It comes as a surprise to many that that doctrine of Universal Salvation does not violate any critical church doctrines. In fact early church fathers who outlined our most critical doctrines believed in Universal Salvation. They called the doctrine in Greek the “apokatastasis”, meaning the restoration of all things to what God originally intended. The doctrine of the apokatastasis was not even controversial at that time. They were mostly concerned with the nature of Christ, his deity and bodily resurrection.
The doctrine of Universal Salvation asserts that eternal punishment does not exist in the original Greek and Hebrew languages of the bible. Rather the doctrine of eternal punishment gained prominence in the 5th century under the heavy hand of the Roman church and then Latin translations of the bible magnified the doctrine. The tradition that began in the Latin manuscripts then found it’s way into other languages including English.
The early English translation, the Wycliffe bible, was taken from Latin manuscripts. This tradition has subsequently held great influence on later translations such as the King James bible. However, if you read Young’s Literal translation or the Rotherham’s Emphasized bible you will not find the phrase “eternal punishment”.
The doctrine of Universal Salvation is in the same genre of non-critical doctrine that Calvinism and Arminianism fall into, and is trying to explain the same problem. We know that salvation was accomplished by Christ at Calvary in his death and resurrection on the third day to atone for the sins of mankind. In the words of John the Baptist,
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. – John 1:29.
The penalty for sin is death and Christ came to rescue all of mankind from the jaws of death. The bible clearly tells us that all people are raised from death by Christ.
“Don’t marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” – John 5:28-29.
Universal Salvation affirms that God will punish sinners. Merely that those who did not follow Christ in their lifetime will be subjected to temporary corrective punishment at the judgement seat of Christ. Just because Christ rescued all people from the jaws of death does not mean they are ready to walk into God’s kingdom of love and goodness. Each person will be judged and given corrective punishment according to their works.
“But according to your hardness and unrepentant heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath, revelation, and of the righteous judgment of God; who “will pay back to everyone according to their works.” – Romans 2:5-6.
Notice that Christ is going to judge people according to the works. This is clearly a balanced scale of justice not eternal punishment. As followers of Christ we are rescued (saved) from the judgment and enter directly into life in God’s kingdom. But Paul is warning believers that those with an unrepentant heart are treasuring up wrath for themselves. If as believers we are judgmental and unforgiving Christ is not going to forgive us either. We will be punished according to our works but not forever.
The Two Principles of Universal Salvation:
- The bible explicitly teaches that through Jesus Christ all people will be rescued from death. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26, 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 4:10)
- The bible explicitly teaches that God does not punish infinitely. (Micah 7:18, Lamentations 3:31-33, Isaiah 57:16-18, Isaiah 54:8, Proverbs 11:1, Psalms 145:13-14)
Using these two principles alone provides a basic biblical introduction for those who are unfamiliar with the doctrine of Universal Salvation. Once we understand that the atoning work of Christ is the bases for the resurrection of the dead, including all of mankind, then we only need to determine if God punishes people without end.