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Featured The Universalist Story has the Wrong Goal

Discussion in 'Controversial Christian Theology' started by Mark Corbett, Aug 2, 2017.

  1. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    [​IMG]

    One of the most repeated and most passionate arguments I’ve heard from Universalists basically says that Universalism must be the end of the story because it is the only ending where God truly wins. Before I explain what’s wrong with this argument, let me acknowledge a few things that are right about it:

    1. The Bible’s story does involve a cosmic, worldwide, history-long, conflict between God and the forces of evil.
    2. God loves all people, and wants all people to be saved.
    3. There is no doubt that God will win this conflict. The two sides are not even. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and super incredibly smart, wise, and intelligent. He is also entirely good. Thus, there is no doubt that God will ultimately win.

    In addition to the three points above, the Universalist will argue that since God loves all people, if any person is not saved in the end, it means that God has not won. This is where the Universalist has gone wrong. God Himself defines His goal (what counts as “victory”) in the very first chapter of the Bible, and then in the last book of the Bible we see that He has magnificently achieved His goal, although it came at a high cost.

    In the very first chapter of the Bible we read of God’s goal for humanity:

    Genesis 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
    27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
    28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."​

    There are two major parts to God’s goal. First, He wants people to be like Him, made in His image. Second, He wants these people who are like Him to fill up the whole earth. In other words, God’s goal is to create an entire world filled with people who are as loving, faithful, truthful, kind, pure, courageous, selfless, and good as Jesus! What a magnificent goal! What a wonderful plan! (To read more about God's goal and how it relates to the Great Commission, see my blog post here.)

    Does God achieve His goal? He sure does!

    Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

    Notice that achieving this goal does not require that every person be saved, only that many people from all around the world be saved.

    Now, at this point, the Universalist may argue that it would be even better if every single person was saved. They might also point out that God wants every single person to be saved. And I agree with them that God does want every person to be saved. So how do I explain this?

    All who study the Bible (Calvinists and Arminians; Traditionalists, Universalists, and Annihilationists) can agree that in some limited ways God does not always get what He wants. Does God want anything evil to happen? At one level, the answer is “No, of course not”. Yet, evil things do happen. Why is this? Here I will offer my best attempt at a brief explanation, recognizing that other sincere Christians have offered different explanations.

    There are some things God wants more than other things. All of us can relate to this. I want my daughter to be home with us because I love having her around. But, more than that, I want my daughter to have as full, meaningful, and God-glorifying life as possible, and for now that means supporting her being away at college most of the time. It’s a price I’m willing to pay.

    I’ve already defined basically what I believe the Bible tells us God wants most: a world full of people who are like Jesus. Now I need to add a few details.

    Being like Jesus means we must be able to love with the type of agape-love which Jesus has. I’m convinced that this type of love requires free will. (I explain why I believe love requires free will here). God also wants people who will rule the earth with Him, yet remain in joyful submission to Him. He gave us a strong desire to rule which fits this destiny. But creating people with free will and such strong desires, while necessary for God’s glorious goal, also meant that people might turn against Him. In fact, God knew this would happen. Achieving His ultimate goal would come at a very high cost.

    The highest cost God pays is sending Jesus to bear our sins and die on a cross. That cost is so high, we simply stand in awe and bow in worship at such great love.

    Yet, there is another very significant cost. Many people reject God’s offer of salvation. Without overriding their free will (and thus removing their ability to express agape-love), God cannot prevent this. God truly wants everyone to be saved. But He is willing to see many perish, although it pains Him deeply, in order to gain His eternal Bride. His Bride consists of a world full of people who have accepted His salvation and who have been remade into the image of Jesus.

    Now, for those who believe in eternal conscious torment, it is very hard to explain how having many billions of people in perpetual torment is a fair price to pay for a world full of other billions who are in joy. But for those of us who have seen that the Bible teaches Conditional Immortality (which includes annihilationism) this problem melts away.

