Universalists may be divided, broadly, into two classes: those who teach the ultimate salvation of every member of Adam’s race, and those who affirm the ultimate salvation of all creatures, including the Devil, the fallen angels, and the demons. The class of passages to which both appeal are verses where the words “all,” “all men,” “all things,” “the world” are to be found.

The simplest way to refute their contentions on these passages is to show that such terms are restricted usually modified by what is said in the immediate context. The issue raised by Universalists narrows itself down to the question of whether “all men” and “all things” are employed, in passages which speak of salvation, in a limited or unlimited sense. Let us, then, point to a number of passages where these general terms occur, but where it is impossible to give them an absolute force or meaning:

“And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). “And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not” (Luke 3:15). “And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all come to Him” (John 3:26). “And early in the morning He came again into the temple,” and “all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them” (John 8:2). “For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard (Acts 22:15). “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:2).

In none of the above passages has “all,” “all men,” “all the people” an unlimited scope. In each of those passages these general terms have only a relative meaning. In Scripture “all” is used in two ways: meaning “all without exception” (occurring infrequently), and “all without distinction” (its general significance), that is, all classes and kinds—old and young, men and women, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, and in many in-stances Jews and Gentiles, men of all nations. Very frequently the “all” has reference to all believers, all in Christ.

What we have just said concerning the relative use and restricted meaning of the terms “all” and “all men” applies with equal force to “all things.” In Scripture this is another expression which often has a very limited meaning. We give a few examples of this: “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs” (Rom. 14:2). “For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure” (Rom. 14.20). “I am made all things to all, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient” (1 Cor. 10:23). “Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things” (Eph. 6:2 1). I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). In each of these passages “all things” has a restricted force.

Another class of passages appealed to by Universalists are verses where “the world” is mentioned. But a careful examination of every passage where this term occurs in the New Testament will show that we are not obliged to understand it as referring to the entire human race, because in a number of instances it means far less. Take the following examples. “For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:33).

Mark that here it is not a matter of proffering “life” to the world, but of giving “life.” Does Christ “give life”—spiritual and eternal life, for that is what is in view—to every member of the human family? “If thou do these things, show Thyself to the world” (John 7.4). Here it is plain that “the world” is an indefinite expression—show Thyself in public, to men in general, is its obvious meaning here. “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how we prevail nothing? Behold, the world is gone after Him” (John 12:19). Did the Pharisees mean that the entire human race had “gone after” Christ? Surely not. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8).

Must this mean that the faith of the Roman saints was known and spoken of by all the race of mankind? Did all men everywhere “speak” of it? Did one man out of every ten thousand in the Roman Empire know anything about it? “The word of the truth of the Gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world” (Col. 1:5, 6). Does “all the world” here mean, absolutely and unqualifiedly, all mankind? Had all men everywhere heard the Gospel? Surely the meaning of this verse is, that the Gospel, instead of being confined to the land of Judea and the lost sheep of the house of Israel, had gone forth abroad without restraint, into many places. “And all the world wondered after the beast” (Rev. 13:3). That the reference here cannot be to all men without exception we know from other scriptures.

It will be seen, then, from the passages cited above that there is nothing in the words themselves which compel us to give an unlimited meaning to “all men,” “all things,” “the world.” Therefore when we insist that “the world” which is saved, and the “all men” who are redeemed, are the world of believers and the all men who receive Christ as their personal Saviour, instead of interpreting the Scriptures to suit ourselves we are explaining them in strict harmony with other passages. On the other hand, to give to these terms unlimited scope and to make them mean all without exception is to interpret them in a way which manifestly clashes with the many passages which plainly teach there are those who will be finally lost.

One other remark may be made upon Universalism…and that is, the very fact that Universalism is so popular with the wicked, is proof irresistible, that it is not the system taught in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” That the natural man does receive the teaching that every one will ultimately be saved, is a sure sign it does not belong to “the things of the Spirit of God.” The wicked hate the light, but love the darkness; hence, while they deem as “foolishness” the truth of God and reject it, they esteem as reasonable the Devil’s lies, and greedily devour them. (Online source)

A.W. Pink

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