Last month I received a question through my website about universalism, and whether I could say a thing or two about it. Universalism (Greek: apokastastasis) states that sooner or later all people will be saved for eternity. This position holds that the concepts of hell and punishment are inconsistent with a loving God.
The idea of universalism can be traced back all the way to Origen (185-254 AD). The idea was that salvation would automatically come after a period of punishment. Origen basically said that humans, angels and devils were all created good and equal. They also had absolute free will. But some turned on God and started to sin. The biggest sinners became the devils or the evil spirits. The lesser sinners ultimately became the souls of men. It is a bit of a weird idea, but these lesser sinners had to be restored in their relation with God. For this God supposedly created this world and send these souls to be born as humans. During our lives we are supposed to be disciplined and chastised to become better and this will even continue after death. In other words, purification is not complete at death but continues after this life. This process can take really long because the souls keep their free will to choose to do good or bad. But, if the soul finally decides to repent, God will accept him or her to come and live with Him. To be fair on Origin, he described this idea ‘more [as] his hope than his assured certitude.’i
Nothing New Under the Sun
I just wanted to describe one of the ideas in the early church period to show you that universalism is no new idea. It has circulated within the Church for centuries, and it appeared in different forms every time.
Also, throughout the ages universalists have tried to explain their believes. In the 19th century they have found companions in the Unitarian churches. These churches don’t believe that Jesus is God, or that God is a triune God. That might already start to ring all sorts of bells among those who hold strongly to the early statements of faith as given by the church fathers in the first 4 centuries.
We now see that the ‘die hard’ Universalists are pushing to re-explain the Bible in the light of science. By doing so they reject all miracles in the Bible and the miraculous testimonies of Christians throughout the ages. Why? Well, miracles are just not compatible with today’s scientific knowledge, at least, according to them. Also, they no longer see Jesus as divine. In that we can see the Unitarian influences.
The real Universalists—by which I mean those who really studied their ideas, those who gather together as a church, and not those who just think it to be plausible—will tell you that they hold to the Christian tradition. But, in the meantime they are often open to all sorts of religious ideas, even outside Christianity.ii
The modern form of universalism says that all humans are saved. However, they say that not all humans know it yet. The evangelist, preacher or the missionary don’t need to warn people, no instead their task is to tell people they are already saved.
Varieties of Universalism
There are 5 main variations of universalism. However, to keep this video from becoming too long I will just mention the names of these variations. The article that comes with this video will have a little more explanation. For this I have cheated a bit by quoting H. Wayne House from his book ‘Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine.’iii
Maintains that Christ’s death accomplished its purpose of reconciling all mankind to God. Whatever separation exists between man and the benefits of God’s grace is subjective in nature, existing only in man’s mind. Reconciliation is an accomplished fact.
Maintains that God, being loving, will not hold unswervingly to the conditions he has laid down. Through threatening eternal punishment he will in the end relent and forgive everyone. God will treat all persons as if they had believed.
At some point in the future all things will be restored to their original and intended state. Full salvation may be preceded by cycles of reincarnation or by some purgatorial period at the beginning of the life hereafter.
The Doctrine of a Second Chance
The work of Christ is sufficient to secure the salvation of the elect, but salvation is effectually secured by the means of faith (Romans 10:10-13). All people, even those who have heard and rejected, will be confronted with the claims of Christ in the life to come. Everyone given such an opportunity will of course accept it.
Universal Temporal Blessings
The natural benefits of the world are also enjoyed by everyone. These benefits include sunshine, rain, good, health, etc., and are a result of God’s common grace. These things are given from God because of his character.
Lack of Knowledge
Many Christians have no real idea of what they need to believe as orthodox—the Christian faith as explained in the early Christian creeds—and what not. It is a sad conclusion to say that we have many brothers and sisters who just believe without being ready “to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in” them.iv
Ideas like universalism are not part of Christian orthodoxy. Still, these ideas seep into our churches because they have been wrapped in seemingly sound Biblical texts. I have already heard these ideas, in different forms, being preached, without the preacher realising he is using the texts out of context.
It is not very difficult to make the Bible say what you want, as long as you don’t bother with the context. It is for this reason that God tells the Israelites to study his word as often as possible. Knowledge of God’s word is your best weapon against heresies.
2 Timothy 4:2-4
preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
And let’s be honest! It sounds so much better that everybody will be saved. If we believe that fable, we do not have to worry about our neighbours too much. Believing this fable will help us not to worry too much about verse 5 of the same chapter:
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
The Universalist’s Attempt to Explain this Heresy
Let’s take a look of some texts universalists like to use.
