5:12 am

HMM, Something must be wrong with me because I do not fear God. And the Christians I know don’t fear God. Yes, perfect love does cast out all fear. Why should I fear hell when I know I’m not going there.

Bill Scudder April 12, 2014 at 5:15 am

How did I come to Christ?? First I heard the Gospel and then I was convicted by the Holy Spirit and then He drew me unto Himself but I could have rejected that call.

Bill Scudder April 12, 2014 at 5:22 am

When every knee shall bow and every tongue confess it is like when in medieval days when a conquering king required his new subjects to bow before him and confess their allegence to him even they don’t want to. It’s too late.

Admin April 12, 2014 at 6:41 am

Against their will? So it is a forced obeisance? That is what God has at the end of time…billions of subservient beings sitting down on the outside but standing up on the inside? Hating Him while cycling sin, death and evil in their minds and souls forever? And you believe that brings Him glory? It says “…every knee will bow to the glory of God the Father.” Notice that it says FATHER not JUDGE or “conquering king.”

You are right, this is a very medieval thought and concept. Forced submission is a base and human form of glory. Thank God that His ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts. While we are apt to try and GET justice God has told us we are to DO justice (Micah 6:8). Waking up to what God calls us to practice as true Biblical justice illuminates the way to seeing His Ultimate Justice. The word righteousness and justice are the same word; righteousness meaning literally “right-useness.” Justice is a returning of something/someone to its right-use. In other words Biblical justice is ultimately a restoration. (See article on Justice=Righteousness)

Even Napoleon knew that the greatest and most powerful are those who can cause even their enemies to love them. He said any earthly despot can make their enemies fear them and bow down to them:

Napoleon’s words while chained to a rock during his exile in St Helena:

“What a conqueror!–a conqueror who controls humanity at will, and wins to himself not only one nation, but the whole human race. What a marvel! He attaches to himself the human soul with all its energies. And how? By a miracle which surpasses all others. He claims the love of men–that is to say, the most difficult thing in the world to obtain; that which the wisest of men cannot force from his truest friend, that which no father can compel from his children, no wife from her husband, no brother from his brother–the heart. He claims it ; he requires it absolutely and undividedly, and he obtains it instantly.

Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, Louis XIV strove in vain to secure this. They conquered the world, yet they had not a single friend, or at all events, they have none any more. Christ speaks, however, and from that moment all generations belong to him; and they are joined to him much more closely than by any ties of blood and by a much more intimate, sacred and powerful communion. He kindles the flame of love which causes one’s self-love to die, and triumphs over every other love. Why should we not recognize in this miracle of love the eternal Word which created the world? The other founders of religions had not the least conception of this mystic love which forms the essence of Christianity.” (Read more here: http://godslovewins.com/blog/free-will-part-three-napoleon/

Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father because that is just how beautiful, lovely and overwhelmingly glorious His Being is. “He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever ask or imagine.” (Eph 3:20)

I hope you take some time to try and “imagine.”

Admin April 12, 2014 at 7:07 am

Does God draw everyone? Calvinists would say that all those whom God draws will be saved. Arminians say that God draws everyone but only those who by their faith believe will be saved. But then the burden then lies upon the chance to hear the gospel and then upon the quality of your faith. This undermines assurance as it becomes the “Good Possibility” or “Potential News” instead of the “GOOD NEWS.”

Yes, you heard and believed. But God says that there is a bigger scope for your salvation. Beginning before the world began in the heart of the Father, Son and Spirit you were chosen, elected and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (John 1; Eph 1; Rom 8). And then in time and space you entered the context of the cross where “one died for all, therefore all died” (2 Cor 5:14) where your salvation was “finished” as you were identified with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and ascension. Finally you were born and heard the word and received it as Paul says “for we are His workmanship created IN Christ Jesus to do good works.” (Eph 2:10) We were created in His image and likeness as “very good” and even after we fell Jesus came to declare His work finished on the cross promising to “make all things new.” That is the Good News and while many have “forgotten the Rock from which they were hewn” God has declared that, “All the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Lord.” (Psa 22)

Admin April 12, 2014 at 7:23 am

By the way, these are all very excellent questions and comments, Bill. I appreciate the opportunity to address them. They have been dealt with in the context of this website but it is good to interact with the questions and comments from folks like yourself.

I am so glad to hear that you do not have an unhealthy fear of God and that your assurance is solid. There are certain personalities that can compartmentalize conflicting information. But for every Christian like you there are hundreds who struggle on a daily basis questioning either the sincerity of their faith or the quality of their works as true evidence of that faith. While Arminian believers would focus on themselves and fear their ability to believe the right things and maintain a faith to save them Calvinist believers fear that God may not have truly “elected” them for salvation. They worry they might be deluded into thinking they are saved/truly chosen. Assurance is undermined in both Calvinist and Arminian fellowships and it remains our greatest theological and phsychological problem. The counseling room has profoundly revealed this.

And for every believer like you I believe there are thousands of folks who saw the big stick of the threat of an eternal hell and walked/ran away from the Christ and the Church altogether. And what is it that Christ says will offend man and cause him to stumble? The Cross or eternal conscious torment? (1 Cor 1)

I write for all readers who have struggled with assurance and are struggling now. Your numbers are legion.

Bill Scudder April 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

The universalist states that there is no unforgivable sin because all people who have ever lived will ultimately be reconciled to God; in other words, all sins from all people who have ever lived will be forgiven. However, if there were a sin that will never be forgiven, then Universalism would be proven wrong. Mark 3:28-29 are important verses in showing that there is an unforgivable sin.

“Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin,” (NASB).

Verses 28 and 29 are in contrast to each other. Verse 28 says that all sins shall be forgiven. Verse 29 clarifies the statement and flatly says that there is a sin that “never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” This sin is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit — which is stating that Jesus did His miracles by the power of the devil.

Verse 29 has the contrasting preposition “but”, Greek “de.” The use of the word “but” is showing that there is a contrast, or an exception to the previous statement. All sins are forgivable, but blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not. That is why the word “but” is there, to show that there is a qualification, an exception to the first statement.

So, how do the universalists answer this verse? They do it in two ways. First, they say that the word “aiona”, “age” can mean a period of time that ends. Now, this is true sometimes and not others. There are verses that use the word “aiona” that can refer to non-eternal duration (John 8:35; Luke 1:55) and there are verses that use it and mean eternal duration (Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:14; John 4:14; 6:51; 6:58, etc.). It is the context that determines the meaning of the word. But it is big mistake to think that “aiona” always means a finite time.

It is a conjecture on the Universalists part that the word “age”, in Mark 3:29, means a definite period of time that will end. But that isn’t the case. As I said, Jesus is contrasting the second statement (unforgivable sin) with the first statement (forgivable sin). Second, the Universalist will go to Matt. 12:32 which says,

“And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.”

They state that “the age to come” is the 1000 year reign of Christ which will end. Therefore, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will be forgiven after the 1000 year reign. They then state that Mark 3:29 must be interpreted in light of Matt. 12:32.

Granted, we must look at all the verses on a subject in order to get an accurate understanding what is said. But, the logic of the Universalist is wrong. Here is why.
1. Mark 3:29 states that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (BHS) will never be forgiven. A. This verse clearly states the impossibility of forgiveness of this sin.

2. Matt 12:32 states that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven “in this age or the age to come.” A. If Matt 12:32 is interpreted to mean that BHS will be forgiven, then that contradicts Mark 3:29 which states it will not be forgiven.
B. If Matt 12:32 is interpreted to mean that BHS will not be forgiven, then it does not contradict Mark 3:29.

3. Therefore, the only way to harmonize both verses is to say that Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.
4. If Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, then Universalism is wrong.

By not translating the words, and by telling you that the word “eon” only means a duration of time with an ending, then, the universalists can get you to accept the idea that Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is forgivable and that their theology is correct. There is just one problem. It isn’t.

Bill Scudder April 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm

1) David declared that “the wicked shall be turned into hell [Sheol], and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). “Sheol” is used some sixty-six times in the Hebrew Old Testament. While the term sometimes is generic (i.e., the depository of the dead generally), it is also used for the realm where the wicked receive their punishment (Job 11:8; Psalm 9:17; 139:8; Proverbs 23:14).

(2) The prophet Daniel declared that a segment of those who “awake” from “the dust of the earth” (i.e., they are to be resurrected from the grave) will experience “everlasting shame and contempt” (Daniel 12:2). A clear distinction is made between the saved and the lost.

(3) Hades is the New Testament term for that state between the death of the physical body and the day of judgment. In some New Testament passages, Hades stands for the abode of the wicked, i.e., the environment where they are punished before their ultimate banishment into the final domain called hell (gehenna) (Mathew 11:23; Luke 16:23; Revelation 20:13).

(4) Jesus taught that there is a “hell” (gehenna) into which the wicked will be cast. In this horrible realm, they will suffer eternally (Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Christ also taught that “many” would enter this condition of “destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14)—which is not a state of extinction, but of punishment and affliction (cf. Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, ASV).

(5) The apostles affirmed that some would be lost. Paul spoke of those who will not escape the “judgment of God” and the awesome “day of [his] wrath” (Romans 2:3, 5). Elsewhere he wrote of the “punishment” of the wicked in an “everlasting” abode of separation from the Creator (2 Thessalonians 1:9). He spoke also of the terrible slaughter of spiritual rebels at the time of the Lord’s coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). He cataloged those who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21). These references assert the very opposite of universalism!

Bill Scudder April 13, 2014 at 2:07 am

Since you would not allow me to post the scriptures that proved universalism was false, I see it is useless to discuss this any further.

Admin April 13, 2014 at 7:42 pm

It took me twenty-four hours to get a chance to check the blog. It was not a matter of not wanting to allow your posts. Everything is posted.
Thanks for the discussion Bill.
Grace and peace to you…

Bill Scudder April 14, 2014 at 4:32 am

Sorry, I accused you of not allowing my post. I’m sure you are very busy getting to all of them and just took longer than usual.

Jim April 14, 2014 at 11:25 am

For some time, I have been struggling with the idea of a Hell that lasts forever. I just cannot come to terms with a loving God allowing one of his creations to be committed to eternal suffering. No matter what someone had done to me, I can’t think that I would want them to suffer forever. Why would God allow that? I thought to myself —am I more compassionate than God? Thus, when I hear people preach an eternal Hell, I cannot accept it. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I could understand that they would be destroyed in an instant, but that’s no more Biblical than my thought that there cannot be an eternal Hell.

I had thought that maybe there is a time after we die, and God reveals Himself to us, that we can then accept Jesus, ask for forgiveness, and be “Saved”. We are faced with the facts —and our decision is laid out before us. I have asked some people if there is any scripture that states that our decision to accept Christ has to be made before we die, and I have not been lead to any such verse. Since there is an eternity for all —whether it be Heaven or Hell —can we make a conscious decision that we want God in our lives after our life here on earth has ended?

I don’t know how I feel about Universalism since I’m just learning about it. I was actually doing a study on predestination and ended up on this site. I do know that my salvation experience was real and it made a tremendous difference in my life, but I know so many people that have a passing care for God, who could not point to any salvation experience in their lives. Are all these basically decent people going to be sentenced to eternal damnation? That’s my struggle. I’m not one of those people who is looking for the latest movement to follow or hop on to some new wave thinking. I’m a pragmatist, and my thoughts have led me to a confused state when it comes to proclaiming the Good News. I love the Bible, and I certainly don’t want to discount anything or to add or subtract from its teachings.

So —I’ll keep studying. I am interested in how you feel about those that refuse God are dealt with —will there be a not-so-nice room for them in Heaven, or will they not go elsewhere. Thank you for your time spent in answering these concerns.

Admin April 14, 2014 at 9:57 pm

I’m glad you stopped by Jim. I hope you find some solace here in knowing there are many Christians who share your thoughts and experience. You are correct to follow your own God-given sense of justice and love. If it was different from God’s He would not have asked us to “Judge for yourselves what is right” or appeal to our parental hearts by saying “Which of you when your child asks you for bread…” And of course if His ideas of love and justice are entirely different from ours then all His commands to love like He loves would make no sense.

I encourage you to continue reading here and also on our sister site godslovewins.com. What I have discovered is that the good news is so much more than how many God is saving to heaven. While I believe that “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” it is the nature of what Jesus called eternal life that is the essence of salvation: Jesus said it is knowing the heart of the Father. It is important for us to understand that eternal life is a condition and not a location (John 17:3).

You might want to begin with Andre Rabe’s articles beginning with “You are Valuable Beyond Measure!” There are several of his articles on that site. (You can find more at HearHim.net.)

grace and peace to you…

Phillip

Admin April 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Bill, thanks for the apology. No problem.

