All Saved or All Offered Salvation?

I have been reading the writings of the Universalists and am trying to make sense of them, especially as they relate to the original languages. Without exception their writings abandon the Received Text and rest upon translation exceptions to make their case.

By way of example this quote from the promo for “At the End of the Ages; The Abolition of Hell”; “At the End of the Ages presents evidence that the Bible, in the original languages, reveals that one day ALL mankind will be saved. Through time our Bible translations have become biased through the official teachings of "The Church."

Also, I am thinking about their contentions regarding aionian as it relates to God. I find this statement in their publications;“Some would argue that if aionian and related words do not mean eternal, then God cannot be eternal, for these words also describe Him. To this we say, that just because God is described as the God of the eons, does not mean that He is not the God who also transcends the eons.” To me it seems that there is a difference between God being described as “of the eons” and the scriptural declaration that He is the “everlasting God” (aionios theos). The first assertion speaks to God’s relationship to time while the Biblical declaration speaks to His nature. To me, these are very different things. Does “everlasting” speak to the duration of eternal life or does it not also speak to its nature?

Historically, I reject all positions that require manipulations of the Hebrew and Greek texts. Every cult I have encountered in my life has resorted to this methodology to build the foundation for their dogma. One of the reasons I am comfortable with Dispensationalism is that it is not empowered by textual criticism and it makes sense of the scriptures, as translated.

It has also been my discovery that the Universalists can be, at worst, dishonest in their assertions or, at best, overstate their case. For instance their premise; “If Hell is real how could the Apostle Paul (who was especially commissioned by God to preach the gospel to the nations) say that he had declared the entire counsel of God (Acts 20:27), when indeed he never warned of "Hell" in any of his letters? If Hell is real, wouldn't Paul, of all people, warn of it repeatedly?” While it is true that Paul never speaks of “hell” he emphatically declares the danger of “everlasting destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, {8} In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: {9} Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” This passage, while not using the word hell, is consistent with the concept of eternal punishment and to imply that Paul “never” warns of hell is not quite honest.

One of the greatest obstacles for me is the Universalist belief in a limited punishment that is perilously close to the doctrine of Purgatory. Note the following contention of a Universalist; “The question is not whether or not God will punish sin and rebellion, but rather how He does it, and for what purpose and how long the correction lasts.” The concept of Hell as a “correction” is totally foreign from the scriptures and is in perfect agreement with Roman Catholic dogma. Can man actually pay for his sins?

It is my belief that one of the great discussions of the day concerns the scope of God’s forgiveness. Does a man go to Hell because he is unforgiven or because he rejects the gift of God’s righteousness? Universalism asserts that all will be saved. The Bible states that the provision for salvation is universal but the application is limited and conditioned upon trust (believe, receive, or accept the gift). 

Unto All and Upon All that Believe

(Romans 3:21-25) "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; {22} Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: {23} For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; {24} Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: {25} Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;"

Faith is Counted for Righteousness

(Romans 4:5) "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

The Promise is Given to Them that Believe

(Galatians 3:22) "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe."

Chosen to Salvation through Belief of the Truth

(2 Thessalonians 2:13) "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:"

Who First Trusted in Christ

(Ephesians 1:12-13) "That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. {13} In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,"

Not Imputing Trespasses

(2 Corinthians 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."

Forgiven All Trespasses

(Colossians 2:13) "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;"

One does not accept gifts from those one does not trust. It is evident in the scriptures that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Is not trust the essential ingredient in our willingness to receive the gift of God’s righteousness and eternal life? Is a gift still a gift if it is refused? I have known of many gifts offered to people that came with strings attached thus were not gifts. And I have known of gifts refused because, even though no strings were attached, the beneficiary falsely perceived that there were. Whatever the basis of rejection the benefit of a gift refused is no benefit at all. God’s provision for salvation is, indeed, universal in scope but it is obviously limited in application or we would not find noted in scripture those that are “saved” and those that are “lost”.

I freely confess that I am thoroughly prejudiced against Universalist methodology. However, this being said, I would very much like their theology to be true. The concept of unconditioned universal salvation is very appealing but, to date, I am unconvinced by Universalistic dogma and methodology. If I am wrong then, at least, no soul will ever suffer eternal punishment as God is the Savior and Judge of all men. If my understanding is correct, woe is unto them which believe not the Gospel of Grace.

(1 Corinthians 1:18) "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."

Pastor Hal   Bekemeyer