Wednesday, July 17, 2024

What REALLY Happened in Butler PA on July 13, 2024

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. (Psalm 24:1–2)

The doctrine of God's providence is not acceptable to many, including many Christians. Some object that it robs man of free will and makes God out to be ultimately responsible for evil.  Take former President Trump's brush with death as an example. Some said God intervened and protected his life. He certainly protected his life, but he did not 'intervene.' To see the sparing of his life as 'intervention' is to say he was not really engaged in what was happening until that moment. This would also mean the universe is not controlled by anything but chance and blind forces unless God chooses to "intervene" That is not how the Bible sees the universe or God at all. The differences between these two perspectives are significant. 

The Bible sees everything as being made by God, and governed by God. The earth and everything in it belongs to him. (Ps.24:1) It describes him as completely sovereign, not just when he decides to get involved, but in full and absolute control of everything. He is "ever present" in the world and all that happens. The Heidelberg Catechism says, "The almighty and ever present power of God, by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand."

The Westminster Confession states it this way: "God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, (Heb. 1:3) direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, (Dan. 4:34–35, Ps. 135:6, Acts 17:25–26,28) from the greatest even to the least, (Matt. 10:29–31) by His most wise and holy providence, (Prov. 15:3, Ps. 104:24, Ps. 145:17) according to His infallible foreknowledge, (Acts 15:18, Ps. 94:8–11) and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, (Eph. 1:11) to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. (Isa. 63:14, Eph. 3:10, Rom. 9:17, Gen. 45:7, Ps. 145:7)."  (WCF V.1)

To limit God's activity to the sparing of Trump's life misses the big picture described by the reformed confessions. He not only spared Trump, he also ordained the attempt on his life. He ordained that there would be a lapse in security  allowing the shooter to climb on the building (whether intentional or not). He ordained that the shooter would not fall off the roof. He ordained that the roof would not cave in.  He ordained that Trump's ear would be grazed. He also ordained that Corey Comperatore, my brother in Christ would die shielding his family from the bullets. He also ordained that the shooter would not make it to his 21st birthday. All of this was providentially orchestrated by God, not in a mechanical or cold-hearted manner, but for an ultimate good purpose which we cannot fully comprehend.

Still, some find it hard to accept that God would ordain Corey Comperatore to be killed. But David believed "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139:16). He ordains all of our births, the days of our lives and our deaths including whether it will be by means of old age, disease, or tragic event such as this. However, this does not give mankind a free pass. We are still held responsible for our actions. Peter declared to the crowd at Pentecost "This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23) God ordained that Christ would die on the cross, yet Peter holds them responsible for their wicked actions at the same time. 

While I am thankful Trump was not killed (and grieved that others were) what concerns me is many have missed what really happened. God made a clear statement that he alone rules over the nations, including ours. (Ps. 24) The near miss was not a sign of divine approval, it was a divine warning and reminder of who is really in charge as much as it was a sign of divine mercy. Ultimately it is King Jesus who determines the course of history and outcomes of elections. Indeed, HE sets up kings and deposes them. (Daniel 2:21) He was reminding the world that no leader is outside of his jurisdiction. He was making it abundantly clear that HE is King forever and ever. (Psalm 10:16) . All world leaders and peoples of the nations would do well to humble themselves before the true King and recognize Christ holds their destinies and even all things in his hand. (Col. 1:16-17) 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024


When he entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and he was speaking the word to them. They came to him bringing a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and after digging through it, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts: “Why does he speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Right away Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he told the paralytic— “I tell you: get up, take your mat, and go home.” Immediately he got up, took the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:1–12)

The healing of this paralyzed man in Mark 2 stands out from other healings. The chapter begins with Jesus back in Capernaum and everybody in town hearing about it. So they show up and clog every entrance and window. When the four men carrying the paralytic see there is no way in they make a way through the roof! These men demonstrate tremendous love and determination in getting the man to Jesus. They also demonstrate great faith. They believe Jesus can and will help him. Also, these men do what we are all called to do: to bring people to Jesus! They are an example to us. 

Once they achieve their goal some very interesting things happen. Mark tells us Jesus also saw THEIR faith and then says to the paralytic “Son, your sins are forgiven.” It appears on the surface Jesus has misunderstood his request or is playing a mean trick. Obviously, this man is coming to be healed, not to be forgiven. But Jesus knows our needs better than we do. We should always come to him with any need but trust him to do for us what he sees needs to be done. This paralyzed man’s greatest need was not that he be healed of his paralysis, but that he be forgiven of his sins. Yet, had this man not been paralyzed he may never have heard Jesus say “Your sins are forgiven.” God used his suffering for his greatest good! 
But the scribes who were there to catch him saying something wrong, think they have just scored.” He is blaspheming for God alone can forgive sins! We’ve got him!”

They aren’t wrong. Only God can forgive sin. But they don't realize this is a set-up! In verse 9, Jesus asks them a question. Which is easier: To say ‘Your sins are forgiven” or to say “Rise, take up your bed and walk”? They have nothing to say. Clearly it is easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” because you can't “see” forgiveness. Where is the proof of forgiveness? Saying “rise up and walk” is harder because it is “seen”. If nothing happens, then it means he is a liar and has no authority to forgive sins.  He heals the man so they may know that he does have this authority. And the man was healed at that moment! The people witnessed this man get up and walk out of the house! 

But there is another point here. It may be easy to say "Your sins are forgiven" but it is the more difficult work to accomplish and therefore the greater miracle. Also, the need for forgiveness is far greater than the need for physical healing. Yet, we often think of miraculous healings as being greater than the forgiveness of sins.  Forgiving sinners required Jesus, holy innocent, and unstained by sin, to be murdered on the cross. It required he face the wrath of the Father so that wrath against my sin and yours will be satisfied. It will require him to rise from the dead, proof that his offering for sin was accepted by God and the debt is paid. 

I know of a 12-year-old girl who is presently dying from a brain tumor. She comes from a Christian family and has been taught about Jesus and forgiveness all her life. It was not until this tumor manifested itself that she came to believe and receive forgiveness. Yers many were praying for a miracle concerning the tumor. But the real miracle was her faith in Jesus and receiving the gift of forgiveness. And the same is true for many of you right now facing health issues and suffering pain. You have been forgiven of your sins through his precious blood. This was your greatest need, and Jesus met that need and healed you of unbelief. The healing of the paralytic reminds us that in the new heaven and earth, there will not be any more paralysis, cancer, or other physical ailments. Total healing is your future by faith in Christ, and that future begins with being forgiven of all our sins. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

How to Survive Reading through Leviticus

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.   Hebrews 10:1–4, 12-14

Leviticus is not easy to read through. So much of it is hard for us to follow and understand since we are so far removed from the culture as well as from that stage in Redemptive history. Plus, all of the sacrifices and regulations concerning sacrifices have been made obsolete through the work of Christ Jesus. That is the point being made in Hebrews 10. So why read Leviticus? Does any of it have any application to our Christian lives?  Yes! 