Bill Scudder April 15, 2014 at 5:37 am

TO: Admin

I would like to see your thoughts on my post of April 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm concerning the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit.
Thanks

Admin April 16, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Bill, Scriptural arguments must be set within the bigger context, the bigger Story of God. But most importantly they must be examined in light of a Person. Jesus gave this directive on the road to Emmaus when they had missed the climax of all of history: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27) The Pharisees, who even had much of the Torah/Pentateuch memorized and had “searched the Scriptures” looking for the key, still missed it because it was a Person, Jesus Christ, who was the key to its Interpretation.

It is “Scripture quoting” that primarily occupies the theologians/pastors adding to the denominational “distinctives” of now over 41,000 denominations (that’s forty-one thousand!) This disunity has disillusioned many believers causing millions to exit their churches (see George Barna) and completely turned off the world who see our inability to agree as proof there is no underlying truth…no current…no wind moving us all in the same direction. (See article on unity.)

It is not going to be ultimately a book that unifies but rather the Person, the Living Word of Jesus Christ. He is what The Book points to.

We cannot determine what God does and who He is based on isolated texts of Scripture. While we will address these texts we desire to understand what God does and will do by what He has revealed to us of His nature within the context of the Story of God. What is the nature of God the Father? Jesus said that “NO ONE knows the Father except the Son…” Jesus is “the exact representation of the Father.” And the Son says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Everything must be seen in context with Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God who came to “show us the Father.” The Father’s nature is revealed to mankind in His Son. Jesus Christ is the only legitimate key to understanding the Scriptures.

Bill Scudder April 16, 2014 at 4:03 pm

What you replied is true but does not address the question.
I believe the scripture say’s what it means and means what it say’s. You answered my question with a no answer. You cannot answer this question because it proves universal salvation is false so you danced around it. this is also the way a Calvinist answers questions sometimes when it proves them wrong. Sorry, but I will stay with the Bible

Admin April 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm

The following is from Gerry Beauchemin of Hope Beyond Hell. More details could be addressed as we both quote our Scriptures that reflect our particular “lens” of interpretation causing the conversation to go on infinitum. Therefore we believe that it must be the nature of God that remains our reference as it is reflected in the Incarnation.

Is there a sin that shall “never” be forgiven? Mk 3:29-30 Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not . . . . either in this
age or in the age to come. Mt 12:31-32

Because a particular sin is not forgiven at a given time does not mean it merits endless penalty; God’s justice does not change! (Mal 3:6) Judgment is always “measured” and with purpose. Either a just penalty will be exacted (He 2:2) or its forgiveness must await a subsequent age in the ages (plural) to come. (Ep 2:7) Our Father’s chastising penalty for this sin will be just and in character with His loving heart for all.
Note! “Never” is not in the Greek! See these literal translations:

Whoever may speak evil in regard to the Holy Spirit hath not forgiveness—to the age, but is in danger of age- during judgment;’ because they said, ‘He hath an unclean spirit. YLT

Whoever should be blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is having no pardon for the eon, but is liable to the eonian penalty for the sin–for they said, ‘An unclean spirit has he.’ CLT

Whosoever shall revile against the Holy Spirit, hath no forgiveness, unto times age-abiding,—but is guilty of an age-abiding sin: because they were saying—’An impure spirit, he hath! ROTH

Admin April 16, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I’m afraid you could be seen as “dancing around the questions” that were posed to you as well. You did not answer as a believer in the traditional view of eternal hell how it is that “every knee will bow…” as God “reconciles ALL THINGS to Himself” … “making ALL THINGS NEW” as “ALL the ends of the earth remember and return to the Lord” and He becomes “All in all” and “…everything to everyone.”

Admin April 16, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Bill, again you responded and assumed before I had a chance to answer in full. If you look above in my comment I said that I was going to address your questions regarding the passages you mentioned. But I desired to first lay the foundation of interpreting Scripture through the Living Word of Christ. Also to remind our readers that it is all a matter of which lens we choose to view the Scriptures as a whole. Either we will interpret the mercy passages through the lens of the verses we believe speak of a hopeless judgement or to interpret the judgment verses through the lens of the ultimate restoration passages.

I am relaying an excerpt from my friend George Sarris’ book Is God Good? soon to be published. Sarris graduated from Gordon-Conwell Seminary and has a Bible Story-telling ministry as well as a professional narrator (he narrated the NIV Bible). Here is his answer to the passages you mentioned:

In three places in the Gospels, Jesus tells His listeners that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a sin that will not be forgiven. Historically, it has been called the “unpardonable” sin. Logic would certainly cause us to ask, “If a sin is unpardonable, how can it be pardoned?”

The passages relating to this subject are Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29, and Luke 12:10. The context in Matthew and Mark, and perhaps Luke, is an occasion when Jesus was confronted by some Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem. When Jesus healed a demon possessed man who was both blind and mute, all the people who saw what had happened were astonished and wondered if this could be the Son of David. However, instead of marveling at what Jesus did and seeing it as a true miracle of God, the Pharisees accused Jesus of being possessed by Beelzebub, having an unclean spirit, and driving out demons by using the power of the prince of demons.

The New International Version records Jesus’ response in Mark with these words:
“I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

Matthew similarly says,
“. . . anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Luke simply says,
“. . . anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Those are certainly very strong words, and they definitely give the impression that those to whom it applies are in very great danger.

As we look carefully at what Jesus is intending to teach here, the first thing we should note is that, except for the sin against the Holy Spirit, Jesus says that all sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. This clearly implies a great hope for the possibility of an ultimate restoration for all those who do not accuse Jesus of being possessed by the devil, having an unclean spirit, and accomplishing His miracles by the devil’s power.

The second thing we should be aware of is that the word ‘never’ in the passage in Mark is not in the Greek text. Jesus did not say, ―he will never be forgiven. The literal reading of the passage is, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit has not forgiveness unto the age.” Or, as the passage in Matthew records, “he will not be forgiven this sin ―either in this age or in the age to come.”

As we pointed out earlier in chapter 9, Scripture makes it clear that there is not only “this age,” there is an “age to come,” and even “ages” (plural) to come. Paul tells his readers in Ephesus,”God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

God’s incomparable grace is manifested not only in this age, or in the age to come, but in the “ages” to come.

So, what is Jesus saying here? Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is attributing to Satan what is, in reality, the work of God. It is a refusal to repent and acknowledge the work of God when convicted by His Spirit to do so. It is resisting the work of God in your life. While anyone continues in that state of refusal, it is, indeed, impossible to experience God’s forgiveness – whether that refusal takes place in this age, the age to come, or in the ages to come. However, if after-death punishment is a place where the “wicked” experience the consequences of their actions until they see their need for God’s saving grace, when that purpose is accomplished and repentance is acknowledged, forgiveness can then be applied.
Is God Good? pages 136-138

Bill Scudder April 17, 2014 at 5:30 am

I realize you have done a lot of work researching to convince me of your position in universalism but
Do all Greek scholars agree on interpretation of the Greek? No. Did God give us His word in such a way that everyone had to learn Greek to know what it really means? I think not. I’m sorry but I am not convinced and will remain a historical evangelical with the Pentecostal persuasion.

Bill Scudder April 17, 2014 at 5:45 am

At some point in time, every person will be drawn to Christ. For many, however, this happens in the age to come. Everyone has the free will to refuse God’s salvation. Those who are evil in their hearts are much more likely to refuse out of pride. To accept God’s salvation means you must begin the journey to holiness. You must submit yourself to Christ’s commands and His rule. Many will refuse in the age to come. And some have already refused in this age. They have committed the unpardonable sin as described in Matthew 12.

Universalists have difficulty with the concept of blaspheming of the Holy Spirit. It will not be forgiven in this age. And it will not be forgiven in the age to come (Matthew 12:32). The Universalist must stretch these verses (in Matthew 12) and say it can be forgiven in ages after the age to come. Universalists are correct in saying that eventually ever person will be drawn to Christ, even if it’s in the age to come, after the resurrection. But they are incorrect in saying the draw is irresistible. Or that the draw continues until the person finally gives in. As we will see, the Father’s draw does not continue after the unpardonable sin.

Admin April 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Bill I fully agree and that is precisely why I began my answer with a focus on the Living Word of Christ and the Bigger Story as it is informed by our view of the character of God. I am always hesitant to go immediately to the Greek/Hebrew for exactly the same reasons–God did not hide His message behind the original languages and NO we do not have to know Greek/Hebrew to decipher what God is saying to us. BUT we all now have access to the original languages via an interlinear through the internet for those who need to explore at that level. There is plenty of evidence for Christian Universalism without knowing the original languages. The most staggering is that which is coming from within the Body of Christ itself!

Admin April 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Bill, After all the above discussion I am quite surprised by your belief in a post-mortem salvation and your belief that “at some point all will be drawn to Christ” compared to that of the traditional view of billions lost. (Even though you believe some will be lost to the “unpardonable sin.”)

However I am finding your summary of the Gospel troubling. I am alarmed at how you have presented the Gospel as “you must begin the journey to holiness. You must submit yourself to Christ’s commands and His rule.” This is Moses all over again. While the fruit of love/holiness will flow from true faith it is not the condition for God’s love, acceptance and salvation. Your statements are contrary to the world of grace. Steve Brown said it well when he said: “The only folks who get better are those who believe that God will love them even if they don’t get better.” Faith without works is dead because right believing will produce right living.

Bill Scudder April 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I did not mean that I believe in a post-mortem salvation nor at some point all will be drawn to Christ. I do not believe that.
I agree that works do not save or have anything to do with your salvation but right believing will produce right living.

Bill Scudder April 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob these deep thinkers cannot endure, but if you say that God is angry with the wicked every day, these modern god-makers tell you that he is too loving for that,—that he cannot possibly be angry, but loves all, has redeemed all, and will in the long run save all, including Satan himself. C.H. Spurgeon

Men seem to think that God is under obligation to grant salvation to guilty men; that if he saves one he must save all. They talk about rights, as if any man had any right before the throne of God, except the right to be punished for his sin. C.H. Spurgeon

As I have warned you before, abhor the doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God, for it is a lie, and a deep deception. It stabs at the heart, first, of the doctrine of the adoption, which is taught in Scripture, for how can God adopt men if they are all his children already? In the second place, it stabs at the heart of the doctrine of regeneration, which is certainly taught in the Word of God. Note it is by regeneration and faith that we become the children of God, but how can that be if we are the children of God already? C.H. Spurgeon

Admin April 21, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I find it interesting that you quote Spurgeon who is a 5-Point Calvinist. While you agree with Spurgeon that there is an eternal hell you would defend it for completely opposite reasons. Arminians call the God of the Calvinists “a moral monster.”

Chris April 22, 2014 at 5:30 am

First, I appreciate the discussion, and the ease with which one can comment. I like that! Like a few others who’ve commented, I’m still not perfectly clear on what ChristianUniversalism states that most forms of Christianity wouldn’t agree with, unless Christian Universalism is saying “all human beings go to heaven”. I feel you (Bill) dance around this issue. On the one hand it sounds like you’re making the argument that all people ultimately find salvation to eternal life whether they accepted Jesus, rejected Jesus, or didn’t know about Jesus. On the other hand, you won’t actually say.
I have heard christians say that when Jesus died, he effectively eliminated all sins that have ever or will ever be committed by all people over all time, past present and future, except for one – not taking the cure for the illness (sin and death) – accepting Jesus’s sacrifice. I can accept this. However and reespectfully, if you believe that all people go to heaven to spend eternity with God regardless of their reaction to Jesus while living in the physical world, although I like it, it is simply wrong…and dangerous.
God is holy. He is a refining fire. He cannot be in the same place as sin. Damnation for sin sounds like a surprised and angry God punishes in person for their mistakes. I reject this as well. God is never surprised and He is never “angry” with humans in the same sense as (for instance) a parent who is angry, disappointed, and shocked by something their child has done. I prefer to think of this as a Righteous and Holy God, a refining fire, who cannot be in the presence of a sin-soaked soul much the same as a blowtorch cannot be in the presence of a gasoline soaked piece of cloth. Just as in mercy He drove Adam and Eve out of the garden Eden, He also separates those who are not cleansed of their sin out of His presence less they perish eternally. Now, before anyone says anything, I know I’ve taken some creative license with this. I’m just trying to illustrate a point.
Thank you again for your hard work, your thought-provoking ideas, and your commitment to helping people find the kingdom of heaven.

Bill Scuddr April 22, 2014 at 5:39 am

If you make a through study of Spurgeon and his writings as I have you will find that Spurgeon was not a true five point Calvinist. Where he differs from what he calls a hyper Calvinist is in election. He believed in “whosoever will may come to Christ” In fact he was accused of being a AminioCalvinist.

Admin April 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I’m sorry Bill but there is really no way to get around the fact that a Cal-Arminian, or what some call a 4-Point Calvinist, is in reality a Christian universalist. To believe that Christ has died for all while at the same time believing that He has the power to save all for whom He died points to nothing less than an ultimate global salvation. J. I. Packer, Piper, and many others have pointed this out over and over: A Calvinist that believes in a universal atonement must admit to a universal salvation in order to remain logical and consistent.

