You are hereUniversalism and Preterism: Bedfellows or Bedlam?

Universalism and Preterism: Bedfellows or Bedlam?

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By Sam - Posted on 04 September 2005

by Samuel Frost
I have been asked to write a paper on the issue of universalism and what some see within our movement as a “drift” towards this doctrine. I won’t delve into the history of universalism only to say that it did not arise within preterist circles. It is, therefore, a fallacy to associate preterism with universalism, or to conclude that preterism necessarily leads to such. It is just as bad a logic to insist that Calvinism leads to disregard for evanglelism or that driving a Volkswagon (German, for the “people’s car”), which was given to go ahead by Hitler, means you support Nazi-ism.I have been asked to write a paper on the issue of universalism and what some see within our movement as a “drift” towards this doctrine. I won’t delve into the history of universalism only to say that it did not arise within preterist circles. It is, therefore, a fallacy to associate preterism with universalism, or to conclude that preterism necessarily leads to such. It is just as bad a logic to insist that Calvinism leads to disregard for evanglelism or that driving a Volkswagon (German, for the “people’s car”), which was given to go ahead by Hitler, means you support Nazi-ism.First, I must define my terms with the particular type of universalism I want to deal with. I will call this Christ-centered universalism, or Bible-believing universalism because its adherents believe that the Bible is God’s revelation and that universalism is what it teaches. Keith DeRose, Allison Foundation Professor of Philosophy, Yale University, wrote a paper in support of this view. His definition is,

“universalism” refers to the position that eventually all human beings will be saved and will enjoy everlasting life with Christ. This is compatible with the view that God will punish many people after death, and many universalists accept that there will be divine retribution, although some may not. What universalism does commit one to is that such punishment won't last forever. Universalism is also incompatible with various views according to which some will be annihilated (after or without first receiving punishment). These views can agree with universalism in that, according to them, punishment isn't everlasting, but they diverge from universalism in that they believe some will be denied everlasting life. Some universalists intend their position to apply animals, and some to fallen angels or even to Satan himself, but in my hands, it will be intended to apply only to human beings. In short, then, it's the position that every human being will, eventually at least, make it to the party (Universalism and the Bible - http://pantheon.yale.edu/%7Ekd47/univ.htm#1)

Clarification is something I greatly appreciate and this is about as good as it gets. If a preterist proclaims the doctrine of annhilationism, then he cannot be a universalist. I know of no preterist that proclaims the salvation of satan or demons. So, let us stay in keeping with the definition above.

With that being stated, I want to argue three points: 1) Is this a biblical view? 2) Is this a heretical view, or one that can be tolerated? 3) In answer to the last question, if heretical, how are we to treat those who within our movement are universalists? The first question is exegetical whereas the last two are practical.

I will continue with DeRose and briefly consider the biblical arguments that he has made in his paper. First, I Cor 15.22 is appealed to as supporting universalism. That verse reads, “for just as in ha adam all are dying, in the same way also in ha meshiach all will be made alive” (my translation). A few remarks are in order, first. This sentence is composed of two clauses and are balanced equally in Greek by syntactical structure. I have used the Hebrew for “the Adam” and “the Christ” because this is what Paul has in mind. The entire question for interpreters is the definition of the word “all” here. If “all” in the first clause means “every single human being” then it must mean that in the second clause as well, so the argument goes. DeRose, “The grammatical function of “in Christ” here is not to modify or limit the “all.” The passage doesn't say, “...so also shall all who are in Christ be made alive.” If it said that, I wouldn't be so cheered by the passage. Rather, “in Christ” is an adverbial phrase that modifies the verb "shall be made" or perhaps the whole clause, "shall all be made alive." Thus, this passage says that all shall be made alive.” For those who do not know Greek, such an argument sounds quite convincing. But, not so fast.

This is a typical example of “prooftexting”. Taking one verse out of its context and applying meaning to it is impossible. Paul is comparing two bodies, those who have solidarity with the body of Adam (“all those who are dying/falling asleep”) and those “in Christ” (all those who are being made alive). “In Christ” is a rich theological phrase for Paul. It is true that the dative prepositional phrase “in the Christ/in the Adam” functions adverbially. But prepositional phrases go beyond mere adverbs. They also serve to highlight the noun as well. The noun in this case is “all” (plural) which is the subject of both verbs (“dying/made alive”). What Paul is saying, I think, must be understood from what was being denied: the resurrection of dead ones.

Verses 20, 21 make it clear that Paul is arguing against the denial of the resurrection of the dead by affirming that, “But now, Christ has been raised out of dead ones (those who have fallen asleep); he is the firstfruits of those who have been asleep (and are still asleep)” (my translation). Those who have been asleep and are still asleep (the perfect tense is used here) are the very ones who were being denied. Why are they asleep? Why are they not in heaven and awake? “For because through man – death! Also through man – resurrection of dead ones!” For Paul the state of being asleep and remaining asleep is to be under the reign of the last enemy: the Death (15.26). The Death is what keeps them in a state of sleep rather than bringing them into a state of being awake/quickened/made alive. It is not physical death that is in mind here, but the result of physical death: the state of sleep rather than the state of being awake in the presence of God. It is this result of physical death that is the punishment that came as a result of the sin of the Adam. For Paul, sleep is dying. Catch this: if the present tense is used for those “all” dying in Adam, and physical death is what is meant, then how can Moses, dead over a thousand years, still be dying? It is because he was currently under The Death’s power and sting: the state of sleep (we can see here why the Thessalonians were worried about their dead kin because they knew that the Death had not yet been conquered). But, we know that Moses was “alive” soulishly for to God “all is alive.” To be in the state of sleep was to be under the sting of the Death; that is, Moses was soulishly alive, but alive in a state of death/sleep. What Moses awaited for was to be made alive again by through Christ.

