The Work of the Cross
by Ken Eckerty
Nothing is as powerful, glorious, and life changing as the Cross of Jesus Christ. Yet at the same time, nothing is so hated and attacked. Men hate the Cross because it exposes their darkness and casts light on the true motives of their heart. Satan also hates the Cross because it was Christ’s “death that destroyed him who had the power of death.” (Heb. 2:14) God’s ways are higher than the thinking of men, and so while we may not understand the reason, God has chosen the mystery of the Cross as the way He would redeem mankind back to Himself. While the Church embraces the Cross for her own salvation, she has unknowingly limited and weakened the work of our Savior by believing that most men will spend an “eternity” in a state of unending punishment. In this essay we will attempt show from the Scriptures the falsity of this doctrine, and expose it for what it does—weakening and limiting the glorious work of our Lord.
Will Christ Fail?
There should be no doubt in any Christian’s mind what Jesus came to do:
What do you yourselves think? Suppose a man gets a hundred sheep and one of them strays away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go and look for the one that is straying? (Matt. 18:12)
For the Son of Man is come to seek and save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
Jesus said that He came to save the world and that He would draw (literally “drag”) all men to Himself (John 12:47; 12:32). Will He succeed? The Apostle Paul tells us that “Jesus is the Savior of all men.” (1 Tim. 4:10) Is He? How we answer these questions will reveal how powerful we think the Cross really is.
Sadly, most of the Church believes the Cross to be a big failure. The majority of Christians say that Christ died for all men, but He cannot save most because of man’s “free” will (Arminianism). A smaller group says that Christ died only for the elect (Calvinism). However, both of these views teach that the end result for the majority of humanity will be never-ending (“eternal”) punishment. If this is true, then how can we truly say that Christ’s mission as “Savior of the world” was successful? How can we declare the Cross to be victorious if most men are lost for ever? Will God be content with only saving a small percentage of His creation? Can Jesus be lifted up as the Savior of all men if most men will never come to know Him as their Savior?
Whether a person believes in the “free” will of man or in doctrine of predestination, both of these traditional views present a Cross that does not save to the uttermost. In one case, God can’t save all because of “free” will; in the other case, God won’t save all because of election. This is not the good news of the gospel and presents a picture of either a God who is too weak to save men or One who is too cruel. Fortunately, there is a better testimony given to us in the Scriptures showing us that the curse that was passed on to all men because of Adam’s disobedience has once and for all been broken by the obedience of Christ. (Rom. 5)
In this short essay, we will look at a few principle texts that show that God not only “can” save all through the Cross, but that He “will.” We will also answer the skeptic’s charge that Christ’s death is invalidated if all men are to be saved. In no way is this going to be an exhaustive presentation of the subject. I trust that the reader will do his own study to see if these things are so. (Acts 17:11) My prayer is that God will use this short essay to open up our eyes to the “larger hope” that has all but been forgotten by the modern church.
1 Tim 2:4: God’s Will
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:3, 4)
We’ve just asked the question, “Will Jesus fail?” Anyone who calls himself a Christian would never admit that Jesus could ever fail, yet according to our theology, this is exactly what we teach! Church dogma (not the Bible) teaches that Jesus will only be able to save a small percentage of all those ever born since Adam. However, 1 Tim. 2:4 clearly tells us that “God WILL HAVE all men to be saved”—not just some, or even most, but ALL men! Most Bible “scholars” say that the Greek word thelo (translated “will have” in the KJV) should really be translated “desire.” They tell us that God only “desires” all men to be saved. However, the Greek word literally means “to intend;” or “to be resolved or determined.” In other words, “God is DETERMINED that all men be saved”…or even better, “God is RESOLVED that all men be saved.”
Do we believe that God is sovereign? If so, why do we teach that God will somehow fall short in His purpose to save all men? Is there a passage anywhere in the Bible that says that God will not get what He determines? No! In fact, the Scriptures most confidently declare that “God works ALL according to the counsel of His own will.” (Eph. 1:11) In other words, God moves all circumstances in order to bring about His own will. Isn’t this what Solomon tells us when he says that “Man devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps;” “Man’s goings are of the Lord;” and “the King’s heart is in the hands of the Lord, He turns it wherever He desires?” (Prov. 16:9; Prov. 20:24; Prov. 21:1)
God has a will and since He is in sovereign control of all things—what He wants, He will get!
I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
NO PURPOSE of God can be thwarted! It is His purpose (will) that all men be saved and Job understood that nothing could keep God from accomplishing His intention.
Dear reader, do you really want to confess that there are some things that God intends or determines, and yet for some reason, He will not be able to accomplish them? Of course you don’t—and yet we have no problem saying that most men will never be saved. So because of our unbelief, we weaken the power of God by saying that He doesn’t really “intend” for all men to be saved, He simply “desires” this. O.K.—for the sake of argument, let’s say that God only “desires” that men be saved. Doesn’t the Bible say, “…I (God) will do ALL my desire,” and “the desire of the righteous SHALL BE granted?” (Is. 46:10; Prov. 10:24)
No, it is not as our traditions tell us. We have underestimated God’s resolve to bring about His own will, and since men are the crowning accomplishment of God’s own creation, He will not let man’s blindness and ignorance be a stumbling block in His determination to save them.
Romans 5:18: Death to All; Life to All
So then, as through one sin it was to all men to condemnation, so also through one righteous act to all men to justification of life. (Rom 5:18)
This is a powerful passage that not only describes the scope of Adam’s sin, but more importantly, the extent of Christ’s work. Critics who refute the obvious universal intent of this passage say that the second “all” found here is limited in scope, whereas the first “all” is universal. In other words, what Adam did—affects all men, but what Christ did—affects only some. Is this what Paul is saying? Let’s look at the context to see if we can get to the truth.