Anonymous April 23, 2014 at 6:41 am

CHRIS:

I have never said as you say I did that you don’t have to believe in Jesus to be saved or that everyone goes to heaven regardless of what they believe or do.

Bill Scudder April 23, 2014 at 6:46 am

CHRIS and others:

There is some misunderstanding here. In a nutshell, I do not believe at all in universal salvation or you don’t have to believe in Christ to be saved.

Spurgeon did not believe in election the same as a five point Calvinist but he believe in Whosoever will may come to Christ.

Admin April 23, 2014 at 11:56 am

Thanks for stopping by Chris. I don’t have much time at the moment to reply in full but would like to leave you with a couple questions to ponder:
1. How was it that Jesus, who was “the exact representation of the Father in bodily form,” able to reach out and touch and generally hang out with sinners? And who was it that was hiding and separating themselves from whom after the Fall? Religion has generated the view that God is separated from mankind by sin. But that is contradicted by the very nature and reality of the Incarnation of God Himself…Jesus!

2. Was God “Holy” and “Just” before the entrance of sin and the law? If so, then that means God’s holiness has a much deeper reference and reality than moral purity. All references to God’s holiness and justice can be traced back to a foundation of relationship. Leviticus 19 where God says, “Be holy as I am holy” goes on to summarize the whole Law into this one statement (as does Jesus Himself): “Love your neighbor as yourself.” True Biblical justice always has relationship and reconciliation as its ultimate goal: “DO justly, love mercy…” Biblical justice is done, not gotten. So God’s holiness and justice go beyond rectifying laws that have been broken and to the restoration of the sinner in relationship to Himself. This is the intention of the Trinity before the world began! More here:

grace and peace…

Anonymous April 24, 2014 at 5:40 am

You said: “How was it that Jesus was able as “the exact representation of the Father” “in bodily form” to reach out and touch and generally hang out with sinners of ill repute?”

What has that to do with proving Universalism? Is’t that we are supposed to do as witnesses’ for Christ. Poor example.

Admin April 24, 2014 at 9:03 am

The question was in response to Chris’ comment that God is separated from man because of man’s sin. Religion always creates distance and delay between God and man whether it be Islam, Jewish or much of what we call Christianity. If Jesus was with sinners and His name means “God With Us” then we need to take a step back and look at the false paradigm our religion has built and propagated and realize that God never left us. It was our fallen mindset that assumed the distance. According to surveys 77% of Americans believe God to be an “authoritarian, angry, critical and distant God” (Baylor University 2006).

Bill Scudder April 24, 2014 at 2:14 pm

. According to surveys 77% of Americans believe God to be an “authoritarian, angry, critical and distant God”

That’s because they don’t know God and have not been born again.

Admin April 24, 2014 at 8:46 pm

You can put the onus on the unbeliever but Jesus tended to blame the religious leaders for misrepresenting His Father. He said “Come unto Me and I will give you rest…” Religion tends to place a heavy load and turn people away from the Father. Where are they getting this idea that God is distant? We are the nation where the gospel is supposedly more accessible than anywhere else in the world and yet the majority of people think that God is distant and angry.

Again the point was to refute the pagan idea that man is separated from God. This is Greek dualism. Christian universalism demonstrates how Jesus’s very name as “God with us” means exactly that: “In Him we live and move and have our being…for we are all His offspring” (Acts 17) “In Him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17) “All things are from Him, through Him and back to Him.” (Rom 11:36)

Bill Scudder April 25, 2014 at 4:13 am

You said: “You can put the onus on the unbeliever but Jesus tended to blame the religious leaders”

The religious leaders WERE NOT believers

Bill Scudder April 30, 2014 at 5:03 am

I believe that there are degrees of hell as there is degrees of rewards in heaven. What those degrees are I would not know of course.

Kari May 30, 2014 at 7:14 am

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 10:05 pm

Hi Kari, this looks like a duplicate comment of the one you made on the Q&A page. You will find your answer at the bottom of the Questions/Q&A post.

Kari June 1, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Read the reply on the Q&A page. I had put it on here cause it looks like this was more recently visited.

I also put a reply back on the Q&A page.

Bill Scudder June 3, 2014 at 4:05 am

You said “It is not a foreign teaching or something smuggled in from outside the walls of orthodoxy. ”

after studying the subject, I say it has been smuggled into the church by the devil.

Admin June 4, 2014 at 9:26 pm

You misunderstood the point. The doctrine is what we as a Body of Christ have been teaching throughout history. But as a Church splintered into 30,000+ denominations it simply is no longer preached in the same place at the same time. When you have an Arminian and a Calvinist in the same location you have universalism: the God who desires to save all is one with the God who is able to save all. We are one Body.

Anonymous June 5, 2014 at 4:13 am

You said that the body of Christ has been teaching this throughout history. In my research I have not found this to be a fact except in some rare individual cases.
If I was asked, “Why is a man damned?” I should answer as an Arminian answers, “He destroys himself.” I should not dare to lay man’s ruin at the door of divine sovereignty. On the other hand, if I were asked, “Why is a man saved?” I could only give the Calvinistic answer, “He is saved through the sovereign grace of God, and not at all of himself.” I should not dream of ascribing the man’s salvation in any measure to himself.

Charles H. Spurgeon

Admin June 5, 2014 at 7:59 am

A universal “global” salvation is what the Body of Christ has always taught in context of itself. We are one Body and the collective teachings of the Church together reflect the primary theology of the early Church which was not yet splintered into 30,000 denominiations. Jesus in John 17 declared that the greatest missional strategy is our unity: “May you be one…that the world may know…”

For further understanding please see the following post on our sister site:
How the Body of Christ Supports Christian Universalism

Also here is an excerpt from the site illustrating the objective unity we are talking about:
If we were standing before representatives from each tradition of evangelicalism where each brother and sister in Christ was proclaiming to us the things they treasure about Christ and the Gospel, at the same time, what would we hear? What if together the message of the Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Missional, independent, whether Calvinist or Arminian, liberal or conservative, were channeled into one message at one point in time? What would that message together be?
Would we not hear the following?:

“The Lord is good to all He has made. He loves all His creation and is The Savior of the World not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. He is also sovereign in His power accomplishing all that He purposes and wills to do. No desire of His can be thwarted and His word shall not return to Him empty. All whom He loves has been atoned for and therefore redeemed.

He was lifted up in order to draw all unto Himself with every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He is a missionary God who is pursuing His creation with relentless love and compassion in order to bless them through His Body. Therefore God’s purpose of election is to bless us to be a blessing to every nation on earth.

He is a God of justice which means we are to be about works of mercy and setting things to rights not just bringing consequences to bear upon sin. His justice is restorative and therefore we are to set about doing justice not getting justice. God’s kingdom of restoration and “all things new” is one in which we can begin participating in right now as a foretaste and glimpse of what is to come in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

The “last word” of our God is that of resurrection and life not the cross and of death. Our God is a God of redemption whose purpose is to destroy the works of the devil, conquer the last enemy of Death, reconcile all things to Himself, making all things new in order to be all in all.

He is preparing us all for a day when He will remove the veil from all peoples and will wipe away all tears and prepare a feast of rich food and wine for everyone. Death will be ended and time will be no more as God will be everything to everyone.”

(From: Psa 145; 1 Jn 4:14; 2 Pet 3:9; Isa 46:10; Job 42:2; Isa 55:11; 1 Jn 2:2; Jn 12:32; Phil 2:10; Gen 12:2; Jonah; Micah 6:8; 1 Cor 15:26; 1 Jn 3:8; Col 1:19; Rev 21:5; 1 Cor 15:28; Isa 25; Rev 10:6) Note the above summary is all from Scripture!

Bill Scudder June 6, 2014 at 4:51 am

Doctrines like Universalism is what divides the body of Christ. Not the fact that most of the church does not believe in it and never has.

Bill Scudder June 6, 2014 at 4:52 am

I meant to say “NOT to be a fact”

Frederick Wasti October 12, 2014 at 7:26 am

As a Christian who is also a Universalist (but not exactly what many would define as a Christian Universalist), I have found this discussion between (mostly) “Admin” and Bill to be both interesting and enlightening, and I offer my thanks for that. Carry on then…

stevej December 11, 2014 at 8:00 am

granted – i’m a day or two late jumping in here … and nobody will probably read this …

I have been an Evangelical Protestant Christian for 47 years. Southern Baptist, Church of God, Methodist … I have come to love them all. I heard about Rob Bell’s Love Wins – because ‘my people’ were having a hissy-fit over how wrong it was. But in recent times – I have stopped fearing that which I don’t understand – or have historically not believed (mainly because I was told it wasn’t true) … and to replace dogma with wonderment. It’s been rather fun and it is driving my brothers and sisters in The Lord crazy : – ) But they are typically too busy arguing about stuff that doesn’t matter – making sure everybody knows they are right – and trying to get folks to repeat the sinner’s prayer – thus checking them off as saved and good-to-go. A few are feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and visiting the shut-ins … but they seem to spend as much time advertising what they are doing – as doing it. A few are spending time amongst the non-Christian camp … but most just hang with their cell groups, Sunday School classes and Church buds … and talk about why the folks at the Church down the street are wrong – why other religions are wrong and dangerous – how stupid agnostics and athiests are – and how God is good … all the time … all the time … God is good (the password into fellowship).
A few years ago my wife and I became empty-nesters – and after many years of Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night attendence … teaching classes … and running with the in-crowd … we started sleeping in and going to breakfast. Oh the shame and guilt – heaped upon us by our friends and family … and ourselves. This can’t be right ! We must straighten up and get ‘plugged in’ somewhere. What are we now – Calvinist – Armenian (I know i butchered the spelling – i don’t feel like looking it up) – Baptist – Methodist ? Which is the coolest Church ? Are we cool ? Can you really wear shorts and drink Starbucks in the sanctuary ? And then we kept sleeping in … and going to breakfast. But we kept praying … and loving God … and helping people in need … and spending more time amongst the ‘lost’ … and started listening to them for a bit – rather then cutting them off and telling them why they are woefully wrong and going to hell. We built trust … and eventually they asked – so, what do you believe ? what makes you tick ? and why ? is it working ?
But something strange was taking place. I was beginning to question what I believed … and why ? And it didn’t scare me. Oh – it scares my Godly breathern … bad ! Asking questions outside-the-box … is just not done – and is sacreligious- and dangerous – and easily and quickly resolved by (hand-picked) scripture. But I kept doing it – because I am naturally rebellious. I was right in the middle of the Charismatic Movement in the late 70’s / early 80’s … and my Baptist friends and family thought I had lost my salvation … and my mind. Those were some fun day … for all the right and wrong reasons : – ) But I kept/keep asking … and thinking … and listening to my wayward friends … and studying the lives of my on-the-straight-and-narrow friends (where’s the joy, peace and love ? where’s the beef ???) … and before I even knew there was such a thing as Ultimate Restoration or Universalism … I found myself going there. Rob Bell played a part … but I think that Godly vision and wisdom are the driving forces. I’ve battled the Calvin/Armenian thing for years … to no real resolve … other than … can’t they both be right ? and now – I am exploring this third option … or is it the first option ? and it just makes sense … and lines up with the God I know and love and who loves me. It’s early – and I haven’t told many of ‘my people’ yet … but I will … and I think that will be kind of fun actually. thanks for this blog and your answers to folks questions … you did so with kindness, love and clarity … even when the question wasn’t framed quite that way. Lots of folks are afraid of anything different – there is a lot at stake – and it’s way easier just to stay the course. Thanks again.
– Just a poor beggar telling other beggars where he found some bread.

Phillip December 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Hi Steve, Thanks for “jumping in” and sharing your story : ) I’m sure many will find your journey refreshing. The most exciting thing when you deconstruct a negative world view is watching a fresh and resonating paradigm take its place! Not everyone is able to find a faith to replace the old system of thought right away and the process can be very troubling. That is why we desire to not just proclaim “how many God will save in the end” but who mankind is right now..in Christ! I recommend Andre Rabe’s work at AlwaysLoved.net (check out his book Imagine). He opens up the revelation of who we are in Christ which puts the question of salvation on a whole other level. To reject Christ is no longer a matter of refusing the transactional optional offer of “heaven when you die” but it is to deny your own existence and true identity which has been redeemed and revealed in Him! Francois’s du Toit’s Mirror Bible as well reveals this message of the finished work of Christ that has redeemed our innocence.

Yes, the Calvinist/Arminian debate was chiefly what led us to search for a “third way.” They are and have always been in a perpetual stalemate. They represent either 2 different religion/gods or we need to see that they are both right in their most treasured doctrines, ie., God is at the same time able AND willing!

It is indeed both exciting and terrifying to share this good news with…Christians(!) I find it much easier and natural to share with those outside evangelicalism. But many are and have been as restless as you and are ready to hear something that makes sense and produces real joy and peace. And something that can be shared as truly “GOOD” news!

