"The Really Good News About God" is a popular edition paperback that presents a lay-person's introduction to Christian Universalism, rather than a theological or philosophical argument for that position.
This page discusses some of the thinking behind the views presented in Chapter Three and also addresses several genuine questions that are often raised when topics such as these are debated.
Hopefully, this will put some meat on the bones in Chapter Three and stimulate healthy, respectful discussion by those who choose to dig a bit deeper.
For those who wish to dig a lot deeper, other books and websites are listed in the Recommended References link towards the bottom of the Topic Menu on the left.
|Introduction||The End Result||The Chosen|
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Predictions about the future are numerous and wildly different, even from those of us who study the Bible, which contains several passages about the future.
Producing a definitive plan for the future, even from the God-inspired Bible, is clearly fraught with difficulty. Indeed, it is quite likely that anyone who claims to have the future all worked out will turn out to be wrong.
Why? Take for example Jesus' coming to earth.
Although Jesus' arrival in the first century AD was forecast frequently in the Old Testament, his arrival seemed to surprise most people at the time. So I can't help thinking that any future coming will surprise again, despite the amount of space the Bible gives to its discussion.
Nevertheless, let's be brave and venture into this perilous topic, while humbly admitting that the future will occur exactly as God has planned it and not necessarily as any of us might be expecting it.
God loves us and desires us to know him and live in fellowship with him.
God's precisely designed creation, together with the miraculously preserved writings of the Bible, are the major sources we have for knowing about God and his plans.
After leaving planet Earth, Jesus Christ, God's Son, sent the Holy Spirit to assist us in knowing about God, and more importantly, enabling us to actually know him.
So we will use observations from creation and snippets from the Bible to help us explore this topic, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and open our hearts to what he reveals to us.
The challenge may be simply stated ...
Determine the end result and suggest possible routes that may be taken to arrive there.
But, as most people know, even agreeing on the end result has been too great a task for most of us.
Nevertheless, I am going to have a stab at it by quoting four verses from the Bible.
(Other verses stating the same end result will be quoted throughout the following sections.)
When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me. [ John 12 : 32 GNB ]
In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. [ Ephesians 1 : 8b - 10 GNB ]
We’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world.
When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.
[ 1 John 4 : 14 and 2 : 2 TM ]
The only certainty I can see in this whole discussion is the end result for all of God's creation.
And it will be magnificent. Why?
Because God, who is love, wants only the best for us and, because he is also sovereign, will see to it that we get it.
Now we get to the hard part - possible routes God will choose for us to arrive at his chosen destination.
I will use the remaining sections of the topic to explore the possibilities I see. Some of this exploration will be gathering bits from the Bible, and some will be me trying to tie the bits together.
As always, you are welcome to ask questions and/or share your insights using the "Ask Your Question" link at the bottom of the Topics menu.
* * * * *
Let's face it, we can only speculate about the future.
There are not many clues in the Bible to begin with, and those we have are open to seemingly endless interpretations.
However, we must have a starting point for our speculations.
What are the basic "givens" or foundation stones on which all other facts and/or opinions must stand?
1. God's ultimate purpose, his end result, is clearly revealed in the
New Testament ...
God desires all to be saved. (1 Tim 2 : 1 - 6)
God is the Saviour of all. (1 Tim 4 : 10)
God will bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth. (Eph 1 : 9 - 10)
God will become all in all, that is, everything to everybody.
(1 Cor 15 : 28).
2. God will achieve this purpose through Jesus, who is ...
The Reconciler of all (2 Cor 5 : 18 - 19; Col 1 : 19 - 20)
The Drawer of all (John 12 : 32)
The Sacrifice for all (1 John 2 : 2)
The Saviour of all (1 John 4 : 14; John 12 : 47)
The Light of all (John 1: 4 - 9)
The Giver of Life to all (1 Cor 15 : 20 - 22)
3. God always remains true to his character ...
God is love. (1 John 4 : 16; Matthew 5 : 44 - 45)
God is in control (Proverbs 19 : 21; Ephesians 1 : 11)
God is kind and merciful to all (Luke 6 : 35 - 36)
God's grace completely saves us (Romans 5 : 15 - 21; Eph 2 : 4 - 8)
To me all other events or opinions that I wish to include in my picture of the future must stand on and be consistent with these three "givens".
