Summary: What did Jesus have to say on the subject of "universalism"? Did He indicate that eventually everyone will be saved?
JESUS and UNIVERSALISM
Did the Son of God give us any reason to believe that all will be saved?
3. Jesus and Universalism? The sermon on the mount
The subject: Universalism.
One of the most brilliant lights that shines out of Scripture, once one begins to look for it, is the division between the righteous and the unrighteous. Perhaps this will be a good starting point for us as we begin to page through New Covenant Scripture to see if it suggests eternal punishment or an ultimate reconciliation. There is a "we" and there is a "they" in Scripture. Everywhere.
It starts as early as the Sermon on the Mount. They, some un-named evil people, will persecute the righteous. They did the same thing to the prophets of old, whoever they are.
Then there is talk of a kingdom of heaven. True, many will go there. Some will be called great. Some will be least. But there is a third category: those whose righteousness is so phony that they will not even enter the kingdom at all. I see no time restriction here. They simply will not enter. Period.
In this same classic message, the very fires of hell are offered to those who live in anger (Matthew 5:22), proving they have never had an experience with God.
This same gentle loving Jesus in the same sermon suggests, nay, states, that a person who is unwilling to be drastic against sin in his life shall be cast into hell.
Pretty awesome start. I've only covered one chapter and already the case for an eternity separated from God in a lake of fire looms as a very real possibility. The theme will be developed...
As the sermon continues, Jesus tells us that those who do not forgive will not be forgiven. Another blanket statement. Can the un-forgiven go to Jesus' heaven?
He then speaks of a narrow way and a broad way, returning to the we-they division. Very few people, relatively speaking, will find the way to life.
To a group of people who want to be reconciled in the day of judgment, based on the fact that they had been in the signs and wonders crowd, Jesus makes the awful pronouncement, "I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matthew 7:23)
Depart from Me. Sounds pretty final.
And lawlessness, another theme that strikes at the heart of many universalists: The idea that law is still among us, when they are crying out "grace." But lawless grace is no grace at all. The grace of God appears to make us repent from breaking the laws of God. The grace of God enters our beings and causes us to keep the laws of God. Lawless people know no grace at all, and in the end will be rejected.
We do not rejoice in this, but we must speak where Jesus has spoken.
So in His most famous message, our Jesus takes a hard line against sin and sinners. He sets the bar high, and opens the door wide to punishment after death. He divides the righteous from the unrighteous, and has all of us craving for His mercy and forgiveness. Or else.
No universalism here. No hidden promise that I could find, that somehow it will all turn out okay in the end. No reconciliation. No inclusion.
4. Jesus and Universalism? (2.) Of outer darkness, the gnashing of teeth, and the valley of Hinnom.
In all four Gospels, in at least twenty distinct passages, Jesus makes it clear that He believes in judgment, and in a class of people that will bear that judgment. The whole idea of hell and torment surfaces as a major theme of the Son of God. Obviously He wants us to know about this, and follow His example in warning others. Never did He try to soften the blow or ignore the subject.
Many of the punishment passages are in multiple Gospels. I will be following the Matthew account when there is a duplication, then add those few teachings that are unique to Mark, Luke, and John.
Are you ready? Let's continue our walk-through of the New Testament. We'll cover the first three passages this time around.
Matthew 8:11-12. Jesus has just healed the centurion's servant. He compares the faith of a Roman soldier to that of His people in the flesh, Israel. Israel comes up short in the comparison.
He then announces the tragic results of unbelief. Gentiles will actually enter the Kingdom of God while those for whom it was originally prepared will be thrown into an unspecified location in "outer darkness" where will be not only weeping, but the gnashing of teeth that can only happen when torment is horribly intense. Some have therefore surmised that the eternal destiny of the lost is on another planet. In this way a lake of fire is no contradiction to outer darkness. Regardless of where this takes place, the fact that it takes place at all should give pause to Universalist talk.