Thanks again for stopping by and leaving your encouraging words.

All grace and peace…
Phillip

Cher February 24, 2015 at 4:49 am

When I read this, honestly I get nauseous! In the future I may and the time to quote actual scripture, however, for now I’ll say this. None of what this website should be surprising (even though it is to me). The bible does speak of the ‘elect’ of God being fooled, preaching for our itching ears and a host of other things that equate to false doctrine. It would be wonderful if in the end everyone got to be with God. Honestly, it would be beyond wonderful. I would love if Hell wasn’t a place and that all people came to their senses and accepted Christ (in this life or the next). However, the discerning Holy Spirit within me causes me to hear what you are saying and a ‘warning’ goes up. It all sounds great and fuzzy and the scriptures to support your universal viewpoint sound very appealing…but also sound hollow. The JW and Mormons tell people the same thing…”hey, if you miss the truth ultimately you get another chance.” They are unified and their numbers grow at astounding rates. Sure, they focus more on works (and as a believer miss who Christ is) but they are unified in thought, deed and action. This universalism concept seems to pin Calvinism and Arminian (sp?). What if you are neither? Do I want people to follow Christ because of fear of hell…no and yes. Follow Christ because He is real and life and magnificent and holy and and and. In the same breath, Hell is real (wish it wasn’t) and I grief at all who are lost and CHOOSE not to follow Christ. It is a choice. As for those who have never heard the gospel…weak argument. Abraham heard it and the bible wasn’t written and he lived in a pagan land. Gods big enough to reach those who have no access to the actual word of God. He still speaks directly to people. Even people in remote parts of the world believe in something, why not God?! I’ll end with this (because my thoughts are many), this is a great ushering into a one world religion. Study your bible and not mans teachings (the books they write). At this point, people change moment by moment what they believe and rely on ‘human reasoning’ (a term used a lot when people are proving their points) to understand Gods word BUT take joy and know that the Holy Spirit and speak with you directly. He can best interpret the very scriptures that He inspired.

Cher February 24, 2015 at 4:52 am

My apologies for all of the grammatical errors. Responding via a cell phone can pose its challenges (for myself that is)…

Phillip February 27, 2015 at 8:24 am

Thanks for weighing in Cher. I do understand your position (even the nauseous part!) The question many will have for you is why this Holy Spirit who speaks to each believer individually has led Christians into over 30,000 competing, conflicting and contradicting denominations? Why do our interpretations and “translations” of the Scriptures compete? The Calvinists call the Arminians “heretics” and say that they malign the character of God while the Arminians say that they could not worship a God who ordains people to heaven/hell. These represent two entirely different views of God. You say you are neither. That is impossible. These are fundamental ideas about God that have been established throughout the millennia. God is believed to be either One who desires all to be saved but is not able to romance all to Himself (Arm.) OR God is able but not willing (Cal.) There is no third view except to believe that the God who is willing is also able (universal salvation). There is Molinism but I challenge you to try and explain it to an unbeliever as “the gospel.” The only unifying “translation” is Jesus and He proves that the God who is willing is also able.

Jesus said you can have your head in your Bibles all day and miss the Messiah standing in front of you. The most accurate translation of the Scriptures is Christ Himself. Everything must be filtered through His life as “Savior of the World” and His intention to save the lost and the least. We can proof text for an eternity but Jesus is the perfect translation of each passage. He came to seek and to save that which was lost and to “destroy the works of the devil.” (But don’t get me wrong, we ARE guided by Scripture but as seen through the lens of Jesus not man’s wisdom. Here is a partial list the Scriptures that support Jesus as literally “The Savior of the World.)”

I am glad to hear that you consider the idea of no one being eternally separated from God and tortured to be a “beyond wonderful” idea and that you would “love” to find out it was true. I’m sorry that you suppose God to be less than your greatest hopes. It sounds like you are able to imagine a Story greater and more wonderful than what you perceive to be the case from your reading of the Bible. But we know from history that it is possible to have it wrong. The Jewish scholars certainly did as Jesus stood right in front of them. (I dare say they must have also reacted with a feeling of “nausea” as they believed Jesus was blaspheming God by His message of inclusion of the “sinners.” They even tore their clothing in disgust and protest. In like the manner, I think the Elder brother must have felt “sick” at the thought of the Father’s inclusion of the prodigal.)

This is not a part of a “one world religion.” Jesus is the only way because He is the only God that exists and He is the only One who has come to save humanity. This is not “pluralism.” One world religion is an evil movement to control people through force and violence.

Your main objection seems to be that of “free-will.” Free will “to choose” isn’t all it appears to be. Jesus said that knowing Him leads to freedom. It is exactly the fact that we are NOT free that we need Christ to set us free. If you would like to be convinced that this is true first you must listen to Jesus who said “judge for yourselves what is right.” You have been given a new heart. This subjective “check in your spirit” is what has led millions to take a completely opposite position of Scripture than yours. It is why we have tens of thousands of denominations.

It appears that you have a desire in your heart for this to be true. As a new covenant believer,”You have the mind of Christ.” You are “a new creation.” Scripture says: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Where do you think this desire comes from?

For more on free will you can start with this article:
http://godslovewins.com/blog/thoughts-on-free-will/

Grace and peace to you…

Larry May 19, 2015 at 8:57 am

I have read through this blog and see that many are struggling with the same things as myself. I earned a PhD in Bible and later found that I didn’t really know the Author! I believe you are right when you say that this whole debate is centered around a relationship with God. Once you come to believe in Universal Salvation I found that reading the Bible is a lot more comforting, and many many passages that I used to use to warn people of an eternal hell have come to give me real peace. No longer will I try to scare people out of hell, nor try to make them say a sinner’s prayer. My occupation now is simply trying to get people to know the same God that I have found in the Scriptures. Jesus Christ preached a message of bringing people into the Kingdom of God/Christ. I still believe in a literal hell; however, now I have learned to see the fire as a cleansing and refining. Sometimes correcting my children was painful for both of us only the pain was physical for them and mental for myself. I believe that our Heavenly Father is much the same, and knowing that correction and refining the children of His creation would bruise His heart, He sent His Son to take away our pain and torment. This is the Good News that we Christians must spread abroad and evangelize with and not try to hold power over those we preach to by putting a “fear of God” into them. People are already saved and living in eternity now. Those that accept Christ as their Lord moves them from the kingdoms of this world to the Kingdom of God and of His Christ. It is a great way to live, and we begin to see the wonder of God in everything He created, while looking forward to a physical union with Him in heaven. That is the eternity I want! The Lord made all the visible and invisible things that surround us in six days. He has been doing what He said (preparing a place for us) for over 2000 years. God bless us all.

Phillip May 26, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Sorry for the delay. I so appreciate your comment Larry. It is true that we must trace the heart of the Father through the revelation of His character found in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only true and reliable translation of the Scriptures!

This is the only Gospel that is both GOOD …and NEWS! Not “potentially good” if you jump through religion’s hoops or something that becomes true when you believe it. No, the gospel was good news before anyone ever knew or discovered it! Gold is still gold even in the ground while it is waiting to be found. Hallelujah!

Grace and peace to you brother.

Jimbo November 3, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Hey there, I have really enjoyed this website and thanks for taking the time to post and respond. I guess i’m confused on a couple of things. 1) How is this any different from Universalism? I mean although it has Christ as the center aren’t you saying that everyone will be saved in the end? Secondly, while universal atonement seems to equal universal election, I don’t know if universal election equals universal salvation. I’m ok with saying that hell is not a physical place (as fundamentalists would say), but rather maybe a state of mind, or really a rejection/abhorring of God’s love, yet at some level there seems to be a sense of suffering and eternal at that. Thirdly, I see that you have used the verse “every knee shall bow” quite often in support of your argument, are you assuming that this means that every person is gladly doing this? I mean no where does it say “hooray everyone is happily accepting Christ” in fact it says merely “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess…” yet even the demons confess his name as the true Lord, I don’t think that this necessarily implies hearts surrendered. Fourthly, there seems to be a sense of eternality to hell (again not saying this a physical place, could be the love of God actually), “And the devil who had deceived them [them here is speaking of people] was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)

Jimbo November 3, 2015 at 12:51 pm

I hope this doesn’t come of as aggressive, i’m just truly curious because i’ve been wrestling through many of these questions. Thanks so much!

Phillip December 1, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Thanks for commenting Jimbo, I apologize for the tardiness of this reply. We have been having major problems with spam and legitimate comments have gotten buried. I hope that you have subscribed and will see this reply!
Very thoughtful questions!
1.) How is this different from generic “universalism”? It is Christo-centric, trinitarian and its eschatology culminates in Christ Himself. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and NO ONE comes to the Father but through Him. It is not pluralism where “all paths lead to God” but rather it is the Story of how God is willing to go down every path to find His precious lost sheep, even leaving the 99 to do so.

2.) Hell is not a location but a condition. The idea of it being unending is incoherent because the only thing that is unending is God Himself. Sin in the form of sinners perpetuating it forever in hell is at odds with our God who “fills all in all” and will be “all in all.” Sin existing parallel forever to our holy God is pagan dualism.

3.) The key to Phil 2 regarding “every knee will bow” is first of all the phrase “to the glory of the Father” (not Judge). Here is something we posted at GodsLoveWins.com on this verse you might find helpful:

Free-will is often championed as the honoring of our choice by a truly loving Being and yet we have in Phil 2 the God who will have every knee to bow and every tongue confessing “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” somehow, apparently against their will.
However, I cannot comprehend how this is forced since it says it is to “the Father” not to the judge. I think it is appropriate to compare this to earthly fathers. What would bring you glory as a father: a child that publicly admitted you were right all along while at the same time rebelling, hating, and rejecting you in his heart? (Sitting down on the outside while standing up on the inside?) Or a child that had “come to his senses” and proclaimed that you indeed were a most loving, kind father of integrity, “singing your praises” to others? Surely God must be greater than Napoleon who himself even said that anyone can make someone bow in obeisance while the real power lay in someone who could make you love them (he referenced Jesus Christ).

Also, I would suggest you do a study on the words Hell and eternal. You will find some surprising insights. If you would like a more guided study see Gerry Beauchemin’s free online book “Hope Beyond Hell” (the link is found on our resources page).

Grace and peace…
Phillip

(below is the excerpt by Napoleon on the true nature of a “conquering king.”)

Phillip December 1, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Napoleon:
“What a conqueror!–a conqueror who controls humanity at will, and wins to himself not only one nation, but the whole human race. What a marvel! He attaches to himself the human soul with all its energies. And how? By a miracle which surpasses all others. He claims the love of men–that is to say, the most difficult thing in the world to obtain; that which the wisest of men cannot force from his truest friend, that which no father can compel from his children, no wife from her husband, no brother from his brother–the heart. He claims it ; he requires it absolutely and undividedly, and he obtains it instantly.
Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, Louis XIV strove in vain to secure this. They conquered the world, yet they had not a single friend, or at all events, they have none any more. Christ speaks, however, and from that moment all generations belong to him; and they are joined to him much more closely than by any ties of blood and by a much more intimate, sacred and powerful communion. He kindles the flame of love which causes one’s self-love to die, and triumphs over every other love. Why should we not recognize in this miracle of love the eternal Word which created the world? The other founders of religions had not the least conception of this mystic love which forms the essence of Christianity.
I have filled multitudes with such passionate devotion that they went to death for me. But God forbid that I should compare the enthusiasm of my soldiers with Christian love. They are as unlike as their causes. In my case, my presence was always necessary, the electric effect of my glance, my voice, my words, to kindle fire in their hearts. And I certainly possess personally the secret of that magic power of taking by storm the sentiments of men; but I was not able to communicate that power to anyone. None of my generals ever learned it from me or found it out. Moreover, I myself do not possess the secret of perpetuating my name and a love for me in their hearts for ever, and to work miracles in them without material means.
Now that I languish here at St Helena, chained upon this rock, who fights, who conquers empires for me? Who still even thinks of me? Who interests himself for me in Europe? Who has remained true to me? That is the fate of all great men. It was the fate of Alexander and Caesar, as it is my own. We are forgotten, and the names of the mightiest conquerors and most illustrious emperors are soon only the subject of a schoolboy’s task. Our exploits come under the rod of a pedantic schoolmaster, who praises or condemns us as he likes.
What an abyss exists between my profound misery and the eternal reign of Christ, who is preached, loved, and worshipped, and live on throughout the entire world.”

This “conquering” through the Divine Romance of His creation is what will ultimately bring God the Father true authentic praise and glory…anything less would not be worthy of Him.

Mike January 16, 2016 at 7:54 pm

Greetings, I just wanted to share one concept:

Nebuchadnezzar was an evil king that required all people to bow to him (as represented by his statue) or be thrown in the fire.

Modern day ISIS does something similar.

Jesus is not an evil king, nor aligned in any way with those who require forced worship or the fire.

