Universalism (Ultimate Salvation)
Universalism is the belief that every person on the planet will be saved, whether they believe in God and want to know Him, or not. There are some slight differences within the Universalist camp as well, such as when everybody gets saved. The one group believes that human beings can definitely go through this life unsaved, but that God will ultimately (after this life) save everybody when “every knee will bow and every tongue confess to God” (Rom 14:11). Yet we see that when a king conquers another country and his captives bow their knees to him and confess their defeat, that they don’t necessarily become his friends or allies. In most cases it only strengthens their hatred towards him.
The other camp of Universalists believes that mankind’s sin never actually separated them from God and that every person who lives on the planet is part of God’s family, whether they believe in Him or not. They believe that the animosity expressed by the majority of mankind towards God is apparently only due to a “feeling” of separation from God, which is based on their interpretation of Col 1:21, which says “And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works…” From the context it’s clear though that Paul the apostle was addressing the church at Colosse (see Col 1:2) in this verse, which he clearly affirmed by saying “YOU, who were once alienated…” not implying the whole world.
This belief actually almost borders on Gnosticism, note the striking similarities:
Gnosticism: The belief that sin doesn’t exist (and people therefore don’t need to be born again) and that by attaining a certain level of conscious awareness called “Gnosis” you are freed from the bondage and limitations of the material world.
Universalism: The belief that everybody in the world is saved (and therefore don’t need to be born again) and people simply need to attain a “conscious awareness” that they are free from the bondage and limitations of the material world.
The Indwelling Holy Spirit
Another big problem with this second view is that Universalism totally disregards the fact that the Holy Spirit is the GUARANTEE of a person’s salvation. The Bible shows us that if someone doesn’t have the Holy Spirit then they are not saved. The Holy Spirit is also received by BELIEVING:
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:13-14 NKJV emphasis added)
Unbelievers actually have another spirit in them and there’s NO getting around this:
…according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. (Eph 2:2b NKJV)
God Created Puppets
The Universalist view negates any faith response from a believer. They imply that we are merely victims of circumstance – puppets in God’s grand game. God’s will in the end will override man’s freedom to choose. Of course it’s God’s will that nobody should perish (1 Timothy 2:4), but if God’s will always prevails, why doesn’t He reach into our material world right now and put an end to all the pain, hurt, suffering and destruction around us as well? Simply because He gave us the right to choose. Our choices carry consequences. He created mankind with a free will and said to him: “You rule the earth” (Gen 1:28). Adam did not rule and therefore lost his authority – bottom line. It’s therefore a far stretch to assume that God will force His will onto mankind in the afterlife if He doesn’t also do it now.
Accepting a Gift
It’s one thing to hear the gospel, but another to accept it. If someone is given a gift for their birthday, they have to accept it to make it their own. The Universalist view dictates that the person who is giving the gift can be left standing and knocking at the door with the gift in his hand, without actually taking it from him. They then believe that someday (after many, many years) the birthday boy will unknowingly step out his front door and be ambushed by that person who will force him to take the gift.
Here on earth if someone forces their love on other person without that person’s consent, it is considered to be rape. And yet this is exactly what Universalists accuse God of… He is like a life saver, pushing us into the swimming pool just so He can pull us out again.
What about a relationship?
Having a relationship with someone after all implies mutual trust between both parties – it’s about intimacy, love, pleasure and fulfillment. Yet Universalists propagate that in spite of a person’s cursing, ridiculing, mocking and loathing of God, even denying His very existence, that such a person is still God’s family even if they don’t accept Christ as their Savior. This kind of teaching voids mankind of any form of responsibility for their actions or beliefs, which is not what the Bible teaches. And most importantly, if God can not have a personal relationship with a person, why would He adopt them into His family where it’s ALL about relationship?
