Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Universalism

003white  Index To A Question of Salvation         >       Index To Pluralism, Universalism, Inclusivism       >      Universalism



Carol Brooks

 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn. Matthew 13:30


    Introduction. Definition and Origin

    Proof Texts?
    John 12:32
    Romans 5:18-19
    The Greek kosmos
    Romans 11:32
    1 Corinthians 15:22
    1 Corinthians 15:28
    2 Corinthians 5:18-19

    1 Timothy 2:4 
    1 Timothy 4:10
    Philippians 2:10-11

    Passages That Explicitly Refute Universalism

    God's Judgment... Restorative or Punitive?


    Introduction. Definition and Origin
    Broadly defined, universalism is the very attractive belief that the ultimate destiny of every human being lies beyond the grave. Everyone will be 'saved', although how you define the term depends on your world view. Death can be simply part of a recurring cycle, or an unspecified "better life" awaits people on the other side.

    (See What Various Religions Tell Us About The Afterlife)

    In other words, all religions are different roads to the same destination. If a person sincerely seeks God, they can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity. This is, apparently, quite widely believed.

    According to a survey conducted by the Barna group in 2011, close to half of people surveyed believed that "All people will experience the same outcome after death, regardless of their religious beliefs". A similar percentage agreed with the sentiment, "All people are eventually saved or accepted by God, no matter what they do, because he loves all people he has created".

      (Amazingly, even "one-quarter of born again Christians said that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God (25%) and that it doesn't matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons (26%) [01] )

    If you are one of those people that happen to believe this myth, I strongly suggest you read the page on Religious Pluralism.

    Christian Universalism Vs. Pluralist Universalism
    Although Christian universalism and pluralist universalism are not technically the same thing, they are related and the terms often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference. As said by Rick Wade of Probe ministries... (Emphasis Added)

      Pluralistic Universalism is the belief that everyone in the world will be "saved" by some almighty being or force that the various religions understand in different ways. Christian Universalism, by contrast, is the belief that Christianity holds the truth about God, man, and salvation, and that, contrary to the traditional belief, everyone will be saved through faith in Christ, even if on the other side of the grave. [02]

    In other words, Christian universalists believe that it is Christ's death on the cross that provides atonement for all sins and redemption for all humanity. This regardless of whether people have, in their lifetimes, repented of their sins, trusted in Christ for salvation etc. What I find striking about this belief is that man's free will is completely overruled by the will of God. In other words, all of mankind is going to be saved by a superior power - whether or not they wish to be.

    However, as pointed out by Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM), there is some diversity of belief even among Christian universalists. (Emphasis Added)

      Christian universalism teaches that Jesus is the only way, all will be saved, and salvation occurs quickly after death for those who have not become Christians in this life... A variation of Christian universalism teaches that those who are not Christian in this life will convert to Christianity in the afterlife after suffering varying degrees of punishment. [03]

    In other words, after a person dies they will be given the opportunity to accept Christ and, if they do, they will be forgiven their sins and granted entry into eternal life in God's kingdom, perhaps after a period of punishment which, if I may say so, smacks of the Catholic idea of purgatory. (See Purgatory)

    While universalists may debate the exact process, they are agreed on the end result which is that the entire human race is ultimately  reconciled to God. Ron Rhodes, President of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries says that an older form of universalism

      "... taught that salvation would come after a temporary period of punishment. The newer form of universalism declares that all men are now saved, though all do not realize it. Therefore the job of the preacher and the missionary is to tell people they are already saved." [04]

    According to Theopedia

      Belief in universal salvation is at least as old as Christianity itself and may be associated with early Gnostic teachers. The first clearly universalist writings, however, date from the Greek church fathers, most notably Clement of Alexandria, his student Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa. Of these, the teachings of Origen, who believed that even the devil might eventually be saved, were the most influential. [05]

    See Footnote I for more about these two men.

    While one can understand why a message that softens the edge of the Gospel message elicits a favorable response from people, what we need to ask ourselves whether Christian universalism is Biblical or whether it can be assigned to the hope-against-hope category. Universalists offer up a number of New Testament texts that, on the surface, appear to support their beliefs. These texts often say something about Jesus coming to save "the world" or use the word "all". 