The good news of the Bible tells us Jesus came to this earth to live perfectly, and God credits that perfect living to every believer, as if we had lived perfectly. Then Jesus died on a cross to pay for our sins, thereby removing them from us, and giving us His righteousness instead. Now God views us as having never sinned. Then Jesus rose from the dead to justify us before God, and in so doing He abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.

Believers, those who have believed this wonderful news, gladly and willingly bow the knee to King Jesus and confess Him as Lord.

One day, all humans will do the same. Not out of forced worship or be thrown into hell fire, but because God has opened their hearts to hear and receive the same good news and be reconciled to God and adopted into His family.

Let us be about spreading this good news, for it is “good tidings of great joy, which is for ALL people” (Luke 2:10) either here and now, or some day soon.

Praise God Who so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish, but have eternal life.

George April 4, 2016 at 4:19 am

How does the Universalism deal with Daniel 12:2? George

Phillip April 6, 2016 at 9:39 pm
Nicole April 23, 2016 at 5:41 pm

I can say that the unpardonable sin exists as I have committed it. I am completely seperated from God with no love and no conviction. The Holy spirit has left me. I’m hoping eons from now I will be reconnected with God. He provided me so much love and I sinned against him, refusing to believe Jesus was the way to salvation even after being born again ( I had forgotten because I was going g through a divorce and Lyme disease at the time. So I can say it is possible to be completely seperated from God but I’m just praying it is not forever.

Mike April 25, 2016 at 7:51 am

Nicole, this breaks my heart. My only encouragement to you is to simply open the Bible and read, asking God to show Himself to you again. Nothing you’ve mentioned above is unforgivable or permanent, it simply means you are, at the present time, not seeking the Lord nor hearing from Him. This is typical with all believers at some point in time.

Phillip April 25, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Dear Nicole, I can say with certainty that you are not separated from God. This is a PAGAN dualistic notion that is completely false. Paul says in Acts 17 that “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Jesus’s name means “God with us” which literally means “face to face.” Even quantum physics reveals that no one can be separated from God who is our source of being. It is only your own belief and feeling that you are. Colossians 1:21 says that people can only be “enemies of God IN THEIR MINDS” because we are told that “God was in Christ reconciling the WORLD to Himself…” (2 Cor 5:19). The truth is you HAVE (past tense) been reconciled and nothing can change that. Only your own false perception gives you the illusion that you are not reconciled. YOU WERE FOUND IN CHRIST BEFORE YOU WERE EVER LOST IN ADAM!

It is the lies that you have received about this “doctrine” of the “unpardonable sin” that have you in bondage to fear and the feelings of “no love conviction.” If I were presented with a “father” who said “love me and serve me or I will torture you forever” (while somehow he abandons you at the same time) OF COURSE it would kill all sense of motivation and love! You have “committed the unpardonable sin” against a god who does not exist!! Also your use of the word “conviction” is not even in the Scriptures. Jesus said He came to “convict the world of righteousness”…WHICH IS HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS HE PUT IN YOU 2000 YEARS AGO AND EVEN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD! We convict criminals and we motivate children. It is the “LOVE of God which motivates us.” (2 Cor 5:14)

Nicole, anyone who is “hoping” and “praying” that they are not separated from God has faith, even if the size of a mustard seed. But God says even faith is His gift! The Gospel doesn’t come to you demanding faith but rather supplying faith (Eph 2:8,9). Jesus even said “Have the faith OF God” (note in the Greek it DOES NOT say “have faith IN God). You only need to believe what God already believes about you: ” Holy and blameless in His sight” (Eph 1). Please understand that you were included in Christ before the foundation of the world! You were included LONG before you were ever born!

I encourage you to read the story of the Prodigal over and over until you see your forever sonship. And remember that only those that belong can ever be “lost”! Jesus said He would leave the 99 to find the ONE. You are the ONE He is after right now — He is so passionate for your life and well-being. Come home…He’s waiting. You are so deeply loved.

Oh Nicole, you only need to have a glimpse of the God who is so much better than you thought…who really is “far above all you can ever ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20). You are immeasurable valuable to Him for you are His very image and likeness…He will not forget you for He has “engraved you on the palms of His hands.” You are His precious neighbor whom He loves AS He loves Himself for He loves and cherishes His own Word. Jesus is the Word and Logos that holds you together and He has said “NEVER, NEVER will I leave or forsake you”! (Heb 13) Isaiah 55 says “His word will not return without accomplishing what it set out to accomplish.”

Read the Word with the lens of mercy and love for that is how it is meant to be read. It is not to be read with a lens of “no mercy” for that is the how the pagan gods/religions operate.

“The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER ceases, His mercies NEVER come to an end”!! (Lam 3)

The fact that you came to this Christian site that offers hope to all means that you want to know the truth…we will be in prayer for you,

Kate and Phillip

Frederick April 25, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Hello, Nicole. I will only humbly say that you are not completely separated from God: first, because God wouldn’t let that happen; and second, the fact that you are searching for a connection with God is evidence that God is still indeed alive and working within you. Pax.

Phillip April 25, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Thank you for your tender comment Frederick. We agree wholeheartedly.

Phillip April 25, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Hello there Mike…I apologize for not seeing your comment above earlier. It came up with your latest comment somehow. Thank you for your thoughts. I would add that instead of Jesus rising from the dead “to justify us” it says rather that Jesus was raised “because of our justification.” Andre Rabe says:

There are two sides to justification. On one side, it is the just judgment of sin and on the other side, it is the vindication of man. “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” (Rom 4:25 NAS) The resurrection is God’s undisputed declaration that man is innocent.

I think we also need to be aware of how “pay for our sins” is understood. Payment to whom? Satan? God the Father? I would say He paid the horrific consequences of our sin in His own body absorbing the evil that we unleashed on His universe. He came to take on and overturn the death we set into motion. If we don’t clarify it sounds as if Jesus shed His precious blood to appease an angry deity/father. Jesus did indeed pay for our sin just as a parent takes the brunt of a child’s misbehavior in order to restore that one to relationship within the family.

Thank you again for your comment. I so appreciate your thoughts on the fact that the bowing the knee will not be forced as that is a very carnal and human understanding. Any tyrant can accomplish this! Only Love incarnate can melt all hearts into His arms.

Grace and Peace!

Mike April 25, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Thank you for your response. Yes, I’ve often wondered the same thing, to whom did Jesus pay for our sins?

Isaiah 40 transitions from the Old Covenant (first 39 chapters) to the New Covenant (next 27 chapters) and the second verse says:

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:2, NIV)

I’m thinking you see the work of Jesus Christ here, in paying for her sins. Maybe the interpretation is that Israel had paid for her own sins, yet ultimately we agree that only Jesus paid for the sins of all mankind.

So who did He pay? What are your thoughts?

Phillip April 25, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Hello Mike…what do you think of the ideas put forth in my last comment of God paying the brunt of our sin as a parent would their child — in love and self sacrifice? However, further I see in Scripture that the atonement holds a mystery that not just one metaphor can capture. Rob Bell reminds us that “it is like a rescue, like a ransom, like the end of the sacrificial system, like a broken relationship that’s been reconciled, like a guilty defendant who’s been set free, like a battle that’s been won and like the redeeming of something that was lost.” Which one is it? We must realize that it is multi-faceted.

Mike April 26, 2016 at 5:52 am

I agree that the atonement of many metaphors, no question about that. But I am not sure we can limit the Scripture’s statements on Jesus paying for our sin to only mean paying the “brunt”. I believe it was a legal payment, as sin had to be paid for with death. Jesus’ death was a legal payment made, because of which we now owe nothing. I was just asking to whom the payment was made, as I’ve often wondered about that, and since you brought it up was hoping you could answer.

Phillip April 26, 2016 at 7:09 am

Hi Mike, I have written extensively on this topic but wasn’t sure how far you wanted to discuss it or how deep you wanted to go. ; )

Here is an excerpt of one post of 3 I did over at GodsLoveWins.com. The full article can be found HERE. It was in response to a New York City pastor of 10,000, Dr. Timothy Keller (we have a mutual friend who introduced him to me 20 years ago). He wrote an article called “The Importance of Hell.” In this article I address his view of hell in the context of his penal substitutionary atonement. (links are in the original article)

1. The Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) view that Keller appeals to in relation to an eternal hell was not introduced until the Reformation. A rudimentary Substitutionary view was formed by Anselm in the 1100′s. This begs the question of how the Church operated without the revelation of the one and only “correct view” in hand for over 1500 years.
2. The historical views of the Atonement are generally recognized as “theories” and are simply attempts to explain the inexplicable. The idea of a substitutionary atonement (while challenging the concept of it being “penal”) is taken to be at the very most simply one of many views of the atonement by such scholars as the late Leon Morris or Scot McKnight. (See McKnight’s book, A Community Called Atonement). And in the end they all admit to there being within the atonement “infinite mystery.” Doesn’t sound like something we can be dogmatic about with one another.
3. To adhere to the Penal Substitutionary Atonement view one must reverse the message of the Gospel from “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” to “For God so hated sinners that He had to pour out His wrath on His Son in order to love them…” This denies the Gospel “Back-Story” of love that pre-existed within the Trinity. It splits the unity of the Trinity and places an angry deity behind the back of Jesus. Did God have to die in the person of Jesus Christ in order to love and forgive you or has He loved you from before the foundation of the world and therefore die for you?
4. Most troubling the PSA view reverses the message of 2 Cor 5 where we are told: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” as we are invited: “Be therefore reconciled to God!” It changes it fundamentally to a message of His need to be reconciled towards the world. But notice in Scripture there is no sense in which God needs to be reconciled. He does not need to be changed. We do. We are invited to respond to His offer and His work of reconciliation. The cross was to change us. It appears that Jesus died that we might fall in love with Him rather than so that He might fall in love with us. (“We love Him because He first loved us.”) If you are an evangelical who has assumed the PSA view you must grapple with the fact that this view means the purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus was ultimately to change the Father’s mind! This is a glaring contradiction of ”the Father of Lights who knows no shadow of turning” and “Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8)
5. It is also crucial to consider that the foundation of the Penal Substitutionary Atonement view has its origin in the legal framework and Greek mindset set forth by Augustine. The PSA reduces the cross and salvation to a legal transaction. Within the PSA model we lose sight of the importance of the incarnation and relational nature of the atonement where Christ is said to be identified with our humanity. It is our “at-one-ment” with Christ. “The Word took a body” said Athanasius.
The Incarnation answers the question: “Does God have a clue what it is like to be you? The cross is where Jesus identifies with our deepest alienation from God. Remember, He is fully God and fully man. On our behalf He assumes our doubt that we may become partakers of His faith.” (Andre Rabe) The PSA undermines the vicarious humanity of Christ as it translates Christ’s identification with man into the notion that God is somehow forsaking His Son.
6. Finally, to refer back to the top we ask: was it like a sacrifice? Yes, but in a way consistent with God’s true character and nature. God has always had a “habit” of taking our human concepts and through subversion turning them upside down. There is an understanding of the cross that is becoming ever more clear as we are being faced with the pagan origins of sacrifice to appease an angry deity. If Christ’s death was no more than a reflection of the same cycle of human sacrifice that has been the blight of human existence from the dawn of time then there is no divine revelation within Christ’s death. It is simply a replication of humanity’s failed wisdom. It would be the ultimate exhibition of an evil pagan practice.
So What Was That Thing Jesus Did On the Cross? (link)
As theologians have concluded over the centuries the meaning of the atonement is as wide and deep as the universe. But that doesn’t mean it is a nebulous concept but rather it provides deep revelation for our worship. The stunning beauty of the atonement is that it possesses a timeless and very present application for every individual as well as a transforming power to bring healing to the nations!
Anthropologists have noted that every civilization has a founding murder and subsequent sacrificial practices of its scapegoat victims. This violence has escalated into wars. One theory called the Mimetic Theory explains man as a being that cannot be himself by himself but rather he is a being that reflects whatever he beholds. This theory harmonizes perfectly with what we have learn form Scripture. Ultimately man was meant to reflect the love and adoration of his Creator back to Him. This is where things went wrong. Man chose to try and be like God, without God. Man has been mimicking or mirroring one another to inform his desires which has led to competition, conflict, violence and even war. Sacrifice was instated as a magical way to appease the gods and bring peace to the conflict within societies. In enters God with a sacrificial model when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Iasac. But notice how God “shifted” the paradigm of a human sacrifice to that of one He would provide! Here is the shadow of Christ!
We see Jesus coming not to imitate human pagan sacrifice but to be the sacrifice that ends all evil pagan and religious sacrifice …forever! Jesus came to turn our human wisdom to nothing (1 Cor 1:20-31), not to validate human sacrifice with a picture of yet another angry god needing blood to be satisfied. As Andre Rabe has so profoundly revealed through his penetrating question…

continued HERE

Mike April 26, 2016 at 7:18 am

Philip, this is wonderful, thank you for sending it. I will read it in its entirety shortly.

