Clarity and whack concerning Universal Salvation…
The sound of the Gospel is the most harmonious, comforting, empowering sound that exists on planet earth. It is quite difficult to capture its sound in word alone. But as I highly value the written word as a means of publishing the Good News and way of archiving the revelation we are receiving at this time, I want to share the thoughts that were spoken at our latest gathering in Cwmbran, UK. Its exciting to see new people coming along each month and feel it is beneficial to have a place where our hearts can meet and revel in the Word together.
…a rose tinted lens
There are many ways to read the Bible and our understanding will depend upon the ‘lens’ that is worn at the time of reading. I was introduced to Christianity at the age of nine when we started to attend a local Baptist chapel, so it was with a Calvinistic (Augustinian theology) ‘lens’ that we were taught to view the world at large and each other, eternal Hell was a very dominant focus within this framework of interpreting Scripture. Maybe Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity is all that you have known of the Christian world and so without a doubt you will have worn at some point an Arminian ‘lens’.
Anyways, without getting into the theology too deeply behind these different ‘lenses’ I just want to highlight the fact that our surroundings, our teachers, churches, will affect our understanding of Scripture and more importantly the Good News itself. Even though there exists hundreds of denominations and streams within Christianity itself, there remains three dominant systems of theology from which to view Scripture as a whole. It’s these ‘lenses’ I want to discuss rather than focus on the endless arguments that surround individual controversial Scriptures.
Fortunately, there seems to be a new ‘lens’ that we are discovering these days, or should I say re-discovering. A ‘lens’ or biblical perspective that is universal and all-inclusive in its outlook. So to simply recap on the different views that have dominated Western Christianity for the last 1,500 years or so, I will very briefly attempt to summarise.
Calvinism believes strongly in a Sovereign God and yet denies the fact that God loves everyone. It highlights the elect as the chosen and forgets that the elect, the first-fruits were to be a light to the nations. This makes room for self-righteousness to flourish as people become self secure in their own salvation but are unable to love unconditionally their fellow man, after all, they may not be chosen for salvation. If God has not chosen to save them, then there is obviously no hope for them and so they can be dismissed, I guess if God sees fit to condemn a person to eternal torment then so be it!!
Some are destined for damnation some for salvation and who are we to question God. Eternal Hell is a strong factor in this belief system.
In my last blog post ‘the conclusion of love’ I attempted to unravel the inaccuracy of this interpretation of Scripture as a whole and how inconsistent eternal torment is with a God of Love, even though I totally appreciate the view of God as Sovereign that this system of theology has maintained of the years.
Love never fails, even in death, or I would prefer to say, especially death cannot prevail against His purposes for mankind. If a person has not ‘accepted’ Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour before they die then Hell becomes their new home forever. So to conclude that death is the end for any person with regards to any hope of salvation is a godless thought, one that cries out to me that God is foremost a God that specialises in raising the dead the life.
Arminianism on the other hand believes strongly that God loves everyone unconditionally but cannot seem to marry the idea of man’s free will with the Sovereignty of God. So the predominant thought is that even though God loves everyone He is unable to go against a person’s free will, and so in a sense God’s hands are tied and His will to save all men is dependent upon man’s response in this life alone.
On this basis, there are very little grounds for real hope and assurance of man’s salvation, as masses of men, women and children have died already without knowing of their inclusion in Christ Jesus. At the heart of this line of reasoning man’s responsibility is bigger than God’s Sovereignty, no matter how you look at it.
Fear is left to fester and hope for mankind is dependent upon man’s efforts to preach, teach and evangelise. There is great emphasis upon a person’s need to respond right in this life. A mindset of ‘us’ and ‘them’; ‘saved’ and ‘unsaved’ is a dominant theme and Christianity can become a frenzy of activity to save the world. God would love all to be saved but this will not be realised as men’s free will prevents God’s Sovereignty from overriding their ‘choice’, out of love of course!
As a mother of two young boys I would in no way allow their ‘free will’ to override my responsibility(will) as their mother in certain circumstances, for example, I would always hold their hand very tightly when crossing a busy road, even if they wanted freedom from this restraint. I believe free will has been largely misunderstood within this perspective and our free will remains under the loving restraint of a Sovereign Creator/Father/Lover of our souls. Thank God I say.
I have personally experienced both camps above and am happy to declare that I can no longer agree with either. I find both are full of flaws and both create a tension and a stress that has nothing to do with Christianity and is as far removed from a genuine faith in God as can be.
Our Gospel is a message of hope and peace, joy unspeakable and full of Glory.
At the heart of our new discoveries is a definite universal ‘lens’ you may say. I have found that Universalism can be a banner for many varied beliefs, so I am not comfortable to simply say that that alone defines us now (although I am not opposed to this term personally), a clear belief in a Universal Salvation is a treasured thought that has gripped our hearts.
A universal perspective is the ‘lens’ that we are now wearing as we read Scripture. It seems new to us, but a little study reveals that actually it is the oldest system of theological thought and was the most predominant way to read Scripture for the first 500 years of Christianity. I have posted many quotes from many early church fathers that convey this beautiful theme on my blog; God’s purpose in Christ to reconcile the whole cosmos to Himself.
