WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

 

                          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 of His mercy and grace.  God has facilitated this salvation through Jesus who paid  the death penalty for our 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, ascension and return.      

       All humanity is seen as dying in Christ and being made alive in Christ. Men’s sins are not counted against them because Christ took men’s sins upon himself. Therefore the penalty of eternal death for sin is paid for. It's a done deal. We become righteous before God because of what Christ did, not anything we do. We have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

       2nd Corinthians 5:14: “Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”  Verse 19a, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.”  Verse 21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

       Christ is seen as dying for all and therefore all dying. Christ’s death paid the death penalty for human sin. He did this by taking upon himself our sin and the death penalty that goes with it.  To die with Christ is to experience elimination of the death penalty for sin. Because Christ took our sin upon himself, we appear sinless before God. That is why God is seen as not counting men’s sins against them. Those sins are no longer there. The death of Christ took care of that. We are reconciled to God because before God we are no longer seen as sinners but as righteous. 

        Romans 6:8-12: Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

       2nd Corinthians 5:15: 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.

       Here Paul speaks of dying in Christ but adds that we will also live with Him. Since the death of Christ paid the death penalty for our sin, we are seen as alive before God through Christ’s resurrection from the dead. As discussed above, we are seen as righteous before God because Christ took our unrighteousness (sin) upon himself so that we could appear before God as righteous (cleansed from sin). This being the case, Paul exhorts the Romans and the Corinthians to live lives that reflect that new standing before God. Paul writes something similar to the Colossians.

       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.

       Paul telling the Colossians they have died parallels what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:14 where he writes “one (Christ) died for all, and therefore all died.”  In dying for all, Christ paid the eternal death penalty for all humans and in that respect all humans die with Christ. The Colossians are part of the greater all that died with Christ when Christ died for all.  

Universalism versus the standard Christian view:

       The standard view among many Christians is that upon biological death humans will either go to heaven or go to hell. This is tantamount to saying all humans are made alive after biological death which is the position held by Universalists. This being the case, the question that is asked is how do Universalists differ from “heaven or hell” Christians who don’t see themselves as Universalists and yet like Universalists believe in life after death for all humans?   

       The difference between these two groups is seen in how Universalists define eternal life and eternal death versus how “heaven or hell” Christians define eternal life and eternal death. Universalists see the Christ event facilitating eternal life in the presence of God for all humans which means separation from God due to sin is eliminated for all humans.  All humans are reconciled to God through the Christ event. The “heaven and hell” Christians see the Christ event facilitating eternal life in the presence of God only for those who become believers in Christ during their physical sojourn on planet earth. 

       Under the standard "heaven or hell" perspective, all those who fail to become believers during their physical sojourn on planet earth are seen as condemned to eternal death.  This eternal death is seen as eternal separation from the presence of God in a place of eternal punishment. Even though unbelievers are seen as alive in a place of conscious punishment, they are considered dead.  Death is defined as separation from God.  Some view this as spiritual death.

       Under the Universalist perspective, humans who do not come to acknowledge God and salvation through Christ Jesus while in the flesh, will do so after biological death. While there may be punishment for sins committed while in the flesh, such punishment is not seen as taking place in separation from the presence of God or is it seen as lasting for all eternity as is believed to be the case for unbelievers under the standard “heaven or hell” perspective.

       “Heaven or hell” Christians see belief in God and the Christ event as being possible only while in the flesh. This means only a small percentage of humans will receive salvation as opposed to multiple billions of humans who have lived and died never coming to believe in Christ. Under this view, the vast majority of humans will end up separated from God (eternal death) for all eternity in a place of eternal conscious punishment.

       Some believe the "unsaved" will simply be annihilated. They will be resurrected (have life restored) to face judgement and then will be destroyed forever.  Under the annihilationist perspective, the vast majority of humans who have lived and died and will live and die will be restored to life for no purpose other than to be condemned to eternal death because they failed to acknowledge Jesus as savior during their sojourn on planet earth or meet other supposed requirements for salvation.   

       Since the majority of humans have not come to believe in Christ during their time on planet earth, eternal punishment or annihilation is seen as the fate of most humans.