    Proof Texts?
    In his article entitled "I Am A Convinced Universalist", William Barclay (who?) says

      First, there is the fact that there are things in the New Testament which more than justify this belief. Jesus said: "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). Paul writes to the Romans: "God has consigned all men to disobedience that he may have mercy on all" (Romans 11:32). He writes to the Corinthians: "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22); and he looks to the final total triumph when God will be everything to everyone (1 Corinthians 15:28). In the First Letter to Timothy we read of God "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth," and of Christ Jesus "who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:4-6). The New Testament itself is not in the least afraid of the word all. [06]

    Unfortunately, these passages, and several others often quoted as evidence for Universalism, if taken in context, do not support this doctrine. No Biblical author simply strung together a number of sentences disconnected from one another and from the rest of the Bible. Since, as Ron Rhodes also says "Every word in the Bible is part of a sentence; every sentence is part of a paragraph; every paragraph is part of a book; and every book is part of the whole of Scripture"., no one should read, much less base their beliefs on stand alone verses. [07]

    One certainly cannot wrest isolated verses out of context and, at the same time, ignore others. See Context is Crucial

    John 12:32:
    "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."  (John 12:32 NASB)

    The very next verse after this one tells us that Jesus said this "to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die." i.e. lifted up on the cross.

    However, there was also a reference to Numbers 21:5-9 which tells of the Israelites who were grumbling because, according to them, Moses had brought them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness and, to boot, they hated the food. The upshot was that the Lord sent serpents among the people that bit and killed many of them. However, when Moses interceded, the Lord told him to "make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live."

    The Bible is the word of God and does not contradict itself. If we are to believe that Jesus draws all mankind to Himself, what are we to make of the following related verse that clearly states that only those that believe in Christ will have eternal life?

      As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-16 NASB)

    Jesus drawing all men to himself doesn't mean all men are saved. Just as the snake was lifted up and all who looked to it were healed, so Jesus will be lifted up and all who look to him will be healed.

    Romans 5:18-19
    So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19 NASB)

    From passages such as Romans 5:18-19, and 1 Corinthians 15:22 (below) Universalists conclude that Christ's death guarantees salvation for all and all men will be made righteous. This conclusion is contrary to the immediate context and to the book of Romans as a whole. In fact, this is text-book case of taking verses out of context.

     If read in isolation, these verses certainly seem to lend support to the universalist view. However, these verses were written explicitly in the context of being justified not automatically, but by faith. Just a couple of verses earlier (5:16), Paul says salvation is a "gift" that has to be received. In the next verse he states that salvation comes only to those who receive the gift of righteousness.

      The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  (Romans 5:16-17 NASB)

    Also notice that in verse 18 Paul says all men were condemned by Adam's transgression, and all men were justified  by Christ's act of righteousness. While I am not sure why, in the next verse, Paul says "many" were made sinners, he says that, because of Christ, "many" will be made righteous. If all are justified why aren't all made righteous?

    Everyone bound to Adam by physical ties will die. However, all those bound to Christ by spiritual ties will live. Not only is this a common theme in Paul's writings, but the whole point of Romans is to show that only those who believe will be justified. If you read the Book of Romans in its entirety, it becomes crystal clear that Paul never believed in or taught universal salvation.

    Paul writes

      "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (1:18 NASB). The heathen is without excuse (1:20). All the world is accountable to God (3:19) however, God is, for now, enduring with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?  (9:22) but "the wages of sin is death. (6:23)

      "All who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law" (2:12). Among those that know the ordinance of God, those who sin are worthy of death (1:32). Every man, whether Jew or Greek, who does evil will suffer tribulation and distress (2:9). Paul recognized that, despite his prayers, not all of his kinsmen would be saved (Romans 11:1-10) but that many would be "accursed" (Romans 9:3)

      He stresses over and over that man is justified by faith and but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (6:23)

    One simply cannot use isolated verses as a proof texts without taking the surrounding passages and, in fact, the entire book into consideration.

    Romans 11:32
    For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. (Romans 11:32 NASB)

    The argument goes something like this... if the "all" that God has shut up in disobedience is universal, the "all" that He might show mercy to also has to apply to all mankind. However, this reading of Romans 11:32 neither squares with the argument of the chapter, with Paul's theology in general, nor with the teachings of the New Testament.

    That Paul cannot possibly mean that every single person will necessarily be saved is made clear just a few verses earlier, when he tells the Gentiles

      Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:22 NASB)

    And just a couple of chapters earlier the apostle speaks about the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.

