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Universal salvation, or universal reconciliation is the belief that God will eventually reconcile Himself with every immortal soul. That is, everyone will be saved. This doctrine has a long history. It's always been a minority view, but there have been proponents since, at least, the third century.

It seems to me that this belief quite clearly contradicts the teaching of the Bible. For example, reading 2 Thess 1:7-9 (NLT):

And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.

Now, clearly it can't be this simple, since there have been a lot of people that believed in Universal salvation. Origen, for example, probably knew the scripture quite well.

What are the Biblical arguments for Universal salvation?

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Worth noting that there have been a lot of people who believed a lot of heresies over the ages, including some heresies that just seem to keep reappearing time after time. Not saying this is a heresy, just noting that heresies sound good and gather a following, and often involve quite prominent individuals. –  Lawrence Dol Aug 25 '11 at 21:51
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5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted
  • Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. —Romans 5:18

  • For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. —Colossians 1:19-20

  • so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. —Philippians 2:10-11

  • For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. —Romans 11:32

English Standard Version (ESV)

Also see "St. Paul's Universalism". This is the fifth chapter of The Inescapable Love of God by eminent Christian Universalist and Philosopher Tom Talbott. In this chapter, he makes a case for Universalism from Paul's writings, especially Romans.

You can find more free chapters from Talbott's book here (scroll to the bottom).

As for 2 Thessalonians 1:9, a universalist would probably translate it:

They will be punished with destruction of the age to come — destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

The word for "from" here (apo) is ambiguous. It can mean that those punished are punished away from the Lord, or simply that the punishment comes from the Lord; that is, it is administered by Him.

There has been some controversy over the meaning of the terms translated as "eternal punishment" (aionios kolasin). For this I would point you here. In summary, the terms used by the biblical authors to describe eschatological punishment are different from the terms used by those who believed in never-ending torment/imprisonment (the pharisees). There is a discussion of the contemporary usage of aionios and kolasin. Aionios is often used to describe a period of time of finite length (though it could be very long), and kolasin is typically used to describe punishments administered for corrective purposes.

EDIT: I just noticed that the word used in the 2 Thessalonians verse is olethron. Kolasin is used elsewhere, like in the parable of the sheep and the goats.

One last thing. Pithy arguments posted on a Q&A site hardly do an entire theological viewpoint justice, so you should probably look into reading a book.

And if you are looking to buy just one book on biblical universalism, I would highly recommend Gregory MacDonald(a.k.a. Rick Perry)'s The Evangelical Universalist, which gives a universalistic exegesis of the Bible as a whole. And it has a whole chapter on Revelation! Unfortunately, it doesn't have free chapters like Talbott's book (which I consider second best choice), but you can read reviews here (Also see Amazon sneak peek).

(I am not affiliated with any of the books I have referenced/recommended here)

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Welcome to Christianity.SE, Muhd! This is an excellent first answer! –  dancek Oct 24 '11 at 5:16
    
@dancek Thanks! –  Muhd Nov 1 '11 at 3:15
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Here are a few verses:

  • "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." - 1 Corinthians 15:22 (Translation: English Standard Version)
  • "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." - 1 Timothy 4:10

The verses in which God expresses his intent to save everyone (e.g. John 3:17) are also foundational. The idea is that if God wants to save everyone, he will eventually, though there may be some level of judgement/punishment in the meantime.

I don't know how to refute your passage, however. Hopefully a Universalist will appear and post a better answer than mine!

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Going back to the Greek translation of the passage, the phrase "they will be punished with eternal destruction" is somewhat disingenuous in it's English phrasing. The word "destruction" in Greek is "olethron" - not annihilation, but destruction "with a positive connotation, as in the destruction required for and preceding renewal." (via Wikipedia).

A second issue with the English is the word "eternal" - in Greek, it's "aionios," closer to the phrase "age-to-come" than to eternal or everlasting. This makes sense, given the time this occurs is when "Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven" - a new age.

A Universalist interpretation suggests that the "destruction" referenced is the destruction of the essence of "those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel." It is the destruction of their inability to know Him, the destruction of their imperfections, and their refinement into His likeness.

This is merely a negation of 2 Thesselonians 1:7-9. As far as biblical arguments for universal salvation, some commonly-referred to passages include:

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Origen c.250 was the first systematic theologian. In addition to his exegetical commentaries, he offered some opinions about salvation in his book De Principiis (Book I) Here is an extract. Ch. and verse divisions in the text are a modern innovation, and Origen's quotes are without them. This from Chapter 6.

