This is a series. Previous post cane be found here.
This post was very difficult for me to write, as I have no experience with a universal reconciliation in Christianity to draw from. So, I ask you to contribute and critique in the hopes that I can get a place to jump from.
Universal reconciliation is a response to the philosophical problem of Hell. There are four things that can indicate a tension between a just, benevolent God and the idea of eternal punishment in the form of a place where one must go and from which there is no escape, for actions or lack thereof on earth. The idea of the tension is that God, being the Creator of humanity, cannot hold the created in permanent punishment especially when the created are born into it and have no chance of sinlessness. There have been many theodicies and theories as to how to resolve this discussion on God’s justice. Universal salvation, also known as apocatastasis, is not a particularly popular response to this idea. The most popularly believed resolution is special salvation which is that those who believe on Jesus will be spared the eternal punishment. Another is annihilationism, which is that a soul is not eternal unless given eternal life. This is also referred to as conditional immortality.
Universal reconciliation was first recorded sometime around 185 AD by an ecumenical council. Though it was not supported by many major theologians such as Augustine, it was recognized as a legitimate belief in many. Since it’s inception it has been seen as an ecumenical belief. Later on branches of Christianity such as; Anabaptists, Methodists, and Quakers among others, kept it’s ideas current.
It’s my understanding that universal salvation is more derived from the understanding of the nature of God, than from Biblical sources; though if you simply google universal salvation one of the first websites is 600 Verses Confirming Universal Salvation, it is also the opinion if some who hold this belief that there is more scriptural evidence for universal reconciliation than for eternal punishment. I found most of the 600 verses to be off topic or to simply include the word ‘all’ and assume that they were talking about salvation. I did however, find some intriguing verses on the topic that I can see people would get universal salvation from.
The first verse I found interesting was Colossians 1:19-24 “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” To me, this verse shows that all were reconciled to God, but only as long as they kept the faith. I can however understand how reading the first few verses can be understood in the context of this discussion. All were reconciled unto God and have either chosen to continue in their faith or reject it. This does not account for those who have never been covered by the blood, because all have been in this passage.
Another passage that is quite interesting is Psalms 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” Charles Spurgeon insists that when the Bible says ‘all’ it doesn’t really mean ‘all’ it means ‘some of all kinds.’ In this passage, it’s quite important whether you make this distinction or not. Does this mean that, like other verses that say every knee shall bow, every person will eventually profess God as their ruler? Does this mean that all will eventually come to a saving knowledge of God?
Luke 3:4-6 Is paraphrasing from Isaiah 52:10 “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” in saying in verse 6, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Is this one of those places where Spurgeon’s argument comes into play? Does the Bible mean “all flesh” or does it mean “some of all flesh”? Here’s the thing. In verses like these, the passage is usually addressing God’s people (ie. Jerusalem, Zion). However, the verse says “the eyes of all nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see salvation,” so do you take Spurgeon’s line of logic and say that the nations will each have some that see salvation or take it the route of the universalists and determine that all will see salvation even if eventually?
Then there are verses where Jesus himself says these all inclusive ideas. John 12:32,47-48 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He that rejects me, and receives not my words, hath one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” In this passage, Jesus says that will not judge those who reject him, but that God the Father will. However, in John 5:21 “For as the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he will.For the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honours not the Son honours not the Father which hath sent him.” It’s confusing isn’t it? I mean, one says that Jesus isn’t going to judge anybody, but God the Father will; the other says God the Father says it’s Jesus’ responsibility to judge now. It’s like everybody is a fan of bureaucracy and passing the buck, even from Heaven on down.
Thank you to Clare Flourish for inspiring and helping me with this post. Her faith is pure and makes me curious. To me, that’s pretty special.