A Case For Christian Universalism (From A Non-Universalist)

A Case For Christian Universalism (From A Non-Universalist) April 12, 2017


When I was in high school I took a debate class because I was overly opinionated and loved to argue. One day the teacher flipped the tables on me after picking a debate topic: he made us switch sides and debate the opposite position than what we had signed up to do.

The reason for the exercise, he explained, was that the best way to truly understand our own position is to dig deep into an alternative position. This also helps us understand that those with an alternative position aren’t just ignorant fools, but probably have some really good points.

Over the course of time I have written extensively on the issue of hell. While I do not believe in the dominant evangelical position on hell (eternal conscious torment), it is also true that I do not currently affirm the position of Christian Universalism. Instead, I have maintained my position on annihilationism, which is the belief that those who refuse to be reconciled to God die a second death, and it’s as if they never existed in the first place.

However, this does not mean that Christian Universalism has a weak case. In a tribute to my 10th grade debate teacher, allow me to make my best case for Christian Universalism being true– and why my own position might be wrong.

1. Many of the earliest Christians held the position of Christian Universalism.

Now, just because many early Christians held the position of universalism doesn’t mean it’s true. However, it does point to the fact that this is not some off-the-wall idea that only later, liberal Christians came up with. The fact that it was not unpopular with the patristics and in pre-Constantinian Christianity, shows that there is a historical basis for this position that goes back to the earliest days of Christianity.

Again, this is not proof the position is true, but certainly it’s is proof the concept is not at odds with historic Christianity.

2. The Bible teaches that universal salvation is what God wants.

There’s the famous question from Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins: Does God get what God wants?

Unarguably, the Bible says that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) We also see in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God “desires all people to be saved.” Thus, we know that God wants everyone who has ever lived to be saved in the end.

If God is truly all-powerful, one can make a compelling argument that God can and does get what he wants in the end.

3. Jesus seemed to hint at universal salvation.

When Jesus predicted his death he said that he was about to drive the “ruler of this world out” (Satan) and that as a result, he would “draw all people to himself.” (John 12:32).

I think the visual contained in this passage is interesting: Jesus refers to Satan and says that his death will cast him out and deprive him of power. He then refers to humanity and says he will “ἑλκύσω” them to himself, which literally means to drag off. So, Jesus seemed to argue that he was about to defeat evil and “drag off” all of humanity– free from the clutches of Satan.

Furthermore, in John 3 Jesus claims he did not come to condemn the world but to “save the world.” Notice he doesn’t say save the “elect” or save a few, but claims he is on a mission to save the entire world. If universalism is untrue, one could argue Jesus failed in his mission and didn’t save the whole world at all.

Also, as I pointed out the other day, the Bible teaches that Jesus paid for the sins of the “whole world” (1 John 2:2), and that he paid the ransom for “all” people (1 Timothy 2:3-6). If universalism is untrue, this means that Jesus paid the price of redemption for everyone, but that some are still endlessly punished for sins that were already paid for. This sounds like a case of “double jeopardy” to me and doesn’t quite make sense.

4. Biblical passages repeatedly use the word “all.”

The key word in the above passages, and so many others, is all. We repeatedly see it used– and if universal salvation is untrue, Jesus and the biblical authors seem to be in error by saying “all” people. We’ve already seen that God desires “all” to be saved and that Jesus claimed he was going to drag off “all” people to himself. There are still others that use this language:

1 Corinthians 15:22 says that “all” will be made alive in Christ.

Colossians 1:19-20 says that through the sacrifice of Jesus, “all” things on earth and in heaven have been reconciled back to him.

In these cases, the match always goes to the universalists, because their position takes the text at face value, allowing “all” to mean literally “all.” Those who do not hold to the universalist position are forced to either argue that “all” really means “just some” or to divert attention back to verses where the stronger case goes to positions other than universalism.

Point being: the strongest and most logical case is that “all” actually means “all.”

5. Universalism makes more sense of hell & God’s loving character.

I think most people reject universalism before hearing the full case because they are aware that the Bible does in fact, quite clearly describe some sort of consequences in the afterlife for refusing to be reconciled to God in this life. They mistakenly believe that being a Christian universalist means that one rejects the concept of hell or some sort of divine punishment. This in fact, is totally untrue.

One of the advantages of universalism is that it can affirm passages that seem to speak about punishment in the afterlife, and it can affirm them in a way that better reflects the love and character of God. In universalism one can argue compellingly that the intent and outcome of God’s discipline is restoration of relationship, instead of endless punishment or permanent separation. It’s a difference of restorative justice instead of simply punitive justice– and that difference better reflects the character of God which is loving and always inviting reconciliation.

The three major positions on hell would look like this:

ETC position: hells is torment and it goes on forever. It is an endless punishment.

Annihilationist position: hell is a place where the soul goes and dies. It is a time limited, but permanent punishment.

Universalist: hell has elements of appropriate punishment and correction, with the goal of producing a change of heart and repentance. It is a restorative punishment that lasts as long as needed, whether that’s one day or a million years. This position is most consistent with a loving parent who corrects and disciplines, but does so not out of vengeance– but to to encourage a change of heart and behavior.

The Bible also describes heaven as a place where the gates are “never shut” which is also a compelling argument that perhaps, the number in heaven will constantly be growing in eternity as people repent and are reconciled to God.

Thus, in the universalist position we see not an angry God torturing people endlessly in hell with no hope, or who gives up and executes everyone, but a loving God who continues to guide, correct, invite repentance and restoration, and who will continue loving and inviting for billions of years if necessary, until all finally do come to repentance and are saved.

And the Bible once again hints that this will be how the story will end: it says that “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.” If we know that’s the will of God, the desire of God, and the goal of God, would it not make sense that ultimately God convinces everyone to confess Jesus as Lord?

Christian universalism is not the same thing as an “anything goes” religion where we can all believe what we want, do what we want, and all end up in the same place at the same time.

Instead, it is a belief in the power of Jesus to atone for the sins of the entire world. It is a belief that Jesus truly has reconciled all things and all people to himself. It’s a belief that God’s loving nature is so endless, that even those who stubbornly refuse to be reconciled in this life will still find themselves pursued by God’s love and invited to have a change of heart, until every last one of them turns back to God– and hell is empty.

The case for universalism is not weak or some liberal nonsense, but actually fits God’s character and the biblical narrative quite convincingly.

Universalism is a solidly Christian belief, with solid reasons and solid biblical support.

True, I’m not a universalist, but now that I’ve argued the case for them, I’m rethinking that.

Thanks, Mr. Finnegan.

unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com. 

Be sure to check out his new blog, right here, and follow on Facebook:

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  • When Jesus said forgive them Father they know not what they do I think he left it up to God to forgive. But then again we don’t know if Jesus said this, or maybe he asked God to please forgive them… A request in other words. As far as universalism is concerned I rather believe all are saved and that Jesus meant that all means all. I just feel better about Jesus and God and everything thinking this way. But nobody really knows for sure!! The only thing I know today is that I have a daily reprieve from alcoholism and other addictions because I turned my life and will over to a higher power and I imagined him to be a loving God. I was one of the lucky ones to find a transforming power that keeps me sober and clean on this side of the grave!! To keep me worrying about anybody else I just imagine that all are saved. Otherwise I might start drinking again if I stop start worrying about anybody else not making it to heaven. Sending people to hell of unending eternal torment!! That not speak well of a loving God does it it? I have had some Taste of hell with the addictions I’ve experienced. I would not wish that on my worst enemy!! God’s got to be a better man than I am!
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bb98ddce1b8389aafbfbc0cf8f8eef624ac63dccf37677404f5706a212d6fe4d.jpg !!

  • I’m a purgatorial universalist, and there’s some nitty-gritty here that’s important to mention.

    First, “all means all” is not a strong argument for universal reconciliation, because there are a number of passages where “pan” is limited and qualified by the context. I think when my PUR brethren utter this chestnut they’re walking right into a trap. A better one is “full inclusion means full inclusion” or “pleroma means pleroma”; Romans ch. 11 is the best demonstration of God’s universal plan of inclusion, as a theodicean “upshot” that concludes Romans ch. 9.

    Second, “salvation” is a tricky word; in general, under PUR, “salvation” is still “salvation from punishment” or “salvation from apololos/perishing/ruination/lostness,” and is not universal. This is also why 2 Peter 3:9 is not good evidence of PUR; the context of 2 Peter 3 makes it clear that some will “perish” in this way, despite what God wants. “God not getting what he wants” is resolved in the typical theodicean way: Circumstantial incommensurability among interests within a manifold interest set. The difference under PUR is that, in the eschaton, there are no longer any plausible circumstances — like the flow of natural history — that could confound God’s interest in reconciliation. You rightly mentioned Romans 14:10b-11. At that point, history is hogtied, and invalid are the postbiblical speculations of endless rebellious incorrigibility. Out of the “perishing,” a thing of value can be rescued from the dross of destruction; and we know that’s what God would prefer, because He told us His character.

    As you know, there’s a “soterios” for every kind of trouble, whether looming punishment, or sin, or earthly threats, or the sad state of unreconciliation. Everybody will be rescued from enmity with God. Salvation in that sense is universal. But because of the confusion at play, it’s better to call it universal reconciliation. With a purgatorial view of hell, it’s purgatorial universal reconciliation.

    Another important piece of the PUR case is that it adheres to the Biblical view of justice: sedeq & mispat. Biblical justice doesn’t give infinite penalty for sins against an infinitely glorious God (God’s loftiness actually makes our sins less grave, we’re told), and Biblical justice doesn’t give capital punishment as a one-size-fits-all T-shirt for every sin (in fact, a deadly response is several times contrasted against sedeq & mispat); the wages of sin is physical death insofar as expulsion from the Tree of Life left us to our natural fate.

    Google stanrock hell faq for a deeper study into the hot questions pertaining to PUR.

  • Seumas McCoo

    Thank you for that. As a European Presbyterian and a paid up Barthian I am going to have a slight disagreement with you.
    First of all let’s get rid of the question of hell. If you have the rejected and you believe that the soul has the potential to last for ever, there has to be some way of treating the rejected. Speculation of just what these terms are are pretty much a waste of time. If you are preaching a salvation idea of an escape from hell, then like the Missioner in Joyce’s portrait of an artist as a young man hell needs to be hot and dark. however as the people of faith will not experience it there is little point in dwelling on it.
    What is more important is the question of the elected and the rejected. Yes it is the will of God that all will be saved. that has transmuted into the universalist that all will be saved.
    However lets go back to Aristotelian Logic 101, where all means all of a class, while some may mean all, it also means not necessarily all. Therefor the idea that some are saved can mean any number in the range of 1 to everyone. Of course historically the elect have been seen as a small number, who are different from their neighbours. Thus many Evangelicals see themselves as the saved in a community of unsaved. Whether that is a biblical point of view is moot.
    So what happens if your “some” instead of being a small number means all but one. Universalism is out as there is someone who is among that class of the Rejected, or the elected for damnation. Therefore your argument for Universalism is almost right, but not totally right.
    Then turn to your Bible and look up John 17:12. “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” so you have got one who is doomed to destruction, so not only is he elected to be rejected, he is going to be destroyed, so you have some idea that the afterlife for the rejected is annihilated.
    Thus it is that we can be almost universalists (and at the same time High Calvinists).