Mike April 29, 2016 at 6:51 pm

Here is my response:

Phillip: Hi Mike, I have written extensively on this topic but wasn’t sure how far you wanted to discuss it or how deep you wanted to go. ; )

Mike: I’m good to go as deep as we can. I love to study the cross and its effects, to see Jesus and His glory. But I am not a theologian who studies church history and church theology as extensively as you have. Therefore, I do not feel qualified to debate you on this; I have much to learn. But I also believe the answers are in God’s Word, more than in church theological history or mere arguments founded on logic. I hold to the view of progressive revelation of the gospel.

Phillip: Here is an excerpt of one post of 3 I did over at GodsLoveWins.com. The full article can be found HERE. It was in response to a New York City pastor of 10,000, Dr. Timothy Keller (we have a mutual friend who introduced him to me 20 years ago). He wrote an article called “The Importance of Hell.” In this article I address his view of hell in the context of his penal substitutionary atonement. (links are in the original article)

Mike: I really appreciate Tim Keller, but know that he is human and seeing through the glass darkly as I am and we all are. I’m thankful for those who see the cross from a different perspective than I do and communicate their perspective clearly.

Phillip: 1. The Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) view that Keller appeals to in relation to an eternal hell was not introduced until the Reformation. A rudimentary Substitutionary view was formed by Anselm in the 1100′s. This begs the question of how the Church operated without the revelation of the one and only “correct view” in hand for over 1500 years.

Mike: I believe the Penal Substitution view was introduced in Genesis chapter 3 with the death of an animal in the place of Adam and Eve. Their attempts to cover themselves were insufficient so God put to death an animal, satisfying His justice and magnifying His love, and clothed His children with the sacrifice. God covered their nakedness, their sin, with the sacrifice of another, which pointed forward to the cross. All believers (or all mankind if taking the universalist position) are now or will be clothed with the garments of salvation that have been given us by our Redeemer. Just as two thousand years ago Jesus gave His robe to those who crucified Him, so now He gives His robe of righteousness to we who by our sin put Him on the cross.
“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10, NIV)
This may or may not be the Penal Substitution that Anselm or Luther developed, but it’s the one I believe currently. It seems to be taught clearly in Isaiah 53:
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4–6, NIV)
It is Penal Substitution when One is pierced for the transgression of others, when one is crushed for the iniquities of others, when One is punished by God that others may have peace and wounded by God that others may be healed. It is Penal Substitution when the Lord lays on Another the iniquity of us all.
Maybe I am using the word “Penal Substitution” incorrectly here, but this is the way I currently understand the phrase.
One of the reasons why Jesus died on the cross was to pay the price of our sin. If “the wages of sin are death”, then death is the penalty for our sin (Penal), and when Jesus died in our place (Substitution) He paid our penalty so that we do not have to pay the wages and can instead enjoy the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We were “bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20) of God’s “own blood” (Acts 20:28). I take this to mean He paid the wages of our sin, purchasing us from the kingdom of darkness and taking us to be “His very own people” (Titus 2:14). The blood He shed in substitution is “precious blood”, both to the Father and to us:
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18–19, NIV)
If we were “redeemed” (bought back at a price) by the death of Jesus, then His sacrifice (the penalty He paid) was substitutional. He died for us. He died in our place. He paid the wages of our transgressions, thereby redeeming us from an empty way of life. He suffered God’s wrath in our place (John 3:36). And He did this because God the Father loves us. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish. The cross confirms it: God loves us!

Phillip: 2. The historical views of the Atonement are generally recognized as “theories” and are simply attempts to explain the inexplicable. The idea of a substitutionary atonement (while challenging the concept of it being “penal”) is taken to be at the very most simply one of many views of the atonement by such scholars as the late Leon Morris or Scot McKnight. (See McKnight’s book, A Community Called Atonement). And in the end they all admit to there being within the atonement “infinite mystery.” Doesn’t sound like something we can be dogmatic about with one another.

Mike: I agree, and definitely don’t want to come across as dogmatic.

Phillip: 3. To adhere to the Penal Substitutionary Atonement view one must reverse the message of the Gospel from “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” to “For God so hated sinners that He had to pour out His wrath on His Son in order to love them…”

Mike: This seems to be too narrow of a statement, too dogmatic to fit within the context of the entire Bible’s teaching on the subject. It seems there is an attempt to pit God’s justice and God’s love against one another. As if to say we could either believe in a God of justice or a God of love, but God cannot be both at the same time. I don’t believe we have to reduce God down to either having justice or having love, to either being righteous or being loving. At the cross “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10, NIV)

Phillip: This denies the Gospel “Back-Story” of love that pre-existed within the Trinity. It splits the unity of the Trinity and places an angry deity behind the back of Jesus. Did God have to die in the person of Jesus Christ in order to love and forgive you or has He loved you from before the foundation of the world and therefore die for you?

Mike: Believing in all of God’s attributes does not have to deny the Gospel back story of love, nor does having both love and justice, righteousness and peace split the unity of the Trinity. Have you never been filled with love for your child (or any other person) while experiencing anger over their actions at the same time? If so, that does not make you a split-personality. Rather, that God’s image in you.
No, Jesus did not have to die in order for God to love us, both He and the Father loved us from before the foundation of the world; the cross is proof of God the Father’s love. “For God so loved the world He gave His one and Only Son…”

Phillip: 4. Most troubling the PSA view reverses the message of 2 Cor 5 where we are told: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” as we are invited: “Be therefore reconciled to God!” It changes it fundamentally to a message of His need to be reconciled towards the world. But notice in Scripture there is no sense in which God needs to be reconciled. He does not need to be changed. We do. We are invited to respond to His offer and His work of reconciliation. The cross was to change us.

Mike: It was also to satisfy God’s justice, even as justice was denied Jesus on the cross: “In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”” (Acts 8:33, NIV) “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.” (Matthew 12:20, NIV)
The death of the animal, and the clothing of Adam and Eve with its skins was not merely to change Adam and Eve (though I’m not denying that it did), it was also to satisfy God’s justice. Sin had been committed. Wages had to be paid. Death had to happen (Heb 9:22). Because God loved His children so much He provided a substitute to satisfy His justice and pay the wages of death. This satisfaction of justice by another pointed directly to the “Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world” who would likewise take the place of all sinners, pay their wages of death, and purchase them a covering. Oh what tremendously good news this is. I have no idea why anyone would want to deny it. Are we not dramatically changed by understanding that we sinned and deserved the wrath of God (Rom 5:9), but Jesus substituted Himself in our place so that we could be saved and reconciled to the Father?

Phillip: It appears that Jesus died that we might fall in love with Him rather than so that He might fall in love with us. (“We love Him because He first loved us.”) If you are an evangelical who has assumed the PSA view you must grapple with the fact that this view means the purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus was ultimately to change the Father’s mind!

Mike: I really do disagree with this statement. God did not need to have His mind changed. His mind and heart were one of love for His children from eternity past, which is why He sent Jesus to pay the wages of sin, to satisfy His justice, to remove His wrath, and to open up all of heaven to us. For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish but have eternal life. I believe in the good news of Penal Substitution and do not believe God’s mind had to be changed. The cross was not a changing of God’s mind; it was a confirmation of His love.

Phillip: This is a glaring contradiction of ”the Father of Lights who knows no shadow of turning” and “Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8)

Mike: Yes, agreed that God doesn’t change. He purposed to save us from before time began, He saved us by sending Jesus to accomplish all His will, and He will bring us to the home He prepared for us for all eternity future.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that Penal Substitution means that God did not love us due to our sin and Jesus had to die in our place in order to change God’s mind from one of anger to love. Is this accurate?
If yes, the I am perplexed by your logic. The judge does not have to be angry with the criminal to judge him guilty and sentence him accordingly. The law is not emotional; it is factual. The law required perfect obedience or death. Man sinned in his disobedience. The penalty was death. Jesus came and paid that penalty of death so that God’s justice and His mercy were both satisfied. It was the plan from the beginning.

Phillip: 5. It is also crucial to consider that the foundation of the Penal Substitutionary Atonement view has its origin in the legal framework and Greek mindset set forth by Augustine.

Mike: I disagree with this. It has its origin from before time began, was revealed first when Adam and Eve sinned and God put to death a substitute in their place, was communicated clearly by the time Abel offered a blood sacrifice for his sins, culminated at the cross, and produces effects into eternity future.
I think it’s important to understand that the biblical doctrine of Penal Substitution was not the thinking of a man. Man would never have come up with “substitution” on his own, but would rather have come up with a way for man to work his own way to God. Penal Substitution comes from the mind and heart of God, is revealed in the Scriptures, and is contrary to everything man would devise. Just look at all other religions outside of Christianity and see them all trying to work/earn their way to God, on their own. Man devises a way to work up to God (like the Tower of Babel), without a mediator. God devised the way to come down to man, take his place, pay for his wrongs, and lift man up to heaven. The good news of Penal Substitution is a distinctly God-invented doctrine, far better than anything a man would ever think or imagine.

Phillip: The PSA reduces the cross and salvation to a legal transaction.

Mike: I disagree with this. I would say that the legal transaction is one metaphor for salvation. If taken by themselves every metaphor reduces salvation to its own teaching. Forgiveness reduces salvation to the mere need to be pardoned. Redemption reduces salvation to the buying back of the one taken captive. Healing by Jesus’ stripes reduces salvation to the mere need to be healed from sin and sickness. Freedom reduces salvation to the mere need for captives to be set free. Etc. Penal Substitution, the legal transaction, is but one way of examining salvation, not the only way.

Phillip: Within the PSA model we lose sight of the importance of the incarnation and relational nature of the atonement where Christ is said to be identified with our humanity. It is our “at-one-ment” with Christ. “The Word took a body” said Athanasius.

Mike: I’m confused by your sweeping assumptions. I do not lose site of the incarnation and relational nature of the Atonement though I believe in penal substitution. Not sure where you’re getting your information, but nobody I know of who believes in Penal Substitution believes this precious doctrine causes us to lose site of the incarnation. To lose site of the incarnation IS to lose site of the Atonement. If the Word didn’t take a body the Word couldn’t have pleased God with His sacrifice on the cross. “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.” This prepared body, inhabited by God in His Son satisfied all requirements for justice at the cross, as well as removed all wrath and purchased all people, who will one day bow the knee to King Jesus and confess Him as Lord. Thank God for the body of the Lord Jesus, Who was “born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” May we never lose site of the incarnation where God took a body that He might take our place, die our death and save us eternally.

Phillip: The Incarnation answers the question: “Does God have a clue what it is like to be you? The cross is where Jesus identifies with our deepest alienation from God. Remember, He is fully God and fully man. On our behalf He assumes our doubt that we may become partakers of His faith.” (Andre Rabe) The PSA undermines the vicarious humanity of Christ as it translates Christ’s identification with man into the notion that God is somehow forsaking His Son.

Mike: I do not believe the biblical doctrine of Penal Substitution undermines the vicarious humanity of Christ, but I do believe God forsook His Son on the cross, so that He would never forsake me or anyone else. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” comes from the fully divine Son of God yet in His humanity Jesus uttered those words expressing His understanding of being forsaken.
The song “I’m alive and well” expresses the good news of Penal Substitution:
I’m forgiven because You were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me
Because You died and rose again

Phillip: 6. Finally, to refer back to the top we ask: was it like a sacrifice? Yes, but in a way consistent with God’s true character and nature. God has always had a “habit” of taking our human concepts and through subversion turning them upside down. There is an understanding of the cross that is becoming ever more clear as we are being faced with the pagan origins of sacrifice to appease an angry deity.

Mike: The world, inspired by the god of this world, always copies truth. The diviners of Moses’ day copied nearly every miracle that Moses did. And the world saw the God-ordained teaching of sacrifice of blood to please God and turn away His wrath, and copied it. It does not have its origins in pagan practice, rather pagan practice copies God’s clear teaching on the subject. There is nothing new under the sun because everything originates with God.

One of the things that the Passover teaches us is that the blood of the lamb caused the destroyer to pass over those who took shelter under it. The blood sacrifice covered the people inside, protected them, and caused God’s wrath, in the form of the destroying angel, to pass over. In this writing of yours there seems to be a real refusal to deal with God’s wrath, or His need to punish sin. As if the destroying angel would pass over all because God is a loving God and loves all His children. This teaching attempts to make Jesus, the Judge of all the earth, worse than any judge in world history because He has no need for justice.

Phillip: If Christ’s death was no more than a reflection of the same cycle of human sacrifice that has been the blight of human existence from the dawn of time then there is no divine revelation within Christ’s death. It is simply a replication of humanity’s failed wisdom. It would be the ultimate exhibition of an evil pagan practice.

Mike: Not sure I understand this. True biblical teaching always gives divine revelation of Christ’s death, and is never “humanity’s failed wisdom.” Humanity’s failed wisdom is shown in attempting to get the rewards of eternal life and heaven without trusting in Christ’s death as a payment for their sins.

