Me: I’d like to quote some passages the apostle Paul wrote that I’ve memorized. Would you be willing to listen to them and let me know if I’m remembering them correctly?
Him (a street preacher): Sure. Go for it.
Me: Okay, cool. Thanks. Well, first, “We trust in the living God, Who is the potential Saviour of all men, but exclusively of those that believe.”
Him: Oh, no, that’s not what Paul wrote. He wrote, “We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”
Me: Oh. Did he? Huh. Well, let me try another one. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have some men be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for just a few, to be testified in due time.”
Him: You need to try a little harder when it comes to memorizing, it seems. Paul actually wrote, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
Me: Interesting. I wonder how I got that so wrong. Well, let me try a few more. “For as in Adam all die, even so shall all in Christ be made alive.”
Him: Close, but it’s actually, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Paul didn’t write that it’s only those who happen to be in Christ who will be made alive — or made immortal, as that term means — but rather that “in Christ,” or “through Christ,” everyone will be quickened.
Me: Ah, I see what I got wrong there. Thank you. What about this one? “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile a few things unto himself; by him, I say, including a few of the things in earth, but none of the things in heaven.”
Him: That’s pretty bad. It’s actually, “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
Me: Hmm… Okay, last one. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so it is through multiple gifts by and for a few men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of a few — only those few who choose to believe — shall a few be made righteous.”
Him: Wow. That’s not even close. It’s actually, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
Me: Interesting. I guess I need to brush up on what Paul wrote. But that said, do you believe what those verses actually say, or do you believe they mean what I misquoted them to say?
Him: Oh, they definitely can’t mean what they say. If someone interprets them literally as they’re written, they’ll come to believe that everyone will experience salvation because of what Christ did, which we know can’t be what they mean because our religious leaders have told us that isn’t true, so we have to interpret them to mean what you misquoted them as saying. But we should still always quote them the way Paul wrote them, of course, even if Paul didn’t mean what he wrote.
Me: Of course. It’s too bad Paul couldn’t have just written what he meant, though, eh? I wonder why God inspired him to write these passages in such a way as to literally mean the exact opposite of how He intended people to understand them.
Him: Good question. Perhaps God inspired Paul to write them to seem to mean the opposite of what they actually mean to test people, to see who would believe the Bible as its written and thus believe heresy, and to see who would ignore the plain meaning and simply accept what their religious leaders tell them the Bible means and thus prove themselves to be orthodox Christians who get to be among the few who will get saved.
Me: That must be it. It definitely couldn’t be the case that God meant what He said through Paul in those passages, because then we’d make God out to be more loving than He actually is. I mean, John told us that God is love, and Paul basically told us that love never fails. But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t fail in saving everyone He loves and wills to be saved, even though the definition of “sin” is “to miss the mark,” or “to fail,” and even though this would technically make God out to be a sinner, since we can’t believe God succeeds because that would mean interpreting these passages as the opposite of what they’re literally saying would be incorrect, and our religious leaders have told us how to interpret those passages, and we can’t ever consider the possibility that our leaders could be wrong, could we?
Him: Exactly. If failing to save everyone He sent His Son to die for, and everyone whom He wills to be saved, means God is a sinner, so be it. Just as long as we don’t reject the doctrines we learned from our religious leaders, and especially as long as we don’t allow those sinners who weren’t wise enough to choose to be saved like I chose to do actually get saved without having to be as wise as I was. That would just be unthinkable.
Now obviously I don’t believe anything the hypothetical Christian street preacher said in the above dialogue. But even though they’d deny it, that is what all Infernalist and Annihilationist Christians actually do believe. (But if you’re an Infernalist or Annihilationist who thinks you don’t believe as such, please show me what I got wrong about your beliefs.)
Of course, any Infernalist or Annihilationist reading this is almost certainly thinking of the many passages that tell us not everyone will get saved, and those passages are true. The problem is, few Christians seem to be aware of the fact that there are different types of salvation taught about in Scripture. So if you are wondering what to make of those passages if Paul’s writings are meant to be interpreted literally, please read this: Not everyone will be saved, and yet everyone will be saved
And if you’re new to the idea of Universal Reconciliation and are interested in learning more about what Scripture teaches about the subject, please check out these articles on the topic: