by Mike Ratliff
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order:Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:22-24 NASB)
“Christian Universalists” say that God would not send people to burn in Hell for eternity. What is their basis for this? They misquote passages such as the one I placed at the top of this post saying that “all’ and “all’ means all people. The basis for taking this stand is this, “I reject that God will send all unbelievers to burn in Hell eternally!” Really? On what are you basing that? It sure cannot be Sacred Scripture unless you are one who takes a little from here and a little from there and ignores context and the rest of it that states the very opposite.
Let us unpack 1 Corinthians 15:3-28.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:3-11 NASB)
This is a summary by Paul to the Corinthians of how the Gospel came to them. Some at Corinth were denying that Christ rose from the dead. Here Paul is addressing this heresy by starting with how the Corinthians came to believe when he planted the church there. Christ died for the sins of those who believe, who are the elect. This is the “our” in v3. This word in Greek simply refers to “us” or “our company of people.” This is the elect, not all people. He died, but He rose from the dead. Why is this important?
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 NASB)
Paul tells us that Christ’s resurrection is true or our faith is in vain. Notice the emphasis in v17 where Paul says, that if people are not ‘saved’ by Christ’s death and resurrection that they are “still in their sins.” What does that mean? It means that God has not justified those still in their sins. Let us look at another passage.
22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:22-25 NASB)
The person referred to in v22 is Abraham. Those who believe and obey the Gospel believe God who raised Christ from the dead who had been delivered up for “our” trespasses and rose for our justification. The “our” in this passage is, again, referring to believers only, not unbelievers. Believers are justified by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), not by doing some work. Justification is a declaration by God that the believer has Christ’s righteousness because it was imputed to them at belief just as their sins were imputed to Christ on the Cross. Only those whose sins were ‘paid for’ on the Cross are included in the “our.”
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order:Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For HE has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “ All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28 NASB)
Now we come to the passage used by Christian Universalists in an attempt to say that God will eventually justify all people. Who is the “man” in v21 through whom came death? This is Adam. His fall is found in Genesis 3. However, by another “man” has come the resurrection of the dead. This “man” is Jesus Christ our Lord. Then Paul uses the word “all” twice to emphasize that Adam is the Federal Head of the Human Race and Christ is the Federal Head of the elect, His people, those who believe. All represented by Adam are born spiritually dead. However, all born of Christ have been resurrected from this spiritual death unto a new life in Him. Then we see the order of resurrection. Christ was the firstfruits of this resurrection. Those in Christ, His elect, will be resurrected again at His coming when He returns to make His enemies His footstool. He will subject all in rebellion against God and do away with death. There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth, where those whom Christ made His footstool will not be found. He is reigning right now. He is ruling in the midst of His enemies, but when He returns, these enemies will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity. (Psalm 110)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 NASB)
Look at those who are cast or thrown into the Lake of Fire. The only ones spared not being cast there are the ones whose names are found in the book of life. Is this lake of fire eternal? Our Lord spoke of this place many times and referred to it as γέεννα or geenna. He spoke of it as the place where ones worm does not die nor are the flames quenched. This is speaking of always. Consider the following passage.
41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘ Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me. ’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You? ’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. ’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41-46 NASB)
The Greek word Matthew used here, quoting our Lord, for “eternal” is αἰώνιος or aiōnios. It means “everlasting” or “eternal.” The righteous, those in Christ, are going into eternal life, but those who do not believe are going into eternal punishment. The Greek word used here for punishment is κόλασις or kolasis. It means “punishment” or “torment.” Who is that would be the “unrighteous.” This is speaking of all who do not believe and obey the Gospel. God has not justified them. They are still in their sins. This would include all in pagan religions as well, no matter how sincere they are. There is only one way to get one’s name in the book of life and that is through Christ. He is the only way and no one can come to Him on his or her own terms. No, our Lord said that no one comes to Him unless the Father first draws him or her.
If you are reading this and have found yourself in that place of doubt and are being convicted that you are still in your sins then now is the time for you to obey the call of God to turn from your sins, believe that Christ is the Son of God and that He died for your sins. You must turn from your sins as you turn to Him in belief. Plead for your soul asking that God forgive you for your sins and bring you to that place of belief. If you refuse to do this then be assured that your name will not be found in the book of life on the Day of Judgment. Remember simply rejecting truth does not negate it nor is truth relative.
Soli Deo Gloria!