I must confess to being surprised recently to discover that Universalism is gaining in popularity. Even a good friend is leaning in that direction. For those who don’t know what Universalism is, it is the belief that everyone without exception will be saved.
There are a few variations of this belief. Some believe that everyone immediately goes to heaven. Others believe that some punishment will still be required for sin – a time spent in purgatory – but the guilty person will get to heaven eventually.
Regardless of the timeline, the common understanding is that all will get there one day, no matter what they’ve done in this life. (Does that include Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Kony, and serial killers, and paedophiles??)
Given that God is love, and God so loved the world [John 3:16], this would be a reasonable assumption, would it not?
Actually, it would not. For starters, it turns a blind eye to the proliferation of Scriptures that warn of destruction and punishment as a consequence of our sin.
Jesus, the loving and kind and patient and merciful One, is the same One who talked the most about hell and punishment. He was adamant that whoever doesn’t believe in Him will be punished. And punished eternally. I’m inclined to think He knows what He is talking about.
So why would anyone believe that everyone will be saved? I think it is because we have all – at some time – ignored the first promise in the Bible, and instead, welcomed the second promise.
What’s the first promise? … the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” [Gen 2:16-17]. God promised that disobedience will result in death.
Then what’s the second promise? … the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” [Gen 3:2-4].
It certainly seems more loving to say that you will not surely die. It gives hope to everyone. But unfortunately, that promise came from the mouth of a liar – the father of lies [see John 8:44].
Space doesn’t allow me to go into all the many verses that promise death and eternal punishment for disobedience and sin. Suffice it to say though, I’d prefer to trust God’s promise and warning than the devil’s pretty little lie.
God’s promise is that everyone who disobeys God faces an eternity of woe. Nothing can soften the horror of the warnings that came from Jesus’ own mouth.
Remember the parable of the narrow door [Lk 13:22-28]. Or the rich man and Lazarus [Lk 16:19-31]? Or all of Matthew chapter 25? How about Rev 20:10-15? Punishment will be swift and sure on the final day. And it will be eternal also.
But doesn’t have to be this way. There is a solution to our problem. It really is very simple. And the result is eternal too.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16]
All it takes is a look to the cross in faith. And when you do that, you will not perish, but you will have life – eternal life.