Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Universalism, Billy Graham, and the precision of God

The false notion that we all end up in heaven is an old one, but in these days, it is called Universal Reconciliation. Wikipedia explains it, "In Christianity, universal reconciliation [ ed note: universalism for short] is the doctrine that all sinful and alienated human souls—because of divine love and mercy—will ultimately be reconciled to God."

[ Video: Christ the Only Way (RC Sproul) ]

We know that God is love and mercy, but we also know that He is Holy and Just. He will not allow unreconciled sinners into heaven. (John 14:6).
Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist) Pollock, 1950,
National Gallery of Art

Universalism is actually a terrible blasphemy against the Spirit, the unforgivable sin. It is also a heinous reproach unto the incarnated Jesus, who died a horrible death to make a way for sinners to be reconciled.

Do universalists think it was all a big joke? That Jesus says, 'oops, just kidding about that cross thing, come on in anyway!' Do they believe entry into heaven is like a Jackson Pollock painting? Splats and drips winding up where they did due to gravity and haphazard placement? That once any sinner dies they slide down the white tunnel and plop into some part of heaven like a splatting tomato bouncing off a vegetable truck? "Come on in, whoever you are and wherever you came from."

Do they not suppose that God is precise as He was in Genesis, creating the earth just so far from the sun and the moon just so far from the earth and each petal of each flower just so. He does not throw open the doors of heaven and say, "Aw , you're all just so adorable, come on in!"

The transition from earth to heaven is extremely orderly. Once there, the proceedings are orderly too. Everything is moment upon moment, exact, and completed with a precision that astounds the mind. The scene from Daniel 7 is one such example about what happens in heaven is precise, including the people who are there.

A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:10)

If you read the entire chapter, it's not long, your mind will be blown. Daniel's certainly was. (Daniel 7:15, 28).

Bible Study Outlines
Please bring your attention to the phrase, "Books were opened." It has an ominous sound. In heaven, they keep records. They write down names. They keep track. Revelation 20:12 repeats the phrase in a similar scene given to John. "Books were opened."

"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done." (Revelation 20:12)

In this verse, we are given an additional detail, the things we do are in the books as well. The book of life is singular and the books in general is plural. It stands to reason that the book of life is singular because Jesus said few find the way. (Matthew 7:14). The book of life is the roll of the names of the saved. Heaven has a precision, and those who are elected to salvation are in the book. Actually, there are two sets of books, one is the book of life and the other is the book which the unsaved will be judged.

People hate it when I say that we will be judged.

People reject the notion of standards today. They reject the concept that some people are qualified for things and other people aren't. For example, women are not qualified for ministry. Unrepentant, active homosexuals are not qualified for marriage. Unrepentant sinners are not qualified for heaven.

God has standards. He has expectations. No set of standards worth the paper they're printed on is a standard which accepts all comers. There are learning standards. When a student achieves them, they graduate. If they don't achieve them, they don't graduate. There is a standard of care, "the degree of prudence and caution required of an individual who is under a duty of care." There is a breed standard, in which in animal fancy and animal husbandry is a set of guidelines which is used to ensure that the animals produced by a breeder or breeding facility conform to the specifics of the breed."

Does a person think that a farmer has a standard for breeding of cows, but our Holy God doesn't have
Wikimedia commons free to use
standards for entry into His kingdom? Foolish notion!

The standard for entry is a single item. Just one. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15). That's it. No works, no study, no tradition, no payment. Jesus did the work, He studied the Father's will, and He paid the price. He did it for us. Believe on His gospel and you will be saved.

There are so-called Christians who believe that all people will go to heaven. They are Universalists. This violates not only the one standard that God set forth (Belief in Jesus' atoning work on the cross for forgiveness of sins) but it violates logic. It belies the orderliness of the heavenly scenes we see in scripture. It makes God out to be a patsy and a liar.

Billy Graham is one who believes that all peoples, 'if they lived a sincere life" will go to heaven. He has believed this since 1960. He said in part,

"They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they're saved and they're going to be with us in heaven."

Wikimedia Commons free to use
There are essential doctrines that one must believe in order to be considered a Christian. The exclusiveness of the Gospel is one. If a person doesn't believe the exclusivity of Christ as the sole entry to heaven, he cannot be considered a Christian.

Acts 4:12 says  "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”"

Now, Mr Graham is going to die soon. He has said so himself. His son has said so. When Mr Graham dies, there will be many accolades and an outpouring. I want you to know the truth: not all who claim the name of Jesus are in Him. The scriptures say that many will plead with Jesus on His day.

