Archive for August, 2019

A Universalist Looks at the New Testament — Jude

Monday, August 19th, 2019

In my series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament, I’m going through the New Testament and pointing out verses that look different if you don’t start with the assumption that the hell Dante wrote about is real. I’m a Christian Universalist who believes that through Christ, God will save everyone, though many will face judgment first, judgment that will be corrective, judgment that will help them finally see the light. And I believe this fits well with what the Bible teaches.

The book of Jude is about judgment coming to ungodly people. I don’t disagree. It’s meant as a warning, and should be taken as a warning.

However, there’s strong evidence that where the translation seems to indicate the judgment is eternal — that is not a good reflection of the original.

Look at verse 7, which talks about Sodom and Gomorrah: “They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

In the first place, Sodom and Gomorrah is not still burning. In the second place, the Greek word used here is eonian, which means “of the eons,” or “of the ages,” and can indicate an indefinite period of time, or just fire in another age.

Here’s how the Concordant Literal New Testament translates it: “a specimen, experiencing the justice of fire eonian.”

Verse 6, before that one, in the New International Version says, “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling — these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”

Hold on! If they are bound for judgment on the great Day — then how would those chains be everlasting?

Verse 13 has more, saying in the New International Version, “They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”

The Concordant Literal New Testament puts it this way: “wild billows of the sea, frothing forth their own shame; straying stars, for whom the gloom of darkness has been kept for an eon.”

So yes, there will be judgment. But in the great love of God, the judgment has a purpose. It’s not suffering for the sake of suffering, as if that would make up for sin. It’s to turn sinners back to the Lord who loves them; it’s to heal their flaws in purifying fire.

Let me close with the benediction at the end of Jude from the Concordant Literal New Testament. It’s less smooth English, but you see that it doesn’t diminish the glory of this passage:

Now to Him Who is able to guard you from tripping, and to stand you flawless in sight of His glory, in exultation, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and authority before the entire eon, now, as well as for all the eons. Amen!

A Universalist Looks at the New Testament – I John 2:2

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

In this series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament, I’m pointing out verses in the New Testament that seem to teach that God will save everyone. In today’s reading from I John, we came to a verse that seems very clear: I John 2:2 —

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Was his death effective?

A Universalist Looks at the New Testament: I and II Peter

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

In my series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament, I’m going through the New Testament and pointing out verses that look different if you don’t start with the assumption that the hell Dante wrote about is real. I’m a Christian Universalist who believes that through Christ, God will save everyone, though many will face judgment first. And I believe this fits well with what the Bible teaches.

I’m not going to linger in the epistles from Peter. They do talk about judgment, but nothing that says it will last forever.

A couple of places have some interesting talk about preaching the gospel “to imprisoned spirits” and “even to those who are now dead” (I Peter 3:19; 4:6). I’ve never heard a great explanation for these verses from the traditional perspective. From my perspective I take it as evidence that hearts can change and decisions can be made after death.

In II Peter 2:4, the Greek word Tartarus is translated “hell.” This is the only time this word is used in the Bible, and it is not described as a place of eternal torment, but a place where angels are imprisoned until the day of judgment.

In talking about the day of judgment in II Peter 2 and 3, there are fearsome descriptions of destruction. II Peter 3:7 says, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

This is talking about the earth being destroyed — but I don’t think even those who hold to the traditional view think that the earth will burn eternally. So you could use this passage to support the annihilation of the wicked, but not the eternal torment.

And I still think it can fit with judgment coming after death — maybe even consisting of a purifying fire.

II Peter 3 has more to say:

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

The earth will be “destroyed” and made new. Perhaps that will also be true of the wicked?

Don’t forget that II Peter 3:9 also tells us God’s desire for humans:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

I think of the day of judgment as God’s last resort to bring about that repentance. But it’s what He wants for everyone. Will God succeed?