For example ...God has already reconciled the world to himself.
(2 Cor 5 : 19)
All those who know God and Jesus Christ have eonian life, that is, are alive and will be alive in the coming ages. (John 17 : 3)
The Book of Life increases in size at the Great White Throne judgement. (Revelation 20 : 11 - 15) *
The Lake of Fire is God's refining or purifying process, the death/destruction of all that offends God. (Malachi 3 : 3;
Revelation 20 : 14) *
Death itself will be finally removed, so that only life remains.
(Revelation 21 : 4; 1 Cor 15 : 25 - 26)
What do you think?
Are there other "givens" that need to be added to the list?
Do any of mine not stand up to scrutiny?
What other events or opinions that are consistent with the "givens"
could be included in the examples?
Use the "Ask Your Question" link on the left to let me know your thoughts.
* See "God's Merciful Judgement" page for discussion on these points.
* * * * *
I love reading, researching, and studying the Bible.
Well, maybe not all of it.
I usually jump right over the long lists of genealogies, but one day I became inquisitive and stopped to have a closer look.
In the New Testament, Matthew and Luke both have genealogies of Jesus.
Although Luke was most likely a Gentile, his family tree listed 76 men, all Jewish.
Matthew, a Jew, took a different route and listed 40 men and 5 women, and by including the women, he picked up some Gentiles on the way.
Tamar was Gentile daughter-in-law of Judah, who didn't honour a promise he made to her, so she boldly set him up for a pay-back. What a bold, inventive Gentile woman!
Rahab was a Gentile prostitute from Jericho, who risked her life to save Joshua's spies.
Ruth was also a Gentile - the saintly, widowed daughter-in-law of Naomi, who became the wife of Boaz and the grandmother of King David.
Bathsheba was possibly not a favourite of Matthew because he just called her Uriah's wife. Uriah was a Hittite, so she was probably a Gentile also. She was immodest and unfaithful to Uriah, but became the the wife of King David (who himself was an adulterer and murderer) and mother of King Solomon (a polygamist). (Some Christians are surprised to discover that the great Jewish King David had a Gentile grandmother and a wife who was probably a Gentile.)
Mary was a saintly, Jewish young lady, yet was seen in her community as immoral and worthy of being stoned. Nevertheless, she accepted her Godly calling, knowing it could well cost her her life.
Matthew's list might give us a clue about who Jesus came to save.
Men and Women, Jews and Gentiles, Saints and Sinners are all there, and we don't have to look too hard to see some reflection of ourselves in the list too !!
Clearly, He came to be the Saviour of us all.
Jesus said he would draw all people to himself.
Paul says, “We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.”
John says, “Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.”
And Matthew finishes his gospel with Jesus sending his disciples to all nations, inviting them to become his disciples.
It doesn't matter who we are, Jesus died for our sins.
Your sin, my sin, has been handled; as has our neighbour's and anyone's we meet in the street.
When we come to believe that, we begin to enjoy life in fellowship with God.
So, as believers, who know what God has done for us, who have begun to live and enjoy life in fellowship with him, Paul encourages us to be thankful and to become ambassadors for God.
My prayer for us all is that we will live in such a way as to become reliable and effective ambassadors for God, the Creator and Saviour of the world, by showing those who don't yet know Him, the true value of new life in Christ.
* * * * *
Eternal life is a given for everyone because of what Jesus achieved on the cross.
God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.
This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.
[Ephesians 1 : 9, 10 GNB]
So then, as the one sin (Adam's) condemned all people, in the same way the one righteous act (Jesus') sets all people free and gives them life.
And just as all people were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man, in the same way they will all be put right with God as the result of the obedience of the one man.
[ Romans 5 : 18, 19 GNB]
And let's also remember that it is our job (the already chosen's job) to present this good news to the world. Churches often spend so much time telling people what they must do to be saved instead of telling them they are saved already.
And all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. And he has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.
[2 Corinthians 5 : 18, 19 EHV]
But just as amazingly we are told that this has been God's plan from the very beginning, before time began, before the world was created, yes, even before any of us was born - it's not a Plan B or something God has added to his agenda for the world.
