A dear old friend, whom I’ve addressed elsewhere a few times, has recently gone more public with his swift switch to Christian Universalism. As Jason was a close friend of mine, this shift, in conjunction with how quickly it occurred, is concerning. This is along with our overlap of ‘influence.’ The reality is that even some in my local congregation follow Jason’s work, showing the reach and influence of the internet. Therefore, this warrants an address for those who are called to address it – and I have felt this compulsion.

We must remember that the Apostle Paul instructs Titus to refute those who oppose sound doctrine (Titus 1:9, 13). Peter charges the church to be ready always to give a defense (lit. apologia, that is a biblical refutation) and a reason (positive affirmation) for the faith (1 Pet. 3:15). Jude, the brother of our Lord, says to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 1:3). 

It is my conviction that all forms of Universalism are heresy and cause a great concern for the church, although some are worse than others. Jason’s form is not as bad relative to what we would typically associate “universalism” with, but it is heresy nonetheless. A short distinction is in order.

In Christian Universalism, the scope of the atonement is unlimited so as to be sufficient for all to reach salvation. In this life, if you die apart from faith and repentance, you will go to Hell. Hell, however, is not punitive or eternal in its finality or duration; instead, it is restorative. Eventually, those in Hell will come to faith in Christ and be saved. 

As articulated by heavy hitters, Christian Universalism then states that only those who repent and confess that Jesus is Lord will be saved, and this will inevitability include those in Hell. In this view, Jesus is still the only way of salvation – yet all will be eventually saved through Jesus, and he alone is the means of salvation. Hell is a restorative punishment that brings sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. Further in this view, God will hold each person accountable for their deeds, and those in Hell will be punished, but as a means of reconciliation, not punishment itself. Eventually, every knee will bow and confess Jesus as Lord in a salvific sense. 

Often Universalists will claim that this view was held by “many” of the church fathers and “most” of the early Christians. When pressed, however, you will find a small handful of names included in this list of actual universalists while the rest are pulled out of their context (see here and here). 

Today I am going to discuss the following points: 

1) Jason’s Journey 

2) Limited Atonement in Calvinism

3) Unlimited Atonement in Arminianism

4) Will all be saved, and is Hell Restorative?

5) Conclusion

These are points of focus because my audience is limited to Jason and those affected by Jason’s shift. How these points are connected will come to light as we proceed. My goal is to show how Jason’s shift is less logical than what meets the eye. I further want to demonstrate that the underlining presupposition is dismantled by the text of scripture. This post is neither for Calvinism nor Arminianism or anything in between per se, both should be offended in how Jason handles the atonement. That said, let us proceed by examining Jason’s journey into Universalism as he explains it “How Studying the Bible led me out of Calvinism & into Christian Universalism.” 

How Studying the Bible led me out of Calvinism & into Christian Universalism?

Jason’s journey began in the summer of 2021 when he wanted to write a paper regarding the extent of the atonement, the classic debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. He states that his goal was to defend the Reformed View of particular redemption or limited atonement against the claims of Arminianism, unlimited atonement. He speaks about how he was a Calvinist and went into the study with bias but was surprised by the challenge to his view. 

When studying, he found a list of texts that weighed against his view in number, and thus he was concerned. After consulting some Reformed commentators (Calvin, Bavinck among them) and quoting R.C. Sproul, who says, “If these verses actually meant what they appear to be saying, they would inevitably lead to the conclusion that all will be saved since the sovereign God cannot fail to achieve his intentions,” Jason states that he found their exegesis wanting and eventually moved into questioning, “why not will everyone be saved?”

Thus he moves from limited atonement to a radical unlimited atonement.

From here, he skips to “after months of studying the theological, exegetical, and historical questions…I concluded that all will, in the end, be redeemed through Jesus Christ.”

In the caption, he further explains, 

“Once I began looking into the question of whether all people may ultimately be saved, there were a few important things I had to wrestle with, especially these two:

1. Since repentance/belief in Christ is necessary for salvation, how could it be that all will be saved if many die without turning to Jesus?

