The Eternality of Hell
At the beginning of this section, Moo makes the following comments. “Universalism is on the rise in our day. The global village has brought people of different religious persuasions together to an unprecedented degree. Other religions are no longer strange teachings held by people far away in another country; they are beliefs of people right next door. And as people get to know one another at this level, the claim that Christianity is the only way to salvation begins to sound arrogant. Added to the cultural mix is the postmodern tendency to question absolute truth. Multiculturalism combines with postmodernism to elevate tolerance to the chief virtues – and hell is the ultimately intolerant doctrine.”
What I take away from this paragraph is that the reason for the rise in universalism is not due to people actually studying their Bibles and coming away with different conclusions than staid church tradition, but because the world has become a smaller place where all cultures are living and interacting with each other. I can tell you, that is not true in my case, nor the case of others who are coming to question the traditional church teachings (mainly coming out of the Reformation, which took much of its beliefs from Augustine). As a matter of fact, in my own case, I began questioning church tradition because of HOW I saw professing believers acting (more so as unbelievers!) and the way the church was treating people. I became disgusted by the things that happened to me and good Christians around me at the hands of the power brokers, liars, and cheats who were running the church machine. It had absolutely nothing to do with other religions. So, at least from my perspective and those closest to me, Moo is missing the mark.
Moo says that universalism draws its main support from five key tests: 1 Corinthians 15:28; Romans 5:18; Romans 11:26, 32; Colossians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:4. I will address each of those texts now.
1 Cor 15:20-28
(1Co 15:20) But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
(1Co 15:21) For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
(1Co 15:22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
(1Co 15:23) But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
(1Co 15:24) Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
(1Co 15:25) For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
(1Co 15:26) The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(1Co 15:27) For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.
(1Co 15:28) When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Moo makes three points:
universal resurrection does not equal universal salvation (see John 5:29)
vv. 22-23 only speak of resurrection of Christians
to be subjected to God does not require salvation
(Note: John 5:29 merely speaks about all of the dead receiving their just rewards, either good rewards or chastening for sins for those who died without Christ. The context of the passage this verse is found in relates to Christ’s imminent death and resurrection and those who died before Christ’s death. They will come forward, apparently from Sheol, the holding place of the dead, to be judged as good and receiving rewards or judged for sins committed and then put in a “purifying, refining fire to purge ungodliness and prepare them for their ultimate salvation in Christ. I look forward to exegeting this passage in the future on this blog.)
Now, in the beginning of this chapter, verses 1-11, what is Paul talking about (this forms the immediate context of the verses we are studying (vv. 20-28)? Paul spends 11 verses explaining the gospel message he preached. This was the gospel of SALVATION in Christ alone and the irrefutable evidence that it is true.
Then, in verses 12-20, Paul goes on and explains that Christ has indeed been resurrected, but had Christ not been resurrected, the results would be disastrous. In verses 14 and 17 Paul talks about faith, which absolutely brings our thoughts back to salvation, the salvation spoken of in verses 1-11. Noteworthy also is the fact that Paul talks about “all” the dead in verse 12, 13, 15, and 16. And in characteristic fashion, Paul even talks about a subset of “all,” the subset of believers in verse 18 (those who have fallen asleep in Christ). Note: Christ as “first-fruits” simply means He is the preeminent one who died and rose again (resurrected).
As to point 1, I think that Paul lays to waste Moo’s argument that universal resurrection does not equal universal salvation. It is clear, not from verses 20-28, as Moo focuses his attention, but clearly from the context of verses 12-20, which set up verses 20-28, salvation is in mind and is interchangeable with resurrection. I will show why this is so.
As we continue in Paul’s argument in our focal verses (20-28), we see that Paul begins in verse 21 establishing a parallel between the First Adam and the Second Adam. Through one man death came, through one man resurrection of the dead came. Let me ask, what is resurrection of the dead if not life? I see these two terms as synonymous. Resurrection of the dead equals life. The prior state was “dead,” not living, no life.
Verse 22, Paul says the same thing in a different way. In Adam, ALL die and the parallel, in Christ ALL shall be made alive. The ALL in the first part is exactly the same ALL in the second part. That’s what makes the parallel understandable. Would Paul not have stated it differently if they were in fact different groups? We are talking about one of the most important doctrines ever, that of salvation, resurrection life. Would Paul have been vague or imprecise with his wording if it was something so important?