Without Faith, the Gospel Profits Nothing
The writer of Hebrews talks about how Israel heard the gospel, but rejected it – they didn’t mix it with faith:
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them [Israel]; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Heb 4:2 NKJV, annotations added)
So it’s definitely possible for the gospel to be unprofitable to us. Hebrews 4 talks about how those who believe enter into God’s rest. Israel’s perishing in the desert was a type and shadow of how unbelief can hinder someone from entering into this rest (Heb 4:11).
WHEN Does a Person Receive the Holy Spirit?
One question that makes Universalists do some incredible scriptural gymnastics and avoid the topic, is when you ask them WHEN did they receive the Holy Spirit. They cannot answer that they received it BEFORE being born/incarnated into this world, since that would mean they had to have been born straight from their mother’s womb already filled with the Holy Spirit. And of course Jesus said the following to Nicodemus:
Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born of water [his mother’s womb] and the Spirit [spiritual birth], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5 MKJV, annotations added)
This would also mean that they entered into this world without a sinful nature and were never actually separated from God, which of course contradicts scripture:
And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience; among whom we also had our way of life in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Eph 2:1-3, MKJV)
But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)… (Eph 2:4-5 WEB, emphasis added)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses (Col 2:13 ESV, emphasis added)
We can clearly see that there definitely was a time when we were separated from God.
On the other hand Universalists can’t say that they received the Holy Spirit during THIS lifetime, since that would mean that there had to have been a specific date and time and place where they confessed the Lord Jesus with their lips and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead and they were born again, after which they received the Holy Spirit as the guarantee of their inheritence (Eph 1:13). And of course, this would destroy their entire doctrine that EVERYBODY is saved.
Another variant that is doing the rounds is that Christians have not received the Holy Spirit yet, and will only receive Him on the day of Judgment when they will be made perfect into the image of Christ. This of course contradicts Heb 10:14 which says He HAS perfected forever those who are sanctified. And the entire book of Hebrews, especially the next chapter, is full of statements about how this is for all who BELIEVE. This also brings up the question that if such a person has not yet received the Holy Spirit, by whose power are they healing the sick? Whose fruit are they manifesting?
Another common Universalist view is that since faith is gift of the Spirit, He is solely responsible for making us place that faith in Christ. On the one hand the Universalist believes that ALL will be saved, regardless of what they believe or whether they even believe at all. On the other hand they believe that IF faith is required in order to be saved, then God will give us that faith, no… force that faith onto us. They support this by very cleverly “bending” Gal 2:20 from the King James Version which talks about “living by the faith of God” to support their view.
Jesus however clearly said we need to BELIEVE in Him to be saved:
“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NKJV)
Also, since faith is listed as a gift of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5, it also means that a person needs to have the Holy Spirit first before the gift of faith can actually manifest through them.
If God were somehow going to save everybody, why didn’t He just plainly state it? Why put His Son through all the anguish of dying on a cross if He was going to save everybody in any case? Universalists answer this last question by saying that the purpose of the cross was to show the depth of God’s love towards mankind, to illustrate the profundity of what God would do for us. But would the Father really have His Son slaughtered like that if all it accomplished was just to have people change their “opinion” of Him? Of course not! Jesus died on that cross to end the Old Covenant that God had entered into with Israel – the only way to get out of a covenant is for one of the parties to die. And with Christ’s death a New Covenant was written with blood, extending the offer of salvation to the entire world, in fact to anyone who would simply believe in Christ.
In spite of all this, the Universalists are still able to make just about any scripture fit in with their view by doing some impressive “gymnastics” with the Bible verses. For every argument they have a counter argument. For every scripture they have a counter scripture. In the end it boils down to a personal choice. Even those who don’t hold the Universalist view need to establish for themselves why they don’t.
When, however, the Spirit comes, who reveals the truth about God, he will lead you into all the truth. (John 16:13a, GNB)
For those who haven’t ever been confronted with Universalism, here is one of the best websites. Note that the questions asked and statements made will make most people who have not considered Universalism before question a substantial amount of what they believe. The arguments are powerful, sobering and very cleverly formulated. For some it might be a Pandora’s Box, better left untouched…