  • cqg

    George MacDonald was a universalist, I’m given to understand, and had difficulty holding a pulpit because of his views. One reason why he turned (thankfully) to producing his fairy tales and fiction. C.S. Lewis respected MacDonald highly – I have a small book of quotes from MacDonald’s works collected by Lewis. “The Great Divorce”, a kind of universalist primer in my view was one of the threads that I pulled that undid my former views. Good company, there.

  • Have you read any of McDonald’s fiction? I highly recommend Phantasies as well as Lilith. The golden key is very good!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0be3550bdcfbc62c9bd87d3404a987c5354aa355c1723641e8b397fb2043a640.jpg

  • Oh Jesus I just know if anybody could be more sorry for his sins it’s Judas!!? You know there is just no way to know for sure about any of this!! We’re all going to die someday so let’s just see what happens then!! God bless!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6f0feaa221ab9712159e91560894b4065438bcab1364d245697a28570acd6f0b.jpg

  • There are people who will not accept God for whatever reason. They will refuse to accept Him and live by His laws even after being shown the error of their position. What then happens to these people? They may have ticket to the Kingdom but have no intention of entering. There has to be a plan to deal with this unfortunate situation. That is the purpose of the second death.

    Let’s ask why the fallen angels are not covered by the sacrifice of Christ? If all men are covered certainly all angels could be covered. It is clear where Satan and his angels are going and it’s not into the Kingdom. If angels can be prohibited then so can man.

  • In my humble opinion one can speculate till doomsday but what’s really going to happen is going to be a great surprise!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5839651169fcb42379a954a29f26caae2a82910f76112c8693f9dc40f1179d22.jpg

    Romans chapter 2
    13 for the hearers of the law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.

    14 So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law.

    15 they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them

  • Marja Erwin

    Origen thought all would eventually mean all.

  • Even so, the answer to the question is not contained in one verse.

  • Bones

    The Bible contains whatever you want it to say because it was written by people who had different opinions…..

  • Good point on John 17:12. God also said, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24) So two versus talking about Judas not making it into the Kingdom
    Why would it be better if that man had not been born? If everyman is to be saved then God should not have let Judas be born? No, everyman will not be saved. Some will die the second death.

  • I hold to annihilationism because I think it is the position most consistent with the totality of scripture. That said, I do think we need to be honest that our position is not iron clad, and that when we say “the answer isn’t contained on one verse” we’re actually admitting that Scripture is not consistent in this area, and that different verses seem to suggest some radically different outcomes. We say it because we don’t really have a good answer to that verse, and are forced to divert to other verses. I mention it not to critique you, but to even critique myself and be open about what we’re doing.

    Universalists are forced to do the same thing. When Jesus says that the soul will “die”, that’s a verse that Universalists can’t reconcile, so they’ll have to divert back to verses that support them.

    Point being: there are actually different biblical views on the disposition of the unjust.

  • apoxbeonyou

    For me, the ‘soul will die’ seems to be more of a spiritual death as a physical or dimensional one. Sort of like the ‘wages of sin are death’ phrase.

  • James Hyatt

    Exactly nobody knows for sure.

  • There are many different positions on many different biblical topics – I have learned additional ones from this site.

    Many will point to one verse and suggest that it confirms or denies a particular position. The bible suggests that you have to look at the entirety of the scriptures to fully understand concepts like salvation. Isaiah 28:10.

    Salvation was hidden from mankind and the angels until revealed by the Holy Spirit after the sacrifice of Christ. 1 Peter 1:12. If it was universal then it would not need to be hidden and even the angels would be covered.

  • Ron McPherson

    I align with the annihilationist view as well. But I think what Ben is getting at is that each view (annihilationism, ECT, and universalism can all claim biblical support). For every time we trot out a verse or verses to support our position, the other viewpoints can do the same. Then it becomes a matter of which verse trumps another. The ECT view was wired into me for the first 50 years of my life. Over the last several years I’ve migrated to annihilationist position because I think the vast amount of biblical evidence points to that. But I’m open to Christian Universalism and remain hopeful of its validity.

  • Oh this is superb stuff, Ben. It is a mark of your integrity that you can discuss a theological position, that is not one you would claim to own, with such balance. Thank you :)

  • And therein lies its tension – and its beauty for that reason.

  • Me, too.

  • savedbyjesus

    Can you explain where in God’s Word that after the great white throne judgement, all those sentenced there will be forgiven n come out to live with everyone else .Revelation 20:7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

    The Great White Throne Judgment
    11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

  • I first encountered the term Soul Murder reading Alice Miller’s book drama of the gifted child. I did a little research today on Soul Murder its causes and its influence in Society. Here is a quote from the article I was reading.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b30398b5b32aad0ec6880036c02b75e5a6ce523f29e035f75885aa8e1ecde1fb.jpg Soul murder is the term I have used for the apparently willful abuse and neglect of children by adults that are of sufficient intensity and frequency to be traumatic. By that I mean that the children’s subsequent emotional development has been profoundly and predominantly negatively affected; what has happened to them has dominated their motivating unconscious fantasies; and they have become subject to the compulsion to repeat the cruelty, violence, neglect, hatred, seduction, and rape of their injurious past.

    Soul Murder Revisited
    Thoughts About Therapy, Hate, Love, and Memory
    Yale University Press


  • What makes you think Judas is going to Hell or annihilated for that matter? He died, either by suicide or exploding in a field. That seems to satisfy the requirements for “destruction.”

  • Seumas McCoo

    I don’t believe that necessarily Judas is going to hell – why is it that hell is the great obsession with Americans while across the Atlantic it does not figure greatly? However if you want someone who is not necessarily elected to glory and therefore who knocks out the Universalists then you have got Judas for the reasons which I stated in my note.
    Personally if I were to be using the idea of the non election of Judas for glory i would be using him against the people who would argue for a limited atonement in large numbers.
    However to look at what you said, you appear to see the death of the body as being the equivalent of destruction. That only works if you don’t believe that there is some form of your individuality which survived the death of the body. I do believe in a form of continued sentient existence after the death of the Body, and I believe that in the same way that I have a relationship in this life, that that all continue after the death of my body.

  • bobnelsonfr

    There are people who will not accept God for whatever reason.

    Does God only love those who love Him? Is He so petty?
    If we believe that “God is love”, then He loves us ALL. In His love He will never reject anyone.
    How could an unrepentant sinner bear to go into the presence of Love?
    “Hell” is not of God’s making. The unrepentant sinner creates his own Hell, of separation from Love. That separation will persist until the sinner repents, and clears his own conscience to the point that going into the presence of Love is not only bearable, but a joy.

    (Oh, and… excellent article!!)

  • I would say as I have said that God will reject an unrepentant sinner.
    The separation you mention is the fate of the fallen angels as they cannot be destroyed but not men who will not repent.

  • bobnelsonfr

    I would say as I have said that God will reject an unrepentant sinner.

    Do you then reject the idea that “God is Love”?

  • Paul Julian Gould

    The issue, to me, is that we humans are all too willing to arrogate for ourselves what constitutes “unrepentant,” and, more importantly, “sinner.”

    Those amongst my circles seem to be extremely certain that certain passages in the New Testament, and almost invariably those that are from English translations of the attributed pastoral and personal letters of Sha’ul of Tarsus, which are considered “Scripture” are without dispute, and interpret such passages based upon the words and writings of their particular favorite pastors and pundits…

    How’s about we leave to G-d, the knower of all hearts, what determines either term… “unrepentant” and “sinner,” shall we?

    That I walked away from American-style Evangelical Protestantism, and embraced the Jewish faith of my late father, grandfather and uncle, as well as 3,000 years of history is enough for some amongst my circles to determine some sort of eternally burning hell, “unrepentance” and “sin” in their minds and words.

    So, once again, the view of a liberal Jewish person on a Christian-themed blog, but perhaps a view that some might consider.

  • Of course not. But the concept of God’s love, which is why He sent His only Son to die for our sins, and the process of conversion (calling, repentance, baptism) work together.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    I very much acknowledge that it is part of some folks’ interpretations of Evangelical Christian belief that one must rebuke and admonish other people for what is seen as “unbelief” or “sin,” but unless one sees one’s particular observance and interpretation of one’s “pastor” as the be-all-and-end-all interpretation of all-that-is (which is sadly, to me, the vibe of entirely too many among us), one must acknowledge that there are many interpretations as to what constitutes a lover of the Supreme Absolute.

  • Bones

    And then you come to the realisation that these people writing 2000 years ago didn’t know any more about life after death than you and me.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    Bob, as I’m a gentleman without a particular horse in this race, I would welcome your views on my comments… No harm, no foul, and I’m not being an “unrepentant” contrarian (*smile*), I’d appreciate your take on what I had to say.

  • Bones

    Jesus associated with sinners even before they repented. He rejected no one but those who wished to kill him.

    The only conclusion from such blanket statements is that Jesus wasn’t god.

  • Good to see your post today!! Regarding being responsible and having choice to sin or not to sin one wonders in light of the fact that children don’t have a choice in whom they wined up being cared for. One tends to repeat the trauma and violence one experiences as a child and one’s parents windup often projecting their own crap on their children. So it goes generation after generation. if one is exposed to parents with addictions, in particular alcohol, this can have hideous predictable repercussions for children growing up in an alcoholic family. Where is choice in this maelstrom of naivete, powerlessness and helplessness? for children to grow up with the same Hang-Ups like their parents is almost a certainty in my humble opinion!! The only way I could have been saved out of my own concentration camp like family and community was the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Anyway that’s how I see it. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ef14396aee6b2e0f02317bc8df354065534dd1fedd148227751d85984a4386b1.jpg

  • I know!! I am amazed how anything that came down to us from the beginning of human existence regarding faith is actually something that has been hijacked and has gone hand-in-hand with promoting the aims of Empire and oligarchs. These days I’ve been doing research into cognitive dissonance which has helped me understand the mental illness of prejudice and bigotry. When one’s core beliefs and identity is enmeshed with the aims, power structures and mechanisms of Empire one has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. My humble opinion the kingdom of God is outside of any of this hot mess!!


  • Paul Julian Gould

    Well-said, dear friend… but we each phrase where we are now in the terminology of what we have accepted as interpretation..

    And I believe you see it quite clearly…

    Unfortunately, too many of our mutual and separate acquaintance insist upon the terminology being the summum bonum, and different vocabulary is arrogated as sin and unrepentance.

    You, good Sir Charles, and I, as well as our dear friend Herm (whom I’ve not seen around in a while), Dr. Ben, and some others are never at cross-purposes (no pun intended… just came out that way).

    Nevertheless, I am pretty often bemused at the reactions of some folks who seem to have some abject terror of being mistaken in any way, and, as such, have to have some complete and seemingly unassailable package of the ‘stuff’ all tied up in a pretty packaging…

    As you say, dear man, that’s how I see it. *gentle smile*

  • Paul Julian Gould

    … note…

    This is in answer to some on this thread that have used the phrase “unrepentant sinner,” yet whom I don’t recognize as a binding authority of just what such phrase actually means… my thought is that what definition would be applied would conform to an American-style Evangelical Protestant teaching, in some form.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Are you saying that God only loves a certain portion of us?