    Perhaps if we only considered the first thousand years of eternal life with God, someone may question if the joy of the saved would outweigh the temporary suffering followed by eternal destruction of so many who are lost. But when we consider the first trillion years, and the next trillion, and the next . . ., well I have no doubt that God knows what He’s doing. It will be worth it, for Him and for us. And remember, God is not being unjust to those who reject Him. The punishment they receive is right and just. Also, in a very real way, not granting eternal life to sinful rebels is the most loving thing God can do for them, since they would be eternally miserable.

    I want conclude this opening post by comparing God’s story with many of the most loved man-made stories. Many of the most enduring tales and stories that move us and stick with us have two elements interwoven together. They are simultaneously love stories and war stories. They involve a hero seeking to win the love of a beautiful bride, but having to face terrible opposition, suffer, and make great sacrifices, to rescue his bride and win her love. These stories end with a glorious wedding. I’m convinced that these stories speak to our hearts so deeply because they are echoes of the biblical story. The true story. Our story. God’s story.

    This is a lightly modified excerpt from a post on my blog.
     
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  2. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This is my fourth OP related to the topic of Hell in 6 days. Why open a new thread? Sometimes our discussions are so wide ranging that it is difficult to focus on one specific issue. I am hoping that this thread will help us focus on this specific question: Is God's ultimate goal to save every person or to end up with a world full of people who are like Jesus?
     
  3. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Well-Known Member

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    I'm sorry to hear it.

    Why indeed.

    K. The answers are yes and yes.
     
  4. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Katherine thanks for taking time to read my comment and reply. In the context of this thread I think you mean that God's ultimate goal is BOTH to save every individual AND to end up with a world full of people like Jesus. I don't want to assume that's what you mean, so do you mind me asking if I've understood you correctly?
     
  5. ClementofA

    ClementofA Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Here's the goal according to Scripture:

    22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 24Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy thatshall be destroyed is death. 27For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

    8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

    18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

    1I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

    And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

    He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making all new!"
     
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  6. Shempster

    Shempster ImJustMe Supporter

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    I feel like the weak link in your argument is the definition of the word "saved".
    Saved from what? Eternal punishment in hell, correct? Or no?
    That is the question.....not "to be or not to be".
     
  7. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There's several Biblical ways to answer the question "saved from what". Here's one:

    NIV Romans 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
     
  8. JediMobius

    JediMobius The Guy with the Face

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    Food for thought.

    I find your argument well-reasoned, well-written, and well-supported; I won't suggest you're mistaken, only that there may be more to the story after the first resurrection and the second death.
     
  9. ClementofA

    ClementofA Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Earlier in Revelation, chapter 5, similar worship language is used, except it includes everyone in the universe, including the dead and demons:

    13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

    https://www.tentmaker.org/books/hope_beyond_hell.pdf
    Scholar's Corner: The Center for Bible studies in Christian Universalism
     
  10. Sarah G

    Sarah G Human bean. Supporter

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    I am reading through the pdf and it is great and it is what I want to believe to be correct (because I cannot entertain the concept of a loving God, my God, my Father, causing eternal conscious torment) but the limitation of my human heart is just constantly trying to reduce God to my own petty, resentful, envious level. A little voice just keeps chiming in 'Except that guy, he deserves annihilation!' and there is this hideous splinter in my heart that tells me that universalism somehow 'isn't fair'.

    Why can't I comprehend how mighty, unlimited and awesome God's love is? Grrr.

    Anyway, I will keep on with the pdf now and try and hush those voices. I hope that by God's grace I will become more capable of comprehending absolute, unconditional love.
     
  11. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Clement, I do appreciate that, like me, you are attempting to argue for your view based on Biblical evidence.

    There are several passages, including Revelation 5:13, which if I were to read them in isolation from their immediate context and from the rest of Scripture would indeed appear to teach Universalism. Of course there are also many passages which read in a similar way appear to teach Annihilationism, and even a couple which appear to teach Eternal Conscious Torment. Neither of us believe there is a real contradiction here. The point is that we should read all verses in context.

