Thursday, July 20, 2017

The “Catenization” of Universalism

Truths We Believe About God, Part 9

A Biblical & Theological Rejection of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God  

Part 1: Truths We Believe About God 
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist 
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way? 
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality 
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization 
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All” 
Part 7: A Catena: Universalism's Troubles With “All
Part 8: A Catena: Universalism's “World” and “Everyone” 

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

A Review of the Book’s Chapters

A Conclusion About Young's A Catena  
Paul Young’s A Catena exhibits thirty-four Scripture passages to support and promote among Christians his belief in universal salvation, especially those persons who reside within the spectrum of pan-evangelicalism. “I have listed a chain of scriptures, a catena, that relate directly to this conversation.” (LWBAG, 119) Note: Young calls his “chain of scriptures” (plural) A Catena when more accurately it should be titled A Catenae (Lat. plural.). If Young is intentionally using the collective singular (Catena) , then it must be concluded that the singular verses in his A Catena are to be chanted or meditated upon together as a collective unit, in one long chain; i.e., a narrative. In other words, it is a package deal. In order to describe this process, I have coined the word Catenization:

The “Whole, Every, Cosmos and Other” Passages (29-34)

The “Whole” Passage 

29. 1 John 2:2 (Berean Study Bible, emphasis Young’s): 
“He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” 

Prevalent in the ancient world was the belief that the gods were offended, and that the sacrificial rite would “atone” for the offense. In short, sacrifices to the gods were the way ancient people sought to appease their gods so that they would become kindly disposed toward them. Leon Morris wrote that, “In the ancient world the universal religious rite was sacrifice. All over that world people offered animals on their altars, trusting that their gods would accept their sacrifices and that their sins would be forgiven.”[91] In her national life in that ancient pagan world, Yahweh ordered Israel to annually observe the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16-17). The idea of “atonement” is rooted not only in the sacrificial systems of the Gentile peoples, but also by the Law God gave to Israel. But does John’s use of the word “atonement” (Greek hilasmos) in this verse to describe Jesus’ death—that He died not for our sins only but for the sins of the whole world—communicate that all humanity is therefore saved? Again the answer is, “No!”

Though Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, the whole world is not of consequence saved. John’s Gospel clearly communicated that the benefit of Jesus’ atonement applies only to those who, as Jesus stated, exercise acceptance by faith; that “whosoever believeth should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In his last testimony about Jesus, John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus as follows: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). So what does it mean that Jesus’ death was atonement for the sins of the whole world?

Disregarding the debate as to whether the atonement’s scope is limited (Calvinism—Jesus died only for God’s elect) or unlimited (Arminianism—Jesus died for everybody), I believe that there’s another sense in which “the atonement for the sins of the whole world” can be understood (1 John 2:2); and this against the backdrop of all the sacrificial systems prevalent in the ancient world, including Israel’s. It is this: Jesus’ “once-for-all” atonement is the only sacrifice by which people may find atoning forgiveness for their sins from God! No more sacrifices, animal or human, need be to offered by any people anywhere to obtain forgiveness. Completed in the Son, God accepts no other atonement for sin other than Jesus’. Exclusively, His atonement is for the whole world. As Jesus is “the only way” to come to the Father, so Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is “the only basis” upon which people can find forgiveness for their sins from the Father. So this atonement statement (See also 1 John 4:10) not only forbids any continuance of sacrifices, but also sends a message that both syncretism (an ecumenical system that tries to combine—synthesize—all religions into one) and pluralism (there are many—plural—paths leading to God) are wrong, both of which Wm. Paul Young espouses (The Shack, 182). As Dick Lucas insightfully wrote:

Christians have always confessed that there is but one God; they have also found themselves in loyalty bound to confess that there is but one way to that God, the God-man Christ Jesus. He alone is the God-given mediator. God has made him the agent of reconciliation for all just because there is no other mediator capable of reconciling any.[92]

The “Every” Passages 

30. Philippians 2:10-11 (NASB, emphasis Young’s): 
“At the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

In the transition between time and eternity, all the glory in the universe will pass through the Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. All “things celestial, and terrestrial, and subterranean” will “bow to the imperium [Lat. command, ed.] of the exalted Jesus.”[93] All beings in heaven are worshipping the Lord now and when resurrected, all persons living, whether believers, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, rebels or unbelievers will kneel, bow and publically confess, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” That every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ is Lord is understood by Paul Young to imply that in the end everyone in the universe will abruptly become fond of Jesus, choose relationship with Him and be saved. But one blunt statement in Philippians, as do others in Paul’s letters, contradicts such an assumption.

The Apostle exhorts the Philippians to follow his Christian example and teaching but grievously warns the congregation about those who neither follow his behavior nor preach the true Gospel.

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
—Philippians 3:17-19, Emphasis added.
Questions: Will these “enemies of the cross of Christ” who “mind earthy things,” whose “glory is their shame,” whose “God is their belly,” and whose “end is destruction” be saved? Will these enemies who now despise the cross of Christ suddenly become enamored with the cross and be reconciled to God? Will their confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” be rendered because they suddenly morph to love the cross? (“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God,” 1 Corinthians 1:18.). Will these “worldlings,” these false teachers and their followers, have an after-death break-though experience when they abruptly change from being enemies of the cross to being friends of the cross?

That’s what Young would have us believe, and he advocates this interpretation despite dogmatically stating that if the Son’s Father “originated the Cross... we worship a cosmic abuser.” (LWBAG, 149) In my thinking, if people are not “fond” of the cross now, they will not become “fond” of it in the end. Motyer summarizes the submission of everyone to the Lord Jesus Christ like this:

[A] confession made for the first time in response to the visible manifestation of his glory will not be a saving confession, but a grudging acknowledgement wrested by overmastering divine power from lips still as unbelieving as they were through their whole earthly experience. All will submit, all will confess, but not all will be saved.[94]

31. Revelation 5:13 (Holman CSB, emphasis Young’s): 
“I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” 

Again Young interprets “every creature” to include without exception every human who ever lived. The problem with “cherry picking” this biblical text to support a scenario of universal/redemption/salvation is that Young’s “picking” ignores other contradictory passages in Revelation. Because these statements conflict with what Young considers Lies We Believe About God—“You need to get saved.”; “Hell is separation from God.”; “Not everyone is a child of God.”; “Sin separates us from God.”—the author gives no mention of these contradictory passages. So while choosing a verse he twists to support his universalism, he ignores other statements in Revelation which do not support his hope that in the eschatological end every human being will wind up in heaven. Yet Revelation clearly identifies unrepentant sinners who will not reside in the eternal city. These examples are offered:
  • And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21)
  • For without [the New Jerusalem] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:15)
  • But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8) 

The Apostle Paul also lists sins, which when persisted in and not repented of, disqualify people from life in “the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21).

Please note: The passages cited above do not teach salvation by works. Rather they characterize the lifestyles of people who are aliens either from God’s kingdom now or to come (John 3:3, 5; Matthew 25:34). We Christians can number ourselves among those who commit sin, but by God’s grace have been forgiven of it. To the Corinthians the Apostle Paul explained, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of out God” (Emphasis added, 1 Corinthians 6:11). The Gospel gives no room for self-righteous people to get into heaven, but only those who submit to and receive the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). As Dr. Walvoord described:

Obviously many will be in heaven who before their conversions were indeed guilty of these sins [Revelation 21:8] but who turned from them in the day of grace in trusting Christ as their Savior. Though works are the evidence of salvation or lack of it, they are never the basis or ground of it.[95]

As someone once put it, three surprises await us in heaven. First, some people we expected to be there will not be there. Second, others we did not expect to see there will be there. And finally, “Surprise!” we’re there.

