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THE CASE FOR UNIVERSAL SALVATION: PART ONE     

       Universal Salvation is the belief that all humans who have ever lived and ever will live will be granted salvation through the Christ event. This belief is also referred to as universal reconciliation or the doctrine of comprehensive grace. It is believed that the death and resurrection of Jesus has facilitated and secured the salvation of all humanity. To be saved is to have the penalty of eternal death for sin forgiven and removed. This results in the granting of eternal life. It is believed Jesus paid the death penalty for sin for all humanity and therefore all humanity will be granted eternal life.

       Under this perspective, we don’t accept Christ as Savior in order to be saved.  God does not give us salvation in exchange for our faith and repentance. God gives us salvation because Jesus paid the death penalty for sin on the cross. Faith and repentance are seen as our recognition of and response to God’s mercy in facilitating the gift of salvation through the Christ event.  Salvation is seen as our being made a new creation because of what Christ did and not because of anything we do.  All humanity is seen as reconciled to God because all humanity is seen as included in Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. All humanity is seen as dying in Christ and being made alive in Christ. 

       2nd Corinthians 5:14: “Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”

       Colossians 3:1-3: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

       With this brief introduction, let us now proceed to discuss what is believed to be Scriptural support for universal salvation. Let’s begin with seeing what the Scriptures teach as to resurrection and judgment.

Resurrection and judgment:

       The Scriptures teach that there will be a resurrection and judgment of all humans who have lived and died. Hebrews 9:27 states that “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”   Acts 24:15 records Paul instructing that both the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected and judged. 

       Acts 24:15: I (Paul) have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.      

       Jesus taught the same thing by His reference to the judgment of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh (Matthew 10:15, 11:22 & 24, and 12:41).  These are all people who had died but are seen as being resurrected to face a judgment.

       Matthew 10:15: I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

       Matthew 12:41: The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.

       Matthew 11:22: But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

       Matthew 11:24: But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

        In Luke 11:31, Jesus is quoting as saying "The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here." As can be seen, Jesus definitely taught that those who had died in past centuries would be resurrected and face a judgment.  John records Jesus as teaching that “the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

       It is recorded by Matthew that Jesus said “men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). 

       At the end of Ecclesiastes 12:5, after speaking of the human aging process, the writer says "Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets."  This appears to be a very distinct "life after death" statement.  Furthermore, the writer concludes chapter 12 by saying "For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (12:14).

       As can be seen, the writer speaks of man, upon physical death, going to his eternal home. While the nature of such home is not defined, it is spoken of as an eternal home.  In connection with going to this eternal home is a judgment of the things done while in the flesh whether good or evil.

       Paul wrote in a letter to Timothy that Christ Jesus "will judge the living and the dead" (2nd Timothy 4:1).   Paul wrote to the Romans that “we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: As surely as I live,' says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10b-12). 

       Paul wrote the Corinthians that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2nd Corinthians 5:10). In Ephesians 6:8, Paul writes that slaves should obey their earthly masters just as they would obey Christ because “the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he has done whether he is slave or free.”

       The writer to the Hebrews wrote that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

       In Revelation 20:11-12, John speaks of seeing a great white throne and the dead standing before this throne. John sees books opened including the book of life and the dead are seen as being judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 

       Revelation 20:12: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

       In Daniel 12:2 it is recorded that “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."  Here, as in Revelation 20, a book is spoken of wherein are the names of those who will be delivered from a great distress that will come upon the earth (12:1).  This appears to be the same distress spoken of in the Revelation and much of the New Testament (NT).

       In reading through the entire NT narrative and several Old Testament (OT) passages as well, it becomes clear that resurrection to life and subsequent judgment of humans is an established occurrence.  Having life restored after biologically dying is not an option. It is a guaranteed event for all humanity. 

       This being said, resurrection and judgment is seen in the NT Scriptures as occurring in association with the return of Christ. The NT Scriptures reveal that the return of Christ occurs in association with the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem in AD 70 (See my 18 part series “When Does Christ Return”).  Therefore, the resurrection and judgment would appear to be a fulfilled, past event.

Resurrection and judgment after AD 70:

       While it is apparent that Jesus, Paul, John, Peter and other NT teachers all saw resurrection and judgment as occurring at the time of the return of Christ within their generation, there are NT statements that appear to show that resurrection and judgment is a continuing process beyond the resurrection and judgment that occurred in association with the AD 70 event.  