       Universalists find this to be an untenable position in view of the many Scriptures that  show God having mercy upon all of His human creation by facilitating removal of the death penalty for sin through the Christ event. The Christ event is seen as having facilitated reconciliation with God for all humans thus eliminating separation from God due to sin and eliminating the penalty of eternal death for sin. 

        With this introduction, let us now see 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. 

       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 referenced 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” (Greek krisis, John 5:28-29, ASV, RSV).  

       Is Jesus, in saying that those who have done good are resurrected to life, teaching salvation by works? Paul clearly taught that salvation is an unmerited gift of God. It comes about because of God's great love and mercy toward us. We are not given life (salvation) in exchange for our doing good. 

       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" (2 Timothy 1:9). 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 "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."

       The English word rendered “Judgment” In John 5 is a tense of the Greek word krisis. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines krisis as a separating, a trial, contest, selection, or judgment as in the giving of an opinion or decision concerning anything, especially concerning justice and injustice, right and wrong.”  This word appears 48 times in the NT. A related Greek word is krinó which appears 114 times In the NT and is defined by Thayer in a manner similar to krisis. Thayer defines krinó as “to separate, put asunder; to pick out, select, choose, to determine, resolve, decree” and other such meanings.      

       In John 5:28-29 it is to be noted that those who have done evil are resurrected to life just as those who have done good are resurrected to life.  As discussed above and below, subsequent to biological death all humans are judged as to what they did while in the flesh. The fact that some are seen as doing good and others are seen as doing evil shows that judgement has already occurred as to behavior while in the flesh. Jesus saying that doers of good are resurrected to life while doers of evil are resurrected to judgement may mean nothing more than the doers of good are judged to receive life with no punishment while the evil doers will face punishment commensurate with their earthly behavior. Both groups, however, are resurrected to life.

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

       The Greek word rendered “condemned” in Matthew 12:37 is καταδικάζω (katadikazo). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines this word as “to give judgment against (one), to pronounce guilty; to condemn.”  The Arndt/Gingrich Greek Lexicon simply defines it as condemnation. This word is used to show the giving of a penalty or punishment after a judgement has been made. Sometimes this word is incorrectly rendered “judgement” by translators while krisis and krino are incorrectly rendered “condemned.”  John 5:29 is an example of krisis being incorrectly rendered as condemned in some translations such as the NIV, NKJV and the NET.

       Jesus showed a distinction between krinó and katadikazo when He said, "Do not judge (krinó), and you will not be judged (krinó). Do not condemn (katadikazo), and you will not be condemned (katadikazo) (Luke 6:37).

       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. Being judged 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 which means all dead humanity is restored to life. Paul reveals where that death originated.

       1st Corinthians 15:21-22: For since death came through a man (Adam), the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (Christ).  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.  He uses the same Greek word to express all (πάντες [pantes]) dying in Adam and all being made alive in Christ.  The Greek word πάντες (pantes) is a tense of the Greek πᾶς, (pas), a word found 1,248 times in the Greek Scriptures and rendered into English mostly as "all." The basic meaning of this Greek word is all or any of a class denoted by the noun attached to it (See Thayer's Greek Lexicon). Its meaning in any given Scriptural passage is determined by the context in which it is found or in the greater context of Scripture as a whole.          

       For example, in the feeding of the 5000 it is recorded that “They all (pantes) ate and were satisfied” (Matthew 14:20). Obviously the “all” here refers to the 5000 that were fed.  It is in this context “all” is understood in this passage. We often see the Greek pas used in a general sense to designate an undetermined number of people. In Acts 4:21 we read that “all the people were praising God for what had happened.” Here the context shows “all the people” to be those who witnessed the healing of a crippled man.

       In Mark 1:5 it is stated that "The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River."  Here both the word "whole" and "all" are being used in a hyperbolic sense to show that many people came to see John the Baptist and not that every single individual in the Judean countryside and every single individual in Jerusalem came out to see John. John 8:2 speaks of Jesus coming to the temple and all the people came out to see Him. This is another example of "all" being used in a hyperbolic sense to signify that many people came to see Jesus. While "all" is frequently used in this manner in the Scriptures, it is also used in an all inclusive manner.  

