Recently Joel Osteen was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey when she asked him about the consequences of certain categories of sin condemned in the Scriptures. He intimated that neither he nor God is in the business of excluding people from the Kingdom of Heaven.
Such a stand borders on universalism. The Bible is definitely not silent on the concept of universalism which means in the present context there will be an ultimate universal reconciliation of all mankind with God in the afterlife.
Let’s examine a common Scripture reference and review its meaning with the aid of a Greek dictionary.
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14
The Greek base for ‘many’ in this verse is hosos and has been translated to several English words including ‘all’ or ‘whosoever’.
The Greek base for the term ‘called’ is kletos meaning those who have received the invitation to enter the Kingdom of God.
The Greek base for the term ‘but’ is alla meaning ‘opposition’, or on the contrary.
The Greek base for the term ‘few’ is oligos meaning ‘small’ or ‘little’.
The Greek base for the term ‘chosen’ is ekloge meaning ‘elect’ or ‘select’.
One might surmise that there is a universal call to enter the Kingdom of heaven. That’s true; however, the above verse indicates that the majority of mankind will reject that call.
Jesus was equally succinct on the subject in His famous Sermon on the Mount.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
Note again the terms ‘many’ and ‘few’. Jesus reaffirmed the doctrine that the majority of mankind will miss the mark.
Shortly thereafter He was asked again about the many and the few.
“Then one said to Him, ‘Lord, are there few who are saved?’ And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many… will seek to enter and will not be able.’” Luke 13:23-24
The ‘many’ includes those who subscribe to any doctrine that assigns any credit to performance or works to earn entrance to the Kingdom. Such, by default, deny the all sufficient vicarious death of Christ on the Cross. Those who place their entire hope on the Cross define the ‘few’.
In addition, the ‘few’ were written in the Book of Life at the foundation of the world.
Paul further defined the ‘few’ as the children of promise and the ‘many’ as those born according to the flesh.
“For…Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise…Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise…So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.” Galatians 4:22-23, 28, 31
It should not be surprising that there are those in this age who support universalism because such teaching appeals to the ‘many’. The ‘many’ do not want to be troubled with the sin issue, its consequences, or the one and only ‘narrow’ remedy. To satisfy the ‘many’ is the objective of political correctness which is a mill stone for this great nation and sadly, many of its churches.
Paul also alerted Timothy that such turning away from the truth would take place during the church age, and in fact is happening today.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
As we approach the season to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ many might be surprised to learn that there will be a universal resurrection of the dead, i.e. everyone who has ever died will be raised from the grave in the future.
That issue will be covered next week.