  • Many here have identified with their abusers. Many here are held as hostages in a stockholm syndrome kind of situation in their families, communities, Nation and churches. Many here are Manchurian candidates in my humble opinion!! Whom the son sets free is free indeed!! No one can liberate them except he!!


  • SaraHarnetty

    I don’t class myself as a Universalist, either, but this post actually makes a compelling argument.

  • Bones

    We still haven’t got that the kingdom Of God is the antithesis of empire.

  • In my humble opinion Jesus didn’t die for one’s sins so much as he shows one and example of what people invested psychologically, religiously, financially, in a collective Empire will do to innocent people who wish to live as peacemakers, Healers, advocates of Justice for the marginalized under classes and the oppressed. In my humble opinion He was the only one who shows there is a supernatural way, of the Holy Spirit, to live without having to sin, being healed from sin. he sent the Holy Spirit to help one resist falling into repeating sins and provides a new way to live following a path of liberation. He’s one’s example of living without the need of repeating trauma and addiction. I doubt I could
    be clean and sober today without his help. This is a miracle I live with every day because the way I was drinking and using was normal for an addict and it would be following that I should be dead by now and yet I live!!


  • I agree with you that we leave the terms unrepentant and sinner to God to determine.
    But then how are we to know the boundaries of these terms? Do we not find the definition of the terms and the expectations of God in the scriptures? If we do, and we do, we can at least judge ourselves against the scriptures.
    Do you not find the Jewish faith more restrictive in the application of OT scriptures in your life?

  • God loves all of us. Some he loved before they were born. He wants all His children in the Kingdom with Him. But He will not force anyone to comply. Nor will He wait forever for those who reject them. But there is hope that only a few will be lost.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Do you think that eternal torture is compatible with love?
    What crimes could anyone commit within their three score and ten that would be as horrific as eternal torture? Such behavior would be more evil than the most evil person who ever lived.

  • Kathy

    Wow, thank you for sharing.

  • No I don’t. Eternal torture is a mainstream christian belief. The dead “know not anything.” After the judgment there are only two outcomes: Eternal life with God or the Second Death. That is why man was created flesh in the first place.

  • He did both. While the latter may be true the former is the reason he came.

  • bobnelsonfr

    OK. Eternal torture is incompatible with Love. We agree.

    I don’t think killing is compatible with Love, either. “Love forgives all.”

  • I mentioned Hell because your argument is critiquing universalism. Universalism is not annihilationism, and I’m not aware of a variant of universalism that limits itself to temporal penalties, but I could be wrong.

    “Destruction” in the passage you mentioned means “death” if that’s the way Jesus uses the word, regardless of our metaphysics about bodies and souls. I’m struggling to come up with a Jewish example of talking about destruction at the hands of God that does not mean physical death.

    If you want to criticize this idea on the grounds of your metaphysics, that’s your prerogative, but Jesus’ meaning isn’t determined by your opinions on the immortality of the soul – it’s determined by what he and his audience would have understood by the term, and given the massive amount of Old Testament evidence, I would think that “destruction” would have meant “he’s going to die for his crimes.”

    It’s certainly possible that when Jesus said Judas was “doomed for destruction,” he meant his soul, but I’d need to see evidence of why that would be the most likely meaning for Jesus.

  • LUX

    — Universalism makes more sense of hell & God’s loving character.
    I echo the sentiment entirely!

    Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. — Acts 3:19-21 KJV

  • apoxbeonyou

    Very interesting. Thanks!

  • apoxbeonyou

    Revelation was written as allegory, not prophecy. John was writing about the Roman occupation and hopeful liberation of his people.

  • apoxbeonyou

    And God forbid a person is born in a time/place where they aren’t able to learn the “sinner’s prayer”.

    “Go and make disciples” was meant to spread a message of love, not convert the heathens.

  • bobnelsonfr

    And God forbid a person is born in a time/place where they aren’t able to learn the “sinner’s prayer”.

    Yes. If “belief in Christ” is a prerequisite for salvation, then everyone born before Christ’s ministry is damned. That is not an act of Love.
    And everyone born “elsewhere” is also damned.
    I cannot accept that a God of Love would constrain Himself with such arbitrary, hateful rules.

  • Ron McPherson

    Off topic, but your next creation letters are opening up a new world for me. I feel in some ways like I’m reading the Bible for the first time. Blessings brother.

  • Oh, hey, thanks so much for the encouragement. The blog has really helped me, too. That’s basically what it is – an experiment in me trying to take some of these assumptions and seeing what a valuable Bible could look like. Even when I go back over past entries, I think about what I might have done differently, but I think the overall direction of the project is hopeful.

    I’m glad it’s inspiring you in your own journey. Any value that’s in there is God’s doing, to be sure.

  • Seumas McCoo

    Sorry, but I rather thought that Universalism was the idea that “all” ultimately would be “Saved” whatever that means.

    I don’t go for Hell, I was only making a comment about it. I prefer to use the perfectly valid theological terms elected and rejected, though of course to be really accurate one should talk about elected for rejection, and elected for eternal life.

    Once we start thing to talk about life after death in terms of the OT we are immediately in trouble as the development of the idea of life after death, or the continued existence of the soul, or of a place where it went, was really a feature of the inter testimental period. You will get it in the deutero-canonical literature, and that was one of the differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

    The only reason why I give you Judas is because Barth also gives us Judas as the guaranteed excluded, and I’m sorry I have no longer got my CD, or I would give you a reference. However I will give you this which I found when I was digging around ‘Was it not Judas, the sinner without equal, who offered himself at the decisive moment to carry out the will of God, not in spite of his unparalleled sin, but in it? There is nothing here to venerate, nor is there anything to despise. There is place only for the recognition and adoration and magnifying of God.’ – Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2.

    In any case I was given the concept of hermeneutics when I try and imagine my theology. I am uncomfortable with a strictly Exegetical exercise. Claims that we are able to understand what Jesus actually understood, have always worried me as we have so many layers between him and us. I suspect that it reflects our different cultures, perhaps our different training and even our different ages

  • Ann Elizabeth Van Dyke

    I read the blog post with growing discomfort…Annihilationism strikes me as just horrible. My father, may he rest in peace, was a committed atheist and died that way. He had many faults but I have immense compassion for all that he suffered and all that made him what he was. Does God love him less than I do? Does God want to kill him a second time because he never believed in God? If I have to subscribe to some doctrine of eternal punishment or annihilation in order to be deemed a Christian than count me out. I’ll join my Dad in Hell I guess. I have attended many liberal Christian churches over the years and have heard many compassionate sermons from compassionate preachers so I thought that there was some spectrum of belief among “Christians” such that God loves all, alive or dead but perhaps I was mistaken..

  • Matthew

    Where are these next creation letters?

  • Marja Erwin

    Revelation was also controversial among early Christians, and wasn’t canonical enough for some Syriac translations and apparently the Gothic translation though much of the latter is lost.

  • I think you and I probably actually agree on a lot of things.

    But where we probably differ is, where you are uncomfortably with a strictly exegetical exercise, I’m uncomfortable with a strictly theological one. Personally, I think universalism, annihilationism, and penal substitution are all unnecessary constructions that ask questions the Bible is probably not terribly concerned with, although I’d probably label myself an annihilationist if I had to pick one and as long as I were still allowed to define “saved” as “whatever that meant.”

    So, if your point is just that Judas is an example of someone God didn’t save in the sense of someone who was going to die as a result of what he did, I’d agree with that. I would say, though, that is probably not the sense in which most discussions about universalism I’m familiar with revolve. But maybe it’s an American thing.

  • Ron McPherson
  • Obscurely

    As a progressive pastor, I want to reassure you there IS indeed a spectrum of Christian belief about how God judges all of us in some ultimate sense … I read Dr. Ben’s post as trying to express this range of belief, and yes, tragically there are many Christians who would reject (on scriptural grounds) both his annihilationist view and universalism …

    If you’ll pardon a hackneyed example, the problem is put into sharp perspective by thinking about how God should deal with unrepentant perpetrators of genocide like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot — should God simply forgive them? punish them? (if so, for how long) or just annihilate there souls at death? do we have to accept God’s forgiveness? are there unforgivable sins? … I don’t have answers for you, but I think the larger question of ultimate justice is a crucial one to bear in mind as we reflect more deeply together on the nature of post-mortem judgment …

  • Obscurely

    For those interested in knowing more about the biblical case for Christian universalism, I can’t recommend a book more highly than The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott (written by an evangelical no less) …

  • Seumas McCoo

    I really do suspect that this is one of those cases were we are “divided by a common language”.

    In America you have a Church, the Universalist Unitarian Church, I believe. Neither of these are big theological questions in Scotland. While in Northern Ireland there is a Presbyterian offshoot which may be Unitarian, (I write in these terms as I don’t want to stir up 19th Century disputes,

    I am not aware of more than a handful of Unitarian Churches in Scotland and they are probably imports. Universalism is a battle which has been fought over by the various flavours of Calvinism down the centuries. I have come up with the Schoolman’s answer that Some may mean all, which I suppose is the classic reply to those who would want to take a hard line.

    As you say, the point can be argued that an argument from Scripture can be made that Judas is not within the group who are elected to Glory. Therefore the argument of Universal salvation falls. QED.

  • Seumas McCoo

    “They were judged each according to their works,” and then the Judge judged in our place, the sinful one comes and says that “They are Mine” I have redeemed them, for all have sinned and none are worthy.
    The question is is everyone in the Book of Life, or a few?

    I don’t think that you have quite got your head round the idea that the Just will walk by faith and the idea of the Atonement.

  • savedbyjesus

    So are you saying that even if you deny God , He’ll still take you in? And what is the unpardonable sin? No not everyone’s name is in the BOOK OF LIFE .Your name can be blotted out of the BOOK OF LIFE . 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
    Question is is your name in the BOOK OF LIFE? Are you sealed with the Holy Spirit? Is there evidence of a transformed life in you? Are you free to continue in habitual sin thinking that you will get a get out of the lake of fire card?

  • Bones

    Nonsense. There is no BOOK OF LIFE.

    There are bilions of people who don’t know me and I don’t want to kill them.

    Your god is very similar to the Muslim Allah.

    Evangelical gods seem to be the greatest threat to humanity.

  • Matthew

    Think we can convince Phil to turn the comment section on? :-):-)

  • VisionaryJax

    So happy to see you moving toward UR, Ben Corey. It is such a better reflection of the character of God than annhilationism and infinitely better than ECT. As you can clearly see the case for UR, what is holding you back?

  • Yes i think even if Hitler had to endure every pain of everyone he hurt, and their relatives and friends, etc. what if it took a trillion years? Then any punishment after that is UNJUST!

