Eternal Punishment: Chapter 1, Universalism

Examine this further with Peter Hiett as he explores “The Cuttingroom Floor.”

ETERNAL PUNISHMENT: IN THE VERY WORDS OF ITS ADVOCATES

C H A P T E R I.

UNIVERSALISM.

The doctrine of Universalism appears to me very simple, consistent, and beautiful. It regards this world as God’s, and the whole human family as his children. It accepts without distrust the fundamental fact of the gospel, that God, out of his great love to mankind, now alienated from him by sin, sent his only begotten Son to seek and to save that which was lost, and by redeeming men from sin, to restore them to their right relations with God, and thus fit them to glorify and enjoy Him forever. It teaches that whatever mystery or difficulty there may be in the work of redeeming and saving souls, it is precisely the same in one and all.

Universalism first acknowledges the whole world is God’s. “…The whole human family as his children….” Universalism is simple. It is consistent. Most significantly it is beautiful. Dr. Sawyer points to truth. Scripture does not have to be maligned or twisted to fit the doctrine of Universalism. Universalism does not compete with Scripture and it is a reliable doctrine. It is beautiful.

Nothing strikes me as more beautiful than a righteous King ruling over all that His Father gave Him. Nothing could be more glorious to behold. The King on His Throne over all. Subjecting all to Himself including the devil, death and the grave. His love so magnificent and so powerful that His blood covers the most vile man.

Is it possible to behold anything else more glorious?

The salvation given to the most righteous man is the same salvation given to the least righteous. Salvation is the claim of the Gospel. The Gospel applies to all men.

Universalists believe the Gospel. They preach it. Universalists believe Jesus died for the sins of all. They preach that too.

The truth, the grace, the love, the spiritual power, that can seize and transform one sinful soul, yours or mine, a Peter’s or a Paul’s, is able to seize and transform all souls; for it can accommodate itself to all possible diversities of character and all conditions of life. It is in virtue of this comprehensive power and fitness for the work it has in hand, that the gospel of Christ is qualified to be, and is to become in fact, a universal religion.

There is not a soul ever in existence that cannot be reached by Christ. Paul writes that he is chief among sinners. God saved even a sinner as heinous as Paul. He saved even me. His power changed me and everyone like me. His power is not sufficient only for those who believe. His power to restore reaches the far off and beyond.

His power reaches all souls. Every soul will be transformed. Every knee will bow. All will bring glory to God. Universalism does not teach that any are lost to eternal conscious torment.

The profundity in Mr. Sawyer’s statement is that the Gospel of Christ Jesus will eventually be the religion of the world. Every knee shall bow and acknowledge Him as Lord.

If there is one human soul in the universe that Christ cannot subdue and bring into willing subjection to his law, he is not “the Savior of the world,” as inspiration proclaims him, and not the Savior the world needs. Yet this redemptive work, let me add, is always carried on in perfect accordance with man’s moral nature. Transcendent and divine as the power is, it operates in harmony with all human powers, so that, while Christ subdues our hearts to his will and brings them in subjection to his holy law, there is no violence done to our personality or our own will.

We never act more freely than when we recognize the divine love, and sweetly yield our wills, ourselves, to its all-conquering power. It was his prophecy and promise, as he stood in the immediate presence of the cross, that if he were lifted up from the earth, thus signifying by what death he was to die, he would draw all men unto himself (John xii. 32).

Ask yourself, is “…there one human soul in the universe that Christ cannot subdue and bring into willing subjection to His law…?” To answer there is is also to diminish Christ’s power to save the world. If there is one soul Christ cannot change then He is not the Savior of the world.

Jesus’ purpose is to die for the sins of the world. He did not die to condemn the world, but to save it. Universalism considers that all sins of the world are forgiven. There is not a sin that has not already been forgiven.

Scripture paints a picture of the last hours of Jesus’ freedom. He has entered Jerusalem riding a colt. The people had heard of His many miracles. It was only recently Jesus called Lazarus out from the grave. The people heard how Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had died and was buried for four days. They heard that Lazarus is now alive. Now Jesus enters Jerusalem as royalty, loved and honored by His people.

