Free Will, Election, Universalism and Eternity
by Kristen Deore

Introduction

Let’s examine the relationship between the ultimate fate of humans and the role of choice, if any, in determining this ultimate fate.

Suppose God had made angels and humans without free will, and suppose that the ultimate fate of these created spiritual and human entities was manifest from their very creation. That is, if demons and angels were made separate species from day one; and if children of God and children of the devil were made separate species from day one, and if they were clearly different from each other in the very beginning.

No initial one big happy family thing followed by war, with Satan cast to earth like lightening. No Garden of Eden, no fall, no exile to east of Eden. Just two types of creatures from the beginning: good and evil.

There wouldn’t be a question of universalism, election or free will then, would there? Good and Evil would stay separate forever. All decided by God from the very beginning. Maybe there would be a prolonged war. Maybe the two sides would fight over territory for a while; especially if they were evenly matched. Maybe at some point God would be roused from His throne and end the whole thing. Eventually though, given an infinite creator and finite creatures, His will would prevail.

Heaven and Hell.

However, it wasn’t exactly like that, was it?

Evidently the angels and demons did divide early. Satan was once the morning star; the most glorious and beautiful of the angels. He aspired to be like the most high, and he was cast out. There was a war and one third of the angels chose him and they were cast out with him. He became the god of this world and this is now his realm. But at first he and the other angels were presumably all beautiful. All angels were glorious, creatures of light, awesome and radiant. In fact, they must have all looked like the current angles, “until iniquity was discovered in him”.

Now, though, the angels and demons are divided into two separate groups. The angels work for God, His ministers of light. They are beautiful. The demons work for Satan, and are ugly, distorted, hideous and frightening. Well, maybe Satan can transform himself into “an angel of light”, but it isn’t his true self. So, it is over, they are divided forever. There isn’t even a wisp of reason to believe that demons will ever be changed back and live under God’s rule again.

But not so for humans. Each human seems to have potential for both evil and good. Furthermore, most humans don’t even see a war. Humans don’t, generally speaking, understand that there are two sides at war. They don’t manifest one side to the exclusion of the other side. Each of us is a mixture of good and evil. But, suppose that in some hidden mysterious way there are really two groups, appearing at this stage so similar that they are hard to tell apart. Suppose that there is innately and inherently two groups: children of God and Children of Satan. That is, imagine that, eventually, they will be separated: sheep and goats, wheat and chaff, saved and condemned. This separation is slow, and will take a long time. It is a process, the workings of which are obscure.

Well, does this mean that universalism is necessarily false? That is, if God initially designed two groups of humans, good and evil, does it mean that these two groups must always be separate? It looks like it at a first reading of the Bible. It seems to be what Jesus taught. At first glance it seems pretty clear that in human youth the wheat resembles the tares, but with time they will be separated.

But, it is possible that the first reading is misleading. After all, we read that “God is Love”, and that “God desires that all men are saved” and we all know that logic demands that an all powerful God gets what He wants. So, we have an opening here to consider a reinterpretation of what we have been taught.

Maybe then the real interpretation is that some humans respond to God during their lifetime on earth, but others don’t respond until after they die. Maybe a long time after they die.

Maybe the ones that die while living as if they are children of the devil just need more time.

So, the wheat and tares just refers to this earth lifetime. The sheep and goats just refers to what happens the first time around; sort of a first judgment. People live a lifetime on earth, then die, then go to a judgment and either enter into an eternity with God (in a nice place) right then and there, or maybe they go back to another season of learning and growing. This place of learning and growing is not a very nice place. We then see that when Jesus talks about “Hell” he is talking about any not nice place where people have not learned to trust and follow God and His ways. Lots of places. Hell on earth, Hell after death, Hell for millions of years, but, still, ultimately a temporary situation. Eventually everyone will end up in the nice place.

So, the actions of God: the incarnation, atonement, propitiation, a new birth and resurrection really refer to two things. First, for a few people, it refers to an immediate, after one lifetime on earth, entrance into heaven. For others these terms require more time, but they still apply. Two groups: those that find God on earth and those that have to spend more time, in further realms, after they die, until they finally change. That is, these actions by God also refer to His provision for all people to eventually enter in heaven, and apply to “all men” and show a provision for all men to get saved.

That is possible.

OK. Now let’s look at how election versus free will enters into this new idea. First, let’s continue with the idea that it is all election, and that there really is no free will. Humans do not decide if they are children of the devil or children of God. That is, some people get a revelation of God while they are living on earth. He chooses them and comes to them and speaks life to them and they get born again and change. They become children of God while alive on earth; all in one lifetime. They go to heaven after they die.

But the rest of humankind has a longer road. After the sheep and goats get separated the goats have to spend more time before they get a revelation of God. Well, that’s OK. We can live with that. We may not understand it. We may not know why there are 2 groups, why one group gets a fast conversion and the rest have to spend more time; but it ends up OK, everyone gets saved eventually.

Not bad. But what have we gained by this new interpretation of the teachings of Jesus? Is it really a kinder, fairer and more acceptable idea? I guess. After all, at least everyone gets there eventually.

But, it seems a bit useless, doesn’t it? I mean, why go through all that trouble just to get everyone to heaven? Maybe He just wants humble grateful people in heaven. So, it takes longer for some people to get to that point.

Ok, but isn’t fairness still a problem? I mean, if the problem with our first understanding of Jesus is tainted by unfairness, isn’t this new interpretation tainted too? Some people just have to endure 70 or so years on then off to heaven they go. Others have to spend millions of years stubbornly resisting God. If you don’t believe in free will then it’s even worse. Millions of years without any fault on their part?

We still have all the old problems: providential birth into certain cultures, certain families, certain moral systems. Locations where the gospel is preached, locations where it is not preached. Sure, everyone has a conscience, and everyone can see nature; but we already rejected these factors when we stubbed our toe on the unfairness issue.

Does it help to say that there really is free will? Let’s say that humans have been given the ability to choose. Some humans choose God while alive on earth, and some don’t. Of course, it’s all grace, and eventually everyone will choose God. Some are just faster learners. The slow learners keep causing tons of pain and suffering wherever they go though. Oh well, eventually every human ends up choosing God and everyone ends up in Heaven. Why? Because God is Love, and God gets what He wants, and He wants all men to be saved.

The main problem is that some people, one way or another, find God here on earth and some don’t. I suppose if you soften this a bit by blaming the million year losers for making bad choices, and being slow learners, that makes it look a little better. The Arminians are happy, but the Calvinists are hopping mad.

I don’t know. I think, all things considered, that I’m going to stick to the old interpretation. I mean, really, there are implications to making this switch to universalism. Most of all, it’s a bit risky. What if the original “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” really means what it sounds like? We might be making a big mistake if we don’t warn people in that case. The very factors that make it easier to stomach the gospel once we change it may just cause the person hearing our message to relax and not worry about dying unsaved. We might be misleading them. They might have some hard questions for us on the Day of Judgment.

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