Views on Hell: Universalism/Ultimate Reconciliation

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What’s up, One Degree Fam! This is the third episode in our mini-series diving into different views on hell. Last week, we talked about Annihilationism. In this episode, we will cover the views of Universalism and Ultimate Reconciliation!

Also, we keep saying this will be a three-part series, but we decided to add a fourth week to discuss Purgatory. So be on the lookout for that next week! 


This week, we are discussing Universalism and Ultimate Reconciliation. These two have a lot of overlap, and most people use the terms interchangeably. 

Some people believe that there is no hell and that everybody goes straight to heaven when they die. They are a small sect of people who hold to Universalism. Honestly, the Bible makes it pretty clear that hell is real, so we won’t spend much time on this idea.

Most Christian Universalists, however, hold to something called Ultimate Reconciliation, the main focus of this episode. 

What is Ultimate Reconciliation?

Ultimate reconciliation is the belief that while hell is real, eventually all people who go to hell will be reconciled to God and be able to go to heaven once they freely accept the gospel. 

Those who hold to Ultimate Reconciliation insist that “God will reconcile all people.”

They believe there is eschatological punishment (i.e. punishment in the end times), but in the end there will be deliverance.

Biblical Support

Where do adherents of Ultimate Reconciliation find biblical support?

1 Timothy 2:3-4 is the main verse used to support their view. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” If God truly desires all people to be saved, He would be eternally frustrated if that were not the case. 

Colossians 1:19-20 says, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” All things must be reconciled.

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Similarly to the 1 Timothy verse, if God doesn’t desire any to perish He would spend eternity frustrated if that were the case. 

Finally, Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

If God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, doesn’t it stand to reason that He wouldn’t take pleasure in the Eternal Conscious Torment of the wicked? 

Other Biblical Support

In biblical times, fire was often something that was used to purify. So, the image of hell with fire wasn’t meant to demonstrate torment with no hope. Instead, torment had a purifying benefit and would eventually lead to repentance. 

It’s definitely a minority view within the church today. However, it is not just some modern, liberal perspective that sprang up in recent decades.

It’s an anciently held, theological belief that, in the early church, stood alongside Eternal Conscious Torment and Annihilation.

It is most closely associated with the biblical scholar/theologian, Origen (c.184-254). Ultimate Reconciliation found a lot of support in early Christianity before 500 AD. Many early church fathers and schools of theological thought supported the idea of Ultimate Reconciliation. 

Even Augustine (who adhered to and taught Eternal Conscious Torment) stated “Very many Christians see hell as correctional and temporary.” 

Common Questions

What about the verses that seem to contradict Ultimate Reconciliation? How would someone who holds to this stance respond?

Mark 9:42-49 says “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die,  and the fire is not quenched.’ Everyone will be salted with fire.”

Ultimate Reconciliationists argue that the imagery of the worms means they will not stop what they’re doing until they’ve finished their work, not that there will be eternal torment in hell.

“Everyone will be salted with fire” points to how salt was used for purification. Hell’s fire serves to purify.

Matthew 25:31-46 is the parable of the sheep and the goats.

Ultimate Reconciliationists debate that the Greek word translated as “eternal” in reference to the fire that the goats are destined to is the same word used to describe the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. That only lasted for a day and many would say the eternality of life here is quantitative, while that of the fire/punishment is simply qualitative.

Their rationale is pretty shaky, but that’s how they would respond to these verses.

One Degree Shift

Even if you don’t agree with Ultimate Reconciliation, take some time to understand where the viewpoint is coming from. Recognize that we are talking about souls, people made in God’s image, going to hell. Search the Scriptures and dive in deep. Figure out what you believe and be willing to hold it with an open hand.

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