1. Leviticus shows us that sin and forgiveness are costly. 

The sheer volume of animal blood to be spilled regularly says alot about the severity of sin and what sin deserves. The detailed requirements concerning how the sacrifices were to be offered further show that dealing with sin was not a simple matter of saying “sorry”. Every time an Israelite brought his sacrifice to the priest, he was to understand that this animal had to die in his place. Leviticus shows us that God does not wink at sin and that the removal of sin is complicated and costly. 

2. Leviticus shows us a glimpse of God’s grace in Christ

It was not the worshiper but the animals that suffered the penalty for the worshiper's sins and allowed him  to draw near to God. Even the animal was provided by the Lord who blessed the worshiper's herds so he would have an animal to offer.

3. Leviticus prepares us for the good news about Jesus by showing a better solution is needed

As Hebrews states, the repetition of these sacrifices reveals their weakness and insufficiency. God’s people were being taught to see the desperate need for a better sacrifice and a better system - one that actually did remove sins permanently and to bring the worshiper even nearer than was possible under the old system. Jesus is that sacrifice! He is the new system! By his single offering of his body and blood he has made all of the sacrifices and rituals obsolete and useless. Jesus has overcome all of the obstacles, cut through all of the complexities and done what the blood of bulls and goats could not do: put away sin once and for all and open wide the way for us to draw near with full assurance. (Hebrews 10:22)

As Christians, our response to these chapters should be gratitude for the work of redemption that Jesus has accomplished and applied to all who believe. Gratitude is not merely a matter of saying “thank you” but of living a life worthy of Christ. This is Paul’s point in Romans 12. 

“Therefore, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. (Romans 12:1)

I encourage you to use these chapters as a springboard for this kind of worship. Give thanks to the Lord Jesus with your whole life and all of your inmost being for paying it all and providing a far better way to draw near to God. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023


 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15–17)

A question that comes up frequently by visitors and newcomers is why we utilize creeds, catechisms, and confessions at Grace Church. Some even think it is strange. A common thing I have heard is it is a wink and a nod to Roman Catholicism. Others wonder if we are making too much of the words of men and even placing such documents on par with Scripture or even in place of scripture. This being Reformation Day (Yes that's what October 31 actually is!) I thought it would be helpful to give a more thorough explanation as to why we as a church and denomination think these are important and how these are biblical and also very Protestant!

At present, there is a negative attitude toward theological and doctrinal precision among many evangelical Christians. Some say things like, 'I don’t need theology. I just need Jesus and the Bible. Anything more is unnecessary, and a hindrance to simple, pure faith in Jesus.' But the statement itself - “I just need Jesus” means nothing if we do not answer some important questions: Who is Jesus? Is he God? Man? Both? Mormonism, Islam, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own versions of Jesus so we need to be clear about which one.  As soon as we begin to explain what the Bible says about Jesus, we are doing theology. Catechisms and Confessions are simply formulated trustworthy sayings that summarize what we believe. 

It was not long after the Reformation began that reformational churches began to produce catechisms for this purpose. There was much theological confusion during those times. Many were studying the Bible for the first time and trying to work out what it all meant. Martin Luther had his catechisms and the Augsburg Confession. There was also the Heidelberg, Belgic Confession and later the Westminster Confession and Catechisms were written. But why were they written? Why not just teach the Bible? Certainly, they were teaching the Bible too, but the reason for these documents was to serve as summaries of what the Bible teaches. These confessions and catechisms were like a trellis for the anticipated growth of the vine of biblical knowledge and understanding, meant to guide and aid their understanding of all the Bible teaches.  The Bible, of course, is the only infallible rule for faith and practice, that is what we mean by Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone).  But Sola Scriptura does not mean Scripture is the ONLY rule for faith and practice. Other rules are not only helpful, they are referenced in the Bible itself. The above verses from 1 Timothy are an example of early "trustworthy sayings" meant to help followers of Christ, especially new followers, to learn the message of the Bible and the gospel story ahead of their own study of the Bible. It could almost read like a catechism question and answer.

Q. Why did Christ Jesus come into the world?
A. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 
Q. What do you believe about God? 
A. He is the King Eternal, Immortal, invisible, the only God.

Many commentators agree these trustworthy sayings were established to provide a biblical foundation upon which to build their ongoing biblical knowledge.  Furthermore, it helps the church identify false teachings and errors. These serve as a "pattern of the sound words". (2 Timothy 1:13) For example, if we have a good handle on the doctrine of the Trinity we will be able to tell when someone is teaching the wrong idea because we know the pattern of sound words that says, There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. (Shorter Catechism Q&A 6) The patterns of sound and trustworthy sayings serve as a defense against false teaching and false teachers, something Paul repeatedly urges Timothy to be aware of in both letters and elsewhere.

But none of this is meant to replace learning the bible. We should always be like the Bereans who "received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." (Acts 17:11) But at the same time, we should not be seeking to reinvent the wheel. We do this when we refuse to learn from history which we know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. 

Learning the message and meaning of the Bible takes time.  By learning from those who came before us, we are not only learning from history but from history that has been proven to be true to the scriptures for centuries.  This is why we are teaching the Apostles Creed, Children's catechism in Sunday School, utilize several creedal statements in worship, and why we are studying the Heidelberg Catechism on Sunday nights. We believe the pattern of trustworthy words help us better know the Bible, better know God, help us "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." (Ephesians 4:13–14)

For further reading:
Why Creeds and Confessions? (Ligonier)
Why You Should Care About Catechisms
The Importance of Catechizing Our Children - by David McWilliams (Ligonier)

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

In Memoriam on their 100th

My grandparents shared a birth month and birth year, within few days of each other. Today (January 10) is my grandmother's birthday. She died in 2017 at the age of 94. She would have been 100 years old. My grandpa's was either January 5th or 15th. He always celebrated it on the 5th but later in life came across some documentation that said he was born on the 15th. Whichever day it was, this month would also be his 100th birthday. He died on Easter Sunday morning in 2019 at the age of 96. I miss them and often wish I could talk with my grandpa one more time, and even have him pray for me one more time. I wish I could have him ask me one more time if I love Jesus. I wish I could enjoy one more of grandma's Sunday dinners, have her hold my newborn son and squeeze his legs (see below). Yes, I miss them. This is why my phone wallpaper is a picture of them. I think about them every day. I frequently have dreams about them too. 

In honor of their birthday and memory, I am sharing what I said at their funerals in 2017 and 2019. As you will see, Jesus was at the center of their lives and also at the center of my memories of them. I am a believer in Jesus today because of them, not just because they told me I should or raised me to think a certain way. I could see the evidence in their lives that the power of Christ is real.  

I hope that anyone reading this who does not know the Savior will turn their lives over to him as they did and as I did because they shared this treasure of grace with me. 


Four things I think about when I think of my grandma:

1. When I think of my grandma, I think of Me-mom”. That’s what I called her growing up. I don’t know how I came up with that, but my guess is it simply meant she was my grandma. It was my term of endearment. And my brother Brian called her that too probably because I did. Growing up, all of my friends wanted her to be their grandma too. Some of them even called her Me-mom. They were drawn to her tenderness, hospitality, and warm ethos of her home - something many of them did not experience in their own family contexts. What many didn’t always realize is they were actually attracted to the Spirit of Christ within her. They were actually experiencing the love of God through her, and through grandpop. 