The “Cosmos” Passage 

31. 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NIV/Greek NT, emphasis Young’s): 
“For God was in Christ reconciling the cosmos to Himself, not counting their sins against them.” 

Young does not accurately quote the NIV. He uses the preposition “For” when NIV translations read either “For in Christ” or “that God.” Scholars debate how the comparative particle plus the subordinating conjunction (Greek particle hos + conjunction hoti) should be understood. Various English versions reflect this: “to wit” KJV, ASV; “that is” NKJV, NRSV, ESV, HCSB; “namely” NASB; “that” or “for” (NIV); not translated (NCV); “for” NLT; “how that” Young’s Literal Translation, Darby; “our message is” TEV. But these versions share one thing in common: they suggest that verse 19 defines the message of reconciliation (as also verse 21) which ministry God delegated to the Apostles and the Apostles to the church (i.e., “us” and “we,” verses, 18b, 19b, and 20). The delegated message of reconciliation is this: God “was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses sins against them,” (NASB), and God “hath made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (1 Corinthians 5:21). This message therefore demanded the apostolic command: “be reconciled to God” (1 Corinthians 5:20).

Now based upon God’s commission of the Apostle and his urgent appeal for the church to declare this “word (i.e., logos) of reconciliation,” a question arises. If everybody’s reconciled to God, why did the Apostle make this appeal to the church—“we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God”? (2 Corinthians 2:20, NKJV). In Young’s scheme of universal reconciliation, everybody’s either actual or potential friends with God anyway. Is the appeal to be reconciled really just an announcement to the cosmos that God was “not counting their sins against them,” end of story? By including this verse in his A Catena about the salvation of the cosmos Young apparently desires to communicate to his readers that this is just an announcement, not appeal.

To shed some light on Paul Young’s belief about reconciliation, we look at a conversation in The Shack between Papa and Mack. Crossing her arms on the table, Papa leans forward and says to him, “Honey, you asked me what Jesus did on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.” (The Shack, 192) Fully reconciled Elousia told Mack, as if there was/is no further obligation on the part of people to believe and be reconciled to God. So what’s all this ambassadorial “appealing” and “begging” and “ordering” people to “be reconciled to God” about? Why such urgency on the part of the Apostle if in the grand cosmic scheme of redemption everybody’s already saved?

In a later conversation with Mack, Papa tells him, “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.” (Emphasis mine, The Shack, 225) “Be reconciled” is reduced from an urgent appeal to be saved into a mild nudging for the Corinthians to choose relationship with God. That he invites humanity into “relationship” negates any thinking that Jesus’ atonement was either penal or substitutionary, thus softening Young’s inference that any God demanding the Cross is a “cosmic abuser” and unworthy of worship. (LWBAG, 149) In Young’s scheme of salvation it’s more important for God to be subjectively reconciled to man than it is for man to be objectively reconciled to God. If Young is right, then any urgency to command “be reconciled to God” can be dismissed. This reduces the understanding of Christ’s atonement and sacrifice to be mystically and morally inspirational, a divine nudge for people to choose “relationship” with God.

About Young’s use of the word cosmos to suggest that all humanity is redeemed-reconciled to God, Colin Kruse makes this distinction: “It [the word cosmos] hardly applies to the created order, as the trespasses involved are those of humanity, and it is difficult to see it applying extensively to every individual human being, because elsewhere Paul clearly implies that the sins of unbelievers are and shall be counted against them (cf. Rom. 1:18-32; 2:5-11; Eph. 5:3-6; Col 3:5-6).”[96] Philip E. Hughes adds that, “This should not be understood in the sense of an indiscriminate universalism....”[97]

In making forgiveness one-sided, Paul Young makes God, being the bigger person He is, to be the one who needed to forgive sinful human beings so that they might be inspired to choose “relationship” with Him. But as James Denney (1856-1915) pointed out in his classic work The Death of Christ,

Where reconciliation is spoken of in St. Paul, the subject is always God, and the object is always man. The work of reconciling is one in which the initiative is taken by God, and the cost borne by Him; men are reconciled in the passive, or allow themselves to be reconciled, or receive reconciliation. We never read that God has been reconciled.[98]

“Other” Passages 

33. Ephesians 2:8-9 (Aramaic Bible/Greek NT): 
“For by grace we have been saved through faith, and this [faith] is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” 

After the pronoun “this,” Paul Young inserts the word “faith” in brackets suggesting that “faith” is “a gift of God” and not like Abraham sourced in a believer’s heart (Genesis 15:6). Young interprets this verse like a deterministic hyper-Calvinist. So the question becomes, is a believer’s faith irrelevant to salvation? In fatalistic theologies like hyper-Calvinism or universal reconciliation-ism, faith becomes unnecessary because either God gives faith to some, or as in Young’s belief system, He gives faith to everybody.

Young cites a version of Ephesians 2:9, he claims to derive from the Aramaic Bible/Greek New Testament. By inserting “faith” in brackets after “this,” naïve readers, under the appearance of scholarly interpretation, will think that the pronoun and bracketed defining noun are grammatically related, that “this” is explained by “faith.” Young’s bracketed insertion means to suggest that Young finds reason for his interpretation in the Aramaic Bible and New Testament’s original language, Greek. But it does not.

Koine Greek: the lingua franca
From the about the 6th to 5th centuries BC onward Aramaic (an ancient Semitic language with characters similar to Hebrew) became the lingua franca of the ancient world. Ancient peoples used Aramaic to conduct commerce. Part of Daniel and Ezra were written in Aramaic. Likely, John the Baptist and Jesus spoke it. Though Jesus’ original sayings may also have been preserved in Hebrew/Aramaic, the New Testament Scriptures were written in common (koine) Greek, the new lingua franca of the Roman Empire. But scholars claim to find influences from Hebrew (called Hebraisms) and Aramaic (called Aramaisms) in the Greek New Testament. Those findings though suggestive, can be subjective. Nevertheless, the extant manuscripts of the New Testament were written in Koine Greek (i.e., common Greek as opposed to Classical Greek). Though written in a “rugged and vigorous koine,” the Apostle Paul’s letters appear “marked throughout by his close acquaintance with the LXX [the Greek translation of the Old Testament which appeared in 70 B.C., ed.] and by his native Aramaic.”[99] But that acquaintance does not change the grammar of Koine Greek. I raise this issue because Young cites the Aramaic Bible as if it bears upon the interpretation (i.e., exegesis) of this verse when it does not. So we turn to Greek grammar to see whether or not the noun “faith” defines the pronoun “this.” Is faith the gift of God? 

The pronoun “this” (touto, neuter gender) does not agree in gender with either the nouns “faith” (pistis, feminine) or “gift” (charis, feminine). This grammatical fact marks Young’s equating of the pronoun “this” to the noun “faith” questionable. Dr. Daniel Wallace states that, “On the grammatical level, then, it is doubtful that either ‘faith’ or ‘grace’ is the antecedent of touto.”[100] So lacking gender agreement, what then could the neuter pronoun “this” refer to? Does the context provide a better option? Agreeing with a host of other scholars, Professor Dr. Harold Hoehner (1935-2009) preferred that, “Rather than any particular word it is best to conclude that touto refers back to the preceding section.”[101] (Wallace calls this a “conceptual antecedent.”)[102] In the preceding section (Ephesians 2:4-7) the Apostle Paul states that “when we were dead in our transgressions” God in His mercy did three things for us: 1. He “made us alive together with Christ”; 2. He “raised us up with” Christ; and 3. He “seated us... in the heavenly places” with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5-6). So as regards salvation’s security and hope for heaven we’re as good as “there.” Here is there! The pronoun “this” can be interpreted as generally referring to the whole “package” of God’s gracious works for us—making us alive, raising us up, and seating in heavenly places in Christ. These gracious acts of mercy, not faith, are the gift. The recurrent statement “by grace you have been saved” verse 5 and “by grace you have been saved” verse 8, ties the section together (Ephesians 2:4-10). The whole described package of salvation is wrapped in grace. Now there’s a Christmas gift to believers! As regards Young’s implication that this verse inferences universal salvation, Hoehner wrote:

Whereas “grace” is the objective cause or basis of salvation, “through faith” is the subjective means by which one is saved. This is important, for the salvation that was purchased by Christ’s death is universal in its provision, but it is not universal in its application. One is not automatically saved because Christ died, but one is saved when one puts trust in God’s gracious provision.[103]

Further, thinking that faith is a gift disregards the Apostle Paul’s quotation that personally and actively, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3, 9; See also Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23.). God’s word was the objective stimulus of Abraham’s faith (If God had not spoken to Abraham he would not have been justified.) while Abraham’s faithful response was counted by God unto him for righteousness (See 1 Thessalonians 2:13.).