  • Dittoing VisionaryJax, yeah you made a great case, didn’t you convince yourself? :)
    This of yours is one key for me:
    “If universalism is untrue, this means that Jesus paid the price of redemption for everyone, but that some are still endlessly punished for sins that were already paid for. This sounds like a case of “double jeopardy” to me and doesn’t quite make sense.”
    Yes, anything God would condemn us for, even the sin/flaw/mis-take of unbelief, Jesus already paid for!

    The original thing that threw the whole idea of heaven and hell into a tailspin for me is when i learned about the unity of opposites, and realized that a life of actions, along with “belief in” all exist on a gradual scale, they are a matter of DEGREE, and can’t really be divided in “half” or on any one dividing line.

  • Yup.

  • Seumas McCoo

    I am saying that the action of God towards a sinful humanity is an act of grace. I am a sinner, whom God loves so much that he gave his Son. He also gives Faith, which is only gift of God.

    You see you don’t really believe that we are saved by Jesus, or by grace. You believe that we are saved by our own works, by saying the sinners prayer – prayer is work.
    Brother, you need to know Christ and realise that we are all miserable sinners.

    If your name is not in the Lambs Book of Life then there is nothing that you can do to have it put there. You are in grave error to tech otherwise, for Chapter XVII of the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us

    I. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

    II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

    III. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

    I am appalled that one who is so ignorant of the Christian Faith and so full of error it the teachings of the faith should presume to teach. I suggest that you meditate on Matthew 15:14.

  • Chari McCauley

    The first will be last. Father does still want to save His first children. He mourns the loss of His Morning Star. He mourned with His tears during the flood. A shame more people never notice Father’s broken heart.

  • Obscurely

    I couldn’t help thinking about God’s respect for our own decisions, that we must (on some level) make our own choice to respond to His love and forgiveness — the late Father Robert Capon wrote something on this subject that has stuck in my mind for many years as a pastor:

    “Nobody goes to hell because he had a rotten track record in the world — any more than anyone goes to heaven because he had a good one . . . . Both heaven and hell are populated entirely and only by forgiven sinners. Hell is just a courtesy for those who insist they want no part of forgiveness.”

  • Gregory Boyd’s new book Crucifixion of the Warrior God has just been released, do you have any plans to discuss in your blog.

  • It is an interesting paradigm. God created the angels first and many angels lived on earth a long time before the creation of man. When the angels sinned the earth was destroyed and covered with water where we find it in Genesis 1. Many fallen angels were put in restraint under the earth. Jesus went there after the resurrection and those angels showed no remorse. Why will the fallen angels not repent? They have been there a long time….

  • Bones

    And then Christopher Walken came to earth…..to exercise god’s judgement over humanity…..

    It’s hard to believe people accept this as reality.

  • RonnyTX

    Ann, your Dad is going to be just fine, for God/Jesus Christ is love and they’ve already seen to that. :-) So, you will see him again and everything will be just fine and that for all of us, from Adam on down! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Bob, everyone will come to repentance, when God shows them their sin and convicts them. And once that happens, God will take them on to faith in Jesus Christ and in what he did for them, on the cross. :-)

  • Ronnie, perhaps but if you read Revelation 20 to the end you will see that there are people whose names are not written in the book of life. Their fate is not good: “15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

  • Mark

    It is the current belief that ignorance of the truth of Gods love is a way to salvation for atheists. Thus salvation is possible for all religions and non. There are many reasons why people are atheist. For example people who had had bad experiences with the religion they were brought up in. Or people who just see no reason to believe. Many gay people profess atheism and a hatred of God because of their perceived rejection which they have have learnt from misguided or evil people.
    I personally think God is above revenge which would be the case if Hitler had to endure for every hurt that he caused. And thus God punishes only for the purpose of teaching. God created the world and so the prodigal son was punished by God through his abandonment in preference for freedom. But then he realized that he was better off accepting the love of the Father and so he was able to make a choice. The Father did not punish him further because it was mission accomplished. However if he had hated his Father and desired that freedom though harsh was better than returning to the Father, would the Father then force him to come back against his free will? In reality if annihilationism is the case, it is only for those who willfully and knowingly reject the truth of God. I visualize such people as being unloving such as extremists whose families are for their physical needs only. I have heard some people say that they are content with the idea of eternal nothing but feel sure that they only say this because they do not know how much God loves them and what he has planned for them.

    God is the greatest of love and since you loved your father then God must love him more. Your love and that of others who loved him is your fathers salvation.

  • Mark

    A punishment for every hurt, nothing more nothing less seems more like revenge. For what purpose? It’s a bit late for learning. Whether Hitler chose to hate God or was misled by evil forces is only known by God. If he was misled then God will forgive him. But if he knowingly and willfully rejected God then annihilation?? Would provide Free choice. Of course there may be other ways, temporal free choice.

  • RollieB

    If grace is true, it means it’s good for me and you, and Hitler too. ~ Neal Hagberg, “If Grace is True” – YouYube

  • Herm

    Ben, I agree with your conclusion that “Universalism is a solidly Christian belief, with solid reasons and solid biblical support.” I do so only under what I perceive as the present condition of Christian beliefs. I see that the majority of Christians serve their church driven by their animal instinct to survive. Christ’s biblical teachings, in word and by His example, do not suggest doing for others that one’s self might survive.

    My conclusion is that if we simply don’t have the attitude of omnipresent love to intentionally be most constructive and productive for each of Man and God, of which we each here are of both in kind and image, so that Man and God might survive constructively and productively for all alive today, and eternally, then a final death of being forgotten and knowing nothing “actually fits God’s character and the biblical narrative” most “convincingly.” I can accept any finality of judgment from our God of shared love, life or death, as long as I know I did the best I could to get this opportunity for my budding awareness to consistent consequences derived from my responsibility to choice to be constructive for all. I choose to do because I love all others as I do myself. If I am deemed by God or Man to be destructive in my efforts then I choose to die. I choose the authority of God over the authority of Man to determine whether I live or die without end, as did Jesus, my Messiah.

  • Obscurely

    God’s grace is certainly and irrevocably true — but the question is do we have to respond to it, accept it, embrace it as our only hope?

  • RollieB

    Wouldn’t that make it conditional? While some may not respond to grace, I don’t see grace as conditional. I understand Ben’s stance on annihilism, I just don’t embrace it. There is no ‘if’ (condition) to universal acceptance by the Creator of All Things. IMO.

  • Obscurely

    To address your “if” problem, I’m pretty close to universalism myself — but to keep the unrepentant Hitlers out of Heaven (not somewhere they’d want to be anyway unless they repent?), I believe God’s patience is infinite enough to wear even the Hitlers down?

  • RollieB

    God is ineffable, so when we find the out the answer it won’t matter.

  • Obscurely

    So you don’t think God left any clues in the Bible?

  • RollieB

    Perhaps I don’t assign the same authority to scripture as others. Since it’s only a 1/4 of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, there are other factors to consider.

  • Obscurely

    Curious what are the other three are?

  • RollieB

    Reason, experience, and tradition.

  • Obscurely

    What do you do when they conflict?

  • RollieB

    Sort it out by reading more on a topic, ponder, adjust beliefs, that’s how I got where I am.

  • SamHamilton

    Thanks for this analysis. I’m hopeful that all will be reconciled to God in the end, though I suppose there are those who in the next life, as in this one, will continue to turn their back on God for various reasons. But I’ll bet it’ll be a small group, like Lewis surmised, stuck in a room with a door locked from the inside.

  • SamHamilton

    Thankfully, what other people deem you doesn’t matter in God’s eyes. He’s revealed to us through Jesus what he desires of us. There’s certainly a spectrum of belief on this issue, as Mr. Corey notes above. The only thing I’m certain of is that no one on earth has it perfectly figured out. Humility, regardless of what you believe and who you think is wrong, is key.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Immediately following 20:15 comes:

    21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
    2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
    3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of
    God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his
    people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
    4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no
    more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more
    pain: for the former things are passed away.
    Apart from the problem of the whole book being a complicated allegory which you are taking to literally, death and the underworld go into the lake of fire first (so the lae of fire destroys hell, it can’t actually *be* hell) and the new heaven and new earth comes after sinners pass into the lake of fire, and the book says when it comes there will be no more death or sorrow, which is kind of incompatible with the sinners remaining in the lake fo fire forever.
    In 21:8 there is again a reference ot sinners having their part in the lake of fire, but this is a recapitulation of 20:15.
    In 22:14 the book says that those who sin will be barred from entry to the city and remain outside it, which, if you are taking this iiterally, must mean that they are now no longer in the lake of fire. It is also in the present tense, so refers to those still sinners.
    If you dont overdo the literalism there is nothing in the rest of these
    chapters that is incompatible with the lake of fire being a purification
    of sinners from their sin, from their sin, and sinners being excluded
    from the city only whilst they remain sinners, not permenantly.

  • See Noevo

    “Christian universalism is not the same thing as an “anything goes”
    religion where we can all believe what we want, do what we want, and all
    end up in the same place at the same time.”

    How is it NOT the same thing?

  • Robert

    THAT…I LIKE !!
    Not accepting forgiveness (for yourself, first of all) is saying you know more than God!
    God says…you are forgiven…because you forgive!
    So fatigued with the tiresome idolatrousness of orthodox religion and all of their mumbo-jumbo…
    That is indeed the embodiment of Satan…

  • Ron McPherson

    Universalism holds that all will be saved. Christian Universalism holds that all will be saved thru Christ.

  • RollieB

    If the role of the Christ in Christianity originated from the concept of the messiah in Judaism, does Christian Universalism include Jews? Or only those Christians professing some special creed?

  • Ron McPherson

    I’m straying a bit outside of my realm here but I believe Christian Universalism basically asserts all will receive eternal life on the basis of Christ without regard to one’s religion or creed

  • RollieB

    Christ the messiah (Jewish)? or Christ (title) redeemer of all mankind?
    I just can’t see any reasonable rationale for any of the atonement theories.

  • A Amos Love

    Universalism? Hmmm?

    Yep, somethings are hard to be understood.

    I tried believing that at one time too. Sure sounds nice.
    Everyone’s going to receive the gift of eternal life, be with Jesus.
    Whether they want that gift or NOT.
    It’s just a matter of when.

    Of course I had to leave out a few scriptures…
    Or twist a few, to believe everyone is okay.

    Seems, in the Bible, there’s a lot of separating going on. Yes?

    Wheat and Tares? Sheep and Goats? Children of God and Children of Satan?
    He that has the Son has life and he that has NOT the Son of God has NOT life?

    And, If everyone is going to be okay? Be with Jesus?
    Then, didn’t Jesus play a cruel joke on **His Disciples?**

    Seems Jesus told His disciples TO GO into ALL the world, teaching what He, Jesus, taught them. And so they did. And they got died dead, martyred, tortured, for speaking in His name. If everyone is going to be alright, in the same place, be with Jesus? Then Jesus could have told His boys to pick up a full wine skin at the local liquor store, go sit down by the Sea of Galilee and have a good time, because, everyone, they that believe, they that do NOT believe, will be just fine. Eventually. But He didn’t.

    Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world and preach Jesus as God, Savior, healer, the way, the truth, and the life. The ONLY way to the Father, The ONLY way to God. The ONLY blood that will now cleanse you of your sin. They did, and they died because of their faith in Jesus, and wanting to obey Him.