2. When I think of my grandma, I think of food. What I mean is it was nearly impossible to visit her or be around her without a plate of food in front of you. She loved to cook for the family and loved to have everyone together. It was customary for us to come over after church every Sunday for those infamous Sunday dinners. It always started at 2 PM. I remember she would give grandpop the signal it was time to pray - and he would ask the blessing that seemed to just take you right into the heavenly realm. Then we’d eat alot of food. There was always enough food to feed a small country. And just as plates were getting empty, grandma would practically accuse you of having hardly eaten anything and tell you to eat more! But truth is, she was the most hospitable person I have ever known - to everyone who stepped foot in her home - she treated them like honored guests. She was a true servant - a selfless, giving woman.

3. When I think of my grandma, I think of babies and children. She loved babies! She especially liked those fat baby legs. She would pick up the babies and never let them go. She would get down on the floor with the boys and play with matchbox cars - rolling them up and down the hallway at her house. And when we were kids she had these funny names she called us: pinky, bumpy, and others I can’t recall.  I never asked her where those terms came from - maybe we bumped our heads alot? 

4. When I think of my grandma, I think of a brand of womanhood that is unpopular today. She exemplified a biblical brand of feminism that many today have dismissed as old-fashioned and oppressive to women. But no one who knew her would ever consider her oppressed. No sir - she was not at all bashful about telling you what she thought! She was strong-willed, spunky, confident, opinionated, but also compassionate, a faithful wife; a dedicated mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, tender, generous. She was a woman of noble and admirable character - and every young girl and woman would do well to follow her example. She was fire and fluff all wrapped up into one beautiful woman! Was she perfect? Of course not! But that’s why she had a Savior - that’s why at a young age she trusted in Christ Jesus for salvation. And it is this Jesus that made her the lady that she was.

To summarize - when I think of her, I think of the woman of noble character described in Proverbs 31:10–31.

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands...She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family… She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks...and her lamp does not go out at night...She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy...Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land… She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.


What I’m going to share is actually something I have been preparing for 15 years. As far back as I can remember he always would tell me to walk with Jesus, or he would ask if I love Jesus. When he was more certain that I did later in life, he would ask me “Do you still love Jesus?”
At some point, I started to ask him the same just for fun. And we would both laugh. It became a game to see who would ask first. But anyone who knew him also knew about his faith - he wasn’t ashamed – and would share it with everyone.

About 6-7 years ago I went with him to Home Depot. He asked the young man at the register, “Do you know Jesus?” The young man said, "Yes, actually I just became a Christian 3 months ago." Grandpa got excited and loudly exclaimed "Praise the Lord! Glory to Jesus" And then grabbed the fellow's hands and said, "Let's pray!" And he offered up a prayer of thanksgiving for saving this young man and prayed he would watch over his life and keep him near the cross. Meanwhile, three other people were in line waiting to check out while this was happening!

I share this because we can’t remember him properly without recognizing what he valued and treasured most. What I am about to say might shock some of you. His greatest treasure which brought him the most joy was not his country, though he was a patriot and WW2 Veteran. 
It was not his family though he loved his family deeply and would gladly give up all that he had for his family. It was not even his wife of 75 years, though his love for her was fierce and beautiful and put most men to shame. His greatest treasure in all the world was Jesus Christ. 
And this is because Jesus did something for him that only Jesus could do.

Some would say that my grandpa was welcomed into heaven on Easter Sunday because he was a good man. If anyone was worthy of getting in, it was him. This may shock you - but Thomas Miller was not a good man, he was a sinful man condemned by God’s law. Before anyone gets too uncomfortable with me saying such things - this is true for every one of us.
But I’m compelled to say this because the myth of the good man getting into heaven on his own good merits needs to be shattered. The Bible says “there is no one who is righteous, not even one. There is none who does good. (Rom. 3:11-12) And it says all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. And that includes him.
He was in desperate need of a savior, and he had that need met around 1945, when he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. 

On that first Good Friday, Jesus Christ took Tom Miller’s place on the cross and suffered for his sins. And the empty tomb was proof his debt was paid in full, not because he was worthy of it but because it pleased God to abundantly pour out his love and grace and to forgive him of all his sins so that he is now clean in God’s sight. And THIS is why Jesus was his greatest treasure.
And this is why he loved others so well, why he was so compassionate and why he loved grandma so deeply. It all comes back to the love Jesus had for him. He loved Jesus because Jesus first loved him, for the one who is forgiven much, loves much. (Luke 7:47) 

The great man everyone admired was great because he had an even greater savior. And if my GRANDPA had to depend on Jesus to be welcomed into his presence, who among us can say our good works are good enough? And I have no doubt, if he were here right now he would tell you your works are not good enough and could never be good enough.  He would tell you Jesus is your only hope - the way, the truth and the life. He would tell you to repent and to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. This is what he taught me and I am so thankful he did, for I can say I am a follower of Jesus today because of him - he passed it on to me. And now that the Lord has taken him from us, the baton has been passed. And he would want me to say to you - trust in the Lord Jesus, follow Jesus, keep on walking with the Master!


Happy birthday in Heaven. I love you both and look forward to our reunion on the other side of the River. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022



Universalism is a system of belief that has been around for a long time and is found in about every religion, including Christianity. Many Christian thinkers over the centuries have argued for some form of universalism. Origen of Alexandria (184 - 253) is considered to be one of the earliest proponents of universalism within the Christian faith. For the most part, Universalism has existed on the periphery of Christianity, but this has changed in recent years. There is a growing movement and acceptance of what is being dubbed “Christian Universalism” among those who were once considered part of mainstream Christianity. Pastor Rob Bell is one such example. In 2011, Bell released his book “Love Wins” which thrust this universalistic approach into mainstream Evangelical Christianity.  Not all proponents of Christian Universalism agree on the finer points, but most would agree with Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson’s basic definition in their introduction to a collective work titled “Hell Under Fire”. They write, “Universalism is the view that in the end all persons will experience the love of God and eternal life. All will be saved and none will be lost.”[1] The focus of this essay is “Christian Universalism” as opposed to universalism in general.[2]  What is the difference between the two brands of Universalism? Christian Universalist pastor and author Peter Heitt describes the difference as follows:

By “universalism” some people mean that Christ saves no one, for no one actually needs to be saved. I am the exact opposite of that sort of universalism. Sometimes by “universalism” people mean that all must die, for all have sinned (it’s universal). And they mean that all must be raised for Christ is risen and Christ died for all–they mean that Christ’s cross reconciles all things to the father. In which case, I’m a universalist and I don’t see how anyone could believe Scripture and be anything but a “universalist.””[3]

Heitt and others like him insist that their position remains Christ-centered, rooted in the infallible word of God and adheres to the basic doctrines of the historic faith despite this one difference: every person that ever was, is or shall be, will in time or in eternity, be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. But the question I seek to answer is whether it is biblically and theologically possible to deny eternal punishment and affirm the historic tenets of Christian theology simultaneously. This is a good time to mention that this is not going to be exhaustive. My goal in Part 1 is to provide a brief overview and response. Part 2 will cover specific passages of scripture which Universalists frequently cite as supporting their positions. However, there will be many verses, issues and such that will not be addressed. Many others have given more thorough treatments of this subject, and my intention is to distill some of the most important points so the average believer can be informed and prepared to encounter this growing movement. I also want a Christian Universalist to read this and say, “Yes, this summarizes well what I believe”.