What Christ alone accomplished through His incarnation, death and resurrection is the basis of our fresh view of the Gospel. This act of God in Christ secures the salvation of all men, and there will be a time in history when this will be evident to all. God will be seen as all in all.
St Paul’s Universalism
1 Corinth 15:28
New humanity has been accomplished once and for all in Christ Jesus. So I am very comfortable and happy in promoting and publishing a Gospel that includes the resurrection of universal mankind.
The death of Jesus Christ was not the death of one man. This man was God incarnate, and so God Himself entered our condition, as we were, dead in our sins and took this condition to the grave, once and for all. Death could not hold Him and cannot hold us; His resurrection is the resurrection of a new humanity. A new redeemed, restored to glory humanity. The manifestation of this truth is what we live in hope to witness more and more.
Col 3:9-11; Eph 2:15 AMP
We were born again at the resurrection of Christ, even though we may have an exact moment in our personal history when we realised our beautiful inclusion, the fact remains that universally we were included in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this and this alone has cosmic significance. The beauty and Glory of God that is beginning to unfold in our midst is just like a young bud that begins to open up its flower to reveal its glorious colour and fragrance to the world under the warmth of the summer sun.
This is at the heart of the Gospel we call Good News, as this is truly what it is all about, we can look forward to a glorious universal all in all, whilst enjoying an intimacy with God now that exudes peace and hope to those around us. We are heading for full bloom Glory, that the world may see and believe. We are first-fruits, but God has in mind the whole lump, the whole batch of humanity, all His children restored to glory.
1 Peter 1:3
‘If one man died for all, then all men died’. The same conclusive ‘if’ is used in verse 17 in a verse we are more familiar with, ‘therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.’ We can be confident that the Bible teaches that all men are wrapped up in Christ before they ever realised it.
1 Corinth 5:14-17
You were baptised into His death.
We have been crucified together with Christ. Our innocence has been restored. His resurrection is our confidence. Our connection with Him goes
way beyond our personal responsibility to respond correctly. A ‘correct’ response is natural when we hear the Good News. Faith in God is a natural heart response when we realise how much faith He has in us. The whole argument that universalism somehow diminishes the need to respond or repent, as all are saved already is a shallow unfounded one.
The Good News is the power of God, so to promote, share this beautiful conclusive act of God in any shape or form will cause hearts to respond automatically, this can be our confidence. No man can respond enough to save himself, no man can make such a quality decision to turn from sin towards God, no matter how good his intentions are or how well you have presented your ABC to salvation sermon. If this was even possible then Christ died in vain. The whole purpose of the law was to show that man is incapable of saving himself.
My passion is to recover the Good News in all its purity, with a clarity and Glory that cannot be denied. Our ability to exaggerate the goodness of God is worth exploring. I am making it my life’s aim to attempt to exaggerate the goodness and love of God for humanity as expressed in Christ Jesus.
What freedom to delve into this ocean of this unlimited love that is God Himself. Jesus Christ is what God has to say. He has spoken one final word in Christ.
… conclusion of Mr Love
His incarnation, His death, His resurrection, ascension and seated position right now as Lord and Saviour of all men is conclusive. We can afford to wear a universal ‘lens’ when reading Scripture. When we understand and appreciate the heart of God we will be able to read the ‘negative’ Scriptures without it affecting our overall view of God as a God of Unconditional Love.
Love can still discipline those He loves, train, teach and mature His beloved but NEVER torment eternally in a place called Hell (if this is your first post, then please read my blog ‘the conclusion of Love’ where I expressed a few thoughts of an alternative view of ‘Hell’ apart from an eternal tormenting fire/www.icantbelieveitsnotheresy.com.)
We are beginning to appreciate a ‘lens’ that involves the salvation of humanity based solely upon the death, resurrection of Jesus Christ. As this one act has already happened we are those who have a secure hope, a concrete conclusion regarding the destiny of mankind. So this forms the centre of our thinking with regards to, not only ourselves, but our neighbour also, near and far.
Our hearts are being transformed from this new/old perspective as love invades our lives. Jesus Christ and him crucified is the cornerstone of how we view Scripture. So this is the filter, the ‘lens’, the worldview we adopt and so we can re-read Scripture from this perspective. The inclusion of mankind in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is non negotiable. This understanding is foundational to all other views, doctrines, tradition itself, all, must bow to this truth.
Looking back over Abraham’s story we can see the entire Gospel has always been universal in nature. Even though God called Abram to leave his father’s land and go to a land that would be revealed, He always had in mind the nations. Abraham was to become father of nations, not simply his physical descendants, the nation of Israel, as we know it today. This new race was one based on faith in God not physical dominance or any other distinguishing mark that may define one from another. Abram was re-named Abraham ‘father of nations’. God calls those things that be not (seen yet) as though they are. He was asked to believe that he would inherit the world. This is the same Gospel. We find its origin here! Romans 4
Sons of God/Co-heirs with Christ
We in the same way are called out from our natural heritage as our only means of definition of whom we are. (The idea of original sin is a flawed one, we originate in God, we share His nature and DNA, and sin is a false idea of who we are. A belief in this lie is reflected in our lifestyles of sin and death.)
