Will God eventually save all people, either in this life or after death, to live in Heaven? Christians are encouraged to test beliefs according to Scripture to best represent God to others (I Thes 5:21). Beliefs influence our feelings about God and what we tell others about God. If we believe God keeps some alive consciously to torture them in a lake of fire forever, we may misrepresent God or hesitate to talk about God. Suggesting that a loving God is a sadistic torturer may influence others to close their heart to God.
There are no final answers about Universalism as other doctrines. Besides, Jesus cared more about the heart than doctrine. Believers have the hope of eternal life, but Jesus focused on the benefits of a current relationship to handle earthly struggles than what happens to unbelievers after death. But, understanding what we think are biblical possibilities can influence our attitudes and what we share with others about God.
Why wouldn’t one want to believe God is a Universalist where all are saved from themselves, if freedom and justice can be defended in such a scenario? It would be just like God to show mercy and give all a second chance when meeting their Creator. The case and hope for Universalism biblically may be greater than supposed by evangelical believers. We must not be dogmatic to negatively influence one’s openness to a relationship with their Creator.
Universalism is possible because the popular understanding of Hell, where unbelievers are keep alive by God to torture them in a lake of fire forever, is not found anywhere in the Bible. Scriptures doesn’t say specifically what happens to unbelievers after death other than being judged as are believers before entering Heaven. Hell appears to be an invention over the centuries to force people into submission. God doesn’t select or preordain some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation without a choice. We would accuse earthly parents of immorality if they showed similar favoritism toward their children. God doesn’t have a quota on His grace.
Universalism is possible without justice failing in the long-run for the sake of victims. God punishment has always been in hopes of redeeming the guilty. Judgment in the afterlife may have the same purpose. God’s justice may have an educative component and cleansing effect after our life here on earth. Victims will have their revenge one day, though our idea of revenge may not be the same as God’s. Why couldn’t God show mercy after death as God does here on earth time and time again? Might we forgive our tormenters if they truly sought forgiveness and desired to make amends? Believers and unbelievers may go through the same process of justice, some having more regrets than others.
The Bible does not rule out decisions being made after death regarding one’s eternal destination. John 5:25 says that the dead will hear the voice of God and those who hear will live. I Peter 3:18-20 speaks of Christ preaching to those in Noah’s day who were disobedient. Preaching is normally for the opportunity to respond. The possibility of eternal decisions after death doesn’t negate the blessings of changing here on earth. We may want to tell an addict after the 10th relapse then is no hope, but this is not God’s nature. Changes and forgiveness may be even possible after death. God knows best when enough chances have been given.
Knowing God might be a Universalist allows me to think about accountability and justice more on God’s terms. A loving God could allow a second death; a loving God could eventually save everyone if freedom will allow it. I am convinced God will be respectful of freedom after death as God is here on earth, but I still believe God’s mercy and grace is going to be much wider than some have every imagined after death. Heaven may be more populated than many people imagined. I am a hopeful Universalist.
Personally, the possibility of God eventually saving all frees me to focus on Jesus’ main message of kingdom life here on earth and not the afterlife. Jesus hated the religious of His day dragging others down into the gutter of God’s conditional love. Jesus came to declare God’s unconditional love which is more likely to lead to changes desired. The more I know God loves me, the more I love God and act less selfish. I have a greater appreciation of what God is really like. If interested please see a more a more detailed discussion of this topic on my Blog under the Tab: Universalism. Certain passages cannot be ignored: For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor 15:22).