We now continue with more aspects of Universalism’s errant dogma in the following:
NO CONDEMNATION FOR . . . ANY ONE?
Examining Scriptures for Content on This Doctrine –
Universalists have various scriptures that they use to justify this belief that all will be saved, and some of these are listed below with appropriate refutations (many of these are quoted from Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics by Norman Geisler.
Universalists claim that the fires of hell will have a purgative effect on souls that are not yet suitably prepared for heaven; that their sins will be purged away during their limited* time in gehenna (the lake of fire; *also as mentioned earlier, there are those consigned to the lake of fire who will have previously been imprisoned in hades from which there is no escape, thus no liberation is possible and time there is not “limited”). There are no references to gehenna as a place where sins are purged, nor are there any scriptures that validate that once said sins are purged, the souls relinquished there are delivered. This is more akin to the Roman Catholic heresy of purgatory, than a biblical doctrine of eternal punishment.
There is only one thing that ever expiates sin and that is the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7)! Nothing else can do this, for if there were an alternative for the obliteration of sin, then Christ’s death on the cross would have been unnecessary, and there would have been a prayer that Jesus prayed to the Father, that He neglected to answer:
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.There are some that point to 1 Cor. 3:12-16, citing vs. 15 as evidence of this belief:
“If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Yet if taken in context this assertion is easily refuted, for this is speaking of those who are already saved, Christians whose works are being tested to determine if they are genuinely wrought of God or not (gold, silver, precious stones [these elements survive fire] which are good works produced by God’s Holy Spirit; or wood, hay and stubble [these elements are destroyed by fire] which are dead works produced by self-effort); it is the works committed by the saints (vs. 13), not the saints themselves that are tested in the fires. This judgment will be accomplished in heaven, not in hell (2 Cor. 5:10).
Then, another verse universalists use is found in Acts 3:21. Peter speaks of Jesus who “must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His prophets.” This reference to the “restoration of all things” is taken by universalists to mean restoration of all to God. However, the context does not support such a conclusion. Acts 3:20-21 does not even remotely hint that there will be a total salvation. Other passages totally refute such an idea. In fact, a few verses down, in vs. 23 it states: “And it shall come to pass that every soul, which will not hear that prophet (Jesus Christ) shall be destroyed from among the people.” This hardly bears any resemblance to all souls being saved, but rather elicits the truth that some will not hear or obey the LORD and be destroyed as a result.
Peter is speaking to the Jews and refers to the “restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began”. This is the covenant which God made with our (Jewish) fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (vs. 25). This Abrahamic covenant was unconditional and included the promises of possessing the land (Canaan) “forever” (Gen. 13:15). Peter is referring to the future fulfillment of this covenant, the restoration of all things to Israel, as Paul also confirms in Romans 11:23-26, particularly vs. 26.
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
From these verses Universalists infer that Christ’s death for all guarantees salvation for all. This conclusion, however, is contrary to the context and certainly to the message of Romans as a whole. This is explicitly in the context of being justified by faith (5:1), not automatically. In the preceding verse he declares that salvation comes to those “who receive . . . the gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). The rest of Romans makes it unmistakably clear that not everyone will be saved. Romans Ch. 1 – 2 speaks of the heathen who are “without excuse (Romans 1:19). Upon them the wrath of God falls (1:18).
It declares that “as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law” (Romans 2:12). At the heart of his argument, Paul concludes that apart from justification by faith, the world is “guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). Speaking of the destiny of both saved and lost, Paul affirms that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Likewise, Paul recognized that, in spite of his prayers, not all of his kinsman would be saved (Romans 11) but would be “accursed” (Romans 9:3). The whole point of Romans is to show that only those who believe will be justified (Romans 1:17; 3:21-26). Romans Ch. 9 leaves no doubt that only the elect, not everyone will be saved. The rest are “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22). The word “destruction” in the Greek is apoleia, which means “ruin, loss (physical, or spiritual or eternal) – perdition, waste, damnable, to die; Apoleia means “loss of well being, not of being” … signifying their spiritual and eternal perdition (Matt. 7:13; John 17:12). In this passage of Romans 9:22, where “prepared (fitted)” is in the middle voice, indicating that the vessels of wrath fitted themselves for destruction (that is, they have willingly rejected God’s offer of salvation, thus incurring ‘self-motivated-destruction’); other passages that make reference to apoleia are: Phil. 1:28; 3:19; 1 Tim. 6:9; Heb. 10:39; 2 Peter 2:1,3; 3:7, 16 and Rev. 17:8, 11.
