Simply put, “Universalism” refers to universal salvation – the belief that all humans will be saved. Of course, that also means that none will be lost. Perhaps you have met people who believe in such. They are convinced that the only criteria for being saved and ultimately entering heaven is this: you must be a human. That is it. Every human “gets in.”
One definition for “Universalism” states: “In Christianity, universal reconciliation is the doctrine that all sinful and alienated human souls—because of divine love and mercy—will ultimately be reconciled toGod” [taken on 6 Aug. 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universalism].
Some of those who endorse Universalism do so because they think that the Bible teaches it. Others have little spiritual convictions, but they feel that if there is any substance to the idea that a loving God exists, then surely such a God would save everyone.
When we encounter people who vocally support the notion of universal salvation, we cannot answer them appropriately by appealing to emotions. It is not a matter of what we feel versus what they feel. What we do need to do is open the Bible and show them the truth from the Scriptures.
We recognize that some things are universal. God’s love is universal – He so loved the world that He sent His Son (John 3:16). Man’s amenability to the gospel is universal – God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). The evangelistic work of Jesus’ disciples is universal – preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15). God’s judgment of mankind (man standing before Him to be judged) is universal – He will judge the world (Acts 17:31).
None of the above-noted universal aspects of God’s arrangements and activities, however, lead to the conclusion that each person will be saved eternally. “But God wants every person to be saved.” He sure does: “. . . God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3,4). There is a huge difference, though, in (1) saying that God desires for all to be saved and (2) saying that everyone, in fact, will be saved. There is more involved than God’s will: there also is the will of each human.
“Jesus came to be the Savior of the world, so all will be saved.” The Bible does say that “the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). That simply means that through Him all folks are given an opportunity to be saved. In reality, the redeemed/forgiven are “in Christ” (Romans 3:24).
“What about God’s universal grace? The Bible says that God’s grace is for all, so all will be saved.” In Titus 2:11, it is written, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Again, we observe that there is a big difference in (1) saying that God’s grace is for all and (2) saying that every single person will be saved. As the old song says, “Salvation has been brought down.” Brought down to whom? To all people. In what sense? In that the Christ, by the grace of God, tasted of death for every man (Heb. 2:9), thus giving each human a chance to be saved.
You do not need to set forth twenty-five Bible verses to refute Universalism. A few plain ones will be adequate to show a person who is open-minded and willing to reason. For instance, Jesus said, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). That hardly sounds like universal salvation, does it?
Jesus also declared that some will be raised “to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28,29).
What about those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel? The Lord Jesus will take vengeance on them and they “shall be punished with everlasting punishment” (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9). Universalism does not “jive” with such teaching.
The doctrine of Universalism can sound appealing. Why? Because it allows folks to think that regardless of what they do or say, they will go to heaven. This theory appeals to people because it does away with restrictions and at the same time does not require a person to do a single thing. How convenient! In reality, it is a misleading, false message.
Regardless of how other people respond to the truth, we must take our stand on God’s word. The Bible’s message about salvation is clear. Let us be prepared to teach it at every opportunity we have.
— Roger D. Campbell