by Mike Ratliff
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
As has been pointed out by some, the heresy of Universalism, no matter how wonderfully it is packaged, is easily refuted from Sacred Scripture if we practice solid exegetical techniques. If we keep everything in context then the passages used so support Universalism prove to not support this false doctrine at all, but are about other things. My focus on writing these few posts on universalism was to address what we are seeing today as more and more former solid Bible teachers join the ranks of those who teach ‘The Restoration of All Things in Ages to Come.’ This teaching is very subtle and seductive as well as appealing to those who have loved ones who do not walk with the Lord. However, it is unsupported in the Bible.
Look carefully at the passage I placed at the top of this post. These are our Lord’s own words. Was he describing the differences between two groups of people? Isn’t this passage telling us that one group of people enter by the narrow gate (Christ) while most people do not? The entering is required in order to have life, but only a few find it. Think of the Genesis account of the Flood. God sent the flood upon the Earth specifically to wipe out, to destroy the people, but out of this He saved 8 Souls, Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. Everyone else was destroyed. God has not changed my brethren.
Before we go to scripture let’s look at what this doctrinal position, ‘The Restoration of All Things in Ages to Come,’ really is. Restorationists teach that there will be a restoration of all things as they were before the fall; a perfect state. Virtually all Christians have thought that their approach to Christianity is the right one, but Restorationists believe that the true form or emphasis has been lost for a long time and they are being used by God to restore the original. Many proponents of Restorationism vehemently deny that what they teach is universalism. However, what they teach, using mountains of scripture references by-the-way, is that those who die in Christ now will be with the Lord forever. No problem there, but then they add some form of teaching that seeks to include either all professing Christians regardless of whether they abided in Christ to the end or not, or all humanity. An example of the former is found in Charles Stanley’s Handbook for Christian Living (1996).
Where is this place represented by the “outer darkness” in Jesus’ parables? To be in “outer darkness” is to be in the kingdom of God but outside the circle of men and women whose faithfulness on this earth earned them a special rank or position of authority. (page 126)
This teaching is an attempt to include ‘outer darkness’ as described by our Lord as within the Kingdom of God, but outside of the area where the faithful believers are. In other words he is attempting to include a group of people into God’s Kingdom who did not meet the requirement to be with our Lord. I suppose this would include professing Christians who are apostate or left the church or who were not really ‘sincere.’ Let’s look at our Lord’s description of ‘outer darkness’ and those who will end up there.
When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:10-12 ESV)
Our Lord was speaking about Jews here. Our Lord is responding to the great faith of the Roman Centurion. He compares his faith with the unbelief of the Jews all around Him. He describes people coming from the east and west (Gentiles) and take their place but that the subjects of the kingdom (the Jews) will be thrown into outer darkness. They are cast into outer darkness because of their rejection of Christ.
Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43 ESV)
Our Lord talks here of a fiery furnace. Notice that in it is weeping and gnashing of teeth just as there is in outer darkness. Who’s in there? Sinful people are there. Using Charles Stanley’s explanation of ‘outer darkness’ above should we also believe that this fiery furnace is also in Heaven. Instead of playing games with these words shouldn’t we heed our Lord as He said, He who has ears, let him here.”? We see the same ‘problem’ for Charles Stanley’s statement in following verse.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50 ESV)
For ‘outer darkness’ to be in heaven, then the wicked must be there as well.
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:1-13 ESV)
The Bible tells us that in God there is no darkness and He cannot be in the presence of sin. However, if we believe Charles Stanley, not only is there darkness in heaven, but some sinful believers will be tied hand and foot and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:42-51 ESV)
I am sure you see the pattern here. The key words in Jesus’ descriptions of those who do not end up with Him is that where they are there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. However, using Charles Stanley’s statement it would seem that there will be hypocrites who have been cut in pieces in heaven with genuine believers and their Lord.
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:24-30 ESV)
This servant was called lazy, wicked and worthless, and was thrown outside into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and yet Charles Stanley claims he is in heaven. If you asked him is he is a universalist I am sure he would deny it, however, what he is doing with his ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ theology is taking the narrow gate and the hard way attempting to make them very wide and easy. This is not rational nor is it intellectually honest nor is the product of proper exegesis. Instead, what we have is man-loving, man-pleasing theology which fools innumerable into believing that they are Christians even though they are not regenerate and because of that, there is no repentance. These are the ‘servants’ that our Lord spoke of being rebuked, tied up, cut into pieces, and cast into outer darkness, which is also the fiery furnace.
In varying degrees, other Christian Universalists teach that everyone who dies outside of Christ will spend some time in ‘outer darkness,’ but will eventually be allowed to believe and become part of God’s Kingdom. In the posts The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell, Part 1 and The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell, Part 2, John Piper clearly showed that this is unbiblical.
Let us look at some Scripture that speaks of God’s eternal judgement on the wicked as well as the state of the Righteous.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6-11 ESV)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:24-29 ESV)
but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:26-28 ESV)
What do we have so far? Only Christ’s sheep here His voice, all who do not hear his voice, because they are not His sheep, are damned.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48 ESV)
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15 ESV)
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12 ESV)
Let’s review. There are ONLY two groups of people and they are marked by who they are and what their eternal destiny is. Look at these two lists.
- Are Resurrected unto life
- Have Eternal Life
- Are Wheat instead of tares (weeds)
- Have Everlasting life
- Have Life Eternal
- Are Sheep
- Have life
- Are Resurrected unto damnation
- Will have tribulation and anguish
- Are tares (weeds) instead of wheat
- Have everlasting contempt
- Will receive everlasting punishment
- Are Goats
- Will have destruction
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
The wide, easy way leads to the resurrection of damnation, everlasting contempt, destruction, everlasting punishment, tribulation and anguish. However, the narrow way leads to eternal life, life eternal, the resurrection of life. Only few will find the narrow way, the rest will find the broad, easy way of destruction.
In light of what we have seen, is a doctrinal stance that, at some future age, God will relent of His judgment against those in the Lake of Fire, which is outer darkness and the fiery furnace, viable? We do not find that in scripture. It is wishful thinking and when men teach these ‘destructive heresies’ they are actually working counter to the Great Commission. They are actually teaching that it makes no difference eternally whether one is genuine Christian or not since all paths lead to a ‘Restoration of all things’ in some future age.
From this understanding we must proclaim the truth. We must give the Gospel to all and explain that all of us are doomed, dead in our sins, and can do nothing to save ourselves from God’s Judgment. We must have a redeemer, a Saviour. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. He came and lived as man, yet sinless. He was crucified with sinful men by wicked men. Our Father in Heaven imputed our sin unto Him as He died on the cross. He paid the penalty for us. He took the wrath of God in our place. How do we attain the offer of eternal life? We must believe in Jesus, that He is our only way to salvation. Believe on Him now, place your trust in Him alone as your Lord and Saviour. Repent of your unbelief and your sins and receive Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. This is the way of the cross. Jesus said that all that come to Him must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. This is the call. Those who reject it will find out first hand what outer darkness is all about.
Soli Deo Gloria