In this series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament, I’m going through the New Testament and pointing out how things look from a universalist’s perspective. So far, we’ve found that yes, there will be judgment — but nowhere does it say that judgment will be unending torment. And the Bible does say, in many places, that all will be saved and that at the end of the ages will come the restoration of all things.
At first glance, Hebrews 6:4-6 seems to be a problem for this perspective:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
I really like George Sarris’s explanation of this passage in his book Heaven’s Doors, so I’m going to quote him here.
If it’s impossible for someone who’s fallen away to be brought back to repentance, isn’t it clear that they will never enter the presence of God? If it’s impossible for them to enter heaven, where else could they be but in hell?
The writer of Hebrews is talking to people who were slow to learn.
By this time, they should have been teachers themselves, but instead they needed others to teach them. As with many people today, these teachers were stuck going over and over the same things with people who were really only interested in arguing, not in learning the truth.
The word impossible here has a force similar to what Jesus said to His disciples after He told them it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Again, notice the use of exaggeration to make a point.
The disciples were “greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'”
The writer of Hebrews is not saying that it’s impossible for God to bring someone who’s fallen away from the faith back to repentance. Rather, it’s impossible, and a waste of time, for Christian leaders to try to reconvert someone who’s been acquainted with all the proofs and elements of Christianity and chosen to abandon them.
Again, even though this passage implies bad consequences — there is nothing whatsoever about unending torment as punishment.