…but where the sin did abound, the grace did much more abound.” (v. 20)
The above verse, quoted over and over by Christians everywhere, is one of the most powerful statements in the entire Bible declaring sin’s ultimate defeat at the hands of God’s grace. With powerful simplicity, Paul says that grace is much more powerful than sin, and in context, powerful enough to overcome all that the 1st Adam accomplished. However, this is not what orthodoxy teaches. Instead, they believe that the 1st Adam was more powerful than the 2nd Adam. If, as most theologians argue, the second “all” in Rom. 5:18 represents only a limited number who receive justification of life, how then can grace much more abound than sin? In other words, if only some will come to a saving knowledge of Christ, how can Christ’s act of obedience be considered greater than Adam’s disobedience? All are agreed on the scope of the first “all.” Adam, because of his disobedience, passed death and condemnation to “all” men. (Rom. 5:14) However, Paul doesn’t all of a sudden change the scope of the second clause to mean a limited number. If so, then how can Christ be greater than Adam? Is the effect of Adam’s disobedience greater than the effect of Christ’s obedience? Is the disease (sin), greater than the cure (the Cross)? Can Adam condemn “all” to death, but Christ can only bring “some” to life?
This is the fallacy of the doctrine of never-ending punishment—sin is allowed to have greater dominion than grace. In fact, rather than believing what Paul says here, it would be more accurate for the Church to say “but where the grace did abound, the sin did much more abound.” This must be our conclusion if we believe that Adam can damn more to hell than Christ can save.
No, Paul is not teaching that only “some” will receive life. He gives us absolutely no reason in this passage to believe that he means anything other than what he says—Adam brought condemnation to all; Christ brings life to all! Just because we have not seen the final result of Christ’s obedience, does not mean that God will forget most men.
I’d like to quote Thomas Talbott from his excellent book The Inescapable Love of God:
The explicit universalism of the fifth chapter of Romans is so clear that even the proponents of everlasting punishment have sometimes conceded, as Neal Punt does, that “Romans 5:18 and its immediate context place no limitation on the universalistic thrust of the second ‘all men.’”
Talbott goes on to say that since many theologians cannot destroy the universal meaning of the passage, they must resort to going elsewhere in the Scriptures to try and refute what is clearly being said here. While theologians may try to use tricks to get around Paul’s meaning in Rom. 5, I have yet to hear one person who can honestly answer the question, “How can Christ be considered greater than Adam if Adam has the power to condemn more than Christ has the power to save?” It is a legitimate question and one that, in my opinion, gives a deathblow to the theology of “eternal” punishment.
The “natural man” loves to feel that he has received something that most never will, but as we will see in our next section, God is not as exclusive as the carnal man thinks Him to be—for He is not simply intent on being “all in some.”
1 Cor. 15:22, 28: God shall be “All in All”
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:22)
But when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who has subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)
1 Cor. 15:22 is very similar to the passage we just looked at in Romans. Again, it is quite clear that Paul has a definite universal thrust in mind here. Adam brought death to all, so Christ will make all alive! There is no ambiguity here with Paul, and again, there is no room in the passage itself to give us permission to change the scope of the second “all” to anything less than the scope of the first “all.” If Adam causes all to die, then Christ causes all to live. To see this any differently would make the disobedience of Adam greater than the obedience of Christ in that Adam can curse ALL of humanity but Christ can only save SOME of the world. Remember, “He is the Savior of ALL men”—not just some. (1 Tim. 4:10)
Critics of the universal intent of this verse will say that only those who are “in Christ” will be made alive. However, notice that Paul here does not say “all in Christ,” but says “in Christ all”—and there is a huge difference between the two. In the former, the emphasis is on being identified in Christ; in the latter, the emphasis is on the result coming out of Christ. As previously discussed, the power of grace is much greater than the power of sin, and so because of what Adam DID, all die; AND because of what Christ DID, all shall live. The grammatical point here is NOT what a person must do to be included in both Adam and Christ, but the result that occurs because of what both have done—in Adam, the result is death to all; in Christ, the result is life to all. You must look at the second half of the phrase (“in Christ all”) in light of the first half (“in Adam all”). If, in Adam, ALL have died, then, in Christ, ALL will be made alive. This is the only conclusion we can make if we boast that Christ (grace) is greater than Adam (sin).
All that being said, in no way do we deny that for a person to be made alive, he must eventually exercise faith in Christ—for the Scriptures are clear on this point. But this is not what Paul is telling us here. His emphasis in this particular passage (and in Rom. 5:18) is not on what we must do to be made alive, but on the result of Christ’s work. In other words, the passage emphasizes Christ’s work, not on man’s. Paul tells us in the very next verse when this will happen—“but every man in his own order.” (v. 23) He reiterates the very same thought in 1 Tim. 2:6 when he says “Who (Christ) gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
The reason it is so difficult for Christians to accept Paul’s clear teaching here is because of what they see around them. It is clearly evident that all men have sinned, but because most are still in an unredeemed state when they die, the assumption is that they are lost for ever. The first part (“in Adam all die”) is both past and present and can be easily seen; the second part (“in Christ shall all be made alive”) is future and has yet to be seen in completeness. The first part is something we can see with our eyes; the second part is can only be seen with the eyes of faith. The purpose of the God’s judgment is not to condemn men for ever as orthodoxy teaches, but to raise them in order that Paul’s prophetic words here might be fulfilled. Christ’s work will not be for naught! (See God's Perfect Judgment)
Verse 28 says,
And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him....
