In early 2000, thanks to my studies affirming trinitarian theism, I came to expect God to persist in acting toward saving all sinners from sin. I began searching the scriptures to see if such things could be true; and as I studied the details and contexts more thoroughly, I learned to my surprise that many sets of scripture commonly quoted against Christian universalism featured strong evidence in favor of it instead! Here are three examples.
PAYING JUSTICE (2 THESSALONIANS 1:6-10)
A) Paul references Isaiah 2:10,21 “from/before the terror of JEHOVAH and the splendor of His majesty”. But this ruination, in the whole prophecy of chapters 2-5, eventually shows the unrighteous being cleaned by fire, and reconciling with the righteous. And the prophecy reveals that the scope of this salvation will be total.
B) Different bibles will say the sinners “pay the penalty” or “incur the punishment”. But literally verse 9 reads that they shall come to “pay the justice”, using a cognate for positively valuing something. And Paul’s citation from Isaiah shows sinners eventually coming to value Jehovah’s justice, paying true homage.
C) Paul declares that sinners shall be wholly destroyed. But despite the strength of the compound verb, Paul uses the same word in 1 Cor 5:5 to describe the punishment of a man he expects to be saved, after this punishment, in the same day of Jehovah that Paul is speaking of here in 2 Thessalonians.
THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN
A) First, this incident is based around the problem of a man previously exorcised by Jesus (Matthew 9:32-34 and notice the flashforward topical connection there) who must be exorcised again because, by his own fault, his latter state is worse than his first. Jesus warns that some people will be the same in the day of judgment (and 2 Peter 2:20 uses the exact same phrase to talk of teachers who abuse the people). But such a state was not beyond Jesus’ salvation--or there wouldn’t have been a controversy at all!
B) The teachers opposing Jesus’ salvation of this man are contradicting their own principles in order call such a salvation the work of the devil and not of God. (Matt 12:22-37)
C) When Jesus warns these teachers about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, He emphasizes even more strongly (Mark 3:28) that every sin whatever will be forgiven men. Is our sin superior to God’s grace?--or does God’s grace hyper-exceed our sins?
THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS (MATT 25:31-46)
A) In Greek the ones being punished are baby-goats. Since they are specifically included among the flock of Christ (v.32), they are literally the least of Christ’s flock.
B) They will be hungry, thirsty, outside, dirty, imprisoned and sick now. (Rev 22:14-17) This is their punishment for refusing to cooperate with Christ in helping to save such people.
C) The narrative and thematic contexts of this final judgment declaration, critique my interpretations of any other judgment statements in the scriptures: including how I should interpret what ‘eonian’ and ‘kolasis’ mean here for the baby-goats. Do the Good Shepherd and His mature flock start acting like baby-goats to the baby-goats now? Or shall He and they continue seeking to save the least of His flock?--inviting them to slake their thirst and wash clean in the water of life flowing out of the never-closed gates, inviting them in to eat of the tree of life and be healed, freeing them from their imprisonment?
It’s fairly easy to make a positive argument from the three sets of St. Paul’s testimony most commonly appealed to by universalists: Philippians 2:10-11 in context of Isaiah 45:23 (indicating the utter scope and final result of post-mortem salvation); 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 + vv.54-58 in context of Isaiah 25 and Hosea chapters 13-14 (indicating the utter scope and persistence of post-mortem salvation); and a deduction from the implications of Colossians 1:16-22 (indicating the utter scope of God’s action in reconciliation) plus Romans 5:6-11 (indicating the utter assurance of eventual salvation for those whom God acts to reconcile).
But when evidence against God’s salvation of all sinners from sin turned out to be for it? That really impressed me.
Jason Pratt is a guest author for the Evangelical Universalist forum. His epic fantasy novel CRY OF JUSTICE won the 2008 retailer poll for Novel of the Year from the Christian Small Publishers Association.
Eternal Conscious Torment
Gregory MacDonald, "The Evangelical Universalist."
Thomas Talbott, "The Inescapable Love of God."
The Evangelical Universalist Forum