       We read in Hebrews that “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”  The writer appears to be using “man” in an all inclusive sense. It appears the writer is saying all of humanity, past, present and future die and after death will face judgment. Paul says something similar.

       1st Corinthians 15:21-22: For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

       Paul instructs that all die in Adam. It would appear reasonable to conclude that Paul is speaking of all humans and not only those living to the time of the resurrection and judgment of AD 70.  Dying in Adam is to experience death because of sin. Sin is common to all humans. Therefore, when Paul says all die in Adam, it should be apparent he means all humans who have ever been born and who will be born.

       Paul contrasts all dying in Adam with all being made alive in Christ. There is no reason to believe Paul changed the meaning of “all” in mid sentence.  If indeed all humanity dies in Adam, then all humanity is made alive in Christ.  Some argue that when Paul says “in Christ all will be made alive” he is actually saying “all in Christ will be made alive.” It is believed he is saying only those who have placed faith in Christ are made alive as it is only these folks who are seen as being in Christ.  It is argued that this must be the case because Paul, in speaking of the resurrection, says in verse 23 that when Christ comes, those who belong to him will be made alive.  

       1 Corinthians 15:23: But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

       However, Paul plainly says “in Christ all will be made alive” in contrast to all dying in Adam. He doesn’t say that only some that die in Adam will be made alive in Christ. While the overall context of 1st Corinthians 15 is resurrection at the anticipated return of Christ in Paul’s generation, it is plain from the Scriptures already discussed that all humans die and after death face a resurrection to judgment.

       Therefore, when Paul says “since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man” and follows this up by saying “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive," it should be evident Paul is talking about all humanity and not just those who live and die up to the anticipated return of Christ in Paul’s generation. The context here is clearly all humanity dying in Adam and all humanity being made alive in Christ. Paul makes this abundantly clear in Romans 5:18.     

       Romans 5:18:  Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

       In this passage Paul is essentially saying the same thing he said to the Corinthians. All die in Adam and all are made alive in Christ.  However, here he reveals how in Christ all are made alive. All are made alive in Christ because through the righteous act of Christ dying on the cross, humans are justified. Paul wrote in Romans 4:25 that Christ “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  To be justified is to have the eternal death penalty for sin forgiven and removed which leads to the granting of eternal life.  Salvation is all about having eternal death replaced by eternal life.

       It should be apparent from the foregoing discussion that because Christ was resurrected from the dead, all humans will experience resurrection from the dead. The question before us is what kind of life will this be?  Are some made alive to a temporal existence and upon being judged are either granted eternal life or are annihilated? Or, are all humans raised to eternal life and upon being judged some are sent into punishment while others are received into glory? Is it possible all humans are granted eternal life and received into glory upon biological death? This brings us to a discussion of universal salvation.

Scriptural support for universal salvation:

       Scripture shows humans are reconciled to God through the death of His Son and humans are saved through the life of His Son. The death of Jesus reconciles us to God in that it removes the sin that prevented us from having a relationship with God. We are justified before God by the shed blood of Jesus. This justification removes the eternal death penalty for sin and allows for the granting of eternal life through the resurrected life of Jesus. Scripture shows this process was meant to apply to all of humanity.

       Romans 5:8-10: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

       2nd Corinthians 5:18: All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

       Colossians 1:21-22:  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.     

       To Timothy, Paul wrote the following:

       1st Timothy 2:3-6: This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.

       This passage is very instructive.  In God saying He wants all men to be saved, is God just wishing and hoping that all men are saved or is He saying something much more emphatic?   The Greek word rendered "wants" is θέλει (thelei). This word is used by NT writers 209 times and can be seen by context to over and over again relate to something actually happening and not just somebody hoping, wishing or wanting something to happen.  Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines this word as "to will, have in mind, intend, to be resolved or determined, to purpose."  The KJV renders 1st Timothy 2:4 as Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

       Paul writes that God “wants/will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” What "truth" is Paul is speaking of?  Paul appears to define the truth he is speaking of with his next statement. The truth is "that there is one God and one mediator between that one God and men, man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for all men." The truth is that Jesus is the Savior of all men.

       God is sovereign and whatever He wants He gets. It would appear that God is more than hoping and wishing that all men be saved. It is his will, purpose and intention that all men be saved.  John wrote that "the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world" (1st John 4:14). John the Baptist said of Jesus "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29b). Jesus told Nicodemus that "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17). Jesus said “But I, (Jesus) when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32).

