I told you I had a dream.
I don’t usually remember my dreams, but about 2 years ago, in the midst of wrestling through the idea that God will ultimately save everyone, I had one that was vivid.
Here it is:
The first thing I remember was my son Anders and me standing on a high, large semi-circle of a balcony overlooking a scene that faded into black. Off the balcony in front of and below us were four machine-looking monsters that seemed intent on destroying or hurting Anders.
At this point I think I am aware of the presence of Jesus somewhere on the balcony, although I can’t see him, and I say to the monsters something akin to what David said to Goliath, “Who are you to defy God?” At that moment, the ground opens up and swallows the four monsters.
The next thing I remember, I have turned to the right and I’m looking at Jesus and Anders from several feet away. Jesus is down on one knee and has his hand on Anders’ shoulder, looking at him right in the face and saying something I can’t hear. Anders is just standing there and I have no conception of his response, although it seems like a tender moment.
The next thing I know I am on another large, semi-circle balcony facing the opposite direction, overlooking a scene that fades into light, almost like a beautiful sunset. I am standing back on the balcony and looking at Jesus, who is leaning his forearms on the railing of the balcony and facing out. (It’s worth noting that throughout the whole dream I can never see Jesus’ face.) I think to myself, “I’m here with Jesus. I should ask him.” So I step up to Jesus at his left hand side and say, “Is Universalism true?” He responds, “Well, up here it is, but down there, not always.”
That was the dream.
So what does it mean? (I shared it with my younger brother and his immediate response was, “Clear as mud.” Touché.)
Was it just a dream? Should I not take any meaning from it? Or is it somehow part of things? Is there something God wanted me to know? I suppose that’s open to speculation, but what I have always taken from it is this: the intent of heaven is to save everyone. God’s desire and purpose is that all would turn to Him and embrace His love and salvation through Jesus. Universalism is God’s desire and hope; He wants it to be true more than anyone. However, down here it is possible that some people will resist God forever. God will continue to pursue; His desire is to save all, but maybe there will be those who never respond to His call, either in this life or in the next.
Still, I believe that God will never give up on anyone. I believe, whatever hell is, that its purpose is not merely punitive, retributive punishment, but is ultimately redemptive. I believe God wants to save all, is able to save all, and will continue to pursue people forever. Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to be us; He has been where we are. He understands, and so I think God knows that some people have virtually no chance in this life to hear or respond to the good news of the gospel and He will use any means necessary, even hell, to win over even the most ardent rebel.
In the end, might there be some who resist Him forever? Will the most ardent rebel hold out for all eternity? According to my dream, I suppose the answer is “maybe,” or even “yes,” and I guess I’m okay with that. But somehow Jesus stills cares about the rebel. He still cares about him, He cares about Anders, He cares about me, and He cares about you.
So, even with the suggestion of my dream, it’s at least as reasonable to believe that God will ultimately redeem everyone as it is to believe that the majority of humanity will be lost forever. And I think Jesus wants us to believe there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from His love. He never gives up on anyone, ever.
And that is good news.
It is really good news, really.