2. Doesn’t the Bible speak of “eternal punishment,” and “eternal fire”? How would these stern warnings about Hell fit with such a view?

On the first question, I realized there’s a detail here that I’d always been taught to assume, but which isn’t actually taught in the Bible—that the only opportunity for repentance and salvation is in this life. I started to see that many texts in Scripture actually seem to contradict this assumption (for example, 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6, 1 Cor. 15:29, Matt. 12:32, John 5:25), and I realized Scripture teaches that God, whose “mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:25) goes after the lost one “until He finds it” (Luke 15:4), not just until some arbitrary point like the end of one’s life on earth. He “holds the keys to death and the grave” (Rev. 1:18), so death is no barrier to God’s accomplishing of His will, which is “that all people be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9).

On the other question, it eventually became clear that the Greek word used in those texts (αἰώνιος) is often misunderstood. Though it’s traditionally rendered “eternal,” the word is just the adjectival form of the noun for “age,” so its most literal definition is simply “of the age.” This explained why Greek-speaking early church fathers who believed in universal salvation (such as Origen and Gregory of Nyssa) described judgement with this word—because they knew it didn’t always mean an endless duration. They saw Scripture teaching that Hell is a place of severe but ultimately purifying punishment (Mark 9:49). After all, Scripture says God “does not keep His wrath forever, for He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18, Psalm 30:5, 103:8-9, Lam. 3:31-33).”

With the provided information in the post, we can see several links of the chain missing in Jason’s journey. (Such as, why didn’t Jason seem to go through Conditionalism?). 

To outline his journey,

  1. A Calvinist seeks to defend Limited Atonement
  2. Is convinced of an unlimited atonement
  3. The Calvinist argument that unlimited atonement denotes Universalism is appealing
  4. Christ cannot fail to save those whom he intends to save
  5. The assumption that all will not be saved should be challenged
  6. Thus is Christ died for everyone, and Christ cannot fail in his purposes, then all will be saved

I.  Reformed Limited Atonement 

What I find striking is the lack of depth in the first few points of discussion. For example, within the journey, Jason states that he sought to defend limited atonement from the Reformed camp and yet demonstrates a shallow examination of the subject by “counting” texts and speaking of “reformed giants” in an equally superficial manner (like Calvin).

Why is this striking? Historically the Reformed Tradition has had three positions on the atonement:

  1. Christ died only for the elect and in no way whatsoever for the non-elect
  2. Christ died especially for the elect, and there is a general aspect for all men
  3. And Christ died equally for all men. 

Further, theologians from all spectrums have made it clear to distinguish between the Atonement Accomplished and Atonement Applied. This is why there have been five-point Calvinists (position B) and four-point Calvinists ( C ), and many non-Calvinists ( C ) who did not move into Universalism. Or in other words, it is why most Christians in Christendom were not universalists. 

In his discussion, he cites Calvin as a giant that would surely be a help to his conception of position A, yet an depth study would show a great deal of debate on Calvin’s position between A and B. To demonstrate this in brief: 

On Galatians 5:12 Calvin said, “It is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world.” 

On Colossians 1:14 he said, “By the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated.

On Romans 5:18 Calvin said,

“Though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.” And, “The word “many” is often as good as equivalent to “all.” And in fact our Lord Jesus was offered to all the world. For it is not speaking of three or four when it says: “God so loved the world, that he spared his only son . . .” Our Lord Jesus suffered for all and there is neither great nor small who is not inexcusable today, for we can obtain salvation in him. Unbelievers who turn away from Him and who deprive themselves of Him by their malice are today doubly culpable, for how will they excuse their ingratitude in not receiving the blessing in which they could share by faith.”

On Hebrews,

“To bear the sins means to free those who have sinned from their guilt by his satisfaction. He says “many” meaning “all,” as in Romans 5:15. it is of course certain that not all enjoy the fruits of Christ’s death, but this happens because their unbelief hinders them.” 

You get it. 

So how does one say they have read the words of Calvin on this issue and concluded that Calvin’s eisegesis was insufficient and thus was a contributing factor to one’s journey toward Universalism when Calvin agrees closely with Jason’s conclusion (in some sense or another) on the individual texts on the atonement (though not their application)? 

