SELF>> After lengthy discussion with others and reading various books, I have found that there is quite a range of thought even among Christian Universalists. In fact, sadly, the divisions between them in faith and fellowship might even be deeper than between those of traditional Christianity. Most Christian Universalists have observed, as I, that the Greek word "aion" is at times wrongly translated "eternal" in the English Bible. Some are silent about the salvation of fallen angels, while others have concluded that even Satan will be saved, to which I am not persuaded. Most have respected and protected inspiration and strove for reasonable interpretation of the given Word, but some have even violated the Holy Spirit suggesting that difficult verses are better explained as human error. Many have even further differences of various natures, no doubt influenced by the varied traditions and experience from which they came.
Through this study a number of additional questions have come to mind. None of the questions raised have changed my certain position that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind. Yet the questions are very interesting to consider with some of them pertaining to the primary point, while others are secondary.
ME>> Questions and answers follow.
1. When did Satan and his demons fall into sin?
Did Satan and his angels begin their rebellion before Day 1, during Day 1-7, or after Day 7? Having been schooled in the 7 day creation camp I would have quickly said sometime during or after Day 1-7. However, Ernst Stroeter argues in his book The Gospel of God's Reconciliation of All in Christ that Genesis 1:1-2 is better interpreted to mean God first created out of nothing and then the Earth became formless. Stroeter speculates that the initial creation and rebellion of Satan took place in the first two verses of the Bible over an unspecified age. In his favor, Job 38:6-7 suggests that the angels, "sons of God," were an audience to creation. So perhaps Days 1 to 7 are the beginning of God creating a home for mankind from the wasteland remaining after Satan's rebellion. Stroeter's view gives us pause to recognize that God has been working his plans out over long periods of time, from age to age. Was there an age of angels and Satan's rebellion in Genesis 1:1-2? Job 38:4 (WEB) ought to keep all of us from dogmatism on this point, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding." Really the question is a sidebar compared to our larger question of Arminianism and Calvinism versus the Gospel.
2. Where is the place "Tartaroo," mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4?
Tartaroo means to "throw down to Tartarus," a place of punishment deeper and more severe than Hades in Greek mythology as explained here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartarus. Does the Holy Spirit then believe in Greek mythology? Hardly. Instead, the Holy Spirit apparently is distinguishing between punishment in Hades versus Tartarus using terms familiar to his audience, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hades. Both these locations are in the netherworld after death beyond the vision of the living. Why would the Holy Spirit reference Greek mythology? Tartaroo is mentioned only one time in all of Scripture with only fallen angels mentioned as being held there for future judgment. I suggest that the reason the Holy Spirit uses the terms of Hades and Tartarus is to highlight the radical differences of these two places. They differ in the severity of their punishments as well as the nature and destinies of their inhabitants.
Unbelieving humans, creatures made in God's image and redeemed by the blood of Christ, are punished in Hades, Luke 16:23. Yet mercy is extended to them even there, 1 Peter 4:6. And most importantly final salvation is graciously given, Matthew 25:40,46 and Revelation 20:14-15. However, some fallen angels, powerful creatures, that God does not help, Hebrews 2:16, are already held in Tartarus for future judgment because of the grave nature of their sin, and they will be sentenced to the Lake of Fire for The Ages of The Ages according to Matthew 25:41,46, Jude 6, and Revelation 20:10.
This observation, if correct, may serve to help those who are confident that all mankind is finally saved, but who wrongly conclude that even human beings are sentenced to the Lake of Fire. The Scripture is clear that the Lake of Fire is explicitly "prepared for the devil and his angels" Matthew 25:41 (WEB). The Lake of Fire is not prepared for human beings!
3. When is the Sheep and Goat judgment of Matthew 25:31-46?
The answer to this question is a significant component of my proposed model of understanding. I have proposed that Matthew 25:31-46, Daniel 12:1-4, and Revelation 20:11-15 are all the same event: The Great White Throne Judgment. The book of Revelation explains that The Great White Throne Judgment is just before the commencement of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Matthew 25:31 (WEB) also says, "But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory." So Matthew 25:31 certainly seems parallel with Revelation 20:11. Other possible timings for Matthew 25:31 could include God's judgment on the Jews in 70 A.D. or a judgment that is working itself out through the Christian era.
