Is it possible that all people ultimately could be reconciled back to God?
On your "My Beliefs and Faith -- Eschatology" page, you state this: "I believe that the unsaved will be lost forever and that 'forever' may end with the cessation of time, coincident with the annihilation of this universe, after which the new Creation will come into existence and remain for eternity." I'm a Christian Universalist, and I was wondering if you believe Universal Reconciliation with God is a possibility after "forever" ends. It does say He will make all things new—could that not include the unsaved?
Anything is possible. However, I have not seen anything in Scripture which convinces me, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this indeed will be the case.
For instance, 1 Timothy 2:4 states that God "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." Of course God would like for all people to choose Him and, therefore, to be saved. But that is not how He made this present creation, where people have the option not to choose Him (which is the only way that those who are saved, seeing the rewards of being good and the dire consequences of being evil, can understand that goodness always is best).
Simply because God would like for it to occur does not mean that it will occur. I have no doubt that God would like for there not to be pain, suffering, and death in this creation. But His wishing in His heart that this could be the case did not prevent Him from allowing those bad things to occur. I believe that the way He has set up everything is the only way that He can accomplish His ultimate goals in this deteriorating creation, before it eventually is discarded in favor of a perfect one. (See Why did God create all of this the way He did it?)
1 Timothy 2:6 states that Christ Jesus "gave himself as a ransom for all men...." This does not mean that all people, ultimately, will be saved. It simply means that salvation is available to all people, although no one is obligated or forced to accept it.
Acts 3:21 states that Christ "must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything...." It certainly is true that when Jesus returns, at the end of the 70th Week, He will restore and remodel much, maybe most, of the present earth. But that is not the time of the new creation, after all of this present, worn out, imperfect creation has been tossed out. The latter will occur after the Millennium is over.
The creation of the brand new heavens and earth will be representative of God's statement, "I am making everything new!" (Revelation 21:5). However, "new" is not the same as "renewed"; something that is "new" has not been in use, nor even has existed, prior to that time. Something "new" does not have flaws which have been repaired; rather, being "new" signifies that something is without defect or blemish, from its inception (such a believer's new, glorified body of righteousness). I believe that the new creation (21:1) will be brand new, not renewed.
Furthermore, "He who overcomes will inherit all this.... But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Revelation 21:7,8). This sounds to me as though all of the unsaved will be placed into the lake of fire. As you know, I do consider the possibility that the lake of fire will come to an end, when this universe, and time as we know it, will end. Thus, I believe it is possible that the unsaved simply will cease to exist rather than to be punished eternally.
What you are proposing—that somehow the unsaved will be made new—seems to be quite a stretch, at least from anything I have read in the Bible. I certainly am not saying that it could not happen, because I believe that God can do anything. But I would think that it would have to involve renewing the tarnished, sinful spirits/souls of the unsaved, and this is not the same as making something new (which never existed before). My concept of new and renewed are that they are mutually exclusive, which is why I do not believe that this present creation, ultimately, will be "transformed" into a flawless state. Of course, I leave room for God to supercede anything I believe and do whatever He wants to do.
I also do believe that all people have, or will have, the opportunity to choose Jesus to be their Lord and Savior and to exist eternally with God. Thus, I am open to the possibility that even AFTER death, people will be given that option. It would seem that if God is perfectly fair and just, He would not condemn someone to the lake of fire simply because, in this life, that person never heard about Jesus and His salvation.
However, even if this is the case, I do not necessarily believe that all will accept Jesus as Lord, even if they see Him after death and are shown plainly and clearly that their choice to reject Him inevitably will lead them into the lake of fire. Perhaps, like Satan and evil angels, multitudes of humankind have been instilled with so much pride that they voluntarily will choose to exist away from God eternally, as the rulers of their own existences, rather than to submit to God's rule and authority, the latter which would enable them to be with Him for eternity.
I feel that the ultimate truths about these topics are "open-ended" and inconclusive in the Bible. I am certain that God has a reason for leaving them that way, and I do not question it. In any case, if indeed the unsaved are not to enter the new creation for eternity, I am not going to grieve over them and wish that they could. If it is God's will for that to happen, I would think that He will grieve enough for both of us (between now and then), wishing that the unsaved would choose Him but knowing they will not. After that, for those who enter the new creation, there will be no more tears or mourning, because the old order of things will have passed away and, most likely, any remembrance of it as well.
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