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
That sounds promising right? All men! However, we know that Jesus actually referred to the Jews and Gentiles. Also, a few verses down the line we see a stern warning, verse 48:
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Oh wow! Every knee and every tongue will bow and confess! That surely means that all will be saved right? Think again. Sure, at judgement day nobody will be able to say that Jesus doesn’t exist.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life…
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Everyone who has existed will have to admit that Jesus is Lord. This does not mean that they are saved. One day everyone will have to admit that He is Lord even over those who rejected Him in this life and will spend eternity without God.
1 Timothy 2:3-4
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
Again, this verse is talking about all men, all humanity! We should not confuse the word ‘will’ with ‘making sure’ or ‘force.’ The text means that our Saviour has the ‘desire’ to have all men saved. This becomes clear in verse the last part of verse 4. There you’ll read that the Saviour wants all gets to know the truth.
God just doesn’t want anybody to be lost, and that is exactly why Jesus hasn’t return yet.
2 Peter 3:9-10
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Universalists use many other texts, but in the end the all boil down to this one big elephant in the room: Why, if everybody will be saved, would the Bible be so consistently assign humans to only two groups, namely saved and unsaved, or believers and unbelievers.
The Bible is Full of Warnings
Me being a bit lazy today, will quote Wayne House one more time.v
Christ and the apostles were constantly warning people of God’s wrath and judgment on sin and urgently calling them to repentance. Hence if universalism is true, Christ and the apostles were either ignorant or grossly deceptive.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Here unbelievers and believers are spoken of as tares and wheat. Two different groups!
and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats
Here, again are believers and unbelievers divided in classes ‘sheep’ and ‘goats.’ The one group will inherit eternal life with God and the other eternal separation, aka: hell.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
You really should read this story! I think this is a parable from Jesus in which He explains that there is a big, insurmountable gap between Abraham and the rich man. The realm of the dead has two locations, ‘paradise’ for the believers, and a place of ‘torments’ for the unbelievers.
Faith in Jesus is a Serious Business
Universalism takes the seriousness out of the Gospel. Jesus was razor-sharp when He talked with the Pharisees:
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
Sinning is not an innocent game! I think the Lord made this crystal clear, didn’t He?
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity;
The Son of God loved righteousness and He hated unrighteousness. We should follow His example.
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation
We will have to trust God’s plan of salvation in and by faith. We personally need to accept God’s offer in Christ, and as a result, living our lives earnestly in obedience to God’s Word.
Evangelisation and Mission Unnecessary?
Finally, one of the things that worries me big time is that this idea undermines the work of evangelists and missionaries.
The task of mission and evangelism is redundant or unnecessary if, no matter what, all humans are saved in the end anyway. The idea of universalism paralyses the need for mission and evangelism, because in this view everyone, either sooner or later, will be saved anyway.
Universalists happily use Luke 15:4, and they say that God goes
after that which is lost, until he find[s] it
For convenience sake they forget about verse 7 were Jesus said:
likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
This false idea makes repentance unnecessary, and by doing so it misses the punchline at the heart of the matter. It says crystal clear:
and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Instead of going into the world to preach the Gospel—or at least supporting those who go into the streets and all nations—this false teaching of universalism becomes a resting place for people who continue to live in sin.
Obviously, the subject eternal damnation for those who would not accept the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ is very sensitive. But God’s Word is clear enough about it, no matter what the believers of this doctrine try to explain to deny eternal separation from God. We may bring our aversion about the doctrine of eternal hell in prayer to the Lord, trusting that, as the highest moral authority in the universe, He is just and knows what He is doing. We can and must leave this final judgement to God.
Tell me What you Think
So, tell me what you think about this topic. I am looking forward to hearing from you, but please keep it brotherly. I will also place a link in the description to a bible study about hell. I have written this study many years ago, but I think it is still relevant and accurate today.
Check out the description of this video. There you’ll find a link to my Odysee channel. You can also check out my video channels on GabTV, Flote, and Bitchute, and my other social media. Also, you’ll find a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video.
Finally, thank you very much for your prayers and support! You can look in the description of this video or on my website to find out how you can help me.
God bless you, thank you for watching, and Lord willing we’ll see each other in my next video!
i Chadwick, H., Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966, pp. 118-119.
ii Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Universalism". Encyclopedia Britannica, [internet], <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Universalism>, accessed 18 January 2023.
iii Wayne House, H., Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1992. p. 109.
iv 1 Peter 3:15 (KJV).
v Wayne House, H., Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1992. p. 110.