Now, if “those who have been asleep and are still asleep” are those who are being denied resurrection life by “some” of the Corinthians is compared with those who are “fallen asleep in Christ” (15.18 – the verb here is aorist), then we have a definition of Paul’s “all.” If those who have previously fallen asleep are being denied, but those who have fallen asleep in Christ are not denied, then Paul is arguing that all, that is those who have fallen asleep and those who have fallen asleep in Christ will be raised. Both groups will be “made alive in Christ” since both groups have fallen asleep in Adam. In other words, falling asleep in Adam does not discount a person from being raised in Christ, which, apparently, some in Corinth thought that it did. From this perspective, “all” is not defining “every single human being,” but the group that was being denied (“those who have fallen asleep” – perfect tense) and the group that was being affirmed (“those who have fallen asleep in Christ” – aorist tense). Paul is saying that all (both groups) will be raised in Christ without entertaining every individual.

Verse 23 clarifies this even further in that “each in his own order” will be raised, first, “the firstfruit-Christ (those who have the firstfruits of the Spirit), then those who are of the Christ.” This limits the “all” to only “those who are in the Christ.” If Paul would have said, “the firstfruit-Christ, then all who die in Adam” the universalist would be thrilled. But, from our exegesis, the group being denied, who have fallen asleep, are also in Christ as well as those who have fallen asleep in Christ. Paul is not speaking of every single individual in this text.

It may seem that I have elaborated a great deal on this one verse to disprove DeRose. I have. DeRose and others like him make their case sound simple, but it isn’t. Context is everything. In my view the “all” is balanced nicely because the same “all” that were dying in Adam (sleeping) is the same “all” that will be made alive in Christ. However, for Paul the “all” are those who have hoped in Christ (15.19), and this cannot be said of every individual that came out of Adam. Those who would participate in the resurrection are not only those who fell asleep in Christ, but all those who hoped in Christ long, long ago. It was the latter group that was being denied in Corinth. Rather, then, than proving universalism, this verse proves that only those who hoped in Christ, along with those who fell asleep in Christ, will be made alive.

DeRose quotes two other verses, Col 1.20 and Rom 5.18. The first reads, “and through him to reconcile the all things to himself -- having made peace through the blood of his cross -- through him, whether the things upon the earth, whether the things in the heavens.” DeRose comments, “Note again the "all." Show me someone burning in hell, and I'll show you someone who's not yet been reconciled to God. So, show me someone who's under divine punishment forever, or who is simply annihilated, and I'll show you someone who's never reconciled to God through Christ, and thus someone who gives the lie to this passage.” But, this would include the devil and demons and the animal kingdom, slugs and bats – something DeRose said above that, “Some universalists intend their position to apply animals, and some to fallen angels or even to Satan himself, but in my hands, it will be intended to apply only to human beings.” Well, well. “The all things” here is limited to human beings! Let’s not forget trees, flowers and that fence in my backyard, either. I mean, “all things” means “every single possible thing that can be called a thing” right?

Well, let’s see. In Col 1.15 Jesus is called the “firstborn of all creation.” The next verse, “for in him the all things were created.” And what would that be? “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” One could certainly include devils and demons here! “For he is before all things and in him all things consist.” This asserts the pre-existence of the Son before God said, “let there be light” in Genesis. Certainly sounds like Paul is emphasizing all of creation; anything that was created. “And he is the head of the body, the ekklesia; he is the beginning, the firstborn out of the dead ones, so that in all things he might have priority.” Here we have the body of Christ, the ekklesia. “And through him to reconcile the all things to himself -- having made peace through the blood of his cross -- through him, whether the things upon the earth, whether the things in the heavens.”

If all things are reconciled to Christ, then every man will be made a member of the body of Christ. That is what DeRose is stating. So far, it would be difficult to argue against him. “The all things” in this verse must be the same “the all things” that started this thread; the “all things” of creation. Let us continue to read Paul, however. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Does DeRose take this last verse to refer to the same content of “the all things” in 1.15-20? “All creation” and “under heaven” are two phrases Paul has already used, but who would argue that the gospel was preached in Paul’s day to the Eskimos or the Chinese? Also, there appears to be a conditional “if” in verse 23. What would it matter “if” they didn’t remain in the faith, stable and steadfast? They are already reconciled. Finally, Paul concludes, “whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ (1.28).” That is, every man Paul ran across he taught so that he might present him to God, if that man remained steadfast in what he heard. But, again, why would this be necessary?

I want to use this as a segue into this question. The same comments I would make on Rom 5.18. There, it can be shown that “the many” are the Jews and the “all” are Jews and Gentiles, which has been Paul’s point all along: “is the God the God of the Jews only, or also of the Gentiles”? The universalist would argue that all men are made alive in Christ, or eventually will be. DeRose does not deny a phase of punishment. So, here, Paul wanted his hearers to come to Christ now instead of coming to Christ later under brutal conditions of punishment. Eventually they will come…so why not come now? When a person comes to acknowledge Christ (“every knee shall bow”) they will also be presented before the throne of God “spotless.” This spotlessness is achieved through acknowledging, “Jesus is Lord.”

