My series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament is an attempt to show how when you look at the New Testament with different eyes, you see different things. Once I entertained the idea that God will save everyone, I noticed things I’d never noticed before. Now I’m reading along as my church reads through the New Testament together, with a daily reading from the gospels and one from the epistles, and I’m pointing out things I didn’t notice until I was willing to open my mind to the possibility that the Bible teaches that all will be saved.
[Please note that I would never have thought it does – but an author I highly respected who clearly loved the Lord with all his heart and had studied the original language was completely sure that the Bible does teach that God will save everyone. How could he think that? Yet he did. Maybe I should take another look….]
Last night I wrote about John 3 – but there’s one more verse at the end of the chapter that reads similarly to the verses I already discussed. Here it is in the Concordant Literal New Testament:
He who is believing in the Son has life eonian, yet he who is stubborn as to the Son shall not be seeing life, but the indignation of God is remaining on him.
Before I was a universalist, I thought the Bible said a whole lot more about hell than it does – because I read verses like this as talking about everlasting torment. I assumed that’s what they meant. I assumed if a verse mentions the wrath of God, it means God’s going to burn those people forever and ever with fiery torment. Better turn or burn!
But notice all this verse doesn’t say. Nothing about everlasting torment. Nothing about a deadline after which the person will be stuck in their stubbornness forever, when it will forever be too late to turn to the Son and get that life eonian.
As long as you’re stubborn as to the Son, you’re not seeing life. You’re in a completely different state. That’s what it says.
I said yesterday that the way the passage is in present tense points out that faith makes a big difference in this life now. Both passages in John 3 emphasize that people are stubbornly staying away from God, not the other way around. And don’t forget, we also read about how much God loves the world. Perhaps He loves them enough not to leave them in their sin.
We get an eon to choose our own way. Jesus did say the next eon brings judgment, but why do we assume that this judgment is the end? Especially since God’s way with people is correction, not retribution.
The Titus passage we read today fits in well with all this. Here is Titus 2:11-15 from the New International Version:
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
Okay, let’s pause there. I’ve always been taught that God offered salvation to all, but couldn’t manage to give salvation to all. Continuing on:
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (eon), while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Again, there’s an emphasis that being saved in this life is a special blessing, a special calling. Notice we’re redeemed from all wickedness, not from being punished for wickedness. We get to be a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
One of those good things is to love the world as He does, with self-giving love.
If you think He’s going to petulantly torment His enemies forever, that’s a little different than the idea that He will one day win them over.
Anyway, again I’m straying from my main point, which is that neither of these passages talks about hell. The whole Bible does not talk about hell nearly as much as I was taught it does. Believing in judgment after death does not mean we have to believe in endless torment.
So may we focus instead on being God’s very own people, eager to do what is good.