Christian Universalism understands the nature of God's judgment not as punitive, but as disciplinary. It is a purifying fire, meant to burn away the dross of sin and reveal the love of Christ.[4] Though they insist this purifying fire is painful and serious, it is not permanent or everlasting. In fact, Universalists argue the word aiónios commonly translated “eternity” does not actually mean forever most of the time. It usually just means a very long period of time. Universalists have found support in Illarya Ramelli and David Konstan, professors of antiquities who write:

“Apart from the Platonic philosophical vocabulary, which is specific to few authors, aiónios does not mean “eternal”; it acquires this meaning only when it refers to God, and only because the notion of eternity was included in the conception of God: for the rest, it has a wide range of meanings and its possible renderings are multiple, but it does not mean “eternal.” In particular when it is associated with life or punishment, in the Bible and in Christian authors who keep themselves close to the Biblical usage, it denotes their belonging to the world to come.”[5]

According to the Universalists, since it does not mean “eternal” or “forever”,  then it means those who are on the “outside” of God’s blessed Kingdom, i.e. “the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:15) will be granted entrance into the kingdom through the merits of Christ upon the completion of the purification process (which means they are no longer dogs, etc). Eventually, “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Philippians 2:10-11) God’s overarching desire that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) will be fulfilled. All will be brought to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). All things will be reconciled through the cross (Colossians 1:20). ‘All’ means all without qualification or exception. It may not happen in this age for all, but the gates of the kingdom will never shut (Rev. 21:25). Eventually, all will come to faith in Jesus and enter through those open gates.

Christian universalists also deny eternal punishment on the basis of God’s love which is the most significant of his attributes. Because God is love (1 John 4:8) he could never send anyone into everlasting torment. His love is that of a Father to his children.  He not only desires to save everyone - he can save everyone!  Since God is love, is the Father of all and is limitless in might and power, there’s every reason to believe he can and will save everyone and no reason to only save some. To think otherwise is to embrace a blatant contradiction of the very nature and character of God. It makes God out to be a monster, an unjust judge who sentences sinners to suffer eternally for sins committed during their brief earthly life. It is disproportionate and unjust. "Unending torment speaks to me of sadism, not justice.”[6] I will address the subject of “eternity” and why this perspective is biblically incorrect in Part 2.

Initial Reflections

On the surface this all appears to be reasonable and compatible with mainstream Christian teaching. God is still judging sin. Christ’s sacrifice is still needed and being applied.  Plus, it is very appealing. We were once concerned about the eternal state of a loved one and the tribes in the world who have never heard about Christ. According to this view, they are not lost for eternity, they will get to heaven eventually.

I would be lying if I didn’t think this sounded desirable and attractive, because it does. I say this because I want it to be clear that I understand why many find eternal judgment so distasteful. I understand how terrible this sounds and think that it is terrible despite the charge of some Universalists that those like me delight in the prospect of unbelievers burning forever. I readily admit some act this way even if they do not actually believe this. But the unfortunate reactions of some should not be factored into whether or not it is true. While part of me wants to believe Universalism is true, that part is not the objective, rational side, but the emotional side. I want to feel good about everything I believe, and I want others to be accepting of my beliefs. I think many feel this way, which is no doubt why universalism is attractive to so many.

However, not everything that is “true” looks or feels good, nor is it meant to. Yet my observation is that much Universalist thought is driven by what feels and looks good. Since it is emotionally difficult, even nauseating to conceive of God leaving the unregenerate in everlasting punishment, then it must not be true. Even the great Anglican pastor and theologian John R.W. Stott was driven emotionally, not to Universalism, but to Annihilationism late in his life. “Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal torment] intolerable.”[7] 

Theologian Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, reflecting on Stott’s statement writes, “There is, surely, a profound sense in which this ought to be the reaction of all of us… That [people] should be banished forever into the outer darkness, with no escape exit, should fill us with a sense of horror.”[8] Perhaps God’s intention for such strong emotional responses to the prospect of eternal torment is to drive us out into the world to “save others by snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23).  Certainly our emotions in some way reflect God since we are made in his image, but our emotions are also tainted by sin and thus are not reliable guides. Therefore we must set aside emotions and sentiments and look strictly at what the Bible says.

Also, I will admit that my study of this matter has forced me to ask some hard questions of myself. If I really do believe that God’s judgment is final and everlasting, where’s the sense of urgency? Where are the tears? (Luke 19:41-42) Where is the unceasing anguish? (Romans 9:2) I have to admit, if I really do believe judgment is final and forever, my attitude and actions do not consistently bear this out. I have also come to realize that many Christians are either practical Universalists (they really do think all will be saved despite their claims to the contrary, which is why they lack any urgency) or they are hyper-Calvinists (the elect will be saved without my help when God wills it, so again, no urgency). The desire that all to be saved is admirable and ought to be a desire present in every Christian.  

However, I do not believe Christian Universalism is biblical or compatible with the historic Christian teaching. The more I have examined Christian Universalism, read the writings and interacted with those who hold to this view, the more convinced I am that Christian Universalism undermines the gospel and departs from nearly all of the core doctrines that undergird the faith. At best it weakens the work of Christ, or at worst makes it unnecessary. Michael McClymond (to whom I am indebted for many of my insights) is right to point out:

“The great irony of Christian universalism lies in its eclipse of grace. The effort to extend grace to all has repeatedly ended up compromising or even eliminating the notion of grace. What seems to be “all grace” turns out on inspection to be “no grace”...“The graciousness of grace has always been linked to particular divine actions viewed as contingent rather than necessary. Stated otherwise, the grace of God depends on God’s will and is not necessitated by God’s own nature or essence.” [9] 

If every word and sentence in a book is highlighted, then nothing is highlighted.  If everyone wins the game, no one wins. Or as the villain “Syndrome“ from the Disney movie “The Incredibles” puts it, “If everyone's super, no one will be.” If everyone is saved, then no one is saved and the cross is emptied of its power. Grace is no longer grace. And that is what I hope to show: Christian Universalism eclipses the Christian message of grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Of course, Universalists such as Peter Hiett disagree: “...people jump to the utterly bizarre conclusion that it is unbiblical and renders the cross of Christ pointless. IT’S JUST THE OPPOSITE.”[10]  But merely making this claim does not make it so.

All Doctrines are Connected

I once took a trip with my family to the Florida Everglades. We took a boat tour with the National Park Service, and one of the striking facts made by the Park Ranger was how the Everglades is impacted by what happens as far north as Orlando. Everything trickles down because everything is connected. For many years no one understood this which is why the health of the Everglades declined and is currently said to be “on life support.”

