Universalism originated in the Garden of Eden when Satan brushed aside God’s warning and assured Eve, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4)… All the ways to hell are one-way streets. The idea that those who go there will eventually be released to join the rest of humanity in heaven has not a shred of biblical evidence to support it. Children are sometimes told fictional adventure stories with the delightful ending: “And they all lived happily ever after.” We call that kind of story a fairy tale. Universalism is exactly that.
Universalism has never been widely accepted by those who take the Scriptures seriously. Obviously if this teaching were true, there would be no pressing reason to fulfill the Great Commission or to urge unbelievers to accept Christ in this life.
No evangelical, I think, need hesitate to admit that in his heart of hearts he would like universalism to be true. Who can take pleasure in the thought of people being eternally lost? If you want to see folk damned, there is something wrong with you! Universalism is thus a comfortable doctrine in a way that alternatives are not. But wishful thinking, based on a craving for comfort and a reluctance to believe that some of God’s truth might be tragic, is no sure index of reality.
Evangelicals know that the power behind the eighteenth century revivals and the great nineteenth century missionary movement was prayer, and that the prayer was made out of hearts agonizing over the prospect of all who leave this world without Christ being lost. Was such prayer misconceived? uninstructed? foolish? wrong-headed? An evangelical who values his heritage must ponder that question, recognizing that if universalism is true all that missionary passion and praying was founded on a monstrous mistake.
[Universalism teaches] if God really loves the whole world and desires everyone to be saved, it follows logically that everyone must have access to salvation. Those who do not have sufficient access in this life will have it in the next. And if they then reject God’s grace, their fate is extermination, not eternal condemnation.
Although we can sympathize with the desires of universalists that all be saved, we must label universalism a false teaching. In fact, universalism flies in the face of Scripture and deliberately avoids much of the biblical evidence.
Jesus underscores the fact that death seals one’s fate, when He says to the Pharisees, “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). Hebrews 9:27 agrees: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”