“Oh, so you’re a universalist, are you?”

The first time I was asked that question, I had to look up what a universalist was. A universalist, I discovered, is a person who believes God isn’t going to lose anybody. He’s going to get everybody through in the end, or as some universalists say, “God’s going to save everybody,” or that “God’s already saved everybody, they just don’t know it yet.”

I wondered, therefore, why the question sounded so negative, as though being a universalist was some sort of Christian heresy, because what is so wrong about God saving everybody? Wouldn’t it be great if God got everybody through in the end and no one was left in hell?

But isn’t that exactly what God intends to do anyway? In 2 Peter 3:9, God doesn’t want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,” and in 1 Timothy 2:4, “God our Saviour wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” and if that’s what God wants, why on earth wouldn’t we want it too? And why would we think God doesn’t get what he wants when Ephesians 1:11 says, “God works out everything according to his will”?

What’s to stop God fulfilling his will to save everybody and bring everyone to repentance? According to some Christians it’s our power to choose. We can choose not to be saved, and we can refuse to come to repentance. God gave us free will and the right to use it to resist him, reject him, sin willfully and commit an unpardonable sin, even when we know the consequences. God allows us to be that stupid. And if we’re stupid enough to let the devil deceive us into thinking hell is preferable over what God has in store for us, so be it.

But that means our free will overrules God’s sovereign will. Our power to resist God is greater than his power to bring us to repentance. And some Christians would nod their heads vigorously in agreement, as though our free will is something so sacred that even God can’t touch it. But that means God made human beings more powerful than himself. He deliberately created a potential monster that he could be stuck with forever, either in hell or as an endless sorrow in his memory, and why on earth would God do that?

Fortunately, God gave us the story of Israel, a “stiff-necked people” who “always resist the Holy Spirit,” Acts 7:51, but for all that they never “stumbled beyond recovery,” Romans 11:11. Even the most obstinate, rebellious people God can get through to. Clearly, God is is a universalist at heart, so why can’t we be?

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