The people wanted to be near Him. Two Greek men sought assistance from a Disciple; Phillip. Phillip told Andrew and together they told Jesus about the Greek men’s request. It’s not clear from scripture if Jesus met with these men. He did respond to Andrew and Phillip.

He likens Himself to a grain of wheat. Wheat grains must die if new seed is to be harvested. He must die if the fruit of His love is to grow.

He talked about being truly devoted. He blesses those who bless Him. Those who believe are taken from the darkness and brought into the light. He blesses those who diligently serve Him. He also says those who are in darkness choose to stay in darkness.

God spoke from heaven. He glorified His Name before a multitude of witnesses. The people were confused. Jesus spoke to them. “The Voice you heard was the Father’s Voice. He did not raise His Voice for My benefit. He spoke for your benefit.” Jesus did not need the Father’s testimony. The World needs it!

God is glorified and will again be glorified.

Jesus describes His death on a cross. Then He says a most remarkable thing, “…and I, if I may be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.”

I get relief when I read this scripture (John 12:32). My dilemma regarding my mother’s salvation is put to rest. Christ tells us that His death on a cross is to draw all men unto myself.

There is no longer a question in my mind about the salvation of the world. Jesus died on a cross and saved all men unto Himself. Not one is lost.

And this word “draw” expresses admirably the attractive forces of the Christian religion and Christ’s method of accomplishing his work. Men are not driven to goodness and heaven, but are drawn thither.

John 12:32

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

There is nothing mentioned by Christ regarding the judgment of the unrepentant. He says clearly He will draw all men unto Himself. There is no man who cannot be eventually drawn to Christ by Christ. His love will draw the unrepentant man to repentance. His mercy will draw the unrepentant man. His grace will draw the unrepentant man. The unrepentant man will release rebellion and pride at some point. He will repent and then be included in Christ’s Kingdom.

This is the same process that drew you and drew me to Him. The power of his love draws all men to repentance. The gift of His mercy draws all men to Himself. Grace is the gift, like faith, that draws all men to Jesus.

If nothing else is agreed upon, let’s agree that Christ died on the Cross to draw all men to Himself. That’s the plain meaning of scripture.

And we cannot properly consider the power of the divine love, as exhibited in the mission of Christ, without feeling convinced that it is sufficient to do all that Christ undertook. Prophecy assures us that he will not fail nor be discouraged in his work, but bring it at last to a glorious consummation. As there is one God, who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, so there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (1 Tim. ii. 3-6). And that Christian seems to me weak in the faith who does not see in his Lord and Master a will, a love, a patience, a persistence, equal to the great work he came to do.

God is love. The power “of the divine love” is clearly seen in His Holy Word. Christ Jesus is love. His love is all powerful. His love is doing all that Christ set out to accomplish. Jesus Christ will not fail to love all and all will be drawn to Him.

1 Timothy 2:1-8
I exhort, then, first of all, there be made supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, for all men: for kings, and all who are in authority, that a quiet and peaceable life we may lead in all piety and gravity, for this is right and acceptable before God our Saviour, who doth will all men to be saved, and to come to the full knowledge of the truth; for one is God, one also is mediator of God and of men, the man Christ Jesus, who did give himself a ransom for all–the testimony in its own times— in regard to which I was set a preacher and apostle–truth I say in Christ, I do not lie–a teacher of nations, in faith and truth. I wish, therefore, that men pray in every place, lifting up kind hands, apart from anger and reasoning;

Is God’s will to be ignored or diminished? The scripture clearly states God wills all men to be saved. It is God’s will. Moreover it is God’s will that all men “come to the full knowledge of the truth….”

Scripture says what it says. What kind of men are we to teach that God does not really will all men to be saved? It is the orthodoxy’s view that only a few or even half or maybe more than half will be saved. No matter the number of the unrepentant their outcome is eternal conscious torment.

Universalism teaches that it is God’s will to save all men. Scripture teaches that it is God’s will to save all men.

It is clear that Jesus paid the ransom for all men. The ransom was paid in blood shed on the cross. The ransom was paid for all men. We should not strive to make the Gospel mean anything less than that. Eternal conscious torment is a doctrine that diminishes the Gospel.

