By Femi Aribisala
The fact that all men will be saved does not mean all men will escape punishment.
Peter says some of the writings of Paul are hard to understand and “untaught and unstable people” twist them to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16). What is he referring to here?
Paul says again and again: “God wants everyone to be saved.” (1 Timothy 2:4). “God is the Savior of everyone, but especially of those who have faith.” (1 Timothy 4:10). “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Peter agrees: “(God) wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.” (2 Peter 3:9).
Moreover, since God wants all men to be saved, then all men will be saved. This is because: “(God) works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11). God says: “’My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:10). “Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:11).
Peter notes that Paul’s revelation that all will be saved was being use by some to justify continuing in sin. Carnal Christians think: “If all will be saved, then I don’t need to be righteous; whatever happens, I will be saved.”
Indeed, Paul says the more we sin, the more grace God provides: “The law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:19-21).
However, anticipating that some may conclude this gives them a license to sin, Paul asks: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1).
Cords of love
The problem comes from not having the mind of Christ. The wisdom of man leads to the presumption that the severity of God would readily lead men to salvation. Therefore, Christian fundamentalists create an extra-biblical hell designed to frighten men into the kingdom of God.
But God warns: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9). Thus, Jesus notes that religious leaders teach as doctrines the commandments of men instead of the commandments of God. (Mark 7:7).
God is love and he does not lead men to salvation through fear. On the contrary: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18). God leads us to salvation through his love. He says: “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” (Hosea 11:4).
A basic requirement of salvation is repentance of sin. However, the fear of mythical hell does not lead to repentance. It is: “the goodness of God (that) leads to repentance.” (Romans 2:4). When God is good to us, even in spite of our sins, it breaks us down and makes us repent.
Fall from grace
Similarly, the wisdom of man says if Christ will ultimately save all men, why bother to live righteously now? Those foolish enough to think like this are likely to fall from grace. No man is saved by right or merit. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Therefore, if God saves some and not all, he would be guilty of favouritism. But “God has committed all (men) to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all.” (Romans 11;32). However, the fact that all men will be saved does not mean all men will escape punishment. Those who despise the grace of Jesus will receive the severest punishment of all.
“If we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
“Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, ‘I will take revenge. I will pay them back.’ He also said, ‘The Lord will judge his own people.’ It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31).
Weeping and gnashing
When true knowledge comes and Christ is revealed by sight and not just by faith, many will be tormented by exclusion from his councils.
Jesus says: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:28-30).
Beware, because the first who will become last is likely to be a Christian who has despised the grace of God. In the day of judgment, it will be more tolerable for the unbeliever than for the unfaithful believer. It will be more tolerable for those to whom the gospel was not preached than for those who despised or rejected it.
Jesus says: “That servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:47-48).
Are these stripes then tantamount to destruction? Yes! Is there hope for man after the destruction of the Lord? Yes! But the duration of this penalty cannot be eternal precisely because God is love. God’s throne of judgment is established in mercy and not in vindictiveness:
“In mercy the throne will be established; and One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness.” (Isaiah 16:5).
“I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her penitents with righteousness.” (Isaiah 1:26-27).