Now, the reason DeRose does not accept the devil as being saved is because he is viewed as being thrown into the lake of fire. “Could they be including angels, including fallen angels, and maybe even Satan himself? My reason for not going out on that limb -- besides passages like Rev 20:10, which reports that the devil is "thrown into the lake of burning sulpher", where the beast and the false prophet (who's not clearly human) were previously thrown, and where "they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever" -- is that most of the universalist passages don't go that far. Some, like I Corinthians 15:22, write simply of "all", and, as I said, I think the most natural way to understand the scope of the "all" is as referring to all people. Indeed, it's difficult to construe that particular passage more broadly so as to include Satan, for there seems to be no good sense in which Satan died in Adam, and the passage reads: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”” Very well. But, when he comes to Col 1.20 and Rev 20.10, he writes, “How to square that with Rev 20:10, I don't know, though I am in general far more cautious about my understanding of Revelation than of any other book in the Bible.” That’s an honest enough answer.

What is missed though is that those not found written in the book of life were also cast into the same place the devil was. If DeRose is willing to leave the devil there, then how can he bring those men who were also thrown there, out? DeRose does not answer. He does talk about “second chances” and such after death, but what is pictured in Rev 20.11-15, your name is either there or it isn’t. Rev plainly teaches that the destiny of the devil is the same destiny of those not found written in the book of life: the second death.

It is towards the end of DeRose’s paper that he runs out of Scripture and begins to think in other terms. There is not much exegetical weight for the universalist. In fact, some of them admit this. It’s a wish built on a few verses that at first glance appear to teach universalism, and so the naïve and well-wishers believe that they have enough “evidence” to at least give some credence to their position as tenable and Evangelical.

Here, I want to answer the first question: is universalism biblical? My answer would be, “no.” Does that mean that it is heretical? I do not believe that speaking in tongues today is biblical (even though I used to speak in so called tongues). Does that make it heretical? Here we begin to enter into the question of what is, and what it not “heretical.” For the preterist this is made even more difficult because, by all definitions from church history, councils, creeds and confessions, he is a heretic! A heretic calling another person a heretic is downright funny.

Preterists never seem to take this last point seriously. “So we disagree with two-thousand years of church history and every creed and confession that have been written…big deal.” One can rightly see that those who are “orthodox” would look upon this attitude as simply, well, heretical. After all, didn’t Joseph Smith do the same thing? I take church history extremely serious. After all, God’s providence has guided the church for the last two-thousand years, so it can’t be all bad. It’s a heavy burden the preterist carries (and one that many preterists are not even aware of, or either care about, which I find shocking and arrogant). Others, like myself and Ed Stevens, have attempted to wrestle with this question, and have come out with two very different answers. I applaud the wrestling.

The universalist Christian, such a DeRose, is trying to make an honest answer, no doubt. He is sincerely trying to teach the contents of the gospel, and he cannot be said to use trickery when he plainly admits that he does not know how some passages should be reconciled. Sounds like a preterist! Does the attempt to construct a universalist message within the context of faith in acknowledging Jesus is Lord, the Bible is God’s word, and the church is God’s people make one a heretic? That is the question I am struggling with. At the request of those who wanted me to write this paper, I must confess in all honesty – hanging myself out there to dry – I don’t know. Is the great church father Origen in the lake of fire? He was a universalist, too!

Now, I can hear many already starting to scream that somehow I am giving credence to universalism. I am not. I don’t know how one could say that after the exegesis and analysis I have just provided. Universalism cannot be sustained in my opinion. Therefore, I will counter it wherever I run into it (like I counter freewill, tongues, futurism, anti-church gathering, empiricism, scientism, liberalism, homosexuality, etc.). The question asked is, is DeRose a heretic? Rather, should folks like DeRose be considered heretics from a preterist perspective? I can see where they would be, and have no real issue with those who say that they are. I am saying what I think – a preterist is a heretic according to the majority of the church, and that is the first problem we should be dealing with. Of course, does this mean “anything” goes? Well, one has to be somewhat inclusive at this stage of the game. Should I endorse the rapture in A.D. 70? Annhilationism found in much preterism? How about the tongue-talkers among us? Maybe the “Israel are the Gentiles” gang are heretics and neo-racists. Is the corporate body view what Paul taught? This gets back to the question of what we “let in” and “keep out.”

What do we “let in”? Naturally, we would say, “what the Bible teaches.” Well, that is currently the issue, is it not? Personally, we at Regnum Christi Ministries teach that the Westminster Confession of Faith is correct unless changes need to be made in light of preterism. The same for the Apostles’ Creed. Therefore, we as a ministry reject universalism and will not condone it as a viable, biblical alternative. But, I also reject other preteristic theories as well. Can we reject the teaching and not the teacher? Can I reject the teaching of DeRose, but continue to have a dialogue and friendship with him? What does Paul say, “live at peace – as much as you can – with all men.” We are never told to hate our enemies.