The Bible mentions this pre-determined purpose of God often.
Here's an example.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
[Ephesians 1 : 4, 5 NLT]
If this has always been God's plan, and He created the heavens and earth (and you and me) as the vehicle for it's happening, then we can confidently expect it will happen.
Some of it in some ages, some of it in others, but at the end of the ages, the plan will be complete.
Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere. [1 Corinthians 15 :28 NLT]
Our calling, as members of the Body of Christ, is to be sharing the "message of reconciliation" we have been entrusted with. Let's be telling people what Christ has done for them so they might love him and be given the faith to join the Body of Christ.
* * * * *
First of all, let's remember what God's plan is for His creation, which Chapter 3 in "The Really Good News About God" explained
Paul in writing to the Ephesian church tells us what God revealed to him about His plan - the plan which had not been disclosed previously, although hints of it had been given to some of the Old Testament prophets.
He (God) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment -- to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
[Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 NIV]
If this is to be so, then sin and death must be dealt with along the way.
Well, Jesus dealt with sin 2000 years ago ...
Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
[1 John 2 : 2 NIV]
and, as a result, God no longer holds our sins against us ...
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
[2 Corinthians 5 : 19 NIV]
And Jesus will deal with death at the end of the ages (when the times reach their fulfillment) ...
For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
[1 Corinthians 15 : 25 - 26 NIV]
So all is in place for God to achieve His "unity plan" at the end of the ages.
Now, let's consider the benefits of knowing this?
There are quite a few for me.
One, my opinion of God as a God of unconditional love is reinforced.
Two, I have a terrific single-focused good-news message for the world, that God is not mad with them, He is reconciled to them and plans to give them the best eternal future possible.
Three, I can distance myself from the good-news/bad-news dichotomy often presented by mainstream Christianity that God is love on the one hand yet He will oversee the torture of the majority of His creation forever on the other.
Four, I can relate to everyone of my friends, colleagues and neighbours as people on the journey to the same destination as me, even if they are at a different stage of that journey.
As such, I can pray for people with much more hope and optimism than I previously might have had, knowing I am praying in line with God's will.
To know the end result of the space-time realm in which we live is as reassuring as it is empowering, and encourages me to roll up my sleeves and be involved in the ministry to which God has called me - the ministry of sharing "the message of reconciliation".
Because "The Really Good News About God" is centred around God's extravagant grace, most of the discussion in it touches on some aspect of the eventual, universal, reconciliation of mankind to God; which fulfills God's role as the Saviour of the world. (1 Timothy 4 : 10)
This article highlights the salvation of Israel, a step on the way to the salvation of the world.
There are many references to this event in the Old Testament, like Psalm 130 : 8 and Psalm 103 : 2 - 3, together with King David's confidence of his expectation to be "dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever" in Psalm 23.
In the New Testament, the most descriptive mention of this event is in Romans 11, just after Paul illustrates God's faith community using his wonderful Olive Tree allegory.
He tells us that although Israel has stumbled, she will not be rejected, nor has she fallen beyond recovery.
In fact, God has used her stumbling to bring salvation to the Gentile, non-Jewish, nations in order to make Israel envious or jealous.
Paul then says ...
"Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way, all Israel will be saved."
So Israel will be saved after the full number of Gentiles has come in.
Come in to what?
The context of Romans 11 is the Body of Christ, the disciples or followers of Jesus, part of God's faith community that is illustrated by an olive tree.
So when the Body of Christ is complete, then all Israel will be saved.
(Paul is not talking here about the salvation of the world at the end of time, at the consummation of the ages.
He is talking about the Body of Christ, the Church, the believers who are chosen as a first group, before the kingdom ages begin, for life and administration responsibilities in those coming ages.)
And we are living in the era or age when the Body of Christ is being filled; so at the end of this age, when this filling is completed, all Israel will be saved.
Looking at the world situation, and the Middle East in particular, it is difficult to imagine how this event might happen.
I certainly don't know how it will happen: all I know is that it will - because God's Word has declared it. And even that is a strain for many people.
Let me illustrate.
Suppose a mother says to her child, "You will be in bed by 7.30 pm.".