       Paul wrote to Timothy that Jesus "has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2nd Timothy 1:10). Has Jesus destroyed death for only a comparatively few of the multiple billions of humans who have lived and died and are living and dying?  How could that possibly be the case in view of the many Scriptures that indicate Jesus died for the sins of the world and it is God’s will that all men be saved?

       Paul wrote that "God, is the Savior of all men" (1st Timothy 4:10). Apostle John wrote to his first century audience that “He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).

       To the Romans Paul wrote: "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all" (Romans 11:32). All men are said to be bound over to disobedience but God will have mercy on all men. It would appear that for God to have mercy on all men equates with all men being delivered from the consequence of sinful behavior which is eternal death.

       Paul is here again reiterating the fact that though all humans sin and therefore die in Adam, all humans receive God’s mercy which is to say all humans have their sins forgiven and are thus made alive in Christ. 

       To Titus Paul wrote; “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4-5).

       To the Ephesians Paul wrote: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins...But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:1a and 2:4-5).

       To both Titus and the Ephesians, Paul instructs that it is because of God’s mercy that we are saved and made alive through the Christ event. This is consistent with Paul saying "the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).  As can be seen, it is the mercy of God that is the key to human salvation.  Being delivered from eternal death is all about the mercy of God.  Is God’s mercy limited to just a relatively few of the multiple billions of humans God has allowed to live and die or is it extended to all of humanity?  The passages of Scripture we have thus far reviewed teach us that God’s mercy is an inclusive mercy.  It applies to all humans.

       Some argue that God’s mercy does indeed apply to all humans and therefore the death penalty for sin is indeed forgiven for all because of the Christ event.  However, it is believed that in order for that mercy to facilitate our salvation, we must respond to that mercy by expressing faith in Christ and repentance toward God.  These are seen as two conditions humans must meet in order for God’s mercy to be efficacious. Others argue that God’s mercy is limited to those He predestinates to receive His mercy and the salvation that comes with it.  I will deal with these arguments in part two of this series.

       At one point during His ministry, Jesus spoke of how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. His disciples were taken aback by this and asked how it is possible for anyone to the saved. Here is Jesus’ answer.

      Matthew 19:26: Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

       There are OT passages that teach that all humans will be blessed. In Genesis 12:3 God is recorded as telling Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Abraham).  In Genesis 22:18 God tells Abraham that "through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed."  What does it mean to be blessed through Abraham?

       It is apparent from Scripture that Jesus, as the offspring of Abraham, is the vehicle through whom all peoples and nations will be blessed. Such blessing is Jesus' sacrificial atonement which allows for the blessing of forgiveness of the death penalty for sin and the granting of eternal life.  To be blessed through Abraham is to be given eternal life though the descendant of Abraham, namely our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. The indication is that this blessing is for all people.

       Paul told Timothy that Christ Jesus destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2nd Timothy 1:10). Did Jesus destroy death only for some humans or did He destroy death for all humans?  Did Jesus bring life and immortality to light only for some humans but not all?  We have already seen that all humans who have ever lived are to face a judgment subsequent to physical/biological death. This means that all humans are made alive subsequent to having died.  Is this being made alive a temporal making alive or is it an eternal (immortal) making alive?

       Since Scripture reveals that Jesus has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light, it would seem to follow that to be made alive in Christ is to be made alive forever (immortal life). In Revelation 1:18 Jesus is quoted as saying, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” Paul wrote "since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him" (Romans 6:10). If we are to be made alive as Christ was made alive, then Paul saying “in Christ all will be made alive” (1st Corinthians 15: 22) appears to mean all humans are made eternally alive which is to say salvation is universal. All humans are delivered from the eternal death penalty for sin and granted eternal life. Salvation is to be released from the penalty of eternal death due to sin.

         If all humans are saved from eternal death, for what purpose are all humans judged? Paul said “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2nd Corinthians 5:10). While this was said within the context of Paul expecting such judgment to occur at the anticipated first century return of Christ, as covered earlier, judgment appears to apply to all of humanity subsequent to biological death.

       If indeed all of humanity is saved in that all humanity has their eternal sin death atoned for by the Christ event, for what purpose are all humans judged?  It can’t be for the purpose of determining whether one is granted eternal life since that is a given due to God’s mercy expressed in and through the Christ event. 