Note: Those that would use such passages as mentioned above as proof text for God’s sovereignty and absolute will overriding the will of the individual, i.e., “vessels of wrath fitted for destruction” we must remember that God possesses foreknowledge and so understands beforehand who will receive “the gift of righteousness” and who will not, and so is able to make “preparations” to accommodate those decisions in eternity past.
Another passage that would seem on the surface to support the idea of Universalism is found in
2 Cor 5:19
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
It’s argued that “the world” was reconciled to God by Christ’s work (true). Thus, all are [already] saved in the basis of Jesus’ work on the Cross (not true). However, this is a process (reconciliation) according to God’s purpose, not a universally established fact, since not everyone will be saved according to such passages as Matt. 7:13-14 (and the already quoted passage in Revelation Ch. 20). The emphasis in the above cited passage is on God’s part: that is, He has provided reconciliation, making it available to all who would receive it (yet there are passages that declare that not all will, even though God greatly desires that they would!).
Second the context reveals that the actual reconciliation is [manifested] for those “in Christ” (see vs. 17), those who are “new creatures (creations [– more about salvation and the spiritual birth of the believer and how these are distinct from the unsaved, that is, the lost, later])”. The individual must express faith in the finished work of Christ, and place belief, trust, reliance, dependence in and on Christ in matters of salvation (for that is what faith [pistis in the Greek] is!).
Without this explicit expression of faith from the individual towards Christ Jesus, the actualization of such salvation cannot be notably accomplished; otherwise what would be the point of the apostle Paul in exhorting and “pleading” as an “ambassador of Christ” to the lost to be “reconciled to God”? According to Universalists, they would say that all are already reconciled! Rather, all have, shall we say, access to salvation by the provision of this reconciliation, but unless the lost soul comes by faith to God through Jesus Christ, they won’t obtain it.
Other passages used by Universalists to substantiate their view are:
Eph. 1:10 – yet here the passage clearly speaks of those “in Christ” (as opposed to those who have not believed in Christ); note also that in this passage, those gathered in Christ are from heaven and in earth, but nothing is said of those in hades, that is, those who dwell in this abode of the dead. Christians who ‘sleep’ are present with the LORD (in heaven; see 2 Cor. 5:8), they are not in hades to be gathered from there by the LORD.
Philippians 2:10-11 states that one day “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”. Note that this states the purpose: “to the glory of God the Father” not “to the saving of all souls”. Furthermore this passage in Philippians is a quote from Isaiah 45:22-24 which reads –
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
Hear what the LORD says: “Look unto Me and be ye saved” not: “Look unto Me for ye are saved”. The LORD is admonishing souls to come to Him and be saved. Will there be those who despise the salvation of the LORD? Yes, for in vs. 24 it states that “all that are incensed against Him (the LORD) shall be ashamed (buwsh in Hebrew- “to pale, to be ashamed, disappointed, confounded, shamed, overtones of being or having feelings of worthless [ness].”)
The same Hebrew word for “incensed” is used in Isaiah 41:11, and again it describes those who are opposed to the LORD. The word in Hebrew is charah and it means, among other definitions, “to blaze up, of anger, and is translated as “wroth, hot, angry, displeased, incensed, grieved”.
Taking the passage in Isaiah, along with its quote in Philippians, we can conclude: not all who will confess that Jesus is Lord will in fact, be saved; some will declare this out of compulsion even though they “are incensed against Him [and shall be shamed, being worthless]”. Thus shall God the Father be glorified when even the enemies of Christ will bow the knee and declare His Lordship, even the arch enemy of Christ Jesus, Satan himself, no doubt will be compelled to make this declaration!
It takes more than merely confessing that Jesus is Lord for salvation, for according to Romans 10:9, one must also “believe in your heart”.
ORIGINAL With ORIGEN?
Origen, was one of the leading authorities in the early church, but he was also one who held Gnostic beliefs. He may indeed have been a Gnostic himself, and was prolific in his writings, endorsing such dogma as commonly held among Gnostics. He also was among the first to state his belief in universalistic doctrine*.