Of course, it is difficult because the “all or not all” debate is exaggerated in our modern era, and there is a conflation of atonement accomplished and applied in polemics. Jason quotes Bavinck as well in the same vein as Calvin. Yet, Bavinck was sure to point out that the Synod of Dort (that is, the synod that led to key documents outlining Calvinism against the Remonstrance) was not responding to “all or not all” but the “possibility realization” of the atonement (i.e., its efficaciousness). Bavinck in Reformed Dogmatics points out that, 

“The substitution must not be understood in a pantheistic-physical or mystical sense; it bears a legal character. The understanding of Christ’s paying for human sin must never be taken in a purely quantitative sense; the sin for which Christ atones is not something that can be weighed and measured…Reformers broke with quantification altogether and spoke simply of Christ’s death as completely sufficient for the atonement of the sins of the whole world…The important point to keep in mind here is that vicarious satisfaction is a matter of God’s accepting Christ’s obedience on behalf of the whole human race.” (The Servant Savior: Christ’s Humiliation, 444, Abridged). 

Further,

“Christ took on himself the unimaginable burden of all human sin and guilt under God’s punishment.” (ibid.)

Bavinck held to position B from what I have ascertained in that he stresses the application of the atonement is for those who are united to Christ but realizes a universal aspect of it. In this way, he does see the atonement as limited in that the sacrifice of Christ is linked to the church within the New Testament in its application. This isn’t a debate over the atonement, however, but rather questioning the links in the journey. What I mean is that Jason’s presentation for his journey is not only misleading but shallow and uninformed.

Taking Bavinck and Calvin, we find that the Historical position for Calvinists on the Atonement is position B, that is, that Christ died primarily for the elect, but there is a universal aspect for all men. Reformed theologians following Peter Lombard from the Medieval period would echo his words saying that Christ offered himself and “did so for all with regard to the sufficiency of the price, but only for the elect with regard to its efficacy because he brought about salvation only for the predestined.” (On the Incarnation of the Word, The Sentences, 3). The Bremen Consensus places it this way, “Indeed, that Christ has died for all and not for all are both true and both are found in scripture and each must be taken in its proper sense.” (1595)

This is seen in Zacharias Ursinus, Jerome Zanchius, George Abbot, James Ussher, John Davenant, Richard Baxter, Edward Polhill, William Ames, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Robert Lewis Dabney, Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, William Shed, William Cunningham, Thomas Chalmers, J.C. Ryle, Griffith Thomas, and on into the modern era. Of particular interest is John Davenant, a delegate to Dort, who wrote A Dissertation on the Death of Christ,

“Christ suffered on the cross and died for all men or for the whole human race…Therefore, although the merits of Christ equally regards all men as to its sufficiency, yet it does not as to efficacy.” 

This is all to say, a significant thread of Reformed thinking retained (in a sense) an unlimited atonement in its accomplishment with limited efficacy. Their concern was a blending of unlimited atonement with unlimited efficacy, which would then be turned into the caricature against Arminian positions on the atonement. 

I struggle with understanding how the starting point of Jason’s journey could so be so easily upheaved when he cites two of these individuals in this Reformed stream on the atonement. How does one go through this journey through the atonement so quickly when the debate on the atonement would take months in itself to work through with the diligent study Jason suggests? And so my concern for my friend is the methodology applied by Jason in all of his studies, including his exegesis, which has seemed subject to scrutiny since his switch. The fact that his methodology is causing a real impact on real people in a negative fashion is concerning.

II.  Unlimited Atonement

Let us concede that Jason’s journey led him to unlimited atonement. If this is the case, and if I held to such an unlimited atonement, I, too, would be offended by Jason’s analysis. Why? Because Jason effectively adopts the caricature strawman of unlimited atonement posited by Calvinists over the years. 

