As my church reads through the New Testament, I thought I’d take the time to point out how some things sound different when you read them with Universalist eyes. I began this blog series after we’d already been reading for a quarter, so it doesn’t begin at the beginning.
My motivation was that when I realized that George MacDonald believed everyone will eventually be saved — but also knew that George MacDonald loved and revered the Bible and knew the original languages — I didn’t understand how those things could both be true. So one of the first things I did was read the New Testament asking if it is even possible to interpret it as saying what George MacDonald said it did.
It turns out, it’s not only possible, but as years went by, I’ve come to think it makes more sense and is a more natural reading of Scripture. But for this series, I’m just looking at what the New Testament says.
Today’s passage, Philippians 2:9-11 is one of the most obviously universalist passages. Mind you, I’m not saying that people with the Everlasting Hell View can’t explain this passage away. But they do have to explain it away — because the natural way to read it is that everyone will be saved. Here’s what it says:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee shall 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.
Combine this passage with Romans 10:9 —
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
— And it makes sense to conclude that this is talking about a future end of the ages when God triumphs and all are saved.
I was sitting in a Sunday school class in Germany when a man read this passage in Philippians. Without missing a beat, after he read it, he immediately said, “But then it’s too late!”
Ummmm, No, it doesn’t say that. There’s nothing that says there’s a deadline after which if you confess Jesus is Lord, you won’t be saved.
The Bible does say there will be judgment after death. But it does not, actually, say that judgment will last forever (at least not in the original Greek). And with God, punishment is always corrective.
And I have and will say more about that in other sections of this series. For now, think about how glorious it will be if this verse says what it seems like it says — that the time will come when all, ALL — those in heaven and on earth and under the earth — will proclaim that Jesus is Lord and bow before Him. That our loving Father has brought everyone to Himself through Jesus. That would indeed be to the great glory of God the Father.