Gaining popularity, its proponents rather vigorously proclaiming the doctrine, is that about “universalism” – the belief that ALL [every single human being, male or female] will ultimately be saved by God, not a single one ever excluded from salvation.
This doctrine is directly contrary to the long-held belief of many in God’s judgment, where God rewards righteous people with life everlasting in His kingdom, whereas He forever destroys unrighteous or wicked people in a “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8). Thus believers in this latter doctrine have been labeled as “annihilationists.”
Such a horrible and cruel-sounding label seems directly in contrast to the merciful and loving nature of God who, according to universalists, will eventually and ultimately save all of mankind, not a single one ever “lost.” Another “in” word associated with universalism is “inclusivity” — “all are included,” none ever excluded from God’s kingdom.
Bible “proofs” for universalism
Proponents of universalism will present 20-some Bible passages to prove their point. Let’s take up the major ones, and submit them to The Whole Counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in His Word, as the apostle Paul diligently did.
- 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 4:10 – “ for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth….who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”
- 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
- John 21:29 – “The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’”
- John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
- John 17:1-2 – “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”
At first glance these and similar Bible verses seem to declare that all will be saved. But if we seriously consider the compelling testimony of other Bible verses, we will come to a different conclusion!
Jesus’ weighty testimony
If there is any testimony that we should believe in and accept as absolute truth, it is the testimony of Jesus! Why? Because He alone testified or declared and perfectly fulfilled the will of God the Father (John 4:34; 5:19-20; 6:37; 7:16, 13, 28). He was, and is, the “Prophet” whom God promised, through Moses, to send to the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Matthew 21:11; 13:57; John 6:14; 7:40; 9:17). And God commands: “Him you shall hear” (Verse 15). God repeats this command in Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35.
Jesus told the Roman governor Pilate: “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
To “hear” means to “heed,” “believe,” “follow,” and “obey.” It’s like when a mother tells his son, “Son, remember not to take your hands off the handles when you bike.” If the son goes ahead to bike “hands free” anyway, and then falls off his bike and loses a tooth and sustains bruises, often the mother would tell his son, “Son, You didn’t listen to me [as I told you] and now, look, you hurt yourself!” In the Filipino language [Tagalog] this would be, “Anak, Hindi ka kasi nakinig sa akin kaya – tingnan mo — nasaktan ka tuloy!”
In Isaiah 48: 18-19 God admonishes: “Oh, that you had heeded [obeyed] My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea [constant and powerful]; your descendants also would have been like the sand. And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; His name would not have been cut off nor destroyed from before Me.”
This shows that there is a serious consequence to not heeding and not obeying God’s commandments and law, which Psalm 119:142 says is “truth.” A person who does this not only is deprived of peace, but even his descendants, because of his failure to teach and set the example of obeying God’s law and truth, will have their name cut off from The Book of Life and destroyed (Revelation 20:15; Psalm 9:5).
The apostle and gospel writer John, Christ’s “beloved disciple” (John 13:23; 21:20, 24), also wrote the last book of the New Testament and the Bible, the “Book of Revelation.” John opened the book by acknowledging that it was Jesus who revealed to him “things which must [or surely; or, KJV, “shortly”] take place” – “the testimony of Jesus Christ,” “words of this prophecy…for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1-3). In Revelation 19:10, John says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Since the writing of this book, early in the first century, over 2,000 years have elapsed, so how could John have written that the things prophesied were to be fulfilled “shortly” and that “the time is near?”
We need to realize that God looks at time differently from how we mortal, finite human beings do. 2 Peter 3:9 affirms that “…with the Lord …a thousand years [are] as one day.” Thus 2,000 years to God are but a mere two days in fulfillment!
Honest students of prophecy will admit that many of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation have been fulfilled, and other prophecies are yet to be fulfilled soon! That certainly includes the prophecy in Revelation 21:8.
The apostle Peter declares: “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day star [Greek, phosphorus, meaning “light-bearing” or “morning star” – a reference to Christ (Revelation 22:16)] — arise in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19, KJV). Those who refuse to heed Jesus’ testimony are doomed to remain in spiritual darkness and ignorance!