Some might also think that “petty differences” are okay, but not major ones. But, when seen from Paul’s admonitions (down to hair coverings, and speaking in tongues) none of these things were “petty” to him. To deny someone’s claim today that they speak in tongues is, to their mind, to deny the active work of the Spirit Himself! Imagine if speaking in tongues, we come to find out, is a viable work the Spirit does and here many of us have been actively opposing it! Petty? I think not! Same for the rapture in A.D. 70 view. Ultimately what this view is saying is that God Himself did this, and for us to oppose it would be to oppose the work of God. That is, if you have ever thought that this view was “silly” or “nonsense,” then you have just called the work of God, “nonsense” if the view is true. When these “petty things” are seen from this perspective, perhaps we will speak more cautiously.

What I am trying to do, and what I think needs to be done, is balance the love for correct doctrine with the love for each other that we must have in order to follow Christ. Never compromise doctrine, but neither have an attitude that just because you don’t see it my way, it’s the highway. Some might claim that Paul did, but last I checked no one reading this article is Paul – nor are they apostles with authority to bind and loose. There is within the Christian ethic of love a tension. Romans 14 notes this tension very well and roots it in a person’s conscience. The conscience for Paul was the transformed heart, the inner man, the “spiritual man” as he called it. He is bound by text, which is outside to him and dictating to him rules for living and thinking. Yet, the text is subject to misinterpretation by the text-reader – by a sincere text reader. What does one do when two get together in the name of Jesus (Jesus is Lord), reading the text (God’s holy word), and agreeing on the essentials of the deity of Christ, the equality of the Godhead and kingdom of God, differ? DeRose affirms all these things. Does his going off course with universalism mark him out as an unbeliever after all? When I say I do not know, I mean that I cannot answer that question from God’s perspective (typical Calvinist answer). Now, do I have responsibility to mark him out regardless? I think, since the agreement we have is much more on essentials, that continued dialogue/debate is in order.

We have had two universalists that wanted to join our fellowship. We had no problems with them coming. When they found out that we were committed to a Calvinistic understanding of things, they left. I have not seen them since. I won’t pursue them, either.

What does that say? Well, I don’t know their eternal destiny. I do know that we must stand up for what we believe in (responsibility). I also know that had they wanted to continue fellowshipping with us, knowing our stance, then they most certainly would have been invited to continue fellowshipping (in hopes of changing their minds to our view!). In other words, in my mind, it takes a stronger person to tolerate another’s view while standing his own ground without compromise. It is a weak person that seeks to write off everything and everyone that disagrees with him. That’s easy. Love is hard. Had I written off the first heretic preterist that I met on the basis that his view was not “orthodox” and “biblical,” would I have become a preterist?

So, I guess in conclusion I am saying several things: 1) A believer must stand his ground against universalism, constantly pointing out the ramifications it has on evangelism, the gospel and the like. It does not affect the deity of Christ or the trinity, nor does it affect the substitutionary atonement of Christ (since it believes that Christ substituted himself for all). This keeps it, somewhat, within the pale of allowing tolerance to at least some degree and to at least some point. If I am in error on this point, I will glady accept criticism. 2) By standing firm on the issue, it keeps the debate alive and active for those who are considering buying into this false doctrine. Compromise would be to simply let this issue go, pretending that it has no real overall problems. A true defender of the faith from an evangelical perspective would be to keep alive the debate with the hopes of convincing universalists to turn from that alternative. 3) It does not deserve the vicious attacks it has received as being “another gospel”. Those who hold to universalism (biblical universalism, as defined by DeRose) does not mean that they automatically “deny the faith” or are “lost.” I think that that point comes when Scripture is denied as God’s word, when Jesus himself as the Second Person of the Godhead is denied, when the Trinity is denied. Yet, one of our members told me that when he first became a Christian, he took a Modalist view of the Trinity. Within a year, he came to accept the orthodox position. When was he saved? Is faith ever allowed to mature? Can a Christian believe in doctrines through sheer ignorance of the alternatives? It is at this point that the fruits of the Spirit must be exercised. You can watch the downward spiral of someone in practice and in doctrine. First this is denied, then that, then finally, all of it. I am asking for keen and loving sensitivity and I think that this can be done without knee jerk reactionism.

So, I think that I have been clear enough to state where Regnum Christi Ministries is coming from on this issue. I think it is painfully clear in our constitution and by-laws (located on our site) what we stand for. If, then, any think that by having friendships with those who espouse a “generous orthodoxy” or who may be universalists is a sin, then I guess that will have to be proven to me in such a way that it has the stamp of “thus saith the Lord” on it. The Jesus way is to talk with any and all, and if they stick around as friends, keep on talking with the hopes of convincing them of your views. If they walk away, they walk away. You have done your duty, stood your ground, and walked in humility.

(Addendum): I recently had a wonderful conversation with a preterist brother who asked very practical questions concerning this topic. In a Christian fellowship, we of Christ Covenant Church espouse a very open policy. Like the example of the two universalists that came our way, they did not come back. If they had wanted to become serious fellow-laborers of what we are accomplishing here, their universalism would be more seriously challenged. The reason for this is practical. If any come into any fellowship with an agenda that is not the vision and goal of the group, dissension will arise. Universalism is not apart of the doctrinal views of our fellowship, and if someone came in to our fellowship with a bent to convince us of universalism, dismissal would be the result. But, this is true of trying convince us of homeschooling (a divisive issue, to be sure); A.D. 70 rapture theory, or tongues, or whatever. We tolerate those who may hold to these things and want to honestly discuss them. That’s one thing. But, when it becomes divisive, that’s another. Pastorally speaking, the one causing the division must be removed for the sake of peace among the greater number.

