The Fallacious Doctrine Of Universalism (Universal Salvation)
Universalism is a theological term for the belief that every person will have salvation. Of the proponents who embrace this fallacious doctrine of Universalism, one of the best known and esteemed was Scottish William Barclay, the author of the New Testament commentaries — The Daily Study Bible Series. Another well-known person from the past was the so-called church father Origen, who ridiculously thought some would go to heaven via hell. (Origen embraced other false doctrines as well. This also proves that the so-called church fathers held to some false doctrines.) In our day, Gary Amirault is an outspoken and vocal proponent of Universalism.
Though it was many years ago, I still remember one of the first universalists I ever conversed with. That woman was very unacquainted with some of the same Scriptures that are mentioned in this study. Just like many others, she apparently was only aware of a few verses of Scripture (that were misused) upon which she based her Universalism belief upon.
Briefly stated are some (but not all) of the reasons why universalism should be flatly rejected. Toward the end of this teaching, I will touch on the primary proof texts mishandled by the proponents of such.
Depart From Me
1. History before it happens is found all throughout the Scriptures. One such relevant verse is what the Lord said he will say to some people:Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fireprepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41).
Jesus could not have been more clear in stating that some people will end up in eternal fire. This should be enough to refute universalism, but there are many other proofs as well:Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matt. 25:46).Though disturbing such people have the opposite of salvation. They clearly will not enter God's paradise kingdom, which he prepared for those who love him (the righteous),1 Cor. 2:9; James 2:5.
This Is Why The Texts For Universalism Have ALL Been MISUSED
2. Revelation chapter 20 is one of the most stirring chapters in the Bible. In it we read:
Tormented Day and Night For Ever and EverAnd the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
Since the beast and the false prophet are real people, it is apparent there is no salvation for them since they are with the devil to be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Again, it is evident that universalism is fatally flawed, but there is much more Biblical evidence.
3. By the ultimate authority himself, the precious Lord Jesus, we have the following:
The Fiery FurnaceThis is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:49, 50).
Jesus declared that the wicked will be thrown into the fiery furnace and there experience weeping and gnashing of teeth. The wicked are also shown to have a different fate from the righteous. Every person will not, in the end, have salvation.
Hell Warnings Destroy Universalism
4. Jesus often warned people of hell. If they could never go there, such warnings would be misplaced and would adversely reflect upon the Lord. Some of those hell warnings were directed at those who were following Jesus at that moment of time. Besides Mt. 10:28 and others, we have the following:If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Matt. 18:9).
The fact that the Lord warned the disciples (his spiritual family) of hell because of wickedness implies there is no truth to the teaching of eternal security (also known as the perseverance of the saints). If that doctrine was true, then it would be impossible for the disciples of Christ to be thrown into the fires of hell over sin. We know that is possible because Jesus gave a true warning to them. Hence, it is a real possibility. Again we have Scriptural evidence that there is no such thing as salvation for everyone (or Universalism).
There Was No Universalism For Judas Iscariot
5. Even though the Apostle Judas Iscariot once was a disciple (Mt. 10:1-4) he later became a thief and betrayed Jesus. After he did such a wicked thing, he repented (Mt. 27:3), but still committed self-murder. The Bible informs us that Judas Iscariot died spiritually lost, even though he was an Apostle holding the highest office in the church along with the other Twelve:While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled (John 17:12).The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born (Mark 14:21).Judas was the exception to the rest of the disciples—he became lost and died in his sins. Hence, there was no universalism (or eternal security) for him either.
When Jesus Returns
6. Will everyone have universal salvation when Jesus comes back to earth? The answer is a clear and unquestionable no. Besides Mt. 13: 49, 50 which was already cited, notice what Paul wrote:He [Jesus] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed (2 Thess. 1:8-10).According to that passage, those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus will be punished with everlasting destruction. This is painfully clear.
Enemies Of God
7. Raging fire will consume the enemies of God (Heb. 10:27). This pertains to those who were never Biblically saved as well as those who once had true salvation and afterwards became enemies of God by backsliding, as mentioned by James:You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4).
Those Outside The Gates
8. Repeatedly the Bible refers to the saved and the lost, even at the very end of the last book of Scripture:Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Rev. 22:14,15).
Notice there will be those that go through the gates into the city and another group that is outside the city. (Where outside the city is not shown there, but is in the aforementioned verses.) If we compare Scripture with Scripture, we can easily see that the ones thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur are described as committing the same types of sins:But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death (Rev. 21:8).
Many Will Go To Destruction
9. Jesus taught that most would be lost in the end and only the minority would be saved:Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matt. 7:13,14).In other words, there are two groups of people and two eternal destinies. Everyone will not enter God's paradise kingdom. To be more precise, only the minority will enter.
Not All Are Doing God's Will
10. To be one of the few to enter God's kingdom, Jesus said you would have to do the following:Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matt. 7:21).
Since many have been deceived by false teachers and false prophets and therefore don't even know what God's will is, they certainly can't be doing it as is necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven. That same verse says there will be those that will not enter God's kingdom. Jesus unequivocally taught contrary to universalism.
Resurrection to Damnation Can't Be Universalism
11. Another time that Jesus showed the truth of God to be the antithesis of universalism is at John 5:28,29:Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:28,29).
Jesus taught there will be a resurrection to life (for the righteous) and one to condemnation (for the wicked). Paul taught similarly:I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man (Acts 24:15,16).
Paul repeated that concept in the following passage about salvation:To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism (Rom. 2:7-11).
Not everyone will receive glory, honor and peace after they die. That is only for those who persist in doing good, according to true grace teaching. All others will experience God's wrath and anger. Christians must sow to please the Spirit of God to reap eternal life:The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal 6:8,9).