(* Other proponents of Universalism in its various forms in the 20th century are Karl Barth, German theologian ([1886-1968); philosopher John Hick as well as evangelical theologians like Clark Pinnock and John Stott. Most liberal theologians and cults hold to some form of universalism or its cousin, annihilationism, the view that persons who cannot qualify for heaven merely go out of existence; both views hold that there is no eternal punishment.)
Both Origen and the system of doctrine known as Universalism were condemned as unorthodox in the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (AD 553), but far more significant than a Council is the scriptures themselves. In such passages as 1 Cor. 15: 25-28 Origen had much to say:
1 Cor 15:27
For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
1 Cor 15:28
And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
“But if even that unreserved declaration of the apostle do not sufficiently inform us what is meant by ‘enemies placed under his feet,’ listen to what he says in the following words, “For all things must be put under Him.” What, then, is this ‘putting under’ by which all things must be made subject to Christ? I am of the opinion that it is this very subjection by which we also wish to be subject to Him, by which the apostles also were subject and all the saints who have been followers of Christ” (Origen 1.6.1).
This interpretation ignores both the content and the context of this passage. Paul is not speaking of the salvation of the lost but, rather their condemnation. This is evident in such phrases as ‘destroy’, ‘put under his feet’, and ‘put an end to all rule’. This is the language of subjugation (vvs. 24-28). These are God’s enemies, not His friends and certainly not His children!
That God will be “all in all” (vs. 28) does not mean that all will be in God. He will reign supreme in the entire universe after ending the rebellion against Him. The phrase ‘all things’ must be understood in context. All things are made subject to Christ (vs. 28). But these “all things” are enemies (vs. 25). The phrase is used in parallel with enemies in successive verses (vs. 26-27). Heaven is not a place where God overpowers the will of His enemies and forces them into the fold. So, there is not a hint in such passages of salvation for all believers.
Universalism is contrary to the implications of being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) which would also include personal volition, and a will (for God Himself possesses these traits) to do what we would. If it were a matter of God compelling us to salvation, then He would by necessity have to force us to love Him, but love by its very definition must be given of one’s own free will, otherwise it’s meaningless. If we were given no choice but to love God, we would be mindless automatons who would parrot what God would compel us to say, act and do in accord with His own will.
No marriage could be predicated upon such conditions; the groom and bride swear allegiance and love freely given without even a hint of compulsion or coercion. Would such a marriage between mere humans then, be superior to the ‘marriage relationship’ between Christ and His bride in that Christ must force His bride (Eph. 5:22-33) into salvation, thus relationship and love?
DIVISION MADE EASY –
On the most basic level, one could divide all people into three groups in the current biblical dispensation: there are Gentiles (all non-Jews), and there are Jews (a colloquial term that refers to general Hebrew [from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a.k.a. Israel – the man] ancestry, but also specifically ‘Jews’ refers to JU-DAH); and there is the church, a spiritual entity that is comprised of all born again believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thus spiritually regenerated to new, resurrected life (comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles) in what’s known as ‘the body of Christ’.
On an even more basic level, you could divide the world up into two categories: the saved and the unsaved.
To exposit this idea, I shall use two primary passages: Romans Ch. 9 and 1 Thessalonians Ch. 5 (and of course other supplemental scriptures throughout).
Afterwards we shall examine the legitimacy of the spiritual rebirth which is required in order to be saved for heaven, and from hell; to be saved for special relationship and work with God; to be saved from the penalty, power and presence of sin in the life of the believer. There are those groups, including Universalists that disparage the idea of a spiritual rebirth as this would create (in their minds) an unnecessary distinction, because all souls are “already saved” in their theology.
In Romans Ch. 9 Paul relates his sorrow for his countrymen, his fellow Jews who did not receive Jesus (Y’shua) as their Messiah, and he even went so far as to declare his willingness to be accursed (set apart from Christ) for their sakes!
He goes on, saying that these are Israelites to whom the covenants, the Law, service to God, adoption and glory all pertain to, and yet in the same breath he declares that “they are not all Israel who are of (“from”) Israel. Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”
John the Baptist had very much the same thing to say, particularly to the religious leaders of the day (his rendition was a bit terse and ‘hard core’ however):
“. . . think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
See Matt. 3: 7-9 and Luke 3: 7-8. (Note: in both passages, in context with these verses, follows the declaration that any tree that does “not [produce] fruit will be hewn down and cast into the fire”, making a distinction between those who are saved and those who are lost – based on who bears fruit and who doesn’t; fruit bearing however is an indication and a result of salvation, not to be confused with a means by which salvation is obtained).