To put it another way, Jason took the strawman that an unlimited atonement denoted unlimited application and believed it (hence, taking Sproul’s comment he quoted quite seriously). But, of course, he abandons this later (to be explained). This demonstrates that not only did Jason neglect the study of his own tradition but also that of the position of Non-Calvinists. 

Roger Olsen, a leading voice in Classical Arminian circles, states, “Calvinists accuse Arminianism of leading either to universalism or to the belief that Christ’s death on the cross actually saved no one.” (Arminian Theology, 221).  

He continues,

“Along with Lutherans and most other Christians, Arminians reject this doctrine in favor of general or universal atonement, that Christ’s death was for everyone even if only actually applied to those who believe. Calvinist critics often say that this universal atonement leads inevitably to universal salvation because if Christ paid the penalty or suffered the punishment for every person, then every person must be saved.” 

To outline what Olsen says further, 

  1. Arminianism says that salvation is solely and exclusively by the blood of Jesus Christ; his atoning death on behalf of all sinners is what saves.
  2. The guilt of original sin from Adam is set aside by God for Christ’s sake because of his death for all (Rom. 5)
  3. Christ’s death on the cross provides possible salvation for everyone, but it is actualized only when humans accept it through repentance and faith. 

Basically, Arminians believe that Christ died for everyone, but the benefit of his death is only applied to those who repent and believe. It is also a misconception that all Arminians hold to the governmental theory of atonement rather than substitutionary atonement. 

Jacob Arminius in his Examination of Dr. Perkin’s Pamphlet on Predestination, answers the question of “if Christ’s death satisfied God’s justice for all, why aren’t all saved” by stating that the application of the atonement is only by faith. Christ’s death did reconcile God to sinful humanity, but the communication of salvific benefits depends upon human belief.

The giant Arminian scholar Thomas Oden points out, in his Systematic Theology points out three points of Jesus’ death, 

“(1) its necessity, there is no salvation except through the meritorious death of Christ; (2) it is unlimited in extent, it avails for all sinners and for all sin; and (3) it is conditional in its application, it is efficacious only for the penitent and believing sinner.” (vol. 2, 357). 

When it comes to Jason’s journey, I must continue to question the depth of his study, especially in that Calvinists and Arminians alike, despite their view on the atonement, have not fallen into the pit of mistakenly holding to an unlimited application of the atonement. More than this, however, is that the discussion on the atonement is a sidebar from the real issue as Jason abandons this conclusion (in essence). 

Jason makes one believe that the universal atonement = universal application of Christ’s benefits, and thus takes a big logical leap that “all will be saved” because of this view of the atonement. 

What is peculiar is that he takes this connection (universal atonement = universal application) and backtracks to saying that faith and repentance are still necessary for the atonement’s application. (Of course, if the issue is whether or not the atonement is universal in its application at the outset, and if it must mean that all will be saved and have it applied to them, then why will there need to be a purification?)

Regardless, from what I can tell, the real debate is not about the extent of the atonement per se but about “will all be saved” on the basis of this form of unlimited atonement and whether or not one can have the atonement applied after death. 

It seems odd to me that this is not addressed at the forefront as it is the crucial point. Jason states that he started questioning “not all will be saved.” But what is the evidence that “all will be saved”? Is it indeed unlimited atonement? Most of Christendom and exegetes would disagree with such a jump.

He describes it again, 

“Since repentance/belief in Christ is necessary for salvation, how could it be that all will be saved if many die without turning to Jesus?

On the first question, I realized there’s a detail here that I’d always been taught to assume, but which isn’t actually taught in the Bible—that the only opportunity for repentance and salvation is in this life. I started to see that many texts in Scripture actually seem to contradict this assumption (for example, 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6, 1 Cor. 15:29, Matt. 12:32, John 5:25), and I realized Scripture teaches that God, whose “mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:25) goes after the lost one “until He finds it” (Luke 15:4), not just until some arbitrary point like the end of one’s life on earth. He “holds the keys to death and the grave” (Rev. 1:18), so death is no barrier to God’s accomplishing of His will, which is “that all people be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9).”

Rather than deal with the proof texts, we’ll answer the question directly.

Will all be saved, and is Hell restorative?

