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-What is universalism?

QUESTION: A friend told me that all people eventually will be saved. Is this Universalism? Can it be supported from Scripture? ANSWER: While this teaching is becoming increasingly popular in our present day, it is still not true. It is called universalism – a false teaching that Satan, the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), periodically resurrects and popularizes in some fresh way. Beginning in Genesis 3 when he tempted the woman in the Garden of Eden, Satan time and time again has contradicted what God has plainly and unequivocally stated. In saying that all people will eventually be saved, this arch-liar seeks to overturn God and His holy Word. The Bible uses strong language in speaking of hell. The Lord Jesus personally referred to hell as “the fire that shall never be quenched – ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’” (Mk. 9:43-48 NKJV). Jesus had much more to say about hell than He did about heaven.

It is important to understand the words translated “hell” in most versions of the English Bible. The word used throughout the Old Testament is sheol.Though occasionally translated as “grave,” it is normally distinguished from the grave – the place where the bodies of the dead are laid – while sheol is the place (or condition) of the soul and spirit after death. The Greek word hades is essentially the New Testament equivalent of sheol.

The Greek word gehenna is the place of utter and unending torment, also referred to as the “lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20). The Lord terms this a place of “outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 22:13). And He further speaks of it as “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” and “everlasting punishment” (Mt. 25:41,46).

The word gehenna is derived from the name of the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, in which human sacrifices were offered, and where the city’s rubbish burned continually when the Lord was on earth. Worst of all for the many who will spend eternity in hell is the fact that they will be there forever separated from God. Nowhere in God’s Word is there the slightest indication to the contrary.

In Revelation 19:20, we see the beast and the false prophet (the two leaders in wickedness during the Tribulation who have the audacity to make war against the Lord when He returns to this earth) captured and cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. They are the first occupants of this dreadful place, and Revelation 20:10 lets us know that they are still there a thousand years later when the devil is cast into that same place.

Then follows the Great White Throne judgment where “Death and Hades deliver up the dead who were in them” and are cast into the lake of fire. In other words, the bodies of the unsaved dead and their souls and spirits will be reunited, and then – as complete individuals capable of suffering in body, soul and spirit – the unsaved dead will be cast into the lake of fire (20:11-15).

What an awful end is awaiting each person who continues to reject the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior whom God in His love has provided for guilty and lost mankind! “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:35-36).

Human reasoning, even of some otherwise true Christians, has come up with attacks on this teaching. Such attacks are really attacks on the truthfulness of God’s Word. “Your word is truth,” the Lord Jesus says in His prayer recorded for our encouragement (Jn. 17:17). That “God … cannot lie” is stated positively and unequivocally (Ti. 1:2; Heb. 6:18) and is indicated again and again elsewhere as well. What an insult it would be to His beloved Son, whom He repeatedly declares to be the only Savior, to release those who refused Him during the day of His grace from their just punishment in hell!

The argument that a God of love would not leave any of His creatures in hell eternally is a maudlin argument that ignores the fact that God is light, and that He is a God of absolute righteousness and holiness. Furthermore, what torment it would be for a Christ-rejecter to be in heaven, where Christ is the center of all, and where the entire host of the redeemed and the innumerable company of holy angels join together in His praise! How could an unrepentant sinner, still in his sins (for there is no other way to have sins forgiven but through Christ alone) ever feel at home standing in the presence of God in heaven?

No, God in His wisdom and in His love would not so torment the sinner. The one who has refused Christ during his lifetime on earth will end up in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. This is called the second death in Revelation 21:8. What we normally refer to as death is the separation of soul and spirit from the body. The second death is the eternal separation of the complete individual from the presence of God forever.

Make sure that this is not your destiny by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as your own Savior and Lord today!

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

What the dictionary says about universalism“Universalism, known historically as apokatastasis, is the belief that all persons will be saved. Hence universalism involves the affirmation of universal salvation and the denial of punishment. Universalists believe that ultimately all humans are somehow in union with Christ, and that in the fullness of time they will gain release from the penalty of sin, and be restored to God. Twenty-first century universalism often rejects the deity of Jesus and explores the ‘universal’ bases of all religions. Generally, Christian theology has rejected the idea of universal salvation.”

Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (IVP, Downer’s Grove, IL)

With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org

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