[Note: The following is a sample of Chapter 15 from “God’s Gift to Humanity: Hell or Reconciliation?” It is a lengthy chapter discussing Old Testament scriptures defining universal reconciliation. The verses discussed here are from Isaiah. The scriptures cited are taken from The World English Bible.]
…UR IN ISAIAH
Yahweh will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know Yahweh in that day. Yes, they will worship with sacrifice and offering, and will vow a vow to Yahweh, and will perform it. Yahweh will strike Egypt, striking and healing. They will return to Yahweh, and he will be entreated by them, and will heal them. In that day there will be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day, Israel will be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; because Yahweh of Armies has blessed them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”(Isaiah 19:21-25, emphasis added)
God’s Prophet Isaiah is relaying God’s Holy Word to the people. Egypt’s Pharaoh is a harsh ruler. God intends to correct the nation of Egypt. God intends to cause Egypt to turn from its evil ways and find peace in the Lord. Egypt will make sacrifices and they will make offerings. God will reconcile Egypt by striking them with the intent to heal them. He will strike them and they will see His power. He will heal them and they will see His unending mercy and they will experience His Divine love.
Israel will be God’s instrument. Israel will be an intermediary and will bring two enemies together. Israel, the smallest of all nations, is the means in which peace comes to the land. God provides discipline. He does punish to correct. He does what is necessary to complete His plan. Time and again in scripture we read how the Father intervenes in human life. Time and again in scripture we read how His love is prevalent in all of His interventions. In every Holy intervention all things work together for good. There is not a person God will not reach. No person will be able to resist His love, patience, or His will that all be saved. That is glorious news. It is good news. It is truly Gospel! It is “The Blessed Hope.”
In this mountain, Yahweh of Armies will make all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of choice wines, of fat things full of marrow, of well refined choice wines. He will destroy in this mountain the surface of the covering that covers all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He has swallowed up death forever! The Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from off all faces. He will take the reproach of his people away from off all the earth, for Yahweh has spoken it.(Isaiah 25:6-8, emphasis added)
Isaiah extols the virtues of God the Father. He breaks into a song of praise and worship. The Lord gives Isaiah these words. These words apply to all peoples of all nations. The words apply to all faces on the earth. God will take away the blame that is on all people and remove that reproach from all the earth. He’ll remember sins no more.
God the Father loves so completely, so thoroughly, He prepares a banquet beyond any other. There is a covering over the people. It is a covering that keeps them from the meal. God removes that covering, sin. With the removal of sin God ends death. Our loving Father wipes away the tears of sorrow and even tears of shame from all the faces.
These verses mean what they are intended to say. God wants us to know that He is Sovereign over all things, even the veil of sin that covers us. The covering has been lifted because of Christ Jesus and His obedience to death on a cross. The banquet is prepared and we are free to dine with Him. All people from every nation will eventually dine with Him. He will give them a place at His table. He will reconcile them to Himself. He will reconcile all of us to Himself. It is important to know that we love Him because He loves us first.
With my soul have I desired you in the night. Yes, with my spirit within me will I seek you earnestly; for when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.(Isaiah 26:9, emphasis added)
God’s people have been under constant and brutal persecution by malignant governments. The oppression is severe. “In the night” for the decades of their persecution Isaiah prays. Isaiah knows that God’s plan will be executed on the earth. When God exercises His authority over the earth the living will know His authority. Not only is Isaiah praying for his nation’s people he asks God to be merciful with the oppressors.
These verses demonstrate God’s mercy and justice. They represent reconciliation of all to Himself. People opposed to God will be exposed to righteousness and realize their rebellion is sin. All will repent. All will declare Christ Jesus is Lord. God is love.
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak comfortably to Jerusalem; and call out to her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received of Yahweh’s hand double for all her sins.” The voice of one who calls out, “Prepare the way of Yahweh in the wilderness! Make a level highway in the desert for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The uneven shall be made level, and the rough places a plain. Yahweh’s glory shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it.”(Isaiah 40:1-5, emphasis added)
There are few words more potent than these. God will make His way to His people. He will make a way for us to be His people. He will make our paths straight. He will level the ground to make our walk without obstacle. His glory will be revealed.
God’s people have been in captivity for a long time. They will no longer be the captives of Assyria, but of Babylon. Israel will “pay double for all her sins.” Her sins will be paid when the Messiah comes. There will be no obstacle in His path to hinder His walk. The path will be smooth. He will be seen. He will be known. “All flesh will see it together.”
The authority for this promise is the Lord. “All flesh shall see…” His glory. We will all be “together” when He reveals Himself to all flesh. No person will be exempted. The most loving and the most hateful will be together when He reveals His glory. This is God’s promise. The promise of the Messiah has been fulfilled. All flesh will see the glory of God. We will seek God’s Holy Spirit to help us spread that Word. Jesus saves all men!
That’s offensive to traditional orthodoxy. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment is central to their theologies. The idea that Jesus saves all is heresy to the advocates of that doctrine. Eternal conscious torment teaches only some are saved. The doctrine requires God be willing that not all be saved. Satan wins as most of the creation of God will be eternally and consciously tormented forever, never seeing God’s glory, but only suffering His wrath. What might the reaction of all people be? I say, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.”
“Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by myself, the word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and will not return, that to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. They will say of me, ‘There is righteousness and strength only in Yahweh.’” Even to him shall men come; and all those who were incensed against him shall be disappointed. In Yahweh shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.(Isaiah 45:22-25, emphasis added)
Isaiah is the primary prophet of God’s chosen people while they remain in oppressive captivity. They are subjects to the ruler of Babylon, King Cyrus. Cyrus has a heart for God’s people. God has given favor to the Babylonian king and his sons because of his kindness. Cyrus was given victory over Egypt. Vines describes the gift of victory was a “kopher” or payment to cover Israel. God declares “all the ends of the earth” can be saved when they turn to God. God then causes Isaiah to write “every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance” to Him. That being the case every knee and every tongue will demonstrate a universal “turning to” God.” It is God’s will that all be saved.