…unlimited free will another illusion
Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God. We have been eternally united with God; He will have the last word. Our ‘free will’ is wrapped up in His will, and He wills the salvation of all men. We have never really had unlimited free will, even in the garden there was one option that we were ‘free’ to follow but would not enhance our freedom, we had to learn it seems.
When sin entered the human race through Adam and Eve, immediately God placed a fiery cherubim to guard the Tree of Life. God was acting freely without our consent yet again and preventing Adam and Eve from eating from this tree and so experience eternal death. So their freedom was limited and still is. The wages of sin is death not eternal death or even worse a thought, eternal Hell.
…two births, one womb!!
We have undergone two births and in both births we are not in control, in fact we were not consulted at all. Our so called ‘free’ will that we seem to love so much was not required. We did not choose our earthly parents and in the same way our efforts were not required at our spiritual re-birth. We were resurrected at Christ’ resurrection and we had nothing at all to do with it. This is so offensive to many as it cuts through years of emphasising men’s responsibility to respond to God’s sacrificial death in Christ Jesus and includes all of mankind, no man elevated at the cost of another.
Saying that, there obviously is a glory in responding, but it’s like telling a young couple in love that there is a need to respond to one another? Some things are automatic, we instinctively know what to do, how to respond …create the right atmosphere and people respond. We respond to love, it’s in our DNA, which is love itself. All kinds of weird happens when love is absent.
When we hear the Good News of our inclusion in Christ our hearts begin to respond. The Gospel is the power of God and our ‘new lens’ in no way diminishes our love and need to share this with others, quite the contrary, our hearts open towards our fellow man and we see him in Christ already. Our attitude, our message will inevitably be effected and effortlessly love wins the hearts of those around us.
So let’s return to our faith father, Abraham. What was the promise that God spoke to Abraham?
We know from Galatians that this promise was the Gospel being preached beforehand to Abraham. Gal 3:8
So in the same way that the promise includes all nations, so the essence of the Gospel to us today is universal. Just as Abraham was a ‘light to the nations’; so we become the first fruits of those from the dead. At the heart of the message that Abraham speaks to us is ‘LIFE FROM THE DEAD’;
Abraham believed God could raise the dead to life. His body was as good as dead; Sarah’s womb was as good as dead, how was the promise to be fulfilled?
Romans 4 teaches us that even though the situation with Abraham did not look promising, (so much so that our faith father did attempt to ‘help’ God out and produce a son with his servant girl, Ishmael) finally Abraham believed God, he came to a place of rest in trusting God concerning this promise.
The Hebrew meaning of the word faith pictures a baby totally dependent upon his mother for milk, nourishment, absolutely everything. This is the picture of faith that Abraham speaks of. Faith in God is a place of resting in His ability to raise the dead to life. This is at the heart of the Gospel, God raised Christ from the dead, and we too have been raised from the dead. All were raised together with Him and if we die in our sins not realising our inclusion, then this same Glory will raise us up sooner or later, through whatever means is fit for us, we will see things differently I’m sure.
Our hope as believers is that this same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now dwells in us and this has an effect upon our mortal bodies now and later, we are transformed from mortality to immortality. There is whole new world right there to explore.
He abolished death and brought Life and Immortality to light through the Gospel.
1 Tim 1:9,10
He did this for and with universal mankind and He is the light that shines that we may see how glorious our salvation really is, we have been delivered from death to life.
Our life is one of faith in God, fully appreciating our limited free will but fully realising that our inclusion in His life, death and resurrection means that we are intimately united to God now, this union is one that includes all men, but obviously not all know this. Some as I see it will see after death, even second death (the lake of fire) it seems, but nonetheless, in due time we will see death abolished as it really has been abolished.
When the end comes (and this is a term I use with great joy in my heart) we will see God all in all, this may seem utterly impossible, but we have a God who raises the dead to life.
The fulfilment of the promise that is referred to throughout the entire Bible began in Abraham with the birth of Isaac (which means laughter) but was fulfilled in Christ, the one SEED that the promise always pointed to. Galatians states clearly that it was in Abraham’s seed, not seeds plural, and we know that Christ was the descendent of Abraham, the one Seed. In Christ all families of the earth are blessed.
If you be Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs of God, co-heirs together with Christ. Gal 3:29
Actually when we see, it becomes ‘hard’ to remember why we couldn’t see it all along? For me it is like a jigsaw puzzle and the pieces are all fitting together. I feel like the edges are in place now, the foundations are laid and we are blessed to see as we do today. I am grateful to all those who have imparted truth to me and know that the truth is what sets us
free. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’
I am not taking lightly the accusations of ‘universalism’ that come our way; but neither am I taking lightly the years of abuse and darkness that have kept masses of people from knowing their true identity and the bliss of restored embrace with God their Father. Having reviewed the other lenses that have ruled the landscape thus far in western Christendom, I am thrilled and unashamed to be grasping a universal view of the Gospel.