Samuel Frost

Virgil's picture

No offense, but I think that YOU may be "staging your entire position on a fallacy.

What? How so? Who is equating the word "asking" with the word "propitiation" here? How about being realistic here and stop with the "nuancing?" You guys seem to use the word "nuance" a bit too much with little reference to its meaning. I already showed how both the greek of the text and one's common sense indicate that "kosmos" means just what the text plainly indicates. So don't tell me about "nuancing" when there is no intercession going on in the prayer. There is no nuancing. The meaning of the words is clear and unequivocal.

Maybe like our English words Greek words can be used in more than one way

I know Greek. First, erotao and hilasmos mean nothing close to each other. Erotao means "ask" as in "I ask you Lord to provide for my family" and hilasmos means "propitiation" as in "that by which God is rendered propitious, i.e., by which it becomes consistent with his character and government to pardon and bless the sinner." So the text in 1 John 2 is clear: Christ is the propitiation of the "kosmos." Second, the same word is being used later in verse 15 and 16, where John asks the believers to not love the world and the things of the world. It's the SAME kosmos for which Jesus was the propitiation....SAME context...SAME world, SAME sin. If "kosmos" meant the Jewish world and the Jewish system then how in the world is anyone saved today?

Now if you have another text to discuss that's fine, but drop the prayer...there is nothing about propitiation for sins anywhere in it. You continue to make two words with different meanings equal. Your fallacy stands and you have no evidence to show that Christ only died for the elect. Being contradictory to Scripture, I find that idea repugnant and offensive so unless you have another text to discuss, or perhaps show how my understanding of Greek is wrong, I would like to move on from a discussinon that can turn into flames quickly.

Erick's picture

O.K. Virgil you win, it was just a simple prayer with no High Priestly role whatsoever, and "kosmos" always means the same thing in every context. And thanks for the insight from the Greek, I really thought "erotao" and "hilasmos" were synonyms (that was my point right?), but not no more, no sir.

P.S. - no phlox here adelphos just trying to have a simple conversation. But believe me I am moving on too, nice talk.

Virgil's picture

Erick, the type of prayer and its meaning is not the issue here. We are talking about whether or not Christ only died for the elect. You (or someone else earlier) invoked the prayer as evidence that he did. We showed that the prayer proves no such thing.

And also, don't get the idea that I don't think that there was such a thing as the "elect" - if you want to know what I believe, you can alwyas ask instead of assuming :)

MichaelB's picture

1 John 2:2
2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Answer: In 5:19 John writes, "the whole world lies under the sway of the evil one." But "the whole world" here cannot include believers (4:4). Thus, "the whole world" only includes all of a certain class of people. 5:19 refers to the class of the lost; 2:2 to the class of the elect.

Jesus died for Israel.

Acts 5
31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.

So who is Irael...

Romans 9
6It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."8In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring.

Galatians 3
8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you."9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith

Ephesians 2
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

Those with Faith became CITIZENS of ISRAEL =)

Virgil writes: Of course Christ died for the entire kosmos...John says so!

Virgil left out the "whosoever believes on him" part.

He also ignored the part in John 3 that tells us that what he did was "done through God".

John 3
21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been DONE THROUGH GOD.

Those who believed out of the world were grafted into, and became CITIZENS of ISRAEL. Which is who Jesus died for.

Virgil's picture

Answer: In 5:19 John writes, "the whole world lies under the sway of the evil one." But "the whole world" here cannot include believers (4:4). Thus, "the whole world" only includes all of a certain class of people. 5:19 refers to the class of the lost; 2:2 to the class of the elect.

That doesn't compute and you are side-stepping the issue. Read 1 John 2:2 AGAIN! John is contrasting "ton hamartion heimon" with ton hamartion "tou kosmou" - not the sins of ours alone, but those of the whole universe. Two groups of people with two sin problems: our sins vs. the sins of the universe. Christ died for both groups with their sins combined.

Who was the letter written to? Was he not writing to the elect? A crystal clear issue made into rocket science by your tradition and man-made theology: Christ died not for the sins of the elect alone, but also for those of the whole world. The passage teaches the exact opposite of what you claim.

MichaelB's picture

Virgil writes:
Two groups of people with two sin problems: our sins vs. the sins of the universe. Christ died for both groups with their sins combined.

Yes Virgil - two groups of people - both groups HAD FAITH - which is a gift from God.

Virgil - who did he "bring near" through his blood - the atonement was for THEM.

Virgil was the blood over the doorways in Egypt for everyone or for Israel?

Who is the true Israel now?

Ephesians 2
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,

Virgil's picture

Yes Virgil - two groups of people - both groups HAD FAITH - which is a gift from God.

If you continue to make blanket statement like this, nothing will come out of our conversation.

Please address my comments below regarding Christ dying for the elect, I won't repeat the whole thing again :)

MichaelB's picture

Virgil - how does this not adress your question - did I miss a question you had. Jesus said NOT ALL were his sheep and he laid down his life for THE SHEEP.

John 10
14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

MichaelB's picture

1John 5
1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,

John 1
12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent,nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

John 3
7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'Youn must be born again.' 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

John 6
63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

Virgil - did Jesus lay down his life for the sheep? Did Jesus say that some people are not his sheep?

