Does Everyone Go to Heaven?
The Heresy of Christian Universalism
There is a school of theology out there which teaches the idea of universal reconciliation and has come to be known as Christian Universalism. This is the belief that all human beings or fallen creatures will ultimately be restored to a right relationship with God and will end up in heaven. One such teacher of this school of thought is a man by the name of Rob Bell. He is an American author, speaker and former founder and pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan. He wrote a book entitled 'Love Wins.' In writing about this book, he tells us:
"A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear."
"I’ve written this book because the kind of faith Jesus invites us into doesn’t skirt the big questions about topics like God and Jesus and salvation and judgment and heaven and hell, but takes us deep into the heart of them."
Although it would be nice to think that Universalism is true, it goes against what the Bible actually teaches. Our Lord Jesus himself taught:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14).
.What we need to understand is that our God is a God of love and mercy. However, He is also a righteous and Holy God who must punish sin. We cannot overemphasize the love of God to the point that we underemphasize His wrath against those who rebel against His rule of them (Romans 1:18,19)
I. Man's Sinfulness and God's Wrath
As an illustration, in human terms, what would we think of a judge who released all criminals who stand before him, even those having been proven guilty? What if that judge refused to pass sentence and he let each person go without penalty? Add to that a person who is unrepentant standing there who would continue the same lifestyle once released. That judge would be considered unjust.
Well, we are all those criminals and God is the just judge that must punish sin. And Scripture teaches that he has righteous anger against those who would subvert his laws.
Romans 1-3 is quite clear that mankind is in rebellion against God. And it is so much so that Paul, quoting the Old Testament, could say:
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God" (Romans 3:10).
Chapter 3 verse 23 emphasizes that " all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
And in Romans 1:18 we have some insights into God's anger against our sin. Paul says:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Sin angers God because it violates his character. God is righteous, just and holy and these things cannot be disregarded without consequence. When we sin, it's like telling God, our creator, and sustainer, that he has no right to dictate the rules that we live by. It is the pride of telling the Lord that we will do what we want, despite what he tells us to do.
The Lord's anger against the rebellion of mankind makes His love and grace all the more remarkable. Romans 5:8 tells us that "God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." God's anger against sin is great. However, His love and mercy are greater still.
His love was shown by the fact that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins. He, the righteous, died for us the unrighteous so that we might become righteous (II Corinthians 5:21). Jesus, the Son of God who became a man and lived the righteous life that we couldn't live, paid the penalty for our sin. God's holy justice is satisfied in Christ. And it is received as a free gift to those who will accept Jesus' sacrifice on the cross on their behalf. But what of those who refuse the gift of the grace of God and don't accept His Son as their substitute for sin?
II. God's Wrath Remains on the Unbeliever
Scripture is abundantly clear that those who reject the Son don't have life and that God's wrath remains on them. They have rejected God's only means of restoring a sinful humanity back to a right relationship with Him. In the same passage that declares that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, (John 3:16), It also gives us this message:
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them." (John 3:36).
And the same person who wrote this, the Apostle John also relates:
"He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."
Sadly, the consequences of not accepting the Son are grave indeed. It means that you are still subject to the wages of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). This death is both physical and spiritual. A man without Christ is dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and separated from a holy God for eternity
III. The Reality of Eternal Punishment
There is absolutely no place in Scripture that allows for a second chance after death. Man's fate seems to be sealed. The writer of Hebrews says: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). And there is no evidence that man will repent of his rebellion after death. As C.S. Lewis once said:
"All that are in hell choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened."
Those who are in hell, are there because they continually defy the God who created and is sustaining the universe. And, as we've said, there is every indication that this is an eternal punishment. The interesting thing is that the exact same words that are used to indicate that our life as believers is eternal are used of the eternality of hell as well. The Greek term " aionas ton aionon" literally means age of the ages, and is how the term 'forever' is expressed. This word is also used to describe the eternal worth of God Himself. For instance, I Timothy 1:17 says "To the King eternal immortal, invisible, the only wise God be honor and glory forever and ever, amen."
And what does our Lord Jesus say about Hell? He believed that it is real and that it is eternal. For instance, Christ taught:
"And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands and two feet to be cast into the eternal fire" (Matthew 18:8).
In another passage, He says this:
"But these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:46).
Here we have the fate of the unrighteous and the righteous expressed in the same way. They are both eternal. The wonderful thing about the Gospel is that it saves people from the eternal damnation in Hell.
Those who would espouse the doctrine of Christian Universalism go against Scripture and are leading many astray. God is both loving and holy. These two attributes were expressed fully on the Cross of Calvary. This is where God so loved the world that He gave His Son, who became sin for us and experienced fully the wrath of God, on our behalf, so that we don't have to face an eternity separated from God. But those who will not accept this gift, freely given, will not and cannot be ultimately saved. The sacrifice of Jesus means absolutely nothing if a man can enter heaven without claiming it.
Christian Universalism is a heretical teaching that cannot be reconciled with what the Bible tells us. Therefore we must reject it and accept the fact that not all will end up in Heaven and the rewards that it offers.
That means that each of us has to make sure that we have made the decision to accept Christ ourselves. But beyond this, we have to realize that there are many with whom we come in contact on a daily basis that do not know Christ as Savior. They will perish if we don't warn them of the wrath to come.
It is my prayer that everyone who reads this article will make that eternal decision now to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. And then may you get serious about spreading the gospel. It is the power of God to save lost sinners. Let us all care enough to tell everyone we meet about God's mercy and love.
© 2012 Jeff Shirley