The purpose for judgment:

       It is apparent that judgment is for the purpose of determining the level of reward and/or punishment for ones behavior while in the flesh.  We see this in the judgment passages we have already covered. Jesus taught that in the judgment it would be more tolerable for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh than for people living in His day. Jesus said the Queen of the South will rise at the judgment and condemn the men of the generation Jesus was addressing. What did Jesus mean by these statements?

       As covered above, Paul wrote the Corinthians that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2nd Corinthians 5:10). In Ephesians 6:8, Paul writes that slaves should obey their earthly masters just as they would obey Christ because “the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he has done whether he is slave or free.”

       Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done" (Matthew 16:27). While this rewarding occurred at the time of Christ’s first century return, it is apparent from the other judgment passages we have reviewed that reward (or the lack thereof) is an ongoing dynamic associated with judgment after biological death.

       Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).  We also see in Luke Jesus speaking of being rewarded at the resurrection of the righteous.

       Luke 14:12-14: Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

       When Jesus was asked by the rich man what he could do to be perfect, Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor and he would have treasure in heaven.  Here again we see reward being given in the afterlife for things done while in the flesh.  Paul indicated the same thing to Timothy.

       Matthew 19:21: Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

       1st Timothy 6:18-19: Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

       Jeremiah quotes God as saying "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve" (Jeremiah 17:10).

       In addressing the Corinthian Christians, Paul strongly indicates that while their salvation was secured in Christ, their reward in the after life depended on their behavior while in the flesh.

       1st Corinthians 3:11-15 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 

       This teaching by Paul is very instructive. It reveals that even if one screws up in life and doesn’t behave as righteously as desired by God, such person is still saved.  Our success or failure at living righteously does not determine our salvation. Salvation is guaranteed through the Christ event. Salvation is granted to us humans because of the grace and mercy of God, not because of anything we do or don’t do.    

       Romans 6:23-24: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

       Ephesians 2:4-5: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.

       Titus 2:11: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

       Salvation results from the grace and mercy of God.  There is, however, reward or lack thereof associated with salvation. Such reward or lack thereof will vary according to our works.  The judgment passages in Scripture indicate everyone will be resurrected and judged as to their conduct while they were in the flesh and be rewarded or not rewarded commensurate with what they did while in the flesh.

       Some believe that when Paul says that “in Christ all will be made alive,” the wicked are resurrected to a temporal life in order to be judged and then annihilated.  This position is problematic in that it is tantamount to saying the wicked will ultimately be made dead in Christ. The whole force of the Gospel message is that Jesus has defeated death and brought immortality to light. Life reigns in Christ, not death.

       Humans being annihilated after resurrection to life would necessitate a resurrection to temporal life.  All indications are that resurrection to life is resurrection to eternal life. The granting of eternal life is based on the forgiveness of the eternal death penalty for sin. Scripture shows the sins of all humanity are forgiven due to God’s mercy expressed through the Christ event.  

       While salvation is seen as deliverance from the penalty of eternal death due to sin, salvation does not necessarily mean deliverance from all penalty or punishment for sin. The fact that all humans will be judged as to how they conducted themselves while in the flesh tells us that while the sacrifice of Christ delivers us humans from the penalty of eternal death, it doesn't deliver us from all consequences of our behavior while in the flesh. 

       Under the Old Covenant, the penalty for adultery and murder was death. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged to have her husband Uriah killed. David should have been put to death for his behavior. However, Scripture shows that David deeply repented of his sin and wasn’t put to death.  God forgave David for his sinful behavior. However, there were consequences to be paid for David’s sinful behavior.

       2 Samuel 12:13-14: Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die."

      The Christ event has delivered the entire human race from eternal death. However, in the afterlife, while there will be reward for the good things done while in the flesh, there may well be punishment for the bad things done while in the flesh. It appears reward and punishment will be commensurate with how we behaved while in the flesh. 

       This being said, I see no Scriptural reason to believe that any punishment administered in the afterlife will be eternal in nature. The whole concept of eternal conscious torment is rather ludicrous. Compared to eternity, our physical sojourn on this earth is less than a drop in a bucket. To postulate humans are to be punished for eternity (trillions upon trillions of years) for sins committed during this infinitesimally short physical life span is to postulate extreme injustice. This would be the most extreme example of the punishment not fitting the crime. This would virtually negate the Scriptural identification of God as a just and merciful God.