John 10
14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

Virgil's picture

Michael. It would be nice if just once you address my arguments instead of posting out-of-context random verses as replies.

Andre's picture

Paul's writings (in the NT) are tempered with an understanding from the OT. It is clear that election was a thought in Paul's mind also. All Israel was not redeemed from the bondage of Egypt, why must everyone in the NT and beyond be redeemed? This in my opinion is a strong suit of the Reformed tradition, as it interprets the redeeming of people during Paul's economy w/the redeemed people coming out of Egypt.

There are two types of people in the world. Those that do the will of God and those that do the will of God...

Virgil's picture

Following typology to the extremes doesn't result in good theology. I would be careful in what conclusion you come to as a result of following typological pictures of the Old Testament events. As a response one could also state that because the redemption from Egypt was limited, the redemption of AD 70 was universal. Israel was always the example used by God to teach the rest of the world something.

Andre's picture

I wouldn't say that that is following typology to extremes and I agree that Israel was used to show the world many different concepts about God. However, if not ALL of Israel was redeemed, why would one expect ALL of the world to be saved, why could that not be a part of the lesson? I don't understand "As a response one could also state that because the redemption from Egypt was limited, the redemption of AD 70 was universal" Thanks for the dialogue...

God IS and I AM NOT

There are two types of people in the world. Those that do the will of God and those that do the will of God...

Virgil's picture

When you say "all Israel was not redeemed" from the bodage in Egypt you mean what exactly? I want to make sure I understand what you are proposting here.

Andre's picture

Physically, I must assume that all Israelites came out of Egypt, along w/Egyptians. However, Paul makes it clear later that they ALL were not believers. If they were then Pharisees were right to hold to their heritage as proof of redemption.

There are two types of people in the world. Those that do the will of God and those that do the will of God...

Virgil's picture

Andre, baptism has always been the indicator of deliverance. All Israelites were delivered from the slavery of Egypt when they were baptized into Moses:

1Cor 10:1-2 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

Andre's picture

Even w/that said, in other places Paul belabors the point that all Israel is not really Israel or truly saved. This particular passage, at best, speaks to physical deliverance and doesn't have much bearing on spiritual salvation? Would you agree to that?

There are two types of people in the world. Those that do the will of God and those that do the will of God...

Virgil's picture

Andre, baptism into Moses by going through the red sea and through the cloud were symbolic of the deliverance from Egypt...of ALL of them. And yes, I agree that this is a physical deliverance, but we are talking typology here; it has a higher meaning, especially when paralleled with the 40 years period between ad 30 and ad 70. Agree?

Andre's picture

I agree w/you on the 40 year issue. I Cor 10, says all were in Moses, but on other occasions Paul says that not all people from Israel are a part of the true Israel. Would you see that as exclusive in a soterical sense? That has been my point the whole time, both sides of the debate can bring Scriptures that a reasonable person would/could agree fits.

There are two types of people in the world. Those that do the will of God and those that do the will of God...

Virgil's picture

Ok...we agree on something. That's progress :)

Andre's picture

Do you see the Scriptures speaking (at points) in clear exclusive terms in regards to salvation (Paul's dissertation on the 2 Adams)? Just as it seems to be speaking of universal terms regarding salvation (Jesus' disertation on the sheep)

There are two types of people in the world. Those that do the will of God and those that do the will of God...

Virgil's picture

Of course I do..I never denied anything like that. The problem is not the clarity as it is reconciling the two or three possibilities that emerge when we read Scripture from a Preterist perspective. Preterism shines a new light on everything so it is natural for me to take another look at things and understand that differences will appear, differences that are often unreconcilable.

Andre's picture

Honestly, as a Reformed/futurist I had trouble exegeting Romans 5:12-18, as Adam represented ALL/EVERYONE/EVERYBODY but Christ represented ALL in the sense of the redeemed and it seemed that to some degree the analogy broke down and was somewhat inconsistent with original sin. I saw/see both sides, but the universal sounding passages are underwhelmed when compared (IMHO)to the passages that are exclusive in nature, and as I understand God's essential nature, which demands retribution for disobedience and promotes exclusivism. Hopefully that makes since and conveys something coherrent and captures the essence of what I was conveying :+)

There are two types of people in the world. Those that do the will of God and those that do the will of God...

Roderick's picture

so much for keeping this discussion out of the mud -- thanks Virgil

Virgil's picture

If 1 John 2 is in the mud, I most definitely didn't put it there bud. :)

Andre's picture

Gentlemen,
Settle down :+) I think both sides need to agree that there are scriptures that fancy both sides of the argument. I am a devoted die hard Calvinists but universalism, CG or whatever we want to call it asks some tough questions. Romans 5:12-16 (the first Adam and second Adam analogy) asks questions that I have always wondered about as a Calvinist. However, I see the whole of Scripture (IMHO) speaking against the fact that all will go to heaven, whether by the will of God (via predistination) or by the individual's own volition (Arminianism). Sam, as I stated earlier I thought that it was a pretty good article. Civility is still a fruit of the Spirit and grudges are still a fruit of the flesh, preterism hasn't changed that, has it :+)

There are two types of people in the world. Those that do the will of God and those that do the will of God...

Virgil's picture

Sam...excellent job man! I think especially your take on the Greek is fantastic, and I agree with pretty much everything you said.