The child starts thinking, "How does she know that? There's no way that's going to happen. I still haven't finished my homework, I haven't fed the dog yet, or cleaned my teeth."
So how does mother know?
She knows because she has previously made that decision and will make sure that it happens.
So how does God know that all Israel will be saved?
He knows because he has previously made that decision and will make sure that it happens.
We have a role to play in completing the Body of Christ.
That's one of the reasons we have been called, chosen early, before the rest of the world who will come to God later.
One aspect of that role is sharing the good news that God loves us and does not count our sins against us - because Jesus has already died for the sins of the world.
When we share God's good news, others who have been chosen to complete the Body of Christ will hear it, be given the faith to believe it, be drawn to Christ and added to his Body - in the same way we were.
Each time that happens the Body of Christ will get that bit nearer to completion and Israel's salvation will be that bit nearer too.
When all Israel are saved, the next part of God's plan for his creation, the kingdom ages, will commence with the Olive Tree having administration responsibilities that we are currently in training for.
Adjectives formed from nouns have the same basic meaning as their noun.
For example, the noun 'truth' has an adjective 'true' which may be illustrated with "a statement that contains the truth is a true statement".
Another example could be the noun 'day' and its adjective 'daily' which may be illustrated with "each day we wash the dinner dishes, so washing the dishes is a daily chore".
The English words 'age' and 'eon' are nouns that refer to a period of time, often a very long period of time, which has a beginning and an end.
Unfortunately in English we don't have a simple single word adjective corresponding to the noun 'age', although 'eon' does have the rarely used 'eonian'.
The closest we can come to a "single word" adjective for the noun 'age' might be 'age-during' or 'age-lasting', or we might try to use an adjectival phrase like 'belonging to the age', 'pertaining to the age', 'during the age', 'of the age' or 'for the age'.
As difficult as it is to find an adjective for age that we are comfortable with, we should never use words like 'forever' or 'everlasting' - words that convey the idea of never-ending, nor a word like 'eternal' - a word that conveys the idea of no beginning and no end.
In the New Testament, the Greek noun that translates into age or eon in English is 'aion' and its corresponding adjective is 'aionian'. Possible uses might be: We are living in the aion of the church, so we are the aionian church, and Believers will live and reign with Christ in the coming aion, so they will have aionian life.
Unfortunately, most of our popular English Bibles quite wrongly translate 'aionian' in the Greek as 'eternal' in English.
And this error causes us to miss the distinction between eonian life (life during the ages) and eternal life (life after the ages have concluded).
Here are a few examples of using eonian correctly.
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eonian life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eonian life.
[John 3 : 14 - 16 NIV corrected]
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eonian life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
[John 5 : 24 NIV corrected]
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eonian punishment, but the righteous to eonian life.”
[Matthew 25 : 44 - 46 NIV corrected]
As you know, because of Jesus' death on the cross, everyone will receive eternal life eventually (at the end of the ages), but only believers in the gospel will receive eonian life in the coming millennium, illustrating that although God is the Saviour of the world, there is something special for believers. [see 1 Timothy 4 : 10]
That something special is eonian life, life that continues through the coming eons.
So correct grammar reveals the difference between eonian life and eternal life - between life in the kingdom ages for believers and life in eternity beyond the ages for everyone.
Indeed, without this correction, it is difficult to find the millennial kingdom anywhere other than in Revelation 20.
(I am beginning to use 'eonian' more and more in recent times, instead of the other age-related options, because it is just one word and because it closely resembles the Greek 'aionian'. Having said that, I am tempted to create my own word: age-ian, which looks very strange but is growing on me.)
This section contains the questions I have most frequently been asked on the broad topic of God's Awesome Plan, and my usual answers to these.
As you read, please remember that some questions may not have precise answers. There are so many things we creatures do not know about our Creator and how he operates, even though we often have many clues in the Scriptures.
However, if you have some better answers than I have presented here, please offer them through the last item, Ask Your Question, on the Topics menu on the left. I will really appreciate being able to add to my understanding through your input.
You can also ask a question of your own by selecting the same item, Ask Your Question, on the left. If your question gets asked frequently enough, your question and my answer will be added to this page.