This is also true in theology at nearly every level as one of my professors in seminary, Dr. Richard Pratt put it, “All doctrines form webs of multiple reciprocities.” In other words, all doctrines are connected and hang together and even interpret one another. One doctrine cannot be altered or rejected without affecting the others. They are all like building blocks and beams that form a structure. Removing one part of the structure weakens the whole and puts it at risk of collapse. Christian Universalism has done just that: abstracted the characteristics of God and teachings in scripture that are preferred from those which are not preferred under the guise that the faith once for all entrusted to the saints can continue to hold together. The universalistic belief that Jesus died on the cross for everyone, and therefore everyone will be saved in the end causes more structural problems to the Christian faith than Universalists are prepared to admit. What follows are six ways Christian Universalism undermines Biblical Christianity and eclipses the grace of God which has been manifested in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

1. Christian Universalism Nullifies Christ’s work of Grace on the Cross

As I mentioned above, Peter Heitt and other universalists still hold to the necessity of the cross and think it is bizarre for anyone to suggest universalism nullifies the cross or obscures his grace in any way. But they are unable to explain in any meaningful detail why the cross was necessary, what it accomplished and what sort of reality we would be facing if Christ decided not to come. Would we then be facing an eternal sentence after all? What exactly does God’s grace in Christ deliver us from? What does ‘grace’ even mean? All they can say about it is it's for “all” without any qualification. But just thinking about the meaning of grace exposes the deep flaws of universalism.

Grace has been defined in many ways: God’s Riches AChrist’s Expense; unmerited divine favor; getting what I don’t deserve (mercy) and not getting what I do deserve (justice). If a sinner does not deserve eternal punishment, then what does he deserve? Whatever it is, not receiving what I deserve would be grace.  Yet what we read from Universalists is that those who die without faith will still face a period of judgment meant to purge them of all sin. This can only mean one of two things:

i. Jesus’ death limits the unbeliever’s punishment to however long it takes to make them pure.

Universalists argue that the concept of eternal punishment is disproportionate to human sin and inconsistent with God’s love. But here’s the problem: If all the cross does is shorten someone’s punishment and/or provides a second chance for them, then the Universalist must concede that eternal punishment is what was deserved after all. He must also admit that Jesus’ sacrifice is only sufficient to deliver a person from a portion of what his sin deserves. But if eternal punishment is what is deserved, it cannot logically be considered disproportionate. In the end, the Universalist must concede that God’s intended punishment is eternal, and that God, seeing that his justice was unjust, sent Christ to balance things out to make the sentence more proportionate by suffering for them. What this does is it limits the efficacy of Christ’s atonement.

ii. The unbeliever missed the chance in life and must face judgment on their own and go through the purging process to be saved.  Brett (the only name disclosed) states it this way on his website: “We are saved from sin and given new life already and don’t have to wait until after we are judged![11] The problem with this should be obvious as it makes the cross the best way to attain eternal life, but not the exclusive way. It grants a person entrance into the Kingdom of God not because Jesus suffered on their behalf, but because they faced the judgment of God alone and emerged from that experience as one fit for heaven. But if Jesus truly died for them then this should not happen. If Jesus died to save his people from their sins, then it logically follows that he died to save them from the punishment which sin deserves whether we call this hell, condemnation, wrath or judgment. “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10) And if Jesus died for everyone, then no one should go there or suffer there ever: not for an “age” or even for five minutes, even if they die without faith because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1)

Yet, according to Universalists like Heitt and Brett, all are in Christ Jesus whether they believe it or not.[12] To say that a person (albeit unknowingly) possesses this new life in Christ even as an unbelieving person, yet must wait to enjoy it until after he is judged, nullifies the cross by making a way for one to enter the kingdom apart from the work of Christ. The person is made righteous by his own suffering under the curse of the law. Jesus did not become a curse for him and does not save him from it since he still suffers under the curse (Gal. 3:13).

At best, these options make a person a co-savior with Jesus or, at worst, it makes a person his own savior. Both are another gospel and do great violence to Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the ONLY way to the Father (John 14:6) and to the sufficiency and efficacy of his single offering up of himself on the cross. The unbeliever is saving himself through the works of the law by facing the penalty for the law on his own. Yet Paul plainly states, “if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21) If I can in any way, even in part, suffer for my own sins and become more righteous and pure through that process, then the cross is of no effect or use. McClymond points out this is why many past Universalists ended up becoming Unitarians. “The unitarian view…requires no mediator nor the mediation of salvation.”[13] A sincere reflection on the theology of the cross makes a universal application of the cross impossible. And this is precisely why Universalists are forced to remain vague on their theology of the cross. Consequently, this also affects how sin is viewed.

2. Christian Universalism Minimizes the Severity of Sin

Universalists try to mitigate some of these issues by minimizing the seriousness of sin. How serious is sin? Dr. Mark Talbot explains:

“...the whole tenor of Scripture is to portray sin as incalculably serious. There is nothing about ourselves (Matt 5:27-30; 18:6-9) or the world (Matt 16:24-28), no honors (1 Cor 4:9-13; 2 Cor 6:4-10) or riches (Ps 84:10; 1 Tim 6:6-10), and no pleasures (Heb 11:24-26; 1 Tim 5:6; Luke 8:14), that are worth getting or keeping if they cause us to sin. Scripture takes even our most minor transgressions against God's law, if they remain unatoned for, as altering our relationship with God in a qualitative and not just in a quantitative way (James 2:10; Matt 5:17f.; Gal 3:10).”[14]

R.C. Sproul describes sin as “cosmic treason...against a perfectly pure Sovereign.”[15] And cosmic treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign calls for cosmic and perfectly pure retribution. But what exactly would such retribution entail? We already know Universalism considers the doctrine of eternal punishment to be grossly disproportionate.  In our modern legal system there are maximum and minimum sentencing requirements which have been lawfully established to prevent a judge from arbitrarily and disproportionately sentencing jaywalkers to life sentences in prison and assigning serial killers to nine months of community service. Thus, a criminal who spent three years robbing banks should not be sentenced to death, let alone be sentenced to spend eternity in eternal punishment. Since sin is committed in time, then the punishment should reflect this. There is a point at which even the worst sinner has ‘been in hell long enough’ to quantitatively satisfy God’s justice. He’s been purged, served his time and paid God back. He should be allowed to enter the kingdom of God. The Bible certainly teaches that just punishment should be proportionate to the crime (Deut. 25:1-3), but the Universalist’s idea of what would be fair punishment is affected by their minimalistic view of sin. Here are two factors that contribute to this minimization.

i. Universalism does violence to the holiness of God. Universalism focuses heavily on God’s love coupled with God’s power but at the expense of God’s holiness. On Brett’s website, he argues for universal salvation on the basis of God’s character which he lists as follows: “God is Merciful and Compassionate; God's Wrath is Temporary; God is Trustworthy, Reliable and Good; The Forgiveness of God; God is Just.”[16]  “Holiness” is noticeably absent despite the fact that the holiness of God is one of the more dominant characteristics of God we find in scripture. Sure, he mentions “wrath” and “justice” but his understanding of these are flawed due to his separation of God’s holiness from his love among his other attributes. Without holiness, “his patience would be an indulgence to sin, his mercy a fondness, his wrath a madness, his power a tyranny, his wisdom an unworthy subtlety.”[17] The exclusion of God’s holiness is a recurring problem in Universalistic teachings which is deeply problematic as Theologian John Frame explains:

