Psalm 22:27: All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
Matthew 18:21-22: Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
John 1:29: The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 3:17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 4:42: They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
John 6:33: For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
John 6:51: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
John 12:32: And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
Acts 3:21: Whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Romans 5:18-19: Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Romans 11:26: And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”
Romans 11:32: For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
1 Corinthians 15:22: For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
2 Corinthians 5:19: That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Ephesians 1:10: As a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Philippians 2:10-11: So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Colossians 1:20: And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
1 Timothy 2:4-6: Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
1 Timothy 4:10: For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Titus 2:11: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.
2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
1 John 2:2: He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:14: And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
*Universalism is the belief that all men will one day be saved. Another form of universalism does not deny that there is a hell, but turns it into a purgatorial state that people can leave. Hell is locked from the inside and people can choose to leave hell of their own free will and enter into heaven. Timothy Ware expresses this belief from an Eastern Orthodox perspective: “Hell is not so much a place where God imprisons humans, as a place where humans, by misusing their free will, choose to imprison themselves. And even in hell the wicked are not deprived of the love of God, but by their own choice they experience as suffering what the saints experience as joy. . . . Hell exists as a final possibility, but several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is legitimate to hope that all may be saved. Until the Last Day comes, we must not despair of anyone’s salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception. No one must be excluded from our loving intercession. . . . Gregory of Nyssa said that Christians may legitimately hope even for the redemption of the devil” (The Orthodox Church, 262). But in contrast to these heretical speculations, Jesus taught that it was better to have never been born than to go to hell (Matt 26:24). What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matt 16:26). The devil and those who follow him will never be redeemed (Matt 25:41-46; Rev 14:9-11; 20:10-15). The idea that people can escape from hell and enter heaven makes a mockery of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:29-30. But if people in hell can leave and enter heaven, then it would not be better to cut off your right hand or put out your eye to avoid going there since those who leave it with all their arms and eyes intact would be able to enjoy using them for all eternity while those who mutilated their body would not. Of course, no one in the new heavens and new earth will miss any limbs, but universalism destroys the hypothetical situation Jesus is painting. Universalists make the identical hermeneutical mistakes that Arminians make but thankfully Arminians are inconsistent in their interpretation because they recognize that the Bible teaches that hell is eternal and not purgatorial. A failure to pay close attention to personal pronouns, confusing qualitative terms for quantitative ones, ignoring the context, a precommitment to man’s libertarian free will, and emotional pleas are no substitute for sober exegesis. See also 25. The Wrath of God, 37. The Atonement of Christ, 67. The Necessity of the Gospel, 87. Evangelism, 100. The Final Judgment, and 101. Hell.
Argument: Since all the families of the earth will worship God, that means every family that has ever existed will be saved. Response: “Families” is not a reference to every nuclear family, but to every ethnicity. The message of this verse is the same as that of Revelation 5:9 where people from every tribe will worship God. Not every member of every ethnicity will worship God, but only people “from” every tribe. Not every member of every people group has been redeemed by God, but only those who have been saved out of them. It is only those who follow the Lamb who have been redeemed by him (Rev 14:3-4).
Argument: Because we are called to always forgive those who ask for our forgiveness, it would be inconsistent for God to not forgive those in hell if they ask for forgiveness. Response: It is not inconsistent for God to tell us to always forgive while there is no forgiveness available in the age to come (Matt 12:32; Mark 3:29). This is because forgiveness is available now from God during this age for all who repent. But once this age ends, forgiveness will no longer be available (Luke 16:22-28). In the age to come, God will not forgive anymore and neither will we because there will be no sinners in the new heavens and new earth who can sin against us.
Argument: Because Jesus takes away the sins of every person, there is no basis upon which God can condemn anyone to hell because their sins have been paid for in full. Response: This argument is based on a misunderstanding of how the term “world” is used in Scripture. It is not a quantitative term meaning every single person who has ever lived, lives, or will live, but a qualitative one meaning every people group in the world. The emphasis is ethnological. Christ takes away the sins of every people group because representatives from every nation will be among the redeemed (Rev 5:9). This is in contrast to the particularism of the Old Testament when God was primarily focused on the people of Israel. Now the scope of salvation is for all people groups, both Jews and Gentiles. Only those who are saved have their sins taken away because they alone are saved from the consequences of their sins. Christ is the savior of the world because he actually saves people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. He is the propitiation for all groups of people. This argument is also inconsistent with the kind of universalism that believes in a purgatorial hell. If Christ has actually paid the penalty for their sins, then they should never go to hell at all. The Bible always connects hell with punishment for sin (Matt 5:29-30; 25:46; Rev 20:12-13). Why are they being punished in hell for their sins, even if only temporarily, if Jesus paid their penalty in full?
See the note on John 1:29 for this verse and for the other “world” passages.
Argument: Because Christ will draw “all people” to himself, that means everyone will be saved. Response: “All people” in John 12:32 does not mean every single individual, but every ethnicity. All kinds of people will be saved by Christ. That is why John specifically mentions the Greeks who were listening to Jesus before this verse (12:20). This salvation includes Greeks as well, not just Jews. See the note on John 6:44-45 in 70. Election.
