Universal Reconciliation?

Occasionally, I check out various writings on subjects that interest me and lately I have been perusing Universal Reconciliation websites. It is puzzling to me about all the hoopla over the translation over the Greek word ‘aionios’ (everlasting, eternal, etc.). The common vein is to question all translations of the scripture and to suggest that ‘aionios’ CAN mean forever, BUT that it doesn’t have to.

I easily understand the desire to eliminate the threat of eternal punishment and the pain of the living concerning unregenerate loved ones that have passed away. However, there are problems with the Universalist position that I cannot resolve.

ONE: Scripture

(Matthew 25:46) “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

This is one of numerous examples. If the punishment here is not everlasting then how is life everlasting? It appears a case of having your cake and eating it, too. The construct of the pairing of punishment and life are intended to offset each other. For the record, “ages and ages” does not offset “forever”.

Also note, if ‘aionios’ doesn’t mean “everlasting” then there is a real problem with the nature and attributes of Deity. Where would we be without “the everlasting God”? (Romans 16:25-26) “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, {26} But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:”

TWO: Words mean things

SAVED; the word means to be delivered or preserved
.
In order for one to be ‘saved’ one must be in peril. In other words, there must be some danger, threat, or penalty from which on must be delivered, something from which one would need to be ‘saved’. Language presents some pesky little problems when we look at the meanings of words. If a person is never in peril they are never in need of salvation. Let’s view a few scriptures as it relates to the word saved.

It is used conditionally. 

(Acts 16:30-31) “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? {31} And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” 

(Romans 10:13) “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

It is used positionally.

(1 Corinthians 1:18) “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 

(2 Corinthians 2:15) “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:”

LOST; means to perish or to be destroyed fully

The scripture refers to those that are lost. Again, if words mean anything, being lost is a condition from which one would need to rescued or found. There is no hint in the Word of God that the condition of being lost is remedied by any other means than by being ‘saved’, nor that it is a temporary state. A person that is never in peril is never truly ‘lost’. Some verses concerning being lost (sometimes translated perish or destroy).

(Matthew 10:28) “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy (same etymology) both soul and body in hell.” 

(John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

(1 Corinthians 1:18) “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 

(2 Corinthians 2:15-16) “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: {16} To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

(2 Corinthians 4:3) “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:”

(2 Thessalonians 2:8-10) “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: {9} Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, {10} And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

Perhaps my view is simplistic. The scriptures are replete with the necessity for faith in the Gospel of Grace and in the subject of that gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul specifically says that those who don’t obey the gospel will “be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” This consequence is not a suggestion of God’s failure to universally provide redemption but one of the failure of men in appropriation. If eternal life is a gift (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; et. al.) then, if words mean anything, that gift must be received. The benefit of any gift is no benefit at all when it is rejected by the recipient.

The true tragedy of going to Hell is that a person that goes there does so with their sins paid for, and forgiven. Sin was dealt with at Calvary. Hell is not a punishment for sin, but rather the result of unbelief and failing to appropriate the righteousness of God.

Salvation is universal in its scope, as it is provided by God’s grace, but it is limited in its application through the unbelief and rejection of men. The scripture says; (Romans 3:22) “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” It is also written that to trust the Lord Jesus Christ is to “… trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” 

Certainly, the Savior is special to those of us who have received His gift of righteousness and eternal life. It is tragic that to the lost there is nothing special about the tremendous cost of redemption; neither do they realize the terrible penalty for ignoring the gift offered them by the most gracious God and Savior.

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