Why I am not a Universalist – 5 initial reasons against Universalism

I'm about to read The Evangelical Universalist. A dear brother and friend gave me a copy this morning, asking me to consider it carefully and prayerfully, for both his sake and us all. Before doing this, I though it would be good to give a 'calibration' zero point for future reference: this is where I'm starting from before I begin reading. That way when I post reflections throughout and a proper review after, we can refer back to this.

Before I being let me stress, as I've commented elsewhere, that I realise this is a very serious subject, sensitive to many as it should be to all, involving deep complexities for some. It comes with my sincere prayerfulness and genuine heartfelt sorrow over the fate of the wicked, but even more so a passion for the truth and God's glory and holiness to be seen in all his judgments.

I have no formal theological training. I'm just a Christian and a prolific reader of the Bible and have been so for many years.

With this in mind, here are 5 reasons why I am not a Universalist; these are my initial reasons against Universalism and the things this book at the very least needs to correct me on if it is going to make any proper case for Universalism:
1.The Bible really does teach 'eternal' punishment

2.The Bible really does teach 'eternal' sin

3.Jesus taught a hell of 'permanency' and 'finality'

4.There is no textual evidence of any 'reversal' of the last judgment

5.Universalism cannot be justified from the texts that Universalists take support from
What follows is a brief (and rushed, 'last minute') description of each argument, as I'm about to go away for 4 days to spend time with family and read, pray, read, pray.

1. ‘Aionion’ (eternal) punishment

Re: ‘Aionion’ (eternal) punishment and Mt 18:8; 25:41, 46; 2 Thes 1:9

‘Aion’ means ‘old age’ and is used of the never ending ‘age to come’. This lead to the derivative adjective: ‘aionion’ - which means “eternal” or “everlasting”. The certainty of this adjective meaning ‘endless duration’ is unquestionable because of the following:

1). These words are used to describe God. This same adjective denotes God as “eternal” king (1 Tim 1:17), “eternal” God (Rom 16:26), God “forever” (Rom 11:36), and God blessed “forever” (2 Cor 11:31). If this adjective is fit for describing God it cannot possibly have the meaning of “limited duration”.

2).The same adjective is used for both eternal punishment and eternal life (Mt 25:46). Neither can be more limited than the other. If the state of the reward of the righteous in Mt 25:46 is an endless duration so must it be describing the duration of punishment of the wicked.

2. Eternal sin

Re: Eternal sin and Mark 3:29; Matt 12:22-32; Heb 6:4-6 & 1 Jn 5:16

The unforgivable sin in Mark 3:29 is explained by Jesus thus: “he is guilty of an eternal sin”. The very oldest manuscripts have this translation. This is actually far worse than some translations that inadequately translate this as “in danger of eternal damnation/judgment” (The ESV and NIV are right to translate this as “guilty of an eternal sin”): This is a sin committed as an event at one point within time, for which there is no forgiveness forever beyond that point. That is the meaning of “neither in this life or in the life to come” : he has committed an ETERNAL sin.

1 John 5:16 adds to this also. In the context of praying for the sins of others, and God granting forgiveness: “there is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” There are two examples within the NT that describe this specifically: The unforgivable sin of Mt 12:22-32 & Mk 3:29, as well as the sin of Hebrews 6:4-6 of which it is impossible to bring back to repentance. In these instances the Holy Spirit is so outraged that no further access to his forgiveness will be granted.

Therefore John tells us in 1Jn5:16 in these situations not to pray for that sin or that sinner. Why? Because it is against God’s will. God will not ever forgive that one sin once committed. It is impossible for him to bring them back to repentance because that would require a second crucifixion of Jesus.

So let me ask you, how could you believe that this person has still a possibility of salvation in hell, with the following being plain in the Bible about these people:

  1. Eternally sinful – since their unpardonable sin puts them in a state of permanent rejection of God’s spirit
  2. No one praying for them (in this life or the next)
  3. God never to forgive them for that one sin of the past & present so they will be eternally unforgiven for it
  4. God unable to bring them back to repentance (he has no second son to crucify; no second spirit to offer them) so that they are eternally unrepentant

3. Jesus intention to describe a hell of permanence and finality

The intention of Jesus’ descriptions, his metaphors and his explanations of hell, together with the gospel writers, is to communicate both 'permanence' and 'finality', and they give nothing to the contrary. Below is just a sample:

A. Jesus descriptions:

  • Mk 9:43; cf Lk 3:17 “the fire does not go out”
  • Mk 9:47-48 “their worm does not die & the fire not quenched”

B. Explanations:

  • Mk 3:29; Mt 12:32 “he has committed an eternal sin”...”will not be forgiven neither in this life nor the life to come”
  • John 3:36, “whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him”

C. Jesus’ metaphors

  • Mt 25:10 the “door is shut”
  • Mt 8:12, Lk 13:28 they are “thrown out” and “thrown outside”
  • Lk 16:26 the chasm is impassable
More references could be given. Again, the intention of these Gospel references to hell, mostly from Jesus, is to communicate both 'permanence' and 'finality' in God's sentence on the unrighteous, and these references also at the same time communicate neither anything to the contrary, or anything additional to temper this.

4. There is no textual evidence of any 'reversal' of the last judgment in the NT

I cannot find one saying that plainly speaks of an end of punishment for those condemned to hell. Can you?

If Jesus wanted to teach anything other than eternal damnation and continuous punishment, why did he not leave one saying plainly indicating so?

In the NT there is no indication whatsoever that punishment of sin ever ceases. The last judgment of the wicked is permanent.


5. Universalism cannot be justified from the textual 'support' that Universalists rely on

There are leagues of verses that Universalists 'interpret' as implying that 'all' (meaning every person in existence without exception) will finally be saved, But from what I understand they fall into three categories:

  1. God’s good 'will' toward all (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9)
  2. The universal 'scope' of the cross (2 Cor 5:19; Col 1:20; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 1 Jn 2:2)
  3. The 'wide' reach of the atonement (Jn 12:32; Rom 5:18; Eph 1:10)
But to interpret any of these references to use them to show that God will in the end save 'everybody' is clearly...

  1. Going beyond what the writers have actually said
  2. Going beyond their intention
  3. Ignoring the contexts of these references in which there are usually other references to either condemnation of the wicked or a final divorce of good and evil


Bibliography: New Bible Dictionary; Evangelical Dictionary of Theology; Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

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