The first point to answer is the question “will all be saved”? If we answer this question, then the debate about conversion in Hell becomes arbitrary in some sense. At the same time, Hell is spoken of in terms of finality (whether you are a conditionalist or a traditionalist, there is agreement here). Its function is never indicated to be restorative (1 Cor. is directed towards believers and having good works tested), and there is no evidence of a conversion post-lake of fire. To suggest such is to go far above and beyond Scripture given the closing chapters of Revelation. 

If we are ‘counting’ texts as Jason seems to have done with the atonement, we find that the evidence is stacked high above him on the issue of whether or not all will be saved, nor is there evidence that Hell is a means of restoration to repentance.

A preliminary that needs to be addressed is the intermediate state. Quickly defined, the intermediate state is the place of waiting for the future resurrection. When a person dies, this “state” is “where” they go, and within this intermediate state, there are a variety of theories of what occurs. The presence of this intermediate state is universally attested within Christian circles. I mention all this because we cannot appeal to the Parable of Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) as the parable discusses the intermediate state, not what is occurring at the final judgment or concerning the Lake of Fire (what we typically associate with Hell). If one were to pull theology regarding death from this parable, it would inform the reader only of the intermediate state within the grave (hades). Although, the picture of the Rich man, is a future without hope!

One of the first messages I sent Jason was the text of Revelation 22 where the apostle writes Jesus’ warnings, 

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18–19)

This text is relevant for several reasons: 1) Revelation describes the fate of the wicked ending with them going into the lake of fire; there is no sense of them coming out of the lake (see my post addressing his kings of the earth claim), 2) the book warns against adding to this prophecy (Revelation), which is what the Universalist must do to suggest restoration post-going lake of fire and 3) the text threatens that a violation of this warning results in the loss of eternal life in the New Heaven and New Earth. 

To put it another way, this text alone, which closes the entire Bible, suggests that not all will be saved! Sure, it only tells us this may be minuscule in the number condemned given we don’t know how many tampered with the prophecy. Yet, it is a dire warning for those who add to the book. Of course, earlier in Revelation, we find that the devil and demons will be cast into this lake of fire – if we take Jason’s proof-texting that “all will confess that Jesus as Lord” will be saved and “all means all,” then we must assume the restoration of the Devil and demons. 

Nonetheless, when we look at how this prophecy frames the end times, we come to Revelation 20:13-15. In this text, the book of life is opened, and “the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (V 12). We learn that “death” and “hades” (the grave) “gave up the dead who were in them,” and they were judged (v 14). Following this emptying of the grave and death, they are thrown into the lake of fire. Death and Hades here are clearly abstractions, and we learn from Paul and Isaiah that death will be forever swallowed up, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death, swallowed up in victory. (Isaiah 25:7-8; 1 Corinthians 15:26; 54). Death will no longer exist given its being cast into the lake of fire, and with Death and Hades are those who have not found themselves with their names in the book of life (v. 15). Those who have their names in the book of life are given eternal life, and those whose names are not in this book are thrown into “the second death, the lake of fire” (v. 14).

What occurs with those whose names are written in the book of life? They enter into salvation, the New Heavens, and New Earth. Those who did not have their name written in the book of life were thrown into the fire. When John envisions the world post-this judgment, he describes it as light with no darkness, a common expression in his writings denoting good and evil. Not only that, but he is emphatic, “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27)

His last word on the fate of those in Christ is that they will be with God, and the last word on the fate of those not written in Christ’s book of life? They will never enter into the new Eden. The following warnings in chapter 22 of Revelation are those to the church’s receiving John’s letter; there is a call for repentance and a call not to alter this prophecy lest you lose access to “the tree of life.” 

With these being the final words of Revelation, our divine scriptures, we must conclude that not all will be saved lest we go beyond Revelation and ignore Jesus’ own warning regarding the prophecy. 