In a recent Bible study discussion on God and the possibility that He might, or might not, be involved in our personal lives, it was suggested that we must be rational when formulating our ideas about God and the ways He operates.
This really grabbed my attention as many readers will know how God has been involved in our lives over several decades in ways that are impossible to describe as rational.
The ways in which God has shifted us around the country, the miracles we have been privileged to see in our various adventures and ministries, and the way He has brought us through several family challenges, all point to a God who intervenes in lives in ways that refuse to be restricted by mankind's sense of rationality.
But let me generalise beyond my personal experience, so we can all address this question together.
God's grace is nowhere near rational.
Is it rational, can we really comprehend, that the Creator of this universe extends grace and mercy in such awesome measure as He has and does towards such a wayward and rebellious humanity?
Christ's resurrection is not rational - nor will ours be.
Is it rational that God's forgiveness is given to all without any performance or sacrifice on our behalf, but solely as a result of Christ's death and resurrection?
Christ's teaching is often not rational either.
For example, He tells us to .....
For me, God is way beyond rational.
To create this enormous universe out of nothing is way beyond rational itself, let alone His dealings with it and those He created to populate and manage it.
"Rational" belongs to our limited, but logical, way of thinking - not to God's.
We can't confine God to the same size box most of humanity lives in.
Let's continue to look for the irrational, the supernatural, from the God who loves, forgives and sustains us without limit.
* * * * *
Many authors suggest that when people leave this planet (physically die) they remain asleep until a resurrection sometime in the future.
The "goodies" get resurrected to be given Life, and the "baddies" get resurrected to be given death. (Some resurrection that would be !)
But I find that view inconsistent with the view taught by Jesus and His followers, who say that Jesus came to give us Life right now.
Do we get that Life and then have it taken from us for the time between when we physically die and some future resurrection?
That doesn't seem very logical to me.
I appreciate that several Bible verses can be quoted to support the idea that when our physical bodies cease working and we depart this planet we are dead, real dead, or at least sound asleep, but they are all Old Testament verses, statements made by poets (and others) expressing their understanding at that point.
Here are a couple......
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave? [Psalm 6 :5 NIV]
For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even their name is forgotten.
Their love, their hate
and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
in anything that happens under the sun.
[Ecclesiastes 9 : 5 - 6 NIV]
Indeed, without further revelation from Jesus, we would not be in a position to say anything much different.
The physical evidence screams similar conclusions at us too.
But look at the new information Jesus reveals ...
“I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."
[John 11 : 25 - 26 NIV]
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." [John 5 : 24 NIV]
Will never die .... has crossed over (past tense) from death to life.
John affirms Jesus' words with ...
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
[1 John 5 : 13 NIV]
Jesus goes even further than promising Life for His followers ...
"But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” [Luke 20 : 37 - 38 NIV]
I appreciate that the theology of many hymns sometimes doesn't follow Scripture too well, but I like the Christmas Carol "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which has this verse .....
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Not too much about death there!
Anyway, what do you think happens to us when we leave this planet?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
* * * * *
Several years ago, I posted "Jottings from John" on my blog, which included several verses that described God's inclusive and universal plan to save all his creation through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.
In this article, we will discuss John 3 : 36, a verse usually promoted to disprove this plan.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them. [NIV]
As usual, I need to challenge the translation of the Greek "aionian" into the
English "eternal" and replace "eternal life" by "life in the ages".
I will also add "this" to help link the second reference to this life later in the verse. So my adjusted NIV translation becomes ...
Whoever believes in the Son has life in the ages, but whoever rejects the Son will not see this life, for God's wrath remains on them. [BV]
which is not far from the Young's Literal Translation ...
He who is believing in the Son, has life age-during; and he who is not believing the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God does remain upon him. [YLT]
So we see that this verse is not referring to the eventual outcome of God's plan, with many of his creation lost forever, but to the kingdom stage where only those chosen to believe in the ages (during the realm of time) will be experiencing life, while the others not seeing life until the consummation of the ages.
And this conclusion is consistent with what John said earlier in Chapter 3 (verse 17) ...
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. [NIV]
I am much more comfortable believing our God of love and mercy will fully achieve his purpose for the world than believing many of his creation will overturn his plans for them through their current unbelief.