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).