From the beginning to the end of the Book of Revelation we have the testimony of Jesus. And His judgments that we read all over the book are “true and righteous” – “things which must [or “have got to”] shortly take place” (Revelation 19:2; 22:6, KJV)! These things are true because they are spoken by Jesus, who is “the AMEN, the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14; 19:11).
Who has not heard of Jesus’ often-quoted saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?
Therefore, Christ’s testimony in Revelation 21:8, about various wicked and unrighteous people having “their part in the lake of fire, which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” is absolutely true and will surely take place! So is His testimony, in Revelation 22:15, about various wicked people being shut out (“outside”) – excluded — from entering into “the city” [the “Holy City” or “New Jerusalem,” (Revelation 21:2, 10)].
A theological twist on Revelation 22:15
I was astounded that anyone would think that wicked people who are found “outside” the “city” (Revelation 22:15) [the “holy city” or the “New Jerusalem”] would be alive forever, excluded from God’s kingdom, but looking in to the immortal citizens in that city — forever tormented over missing out on God’s everlasting blessing on the righteous. I actually heard this opinion expressed by a theology professor while I was a student at a seminary. He said that this punishment would vindicate God’s justice on evil, wicked men!
If this were to be the case, then we’d have to conclude that God is the Supreme and Sovereign Sadist! In the first place, the “reward” or “wages” of sin is death (Romans 6:23) — the very opposite of life! Everlasting life is God’s “gift” to righteous people, through Christ.
God’s punishment on the wicked will be swift and sure or permanent (Malachi 3:5-6, 4:1; Revelation 21:8|). The fire [“fervent heat”] reserved for the dissolution of the present heavens and earth will also be for the “perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). “Perdition” means total loss — no more redemption!
Satan with his cohort demons, who are “fallen angels” (Revelation 12:9) but spirits that cannot die (Luke 20:36), “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). As tormentors and oppressors of men (Acts 10:38), Satan and his demon-angels will get their just desserts by being tormented forever and ever. God will not punish wicked men in the same way He will Satan [God’s adversary or enemy] with his demon-angels.
In any case, God will involve His glorified saints in judging the ultimate fate of the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Until then, we are not to judge anything (1 Corinthians 4:5).
The Book of Revelation concludes with a dire warning not to add to, nor to take away from, the words of prophecy of this book (Revelation 22:128-19).
Proponents of universalism, who don’t believe in the finality of God’s judgment on both the righteous and the wicked as detailed in the prophecy and testimony of this book, have resorted to “crafting” a different story about the fate of the wicked, just so they can “harmonize” it with their “simple” but skewed understanding of God’s desire that all be saved.
They will grasp at such Scripture as Malachi 4:1-6 to try to prove that the judgment on all those who do wickedly being burned up like stubble, leaving neither root nor branch but mere ashes under the soles of the feet of those who fear God’s name, is not final. Their “proof?” All this will take place during the days of the coming “Elijah,” who will prepare the way for Jesus’ soon return on “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Verse 2; compare with 3:1-2) – not later, they claim.
What they fail to consider is that “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” extends right up to the burning up and dissolution of the present heavens and earth (2 Peter3:10-13) – just before God establishes “new heavens and a new earth” (Verse 13; compare with Revelation 21-22). That “dreadful” day will include the final destruction of the wicked (Revelation 21:8; 2 Peter 3:7).
The expression about the destruction of the wicked by fire as leaving them “neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1) shows that nothing of them will remain that can re-grow them or bring them back to life ever again!
From practical experience, we know that a tree cut down, but its stump and roots remaining intact, will grow new branches and thrive again. [See an actual example of this with Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel 4:13-37.] So will the branch of certain trees [like the fig, or mulberry, for example], stuck in the soil and tended properly, grow roots and branches for a new tree.
Such will not be the case with the wicked!
God’s desire His “wish”
The Scripture verses used by proponents of universalism to prove that God will save all, would make better sense when we look at God’s desire or even His will more in the sense of His “wish,” intent or “plan.”