    So if ALL the worlds religions are worshipping the same God? If they’re ALL okay? And if ALL the atheists are okay? And ALL will have eternal life and be with Jesus?

    Then didn’t The Disciples of Jesus “Deny self,” “Forsake ALL,” – In VAIN.
    Leave houses, brethren, sisters, father, mother, wife, children, lands, – In VAIN.

    Die, get martyred, get tortured…

    In VAIN.

    Now that would be a cruel joke. Yes?

  • RollieB

    There is soooo much to wrong with this post, it would take me a week to unpack it. Have you ever considered there are other ways to read scripture? Who is your goto authority for scriptural interpretation, your pastor? What are their credentials, bible college? This is why there is growing number of NONES!

  • Herm

    Rollie, what was Matthew’s credentials? Who was John’s Rabbi? How can you judge? By what authority do you flaunt your insight?

  • RollieB

    I’m asking questions. If that makes people uneasy that tells me something. As I’ve stated before, my guide is the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. My mentor is a retired seminary professor, author, pastor and scholar. Identifying to whom you yield authority is insightful to each individual’s understanding of God.

  • Herm

    Rollie, you do no more than spawn theological conjecture like the Pharisees pitted against the Sadducee when both were wrong as taught by Jesus. John Wesley did no more than introduce his “method” for theological reflection. How many different methods of theological reflection are there today relative to Christ?

    Perhaps you might be better off questioning just how you can be certain that you know all the truth that you can bear today. Asking for credentials of whose method of studying God is not going to get you any closer to the truth.

    I can testify that this is truly available to all who in sincere humility seek, ask and knock to the only authority of God in heaven and on earth today:

    “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

    John 16:12-15 (NIV2011)

    My seminary influence was that of John Calvin (Reformed theology) and John Knox 50 years ago. 22 years ago was when I was born of the Spirit with and in me without pause ever since. My only mentor is the Messiah.

    A Amos Love is soooo much closer to the truth than your Pharisaical like critique of, “There is soooo much to wrong with this post“.

  • RollieB

    I claim no certainty. I’ve been on this quest for all of my 72+ years, 30 of which were spent spinning my wheels in the evangelical/fundamental tradition. I do not regret asking questions, especially about an authority to which we frame our current understanding. All I ask is that people understand the context that frame their beliefs. We’ll all find out eventually whether our beliefs were based on a solid understanding. Peace.

  • A Amos Love

    Hi RollieB

    Thanks for the response.

    You write…
    “There is soooo much to wrong with this post,
    it would take me a week to unpack it.”

    Well, I hate it when I write stuff that is wrong.:-(
    Please forgive me.

    I’ve changed my dogma, my beliefs, a few times over the years.
    I expect, look for, Jesus, to add more and more light on a subject.
    And I’m likely to change, add to, my beliefs again. ;-)

    So, yes, I’ve been wrong.

    But, sometimes it’s NOT that a belief, doctrine, is wrong.
    It’s just that Jesus now opens our eyes to see something New.

    As you wrote – “…there are other ways to read scripture?”

    And, WE, His Sheep, His Disciples, learn to live in “Present Truth.”
    2 Pet 1:12 KJV

    Heb 10:9 KJV
    Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.
    He TAKETH away “the first,”
    that he may ESTABLISH “the second.”

    Heb 8:13 KJV
    In that he saith, “A NEW covenant,” he hath made the “first OLD.”
    Now that which decayeth and waxeth OLD
    is ready to vanish away.

    Just cause Jesus TAKES away **the first**.
    Does NOT make **the first** wrong…
    At the time it was implemented…

    Maybe you can help?
    If you would like to correct the post?

    Maybe you can begin with…
    Just ONE thing that you noticed was “wrong with this post?”

    If you “take a week to unpack it,” ALL…
    That’s fine with me.

  • RollieB

    I apologize for the harsh language. What would have better for me to have said is, there is so much with which I disagree within this post. Using ‘wrong’ was very short sighted of me.

    I think the difference with your perspective and mine is you seem to place a lot of authority to a literal interpretation of scripture, as evident by your quoting the KJV freely. I do not put much weight on a literal translation, especially the KJV.

    As I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog, I use reason, experience, tradition and scripture in its historical context, a first century Israelite speaking to his contemporaries, trying to get them to get serious about their covenant with YHWH.

    Thanks for listening.

  • A Amos Love


    Thanks for the apology… I accept…

    You now write…
    “…there is so much with which I disagree within this post.”

    Hmmm? You disagree? With much? Of what I wrote?
    Can you point out where you “disagree?” Within the post?

    Maybe you can begin with…
    Just ONE thing that you “disagree within this post.”

    Feel free to use…
    “… use reason, experience, tradition
    and scripture in its historical context…”

    Then they that feared the LORD
    spake often one to another:
    and the LORD hearkened, and heard it,
    and a book of remembrance was written before him
    for them that feared the LORD,
    and that thought upon his name.
    Malachi 3:16

  • A Amos Love


    Thanks for the word of support and encouragement.
    “A Amos Love is soooo much closer to the truth…”

    I’d sure like that word to be truth.
    Getting closer to “Jesus.”
    Getting closer to “The Truth.”

    And I appreciate and agree when you say…
    “My only mentor is the Messiah.”

    John 6:45 KJV
    It is written in the prophets,
    And they shall be ALL taught of God.

    John 14:26 KJV
    But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name,
    he shall teach you ALL things…

    John 16:13 KJV
    Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come,
    he will guide you into ALL truth…

    1 John 2:20 KJV
    Ye have an *unction from the Holy One,
    and ye *know ALL things.
    *unction = anointing
    *unction = endowment (“chrism”) of the Holy Spirit
    *know = perceive, discern, discover.

    1 John 2:26-27 KJV
    These [things] have I written unto you
    concerning them that seduce you.
    But the *anointing which ye have received of him
    **abideth in you,**
    and **ye need NOT that any man teach you:**
    but as the same *anointing teacheth you of ALL things…

    Deut 4:36 KJV
    Out of heaven HE made thee to Hear His Voice,
    that HE might instruct thee:

    Psalms 32:8 KJV
    I will *instruct thee and *teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go:
    I will *guide thee with mine eye.

    Yes – The Messiah, Jesus, becomes our mentor.

    And other sheep I have, which are NOT of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  • RollieB

    Fair enough, Herm. If questioning and searching by a seeker is that uncomfortable for you and Amos I’ll go elsewhere for guidance and discussion. Peace.

  • Herm

    Rollie, if you can stand the heat you are welcome to share with me anytime. If I can’t stand the heat I will let you know. We are children all who have the limitations of children. All we are asked to do is to love one another.

    It is not “questioning and searching by a seeker ” that makes me uncomfortable. “There is soooo much to wrong with this post, it would take me a week to unpack it.” makes me uncomfortable which is not a search or a question. That is usurping a position of authority no child has over another.

    As to your penchant for “Peace” I am not certain what solid understanding as a pupil of Christ Jesus that plea comes from.

    “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

    Matthew 10:32-39 (NIV2011)

    The shaking began 1,981 years ago at the beginning of my Rabbi’s ministry.

    “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

    Luke 12:49-53 (NIV2011)

    This is what it took for me to become a child of God, pupil of Jesus, at the age of 50; 22 years ago.

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

    Luke 14:26-27 (NIV2011)

    I have my peace in my Brother Jesus but not in this world.

    “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

    John 16:31-33 (NIV2011)

    My realizing being in God (no longer studying God) was on “that day” 22 years ago.

    I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

    John 14:18-21 (NIV2011)

    Rollie, if you truly seek He with all authority in heaven and on earth today, for the last 1,984 years, and until the end of eternity then don’t expect to find peace anywhere else except in Him only. For some of us that is the Gospel we know immersed in the Holy Spirit as is our Lord Jesus and our Father in heaven.

    I testify to you today, from tested experience, that in the Messiah and the Messiah in you there is no longer the “spinning” of “wheels” as you found in your 30 years “in the evangelical/fundamental tradition”.

  • Herm

    You are welcome and loved!

  • RollieB

    Your response is a perfect example why I chose to go elsewhere. I’ve spent decades trying to engage religious folk. It rarely works out well.

  • Herm

    Define religious folk, please.

  • Realist1234

    Ben, given that you currently reject universalism, it would be interesting to see your own response to the 5 points you make in its favour.

    My own, very short response is as follows:

    1. The fact that some early Christian leaders appear to have accepted some form of universalism doesnt mean much in the end, given that a significant number rejected it as false. I would surmise the majority of Christian leaders and thinkers today accept the substitutionary atonement view of the death of Jesus, yet many if not most ‘progressives’ seem to reject it as the truth.

    2. I think there is a misunderstanding of ‘all powerful’. For example, regarding the people of Jerusalem, Jesus said “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

    It seems God was unable to do what He wanted in this instance because the people refused. It seems to me that is what repentance is about, it is a human being changing their mind about the evil they commit. But God does not ‘force’ it, regardless of His ‘all powerfulness’.

    3. I wouldnt assume ‘world’ means ‘every single human being who has ever lived’. The problem with quoting a very small number of verses is that it fails to take in the full picture. I would suggest the whole emphasis of Jesus and His apostles was the ‘requirement’ to follow/believe in Him. We should therefore understand other words in that context.

    ‘Notice he doesn’t say save the “elect” or save a few’ – except of course He certainly seems to imply that when talking about His sheep, and indeed He uses ‘elect’ elsewhere. Again its about trying to see the whole picture.

    As Ive said before, I tend to accept both election and free-will. I dont think the tension between those will ever be resolved by ‘logical’ argument. But then as Spock said ‘Logic is the ‘beginning’ of wisdom, not the end’.

    4. Re ‘all’ similar to ‘world’ above.

    5. Re hell and God’s character, I can see the argument but it seems those who advocate universalism are making God in their own image, rather than as revealed. Again, the big picture.

    In summary, I can certainly understand why some want to believe the concept, but I just cant justify it from the whole of Scripture. Every indication is that the actions and decisions we make in this life really do have meaningful and eternal consequences, I see no evidence of a ‘2nd chance’ after death (‘After death, judgement’). I dont think real life is like the ending of ‘Lost’. But I also believe that the Lord is merciful and full of grace. So His decision and judgement will be good and right.

  • Realist1234

    Why is it that ‘progressives’ always seem to accuse Christians who hold to ‘traditional’ understandings of Scripture of getting their theology from their pastors? You would think progressives were the only ones who read the Bible for themselves!

  • Realist1234

    ‘”Christian universalism is not the same thing as an “anything goes”
    religion where we can all believe what we want, do what we want, and all
    end up in the same place at the same time.”

    How is it NOT the same thing?’

    Your response indicates it is precisely the same thing, except the basis on which you are saved. It doesnt matter how you have lived your life and whether or not you followed Jesus (satanists etc will be welcome). Ultimately every single human being will receive salvation and be with God. Not sure how that is different.

  • Realist1234

    Thats a big assumption, that there is no prophetic element in Revelation, and that it only pertains to a relatively small group of Jewish people in the 1st century.