If the Sheep and Goat judgment is not The Great White Throne Judgment, then it would seem that the Sheep and Goat Judgment comes first. If so that could allow one to conclude that the subjects at the Sheep and Goat Judgment are all human and that the Goats, if they are unbelieving humans, are being sent to an eon of punishment in Hades. Thus, they could still be saved at the Great White Throne Judgment afterward. However, the "Throne of his glory" language strongly suggests that the Sheep and Goat judgment is equal to The Great White Throne Judgment. There is a strong sense of finality to this judgment. Also Matthew 25:41 says "aionian fire." This does not sound like Hades, but instead the Lake of Fire at The Great White Throne Judgment. Most Christian Universalists argue that "aionian" is temporal even in this case. They are motivated to make "aion" mean temporal even in this case because they think the "ethnos" is human only, therefore unbelievers must be released from the Lake of Fire sometime beyond the end of Scripture. However, I think the better understanding is that human beings never go to the Lake of Fire in the first place because it is "prepared for the devil and his angels." This understanding also acknowledges many who object to Christian Universalism saying that the parallel construct of Matthew 25:46 cannot be divided into both "eternal life" and "temporal punishment." These objectors make an important point. We should all acknowledge that "aion" means the duration of the subject in view. When Hades is in view, the "aion" is an age. However, when God is in view, "aion" is eternal. In this case the subject in view is the Lake of Fire, which has no explicit end as far as the revealed Word of God. But again, this better understanding is aided by the observation that fallen angels are the Goats on the left to be cast into the Lake of Fire. Furthermore, Matthew says that Christ will "sit" on his throne. This is the picture of a king who has conquered and finished his work. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ "sat down" after finishing his work of redemption. Hebrews 10:13 tells us his enemies will be made a footstool. In Matthew 25 and Revelation 20 Christ will "sit" on his glorious throne to judge and complete the footstool!
Daniel 12:1b (WEB) is also noteworthy when Michael tells Daniel, "...Your people will be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book." Who is "your people?" Many think that Daniel's people are believing mankind and the unbelieving are not his people. However, since the man saying these words is Michael, the Archangel, it is much more likely that Michael is recognizing Daniel as a leader of humanity. Thus "Your people" is all mankind in contrast to the people of Michael, the angel kind.
Furthermore, since the Bible is God's message of hope to his people, it would seem very odd to me if human beings were still undergoing punishment at the end of the Bible, much less in the Lake of Fire which is prepared for the Devil and his angels. Instead Christian reason based on the grace of God and our Biblical evidence leans heavily on the side that punishment for all mankind, whether believing or unbelieving, ends with the emptying of Hades. Revelation 20:15 makes it clear that the fate of those standing before The Great White Throne is determined solely by the Lamb's Book of Life. Those not named are cast into the Lake of Fire, and inversely those who are named are finally saved. I proved this further in my article, Revelation 20:11-15. So can human action add our names to this book? Hardly. Our names have been written there from before the creation of the world, Ephesians 1:4! Only through faith in the grace of Christ can you be persuaded of this good news. 1 Corinthians 15:55 (WEB) shouts the same hope saying, "Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?"
The timing of Matthew 25:31-46 is also significant because I propose that fallen angels will be judged at this event and that they are in fact the Goats on Jesus' left. So will fallen angels really be there? Let's turn to that question next.
4. When will fallen angels be judged?
I have frequently referenced 2 Peter 2:4 (WEB) which says, "For if God didn’t spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness to be reserved for judgment." The key point to note is that these angels are being "reserved for judgment." They are in Tartarus now, but they will be escorted to stand before Christ for judgment. When will this happen? The answer is in Jude 6 (WEB), "Angels who didn’t keep their first domain, but deserted their own dwelling place, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day." The imprisoned fallen angels of Tartarus will stand before the Lord for Judgment on the Great Day. When is the Great Day? Friends, everything points to The Great White Throne Judgment! On that Great Day unbelieving mankind will be safely extracted from their eon of punishment in Hades and the imprisoned fallen angels will be extracted from Tartarus to stand before King Jesus. Matthew 25:31-46, Daniel 12:1-4, and Revelation 20:11-15 tell the rest of the story.