Let’s take an example of God’s “wish,” and see where a skewed take on it can lead to a flawed understanding of God’s ways. This is that Bible verse used as their “banner” by proponents of the current “health-wealth /prosperity gospel”: 3 John 2 (KJV), “Beloved, I wish [Greek, euchomai, meaning to “pray,” “wish,” or “would”] above all things [notice that disputable word “all!”] that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” The NKJV renders this as: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
Those who promote this “gospel” thus conclude that if you are not healthy or wealthy, you have somehow failed in your Christian calling and have frustrated God’s highest wish. If this were the litmus test or indicator of genuine Christianity, then we’d have to say that the apostle Paul failed the test!
Paul revealed that he had an affliction – given him as a “thorn in the flesh” by God through Satan’s messenger — in order to humble him and keep him from being over-exalted because of the abundance of revelations Jesus gave him (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Galatians 1:11-12; Acts 26:16).
Some have suggested that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” could have been some serious eye condition. We get this sense from what Paul told the Galatian brethren: “For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked [gouged] out your eyes and given them to me” (Galatians 4:15). Later, in Galatians 6:11, Paul says, “See what large letters [“font-size,” as we’d say in today’s cyber-language] I have written to you with my own hand.” Again, this is an indication of his visual handicap.
Paul also revealed the many tribulations he suffered in his ministry. In 2 Corinthians 12:22-28, he lists among them sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, fasting often, cold and nakedness. Rather than feeling defeated by these, Paul gained spiritual strength and power through Christ (Verses 8-10).
Thus Paul could confidently conclude about his future: “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day [of Christ’s return], and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
That “crown” is also the “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10-11) – everlasting life – promised by Christ to all His faithful and righteous followers and servants, as Paul certainly was. Verse 11 clarifies this life as everlasting, because those who receive it “shall not be hurt by the second death.”
It will not be till God’s “Holy City” comes down to a renewed earth that, sickness, pain, poverty, and death will be no more for God’s glorified, immortal saints (Revelation 21:4).
In this regard, the Book of Job is instructive. This dramatic account shows Job’s “friends” accusing Job of some sin he was committing, or else he would not have been severely punished by God with a sore illness and loss of his children and property. At the end of the story Job is proven righteous after all, and he had his health and wealth given back to him.
In this life, this present evil age, God allows His children to suffer many trials and tests in order to perfect their faith (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9). God allows “time and chance”(Ecclesiastes 9:11) to befall even His people. Many Christians get sick, figure in accidents, are persecuted, and die. But God promises that, at the very end, all things will work together for good to them (Romans 8:28). [See: The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]
Christ’s testimony that some will be destroyed in hell-fire and that not all will be saved is not a reflection of God lacking the power and ability to save all, according to His desire, wish or purpose. Rather, the failure should be blamed on the person who chooses the way of death instead of God’s way to life everlasting. Revelation 22:7 invites all to come to take of “the water of life freely.” Jesus spoke about “Living water” [symbolic of God’s Spirit] as giving everlasting life (John 7:37-38; 4:10-14). But one must “desire” to drink that water (Revelation 22:17, last part). To “desire” is to exercise one’s will to want, thirst, crave or hunger, as for God’s righteousness and everlasting life in God’s kingdom. Jesus promised that those who so hunger and thirst will not be disappointed (Matthew 5:6).
A “lifesaver” analogy
Someone sent me a post showing a lifesaver, with a rope, floating on water. The sender obviously wanted to test what I was going to say in view of his belief that God will save all, without anyone doing anything, like grabbing the lifesaver, to save oneself. The possibility that the person may choose not to use the lifesaver and, if he is a non-swimmer, may thus drown to death — according to adherents of universalism — would thus have to be prevented by God from happening so that he will be saved somehow, because God’s will or desire is that no one should be lost.
Well, as I heard someone remark, you can’t prove anything by a mere analogy!