      What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?  (Romans 9:22 NASB)

    The New Testament consistently says that the gift of grace is offered to all (grace would not be grace if it were offered only good men). As Titus wrote "the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2:11 NASB).  But, it is more than possible to be severed from Christ and fall from grace. And those who do not obey the gospel will pay the penalty of eternal destruction

      You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.  (Galatians 5:4 NASB)

      dealing to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (NASB)

    Of course God sent Jesus to be Savior of the world (1 John 4:14 and John 4:42). The problem is much of the world does not seem to be very interested in the kingdom Christ came to proclaim.

    See Salvation
    You can be wrong about a lot of things but if you are wrong about the Gospel of Jesus Christ you are in trouble.

     The Message of The Bible
    All too many people picking out a random phrase or two, think 'love' was Jesus' core message. Unfortunately, they are terribly wrong... In fact, Jesus never stopped talking about the "kingdom of God", which phrase is used over 50 times in the four Gospels alone. He even said that the proclamation of the Kingdom was the reason He was sent to earth (Luke 4:43). But what and where is this kingdom? Here is what is really paradoxical ... the Bible's description of this kingdom of God, also called heaven is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there', but matches, in every respect, the world most men and women would choose to live in. a place of peace and safety, where there is no crime, hunger and disease, war and above all... no death. Far from being outdated, out of touch, and largely irrelevant to modern society, Christianity promises exactly the utopian world most men and women can only dream of.

    All Israel?
    Earlier in chapter 11, Paul said that "all Israel will be saved" (Vs. 26). But did he necessarily mean that every single Israelite would be saved?

    As physical descendants of Abraham (Matthew 3:9) the Jews were the chosen people of God - a holy people who were guardians of the oracles of God.

      "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  (Deuteronomy 14:2 NASB)

    Besides which the Messiah was a Jew, a Son of David (Romans 1:3). Thus Jesus could tell the woman at the well that "salvation was from the Jews" John 4:22. Further emphasizing the role of the Jews Paul stated, in Romans 9:4, that the "the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises" belonged to the Israelites.

    However, many of the Jews believed in the superiority of their laws, with the result that some among them were attempting to convince the Galatians converts that, in order to be saved, it was necessary to adhere to certain key obligations of the Mosaic law. However, as Paul told the Galatians, the law was merely a way to lead people to Christ. Now that faith had come they no longer needed the instruction of the law (Galatians 3:22-25).

    Paul begins Romans chapter 10 by saying his heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is for their salvation, but although the nation had, by and large, spurned Christ as their Savior, the promises of God had not failed simply because "Israel" didn't necessarily mean those who are physically descended from Abraham.

    As Romans 9: 6 says "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel ". Those who pursue righteousness by faith are counted as sons and descendants of Abraham (9:30).

      For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.  (Romans 4:13 NASB)

      For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:26 NASB)

    Paul is very clear that

      ... he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 NASB)

    Quite simply, "all Israel" did not mean every single Jewish person in the nation.

    Romans chapter 11 is dealing not with every single individual that has ever lived, but with the two great divisions of mankind... The Jews and the Gentiles. Both had broken God's law - the Jews, the written law; the Gentiles, the law written in their hearts. However, both could achieve salvation through Christ.

    Daniel also used the phrase 'all Israel' although every single Israelite had not transgressed God's laws. One cannot, for example, include the prophets like Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah in the list of transgressors. Daniel was not referring to the sins or failings of every single individual, but was speaking of Israel's guilt as a nation. Although a righteous man himself, Daniel confessed the sins of Israel as if he too was guilty of those sins. 

      "Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. (Daniel 9:11 NASB)

    1 Corinthians 15:22
    For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  (1 Corinthians 15:22 NASB)

    The main point to be considered here is who Paul was writing to.

    The church is Corinth was a rather immature church with many problems including moral issues, divisiveness, class divisions at the Lord's Supper etc. they also, apparently had a number of questions about, for example, marriage, divorce, food offered to idols etc. However, when all is said and done, the fact remains that they were a group of believers. Paul wrote to them to tackle a wide range of issues they faced, reprimand them for various shortcomings, and to clarify some points of doctrine they, no doubt, were arguing rather noisily about. 

    One of their many problems, was that some Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. As Paul wrote

      Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  (1 Corinthians 15:12 NASB)

    Remember that this entire chapter was written to believers to establish that Christ had been resurrected from the dead and that they would be too. It was not written to the world at large.