Phillip: So What Was That Thing Jesus Did On the Cross? (link)
As theologians have concluded over the centuries the meaning of the atonement is as wide and deep as the universe. But that doesn’t mean it is a nebulous concept but rather it provides deep revelation for our worship. The stunning beauty of the atonement is that it possesses a timeless and very present application for every individual as well as a transforming power to bring healing to the nations!

Mike:
I have noticed that you provide very little Scripture for your arguments. Truth-less arguments must of necessity be founded in mere logic. I do not agree with logic-founded statements that are not submitted to God’s revealed truth (the truth from which the Christian’s logic flows).
I have given Scripture for my understanding of the good news of Penal Substitution. I have not meant to be argumentative, my objective is to learn, but I do need Scriptural foundations.

Phillip April 29, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Wow, thank you Mike for your thoughtful response! I will begin to answer as time allows — a bit at a time for now as I have some other business to take care of. I am also in the process of putting your comment within its own page in order to create its own discussion instead of relegated to the end of these comments. (But my webmaster somehow turned off some of the comments on some of the pages so trying to figure it out.) This is an important conversation that ought to be accessible to our readers.

Frederick April 30, 2016 at 3:53 am

“This is an important conversation that ought to be accessible to our readers.” Indeed. I very much look forward to further discussion…

Phillip May 2, 2016 at 9:32 pm

I have posted the above conversation within its own page found here. I will respond as I am able. Thanks for creating the opportunity to dialogue over this important topic!

Phillip May 4, 2016 at 7:24 am

Mike and Frederick,
While you are waiting to engage in the topic of Penal Substitutionary Atonement I highly recommend someone who “communicates their perspective clearly” based on a strong “scriptural foundation.” It is a book called Healing the Gospel: A Radical Vision for Grace, Justice and the Cross by Derek Flood. It is not a difficult or long read–very accessible but extremely thorough on the topic as to why scripture as well as church history supports a restorative atonement (the “Christus Victor” view) and not a retributive one. It would satisfy your desire to understand the reasons many believers (who would not fall under the “liberal” label) have abandoned the PSA theory because of very strong scriptural evidence.

If you are wanting more on this topic the book, Atonement, Justice, and Peace: The Message of the Cross and the Mission of the Church by Darrin Belousek is excellent as well but longer and much more extensive on the topic.

grace and peace…

Mike May 4, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Phillip, thank you very much for the book recommendations. I’m looking for both of them and will read them both, time allowing. I really appreciate the recommendations.

Richard May 10, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Can I just say that the Torrance brothers, especially T.F emphatically and explicitly denied universalism, as did Karl Barth, for the very same reasons they denied limited atonement. This is because universalism introduces a kind of logical causal and contractual necessity into God’s nature and character. Furthermore, given their theology of sole priesthood of Christ, any attempt to recast hell or final judgement as a resurrected version of purgatory simply will not do. To suggest so is to misrepresent their views completely.

Much like Barth’s doctrine concerning evil, which basically rejects any attempt to construct any kind of theodicy which would ontologically justify the existence of evil for which Barth and even Augustine hold is a non-possibility, those who followed Barth can speak of hell as “the impossible possibility” as this is what the steadfast refusal of God’s grace implies. Thus there is a kind of dialectical paradox – the salvation of all is a reality Christians should hope and trust in yet hell remains “an impossible possibility” in the same way that evil remains “the nothingness” (das Nichtige).

Christian universalists slip into exactly the same kind of bastard rationalism that both federal and arminian thought adopted courtesy of modernity.

Phillip May 16, 2016 at 7:33 am

Hi Richard, I am so glad you stopped by and commented. It appears that you do not intend to follow up with any discussion but I think your comments are hugely important to consider and will be addressed here on this website.

First, I appreciate your desire and hope for the salvation of all and your encouragement of others to hope the same. You’d be surprised at the number of “elder brothers” there are out there. Very sad indeed.

Second, I am sorry that the comments were closed below the article for which this comment applies (I am working to fix that) but if you read again the article we do not declare or attach a universalism by your definition to either Barth nor the Torrance brothers. The point of the article (indeed our websites) was to highlight the corporate theology of the Body of Christ, not certain individuals or groups. We are a Body whether we like it or not and the truths we treasure and stand by together create a full and complete Gospel much larger and greater than any one theologian or denomination.

But your concern with determinism is relevant and exactly where we need to go and I have been working on a post “Is Universalism Determinism?” which will cover the points in your comments. Hope you will subscribe to the posts so you can catch this important article. I think you will be pleasantly surprised and challenged. After all, you are a hopeful Christian.

Until then, grace and peace…
Phillip

Brad June 23, 2016 at 1:45 pm

This is probably one of the most fascinating things I have ever read! Oh my Lord! I’m seriously just in awe. I feel so filled with gratitude to have read this article and about 3/4 of the comments, haha. everyone that has posted is so awesome. I love the diversity and tenacity. Personally I have wrestled so much for so many years with ideas I have come to understand fall under these “Calvinist” and “Arminian” views, I had no idea. I was adopted into a Christian family at birth and put through private school, with church attendance 3-4 times a week. I led worship through high school and “fell in love” my senior year. I got this love of mine pregnant, who then decided to have an abortion maybe two months into it. All of the religious propaganda views on abortion and religious doctrine drove me into a place of shame, guilt and condemnation that threw me into a whirlwind of suicidal and depressed panic. I became a heroin addict, had many stints to jail, detoxes, rehabs and eventually prison.
Holy Spirit met me through a random prophetic word sent via voice text, simply letting me know that God loves me, He sees me, and will never give up on me. It was then that I broke down and all my “bad behavior” ceased. I thought this lined up with the views of repentance I had learned growing up, and attributed my change to my own efforts and will to “do the right thing”. It has only been more recently, the last 8 months or so, that I have come to realize, that my permanence in God, is actually not anything of my own, but that it is His permanence with me, despite my will and my efforts, that is really the “truth that sets me free”. That truth is actually a person, Jesus, who by ALL things are for, and through, and by, and in, and are held together, have their being. I am one of those things, and so is your neighbor, they just may not know it yet.
The end.
Love y’all so much. Keep up the awesome work. So excited to be on this journey of discovering all that He is in us.

Phillip June 27, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Hi Brad…So thrilled that you stopped by and were encouraged! And thank you for sharing your beautiful and amazing story and thoughts. Yes, what a revelation that it is the faith OF God not our faith IN God that saves and heals! So much good news that it is infinite …just like the One who sent it! These are indeed exciting times to be alive as we watch the beginnings of an awakening of the reality of “Christ in you” unlike this world has ever seen before!

Phillip June 27, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Hello again Mike and Frederick, I have been furiously working on a couple of other projects that have been extending into the next month or so. But I have been listening repeatedly to an audible version of Derek Flood’s Healing the Gospel and it is indeed an amazing overview of restorative atonement/justice! I just want to reiterate again what a fine resource this book is for anyone open to examining their traditional view of the atonement. As well, I have been introduced to Brad Jersak’s books on the atonement that I think would also be enlightening and an encouraging revelation. I have heard him speak recently and I would highly recommend his work:

A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel
Stricken by God: Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ (an older work)
Both found HERE on Amazon

Mike Cleveland June 27, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Hello again brother Phillip,

I’ve been waiting to write in order to write a more complete review of the book “Healing the Gospel”, but with my time requirements it just isn’t going to happen.

What I will say is that the author is simply unbiblical in numerous places, and it discouraged me greatly to read it. He takes many things out of context, does not apply Scripture appropriately, and comes to wrong conclusions.

I started to write biblical rebuttals but it would have to be a volume in itself, as the author is so absolutely wrong in so many different places. It is as if he has blinders on and simply cannot see the gospel.

I think at this point I will need to bow out of further discussion as I hate disagreements and division with as much passion as I love the true gospel.

I do want to thank you for listening and interacting, I certainly accept your viewpoints and that you’ve come to them with honest searching, but I’m just unable to continue any further.

Thank you again Phillip, and God bless you and your family,

grace and truth,

Mike

Phillip June 28, 2016 at 2:39 pm

You are most gracious to call me “brother” when you so strongly disagree. I really appreciate that immensely, you have no idea how mean spirited people can be when you disagree with them. This is a fine testimony to you, brother Mike! Thank you also for having the courtesy to explain what you are thinking rather than just not responding further and disappearing.

I respect your opinion. The only thing I will say to other readers here is that it is not just which Bible verses support which view because you can find whatever answers you are looking for. In fact there are “scriptures” that say all kinds of things that would make you shudder and cringe if you paid attention to them…they only make sense through the lens of Jesus–He is the ultimate and Final Word (See what the world thinks: Verses Christians Like to Ignore). It is ultimately most important which LENS we are looking through. Does the Biblical conversation ultimately teach and support a restorative view of the atonement or a retributive one? That will make all the difference. Consider how Jesus announced the nature of His mission in Luke 4 by quoting Isaiah 61:

18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Consider where He left off and what He omitted: “The day of vengeance of our God.” THAT is what ignited the violence of the Pharisees and they tried to kill Him right then and there!

Here is a brief article about Justice=Righteousness that you may want to check out before you leave.

Blessings,
Phillip

Mike Cleveland June 29, 2016 at 7:36 am

Hello again Phillip,

I’m honored to count you as my brother in Christ, and would not, Lord willing, be mean-spirited or divisive in any way. I’ve noticed, through your writings, that you would not do those things either, so we’re all good. It does seem that we are all looking through the same dim glass; some things stand out brightly through our view, others seem fuzzy. But as brothers and friends we keep looking, and we agree that the cross and resurrection loom large and clear for all who turn to the Lord and lose the veil of the law. That’s what we share together, and one day we will all bow are knees, clasp our hands together, and worship the Lamb on the throne.

I appreciate the Justice=Righteousness article mentioned above, as well as many other things you’ve written on this site.

Thank you for being a blessing to many, brother.

grace and truth,

Mike

Phillip July 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm

I appreciate your answer Mike more than you might know. It is not so important for me to know that I am right but that I am loved by the I AM. If His goal was for us to all “be right” in our doctrines there would be no place for faith and trust (as well as it would generate despair over the 40,000 denominations we have created!) It is indeed “dim” and “fuzzy” as you say and Paul confessed. But we are not without hope for somehow this uncertainty is part of our journey to bring us together…because we NEED one another, the Body, in order to have a fuller picture of His Story revealed in Scripture. And so thankful that Scripture even points to something greater than itself: Jesus is the Way to right believing and true repenting!

Grace and Peace…

Phillip

Sharon July 25, 2016 at 7:11 pm

If everyone will go to heaven no matter what, then why should I suffer with this horrible depression? Wouldn’t I be better off just ending it all?
And, Why should we let people suffer with pain of incurable illnesses? Why not just dispatch the starving on to heaven?
I am meaning to be rude at all. I am really confused by this. It really seems like God is playing a dirty trick on us if everyone is going to go to heaven! Why does he call missionaries just to see them die as martyrs when the people who don;t want to hear their message are all just going to go to heaven anyway?

L Duebel July 31, 2016 at 9:48 am

Just because everyone will eventually be with the I AM, does not negate the justice or necessity for God to righteously judge or condemn sin. The Bible clearly tells of condemnation, but what most people ignore is that all that God does is for good. What is ultimate reconciliation does not eliminate the necessity for whatever is necessary to bring about that reconciliation. In addition, the life in Christ is much more than the final product of His work. To be a part of His kingdom in this life is to experience the best life God can give. Working for the Kingdom is the most profitable way to live, and nothing done for His kingdom is without reward in this life or the next. In addition, God exists in eternity. For Him Christ’s work is already complete. Everything and everyone will become one and everything lost will be restored. Live with Him and never die, but don’t die without Him. There are consequences that Christ warned us to avoid.

Phillip August 3, 2016 at 8:45 am

Dear Sharon, I apologize for the delay. I had to step away from the blog temporarily. Trust me, your question is not one that is foreign to my own thoughts and experiences. Tragedy has stared me in the face and posed the very same questions. But they are not just questions for the Christian universalist but are equally valid to ask the traditional Christian or a Buddhist or even an atheist…the question of what is the point?

I am so very grieved to hear about your battle with depression. You have a very visceral experience behind your question that I know is heartbreaking and excruciating. I want to encourage you to consider that a vision of a God of hope and unconditional love is known to be very healing to the brain (Please see: http://www.andrewnewberg.com/books/how-god-changes-your-brain-breakthrough-findings-from-a-leading-neuroscientist).