Universalists believe God will reconcile all men to Himself. It is the simple statement of scripture. It is consistent.

Nor do the various punishments which necessarily befall the sinner, whether here or hereafter, in any manner interfere with Christ’s redeeming purpose, or interrupt the processes of his grace. On the contrary, they may always be, as we know they often are, the means of breaking the stubborn will, and so preparing the heart for the readier reception of the divine love and law. And as Christ in his history has experienced all the states of human existence, having sojourned and suffered in this world, descended into Hades, and ascended into heaven, that, as the Apostle says, “he might fill all things,” so he embraces in the arms of his redeeming power and love the whole human family in all their possible states of being, whether alive upon earth, or whether they lived before the flood, or are to live in the ages to come.

There is not a sin that cannot be forgiven. There is not a sin that Christ cannot overcome. To say otherwise is to deny His power, His purpose. There is not a time when His grace is trumped by His wrath. Never is His mercy outlasted by His anger. He is all forgiving, all knowing, He is love.

Jesus suffered in life as one of us. The torments he suffered at our expense are immeasurable and impossible to grasp. Dr. Sawyer states it best, “…Christ in His history has experienced all the states of human existence having sojourned and suffered in this world, descended into Hades, and ascended into heaven, that, as the Apostle says, ‘he might fill all things,’ so he embraces in the arms of his redeeming power and love the whole human family in all their possible states of being, whether alive upon earth, or whether they lived before the flood, or are to live in the ages to come.”

There is nothing that separates us from the love of God. There is nothing that can undo the price He paid on the Cross. He will “fill all things.” No matter our state, our position or our family we all will rest in His arms. His redeeming love is superior to the traditions of men.

Rom 8:31-39

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing in creation is able to separate us from the Father. No man is ordained to condemn. We should all take care when we pretend to proclaim God’s intent, particularly as it relates to eternal conscious torment.

All men, all ever created will be restored to their Father. The good and the evil will experience His love.

Right about now I sense the Calvinist is closing the book. It is better for their theology to not be examined further. Everything about predestination they have ever learned is now challenged.

God’s will is that all will be saved. His will be done.

What does the Augustinian say? “Hell NO! It is not God’s will that all be saved. It is God’s will that those of us chosen since before time are saved.” To the Calvinist God is less than love. He kinda-sorta loves. Some He loves. Some He doesn’t. He condemns some to eternal torment, in fact, He condemns most of humanity to eternal pain. Rest easy though, the Calvinist is chosen.

What would Arminus say? “Hell NO! It is not God’s will that all be saved. It is my free will that matters. I have chosen to believe the Gospel.” To the Arminian God is less than love. He kinda-sorta loves. Some He loves. Some He doesn’t. He condemns some to eternal torment, in fact, He condemns most of humanity to eternal pain. Rest easy though, the Arminian has chosen.

He tasted death for every man, and is therefore to be the Savior of the world. In the language of the Apostle we say, “Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. ii. 9-11 ).

And it needs no argument to show that universal homage to Christ and this confession of him as Lord can be nothing else than a personal and individual act. No man can make this confession for his neighbor; and the Apostle elsewhere assures us that these acts of homage and allegiance can be performed in no other temper than that of profound sincerity. “No man speaking by the spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. xii. 3.)

Dr. Sawyer is right to declare “it needs no argument to show universal homage to Christ….” Our relationship with Christ is individually made. No other entity has any authority over our relationship or commitment to Christ.

Philippians 2:9-11 identifies the persons bowing and giving honor to Christ. It is all creation that bows. Further scripture assures us that all men will be affected by their one to one meeting with Christ. All men will say Jesus is Lord.

No man will be coerced to confess his sins and seek forgiveness. No man will be forced to his knees to glorify the Lord. Every knee will bow because all men will realize they are standing before the Truth. Every knee will bow in submission to the King because they love the King. Every knee will know the King.

