Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 7



Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis



Packer says the “task for the universalist, as we can now see, is to circumvent the seemingly clear New Testament witness to the eternal destiny of those who live and die without Christ, under the self-serving sway of the anti-God allergy in human nature that constitutes our original corruption….Today’s universalists for the most part posit that the unconverted will spend time in hell exposed to postmortem evangelism as previously described, along with steady divine pressure on their spirits to change from what they were, until the moment comes when they emerge, transformed, to join in the ongoing praises of the Lamb.” (pg 185)



[NOTE: I find it interesting that Packer, from pages 185-187 (the whole section spans from page 185-189), explaining the universalist position on eternal punishment has ten footnotes. Of these ten footnotes, eight are footnotes referencing only one author, Nels F. S. Ferre. I did an internet search to try to find out info on Ferre, but had a hard time finding any biographical info on him that went beyond his credentials. I do not have time to read the 31+ works of Ferre for this review, but want to raise this question: Why does Packer rely so heavily on one author for the “universalist view” on hell when, although seemingly prominent as a universalist, there are many contemporaries of Packer’s that are advancing universalism that he could have quoted from? (such as Thomas Talbott, Gary Amirault, Robin Parry, aka George MacDonald, to name a few) I have found in my own research, a tendency from my seminary days, to cherry-pick authors to support my view and to pick radical authors of opposing views to show how radical they are as opposed to the mainstream. This is one of the reasons why I am undertaking this project, to expose the problems and false claims of the ruling mainstream theologians that continue to oppress Christianity with false readings of the Scriptures. I merely wanted to point out this “strange” occurrence as I was reading this chapter. One other footnote was from Emil Brunner and the other was a reference to a work by Dixon discussing Ferre’s views.]



So hell must be seen as really a means of grace, a house of correction and place of conversion. Universalism is an unlimited optimism of grace. The final triumph of God’s love will be when ALL people will finally be saved. “In these terms,” he states, “universalists seek to turn the flank of the historic Christian understanding of the Bible’s witness to eternal punishment.” (pg. 187)



Packer asks, “How do the universalists justify their hypothesis about hell? Some have claimed specific exegetical justification, citing as their front line three linked classes of texts: six allegedly predicting the actual salvation of all (John 12:32; Acts 3:21; Rom 5:18; 11:32; 1 Cor 15:22-28; Phil 2:9-11); two supposedly announcing God’s intention to save all (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9); and five held to affirm that through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross, followed by his resurrection and dominion, God must and will eventually save all (2 Cor 5:19; Gal 1:20; Titus 2:11; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2).” (pg. 187)



The arguments, he states, in support of universal salvation is “forlorn.” (hopeless) First, the universal terms “all” and “world” [in the previous paragraph’s list of passages] are limited or too general “by their context to maintain that every human being everywhere, past, present, and future, is being clearly, specifically, and inescapably spoken of as destined for salvation.” He then defaults to standard commentaries saying that all the commentaries find in theses passages is that God will save the elect or that the Gospel invitation goes out to all people equally. He also states that universalists read out of the text more than what is in them. I have dealt with, if memory serves me correctly, most or all of these verses in previous chapter reviews and I believe I have provided an adequate explanation of these verse to at minimum, cast doubt on the traditional interpretation, and at best offer a true explanation of what God was communicating through the authors of the texts. I will not go back over these texts unless I deem it necessary to reinforce a future point.



Second, and going back to the point he made in the previous section, is the fact that the same authors who seem to imply universal salvation also make statements about “final rejection and destruction” of people due to their unbelief. He comments that unless the authors couldn’t realize they were contradicting themselves, one must conclude they did not believe in universal salvation. He lists a plethora of verses, a longer list than that of two paragraphs before, that I feel, by their sheer weight, are supposed to make the universalist cower in fear, or the everyday Christian feel secure in their belief in ECT in hell. Well, I am going to take on the whole list and put them in context and let the reader decide whether Packer has done his homework and is correct, or whether he, like so many others, grabs verses out context in the hopes that no one will check their work and catch them stretching the truth to fit their theology. Keep in mind what he said about these verses; they talk about final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief.



Here is the list of verses that were listed above in that he says are verses about “final rejection and destruction.” I will be answering the question: Do these verses deal with final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief?



John 3:18, 36; John 5:29; John 12:25, 48; Acts 13:46; Acts 28:24-27; Romans 2:5-12; Romans 6:23; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 6:7-8; 2 Cor 4:3-4; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6, 25; Philippians 1:28; Philippians 3:19; 1 Tim 4:16; 1 Tim 5:24; 1 Tim 6:9; Hebrews 3:14-19; Hebrews 6:4-8; Hebrews 10:26-31, 39; 2 Peter 2:3, 6, 9-10, 17, 20-22; 2 Peter 3:7, 16; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 3:10, 15; 1 John 5:16.



[NOTE: All verses listed will be from the Concordant Literal Version (CLV), also known as the Concordant Literal Translation (CLT). The reader may find this version free in pdf format or their nice software program called Interlinear Scripture Analyzer from www.concordant.org or through Tentmaker Ministries website http://www.tentmaker.org/e-sword_modules/index.html. You would need to download the E-Sword program and then load the additional modules. It is well worth the time involved!]



I begin with John 3:18, 36. I will also include some surrounding verses to help you with some context. I encourage the reader to go back and read the whole chapter these verses are found in, keeping in mind the question we are seeking to answer, based on the claim by Packer that these are all verses that deal with final rejection or destruction.



John 3:18, 36


(Joh 3:16) For thus God loves the world, so that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian.”



(Joh 3:17) For God does not dispatch His Son into the world that He should be judging the world, but that the world may be saved through Him.”



(Joh 3:18) He who is believing in Him is not being judged; yet he who is not believing has been judged already, for he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”



(Joh 3:19) Now this is the judging: that the light has come into the world, and men love the darkness rather than the light, for their acts were wicked.”



(Joh 3:20) For everyone who is committing bad things is hating the light and is not coming to the light, lest his acts may be exposed.”



(Joh 3:21) Now he who is doing the truth is coming to the light that his acts may be made manifest, for they have been wrought in God.” (CLV)




(Joh 3:35) The Father is loving the Son and has given all into His hand.”



(Joh 3:36) He who is believing in the Son has life eonian {age-enduring}, yet he who is stubborn as to the Son shall not be seeing life, but the indignation of God is remaining on him.” (CLV)




Conclusion: The judging of verse 18 is the judgment that the non-believing one loves darkness and their acts are wicked. There is nothing final about this judgment. And, verse 36, says nothing of a final judgment, but merely states that God’s indignation is still upon the one who stubbornly refuses to not believe in Jesus. There is no “final rejection or destruction” shown in either verse as Packer would lead us to believe. I see no future aspect to this passage in John 3, but see more a temporal, present aspect that Jesus is passing on to His disciples for their present age.



I will stop here for this section and resume with John 5:29 next time. I will try to keep the remaining sections a bit shorter so as not to be overwhelming, but also to give the reader an opportunity to ponder the texts being discussed, raise questions or comments, have them answered, and then move on. I hope this works for you (and me!) Until next time, God’s blessings to you!



In Christ’s love,







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Filed under Book Reviews, Everlasting - Eternal, Hell, Understanding the Bible, Universal salvation

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