Why I am (almost) universalist

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Universalism is often cast aside without consideration in the evangelical movement, dismissed as heretical or unhealthy without proper scrutiny. Personally, I have found universalism to be clearly biblical, a solution to a range of theological problems, and a demonstration of what all believers know deep down – that God is good. We know it in our bones when we worship, but our thinking can be much less clear. In this article, I will demonstrate how universalism can be taken directly from the biblical record.

Universalism in the Old Testament

Prior to the Sinai Covenant, when the Law was delivered through Moses, God made a prior covenant with Abraham. Unlike the Covenant at Sinai, which served a temporary purpose, the Covenant of Abraham has not yet been fulfilled in its entirety and is still a living and active promise, underlying God’s relationship with the world. whole. Specifically, the Lord promised Abraham in Genesis 22:16-18,

“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that… through your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

It is important to note that the Abrahamic covenant is sworn between God and himself. There is no human element whose failure would result in the revocation of the promise. It is an unconditional promise that finds its fulfillment in Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, and through the Gospel, which extends the grace of Jesus to all the peoples of the Earth.

From the very first of the Hebrew Covenants, God’s promise was inclusive rather than exclusive. He never intended that his interaction with humanity remain within Judaism, but that through the Jewish Messiah (Jesus) all peoples of the world be included in his plan of salvation.

Universalism in the New Testament

The trajectory that began with God’s promise to Abraham is built in the New Testament, which is littered with scriptures that speak of the salvation of all peoples:

Luke 3:4-6,

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“The voice of one who cries in the desert,

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight paths for him.

Every valley will be filled,

every mountain and every hill is lowered.

Crooked paths will become straight,

rough tracks smooth.

And everyone will see God’s salvation.’”

1 Corinthians 15:21-22,

For since death came by a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes by a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall live again.

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord does not neglect his promise, as some think he is neglectful, but he is patient with us, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

1 Timothy 2:3-6

This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.

1 John 2:2

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 Timothy 4:10

For to this end we strive and strive, because our hope is in the living God, who is the savior of all peoplesespecially those who believe.

Romans 5:18-19,

Therefore, just as one offense brought condemnation to all men, so also a righteous act resulted in justification and life for all peoples.

Romans 11:32

For God has bound all men to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

God’s ultimate intention

Some might read this and realize that they have never noticed these many references to universal salvation before. Others might struggle to explain why these verses do not mean what they clearly state. When it comes to understanding the scriptures, there are many things in sight that we do not see. This is partly due to confirmation bias – we have been told how to interpret these verses and therefore never stop long enough to see them in a different way, even when the meaning is obvious.

In Ephesians 1:8-10, Paul writes of God’s ultimate intention:

In all wisdom and intelligence he has made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he has purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times shall reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

This is God’s dream, goal, intention – to bring all things together in Christ. This is the whole point and purpose of the Gospel.

In this regard, Philippians 2:10-11 gives us something to look forward to:

That in the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lordto the glory of God the Father.

In the end, we will all worship Christ.

Paul did not draw this idea from nothing. It is present in the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah (chapter 45, verse 23):

“By myself, I have sworn; from my mouth came a word with justice that will not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue swear allegiance.’

Not convinced yet? Here are some additional scriptures to help you:

Revelation 5:13

And I heard every creature in the heavens and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him that sits on the throne and to the Lamb, blessing, honor, glory and power forever and ever!”

John 12:32

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw everyone to me.”

Colossians 1:20

And through him to reconcile all thingseither on earth or in heaven, making peace through the blood of his cross.

Let’s be frank, it’s everywhere! So why is this not commonly understood in the evangelical movement, which claims to value the Bible?

One of the greatest obstacles to accepting these scriptures on their own terms is the belief in hell as a place of perpetual torment. I want to leave universalism at the center of this article, so I will properly address hell in a follow-up article.

Universalism has been seen as God’s ultimate intention by prominent figures and movements throughout Church history, including such notables as Origen of Alexandria, a major figure in 3rd Century Christianity. Even the great reformer, Martin Luther, believed that grace extended beyond the grave, and we would have other chances to respond to it (during the judgment process).

Why is this important?

In my opinion, universalism is the only interpretation of the gospel that does not mock the goodness of God. Are we really meant to party in heaven while the people we know and love are screaming and burning with no relief? Would the gospel really be good news if it means that the majority of God’s created people will be lost to eternal damnation? That would surely make the Gospel the worst news of all!

Universalism, on the other hand, sees the inclusive vision of God, understands that salvation comes through the cross, but grasps the glorious extent of that salvation. He declares that grace is broader, richer and more powerful than many have dared to believe.

So why am I only “almost” a Universalist? The half-skin version rather than the full-fat version? Because of free will. Agency was the crowning achievement of humanity and part of what it means to be created in the image of God. We have created a terrible mess, but without free will, human beings would not be what we were created to do. I have to admit then that some might go through death, see God for who He is, understand that grace is always available and yet refuse to give in. It’s hard to imagine or understand, but I have to accept it as a possibility. I have no idea what happens to such people and I just live with a question mark. We don’t need to have all the answers to all the questions to be satisfied with our faith or to serve God well.

Given that you now have a scriptural basis for universalism (hopefully), will you continue to believe in eternal torment for most, including your loved ones, or will you accept what scripture says and understand that God always intended to include? How good is your good news?

Universalism allowed me to be even more grateful for the cross and to draw closer to God, knowing that he would never hurt me or those I love. It rid me of the cognitive dissonance that threatened to sink my faith and filled me with joy about the goodness of God. Honestly, I’ve never looked back.

Next time, hell…

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