A REASON FOR HOPE FOR ALL- A POSSIBILITY

There is a significant amount of conversation these days about Hopeful Christian Universalism, meaning that the Bible gives us reason to believe and hope that through Christ all people will be restored and saved and enter the Kingdom. Most Christians are fine with thinking this is NOT the case and would rather trust the research and theology that has come to us mostly since the Reformation of the 1500’s.

Let’s consider the idea of judgment for a moment. I recently read a blog written by a friend from Long Island on this point: (This following is a paragraph from the blog.)

The message is clear. No matter who you are, rich or poor, known or unknown, cleric or laymen, artist or Pope, we all have the wonderful opportunity to look up and consider God in His marvelous creation. But if we do this, we must all also consider that we will all face Him in his judgment – and that is the part that many people want to forget. It is one thing to look at creation and think that God may have had a part in it, but it is quite another to think that we all are accountable to this same God.

Christians of the Evangelical sort make much of judgment, particularly final judgment which, depending on what verses we read, can be based on faith or faith and good works done in the body or how we used the talents God gave to us. This judgment, especially for unbelievers, is dark and filled with images of hellish eternal torment rendered unto us by the loving God who in Jesus told us to love our enemies.

I want to consider a passage that is most appropriate for this Holy Week. I believe it’s an alternate view. It is a Palm Sunday scene that takes place after Jesus had raised Lazarus to life. He is now in Jerusalem and at one point reflects on his imminent death. I will pick up the scripture from there: John 12:27 ff.

 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiahremains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

Now, here’s how I understand what is happening in this conversation. Jesus is speaking about his death on the cross and concluding that his death will bring about the judgment of the world. His death will bring the world into a crisis by which the love of God expressed by Jesus on the cross IS the judgment of the world that Jesus is taking into himself. Evil, sin and Satan will be defeated on the cross. Read Colossians 2:13-15 [NRSV]:

13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, Godmade you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

See, this is the work of Jesus on the cross. To forgive us all, erasing all the legal punishments against us, and disarming Satan. Some will say it’s only true for those who believe. But in verse 32 of John 12, Jesus says that he is going to draw, pull, or drag ( Greek) all people to himself.

Now we can still say that this drawing does not save, only attracts more people. But left over from my Calvin days is the idea that such drawing is a work of irresistible grace on God’s part that will ensure that all people will come to Christ. It may be in this life and it may be that it happens after this life. I picture Jesus from his throne opening his arms of love to enfold the entire world for which he died. He didn’t die just for believers. Read I John 2:2: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but for the sins of the whole world.

Having written this I need to say that there are scriptures that signify a severe punishment for unbelievers (in whatever way such people are determined) but there is much in scripture that leads us to conclude that God will restore his whole creation back to himself, even through penalty after death that lasts for a season or eon. See Colossians 1:20. But many Christians don’t want to study those passages or dwell on them lest they be led astray, they think. But we want to consider the whole counsel of Scripture. The early church Fathers did. Read what they thought of hopeful universalism before the 6th century. (Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, Clement, St. Jerome and others anyone can look up.)

My point is to say that God loves his whole world and wants the salvation of all to take place; and restoration of all creation is possible through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I believe Jesus even puts an exclamation point on that possibility by forgiving the men who crucified him. So judgment may have taken place on what we call GOOD FRIDAY, only to be affirmed by the SUNDAY RESURRECTION.

I am hopeful that the God of love revealed in Christ will do more than we think or imagine in restoring all people to him. Paul writes that God is not counting the sins of anyone in the world against them (2Cor. 5:19). To me, that’s the Good News we can proclaim in Christ. That’s the kind of love that changes peoples’ hearts.

Grace does matter.

By the way, a wonderful book to read in the above vein is THE EVANGELICAL UNIVERSALIST by Gregory MacDonald.

3 thoughts on “A REASON FOR HOPE FOR ALL- A POSSIBILITY

  1. We are warned in scripture by Jesus that as it was in the days of Noah so will it be in the end days.
    We are in this time now. Many call evil good and good evil. God destroyed the earth and every living creature in it except Noah and his family includeing those animals he wanted to live. He had Noah build an ark and after it was completed he sent the flood. Till this very day you can find sea shells on top of mountains along with fossil remains of fish and other sea creatures. Not many scientist will argue anymore that once the earth was covered in water because the evidence is too strong. The Hopi Indians in the south west of America tell a similar story about the creator who came to one Hopi holy man and told him he must build a great vessel to save himself and his family, The aborigines in Australia also speak of the creator who spoke to them telling them how he would destroy the wickedness in the earth with a flood. Many peoples of many nations also have simular legends of how the creator came to them and warned them that he would Destroy men from off the earth because every thought and imagination of mans heart was wicked. We are told also in scripture that God the creator goes forth to all nations and peoples of the earth and offers two cups to drink from one is the cup of his grace found in Christ and the other is the cup of his wrath and he further says if I remember correctly every nation and peoples must drink from one or the other. We can humble ourselves and fall upon the cap stone which also is Christ or it will fall upon us and crush us because of pride. So many warnings
    are given concerning mens hearts .
    In my personal walk with our lord I know him first as my great savior who brought me back from the grave . But I also know him as a father the most loving and kindest lord and savior . He who we call God or creator he is every bit human and knows our hearts because he subjugated himself to everything we feel and are subjugated to in this life. Jesus fought a very powerful angel on this earth and it cost him his life. It was because of love John 3;16 that he endured the cross. And no man took his life but he gave his life willingly for us because that is what real love does. And on the 3rd day he arose from the grave and walked among us for 40 days afterwards . He that believes on me shall never perish but have eternal life. I would say its ok to think God will save everyone how he would do this I can not say but I hope he will. But until such an event becomes clear many in the evangelical community will continue to preach Christ crucified , The Lamb of God who was slain from the foundations of the world. The love of God is so profound and so deep . How could we ever not hope for all to be saved. I think when the father was so grieved about mens condishion on earth he sought for an emissary but in all of heaven and upon the earth none were found. But then he heard a voice say hear am I as it is written in the scroll about me, So God sent his only begotten son into the world to save it . And to bring the message that God loves men. To call men to repentance and to follow him. To be renewed by the working of the Holy Spirit. May our lord and savior bless you and yours this easter
    and May Gods love fall upon every man women and Child.
    Guy

  2. I hope you are right George in, that every person who ever lived will be saved but I have never been taught that before. I guess we will have to wait until we get to Heaven to find out the truth. But just in case this teaching is not correct I’m still glad that I have repented of my sins and have asked Jesus to be my saviour. That way I know that I am truly saved.

  3. George, you wrote—”Christians of the Evangelical sort make much of judgment, particularly final judgment which, depending on what verses we read, can be based on faith or faith and good works done in the body or how we used the talents God gave to us. This judgment, especially for unbelievers, is dark and filled with images of hellish eternal torment rendered unto us by the loving God who in Jesus told us to love our enemies.”
    Judgment is, indeed, one of the ‘bugaboos’ inflicted on us by those who deny this magnificent and magnanimous love of God.
    I have been developing some thoughts on the idea of judgment/perish.
    You might want to try to handle it yourself here on our blog for your followers.
    BTW, I really enjoyed this article. Well written.
    Thanks.

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