Christian Universalism is a topic that has gaining popularity in American culture. The basic concept of Christian Universalism posits that everyone will be saved, irrespective of their faith in Jesus during their lifetime. There are different versions of it; one speculates that after death people would put their faith in Jesus while another supposes that everyone is forgiven because of what Jesus did.
Christian Universalism declares that everybody goes to heaven regardless of whether or not they personally put their trust in Jesus.
While this idea may seem attractive, there are significant concerns. So, let’s dig into that.
Most significantly, Jesus emphasized the need to affirmatively follow him in this life. Hespoke extensively about the reality of eternal conscious separation from God, known as Hell.
As painful as it may be to reconcile the notion that a loving God would consign anybody to eternal separation from him, Jesus’ teachings and the Bible consistently stress the importance of the decision to embrace faith in Jesus during our earthly existence.
It may seem that Hell is a punishment from an angry God, but as I read the Bible, I see a lot of language suggesting that Hell is actually the deep pain of eternal separation from a God that we rejected in life.
The attraction of Christian Universalism is intimately tied to the difficulty of understanding that a loving God could allow anybody to go to Hell. In spite of its attractiveness as a concept, Jesus made it very clear that, in order to be His, we need to say yes to following him during this life.
In fact, Jesus discussed Hell more extensively than we find in any other part of the Bible. And when the most loving person who has ever existed makes it very clear this is a reality, we might want to give it a second thought.
The Hebrew says that it’s appointed to human beings to die once and after that to face judgment. And that judgment is a final judgment about our eternal destiny. A judgement that is not decided on the basis of how many good things we’ve done or how many bad things we’ve done, but simply on the basis of whether or not we have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
As hard as it is to think about the idea of a loving God allowing somebody to go into eternity separated from him, we also have to remember that part of being a loving God is that he gives us reality. He gives us authenticity. He gives us the opportunity to be real creatures who actually have the ability to reject God.
We may hope that a person who didn’t accept Jesus before they died would be suddenly willing to bow down and accept Jesus as Lord of their life. But really, why would we think that person would be different in death than they were in life?
And so, a loving God is actually expressing love by allowing his creation to make real decisions and to ultimately bear the consequences of those real decisions that they have made for themselves. Eternal separation from God is actually rooted in and related to God’s authentic love and respect for us as creatures.
A concept related to Christian Universalism, annihilationism, suggests that those who reject Jesus will be permanently destroyed rather than facing eternal conscious agony. While this may seem more merciful, it diverges from Jesus’ teachings, which underscore the existence of a painful, conscious separation from God for those who reject Him.
In grappling with the difficulty of eternal separation, it’s crucial to recognize that a loving God allows individuals the freedom to make authentic choices, even if those choices lead to consequences. The Bible doesn’t provide a loophole for avoiding the reality of eternal separation, whether through universalism or annihilationism. Understanding the depth of God’s love involves respecting the authenticity of human choices.
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Credit | Craig Smith
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