34. Romans 8:38-39 (ESV): 
“For I am convinced [ESV “sure”] that neither death, [ESV no comma] nor life, nor angels nor principalities [ESV “rulers”], nor things present, [ESV no comma] nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, [ESV no comma] nor depth, nor any other created thing [ESV “nor anything else in all creation”], will be able to separate us from the love of God, [ESV no comma] which is [ESV no “which is”] in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

In comparing my copy of the English Standard Version to Young’s above quotation of it, I observed discrepancies which are marked by bracketed inserts. For comparison purposes, my ESV copy reads:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, ESV) 

Without any notice, Young’s citation appears to conflate the ESV with other translations and their punctuations, most noticeably the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible. Though he documents to readers that it is, Young’s citation is not strictly from the ESV. Now we turn to the question, do these “no separation” verses teach universalism?

We notice first the objective pronoun “us” and the possessive pronoun “our.” Nothing shall be “able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Can the meaning of these personal pronouns of address be expanded to refer to everybody in the world? Is there no distinction say... between Christian and non-Christian (i.e., Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or even nominal Christians, etc.)? As Christ Jesus is “our Lord,” is He also everybody’s Lord? I don’t think so! One can only believe these verses teach universalism by warping the pronouns to mean something other than “us” or “our.” By the way, in this section of the Romans letter, the personal pronouns “we” occur thirty-eight times, “us” eleven times, and “our” nine times. By what arbitrary leap of faith, if language means anything at all, can such pronouns be transformed into meaning everybody. While this section of Romans makes mention of unbelievers, it was not written to them but to believing Christians. The following statements bear this out. Dear readers, about these quotations from Romans ask, “Do they unlimitedly refer to everybody alive or limitedly refer to believers who are alive to God in Christ?”
  • “Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). 
  • “Sin shall not be master over you” (Romans 6:14). 
  • “Having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit... the outcome of eternal life” (Romans 6:22). 
  • “But now we have been released from the Law... so that we serve in newness of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). 
  • “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” (Romans 8:1). 
  • “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). 
  • “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). 
  • “The Spirit... intercedes for all the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). 

From these statements in Romans chapters six through eight, it’s obvious that the chapters and the two closing verses sloppily quoted by Young to support universalism, apply to believers who are spiritually alive in Christ as distinct from unbelievers who are spiritually dead in the world (See Romans 1:18-3:18). To say otherwise, obliterates the obvious.

A Conclusion About A Catena 
Paul Young intends for his A Catena to feign massive Scriptural support for universal reconciliation which it in fact does not. For those who might not believe that Young is promoting the salvation of everybody, what he states to readers in exposing a lie “You need to get saved.” is here repeated:

Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? 
That is exactly what I am saying! 
This is real good news! (LWBAG, 118) 

That Young views his amplified gospel to be “real” good news, implies that the New Testament gospel is just “good news.” Young doesn’t really believe “3:16.” The Apostolic Gospel is not like Young’s apostate gospel, and believers must understand that his message as such, is “accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-9; See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.) Because the Apostle Paul placed other apostate gospels (i.e., health, wealth and now universalism) under a ban, believers are to have nothing to do with Young’s gospel. Disappointing it is to see that much of pan-evangelicalism reads the book or watches the movie, The Shack, with no regard for anything other than the good vibes they get from them (See Jeremiah 23:16-17.). If people really believe what they are reading and seeing, it appears that universalism is building to become the next wave within the evangelical movement, and devoted souls will either catch this wave and ride it or get “left behind.”
(Mesmer, who developed Mesmerism,
an induced hypnotic-like
altered state of consciousness*)

Because Young advises reading his A Catena aloud with gravitas, suggests he believes that such a ceremonial recitation of the verses will enhance the meaning of the written Word he errantly quotes. Sound becomes more important than substance (“OM....”).  Perhaps Young intends for the gravitas to mesmerize* readers into accepting the error he is teaching. Fact is, not one of the thirty-four verses he “catenizes” teaches universal reconciliation. Young might wish and hope they do, but they don’t.

Some of you might question, well what’s wrong with reading the Scriptures aloud? (By the way, this contemplative activity is known by the Latin words lectio divina, reading sacred things.) Don’t pastors do it all the time? The error lies in the intent as well as the content of the various Bible versions Young conflates and cites. Intent is determinative. Are the Scriptures being read aloud by sound to support God's truth or promote the Devil's error? In tempting Jesus the Devil may have quoted Scripture with gravitas, but he assigned meanings to his narrative that the Old Testament Scriptures did and do not possess (Matthew 4:1-11). And that is what Paul Young is doing with his A Catena. The Apostle Peter states that like the Devil, false teachers “wrest” (KJV, ASV), “distort” (NASB), “falsely explain” (NCV) or “twist (NKJV, NRSV) Scriptures to say what their words do not communicate. Young believes occurrences of words like “all... every, etc.,” teach universalism. But not one of these passages in his A Catena... let it be repeated, not one of these passages when considered semantically, grammatically, syntactically, and contextually support universalism; that everybody’s saved. For sound exegetical reasons I conclude that Young’s A Catena does not support universal salvation at all. Let A Catena be anathema!

[91] Leon Morris, New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986): 73. 
[92] R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians & Philemon: The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1980): 57-58. 
[93] Handley C. G. Moule, Philippian Studies: Lessons in Faith and Love (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.): 96. 
[94] J.A. Motyer, The Message of Philippians: The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984): 122. 
[95] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” Bible Knowledge Commentary: 2, 985. 
[96] Colin G. Kruse, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987): 127. 
[97] Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962): 208. 
[98] James Denney, The Death of Christ (Minneapolis, MN: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., 1982 Reprint): 103. Hafemann points out, “Reconciliation is God’s initiative and God’s work.” But then explains that “God is not reconciled with us, as if we were the point of reference and God were the transgressor (!); we are reconciled with God.” Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000): 245. Leon Morris also states: “It is interesting to notice that no New Testament passage speaks of Christ reconciling God to man. Always the stress is on man being reconciled.... It is man’s sin which has caused the enmity.” See Leon L. Morris, “Reconciliation,” The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, Organizing Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962): 1077. Of the eleven New Testament mentions of reconciliation, “in every instance man is said to be reconciled to God.” See John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1969): 179.
[99] J.N. Birdsall, “Language of the New Testament,” The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1962): 715.
[100] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: 335.
[101] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2002): 343.
[102] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: 335.
[103] Hoehner, Ephesians: 341.