Now back to Paul in Romans Ch. 9 –
The seed propagated through Isaac are brought from this one who was “promised” to his father, Abraham, and that as a result of believing faith in God’s Word (Romans 4:3; 16-25; Hebrews 11: 17-19). Isaac therefore becomes an emblem of faith for those who would follow the same faith as Abraham, and obtain the same salvation as he did, by faith. There are those however who will not believe God (the Gentile nations) and those who will not approach God by faith but by their own works (the Jewish nation; see Romans 10: 2-4).
Romans 9: 8 plainly declares “. . . They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
So there are the children according to the flesh and the children according to promise, quite the stark distinction! Being born as a descendent of Abraham is no more redeeming for one’s own soul than a person who is born to Christian parents! Each of us is required to come to God by faith, believing His Word and receiving His Word.
There is the distinction made between Jacob and Esau as well.
Another distinction later on in the chapter says that there are those vessels fitted for destruction and on the vessels of mercy which He had afore prepared for glory. Notice the difference even here between these two different types of vessels: those of destruction are “fitted” towards that end, and those of mercy have had pre-arranged preparations made for them.
Chapter Nine goes on to explain about how Isaiah cried out regarding the nation of Israel being as the sand of the sea, and yet for all of these vast numbers, only a “remnant shall be saved”. Here a distinction is made between believing and non-believing Jews.
Then this chapter speaks on the election of God towards those (Gentiles) who weren’t even “His people” but became His people because they exhibited faith towards God and in His righteousness (just like Abraham); yet Israel sought this righteousness through the Law rather than by faith (see vs. 25-33) and could not appropriate it.
Scripture pronounces that God sees a distinction among people in regards to their salvation or lack thereof. He receives the one, and rejects the other, respectively.
This is plainly seen in such passages as the drag net parable – Matt. 13:47 – 50; also the wheat and the tares as seen earlier in this same chapter – 13: 25-40.
The judgment of the sheep and the goats: In Matthew Ch. 25 there is yet another distinction made between those who ministered to the nation of Israel in her time of need, and those that did not. On the surface it would seem that the salvation of these depended on whether or not they blessed the persecuted nation of Israel or not; that would assume salvation is obtainable by works.
Rather, on the basis of giving aid to Israel, when all the world at that time will be turned against that nation as they heed the leadership of the Beast (Rev. Ch. 13), these would have given their allegiance to the Arch-nemesis of the Beast, that is the Lord Jesus Christ; note that is speaks of those who blessed the nation of Israel as “the righteous” and there is but one means to attain to the righteousness which God requires: by faith in Christ Jesus!
The other major text to be examined is found in 1 Thessalonians Ch. 5 –
In this passage Paul addresses the saints that are in Thessalonica, and speaks directly to them as “you”:
vs. 1-2 “But of the times and seasons brethren, you have no need that I write unto you, for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”
Then Paul addresses another group, that is, a group of, shall we say ‘non-saints’ as “they”:
Vs. 3 “For when they shall say peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
“Travail upon a woman with child” is a telling phrase, and often used in scripture to denote ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble’. See Jeremiah 30: 6-7; also John 16:21.
The comparison then between “you” and “they” continues for the next few verses (vv. 3-9): the one being of the day, the other the night; the one being of light, the other of darkness; those who are awake and watching, and those that are asleep; those that are not appointed to the wrath of God, the other experiencing sudden destruction and wrath; those that escape the time of tribulation, and those who will not escape. The distinctions between these two groups are not only obvious, they are diametrically opposed.
DIVINELY APPOINTED DISTINCTIONS –
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
The division of all mankind is based upon the LORD Jesus Christ, between those that receive Him, and those that reject Him, and they will be judged on that basis. The sword that the LORD Jesus spoke of, that will divide humanity, is the Word which He has spoken, and again, on the basis of whether or not His Word is believed or rejected, all the world will be divided into two distinct groups: the saved and the non-saved (Acts 28:24) .
As has been amply demonstrated in this article, the false doctrine of Universalism can not be supported by scripture and we rightly conclude, and with extreme sadness and regret, that not everyone will be saved. In fact, comparatively few will be saved as even our LORD Himself expressed (Matt. 7: 13-15):
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
We will continue this series with one more article soon . . . and so is the coming of all of our hearings in CHRIST's Court . . . SOON IN SESSION!