The evangelical church teaches that while the Son WILLINGLY subjects Himself to the Father, somehow the submission spoken of by the “all things” is to be a forced subjugation—different from that of the Son. However, the same Greek word (hupotasso) used of the submission of the Son is the exact same word used of the “all things.” This is a glorious passage that speaks of the willing submission of all men to the Lord of heaven and earth! Just as Christ WILLINGLY subjects Himself to the Father, all things will WILLINGLY subject themselves to Christ. Common theology removes the beauty and majesty of this passage by teaching that most men will be forced to submit. However, the Scriptures teach that salvation comes by confessing the name of Jesus (Rom. 10:9) and that “No man can SAY that Jesus is the Lord BUT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.” (1 Cor. 12:3) Therefore, by what power do men make confession that Jesus is Lord—by their own power? No—for without Christ, men can do nothing. (Jn. 15:5) Any submission to the Lord Jesus Christ can only come about by the power of the Holy Spirit! At the culmination of the ages, when Christ has finished His mediatorial work, ALL will be filled with the Holy Spirit and will willingly submit themselves to God and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord “TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.”
One additional thought in this passage warrants discussion. In verse 28, Paul describes God’s ultimate purpose to be “all in all.” When Christ has subjected all things to Himself, He will then subject Himself to the Father, so that God may be “all in all.” This is a glorious passage speaking of a future time when God will “fill all things.” (Eph. 1:23) Notice Paul doesn’t say God will fill “some” things, or even “most” things. God will not be “all” in a small percentage of His creation. Oh, no! He will be “ALL IN ALL.” If most of God’s creation is suffering in “eternal” torment, how can God be “in all things?” One of the greatest scriptural contradictions taught by the Church is that most men will be ETERNALLY separated from God. If this be true, then kindly explain to me how God can “fill all things,” and be “all in all” if He has chosen to for ever separate Himself from the majority of His creatures.
The purpose of the Cross is not to simply give man an opportunity for God to be “all in all.” This is the theology of men. God doesn’t just offer a solution to man’s lost dilemma; He planned it out before the foundation of the world (Heb. 9:26) and works it out “according to the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11). If one man is lost for ever, then God has failed to become “all in all” to that one man, but as bad as that thought is, multiply that one man by millions and millions (perhaps billions) of people, lost for ever—eternally separated—from a god who couldn’t fulfill his word to “fill all things” and be “all in all.”
Will you believe the Holy Scriptures when it says “as in Adam all die, in Christ, all will be made alive?” Will you believe that “all things,” including men, will be reconciled to God? Will you believe that God will fill “all” things, not just some? Will you believe what the Word of God says when John declares that “all things will be made new?” (Rev. 21:5) Will you have the faith to believe that God not only CAN save all, but that He WILL?
Philippians 2:9-11: All shall Confess and Bow
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)
We’ve already touched upon this verse in the last section. This passage has become a very popular verse in the evangelical Church—and rightly so. Taken from the prophet Isaiah (45:23), it is a beautiful passage that speaks of the day when ALL men will bow the knee to Jesus and confess that He is Lord. I don’t know of anyone who believes that this passage says that only SOME will confess Christ and bow to Him. It is clear that Paul has all of creation in mind because he includes things “in heaven, in earth, and under the earth.” The universality of the verse is clear, and so the only question is whether this confession is made willingly or against the will of MOST men.
I believe this is one of the clearest passages in the whole of the Bible that proclaims the total victory of the Cross. Unfortunately, mainstream evangelicalism says that most of those who confess Christ and bow the knee to Him will be forced to do so—that it will not be a voluntary submission. While God certainly has the power to force all of us to submit to His will, is this really the type of submission He is looking for? When 1 Cor. 15:28 speaks of “all things” submitting, does it mean that SOME will WILLINGLY submit but MOST will be FORCED to submit? We know from the Scriptures that God hates lying and false pretense. He rebukes Israel saying,
Forasmuch as this people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me.... (Is. 29:13).
Will God then, who hates pretense, accept a forced confession of His Christ as an acceptable form of submission? Again, doesn’t the Bible say that whosoever confesses Jesus as Lord only does so by the Holy Spirit? So if Phil 2:11 says that every tongue should confess, then by what power will men speak this confession—by their own rebellious will-power or by the power of the Holy Spirit? Additionally, if one is forced to submit against his own will, can we really say that that person has truly submitted? I again quote Thomas Talbott,
For so long as a single will remains in a state of rebellion against Christ, so long as a single person is able to cling to his or her hatred of God, at least one power in the universe--the power of that person's will--is not yet in subjection to Christ. If they do not do this sincerely and by their own choice, if they are forced to make obeisance against their will, then their actions are fraudulent and bring no glory to God; a Hitler may take pleasure in forcing his defeated enemies to make obeisance against their will, but a God who honors the truth could not possibly participate in such a fraud.
Perhaps, even more important to our argument is the context in which Phil. 2:9-11 is written. The whole passage in Phil. 2 is centered around the Cross of Jesus Christ. Verse 8 says,
And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.