God’s saving work cannot be compared to a mere lifesaver. God has purposed and worked out the salvation of men through the death, and resurrection, of His Son, Jesus Christ! [I have written a “treatise” on this in my website article titled Two Goats Together, which I recommend that you read prayerfully. See also: The Ransomed of the LORD.]
I might, however, interject a personal experience of near-drowning that would illustrate God’s “method” in saving mankind from sin and death.
As a non-swimmer boy of about 6 or 7, I was with my family on a church beach outing. I was wading alone in waist-deep water near the shore, when a strong wave, on the return, swept me to a depth where my feet couldn’t touch the sandy bottom. In panic while gulping seawater, I uttered a silent cry, “God, save me!” In answer, no lifesaver [whether a person or a device] appeared. But in the next instant a strong wave roared and pushed me close to shore, whereupon I quickly clambered out to safety on the sandy shore. Otherwise, with no other human being around to help, I could have drowned!
My experience, I believe, illustrates the truth that God saves those who call upon Him (Romans 10:13; compare with Psalm 50:15). “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God” (Psalm 10:4) — does not call on God. He is like the self-righteous Pharisees, who thought they were doing quite well and didn’t need God’s forgiveness and mercy (see Jesus’ parable about this in Luke 18:9-14). In contrast, the sinful publican [“tax-collector”] freely admitted to his being a big sinner, asked for God’s mercy, and came away justified. The Pharisees thought they had 20/20 spiritual vision and could “see” or understand God’s truth, but really didn’t. Thus they remained blind and in their sin (John 9:39-41). Two blind men called out to Jesus to heal them, and they had their sight back (Matthew 20:29-34).
While salvation is by God’s grace, and Christ offered His life “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10) — His one-time sacrifice is able to cover the sins of all mankind — it can be availed only by those who believe and call on God (1 Timothy 4:10; John 3:16; Romans 10:13). God requires the willingness and humility of man to admit his need for God’s grace and help, to repent, to be forgiven, and be empowered to do good. [See: Saved for Good Works and Being and Doing.]
A part of believing and being saved is to “come out” of the death-trap of sin, as symbolized by this world’s “Babylon” (Revelation 18:2-5). [See: Drunk With Strange Wine.] It’s like what I did, in my childhood experience, when I clambered out of the water on to safety of the sandy shore.
The doctrine of universalism seeks to revise or revamp God’s whole system of justice and judgment, and God’s wise design of giving mankind free will or freedom of choice. [See: What Is This Thing Called “Will?” and The “Stupidity” of God.]
Proponents of universalism say that one has simply to take, at face value, God’s desire or plan to save all men. I dare say that this is simplistic thinking that does not reflect the true “simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). It is far simpler to take Jesus’ testimony as truth, than disregarding it and exchanging it with something that overturns the “system” God has set in place! Proponents of universal salvation have “crafted” or devised a different and complicated story other than what the Bible has testified about.
They have failed to follow God’s charge, through Paul: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until Jesus comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5), and “…that you may learn not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other” (Verse 6).
God the Father has committed to His Son Jesus “all judgment” (John 5:22). And as the “Son of Man,” Jesus understands first-hand the mind of man, He has full empathy with men, the reason why God gave Him that authority (Verse 27). Thus His judgment on all mankind is perfect, righteous, and just, wholly in line with His Father’s will (Verse 30). Verses 28-29 clearly declare how Jesus will judge people as they come up to their respective resurrections: “ Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life [this has to be everlasting life or immortality, as 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 assuredly declares], and those who have done evil, to the resurrection to condemnation [Greek, krisis, meaning ‘judgment’].
The judgment period, at Christ’s return, for those “who have done evil” – those who will not be in the “first resurrection” of the righteous or those “who have done good” — will take place after the 1,000-year reign of Christ with the glorified saints on earth (Revelation 20:5-6). This will be their chance to receive salvation, if they are willing. [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.] Verse 12 describes that judgment, after which those who choose to remain wicked and whose names are not found in The Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire, as Revelation 21:8 details.
I have noticed that some adherents of “universalism” have tended to look down upon those who cannot “get” or “fathom” their supposedly “special” knowledge. Well did Paul say that certain “Knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1)!