    If you read verse 22 in context, Paul's line of reasoning is very clear. Unless the resurrection was true, those that had fallen asleep in Christ had perished forever and were to be pitied (Vs.18, 20). However, Christ was the first to be resurrected (the first fruits), followed by "those who are Christ's" who will be raised at His coming (Vs. 23) .

      (16) For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; (17) and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  (18)  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  (19)  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (20) But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  (21)  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  (23)  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, (1 Corinthians 15:16-23 NASB)

    Paul says absolutely nothing one way or the other regarding the resurrection of unbelievers. He is simply stating they since Christ has been raised from the dead, believers will too - on His return. (See That Earth Shaking Seventh Trumpet

    Note, unbelievers will also be raised. However, this second resurrection will take place after the millennium when the sea and Hades will give up their dead who will be judged, according to their deeds, at the White Throne (Revelation 20:11-13). (See The Millennium)

    Incidentally, The "first fruit" reference is to the Jewish Feast of First-fruits, which was a celebration of the harvest, when a sheaf representing the very first of the harvest was waved before the Lord, as a symbolic gesture that dedicated the coming harvest to Him. Jesus rose from the dead on the Feast of First-fruits. His resurrection was like a wave offering presented to the Father as the first-fruits of the harvest to come at the end of the age. (See The Seven Feasts of Israel )

    1 Corinthians 15:28
    When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.  (1 Corinthians 15:28 NASB)

    This verse does not mention salvation and certainly does not say that God will be in everyone. It simply says He will be "all in all", i.e. the supreme ruler that everything will be subject to.

    2 Corinthians 5:18-19

    Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world (Gk. kosmos) to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NASB)

    The English word reconcile means to reestablish a relationship. A reconciliation takes place when two people or groups reestablish their relationship after an argument or disagreement. One gets a good sense of the word as it is used in 1 Corinthians

      But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled (Gk. katallasso) to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 NASB)

    But doesn't it mean that if "the world" was reconciled to God by Christ's sacrifice on the cross, every single individual that has ever lived and will ever live is already completely saved?

    Unfortunately not!

    We need to look a little more closely at Romans 5

      For if while we were enemies we were reconciled (Gk. katallasso) to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled (Gk. katallasso), we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Gk. katallage). (Romans 5:10- 11 NASB)

    Paul very clearly says having been reconciled, we shall be saved by Christ's life. In other words, reconciliation and salvation are not the same thing.

    As the ancient prophet wrote, our sins have put a barrier between us and God.

      But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2 NASB)

    When Christ paid the price for sin by sacrificing Himself, He removed the obstacle that prevented us from returning to God, which was but the first step, without which nothing else would have been possible.

    Also to be noted is that this reconciliation is always spoken of in a past context, never as something that God will do in the future.  

    2 Corinthians 5:20
    Additionally, the very next verse has been ignored. It says the apostles are ambassadors for Christ "as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB). Why in the world would God make an appeal through the apostles if the entire world was already saved? And what possible reason could Paul have had for begging his readers to be "reconciled to God" if it were already a done deal on both sides? As commentator Barnes once wrote

      God has removed all the obstacles to reconciliation which existed on his part. He has done all that he will do, all that needed to be done, in order to render reconciliation easy as possible. And now it remains that man should lay aside his hostility, abandon his sins, embrace the terms of mercy, and become in fact reconciled to God.

    In any case, when Paul spoke of God reconciling the world to Himself, he used the Greek word kosmos that is used in three different ways.

    1) It is very commonly used in the New Testament to refer not to material things, but to worldly affairs or the principles of the world - abstract things which have spiritual or moral/immoral values. For example, Paul speaks of the foolishness of the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 3:19). The spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12). James speaks of keeping oneself "unstained by the world". (James 1:27 NASB)etc. 

    2) When John said Christ "was in the world" (John1:10), he was saying the Christ was physically present on planet earth. Similarly when he said "many deceivers have gone out into the world" (2 John 1:7), He was talking about people on earth. Similarly, the disciple was also speaking of people when he said "If the world (inhabitants) hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you." (John 15:18 NASB)

    3) The third use of kosmos concerns us here. It refers to the inhabitants of the world

      He was in the world (earth), and the world (earth) was made through Him, and the world (inhabitants) did not know Him. (John 1:10 NASB)

      May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world (inhabitants)?  (Romans 3:6 NASB)

    However, it does not necessarily have to refer to every single human being on the face of this planet as should be evident from the following verses. The Gospel did not reach every last human being nor does a significant portion of this planet hate Christ or His disciples

      First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8 NASB)

      The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. (John 7:7 NASB)

      If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:18-19 NASB)

    Although John wrote "For God so loved the world (Gk. kosmos), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life", he didn't stop there but continued on to say "whoever believes in Him shall not perish". (John 3:16 NASB)

    1 Timothy 2:4,
    who desires (Gk. thelei) all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4 NASB)

    I have absolutely no idea how this verse can be used as a 'proof text' for universalism. It simply says that God wants all men to be saved, not that all men will be.