I also would like to address a couple of things I believe lie at the root of your question. First, that of fairness. You are concerned that everybody can live any way they want, and while unchanged “go to heaven.” If that is what we believed then you are correct to question. But that is far from the truth. If we look at the story of Saul in Acts 9 we see that he was transformed to “Paul.” This is an example of how God has the ability to “change our minds” (metanoia=repent). There will be no Sauls in heaven…only Pauls. We are told that He is “making all things new” and that “every knee will bow and tongue praise in adoration.” How the Great I AM does this in time and space before we are united in the New Heavens and the New Earth is perhaps beyond our comprehension (although quantum physics is shedding light on this!) I invite you to read this article on Hitler to gain new insight on this: http://godslovewins.com/blog/do-you-desire-for-all-to-be-redeemed/

Your appeal to fairness regarding the issue of timing was addressed by Jesus in His parable of the vineyard workers. The ones that came in at the last hour were rewarded the same wage as those who had worked all day. The vineyard owner answered “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” The story of the Prodigal also points to this “unfairness” of God. God’s economy is not run on retributive justice or on what we call fair but upon mercy. As pastor Peter Hiett says, “when we truly receive mercy we will want mercy for everyone else.” Peter Hiett goes on:

At the end of the day, the only folks that are “out” appear to be those offended that all are “in.” It is an urgent priority that we preach the Gospel to “Christians” offended by Grace. The Kingdom is like a landlord who hired workers to work his vineyard promising to pay them what is “just.” Those that labored long received the same as those that worked for an hour; this is Just. The Justice of God, the Judgment of God, the Free Choice of God is Grace… (watch full sermon: http://www.tsdowntown.com/sermon-database/message/the-vineyard-10-years-later

)

A second observation is that of the motivation of fear I see behind much of the church’s activity. If we need eternal hell waved over us in order to love God and care for other people and share with them the Good News then I submit to you that it is not true love. I myself have, and I see in many others, a tremendous sense of urgency to get the Good News of this universal salvation out to the nations. I have friends who have lost everything for this message and others who have given up everything to travel the globe and share this inescapable love of God. Just because you know it will be “ok in the end” does not reduced the urgency to help others in their need, their hunger, their depression, their pain right now. THIS is the compassionate heart of God: to touch others now, in this life, at this moment. Jesus touched people and ministered to them in this life. This life matters. “The kingdom of God is within you.”

“There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear.” 1 Jn 4:18

I hope that hope is driving you to know “the hope that does not disappoint” (Rom 5:5). Your hope is driving you to ask these questions. Do not give up. There were many godly saints throughout history who believed this message of hope for all, especially during the first 500 years after Christ. Please continue your study here and in the scripture. When you read something in the scriptures that sounds like no hope or you don’t understand…keep reading; it is one Story of God in conversation with man, not a string of isolated texts.

“With man this is impossible but with God ALL things are possible.”

There are so many facets to your question I wish I had time to address. It is difficult when the religious lens we have been given is judgment while God’s is that of mercy, grace and love. “We tend not to see things as they are but as we are“.

I recommend a couple of books. Hope Beyond Hell by Gerry Beauchemin, a free PDF book found here in our resources. Also Professor Thomas Talbott’s The Inescapable Love of God can be purchased on Amazon. Another free book is by pastor Peter Hiett called Time and the Genesis of You also found on our resources page.

These concepts are really very simple. Even a child naturally understands them but religion has complicated things to the extent that we need entire books to untangle the theology of retributive justice we have created. I hope that you will find the peace that passes all understanding and that any theological error that has contributed to your depression will be washed away.

Above all meditate on this: You are deeply loved. Please know that in this spiritual journey it is not your thoughts about God that define Him but rather His thoughts about you that define you: You are a unique and beautiful thought of God redeemed and revealed in Christ Jesus. You were “begotten from the Rock” and “The Lord is our Rock and His work is perfect”! You were created and redeemed in Christ Jesus and declared “VERY GOOD”…you were in Him in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. You are seated in the heavenliness with Him. You are now living FROM the Throne Room and no longer towards something beyond your reach. God says you are innocent and complete IN HIM and no longer a sinner but a saint. IT IS FINISHED!! You have ALREADY been reconciled! Hallelujah! (Col 1; Eph 1&2; Rom 5; 2 Cor 5)

Grace and peace,
Phillip

Phillip August 3, 2016 at 9:23 am

Thank you for this L Duebel, so well said! It is indeed “a severe mercy” as C. S. Lewis described.

Mike August 3, 2016 at 10:02 am

This is an absolutely wonderful ministry, Phillip.

Basem February 16, 2017 at 4:15 am

God bless you for this wonderful Grace-infused effort! I admire the way you respectfully disagree with others on theological stands. I found throughout my life that “telling the truth with humility” seems to be the most challenging statue to follow. I am from an “Eastern Christianity” background (unconventionally I endorse both EO and OO theologies which there are some disagreements as you know). Christianity pre-Augustine has certainly been more “universalist”. The problem in my opinion came with the establishment of the “Christian State” after the Edict of Milan where it was important for the Church/State Chimera to control access to salvation to ensure hegemony over the masses. Hence Augustinian views became very appealing because they provided an authoritative interpretation of scripture to allow such hegemony despite being in major disagreement with the earlier Church Fathers. Now whole of Christendom (East and West), despite sectarianism and mutual pious condemnation, subscribe to Augustinian dogma because all religious leaders find it enabling to maintain their paternalistic authority. Lord have mercy!

Phillip March 6, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Thank you “Basem” for your comment and encouraging words! I apologize for the tardiness of the response.
I find considerable affinity with the EO insofar as they present the more relational foundation of Athanasius rather than the legal transactional mindset of Augustine. This makes all the difference when you are meditating on the nature of God as a Trinitarian Being. He no longer can be seen through the lens of static doctrines and creeds but only as a relationship…the interpenetrating flow of Life Itself! He is The Divine Family “in whom we live and move and have our being”!

Josh May 30, 2017 at 11:50 am

Matthew 25:26 Jesus tells us that the redeemed in Heaven will be there just as long as the unredeemed will be in Hell which is enternity my friend. There is no scripture that backs up a universal idea. Satan isn’t going to Heaven. This is a popular belief for those who want to live according to their own will rather than God.

Josh May 30, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Excuse me it’s Matthew 25:46. Not Matthew 25:26

Phillip June 3, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Hello Josh…thanks for your comment. However, I take issue with your assumption that anyone who chooses to interpret the Story of God through the lens of “Love never fails” or “His mercies NEVER come to an end” are only doing so in order “to live according to their own will rather than God.” In fact these are just a couple of Scriptures in favor of God’s universal redemption that you claim do not exist in the Bible. Also I assure you there are plenty of examples of those who believe in eternal hell who have managed to gain the reputation of living for themselves. All the major polls have revealed the reputation of Christians as judgmental and hypocritical with nearly the same divorce rate as outside the church. In other words, not quite so impressively holy as you have imagined. And not a big draw to the Kingdom. If your an Arminian (free-will) you are partly responsible for whether some believe or not, leading to their eternal destiny. Wow, do you really have that much power? If you are a Calvinist then you believe that God predestined some to heaven leaving the majority of billions to their own demise and torment in an eternal hell. And, the problems with that view produces yet another complicated theological conundrum to repel the world form coming to their Lord and Savior. We cannot simply cherry-pick verses. We have 30,000+ denominations who base their differences (enough to physically separate themselves from other Christians) on their interpretation of The Bible. Clearly we need to see the bigger Story God is telling through His word!

Here is an article from GodsLoveWins.com that addresses Matthew 25 I will leave for our readers who have come upon this question. It is answered throughout this website as a whole but the following will give some initial thoughts to ponder!

Matthew 25 is the primary passage that most evangelical scholars have concluded supports the doctrine of an eternal hell. Other passages have been determined as simply assumptions and through further scrutiny are admitted as shaky evidence for eternal conscious torment. So Matthew 25 seems to be the one that everyone zeros in on to “prove” the existence of an eternal hell. We will start off with this discussion by Professor Thomas Talbott. We will be adding to this page (soon) additional insights to the question of whether Matthew 25 supports the traditional view of eternal punishment of most of humanity (the “goats”).

Here is Thomas Talbott:
Let’s begin with Matthew 25:46 because so many have appealed to this text in support of the following egregiously fallacious argument: If, according to Jesus, eternal life is literally unending life, then eternal punishment must also be unending torment (or at least unending separation from God). We can illustrate the fallacy in such reasoning, moreover, without entering into any controversy concerning the correct translation of the Greek “aionios” (whether, for example, it should be translated as “eternal,” “everlasting,” or simply “age enduring”). So let us simply grant, at least for the sake of argument, whichever of these translations a given person might prefer.
Whatever its correct translation, “aionios” is clearly an adjective and must therefore function like an adjective, and it is the very nature of an adjective for its meaning to vary, sometimes greatly, depending upon which noun it qualifies. For more often than not, the noun helps to determine the precise force of the adjective. As an illustration, set aside the Greek word “aionios” for a moment and consider the English word “everlasting.” I think it safe to say that the basic meaning of this English word is indeed everlasting. So now consider how the precise force of “everlasting” varies depending upon which noun it qualifies. An everlasting struggle would no doubt be a struggle without end, an unending temporal process that never comes to a point of resolution and never gets completed. But an everlasting change, or an everlasting correction, or an everlasting transformation would hardly be an unending temporal process that never gets completed; instead, it would be a temporal process of limited duration, or perhaps simply an instantaneous event, that terminates in an irreversible state. So however popular it might be, the argument that “aionios” must have exactly the same force regardless of which noun it qualifies in Matthew 25:46 is clearly fallacious.

Accordingly, even if we should translate “aionios” with the English word “everlasting,” a lot would still depend upon how we understand the relevant nouns in our text: the nouns “life” (zoe) and “punishment” (kolasis). Now the kind of life in question, being rightly related to God, is clearly an end in itself, even as the kind of punishment in question seems just as clearly to be a means to an end. For as one New Testament scholar, William Barclay, has pointed out, “kolasis” “was not originally an ethical word at all. It originally meant the pruning of trees to make them grow better.” Barclay also claimed that “in all Greek secular literature kolasis is never used of anything but remedial punishment”–which is probably a bit of a stretch, since the language of correction and the language of retribution often get mixed together in ordinary language. But in any event, if “kolasis” does signify punishment of a remedial or a corrective kind, as I think it does in Matthew 25:46, then we can reasonably think of such punishment as everlasting in the sense that its corrective effects literally endure forever. Or, to put it another way: An everlasting correction, whenever successfully completed, would be a temporal process of limited duration that terminates in the irreversible state of being rightly related to God. Certainly nothing in the context of Matthew 25 excludes such an interpretation.

This would not be my preferred interpretation, however, because the English word “everlasting” does not accurately capture the special religious meaning that “aionios” typically has in the New Testament. Here is how I expressed my own understanding of this matter in Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, p. 46:
The first point I would make is that on no occasion of its use in the New Testament does ‘aionios’ refer to atemporal process of unending duration. On a few occasions–as when Paul spoke of a ‘mystery that was kept secret for long ages (chronios aioniois) but is now disclosed’ (Rom. 16:25-26)–the adjective does imply a lengthy period of time. But on these occasions, it could not possibly mean ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’. On other occasions, its use seems roughly Platonic in this sense: Whether God is eternal (that is, timeless, outside of time) in a purely Platonic sense or everlasting in the sense that he endures throughout all of the ages, nothing other than God is eternal in the primary sense (see the reference to ‘the eternal God’ in Rom. 16:26). The judgements, gifts, and actions of God are eternal in the secondary sense that their causal source lies in the eternal character and purpose God. One common function of an adjective, after all, is to refer back to the causal source of some action or condition. [Endnote: A selfish act, for example, is one that springs from, or has its causal source in, selfish motives.] When Jude thus cited the fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of eternal fire, he was not making a statement about temporal duration at all; in no way was he implying that the fire continues burning today, or even that it continued burning for an age. He was instead giving a theological interpretation in which the fire represented God’s judgement upon the two cities. So the fire was eternal not in the sense that it would burn forever without consuming the cities, but in the sense that, precisely because it was God’s judgement upon these cities and did consume them, it expressed God’s eternal character and eternal purpose in a special way.

So, even as the fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah was eternal in the sense that it expressed God’s eternal character and purpose in a special way, the same is true of the fire to which Matthew 25:41 alludes. That fire is eternal in the sense that, despite the harsh sounding language, it expresses God’s eternal love for us in a special, albeit especially severe, way. For as we read in Hebrews 12:29, the eternal God is also a consuming fire, one that will eventually consume all that is false within us. In no other way could God perfect all of us and express his eternal love for all of us. And similarly for eternal punishment: Like any of God’s eternal actions in time, it should be interpreted theologically as a process or event that has its causal source in the eternal God himself. Or, as William Barclay put it, “Eternal punishment is then literally that kind of remedial punishment which it befits God to give and which only God can give” (A Spiritual Biography, p. 66).

In other words, the concept of “eternal” is qualitative not quantitative. It speaks of the nature of the life and death mentioned based on the Source, not the duration. In John 17 Jesus said “to know the Father is Life eternal. He wasn’t talking about a duration of years/time but the nature and quality of a relationship with the Father…the same one that Jesus Himself had!

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