Argument: Since all things will be restored when Christ returns, that means every creation of God will be restored to fellowship with him. Response: The restoration of all things is not specifically in reference to the restoration of individuals to God, but the restoration of the created order by freeing it from the curse of the fall (Matt 19:28; Rom 8:19-23; 2 Pet 3:10-13; Rev 21:5). This is the cosmic reconciliation that occurs at the second coming which reverses the results of the fall by abolishing death forever. The lake of fire is not included in this because it is not part of the new heavens and new earth. That is why Paul does not mention those who are “under the earth” in Colossians 1:20 because they are not restored to God.
Argument: Because “all men” receive justification and life, that means all men who are descended from Adam will receive eternal life. Response: Paul in Romans 5 is talking about two different humanities: one from Adam and one from Christ. All men are in Adam because all men are descended from Adam. But not all men are in Christ because not all men “receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness” (5:17). Paul limits those who are in Christ to “those who receive” the grace of God in the previous verse to make sure that he is not misunderstood when he directly compares what Adam has done to what Christ has done. All who are in Christ are also in Adam but not all who are in Adam are in Christ. The “all men” who receive justification are all of those who are in Christ. All men in that humanity are saved but not all in Adam participate in it. Everyone who is in Christ is justified just as everyone who is in Adam has been condemned for what he did. In Paul’s writings, justification is by faith, but not all men have faith (2 Thess 3:2). It is only through faith that we are able to join ourselves to this humanity and participate in union with Christ (Rom 10:1-4). If Paul believed that all men will be saved, then why was he willing to be condemned by God if it would mean the salvation of the Jewish people? (Rom 9:1-3). See John Murray’s commentary on Romans for a more detailed look at this passage.
Argument: Since every Israelite who has ever lived will be saved, that means all Gentiles will be saved as well. Response: Paul is not teaching that every Israelite who has ever lived will be saved. “All Israel” is every Israelite who is among the elect. Not all Israelites are among this group (Rom 9:1-3; 10:1-4). See the note on this passage in 84. The Church and Israel.
“All” is being used qualitatively to refer to all people groups: both Jews and Gentiles.
The “all” who are made alive refer to all of those who are in Christ. The phrase “in Christ” limits the extent of the “all” who are raised to everlasting life. Since not all are in Christ, not all are raised to eternal life. See the note on Romans 5:18-19.
See the note on Acts 3:21.
Argument: Because “every knee” will bow to Christ and confess him as Lord, that means everyone will be saved. Response: Every knee will bow to Christ. But some will bow the knee willingly and others will do it unwillingly before being cast into hell. An example of this is Revelation 3:9: “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.” This language is drawn from Isaiah 49:23 and 60:14.
Argument: Since “all things” are reconciled to God, that means all people will be saved. Response: Paul leaves out “under the earth” which he includes in Philippians 2:10. The “all things” that are reconciled to Christ excludes the underworld or sphere where demons dwell. Those who are “under the earth” do not have peace with God. Since those in hell are “under the earth,” they are not included in the new creation which has been reconciled to God and set free from its bondage to decay. The blessing of reconciliation in Romans 4:6-8 is only for those who believe.
Argument: Because God desires to save “all people” and Christ was given as a ransom for them, all men will be saved. Response: “All” in this passage is being used qualitatively, not quantitatively. Paul in verse one says we should pray for all people, but he defines what he means by “all people” in the next verse: “For kings and all who are in high positions.” Kings and those in high positions are classes or kinds of men. All kinds of men will be saved by God because the elect come from every walk of life. There is no category of people for whom we are not to pray. We are called to pray for all classes of people, but we cannot pray for every single individual in the world. We do not pray for those who are in hell and we do not pray for those who have committed the sin that leads to death (1 John 5:16). In verse seven, Paul mentions “the Gentiles,” who are another class of people who will be saved. Because God will save every class of men, he ordained Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles. In verse five, Paul says that Christ intercedes on behalf of men. But Christ does not intercede on behalf of every single individual in the world, only for those who believe in him and are therefore members of the new covenant (Heb 7:25; 9:15). The saving power of his blood is limited to those who are in the new covenant. He intercedes on behalf of man in the sense that there is no category of men from whom his saving intercession does not reach because all kinds of men have been ransomed by him.
See the note on this verse in 57. Common Grace.
“All people” is being used qualitatively, not quantitatively. Both Jews and Gentiles are saved by Christ.
Argument: Because God is not willing that any should perish, all people will eventually reach repentance and be saved either in this life or in hell. Response: It is true that there is a sense in which God desires the salvation of all men indiscriminately because he commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30; Rom 2:4). With respect to his love and mercy, he does not take delight in the death of sinners (Ezek 18:23; 33:11). This verse reveals that God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love because he does not bring judgment upon sinners right away. This desire is with respect to his revealed will or will of command whereby he demands of all men faith and repentance (Isa 45:22). But God’s secret will or will of decree is that only the elect will be saved. A closer examination of this verse reveals that the “all” whom God is not willing should perish is referring back to the “you” to whom God is showing patience. Peter is addressing the bride of Christ, the “beloved” of God (3:1). But the bride of Christ did not just exist then. The elect exist throughout all of human history. Peter is explaining the reason why Christ has not returned yet: not all of the elect bride of Christ has been brought to repentance. When the last member of Christ’s bride has been brought to salvation, then Christ will return to rescue his people. See 68. The Free Offer of the Gospel.
See 37. The Atonement of Christ for the explanation of this verse.