1. The definition of catenization is inspired by the late Pastor Ken Silva, who often satirically coined new words along with Pastor Larry DeBruyn and Sarah Leslie for posting either on his website and/or the Herescope blog. 
2. The two graphic images of lingua franca and catena are adapted from definitions posted at, which also influenced the definition of catenization
3. Most of the graphic images of chains in this 4-part A Catena commentary are from photographs taken by Sarah H. Leslie. A few unattributed images were obtained via Google Images. 
4. This series by Pastor Larry DeBruyn is being concurrently published at his website Articles are used with his permission. 
5. The photo of the shack in this post comes from the book cover of Larry DeBruyn's book UNSHACKLED, his critical review of Young's book The Shack. See:  

*Mesmer, mesmerism: See: and See also our article "Altered States: A Different Gate" at

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Universalism's “World” and “Everyone”

Truths We Believe About God, Part 8

A Biblical & Theological Rejection of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God

Part 1: Truths We Believe About God
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way?
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All”
Part 7: A Catena: Universalism's Troubles With “All”
By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“Therefore, beloved... regard the patience of our Lord as salvation... just as also our beloved brother Paul... wrote to you, as also in all his letters... which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
—The Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:14-16, NASB) 

A Review of the Book’s Chapters 

Commentary on Young’s A Catena continued
The “World” Passages and the “Everyone” Passage (23-28)

The World Passages

23. John 1:29 (NASB, emphasis Young’s): 
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

John the Baptist’s recognition of Jesus occurs at the beginning of His public ministry. “Behold the Lamb (amnos) of God who takes away the sin of the world,” John proclaims. Though Jesus was born after John, the prophet testified to Jesus’ preexistence by stating He “existed before me” (John 1:30). In John’s statement about Jesus the repetition of the definite article is evident: “the” Lamb (ho amnos), “the” sin (ten harmartian) and “the” world (tou kosmou). That Jesus was “the Lamb” indicates He was/is the only Lamb from God (Greek tou theo, is a genitive of source meaning from). God would require no further or other sacrifice than He provided with His Lamb (Genesis 22:1-14). With the Cross all sacrificial systems end. The focus for the Lamb’s coming was to die for the sin (singular) which constitutes humanity and the world’s system. The sins (plural) which people commit are not the focus of John’s statement though Jesus’ sacrifice provides also for their forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). Jesus died for the sin of the world (cosmos). Fulfilling the anticipation inspired by the one-thousand and four-hundred year old sacrificial system demanded by God’s Law, John declared the scope of the Lamb’s coming could/would not only be the final sacrifice for the sin of the Jews in particular but also for all humankind in general, “Samaritans” and “other sheep” (John 4:42; 10:16).
Zurbarán Lamb of God, Prado Museum, c. 1635-1640 (Source)

In contrast to the Day of Atonement which required the sacrifice of goats on a yearly basis (Leviticus 16:1 ff.), John identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” This designation associates His sacrifice with the slaying of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:1-13), as well as the Suffering Servant the prophet Isaiah portrayed (Isaiah 53:13-53). While other Jews, as regarded the Levitical sacrifices, were so parochially minded that they were no “worldly” good, John the Baptist understood the worldwide mission of Jesus from the beginning. But “In all of this, John the Baptist’s testimony is clear:” comments Pate, “Jesus is the Messiah, not him.”[86] The Apostle Paul too associated Jesus’ self-sacrifice with the Passover Lamb, “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed,” he wrote (1 Corinthians 5:7b).

Now we turn to the issue raised by Young’s quotation of John’s statement about Jesus: Does John the Baptist’s mention of “the world” imply universalism, that all will be saved? If understood, the Apostle John’s concept of the world answers “No!” W. Robert Cook offered the following definition of “world”: “It is a way of life ordered apart from and contrary to God, ruled by Satan, and encompassing all mankind who are not in the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ.”[87]

The antagonism of the world toward God is such that though Jesus prayed to the Father for Himself, His Apostle-disciples and the church, He did not pray for the world (“I do not ask on behalf of the world,” John 17:9). Though Jesus loves all people, He viewed the world’s system to be both deceptive to and destructive of the very people He, His Father and Spirit love. That Satanic system—“the lust of the flesh” (the love of Pleasure), “the lust of the eyes” (the love of Possessions) and “the boastful pride of life” (the love of Position/Power)—utterly hates the Father, His Son and those who believe on the Lamb (1 John 2:16; John 15:18). The world is a satanic and unloving system which blinds people to the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). So if people love the world, love for [objective genitive, ed.] the Father is not... is not in them (1 John 2:15). Might it be said that in God’s eyes and taken in this sense, the world is a “lost cause”? So Jesus neither prayed nor sacrificed Himself for the system called the world and those who love to live in it. Such people demonstrate they do not love the Father. That many people love the world indicates that these “worldlings” are not saved because love for God has not been poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
The lesson: unbelievers whose life purpose is to bask in the adulation of society, to indulge their fleshly wants and desires and to accumulate wealth unto themselves, indicate they do not love God. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15b). In the end, these systematic worldlings are not “fond” of the Father, and neither is the Father “fond” of them.

That Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world indicates that forgiveness can only be obtained through faith in the only begotten Son of God (John 1:14). He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, KJV; See Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 Peter 3:18). We should not look to anybody or anything else for salvation—to the church, priests, rituals, prayers or good works—but only to Jesus. “Behold the Lamb from God!” Lord Jesus, we praise you! Your sacrifice alone is the only basis whereby our sin and sins can be taken away.

Jesus talking to Nicodemus depicted by William Hole (Source)

24. John 3:16-17 (KJV/NIV, emphasis Young’s): 
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” 

In contrast to the satanic system called “the world, God loves “the world” of people, so much so that He gave His only begotten Son to die for them. Does this mean that all the people in all the world are thereby reconciled to God? Not if the entirety of verse is read and understood! Jesus stated that whosoever believes in Him will “not perish” but receive “everlasting life.” “He who believes in Him [the Son] is not judged; he who does not believe in Him has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

The point: All of humanity is separated into two camps, unbelievers and believers or rejecters and receivers; those doing evil deeds, loving their “dark lifestyles” and therefore hating the Light; or those practicing truth, revealing their “Light-styles” and loving the Light. Light and darkness do not mix, and God does not want us to live in the shadows. We’re either in the dark and away from the Light, or in the Light and away from the dark. The categories of Light and dark as also belief and unbelief belie universal reconciliation. All do not believe in God’s Son therefore all do not have everlasting life. John’s Gospel is filled statements about belief and the consequences of unbelief (John 1:10; 3:36; 5:38; 6:36, 64; 8:24; 10:25; 12:47-48; 16:9); as also the rest of the New Testament (Acts 13:40; 19:9; 28:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 3:2; Hebrews 3:12; 1 John 2:22-23; Revelation 21:8). I don’t know why Young even refers to this verse because to him any Father who would give His “only begotten Son” to die for the world, who would conceive of such an offensive idea as the Cross, is in his view “a cosmic abuser” (Young’s words). (LWBAG, 149)

By the way, world does not mean all humanity without exception, but all without distinction, no distinction between Jew and Gentile (John 10:16). All are invited to believe in the Lamb God provided to take away their sin(s). According to Jesus, salvation is limited to “whosoever believes in Him” (John 3:16; See Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11-22.).

The Water of Life Discourse between Jesus and the 
Samaritan Woman at the Well
 by Angelika Kauffmann,
17–18th century (Source)

25. John 4:42 (Holman CSB, emphasis Young’s): 
“We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.” 

Establishment Judaism, for a complex of grievances, despised the schismatic and cultic Samaritan sect. After the captivity, the Samaritans set up their own worship center on Mt. Gerizim. During the Maccabean revolt (the rebellion of devout Jews against the sacrilege imposed on them by Antiochus Epiphanes, circa 200 BC) and to appease the invader/occupier Syrians, the Samaritans dedicated their temple to Zeus Xenos. For accommodating Antiochus (who in mockery and defiance of Israel’s Law and God offered a pig on the altar of sacrifice in the Temple on Mt Zion in Jerusalem) the Jews adopted an official policy, “have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9). Yet for Jesus and His disciples the shortest route from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north was a straight line. So despite the sectarianism of the Samaritans and the attitude of official Judaism toward them, the Lord decided that that He and His disciples would not abide by the dictated Jewish custom, but would “pass through Samaria” (John 4:4). It was in this highly charged spiritual and social situation that Jesus engaged in conversation with someone who was not only a Samaritan but also a woman!

