[All passages are quoted from the Concordant Literal Version of the Bible.]
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 rely on the living God, Who is the potential Saviour of all mankind, exclusively of believers.”
Him: Oh, no, that’s not what Paul wrote. He wrote, “we rely on the living God, Who is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of believers.”
Me: Oh. Did he? Huh. Well, let me try another one. “For this is ideal and welcome in the sight of our Saviour, God, Who wills that some men be saved and come into a realization of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and mankind, a Man, Christ Jesus, Who is giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for just a few (the testimony in its own eras).”
Him: You need to try a little harder when it comes to memorizing, it seems. Paul actually wrote, “For this is ideal and welcome in the sight of our Saviour, God, Who wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and mankind, a Man, Christ Jesus, Who is giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all (the testimony in its own eras).”
Me: Interesting. I wonder how I got that so wrong. Well, let me try a few more. “For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, shall all in Christ be vivified.”
Him: Close, but it’s actually, “For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified.” Paul didn’t write that it’s only those who happen to be in Christ who will be vivified — or made immortal, as that word means — but rather that “in Christ” (or “through Christ”) everyone will be vivified.
Me: Ah, I see what I got wrong there. Thank you. What about this one? “For in Him the entire complement delights to dwell, and through Him to reconcile a few to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, including a few of those on the earth but none of those in the heavens.”
Him: That’s pretty bad. It’s actually, “For in Him the entire complement delights to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens.”
Me: Hmm… Okay, last one. “Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through multiple just awards by and for a few men for life’s justifying. For even though, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, through the obedience of the One, only a few — those who choose to believe — shall be constituted just.”
Him: Wow. That’s not even close. It’s actually, “Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life’s justifying. For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just.”
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 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: