Of all of the questions that come from discussions related to faith and/or religion, one of the most central and critical has got to be the one about everyone’s eternal destination. As I mentioned in a previous post, Francis Chan wrote in Erasing Hell that it seems as though everyone goes to heaven if we look at the subject through the lens of what is said at funerals. I couldn’t agree more. It would appear as though one of our ways of comforting the grieving is to make sure they believe that the one they lost is now in heaven with other loved ones. (As an aside, let me say that it’s hard to know how to address this subject and this especially true when dealing with someone’s death.) So what does the Bible say about this? Is there legitimate evidence in Scripture to support the idea that everyone will go to heaven one day…whether they believe in Jesus or not…or whether they are part of an entirely different belief system, such as Islam, New Age, Hinduism, satanism, or any other?This is not a subject that I could exhaust in discussion or even really completely deal with. There’s not enough time and patience on a platform such as this and furthermore I’m no scholar. Within Christianity, there are differing views on this subject. There are two major opinions from what I can gather, as well as lots of nuances or offshoots of them. One is a more traditional approach. This is the view that when we die, we will go to heaven or hell based on our decision in this life (or lack thereof) relating to the Gospel. This states that if someone accepts salvation that is offered through Jesus, then they will spend eternity in heaven. If they do not, then they will go to hell forever. The other major view is what’s referred to as universalism. Simply put, this says that everyone will go to heaven. As I said, there are lots of different branches and qualifications for both of these, but these seem to be two of the major views out there.
Which is true?
Interestingly, the Bible speaks about both of these things. I have to be honest when reading passages like Romans 5 and let it say what it says…which is that just as through one man, every man was separated from God, so also through one Man, all will be reconciled to God. Please don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself. There are many other verses that support the idea that through Jesus, all of humanity will be saved. HOWEVER…that’s not all that Scripture says. It also says that there are those that will be cast out of His presence and will spend eternity separated from Him.
So is the Scripture contradictory? I don’t think so. I think it’s speaking about specific other things in those contexts and never really completely spelling this subject out for us. Perhaps there’s a reason for this…but before I get into that, let me address one more aspect of this situation.
One of the things that really bothers me is that there seems to be a large number of Christians that are glad that many will spend eternity in hell. They seem to want certain people to suffer ultimate judgement. I’ve actually had conversations where, if I even suggested the possibility of another outcome, they became angry. When talking about it, there’s almost a spirit of victory in their voices related to an ideology of many spending eternity in torment. On the flip side, there are many Christians that seem to espouse the other side of the argument and they don’t take evangelism seriously. Since they believe that everyone will go to heaven or that all roads lead to heaven (which is not actually Christianity, I might add), then they see no real need or have no real passion to see everyone evangelized.
My issue with the first attitude is that it is barbarically un-Christian. Anyone that wants to see anyone else spend eternity in hell doesn’t truly understand the Gospel and what’s more is that they don’t truly understand how deserving we all are of judgement. If we cannot find our way to compassion for our fellow man/sinner, and we cannot find our way to a place of identifying with them, then we may not have experienced the truth of Christ ourselves. We should love passages like Romans 5 and others that seem to suggest the possibility of universal salvation. We should hope for this to be the case. We should hope that some way and somehow, all will come to the truth of Christ and spend eternity with Him and us.
My issue with the second attitude is that it masquerades as love for all but in truth it is love for no one. Scripture does not spell out universalism in a definitive way. To form a doctrine out of it is incredibly dangerous and truly unloving. Penn Jillette, an avowed atheist, actually says that if someone believes in the possibility of others going to hell then they are total hypocrites for not warning them of this. To rest in a doctrine that is, at best, a loose idea of universal salvation, is incredibly lazy and unloving.
On the one side, we should want for this idea of universal salvation for all in Christ to be true. On the other, we should care enough to address the entire scope of the discussion out of our love for our fellow man. We need to operate with the hope that all will go to heaven on the one hand but with they concern or compassion that they will not on the other.
In conclusion, perhaps the reason that Scripture doesn’t totally iron all of this out for us is because Christ has told us to spread His Gospel. He has given us a wonderful message of salvation and NOWHERE in it did He tell us to just hang out because everyone is eventually going to be saved. Maybe they will. I certainly hope so. But in the meantime, I will speak of Christ and Him crucified, resurrected, and returning. I will speak of the exclusivity of salvation in Him. I will share with all that I can that there is an urgent need to choose Him here and now.
Image taken from: http://blogs.christianpost.com/engaging-the-culture/author/george-sarris/