As a result of Jesus’ loving interaction with her, this many-times-married woman went into Samaritan town of Sychar and told the men—“Come, see a man who told me all things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” (John 4:29, 39). Many believed on Jesus’ word not because of “hearsay” from the woman, but because “we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Note the repetition of the word many: from Sychar “many of the Samaritans believed in Him... [and] many more believed because of His word”; many but not all (John 4:39, 41). When they too came to believe in Jesus, this group told the woman “we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). They were surprised that not only was Jesus the Savior of Jews who would believe in Him, but also Samaritans! Welcome to their “world.” Before Pentecost Jesus told His disciples, “and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Emphasis added, Acts 1:8). So this verse Young cites does not teach universal reconciliation.

26. John 6:33 (NIV, emphasis Young’s): 
“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 

This statement occurs in the context of the first of seven “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel (John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; and 15:1)—“I am the bread of life.” Though not wandering in the wilderness like Israel after the Exodus, a crowd of people following Jesus caught up with Him at Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee’s north shore. Jesus recognized the crowd was seeking Him because He had fed them and now they were hungry again. Trying to get Jesus to provide another miracle meal for them, they referred to the Exodus where the Lord gave Israel manna in the wilderness to eat (Exodus 16:4). If the Lord fed Israel in the wilderness, why can’t you feed us now, Jesus? Make a meal for us again! So they used Scripture to try and manipulate Jesus to do what they wanted Him to do; to give them the food they wanted (John 6:30-31). (How like so many of today’s health and wealth Christians!) But Jesus took the occasion of their physical hunger to speak to them about spiritual hunger. He told them that the Father, not Moses, provides “the true bread out of heaven” and “the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33). To the crowd this sounded like an offer of “the fast food” they wanted. So they said to Jesus, “Lord, always give us this bread” to which Jesus responded, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:34-35).

Then Jesus told the crowd, “you have seen Me, and yet do not believe”; then He added an invitation, “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 6:36, 40). Regarding obtaining eternal life, only those who behold and believe will receive it. The salvation of the world does not include all humanity without exception, but only those who behold the testimony about Jesus and believe it (John 5:39; Luke 24:25, 27, 44-47).

For an observable reason this statement by Jesus—the bread from heaven gives life to the world—does not teach universal reconciliation. Consistent with how the Gospel presents the concept, “world” does not refer to all people without exception. The difference between people remains: those who behold the Son and don’t believe (John 6:36) and those who behold the Son and do believe (6:35, 40); those who come to Jesus and those who do not (6:37). Rather than believe in Jesus, some people prefer to remain spiritually starving and dehydrating (John 6:35). Even though they were in His presence, Jesus told the Capernaum crowd “you have seen Me, and yet do not believe” (John 6:36). But those who do place their faith in Jesus will “on the last day” be resurrected from the dead and find everlasting security (John 6:37, 39-40). Those who don’t won’t. As regards Jesus’ offer of spiritual nurture, some would rather starve and thirst than by faith eat the bread and drink the water of life Jesus promises to provide. In unbelief they remain insecure regarding Jesus’ promised presence, symbolized by eating the bread and drinking the water He provides, with and in them.

Personally, I find satisfaction in my every thought about our precious Savior. Because of Jesus’ presence with and in me, I neither hunger nor thirst after “something more.” Christ’s promised inner presence is my spiritual reality and satisfaction. He is with and in me always. He is with and in me always. I accept this by faith and will not try to manipulate my soul and spirit into feeling His presence by engaging in unbiblical activities like contemplative prayer, mood music, lectio divina, Taize worship, repeating the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”) like a mantra, etc. But I would be careful to testify that though I am satisfied in Christ, I am not smug in my Christian faith. I need to grow in grace but not by exercising the legalisms of spiritual disciplines. What began in the Spirit will not be perfected “by works of the Law... [or] the flesh” (Galatians 3:2, 3; Read verses 1-14.).

27. John 8:12 (ESV, emphasis Young’s): 
“I am the light of the world.” 

This is the second great “I Am” statement in John’s Gospel. As John’s prologue intimates, the Word for the world is the Light of the world. For reasons previously stated, this does not mean that inherently the world becomes saved. Allow Jesus’ own teaching to qualify this.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
—John 3:17-21, Emphasis added. 

Some people will not come to the Light because they love darkness; they love “the night life.” Stated bluntly, many people are already condemned because they’re married to the night wherein they, the ungodly, commit “their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way” (Jude 15). The real reason people do not come to the Light is for reason of their immorality (Compare Romans 1:18-32.). They love their ungodly lifestyles. They prefer the cover of darkness to hide, so they imagine, their evil deeds. All are not saved because many love the night and will not come to the Light.

The “Everyone” Passage 

28. 1 Timothy 4:10 (Holman CSB, Emphasis Young’s): 
“We labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.” 

In this statement the Apostle Paul presents the scope of salvation to be broadly available to all sorts of people (the living God... is the Savior of everyone) but narrowly applicable to believers only (“especially those who believe”). Hiebert comments that, “This concluding phrase [‘especially of those who believe’] shows that God is not the Saviour of unbelievers in the same sense that He is of believers. This statement cannot be used to support an unscriptural universalism which teaches that all men are saved.”[88]

Another pastor states: “With this clause the Apostle moves from the universal scope of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice (“the Savior of all men”) and narrows the field regarding the limited scope of its efficiency (“especially of believers”).”[89] If in this verse the Apostle Paul intended to state that everyone is saved, he would not have added the qualifying adverbial phrase “especially” (Greek malista: “specially” KJV, ASV; “particularly” NLT) of those who believe.” Further, had his intent been to communicate the salvation of everyone, he would have contradicted other of his statements in which “he clearly regards some people as bearing God’s retribution and punishment in the penalty of eternal destruction (cf., e.g., 2 Thes. 1:7-10; 1 Thes. 1:10).”[90]

To be continued . . .

[86] C. Marvin Pate, The Writings of John: A Survey of the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011): 57. 
[87] W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1979): 117. 
[88] Hiebert, First Timothy: 84. 
[89] John A. Kitchen, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors (The Woodlands, TX: Kress Christian Publications, 2009): 178. 
[90] George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992): 203.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Universalism's Troubles With “All”

Truths We Believe About God, Part 7

A Biblical & Theological Rejection of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God

Part 1: Truths We Believe About God
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way?
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All”

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“Therefore, beloved... regard the patience of our Lord as salvation... just as also our beloved brother Paul... wrote to you, as also in all his letters... which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
—The Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:14-16, NASB)

A Review of the Book’s Chapters

Commentary on the “All” Passages in A Catena continued, 13-22

13. Romans 11:36 (NASV, emphasis Young’s):
“For from him and through him and to him are all things.”

To begin with, “all things” [Greek neuter gender, ta panta] does not refer to people. People are not things. The purpose of the movement of “all things” in the universe—deriving from, passing through and arriving to the Lord—is described in the exultant praise which follows, “To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36b) The Apostle means God, not the universe, would be exalted, glorified and honored! (Contra Romans 1:21; New Age Pantheism.). As Dr. Witmer summarized how the second half of the verse clarifies the beginning, “God is the first Cause, the effective Cause, and the final Cause of everything.... The all-sovereign God deserves the praise of all His creatures.”[71] The glory of God, not the salvation of humanity, is the message which explains the future and final movement of everything to God. While people may be part of that movement they are not the sum of it. “For he [the Father] hath put all things under his [the Son’s] feet.... And when all things shall be subdued unto him [the Son], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [the Father] that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:27-28).