This universal confession and bowing that is spoken of in verse eleven springs forth from the very work of the Cross of Christ! The power of the Cross is found, not in that it can force men to bow against their will, but in its ability to draw men willingly BY THE POWER OF LOVE. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” (Jn. 12:32) Again, Thomas Talbott:
Now just what is the power of the Cross, according to Paul? Is it the power of a conquering hero to compel His enemies to obey Him against their will? If that had been Paul's doctrine, it would have been strange indeed. For God had no need of a crucifixion to compel obedience; He was quite capable of doing that all along. According to the New Testament as a whole, therefore, God sent His Son into the world, not as a conquering hero, but as a suffering servant; and the power that Jesus unleashed as He bled on the Cross was precisely the power of self-giving love, the power to overcome evil by transforming the wills and renewing the minds of the evil ones themselves.
John Milton wrote, “Who overcomes by force hath overcome but half his foe.” If the “orthodox” doctrine of “eternal” torment is true, then MOST of God’s creation will be overcome by force NOT by the power of the Cross (love). Can God consider this a victory? If most reject the gospel and instead are MADE to mouth some insincere confession, how does this bring glory to God? Does this mean that the Lord Jesus, who came to “save the world,” couldn’t do it through His Cross so God has to resort to forced submission? Paul writes in verse eleven that the “every tongue” and the “every knee” will both confess and bow “...TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.” Which do you think brings more glory to God: an all-powerful, angry God forcing weak men to submit OR God bringing forth TOTAL victory through the power of love?
Note: How ironic it is that those who believe that God will not violate the “free” will of men have no problem believing that God will force men—against their will—to confess and bow to Christ.
Additionally, it’s significant that the bowing of every knee and the confessing of every tongue is done “IN” the name of Jesus, not “AT” as translated by the King James Version. Scholars and Bible translators such as Vincent, Robertson, Young, Rotherham, and Bullinger (just to name a few) all say that it is best translated “IN.”
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Mt. 18:20)
Being “in” Christ’s name implies an “entering into” or an intimacy with His name. Confession “IN” His name cannot mean anything but intimacy. Phil. 2:10 cannot be a forced subjugation as if men are somehow outside the name of Jesus. Again, Paul tells us that no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3).
Finally, the Greek verb “confess” (exomologeo) that Paul chooses is one that is used throughout the Greek Septuagint to not only imply “confession” but also the offering of “praise and thanksgiving.” It is the exact same word Jesus used when He prayed, “I THANK thee, O’ Father, Lord of heaven and earth....” (Matt. 11:25). To Jesus, this word meant giving thanksgiving and praise to His Father. Are we then to assume that all of God’s creation will be divided into two groups: the first group being Christians who confess Christ with praise and thanksgiving and the second group (the rest of humanity) who confess Him with cold, sterile words? This is ridiculous and exegetically dishonest. If Christians are included in the “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess” (and they are), then you must take this verb to not only mean “confession” but also “praise and thanksgiving.”
This same idea of all of God’s creation praising Him is found in Rev. 5:13,
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
There can be only one reason why praise and thanksgiving will be offered by all of God’s creation and that is because all of God’s creation has been reconciled—and this is exactly what the next verse we will look at says!
Colossians 1:20: All Things Reconciled by the Cross
And through Him making peace by the blood of His Cross, to reconcile all things to Himself; through Him, whether the things on the earth, or the things in the heavens. (Col 1:20)
This verse describes the ultimate goal of the Cross, that is, the “reconciling of ALL THINGS to Himself.” The word used for “reconcile” is the Greek word apokatallaso. W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words explains the meaning of this word:
to reconcile completely; to change from one condition to another, so as to remove all enmity and leave no impediment to unity and peace.
Dr. Vine has accurately communicated the meaning of this Greek word. To “reconcile” means to remove all enmity. In other words, to reconcile means to take two hostile parties, break down the wall of partition between them, and make them friends. For Christians, this work of reconciliation began the moment we were given the faith to believe. Paul, however, does not stop with believers. He says that “all things” will be reconciled to God.
At this point you might be thinking, “Ah yes, but Paul did not say this reconciliation would include all ‘people,’ but all ‘things.’” (I actually had a friend of mine tell me that if the passage said “people,” he would be forced to believe in the ‘salvation of all’). This rationale completely ignores the context of the passage. In the very next verse Paul says, “And you then being alienated and hostile in your mind by evil works, but now has He reconciled.” (Col. 1:21) It is exegetically dishonest to say Paul does not include men in verse twenty, when he speaks of men being reconciled in verse twenty-one. Of course he means men! Do you think that “things” are more important to God than men? Are only rocks, trees, and stars (and only a small percentage of men) reconciled to God? Isn’t man the crowning achievement of God’s creative acts? (If you're still in doubt that men are included in the category of “things,” see Luke 1:35, 1 Cor. 3:21-22, and 1 Cor. 15:27.)
NOTE: The word for “all” is the Greek word “pas.” Most translations insert the word “things” whenever “pas” is used. However, the word “things” is an extra word not included in the orginal Greek and should not have been put in our English translations.
Similarly to Phil. 2, Paul tells us exactly the type of reconciliation he has in mind here—“making peace by the blood of the Cross....” This reconciliation will be brought about by the Cross of Jesus Christ NOT by some forced subjugation. Reconciliation can only spring forth FROM the Cross, never APART from it, and if there for ever remain millions upon millions of people in total rebellion to God, how can we say that “all” have been reconciled? It is the Cross that brings God the most glory, not some forced submission going against the will of those who either because of ignorance or stubbornness reject Christ in this age.
