A Universalist Looks at the New Testament – Luke 13

Here’s another difficult passage for universalists, Luke 13:22-30:

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Now, I am a universalist — I believe that, eventually, all will be saved. But I also believe in hell. How is this possible? Well, I believe that hell is not unending. It is for correction, not outrageous, out-of-proportion punishment of unending torment for all time.

Notice that this passage never says the punishment is unending. In fact, saying “the first shall be last” implies their time will come, in the end. After all, Jesus didn’t say, “The first shall be never.”

Remember also that Jesus was speaking to religious people like the Pharisees who were very proud of their religion and believed they knew exactly what was necessary to please God. He was emphasizing to them that these Gentiles they despised would come from the east and west and north and south and enter into God’s presence before them.

Yes, this is a passage universalists need to explain — but taken together with so many other passages, I still think that universalism fits best with what the New Testament teaches.

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