Some will say that such a vision of Revelation cannot be properly understood because of the nature of the book of Revelation, but this is not the only mention of the ‘end.’ 2 Thessalonians 1:9 states, “They [the wicked] will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” 

Jason makes much of “eternal” here, stating, 

“it eventually became clear that the Greek word used in those texts (αἰώνιος) is often misunderstood. Though it’s traditionally rendered “eternal,” the word is just the adjectival form of the noun for “age,” so its most literal definition is simply “of the age.” This explained why Greek-speaking early church fathers who believed in universal salvation (such as Origen and Gregory of Nyssa) described judgement with this word—because they knew it didn’t always mean an endless duration. They saw Scripture teaching that Hell is a place of severe but ultimately purifying punishment (Mark 9:49). After all, Scripture says God “does not keep His wrath forever, for He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18, Psalm 30:5, 103:8-9, Lam. 3:31-33).” 

The problem is that both Conditionalists and Traditionalists agree that αιωνιος signifies the “age” in various instances. The problem is applying one gloss without respect to semantic range or context. Ramelli, a Christian Universalist, who argues similarly to Jason here, has major flaws in her linguistic approach (cf. The Devil’s Redemption, vol. 2, McClymond, 1142). As McClymond points out, “All Greek scholars will admit, aionios in biblical Greek sometimes refers to entities that are not strictly eternal. All the same, aionios is also often used in biblical texts as an adjective for God.” (ibid.)

This is to say; context is key. Not only that, but αιωνιος is not the only word used to describe the duration of punishment (see, for example, Mark 9:44; 46; 48 and Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17). Origen, Jason’s predecessor, along with Rob Bell, often describes αιωνιος as “age-long” in order to make the argument that the punishment was limited in its duration. (Love Wins, Rob Bell, 31). In truth, there are five views of the term throughout history, and Universalists can only take one to be explicit in support of their view. Essentially, the issue isn’t so simple, yet thankfully Scripture provides other expressions of a duration without end.

Noting BDAG, the Cadillac of Lexicons has these entries:

αἰώνιος 

1. pert. to a long period of time, long ago 

2. pert. to a period of time without beginning or end, eternal 

3. pert. to a period of unending duration, without end 

Augustine, when speaking against the Universalists, pointed out that if Hell is only “Age Long,” then Heaven must be as well! This is not the picture of the Bible but the strange worldview that led to Origen’s adoption of Universalism. 

Back to 2 Thessalonians 1:9, which states “They [the wicked] will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” So while this text states this is eternal destruction, and “eternal” can be held up for debate (we will grant this), this destruction is punitive, not restorative as the Universalist would suggest. The term used (ὄλεθρον) is found in the Greek Old Testament in critical judgment pronouncements. Take, for example, Jeremiah 51:55, “For the Lord is laying Babylon to waste and stilling her mighty voice” And, Jeremiah, 48:8, “the destroyer shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape; the valley shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed, as the Lord has spoken.“Ezekiel 6:14 says, “And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land desolate and waste, in all their dwelling places.

This is not a means to restore the wicked to repentance but a punishment that is indeed punitive. 

An essential text regarding the eschaton is 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3. The “day of the Lord” is a critical phrase designating the day of judgment, and it comes upon those who think there is peace and security, “then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” One can take these passages of Thessalonians and compare them with the whole of Isaiah 66, which is significant in its theme of judgment, hope, and the eschaton. Again, you’ll find parallels wherein the faithful find peace and comfort while the wicked will have punishment. We read about the wicked in particular, 

“the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many” (v. 15-16). 

In contrast, those who sanctify themselves enter the gardens, and the wicked “shall come to an end together” (v. 17). 