  • Realist1234

    When Jesus talks about the ultimate judgement in terms of goats and sheep, he characterises those He rejects (‘depart from me’) as ‘cursed’, sent ‘into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’, and sent to ‘eternal punishment’.

    Some may dispute the understanding of the word ‘eternal’, but even if you were to remove it altogether, it paints a pretty bleak picture.

    In contrast, those who Jesus welcomes He says are ‘blessed’ and ‘righteous’, and enter the ‘kingdom’ which is their ‘inheritance’ already prepared a long time ago.

    There is no indication whatsoever that the ‘cursed’ will at some point be ‘welcomed’ into the kingdom.

    I just dont see how anyone can reconcile this picture that Jesus paints for us with universalism.

  • Matthew

    Can it be both?

  • Ron McPherson

    Well you just explained the difference yourself.. Christian Universalism believes all will be saved on the basis of Christ whereas Universalism in general believes all will be saved regardless. Christian Universalism affirms Christ as Lord. So yeah, there is a difference. Btw I’m not personally advocating for Universalism, was just trying to help answer the question.

  • Tim

    I can go along with that to a point, but it hinges on what and when ‘hell’ is.

    I personally think we make far too much of free will in general though. If you have not read it, Thomas Talbott’s “The Inescapable Love of God” does a very good job of explaining how God can save all in spite of free will (whatever level of that we actually have).

    Ah, I see you’ve heard of it. Another excellent one is The Evangelical Universalist.

  • Tim

    No, you weren’t mistaken. We all came from God, and thanks to Jesus, we all go back to God.

  • A Amos Love


    You could be correct…
    “We all came from God, and thanks to Jesus,
    we all go back to God.”

    But… What can I do with these verses?
    That seem to say some “came from the Devil, The Wicked One.

    Seems to be some sort of separation. yes?

    Mat 13:38 KJV
    The field is the world;
    the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but
    **the tares are the children of the wicked one;**

    John 8:43-44 KJV
    … If God were your Father, ye would love me…
    **Ye are of your father the devil,**
    and the lusts of your father ye will do…

    Acts 13:10 KJV
    And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief,
    **thou child of the devil**…

    1 John 3:10 KJV
    In this the children of God are manifest, and
    **the children of the devil:**
    whosoever doeth NOT righteousness
    **is NOT of God,**
    neither he that loveth NOT his brother.

  • Tim

    Yes, but when and where does this separation occur? We assume it’s in the afterlife because that’s how we’re taught to view it, but there is so much in scripture that mitigates against that idea if you study it carefully.

  • A Amos Love


    You write…
    “We assume it’s in the afterlife..”

    “…but there is **so much in scripture**
    that mitigates against that…”

    Since there is, **so much in scripture**

    Can you give five examples?
    That mitigates against that?

  • A Amos Love


    The separation I see is NOT in the afterlife…

    The separation I see is…

    Some are **the children** of God.
    Some are **the children** of the Devil.

    And you said “We ALL come from God…”

  • Realist1234

    Thats the problem with concepts such as universalism, you have to ‘get around’ large portions of Scripture for it to be viable.

    ‘Do I believe some might be atoneing forever ? Yup’

    But at the heart of Christianity is the atonement that Jesus wrought. If you really believe people have to atone for their own sins, then frankly they have no hope whatsoever.

  • Realist1234

    Indeed. What I find strange is the view of some that Revelation, and indeed the rest of the New Testament ONLY relates to the 1st century, and then ONLY really to the Jewish people.

    I find it particularly strange that someone would think that Revelation was not written as prophecy (or at least contain prophecy), when the 2nd verse says “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy…” !

  • Iain Lovejoy

    “Every indication is that the actions and decisions we make in this life really do have meaningful and eternal consequences”
    “Eternal” and “meaningful” aren’t synonyms: universalists have no quibble with judgement, see Ben’s point 5 above.
    There are a lot of indications of a “second chance” after death in the Bible.
    First example: Jesus refers to the place of judgement as “Gehenna” , which is in Jewish thought not a place of permanent punishment at all, but where the wicked go for a temporary period of punishment / purification before entering into the life to come.
    Second example:
    In Matthew 5:25-26 about coming to terns with creditors and in 18:21-35 in the parable if the unforgiving debtor where Jesus talks about punishment he talks about being imprisoned not for ever but until the last penny of debt is paid.
    Third example:
    In Phillipians 2:10 it says every knee under the earth shall bow to Jesus, which means the dead in hell, too, will turn to Jesus, and in 1 Peter 3:18-20 it is said Jesus preached to the unbelievers in hell, and in 1 Peter 4:6 the good news is proclaimed to the dead, which would be rather pointless if they are barred from repenting and believing.
    In Ephesians 4:8-10 Paul says Christ captured the captives when he descended to the “lower parts of the earth”: if this means only the earth, not the place of the dead, who are the captives, and if it is referring at it appears to be the underworld, who are these ” captives ” if not sinners being rescued by Christ who are they?
    Finally, in Revelation 31:1-5 it says all tears and pain will be wiped away immediately following the sinners being consigned to the lake of fire, which are only compatible if they are freed, and in Revelation 22:15 the wrongdoers are described as being outside the city so they can’t be in the lake of fire still.
    None of these are proofs (although I would say Jesus’s use of “Gehenna” takes some explaining) and other texts hint the other eay but to say there is no evidence in the Bible at all is not correct.

  • Tim

    Which it also says in the bible. So we have to decide which statement is clearer and has more supporting evidence throughout scripture. Did the devil create anyone? No. We all come from God. Some are “the children of the devil” only when they act in that way, but that does not put them in an unredeemable state. Jesus even called Peter “satan” at one point. God did not create two races of people.

  • Tim
  • Realist1234

    Thanks for your response.

    Ill respond to the 1st half and finish it later.

    I didnt mean to imply that for consequences to be ‘meaningful’ they had to be ‘eternal’. I simply meant that the consequences are both meaningful AND eternal – this applies whether you hold the traditional view of ‘hell’ or the annihilationist view. Either way the consequences are both meaningful and everlasting. I am open to both of these views, but not universalism.

    Regarding Jewish thought on Gehenna, its not correct to say ‘which is in Jewish thought not a place of permanent punishment at all, but where the wicked go for a temporary period of punishment / purification before entering into the life to come.’

    It seems there are a number of differing Jewish beliefs about Gehenna, and ‘heaven and hell’. The temporary nature is only one of many. Pl see –



    Regarding Matthew 5, I am surprised you are using Jesus’ words here as a comment on the ultimate destination of human beings. He is clearly talking about day-to-day situations on earth, and how believers should behave. Not everything He said was a parable.

    Ill come back about the rest of your post later (Im sure you’re holding your breath!) lol.

  • A Amos Love


    I can agree when you write…
    “Did the devil create anyone? No.”

    But – Have some questions when you write…
    “Some are “the children of the devil”
    only when they act in that way…”

    Does the Bible say that?

    Does that mean…
    Some are “the children of GOD”
    only when they act in that way…???

    And, being, staying, “the children of God?”
    Is determined by how WE, His Sheep, His sons, “ACT?”

    Can WE, His Disciples, His Servants, His Ambassordors…
    Be, “the children of God” one day?
    Based on how WE, ACT?

    And, the next day, “the children of the devil?”
    Based on how WE, ACT?

    Which “ACTS?” How may “ACTS?” (Just one? More?)
    Will make WE, His Kings and Priests, His Disciples…
    “the children of the devil”?

  • A Amos Love


    And – Have some questions when you write…
    “God did not create two races of people.”

    Okay – God created one race of people.

    People, who choose, to ACT like “the children of God?”
    And choose to Hear His Voice and Follow Jesus?

    People, who choose, to ACT like “NO God exists?”

    People who choose, to ACT like “the children of the devil”?
    And choose to torture, rape, cut off heads, sex with kids?
    And choose every un-godly thing you can think of?
    To inflict pain, disgust, on people God created?
    Holocaust? Genocide? Human sacrifices?

    Doesn’t that sound like a mean, cruel, sadistic, God?

    A God who would create people who can do such evil?
    A God who would create people to endure such evil?

    A mean God “The Universalists” do NOT care for?

    A God who would create one race of people?
    With the ability to do horrific evil?
    To other people He created?

  • A Amos Love

    Thanks for the link to a book on “Universalism.

    Sorry – I’m NOT into reading a book. :-)

    I was involved with “Universalism” for a few years.
    Read lots of books. Oy Vey!!! :-(

    I NO longer subscribe to that theory.
    And, I Actually hope it’s possible.

    I ask you, personally…

    Since there is, **so much in scripture**
    Can you give five examples? Of scriptures?
    That mitigates against that?

    That mitigates against the separation?
    In the afterlife?

  • Tim

    It’s in the book. I don’t have time to dig them out. This author was a pastor, and does not consider himself a universalist. He doesn’t like the term, because it is confusing. He presents a straightforward case from scripture.

  • Tim

    Yeah, there’s this little thing called free will. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

  • A Amos Love


    So, are you in agreement?

    A God who gives people “Free Will?”

    To ACT like “the children of the devil”?
    And choose to torture, rape, cut off heads, sex with kids?
    And choose every un-godly thing you can think of?
    To inflict pain, disgust, on people God created?
    Holocaust? Genocide? Human sacrifices?

    Was created by a God…
    Who is “ mean, cruel, sadistic?”

    A mean God “The Universalists” do NOT care for?

  • A Amos Love


    Was wondering…
    Do you have any idea?

    Why the “Universalists God” waits till the afterlife?
    To show “God’s loving character?”

    By reconciling, redeeming, ALL?
    And allowing ALL, eventually, to be together? With Jesus?

    But, to the living, in the flesh, in this world, Now…

    This God, creates, and gives, “Free Will”
    To torture, rape, cut off heads, sex with kids?
    And choose every un-godly thing you can think of?
    To inflict pain, disgust, on people God created?
    Holocaust? Genocide? Human sacrifices?

    Do you have any idea?
    Why this mean, cruel, sadistic, God?
    Who created people that do these evil things?

    Is acceptable to the “Universalists?”

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The links you provided actually say the same thing: in Jewish thought Gehenna is a place of punishment / purification from which at least the less egregious sinners are released when they have done their time. The disagreement / uncertainty is only around the worst of sinners, whether they stay there, are annihilated or go somewhere else entirely. Jesus’s use of the term isn’t in any sense an indication of universalism, but if he is saying people go to Gehenna he is referring to somewhere from which (according to Jewish tradition and therefore in the understanding of his hearers) most people actually come out again: it is not principally if at all an eternal destination.

  • Realist1234

    Philippians 2: 10 – I disagree with your understanding. The expression ‘in heaven, on earth and under the earth’ is likely a comprehensive way of referring not only to all humanity, but also to angelic and demonic beings. I do not see how ‘at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow…’ means ‘all humans will turn to Jesus’, which I assume you mean for salvation. Rather all beings, whether human or angelic or demonic will ultimately be forced to acknowledge Jesus’ Lordship. They will simply be unable to deny it. We can ignore Him now, but not then. Also, Paul appears to be quoting Isaiah 45: 23-24 where God’s opponents will be shamed, not saved. So even the demonic and those humans who reject Jesus will acknowledge Jesus’ rule, despite their rejection of Him.