Next, in verses 23-24 Paul explains verse 22 by giving the order of resurrection and in essence, the amount of people in the resurrection. Take a look. Verses 23 and 24 are separated by a comma, not a period, meaning they are a continuous thought. Read it as, “Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ, then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. What we have here is three distinct groups in the resurrection; 1. Christ; 2. those who belong to Christ at His coming; 3. the end, which entails all in rule, authority, and power, and from verse 25, we see that this group is called “His enemies.”
Verse 25 tells us that Christ will reign, in His Kingdom (which is not forever!), until everything is subject to Him (except the Father, of course!) and the last enemy, death, is destroyed. At this point, Christ will turn over His reign of all things to the Father. Now Christ no longer reigns in His Kingdom. At this point Christ is put under subjection to the Father, and then God the Father becomes “all in all.”
Point 2 is clearly not true that Paul is only speaking of Christians in this passage. Paul does talk about Christians in verse 23, but unfortunately for Moo, Paul pens verse 24. Moo cannot just subjectively choose verses that fit his beliefs. He must take them all together or leave them all alone. Point 2 clearly is false in context.
Regarding Point 3, when we see the subjection taking place in verse 28, all things are subjected to God AND Jesus is then subjected to God and there is no change in subjection. Paul does not list one type of subjection for all things (those in Christ, all enemies) and another type of subjection for Christ. Paul shows that in the same way ALL (Christ, those who belong to Him, and His enemies) will then be subject to the Father. And when these are all subject, God becomes all in all. Since Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the Father, and all the rest are subjected to the Father in the same way (Paul does not distinguish between different types of subjection for different groups) then all the rest must be subjected to the Father as Jesus subjects Himself and this MUST be a willing and loving subjection!
(Rom 5:18) Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
Moo states that in Romans 5:18, “Paul again portrays Adam and Christ as the two key figures in salvation history…” Isn’t it curious that in the previous discussion in 1 Cor 15:20-28 when Adam and Christ are paralleled, it is ONLY about resurrection and NOT salvation, but here he makes this statement? Whenever we see the two together, Adam and Christ, is it not always ABOUT salvation? I believe it is. Anyway, on with Romans.
Moo’s two main points are as follows:
Paul says one can only be saved in this life. (Rom 1:16-17; 3:21-22) and judgment is for this life. (2 Cor 5:10)
The second “all” refers to all those in Christ, therefore it cannot mean each individual will be saved.
Let me address the second point first. In verse 12, Paul identifies the “all” that he refers to in verse 18.
It is extremely clear from verse 12 that Paul is referring to all people who have sinned, which is all people excluding Jesus who never sinned.
Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-
Then in verse 15, Paul talks about some specifics of that single group (all people who have sinned). He says there is “the one” and there is “the many.” “The one” is Adam and “the many” are those who died because of Adam’s sin, which by the way, is everyone else, excluding of course Jesus.
Rom 5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
But, here is an extremely important point: Paul tells us that Adam was a type of Christ in verse 14.
Rom 5:14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
Jesus is the second Adam and has the same relationship to “the many” that Adam had. The only difference is that, as verse 15 states, the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of Jesus ABOUNDED for the many! The only ones who are exempted from the group called “the many” are the two Adams; the First one, Adam, and the Second Adam, Christ. The “many” must then be everyone else, all who died as a result of the first Adam’s sin, all who have sinned.
Therefore, the “all” Paul has in mind in verse 18 cannot be ONLY those in Christ.
Let’s look at Moo’s first point, that one can only be saved in this life. Neither of the Romans passages has anything to do with one only being able to be saved in this life. I have no idea how he came to this conclusion, but can only surmise that he was reading into the text his presuppositions/theology. I grant that I may be missing something that is as plain as the nose on my face, so please, if you “get it,” you understand what Moo was driving at, please let me know so I may understand, too.
As to 2 Cor 5:10, Paul is explaining that believers will give an account to Christ of the things we did in this life. I, too, believe that we (believers in this life, the elect of God) will stand before Christ and be judged for the things we did in this life. Did we truly love Him and grow in love for Him? Did we treat our neighbors well? Did we call people to please God and live in His grace? These are a few things brought to my mind on the spur of the moment.
I will break away here for an intermission and give your mind a chance to chew on these things. I will continue in the next section finishing the remaining three passages. Please leave your questions or comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Until next time, Godspeed!