Summary: Yes, there are some troublesome verses on this subject. Let me deal with those first, and in another segment I'll talk of the plain teaching of this doctrine from cover to cover in your Bible.
2. SOME SERIOUS PROBLEMS and QUESTIONS ABOUT UNIVERSALISM
Why don't we do the hard part first, and then end with the pure statements of Scripture. Here are the questions that come immediately. And do I have all the answers? Please!
1. Why did God make a platypus?
So you think I'm being facetious? That I'm taking too lightly these ultra-serious matters? No, don't judge me that way. I imagine that the person who can answer this question about platypuses, (or is it platypi?) properly, is well on the way to understanding the heart of God.
Well, you've had time to think about it. Was this particular creation made because he knew that one day it would confound evolutionists?
Not a bad guess. But more to the point of our current discussion, my speculative answer is: Because He could. Because He wanted to. Because of purposes that I don't need to know.
Don't mean to cut you off or be cold here, but the fact is, there will be quite a few times in the coming discussions when we will throw up our hands and say just this.
Remember that, next time you see a platypus.
2. What about everyone's favorite verse, John 3:16?
You may be surprised to know that the seeming sentiments of this verse are not found all that often in the Scriptures. We have assumed that when Jesus said to Nicodemus that His Father loved the world, He meant every single member of the human race, past, present, future.
But by the time Jesus spoke these words, millions of people had already gone to their eternal destiny, justly, the abode of the damned, for having defied this God.
So not everyone.
The vast majority of the inhabited world of that time did not know of the coming of a Messiah who would take away sin. Huge amounts of people in every generation since Christ and even today do not have the opportunity of hearing of a Saviour. Though one day this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world, surely this is not the case today.
Have we considered this fact?
Is it not more sensible to assume that Jesus did not mean everyone here? Then whom?
Nicodemus was a Jew. When these words were spoken to him by another Jew, One Who claimed to be a teacher in Israel, it must have sounded strange. Since when is the God of Israel in love with an entire planet?
God so loved the world because He had chosen an uncountable (to us, not to Him!) number of Gentiles from it, a sweet smelling savour. Here He would live amongst His people forever.
God sent Jesus into the world to save the world, to set it straight, to make atonement for His friends, the ones who would believe in Him.
Isn't that what the text says?
In verses 14-15, we find that Jesus is going to be crucified, that believers will be saved. In 16, God loved the world so much that He gave Jesus to die, and believers will be saved. In 17-18, we learn that He is not sent to the world to condemn it: it was already condemned! He was sent to save believers (called elsewhere, the elect).
The Father gave Jesus that those who believe will be saved. Then the "world", the whole world, will be saved too, when all the wicked are removed.
Let me ask, where else does it say that God loved the whole world?
I can help you with that: John, the writer of the Gospel, also wrote a letter. His message has not changed in those 60 plus years since Jesus has gone. In I John 4:9, John says again: In this the love of God was manifested toward us , that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
Not every member of the human race is suggested here, but every member of the elect race, the peculiar chosen people of God...
God loved the world (Greek "cosmos") . Did he love it in the sense that he wanted to make it right? He told us , also through John, not to love the cosmos but to love the brothers. Creation is awaiting the finished work of God's love on the cosmos. It's not exactly lovable now, but is the source of much of our grief and temptation. John emphasizes in several other places that the "world" is enemy territory, as in I John 5:19:
"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. " Now, while we were yet sinners in this system, Christ died for us. He chose His own out of the world, John 15:19, and 17:6,9. But nowhere is it stated that Jesus died for everyone in the entire cosmos.