Universalism: The Gospel Truth
Universalism is the belief that ultimately everybody will be saved. There are several different stripes of Universalists. Some Universalists believe everybody has been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, so you are reconciled to God. The gospel simply tells you something that's already true, that you're reconciled to God. The point of Christianity, then, is to tell people that are already saved that they are saved, but ultimately everybody is going to be saved. That's one kind of Universalism.
Another kind of Universalism says, "No, there is a hell, but God is going to ultimately redeem everyone out of hell." In some versions of this, even the devil and his angels, that the love of God is so persistent that God will not rest until he has wooed back to himself even the most hardened sinner.
Universalism is appealing, and it's appealing to people for very good reasons. Satan never tempts us with something that is in and of itself evil. He has to find something that we want to be true or we're drawn toward for good reasons and simply to twist it out into something evil.
With Universalism, that is the fact that we're supposed to be broken about the reality of hell. We're supposed to be heartbroken for our neighbors and our friends and those that we've never seen or heard about that are dying apart from Christ.
No one should take the reality of hell with a lightness or with a disregard. Jesus doesn't. He weeps over Jerusalem. I think there's often a good impulse behind someone who is drawn toward Universalism. The problem is it's not true. The New Testament explicitly denies Universalism. Our Lord Jesus speaks repeatedly about the reality of hell, about the gravity of judgment, and about the eternality of hell, that the fire doesn't go out, that the darkness never ends. That goes all the way through all the apostolic writings right up until the final book in our ordering of the canon, the Revelation that Jesus gives to John in which those who are cast into the lake of fire, again, it is Revelation 20, an eternal suffering and an eternal punishment. The smoke doesn't end.
I think we have to have broken hearts about those who are lost, but our broken hearts ought to motivated us, not to denial, but to action. That means we heed to be taking the gospel with urgency to our neighbors and to those around the world so that there's a feeling behind our mission that's summed up in what the apostle Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. I am pleading with you, begging you literally, as though Christ were begging through me be reconciled to God.
That's the answer to the heartbrokenness that we feel and the weight that we feel about hell. I wish Universalism were true, but Jesus tells me it's not, and he knows.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Priscilla du Preez