“...the defining or essential attributes of God should not be considered parts of him, but rather are perspectives on his whole being, that is, his essence. [...] Each attribute describes God’s entire complexity, not just a part of it. So no attribute is separable from the others.”[18]

It is fascinating that at the end of the article, Brett invites the reader to “Consider deeply.  Who is God?  What is He like?”[19] The only way we can do this is by looking at ALL of the data we find in scripture, not just the selective parts.  We cannot deeply consider God’s mercy, love, justice or goodness apart from a deep consideration of his holiness.  It is only when the holiness of God is deeply considered that sin is seen for what it truly is and what it deserves. Furthermore, his love is seen as holy and his goodness is seen as holy. Ultimately, every sin is judged against the bar of God’s holiness as theologian John Murray said, “wrath against sin is the correlate of his holiness.”[20] Octavius Windslow described God’s judgments as “His holiness in dreadful exercise.”[21] But what are we to understand by the term “holy”?

“[It is a] biblical term generally meaning “to be set apart.” The term is used widely in Scripture to refer to a variety of people and objects alike but ultimately points to God as the one who is qualitatively different or set apart from creation. Holy may also be used to describe someone or something that God has “set apart” for special purposes. In the (New Testament], holiness takes on the sense of ethical purity or freedom from sin. The fullness of the biblical witness, then, testifies to God’s holiness, understood as God’s “otherness” and “purity,” as well as to God’s prerogative to set people and things apart for God’s own purposes, together with the resulting godliness in the lives of those whom God declares to be holy.”[22]

R.C. Sproul describes God’s holiness this way: “When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us.”[23] The Prophet Isaiah provides for us a biblical example of what happens when a sinful man encounters the holiness of God. He was for the most part a decedent, God-fearing man. He was the Lord’s prophet! Yet when he saw the Lord in a vision he was utterly traumatized. It was in this moment that Isaiah was confronted with the foreignness of God, the heinousness of his sin and what his sin deserved.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”” (Isaiah 6:1–5, ESV)

What did Isaiah learn that day? Not that “love, love, love is the Lord of hosts”, but holy, holy, holy! And he learned that his sin, minor by comparison to many others in Judah at that time, still warranted his utter demise and doom which is what all sin deserves. And any claim to the contrary does not hold to a biblical view of sin or of the holiness of God.

ii. When Adam sinned, he was exiled from the garden and from the presence of God. This was not for a season. It was not a cosmic “time-out” where God would let him back in once a proportionate amount of time passed. This was perpetual and unending apart from a significant change in mankind’s condition and status. The Universalist will no doubt say, “But the cross is what allows us to return!” Yes, but without the cross the Universalist must admit that apart from the cross, this was irreversible, proportionate to the crime and entirely deserved. Mankind had committed high treason against the Holy One and lost the right to be near to him and consequently lost the right to live forever (Gen. 4:22).

When the New Testament writers speak about eternal or everlasting punishment, they are building upon this original banishment from Eden which plunged humanity into a state of sin and misery.  The good news of Jesus Christ is that he has made a way for those who are in Adam, and under his curse to escape it and return (1 Cor. 15:22). But this door of opportunity shuts at death. For those who remain in Adam remain under the curse of Adam’s sin: “You shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). This is the “second death” (Rev. 21:8). But those who are in Christ (and ONLY those in Christ) will be given eternal life and granted the right once again to eat of that tree and live forever with the Lord (Rom. 5:16-17; Rev. 22:14). Heitt’s reference to 1 Corinthians 15:22 means the opposite of what he thinks it means.[24] We are either in Adam or in Christ. Those in Adam remain under the curse and remain exiled. Those in Christ, the second Adam, live forever. That is how the New Testament repeatedly describes the two possible roads that any human is on at present.  This is why eternal punishment is entirely just. All are under this sentence unless they are brought from death to life (Rom. 6:13, 1 John 3:14).

3. Christian Universalism distorts the Goodness (and consequently the love) of God

I have already mentioned Universalism’s exclusive focus on God’s love at the expense of God’s holiness. By this I do not mean that Universalists focus on God’s love too much. I really don’t think this is possible. What I mean is they have the wrong idea about his love. And it is upon this wrong idea about God’s love that Universalism stands. This wrong idea of his love is based on a wrong idea of his goodness. “If God is all-knowing and all-powerful and does not save all, then God is not all-good. The logic of this statement is hard to avoid, and it exposes a deep problem which faces Western Christianity.”[25] 

While this may be a “valid” argument, this does not make it true. Anyone who has studied logic knows that even a false premise can be formulated into a valid logical argument.  In this case, the logic is based on a faulty and unbiblical premise of God’s goodness. Universalists limit God’s goodness to his kindness, love, mercy and grace. It never includes his holy wrath or anger against sin which the Bible tells us are also manifestations of his goodness. For example, Moses had an encounter with the Lord’s goodness that would have killed him had God not graciously intervened.

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:19–23)

This shows that the goodness of God is so incredibly severe and intense that it is hazardous to sinful human beings. God had to hide Moses in the cleft in the rock and cover it to prevent him from perishing at the sight of God’s goodness. Here’s the interesting irony: if God had allowed Moses to look directly into the brightness of his goodness, and Moses perished, it would not mean God was not good. It would actually prove he was good and prove Moses was not good. But at the same time, God’s goodness protected Moses from God’s goodness! To again refer to the story of creation and the fall, if God had never decided to create, his goodness would not be diminished in any way. If he had decided to wipe out Adam and Eve, even destroying their souls (Matt. 10:28), his goodness would have remained intact. What this means is God is good either way: whether God is condemning sinners or saving them from condemnation, God is displaying the fullness of his goodness. When those who commit terrible crimes are arrested, convicted and sentenced we call that good. We rejoice justice has been upheld and believe such justice is necessary.  Likewise, the idea that God could condemn anyone to an eternity of hell does not diminish his goodness, it is actually one of the many ways his goodness is proven. Furthermore, this shows that universalists hold to a shallow and sentimental view of God’s goodness which is much greater, deeper and complex than Universalist’s are prepared to admit.

This deeply flawed view of God’s goodness trickles down to a flawed view of God’s love. The argument goes something like this: Because God is love, he cannot send people into eternal torment for this would not be love. A God who loves is a God who saves, and if he loves everyone then he will save everyone. Without a doubt, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) In fact he has always been “love” even from eternity past before anything was created. This will be true in eternity future. If God had decided not to create mankind, the saying would still be just as true: “God is love.”

