Summary: Universalism suggests that everyone will be saved because they will realise their error shortly after death. God warns that such thinking is wrong, and now calls all people to life in His Son.
“Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
God is God of the second chance, the third chance, the fourth chance, ad infinitum until… There is no question but that God forgives sinners, receiving them as His own dear children when they receive the sacrifice for sin that He has provided through His Son. However, no mortal dare presume against God. There is a day known only to the Living God when man must die; and after death there is no opportunity to receive the grace of God.
I recall a saying from the early days of my walk with the Master. That saying asked, “Poor soul, what will you do, if you begin to die naturally, before you begin to live spiritually! How will you look, if the tabernacle of nature be taken down, before the temple of grace be raised up! What must you feel, if your paradise be laid waste, before the tree of life be set in it! How can you bear to give up the ghost, before you have received the Holy Ghost! Eternal will be your darkness, if the sun of your life set within you before the Sun of righteousness shine upon you. Woe be to you, if your body be turned into the earth, before your soul be fit to be taken into heaven. If the second birth have no place in you, the second death will assuredly have power over you.” The saying referred to the gracious warning issued to those who dared presume against God’s grace, rejecting the life offered in Christ His Son. John wrote, “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” [REVELATION 20:6]. Again, with compassion, the Revelator wrote, “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire” [REVELATION 20:14].
Many people are banking on a false premise that because God is gracious, He won’t hold them accountable for their sin. Popular culture presents a caricature of the True and Living God. Few individuals put the strange concept into precise words, but glimmers of the distortion shine through in unguarded moments. What is tragic about this condition is that it has become common among the professed people of God. I daresay that a majority of people occupying evangelical pews hold—implicitly, if not explicitly—to the idea of universalism. One popular preacher put into words the concept that God’s love wins over mankind in the end.
In this theology, every sinner will turn to God and realise he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but He does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and He certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins.
The message is certainly appealing to many professed Christians. Moreover, it seems to have been popularised by the movement that has become known as the Emerging Church. The message declares that we can live as we wish, avoid accepting responsibility to warn sinners or to declare the message of life, and yet see our loved ones and friends receive the life Christ promises. It is undoubtedly appealing, and even has the appearance of being a loving message.
However, our doctrine must not arise from eisegesis, but rather from exegesis. Eisegesis means that we read into Scripture what we want it to say; whereas exegesis means that we permit Scripture to inform us. In other words, we are to permit the Word to judge our hearts rather than judging the Word on the basis of what we feel. When we turn to Scripture, what do we find? The text chosen for study in this time is a statement that appears in the Letter to Hebrew Christians. The author, discussing the redemption offered through the sacrifice of God’s own Son, takes special note of how that sacrifice was presaged in the ceremonies of the Law. He then makes this pointed statement. “Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” The author presents three significant certainties; and these certainties answer the question of whether we will receive a second chance.