    With respect to Revelation 5:13, is there anything in the context of the same chapter which indicates that 5:13 may not mean that everyone who ever lived is saved? Yes.

    NIV Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

    BGT Revelation 5:9 καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν λέγοντες· ἄξιος εἶ λαβεῖν τὸ βιβλίον καὶ ἀνοῖξαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσφάγης καὶ ἠγόρασας τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους

    The same group is described as be purchased "from every tribe and language and people and nation."

    "from" is translating ek, which in this context means "out of". This strongly implies that not every individual is saved, but that there are people saved out of every nation.

    Further, it is possible for Conditionalists to take Revelation 5:13 literally, and I, for one, do. If I said that "Every member of my family was at the reunion", I might mean this literally or figuratively. But even if I meant it literally, I would not be referring to dead family members. Likewise, where several Bible passages speak of all creatures being united to Christ or worshiping Him, it is reasonable to interpret this to mean all creatures which are still existing as living, thinking creatures at that time. It does not have to include those which only exist as ashes or dust.

    In other words, I do indeed envision a time where every single creature which can be found anywhere in all creation will be united in Christ and joyfully worshiping Him. However, tragically, there are many people who refused to love the truth who will not be found anywhere at all in God's new creation because they will have been utterly destroyed.
     
  12. ClementofA

    ClementofA Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It seems to me that Revelation 5:13 includes the dead when it speaks of those "under the earth".

    John speaks of "every creature" & to emphasize this again he repeats "and all that are in them":

    13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

    This worship (v.13) uses the same worshipful words as the redeemed of vs 9-10 use in v.12:

    12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

    All this being in the context of salvation - "the Lamb that was slain" (v.12 & 13).
     
  13. Hillsage

    Hillsage One for Him and Him for all Supporter

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    What leads you to believe that this "wrath" is in the hereafter, as opposed to the sinful here and now? That's how I read Roman's 5.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017
  14. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Great question! There is no doubt that there are expressions of God's wrath in the here and now. This may be part of what Paul is referring to in Romans 5:9. Romans 1:18 does in fact mention God expressing wrath now. However, there's more to it. In Romans 2, a future expression of God's wrath is mentioned:

    NIV Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

    Later, Paul speaks of this same wrath as a wrath which results in destruction:

    NIV Romans 9:22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-- prepared for destruction?

    In Thessalonians, Paul specifically mentions a "coming wrath":

    NIV 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead-- Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

    So, when Paul speaks of God saving in Christ us from the wrath of God, I believe he is mostly thinking of the final wrath of God, since that is what we most need to be rescued from. However, this does not mean that we are not saved by faith in Christ from some expressions of God's wrath even in this life. We are.
     
  15. Hillsage

    Hillsage One for Him and Him for all Supporter

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    But again 'contextually' I'm still leaning toward judgments 'today';

    ~The Impartiality of God ROM 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
    2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

    Contextually, don't you think this verse is talking about 'anybody' who is doing these things....even Christians? And the purpose of his 'judgment' is for "repentance" here and now. That's how I read it.

    Again, is He not talking about a 'wrath' that's already been manifested today on us 'clay pots'? And, I think, in believers as well as unbelievers? That's how I'm reading it.

    ROM 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me thus?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?

    Personally I believe that there is a 'destruction' that takes place here and now for me personally, as I am being conformed into the image and stature of Christ.

    HEB 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.


    I think 'iniquities, transgressions, sins' are all dealt with on this side of glory, as well as on the other side, especially in the case of the believer who had nothing but "wood hay, stubble" to burn up in order that "he himself shall be SAVED, yet so as by FIRE." (1Cor 3:15)

    But here again, when that scripture was written, there was still a 'coming wrath' which has 'come and gone' on this side of glory, for anyone who breaks the laws of God. I often say; "You don't break the laws of God....they break you." That's why scripture says "Forgive or you won't be forgiven." This isn't talking about the 'eternal consequence' for sins you still commit as a believer, it is talking about the 'temporal consequence'. And when you break them the devil has the legal right to enter in to your life and "rob, kill, destroy" you here and now, just like he did JOB. Scripture seems to indicate that this 'destruction' is salvific', IMO.

