Argument From God's Character
Another significant argument for the salvation of all people comes from the character of God, as described by the Bible. We can see from the verses below that His character does not change, but rather is consistent and reliable.
For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.
Jesus is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8 NIV) and God the Father "does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17 NIV).
Therefore, we can look at His character, as described in the Bible, and reasonably examine doctrinal claims to determine if they are consistent with His character. If they are not, we need to carefully examine these doctrinal claims.
With this in mind, let's now examine the view that God will indeed save all people and restore all things under his Lordship.
God is Merciful and Compassionate
Lamentations 3:31-33 (ESV)
For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.This passage clearly shows God's heart for humanity and indicates his great compassion and love for us. Though he may cause us grief via discipline, this is shown to be temporary and followed by compassion.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.Obviously, this verse implies that God is very merciful, and asks us to be merciful like Him.
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”This passage again expounds on the mercy, grace, love, patience, and forgiveness of God, but requires a bit more commentary. Notice that I included the last part of the verse that states that God will by no means clear the guilty, so that we could see the entire context. Also, notice that the extent to which God will visit "the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children" is only "to the third and fourth generation," not eternally. So this is clearly not referring to everlasting judgment in hell, but rather to the consequences of sin on earth. Don't we see this reality every day? The effects of the sins of parents are passed on to the children and do affect future generations. An alcoholic father often has an alcoholic son. The abused tend to be abusive or broken. This does not have to be the case because we see God's great mercy break through cycles of generational sin all the time, but the natural consequence of sinful lifestyles frequently does affect future generations. Fortunately, as James 2:13 tells us "mercy triumphs over judgment."
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Notice the kindness and "incomparable riches of his grace." Also, notice that this was all extended to us while we were still sinners as a free gift!
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
We see again and again throughout Scripture that God is merciful, gracious, patient and loving. These traits are clearly central to who He is and clearly compatible with his purpose of salvation for all!
God's Wrath is Temporary
Psalm 30:5 ESV
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Micah 7:18-19 (NIV)
Who is a God like you,He delights to show mercy and does NOT stay angry forever! Doesn't this verse speak to God's character, by telling us what he delights in? How could a doctrine of endless, merciless suffering fit in with this picture? Ultimate salvation of all people from our sins, however, clearly does.
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
God is Trustworthy, Reliable and Good
Isaiah 40:28 ESV
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
James 1:17 ESV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
God's very name, translated as "I AM" speaks of His constancy and unchanging nature.
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior...
In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,What is this purpose? As we have seen already, it is the repentance of all people and redemption of all of creation, to his glory.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 John 1:5 ESV
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
John 1:14 (ESV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
In all of these verses, we can see that God is good, that we can trust Him, and that he will accomplish his purpose.
The Forgiveness of God
Although this character trait of God is alluded to in virtually all of the passages above, it merits further discussion for the purpose of understanding His character. Let's look at a just a few verses.
Daniel 9:9 (NIV)
The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Notice that God forgives us even though we have been rebellious (and we have all been rebellious). It is also important to see that we too are called to forgive others in the same way that God has forgiven us.
This begs the question: in what way has He forgiven us?
We can see a powerful image of this forgiveness as Jesus hung on the cross, having been completely rejected, spit on, mocked, and tortured, yet saying “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Are we to believe that this same Jesus who loved his murderers so much that He pleaded for their forgiveness while dying an excruciating death at their hands, will return and be completely unmerciful, damning billions to eternal hellfire? Are we to believe that all of the mercy, forgiveness and grace that has been spoken of throughout the Bible will cease, simply because a person has died and missed their chance to repent? Think about this.
Seriously, put aside any bias, and think honestly. What do you conclude?
God is Just
I saved this character trait of God for last for several reasons, not the least of which is that it is a good segue to a future section that discusses the Biblical concept of justice.
Another reason that I waited is that I am confident that many readers have been glossing over the numerous verses above, not really taking them in, because they believe that I am ignoring God's justice. In the eyes of many, justice is the trump card that dismantles God's mercy, and the reason why hell is justifiable.
But the Bible contradicts this notion. In James 2:13, we see the exact opposite, that "mercy triumphs over judgment." In other words, mercy is the trump card.
In fact we see that God's justice is tied to his grace and compassion.
We will just examine one verse on this subject now (because an entire upcoming section deals with God's justice):
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!
Notice God's longing to show grace and compassion. Why? The text tells us it is because He is a God of justice! Notice that God's just character is tied inextricably to his grace and compassion. His justice is a product of his great love, for "God is love" (1John 4:8). In a future section, we will look in more detail at the Biblical concept of justice, and see how it is entirely compatible with the salvation of all people.
But before we move on, consider God's character, his longings, and his delights as described througout the Bible.
Consider deeply. Who is God? What is He like?
Now consider, will this God damn the vast majority of humanity to eternal suffering or save them? Which of these options is consistent with his nature? Only you can decide, but I believe the choice is obvious.
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