14. Romans 11:32 (DBT/Greek NT, emphasis Young’s): 
“He has shut up all to unbelief so that he might have mercy on all.” 

At the end of Romans chapter 8, the Apostle Paul states that “nothing” will separate Christian believers from “the love of God” (Romans 3:39). If the “no separation” rule is true, the question arises, what about Israel? For their disobedience did not the Lord separate the Jews from His love, and if Israel became separated from God’s love, how can Christians be confident that will never happen to them? Is not the love of the Lord “everlasting”? (See Jeremiah 31:3.) So the overriding question answered by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapters 9-11 is this: Has God separated His covenant love from the Israel? Is God through with the Jew? While in these chapters his answer includes the role of all Gentiles in general, it also regards all Israel in particular.

The following references Israel to be the Apostle’s focus: Romans 9:3-4—“my kinsmen... who are Israelites”; 9:5—though Christ is descended from Israel’s fathers, He “is over all”; 9:6—“they are not all Israel”; 9:7—“they are not all children” of Abraham; 10:12—“the same Lord is Lord of all” (Jew and Greek); 10:16—“they did not all heed the good news” (Jews and Greeks); 11:26—“so all Israel will be saved”; and 11:32—“God shut up all [Israel] in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all [Israel and the Gentiles]. Thus, “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in,” the Lord’s work in the world is currently centered on the Gentiles (Romans 11:25). When this interim period ends, when the cup of time is filled, the Lord will return His attention to Israel. He will keep the covenant promises He made to Israel because “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). But until then, “God has shut up all [Israel] in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all [Jews and Gentiles]” (Romans 11:32). At the end of this period of Gentile ascendancy in world history, the Lord will return His blessing to the Jews. Gentiles, we’re on the clock!

About the “alls” used by the Apostle Paul, do they mean that salvation-reconciliation is universal as Young’s “catena” quotes them to mean? In alternating reference between Israel and the nations in these chapters (Romans 9-11), all can refer to Gentiles exclusive of Israel, or all can refer to Israel exclusive of Gentiles, or all can refer to the sum of both groups. The Apostle is not discussing the eternal salvation of “all” humans, but rather the working out of His earthly plan among “all” peoples/nations whether they be Jew or Gentile.

Statements in the context raise contradictions to Young’s teaching of universal salvation. Consider the following: “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Romans 9:6); “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13-15); “He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Romans 9:17-18); “God... endured with much patience vessels of prepared for destruction,” or “vessels of mercy... prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:19-23); “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”; et cetera. I raise these texts not to engage the questions they stimulate, but rather to point out that contradictory statements reside in the very context from which Young extracts a text he thinks asserts universal reconciliation. These statements do not fit Paul Young’s salvation template at all!

15. 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NIV, emphasis Young’s):
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

In this chapter the Apostle argues against Corinthians who asserted, “There is no resurrection of the dead!” (1 Corinthians 15:12, 15). For Christians, denying the resurrection shatters the Christian faith because coupled with Jesus’ death for our sins this event is core to the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). To deny the resurrection of Jesus is to destroy the Christian faith. So the Apostle sets forth the consequences of embracing a naturalistic worldview which denies the resurrection of the dead. If nobody’s raised, then Christ was not raised and His make-believe resurrection makes preaching a sham, faith worthless, Christians without forgiveness and hopeless in a world dominated by death, all of which reduces Christians to be a pitiable people (1 Corinthians 15:13-19). In other words, why celebrate Easter? But against the naysayers at Corinth the Apostle states: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead!” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

It is in this context that Paul states, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 1:20). Universalists like Young, Kruger, Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) and others stake their case on this verse which seemingly suggests all humanity will be saved, that just as “all” died in Adam, so correspondingly “all” will be made alive in Christ.[72] If one’s understanding is fixated only upon verse 22, to the neglect of the immediate and greater biblical contexts, then the Apostle’s statement might “seem” to imply that everybody will be saved. Therefore the text must be considered and a rebuttal offered.

Separating this verse from the immediate context and the Apostle’s other writings raises three counterpoints to universal salvation. First, to the Corinthians Paul was addressing the question of the resurrection, not how persons come to be in Christ (“so in Christ all will be made alive,” 1 Corinthians 15:22b). The description of being “made alive” refers to God’s promise that Christian believers will one day be resurrected, and does not equate to all humanity being regenerated (i.e., “born again,” John 3:5).  

Second, Paul states that by His resurrection from the dead, Christ is “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). If Christ is “the first fruits” the question arises, who are “the second fruits”?[73] The answer is found in the same verse that mentions “first fruits,” namely that “the second fruits” are resurrected believers who share the life of Christ at His Second Coming (1 Corinthians 15:23). In other words, the Apostle envisions that as distinct from all those who died in Adam, only those who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes (i.e., His Parousia). The rest who do not belong to Christ at His coming, who remained dead in Adam, Jesus will devastatingly and grievously say after their separate resurrection, “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23; 25:16; Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:12-14; Daniel 12:1-2; John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:11-15). The designation “those who are Christ’s at His coming” differentiates and distinguishes believers from the rest who died and remained dead in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). All people do not belong to Christ, only those who are “in Christ” (“if any man be in Christ,” and that’s a big IF, 2 Corinthians 5:17).  

Third, Christ is called “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (Emphasis added, 1 Corinthians 15:20). As he does elsewhere in his letters, Paul uses the euphemism “sleep” to describe death. In his earlier letter to the Thessalonians the Apostle used “sleep” to describe “death.” He tells that Christian congregation to not grieve over death “as the rest who have no hope” (Emphasis added, 1 Thessalonians 4:13). In this verse Paul differentiates between believers and the rest. In both Thessalonians and Corinthians Paul tells readers that one day the alarm will sound, the Day of the Lord will begin and the resurrection of those “who have fallen asleep in Jesus” will intersect with Jesus’ Second Coming, after which will come “The End!” (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:23) Why will the dead “in Christ” be raised then? Because they had fallen asleep “in Jesus”! Herein resides the contrast between those who have no hope because they remained dead in Adam and those who have hope because they (and their believing-deceased loved ones) became alive in Christ and belong to Him.

About this chapter’s mention of the resurrection F.F. Bruce commented, “Paul might have agreed that even the resurrection of the wicked depends in some sense on the resurrection of Christ, but his present concern is to show that the resurrection of ‘the dead in Christ’ (cf. I Th. 4:16), i.e. those who have ‘fallen asleep’, is ensured by Christ’s resurrection.”[74] About this verse teaching all will be saved because all will be raised, Leon Morris stated: “The verse gives no countenance to universalism. In Adam all that are to die, die; in Christ all that are to live, live.”[75] However, even if the “alls” are viewed as equivalent, that in solidarity the same group who died in Adam will be resurrected in Christ, “all” will still face judgment as Jesus promised, some unto “a resurrection of life” and others to “a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29).

Behold, He cometh with clouds;
and every eye shall see Him,
and they also which pierced Him:
and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.
Even so, Amen.

—Revelation 1:7 

16. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 (NASB/Holman CSB/Greek NT, emphasis Young’s): 
“Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death. For God has put everything under His feet. But when it says “everything” is put under Him, it is obvious that He who puts everything under Him is the exception. And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son Himself will also be subject to the One who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all.” 