    The Greek word translated "desired" is thelei used, for example, in the following verses

      And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes (Gk. thelei) to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23 NASB)

      For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing (Gk. thelei) to work, then he is not to eat, either.  (2 Thessalonians 3:10 NASB)

      And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to (Gk. thelei) harm them, he must be killed in this way. (Revelation 11:5 NASB)

    1 Timothy 4:10
    For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (1 Timothy 4:10 NASB)

    Most, if not all the texts quoted in support of Universalism are easily refuted, 1 Timothy 4:10 being the exception. It is an extremely difficult verse to understand because it indicates that while Christ has saved all mankind, He has done something "special" for believers. However, I do not see what that could possibly be. Apart from the fact that believers will be given different rewards according to their deeds here on earth (See Rewards in Heaven), salvation is salvation. Either you are saved or you are not. There are no 'degrees' of salvation and nothing  in between salvation and destruction. 

    In view of the thousand other verses that clearly state that people who do not believe are not saved, one has to wonder what in the world Paul was talking about. Several theories have been advanced. None, in my opinion, hold water.

    Common Grace Vs. Special Grace
    Some have suggested that Paul is referring to "common grace", called so because it refers to those of God's blessings that are experienced by the entire human race. For example, He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). This is contrasted with what is called "special grace", by which God redeems His people.

    We can however, eliminate this as a plausible theory since nowhere in Scripture has the fact that God keeps the planets in orbit ever been synonymous with salvation. The word "Savior" is always defined in one way and one way only. And, in 1 Timothy 4:10, it is quite clear that Paul uses the word "Savior" in the same way for both humanity in general, and believers in particular.

    In any case, the immediate context has Paul talking about godliness which, in his words, "holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (4:8)

    Jesus is The Only Savior
    Other believe that Paul was saying that "the living God" is the only true Savior of the world. This interpretation of this verse is often based on the fact that the phrase "living God" was often used (more often in the Old Testament) in connection with the belief in many Gods. For example

      Joshua said, "By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.  (Joshua 3:10 NASB)

      In their address to the people of Lystra, Paul and Barnabus said, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. (Acts 14:15 NASB)

    One other explanation concerns the word "especially" translated from the Greek Malista, which some believe should be rendered "that is". In other words, the translation would read "... we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, that is (Gk. malista) of believers. The word "that is" clarify the all people.

    I cannot buy that because, in all 12 uses, malista very clearly means 'especially', 'particularly' or even 'chiefly'. For example...

      But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially (Gk. malista) for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  (1 Timothy 5:8 NASB)

      The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially (Gk. malista) those who work hard at preaching and teaching.  (1 Timothy 5:17 NASB)

    False Teachers
    A final explanation is that 

      "Paul is countering the false teachers, who said that salvation is an exclusive thing for those in the inner circle who had "knowledge." Paul is saying, "No, God wants to save all types of people in every place, from every walk of life. He has provided salvation for all, but it is only applied to those who believe in Christ." [08]

    This explanation is by far the most congenial with the context of the chapter, which concerns apostasy and how Timothy is to conduct himself in the face of it. Paul reminds Timothy to point out to the church that "in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (Vs.1). He was also to warn the churches against trifling and superstitious views, which Paul called "old wives" tales (Vs. 7-11), he was not to neglect the spiritual gift in him (Vs. 14), and he was to live so no one would despise him, giving constant attention to his duties (Vs. 15), etc. 

    However, I am not sure that any of these interpretations are as convincing as I would like. Therefore, it is one verse that, in my mind, is left hanging. But it certainly does not change the fact that there is literally nothing in the Bible that supports universalism and overwhelming evidence against it.

    Philippians 2:10-11

    so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11 NASB)

    Simply because all unbelievers will one day acknowledge Jesus as Lord, does not mean they will be saved. Even the demons believe that Jesus is Lord.