    1 Peter 3: 18-20: These are difficult verses with a number of understandings but I dont think they can be summarised by ‘Jesus preached to unbelievers in hell’ and come to the conclusion that the dead are given a second chance to repent and believe. I dont accept that understanding because:

    – the word verb used for ‘proclaim’ (kerusso) simply means to announce a message. If Peter was meaning that Jesus was preaching to these ‘spirits’ for their salvation, he would more likely have used ‘evangelise’ (euangelizo).

    – you seem to be assuming the ‘imprisoned spirits’ refers to unbelievers. As per Philippians above, I think it more likely refers to demonic spirits. In the New Testament, ‘spirits’ always refers to angels or demons when not qualified by an explicit modifying phrase, as in this case.

    – I think it is an announcement by Christ to the demons of the victory His death has brought over them. It is not an offer of salvation to human souls. V 22 specifically says that ‘angels, authorities and powers’ were now in submission to Him (following His death, resurrection and ascension). Indeed, Christians can now exercise that same authority over the demonic, as it is Jesus’ authority.

    – Peter makes reference to water baptism (relating it to the waters of the flood in which only a handful of people were saved – strange point to make if Peter is teaching universalism or 2nd chances) saying this external symbol shows his readers, to whom Peter’s letter was written, have been saved because they now have a ‘clear conscience towards God’, that is, they are righteous and without guilt. One can hardly apply that reasoning to those who have died without Christ.

    Per my understanding above, I do not accept the historic credal statement ‘He descended into hell’ in the sense you seem to mean.

    1 Peter 4: 6 – the word ‘now’ implies these people who are now dead, were preached the Gospel and were saved (they are now dead in the body, but alive with God in the spirit). But I appreciate there are other views.

    Ephesians 4: 8-10 : in coming to your understanding, you seem to have ignored the context, which was Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts being given to believers in the church!

    In this context, I do not agree this is describing Jesus entering the ‘underworld’, but rather Paul is simply describing Jesus coming down from heaven to earth, that is the incarnation, where He took ‘many captives’. Notice that at the beginning of this chapter, just 3 verses earlier, Paul talks of himself as being a ‘prisoner for the Lord’. Jesus’ ascension is just that – His ascension after the resurrection, returning to His Father. Then Pentecost when He gave gifts to His people. Note also that ‘parts’ or ‘regions’ do not appear in a number of important, early manuscripts – another reason for believing Paul is simply describing Jesus’ descent from heaven to earth (the Son becoming incarnate), then His saving many people (taking many captives) through His life, death & resurrection, then His ascension to the Father from whom He came, then the giving of gifts to His people at Pentecost. This makes sense, in the context. Paul then goes on to describe the different giftings He has given to believers in the church, so that some are evangelists, others teachers etc.

    Revelation 21: 1-5 : I really do not understand how you can conclude that “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain” applies to those who have just been condemned.

    The passage consistently refers to ‘God’s people’. I do not think there is anywhere in Scripture where the whole of humanity is referred as such, but rather a limited group (though containing many) from the nations.

    More importantly, if you read on into vs 7-8, “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

    So those described such will NOT experience what has just been described – the wiping away of every tear, or the end of death – only the ‘victorious’ will experience that (those who hold to the testimony of Jesus). In fact, the unbelievers are going to experience a ‘second death’ (which from an annihilist point of view, would be the final destruction of the human being (body and spirit), which Jesus previously alluded to).

    Rev 22: 15 – you seem to be assuming this describes such people’s experience ‘after’ being thrown into the lake of fire, but I see no reason for that. From v 12 on to the end, it seems to be more a summary of what is going to happen – when Jesus returns, final judgement will be made, with those accepted by Him (as their robes are ‘washed’ symbolising righteousness) being welcomed into the new kingdom, and the rest not allowed to have any part of the kingdom.

    Even if this scenario is after unbelievers being cast into the lake of fire, which you assert but I reject for the reason above, that would beg the question – what was the point of the ‘temporary’ lake of fire if they STILL remain outside of the new kingdom? And does being rejected from the kingdom not resemble ‘hell’?!

    So, in summary, I think there is some evidence from Scripture for the annihilationist view, but none for universalism or any idea of a ‘second chance’ to receive salvation after physical death. This life really is the only one in which our eternal destination is determined.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Phillipians 2:10-11 doesn’t just say every knee shall bow, but also that every tongue will “confess” that Jesus is Lord. “Confess” is the same word that is used throughout the Bible for a confession of faith, and the Bible repeatedly says those who confess Jesus’ name will be saved. It doesn’t just mean “grudgingly admit” (and it can’t exclude people, whether or not it may refer to angels as well). You can say the verse doesn’t really mean what it appears to say if you decide on other grounds it is impossible that the dead should repent and confess Jesus’s name, but you can’t say that at first sight this is what the verse appears to say.
    Again with the Peter passage you can hypothesise about angels, but in the actual Bible there is no mention of disobedient angels being imprisoned at the time of the flood: it is mankind who were disobedient so (unless on theological grounds you decide in advance this is impossible) the disobedient spirits referred to must be theirs.
    “Kerusso” is used over and over again for preaching the gospel, so I really don’t get your point on that.
    Peter uses the word “spirit” in reference back to Jesus’s “spirit” in the previous verse: Jesus made alive in the spirit can in the spirit preach to the spirits of the dead (a central plank of the patristic theory of the atonement).
    The point Peter is making is that mankind (or at least 7 of them) were saved by the cleansing waters of the flood, in the same way that the believers are saved through the cleansing waters of baptism. (Notice the image makes sense only if God’s punishment is salvationary, not punitive and final.)
    In 1 Peter 4:6 whichever translation you are reading is one of a number which deliberately distort the text to support the reading you are giving it: the Greek just says “to the dead”. This passage (unless flagrantly mistranslated) is a direct statement of what you deny: the dead have the good news preached to them that they might be judged equally with the living.
    If you are determined on other grounds that it is impossible that the dead repent or be saved you can find ways in which these passages don’t mean what they on the face if it say, but you have to recognise that is what you are doing and justify not taking them at face value.
    (I’ll give you the Ephesians passage can be taken either way without really stretching the language, however.)

  • Realist1234

    Philippians – I still maintain my understanding. I did not say it did not include humans, but rather every being – human, angelic and demonic. It was actually you who originally seemed to think the text was ONLY talking about human beings, and then coming to your conclusion. And all will confess Jesus is Lord – a (bad) analogy is those anti-royalists, who whilst rejecting the Queen, have to admit that objectively she IS the Queen of England. So I dont see it as an indication of salvation, particularly if it includes all beings incl the demonic (who we know from Jesus’ ministry ‘confessed’ Him as the Son of God, but they certainly werent ‘saved’).

    With the Peter passage, again I still maintain the ‘imprisoned spirits’ do not refer to humans. But even if it does as you believe, does it not strike you as odd that Peter would only mention those humans at the time of the Flood, and no others?

    ‘Again with the Peter passage you can hypothesise about angels, but in the actual Bible there is no mention of disobedient angels being imprisoned at the time of the flood’

    – from Jude: ‘The angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.’

    I wonder if these are the same or similar fallen angels?

    ‘The point Peter is making is that mankind (or at least 7 of them) were saved by the cleansing waters of the flood, in the same way that the believers are saved through the cleansing waters of baptism. (Notice the image makes sense only if God’s punishment is salvationary, not punitive and final.)’

    Its telling that you say ‘mankind was saved’. The truth is only 7 of them were saved, and the rest perished in judgement. So I dont see how the image Peter is using allows us to think the whole of mankind will somehow be saved. He even says that our baptism shows we are saved (which symbolises our death (going into the water/tomb) and resurrection with the Lord (coming out of the water/tomb)). Clearly Peter is not saying that applies to everyone as he was saying this only to those who had been baptised and only applying salvation to them. So no universalism at all.

    Re 1 Peter 4: 6, I accept your point re ‘now’. It seems the NIV translators should not have inserted now. But even without it, I still think the passage is referring to the preaching of the Gospel to those who are dead (as in ‘now dead’ as opposed to preaching the Gospel to them whilst they were dead – even without ‘now’ you cannot insist it must mean preaching to people who were dead whilst they were dead), as from Peter’s point of view, the preaching of the Gospel was only ever done by Jesus whilst on earth or His apostles and other followers.

    Re Ephesians, I dont think it can be understood the way you want to, given the context of spiritual gifts. And it is interesting that when Jesus applied Scripture to Himself, He explicitly said He would set the ‘captives’ free. Again, given the context, this clearly refers to His earthly ministry to living people (bringing sight to the blind etc).

    As you havent commented on my view of the Revelation passages, I assume you are not arguing about them (or you just got fed up!).

    So no I dont believe Im reading into passages because of some preconceived idea of what they can mean. Im doing my best to take them in context to understand what the original writer is actually saying.

    So as i said, effectively no Scriptural basis for universalism or second chance after death.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Re disobedient angels, the problem with your understanding of the Peter passage is that it specifically referring to those disobedient at the time of the flood, who were people, not angels.
    In the Noah story the reason for the flood is expressly stated to be because mankind is destroying the earth, and therefore God will destroy them with the earth (Genesis 6:13): in Hebrew the word used for what mankind is doing often rendered “violence” is formed from the verb used of God’s action against them. Mankind dooms themselves to destruction but God saves a faithful remnant: for a Christian reading the story in the light of Christ (and for Peter in the epistle) this remnant’s descendants lead to Jesus, whose incarnation, death and resurrection saves the whole of mankind, including (in the epistle) those disbelievers who died in the flood.
    I didn’t comment on your comments on Revelation because i can’t see them: they seem to have fallen off the end of your post.

  • Realist1234

    The main point I was making re ‘disobedient angels’ from Peter was that here we have a very similar description of spirits being imprisoned, and they specifically refer to ‘fallen angels’. Simply because the time they were imprisoned, ie at the time of the flood, is not mentioned does not mean they are not referring to the same ‘disobedient spirits’, though I doubt there is a single group of such spirits.

    Re the reason for the flood, it was directly because of the evil of mankind, ultimately expressed in their violence. If you read the whole of Chp 6 you will see that. And again, the picture painted is that in the same way a few were saved by God during the flood, so a few (the people Peter is writing his letter to who have been baptised, thus showing they are followers of Jesus) will be saved by Jesus through His death and resurrection (symbolised by baptism). Not many.

    Re-posted – Revelation 21: 1-5 : I really do not understand how you can conclude that “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain” applies to those who have just been condemned.

    The passage consistently refers to ‘God’s people’. I do not think there is anywhere in Scripture where the whole of humanity is referred as such, but rather a limited group (though containing many) from the nations.

    More importantly, if you read on into vs 7-8, “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

    So those described such will NOT experience what has just been described – the wiping away of every tear, or the end of death – only the ‘victorious’ will experience that (those who hold to the testimony of Jesus). In fact, the unbelievers are going to experience a ‘second death’ (which from an annihilist point of view, would be the final destruction of the human being (body and spirit), which Jesus previously alluded to).