Then comes the end! These verses describe the future that began with Jesus Christ’s resurrection. We’re on the clock! With Jesus’ resurrection the last days have begun (1 Corinthians 15:20). The end will come when “all things” become subject to Christ. Then the Son will submit both “all things” and Himself to the Father “so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). In the period between His resurrection and the end there will occur the Parousia of Christ (His return) attended by the resurrection of “those who are Christ’s at His coming.” The Lord’s Prayer will be answered (“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” Matthew 6:10) When His kingdom comes, the Lord Jesus Christ will abolish “all rule and all authority and power” and “death” (1 Corinthians 15:24-27). When everything is conquered, then Christ will hand the universe which He created over to the Father “so that God may be all in all.” This is the future for a rebel and corrupted cosmos.

In the scenario just described, universalist Paul Young views the submission of everything to Christ to mean everybody becomes saved. The problem with his projection is that the passage does not teach this. Contradictions are evident: First, in the resurrection the Apostle differentiates between “those who are Christ’s” and the rest who died in Adam (e.g. universal resurrection is not in view).  

Second, Christ’s enemies will be forced to submit to His earthly kingdom rule (Messiah’s enemies will be put “under his feet”—He will stand victorious over them, Paul wrote in his quotation of Psalm 110:1 in 1 Corinthians 15:25.). This means conflict. The nations will not willingly submit to Messiah. As the nations hate Israel they also despise he Messiah. Presently Messiah’s enemies are “control freaks” constantly agitating and rebelling against Him (Psalm 2:1-3). They will not voluntarily submit to Christ but will be forced to! Messiah will step on necks of His enemies. As Psalm 110 concludes, “The Lord... shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies, he shall wound the heads over many countries” (Psalm 110:5-6). Now universally rejected, Messiah’s rule will one day be universally accepted (See Philippians 2:9-11.).

These Messianic Psalms (Psalms 8 and 110) to which the Apostle alludes in stating his case for Christ’s resurrection do not picture universal salvation. To state again, submission it appears is a one not two-way street, everything first to Christ and then Christ and everything to God. As Paul Young believes, submission is not everybody submitting to everybody including God. It appears that cosmopolitans and God do not as Young would have it, reside in a gigantic circle of relationship. (See The Shack, p. 122)

17. Philippians 3:21 (Holman CSB, emphasis Young’s): 
“He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject all things [the HCSB reads “everything” not all things, ed.] to Himself.” 

Interestingly, just prefatory to this text which Young quotes as implying universal salvation, Paul tells readers that contrary to his example, “many walk... [who] are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:17-17). Are we to assume that these pretentious walkers who are “enemies of the cross of Christ” and “whose end is destruction” are reconciled to God? He calls the rebels “enemies of the cross.” I thought reconciliation means that true believers are friends of the cross (i.e., reconciliation means to “change from enmity to friendship”).[76]

Further “all things” (Greek ta panta) does not include all people. Paul is writing about the Lord Jesus Christ’s power not His people. Though the concept was in his vocabulary and he used it often, the Apostle Paul did not say “all men” (Greek pantas anthropous; See next discussion.). In his desire to find a text supporting universal reconciliation Young quotes from a verse preceded by the description of individuals who are implacably hostile to the Cross of Christ! Such persons do not fit the paradigm of universal salvation. A person cannot an “enemy of the cross” and a friend of God.

Barbed wire at Dachau (source)

18. 1 Timothy 2:4 (ESV, emphasis Young’s): 
“He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

If God desires all people to be saved, His desire indicates not all are saved. End of discussion. But if you need or want to, read on...

The Apostle encourages Timothy to pray for “all men” (Greek panton anthropon) in positions of governmental authority, which “is good... in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3). The very next verse states that the God to whom we pray “desires all men (pantas anthropous) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Paul then states that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). The Apostle closes this paragraph by testifying of his being appointed as an Apostle to preach and teach this message—one God for all, one mediator for all, one ransom for all—to the Gentile world (1 Timothy 2:7). In this context Paul Young thinks he’s found a Scripture which supports the salvation of all people.

 What’s the identity of “all men”? Some would restrict that identity, based upon the parallel between verses one and four (all men, all men), to mean that God desires the salvation of all men in governmental authority. Though true, this meaning is too restrictive (Titus 2:11; 2 Peter 3:9). In general, God desires everybody to be saved and to know the truth indicating that in the present reality all persons do not know the truth and are not saved.

Universalism makes God’s wish needless in that He’s wishing for humans to possess something they already possess; namely their salvation. About this divine wish, Hiebert notes “that does not mean all will be saved. If Paul had used an active infinitive ‘to save,’ rather than the passive, that might have been implied.”[77] The difference between passive and active could read like this: God desires all men to be saved (passive infinitive) versus God desires to save all men (active infinitive). MacDonald comments that, “From this, it should be clear that this verse does not teach universal salvation. Although God desires that all men should be saved, yet not all men will be saved.”[78]

19. Titus 2:11 (ESV, emphasis Young’s): 
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people.” 

Upon viewing this verse, two questions arise: first, who’s included in the designation “all people”; and second, what does salvation mean in this context? First, the Apostle Paul exhorts Titus about “the things which are fitting for sound doctrine,” how in everyday living beliefs should affect behavior. Doctrine or teaching should influence practical Christian living among “all people” (Greek pasin anthropois) whether they are older men, older women, young women, young men, or bond slaves (Herein Paul is not endorsing slavery but recognizing its existence in the ancient world; See Galatians 3:28.). This list is partial.  

Second, all people are not saved in a vacuum. When saved, they should not live unto themselves. Inevitably their lives touch others, and their salvation ought to bear upon their relationships with others no matter what their status in life is. The salvation the Apostle wrote of does not regard the hereafter but the here and now![79] This verse provides no proof, despite contrary arguments by some early church fathers, for universal salvation.

20. Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV/Greek NT, emphasis Young’s): 
“He appointed the Son heir of all things, through whom also he made the universe. In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things.” 

Note: Seemingly in his desire to find another “all” in Bible, Young repeats the designation “heir of all things” (heir of all things... heir of all things) in his quotation of Hebrews 1:1-2. In the text, whether English or Greek, the phrase occurs once, not twice. Young’s handling of the English Standard Version is repetitive and misleading to readers.[80] 

Again, and I know some readers are getting as tired of me saying this as I am tired of reading Young’s continued interpretation of “all things” (panton) to support his salvific scheme: People are not things and things are not people. The author of Hebrews (whom personally I believe was Paul the Apostle) could have stated that the Son was “appointed heir” of all men (Greek panton anthropon), meaning all people regardless of ethnicity, gender or station in life are Christ’s inheritance. But the author does not. So what then does the adjective “all things” refer to?

 The clue is found in the next verse when the author states that the Son “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Emphasis added, Hebrews 1:3). Bruce comments: “The creative utterance which called the universe into being requires as its complement that sustaining utterance by which it is maintained in being.”[81] The very creation the Son now upholds is the very creation (all things) He will inherit (Compare Psalm 2:8.). When the universe consummates, the Son will inherit everything because one, in the past He created the universe (everything) and two, in the present He keeps the universe (everything) together (The power of gravity is His.). By the way, the Psalm Hebrews quotes pictures the nations constantly plotting, scheming and colluding together to steal the Son’s inheritance from Him—not a good picture of universal reconciliation.

21. 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV/Greek NT, emphasis Young’s): 
“He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

The coming Day of the Lord; this is the dominating subject of the third chapter of Peter’s Second Epistle. During the last days, the interim period between Jesus’ First and Second Comings (We’re living in the last days and have been now for two-thousand years!), skeptics will arise who in their lusts (wantonly sold out to “feel good” lifestyles) will mock any prospect of divine intervention/judgment upon the world that might interrupt the fun they’re having (2 Peter 3:3-4). Like some evangelicals, they’re too busy seeking personal pleasure to believe biblical prophecy. But such mocking flies in the face of the Apostle’s warning of coming judgment as based upon words spoken by the holy prophets and Jesus Christ (Isaiah 2:10-20; Joel 2:1-3; Malachi 4:1-3; Matthew 24:21). Mockers who deny the prospect of coming judgment ignore the fact that in the past God cataclysmically judged the world by the Flood (2 Peter 3:5-6; Genesis 7:21-24). So Peter put skeptics on notice: as promised by the prophets and Jesus, judgment is coming. But in part, what form would the judgment take?