       We presently have 7.5 billion people living on planet earth. Multiple billions more have lived and died in the past. The great majority of humans who have lived and died did not come to know the salvation message. Of the 7.5 billion humans presently inhabiting planet earth, only a very small fraction of that number will come to understand the Gospel message and even less will embrace it.

       As of this writing, more than 3.2 billion people live in what is called the 10/40 window.  This is an area which lies across Africa and Asia from 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees latitude north of the equator. Missionary groups have determined that ninety-five percent of people living in the 10/40 Window have not heard the Gospel message and will probably go to their graves not having heard the Gospel message.  It should be evident that the vast majority of humans past, present and future live and die never learning about salvation through the Christ event.

       What is the status of the multiple billions of people who have lived and died never knowing the pathway to salvation? Are all these folk's dead forever?  Worse yet, are they consigned to a place of eternal torment because they didn't acknowledge Jesus as their Savior and in most cases didn’t have the opportunity to do so?   The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus died for the sins of the world and that it is the will of God that all be saved.  It appears to be counterintuitive to conclude that the vast majority of humans who have ever lived and will live will have little or no opportunity for salvation.

       It should be evident from the Scriptures that the Christ event took place in order to facilitate salvation for all humans.  If only an infinitesimal number of humans are saved, it makes a virtual sham of the Gospel message.  The scope of salvation taught in Scripture virtually demands all humans are at least presented with the opportunity for salvation.

       From the beginning, God created humans with the ability to sin and He knew that sin they would.  God determined the penalty for sin is eternal death. God also facilitated a way out from under that penalty. From the beginning, God initiated a plan to have this death penalty removed and that plan was facilitated in and through Christ Jesus, the anointed Savior. 

       The Scriptures show all will be made alive in Christ. The Scriptures also show all will be judged according to what was done while in the flesh. This is not a judgment to determine the granting of eternal life.  Eternal life is a given for everyone because of the Christ event. Judgment appears to be for the purpose of determining placement in the eternal realm.  Let’s look at what Paul wrote about every knee bowing to Christ and what Isaiah wrote about every knee bowing to God.

       Philippians 2:9-11: Therefore God exalted him (Jesus) to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess (Greek: ἐξομολογέω (exomologeó) that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

       Some believe that those who reject Christ and refuse to willingly submit to the Father will be forced to kneel before Christ and the Father just before being consigned to eternal punishing or, as some believe, annihilation. Is the kneeling before God and Christ a forced kneeling?  How could such a forced confession honor Jesus or be to the glory of God the Father?  It is much more in line with the Scriptures to conclude this will be a voluntary act on the part of all humanity who will have come to love the Father and the Son and embrace their offer of grace. To confess Jesus is Lord is to repent of sin and acknowledge faith in what He did to facilitate our salvation. It is to acknowledge and commit to God's way as being the only way to live.  More on this in Part Three of this series.

       If indeed all of humanity will confess Jesus is Lord, it would follow that all of humanity is granted salvation.  The Greek word that is translated “confess” in Philippians 2:11 (ἐξομολογέω (exomologeó) is defined in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon to mean professing freely, openly and joyfully. The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Greek Lexicon shows this word is used to express praise and honor. Strong's Lexicon defines it as "to acknowledge or (by implication, of assent) agree fully -- confess, profess, promise." It would appear that all humans will at some point make this confession and it will be a voluntary confession. 

       Isaiah 45:23-25:  By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, `In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.'" All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult. 

       Isaiah quotes God as saying all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exalt God. Paul wrote that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26). Here are some additional Scriptures which speak to universal acknowledgement of God.

         Psalm 22:27-29:  All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him-- those who cannot keep themselves alive.

        Psalm 86:9: All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.       

       Those who place faith in Christ in this physical life have already made the confession that Jesus is Lord.  However, the vast majority of humans who have lived and died and are living and dying have not and do not made that confession before death. The vast majority of humans who live and die don’t meet what are believed to be Scriptural requirements of repentance before God and faith in Christ as a condition of being granted salvation. 

      Yet Scripture teaches that every knee will bow before God. All humans will confess to God.  All humans will have to give an account of themselves to God.  When does this occur?  It certainly doesn’t occur for most humans during their physical sojourn on planet earth. This being the case, it would appear that it will be after biological death that this will occur. It would appear that it will occur at a  time of judgment when all humans appear before the judgment seat of Christ. It would appear this is when humans who did not acknowledged God or did not have the opportunity to do so while in the flesh, will come to acknowledge God and acknowledge Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord.

