Universalism is the belief that everyone eventually will be saved. It was first proposed by the unorthodox church Father, Origen (ca. 185–ca. 254). Origen and universalism, in general, were condemned as unorthodox at the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (A.D. 553)
One of the most influential twentieth-century theologians to embrace universalism was Karl Barth. Philosopher John Hick is a contemporary proponent of the view. A small number of otherwise evangelical theologians, such as Pinnock and Stott, have embraced forms of universalism and/or annihilationism.
Most liberal theologians and cults hold to some form of universalism or its cousin, annihilationism, the view that persons who cannot qualify for heaven simply go out of existence. The common principle throughout universalist and annihilationist theologies is that there is no eternal punishment.
Universalists generally appeal to arguments from God’s love in support of their positions. They cite several passages of Scripture to substantiate their views.
God’s Omnibenevolence. Universalism is usually based on the notion that a God of love would never allow any of his creatures to perish. But, as C. S. Lewis said in his book, ‘The Great Divorce’, just the opposite is the case. For while God “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16) and “does not desire that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), he does not force his love on anyone. Forced love is a self-contradictory concept.
Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37). Lewis noted that “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end. ‘Thy will be done’ ” (Lewis, The Great Divorce, 69).
Further, the Bible unmistakably teaches that there is an eternal hell and that human beings will go into it (see, Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:7–9; Rev. 20:11–15).
Jesus had more to say about hell than he did about heaven. He warned, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
He added of those who reject him, “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age” (Matt. 13:40). In what is sometimes called his Mount Olivet Discourse, Jesus declared, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ ” (Matt. 25:41).
Elsewhere he stressed the horror of hell with the statement: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out” (Mark 9:43). One of his most vivid stories was of the rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Since this story uses an actual name, most Bible teachers distinguish this from a parable and believe it refers to people who really lived
So, in conclusion, there are two primary perspectives on the extent of hell’s punishment.
One view contends that the wicked experience eternal conscious suffering (Walvoord, “The Literal”). The other view argues that the wicked eventually are consumed by hell’s fire, thereby forfeiting their existence (Fudge, “The Final End“).
Matthew 10:28 might imply that hell destroys both the body and the soul, making punishment only temporary. However, other texts support the eternal duration of hell’s punishment.
For example, Jesus, drawing on Isa 66:24, speaks of hell as the place where the worm never dies and the fire is never extinguished (Mark 9:48). In Matthew 25:46, it seems that the punishment is forever rather than for a while. Jesus claims that upon death some people will go to eternal punishment while others will enter into eternal life.
Others on this forum, have argued for universalism from God’s omnipotence. Origen, declared: “For nothing is impossible to the Omnipotent, nor is anything incapable of restoration to its Creator” (On First Principles, 3.6.5).
This, of course, implies that God desires by his goodness to do so, a position easily supported by many Scriptures (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). But if God wants to save all, and he can save all (i.e., he is all-powerful), then it seemed to follow for Origen that he will save all.
Two points should be made in response.
First, God’s attributes do not operate in contradiction to each other. God is internally consistent in his nature. This is why the Bible insists that “It is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). This is also the reason that God’s power must be exercised in accordance with his love.
That is, God cannot do what is unloving.
Second, it is unloving to force people to love him. Forced love is a contradiction, and God cannot do what is contradictory. Love cannot work coercively but only persuasively. And if some refuse to be persuaded, as the Bible says some will, then God will not coerce them into his kingdom.
Origen offered an argument for universalism from God’s wisdom:
God, by the ineffable skill of his wisdom, transforming and restoring all things, in whatever manner they are made, to some useful aim, and to the common advantage of all, recalls those very creatures which differed so much from each other in mental conformation to one agreement of labour and purpose; so that, although they are under the influence of different motives, they nevertheless complete the fullness and perfection of one world, and the very variety of minds tends to one end of perfection. For it is … is one power which grasps and holds together all the diversity of the world, and leads the different movements towards one work, lest so immense an undertaking as that of the world should be dissolved by the dissensions of souls.
This again misses the point that God’s wisdom does not act contrary to his love. And love cannot force anyone to do something.
The fact that God is infinitely wise (omniscient) allows him to know that not everyone will freely choose to serve him. The attempt to save people God knows will never accept him would be contrary to God’s wisdom. Still, all are invited, even those God knows will reject him.