But Universalism’s insistence that God’s love necessitates the salvation of all requires one to also believe that without mankind, God wouldn’t be love. This means he needs mankind to love in order to be love. If he does not love mankind then he’s not a God of love which means he had to create out of need. This assaults and blasphemes God’s character and nature for it cannot speak about God without some reference to mankind which exposes another problem. It shows Universalists have borrowed from the gnostics who believed every person is part of the divine nature. “I cannot finally be damned because I am part and parcel with God.”[26] Mankind came about due to a fracture or shattering within the being of God. Each individual person is a shard (or an aeon or emanation) of the divine which has been separated or alienated from God. The cross is God’s plan to reunite every shard to himself.  This view brings God down to be less than what he truly is and raises man up to be more than what he truly is. It erases the distinction between the Creator and Creation which we find in Scripture (Ps. 100:3, 139:14; Is. 40:28, 44:6-8) which degrades God’s goodness and love. But the God we meet in scripture needs no one and is not obligated to anyone. From eternity past, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoyed an inter-Trinitarian love within himself. God is self-relational and self-sufficient. God was content, needed nothing, and no one.

The Universalist may be inclined to respond saying even if this is all admitted, it does not change the fact that God loves everybody as John 3:16 plainly states: God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son. But what is meant here by “world” and in what sense did God love it? D.A. Carson explains;

In John 3:16 God’s love in sending the Lord Jesus is to be admired not because it is extended to so big a thing as the world, but to so bad a thing; not to so many people, as to such wicked people. Nevertheless elsewhere John can speak of “the whole world” (1 John 2:2), thus bringing bigness and badness together. More importantly, in Johannine theology the disciples themselves once belonged to the world but were drawn out of it (e.g., John 15:19). On this axis, God’s love for the world cannot be collapsed into his love for the elect.”[27]

Universalism cannot see how God can love in different ways and degrees, despite the fact that human love can vary in these ways. To elaborate, the love a man is to have for his wife is to be greater than his love for his children. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Nowhere are parents told to love their children in this way. We are told “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind” (Matt. 22:37). We are also told to love our neighbor, but the degree of this love is different: we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). Likewise, the inter-Trinitarian love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is greater than God’s love for the world as stated in John 3:16. In fact, it is because of this inter-Trinitarian love that love for the “world” is even possible.

Certainly it is true God does love those who hate him as Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount.  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44–45). The point here is that when believers show love for those who persecute them, they are reflecting God’s goodness back to their enemies, for this is what God does. He causes rain to fall on the fields of the just and the unjust. He is good toward all he has made (Psalm 145:9), and this either leaves them without excuse for their unbelief (Rom. 1:20) or leads them to repentance (Rom. 2:4). We should not take John 3:16 to mean God plans to save every person, as the rest of the verse says: “Whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” The offer of salvation is made to the world, but only those who believe or have faith in the Son receive the gift of everlasting life, and only those who have been appointed unto eternal life come to faith (Acts 13:48).

4. Christian Universalism Redefines Faith

According to Christian Universalism, those who perish without faith in Jesus Christ will be given opportunities after death to put their faith in Christ.

It seems that one of the main objections to the notion that God will ultimately save all people stems from a misunderstanding of the word “faith.” I say this because some people seem to think that the salvation of all people negates the importance of faith for salvation. This is not the case. The argument is not that faith is no longer needed, but rather that all people will come to faith as God draws them to Himself. You see, faith is trust in God. And when the Bible repeats God’s promise that “every knee will bow and every tongue confess” that “‘in the Lord alone are deliverance and strength,” we see that all will have faith.”[28]

Again, we see that Christian Universalism is forced to redefine biblical words for its system to “work”. According to Hebrews 11, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Notice that faith is connected to hope which is also “unseen.”  “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24–25). Indeed, we do not hope for things we already possess, or things we see are there. Rather we hope for what is yet to come which is unseen. That is the essence of faith: “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). This is the point which the author of Hebrews makes repeatedly in Hebrews 11, that the Old Testament believers walked by faith and lived by faith (Heb. 10:38),  yet these saints “all died in faith, not having received the things promised…” (Hebrews 11:13).  

Thus the Biblical understanding of “faith” is assigned to this life and is the means by which we apprehend the promises of the life to come. Once we pass from this life, as Horatio Spafford put it,  “faith shall be sight.” Faith will be no more. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV). Yet, it is clear that faith is necessary for receiving the salvation and eternal life promised in Christ Jesus. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The reward of forgiveness of sins and life everlasting is given to those who diligently sought Christ in this life, longed for his appearing and died possessing faith in Jesus Christ.

This same truth applies to the second coming of Christ. When Christ breaks through the clouds in glory, faith will give way to sight. Those who have believed will marvel at him at his appearing because they believed (2 Thess. 1:10). They will be gathered to him (2 Thess. 2:1) and will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4). But those who did not believe will not marvel in this way but will mourn or wail when they see him in his glory.

“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”  (Revelation 1:7)

“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”” (Revelation 6:15–17)

While it is true that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, not every knee and tongue will do so with gladness and delight as Revelation 1 and 6 reveal.[29] There is a finality being described in these passages. Those who mourn and cry out to be hidden fully see the Lord Jesus in all of his glory. If there was a moment for them to repent this was it. But there is no humility, no change of heart, and no repentance.

5. Christian Universalism Undermines the Biblical Doctrine of Adoption

Another argument made by universalists for the salvation of all has to do with the Fatherhood of God. This is not merely a technicality for it has direct bearing on how we understand the New Testament doctrine of adoption which is critical to the gospel. Brett quotes Malachi on his webpage which says, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” (Malachi 2:10, ESV). He then offers the following interpretation and application:

It is clear that this is referring to everyone because Malachi expounds on the idea, tying the fact that He created us to his Fatherhood. All of humanity was created by God. Therefore He is the Father of us all…With this in mind, it is wholly unreasonable to say that our Father will torment His children endlessly in hell. This is not how He characterizes Himself. Far be it from us to impose such a doctrine on Him. Any earthly father who vengefully tortures his children is rightly deemed an immoral monster. ”[30] 

The error Brett makes here (as do all Universalists who argue this point) is he removes these verses out of their context. Malachi was writing to and speaking about Jews, not to everyone in the world as he claims. The “Fatherhood” of God was being appealed to on the basis of the covenant relationship with God. This is a redemptive category, and can only be considered a creation category pre-fall (Luke 3:38). After the fall the status of the relationship became hostile  (Col. 1:21). We were God’s enemies, not his children. (Rom. 5:10)

...remember that you [Gentiles] were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12–13, ESV)

“At that time”, means prior to their conversion. At that time they had no hope. They were without God, without a heavenly Father, without a Savior. In other words, they were not children of God but children of the devil. It is not until God sends the Spirit of his Son into the heart that anyone can legitimately cry “Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) Consider what Jesus said during his confrontation with the Jews who claimed God was their Father, but refused to believe in him.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:42–44, ESV)

The universalist no doubt will point to passages that say otherwise.  Acts 17:28, for example, which says, “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Paul is using words from Epimenides of Crete and the Greek poet Aratus to build a gospel bridge to the people of Athens.