       Romans 14:11-12: It is written: "`As surely as I live,' says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess (Greek: ἐξομολογέω (exomologeó) to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

       Matthew 22:30-32:  At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead--have you not read what God said to you, `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

       Luke 20:37-38: But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord `the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."

Summary of Part One:

       The Scriptures teach that all humans will face judgment as to things done while in the flesh.  All humans will give an account of themselves before God. This fact assumes an afterlife for all humans. It assumes a restoration to, or continuation of, life beyond biological death. Staying dead is not an option.

       As already discussed, Scripture teaches there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked (John 5:28-30, Acts 24:15, Daniel 12:2). Scripture teaches that all humans will be judged subsequent to physical death (Matthew 10:15, 11:22, 12:36, 12:41, Luke 11:31, Romans 14:10-12, 2nd Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 9:27). This requires that all humans who have biologically died in the past and will die in the future will be restored to life. Paul teaches that in Adam all die but in Christ all are made alive (1st Corinthians 15:22, Romans 5:18). 

       Since Christ was resurrected to eternal life, it would appear that to be made alive in Christ is to be given eternal life as is true of Christ.  Many Scriptures we have reviewed point to it being the purpose of God to forgive the eternal death penalty for all humans which is to facilitate eternal life for all humans. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that God made us for the very purpose of having mortality replaced with life (see 2nd Corinthians 5:4-5).

       Judgment after biological death appears to be for the sole purpose of determining reward or lack thereof for things done while in the flesh. The very fact we will be held accountable for our behavior while in the flesh should tell us there will be determinations made as to the consequences of our behavior while in the flesh. 

       While salvation is deliverance from the penalty of eternal death due to sin, salvation does not appear to mean deliverance from all penalty or punishment for sin. Salvation does not appear to be synonymous with deliverance from punishment.  Salvation has only to do with deliverance from eternal death. 

       The fact that all humans will be judged as to how they conducted themselves while in the flesh tells us there will be a determination made in the afterlife as to the consequences of our behavior.  Judgment is all about reward and/or punishment.  Judgment would have no apparent purpose if not to establish consequences for behavior, good or bad.

       Some will point to Scriptures that indicate God does not hold our sins against us and since this is the case, how can we be judged for the bad things (sinful things) we did while in the flesh? In speaking of the new covenant God would establish with Israel it is said that God would “forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Hebrews 8:12) and "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17).

       In Romans 4 Paul quotes David in saying how blessed a man is in that God credits righteousness to man apart from works and covers the sins of man and will not count mans against him (Romans 4:6-8). In Psalm 103:12, David speaks of God removing transgressions “as far as the east is from the west.”

       Paul clearly taught that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2nd Corinthians 5:10). Since this is the case, it is apparent that when the Scriptures speak of God not remembering our sins, it is that God does not remember our sin in that He forgives the death penalty for sin. We appear righteous before God because of what Jesus did on our behalf. This allows us to appear before God as though we never sinned, thus facilitating reconciliation with God resulting in the granting of eternal life.   

       While it is apparent all humans are saved from the eternal death penalty for sin because of the mercy and grace of God expressed and facilitated through the Christ event, it is equally apparent all humans will be rewarded and/or punished proportionate to how they conducted themselves while in the flesh.

       This being the case, it may be misguided on the part of the Christian community to “get people saved.” It may be more appropriate to teach that we are saved because of God’s mercy and that because we are saved, God expects us to live righteously.

       2nd Corinthians 5:14-15: For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 

       Christ died for all so all could be delivered from the eternal death sin produces. Having the eternal death penalty removed comes with the expectation of living by the standards of righteous behavior outlined in Scripture.  Therefore, it may be more fitting to not have altar calls to be saved but to dedicate one's life to righteousness because we are saved. It may be more appropriate to teach that our place in the afterlife will be determined on the basis of how we conduct ourselves in this life.

       Paul wrote that God “has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2nd Timothy 1:9).

       Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.   For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

       Here we clearly see that God has saved us not because of anything we do but because of His own purpose and grace.  However, our salvation comes with the expectation of living a holy life and doing good works. To the extent we do or fail to do good works will apparently be the extent to which we gain or lose reward in the judgment. 

       In Part Two of this series we will begin to look at objections to universal salvation.

PART TWO