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:21-23)

It is the most heartbreaking scripture in the bible. It tears my heart apart every time I read it. My mother will be one of these pleading with Jesus. So will my sister. And so will Billy Graham.

The precision of God is ultimate. It is laser-point. It is Jesus.


Further reading

"My Hope America" with Billy Graham, and a look at Graham's teachings (Part 1/2)

My Hope America & Billy Graham, part 2


Video: Christ the Only Way (RC Sproul)

Tim Challies: Billy Graham and Ecumenicism (essay)

John MacArthur clip, A Wideness in God's Mercy? (video)

Cecil Andrews: Billy Graham: The Man and His Message (video)

World View Weekend: Billy Graham (article)

David Cloud: Billy Graham’s Sad Disobedience To The Word Of God (note: I disagree with a lot of Mr Cloud's teaching but the article I've linked to is mostly Graham quotes and discussion of same, with sources)

John MacArthur: Deliverance: From the Temporal World to the Eternal Kingdom (sermon)

Midwest Today: A Conversation with Billy Graham, 1997 (news article, printed interview)

CARM.org: Billy Graham


  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    Maybe this is discussed in some of the links you posted, but could you expand on this quote? Do you know in what context Graham was talking about?

    "They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they're saved and they're going to be with us in heaven."

    Without knowing the context, the quote, to me, represents those people who have never heard about Jesus and how God would judge them.

    Which brings up a good question.... How does God judge those who have never heard his name before? Would Romans 2:12-15 be a good verse to see that people who have not heard about Jesus are actually judged differently then those who have heard?

    Thanks and appreciate your thoughts!

    1. Hi Matt,

      Yes, it is discussed on the other links I provided at the bottom and also at the link within the quote.

      In the late 1990s,1997 I believe, Mr Graham appeared on the Hour of Power, a show hosted by Robert Schuller from the Crystal Cathedral. The two men were talking about who is saved. Mr Graham said that because of God’s mercy, all will be saved. There are videos of this conversation a-plenty on youtube and blogs, and transcripts too. Then a few years later, in the early 2000s, Mr graham appeared on Larry King. Graham repeated the notion that all will be saved.

      People could not believe it, and the Billy graham Evangelistic Association was called to confirm. (even though both televised conversations were clear and in fact both hosts had asked Mr Graham to repeat his stance.) The BGEA responded that in fact Graham does believe this, and has since 1960 when he write about it in his Decision Magazine.

      Mr Graham’s long compromise with the world is evident in his life, if one cares to look. At his Crusades, he consigns many babes to darkness when they walk down the aisle and get to the front and sent to Roman Catholic and/or Rabbis if the seeker states they came from such a church. Mr Graham believes Catholicism to be Christian and former Pope John Paul to have been the world’s greatest evangelist. There’s more, but the documentation and context of his stance on universalism (aka (Wider Mercy Doctrine) can be found on the net. I’ll point you to two:


    2. As to your query about how are people judged who never heard the name of Jesus before...

      Romans 1:18-32 describes them. All humans have knowledge of God, no matter when they lived and no matter where they lived. Romans 1:19-20 explains,

      "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. "

      Then the verses go on to say what happens. Though His eternal attributes can plainly be seen in in creation, they deliberately suppress this truth (Romans 1:18) and they choose not to honor Him (Romans 1:20). The rest of the verses show what happens to a person the longer they deliberately suppress the truth.

      I am an example of salvation by this method. Though I was raised in an atheist home, I traveled a lot and plainly saw the complexity and beauty of the earth, the precision of the tides, the movement of the planets and the change of seasons. It was all so orderly, eventually I decided there must be a God. It seemed pretty clear.

      Though salvation does not come until one repents and believed the Gospel, the key here is that I did not deliberately suppress the truth, I saw plainly that through creation, God existed. Also, I felt deeply that there must be an eternity (Ecc 3:11) and since there is an eternity, someone must run it. The door was kept open in my mind, I never suppressed nor rejected, and at the right time the Spirit worked on my soul and then I claimed the name of Jesus and was saved.

      Here is more,
      "What happens to those who have never heard about Jesus?"

  2. It makes God out to be a patsy and a liar.

    And that is worse than making him the tormentor of souls for all eternity? Through my spiritual journey, I embraced Universalism since it was the only way to make God loving. Tormenting anyone forever is not loving in any way, shape, or form-nor is it just.

    An eye for an eye

    Eternal conscious torment for a 70 or 80 year life isn't just.

    1. "I embraced Universalism since it was the only way to make God loving"

      So...you remade God in your own image. Okey Dokey.