The Athenians divided the people of the world into two classes: the Greeks and the barbarians. Everyone not born in Greece was considered a barbarian. Paul challenges this theory by focusing attention on the origin of man. Without mentioning his source, he teaches the creation account of “Genesis states that God is man’s creator (Gen. 2:7). Furthermore, out of one man, Adam, God made every nation on this earth. God purposed to have the entire globe inhabited by the various nations that originated from this one man (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 11:8–9). This means that the human race is integrally related as its members populate the entire earth (compare Mal. 2:10). Because of his common origin, a Jew ought not to despise a Gentile and an Athenian philosopher ought not to loathe a Jew. God, who created humanity, governs and provides for it. For that reason, man has to acknowledge him as Creator and Lord.”[31]

The point is simply that this God Paul proclaims made everything and holds everything together. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life and being. This was in stark contrast to the gods of the Greeks and Romans. This meant only the God who made them was worthy of being worshiped. Another is Ephesians 3:14–15, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”. This passage has puzzled translators and commentators for some time as it could mean the same as Acts 17:28. But because Paul is speaking to believers in this context, it is more likely he is referring to the family of believers who are in heaven and on earth: those who have already died and are present with the Lord, and those who remain here on earth[32] (Heb. 12:23). To argue against eternal punishment on the basis that all mankind are presently children of God overlooks what it cost God’s one and only Son to secure this adopted status for all who believe in him.

6. Christian Universalism Diminishes Evangelism

The New Testament presents this matter of Evangelism as one that is urgent and should be made a priority. Consider Paul’s own anguish over the unbelief of his fellow Jews, even expressing a willingness to trade places with them. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2–3, ESV).

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18–19, ESV).

Paul devoted his entire life proclaiming Christ crucified and risen throughout the Roman world. He gladly endured many hardships along the way because he believed it was absolutely necessary that the gospel spread to the nations. “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16, ESV). “[We] are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore[33] you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20, ESV). This same urgency is seen in the other Apostles, John the Baptist, and our Lord Jesus because of what is at stake.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:34–37, ESV).

Jesus is warning his hearers of what is at stake if they do not heed his call to follow him: They lose everything and have no hope of recovery. They have forfeited their souls! Jesus essentially holds out two ways to live: save your life now and lose it in the next, or lose your life now and save it in the next. But this urgent warning is weakened if universalism is true. J.I. Packer agrees: “If everyone’s final salvation is guaranteed anyhow, whether or not people become Christians in this life is no longer crucial.” [34]

Summary and Final Thoughts

Unless God’s holiness is carefully and fully considered, sin will be minimized. As long as sin is minimized, eternal punishment will never make sense. And it is only when we understand the significance and severity of our sinful state and what is eternally at stake that the gospel comes to us as good news. When these biblical factors are excluded, the message becomes “another gospel” which promotes a dangerous and false hope. Paul had this to say about those who preach a false gospel: “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). The word “accursed” (‘anathema’ in Greek) means to be delivered up to the judicial wrath and curse of God.[35] Paul repeats the warning in this verse to stress the seriousness of the matter. The reason why is because a false gospel leaves people under God’s wrath and sends people to hell. It misleads and deceives which is simply put, the work of the devil. But if Universalism is correct and that wrath is only for a season, Paul’s warning is disproportionate and unwarranted. His zeal for the gospel and evangelization of the nations is misplaced since heaven is in everyone’s future regardless of what decisions they make in this life. Pascal's wager is very applicable here: if Universalists are right, then little to nothing is lost. If universalists are wrong, the loss will likely be catastrophic not only for those they misled, but for themselves since those who teach will give an account of what they have taught (Matt. 12:36, James 3:1).

I have no doubt that many who do teach such things have good intentions and strongly believe they are vindicating God’s reputation. They want people to know his love and grace and believe teachings of eternal punishment are a turn-off to unbelievers. They do not want God to appear to be a monster. But I submit that they have only traded one monster for another. Universalists such as Heitt and Brett still believe that there is a period of judgment which is meant to reveal the love of God and purify the person. But what this amounts to is a god who tortures people until they agree to love him and to receive his love. I personally do not find this version of God and judgment to be more appealing in any way. In fact, what is considered appealing is irrelevant. All that matters is what is true and what Christian Universalism promotes is most certainly not true.

Then why is it so appealing to so many? I can only offer theories. I can see how someone who lacks assurance of salvation might come to see Universalism as a comfort. I can also see how someone who is hardened in sin could find this perspective attractive. In essence, it allows for someone to continue in sin and unbelief and offers false assurance and hope. And this is why it is so dangerous and contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

[1] Morgan, Christopher and Peterson, Robert “Hell Under Fire (Zondervan Academic, 2004)

[2] Any reference to “Universalism” or “Universalist”, I make should be understood to refer to “Christian” Universalism/Universalists.


[4] Heitt, Peter,

[5] Ramelli, Illaria; Konstan David, Terms for eternity: Aiônios and aídios in classical and Christian texts. Gorgias Press, 2013. p.238

[6] Wenham, "The Case for Conditional Immortality," p. 189

[7] David L. Edwards and John R.W. Stott, Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 314.

[8] Ferguson, Sinclair “Hell Under Fire” (Zondervan Academic, 2004)

[9] McClymond, Michael “The Devil’s Redemption”, (2018: Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Academic)  p.23

[10] Heitt,

[12] Heitt, (Comments on 1 Cor. 15:22)

[13] McClymond, Michael “The Devil’s Redemption”, (2018: Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Academic)  p.22

[14] Talbot, Mark  “The Morality of Everlasting Punishment” (Vol. 11, No. 31, Aug. 2009)

[15] Sproul, R.C. “The Holiness of God” (Tyndale, 1985; 1998) p.115

[16] “Brett”

[17] Charnock, Stephen. The Existence and Attributes of God

[18] Frame, John M. “The Doctrine of God” (P&R Publishing, 2002) p.388

[19] “Brett”

[20] Murray, John “Collected Writings Vol. 2” (Banner of Truth, 1977), p.81

[21] Winslow, Octavius. The Attributes Of God: Our God (The Knowledge Of The Holy) .

[22]  Grenz, S., Guretzki, D., & Nordling, C. F. (1999). Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 60). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[23] Sproul, R. C.. “The Holiness of God” (Tyndale, 1985; 1998) p.38.

[24] Heitt,

[25] Artman, David “The Necessity of Christian Universalism” Grace Saves All (Podcast)

[26] McClymond, Michael “The Devil’s Redemption”, (2018: Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Academic)  p.1026

[27] Carson, D.A. “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” (2000: Wheaton, IL, Crossway) p.17

[28] Brett, 

[29] The language in Philippians 2 of every knee bowing, etc. is also found in Isaiah 45:23-25. There a distinction is made between those who were incensed against the Lord and those who were counted as his people. All bow and confess, but one group is justified and glorified. The other is “coerced into submission…” (McClymond, p.963).


[31]  Kistemaker, S. J. Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, p. 634). Baker Book House.

[32] Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Purpose of God: Ephesians (p. 83). Christian Focus Publications.

[33] Paul is earnestly begging and pleading.

[34] Packer, J.I., Zondervan,. Hell Under Fire . Zondervan Academic.

[35] G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. p. 354