I do have one question however. How do you deal with those Preterists out there who continue to teach that today, at this very moment there are still people "born in Adam?" And of course, by that they mean being born sinners, with Adam's sin nature, etc -- at least that is my understanding of their position. Now note, there is no reference to being dead in Adam physically (although you seem to hint to some aspect of it), so there is confusion as to what "being in Adam" means today, especially since Revelation makes a clear reference to the curse no longer being in effect.

So to summarize my two questions are:

1. Are there people still "in Adam" today?
2. What does being "in Adam" mean today? What does it mean in the context of 1 Cor.15 from both a physical and/or spiritual perspective?

Note: Sam, I forgot to ask what this does to the doctrine of Original Sin. I don't really want to get into another argument over Calvinism, but there seems to be a clear connection between the idea of Original Sin and what some people perceive today as being "in Adam."

Jer's picture

I've been asking these same questions for quite some time, Virgil. I would agree with Sam that Paul has a limited view of "all" in 1 Corinthians 15, and Romans 5 for that matter. It appears to me that both Adam and Christ exclusive in these texts.So if Adam is exclusive, that is, Paul is not discussing all people for all time, then where does this doctrine of all people being "born in Adam" (i.e. dead) find support? By making Adam exclusive in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 the doctrine of "original sin" is called into question. There is still much studying to be done in this area.

Here is how I've been introducing the problem as I see it:

1) The Adamic curse is universal (Calvinism)
2) The Adamic curse is no more (Preterism)
_______________________________________
No one is under the Adamic curse (Universalism)

Which premise is untrue? I reject premise 1. I find it difficult to "universalize" the First Adam without doing so to the Second Adam. Rod rejects premise 2 saying that people are still born in Adam (i.e. dead). I have never accepted this view. In any case, it makes for some interesting discussions.

Parker's picture

Hi Jer.

The Adamic curse is universal through "original sin," and the Adamic curse is no more for baptized members of the New Covenant that walk according to the faith and teachings of Christ. That's the biblical situation. To say that the Adamic curse is no more--apart from faith and while ignoring the covenantal apparatus delivered to humankind by Jesus and the apostles--is heresy.

God bless,
Parker

Virgil's picture

Yes Parker, the book of Revelation says "there is no more curse" in a post-Parousia world. I don't really want to get into another discussion with you over your new fondness for partial-preterism. We don't have to. Obviously, if you are a partial preterist and you believe Christ is yet to return then OBVIOUSLY the Adamic curse is still around. It's not rocket science bud :)

Parker's picture

Virgil,

Full preterism, if it accepts a covenantal perspective on salvation, will conclude rightly that the Adamic curse is always passed on through original sin and removed only through conversion into Christ's covenant.

Next, the Book of Revelation doesn't teach any theology that isn't already taught in the gospels and epistles. Revelation does not teach universalism, nor does it teach a removal of the curse apart from conversion to Christ and obedience to the covenant.

And, it could very well be that Revelation's statement about "no more curse" (22:3) speaks specifically of Galatians 3:13-14: "Christ has redeeemed us from the curse of the law [of Moses]"

Virgil's picture

And, it could very well be that Revelation's statement about "no more curse" (22:3) speaks specifically of Galatians 3:13-14: "Christ has redeeemed us from the curse of the law [of Moses]"

Sure, anything could be Parker, but it isn't. The curse brought up in Revelation is quite universal in scope, just like sin is universal in scope. Just because you say "it could be" doesn't make it so.

Parker's picture

Virgil, since the epistles specifically discuss the repeal of the curse of the law (Gal 3:13-14), it is likely that Rev 22:3 also references it. The theology of Revelation lines up with the theology taught in the gospels and epistles.

davo's picture

Which is indicative of why much of the NT "world" language is Israel specific, and where it clearly is not it is Gentile inclusive.

davo – pantelism.com –

"And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." 1Jn 2:2

PreteristAD70's picture

We are in perfect agreement, Parker! =)

Parker's picture

Hi Mike. It's good to see you here.

I think this universalism stuff emerges because some full preterists have a non-covenantal and non-sacramental understanding of the New Testament. In scripture, the apostles and Christ had a view of salvation and a practice of faith that was both covenantal and sacramental--and there was not a single universalist among them. How then could universalism ever be true? How could a non-sacramental, non-covenantal outlook on redemption that was neither known to nor practiced by the apostles themselves ever be true? It is quite obvious that it can't be. Biblical redemption is covenantal/sacramental by nature, and there's no way around it. Universalism has to leave the bible entirely to exist.

Christ's blessings to you, Mike.

KurtF's picture

"I think this universalism stuff emerges because some full preterists have a non-covenantal and non-sacramental understanding of the New Testament."

Ah, could it be Parker, that it is no coincidence that full preterists who reject many of the principles of "Calvinism" are the ones who have this "non-covenantal and non-sacramental understanding?"

Hmmmmm.

Virgil's picture

Jeremy,

I know you've been asking the same questions. So have I and I am getting no answers. It always comes down to the calvinistic understanding of the elect vs everyone else. The problem with saying that only "some" people are in Adam for Calvinists is that the doctrine of Original Sin is incompatible with that view. Adam's original sin affects "all things" - pun intended - and that is one of the cornerstones of their theology. However, as you pointed out, if the problem of Adam is universal (a foundational element in their theology), then what is the extent of the solution in Christ? If the "Christ solution" is not also universal, then how the heck can anyone say that the problem has been resolved?