What about: “All Israel will be saved?”
Paul wrote: “And so all Israel will be saved,” and that “…God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:26, 32). Again and again we have here that disputable word “all!”
Harking back to Jesus’ testimony , which we should accept as truth instead of whatever story [“fable?”] some have put forth, let’s see what Jesus testified about Israel, especially those of His own race, the Jews. He cried out: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you are not willing” (Matthew 23:37)!
Although Jesus believed that it is God’s desire to save all Israel and all of mankind, He knew – and He knows, as God – what is in man (John 2:25). He knows what is in the heart and thoughts of all men [whether Israelite or not]. Israel’s great King David [ “a man after My own heart, as God judged (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22)] remarked in awe of God’s knowledge: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me, You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off, You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways, for there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether…. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:1-6).
This is not to say that God has determined or has “predestined” the fate of every person. What He has predestined is what we may call the “season of grace,” in which God will give the chance or opportunity for every human being to be saved. [See: Predestination and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]
As Jesus remarked in Matthew 23:37 [quoted above], He considers the willingness of people to come to Him or not. He knew the hearts of some people of Israel in such a way that He could foresee and testify or prophesy that they would not make it into God’s kingdom. Thus He declared to some unbelieving Jews, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). Jesus made a similar judgment in Matthew 11:20-24; 12:39-42.
Did Judas and Peter have “no choice?”
An issue has been raised by some about Jesus’ disciples Judas and Peter. Did they have free moral agency or freedom of choice? Or did they do what they did — betray and deny their Master, respectively — because they had no choice, but to fulfill Jesus’ prediction [“prophecy”] about them? The well-known stories are recorded in all four gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart in such a way that He could predict that Judas would betray Him, as Old Testament prophecies indicated (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12). Jesus had a run-in with Judas when a woman poured a flask of costly fragrant oil on Jesus’ head at dinner with one Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6-13). After this, Matthew continues to relate that Judas then sought opportunity to betray Jesus (Verses 14-16; compare with Luke 22:3-5).
At Passover [often called by many “The Last Supper”] before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray Him to His enemies that very night (Matthew 26:20, 22; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:21; John 13:21). Later He showed to John who it was [Judas] who would betray Him (John 13:25-26).
Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-53; Luke 22:47-53; and John 18:1-11 relate about the betrayal scene at the Garden of Gethsemane.
If Judas were but a helpless “instrument” in God’s hand to fulfill Bible prophecy, then God — and we, for that matter — should thank Judas for his part in the salvation of mankind through Jesus’ death on the cross. In fact, some have tried to make Judas out to be some kind of hero!
But what did Jesus say about Judas? He said: “The Son of Man indeed goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:23-24; Mark 14:21)! Judas’ horrible end is described in Matthew 27:3-10 and Acts 1:16-20.
True, it was Satan the devil who put it in Judas’ heart to betray his Master (Luke 22:3; John 13:2. 26-27). But so also was the case with our first parents, Adam and Eve. They swallowed Satan’s lie and ended up choosing to disobey their Creator. As a result they suffered the “woe” or curse of death as God had warned them about (Genesis 2 and 3). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]
In both cases, all received the due penalty for their bad choice. We cannot “blame” or put the accountability for their betrayal and fall on God! In God’s scheme of things, every single one of us will be called, on the Day of Judgment, to account for everything we do and say (Romans 14:10, 12; Matthew 12:36-37).
The same thing may be said about Peter’s denying his Lord. Jesus knew enough about Peter’s heart in such a way that He could, and did, predict [“prophesy”] that Peter would deny Him thrice before a cock or rooster crowed twice (Matthew 26:34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34; John 13:38). And indeed Peter denied Him (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 214:66-72; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:25-27).
When the rooster crowed, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:60-61) — perhaps with a knowing “I told you so!” look. At this Peter remembered what Jesus had said, and what he had vowed to himself before Christ: “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never stumble…. Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” (Matthew 26:33, 35)!