    1CO 5:5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

    1TI 1:20 among them Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

    Those are my thoughts concerning the verses you've presented anyway.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
  16. mkgal1

    mkgal1 His perfect way sets me free. 2 Samuel 22:33 Supporter

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    That's how I used to feel....but now I believe "that guy WILL be annihilated" in the way that his old ways will become new once faced with God's genuine love. Here, on earth, I think people still have the lure of power and wealth (and there are rewards/accolades)....but solely in the presence of God...and absent from the power structures here....I think a person can truly respond to Love.

    This is what convinced me.....when I saw things like this:
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
  17. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for sharing that video clip. I love redemption stories!

    Concerning your comments, I have a few thoughts:

    1. You seem to view the reason for people's sin and rebellion as primarily problems outside of them such as temptations from power and wealth and evil power structures. There is no doubt the Bible treats these are serious problems and serious evils. Yet, a deeper problem is the sin within us, and this is a problem which is not solved merely by a better environment:

    Matthew 15: 18 But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts-- murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

    2. We are right to work with God's power and love to seek redemption for everybody here on earth. However, the Bible does not lead us to believe that everyone will redeemed, nor that giving them more time would solve this problem. I wrote about this in another thread:

    The Universalist Story is Not Realistic

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    3. Finally, after the day of judgment, the unrighteous will not be able to repent and be redeemed because they will have been burned to ashes:

    Ashes Can't Repent

    [​IMG]

    I hope and pray that these truths do not discourage us, but rather prompt us to work hard, and face danger, and take risks, and suffer loss, and make sacrifices, doing all we can in Christ and with God's love working through us to win the lost and rescue the perishing before it is too late.
     
  18. mkgal1

    mkgal1 His perfect way sets me free. 2 Samuel 22:33 Supporter

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    You're welcome. I'm glad you appreciated it.....I love them as well. :)
     
  19. mkgal1

    mkgal1 His perfect way sets me free. 2 Samuel 22:33 Supporter

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    I don't mean that the problem is primarily outside of them.....it's more (in my opinion and through my experiences) that the environment provides reward for them behaving in a way that's internal.

    For instance.....people that have a love of wealth and material things far more than they love other people will be able to dishonestly "rise to the top of the ladder" .....lying, cheating, even stealing, with no regard for the people that they trampled on in the process. They may actually get away with it in this life....mostly because the environment gives them the praise or accolades for obtaining those material things. These are the people that can steal from their elderly mother her last dime without any remorse.....or charm people into marrying them so they can steal all their money and then heartlessly murder them and move on through life as if nothing happened. These people reject love because they'd rather have wealth....but I think that's out of fear and I believe God's "perfect love casts out all fear" and that His love *never* fails. In this world....these people are getting what they *believe* they desire.....but it's never enough.

    In God's economy, though, I don't believe there's hardly ANY value in those material things that we value here (I dunno...there is mention of "streets of gold"...so maybe we can still appreciate the beauty of everything, I suppose, just not in a competitive way....instead, collectively...maybe?). What's going to be of value (and a lot of us highly value this now) is all about how well we love and what you mentioned below:

    >>>>>Matthew 15: 18 But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts-- murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.<<<

    I used to naively believe that the church community would be able to sort of mimic God's values here on earth--and reject the values of wealth, fame, and status...but, unfortunately, it seems that often times the church community is where a person with a black heart can thrive (they get the impression of being a "good person" without having to give up their thirst for mammon at the expense of others).

    It depends on which "faith lens" you're looking through. If you look through an eternal torment or annihilation lens....that's how you're going to interpret the Scripture....but one can also interpret through a Christian Universalist lens as well and reconcile the Scripture.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  20. bdmulneaux

    bdmulneaux New Member

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    That's it right there. We can love them into Heaven, or judge them into Hell.
     
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