       In Romans 3:23 it is recorded that “all (pantes) have sinned.” Who are the “all” in this case? Here the greater context of Scripture must be employed. The greater context of Scripture clearly shows all humans have sinned. In Romans 5:12 Paul writes that “just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” So when we see Paul saying in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned,” there is no reason to believe Paul means anything less than the same all who have sinned described in Romans 5:12.

       It is instructive that the teaching in Romans 3:23-24 parallels 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. To the Corinthians Paul wrote that all die in Adam and all are made alive in Christ. To the Romans Paul writes that all have sinned but are justified through the redemption that comes through Christ Jesus.  We know to be justified and redeemed is to have the death penalty for sin removed and replaced by eternal life which is to say made alive in Christ. 

       Romans 3:23-24: for all have sinned (die in Adam) and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified (same all) freely by his (God's) grace through the redemption (giving of life) that came by Christ Jesus (NIV).  The words “and are” are not in the Greek.  Most translations follow the word God with “Being justified.”

       After saying all have sinned, Paul goes on to say these same all who have sinned are justified freely by the grace of God and the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  The all who have sinned have not suddenly become the "some" who are justified by God's mercy. The same all who have sinned (all of humanity) and fallen short of the glory of God are the same “all” now justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus.

       We know from other Scripture that to be justified is to have one’s sins forgiven which results in having the eternal death penalty removed. Having the eternal death penalty removed results in the granting of eternal life. So here again the entire human race is in view relative to being saved.    

       In 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, the context is death coming through a man and restoration to life coming through a man. All humans dying in Adam is contrasted with all humans being made alive in Christ.  Dying in Adam is a basic tenet of Paul’s salvation theology. Being made alive in Christ is a basic tenet of Paul’s salvation theology.

       Paul sees human death as beginning with Adam and continuing throughout human history.  He sees that death replaced by life because of what Christ did. Paul is saying that because of what Jesus did, even though all of humanity dies in Adam, all of humanity is made alive in Christ.      

       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 (Adams sin) was condemnation (Greek: κατάκριμα (katakrima), damnatory sentence [Thayer’s]) for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness (the sacrifice of Christ) was justification that brings life for all men.

       Here again it should be obvious that “all” is being used in an all inclusive sense. 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. When he talks about the one trespass bringing condemnation to all men he is again saying all die in Adam.  When Paul says that through the one act of righteousness there is justification that brings life to all men he again is saying that all are made alive in Christ.      

       Paul is again making the contrast between all dying in Adam and all being 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.     

Is the "all" made alive in Christ a qualified "all"?

       Some argue that when Paul says “in Christ all will be made alive” he is actually saying “all in Christ will be made alive” and not that "in Christ all will be made alive." It is believed he is saying only those who are "in Christ" by having placed faith in Christ and repented of their sins are made alive as it is only these folks who are considered as being in Christ. It is argued that this must be the case because Paul, in speaking of the resurrection, says that when Christ comes, those "who belong to him" will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:23). Belonging to Him is seen as limiting or qualifying the “all” made alive in Christ to mean only those belonging to Christ are made alive in Christ 

       When Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:23 writes that people will be resurrected “each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him,” he is speaking of the sequence of resurrection that began with that of Christ and is followed by those that belong to him (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) at the time of His return which was anticipated to occur in Paul’s generation

       While Paul doesn’t address it in his letter to the Corinthians or Thessalonians, it is apparent this resurrection also included all those who had died to that point in history as suggested by Daniel 12:1-2, passages in the Revelation and the sayings of Jesus regarding judgement of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh (Matthew 10:15, 11:22 & 24, 12:41). It is at the time of the anticipated first century resurrection that all these folks are seen as being resurrected and judged. This resurrection and judgement is seen in Scripture as occurring at the return of Christ which is seen throughout the NT as anticipated to occur at the time of the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem which occurred around AD 70.  (See my series When Does Christ Return). 

       Therefore, Paul saying that when Christ comes those who belong to Him will be resurrected does not limit this resurrection to only these believers who had died since the resurrection of Christ or those believers who would be alive when He returned. Paul is simply making the statement that those who belong to him will be resurrected at that time. This statement doesn't preclude others from being resurrected as well and it has nothing to do with defining the "all" of 1 Corinthians 15:22.      

