My series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament, is following along as my church reads through the New Testament together and pointing out passages that look different after I came to believe that the Bible teaches that all will be saved – at the end of the ages, anyway.
Today we read from John 5. When I read it before I was a universalist, I simply assumed that “judgment” here meant torment in hell, lasting forever and ever. Well, although the passage definitely teaches there will be judgment after death, there is nothing that says it will last forever.
In fact, another passage talks about “eonian correction.” And correcting his children is the kind of thing God does! But if the judgment leads to correction, how can it last forever?
But there’s no need to belabor that point. Please notice that this passage never says that the result of the judgment that comes after death is unending punishment.
John 5:21-30, New International Version:
For, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
From the Concordant Literal New Testament, which literally translates from the Greek, using one English word for every Greek word:
For even as the Father is rousing the dead and vivifying, thus the Son also is vivifying whom He will. For neither is the Father judging anyone, but has given all judging to the Son, that all may be honoring the Son, according as they are honoring the Father. He who is not honoring the Son is not honoring the Father Who sends Him.
Verily, verily, I am saying to you that he who is hearing My word and believing Him Who sends Me, has life eonian and is not coming into judging, but has proceeded out of death into life. Verily, verily, I am saying to you that coming is an hour, and now is, when the dead shall be hearing the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall be living. For even as the Father has life in Himself, thus to the Son also He gives to have life in Himself.
And He gives Him authority to do judging, seeing that He is a son of mankind. Marvel not at this, for coming is the hour in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and those who do good shall go out into a resurrection of life, yet those who commit bad things, into a resurrection of judging.
Mind you, I still would much rather proceed out of death into life. I would rather not come into judging.
But God’s judgments are just…. and I’m not convinced that would include unending torment. This passage does not say that it does.
Another thing this passage says is there is Life in the Son. I like the past tense in this sentence: He… “has proceeded out of death into life.” Amen!