12. Jude was straight to the point about the destiny of the Sodomites God killed in Abraham's day. Like the aforementioned, there was no universal salvation (or Universalism) for them either:
SUFFER The Punishment of Eternal FireIn a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)
It is impossible to force out a Universalism interpretation from that!
Misused Texts Cited For Universalism
One of the most commonly misused passages cited for support of universalism is:This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe (1 Tim. 4:9,10).
It is argued by proponents of Universalism that Jesus is the savior of all men. Hence, all will be saved and universalism is (supposedly) true. The problem for the proponents of Universalism is that the rest of this passage says especially of those who believe. In other words, even though Jesus died for all people that would ever live, as stated elsewhere (1 John 2:2), he is only the savior of all who would become true believers in the Lord Jesus. Jesus' death on the cross was enough redemption-wise for all people to find salvation, but only those who follow Jesus will benefit with personal salvation by his infinite death. There is nothing in 1 Tim. 4:10, or elsewhere in Scripture, to justify a belief in universalism, which is so explicitly refuted in many other passages.
Another passage universalists mishandle is John 12:32:But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself (John 12:32).
Jesus spoke that to show the kind of death he was going to die (John 12:33). Hence, Jesus' draws all people to himself for salvation, even those who will choose to reject him and perish. A corroborating passage is found in 2 Peter:The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (3:9).
That passage not only proves a person must repent (turn from wickedness) to be saved, but it also declares that God wants all people to be saved. See also 1 Tim. 2:4. Since other verses reveal that many will not be saved, then we know man's will can override God's will for the individual. Hence, John 12:32 shows Jesus draws all people to himself—not that all will enter God's kingdom. (That passage also refutes Calvinism by showing no one is predestined to go to hell.)
In Romans, Paul wrote:For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Rom. 11:32).
God's will is to have mercy on all people and forgive them, but some people can and do refuse to repent to find salvation and receive God's mercy. One such example is also found in Romans:But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed (Rom. 2:5).
Elsewhere the same is evident:Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? (Hosea 11:5).They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thess. 2:10).O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing (Matt. 23:37).
Another passage that has been misunderstood in support of universalism is this one:For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22).
Salvation is only found in the Lord Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; etc.). We must first get in him, but many refuse to repent and love the truth and therefore remain on the road to hell. Others find salvation (get in Christ), then later go back as a dog returns to its vomit (2 Peter 2:20-22). They too are on the road to hell and will go there unless they turn back to God as the prodigal did (Luke 15:24,32). (King David turned back to God after backsliding, but King Solomon never did.)
While God loves all people, even the unsaved (John 3:16; Mark 10:21; etc.), he will still send the spiritually dead to the fiery lake of burning sulfur because of their sins. Hence, again there is no Universalism! Ponder the following facts about God's righteousness and justice:On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face (Psa. 11:6,7).
God is not just a loving and merciful God. He has other attributes such as being righteous and just. These will cause the wicked to be punished with fire beyond the grave.
If You Perish It Will Be Your Own Fault
Dear reader, if you go to hell it will be your own fault! God wants you to spend eternity with him, but he will not force you to love him (obey him). It is your choice to submit to the Lord Jesus or not, but it is also your eternity. There is no universalism, nor is there eternal security. We must get Biblically saved and stay saved to avoid hell, which does not always happen (Mt. 10:22; Heb. 3:14; Rev. 2:10,11).
The twelfth reason why I reject Universalism is the misuse of the above proof texts and shallow arguments advanced for a belief in such. In other words, there are no solid reasons to believe in it. Most people will go to hell, even though God would prefer to have it otherwise. If you have been taught Universalism, please renounce that theology for your own good. Based on the Biblical truths presented here, Universalism is antithetical to Scripture and is spiritually DANGEROUS. God bless you.
[Bible Answer] You are right about the contents of 1 Tim. 4:10 coming from Paul, but its message doesn't really reinforce Universalism (Universal Salvation). Please know you must examine all verses on any given subject and find a parallel message supported by each to assure accuracy and TRUTH.
Response To a Proponent of Universalism
You must have never read much of the New Testament, since there are dozens of scriptures which show people will be thrown into eternal fire. In fact, many are there NOW, based on scripture:"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." (Jude 1:7)You don't see any Universalism in that do you? (Neither does anyone else.) Also, we read this in Mt. 25:41:Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' (Mat 25:41)Again, there is NOT a hint of universalism there. Many other verses reveal the same. Hence, 1 Tim. 4:10 must be understood in light of them all. That verse means, in light of all others, that Jesus died for all of mankind and is the POTENTIAL SAVIOR OF ALL, but in actuality only the savior of those who believe on Jesus. See also John 3:18; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 6:8,9; etc. You wrote sinners are outside the gate. That very verse counters Universal Salvation! Please note that verse and the verse before:"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." (Rev 22:14,15)One is either OUTSIDE THE GATES or has ENTERED THROUGH THE GATES, according to those verses. To be outside the gates is to be with people who died in their sins described as those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, etc. Rev. 21:8 explicitly shows their place (OUTSIDE THE GATE) is in the lake of fire! Please carefull compare Rev. 21:8 to Rev. 22:15. Again, there is no Universalism. Most important is the issue of personal salvation, since salvation is not universal or automatic, as you have been taught. You must repent (turn from sins) and have a faith in the Lord Jesus, which will obey and even die for the Lord if necessary (Acts 20:21; Mt. 10:22; 10:33; etc.). IF you become a bible-defined Christian, you will be set free from your sin addictions and will serve God (Rom. 6:22)! Read about the Biblical salvation plan for more . Thanks for writing [about Universalism].
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