Last time we talked about the terms “ultimate redemptionist” or “universalist,” whether or not they are helpful labels, and whether or not they accurately describe my perspective.
In the summation of my beliefs I included then, one statement may have stopped me short of being a strict ultimate redemptionist. It is this:
I believe, as God has pursued humanity in Christ, so He will continue to pursue us that each person would respond in faith to Jesus.
I started with this statement, changed it, and then changed it back. Here’s how it could read:
I believe, as God has pursued humanity in Christ, so He will continue to pursue us until each person responds in faith to Jesus.
You can see the difference, and there’s part of me that wants to go with the second version, which more closely aligns with the Scripture verses and passages people use to point to the idea of ultimate redemption.
“That at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11)
Every knee will bow.
“And through (Jesus) to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things in heaven or on earth, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)
Reconciling to Himself “all things.”
“For God has bound all men over to disobedience that he might have mercy on them all.” (Romans 11:36)
Mercy on “all.”
The first version of the statement believes God will continue to pursue, never giving up on anyone, using any means necessary, even hell, hoping that everyone would respond in faith to Jesus, but stops short of saying everyone will. That is, maybe some people will resist God for all eternity. Maybe God’s love will not win over the most ardent rebel (even though at times I have written I believe God’s love will win over even the most ardent rebel).
I think I could go both ways. My reason for going with the first version comes from a belief in the free-will of humanity, from those Scriptures that suggest humanity’s resistance of God’s love, and from a desire to hold a belief in ultimate redemption with an open hand. This version allows God’s love to be everlasting, never-failing, for salvation to always be available to those who would respond in faith, even in hell (whatever that looks like), while also respecting humanity’s ability to choose.
The second version believes God’s love is greater than humanity’s will. It believes that once the veil is removed, once people no longer “see through a glass darkly,” once we are able to see God for who He really is without the fog of life and its circumstances clouding our view, once people truly know the choice they are making, no one will say no to God’s offer of salvation.
Again, I think I could go either way. I believe God has made the way for everyone to be saved and I believe He will never give up on anyone . . . and I want to believe God will win over even the most ardent rebel. I certainly hope He does – eternity is a long time. Maybe I would repeat again what Archbishop Lazar of the Canadian Orthodox church said in the movie Hellbound?, “We don’t know, but we presume the love of God is greater than all things.”
I want to wholeheartedly jump on board with the second version, and I suppose most of the time I do. But one other thing stops me:
I had a dream. (I’ll tell you about it soon.)
Either way, I believe God never gives up on anyone. I believe the gospel is for you, for me, for everyone.
I believe it is really good news, really.