    Paul is simply saying that someday all people will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. For most it will be too late to be saved.

    See Salvation

    And The Myth of Faith Alone.
    Perhaps one of the all time greatest delusions in the Christian world, is the innumerable number of people who are under the impression that, in order to be forgiven their sins, and thus inherit eternal life, all they have to do is believe Jesus died for their sins on the cross.



    Passages That Explicitly Refute Universalism (All quotes are from the NASB with emphasis added)

    Matthew 7:13-14: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

      Jesus Himself said "few" will find the way. Universalists say "all" will find the way.

    Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

    Matthew 13:30: 'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."

      This verse indicates the tares are separated and symbolically 'bound' in some way, before the believers are gathered into His barn. In verse 49, Christ draws the analogy to the end times, saying "So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous" (Matthew 13:49 NASB) Therefore the harvesting in Revelation 14:16 can not be anything but a gathering in of the good crop (the "sons of the kingdom")... also called 'The Rapture'.  See The End Of The Age Part IV... The Seventh Trumpet

    Matthew 13:49-50: "So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. See The End Of The Age Part IV... The Seventh Trumpet

    Matthew 25:32-34, 41, 46: "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world... "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels... "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

    Luke 13:4-5: "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

    Luke 13:23-25: And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.'

    John 3:16-18: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved (Gk. sozo) through Him. "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

      It is true that this verse says that God loved the world. However, it also says that those who believe in Him shall not perish, which implies that those who do not believe in Him will.  

      However, please also note that the Greek verb sozo means to save. The word "might" was added in the English translations. A different form of the verb is used, for example, in Acts 16:31, which reads "They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (Gk. sozo) , you and your household."

    John 5:25: "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

    John 5:28-29: "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

    Romans 1:18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  

    Romans 2:5-10: But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 

    Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

    Galatians 6:8-9: For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

    2 Thessalonians 1:8-9: dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power

    Hebrews 6:7-8 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned

    James 4:4: You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God

    1 Peter 4:17-18: For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? and if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner

    Jude 1:14-15: It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."

    Revelation 20:14-15: Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Revelation 21:8: "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

    Revelation 22:14-15: Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.


    God's Judgment... Restorative or Punitive?
    Universalists believe that the concepts of hell and punishment are inconsistent with a God of love. William Barclay (cited earlier) specifically points to Matthew 25:46 which reads

      "And these will go away into eternal punishment (Gk. kolasis), but the righteous into eternal life"

    About which he says

      one of the key passages is Matthew 25:46 where it is said that the rejected go away to eternal punishment, and the righteous to eternal life. The Greek word for punishment is kolasis, which was not originally an ethical word at all. It originally meant the pruning of trees to make them grow better. I think it is true to say that in all Greek secular literature kolasis is never used of anything but remedial punishment. [09]

    In other words, Barclay believed that the punishment being spoken about was remedial, that is the punishment is intended to correct or improve.

    It may be true that the noun kolasis can mean pruning. However, if you consider Matthew 25:46 in a horticultural context remember that while it is true that, after pruning, the main body of the tree becomes stronger, we are the branches, not the tree itself (See Romans 11:17-21 below). And the branches that are removed from their source of life die very quickly.

      But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. (Romans 11:17-21 NASB)

    I have heard the argument that if God's justice is punitive (intended as punishment) then the response to Him in terms of both feelings and behavior is dictated by fear.

    On his blog, Richard Beck, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Abilene Christian University answers a question of what happens to Christian evangelism and mission if everyone is going to heaven. In his words,

      Nothing! You keep proclaiming the Good News about what God has done and call people to participate in the Kingdom of God. The main change here is motivational, shifting from a fear- and death-based motivation to a joy- and Easter-based motivation". [10]

    Sadly, this shows a very poor understanding of the Gospel message.

      In the Greek New Testament, gospel is the translation of the Greek noun euangelion (occurring 76 times) "good news," and the verb euangelizo (occurring 54 times), meaning " to bring or announce good news." Both words are derived from the noun angelos, "messenger." In classical Greek, an euangelos was one who brought a message of victory or other political or personal news that caused joy. In addition, euangelizomai (the middle voice form of the verb) meant "to speak as a messenger of gladness, to proclaim good news.” [11]

    And what was this "good news"? It was the proclamation of the coming Kingdom of God that Jesus said was the reason He was sent to earth (Luke 4:43). In fact, He never stopped talking about the "kingdom of God", which phrase is used over 50 times in the four Gospels alone.