Many think that God’s purpose in this current age is to save as many as He can before the end. It is not. God’s focus in this present, evil age is NOT the world, but the Elect. This is why Jesus “did not pray for the world, but only for those given to Him.” (John 17:9) God is setting apart an “elect” people, not for the purpose of building an exclusive Christian country club while most others are tormented for ever, but in order to minister His grace to the rest of humanity in the “ages to come.” (Eph. 2:7) Paul says, “Christ is the Savior of all men, but especially those who believe.” (1 Tim. 4:10) The only difference between Christians and the rest of the world is that we have appropriated the Saviorhood of Christ into our lives—the world has not. Jesus is the Savior of all men, and so the same complete work of reconciliation that He has done for us, will be completed in all men, “the testimony to be given in its own time.” (1 Tim. 2:6)
It is interesting to note that Dr. Vine adds the following comment in his notes on apokatallaso:
It is the Divine purpose, on the ground of the work of Christ accomplished on the Cross, to bring the whole universe, except rebellious angels and unbelieving man, into full accord with the mind of God. Things under the earth, Phil. 2:10, are subdued, not reconciled.
Where does it say anywhere in this passage that God will not reconcile unbelieving man to Himself? In fact, where does it say this in the entire Bible? Dr. Vine’s interpretation of this passage might be that unbelieving man will not be brought into accord with the mind of God, but Paul sure doesn’t say this! Because there are numerous passages in the Bible that “seem” to speak of never-ending punishment, Dr. Vine then assumes that the reconciliation spoken of here excludes the mass of humanity. He is basing this belief purely on his own theological bias. However, any thorough study on the meaning of this word “eternal,” God’s plan for the ages, and the purpose and intent of God’s punishments will show what a ridiculous and untrue statement this really is. The study of the Greek words aion and aionios would greatly benefit the reader and provide much insight as to why the Bible never speaks of “eternal” punishment, but only “age-lasting” punishment. (See appendix at the end of this essay.)
Romans 11:32: “Mercy to All”
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. (Rom. 11:32)
How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out. (Rom. 11:33b)
Perhaps the main reason why the Church has difficulty seeing the truth of the salvation of all is because she sees God’s judgment as something separate from His love and mercy. To believe the doctrine of “eternal” torment, one has to believe that there will come a time when God will never again show His love or mercy. This cannot be! God’s judgments never operate apart from His love, but always through it. God must judge sin because He is holy, yet God must also have the sinner’s best interest at heart because He is love. The traditions of men have made God into two separate personalities—a god of judgment or a god of love. This god of love can only love those who “accept” him in this life. But if a man is unfortunate enough to die at a young age apart from Christ, or born into a Muslim country, or rejects Christianity based on the hypocrisy of so-called Christians, or simply isn’t smart enough to choose Christ over the thousands of religions and sects each claiming to have the truth, then look out! This god of love transforms himself into a god of judgment. No longer can he love; no longer can he reach out to his enemies; no more can he show mercy; and no more is he able to save. This is absolute nonsense and makes God out to be One who is limited in His love and forgiveness. The fact is the Scriptures declare just the opposite—“His anger is but a moment…for the Lord will not cast off for ever.” (Ps. 30:5; Lam. 3:31)
Paul gives us the reason for God’s judgment in the eleventh chapter of Romans. He speaks of God’s severity toward the disobedient, His judgment of sin, and His willingness to blind eyes and harden hearts, not as an end in and of itself, but as a means to an end (v. 32)
Paul tells us that Israel was blinded for the purpose of bringing the Gentiles into salvation (vs. 8-11). Jesus prophesied this when He told Israel that the kingdom would be taken from them and given to another. (Mt. 21:43) While this was an indictment on the hard-heartedness of the nation of Israel who rejected their Messiah, this would not mark the end of their existence. God never judges simply to punish, but to bring forth something greater—“beauty out of ashes.” In this case, God’s judgment against Israel was to bring salvation to BOTH the Gentile nations and Israel (vs. 12, 15). While our idea of God’s judgment is something that is final and irrevocable, God’s purpose is far more glorious. God did not judge Israel only to cast them off for ever, but in order that He might save them (v. 26).
In the same way, God will not reject those who has He has chosen as “vessels of wrath,” but will instead use their own disobedience to show them mercy. Jeremiah told Israel that their own wickedness would correct them, and Isaiah said the inhabitants of the earth would learn righteousness when God’s judgments came to them. (Jer. 2:19; Is. 26:9) This is the purpose for disobedience—that through the judgment of our own sin, mercy might come forth.
The Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Ps. 145:9)
God’s mercy is greater than all of His works—including His acts of judgment. As we have said, God’s judgment never acts alone, but always works alongside His mercy to achieve a greater and more glorious purpose. This is certainly true in the life of a believer. Hebrews 12:11 tells us that God’s chastisement (a form of judgment) produces the fruit of righteousness. While God’s judgment in the “ages to come” will be more intense, its purpose never changes. God’s vengeance is not against the spirit of man, but against the deeds of his flesh, and God will keep judging until all things are brought into submission to His will.
Rom. 11:22 tells us that “God’s judgments are unsearchable and His ways past finding out.” Most of the Church would have us believe that God’s unsearchable ways are to “accept Christ or burn in hell for ever.” We reject this view of God’s judgment as nothing more than the carnal thinking of men who are unable to see that God’s judgments flow FROM His love, not separate from it. The carnal man wants to see others “get what they deserve” and so he takes those prejudices and reads them into the Word of God. However, the testimony of God’s love is such that the Bible tells us that “love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8) God’s end is always love, not judgment.
