I’ve grown up in theology and philosophical thinking. I’ve argued most topics over and over for more than four decades. I’ve never encountered universalism much. It has always been too shallow to consider. However, it has come up again and again for some years now, and lately, it has been put right in my lap, virtually, at least. I’m not really working much at what follows. So, I’m sure it will be even more rambling than normal for me, and less cohesive. Again, it isn’t something I’ve ever taken seriously. It is too silly to do so. It is wishful thinking, pie-in-the-sky thinking. Since so many would seem to end up eternally separated from us, we pine. We rationalize. We pretend it will all eventually be alright. Some day that evil, heinous monster of a relative who hurt everyone he ever came in contact with will be made right, repentant, and redeemed, because as bad as he was, eternal torture is just too unconscionable to bear. Blood is thicker than water, and all that.
However, the bible is quite clear that many will spend eternity separated from God.
Jesus was quite clear that many will be cast out, even tormented for eternity. He said so while on earth before his death and resurrection, and he said so after in the revelation to John. There is no doubt. No room for speculation.
The goats and the sheep are about as clear as is possible.
In Revelation 3:4, they walked with him, clothed in white, because they were worthy.
One cannot become worthy by spending a moment in hell-fire. Penance isn’t biblical. Christ paid the price. The punishment has been met. There is no sin problem. There is only a heart problem, and those who choose not to submit their hearts will spend eternity separated from God.
The 25th chapter of Matthew shows clearly that Jesus knew that many would reject him eternally. http://biblehub.com/esv/matthew/25.htm
The Final Judgment
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Verse 41 can be translated, “Get away from me, I cursed you!”
He told them to go to eternal fire forever.
The word for fire means fire, but it often carries connotations of eternal fire. The word forever is “age-during” or aeon, but it clearly carries permanence in the meaning as used. “αἰώνιον” [αἰώνιος, ία, ιον]
It is ridiculous to consider the meaning as a-long-time. No, it is the same context as the eternal life (same word) of the believer, the redeemed. Moreover, Jesus clarifies that this is the fire prepared for the adversary and all his demons. It is simply ridiculous to suppose this fire as other than truly eternal in the simple sense of forever and ever!
These into just, fitting, punishment age-during! Indeed, the righteous into life age-during!
Same word: αἰώνιον and αἰώνιον
Same context, same meaning. Choose whatever meaning you like, because you will anyway. The New Testament consistently states we, the redeemed, have life age-during. This word, αἰώνιον, cannot be construed to mean some length of time. It is timeless, beyond all ages, forever. Peter states that Christ’s glory is age-during. Same word.
Jesus, in the same story, in the same sentence, said κόλασιν (just, fitting, punishment) αἰώνιον (age-during) AND ζωὴν (life, existence) αἰώνιον (age-during). There can be no doubt that Jesus intended the same meaning for the two phrases. Everlasting punishment for the selfish and everlasting life for the righteous givers.
Matthew 7, 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Jesus specifically said not everyone will get into heaven. Plainly! Jesus said he knows who are his, and he clearly says that he never knew these lawless ones. Never knew them, never.
Revelation 20: 11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
I mean, come on! Duh! Second death can mean nothing other than eternal separation from God. Forever! Even θάνατος and ᾅδης are thrown in there. If the people thrown in come out, shouldn’t we expect death and hades too?
In verse 10, just before, the lake of fire is described as being for the age of the ages. It is not possible to state eternity more clearly or forcefully. Forever and ever amen.
Backing up to Revelation 14:9And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
Tortured and tormented, and the smoke of the torment to the ages of the ages, forever.
In 19:3 the smoke of Babylon goes up to the ages of the ages, forever.
These words are harsh, hard, cruel.
How do we square it? It is hard. It seems John went out of his way to say it was all just, justified. I would suppose he had a problem with it too.
There it is.
It is silly, superficial, and wishful to suppose God uses time after this earth, after our cosmos. We have our time. Time is a gift of love and grace. Without time there’d be no time to change, time to be tried, humbled and broken, time to hear the words of love spoken. And then, it is gone. New heaven and new earth–eternity.
God is timeless. Eternity is incomprehensible. To suppose that eventually God gets through to everyone is to suppose that God is bound by time. Not so. Not so.
There is so much more to it. So much more than we can even comprehend. It is literally not possible to know all. It is not even possible to study everything in the natural cosmos, much less in the spirit, in religion from the immediate and practical to the ultimate and eternal. We cannot know it all, not even collectively, not even with a trillion years to grow, expand, and try. And it is unreasonable to suppose our universe, the cosmos will remain that long.
We cannot know it all. We cannot understand God. We cannot reconcile all the bible says. We cannot reconcile all we see and do know.
Our experience exceeds our abilities continuously. We simply cannot figure it all out.
It does help a little to recognize that most of the things we consider bad are just part of life. The only true evil is when one harms, coerces, or defrauds another.
To suppose that God will coerce souls through some trial of torment is ridiculous. It is evil to suppose it. Time is pointless. As I’ve stated, God is timeless, but what is time in eternity? How long would someone suggest for punishment?
Again, Jesus met the punishment. Paying the penalty, paying the debt to society (in the heavenly-kingdom sense) isn’t the point. The point is you get to be with God or you get to be separated from God. Jesus stated a truth we know, there is no greater love than to lay down ones life. God loves us. Jesus showed us in a way we knew.
Accept it or reject it. I believe in the just and merciful judge. I believe that judgement comes to one and all and mercy and justice are satisfied. At some point, for each and every soul, that judgement is handed down. It is set at that point. Nothing can change it. Justice demands it. Mercy approves it. It is forever and ever.