In the realm of the spiritual, forms and ceremonies count little, and unmeaning or forced confessions, in which the heart does not utter its own feelings and convictions, count nothing at all. The Apostle, in declaring that every knee is to bow in the name of Christ, and every tongue to confess him Lord to the glory of God the Father, was surely not speaking of any mere outward service or any hypocritical homage, and quite as little of that confession which orthodoxy madly dreams will be extorted from the damned in hell.

There is nothing phony in heaven. Rituals received or practiced in earthly life do not matter in heaven. Hollow confessions are not heard. Our beliefs, our doctrines, our intellectual prowess will mean nothing in heaven.

The only obstacle remaining between us and our Christ is our rebellion. When we abandon rebellion and repent then we will see Christ in Truth. Every knee will bow. The obstacle of rebellion is exposed by the Light. Every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord.

There is no deed to be done. There is no marker that needs to be cashed in. There is nothing between us and God except rebellion and His love overcomes that.

The salvation of the whole human race is what God proposed in the creation; it is what Christ came into the world to effect, and for the accomplishment of which he was given all needed power in heaven and earth. To this end he died the death of the cross, and thus tasted death for every man; and I submit that such self-sacrificing love cannot suddenly cool, nor readily give over to endless torment souls for which it thus willingly suffered. I should be ashamed of myself if, believing in God and in Christ, I still feared their ultimate failure in this great work of redemption, whose history fills the Bible. God never fails; I cannot associate failure with him even in thought. It is for Him who inhabits eternity, and who is at once omniscient and omnipotent, to say, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. xlvi. 10).

The orthodoxy are convinced that God created most people for eternal conscious torment. Their conviction to this belief diminishes what Christ accomplished in His Life: His teaching, His miracles, His persecution, His trial, the false conviction, the torment and the mocking of His body, the humiliation he labored under, the Crucifixion, His death, His burial, His resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of the Father. His power, His sacrifice are insufficient to save all according to the orthodox. Moreover, according to the orthodoxy Christ knew His sacrifice would be insufficient.

The belief in eternal conscious torment requires a belief that Jesus will not draw all men to Himself. The belief in eternal conscious torment requires a belief that Jesus will not save all.

All that Jesus did, according to the orthodoxy, is insufficient to restore all to Himself even if that was to satisfy His own purpose. Dr. Sawyer said, “…I submit that such self-sacrificing love cannot suddenly cool, nor readily give over to endless torment souls for which it thus willingly suffered.”

The orthodoxy has little difficulty denying Christ’s power to save all. This is a condition of the church for several hundreds of years. The orthodoxy can equate failure to God. God cannot be considered successful if His love does not extend to all. If even one soul is lost to Satan, then God is a failure.

Dr. Sawyer states the objection more clearly than I am able. He says, “…I should be ashamed of myself if, believing in God and in Christ, I still feared their ultimate failure in this great work of redemption, whose history fills the Bible. God never fails; I cannot associate failure with him even in thought.”

And I beg those of the contrary part to reflect that the final issue of the divine government, whether it be in harmony with our theology or theirs, must be what God saw it from the beginning, and what, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, he himself proposed.

No matter what side of the question you are persuaded to argue, it is clear that God’s hand must be in the final outcome. God has seen the end from the beginning. He gave the breath of life, of wisdom to Adam. He knew then how His goodness would find completion in His Creation.

Does anyone dare say God is not Sovereign? He is the only Sovereign. Therefore His will is the only outcome that matters. It is of no consequence if you are proudly a part of the orthodoxy or if you are proudly a Universalist. God’s will is done despite our opinions on how He should manage His creation.

It is God Who says, “ My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose….” No matter how long or how hard we argue against eternal conscious torment it is always clear in the Universalist’s mind that God is Sovereign and He is Love.

Being redundant for the sake of emphasis, if your belief is in eternal conscious torment or if your belief is in Ultimate Reconciliation the bottom line in both cases: God is Love!

About Jim Barnes

A man seeking to please the Lord. A man striving to abide in Christ Jesus. A man whose hope is to see just one more come into the fold.
This entry was posted in Dr. Thomas Sawyer - Eternal Punishment: In The Very Words Of Its Advocates, Reconciliation Of All. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s