When the passage moves to the subject of the New Heavens and New Earth, we read that all flesh shall come to worship before the Lord (v. 22-23). One should compare this to the proof text of Jason (Philippians 2:10-11). We read that people come to worship the Lord in the eschaton, but at this point in the chapter, the wicked are no more! According to Isaiah, they have been slain. Those who remain are only those faithful who come to worship. If there is any doubt, the chapter and book of Isaiah closes with, “And they [those faithful] shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” If Revelation is not clear on its own, this other eschatological passage is. Malachi 4:1 states, 

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” 

Notice, the arrogant and evildoers will be like stubble (straw), set ablaze, burning like in an oven, and it says there will be nothing left, “neither root nor branch.” Compare this language with Matthew 3:12 in John the Baptist’s pronouncement of the coming judgment – that the winnowing fork is in Jesus’ hand and that Jesus will clear the field – wheat goes into the barn to be stored, but the chaff “he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Hebrews 10:26-27 echoes this in verse 27 as it speaks of those who remain in sin and have “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Conditionalist John Wenham conducted research on the fate of the lost in the New Testament (the Old Testament has much to say but is not included, so this is a fraction of the whole biblical data), and what we come across is 264 references, the most prominent after what Wenham declares “unforgiven sin” is destruction to which he notes, 

“Our Lord himself in the Sermon on the Mount uses destruction, which he contrasts with life, as the destination of those who choose the broad road (Matt 7:13). Paul uses it of “the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction” (Rom 9:22); of “those who oppose you” who “will be destroyed” (Phil 1:28); of the enemies of the cross of Christ whose “destiny is destruction” (Phil 3:19). “The man of lawlessness is . . . doomed to destruction” (2 Thess 2:3); harmful desires “plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim 6:9). Hebrews 10:39 says “we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who believe and are saved.” Second Peter speaks of “destructive heresies . . . bringing swift destruction . . . their destruction has not been sleeping” (2:1–3); “The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (3:7). The old order will disappear and “the elements will be destroyed by fire” (3:10–12). The beast will “go to his destruction” (Rev 17:8, 11). The very common word apollumi is frequently used of eternal ruin, destruction, and loss, as in John 3:16 “should not perish,” but it is also used of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, who though metaphorically dead and whose life was in total ruin was restored (Luke 15).”(John Wenham, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism)

Of these 264 references, none suppose the wicked will have a chance to repent after death. To the contrary, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27–28) Jude and Peter use Sodom and Gomorrah, who were not restored, as examples, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7). 

Indeed we cannot survey everything, as this has been lengthy as is, but consider the Psalms where we find that the wicked are like chaff that the wind drives away, who will not stand in the judgment, and will perish [or be destroyed] (Psalm 1:1-5). Those who do not fear the Lord will be broken into pieces like a vessel (2:7). They will not stand before the Lord but will be destroyed (5:5-6). They will be cast out (5:9). The nations perish, and their name will be blotted out forever and ever (9:5-6; 10:16). Like Sodom, the wicked will have coals, fire, and sulfur as their portion (11:6). They are like smoke that vanishes (Ps 37:20), wax that melts (Ps 68:2), and a dream that vanishes (Ps 73:20). The Lord preserves those who love him, “but all the wicked he will destroy” (Psalm 145:20). The Psalms repeatedly point to the end of the wicked, their destruction, and their memory is no more. Proverbs claims that the wicked will pass away, be overthrown, be cut off, be no more, their lamp put out (Prov 2:21–22; 10:25; 12:7; 24:15–20).

Conclusion

The whole of Scripture makes the issue clear, and if one were to ‘count’ passages as Jason seems to have done with the atonement, they could not come to the conclusion of Universalism. The roots of Christian Universalism are founded upon the Esoteric Gnosticism Origen seems to have fancied and were widely distanced from. While modern Christian Universalists have stepped away from some of Origen’s peculiarities, they ultimately are left without some of the foundational basis of Origen’s thought. Perhaps we’ll go more into the church’s view of Origen later, but for now, we’ll call it. 

I’ll conclude with this, within the pages of Revelation, we read, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). In contrast to this, we read of those who have conquered and have access to the “tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). And, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). Revelation thus closes with John calling to his recipients to turn to the Lord, reminding them, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Revelation 22:14)

And again, 

I hope that Jason takes this warning seriously and comes to repentance, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18–19)

See part 2 here and my highlight on Instagram for more discussion.


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4 Responses

  1. Sounds like Jason is not only pushing Universalism but also purgatory, which is also not in the scriptures….

  2. Well done! I was formulating a response to send, but you have done a masterful job of responding. Praying that Jason finds clarity.

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