    But what and where is this kingdom? The Bible's description of this kingdom of God, also called heaven is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there', but matches, in every respect, the world most men and women would choose to live in - a place of peace and safety, where there is no crime, hunger and disease, war and above all-  no death.

    How can there be a "fear and death based motivation" when Jesus came to tell us that we could have exactly the utopian world most men and women can only dream of. Now it is up to each one of us to decide whether we want to be there. But then again Richard Beck calls Origen and Gregory of Nyssa "wonderful saints". See Footnote I

     The Message of The Bible
    Jesus never stopped talking about the "kingdom of God", which phrase is used over 50 times in the four Gospels alone. He even said that the proclamation of the Kingdom was the reason He was sent to earth (Luke 4:43). But what and where is this kingdom? Here is what is really paradoxical ... the Bible's description of this kingdom of God, also called heaven is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there', but matches, in every respect, the world most men and women would choose to live in. a place of peace and safety, where there is no crime, hunger and disease, war and above all... no death. Far from being outdated, out of touch, and largely irrelevant to modern society, Christianity promises exactly the utopian world most men and women can only dream of.

    Finally, the word 'eternal' translated from the Greek aionion is used some 45 times in the New Testament. With only two or three exceptions, it is always used in reference to eternal life. When Matthew wrote ...

      "And these will go away into eternal (Gk. aionion) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (Gk. aionion) life"

    ... he used exactly the same Greek word to describe both the punishment of the wicked and the duration of eternal life. When the same word is used twice in a sentence, we cannot change the meaning of each usage to suit our own ideas. In other words, 'eternal life' cannot mean one thing, and 'eternal punishment another' - If the punishment is not eternal, then neither is the life.  If the life is eternal, then so is the punishment.

    However, this does not mean one is tortured in flames for all eternity. 

    Note how the phrase "eternal punishment" is contrasted with "eternal life". However, reward is the opposite of punishment, not life . If never ending punishment were true, then the verse would probably have said that sinners go away into 'eternal punishment', but the righteous into 'eternal reward'.

    Also note how the book of Hebrews, using exactly the same Greek word in both cases, speaks of "eternal" judgment then, just three chapters later, speaks of "eternal" redemption.

      and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal (Gk. aionian) redemption. (Hebrews 9:12 NASB)

      of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal (Gk. aioniou) judgment.  (Hebrews 6:2 NASB)

    Redemption itself was a once and for all event that took place 2000 years ago. However, the result of the redemption continue on forever. Similarly, the judgment will occur in a particular moment in time. However, the results of the judgment are eternal.

    Again, in the verse below, something is destroyed once, i.e. something cannot be continuously be destroyed. However, the results are permanent, i.e. the thing stays destroyed.

      These will pay the penalty of eternal (Gk. aionion) destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (2 Thessalonians 1:9 NASB)

    See What and Where is Hell?
    Most Christians believe that the Bible teaches that sinners will suffer eternal punishment in hell. This has led to a considerable amount of difficulty in sharing the faith because most non-Christians believe that a God who would torment people in hell for all eternity is monster worse than Hitler and they, quite understandably, want nothing to do with Him. When it comes to hell, the deeper one delves into what the Bible says on the subject, the less persuasive the argument in favor of the traditional view becomes. 

    Not only is there a lack of support for universalism and decisive arguments against it, but the Bible never once says anything about sinners repenting, accepting Jesus Christ, having their sins forgiven etc. in the after life. In fact, the author of Hebrews completely contradicted this notion when he wrote ...

       And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27 NASB)

    When Universalists speak about God saving everyone, the focus is usually on God who both desires and has the wherewithal to do so. However, God's chosen method of offering salvation is through Christ. The focus of salvation is on Christ not God, as Peter made clear when, in Acts 16:31, he told his jailor to "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." You cannot separate salvation from the cross.

    Consider Hebrews 10 which, regardless of whom it refers to, makes it very clear that there comes a point where Christ's sacrifice no longer applies.

      (26) For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  (27)  but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.  (28)  Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  (29)  How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  (30)  For we know Him who said, "vengeance is mine, i will repay." and again, "the Lord will judge his people." (31) It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-31 NASB

    Finally I have to ask, why 1 Corinthians 9:16 records Paul as saying

      For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.  (1 Corinthians 9:16 NASB)

    Why was Paul "under compulsion" to preach the gospel and, considering the "woe" means great sorrow or distress, why did he say woe to him if he did not preach the Gospel?