    2. A loving God sent His own Son to die a cruel death for something that every person who has ever lived has done. Sin, it's wages are death. The greatest sin is that people would rather reject Him and blat about the consequences.
      God IS just and that is exactly why hell exists.

    3. 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[a] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:14-18

      God determines what love and justice are, they are two of His attributes. Humans have twisted the meanings to mean what they want them to mean. I had trouble accepting this at first, but it's the truth, like it or not. His will be done.


    4. HI Jane, I had a very hard time accepting it, too, but I did for awhile. I am no longer calling myself a Christian at this point. I have been writing about it on my blog for the last few months.

    5. Hi Alice, I'm sorry to hear that. It's distressing to think of those who reject Him and their ultimate destiny, especially those closest to us. I hope by the grace of God you will reconsider someday before it's too late. You'll be in my prayers tonight.

    6. Alice, God does not send souls to be tormented as you described. That is our choice. God gave us a way to Him by grace of the cross. God died the death we deserve because He loves us. To be sent to eternal darkness is our choice and because God is a loving God, He honors that choice. We have free will and to want to be with him is our choice. Please reconsider when you say you are no longer a Christian.

  3. But, Elizabeth, you live in a world where Bibles abound. What about those who've never seen a Bible? What about those in the most remote parts of the world where they will never hear the gospel? I'm not being argumentative...this causes me great stress to think that those who do not see nor hear a soul speak of Jesus will be judged the same way as those who heard, read, and turned away.

    1. Anonymous, please read the above verses about Romans. No, bibles aren't everywhere. The earth IS. Everyone who is born has eternity in their heart, a conscience, and ability to experience God's attributes. Also gave a link answering the question "What happens to those who have never heard about Jesus?" It may help you.

      The notion of anyone going to hell is stressful for all of us. I wish all would be saved. Romans 1 explains many unfortunately suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

    2. I don't think everyone will be ultimately saved, but I agree with Mr.Graham's position that those who have never heard of the Messiah, who lived in the remotest places where there are no Bibles, may just be forgiven by God if they respected the Creator as revealed in the sheer harmony of the universe and nature. That's what Romans is all about, that there is no excuse not to believe the Creator because He is in and around us. If you were not fortunate enough to have heard of the name "Jesus" at least try to reverence the Creator because that's what your instincts and conscience tells you - that He exists.

    3. Anonymous, you might agree with Mr Graham's position, but you would be wrong. It is about the Son. (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Acts 16:31). No one is saved by "instinct".

      I explained above that plainly seeing God's attributes in creation is only the first step. If it ended there, then every adherent in an earth-based religion would also be saved (Shamanism, Animism, Wicca, Hindi...)

      It is Jesus who makes the difference. Faith in Christianity is exclusively focused on Him. Salvation is only through Him. (John 14:6).

      Here is a good sermon explaining the Romans verses you alluded to.

  4. Elizabeth, my husband thinks that the people who never heard of the gospel will get their second chance in the millenial age. He thinks that God will give everyone a chance to accept him after hearing/knowing the gospel and that is why Satan is loosed again after the 1000 years and there is a final war. What do you think about this?

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      No...everyone gets one chance, the same chance. This link brings you to an essay explaining why the Millennium Kingdom

      As for your husband, like any doctrine, it is not about what someone "thinks" it is about what is in the bible. He should show you the verses/passages which support his contention.

      As for the second chance particulars: the people who enter the Millennial Kingdom already believe in Christ, they need no second chance. The rest are the people who are born during the 1000 years, and they also have one chance to believe the Gospel, just as people did in the previous ages.

      As for anyone who is dead, they are set in their choice at the moment of death. "For it is appointed to die once, then the judgment." Heb 9:27

      This link brings you to an explanation of satan's loosing

  5. So the question being posed here, as I understand it is essentially; how can a loving God allow people to go to Hell who've never had the opportunity to hear the gospel? The focus of the question seems to be on God's love. I think the real crux of the matter, however, is God's Providence. I will agree that I cannot believe that a loving God would send a soul, who could see God's hand in the creation yet never hearing the Gospel, to an eternal lake of fire. In fact, I do not believe He does, and it does not undermine His justice either. So, let me pose an alternative question; would God really leave a seeking soul without the Gospel? That is the real question that should be asked. This is a question that speaks to God's Providence, as I mentioned before. Do you really believe that the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is contained in them, the God who knows the number of hairs on your head, the Lord who parted the Red Sea, caused Balsam's ass to speak, and the sun to not set for a day, is somehow unable to raise up a preacher to go to "Bulah-bulah land" and bring the Gospel to one of His lost sheep? Of course He can! If there is a soul which can see the truth in God's creation, and cries out to know the unknown God (as yet to him) to reveal His truth to him, I guarantee that God is powerful AND caring enough to arrange for a meeting with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Remember, our God is as a shepherd who SEEKETH after that which is lost, and diligent and faithful He is in that search. AMEN! He would never leave a soul, ready for the gospel without it.