Peter’s remorse over his denial of Jesus shows Peter’s owning his act, and he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 23:63). Peter had no right — nor do we — to say that he denied Jesus because He had “prophesied” that Peter would.
We can say the same thing about Christ’s prophecy about wicked people being destroyed in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8). They will be destroyed not just because Jesus has prophesied it, but because they did wickedly and didn’t repent of it, as their personal choice.
In His parable about “Lazarus and the Rich Man” (Luke 16: 19-31), Jesus shows that some rich people [especially those who trust in their riches and thus make them an idol and who disregard the needs of the poor (Mark 10:24-25), as the rich man in this parable did, will not feast with Abraham in God’s kingdom. Jesus mentions about a “great gulf fixed,” so that there is no possibility of crossing over from one side [hell-fire] to the other [God’s kingdom], and vice-versa (Verse 26, 24).
Those who propose that the wicked who are burned in the “lake of fire” will someday somehow [how?] cross over into God’s kingdom do not believe what Jesus says about that “great gulf!”
As for God’s “mercy on all,” this is conditioned on people also showing mercy to others – a personal choice one has to make, or will. James 2:13 unequivocally declares: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” This resonates what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:14 [“But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father (God) forgive your trespasses (sins)”] and in His parable about “The Unforgiving Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35). We know of some people who, by choice, will not or never forgive wrongs done them by others. And one whose sin remains unforgiven is doomed with those who have committed the “unpardonable sin.” [See: Forgiveness in the Bible and Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable? ]
As with Israel, so God will also deal in like manner with all other people (Romans 2:5-16; Revelation 21:8; 22:14-15). Proponents of universalism fail to follow God’s charge through the apostle Paul: “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God; on those [who by choice] fell, severity, but toward you, goodness, if you [also by choice] continue in His goodness” (Romans 11:22; 2:4-10).
It is being one-sided, and untruthful, to see and accept only the goodness of God and to fail to consider His severity just as weightily! [“Severity” is related to the word “sever” or to “cut off,” as used in this verse.] Paul continued in his letter to the Christians at Rome, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out” (Romans 11:22)!
It is a part of God’s unsearchable wisdom to sever, cut off, or destroy wicked people who will never accept nor obey God’s ways. Such people cannot and will never be happy living forever in God’s kingdom, where God’s perfect rule will be imposed “with a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). Instead of thus living forever in misery, they are better off put away from God’s kingdom, where all the righteous can, and will, forever feel safe, free from fear and oppression by evil, wicked men. Paul said that both results of that Day of Judgment were according to his “gospel” or “good news” (Romans 2:16). In the final analysis, it is out of His perfect love that God will do this. [For more on this, see: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]
People who propose to reverse God’s final judgment on the wicked, presume to be God’s “counselor.” Paul pointedly asks:”For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor” (Romans 11:34; quoted from Isaiah 40:13)?
Lesson to learn
The lesson to come away with from all this is as the “everlasting gospel” proclaims: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:6-7). Jesus also said: “And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Revelation 11:18 declares that God will “destroy those who destroy the earth.”[See: Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time? and True Worship.]
In addition, we need to make sure that we maintain a repentant and believing attitude. It is those who truly believe in God and Christ who will be saved (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:10). Wicked men who refuse to repent and believe – the “unbelieving” — and continue in their evil deeds will have their part in the “lake of fire” (Luke 18:3, 5; Revelation 21:8).
The apostle Peter also charged: “Therefore, since all these things [in heaven and on earth] will be dissolved [with fervent heat], what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness… be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:10-14). [See: “Be Holy for I Am Holy.”]
Although we are justified [cleansed from sin and made just or righteous] by grace through faith in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross, in the end we will all be judged according to our works. We are saved not just for salvation’s sake but for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14; 3:5). [See: Saved for Good Works, Freed From Bondage, Being and Doing, and “I Never Knew You!”]
May we all heed Christ’s voice now, so that in the resurrection when Jesus returns, we will also hear His voice call out to us and welcome us into His Father’s kingdom (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:21, 23)!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.