The Christian version of universalism is the belief that everyone will eventually receive salvation, no matter their actions while on earth and beliefs about Jesus. Universalism can be distinguished from traditional Western views on Christianity in that it extends the time for humans to repent to after death. In other words, this view agrees that “every knee will bow to Christ” but some knees will have to endure a period of “unpleasantness” and being washed of their sins in “fire” before coming to Jesus. Some universalists believe hell is not eternal torment, or a literal lake of fire but rather is an intense purifying fire.
People who endorse universalism often lean heavily on selective references in the New Testament (mainly from Paul) while writing off references from Jesus’ parables, Hebrews, or the book of Revelation. Below are a few common verses from the King James Version that universalists use to justify universalism. But these speak better to the distinctions between universalism, universal atonement (Jesus died for ALL), intent (God wants all to be saved), extent (Jesus sacrificed Himself for ALL), and application (not all will accept Jesus’ offer of salvation).
Example Verses for Universalism
Romans 5:18 “Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
Jesus has offered all his free gift, yet not all accept it.
Romans 11:32 “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”
Does being the recipient of mercy mean the unrepentant will repent? People often forgive their abusers but that doesn’t mean their abusers necessarily repent. Numerous Bible verses call on us to repent and on the value of repentence.
Colossians 1:19-20 “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
Notice the inclusion of ‘things on earth’ or ‘things in heaven’ and the exclusion of things ‘under the earth.’ In Philippians 2:10, Paul says that every knee will bow to Jesus in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Hebrews 2:9 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
Jesus has opened the door to all to be saved, yet not all have chosen to accept.
Jesus’ parables often use dichotomies (weeds vs. wheat; goats vs. sheep; rich man vs. Lazarus; wise virgins who prepared for the coming vs. foolish ones who didn’t) that suggest one side will be either left behind or burned in an unquenchable fire.
Matthew 25:41 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Children of God vs. Children of the Devil
Matthew 24-30; 37-42 “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn…
He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;. And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Children of the devil or devils are also referenced in John 8:44, Acts 13:10, and 1 John 3:10, John 8:44-45, and more.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
Mark 8:36 “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 21:7-8 “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Jesus’ Final Commission
Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Jesus knew the fate of His apostles and disciples. He knew that Paul would be beheaded under Nero after years of preaching the Good News and being whipped, stoned, and jailed. He knew that Peter and others (such as James the Just, Timothy, James the son of Zebedee, and Stephen) would also be martyred. If people did not need to hear the Good News to repent and accept Jesus’ generous offer of salvation in this life, their suffering was in vain.
Heaven wouldn’t be heaven if God forced its inhabitants to be there. It is a place devoid of darkness, evil, malice, hubris, envy, lust, greed, and hatred. Heaven is a paradise whose inhabitants love God above all else and love their neighbors as themselves. Peace, love, kindness, generosity, patience, virtue, and righteousness reign. The Kingdom of Heaven is within us as the light of the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. Let us let our light so shine!