Opposite to what is embraced by “orthodoxy,” the unsearchable ways of God put to shame the wisdom of men. The higher ways of God take those things that seem to be absolutely impossible, and makes them possible (Mk. 10:27). The miracle of God brings forth life out of the rubble of death and judgment. (1 Sam. 2:6-8) The power of God can take something as final as the grave and make it weak, impotent, and ineffectual. (1 Cor. 15:55) And the wisdom of God can take the weakness and foolishness of a Cross, and bring salvation to all, not just a few
O Lord our God, You answered them; You were a forgiving God to them, and yet an avenger of their evil deeds. (Ps. 99:8)
Hallelujah! Here is the perfect balance of God. He loves, yet at the same time He hates; He forgives, and yet He avenges. The flesh must be destroyed, and it is the infinite love and mercy of God Who will do whatever it takes to bring His creation into perfect harmony with His will.
The very words of our Lord also confirm to us the scope of this great salvation. In Jn. 3:35, Jesus said, “The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand.” Jesus would be worthy of this great stewardship for two primary reasons. One, He was the Creator of Heaven and Earth (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16), and therefore deserving to be the Judge of all (Jn. 5:22). Secondly, Jesus Christ was made to be the heir of the world because of His complete submission to the will of the Father (Jn. 5:30) and His absolute victory over His sufferings on earth (Rom. 8:17). Because of Christ’s victory, He could say that all things were given into His hand. Listen carefully to the words of Jesus:
And this is the Father’s will which He hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but raise it up again at the last day. (Jn. 6:39)
So the Father has given His Son ALL THINGS (Jn. 3:35), and of all the things He was given, He would LOSE NONE (Jn. 6:39). Could it be any clearer? Jesus Christ will lose none! Yet, orthodoxy teaches the exact opposite. It teaches that Jesus Christ will LOSE MOST because of the supposed “free” will of man. According to the majority view, the Father wants to save all, but He can’t quite do it because He won’t infringe upon man’s ability to choose or reject Him. And so in the end, only a few will be saved while the rest will be lost for all eternity. Space here will not allow us to refute the false idea that man can somehow thwart the plans of God, but for a thorough discussion on this, go to: http://www.savior-of-all.com/freewill.html. Instead of Jesus being the “Savior of the world,” orthodoxy has made Him to be the “Failure of the world.”
No, it is clear that the Father’s will is for Christ to lose none, and it is equally clear of Christ’s ability to completely carry out that plan.
Additionally, God speaks of how He will complete His great plan of salvation. In John 6:44, Jesus says,
No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent ME draw him….
The Greek word for “draw” is the word helkuo, which literally means “to drag.” It is the same word in used in John 21:6 and Acts 16:19 that speaks of Peter dragging fish with his net and Paul and Silas being dragged before the court. In no way, did either the fish or Paul and Silas have a choice in being dragged. It was done against their will, and in this same manner, the Father DRAGS men [against their will] unto Himself. Can the Father really do this? Can He really drag men against their will? Absolutely! He certainly did it to Saul of Tarsus, and He does it to each and every one of us. Paul was on the road to Damascus bent on one thing—destroying as many Christians as he could find. God violently knocked him to the ground and stopped him cold in his tracks. Soon afterward, he would receive his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles. All of us were bent on going in one direction, and if it were not for the Father intervening in our lives against our will (without our permission), none of us would be saved. Every initial work of the Father in our lives is against our will. Eventually, we are given the eyes to recognize this work in our lives, and God changes our heart whereby we stop resisting His work and willingly submit. So the Bible is very clear that that unless the Father DRAGS a man to the Son, that man will remain in a lost state. (See also Jn. 1:13)
Later on, Jesus says,
And I, if I be lifted up, from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. (Jn. 12:32)
Again, the same word helkuo is used to describe the Father’s work through the Son. It is a dragging work and it will be accomplished in ALL. Jesus tells us that because of His death on the Cross, ALL MEN would be dragged unto Him. So much for “free” will!
In John 4:42, Jesus tells us that He is the Savior of the world. Can He really be considered the Savior of the world if He doesn’t save all? To avoid any doubt as to how many is included in Jesus’ saving work, the apostle Paul adds, “He is the Savior of ALL men….” (1 Tim. 4:10)
Finally, one of the most conclusive statements of all that show us that Christ’s saving work will be completed in all, not just in a few, is the last words Jesus spoke on the Cross, “It is finished.” God sent His Son to reverse the destructive work of the first Adam and to rescue all (in order to lose nothing) of those given into Christ’s hand—and with these three words, Christ uttered the complete victory of the Father (to be testified in due time—1 Tim. 2:6).
We have looked at a few passages from Paul’s writings in the New Testament, and some of Jesus’ words. We will now briefly turn our attention to the law and the prophets and see that their message was identical.
All of the verses we’ve looked at thus far have been from the New Testament, in particular, from Paul’s epistles. However, according to the apostle Peter, the “restoration of all things” was spoken of by the holy prophets of old. (Acts 3:21) There are hundreds of passages in the Old Testament that speak of God’s blessings coming to “all” nations and “all” peoples. Those who limit salvation to a small minority do so by saying that Christ will not save each and every individual, but instead will save men “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” In other words, God will not save ALL individuals, but only those from ALL nations. This conclusion is based on a failure by the Church to understand that God’s purposes are worked out in successive dispensations or ages. As stated earlier, God’s purpose in this age is not to save each and every person, but to “take a people out from among the nations…so that the rest of men may seek the Lord.” (Acts 15:14-17) The blessing of salvation is first given to the first-born in order that the same blessing may come to the later-born. (Heb. 12:23) Unfortunately, we only see God’s work as it relates to this particular age and do not have the “eyes of faith” to see that this LIMITED Pentecostal age will birth a greater and more glorious Tabernacles age where God’s Spirit will be poured forth on all mankind.
