Universalism claims that if God is love, He must save all. But is this biblical love? Instead, God’s love entails righteousness, justice, and even punishment. For this reason, He ordained our systems of justice:
- Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4)
About the “governing authority” ordained to bring justice and punishment, Paul claims that he is “God’s servant to do good.” This means that justice and punishment are instruments ordained by the God of love. The criminal justice system is “God's servant, an agent of [His] wrath.” It is because he is an agent of God’s wrath and vengeance that Paul counsels the Christian to not avenge ourselves but to leave this in God’s hands:
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)
There is great wisdom in this. We are enabled to love the evil-doer, because we know that God will avenge the wrong, either through His magistrates or in the end. Knowing that He will repay frees us from the righteous demands of our nature for justice. We therefore can live in peace with our neighbor.
But what if God does not avenge? Then this task is left to us, and love becomes a secondary concern.
And what if everyone goes to heaven? Here are some other consequences of universal salvation:
- Universalism makes salvation into an “entitlement” program with all of the negative psychological baggage that goes along with it. It conveys the wrong message – that since we are created in the image of God, we are entitled to salvation. This kills any sense of gratitude. After all, what gratitude does a welfare recipient experience walking into a welfare office?
- Universalism makes life pointless. If everyone is saved at the end, there is nothing important to learn here – no reason to go to church or study the Bible. There are no compelling reasons to not “eat, drink, and be merry.” Besides, if we are not merry and would rather hasten our entrance into heaven, suicide is perhaps the most rational thing we can do.
- Universalism undermines the meaning and purpose of life. If our lives entail no eternal consequences, then life becomes pointless, apart from having a good time. It’s like a teacher giving all her students an “A+” regardless of their performance. This deprives us of the motivation to do right, especially when we see the evil prospering.
- All the major religions recognize that there will be eternal consequences for our inhumanity, suggesting that God has written this truth into our hearts (Romans 1:32).
- There is no adequate rationale for moral living or for seeking God without eternal consequences. It makes more sense to get whatever we can out of life if we’re all going to the same eternal home (1 Cor. 15:19). Studies even reveal that those who believe in these consequences are more apt to act in moral ways.
- If God is so “benign” and doesn’t want to see any suffer eternally, why doesn’t He model life on earth in accordance with His final heavenly plan? Why the discontinuity? If any form of eternal punishment is disagreeable to Him, why not also in the temporal world? If God has rejected the idea of eternal judgment, why did He institute the justice system (Romans 13:1-4), and why has He not also ruled against the occurrence of disease, warfare, and tsunamis? Instead, continuity would suggest that we will also have to endure consequences in the next life.
- A universalistic God has little interest in justice and victimization if He refuses to do anything about them. Such a God would be an offense to our own sense of justice. This would undermine all of our pursuit after justice. Chaos would necessarily result.
- Universalism communicates the wrong message—our behavior doesn’t matter and God doesn’t care. Why then should we? Life would become brutal and unlivable if we tried to model ourselves after such a God.
- If we are created in the image of God and therefore have a powerful sense of justice and retribution, shouldn’t we also expect that God would have the same mind-set? If God lacked such punitive concerns, then our preoccupation with law and punitive sanctions would be something displeasing to God. Therefore, if we truly believe in a universalistic God, we should try to model our society after Him and rid ourselves of courts, prisons, fines, and even failing grades.
- We need suffering and consequences to become the compassionate, humble, and understanding people God wants us to be. Evidently, consequences for sin are not alien to God’s plan.
- A God concerned about eternal consequences proclaims that somehow, justice and mercy must coexist. Take a good look at universalism. It provides the affluent, self-indulgent, myopic West with the ultimate designer god, one who would tell us, “Live as you like. Far be it from me to interfere with your fulfillment and pleasures. It’ll all be wonderful in the end, however you live.” This fabrication dumps justice in favor of our immediate comforts. How convenient!
- Universalism undermines almost every biblical doctrine, for instance:
THE NECESSITY OF FAITH AND REPENTANCE:
- John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- John 5:24: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
- 2 Corinthians 7:10: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
THE NEED FOR GOODNESS:
- John 5:28-29: "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
- Perhaps, most problematic of all, universalism is simply not a biblical possibility. Here are just some of Jesus’ teachings against universalism from the Book of Matthew: Matthew 10:28; 13:12-15; 13:30; 13:38-42; 13:49-50; 15:13; 16:26; 18:7-9; 18:34-35; 21:41; 21:44; 22:13; 23:33; 24:50-51; 25:30; 25:32-33; 25:41; 25:46; 26:24.
As a loving parent must judge and punish, so too must a loving God.