5. Will fallen angels be finally saved?
Thus far I have shown that fallen angels, demons that is, are being held for judgment and that they will be judged on that Great Day. I have concluded that this Great Day is the Sheep and Goat Judgment also called The Great White Throne Judgment. Yet, a number of Universalists propose that Christ's reconciliation of all includes the final reconciliation of fallen angels, the demons and even Satan himself. Their conclusion is based on the "all" of Colossians 1:20. Furthermore, since some think that human beings are sentenced to the Lake of Fire and yet finally saved, then perhaps fallen angels will also be finally saved. However, there may be a better answer.
Colossians 1:20 (WEB) does say, "and through him to reconcile ALL things to himself by him, whether things on the earth or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of his cross."
However, consider a few more verses concerning the judgment of fallen angels.
Genesis 3:15b (NIV), "...he will CRUSH your head..."
Matthew 25:41 & 46a (WEB), "Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS." and "These will go away to eternal [aionian] punishment..."
Hebrews 2:16 (WEB), "For most certainly, he DOESN'T GIVE HELP TO ANGELS, but he gives help to the offspring of Abraham."
2 Peter 2:4 (WEB), "For if God didn’t spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness to be RESERVED FOR JUDGMENT."
Jude 6 (WEB), "Angels who didn’t keep their first domain, but deserted their own dwelling place, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness for the JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT DAY."
Revelation 20:10 (WEB), "The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever [THE AGES OF THE AGES]."
Revelation 21:8 (WEB), "But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, THEIR part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
Revelation 21:8 cannot be speaking of all sinners, but only those whose names are not in the Lamb's Book of Life. If it is speaking of all sinners then no one could be saved, ever, because we have all committed these sins and still commit them. Instead this verse is speaking of those who have committed these sins and whose sins are not redeemed, the Devil and his angels. I have explained this further in my article, How Can You Say Revelation 21:8 Does Not Apply to Humans?
First, the greatest joy of my wrestling match with grace was to learn that God is the redeemer of all mankind. Hopefully more and more people change their minds to rest fully in God's love for all human beings. There is work enough to be done to persuade our fellowman to let go of their religion and recognize the serious errors in tradition and the mistranslation of "aion." There is work enough to be done to persuade our fellowman that they are truly loved by God, their sins are paid, and it is now impossible for us to be eternally damned.
Paul's great hope for himself, the church, and mankind is climaxed in 1 Corinthians 15:55 (WEB), "Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?" This points directly to the end of death for mankind and the safe release of those punished in Hades. Unbelieving mankind then finally receives grace at The Great White Throne Judgment. The Bible rings with the message of God's love for mankind. Rejoice!!!
So are Satan and his angels finally saved? The whole force of the Bible message is the history of the redemption of mankind, those created in the image of God and redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. The pages of Scripture end with the Devil and his angels tormented in the Lake of Fire for "The Ages of The Ages." Satan really is an enemy quite beyond our strength. His fall was designed to serve God's purpose, the demonstration of grace to us, his people. There is a relevant parallel I have proposed between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit versus Satan, The Beast, and The False Prophet that may further help us understand God's purpose. Read about it in my article, Revelation 20:10. So does the "all" of Colossians 1:20 include Satan? Is there an end to "The Ages of The Ages?" That is in God's hands.