And they shall teach no more every man His neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer. 31:34)
Most Christians limit Jeremiah’s prophecy to only a small percentage of men, while the rest are to be damned. However, the man of faith knows that nothing can stop God’s plan from being accomplished—not even the grave. He knows that Christ took the sting out of death and that one day God will raise all men from the dead, not to sentence them to an existence of never-ending punishment, but to judge them in order to bring about a greater and higher purpose.
The very first covenant, given to Noah, was a covenant “between God and him, and every living soul, among all flesh.” (Gen. 9:15) This was a covenant of grace, and it was a promise to every living soul. While this promise has not yet been fulfilled in either Noah’s day or ours, the man of faith chooses to “call those things that are not as though they were,” even though every “sense” tells him that only a few will receive the blessing of the promise. There will always be those who mock faith because they cannot see what the Spirit sees. They can take the “letter” of the Word and are able to prove anything they want, yet they cannot, as a child, have simple faith to believe God for the impossible, and thus they seal their fate of never being able to see anything beyond the carnal letter. The “letter” is limited and pertains to the flesh, whereas the Spirit is eternal and moves us into the unsearchable and deep things of Christ. (Eph. 3:8; 1 Cor. 2:10)
The next covenant was given to Abraham and this was established so that through his seed “all the families of the earth would be blessed.” (Gen. 28:14) Interestingly, just like those in Noah’s day, both Abraham and Sarah laughed when they were told that they would bear a child in their old age. They simply could not get past what they saw as an impossible barrier to God fulfilling His promise. Men, today, also cannot get past the impossible barrier of the grave as it relates to God fulfilling His covenantal promises to both Noah and Abraham. But if there is one thing we can count on from God, it is that He will fulfill all His promises. (Tit. 1:2)
The Abrahamic covenant is important because it came prior to Moses. The apostle Paul says that the law cannot disannul the promise found in Abraham because he came before Moses. (Gal. 4:17) When we understand that the law (which brings forth death) represents God’s judgment, we understand that no matter how much the law condemns, it can never usurp the promise given to Abraham which represents the gospel of grace found in the Cross. This speaks powerfully on how judgment can never be God’s end, but acts as only a means to bring all men to Christ, whether in this age or the ages to come. (Eph. 2:7)
The prophets also tell us of this restoration. Isaiah 2:2 says that all nations shall flow to the Lord’s house. Ez. 16:55 tells us that Sodom will be restored to its former estate (the same Sodom that now burns with “eternal” fire.—Jude 1:7) Jeremiah tells us that the Lord will not cast off for ever. (Lam. 3:31, 31) The Psalmist says that God’s anger endures but a moment; all nations will worship the Lord; and that all the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord. (Ps. 30:5; Ps. 86:9; 22:27b)
These are just a few of the myriads of passages found in the Old Covenant that speak of the “restoration of all things.” Of course, the law only contains types and shadows of the reality that is revealed in the New Testament. (Heb. 10:1) So while the Old Testament is filled with many references to the glorious truth of God’s reconciliation, it is not until we get to the New Testament that we see the fullness of what was spoken in the Old—particularly in the writings of Paul who spoke of things “hard to understand.” (2 Pet. 3:15, 16)
Argument: “Why then did Jesus have to Die?”
Critics who question the truth of the “reconciliation of all” say that if what I teach is true, then the atonement of Christ is unnecessary. “If all men will one day be saved, then why did Jesus have to die?”
This argument reflects the ignorance of the Church concerning the extent of man’s depravity and how hopelessly lost he really is. If we could only grasp how absolutely incapable we are of choosing God (apart from His intervention), we would realize that none of us would be saved unless the Father “drags” us to Himself. It was not Adam who went looking for God in the garden, but God who went looking for Adam. It is no different today. Man will always try to flee from the presence of God. It is the Shepherd who must seek us out lest we all perish for ever.
Andrew Jukes expressed this thought when he said:
…where by nature he (man) is for ever lost, as unable to quicken his soul as to raise again his dead body; that in this fall God pitied man, and sent His Son, in whom is life, to be a man in the place where man was shut up, there to raise up again God's life in man, to bear man's curse, and then through death to bring man back in God's life to God's right hand; that in His own person, Christ, the first of all the first-fruits, as man in the life of God, broke through the gates of death and hell; that those who receive Him now, through Him obtain the life by which they also shall rise as firstfruits of His creatures; that "if the firstfruits be holy, the lump is also holy," and that therefore "in Christ shall all be made alive.
Man is thoroughly lost and without God’s intervention (through Christ), all men would return to the dust of the earth and remain there forever. The Cross is God’s way to reconcile man back to Himself. As to why the body and blood of our Savior was chosen as God’s method of salvation, we can only speculate. However, it is sufficient for me to know that the only way that lowly man can be lifted into the heavens (whether it be one or all) is through the all-sufficiency of Christ’s death. To then say that because all will be saved that this somehow invalidates Christ’s need to die is to call God’s plan foolish. (1 Cor. 1:18) The flesh will always try to avoid the Cross. Satan tempted Christ to avoid the Cross by offering him the whole world if He would only bow and worship him. The carnal Christian seeks to save himself through the works of the flesh rather than the death of the Cross, so it comes as no surprise that men would mock God’s salvation rather than give glory for as many as He would choose to save.
