Universalism states that sooner or later all people will be saved. This
position holds that the concepts of hell and punishment are inconsistent with a loving
The older form of
universalism, originating in the second century, 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. Certain passages -- John 12:32,
Philippians 2:11, and 1 Timothy 2:4 -- are typically twisted out of context in support of
Such passages, interpreted properly, do
not support universalism:
- John 12:32 says that Christ's work on the
cross makes possible the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. Notice, however, that the
Lord -- in the same passage -- warned of judgment of those who reject Christ (v. 48).
- Philippians 2:10-11 assures us that
someday all people will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, but not necessarily as Savior.
(Even those in hell will have to acknowledge Christ's Lordship.)
- First Timothy 2:4 expresses God's desire
that all be saved, but does not promise that all will be. This divine desire is only
realized in those who exercise faith in Christ.
The Scriptures consistently categorize
people into one of two classes (saved/unsaved, also called believers/unbelievers), and
portray the final destiny of every person as being one of two realities (heaven or hell).
- In Matthew 13:30 Jesus in a parable said,
"Let both [tares and wheat] grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell
the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather
the wheat and bring it into my barn." Here unbelievers and believers are spoken of as
tares and wheat. Two classes!
- In Matthew 13:49 Jesus said, "This is
how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from
the righteous." Again, two classes are mentioned -- unbelievers and believers spoken
of as the wicked and the righteous.
- In Matthew 25:32 Jesus said that following
His second coming, "All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate
the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." Here
believers and unbelievers are differentiated by the terms "sheep" and
"goats." The sheep will enter into God's kingdom (vs. 34) and inherit eternal
life (vs. 46). The goats go into eternal punishment (vs. 46).
- In Luke 16:26 we find Abraham in the
afterlife telling the unsaved rich man: "Between us and you a great chasm has been
fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over
from there to us." Hades apparently had two compartments: "paradise" for
the saved, and "torments" for the unsaved -- and these compartments were
separated by a great chasm or gulf.
Clearly, then, the Scriptures speak of
two classes of people (the saved and the unsaved) and two possible destinies (heaven for
the saved; hell for the unsaved). And each respective person ends up in one of these
places based upon whether or not he or she placed saving faith in Christ during his or her
time on earth (Acts 16:31).