    1. Amen! Read the book "Bruchko." It happened just like that!

    2. Don't forget Jeremiah 29:13--"And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."

    3. Hi Amy,

      Bruce Olson's story is certainly amazing. He recounted it in the book Bruchko, which you mentioned. God raised up a man who was converted from a cold religiosity to a hot and fervent love for Christ. he responded to the call to go to the jungle and reach the Molitones. There were some wonderful moments in his long missional life, but some concerns too. One of those is the way Olson contextualized the Gospel to make it accessible to the Indians. The other concerns is the inordinate length of time Olson spent in the jungle with the Molitones before he even began sharing the Gospel.

      Here are two links to a book review- the first sums up the book and the second discusses the concerns with Olson's approach. They are written by Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition. The discussion concerns Trevin Wax raises are relevant today and good food for thought.Here are the links in case anyone is interested:



  6. Dear Sister Liz!

    Just want to share that very few universalists have ever rejected salvation by Christ alone, or rejected judgment, hell or eternal punishment. I suspect it is the material you read that gives false witness against its wider-hope brothers and sisters.

    The Bible's "eternal" punishment tells us what kind of punishment it will be, not how long it will last. As regards blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, maybe it's blasphemy to say that the loving Father will torture any soul for ever without end and without hope.

    Indeed, there are some who will not be forgiven "in this world or the next". This is saying that they will, indeed, have to undergo punishment in the world to come, but not that the punishment is never-ending.

    Jesus said it's better to loose various parts of ourselves in the battle with sin, than to burn in hell (Mk 9 : 43 - 48). But then he goes on to say in the very next verse:
    "For (gar) everyone will be salted with fire" (Mk 9:49).

    The word "for" (gar in the Greek) connects this comment with what's immediately before it (pitty the NIV misses it out).

    "everyone" of us, both saved and damned, is being salted one way or another -- either by our own discipline or by the fire of hell. But either way, it's a salting by fire -- a preserving and purifying that burns. This is the ongoing process described in the New Testament for both those who "are being saved" and those who "are perishing" (note the Greek present continuous eg 1 Cor 1:18).

    My prayer is that some of this will point you in the right direction.

    1. My name is Elizabeth, thanks.

      You said, ‘The Bible's "eternal" punishment tells us what kind of punishment it will be, not how long it will last.”

      Tom, the bible is explicit that the punishment is eternal. Please leave off ‘suspecting’ about the ‘materials I read’ and put your eyes on the bible and read it. The bible is quite clear about the length of time sinners will be punished.

      Verses which speak to the eternality of the sinner’s punishment
      Matt. 18:8, Matt. 25:46, 2 Thess. 1:9, Jude 7, Jude12-13

      You said, “As regards blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, maybe it's blasphemy to say that the loving Father will torture any soul for ever without end and without hope.”

      No, it is not blasphemy to say that the Holy Father will render punishment onto all who refused the way Holy and Sinless Jesus made with His atoning work. He is loving as you said, but He is HOLY. For justice to be done, He must address sin. Don’t forget that. As for hope, God has given man hope ever since He promised a savior to Adam and Eve. He sent His only son, and if a person rejected hope, then he rejected it. The onus is on the sinner.

      Here again are the bible verses which let you know that the eternity that awaits the unrepentant sinner is eternal punishment. God punishes the sinner (Jeremiah 50:31; Ezekiel 44:12; Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 2:9; Hebrews 10:29).

      Hell is real and the fire in which the sinner is punished is unquenchable. Here are the verses, Matt. 3:12, Mark 9:43.

      Here are some essays which expound on the eternality of the sinner’s hell.

      Is hell real? Is hell eternal?

      What does it mean that hell is eternal separation from God?

      Why is the idea of eternal damnation so repulsive to many people?

      video: Christ the Only Way. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2008/02/video-christ-the-only-way.php

      Tim please accept these verses and links in the spirit they’re offered, to educate you on the truth and fact of the eternal punishment of the sinner. I certainly hope that your eternity is pointed in the right direction.


Bible Word of the Day: Immanence

Last week the word was Transcendence . God is apart from His creation, different from it. This week the word is Immanent or Immanence,...