“The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). While in the past God destroyed this planet by water, in the future He will destroy this planet by fire. To this point, some scientists believe that currently our planet rests on a precipice of destruction. If the tipping point should occur, then this universe “will change into a new universe (called a phase transition). This would look like a fireball spreading out at the speed of light, converting the old universe into a new one.”[82] Sound familiar? The only difference between this scientific scenario and the one Peter prophesied is that God controls the universe, the universe does not control God (though process theologians, open theists and quantum charismatics believe the later to be more the case).

The verse Paul Young quotes rests between Peter’s description of those who mock the Day of the Lord—it’ll never happen—and his description of the Day of the Lord—it’ll happen! God is not a slacker. The Lord delays the day of judgment not because He’s cumbersome about keeping promises, but because He “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

As regards the correctness of citing this verse in support of universal salvation-reconciliation, these observations contradict that belief. First, the Apostle Peter states that the Lord’s patience is “us-ward” (KJV, Greek eis humas, “unto you”). Peter limits the scope of who he’s addressing. That Peter restricts his audience (“you”) indicates he’s not talking about the whole world. Second, that God is “not wishing for any to perish” indicates that just as in the era before the flood, people are perishing. All were not saved then nor are all saved now. Third, Peter informs readers that the Day of the Lord is reserved for the judgment of “ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). This designation does not picture that all men are reconciled to God. After all, they’re “ungodly”!

Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
—Jude 14-15, (Emphases added) 

Fourth, God’s desire is not God’s decree. He has not decreed all men will be saved. As the scholar Hiebert wrote: “‘Not wishing’ (me boulomenos) does not refer to the ultimately determining will of God but rather to His standing wish or desire for mankind.”[83] And fifth, for all men to be reconciled to God all men need to repent before God. God wishes for this to be the case (2 Peter 3:9b, the Lord wishes “for all to come to repentance”), but it isn’t. All people do not repent. Esau didn’t (Hebrews 12:17). People who are alive when the final hammer of God’s judgment falls upon this planet will not repent (Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9). People before the Flood did not repent. Many who follow after false teachers will not repent (2 Peter 2:1-22). Neither will many of those “mockers” Peter writes about in this chapter repent. They’re too busy indulging themselves in pleasures. In light of all these considerations-contradictions, do we really think this verse supports a teaching that God decreed the universal reconciliation of everybody?

22. Revelation 21:5 (AKJV, emphasis Young’s): 
“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’.” 

The futuristic vision of the Apostle John in Revelation 21-22 concerns the creation of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). What John saw was God’s universal re-creation of everything not His universal reconciliation of everyone. Two features of the passage indicate this: First, those who will inherit the new universe are described as those who overcome, and to those overcomers the Lord promises “I will be his God and he will be My son” (Revelation 21:7). Who is the “overcomer”? In his 1st Letter John identifies the overcomer as “he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). The name “overcomer” also designates the believer who is faithful to the Lord in the church (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). Second, John pictures “under-comers” as having no place in the future created world.

But the fearful, and unbelieving,
and the abominable, and murderers,
and whoremongers, and sorcerers,
and idolaters,
and all liars,
shall have their part in the lake
which burneth with fire and brimstone:
which is the second death.

—Revelation 21:8 

The above verse, just two verses after the verse Young cites, contradicts his belief in the salvation of everybody. What John refers to by quoting the Lord’s words—“Behold, I am making all things new”—is universal re-creation, not universal reconciliation. If John had any doubts about whether this new creation would happen, the Lord told him, “Watch Me!” (i.e., “Behold, I am making all things new.”) A stunning portrayal of the New Jerusalem follows—“brilliance like a costly stone... of crystal-clear jasper... a great high wall... twelve gates... the city is laid out as a square... pure gold like clear glass... foundation stones... of every kind of precious stone... twelve gates... each one a single pearl.” Is there any question that this passage concerns the re-creation of all things and not the reconciliation of all people?

To be continued . . . 

[71] Ibid: 487. 
[72] As she was overwhelmingly burdened by the prospect of people going to hell, of being lost forever, Hannah walked the streets of Philadelphia with veiled eyes to hide the faces of the lost she felt compassion for. For how long this went on she did not know. But in her heart she argued with God. One day when on a tram, she raised her veil as the conductor collected the fee, and saw the faces of two strangers sitting across from her. Upon that sight, she explains her mystical experience: “Then suddenly God seemed to answer me. An inward voice said, in tones of infinite love and tenderness, ‘He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.’ ‘Satisfied’ I cried in my heart, ‘Christ is to be satisfied! He will be able to look at the world’s misery, and then at the travail through which He has passed because of it, and will be satisfied with the result! If I were Christ, nothing could satisfy me but that every human being should in the end be saved, and therefore I am sure that nothing less will satisfy Him.’ And with this a veil seemed to be withdrawn from before the plans of the universe, and I saw that it was true, as the Bible says, that ‘as in Adam all die even so in Christ should all be made alive.’ As was the first, even so was the second. The ‘all’ in one case could not in fairness mean less than the ‘all’ in the other. I saw therefore that the remedy must necessarily be equal to the disease, the salvation must be as universal as the fall.” H. W. S. (Mrs. Pearsall Smith), The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It: A Spiritual Autobiography (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1903: 204-205. Later editions of the book omit this incident from her biography. See Hannah Whitall Smith, The Unselfishness of God: My Spiritual Biography (Princeton, NJ: Littlebrook Publishing, Inc., 1987). 
[73] I recognize that “first fruits” is an agricultural term used in the Bible to describe “the part that is best” or to “the first to be ripe” by which appearing provided expectation for a greater harvest to follow. See Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, General Editors (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998): 289. 
[74] F.F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (Greenwood, SC: The Attic Press, Inc., 1971): 146. 
[75] Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1958): 214. 
[76] W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary: 932. 
[77] D. Edmond Hiebert, First Timothy (Chicago, IL; Moody Press, 1957): 53. 
[78] MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: 2068. 
[79] One meaning of salvation (soteria) involves “the present experience of God’s power to deliver from the bondage of sin.” See W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary: 988, SALVATION (c). 
[80] For comparison, here is how Hebrews 1:1-2 in the ESV reads: “1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Emphasis added.) 
[81] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990): 49. 
[82] “Stephen Hawking says Higgs boson has potential to destroy entire universe,” News.Com.Au, September 8, 2014 ( In science’s search for the minutest matter/energy composing the universe (the Higgs Boson particle), the “nudge” causing the collapse of our universe into nothing could be the building of a giant research collider (a machine) that will create enough empty space in it to begin the compression of matter within it, which collapse would then spontaneously spread throughout the universe (kind of like one atomic bomb going off and triggering more and more subsequent explosions until our whole planet is engulfed in a ball of fire and a cloud). As Hawking envisions this doomsday scenario, “This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.” One scientist compares the state of the current energy field to that of a rock rolling down a valley. “It may get lodged in a crevice high up from the valley floor. We [he and other physicists] think that the Higgs field could be at this point, and something might nudge it to fall to the true floor (lowest energy state).” If that should happen, then, “Whoosh!”—“the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). The point: modern science is talking about the possibility of same thing happening as did Jesus, the prophets and the Apostles predicted, the difference being that God not man or the universe will control the whole process. 
[83] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 1989): 156.