And yes, "all" is not "all" in Paul's view, but this is a limited context here, where Paul is specifically address the Resurrection of the dead. What do we do with the "kosmos" I mentioned in another comment from 1 John 2:2?

By the way, how did you get away with asking these question without becoming a universalist? :) Come on...confess!! These are questions only defenders of universalism would ask! You MUST be one of them!

Parker's picture

Virgil,

It's absurd for anyone to grab 1 John 2:2 and say it teaches universalism. No one that has read St. John could ever accuse him of being a universalist. To say 1 John 2:2 teaches universalism requires that one entirely ignore 1 John 2:4, 2:23, 3:15; 3:24, 4:5-6, 4:15, 5:12-13, 3:6-12.

St. John was not a universalist. Not a single apostle was a universalist. They were all covenantalists. Salvation is contained in covenants and received through covenants.

Virgil's picture

Who said that 1 John 2:2 teaches Universalism?

Parker's picture

Universalists say that 1 John 2:2 teaches universalism.

Virgil's picture

Who HERE on this website said that 1 John 2:2 teaches Universalism? You know very well what the question was. Are you starting to throw accusations around now too?

Roderick's picture

Ummm -- Davo just used 1 John 2:2 to imply that propitiation was made for every individual, besides you yourself said Jesus died for every individual on the face of the planet -- sooo YOU on this website have said this Virgil -- own up to it -- stop saying people are misrepresenting you and just admit it. Then we can all move on. But this constant inconsistency & obfuscation is maddening. You seem to have no solid thing you hold to in the Bible. Stop being so wish-washy & believe something already -- even if you want to advocate universalism -- just stand for something bro -- sheesh.

REFS:

davo's comments about 1 John 2:2
Virgil's comments about Jesus died for every individual on the planet

Parker's picture

Hi Virgil. I said this to Jer, but I thought I'd post it in reply to your post as well.

The Adamic curse is universal through "original sin," and the Adamic curse is no more for baptized members of the New Covenant that walk according to the faith and teachings of Christ. That's the biblical situation. To say that the Adamic curse is no more--apart from faith and while ignoring the covenantal apparatus delivered to humankind by Jesus and the apostles--is heresy. The universalism concept lies entirely outside of the biblical record or experience. Not one apostle was a universalist. Not a single one. They were all covenantalists that believed redemption comes via participation in God's covenant according to his commands.

Jer's picture

The funny thing is, I have heard that charge :) However, my questions still haven't been answered. I'm not a Universalist. I'm not a Calvinist either. I've been making inquiries because those who hold Calvinism to be true need to answer some questions, too. I've made what I believe to be a logical connection between the doctrine of Original Sin, Preterism and Universalism. Unfortunately, no one has addressed its implications. Rod has said he will in his next article entitled Born in Adam. However, he assumes his position (Calvinism) to be true from the outset, as evidenced by the title. It is the Calvinist framework that is being questioned. Actually, Calvinism would be an inaccurate "label" for Rod's position. I doubt Calvin would assert that people were still "born in Adam" post-parousia. Maybe Sam's article will address these topics.

Virgil's picture

Jeremy, and that's the point I made in my original articles on Calvinism. Calvin's position is technically valid...for the first century timeframe. We see the elect being specifically a first-century occurence and people being born in Adam. Like you said, Calvin would hardly claim that in a post-Parousia world, people would still be born inheriting Adam's sin.

This in my mind is an issue entirely related to the doctrine of Original Sin (and perhaps the idea of "sin nature"), which to me is an attempt to explain what man perceives as being a "broken world." From a Preterist perspective we understand there is nothing wrong with the world and that sin hardly has anything to do with physical birth or death. How then can a Preterist say that people are still being born in Adam today?

Parker's picture

Virgil:

Sin has everything to do with being born human after the fall of Adam. The sin of Adam transformed human nature so that the very nature of humans is bound to sin against God with no freedom to do otherwise. Every human sins, has sinned, will sin.

Even a full preterist can claim that people are still being born in Adam today. Why? Because every human since Adam was born in Adam, and now every human receives the Adamic nature by virtue of being born human. The only thing that removes the Adamic nature is conversion. It is the salvation contained within the covenant that converts humans from Adam into Christ.

Virgil's picture

Parker - thanks for this comment. You are actually proving on my behalf that Preterism and the doctrine of Original Sin just don't get along. Perhaps our critics are reading your comments and see where these ideas took you, to a denial of the reality of Christ's parousia.

PreteristAD70's picture

Virgil:

I fail to see how they don't get along. I'm certainly not having any problems with it. One must enter the covenant provided by the fulfilled parousia in order to receive its benefits. Once that's done, the Adamic curse is lifted from those individuals. Plain and simple.

Can you briefly explain how original sin contradicts a fulfilled parousia? Do you not agree with what I've posited?

--Mike

Parker's picture

Virgil,

If full preterism will accept the covenantal context and framework of salvation as delivered by Christ and the apostles, then it will get along just fine with the doctrine of Original Sin.

One can be a full preterist and believe that participation in the Christic covenant is the *only* remedy to Original Sin. Preterists that ignore or deny the covenantalism of the apostles end up shipwrecked and lost in utter theological chaos. Not a single apostle was a universalist. They were all covenantalists.

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