6. Can fallen angels be "resurrected," or enter the "second death?"
Some have argued that since angels are spirit beings and cannot die, they cannot be resurrected or enter a second death. If they did not die a first time, how can they die a second time? Good question. I have noted elsewhere that some believe that fallen angels did live embodied on the earth during the time of Noah. It is suggested that their terrible sin in Genesis 6 precipitated the flood. These may be the wicked angels under discussion in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. If that is the case then this objection about angel resurrection and second death is easily answered. These wicked angels did live and die in the body and they will be raised for final judgment. We should also note that that Holy Spirit says in Matthew 25:32 that all the "ethnos" are "assembled" or "gathered" before Him. This language certainly accommodates both the retrieval of all his subjects whether from Hades or Tartarus. Revelation 20:11-15, however, uses the language of retrieving the "dead" from the sea [Thalassa] and Hades. Perhaps the demons in Tartarus did live embodied on the earth and so it is fair to refer to them as the "dead" in Tartarus. Or perhaps the "dead" is only explicit mention of the human beings in Hades and the fallen angels in Tartarus are only implied. Either way, Jude 6 makes it clear that these fallen angels will be present to give account and receive their sentence to the Lake of Fire on that Great Day when they enter the "second death." Furthermore, you are right that the Lake of Fire is the "second death." However, you can see that the Bible plainly says that Satan and his angels are sent there. So whether it is fair to say that angels can die or be resurrected I cannot say. However, we can say that Satan and his angels are sent to the "second death." Read even more convincing proofs in my article, Fallen Angels at the Great White Throne Judgment. Revelation 20:13 does in fact say that the inhabitants of Tartarus will be raised from the dead!
7. How long will unbelieving mankind suffer in Hades?
Biblical Christianity does teach that even though unbelievers are punished in Hades that in the end all mankind will be finally saved. However, we might also ask how long will unbelievers be punished in Hades? Will they all be in agony the entire time until released at The Great White Throne Judgment? That is a long time! I have suggested elsewhere that Hades is a fit punishment for the unregenerate and that there will be no early exit or any exit at all until the grace of God opens the gate. Hades should not be viewed as the punishment of good people who love God, but instead the punishment of unregenerate people who hate God. Of course it would be very foolish to disregard Christ and make plans to suffer in Hades expecting to be saved eventually. If anyone will suffer the entire duration of Hades it would certainly be the one with a "Who cares about Christ, send me to Hell" attitude. However, this is enough of my speculation. Let's consider the few Scriptures that speak to the subject.
Psalm 139:8 (WEB), " If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there!" Foremost we see that David understood that God's caring love continues even for those punished in Hades.
Luke 16:24-26 (WEB),
24) He cried and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame." 25) But Abraham said, "Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But here he is now comforted, and you are in anguish. 26) Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that no one may cross over from there to us."
The agony of Hades will be great. Plus, the gulf fixed between the punishments of Hades and Paradise cannot be spanned with human effort.
Matthew 16:17-19 (WEB),
17) Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18) I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19) I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven."
Curiously Jesus seems to assign some role of forgiveness to the church in the realms of both Heaven and Earth.
1 Peter 3:18-19, 4:5-6 (WEB),
18) Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit, 19) in whom he also went and preached to the spirits in prison,... 5) They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6) For to this end the Good News was preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed as men in the flesh, but live as to God in the spirit.
Even more significantly Jesus preached the good news personally to the wicked dead so that they could "live as to God in the spirit." Wow, what does that mean?
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 (WEB),
14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15) For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16) For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 17) then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18) Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Clearly the deceased Christians are raised to life first, but what about the deceased unbelievers, the wicked dead?
Revelation 20:5 (WEB), "The rest of the dead didn’t live until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." The deceased unbelievers are not raised to life until the Great White Throne Judgment. So are they in agony for the entire duration in Hades from now until the end? The verses above confirm that God loves and cares for mankind even in Hades and that according to 1 Peter 4:5-6 even conversion might be possible in Hades.
Matthew 25:37-40 (WEB),
37) Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? 38) When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39) When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?" 40) The King will answer them, "Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
I have suggested elsewhere that the surprise of these righteous, the sheep on Jesus' right, about their salvation does not sound like those who are already Christians. Christians have already been reigning with Christ. We would not have questions like these people! Instead these are unbelieving mankind just released from Hades, incredulous over God's grace, and now believing!
