23 March 2009

Universalism: All means ALL! (Pt 4)

As we continue our brief look at the doctrine of universalism and their belief that God wishes, desires and sets out to accomplish the ultimate salvation of every single human on earth, I now turn attention to some passages that have a definite "limited" scope of redemption. We've already discussed and looked at many misused passages where the Greek word for "all" has a limited scope and meaning, so we know that the original language in these instances are not as far reaching as the universalist would like to imply, but what about some of the more clearer passages that show redemption was intended to be more restrictive?

Let us turn our attention to one of the earliest passages regarding the prophecy of the coming messiah and his promised redemption. Isaiah 53 tells us much about the coming Messiah and the suffering he would do and the ultimate redemption he would accomplish. Now, look closely at the scope of his redemption:
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
So, we are told he would come, and by his sacrifice, he shall bare the sins of every single human? All? No..., he would bare the sins of many. Looking at the Hebrew word used here for many, which is rab, none of the meanings for this word could be stretched to apply to every single person, it has a limited scope in mind. So, this was the prophesied hope given to Israel. Also, note, in this redemption plan, it is noted that he shall "see his seed." Some may try to argue that we are all God's children, we are all his seed, and therefore this obviously applies to every single person. However it takes little effort to prove otherwise. Flip back to the garden, and God's declaration of the promise of a savior back then.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:14-15)
So, we have two seeds mentioned, the seed of the women (speaking directly of Jesus and ultimately those that are his) and the seed of the serpent (and ultimately those who are his). We'll come back to this in a moment.

Now, jump back to the Greek Scriptures, and what are we told there? First, we have Joseph being told of his wife's pregnancy, and the angel tells him:
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21)
His people? Not every single person, just those that are his? But aren't all people on Earth the children of God, therefore his people? Obviously not, as we have already seen there are two seed lines. On top of that, we find Jesus later making a distinct delineation between the two lines and their fathers when speaking with some Jewish leaders:
I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. (John 8:38-44)
So, Jesus divides the lines into the children of his Father, and the children of the devil, similar to what we have seen in Genesis.

Jesus divides again using different languages when he speaks of the story of the Good Shepherd, he divides mankind into those that are his sheep and those that are not, and then plainly states:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11, 15)
...and then he further explains in verses 24 and following what it is he gives to these sheep of his:
Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
So, if Jesus says he lays his life down for the sheep only...then he tells these Jews that they are not his sheep, and that further, he gives only his sheep eternal life (where are non-sheep promised eternal life?), and again, these men being addressed are plainly told they are not part of the sheep; then how can we twist this to say he laid down his life and paid the price to give every single person in the world, without exception, eternal life? Was Jesus confused about what he was come to do, or was he just lying to them?

In an echo of the passages we looked at in Isaiah, even Jesus himself repeats
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45)
At another time, when he was establishing the actual new covenant, he states:
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24)
This of course leads us to look at the same language used later in Matthew, where Jesus' people are again to referred to as the sheep, while the rest are referred to as the goats, when they come to the judgment and are separated:
Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world...“Then he will say to those on his left (the goats), ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...And these (goats) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous (sheeps) into eternal life. (Matt. 25:31-46)
So, again, the language of blessing for sheep, and not for others (goats) is evident; so how can we possibly make these things out to say salvation is universally applied to every single member of mankind, and that all will be ultimately given eternal, blessed life?

While there are a couple other stray, seemingly "universal" sounding verses about Jesus dying for the whole world and the like, this part is already too long to jump into that. The Bible can't be promoting both a limited and unlimited scope as truth, and hopefully the evidence we've seen for a limited view has been persuasive enough to cause a further study into these other seemingly universal sounding words. We'll look into those in the next part...Lord willing.

Until then....