    If all men are saved, it wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference whether Paul preached or decided to start a tent making company. If people are already saved and only need to be informed of that fact, why would Jude have said to snatch people out of the fire by just about any means necessary. (Jude 1:23 NASB)

    Also See How Will Those Who Never Learn the Gospel Be Judged?
    What will be the ultimate fate of those who never have the opportunity of hearing the gospel of Christ? This is a question with which every sensitive soul struggles. While Christians are not the "judges" of man's final disposition, there are Bible principles that are worthy of serious consideration. (Includes Is "ignorance bliss" with regard to sin? Not according to the Scriptures)


    Footnote I... Origen and Gregory of Nyssa
    This is another of the wrong beliefs that stemmed from Origen who introduced Greek ideas into Christianity and Gregory of Nyssa, Greek philosopher and Catholic mystic.

    Origen taught the pre-existence of souls, reincarnation, the final reconciliation of all creatures (possibly even Satan), and the subordination of the Son to the Father. He also believed that Genesis was made up of fictitious stories of things that never actually happened. He asked, for example, whether anyone could be so unintelligent as to think that God made a paradise somewhere in the east and planted it with trees, like a farmer. He taught that fictitious stories of things that never actually happened figuratively referred to certain mysteries. In fact, so much of Origen's theology was so far removed from what the Bible teaches, that there is little doubt that, more than the Scriptures, Greek philosophy played a major part in determining his views on life, God, and religion in general.

    Gregory of Nyssa was a "philosophical theologian and mystic, leader of the orthodox party in the 4th-century Christian controversies over the doctrine of the Trinity. Primarily a scholar, he wrote many theological, mystical, and monastic works in which he balanced Platonic and Christian traditions" [12]. In fact, Gregory of Nyssa based his conception of the Trinity on Origen's ideas saying that " we would have no content for our thoughts about Father, Son, and Spirit, if we did not find an outline of their nature within ourselves. In other words, Gregory found the key to the trinity in the triple nature of our soul stating that you learn "the secret of God" from the things within yourself... a "testimony above and more sure than that of the Law and the Gospel".

    In fact, the doctrine of the trinity, which has remained virtually unchanged to this very day, was given explicit shape at the Second Ecumenical Council. largely due to the part played by three ancient theologians from Cappadocia, who were jointly known as the Cappadocian Fathers of which Gregory of Nyssa was one. The other two were also Greek philosophers and mystics who claimed that Origen was the stone on which they were all sharpened.  [PLACE IN TEXT]

    See Is God a Trinity... Part V. The Cappadocian Fathers.
    Note: Challenging the doctrine of the trinity does NOT mean challenging the Deity of Christ.

    Footnote II... William Barclay
    William Barclay was professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at Glasgow University and the author of many Biblical commentaries and books, including a translation of the New Testament, "Barclay New Testament," and "The Daily Study Bible Series."   [PLACE IN TEXT]


    [01] What Americans Believe About Universalism and Pluralism.

    [02] Rick Wade. Will Everyone Be Saved? A Look at Universalism. https://www.probe.org/will-everyone-be-saved/

    [03] Matt Slick. CARM Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. Can a Christian be a universalist?

    [04] Ron Rhodes. Heaven: The Undiscovered Country: Exploring the Wonder of the Afterlife Paperback –  Publisher: Wipf & Stock Pub; Reissue edition (April 8, 2003) Pg. 123.

    [05] Universalism. http://www.theopedia.com/universalism#note-0

    [06] William Barclay. I Am A Convinced Universalist. http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/barclay1.html.. Quoted from William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography, pg 65-67, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1977

    [07] Ron Rhodes. Esotericism and Biblical Interpretation http://www.inplainsite.org/html/esoteric_interpretation.html

    [08] Steven J. Cole Lesson 13: The Discipline That Matters (1 Timothy 4:6-10)

    [09] William Barclay. I Am A Convinced Universalist. http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/barclay1.html.. Quoted from William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography, pg 65-67, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1977

    [10] Richard Beck. Universal Reconciliation: Some Questions and Answers.

    [11] What does the term "gospel" mean? https://bible.org/question/what-does-term-%E2%80%9Cgospel%E2%80%9D-mean
    [12] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/245703/Saint-Gregory-of-Nyssa


    Universalism, Inclusivism