God speaks with absolute certainty and with absolute authority. It is His Word that goes out. It is His Promise of salvation that is spread to all the universe that He creates. It is God Who says, “In Yahweh shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”
All the peoples of the world are Gentiles except for the smallest nation God chose. All the people of the world will be grafted into Israel and become Israel. Unproductive branches will be cut away from the vine and be cast into the fire. Those unproductive branches do not burn forever, but only until they are consumed. A reasonable person might conclude from these verses that God’s judgment of the unrepentant is annihilation. Even so, that judgment is superior to eternal conscious torment.
God’s Word goes out in righteousness and does not return empty. God created each and every person with a specific purpose that He directs. No person is created for eternal torment. William MacDonald provides his insight in the “Believer’s Bible Commentary.” 1 He writes “Israel’s former enemies will one day come to her with gifts and tribute, acknowledging that the God of the Jews is the true God and that there is no other.”
There is a “saved remnant” that sings praises to God according to Dr. MacDonald’s understanding. He writes “makers of and worshipers of false gods will be ashamed.” When Christ comes again Israel will have no reason to be ashamed. Gentiles on the other hand are ashamed. According to Dr. MacDonald’s theology not all will be saved. God “invites the Gentiles to come to Him for salvation, and decrees that every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue confess Him. This will find its fulfillment in the Millennium. Then men will acknowledge the Lord Jesus as the only source of righteousness and strength. All His enemies will come to Him in contrition, and Israel shall be justified and shall glory in Him, not in idols.”
It is not difficult to believe what Mr. MacDonald writes, “…that all His enemies will come to Him in contrition.” The Lord loves a contrite heart. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!” Then God reinforces who His audience is when He declares, “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” Every knee, all the ends of the earth indicate a universal group. No denominations to argue over what this word or that authority says.
Every man’s tongue will swear allegiance to the Lord. That is more than just confession. To swear allegiance is to swear your life for the cause. In this case the Cause is allegiance to God. Those of us who have repented will repent again. Those of us who have never repented will repent. Each of us will be judged. None will be judged to an eternal conscious torment. That’s good news. That is “The Blessed Hope.”
Is it possible to conclude these verses apply only to believers? God says clearly He will send out a Word. That Word will not return. That Word will cause “…every knee…” to bow and “…every tongue…” to confess God is Sovereign. All persons will commit to Him their being and all persons will be His. Who are the offspring of Israel? All persons ever created are Israel. We are a people created in His image and made righteous through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. There is a blessing for believing Christ is Savior. But, there is not an eternal conscious torment for those who die in rebellion. I must take you, dear reader, to Ecclesiastes 12:7.
…And the spirit, it returns to the One, Elohim, Who gave it. (Concordant Literal Version)
All spirits return to God, Who gave them. These verses teach all men will turn to God. All men will be reconciled to God. No less than God, Himself, said so.
All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all.(Isaiah 53:6, emphasis added)
Isaiah 53 is a love letter addressed to us from God. It is the letter that defines His intimate and all-consuming love for His creation. This is a letter that foretells of the Son of God. It is a letter that describes what God’s love for His creation looks like. His love for us is alive in us and we are alive in Him. Not just a few, but all. His life in us never dies and it comes with a love that never fails. The worst man is included in the Son’s salvation. The worst man’s iniquities were put upon Christ.
The advocate for universal reconciliation sees the dramatic truth that the Savior died for the sins of all men over the course of all human existence. This is God’s message to us through His Word. Christ Jesus is the Gospel. Every person falls far short of the glory of God. No person can do enough, in fact, no person can do anything sufficient to remove the pain of his iniquities. Only Christ Jesus. It is He Who said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Only Christ Jesus could say, “It is finished.” Scripture teaches the “Lord has laid on Christ Jesus the iniquity of us all.” We believe God.
For I know their works and their thoughts: the time comes, that I will gather all nations and languages; and they shall come, and shall see my glory….(Isaiah 66:18, emphasis added)
It shall happen, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me,” says Yahweh.(Isaiah 66:23, emphasis added)
God caused these scriptures to be written. His chosen people were freed from captivity. There was a movement among the people to rebuild the Temple and start Temple worship anew. God warns them that their worship is empty and meaningless if it is done purely for show. It is an affront to Him when we are only going through the motions. God tells us that it is His plan to restore Zion’s City to greatness. Jerusalem will be beaten down, but it will rise again to great stature. Believers are called to rejoice in this good news. The City will prosper and grow. It will be evident that Zion’s good fortune is a blessing from God. Everyone will know that He is Sovereign over all. God will exercise His judgment on those who are His enemies. His fire will come over them. He has seen the works of all men. He knows the thoughts of all men. “I know their works,” says the Lord. There will come a time in which He will say, “Enough.” He will then gather together all the nations. His glory will be known to them. “They shall see My glory.”
Christians look to God and say, “Amen.” Let it be precisely as it is written. God knows the heart of every man and the heart of every man is evil. He knows our works. There is none that can stand before Him fully righteous. All nations will come together. His presence will command the attention of every person ever created. Every person will see His glory. That’s the gospel is it not? We will see God’s glory? He’ll see to it! God’s enemies will be judged by God and their punishment will be meted out fairly. God’s punishment has a finite end and a glorious purpose. God says, “All mankind will come bow down before me.” That is “The Blessed Hope.”
1 William MacDonald. “Believer’s Bible Commentary.” Commentary on Isaiah 45 (pp. 972-973), Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.