       The “who belong to him” of 1 Corinthians 15:23 does not define the “in Christ all will be made alive” of 15:22. The “in Christ all will be made alive” is defined by contrasting it with all dying in Adam. This is what Paul consistently taught as seen in the above discussion of Romans 3 and Romans 5.

       As is the case with seeing 1 Corinthians 15:23 qualifying the meaning of "all" in 15:22, some argue that Paul saying that "those who receive God's abundant provision of grace" in Romans 5:17 qualifies the meaning of all in Romans 5:18 where it is written that "so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."  

       Romans 5:17-18: For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.  Verse 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.

       It is argued that the first "all" in verse 18 means all men but the second "all" is qualified to mean only "those who receive God's abundant provision of grace" as seen in verse 17. This is a bogus argument as it is clear that the context of Romans 5 is all men dying in Adam and all men being made alive in Christ. Paul follows up his statement in Romans 5:18 by saying "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" (verse 19).

       Here we see Paul teaching that through Adam's sin many are made sinners while through Christ many are made righteous.  We know from our above discussion of 1st Corinthians 15:22  that all die in Adam as a result of sin. Paul's use of the word "many"  doesn't change the fact that all humans die in Adam. Neither does it change the fact all humans are made alive in Christ which is the theme of Paul's writing here in Romans 5 as it is in Romans 3, 1st Corinthians 15 and other of his writings.

       In Paul saying "how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ" he is simply saying that those receiving this grace and gift will reign in life through Christ.  As will be seen throughout this discussion, the Scriptures reveal that all humans are the recipients of God's abundant provision of grace and gift of righteousness through Christ. 

       Some argue that while God’s mercy does apply to all humans and therefore the death penalty for sin is indeed forgiven for all because of the Christ event, 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 predestines to receive His mercy and the salvation that comes with it while those not so predestined have no chance to be saved. More on the issue of predestination and salvation in Part Four of this series.  

       Some believe that the various repentance passages in the Scriptures give qualification to the meaning of “all” in passages that speak of all receiving salvation. It is argued that only those who repent are represented in the “all”

      This position is problematical because Scripture makes it clear that salvation is an unmerited gift of God.  We are not given salvation in exchange for our repentance. We are not given salvation in response to changed behavior. Christ did not die to provide salvation only to those who meet certain standards of conduct. Paul wrote that “Christ died for the ungodly and for those who “were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8). 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” (2 Timothy 1:9).   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).

       Paul wrote to the Romans that we have been freely justified through the grace of God through Christ (Romans 3:24). In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that God was reconciling the world to himself by not holding men's sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). There is not a hint in any of this that our salvation is based on our repentance. It is based on God having mercy on us despite our sinfulness.  

       It is apparent that it was the purpose of God from the beginning of time to bestow grace upon the human race in providing deliverance from the consequences of sin.  Salvation is seen as being provided independent of anything we do. The Scriptures make it clear that salvation is not given in response to our works.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians that  "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 2:4-5). Paul goes on to write that salvation is a gift of God and not of works (2:8-9).       

       While it is evident that our works of righteousness do not in any way earn us salvation, it is equally evident that the performance of righteous works is the expected response to God’s free gift of salvation. Paul followed up on his statement about salvation being a gift of God and not of works by saying;  "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).

       God expects and requires us to move from unrighteous behavior to righteous behavior. This is seen from Genesis to the Revelation. We are called to be holy as Paul wrote. While salvation is freely given to all humans and based on the love and mercy of God and Christ, all humans will be judged as to how holy they lived their lives while in the flesh.

       While all humans receive the free gift of salvation, all humans will also be judged as to how they lived their lives while in the flesh. For those who had knowledge of God’s written revelation as to how we are to behave, they will be judged according to how they responded to that revelation.

       For the multiple billions of people who have lived and died without access to God’s written revelation, they apparently will be judged based on how they responded to that revelation written in their hearts and conscience as indicated in Romans 2:14-16. In Romans 1 Paul points out that mankind is without excuse as to knowledge of the one true God. More on this in Part Five of this series.  

       In Part Two we will look at the Scriptural support for universal salvation.

PART TWO