    Indeed this passage clearly implies that unlike the first group – those who have been saved – this second group will not inherit anything, God will not be their God, and they will not be His children. Pretty dire.

    Rev 22: 15 – you seem to be assuming this describes such people’s experience ‘after’ being thrown into the lake of fire, but I see no reason for that. From v 12 on to the end, it seems to be more a summary of what is going to happen – when Jesus returns, final judgement will be made, with those accepted by Him (as their robes are ‘washed’ symbolising righteousness) being welcomed into the new kingdom, and the rest not allowed to have any part of the kingdom.

    Even if this scenario is after unbelievers being cast into the lake of fire, which you assert but I reject for the reason above, that would beg the question – what was the point of the ‘temporary’ lake of fire if they STILL remain outside of the new kingdom? And does being rejected from the kingdom not resemble ‘hell’?!

    So, in summary, I think there is some evidence from Scripture for the annihilationist view, but none for universalism or any idea of a ‘second chance’ to receive salvation after physical death. This life really is the only one in which our eternal destination is determined.

  • Bingo! The same thought I’ve been mulling over the last few days. Universalism is the opposite side of the same coin that election is on. Either way, God’s will coerces man’s will, it’s just that universalism kicks the can further down the road.

  • I am reading Rob Bell’s “Love Wins.” That is the book, and that is the premise. My thoughts are that love is not love without the real possibility of choice.

  • “A More Christlike God” is the best book I have yet to read on atonement theology. I have recommended to to my sister as well as friends at work!

  • Bones
  • Bones

    Free will is a myth….

  • Bones

    It’s the facts.

    You can’t destroy Death.

    It’s a state of non-existence.

  • Bones

    I find it bizarre that someone would interpret a document which is based on first century events as evidence of life after death.

    Other books claim to be prophetic as well….

    They aren’t.

    Of course prophecy has more of a meaning than fortune telling.

  • Bones

    Matthew 25 is nothing about atonement….at all….

    Noone has to atone for any sins……

    What complete and addled nonsense.

  • Bones

    Which judgement is this you’re talking about now….you’re all over the shop…

    Interestingly notice the parallels with other ancient texts…

    Egyptian book of the Dead 125

    This account has a number of similar parallels. A person has dies, and they confess to Osiris the sins they have done and the sins they have not done. They also include a list of good deeds that they have preformed including giving bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked and ferrying those who have no ships.

    I have done that which men praise
    and that whereof the gods rejoice,
    I have satisfied God through that which he loves:
    I have given bread to the hungry
    and water to the thirsty
    and clothes to the naked
    and a ferry to those without ships.

    See also

    I Enoch 85- 90 – The Animal Apocalypse – In this popular pseudepigraphon there is a vision of the history of Israel as told through animals. Israel itself was represented by a sheep. In the vision the “Lord of the Sheep” punishes the other animals striking the earth and opening the books for judgment of the guilty shepherds and sheep which are thrown into a fiery abyss.

    It’s clear that Matthew ‘borrows’ from other texts which isn’t surprising as he flogged most of Mark and changed bits he didn’t like.

  • Bones

    Yeah because god wouldn’t want to violate the free will of those who don’t want to go to hell or even know hell exists. Or of those who don’t want to be annihilated for not having the correct cognitive belief system.

  • Bones

    Where is this book of remembrance?

  • Bones

    I doubt my Jesus is the same as yours.

    Yours is more interested in correct cognitive beliefs.

  • Bones

    You mean like when Jesus engaged samaritans and pagans in the gospels.

    He seemed to have less of a problem with their beliefs than you do.

    Of course plenty of people have been martyred in vain.

    Muslims…Hindus. …socialists…nazis….atheists

    In fact it was a privilege and many early Christians deliberately provoked the authorities to become martyrs.

    Heck it wasn’t that long ago that I’d be martyred as a heretic by people like yourself..

    Your club is a sad lonely one.

    BTW the gospel of John is an anti-semitic text but your Jesus won’t like me saying that.

  • Bones

    Because they don’t critically study the bible. Progressives do.

  • Bones

    It includes everyone….hence the word universal.

  • Bones

    Or Christ the Prophet or Christ the Jewish reformer.

    Does it matter?

  • Bones

    I suppose that says something about your god that violates the free will of people who don’t want to go to hell/be destroyed….

    I probably wouldn’t want to talk about it either.

    Maybe you shouldn’t spout nonsense.

  • Bones

    So it’s ok for God to violate the ‘free will’ of people after they die eg if people don’t want to go to hell/be destroyed….

    Therein lies the nonsense of the ‘free will’ canard.

  • I don’t think God can violate anyone’s will. I believe it is against His nature. Making someone love you is hardly love, whether you are Calvinist or Arminian or somewhere in between. Love is simply not love if it is either coerced or threatening. The question is, for me at least, what happens if we live a horrid, destructive life. The classic response is that the human heart is deceptively wicked (Jer. 17:9) and that we all deserve to die. To cast such a broad net makes the term “wicked” somewhat useless but is used by conservatives to support the validity of eternal torment, and the belief that the vast majority of people will spend eternity in hell. Since there doesn’t seem to be logical purpose in conscious eternal torment, it certainly doesn’t glorify God nor does it “save” anyone, it is a doctrine looking for a reason. Original sin is the reason given.

    On the simplest level the wages of sin is death. We all die. The Bible explains this was the result of Adam’s disobedience in the creation story. The myth that we are held accountable for Adam’s sin (told in a mythological story) is bunk. The problem with trying to create a clear picture of the afterlife from scripture is that there are some conflicting thoughts presented therein.

    If hell is a kind of “time-out” room where the unrepentant can mull over their miserable lives, like a Hitler for example, can over time one become repentant? And if so, are their those that are so hardened or evil that they never succumb to God’s love? Is that eternal torment? …a torment of their own creation?

    I don’t know for certain (who can), but it is the direction I am leaning.

  • Bones

    How many people who live horrid, destructive lives have some sort of mental pathology or are products of their environment?

    We don’t die because we sin…That’s religious nonsense…We die because our bodies give out.

    The simple fact is, none, including the folk who wrote the Bible knows what happens when we die.

  • Bones

    Lol. …cos God doesn’t want to violate anyone’s free will….therefore he tortures them or kills them….

    Ffs no wonder you’re embarrassed.

    I would be too.

  • Bones


    God : you chose for me to kill you or burn you alive forever.

    You can’t change your mind now.


  • Bones

    Why does your god like killing people?

    Is he no better than humans?

    Tough questions, I know, which will embarrass you.

    But hey when you have a Sunday School view of the world, you can’t expect much else. Like intellectual thought.

  • Bones

    Well it’s no surprise that your god is a god of contradictions.

    It is interesting that you consider the logic of your belief system insulting.

    A god who violates free will after people die by simply annihilating them yet can’t violate free will to save them.

    Seems like you’ve projected much of yourself onto god.

  • Juan Lopez

    Okay look, it’s not that I don’t dig what you are saying (particularly as contrasted with the whole “you’re going to hell” mentality), but here’s my thing:

    If God was just going to reconcile everyone, then what was the point of condemning us to begin with? What was the point of even making a hell? Why did Jesus talk about hell? What about the “fallen Angels?” Do they get to be reconciled also? If not, why the inconsistency? Does God make decisions so arbitrarily?

    If God was able to forgive us at all no matter our faith or lack thereof, then why the whole crucifixion (a.k.a., human sacrifice) thing? It was obviously not necessary, yes? (This applies even without universalism, as Jesus explicitly forgave people while he was alive.)

    Honestly, biblical literalism makes no sense under any paradigm, but being “saved from eternal damnation” is the centerpiece of Christianity. If you take away the condemnation, then what is the point? To be “Christlike?” Well, that seems to me to be a goal, not a religion. But I ask these questions sincerely and would like to know what others think about this.

  • Chad

    My thought is that given infinite time, infinite patience, and infinite love, God can certainly woo the most stubborn of hearts and they would freely choose him. Even if it takes a million years, or more, I feel God will never relent in pursuing the lost.

  • Tracy

    I think God chose all peoples from all cultures from all nations, to be sons of God. We are all chosen before the foundation of the world. Jesus death on the cross meant that ALL men died, and ALL men were raised to life. ALL men are in Christ, as Christ was reconciling ALL men to Himself by his death. So ALL are forgiven, ALL are reconciled. Sin is dealt with, and ALL are predestined to be his by the fact God did all this before the foundations of the world! he chose us all. Sadly, not all will receive His gift. Their unbelief in all he has done will separate them from LIFE itself. So not all will be saved. Yahweh’s message still rings true today. CHOOSE this day whom you will serve. God has done everything for us. How we respond to that gift is the difference between eternal death ( annihilation) or eternal life.

  • Risto Mikkonen

    I agree. The concept is found nowhere in the Bible. It is actually anti-Pauline. One could say that the entire Bible is an exposition of the hollowness of the idea. The argument that arises from the individual’s experience (“I definitely feel like I have free will”) is as convincing as the argument, “I feel like I am 100 meters tall, therefore I am.” It is the Golden Calf of evangelicals. All aguments against the “free willers” are as vain as arguing against people who think they are 100 meters tall.

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    No it isn’t and no one who pays and serious attention to the Scripture even directly from Jesus mouth accordingt to Scripture would know better than to believe that lie.

    If you aren’t following Jesus and you know of him you will not be seeing life after this one. That is a guarantee. See John 3:16-20; john 5 starting around verse 18 and John 6:28 to the end of chapter.

    Please let me know if you think Jesus, the Savior who is the Son of God, is saying everyone will be saved even if they don’t listen to him.

  • Craig

    Universalism is the best position morally for each person. And it is the best position morally for God.

    In Calvinism and Arminianism God brings people into existence that He knows will suffer and be in torment for eternity ( or be annihilated ).

    Not everyone would see being annihilated as a punishment.

  • RollieB

    Clayton, it seems your beliefs have led you to a sense of certainty that has blinded you to other views. Rather than explore the mystery of all things connecting, you seem to wield your certainty as a weapon. Relax, consider other perspectives, embrace faith rather than certainty – it’s freeing.

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    Hello to you RollieB

    If you don’t mind, could you show me where Jesus or any Hebrew Scripture recommends the course of action you recommend, plese?

    You know who would happily agree iwth not taking a serious view of Scripture while ’embracing’ all sorts of things and not hold fast to truth?

    If you aren’t sure of this perhaps you might want to read the Scriptures better??

    You may mean well in the things you say but you are certainly lost when it comes to truth. That isn’t a good place for you to be Rolie.

  • RollieB

    Got it! I’m lost! Enjoy your evening. See you on the other side.

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    There is no case to be made for ‘universalism’ because it is simply not true to think that all are going to have life again in the future if they don’t exercise faith in Jesus.

  • Nanci

    There is another valid Christian view other than the Penal Substitutionary Atonement of which you speak. Check this out: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TZrsbCK5Hrg

  • Gabriel Lyon

    Such arrogance to think you know, and condemn the other side to conscious torment.

  • Eric Swatzell

    One would need to demonstrate the proposition to be more than mythological fantasy before the question would be relevant at all.