Protestants have recoiled from Catholic and other speculation about the afterlife and typically have over-simplified afterlife analysis to death, judgment, and the destiny of Heaven or Hell. Certainly I would agree that Hades is quite unlike Catholic notions of Purgatory. Catholics have speculated beyond the Scriptures. Yet Protestants have likewise overlooked some valuable Biblical data. So what can we conclude from the above verses? I am convinced that God loves all mankind, even the unbelieving punished in Hades. I am also convinced that we should avoid speculation beyond the Scriptures. We should also avoid denial of the information given to us in Scriptures. The point from even one verse of Scripture is truly spoken, no matter how small it may appear.
8. Is salvation through a "limited atonement" of Christ possible?
Alternative to the Victorious Gospel, others add up the Scripture to say that Christ's atonement is limited and purposed for only a small subset of humanity. Those humans that Christ did not die for are then sentenced with the Devil and his angels to the Lake of Fire for eternity. Friends, I have worked as hard as possible to remain faithful to the whole of Scripture to understand the things Jesus has revealed to us about the future of salvation. While error, no doubt, will be found in my reasoning and Scripture reference, to say that Christ did not die for all mankind is a blatant abuse of Scripture, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. The "L" of T.U.L.I.P. as understood by John Calvin is a heresy and corruption of the very gospel of Jesus Christ. We might possibly say, the atonement is limited, it is limited to ALL mankind, and NOT extended to fallen angels. Yet if you reject Christ through adhering to a supposed "limited atonement," apparently you are not elected to believe the truth and apparently are not his sheep.
9. Is salvation of a subset by 'free will' faith in Christ possible?
Again, alternative to the Victorious Gospel, others say that Christ did die for all mankind to make the offer of forgiveness available for everyone to receive it by their free will choice of faith in Christ. Now this false gospel instead strikes at the heart of the definitions of "grace" and "faith." The Bible defines God's grace as his unmerited favor, his prior love of his enemies, and his reconciliation of mankind prior to our faith. The point is that grace is not an offer, but it is already given to his chosen people. To say otherwise is to add human condition to the unconditional love of God. To say otherwise is to trade Christianity for religion. The Christian faith is to simply trust, to believe, that Christ has in fact paid for our sins, and be changed -- period. There is nothing potential about Christ's work on the cross, but instead it is the greatest achievement! He said "It is finished." The sin debt of mankind is paid! Man's will is certainly not free to determine whether or not our sins are paid. I say again, man's will is certainly not free to determine whether or not our sins are paid. Our sin debt is paid! Again if you reject Christian faith in favor of free will, apparently you are also not elected to simply believe and apparently are not his sheep.
10. Are there "effective" and "ineffective" parts of the Atonement?
Regular Baptist theology says that Christ died for all mankind in one dimension, but for only a subset of mankind in another dimension. The Arminian and the Calvinist above offer a simple view that either Christ died or all or that he did not die for all. The Scripture, however, makes it plain that Christ died for all mankind, yet not all are saved from punishment after death. So the Regular Baptist explains this apparent conundrum by suggesting that the atonement has both "effective" and "ineffective" components. They say that Christ died for all in one sense, but this sense is "ineffective" to finally save. However, in another sense he died only for believers, and this sense is "effective" when combined with the human condition of "faith." They say that God's love is unconditional for all, but the condition of faith is needed for God's love to be effective for the saved. They say that the believer's decision to trust Christ then applies the blood of Christ to their account. Stop! Consider the concept of applying the blood of sacrifice for a moment. Under the Old Covenant, the priests killed the animal of sacrifice and then applied, smeared the blood on the altar for the forgiveness of their sins. So are Christians like priests of the Old Covenant both killing Christ on the altar and then applying his blood to our own sins? God forbid! The very thought is the greatest offense to grace and the New Covenant. Christ is our great high priest who offered himself and applied his own blood to our sin for our forgiveness. The heart of the New Covenant is that Christ is the better priest who accomplished everything for us -- apart from any condition that we could ever provide.
Hebrews 10:9-14 (WEB),
9) Then he has said, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He takes away the first, that he may establish the second, 10) by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11) Every priest indeed stands day by day serving and often offering the same sacrifices which can never take away sins, 12) but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God, 13) from that time waiting until his enemies are made the footstool of his feet. 14) For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
Friend, you can try to be your own priest or you can simply trust that Jesus Christ has accomplished the salvation of his people forever with "one offering."