This argument is nothing more than man trying to justify himself as better than other men. The carnal Christian boasts in himself that he was fortunate enough to choose the Cross, but if all men get saved then he know longer feels special to God. In fact, it is the same attitude as Jonah who got angry because he knew God was merciful enough to cause all to repent (which actually happened). If one man gets saved, the Church will say, then that is a demonstration of God’s wondrous grace working through the Cross; but if God saves all men, then that is heresy and totally negates the cross of Christ. Why? Is only a portion of mankind in need of a Savior? Are only some men affected by the curse of Adam? And if God does save all men through the only way He has chosen, are you prepared to tell God that because He saved all, Christ was not needed? This is utter foolishness and demonstrates man’s intellectualism at its best! When one understands the extent of what Adam’s sin caused in the soul of each man, and sees both the forces within his own self (his own foolish heart and wayward flesh) and the forces outside of himself (the world and the devil) working against him to keep him in a lost and blinded state, then, and only then, will we be able to understand why the Cross MUST save all men, not just some. Is man capable, in and of himself, of coming to God? Doesn’t the Bible say, “There is none that seeks after God?” (Rom. 3:11) If we somehow think that man has some sort of “divine spark” within himself that gives him the ability to choose God apart from the drawing work of the Holy Spirit, then we will never be able to grasp the grand truth of how powerful the Cross really is.
If a rescue team saved all the passengers on a sinking ship, would that prove their mission to be futile? Of course not! In the same way, just because all of mankind will one day be rescued from death and the grave, this does not mean that Christ’s death was not needed. It is only by Christ’s death and resurrection that a man can be rescued from death and the grave – for there is no other divine process whereby this can be accomplished! Any man who is rescued needed the rescuer to save him, and in the same way, every man who comes into salvation, whether in this age or in the ages to come, needs a Savior to save him. So whether salvation comes to one or to all, Christ is most desperately needed by all of us—and the only way that a man can come to the Father.
I understand that there will be many who will take the same verses I’ve used to support the truth of the “reconciliation of all,” and turn them around to try to prove that God will cast off men for ever. I, too, tried to justify the lie that God’s forgiveness was limited, but the more I studied and the more I prayed, the more convinced I became at how weak my view of the Cross really was. I thought, “Surely, God’s plan couldn’t be this big and this awesome—could it?” Let me assure you, dear saint, it is bigger and more glorious than any of us could have ever imagined.
The Church has not always believed as it does today, but traditions of men do not fall easily. Men are comfortable with what they believe even though it can be shown that there is fallacy to their traditions. I, along with many other saints throughout the centuries, have chosen to reject the orthodox view that says that the glorious Cross of our Lord is limited either by man or Satan. Never has the phrase “God created in the image of man” held more truth than with the lie that puny man can somehow thwart the plan and purpose of God. May it never be! Job understood this when he said,
I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose [even salvation] of Thine can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
The Church believes a false gospel mainly because she lacks the faith to believe. Because of the faithlessness and hardness of our own hearts, we interpret the Bible with earthly, temporal eyes. We have limited faith to believe that “with men it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” We can’t forgive one or two times, let alone “seventy times seven,” so because we can’t forgive, we bring God down to our level and teach that He can’t forgive either. Oh…we use the Bible to defend our view, but it is the carnal man with all his enmity against God and his fellow man that skews God’s Word and twists it to make God into One who either cannot or will not forgive. Jesus on the Cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is the ultimate expression of love and forgiveness bestowed upon men who do not know what they are doing—men who wander hopelessly lost, incapable in any way of saving themselves. The Bible says that the very faith we have to believe is not our own (Eph. 2:8, 9). We are so lost and blind that even when it comes to the moment of our own salvation, God has to give us the faith to believe.
A brother I know once said, “Men seek out God AFTER they are saved, not BEFORE.” This is so true. It’s amazing to me how often I hear pastors and musicians preach and sing about how we can’t do anything apart from God—and Amen!—this is a true testimony; but then in the very next breath proceed to tell the sinner that a decision for Christ is ALL UP TO THEM. Yes, we must come to Christ, but who is the One who manipulates circumstances at the right time and manner to CAUSE a man to willingly come? When a man rejects Christ, he rejects Christ because God did not bring about the circumstances for that man to come unto Him, but rest assured, God is not partial. What He has done for you and me, He will do for ALL men—in due season!
We can interpret the Scriptures in one of two ways. We can take all the verses that seem to teach the salvation of all and try to explain them in the light of God’s judgments OR we can take God’s judgments and try to understand them in the light of His plan to “reconcile all.” Both ways will lead to a definite conclusion. Most of the Church has chosen the former and have concluded that God will forever terminate His mercy for the majority of men. However, there are a growing number of believers whom God is giving a glorious revelation of the fullness of the Cross of His dear Son. Truth can only be held at bay for a season until God begins to bring forth a great rushing tide of His Spirit that smashes the dam of men’s traditions. In God’s perfect timing, He will call forth a people who will not back down from proclaiming the glory of His love to all nations. The great truth of the reconciliation of all that was proclaimed by Paul, embraced by many in the early church, and taught by men all throughout church history is finally beginning to free men from the shackles of religion that for so long has kept them in bondage to church authority and abuse. There is coming a greater outpouring of God’s Spirit—an outpouring that has never before been witnessed. It will be greater than any of the miracles seen under the old covenant. It will be greater than the works of Christ. (Jn. 14:12) It will be greater than Pentecost. This move of God will be the age of Tabernacles that will fill the entire earth with the glory of God (Hab. 2:14) and it will not stop until every last speck of God’s creation bows in loving submission to the Creator of all!
It is my hope and prayer that this testimony of God’s love, shown to us through the Cross, would enlarge the vision of the saints and re-ignite the Church’s passion to proclaim the glory and truth of the good news of God’s never-ending love for all men.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!!