(2) "From all which I am of opinion, so far as I can see, that this order of the human race has been appointed in order that in the future world, or in ages to come, when there shall be the new heavens and new earth, spoken of by Isaiah, it may be restored to that unity promised by the Lord Jesus in His prayer to God the Father on behalf of His disciples:

I do not pray for these alone, but for all who shall believe in Me through their word: that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; and again, when He says: That they may be one, even as We are one; I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.

And this is further confirmed by the language of the Apostle Paul: Until we all come in the unity of the faith to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

And in keeping with this is the declaration of the same apostle, when he exhorts us, who even in the present life are placed in the Church, in which is the form of that kingdom which is to come, to this same similitude of unity: That you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

(3) And hence it is that the whole of this mortal life is full of struggles and trials, caused by the opposition and enmity of those who fell from a better condition without at all looking back, and who are called the devil and his angels, and the other orders of evil, which the apostle classed among the opposing powers. But whether any of these orders who act under the government of the devil, and obey his wicked commands, will in a future world be converted to righteousness because of their possessing the faculty of freedom of will, or whether persistent and inveterate wickedness may be changed by the power of habit into nature, is a result which you yourself, reader, may approve of,

So, you see that universal reconciliation was conjecture on Origen's part.

Salvation in this life is something else - though reconciliation with God at the end of this world, is of course salvation in its perfect experience - for there is a salvation in this life when man is reconciled with God through the love of Christ, a life in which we are able to be in Christ, and He in us. Those wicked people have no share in this salvation, and must await God's judgment at the end.

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Thanks for thinking about such topics! I was very intrigued when I first heard of this idea, and I've grown to accept it over the years. My pastor has written a fantastic article on why he believes in universalism, and it has a bunch of verses supporting this said belief:

http://www.tsdowntown.com/images/essays/all_things_new_and_a_place_we_call_hell.pdf

One thing that I find interesting, though, is that when I read the bible with this belief, I've found that many verses seem to be consistent with this idea. It just requires changing our understanding of a few things:

  • God's "judgment" is not eternal torture, but mercy. It's a fire that may burn "like hell" but will cleanse you and make you whole. It's a judgment of the old man that turns him into the new man.
  • Hell may be temporal, and so it may come to an end. Unbeliever's may be tortured for a time (just as we on Earth are tortured for a time) but God's love will prevail in the end.

Another argument that's meant alot to me (but doesn't really have a basis in scripture) is that I believe God to be infinitely more loving than I am. Therefore, if I feel that it is cruel for a person to be tortured forever, wouldn't God also? And, being that he is all-powerful, wouldn't he choose to save that person?

EDIT:

Here's just a few verses that are discussed in detail in the referenced document:

God desires all to be saved: 1 Tim. 2:1-6, 2 Peter 3:8-10

Isaiah 45:22-23

John 12:30-32 (particularly 32)

Romans 5:15-19: "For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!" To me, this states that God's grace overflows to the many in the same way that the trespass of Adam was given to many; in other words, every human being.

Romans 11:32

1 Corinthians 15:22

Colossians 1:15-20: Look at all the parallel "all"s. How could we possibly say that the "all" in 20 is different from the "all" in 15?

Revelations 21:5

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Hi, and welcome to Christianity SE! Could you perhaps provide a summary of the referenced article (especially the Scriptural foundation of the argument, as the question is specifically looking for biblical support of the teaching)? If the linked document disappears, future visitors will have nothing to read. –  Ryan Frame Jul 16 '13 at 23:06
    
Welcome to the site! I hope you decide to stick around and participate more. When you get a chance, be sure to read How we are different than other sites? and the help center Most people mistake the nature of this site, and these provide an excellent introduction to newcomers. –  David Stratton Jul 17 '13 at 4:05
    
Also, not that your answer is bad, but What makes a good, supported answer? is good reading as well. –  David Stratton Jul 17 '13 at 4:07
    
This clearly goes against scripture. "They will be punished with eternal destruction" - 2 Thess 1:9 –  Dan the Man Aug 10 '13 at 13:51
    
Thanks for joining in on this. And thanks for the inspired reply. Knowledge of the bible is well and good, and it helps to hear from someone who has moved on to understanding the text. –  Waeshael Aug 10 '13 at 18:38
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